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New Day

White House Council of Economic Advisers Chair Cecilia Rouse Interviewed on Biden Administration's Plans to Reduce Inflation in U.S.; NATO Allied Countries Coordinate Military Drilling on Black Sea as Russian Invasion of Ukraine Continues; Fugitive Inmate Caught After Manhunt, Ex-Officer Dead. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 10, 2022 - 08:00   ET



CECILIA ROUSE, CHAIR, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Well, look, we understand that with Russia's invasion of Ukraine that gas prices are elevated. We certainly hope that these will come down soon. That is somewhat up to Putin. But the president is focused on addressing these kinds of issues. He's focused on gas prices. He understands the cost that is for families, which is why he has coordinated, for example, one of the largest releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves for us, and working with our partners. So he is working every day to address the gas prices and the food prices that he understands are affecting the budgets of everyday Americans.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And how long does that relief from the SPRO last?

ROUSE: We know that it's making a difference and we know it will help over the months to come. But he's also working to increase production with oil and gas companies, encouraging them and urging them to use and drill on the leases that they already own, because we very much understand that it's a world supply of oil and gas that is so important for energy costs, and he wants to ensure that those prices remain manageable for households.

KEILAR: Just to be clear, what's happening with Russia and Ukraine is compounding a problem that was already starting, right? So this is exacerbating something that was already in effect before the war. What about a national gas tax holiday?

ROUSE: So, look, the president understands the uncertainty and the costs that rising prices pay for, the cost on families. All measures are on the table. He is focused on these issues. So, one, he's trying to address oil and gas prices. I mentioned the SPRO, all other options are on the table as well.

He's also been focus odd on reducing the cost for families on really important items, such as reducing prescription costs, making childcare and home care more affordable, lowering the cost of housing, which we know will increase economic growth and economic capacity, which helps with price pressures going forward. And finally, he understands that we need to be addressing the federal deficit. The deficit was reduced by over $3 billion last year under his watch. And if you look at his budget, that is -- we're on track to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.5 trillion this coming year.

He wants to do so by increasing taxes on the very wealthiest, on our corporations, many of whom have paid no federal income tax. Some of the wealthiest Americans have low tax rates. So he wants to do so in a way that's fair, but he understands that reducing the deficit is another important way in order to address rising prices.

KEILAR: But there is a lot of people who need maybe something that -- they need something in effect now, right, or some of those measures you talked about, housing affordability. For some people the gas is something that they're going to feel in a more real way or it is going to affect them more. So gas tax holiday, are you seeing is that a serious possibility then, or are you just saying that's on the table -- I'm just trying to get a sense of if that's -- if you're just putting that in the basket, but it is not a real thing, or if it is potentially a real thing?

ROUSE: So, look, the president wants to consider all measures that will have a meaningful impact on gas tax.

KEILAR: Would that one?

ROUSE: -- on gas prices and energy prices. He cannot do everything unilaterally. So he needs to work with partners in Congress in order to make meaningful change. But it's very important to understand that this president is focused on rising prices, he wants to address it in a way that does not hurt the pocketbooks of ordinary Americans. If you contrast that with the Republican plan where the proposal is to increase taxes on people making less than $100,000 now a year, I think 95 percent of the tax increases would fall on those making $100,000 a year. In contrast to the president will not rise prices -- taxes on those making less than $400,000 a year. So this president is working for American families, he understands it, and this is what gets him up every day.

KEILAR: So Biden is going to be announcing his plans for fighting inflation today, 11:30 we're expecting his comments. I invite you to tell us specifically what they are, though I suspect you may not want to get ahead of him. But what about ending the tariffs on Chinese imports, because experts say that would work quickly?

ROUSE: So again, the president is -- has got a whole of government approach, and he's looking at all of the various levers that would help to bring down prices and help our economy work more effectively and efficiently. So, of course, he needs to look at the Chinese tariffs and look at our trade policy more generally because we want to ensure that our supply chains are running effectively, that we have -- we want to have a strategic approach with China and for other countries around the world.

But we also want to understand that we have -- there are important industries that we need to be developing here. For example, let's go back to the gas taxes. We know this really highlights -- Russia's invasion of Ukraine highlights the need for us to pivot to clean energy and for us to do so in a way that is independent, because we can't be reliant on key minerals and components or gasoline or energy from countries around the world that are run by autocrats. So again, this president is really focused on building an economy that works for every American because we understand that a strong middle class generates an economy that works, that grows, and works for everybody.

KEILAR: Where is the White House right now on student loan forgiveness? What is the amount you're considering?

