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Inside Politics

Ukraine Family To Flee To Moscow To Escape Invasion; Consumer Price Inflation Hit 40-Year High In March; Testing Trump's Power In GOP Primaries. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 18, 2022 - 12:30   ET



SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): He is a smuggler. She is anxious, looking for her mom and sister, hoping they are here.

It's Vita, her sister. Brief joy. But there's no time to hug her mom. The smuggler wants to be paid now. $500 for the pair. Much more than most families fleeing war can afford.

TURCHYN: He doesn't want -- he doesn't want us.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): We pull away with her mom, Luba. We don't want our presence to cause problems.

Away from our camera, Mila is extorted for more cash.

Getting to safety is dangerous. This is the story of one family's escape into Russia after its troops bombed and occupied their city.

They are from Izyum, a city under siege. Mila's phone was filled with videos like this.

Living in Cleveland, Ohio, she had no way to call her family. No way to find out if they were alive.

(on camera): So this is your room.

(voice over): We first met Mila a day earlier at this refugee shelter where she volunteers.

TURCHYN: Somebody saw that missile actually hit my backyard. And I was crying so bad. I just don't know. Maybe they're dead already there.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): How do you deal with that?

TURCHYN: I came to Poland to take that energy and convert it into something.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): She finally got a call, but it was not from Izyum.

TURCHYN: I heard them for the first time after whole month. I was so torn. I was happy they're alive but I was terrified that they're in Russia. And, I don't know, should I be happy or should I be sad? ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Mila's only option, she says, was to hire a smuggler to drive her family from Russia to safety here in Poland.

TURCHYN: Somebody from Poland gave me a number of people who transferred -- smuggling, basically. It's obviously -- it's dangerous, dangerous activity in Russia, very dangerous.

ABDELAZIZ: Now they are reunited. But how did the victims of Putin's war end up in Russia?

Desperate to flee, they tell us they could only find one way out. A private driver offered a ride to the Russian border.

TURCHYN: Now they fill me in the details and it actually was even worse than I thought. And I already was terrified.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Were you scared to go to Russia?

TURCHYN: I think I'm more afraid to stay where they were because it was hell and they needed to go somewhere to escape that.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Thousands of Ukrainians have faced the same. Many say they had no choice. It was go to Russia or die.


ABDELAZIZ: Now what is unique about Mila's story is that this family had Mila who has access to the internet, access to money, access to resources, essentially a way to get her family out of Russia. For thousands of other Ukrainians, that's simply not the case. They are stranded in a country they feel doesn't want them, a country that's bombed and besiege them, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: how lucky they were to have Mila there to help them. Thank you so much, Salma Abdelaziz. Appreciate you for that report.


And up next, President Biden's growing list of domestic and global crises, test his presidency, and Democrats hold on power.


BASH: Inflation, immigration, and the war in Ukraine, President Joe Biden is juggling a lot of problems right now, problems with no easy solutions. So is there a way for him to boost Democrats who are worried about losing control of Congress in November? Here to share their reporting and their insights from Axios Margaret Talev, McClatchy's Francesca chambers, and our very own Jeff Zeleny. Thank you so much all of you for being here.

So Jeff Zeleny, I know we all have a sense that these numbers of Joe Biden's haven't changed much, but just to put up CNN's poll of polls, President Biden's approval is 39 percent. His disapproval is 55 percent. He has had a tough go of it. JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: He's at a tough year without question. And these poll numbers are important, but the numbers that are probably the most important are at the gas stations and the grocery store. That is what really people are feeling, average Americans, even politically attuned Americans aren't really following his poll numbers, but boy, they are the gas prices. And the prices of groceries, we all see how high it is.

So look, there's very little a president of either party can do about it, but he's stuck with it. One thing they're trying to do, he's traveling more trying to get out of Washington more every president we've covered says I'm going to leave the White House more. He's actually doing it for at least a little bit this week. I was with him in Iowa last week. He went to North Carolina. He goes to New Hampshire. Tomorrow, Oregon and Washington State.

I can't remember a time in the Biden presidency where he's traveled to three different states in one week, most presidents travel a little bit more than him. So look they're trying to make the case that I've done infrastructure for you. I've done a lot for the economy but its people just aren't feeling it, the disconnect is real.


