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Biden DOJ Sending "Strike Forces" To Five Cities Over Crime Surge; Couple Asks Biden About Vaccine Hesitancy In Black Community; Biden's Hometown Of Scranton Feeling Impact Of Inflation. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 07:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Just into CNN, the Biden Justice Department is deploying strike forces to combat violent crime. They are going to be based in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C. And this will focus on gun trafficking, something that the president talked about during last night's CNN town hall.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Actually, crime is down. Gun violence and murder rates are up -- guns. It's not because the gun shops in the cities are selling these guns. They are either shadow gun dealers and/or gun shops that are not abiding by the law. So we're going to do major investigations and shut those guys down and put some of them in jail for what they're doing.


KEILAR: Joining us now is the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Lisa Monaco. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

LISA MONACO, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good morning, Brianna. Good to be with you.

KEILAR: So tell us a little bit more about these gun strike forces. What is the aim here and what are they going to be doing in these cities?

MONACO: Well, Brianna, today, as you noted, the attorney general and I will be launching these strike forces nationwide. They are focused on disrupting illegal firearms trafficking networks. So we obviously always want to go after the individual who is pulling the trigger that's costing lives in our communities, but we also need to go after the networks -- the very illegal trafficking networks that are putting those guns in the hands of those criminals in the first place.

So what we're doing with these strike forces is telling the U.S. attorneys, the chief federal law enforcement officials in those cities, to work across the jurisdictions to focus on where those crime guns are coming from, where they're flowing into in their communities. And then connecting the dots by sharing intelligence -- unique intelligence that actually the ATF -- the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that's part of the Justice Department -- unique intelligence that it can provide to federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to literally connect the dots at crime scenes, analyzing ballistics evidence, and seeing where those guns come from.

So we're looking at the networks as well as the shooters themselves.

KEILAR: Last year, the Trump administration launched Operation Legend. They sent hundreds of investigators to nine U.S. cities that were seeing a rise in crime. How is what you're announcing here different from those efforts under the Trump administration?

MONACO: Well, Brianna -- look, this is not a short-term surge. This is a focused coordinated effort to build out those networks. To understand where the guns are coming from, to focus on the networks, to focus on the illegal firearms trafficking routes.

And what we're doing is we're telling the U.S. attorneys to leave these efforts -- to coordinate and provide assistance and intelligence and resources to their state and local partners to build out over the long term and in a -- in a continuous way -- not a short-term surge -- to look at these networks and to take down the entire network. So not only are they looking at crimes within their jurisdictions but they're purposely looking outside and addressing the whole network across jurisdictions.

Because what we've found in the intelligence is the time to crime -- that's what we call it -- from the sale of a firearm to the way it travels and then is used in a particular jurisdiction is actually shortening. So we want to understand where those guns are coming from and then go after both the sources as well as the markets where they are being used.

KEILAR: So, taking a look at where you're doing this -- Chicago, New York City, here in Washington, D.C., San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles.

You know, just this weekend in Chicago there were at least 53 people that we know of who were shot in 41 shootings. But actually, those numbers don't even tell the full picture here. When you look at the death rate per 100,000 residents, Chicago, I think many people would be surprised to find out, doesn't even make the top 10 list of cities with the most violent crimes. That's according to the FBI's data here. That's the latest year, I should say -- 2019 -- for which information is complete.

Cities like Detroit, St. Louis, and Memphis have higher -- much higher violent crime rates than any of the cities that you're sending resources. You know, Memphis -- those cities I mentioned, it's twice the rate of Chicago.

So how did you pick these cities? These are certainly the ones that are getting the most negative headlines, but these other cities are having perhaps bigger problems. MONACO: Well, Brianna, the point of this initiative and this focused effort is yes, we're launching these strike forces in these cities, as you noted, but they are purposely looking also outside.

So, for instance, some of the places that you mentioned are where we're seeing those guns trafficked from and flowing into Chicago. So, this is a cross-jurisdictional effort. And the prosecutors in Chicago, the investigators in Chicago will be working with those other jurisdictions to identify the networks and take down the entire -- the entire network.


And you mentioned Chicago, Brianna. The attorney general is traveling later today to Chicago where, as you noted, unfortunately, some 50 people were shot over the weekend. He'll be traveling there to meet with state and local law enforcement and federal partners to engage with community leaders to talk about this initiative.