ROUSE: So the president understands the real burden of student loans. And he has -- during his campaign, he proposed canceling the debt, up to $10,000, of students. He is considering many options. He's already done a lot in making loans more -- work better. He has already canceled, I believe, it's around $18 billion of student loans for those who were at for profit institutions that really had defrauded them by making some of our payment plans much more effective. So he is focused on this issue. He understands how important it is for students. We know that college education is just so important for individuals, for our country, and he wants to ensure that individuals have the access and can do so in an affordable way.

KEILAR: Former Trump White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says America is already in a recession. Is it possible he is correct?

ROUSE: So I'm not sure where that comes from. So what we saw is coming out of 2021, that we had economic growth of about 5.5 percent, the strongest one-year growth in almost on record for a first year president. Last quarter the advance estimate showed there was slowing in the first quarter. However, if you look at the components of GDP that really reflects personal consumption, business investment, that actually grew at a healthy 3.5 percent.

Many economists, we have documented that that is a better predictor of what next quarter's GDP is likely to be. Typically, economists date a recession as being at least two quarters of negative growth, and other factors, which we have not seen at all. So we are not expecting that we're already in a recession. In fact, the guts and the bones of this economy remain strong. Yes, there are headwinds. Yes, there's uncertainty, which is why the president is so focused on trying to reduce costs and grow this economy by investing in people, in our physical infrastructure, and really building the kind of economy that will generate sustainable growth going forward.

KEILAR: Cecilia, I wonder, looking back, were Larry Summers and Joe Manchin right about spending and inflation?

ROUSE: So I'm not sure what the right is. What we have here is an economy that's recovering from a pandemic. The downturn was caused by the pandemic where we had to basically power down our economy until we had the therapeutics and vaccinations and shots in the arms. From day one --

KEILAR: But they warned, they warned that the spending levels, which, of course, I understand the White House and you consider very necessary for the situation that the economy and that the pandemic was in, but that it would cause inflation of maybe a higher level than certain people, including at the White House, were expecting. Were they right?

ROUSE: So what we have seen is that all advanced countries are trying to address inflation, and they have historic levels of inflation. That has been the consequence of mounting an effective response to the pandemic, because while we supported households and businesses, got shots into arms, which allowed people to start to come out of their homes and regain their lives, our supply chains could not support that demand.

So this is -- we are not alone. All advanced countries are addressing with this. So this is a consequence of having an effective strategy against the pandemic. So this is why the president understands that the Federal Reserve needs to do its job, and he encourages Congress to confirm all of his nominees so that they have a full slate and can address their dual mandate of price stability and full employment. We understand that that is the economic challenge in front of us. That is what he is focused on every day.

KEILAR: Cecilia, we appreciate you being with us. We're awaiting the president's comments, as I know you are later this morning. Cecilia Rouse from the White House, thank you.

ROUSE: Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning in Ukraine, Russian forces intensifying their assault on the southern port city of Odessa, firing hypersonic missiles at a shopping mall and hotels, causing widespread damage and killing at least one person. In Kharkiv, a civilian convoy was attacked, killing several people. There is video at the scene which shows vehicles there clearly trying to get out.

And new drone video just in to CNN shows a Russian tank being targeted near Kharkiv. That's close to where that civilian convoy was fired upon. Ukraine's military says Russia is beefing up its troop presence within its own borders to protect against Ukrainian counteroffensives that have made some headway around Kharkiv, and a senior U.S. defense official tells CNN that anecdotal reports reveal that some Russian troops and officers are refusing to obey orders to move forward in the Donbas offensive.


Now, though, we're going to go to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen who is live this morning in Riga, in Latvia. And Fred, you've got a fascinating look at the training that is taking place in the Black Sea. Explain.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, John. It is special forces training. One of the things that we have seen as we've traveled here along NATO's eastern flank is that, of course, the war that's going on in Ukraine is of great concern. And there are very few countries that support Ukraine more than, for instance, Latvia does. But Romania also, for instance, they do a lot and they certainly are very concerned because they're right next door to Ukraine.

And with that, the NATO alliance has become so much more important, and getting the countries in that alliance in sync has become even more important. We were able to go at sea with special forces, not very far at all from where the fighting in Ukraine was taking place, and here's what we saw.


PLEITGEN: On the high alert in the Black Sea. U.S. Navy Seals, Romanian and British special forces practice raiding an enemy ship, an exercise that requires a lot of skill, but also strong cooperation, a member of the Romanian special forces tells me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The helicopter session and the boating session, the synchronization is very important, so all the teams can get on board of the ship in the exact time they should.

