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Bipartisan Gun Talks Intensify, GOP Concerns Remain Key Obstacle; Matthew McConaughey Makes Emotional Plea for Action on Guns; Gas Prices Near $5 Record as Goldman Sachs Predicts Trend Worsening; Ukraine Reclaiming Territory in South as Russia Bombs East. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired June 08, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. On this NEW DAY. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell privately expressing his openness to raise the age for purchasing semi-automatic weapons, but will it be included in the final deal?


Actor Matthew McConaughey makes a powerful and emotional plea for gun safety at the White House. The moving story he told about a pair of green Converse.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Gas prices going up with no relief in sight. Why Goldman Sachs warns it's about to get even worse.

And see the dramatic moment Ukrainian forces bring CNN to a secret location to fire on Russians. Our exclusive look as the battle unfolded.

BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, June 8.

CNN has learned that the most powerful Republican in the Senate is open to raising the minimum age to buy a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21. He has said that in private, but Mitch McConnell has not and won't, it seems, say it in public. And it is highly unlikely that it will be part of any agreement on gun safety as talks intensify between Democrats and Republicans.

KEILAR: Two weeks ago, Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming said she doubted any ideas to curb gun violence would be welcomed in her very pro-gun state.

But now she's signaling an openness to finding legislative solutions, because her office has been flooded with calls from constituents demanding an end to mass shootings.

Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz and CNN Washington correspondent Sunlen Serfaty for the very latest on this.

All right. Let's talk first, Sunlen, about where discussions stand at this point. SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's some real

optimism from both sides at this moment, but they still have not brokered a deal. They have not had an agreement on some of these issues and that is what today is all about.

Today they've really got to sit down as negotiators, narrow their differences on some of these key issues. And we've been reporting the contours of this deal as it's coming

together, things like school security; funding for mental health; looking at juvenile records of those between 18 and 21 years old who want to buy a semi-automatic weapon; and incentivizing states to enact the so-called red-flag laws.

Now, that last one, that's a potential major sticking point. We have heard in the last 24 hours many conservatives express their concern about this. So we know from Republican negotiators in this very small group they say that that's something today they are trying to work through with them discussing some guardrails they can put in place.

Certainly, there are big issues that remain. There's optimism that they can potentially get this done by the end of the week. But of course, the big question is once they get a deal, will Republicans in the Senate actually support this?

KEILAR: And let's talk about the White House role in this, Arlette, because the president has been -- he's been pretty hands off here.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The president has really been keeping a distance from these actual negotiations, which is an interesting strategy for someone who as a candidate consistently touted himself as being uniquely positioned to hammer out these kinds of bipartisan deals.

But the White House at this moment has said they want to give space to these negotiations. You've heard senator Chris Murphy say that this is something that needs to get hammered out between the senators themselves.

If you think about some of the political tones of this, as well, these Republican senators who are going to be up for reelection this year or next year may be more willing to negotiate with senators, Democratic senators, rather than the president himself of the opposing party.

But it's really been interesting to watch how the White House has approached this. The president gave that major primetime speech last week. But then they've really been leaving the promotion of these new gun reform efforts to other people.

Yesterday you had Matthew McConaughey at the White House briefing, delivering a very impactful speech, urging for new action to be taken.

But really, the president is being hands off when it comes to these negotiations themselves.

KEILAR: Sometimes the gentle touch is actually a good sign, right, of just how sensitive these proceedings are and how much a White House wants them to move forward with the work going on with Congress.

Very interesting, Sunlen. CNN is reporting that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, privately he's expressed an openness for raising the age limit to purchase a semi-automatic rifle, like an AR-15, from 18 to 21, and yet it's hard to see him making that public.

SERFATY: Very hard, because many Republicans on Capitol Hill are very against it. It's a nonstarter with many Republicans, and he knows that. And that is why a few hours before this reporting came out, that he's privately been saying that.

Publicly, he was saying, Look, I'm not going to get into the details. I'm not going to take a stance on those sort of issues.

