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Inside Politics

U.S. Inflation Eases Slightly In April From 40-Year High; Biden Travels To Illinois To Talk About Food Supply And Prices; Biden Says Fighting Inflation Is His "Top Domestic Priority"; FDA Moves To Ease Nationwide Shortage Of Baby Formula; First 1/6 Cmte Public Hearing Scheduled For June 9; Ex-DOJ Officials, Pence Aides Likely To Be Called For Testimony; Judge Lifts Contempt Finding Against Trump: Orders Former Pres. To Pay $110K In Fines; NYT: "Russia Has Seized Much Of The East". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 11, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. This hour, our brand-new CNN reporting on the January 6 committee's plan for public hearing. Expect video from the riot and possibly video from the Trump family's behind closed door testimony.

Plus, a big diplomatic snag. Hungary now objecting to new and punishing sanctions targeting Russian energy. The fracturing the rest of the western alliance comes as Vladimir Putin. Here's the key military objective, gaining control, complete control of the Donbass.

Also, Donald Trump goes one for two. Republican primary voters deliver a split verdict about the power of the former president's brand. But we begin this hour with the president on the road, and at a campaign crossroads. He visits Kankakee, Illinois today, a family farm, for a firsthand look at a business caught in the global crosswinds of war and inflation.

A new government report out this morning, makes clear inflation is here to stay. But it also suggests the worst might emphasis on might be behind us. The consumer price index rose 8.3 percent compared with last year, that's a big number 8.3 percent, but it is down from a 40 year high from last month 8.5 percent.

Look at it month to month. Inflation Rose 0.3 percent in April. Again, that's down from the 1.2 percent gain in March. But a closely watched data point within the report was up, not down. So, beware of anyone who tells you they are certain, things are now trending for the better. And even if inflation is retreating from its highest high, prices are still up at the fastest rate in nearly 40 years across just about every part of your life.

We start with looking inside these numbers and with CNN's Christine Romans. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR, EARLY START: And John, is issue number one for the American family, right, the cost of living, and in so many categories it has been going up for almost a year now. Those headline numbers in normal times would be very, very scary. But they appear to be moderating, leveling off, peaking as one economist said today, it's not getting hotter, but there's still a fire. And at this point, that is what we take for good news on the inflation front.

When you look at align chart of inflation. You can see just what's happened over the past year, a little bit less than a year that we've experienced, 8.3 percent the annual inflation rate. As you pay more for everything, that means you have less purchasing power, right. The money just doesn't go very far, we've seen that in the polls how Americans feel pretty lousy about the economy, because they're paying so much more for gas and groceries.

In the month, April this year compared to last year, gasoline prices up almost 44 percent, used cars, anyone trying to buy an automobile knows what a nightmare it is out there. Even if you can find what you're looking for, you're going to pay a lot more for it. Food and shelter are two big parts of this as well.

And we saw overnight, the gas prices as measured by AAA, hitting a fresh nominal record $4.40 a gallon. If you look, if you live out on the West Coast, you know, it's more - way more than $1 more than that here. Gas prices have picked up here again, heading into the, you know, into the early summer driving season.

So, this is going to be a problem. Those higher gas prices are not reflected in that CPI report, I was just telling you about. And you can see the pandemic consumer behavior in spades in these numbers. John, when you look at airline fares, there are 35 percent just over the past three months. They're now back higher than they were before the pandemic began.

You can see evidence here that there are supply chain problems. But there are American consumers who want to spend their money after two years of a - in a COVID crouch frankly, and you can expect higher prices for things like that to persist, John?

KING: And that uncertainty in the economy makes for the uncertain politics, which is part of the president's concern, as he travels say. Christine Romans, it's grateful to have you at the top of the program. That farm visit by the president is designed to give him a first-hand look, at stresses caused by as Christine just noted, pandemic supply chain issues, inflation, and now a war in Ukraine that is impacting world food supplies.

To the White House now, CNN's MJ Lee. MJ, an important day for the president. The question is, how does he talk about these new numbers?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, John, we covered the president's big speech on inflation on your show just yesterday. And part of what he talked about is the fact that inflation is really, really complicated. He said that it manifests itself in so many different ways. And as you said, the war in Ukraine has just made things even more complicated.

And he said, look, I could probably do a better job of explaining things to people a little bit better, explaining to people what actually is happening across the country. And this is a part of the reason that he is traveling to Illinois today. He is going to a farm just 60 miles outside of Chicago, where he is going to be talking about supply chain issues, ways to boost food production and lower food prices.


And this coming on the heels of this new inflation data that we saw coming out this morning that Christine just walked us through. I just want to read a part of the president's reaction to those numbers. He said in a written statement this morning, while it is heartening to see that annual inflation moderated in April, the fact remains that inflation is unacceptably high. As I said yesterday, inflation is a challenge for families across the country, and bringing it down is my top economic priority.

