Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Inflation, Gas Prices & Baby Formula Shortage Plague Biden Admin; NYT: Trump Constantly Concerned About Tending To Supporters; Buffalo Shooting Suspect In Court. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 12:30   ET



MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Now, the big fear on Wall Street and in the C-Suite is that the Federal Reserve's late response to inflation is going to backfire that the Fed is going to have to catch up by raising interest rates so aggressively that it accidentally tips the economy into a recession.

Now, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, he doesn't see it that way. He's insisting that the Fed can safely land the plane that they could pull off what's known in economic circles as a soft landing or as he put it, soft-ish landing, where they can tame inflation without causing a recession. And what happens next, John, really has the sweeping ramifications trillions of dollars at stake in our 401(k)s millions of jobs on Main Street, and not to mention political fortunes in Washington.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I don't remember soft-ish, coming up in economics class. It's been a while but I don't remember, Matt, soft-ish coming up, but we shall see how it plays out. Matt Egan, thanks for walking us through all that.

Let's bring the conversation back in the room with our great reporters. Here's how consumers see inflation. Every time they fill up their car, one year ago, gas on average cost $3.04 a gallon. One month ago it cost $4.10 a gallon. Today, it costs $4.59 a gallon. And that is on average. There are parts in the country, including here, but if you go out to California, where the state gas tax is higher, where it's a lot more than that. That's how they see it.

And we are now of late May in an election year. Here's the President's approval rating, 40 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove. Whether you blame the President or not for the specifics, he's the President at a time things are tough. Those numbers, we've talked about this for months, the President needs to get the trajectory going the other way, it's not?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, a lot of Democrats like to complain that they see talk about inflation in the economy as a media narrative. But I was talking to a White House official recently who said gas prices are actually from regular people, the Dow Jones Industrial average of the average American they go out they drive, it's in bright lights out there and they see it every day. They experience it every day. And that is why this is so difficult for this President.

There's no question that between when Biden was inaugurated to today, people's actual material costs have significantly gone up. And even while the coronavirus maybe in their day to day lives has receded, the lingering effects on their lives, the baby shortage, all kinds of other supply chain disruptions have not eased. And that is at the core of the problem. The White House is honestly, they don't know -- they know they don't have very many tools to deal with it but they also know that this is their biggest problem.

KING: It is their biggest problem in the sense that, again, if you're Democrat watching you're already mad at the conversation, why you're blaming this on Biden. The President can say, yes, supply lines, coronavirus, messed up supply lines. Coronavirus messed up the economy. Coronavirus messed up a lot of things. War in Ukraine is messing up energy prices. So the President says I'm trying, I'm trying, but there are a lot of factors contributing to this. Republicans say, nope, it's your fault.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): Right now we've got an administration whose plan is to blame anybody but them and their policies.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Joe Biden has lost all credibility in terms of his ability to deal with inflation, the cost of energy.

SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R-ND): Biden administration, enough of this, enough of this, quit telling us that you're trying to help us with this inflation problem when you continue to restrict our ability to produce energy in this country.


KING: It is T ball in an election year, Biden is in charge. Republicans are not. It's just -- it may be too simple, again, a lot of Democrats out there their blood will boil but we've seen in past elections, it can work.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right, because he is the person in charge. He gets blamed for everything under the sun. They acted relative -- I think relatively swiftly with this baby formula shortage and invoking the Defense Production Act, that's no small act, compelling private corporations to do something. But still Republicans have landed on what they think is a powerful political message going into 2022.

I was in North Carolina this week with Congressman Ted Budd at his campaign event and the signs that were up the most were Biden inflation signs, right? Because Republicans truly feel as though that they have landed on a winning argument.

KING: You mentioned the baby formula shortage, again, there's an issue where some say the White House, you know, the White House now is saying it's doing everything it can. It's using military planes to go overseas, find supplies, bring them here. It's invoking the Defense Production Act to try to speed up some production. It was fascinating overnight Rachael to watch. This is Senator Blumenthal, you can -- let's listen to him first.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I urge repeatedly use of the Defense Production Act. I regret that it took a few days and maybe longer to do it. But now it ought to be used robustly.


KING: From him, I regret it took a few days. If you go on Twitter or look at the statements from some of these frontline embattled Democrats in Congress, they were all like we asked us for this a month ago. We asked for this a week ago. Thank you for finally doing it, Mr. President.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, the frustration extends to Capitol Hill, I mean, where Democrats know that, you know, they're probably going to lose the House potentially the Senate and they need something to run on. They need to show voters that they're trying to address these problems and that's why this week you're actually seeing Democrats in the House, you know, employ this sort of spaghetti at the wall strategy where they're just passing all these bills, they're not going to pass the Senate, addressing gas prices, baby for -- the shortage for baby formula, everything from, you know, domestic terrorism, and they're not going to go anywhere.