That's after he and I go to the ATF headquarters here in D.C. to meet with the leaders of these strike forces -- the agents, the analysts who are conducting these investigations, and who will be leading this effort.

And then later today also, Brianna, I'll be going to the mobile command center here in D.C. that the ATF runs and conducts this ballistics evidence to help contribute to investigations of violent crimes. And, indeed, it's the same place that was used to help examine the ballistics evidence from the shooting outside Nationals Park that happened just last weekend.

KEILAR: What -- and just real quickly before I let you go, Lisa -- Detroit, Memphis, St. Louis -- what's going to be done when it comes to those cities because the violent crime numbers there -- they are staggering?

MONACO: Well, Brianna, this is part -- this initiative -- these strike forces are part of the Justice Department's comprehensive violent crime reduction initiative nationwide.

So every U.S. attorney, every federal, state, and local law enforcement entity in those cities -- the U.S. attorneys in those cities -- the ones that you mentioned -- Detroit, Memphis, et cetera -- have all been constructing strategies specifically directed by the attorney general and myself to develop violence crime reduction strategies tailored exactly to those locations. Working with community leaders. Working with state and local law enforcement partners in those cities to go after the key drivers of violent crime in those particular cities, whether it's illegally-trafficked firearms, whether it's particularly violent repeat offenders, those strategies are tailored to those particular cities, some of which, as I mentioned, may be the sources for guns flowing into these strike force cities.

KEILAR: All right. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, thank you so much for being with us.

President Biden was asked about vaccine hesitancy among African Americans during last night's CNN town hall and he said this.


CHRISTIAN OLIVER, WORKS IN INSURANCE INDUSTRY, ASKED BIDEN A QUESTION AT CNN TOWN HALL: How are you working toward convincing those in these communities that the vaccine is safe?

BIDEN: It's really an important question because in the African American community there is a -- less of an uptake of the vaccination. We've taken, literally, mobile vans and people to the communities.


KEILAR: So we're going to talk to that couple who asked the question, who has this concern. Were they satisfied with his answer?

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: And fears of inflation. Is the U.S. economy headed for real trouble?



AVLON: At last night's CNN town hall, a newly-married couple asked President Biden a question about the vaccine hesitancy among the African American community.


OLIVER: My wife Stephanie and I are newlyweds as of this past Saturday.

BIDEN: I'd brag if I were you, too.

OLIVER: We required all of our guests and vendors to be vaccinated to ensure safety. We are African American and in many of our communities people are against the vaccine. A reason that stood out the most in regards to our guests is that they don't see the vaccine as being as safe as the CDC put it -- puts it out to be.

How are you working toward convincing those in these communities that the vaccine is safe?

BIDEN: It's really an important question because in the African American community there is a -- less of an uptake of the vaccination. We've taken, literally, mobile vans and people to the communities -- to the hardest-hit communities -- and it's beginning to have some impact.

What we're doing is getting people of consequence who are respected in the community, whether they're athletes, whether or not they are entertainers, whether they're just well-respected.

I have overwhelming support from the African American clergy. That's -- I sort of come from in my support. They are opening up their churches for vaccination centers. (END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: And the newlyweds join us now, Christian and Stephanie Oliver. Christian works in the insurance industry. Stephanie is a healthcare worker. Congratulations to you both. A wonderful journey is ahead of you -- one of the greatest things on earth.

First question is were you satisfied with President Biden's response to your question?

C. OLIVER (via Skype): Yes. For the most part, I was. I felt like I got an answer as to how he was trying to get more vaccinations in the African American community. However, I don't think I got an answer as to how he was convincing those who are against it to get the -- get the vaccination. There are many -- you know, there's a lot of misinformation out there --


C. OLIVER: -- that a lot of African Americans are following, and I didn't get an answer as to how we were going to combat that.

AVLON: That's an important --


AVLON: -- fair point. Stephanie, go ahead, please.

S. OLIVER: I would agree with that as well. One of the biggest things that we've heard and noticed is that we've seen -- we've seen the vans. We've seen the data that they are bringing to these different hard-hit communities. What we're not seeing is the researchers behind this looking like Christian and myself.


My question that was not answered -- it was not able to be asked -- was what is the administration doing to make sure that there are more Black doctors, more Black people in med school, more Black people in this research community so that the people that are developing these vaccines are looking a lot more like us and invoking a lot more of that trust.

