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Inside Politics

Biden: U.S. May Slip Into A "Slight Recession"; CNN Poll: Only 22 Percent Of Americans Feel Good About Economy; CNN Poll: Americans Pessimistic About Future Of Economy; Source: 1/6 Cmte Will Show Trump As Danger To Democracy; Source: 1/6 Hearing Will Feature New Testimony And Evidence; Biden Natsec Strategy: China Is "America's Most Consequential Geopolitical Challenge"; Biden: Putin Miscalculated By Invading Ukraine But Is Rational; Biden Says He'd Meet With Putin On Griner But Not Ukraine. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 12, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing a very, very busy news day with us. New numbers, and a news making interview with the president of the United States. A brand-new CNN survey shows Joe Biden's approval rating is up some, but so are your doubts about the economy. Some big interview headlines about the threat of recession, being judged by his record, not by his age, and about Vladimir Putin.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly. I don't think there will be a recession. If it is it will be a very slight recession, namely a president in recent history has gotten as much done as I have in the first year. Not a joke.


KING: Plus, new reporting on the January 6 committee's argument tomorrow that Donald Trump remains a clear and present danger. The panel promising new evidence, including secret service records and videotaped accounts from the former president's cabinet, and slushed words closed captioning to understand the questions.

A sit down with John Fetterman puts a spotlight on the Democrats recovery from a stroke. Up first for us though, an important new economic indicator and it is not good. The Producer Price Index rising faster than expected in September, energy and food prices drove those numbers, which were interpreted by economists as proof the Fed still needs to do more to slow rising costs.

That proof of persistent inflation comes just 27 days before we count midterm election votes. And it comes as we release some new numbers about your midterm mood. President Joe Biden's approval rating is up some, but it is still underwater, 44 percent of Americans approve of his performance. This next number, also not good for the president or for his party, especially if how most Americans feel about the economy right now shapes whether they vote for change, or to stay the course.

Take a look, only 22 percent of you, only 22 percent of Americans report feeling good or somewhat good about the economy right now. The president in an exclusive CNN interview last night, asked voters to judge him by what he's done and take a look at the record. It's quite a lot. But the president admitting this too that there is a chance of recession while he is in office.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Should the American people prepare for a recession?

PRES. BIDEN: No. Look, they've been saying this now how - every six months, they say this. Every six months they look down, the next six months and see what's going to happen. It hadn't happened yet. It hadn't been - there has - there is no - there's no guarantee that they're going to recession. I don't think there will be a recession. If it is, it'll be a very slight recession.


KING: With me in studio today to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Kasie Hunt, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times, Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press, and our CNN economics commentator, Catherine Rampell.

Let's start with the substance of the PPI report, the Producer Price Index. What suppliers charge when they sell products? The trajectory is not good in terms of the Fed trying to get inflation to come down. And in terms of the politics, the resident wanting Americans to think at least it's going that way.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. It wasn't a terrible report, but it wasn't a good report. What the Fed wants to see, of course, is prices coming down a lot more, at least price growth coming down quite a bit more. If we don't see that, we will see potentially more of these price increases passed along to consumers. We will see that show up in the consumer price index numbers that we'll see tomorrow.

And then the Fed will probably have to raise rates more aggressively to get inflation under control, which will in turn, increase the likelihood of a recession. That is not a trajectory anyone wants. But that seems to be the one that we're on right now.

KING: I was going to come back to this. But let me do it right now because you mentioned recession. The president they're telling Jake Tapper, no, American should not prepare for a recession. Should they?

RAMPELL: I think they should. I mean, I think the president was correct to say, a recession is not inevitable. I'm not expecting recession. It would be irresponsible for him to be more pessimistic than what he expressed last night, because recessions can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That said, there are plenty of warning signs that because the economy has overheated so much, because the Fed will have to tighten financial conditions so much that we will see a recession next year. Again, not inevitable, but it's more likely than it wasn't, you know, just a few months ago.

