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White House Warns of Reinforced Inflation; Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) is Interviewed about the War in Ukraine; Russia to Reduce Military Activity; Biden to Speak with Allies; Trump's White House Call Logs. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 29, 2022 - 08:30   ET



CECILIA ROUSE, CHAIR, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Crisis. That, in turn, could reinforce inflation, which was already an issue prior to the invasion due to the pandemic, supply chain constraints and a strong demand for goods.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Now, some economists were already raising their inflation targets and they're lowering their growth forecasts because of Putin's war. Inflation shot up to 7.9 percent in February from the year before, mostly driven by big cost increases for the basic necessities. And that data, Brianna, was collected before the fallout of Russia's invasion could be calculated in the number.

Now, the U.S. economy overall, of course, important to note, quite strong, coming off the best year of growth since the Reagan administration. The jobs market is humming. Wages are rising. It's why the official inflation fighter, the Fed, is comfortable raising interest rates to tame prices.

Now, ironically, fighting inflation will come with a different cost for consumers. Higher borrowing costs on credit cards, auto loans and mortgages. And the Fed is likely to keep raising interest rates all year. If you are in the market for a loan right now, lock in the rate.

The cost of Putin's war is also reflected in President Biden's budget blueprint, which came out yesterday, of course. He's got $6.9 billion in there for NATO and other programs to counter Russian aggression.

A quick check on oil markets this morning, though, here. This could be some relief in energy prices. It has nothing to do with Russia here. Instead, Covid lockdowns in Shanghai drove oil prices down 8 percent yesterday, down again overnight. That could cool gas prices for consumers in the U.S. in the near future. At least that's the hope, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly hope that is the case.

Christine Romans, thank you. ROMANS: You're welcome.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we do have breaking news. The Russians claiming they're going to reduce military activity in two key areas around the capital of Kyiv and also northeast of that in Chernihiv.

I want to read you a full statement from the deputy defense minister. And what's notable in this is that this statement was made after the current round of negotiations taking place between the Russians and Ukrainians in Istanbul.

So, listen to this. He said, quote, due to the fact that negotiations on the preparation of an agreement on the neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine, as well as on the provision of nuclear guarantees to Ukraine, are moving into practice, taking into account the principles discussed during today's meetings by the ministry of defense of the Russian Federation in order to increase mutual trust and create necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing on the signing of the above agreement, a decision was made to radically at times reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions.

Again, that statement from the Russian deputy defense minister.

I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan.

Thank you so much for being with us, Congresswoman.

If you can hear me, and if you heard that statement, and have been following this development, I just want your take on that.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Yes. Well, listen, it's positive, but when you're dealing with the Russians, it is, you know, it's Reagan, it's trust but verify.

And the number of times, just in the recent weeks that they've agreed to something like a humanitarian corridor with the Ukrainians and then gone ahead and bombed it, I mean we need to actually follow up and make sure they're doing it. So, it's a positive step, but they actually have to do it in order to celebrate anything.

BERMAN: Yes, look, absolutely. I mean the Russians have repeatedly lied -- and I don't use that word lightly -- from before the invasion through the last six weeks as they have been striking civilians and what not all over this country. Still, nevertheless, the Ukrainians haven't pushed back on this notion. And, in fact, the Ukrainians are giving the sense that more -- that some progress at least was made in these talks.

I wonder what your hopes are for the next few days.

SLOTKIN: Yes, I thought what was interesting out of the announcement, one, that the Ukrainians seem right now to be confirming the reports, but, secondly, that there was clearly discussion of other countries, individual countries providing some security guarantees to the country of Ukraine, right. Looking at that list, I think they said Canada or Turkey or Israel, just like an interesting list of countries. It's not NATO, right? It's some members that are in NATO. It's some that are not. So I think it's just an interesting development.

We all knew that once Putin went in and invaded like this, he completely changed security in Europe. Security, frankly, globally. And we knew there was going to be a lot of, you know, different things happening after this was finally resolved and I think we're seeing interesting data points of just a very different security architecture in that area.

BERMAN: Now, look, there's a lot of new information coming in. We're all trying to process is. I really do appreciate you rolling with us on this, and trying to process it at the same time.

You've been working on your own proposals on sanctions. And the reason I bring this up is because the Ukrainian president, Zelenskyy, and, again, this was all before wherever we are at this moment in the negotiations, but President Zelenskyy's concerns have been that the sanctions aren't coming quickly enough.


What he basically said yesterday was that my understanding is there will be more sanctions if there's a chemical weapons attack. Why do I have to wait, he says, for a chemical weapons attack for more sanctions on Russia?

Your response?

