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2023 Rescue Backed By FDIC Insurance Fund With $128B; Rep. George Santos Officially Files For Re-election; DeSantis: Ukraine War Not A "Vital" U.S. Interest; 80 Percent Of GOP Voters Say Nominee Shouldn't Involve U.S. In Ukraine; GOP's Comer: Treasury Allowing Oversight Committee To Review Bank Reports Related To Biden Family; Russian Fighter Jet Forces Down U.S. Drone Over Black Sea. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 14, 2023 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: More now on our top story including the debate over what to call the government's response. President Biden says his administration's aggressive steps to deal with two bank collapses is not a bailout. Not comparable, the President says, to what happened back in 2008.

His critics though take issue. Among them, the Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, for example. She was quick to call it a public bailout, who is paying is part of the key definition here. CNN's Matt Egan joins us, the short facts from the political rhetoric. Matt, first question, is it fair to call it a bailout?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, John, you know, there's a lot here that is bringing back bad memories of 2008, right? Runs on the bank, a mad scramble by U.S. officials to try to stop the panic before global markets open on Sunday night. And, yes, a massive government intervention.

But, you know, there are some important distinctions between what's happening now and what happened in 2008. Because back then, bond and stockholders, they were supported the executives, the CEOs, they kept their cushy jobs, and government injected taxpayer money to restore confidence.

Now today is a different story, because it's really the depositors that are getting bailed out, including some of them are wealthy depositors. But bank managers, they're getting fired, they've been replaced. And also, this is not being done with taxpayer money. This is industry funded money. So there's some important distinctions here.

There's another point here, though, because the Fed also launched a new program, designed to prevent other banks from getting into trouble. Now, that lending program is backstopped by the Treasury, and it allows banks to pledge their bonds, some of which have lost a lot of money, and they can pledge those bonds and they can get money from the Fed, except the Fed is not imposing any losses, any haircut. So that is, of course, a pretty good deal.

John, I think you can call it what you want. You can call it a ballot, it's an intervention, whatever it is, it is a massive response from the government designed to try to stop the panic. Now let's hope it works.

KING: So let's drill down on the who's paying for it part, because I think for most people out there, not in -- not on Wall Street or maybe not in political Washington, if taxpayers are paying for it, they would think it is a bailout. As of right now, taxpayers are not paying for it. Is that guaranteed to last?

EGAN: No, nothing guaranteed to last. Not even that. Listen, first, what's going to happen here is the FDIC is trying to sell off the assets of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank and trying to raise money to cover it for depositors. Now, on top of that, though, the FDIC has a rainy day fund designed for moments just like this to protect depositors when banks collapse.

So this is a $120 billion insurance fund. And in case, you're wondering how it's funded, it's not funded by taxpayers, it's by banks. Banks put up insurance premiums when they get FDIC insurance. And so that's how they're trying to fund this. Now, U.S. officials stress that taxpayers are not going to get stuck with the bill.

Because if they end up losing money in this insurance fund, then the FDIC and Treasury officials say that what's going to happen is they're going to put up an assessment on the industry, on the banks. So the banks themselves are going to have to pay to put more money into the insurance fund. Of course, there's nothing stopping banks from passing along those costs to their customers, which is pretty much anyone who banks.

KING: Which means we have a lot to keep our eyes on and keep track of as we go through the future days and weeks and months of this.

Matt Egan, appreciate your help today. We will call on you again, I am certain.

Up next for us, the embattled New York Congressman George Santos makes a big decision about his political future. And Ron DeSantis, a big policy shift and the new GOP. Florida Governor, White House hopeful says the United States has no vital stake in Russia's war on Ukraine.



KING: Some political news just in to CNN, the scandal plagued Congressman George Santos just signals he wants to stay in Washington for at least two more years. The freshman Republican lawmaker today filing paperwork formally declaring his candidacy for re-election in 2024. That despite calls for many of his fellow Republicans, especially New York Republicans for Santos to leave the Congress.

Now to a big policy pivot from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that reflects a giant change in Republican priorities. DeSantis now says backing Ukraine is not, not a vital U.S. interest. Look at this. "While the United States has many vital national interests, becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them." His answer part of a questionnaire the Fox Host Tucker Carlson sent to Republican presidential hopefuls.


Our great reporters are back at the table. Ron DeSantis now says it is not a vital U.S. interest and he calls it a territorial dispute. Ron DeSantis, as a member of the House in the Obama administration, "We in the Congress had been urging the President, I've been, to provide arms to Ukraine. They want to fight their good fight. They're not asking us to fight it for them. And the President has steadfastly refused. And I think that's a mistake." So a flip flop. Why?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The Tucker tail is wagging the dog. That's why. I mean, look at the forum, through which he wanted to give this information from a host on Fox News, who has been railing against the U.S. involvement in Ukraine has been supporting autocrats who are in and around the region.

