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Inside Politics

U.S. Adds 428,000 Jobs In April, Jobless Rate Steady At 3.6 Percent; Today: Biden Travels To Ohio To Meet With Manufacturers; Zelenskyy To West: Give Ukraine More Advanced Weapons; Constant Fighting Scrambles Evacuation Efforts In Mariupol; Pentagon: U.S. Not Involved In Strike On Moskva Warship; Zelenskyy: "Nonstop Shelling & Storming" Of Azovstal Plant; Ukraine: Fewer Russian Ground Attacks Over Last 24 Hours; Schumer: "America Will Be Watching" Vote On Abortion Bill; Democrats In Tight Races Lean On Abortion Rights Fight. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello everybody, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. In Ukraine today, a struggle to get people out of Mariupol. We'll go live to Ukraine, and we'll map out the battlefields in just minutes.

But we begin here in Washington, with new proof the American economy is strong, and it is stable. President Biden is on his way right now to a factory in Ohio. And the morning jobs report should give the president some bragging rights. Look there, 428,000 jobs added in April, and the unemployment rate held steady at a very low 3.6 percent.

Plus, average hourly wages are up, up 5.5 percent from one year ago. That is good news for American workers. Good, was the president's one word answer, when asked about the job report as he left the White House this morning. But a written statement, a bit earlier makes clear. The president understands, he cannot over celebrate. Starboard inflation is the giant election year cloud over the president and his party.

Let's get straight to the White House now, and CNN's Arlette Saenz. Arlette, good news for the president, but that but the inflation?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. Those figures you just tick through, certainly represent decent progress in the economy for the White House, but they continue to be dogged by the issue of inflation. As that continues to drive the public perception of how the economy is doing. Now, the president told reporters that he felt the jobs report was good.

But in a statement, he released earlier today, he also acknowledged the crunch that Americans are feeling from inflation. He said, there's no question that inflation and high prices are a challenge for families across the country and fighting inflation is a top priority for me. He said that there's still more work to be done. This comes as Americans have continued to show their concern about inflation. A CNN poll earlier this week, found that eight and 10 American adults felt that the Biden administration have not done enough to curb inflation. So, this is something that the president continues to try to address, especially heading into those midterms, as Americans are seeing higher prices at the gas pumps and grocery stores, and as they're paying their bills.

KING: Arlette Saenz, live for us at the White House. Arlette, thank you. Let's dig a little deeper now into the numbers. And let's start with the unemployment rate. You're the present United States in the middle of a midterm election year, you should be happy with that. A 3.6 percent unemployment rate, plus the trajectory 6.4 percent. When the president took office, this line heading in the right way, unemployment you want going down.

Good news, clearly for the president. Then you look at wages. American workers for years saying, hey, how about a pay raise. While American workers are making 5.5 percent more now than they were one year ago. Again, should be something the president can sell, the Democrats can sell in the midterm election year. Your wages are going up. How about giving us a little political credit? You would think that would happen.

Plus, look at this. This is the economy going back to the beginning of the Trump presidency, 2017. This is the COVID cliff. You see April 2020, the COVID cliff boom, lost all those jobs. Now, we are going back up. 90 percent of the jobs lost here, have now been returned to the economy. 90 percent of the COVID cliff recovered in the economy. That should be something the president can sell.

But he has to be careful because of this, something you see every day. Gas prices a year ago $2.94, a week ago $4.16, right now $4.28 a gallon on average. That's not the high. It was higher several months back, a couple of months back, but $4.28 a gallon compared to $2.94 year ago. That's why the president has to be careful in telling you that all is well.

Plus, it's not just gas, gas prices up 48 percent in the last year, used cars up 35 percent, electricity heating your home, air conditioning up 11 percent, price of beef up 16 percent, dairy, meaning your milk, your cheese up 67 percent, excuse me, in the last year, which is why this is great news for the president today. It should be good news for the Democrats, but the president, and listen to hear, his labor secretary understands, they need to be careful.