Now, John, I can guarantee you that White House officials are not going to be celebrating the fact that we did see inflation moderate a bit in April, they're going to want to see a whole lot more data. And they're certainly not in a position to make any predictions right now, particularly in terms of whether they think this is the worst, and the worst is behind us, John?

KING: MJ Lee at the White House. Thanks, MJ. Well watch the president as he travels. Let's bring the conversation in the room. With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, CNN's Arlette Saenz, and Catherine Lucey at The Wall Street Journal.

So, Arlette, your colleague MJ laying out at the White House, the president, you know, got to be careful here. But part of the idea is to get him on the road. So, at least he can say, I get this. I want to hear from you directly, not a guy in Washington, an isolated politician standing in the White House, saying I understand you.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And the White House is very aware of the political dynamics of inflation and other concerns about the economy as you consistently look at polling, and that is where American voters say that they are most concerned at this moment. Eight and 10 Americans in the poll that CNN released last week, felt that the federal government hadn't done enough on inflation.

And so, that is why you see President Biden holding those speeches like he did yesterday, going out into the country, trying to see the real impact that farmers are experiencing with this today as they're trying to show that they have this at the front of their minds, and that they're trying to do something about it, even though the actions they've taken so far really have been pretty limited.

KING: And so, here we are in the middle of Maine. This is a problem in Americans' everyday life period. Never mind that it's an election year. To the president United States, your party is risking, losing control of Congress. The clock is ticking ever so much. The challenge is voters at home will decide. Do they blame COVID? Do they blame the Vladimir Putin? Do they blame a number of things about this? But the president is in-charge as he's acknowledged and that's what happens, when you're in-charge you pay the price for people's frustration.

The question Abby is, there's just no escape from this. Look at this report. Gas up 44 percent April last year to April this year, used cars 23 percent, chicken, coffee, new cars, health insurance, airfare, hotels, milk, beef, fish, rent, eggs, bacon, furniture, flour, electricity, it's just every - it's your every second of everyday. American consumers are seeing this, which is the president's challenge.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You cannot deny that this is happening. When people go to the grocery stores, their bills are eye popping, frankly. But also, this is coinciding with, you know, this administration for a long time thought that their biggest challenge would ultimately be the Coronavirus pandemic.

Now, I think they feel like most Americans for good or for bad, maybe they shouldn't, but most Americans have moved on. Americans have moved on. They want to move into the next phase of their lives. So, maybe they're booking summer travel, maybe they're, you know, eating out more. And they're finding that all of that is so expensive that it borders on affordable.

So that's the reality that Americans are living with. And the White House is keenly aware of that. They also recognize that there are some aspects of people's lives that just don't feel the same. So, you go down the street in your town, and stores that used to be open are closed. Things that you used to be able to find on the store shelves are not there anymore.

And so, there is a psychological element to this as well, which is a recognition that people are experiencing weirdness in their economy, things that are not back to what they consider to be normal. And I think bit by bit, the White House is going to try to address those where they can. If only to say, I understand that this is what you're experiencing. And we're trying to do a little bit here, a little bit there to try to ease some of the strain that you've been experiencing.

KING: And to your point about everything. Look, the president United States does not control the supply of baby formula in stores around America. The government can do things to help it and everything. But listen here, at this very moment at a time when you're dealing with inflation in everyday life, we just went through, just about everything you encounter. In the course of your day, there is a shortage for mothers of baby formula in many parts of the countries and it makes them anxious.


COURTNEY HOUSTON, MOTHER: It's terrifying. It's terrifying, when that's the only true source of nutrition that your baby gets. Because you'd get to the point where you go to a store and you almost cry. JOY GREENE, MOTHER: It's been scary to like, walk down the aisles and see empty shelves and honestly not be able to find the exact formula that we need.

JENNIFER WALL, MOTHER: You would think it wouldn't be a problem to be able to feed your baby but, now it's really scary.


KING: It's again, you know, is that the president's fault? You know, I think that's a stretch by far, but he's the president United States at a time when people are already stressed in their life and then you get this.


CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I mean the buck stops with him. Certainly, the baby formula shortage is not directly his fault. The White House says, they are looking at things they can do in this, but it is deeply to Abby's point, deeply unsettling and troubling to parents to think they can't feed their children. And so, this is compounded by all the other economic pressures that people are feeling.

And so, if the White House looking to the midterms, and you want people to feel better, to feel good about their daily lives, this is not helping that argument. And so, one of the things the president is trying to do now, is not just say he is working on things, but also say that compare me to what the Republicans are going to do.