BASH: And you know, who agrees with you, Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts. She wrote in a "New York Times" op-ed, Democrats cannot bow to the wisdom of out-of-touch consultants who recommend we simply tout our accomplishments. Instead, Democrats need to deliver more of the president's agenda, or we will not be in the majority much longer.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, but this is a controversial idea. I mean, this reflects the split in the party right now, which is, do Democrats work through this by promising more services, more help, more assistance? Or do they work through this by preaching some degree of austerity and saying, we spent a lot of money to get through the COVID pandemic, and now it's time to tighten the belt and reprioritize and focus on bringing inflation to heal without driving into recession?

So those roughly represents the two conflicting strategic priorities for the Democratic Party right now. And that is going to play out through the midterms. But everyone is looking at 2024. And that's really what's driving a lot of this.

BASH: Yes, no, that's so true. So on that, it's very interesting to see who is talking the most about inflation, when they're home talking to their constituents. And for some of these people, I'm going to show you obviously, on the campaign trail, because some of them are up in November, Democrats who talk most about inflation, this is quorum data, Elizabeth Warren, Pramila Jayapal, who doesn't certainly appear to be in any kind of tough race and Don Beyer, she's from Washington, he is from Virginia.

And when it comes to members who are going to be in tough races, the one who's talking the most, and maybe the one who's for the most part, only talking about it in a substantial way is Congresswoman Sharice Davids from Kansas where you grew up.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: That is where I grew up. And you see what you were talking about playing out with the frontline dens possibly, probably because when you're looking at polling, that is the number one issue. Inflation and the economy are the number one issue for a majority of Americans right now. And you were talking about the split within the party about how to handle it.

There's also a split about whether you talk more about what the accomplishments are, the number of jobs that the White House says that they've created, the supply chain issues, or if you just acknowledge, look, the numbers aren't good. We understand that. The sort of I feel your pain that you heard from a former President Clinton, and that is the difficulty that the White House is going to have to face moving forward to is even if you agree that inflation is a problem, how do you solve it? And how do you talk about it?

ZELENY: I think one of the other things, if you look at the numbers, a lot of Democrats themselves are not approving of the Biden administration's performance, and that if you talk to some Democratic strategist, Paul Begala said, Democrats need to get in line behind Biden, that would actually increase his approval rating here. So there is a lot of angst in the party without question.

We'll see if the White House can kind of pull people together and do a smaller version of the Build Back Better. I remain skeptical, really, that anything else will get passed this year. We're already almost May, we know what happens in May in an election year in Congress.

BASH: Yes, which is crickets. Yes, all right.


Standby, everybody, because coming up, Donald Trump is betting on Republican candidates who subscribe to his big lie. But will the Mar- a-Lago endorsements carry any political weight? We're going to talk about that next.


BASH: The Republican primary in Ohio is just over two weeks away and former President Donald Trump is jumping into the fray. He endorsed Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, in a very crowded GOP Senate race. Trump also endorsed television personality Dr. Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

And my panel is back with me now. Two people who have something in common. They're celebrities. So there you go. There you have Donald Trump endorsing them again in really crowded primaries. Trump endorsed in Ohio J.D. Vance over a former state GOP chair, a former state treasurer, a well-known businessman. And then in Pennsylvania, Dr. Oz is running against David McCormick whose wife was in his administration and his own former ambassador to Denmark. What is your take on whether or not he is as one source said to me this morning, a paper tiger, or these are going to matter? TALEV: It's really interesting. Well, they are going to matter. They matter for Trump as much as they matter for the outcome of the races. But I think it looks like there are really sort of three patterns that we're watching play out, right? And one is that Donald Trump really believes in the power of celebrity. He wants to win these races in the general election. And it's always going to be his instinct, that fame and the ability to draw eyeballs is going to propel voters to the polls.

Number two, there's a fair amount of him wanting to get revenge on the people who were with him, whether that's like directly not with him or whether it's like soft not with him. And Vance is sort of an exception. I think their celebrity Trump's, you know, forgiveness of the past or whatever.

And then the third is that we're seeing some of Trump's own internal pressures. Who does his wife want and who does Hannity want? The some of the influence internally that's pushing on him saying, go behind this person, He has acknowledged himself and everyone watching this that all of this is a gamble. I think in Georgia that's a very high stakes primary jockeying that we're seeing. And it looks like Trump's top candidate is not in this --


BASH: Yes. And you're exactly right. And I mentioned celebrity, which you just talked about. There's also a through line, which is that they're supporting his lie. They are echoing his lie about the election. I want to read an excerpt from a big takeout "The New York Times" did over the weekend, inspiring fear, hoarding cash, doling out favors and seeking to crush rivals, Mr. Trump is behaving not merely as a power broker but as something closer to the head of a 19th century political machine.