PLEITGEN: These are among NATO's most elite units, and they allowed us to film on the condition we would not reveal their identities. The raid involves both fast, rigid inflatable boats, as well as a chopper to land troops on the ship, search it, and detain would be enemy combatants. This drill is part of a much larger special forces exercise called Trojan Footprint, involving some 30 countries, both NATO and non-NATO allies.

On the face of it, this exercise has nothing to do with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but we're not very far from Ukraine's borders at all. And the U.S. has been very keen to strengthen the NATO alliance and show that it is committed to collective security here in Europe.

Romania directly borders Ukraine, where the war is raging both on land and at sea. The exercise took place not far from Snake Island, which the Russians raided in late February and are occupying. The Ukrainians, though, have struck back, managing to hit the flagship Moskva cruiser and sink it. In the past few days they released videos of their forces allegedly hitting both a Russian landing vessel and a Russian chopper unloading troops on Snake Island. The Russians, for their part, claim to have hit Ukrainian strike aircraft and a helicopter.

Romanian forces telling us they recently had to destroy a sea mine that floated here from Ukrainian waters. But the commander in charge of this drill says they keep the war next door off their minds and focus on getting better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's important on the level of training that you reach.

PLEITGEN: It is quite real right now. It is next door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. It is real. And we are prepared for it.

PLEITGEN: The U.S. says exercises like this one have become more important since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, to strengthen the NATO alliance and deter Moscow from aggressive moves against member countries.

(END VIDEO TAPE) PLEITGEN (on camera): It's also so very important because, of course, one of the things that President Biden keeps saying, John, is he said he believes that Vladimir Putin thought that the U.S. and its allies would be divided. But instead, they are very much united, that the alliance, NATO alliance would be weakened. However, it is very strong, and of course it could become a lot more strong in the not too distant future with possibly Sweden and Finland asking to join as well, John.

BERMAN: I am so surprised at the access you had to that, Fred. That was fascinating to see, the Black Sea operating right -- very close to where this very active war is taking place. What an astounding report. Thank you so much.

So the 11-day manhunt for an Alabama corrections officer and inmate charged with capital murder coming to a chaotic and deadly end. The county sheriff joins NEW DAY next.

KEILAR: Banning Plan B, the facts behind a viral and false tweet.

BERMAN: And a member of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection joins NEW DAY with the latest on the probe.



BERMAN: The 11-day manhunt for an Alabama inmate and the corrections officer who helped him to escape has now ended in Indiana. Casey White was taken into custody after the car chase.

This is a new mug shot we're seeing of him just this morning released by the sheriff's office.

Former corrections Officer Vicki White reportedly died from a self- inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Officials say a tip that came in on Sunday led to -- led officers to the couple in Evansville, Indiana.

Joining us now, the sheriff of Lauderdale County, Alabama, Rick Singleton.

Sheriff, I know how busy of a time it has been for you. I appreciate you joining us this morning. I know you knew Vicki White. Your reaction when you heard the news she had died?

RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: Well, you know, in spite of what she's done, Vicki was a friend, to every one of us.

And, you know, we have 48 employees in the detention center, she was second in command. She knew each and every one of them. You know, some of the older guys looked up to her as a mother figure.

So, it has been an emotional rollercoaster for our colleagues, you know, day one, thinking she had been kidnapped and maybe, you know, in danger, for her life, and -- you know, then finding out that she took him out willingly and trying to determine, well, was she threatened or some way or coerced to do that, because it just didn't sound like the Vicki we knew, you know?

And then finding out that, you know, she was basically the mastermind behind the whole plan. You know, it just -- and then finding out she lost her life. It's just has been a rollercoaster.

BERMAN: Did you just say she was the mastermind behind the whole plan?

SINGLETON: Well, you know, obviously. I mean, he was behind bars. He really couldn't, you know, plan pretty much behind bars. But, yes, I think -- personally I think she was the one to put the plan together.

BERMAN: How so?


SINGLETON: Well, she was in a position with her knowledge, with her position in the office. You know, she scheduled the van transports that morning, made sure all the other armed deputies were out of the building and tied up in court, you know, knew the booking officer wouldn't question her, the assistant director when she told her that she was going to take him to court and drop him off with other employees.

She arranged -- purchased the getaway car, she sold her house, got her hands on cash. You know, she went shopping, bought clothes for him. You know, she just -- she just obviously put the plan together.