And so, one of the things you heard yesterday, one of the things that was in his statement today about inflation numbers, was this argument that you Republicans would raise taxes that this will be - the things will be worse, that I am trying to do things and he's hinging a lot of this on a proposal from Senator Rick Scott and economic proposal.

But some Republicans actually have distanced themselves from him and Mitch McConnell has criticized. But ultimately, history tells us that it's very, very hard to turn a midterm election from a referendum into a contrast choice. It just - it's very hard to do. People are upset and they're upset with the party in power.

KING: And a lot of this is because of the COVID. A lot of this is an impact of the pandemic and people are so tired and so frustrated. It's hard for the president, but we'll watch. We'll watch the trip to the family farm today and we'll watch it over the next few months. Up next for us though some brand-new reporting, the January 6 committee will share its evidence in public hearing next month. And new CNN reporting, we're now on the focus and on the potential witness list.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Some brand-new CNN reporting this hour, on how the January 6 committee plans to roll out its evidence and its findings. A series of public hearings begins next month. The first will be a broad overview of the committee's work. Then CNN is told a series of hearings focusing on key themes, including what Donald Trump was doing, as the violence unfolded. And a close look at the organizing and financing of January 6 events. CNN's Ryan Nobles is part of this great reporting and joins us now. Tell us more?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. I think there's no doubt that the expectations for the committee are very great, especially when it comes to these hearings that they've been working toward, for just about 10 months. And if you take a look at the calendar right now, we're less than a month away from their first hearing, which is scheduled for June 9. So that means we're really getting to crunch time.

And what we're told now is that they are finalizing their plans, closed door hearings. It's difficult to get a hold of committee members because they've been in meetings preparing for this hearing taking place on June 9, and then the month of June itself will be dominated by this hearing.

We're told that members have told their personal staffs to clear their schedule in preparation for some hearings that will take place during the day, others expected to take place during primetime hours. And some of the topics that we are told that they will cover. Yes, there's going to be a broad overview to kick things off, to show where the committee stands right now.

But there are also going to be a number of other topics, including what President Trump was doing during the riot. Of course, we know that those call logs show that there was a big gap where he wasn't taking any information, or at least that information wasn't recorded. Also, efforts about false election, fraud claims, how law enforcement responded to the right on that day, and then the organizing and financing of the January 6 rally.

The one thing, John, that they haven't decided on yet, at least they're not in the final stages of it yet. It's exactly who they're going to call to appear publicly to ask questions in an open forum. Basically, all the questions outside of some conversations with a law enforcement on that day have been behind closed doors.

So, the question is, do you bring someone like Ivanka Trump or Jared Kushner, or Donald Trump Jr. to testify publicly. What we've learned is that they videotaped, pretty much all of these depositions. So, even if they decide not to bring these individuals forward, or if those individuals decide they don't want to come forward, they still have the option of playing those videotape testimonies, or at least a portion of it, as part of what we're told will be a multimedia presentation as part of these eight hearings.

KING: And so, as this happens, Ryan is going to stay with us for the conversation. So, the point is, the committee now has had 10 months to do this. They're going to have these hearings in June of a midterm election year, number one. Number two, as Donald Trump travels more and supports more Republican candidates, and certainly gives every indication, he plans to run again in 2024. What is their test? Is it history? Is it Trump's future political career? Is it all the above?

LUCEY: That's the question, right? I mean, obviously, they feel the weight of history. Clearly, they're putting a huge amount into making these major insignificant presentations. But a lot of the country has made up their minds. And we see from polling, it's not really clear, who is going to be swayed at this point. Maybe there are some independents still who will be looking to this for the fall. But some of it does seem to be more about marking what they've done, explaining it, laying out the public, rather than necessarily moving Trump supporters into a different column.

KING: It's a fascinating challenge in the age we live in now, and the sense of the social media, everything's on television, and everything's on the Internet. Pete Aguilar, member of the committee was asked you guys going to call Mike Pence, the Vice President, he says this.


REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): We understand the interest in talking to the vice president, and we haven't made decisions at this point. But I can tell you that we continue to receive ample evidence that will help us in this discussion.


KING: It's the last part that's interesting, because Ryan knows this best. If you talk to people involved in the committee work, they have a thousand plus interviews, or they've talked to a ton of the people who see the schedule every day, who see the principles every day, who see the paperwork every day, the mid-level aides that are critically important to any reporting on any beat in this town or anywhere in the country.

And so, potential witnesses include names that might not be household names at home. But Jeff Rosen, he was the acting attorney general at one point. Richard Donoghue, he was a deputy in the justice department, one of the Trump back, Marc Short who's the Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Greg Jacob again on the vice president staff there. So, there are a lot of people who have critical information, who might not, you know, seem like Hollywood witnesses.