A lot of people who look like us aren't able to say hey, I know that that's not true about the vaccine because my aunt helped develop it, or --


S. OLIVER: -- no, my father's a doctor and he was one of the top researchers involved in this. None of us can say things like that.

So what is his administration doing to ensure that there are more people who are doing community research that are coming actually from these communities because I believe that would instill so much more trust?

AVLON: Stephanie, that's such an important point because you're right -- it is who you know and the trust coming from those -- that community. And that kind of an initiative can make a huge difference. It's an important point.

I want to stick with you Stephanie and then Christian, weigh in. But I want to understand specifically what's the kind of misinformation you hear from your families and friends about why they're vaccine-hesitant or skeptical.

S. OLIVER: A lot of them are relying a lot more on the internet and social media and some of the circle around that. And so, if you take an inner-city Black community where you have a grandfather and grandmother raising a lot of her younger children, that grandmother may have directly been a part of that network that was used in the Tuskegee experiments -- some of the World War II experimentation.

There hasn't been enough distance in time that we weren't experimented on. When we think of families like Henrietta Lacks and some of these others where (audio gap).

AVLON: They've --

S. OLIVER: -- all kinds of research and that family never saw anything.

AVLON: Yes. I think we're having some problems with your connection. But I want to thank you both for joining us.

And you're right. There is, as Biden said and you just pointed out, a real historic reason, but it's being disseminated through social media.

I want to thank you both and congratulate you both. Stephanie and Christian, good luck ahead.

All right.

C. OLIVER: Thank you.

S. OLIVER: Thank you.

AVLON: Up next, soaring prices for everything from gas to groceries. Are they here to stay?

KEILAR: And a doctor's tragic message to patients dying of COVID who had not been vaccinated.



KEILAR: Rising inflation is causing dramatic price increases for staples like food and gas, so you're probably feeling it. And this is negatively impacting Americans as some experts are sounding the alarm to expect more of the same or worse.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is joining us now. This is so important. I know that people are very curious about how this is going to affect their pocketbook, and the alarm is being sounded.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely -- and Americans, and especially small business owners, are paying very close attention to these rising prices.

President Biden was asked about this last night in the CNN town hall and he says it's rational for prices to be higher because the economy is reopening.

So we headed to Scranton, Pennsylvania, President Biden's hometown, to ask people there how they feel about these rising prices.


YURKEVICH (voice-over): The price of just about everything --

AUCTIONEER: Forty-one, 42, 43.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): -- is going up --

AUCTIONEER: Forty-one thousand five hundred.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): -- from used cars to gas to food.

PETER VENTURA, CO-OWNER, CONEY ISLAND: And boy, when things go up it hits immediately.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Consumer prices are up 5.4 percent since last June, the biggest jump in annual inflation in nearly 13 years.

And in President Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, which he often uses to take the temperature, they're feeling it firsthand.

MIKE MOLETSKY, OWNER, MOLETSKY'S AUTO SALES: This is probably the worst it's been in a long time.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Mike Moletsky is at the Northeast Pennsylvania Auto Auction where he's having to pay more per vehicle to replenish his used car lot.

MOLETSKY: You have more guys at the auction bidding against you and driving the prices up.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): The price of a used car will cost you 27 percent more.

YURKEVICH (on camera): Are you seeing prices that you have never seen before for vehicles?

LISA COHOWICZ, GENERAL MANAGER, NORTHEAST PENNSYLVANIA AUTO AUCTION: Yes, they're outrageous. YURKEVICH (voice-over): And that's because the economy's engine is roaring again, but supply chains across industries are slower to start. Add labor shortages and it simply costs more to do business.

At the pump, gas is up about a dollar since last year.

KEVIN SANTIAGO, PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENT: My car usually takes around $25.00 to fill up. It's just $10.00 more.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): In the grocery store, the price of milk up 5.6 percent. Fruits and vegetables, 3.2 percent.

JOE FASULA, CO-OWNER, GERRITY'S SUPERMARKETS: We're seeing, again, 10-15 percent increases, Things like flour, mayonnaise, a lot of -- a lot of oils -- everything that we're experiencing now is unprecedented.

KATHY OPSHINSKY, PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENT: I might not buy as much of something, like for two weeks. I might just buy like a week at a time instead of buying in bulk.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): And the price of beef is rising to 4 1/2 percent in June. And that's a problem for Coney Island Lunch, known for its hot dogs in downtown Scranton for nearly 100 years.