SLOTKIN: Yes, you know, I -- sure. I think that there's -- there's a number of us who feel like you could have had a more steady drumbeat of sanctions just sort of ratcheting up week after week. And that when we made the decision, which I think, you know, reflects where the American people are, that we weren't going to send American sons and daughters to fight for Ukraine, that we had a responsibility to use those sanctions as our muscle. And I think that we could have done more, certainly naming of oligarchs, naming of their wives and mistresses, sanctioning them, seizure of material, you know, things that would have created that steady drumbeat.

It's not the decision that was made by the administration, but I sympathize with Zelenskyy. He's trying to do everything he can. And not waiting for a weapon of mass destruction to be landing on the heads of his people.

BERMAN: If there are productive talks, and I use that word lightly, I mean I don't know what that would even mean, but if talks are ongoing, should sanctions or new sanctions wait while talks are ongoing?

SLOTKIN: Well, that's fair. And I think we need to take our cues from President Zelenskyy, right? He was asking for more sanctions maybe 48 hours ago. Let's see what he's asking for now that there seems to be some positive movement on negotiations.

You know, we need to take our cues from the head of this country that's being attacked. But I do think that, you know, we have to actually see some action from the Russians before we sort of have a celebration that maybe this is the beginning of the end.

BERMAN: That's a great point. Just because they say they will radically reduce their troop presence around Kyiv and Chernihiv, doesn't happen until it happens.

SLOTKIN: That's right.

BERMAN: And John Kirby at the Pentagon says they haven't seen any evidence of it yet, but I know we're watching it very closely.

Again, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, you have expertise in a wide range of areas. We really appreciate you joining us this morning and rolling with us on this.

SLOTKIN: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: All right, another development just in, Russia also floating the possibility of a meeting between Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. Stand by. Things are moving fast here. Our special live coverage continues after this.



BERMAN: All right, we do have breaking news. John Berman here in Lviv in western Ukraine.

This news coming largely from discussions between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Istanbul. It does seem, at least according to the Russians at this point, that some progress has been made in these talks. The Russians are claiming they're taking two concrete measures. The first, they say, they will have a substantial reduction of military operations around Kyiv, and also around Chernihiv, which is northeast of Kyiv, which has been devastated by bombing and been all but encircled in recent days. So, reducing military operations there.

And they've also floated the idea of a meeting between the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Vladimir Putin. So that all developing just within the last few minutes.

We're waiting for the Ukrainian version of this. But no question that the Russians are flat out stating they will reduce their military activity in these key locations.

I'm joined now, I hope, by CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour, who is in Kyiv.

Christiane, if you can hear me, if you've had a chance to see these developments, again, the Russian side, I wonder your take.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, yes, I have, and this, to be honest with you, is important if it actually sticks and it's actually confirmed by the Kremlin after these, you know, this press briefing by the delegation in Istanbul. It is very important. And it actually builds on what we've been seeing as a trend over the last several days. And that trend has been different comments coming out of the Kremlin saying that Russia no longer, for instance, demands this or that or would be, you know, willing to do the other. The most important was from a Russian MOD spokesman, this weekend, who said that their operation, as they call it, special operation, phase one, has succeeded and that they were going to turn their attention to the Donbas, which is the eastern part of Ukraine. As you know, that's been occupied in part since 2014.

They said they were going to, you know, start moving back perhaps from places like this capital Kyiv. We hadn't seen any evidence of it, and now we're hearing from the official delegation that that seems to be what they say they're going to do.

So, this does, in fact, represent a dramatic shift as we are in day 34 of this war. If, in fact, it holds. And it comes, obviously, after 34 days of massive and unexpected Ukrainian resistance, coupled with massive and unexpected incompetence by the Russians on the ground. They have managed, as you see, and as we've all seen, to hit by the air, to hit by long range artillery civilian structures and other such things, cruise missiles into places like fuel depots in Lviv over the weekend.

But in terms of taking and holding territory, which was what their aim was to begin with, they have not been able to succeed and now they're saying that's not what they wanted anyway. They've already said that they no longer demand the removal and the -- and the regime change of President Zelenskyy here in Kyiv, and -- and now they seem to be at the negotiating table, you know, moving that up even a step further. It's all based on leverage, and their leverage at this precise moment is less than the Ukrainians, who have had much more success than anybody expected and who are being supported by various other countries.

BERMAN: Look, what we're waiting on, to be completely clear here, is the Ukrainian version of this, or a more fulsome version of this from the Ukrainians, what happened in Istanbul, how they see this, if they believe or have seen signs of a Russian withdraw from these key cities.



BERMAN: One Ukrainian official did say he believes that they're withdrawing some units from around Kyiv. Again, we're waiting on all that.