And look, we can hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And I think that's what we should see consumers doing. And that's what we should see the government doing. Frankly, I've seen no evidence that either the federal government or state governments have situated themselves to be ready if there is a recession next year.

KING: If there's a recession. And you see, let's connect the dots from the economic data to the politics of the moment, and simply inside four weeks from voting. They're not good. This, you know, the president's approval rating is up a little bit to 44 percent, but he remains underwater. You look at the trajectory there. That's what you want. You want to be going up anyway, as you get closer to voting.

So those are better numbers for the president and for his party, every little bit up, saves maybe a House District, makes the Senate race maybe a little bit more competitive. So that's good. But then you look at the bones of our new poll. Economic conditions in the country, back in April of 2021, 54 percent said net good, either good or very good. 45 percent net poor.


Look at the right. Look at the right, eight in 10 Americans. 78 percent of Americans think the economy is not good right now. That's horrible. So, then you hope if you're the president or the Democrats, well, maybe it's not good now, but you believe we're on a path to get better.

Well, look at this, economic conditions a year from now will be, just look at the gold line. The green line is good, it's going down. The gold line is going up six in 10 Americans still think even a year from now, those are just really tough, troubling numbers for the Democrats who were trying to convince people, stay the course, we're in charge in Washington, stay with us.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Tough numbers. And also, tough trend lines. I mean, if you say it's good that the approval rating is taking up the other way. I mean, that's bad for Democrats. And, you know, I will say, having spent a lot of time lately talking to Republicans about where they feel Senate contests are. When I'm listening to the president talk about the chances of a recession. I absolutely take your point. He has to be careful.

However, one of the things that the president ran on was empathy, saying to people, I get what you're going through. And, you know, I've spoken to Republicans who say that this really puts the White House in a bind, because what they're trying to say is like, no, no, no, things are good, things are good. But the people who feel the way that people clearly told our pollsters they feel, they hear that, and they think things are not good. You are not empathizing or understanding what's actually going on with me. And so, I think that's a real warning sign for Democrats.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not only things are good, but also things will get better because of some of the recent successes that the White House deems that they've had this summer with legislation that they passed, or even last year with the infrastructure package, and this summer the inflation Reduction Act. But telling voters and telling Americans to essentially be patient, there's good things on the way, the economy will get better is very tough.

When some of the real pressure points that they impact people right away, gas prices are going back up. That's something people feel immediately see. What you have is immediate pressure points when it comes to the economy, that's going to impact people right now. And legislation where people may not feel the impact of it until months down the line, including after the upcoming election.

KING: And so, the challenge, the numbers outline the challenge for the president's party. The president is on this West Coast trip right now, with a mix of official events, fundraisers and some political events. But how do you try to make that point in the sense that you're trying to tell people we're on a path, things will get better, and you're asking them to be patient, but Americans are exhausted. This is our third COVID winter. Then you have inflation come in behind that. It's hard to ask for people's patience when they're tired and they're anxious.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The one way that senior Democrats feel the president can be effective on the campaign trail is with his bully pulpit remind voters over and over what this administration has done when it comes to the infrastructure law, when it comes to that semiconductor legislation that has spurred a lot of economic growth in these critical states and districts, as well as the inflation Reduction Act, which we should note does has barely any impact in the short term, may years down the line on actual prices. And that's what the president can do.

But again, going back to those poll numbers, which are not good for Democrats, with the president, even if we're not in a technical recession, politically it doesn't matter. It's how voters feel. And they clearly feel terrible right now about the direction of the economy. And I'm not quite sure, what the president and the White House can do to really change that trajectory four weeks out.

KING: And to be fair and contextual to the president's party, this is a global issue. Inflation is a global issue. There's not much a president can do like that. The Fed has been trying for what, six months now to raise interest rates to get it to come down.