CHAMBERS: When you look at the calendar, you mentioned, Ohio coming up, you also have Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Alabama, all of those races will tell you a lot about the direction of the Republican Party, depending on whether the Trump endorsed candidates win or in, you know, necessarily in Alabama, you've actually pulled an endorsement of a candidate before that, but it will tell you a lot about the type of candidates you're going to get.

And therefore, Democrats are looking at that also and wondering, OK, maybe we can actually keep the Senate depending on the type of candidates that the Republican Party produces in some of these primaries. Some of that won't be known, though until later, later in the summer, early fall, when some of the other races like New Hampshire, Arizona, also Missouri have their primaries, though.

BASH: And Jeff, you've been out covering so many of these primaries across the country. And, yes, it is. You're just making this point, Margaret, about these races, but it's also about 2024. I mean, that's the reason we're talking about this right now. What a former president does is like, OK, especially someone like Trump, but it matters because it is telling about his own political prowess going forward. ZELENY: without a doubt. I mean, he is still the leader and the loudest voice in the Republican Party. The question is, does it carry as much weight as it once did, we will find out in the month of May. It's what we're saying, Ohio is the biggest example. And it wasn't just, you know, people were sort of trying to get the endorsement, which they all were there has been an express from every one of these states down to Mar-a-Lago people have been really pleading with the former president for an endorsement.

But in the final days before he announced the J.D. Vance endorsement, all the Republicans in the race were trying to get him to not endorse J.D. Vance. And there are people who really have twisted themselves into pretzels here, some other candidates by saying they're so close to the former president, they so believe in the big lies. So it's been a loyalty test.

We'll find out in the month of May, how powerful he still is. But you're right. This is all a precursor to 2024. Does he still have the juice in the party that he had before? As of now, he hasn't more than anyone else? But it's probably not quite as much as it used to be, but May is a big test.

BASH: Yes. And if he doesn't do well, and if his candidates don't win the primaries in a very robust way, that's probably really good news for Governor DeSantis in Florida, or others who are trying to just kind of wait it out.

TALEV: Yes, also shows some of the candidates and upcoming primaries, if the prize for fealty is supposed to be the endorsement that might not work out for you. So it may shape or impact some of that calculate straight forward.

CHAMBERS: We are seeing the endorsements have different effects in different states. So if you look at a state like North Carolina, we're going to endorse Ted Budd, you now see him rising in the polls. Whereas if you look at a state like Ohio, J.D. Vance, it's tough it's going to be a tough one.

ZELENY: We'll find out over the next two weeks.

BASH: Yes, that's -- those are all really good points. OK, are you guys ready for this dad joke, these tees?

Coming up, the eggstravaganza returns how was it?

ZELENY: Great.


BASH: All right, thank you, thank you. For the first time in two years the White House Easter Egg Roll is back in full swing. We're going to take you there live, next.


BASH: President Joe Biden blowing the whistle for the first White House Easter Egg Roll in two years, 30,000 visitors were invited for a eggducation themed celebration, that's their term not mine. Among the attendees Vice President Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman who is Jewish, held the first known Passover Seder Friday at the Naval Observatory, which of course is the Vice President's residence. I'm going to get straight to the White House to CNN's Kate Bennett who was covering this. I'm going to maybe avoid any more egg puns, but you know if you have any go for it.


BASH: Oh, OK. Well done.

BENNETT: Well, I will say Dana, though the Passover Seder, the return here of the Easter Egg Roll. It's really the first time the Biden administration has had a chance to entertain, you know, as we know, typically the people's houses open for things like Halloween celebrations and holiday, more robust holiday tours. And of course, the egg roll and steak dinners, one of which I hear is in the works. So certainly today's return of the Easter Egg Roll after the pandemic break, signal something for the Biden ministration, which is having company again, which is opening the doors again.

And as you said, 30,000 people are expected today. The weather's been a little iffy here in Washington. So it's there were crowds and there weren't crowds and people were running for cover and but overall kids and their families were having a great time. And you know, I think it's important again, Jill Biden, a lifetime educator is using her initiative. She's using what she knows she made this eggducation themed event today. So lots of school, lots of reading, all kinds of things for kids to do but centered really around what she cares about, and again, it's just nice to see the White House back open with people there.


BASH: Gosh, it sure is looking at those images. It just feels like slowly getting back to normal. Kate Bennett, thank you so much for that. Thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS, Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.