The Russians raising this possibility, and they use some flowery language, of a Putin/Zelenskyy meeting. What do you see there, Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, look, again, if that was to be the case, it is another major concession to President Zelenskyy, who has asked from the very beginning, even before the invasion, to have face to face talks with President Putin. Up until just yesterday, or the day before, the Kremlin was saying there is no -- not enough progress in these talks, i.e., maybe not enough progress for them on the ground to have that kind of meeting.

If they are, in fact, floating that now, that is something that President Zelenskyy had asked for. He kept saying, he said it to me just before the invasion, when we were in Munich, he said, I don't know what Putin wants, that's why I want to have a face to face meeting. Putin pooh-poohed that. He wanted to talk to other world leaders. He would love to talk to the United States. But he pooh- poohed that. And now, if it's true, that they're raising that, that again is another important move.

The real bottom line is how to get Putin off this ledge. How to get him out of the corner that he's painted himself into. And it looks like, by their restructuring, reconfiguring their aims and their next goals, they may be able to declare some kind of victory and go home.

However, the go home thing is not entirely clear because they still have that part of eastern Ukraine, they still have Crimea. And the Ukrainians have said, we will not accept that that is ever to be an internationally recognized part of Russia. So that's still -- the territorial issue will still be an issue.

And let's not forget that the civilians here are the main victims. And any cease-fire could not come soon enough. Humanitarian corridors, humanitarian aid needs to get to places like Mariupol and elsewhere, where the civilians have borne the brunt of a frustrated and stalled land offensive.

BERMAN: I understand that President Biden will be speaking with European leaders this morning in, you know, half an hour at this point. I imagine what has just transpired will very much be a topic of discussion. And that discussion with the European leaders will be largely backing up Ukraine on whatever they want here, yes?

AMANPOUR: Yes, because everyone has said, and when I was in Brussels, when the president came for that extraordinary summit of NATO just last week, and also he was invited to the EU summit and there was a G- 7 summit, in any event just to say that all those allied leaders are committed to not pushing Ukraine into any position. That it has to be a Ukrainian decision.

You know, obviously, there's advice and, you know, you can help your ally decide and this and that. But, yes, they believe that this is a Ukrainian decision to make on the terms of peace, as long as they can, as far as they can, as far as they have the leverage to be able to do so. And that's potentially why now is a really important time for some kind of second phase to this. We don't know whether it's peace, we don't know whether it's a cease-fire, we don't know what it is. But whatever it is, right now Ukraine has the advantage. Right now Russia is at a disadvantage. So, Putin has less leverage, unless he wants to escalate and reinforce. And we've seen no evidence of that. And the longer it goes on, though, it's potentially possible that that could happen and that Zelenskyy's leverage would go down.

So, it's a very, very good time, you know, if all of this is -- bears out to be true for some kind of resolution to at least this phase to take place.

But, you know, it does come after those summits in Europe --

BERMAN: Christiane -- yes.

AMANPOUR: Where the allies have stood strong.

BERMAN: They absolutely have. And the whole world saw it and Vladimir Putin certainly saw it.

Look, Christiane Amanpour in Kyiv, thank you for talking about this with me.

We don't know for sure what it all means. What we do know for sure is there has been a shift in language. A pretty big shift in language over just the last few minutes. So we're following it very closely.

Thank you, Christiane.

More on this potentially significant development in just a moment.

But, first, back in the United States, just in from "The Washington Post," the January 6th committee is now investigating a seven-hour gap in President Trump's call logs the day of the Capitol riot.



KEILAR: Some breaking news out of the White House, which is where Jeremy Diamond is covering this.

Jeremy, what can you tell us?


We've just learned from the White House that President Biden is set to convene a call with some of his key counterparts in this important transatlantic relationship. President Biden set to speak with the French President Emmanuel Macron, the German Chancellor Scholz, as well as the Italian prime minister, the prime minister of the United Kingdom as well. All of this to discuss, according to the White House, the latest developments regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Now, there are several possible avenues of discussions here. First among which is the progress that appears to be happening in Istanbul right now where Russian and Ukrainian officials have just concluded a series of meetings and there appears to be progress, not only from one side, but from both sides of this, talking about potential paths to de-escalation and also a potential meeting that is becoming more and more realistic it seems between the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the Ukrainian president.

And, of course, beyond the progress of those talks we do know that President Biden just returned from that trip to Europe where he met with many of these leaders in person. And, of course, all of these leaders have vowed to continue to ramp up the pressure on Russia.


So even as there is potential progress in these talks, we know that they have also vowed to continue ramping up the financial and economic levers of pressure, as well as diplomatic pressure on Russia to have it halt its invasion of Ukraine.