Before I want to move on to one other thing about looking past the midterms, but Democrats would say, well, if you're going to beat up on the president, what's the Republican plan for inflation? You just say the president's not preparing, governors are not preparing enough for a possible recession. Have you seen a Republican plan, where you look at it, and say, oh, that makes sense. RAMPELL: No, no. But to be clear, neither party has an approach, has any sort of credible approach for dealing with inflation. There are some things they could do around the edges, but they haven't even proposed those.

KING: Right. Thanks to bring up this last point. The president in his interview with Jake Tapper yesterday, says he's focused on the election. That's four weeks from yesterday. That's more important. But he says, then after that, he'll make a decision about 2024 and about whether he could run against that guy again.


PRES. BIDEN: I'm not going to make this about my decision. I'm going to make this about this off-year election. After that's done in November, and then I'm going to be in the process of deciding.

TAPPER: Is one of the calculations that you think you're the only one who can beat Donald Trump?

PRES. BIDEN: I believe I can beat Donald Trump again.


KING: He doesn't say the only one, but he gets that smile at the end there. Joe Biden's body language tells a lot about what he's thinking, he liked that question.

HUNT: I do think that he liked that question very much. And there were a lot of doubters when he was running in the Democratic primary in 2020. There were a lot of people who thought he was toast after New Hampshire. And he proved them all wrong, first in the (crosstalk), yes. It took Carolina, very good point. But I just remember him leaving New Hampshire early in sort of dramatic fashion. Things were not good. But he won, right?

And you know, the reality here is, he is going to have to make a decision pretty quickly after the midterm elections, because if he doesn't want to run, frankly, Democrats are going to be behind. I mean, Republicans are already running for president. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes for a long period of time ahead of 2024 to get things ready.


KANNO-YOUNGS: His answer there also, it reflects an answer that you often hear when you ask the president's allies about when he's going to announce a decision. Will he announce a decision and that's that. Remember, this is the only person thus far who has beaten Donald Trump. That's an answer that you often hear from the president's allies here. So, I think also mentioning that potential opponent there was also very key and crucial to the answer you heard.

KING: I think it's critical. The volatility in our politics for people in our business, for people watching at home, remember the last six, eight, 10 years of American life, a lot of volatility one day a time, one day at a time. Up next. A closing argument ahead of the midterms, the January 6 committee set for a big hearing tomorrow, and it promises new evidence.


KING: Some new CNN reporting now on the January 6 committee and tomorrow's hearing. It will be the last public hearing before the midterm elections. And sources telling CNN, the committee will treat this hearing as a closing argument. Making its case that the former President Donald Trump remains a clear and present danger to American democracy. Sources also say the hearing will include some new evidence gathered since the last committee public hearing back in July.


With us to discuss this reporting, our CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel, CNN political correspondent Sara Murray. Well, they say they have new evidence. No live testimony. Is that confirmed? No live testimony, but instead the witnesses they've gathered since July, what do we expect to be the headlines?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: With this committee, anything can happen. So, I'll tell you (crosstalk), but right now, no live witnesses. But there are new witnesses, we've never seen before who had been interviewed by the committee, and there is new testimony from old witnesses that we have seen before. There is a lot of new evidence and I'm told big picture all roads lead to Donald Trump.

As you said, the point that they are going to make is that he remains a clear and present danger, not just because of what happened on January 6, but because he continues to say the election was stolen. He continues to support election deniers. They see this as a threat. 2024 democracy in peril.

Just a couple of names we may get testimony from tomorrow, former Trump cabinet members who have testified since the last hearing, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who resigned that day, former Secretary of the Treasury Steve Minuchin.

KING: And especially, in the case of Pompeo and Minuchin, Trump loyalists, and that has been the power of the previous committee hearings. The testimony you're hearing, the damning testimony about what happened from election day through January 6, and even through the Biden inauguration comes from people who had eyes on Donald Trump, people who were loyal to Donald Trump.