PHILLIP: Yes. And, you know, we got a little bit of a taste of that in a court filing that the committee made a few weeks ago in which an aide to Mark Meadows testified to a lot of information about what was going on behind the scenes between the chief of staff and then President Trump at the time.

So, the long list of mid-level aides who no one would recognize or whose names are completely unknown to the vast majority of people who have useful information, that could be a fairly substantial list, and members of the January 6 committee have indicated as much.

I do think that to the question of where this all goes. One thing that's become clear is that the efforts, you know, on the issue of the efforts to overturn the election results to create the falsehoods that led to the riot, that is not really over. I mean, that is still happening. As we speak, there are candidates all across the country running on those very same lives.

And so, I do think that they have a role to play in sort of laying out the scope of the falsehoods, the scope of the conspiracy, that led to January 6, and that too, will be important, not just for 2024, but we're coming up on an election cycle right now in which those people are on the ballot.

KING: Right. And that's why it's so interesting. The committee and the committee has done meticulous work. I think, done more research and more gathered more evidence that many people thought at the beginning. So, on the one hand, they say this, the fact-finding mission.

On the other hand, let's just be honest. Every single person on that committee, says they view Donald Trump as a threat to democracy. They've all said that publicly as this goes forward. So, can they change any minds to the point here as you go forward? Or they just want to lay out the evidence for anybody else who wants to have it?

SAENZ: I mean, it's probably going to be a little bit of both. And I think also, one thing that's going to be interesting to see is how President Biden engages with these hearings. He doesn't speak that often about what the committee is doing. Is this going to be a forum for him to maybe step up his attacks against former President Trump. You know, one of his most forceful denunciations of the former president was on January 6, on the anniversary. Could President Biden seize on these upcoming hearings and insert himself a little bit more?

NOBLES: And John, the other thing I think is important that I don't think has gotten enough attention, is that Republicans' kind of treat the falsehoods related to the 2020 election and that period after the election, and January 6, and the insurrection itself is two completely different issues, that have nothing to do with each other. And what the committee really wants to emphasize is that you do not get one without the other.

And the creation of all this misinformation, the anger and the inks that it created, directly led to what happened on January 6. And I think what - part of what they're charged in these hearings, is to show how those two things are definitively linked and the possibility that perhaps there's some sort of conspiracy or even criminal activity related to it.

KING: Behind the scenes work has been quite impressive. The challenge now we will see in the month ahead. Can they bring it into the public sphere in a compelling way? Reporters are going to stay with us. When we come back, though just in the CNN, a New York judge making a very significant ruling involving, yes, Donald Trump.



KING: It's just into CNN, a stern instruction today from a New York judge to the former president of the United States. Pay $110,000 in fines or you will continue to be held in contempt. Let's get straight to CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, walk us through it.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So, that hearing just completed in New York State court, and the judge saying that he will lift the civil contempt finding against former President Donald Trump. But he wants him to pay the $110,000 that have accrued so far. That the judge said he's lifting this contempt on a couple of conditions.

One, that that finest paid. Another, he said he wants someone from the Trump organization to explain their document retention and destruction policy, including how it relates to post-it notes. Because one of the top officials of the Trump organization, said that is how the former president communicated with his staff, often writing on post-it notes.

So, they want to make sure they've got all the documents, any records that relate to Donald Trump specifically, and his knowledge of what was going on at the Trump organization. This is part of the New York attorney general's investigation into the Trump organization's finances and the accuracy of those financial statements that were given to lenders to insurers and use for tax purposes.

Another judge, also saying that he wants by next Friday. The completion of a review of five remaining boxes, five of 17 that a third-party vendor is going through. So, the judge laying in the groundwork here saying, that these three conditions need to be met, and Trump will be lifted from this contempt. He's agreed to let Trump put this money in an escrow account because Trump is still appealing the overall finding of contempt. John?

KING: Kara Scannell, appreciate the hustle on this breaking news story. I know, you'll stay on top of it. Let's move on to Ukraine now. This is day 77 of Vladimir Putin's war. And you see the red, here in this part of the country. No, the ground advanced not as fast as Russia would like. But the New York Times says this today, "Russia has all been achieved one of its primary objectives, seizing a land bridge connecting Russian territory to the Crimean Peninsula."

That in the Times today, which also reports Putin's army now controls about 80 percent of the contested Donbass territory. That's over here in eastern Ukraine, up for about 30 percent before the February invasion. The chief of police in Luhansk compares the violence there. Get this to Stalingrad and World War II. That's one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

Let's get live to CNN's Scott McLean. He's in Lviv, Ukraine. And Scott, a lot of big news today, both from the Belarusian border up there to the northwest to the Black Sea, down here in the south.