MARTY WALSH, LABOR SECRETARY: It's not just about telling a good story on TV. So, people feel good about themselves in their home, when inflation is high, or when they're working in a job quite honestly, they're not happy about. So, we need to be continued to work on bringing down these costs, whether it's a gas, gas at the pump, whether it's the cost of, you know, milk and food at the kitchen table. All the other costs that are out there, and we need to continue to make sure that supply chain issues continue to bring supply chains into America, so we're not seeing costs.


KING: With us, to share their reporting and their insights, CNN Kaitlan Collins, Josh Jamerson, the Wall Street Journal, Heather Caygle of Punchbowl News, and CNN's Matt Egan. Matt, let's start with you. You look through the report. And this is a strong, stable economy with a growing recovery from the COVID pandemic. Those numbers are gray, but inflation is still this wind essentially blowing up the economy.

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes. Absolutely, John. I mean, the economy is what people feel and right now they feel inflation. Yes, the jobs market is strong. 12 straight months of 400,000 jobs being added, 16 straight months of job growth. As you mentioned, payrolls almost back to pre-COVID levels.


But if you have a job that doesn't really help you because the prices at the grocery store, at the gas pump, even at the furniture store, they've all gone up so much. Now wages are up, that's great, wages are hot, but inflation is even hotter. So, that means, when you look at wages adjusted for inflation, they're actually down. Paychecks are not going as far as they used to and that's why people are upset.

KING: And so, how does the president find the sweet spot in the sense that you do want to convince people, consumer spending is the engine of the American economy. You don't want people to pull back. So, you want to convince people, you know, sure, do your math, but we're OK. We're OK. But you can't over celebrate.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Because, of course, it is what people are feeling. And the poll numbers that came out this week of how people do feel about the, not just the economy generally and their outlook, but how the president is handling it were overwhelmingly negative. And so, the White House knows that is something they have to address.

Right now, women we've seen how abortion plays a role into this, but they know that this is going to be a massive factor in the midterm elections. And I think one thing that they want to celebrate is the fact that 95 percent of the jobs that were lost during the pandemic had been recovered. But the other part of that that they are balancing is the labor shortage that they're dealing with.

And you've seen the Federal Reserve raise interest rates, saying that the market is out of whack because of this labor shortage. And I think in March was about 11.5 million job openings. There are only half of that when it comes to job seekers. And so that is something that the White House is also paying very close attention to it.

KING: And the president needs help from members of Congress to echo things, but you have nervous members of his own party, because they're going home to these districts, so are going home. So, the president goes to Ohio today. You don't think of that as a big stay for Democrats in the midterm election year.

But maybe you have a Senate race, you have a governor's race, the Democrats want to look at there, you know, how do you communicate the economy, when people are still again, paying at the grocery store, paying at the pump, but there are jobs if you want them?

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yes. I mean, it's definitely a fine balance on the Hill. And you can tell it, Democrats are very nervous. They haven't really settled on the message of how to communicate. Yes, we know that you guys are still feeling pain. We know you're paying a lot for groceries and gas and everything. But the job market is strong. The economy is strong, stick with us.

And the other problem is like, there is very limited resources and tools on the Hill of what they can actually do. They could pass some kind of build back smaller bill, if they had agreement, but they're nowhere near agreement on that. And they're losing time. I mean, nothing is really going to happen once we get closer to the midterms.

KING: And part of the president's strategy is to get out there. Again, now he's going to the middle of America, in the middle of an election year, just being a factory, saying I get it, I get it, the things are better today. But for tomorrow, this whole thing about the 3D printing and getting in the supply lines that we're not just worried about today, we understand this is a, you know, we need to sustain this going on.

JOSH JAMERSON, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Right. It's a lot of explaining to do. And also, I think an issue for the Democrats is that there's not a lot of good news on the horizon, as well, like Kaitlan mentioned with the Fed raising interest rates. Historically, when the Fed tries to tame a really hot economy like this, they may cause recession. And so, that there's not even good news that Democrats going to be talking about, like on the horizon.