And this is a person who has a large audience within the Republican electorate. And so that's why you see a flip flop there. What's interesting is, as you were talking about that, Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. came out with her answers to that. I mean -- by the way, can we just talk about the fact that it is Tucker Carlson, who is sending questionnaires to these candidates that says everything.

But she's stuck to the more traditional Republican line, which is, yes, it is important to U.S. national interest to stay and help the Ukrainians --

KING: Right. And so let's go through some of the different answers which tell you we are no longer living in Ronald Reagan's Republican Party.


KING: There are still people like Nikki Haley who voiced that view, but it's increasingly, I would say, a minority or, you know, Donald Trump. No -- the question is, is opposing Russia and Ukraine a vital American national strategic interests? Donald Trump says, "No, but it is for Europe. But not for the United States."

Mike Pence disagrees. "When the United States supports Ukraine in their fight against Putin, we follow the Reagan Doctrine." DeSantis, again, he's with Trump more or less, "Becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them." Nikki Haley, as you know, says yes. "The Russian government is a powerful dictatorship that makes no secret of its hatred of America." And fellow South Carolinian Tim Scott, "Degrading the Russian military is in our vital national interest."

Even the way the question is framed in the idea that this is -- Ron DeSantis wants to makes it about Russia and Ukraine, Putin and Zelenskyy, as opposed to an attack on a huge democracy in Europe, access to Ukrainian, the breadbasket if you will of Europe, all the economic and agricultural power that would give him and then what about Moldova? What about the NATO countries, the Eastern European countries that join NATO?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the answer from a lot of Republican presidential -- Republican primary voters would be, so what about Moldova, right? That this is a party that just doesn't really care about that stuff in the same way. Or at least that's what it looks like on the surface right now.

And I think one of the big questions about this race, right, for years now, the loudest voices in the Republican Party had been saying, what we hear from Donald Trump, right? That's not our problem, that's Europe's problem. It's a territorial dispute that doesn't concern us.

You know, I am old enough to remember when this was a really solidly hawkish party, and when an underdog presidential candidate in, you know, John McCain back in 2008, sort of rose from the dead as a candidate on the strength of his, you know, sort of hawkish policy credentials. And I do wonder how much there is some of that vestigial DNA still in the party that, if you ask, the question is, do you want to sort of go to the wall for Ukraine?

A lot of people might shy away from that. But do you support a strong and assertive America? Do you support a world that is, you know, led by the United States and not sort of shared by a couple of different superpowers? I do think those instincts are still there. And the question is, is there someone in the race who can play --

BASH: He's old enough to remember, it means it wasn't that long.

KING: Right. Well, and the issue -- and DeSantis tries to make this point. Republicans are trying to say stand up to China, and sort of never mind Europe, never mind Putin, never mind Russia. The question is, can you make that -- can you sell that argument, or will somebody like McCain stand up and say, it's a lot more complicated than that.

In everything you do against Russia and Ukraine has an impact on the China conversation. But for that person to break through, for a Haley to break through or Pence to break through or somebody else, they're walking into the heavy breeze right now.

This is from our brand new poll, is it important that the Republican nominee believes the U.S. should not be involved in Russia/Ukraine? 36 percent, more than a third of Republicans say it's essential. 44 percent say it's important to them. So add that up, 80 percent of Republican voters or potential Republican voters don't think it's not, you know, it's not important to them, essentially, that the Republicans agree with President Biden on this one.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: And you do see dampening support among Republicans on this issue. But that is not the same as what you're seeing in Congress. Within Congress, this is still what you're describing is a minority viewpoint. I've talked to almost a dozen lawmakers recently about this on both sides of the aisle, and they still feel strongly about support for Ukraine.

Now there is that Ukraine fatigue group that Matt Gaetz is leading. There's roughly a dozen lawmakers in that, in the House that does not want to provide further support to Ukraine. But again, there's only 11 people who've signed on to that resolution. As for this questionnaire, Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas was one of those who did not answer it. But in an interview over the weekend with USA Today, he linked China and Ukraine together and said he sees this as important to deterring China from invading Taiwan.


KING: One of my favorite subplots is the Florida Republican debate. You have Trump and DeSantis essentially on the same page when it comes to Ukraine. Marco Rubio, who's not running this time, said on you here today there is a national security associate in Ukraine. And he said DeSantis, quote, doesn't deal with foreign policy every day as governor.

So, little poke, a little poke there. We're just getting started in the Republican race.

Up next for us, the House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer cites progress in his investigation of Hunter Biden.



KING: Now, a new development in the House investigations. The House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer says the Biden Treasury Department will let him review bank activity reports related to the Biden family. It's just the latest move in the Kentucky Republicans investigation of the President's son, Hunter Biden.