VENTURA: Like hot dogs, they've gone up. Our hamburgers, our chili sauce because that's made with ground beef.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Just about every single item on Peter Ventura's menu costs him more to make, but he hasn't raised prices just yet.


VENTURA: Once I get an idea where they're going to stop, then I'll know where my baseline is.

YURKEVICH (on camera): So, inevitably, you will have to.

VENTURA: Oh, yes. I'm going to have to raise prices. It's just -- there's no way to get around it.


YURKEVICH: Now, President Biden and the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell say that these price increases are temporary. But a lot of the small business owners that we spoke to think that some of these higher prices will actually stick. And the customers we spoke to say that they're OK paying these higher prices for now -- they just don't want to see them go up a lot more.

But it's unclear right now just how far they will rise, if they'll level off, or come down anytime soon -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, make it temporary, please.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much for that report.

AVLON: A great look under the streets of Scranton.

KEILAR: It sure was.

AVLON: All right.

So, President Biden taking the opportunity to sell his economic agenda during the CNN town hall, as well as try to allay concerns that increasing spending will result in inflation.


BIDEN: Moody's, today -- a Wall Street firm, not some liberal think tank -- said if we pass the other two things I'm trying to get done we will, in fact, reduce inflation -- reduce inflation -- reduce inflation. Because we're going to be providing good opportunities and jobs for people who, in fact, are going to be reinvesting that money back in all the things we're talking about. Driving down prices, not raising prices.


AVLON: Speaking of Moody's today, joining us now, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. Mark, it's great to have you here.

So, is the president correct, and what led you to this conclusion that inflation is not a long-term concern?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS (via Skype): Yes, he's right. I think the legislation he's talking about -- the infrastructure plan and the increased investment in very social programs -- will help to lift long-term economic growth with the hopes of improved labor productivity.

I mean, you can think about better roads, and bridges, and airports, and broadband. We're all going to be more productive in the things that we do.

And also, it lifts labor force participation, labor force growth because in social programs there's money for childcare and paid family leave, so it allows people to go to work.

So that stronger growth allows for diminished inflationary pressures. We're able to grow more quickly without seeing inflation pick up in any significant degree.

But these things that we're talking about right now, these are -- these are more longer run. The legislation that the president was talking about will play out over the next decade. And so it's a little bit different than the nearer-term issues with regard to inflation that you previously reported on.

AVLON: And briefly, do you agree that the short-term pressures are, in large part, about supply chain issues? ZANDI: Yes, I do. You know, this is typical. You come out of recessions and demand takes off. The supply side of the economy is slower. Businesses are reluctant to kick into high gear until they're absolutely sure that demand is here to stay.

And then, of course, in this pandemic, global supply chains have been just -- they're completely scrambled -- just a complete mess. And so ironing all that out is going to take a bit of time.

But I -- my sense is -- my strong view is that as we make our way into next year and certainly by this time next year, inflation will settle back into something we're more comfortable with.

AVLON: But you make the point that view is largely dependent upon the passage of the infrastructure bill, which is very much still a jump ball on Capitol Hill.

And I want to read you something you wrote. About the infrastructure bill, you write, "Failing to pass the legislation would certainly diminish the economy's prospects." So why do you think that?

ZANDI: Well, I think we all can agree that our infrastructure is inadequate in that we've been underinvesting in it for decades -- you know, really, the last -- we have to go back into the '50s and '60s with the interstate highway system when we invested aggressively in our infrastructure.

And it shows. I mean, we can all see it in our roads, our bridges, our airports, seaports, broadband in different parts of the country. You know, there's a big need here and these are -- these are -- this infrastructure is critical for a competitive economy -- for businesses to operate efficiently and for us to get to work on time -- you know, there's just the commute cost.

So, I can do this, John. I can put a map of the United States across here in my room. I could close my eyes, throw a dart, hit anywhere, take a couple miles radius around that dart and I could find an investment that has a higher return than what I have to pay for a 10- year Treasury bond today.

So that's the situation we're in and if we don't make these investments our economy will be diminished by it. We will not be competitive and we will not be able to grow as quickly as we should be able -- as we can.

AVLON: That is a vivid example of the benefits of investment in infrastructure.

Thank you very much for joining us, Mark Zandi.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

KEILAR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Avlon. Good morning to viewers.