KING: And the president, obviously, and the Democrats, and the Republicans trying to beat the Democrats, care more about what's happening out and what I call real America, not disparaging Wall Street, but in real America. But to Josh's point, you know, the Fed announced a half percentage point rise in interest rates, the markets went yay, and rallied. And then the next day, they went no. And today, they're kind of flat, down a little bit. What is the assessment among the smart people? Does the Fed have this right? Are they still worried about it?

EGAN: Well, everyone, including the Fed would agree that this is not going to be easy. The problem is that inflation is so high, that the Fed can't just tap the brakes on the economy, which is what they would like to do. They have to really hit the brakes and they may have to slam the brakes. And that raises the risk of a slowdown or even a recession.

I don't think that the concern is an imminent recession, the jobs market is strong. The GDP report was a little weird, it was negative, but kind of for odd reasons. Overall, the economy looks strong enough to handle some rate hikes. But if the Fed has to keep raising interest rates, the higher rates go up, the more pressure on the economy, and also the more turbulence we're going to see in the financial markets.

And I think that is probably the last thing the White House needs right now. People are worried about inflation, and then they have to look at their 401(K) accounts, their investment portfolios, that doesn't make people feel good.

KING: Which is why again, normally a president were doing handstands, a 3.6 percent unemployment rate, 400,000 plus jobs added to the economy, wages are going up. A president would normally be doing handstands, he can't because of the inflation. And the question becomes, where's the calendar on this in the sense that this is the president's job approval number right now?

This is our average of recent national polls. The presidents have 42 percent. And that's the North Star of most midterm election campaigns. Where's the president's approval rating? And you can tell, how well or how bad is his party going to do in November. 42 is a recipe for bad. In November, they would lose the House and they would lose the Senate most likely, if that number stayed solid. It gets hard to change these numbers.

Look at this historical look. Can you change a presidential approval rating from May to November in a midterm election year? You see there Ronald Reagan went up just a little bit, but George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, all went south. Joe Biden needs to go north. The challenge is how?


COLLINS: It's a major concern for them, and so they do have a lot of injuries (Ph) out, talking about this. They dispatched cabinet secretaries to go out and talk about this, but it is really hard to change what people think with a presidential speech, when of course, you know, he can talk from the White House. He can put out statements. They're still going to the grocery store. They're still going in pumping gas and feeling this.

And so, that's been a really big concern for them. Also, obviously a big concern for Democrats on Capitol Hill, who have kind of been distancing themselves from the White House a bit when it comes to certain aspects like this and talking about what they believe is going to be going forward. You saw Democratic Senator Joe Manchin saying, inflation is going to be the driving factor and the midterms come this fall. And that's a big concern for so many of them.

KING: Our reporters are going to stay with us. More conversation with them a bit later. But next for us, the latest from Ukraine, including new reporting on the role of U.S. intelligence and the sinking of Russia's flagship.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Today another desperate attempt to save people from Ukraine's hell on earth in the middle of a Russian assault. Again, this morning, evacuation efforts aimed at getting Ukrainians out of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Black smoke and bombs have choked Mariupol's final stronghold for weeks now. A medic inside says, death is constant, whether it's from bullets, bombs or from hunger.

Along the 300-mile frontline, gridlock. Ukraine says, Russian ground attacks have slowed over the past 24 hours. Today, more appeals from Ukraine's president to the west for long range weapons and word of a weekend huddle, this weekend between Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the G7 leaders, including the president United States.

The call for more help comes ahead of Russian Victory Day, and uncertainty over what Vladimir Putin's next phase of this war will look like. Listen to Zelenskyy here. He argues the west has been weak, needs to do more, prolonging the fight.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Ladies and gentlemen, friends, if everyone in the world, or at least the vast majority, were steadfast and courageous leaders as Ukraine as Britain. I am sure we would have already ended this war and restored peace throughout our liberated territory for all our people.


KING: Let's get live to Ukraine now, the western city of Lviv. CNN's Scott McLean is there. Scott, what's the latest?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, no news is good news at this point. Officials from the Ukrainian side at least don't want to say anything that might potentially jeopardize the success of the operation because as the military governor of Donetsk region where Mariupol is located says, well, the Russians have been known to change the conditions, change their demands for evacuation even after they've already agreed to things.