But Democrats are hoping they can go home and say, look, at least we've been doing our job. And then specifically, you know, regarding that Senator Blumenthal quote, one of the things I found interesting last night was that right after the White House announced this, all these frontline Democrats in these tough districts, they all took to Twitter and said, this is because I urge the President to do this. Specifically, I was talking to so and so in the White House. They don't have a lot that they can hold up right now to voters to say I'm doing something.

And so even a conversation with the White House. They're trying to use that to tell voters they're actually doing their jobs, which shows you how bad of a position they're in right now.

MCKEND: I just want to note, no Republicans supported that baby formula shortage bill addressing that issue. So I'm interested to see what, they're doing a lot of complaining, what policy solutions they offer up instead.

PHILLIP: There is interestingly, I mean, there's still ongoing conversations about doing something narrow on other issues, whether it's prescription drugs and other things. But there's a lot of pessimism among Democrats in the Senate. That Manchin is trustworthy to work with. And they've got to work through that as a party in order to get something on the table. And there are people out there who were saying they can do some things on Capitol Hill if they're really able to like grind and work with Manchin, so far it just hasn't happened.

KING: Right. And the calendar is not their friend. Whether you agree with the policy or disagree with the policy the calendar is not their friend but we will watch.

Up next for us, it is still Donald Trump's Republican Party but, it is important but, GOP voters proving themselves not always willing to follow the leader.



KING: Primary season is teaching us a lot about Donald Trump and his grip on the Republican Party. Signs of his influence are everywhere. But GOP voters are also sending an important message. "The New York Times" today puts it this way, primary show limits and depths of Trump's power over GOP base. In that article "The Times" Michael Bender and Maggie Haberman write this, Mr. Trump increasingly appears to be chasing his supporters as much as marshaling them. Some have come to see the president they elected to lead an insurgency as an establishment figure inside his own movement.

Maggie Haberman now joins us live. Maggie, that's incredibly well put, there's no question. Donald Trump is still the most dominant force in the Republican Party, but some of his own voters are sending him a message.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Look, John, we have seen since last year that Donald Trump's base is moving away from him in certain respects. We saw it related to the vaccines, the coronavirus vaccines that Donald Trump championed that he wanted to see created while he was president. A lot of his base does not favor that you have people like Steve Bannon, Trump's former adviser who was able to channel that energy and his, you know, against the vaccines, you're seeing signs everywhere that while Donald Trump is still the most prominent figure in the Republican Party, he is not necessarily able to translate that into a directive to all of those voters as to what to do with their votes in other in other elections.

KING: So I'm just going to go through some of the endorsements he's had. And there's a pattern developing. If you look at his endorsement, he endorsed Mr. Herbster in Nebraska, he got 30 percent. He endorsed the lieutenant governor in Idaho, she lost the primary to the governor 32 percent. Mastriano was an exception. J.D. Vance in Ohio 32 percent. Dr. Oz 31 percent. Madison Cawthorn 32 percent. Bo Hines 32 percent.

You see the 30 number a lot. Now we have a long way to go in the primary season. But you talk about this in the case of Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania, you know, Kathy Barnette, who said she was MAGA before Trump, got a decent slice of the vote in the mid 20s there. You write about it this way. These mini-rebellions have tended to flare up wherever Mr. Trump's supporters view his directives or endorsements as not Trumpy enough. Do they think he's lost faith? Or are they out ahead of him? HABERMAN: They're out ahead of him as the way I would put it, John. Look, I mean, I think, I don't think they're losing faith in him because if you look at these fields, we talk about the depth of support, Michael Bender and I did in that story. These fields are all shades of Donald Trump. These candidates are old versions of Donald Trump. They pledge fealty to his ideas. They pledge fealty to his policies. Some of them pledge fealty to his lies about the 2020 election, but not all.

In the case of Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz has some issues that are problematic ideologically with a conservative base on abortion on a couple of other issues. So Trump can't necessarily paper over all of his issues in various primaries. I think that they are not, look, when he was president, he had a different level of power over the party. And I think that has come as a surprise to him now that he has not.

KING: It's a great way to put it. Kellyanne Conway who of course worked with him in the campaign they worked in the Trump White House, is quoted in your article as saying there's, there's no obvious heir apparent when it comes to America first, it's still him. But people feel they can love him and intend to follow him into another presidential run and not agree with all of his choices this year, which makes perfect sense. It's hard to lead a big movement. You're going to have disagreement within a big movement.

My question is more will trump adapt to this? Will he change in the context of you know, Donald Trump was once a Democrat, he said he was for gun control. He said he was totally pro-choice, then he was going to run as an independent and try to take over the Ross Perot movement, then he became a Republican. He has proved he can adapt to changing times. Does he see a need to adapt here or does he just think once he's back out there if he gets out there and runs everything will be fine?