Now, Democrats certainly would like to see this enacted. Some Republicans are interested, but the majority are not. So instead, Republican negotiators are really trying to zero in on that 18 to 21 age group, how can they pull, you know, some juvenile records? How can they be accessed during the background checks to potentially provide for a waiting period if they do want to get these semi-automatic weapons?

KEILAR: What would Biden consider to be a success here?

SAENZ: Well, what the White House is saying is that anything that gets passed is a step forward. Of course, what he has laid out in that speech last week is far for aggressive than what will actually be hammered out in this deal on Capitol Hill.

You know, he called for banning the assault weapons. He also talked about raising the age for purchasing from 18 to 21. But the White House is realistic that those items at this moment just do not have the support up on Capitol Hill.

It's really interesting. You know, I was in Uvalde ten days ago when President Biden went there and met with the families. And the frustration within the community was so palpable. And you had people yelling at the president do something, do something, and he said, "We will."

So even though it may not exactly match what he wants to see, to go to those great lengths, the White House still feels that any movement on this will be a step forward and a victory when it comes to trying to enact new gun reform.


KEILAR: Can they do something? Can they do something that will actually make a difference? We don't know. Right? These are still open questions at this point.

Sunlen, Arlette, thanks so much for your reporting.

BERMAN: So Arlette was talking about it right there. It was a remarkable moment in the White House. Actor Matthew McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Texas, stepped to the podium in the briefing room to honor the victims of the massacre at the Robb Elementary school.

He shared personal stories about some of the 19 children and two teachers who died there.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: We also met Ana and Danilo, the mom and the step-dad of 9-year-old Maite Rodriguez.

Now, Maite wanted to be a marine biologist. Maite wore green high-top Converse with a heart she had hand-drawn on the right toe, because they represented her love of nature.

These are the same green Converse on her feet that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting. How about that?

Do you know what every one of these parents wanted, what they asked us for, what every parent separately expressed in their own way to Camilla and me? That they want their children's dreams to live on.

We need background checks. We need to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21. We need a waiting period for those rifles. We need red flag laws and consequences for those who abuse them.

These are reasonable, practical, tactical regulations to our nations, states, communities, schools and homes.

Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals. These regulations are not a step back. They're a step forward for a civil society and -- and -- the Second Amendment.

This should be a nonpartisan issue. This should not be a partisan issue. There is not a Democratic or Republican value in one single act of these shooters. There's not.

But people in power have failed to act. So we're asking you, and I'm asking you will you please ask yourselves, can both sides rise above? Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand and admit that we have a life preservation problem on our hands?

Enough with the counterpunching. Enough of the invalidation of the other side. Let's come to the common table that represents the American people.

Find a middle ground, the place where most of us Americans live anyway, especially on this issue. Because I promise you America, you and me, we are not as divided as we are being told we are.

And let's admit it. We can't truly be leaders if we're only living for reelection.


BERMAN: Joining us now, Eric Deggans, TV critic for NPR News.

Eric, thanks so much for being with us. I'm curious: what did you first think when you saw Matthew McConaughey was at the White House and was going to walk up to the podium?

ERIC DEGGANS, TV CRITIC, NPR NEWS: Yes, I've got to admit, I was very cynical about this. Of course, we've seen celebrities try to speak out on issues in the past. And even though McConaughey had considered a run for governor in Texas, he's not necessarily a celebrity that's associated with a lot of political activity. And, you know, you wondered how sophisticated he would be on this subject.

But I have to say, I was really impressed with his speech. And it seemed to be exactly what a lot of people wanted to hear in the moment and maybe what was needed to sort of move this conversation along in the public arena.

KEILAR: And he's quite a storyteller, right, Eric? But he comes at this from another perspective and a number of maybe very important ones, which is he's a father; he's from Uvalde; and he's coming at this as a gun owner and as someone from the middle.

And I wonder how important it is to have that voice of someone telling members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to stop talking past each other.

DEGGANS: Yes, and I don't know -- I mean, you know, the politicians will do what the politicians will do. I think this is more about speaking to the voters that might motivate politicians.

He is using his celebrity to cut through the noise and deliver a message that polls have been telling us that most Americans already feel. This idea that we have reached a crisis point and something needs to be done.