And so, we are hearing precious little at this moment. We don't have any sense of where exactly this evacuation convoy might be at this moment, or whether it's actually arrived at the steel plant. The U.N. Special Envoy for Ukraine had said yesterday that the hope was that it would arrive by morning, but now it's almost dark here in Ukraine and we still don't have word.

But just for a little bit of context, the last time that there was success in getting people out from under that steel plant. President Zelenskyy had announced on a Friday that there was an operation afoot. He said basically nothing about it on Saturday. And then it wasn't until Sunday, when we got the news that the mission had been at least a partial success. Unfortunately, in this case, well, there is a little bit of news and that's that the Ukrainian say that the Russians have fired on the plant that was this morning.

And then more recently, a couple of hours ago, the Azov regiment, part of the Ukrainian military that is leading the fighting from inside the plant has put out a statement saying that a car was hit by an anti- tank missile, killing one soldier, injuring six, saying that that car was trying to help civilians to evacuate. Saying that the Russians broke a ceasefire. CNN is not in a position to verify that, not even in a position to verify that there is in fact a ceasefire that is in place in holding, John?

KING: Scott McLean, live in Lviv for us. Scott, thank you very much. Let's add some critical new reporting today. Sources telling CNN, the United States provided intelligence about Russia's price warship, intelligence that was used to help sink that ship. This morning on CNN, the Pentagon says that intelligence sharing was lawful, legitimate and limited.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We give them information, other partners give them information. And oh, by the way, they have terrific intelligence of their own. They corroborate all that together. And then they make the decisions they're going to make, and they take the actions they're going to take.


KING: With me now to share his insights, retired air force colonel, CNN military analyst, Cedric Leighton. Colonel, great to have you. Let's pick up right there. And let me just show the Moscow. We all remember when the Ukrainians hit the flagship of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, making the point that this is all fair, that you know, Ukraine is at war with Russia. We're not fighting, but we're sharing information. Is that how it normally works? Is this the way or is this special?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.) & CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This is somewhat special. Now, John, the key thing is we have shared intelligence for decades to over 100 years in some cases, with allies. But usually, those allies are countries like Britain, which have a long-standing relationship with us. Sharing intelligence with the Ukrainians is a bit different.

And the fact that this intelligence is so precise, that it gives the possibility of finding coordinates, finding ships on the open sea, like the Moscow, that is something that is a bit different. But it is also the nature of modern warfare. And it's very clear that this intelligence was necessary to be part of the Ukrainian equation to target the Moscow.

KING: Before I get back to the battlefield at large, I want to just focus on the steel plant again, the Azovstal steel plant, we see that just constantly. They were trying to evacuate civilians from this. And the pictures have looked like this, just about every day for the past couple of weeks. You hear, Scott McLean saying, you know, it's hard to get good information about here. What is the challenge here, especially if the Russians are inconsistent and whether they'll let this happen?


COL. LEIGHTON: Yes, that's the big thing. They are inconsistent in the fact that they don't play by the rules. Despite the normal rules of international diplomacy and international warfare. That presents a real challenge because the U.N. and the Red Cross and other organizations that are trying to get people out of this, have a real difficult time because they don't know exactly when and where the Russians will attack and what they'll be using in this particular case at the Azovstal steel plant.

KING: So, the steel plants here in Mariupol, the Russians, obviously trying to just take the crescent around the east and then to the south in the country. I want to come in closer now. When you hear the Ukrainian say, not much movement on the front in the last 24 hours. This we can't see it. We're not on the ground. So, we're not seeing every day the tanks, the Howard or seeing artillery. We get pictures and little glimpses every now, and then walk through when you hear it not much moving in the front. It is a giant front.

COL. LEIGHTON: It is a giant front, about 300 miles or so. And this is the key point right here, John, this area right in here. So, between Izium, Kreminna, Rubizhne and Popasna. These areas are critical at the moment. Now, there are other elements of the front right here in the south around Kherson, around these areas right here in the southeast, just north of Mariupol. This front is kind of dormant at the moment between the Donbass and the rest of Ukraine.