HABERMAN: I think it is too soon to say John, where he sees this heading. As you said, he's adaptable. Usually what he waits to see is which way the crowd is going and he follows them not the other way around. He was constantly in fear of his base being to the right of him. In the White House, I think there is clearly some of that. Now, I think with Kellyanne's point is, is not so much, you know, will Donald Trump adapt? It's more, is anyone going to challenge him? And I just don't think we know yet what it looks like who gets into a primary? We don't know for sure that Donald Trump is running although I have no reason to believe he is not based on everything I've heard. And then does anyone come in who can play in his same lane not just divide up the anti-Trump vote, and those are the open questions.

KING: But you also write today in a separate article about this effort to disbar Ted Cruz because of his efforts to help as a lawyer not only a member of Senate as a lawyer, to help Donald Trump. Let's go back in time first and listen to some of Ted Cruz after the 2020 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): At this point, we do not know who has prevailed in the election. I think the court should consider it. I have called on the court to do it. I think it's the right thing to do. Dismissing these claims, I think does real violence to our Democratic system.


KING: Senator Cruz had agreed I believe it was the state of Pennsylvania and Republican Party would agree to argue before the Supreme Court this case. Is this real? Senator Cruz says it's a bunch of Democratic hacks.

HABERMAN: He does say that and it's certainly true that many of these folks are Democrats, and there is obviously a partisan edge to this. But what this group is trying to do is hold accountable various lawyers who were involved in these legal efforts, 65 project is the name, 65 is the number of post-election lawsuits that Donald Trump or his allies filed and that were not successful for the most part anyway, I think almost entirely, if not entirely.

Look, I don't know that there's high expectations by this group that this is going to have a real effect that Cruz will actually be disbarred. And it will certainly be a long process as they file a State Bar complaint. But I do think they want to show that there can be repercussions, even if it is just public, you know, disapproval of what took place.

KING: We'll keep an eye on it. Thank you, Maggie Haberman for bringing it to our attention. It's good to see you.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

KING: A court appearance today for the suspect in that racist buffalo supermarket shooting live on the ground, next.



KING: The suspect in the Buffalo supermarket massacre you see him right there in court for the first time today. And a grand jury has now indicted him. All 10 of the people killed in that horrific massacre were black. The 18-year-old suspect has now pleaded not guilty to first degree murder. CNN Shimon Prokupecz is live for us in Buffalo with the latest. Shimon?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so it was a brief court appearance today where we learned at the end of this hearing through the DA's office that they had indicted him, this alleged shooter, and now we wait for the process for the grand jury process to continue. We expect there's going to be more charges laid out at some point by the DA's office. Of course, all of this as the FBI behind me here continues to investigate the crime scene. They're still processing.

Just think, you know, this happened on Saturday. The FBI is still here. But it does look like, John, like they're starting to wrap things up. For people here in the community, they want the store reopened. They said that they need access to it, a lot of them relying on this grocery store for food. So some good signs here for the community hoping that some of this can reopen and they can start being able really to get food for themselves.

Of course, some funerals getting underway tomorrow and then next week. And the other thing, John, that we're waiting for his word from the Department of Justice on federal charges, of course, he's facing federal hate crimes charges that we thought by now, we would have those charges that has not yet happened. At some point, we do expect to hear from the Department of Justice on that that just hasn't happened yet. John?

KING: Shimon Prokupecz on the ground for us in Buffalo. Shimon, thank you very much.


Ahead for us, U.S. Marshals now securing the homes of Supreme Court justices, plus the Senate right now, right now voting on a $40 billion Ukraine aid bill.


KING: Topping our Political Radar, you see it right there, happening now the Senate voting on a $40 billion bill to send military and humanitarian aid, more military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. It will pass. But earlier this week 11 Republican senators did vote to oppose advancing the aid package fighting the high price tag and the fact that the costs are not offset elsewhere in the budget.

A new warning from the Department of Homeland Security about potential threats to members of the Supreme Court, that of course following the leak of the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. If you recall, protesters surrounded the court and the home of Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote that leaked draft opinion. Well, U.S. Marshals will now provide around the clock security at the homes of all nine Supreme Court justices.

The CDC director urging more Americans to put their mask back on. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says a third of Americans now live in areas of medium to high risk and should reconsider wearing masks in public indoor setting. New York City, for example, now at a high COVID-19 alert level but the mayor says he will not reinstate the mask mandate there.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NY): I wear mask indoors and I'm encouraging others and I'm also encouraging us all to use the tools that are available for this new layer of the war. We're not using old methods and an old war, mask, antivirals that are readily available in New York, tests, we're going to distribute 16 million tests. We're going to use all the tools so we can keep the city up and operating but most importantly safe. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And, well, look at this, he's not a politician, maybe you might say more of a feline influencer. This Ukrainian cat has over a million Instagram followers and he's using the platform with a little help of course to raise thousands for animal shelters back home. Stepan and his owner Anna fled Kharkiv for France in the early days of Russia's war on Ukraine. Now his activism has earned him an international bloggers award. Remarkable.


Don't forget, you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for joining us today. Hope to see you back here tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.