KEILAR: All right, Jeremy, we'll be awaiting the results of that call. Thank you so much, Jeremy Diamond, at the White House.

Some more breaking news that we are tracking this morning.

"The Washington Post" and CBS News reporting that former President Trump's White House phone records that were given to the House January 6th committee show a more than seven-hour gap in the calls on the day of the attack. CNN reported last month that the logs do not reflect calls made to or from the former president while his supporters were swarming the Capitol that day. The panel is now investigating whether he was using back cannels or maybe even burner phones to talk to people because we certainly do know that he was talking to people.

CNN's Elie Honig and CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon joining me now.

Elie, let's start with you. Just the key takeaways from this reporting.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Brianna, there's a phrase that prosecutors have called consciousness of guilt. And that means, whenever a person takes steps to hide their communications, to keep them off the radar, so to speak, they do it for a reason. And so that's what jumps out to me here.

And if you look at the pattern, Donald Trump was using the normal White House phone that was subject to the logs all morning, all up until 11:17 a.m. Then he stopped. And it looks like he made a decision, I'm going to take this offline for the next seven and a half hours. To me, that's really compelling evidence of his state of mind.

KEILAR: I mean, Avlon, I wonder what you think about it because we look at 11:17 a.m., these logs, which have been obtained by CBS and "The Washington Post," the president talked on a phone call to an unidentified person. So even when -- the point being, even when he's on a cell phone, you're supposed to actually have a record of it here in the daily diary, and here we don't. JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. I mean, you

know, seven-hour gap in the presidential record during an attack on our Capitol by his supporters is one more time, you know, Donald Trump makes Nixon look like a piker (ph). There were 18 minutes missing from his phone records that were damning during Watergate, reported, incidentally, by Bob Woodward, who's one of the authors of this report.

This is seven hours. And if you look at the daily diary that was published as well, apparently the only thing that President Trump did during the attack on our Capitol was meet with his valet. It's absurd on its face. And it does seem like it's evidence of an additional attempt to hide, obstruct, and as Elie says, perhaps consciousness of guilt. This is a very big deal. And it's just more evidence of bad faith by Donald Trump in an attempt to overturn an election, hiding -- apparently trying to hide what he was doing, who he was talking to in those critical hours.

KEILAR: And, Elie, let's be clear, we know he called, I think accidentally, Senator Mike Lee.


KEILAR: He was trying to get Tommy Tuberville, right, Elie? And we know that he talked to Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader. So we know that he was talking to people. There have been a lot of questions, you know, Jim Jordan, when -- when and how often did you talk to the president? And these are the logs that should answer those questions. But there's this huge void.

HONIG: Exactly, Brianna. And these are the key communications that the committee and the American public has to know about.

Now, the committee still can put this jigsaw puzzle back together, at least partially. They have to do a little bit of reverse engineering and they have to be aggressive. What they have to do is go out and figure out, what other phones was Donald Trump using. Reportedly he commonly used Dan Scavino's phone. OK, subpoena Dan Scavino's phone. Send a subpoena out to Verizon or whoever the provider is. Don't be shy about that. I know there's been some hesitation, oh, should they subpoena Scavino's phone. Of course they should. They're entitled to this information. It's supposed to be on the log. See who Scavino is talking to, his phone at least, during those key hours and subpoena that.

And also bringing up another point, they need to -- the committee needs to be aggressive in subpoenaing people who are in communication with the president. Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy, Tommy Tuberville and the rest, even if they're members of Congress, even if it sort of violates some unwritten code of we go light on each other here in Congress. Sorry, this is too important, and that's the only way the committee can get this information.

AVLON: That's right. And, Brianna, I'd just remind us that Judge Carter, yesterday, who said that Trump likely committed felony obstruction, also said that if there's not accountability, we will be inviting another January 6th. This is a time for accountability, information, no excuses.

KEILAR: He said, Elie, he doesn't know what a burner phone is, the former president.

HONIG: I know what a burner -- I know what a burner phone is. I was a prosecutor for 14 years. It's what drug dealers use It's what criminals use when they're trying to hide something. So, if he didn't know, maybe he knows now.

KEILAR: Very interesting.

Look, it's important to note certainly some parallels here. I think we all know about there being occasional cover-ups in things and this is certainly raising a lot of questions about what they're trying to hiding. We know there were phone calls. We also know sometimes that the former president spoke on the phone using other people's phones.


That should still be in the daily diary, just to be very clear here.


KEILAR: John Avlon, Elie Honig, thank you so much to both of you.

We're going to have more on this breaking news and more on the breaking news of the war in Ukraine. President Biden set to speak with European allies just moments from now as Russia says it's going to reduce military activity in two key cities.

CNN's coverage continues right now.