However, that can flare up at any time. But this is the key area. This is the area where the Ukrainians have made some progress. And in addition to this area, Kharkiv is key. Because Kharkiv, you see this area right here. These are Ukrainian areas that they've just recently taken - retaken from the Russians.

KING: And so, let's come out to the bigger map as we close the conversation. If the front is in here. Explain, where do you see - what do you see the Russian goal? That's the question we've been asking from the beginning. Do they just want this? Or are they trying to do something like that?

COL. LEIGHTON: The Russians are going to try to take as much as they can get. At first, they wanted all of this. The fact of the matter is, of course, they can't get that. They know that, at least for this instance, in time, they will probably settle for this right here. But if they can get this, they'll take it.

KING: Colonel Leighton, as always, grateful for your time, sir, and your insights. Ahead for us, Democrats know they are short the votes. But next week, they will try to pass federal legislation protecting abortion rights. It is a first step in a new and an uncertain political debate. How would a Supreme Court ruling, a racing Roe v Wade change American politics.




KING: A first big test and the new political fight over abortion rights comes next week in the United States Senate. Democrats will try to pass federal legislation, guaranteeing the right to an abortion. The effort will fail. Democrats do not have the votes. But they view this as a necessary first step as they discuss now, both the policy and political fallout of that draft decision that leaked from the Supreme Court earlier this week. Our great reporters are back with us to discuss it. And let's start with the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday, who he knows he does not have the votes, but he says this is important.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We're going to have this vote this week. And believe me, America, all of America will be watching. Republicans will not be able to hide from the American people and cannot hide from their role in bringing Roe to an end.


KING: I know Democrats wish they could pass this, but they know they can't. It's that last part. Schumer wants to get everybody on the record, so it can be used in the campaign to come.

CAYGLE: Yes. I do think there is a little frustration on the Hill though, among more moderate Democrats, like you said this bill is going to fail. They held a similar vote in February. And there are two Republican senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who do support abortion rights. And they could be convinced to join a more narrowly tailored bill that codified Roe, they've actually introduced their own. But that's not the one that Schumer is going to put on the floor. They've already said they're going to---

KING: Is that because, forgive me for interrupting, is that because he can't get 60. Even if he got those two, he wouldn't get 60 to break a filibuster. So, he wants to do something that makes the Democratic base happy, not something that would get two Republican votes, but still fail.

CAYGLE: Yes, exactly. But I think among some of the more moderate vulnerable Democrats, they're like, why wouldn't we get at least a couple of Republicans, and then we can say we did have some bipartisan support for this. We are trying to do something, but you're right, this is more of a base play.

KING: It's another example of how complicated the politics is. We look at national polls. We have national conversations. No, no, no. We have to go state by state, race by race. And here's some of the vulnerable Democrats. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. She's in Nevada. She says, I have a record in support. Right? She is drawing a straight contrast with her opponent.

Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire. If my opponents get this seat, they will support the kind of national abortion ban. Raphael Warnock running in Georgia, same thing. He says pass this bill, and Mark Kelly in Arizona. These are not the shiny blue states. I mean, you know, they tend to vote for Democrats, but these are all potential swing states and swing races. So, we're going to learn a lot in the campaign ahead.

JAMERSON: We're going to learn a lot. I think what's really interesting too, to your point, how they're about, you know, a base plate. There is an 11-point deficit that Democrats have in terms of high motivation to vote in the midterm elections. This gives them that something else to talk about. We spent the whole first half of the show, talking about the dire outlook on the economy. So, this is something that they can pressure their opponents on.

COLLINS: But I say one thing, though, that is interesting is it's not just appending Democratic races, it's also Republican races. Look at what's happening at the governor's race in Georgia where Perdue, who is backed by former President Trump is calling on Brian Kemp. The governor too, basically call the state legislature together to - put together a law in case this ruling does go into effect as it is written in this leaked document.