BERMAN: How concerned are you that security has been compromised in general there? If Vicki White was able to tell Casey White how to do this, is it possible Casey White told someone else how to do it?

SINGLETON: Well, you know, the policies are in place. You know, a policy can't prevent anything. You know, you can't control people's actions and choices.

And, you know, when someone makes a choice to break a policy, then you deal with it. That's what the policy is there for, to give the employees guidance and direction on how they're supposed to conduct themselves.

You know, our facility for our county jail, I think it is fairly secure. When I first came into office seven years ago, we had three or four escapes. But there was some structural issues with the jail that we found -- you know, corrected, and once we got those corrected, we haven't had a physical escape since.

Casey White didn't escape from the facility, he was basically let out. So, you know, that kind of situation, scenario, I don't know, you know, it would be hard -- I couldn't tell you it would never happen again, but I can tell you, we got policies in place to prevent it, or at least give our employees guidance on how they should.

BERMAN: Sheriff, as I mentioned, there are reports that Vicki White, the gunshot wound to her head was self-inflicted. What evidence have you heard of that? How has it been explained to you?

SINGLETON: It really hasn't been explained to me as far as any specific details. Just that, you know, that it was self-inflicted.

BERMAN: Was the gun in her hand? Was it ever spoken out loud? I guess I'm getting at, is there any evidence that he may have pulled the trigger?

SINGLETON: Not that I'm aware of. Of course, all this happened in Indiana. And so I -- I don't have any direct knowledge of what went down actually. I'm just actually -- what knowledge I have of it is what I heard primary to you guys.

I have heard from -- through the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, they alerted me that they had captured them, and, you know, and what details I've gotten, I've gotten from them.

BERMAN: So when you do get Casey White back, what will change in terms of his confinement?

SINGLETON: We already made arrangements with the local circuit judge, and with the department -- Alabama Department of Corrections. When we bring him back, he will immediately go before the judge. That will be his first stop when he gets in town.

As soon as the judge conducts the arraignment, he will be put back in the transport vehicle and transported directly to the Department of Corrections.

BERMAN: All right. Sheriff Rick Singleton, I know this has been -- you said yesterday in the news conference, you've been at this 50 years and this was the strangest and most tumultuous 11 days of your entire career.

So, we appreciate you taking the time over this 11 days to speak to us and keep us and the American people informed. Thank you, sir.

SINGLETON: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Daniel Dale here to fact check a viral tweet on abortion.

KEILAR: Plus, one Republican senator admits some of his party are nervous about the midterms if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.



KEILAR: A former Democratic congressional candidate went viral when she posted a false claim about the morning after pill. Pam Keith tweeted, quote, Tennessee just banned Plan B and made it a crime punishable by a $50,000 fine to order it.

The problem with it, it is not accurate.

Joining us now to explain, CNN reporter Daniel Dale with a fact check -- Daniel.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: John, you're right. Tennessee has not banned Plan B. Plan B continues to be available to Tennessee residents. There is no fine for ordering Plan B. So, the viral tweet is just plain inaccurate.

Here are the facts. Last week, Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee signed a new law that increases the penalty for sending people in Tennessee abortion medication by mail or courier. It makes that a felony with a fine of up to $50,000. Under both previous Tennessee law and this new law, doctors have to distribute abortion medication to patients in person only.

But here's the thing, John, Plan B is not abortion medication, it is call the morning after pill for a reason, if purposes preventing pregnancy not terminating pregnancy.

The language of the new Tennessee law makes clear that this restriction and the fine just don't cover Plan B and other emergency contraception at all.

Second, the fine of up to $50,000 is for people who provide abortion pills by mail, courier or delivery. Again, we're talking abortion pills, not Plan B.

And critically, John, the law explicitly says that patients are exempt from penalties. The penalties are for the providers who break the law, not for the people who order the medication.

Now, Ms. Keith's tweet was up for a few days. It got more than 26,000 retweets. She deleted it after I reached her by phone yesterday afternoon and explained the law. She eventually acknowledged she had misinterpreted it. She also says she never claimed to be a doctor, to be in Tennessee or to be an expert in new Tennessee law.

But I don't know. The tweet was pretty definitive sounding and this subject is so personal that inaccurate claims can really affect people's emotions and possibly even the life decisions they make.

One abortion rights group in Tennessee told me they decided to put out an Instagram statement clarifying that the new law doesn't actually change much for people because people they're in touch with were taking in misinformation and getting confused about what the law actually does.

BERMAN: Not just getting the truth, but getting results, Daniel Dale.