And even people who treasure owning weapons want to see some regulation done here. But there are politicians who feel that their base may not be receptive to it.

So someone like McConaughey can some forward; someone who isn't completely identified with one side of this issue or another side of this issue; someone who has a deep personal connection to the area where the tragedy happened, to speak with some authority and just articulate a sort of common-sense point of view that I think a lot of people already hold.

Some way to break through the noise and sort of be the voice of the average American. That's how this sort of came across at any rate.

BERMAN: We're not as divided as they tell you we are was his basic message there, which is an interesting ground to stake out. And I suppose the question is, how effective can it be and how far can McConaughey take that message? DEGGANS: Well, you know, what was interesting to me is that this is

the kind of message that you would have expected the top politicians in Texas to be delivering.

This is something you would have expected someone like a governor of Texas or someone like the ranking senator to be saying. And -- and -- but without mentioning their names, McConaughey was able to sort of conjure the idea that these people are not being effective and that, in fact, they may be stoking the fires of division, in some ways, to keep progress from being made on this issue, without actually having to directly criticize those figures, which I thought was very deft.

You know, we've reached a point where a lot of people can agree on some of the ideas that he's talking about, and a lot of people want to see some kind of progress forward. So his plea to sort of discard ideology and get past partisanship and find a way to unite on this issue is a really interesting idea.

And he managed to do it without directly criticizing any politician by name, which I thought was very well done.

BERMAN: Eric Deggans, appreciate you being with us this morning. Great discussion.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

BERMAN: A new rise in gas prices, and now Goldman Sachs warns it's about to get even worse.

Plus --


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what we've been brought -- ugh -- to see. Goodness me.


BERMAN: CNN on the front lines as Ukrainian forces go on the attack to try to reclaim territory from the Russians.

KEILAR: And new CNN reporting: the Biden administration has reached out to North Korea but is getting the cold shoulder as Kim Jong-un launches more missiles.



KEILAR: Goldman Sachs now forecasting oil prices will spike to $140 a barrel this summer as gas prices continue to climb to new record highs.

Joining us now is chief business correspondent Christine Romans on these numbers. That is no relief in sight. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: No,

stubborn. I mean, inflation has been stubborn, and gas prices have been this thing. Every week, the real-feel economic indicator for families, you're spaying 40 bucks more to fill up an SUV. And overnight another 4 cents on gas prices, $4.96.

You know, this is like up like a rocket ship in terms of how quickly these gas prices are rising. And when you look at all the states that already have $5-a-gallon gasoline, every night another couple of states are added to this list. And we're expecting this here to continue.

Now, you've got to reach $5.40 a gallon to match inflation adjusted the high from 2008-2009, but with inflation on everything going up, it just shows you why the American consumer is so frustrated here.

So Goldman Sachs, in a note to its clients yesterday, saying oil could hit $140 -- $140 a barrel this summer. And that is needed to actually incentivize more drilling and more production and start to get consumers and behavior to change a little bit.

So ironically, high oil prices can help cool high oil prices, because they get so high people just start wanting to pump more oil, because they want to capture that, you know, that dollar value. So maybe, maybe that is some kind of lid that could happen, but it's far from here, another 20 bucks from here.

KEILAR: And we heard the treasury secretary say yesterday that inflation is unacceptable, but she also was making the point that this isn't just an American problem.

ROMANS: Right, it's a global problem. There are big market forces at work that one little lever can't really fix overall, and it is stubborn. It will persist.

Listen to what the treasury secretary said.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: We currently face macroeconomic challenges, including unacceptable levels of inflation, as well as the headwinds associated with the disruptions caused by the pandemic's effect on supply chains and the effects of supply-side disturbances to oil and food markets resulting from Russia's war in Ukraine.


ROMANS: So first COVID broke the global economy, broke supply chains, trying to put it back together. And there are all these knock-on effects for how complicated that supply chain system is.

You add in the Russian invasion, that's a whole new element. And this is a real concern.

The World Bank yesterday also warning about -- warning about stubborn inflation and that some countries will slip into recession because of it. We still have a long road to go here, Brianna.