This is Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a member of the committee. Even the committee members say, they have been surprised that they have a public hearing, and then the phone starts ringing.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN, (D) JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: There's some new material that, you know, I found as we got into it, pretty surprising. We're going to be going through. It really some of what we've already found but augmenting with new material that we discovered through our work throughout this summer, what the President's intentions were, what he knew, what he did, what others did.


KING: One of the points that were told they want to emphasize tomorrow is the specificity and the repetitive nature of warnings to the former president United States that this could turn violent.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, and as Jamie pointed out, they have gotten a lot of information. And frankly, they've now had a couple of extra weeks to sort of tinker with this hearing to be able to get their point across. When you think about, you know, before we were hearing about how little information they could get from the U.S. Secret Service, that's not the case anymore.

We don't know exactly what is in the trove of information they've received. But they have, you know, more than 800,000 pages of information that they've now obtained from the secret service, and we expect to see some of that. We are expecting to see some new video in this.

But you know, as Jamie said, the idea is that Donald Trump is at the center of this, and he still remains, you know, the preeminent voice in the Republican Party, he remains a danger to democracy. And frankly, on that day, I think that the committee feels like they can't drive home the point enough that he knew what was happening at the Capitol that he knew that this riot had started, and he didn't do anything to stop it.

KING: And the key point, the closest parallel we have is the 9/11 commission, which talked about that day, built a documentary evidence about how that day happened, the dots that were not connected, but then also projected forward. What does the United States have to do to improve its preparation for a future possible terrorist attack?

The committee, this is Jamie Raskin, says that's what they want to do, too, because Donald Trump is still holding rallies. Donald Trump is still supporting candidates. Donald Trump still wants to be a candidate for president in 2024. There remains a clear and present danger to our electoral system, to democratic institutions. This is not ancient history we're talking about, this as a continuing threat. That is the point they want to make that this is not just compiling the history of that day.

GANGEL: And they want to underscore that before the midterm elections coming up. I will also tell you, we've heard it thrown around that this is the last hearing. I got multiple calls last night saying, this is not the last hearing, there may very well be several more hearings.

Keep in mind, the committee still has to decide whether it's going to send a letter to DOJ about a criminal referral. And they're going to have a hearing in December to announce their report. But I was told last night, they continue to interview people, more evidence is coming in, more testimonial is coming in. If they find new information, they'll be back out.

MURRAY: And they're not willing to just sort of, just stop and sit back and try to write their report. You know, the members are saying, we are writing on this - we're writing this report. We're working diligently on it. But at the same time, yes, we're still going to be bringing in new witnesses. We're still going to be trying to dig up more information until the end.

KING: This is number nine, right, nine in public hearing, we've learned a ton. At each of the prior eight, we will see what we get tomorrow, and we hope you join us as we do that. Tomorrow, join CNN special live coverage for the January 6 committee hearing, attack on democracy the January 6 hearing is live. Our coverage begins tomorrow at noon eastern. Please join us.


Next, new details about some big foreign policy changes and a demand from President Biden, the Vladimir Putin stop threatening to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.


KING: Today some major foreign policy changes under review inside the Biden White House and new details they include about the president's thinking on Saudi Arabia, and what the formal Biden national security strategy will now say, looking forward about China. Let's get straight to the White House to CNN's MJ Lee. MJ, walk through the big headlines here?


MJ LEE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. This is basically the president's first formal national security strategy. This is essentially a memo or a document that is required by Congress. And what it does, is it paints a pretty comprehensive picture of the foreign policy vision for this administration and its top priorities. And the top headline, and the takeaway is that the U.S. sees China as its, "most consequential geopolitical challenge."

Now, if you have been reporting on this administration for the first few years, that is a very familiar theme. As you know very well, when the president is speaking in public or is traveling abroad, he will often and very consistently talk about the various challenges that China poses, and frequently talks about sort of this theme of the U.S. banding together with its allies to sort of tamp down on and contain China's growth economically and politically.