Chairman Comer also says he's starting to receive bank records he subpoenaed of Hunter Biden's business associates and he's also renewed efforts to find out more about Hunter Biden's art sales.

Our reporters are back at the table. Let's start with the chairman says the Treasury Department is going to give him some access. Maybe not everything he's asked for, but some access. That tells me the Biden administration is hoping to cooperate up to a point?

CHAMBERS: I mean, that's been consistent with what they've said what they believe is a political tax. They say that they're not going to comply with but anything that they said was legitimate. They said that they will comply with that. So it's still unclear though how much -- how many documents and what kind of access they're going to be providing and whether or not they're going to be claiming executive privilege on some of these things, too.

KING: The question is, where does this go? I mean, I have long said Democrats. So like when I say it, that there are legitimate questions about Hunter Biden. The question is, do the House Republicans have oversight, or do they have a, you know, periodic contest? BURNS: Well, it, obviously is a legitimate sort of line of inquiry. Many reporters, I think all of our news organizations have looked at the issue in one way or another. But yes, the question is, you know, once you start to get some of this material on the line, does it become, you know, a more productive investigation? Or is it just a sort of wide ranging fishing expedition?

I think the Chairman has been on the job for a pretty short period of time, gets a certain window to prove to the public and to us and to the people who is seeking information from that, you know, it's a serious inquiry, it won't go on forever.

KING: Yes. To that point, though, the chairman also was on another network this morning, and he's on quite frequently. And he says, you know, he thinks the President is exposed in this and he thinks, you know, that, you know, that he essentially has declared the verdict and is going to schedule the trial.

BASH: Yes. I mean, listen, this is -- both parties have their sort of political touchstones. And for Republicans, this is like, you know, top two, right, on the list, to talk about Hunter Biden, Hunter Biden, Hunter Biden. It is the sort of the ultimate red meat.

It doesn't mean that there isn't something to look into, which is why they're doing it. And we shouldn't forget that the Biden Justice Department is also still looking into it.

KING: Right.

BASH: We don't know where that stands. Remember that President Biden kept in place the Trump appointed U.S. Attorney in Delaware, in order to, you know, keep that investigation going and not to seem like he was, you know, putting his thumb on the scale too much. So we don't know why it's taking so long. But presumably on that note, we will see in here for about something in the next couple of months.

BURNS: It is one of the ironies of what you're just describing, John, Chairman Comer sort of goes on, again, other networks to make these outlandish claims about Hunter Biden and the President. If all he gets back is proof that Hunter Biden has been involved in some pretty slimy business dealings, but not that he's sort of has a direct line to the head of the Chinese Communist Party and he's advising his president on Beijing's orders, you know, that could end up looking like kind of a disappointment for him. Even if he gets information back that now he's a little bit uncomfortable.

KING: We will watch some cooperation. We'll see what we get public hearings.

Quick break for us. When we come back, stay with us, some breaking news, the Russian jet forcing an American drone out of the sky.


[12:58:21] KING: We get some breaking news now, word of a potentially major international incident. The collision between a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance drone and a Russian fighter jet over the Black Sea. Let's get live to the Pentagon. CNN's Oren Liebermann there gathering the details. Oren, what do we know?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, this played out early this morning over the Black Sea when a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone, essentially a spy drone was operating over the Black Sea when the U.S. Air Force Europe says two Russian fighter jets came in and conducted an unsafe and unprofessional interception.

It's not just that. According to the U.S., the Russian fighter jets flew in front of the Reaper drone and even dumped fuel in front of it, apparently in an attempt to disrupt it or disturb it in some way. Then according to the U.S., one of those fighter jets, a Russian Su-27 fourth generation fighter damaged the propeller of the MQ-9 Reaper drone, which for that particular aircraft, is on the rear of the drone, forcing the U.S. to bring it down in international waters.

A very sharp statement coming from U.S. Air Force Europe after the incident. I'll read you part of this. "This incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe, and unprofessional. These aggressive actions by Russian aircrew are dangerous and could lead to miscalculation and unintended escalation."

We have watched not only over the course of the war, but even before as U.S. aircraft including Reaper drones, which we could track on flight tracking websites for the most part, as well as knowing that Russian aircraft were operating over the Black Sea have done so for more than a year at this point.

But this, of course, is the first such interaction we've heard of, essentially, a collision or ramming of some sort between that Russian Su-27 fighter jet and a U.S. Air Force drone forcing the U.S. to bring it down. How does the U.S. respond? How does the U.S. view the severity of the incident? John, those are now very important questions that the U.S. will have to answer.

KING: A very important questions. Was it a cowboy incident? Was it a miscalculation? Was it deliberate? Oren Liebermann, appreciate the breaking news. We know you'll get those details as they come in.

Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now.