KEILAR: All right. Christine Romans, thank you for that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

KEILAR: Voters in San Francisco rejecting a key Democrat as crime is rising in the city.

BERMAN: A CNN exclusive on the front lines of war, the incredible moment Matthew Chance got exclusive access as Ukrainian forces fired on Russian positions.


CHANCE: OK. We've got to go now. Come on.



BERMAN: Ukrainian forces are locked in a bloody battle for the city of Severodonetsk in Eastern Ukraine. These satellite images show widespread destruction there.

Russia has bombed the city relentlessly for weeks, part of its larger push for control of the entire Donbas region. You know, that is in the Eastern part of the country, where Russia has been making gains.


In the meantime, Ukraine has been trying to regain territory in the South. Our Matthew Chance had exclusive access to the front lines as troops fired on Russian positions.

And Matthew joins us now from the Southern city of Kryvyi Rih.

Matthew, you had quite an experience.

CHANCE: Yes, that's right. We managed to get very close to those front lines, actually to them.

Look, stalemate is something that Ukrainian military commanders desperately want to avoid in this conflict, because they want to prevent Russia and Vladimir Putin from locking in the military gains that have been achieved by Moscow so far.

So while the Russians are pressing forward in areas of the East of the country, like around the city of Severodonetsk, the Ukrainians say they're pushing back here along the Southern front line.

And the military here gave us that exclusive access to what they say is that effort.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHANCE (voice-over): This is where the Ukrainian military tells us they're seizing back their lands. But on the battered Southern front with Russia, the stalemate of trench warfare seems to be setting in. And commanders privately admit advances by either side here are small.

"The Russians seem to be running out of ammunition, and they're not as strong as they were," the platoon commander of this forward trench told me. "But we need more weapons, too," he adds, "if we're to push ahead."

CHANCE: Speaking to Anton (ph) here, and he's saying it is (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). It is very loud at night. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)




CHANCE: Right. So in the morning, he's saying, it's not so noisy. It's a bit quieter.

So it's interesting, because this is the place where the Ukrainian government say there's a big counteroffensive that's been under way for some time, and they're taking back territory.

But we've not seen a great deal of evidence of that on the ground. It seems that, you know, both sides, dug in here heavily, have fought themselves to a standstill, neither side strong enough to win this war, but not weak enough to lose it, either.


CHANCE: That's outgoing, is it? Are you sure? You can hear the outgoing artillery shells streaming across our position here.

CHANCE (voice-over): Our Ukrainian military escorts take us to what they say is a recently liberated zone where at least 30 Russians holed up inside this kindergarten were killed.

As Moscow focuses its forces on Donbas in the East, Ukrainian officials say conquered areas in the South, like this, are being left exposed.

CHANCE: All right. Well, they brought us to this very forward location where, as you can hear, there are still artillery exchanges taking place.

And this is the remnants of a battle from a couple of weeks ago, they say, where this Russian position was taken by Ukrainian forces at great cost both to the Ukrainians and, obviously, to the Russians, as well.

All of this debris on the ground is, we're told, Russian equipment. And obviously, this is the remnants of a rushed [SIC] -- a Russian armored vehicle of some kind, which has been, like so many we've seen, totally destroyed in this bitter conflict.

The Russians thought that they were going to win easily, didn't they?


CHANCE: But that's not what's happening?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. The Russians thought a few days, finished war in Ukraine, in a few days.

CHANCE: We can hear it's still going on here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's shell, and we can hear flight of shell.

CHANCE: Yes. Months later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russian -- Russian government blamed their victory in a few days. I think we must be ready for a long war.

CHANCE (voice-over): A long artillery war with heavy weapons like this Ukrainian battle tank positioned in tree lines towards an unseen enemy. These firing points quickly become vulnerable, and the troops here need to be mobile.

CHANCE: OK. We're being front to this frontline position where they're going to fire on Russian forces a short distance away. It's a secret location. We can only stay for one round, we're told. After that, there's going to be return fire, and we've got to get out of here.

But this is what we've been brought -- ugh -- to see. Goodness me. OK. Guys, what now? Another one. I thought we had to go after one.