Now, the other thing that this document mentions is Russia as posing a, "immediate threat to the free and open international system." That, of course, is not at all surprising either, given particularly the events of the last year or so. What Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser told reporters is that he wants to make sure that the administration is avoiding a new cold war, but that it is very important for the U.S. to stay ahead of the challenges that are posed by China. John? KING: MJ Lee live for us at the White House. MJ, thank you. Let's bring the conversation back to our reporters inside the room. Just want to read, it's a really interesting line in the strategy because MJ just talks about the administration believes China today, tomorrow for the next 20 years is the biggest challenge for any American president.

But it's interesting the language here, we will effectively compete with the People's Republic of China, which is the only competitor with both the intent and increasingly the capability to reshape the international order, while constraining a dangerous Russia. So, a focus on China, and actually kind of a slap here at Russia saying, you know, you may be doing what you're doing in Ukraine, but you are not the global player, you think you are.

HUNT: Right. And I think that's been a big part of the way they've handled the Ukraine strategy overall, in addition to the way they look at things here. And it's also part of why I think you see Putin cozying up so much to China and worrying so much about the relationship that he has there. But you know, I think the reality really across the board, I mean, they're right about the challenge that China presents. And it's not just a security challenge, it's an economic challenge. I mean, it cuts across every facet of American life.

KING: It does, and it just shows you again, regardless of who's the president at this moment, how complex the job is. And Joe Biden is the president at this moment, trying to deal with the China challenge. While dealing with the daily challenges you get because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he talked about this, in his exclusive interview with Jake Tapper last night, where he says he believes Putin is rational. However, he says Putin needs to change his behavior that no rational leader would be threatening the use of potentially of a tactical nuclear weapon.


TAPPER: How realistic is it, do you think that Putin would use a tactical nuclear weapon?

PRES. BIDEN: Well, I don't think he will. But I think it's irresponsible him to talk about it. The idea that a world leader of one of the largest nuclear powers in the world says, he may use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. He in fact, cannot continue with impunity to talk about the use of a tactical nuclear weapon, as if that's a rational thing to do. The mistakes get made and given and the miscalculation you could occur. No unconstrained, be sure what would happen and could end an Armageddon.


KING: The Armageddon line he used at a fundraiser in private. He's making the point there that Putin needs to stop this because somebody might see some action, misinterpret what it is and make a mistake, even if Putin is not going to use a tactical nuclear weapon. You just don't talk about it because that gets everybody on edge. KIM: Right, right. And that is Biden, which has - when he was asked about or when his aides were asked about the Armageddon comet after he made it initially. This is the president trying to be very realistic, and very stark about what the stakes are, you know, the intelligence officials have said there's no change the nuclear posture, they don't expect anything imminent anytime soon.

But he's been very clear, saying that this could be - we could be headed back to 1962. This could be the greatest challenge since then. So that's the point that he gets across. I think there have been other times during the crisis - during this war, where he has been much more aggressive in his rhetoric. But he is certainly standing by it now because this is what he wants to convey to the American public about what could happen if something goes horribly wrong.

KING: And both presidents are expected to be at the G20 in Indonesia coming up. That would be a chance given the dicey politics of the moment, the disagreements of the moment to look Putin the eye and make that case. But listen, the president says, I don't think so, unless.


PRES. BIDEN: Look, I have no intention of meeting with him. But for example, if he came to me at the G20 and said, I want to talk about the release of Griner, I'd meet with him. I mean, it would depend, but I can't imagine he's committed war crimes. And so, I don't see any rationale to meet with him now.


KANNO-YOUNGS: A couple of interesting points there. One, repeating again, that Putin has committed war crimes. Two, also saying that there is an openness to meeting with him. But on an issue that directly involves the U.S. and Russia that being the detainment of Brittney Griner.