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Dow Closes Below 30,000, Its Lowest Level In A Year; Photo Appears To Show Bound Americans Captured By Russians; GOP Senator Warns Gun Talks May Collapse: "Fish Or Cut Bait." Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 07:30   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: United because we finally remembered that a common commitment to our democracy and the Constitution matters much more than allegiance to any one president or political party.

And that's your reality check.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: John Avlon, thank you.

New this morning, the U.K. approving the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the U.S.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Dow is down, mortgage rates are up. Tips to protect your money and investments next.

And the State Department working to verify this photo of two Americans bound and in the back of a Russian military truck. New details of their and another reported capture.


BERMAN: Recession fears rising, and as a result, stocks taking a tumble. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq are already in bear markets, and the Dow dropped more than 700 points yesterday. The Dow fell below 30,000 for the first time in more than a year.


Joining us now, CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans, and business reporter Sibile Marcellus.

Christine, President Biden, in this interview with the A.P. --


BERMAN: -- yesterday, saying you know, a recession isn't inevitable.

ROMANS: Well, nobody knows when or if there will be a recession. At some point there will be because we live in an economy that has business cycles, right? We don't know if there's one now, if there's one maybe sometime next year.

What we do know is the markets are reacting like it's inevitable. And you've got a majority of global CEOs now, according to The Wall Street Journal, saying they think that we're either in one or headed for one. Now, it depends on where you live. It's much more likely you'll see a recession in Europe than in the United States, but no one knows for sure.

And the Fed is trying to navigate what it calls a soft landing, trying to get out of this mess without too much damage to the U.S. economy. But, you know, issue number one here is inflation. They're trying to get inflation under control.

And the stock market, at least right now, is adjusting to this new world of higher inflation, higher interest rates, slower growth, and that's why you're seeing stocks react.

KEILAR: So what would keep us out of one, then?

SIBILE MARCELLUS, BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, that's what the Fed is trying to figure out. They're walking that tight rope. I mean, I'll leave that to Jerome Powell to really come up with the right strategy because we need him. America needs him to get this right.

And we're seeing with investors is that when the Fed went really aggressive -- we saw the biggest rate hike in 28 years -- a little bit of relief. Like, OK, the Fed's got this. But then, doubts. Recession fears start to creep back in because people are worried, especially investors, that the Fed might overdo it and raising interest rates too much would actually push the U.S. economy into a recession.

BERMAN: Well, Jerome Powell is going to do what he's going to do and, in fact, has done. What he's going to do with the 7. -- you know, the .75% increase. But if you're sitting at home watching and wanting to know what you can do -- how you could navigate this -- what would you say?

MARCELLUS: Well, most people -- most Americans have 401(k)s, so that's how they are invested in the stock market. It might not be the best week to look at your 401(k) --

ROMANS: Too late.

MARCELLUS: -- because you might have a heart attack just looking at it, right?

So it depends what category you're in. So, if you're like a millennial or a Gen Z and you see your 401(k) and you that obviously it's dropped because it's been a brutal week on Wall Street, don't worry about it. Stay invested. This is for the long term. This is for retirement. You're going to keep working for a very long time. Stocks usually end up going back up.

But if you're a baby boomer -- if you're an older American who is working and you're worried, and you really need that retirement fund, then you have to really come up with a strategy. Is it time to take some money out of that 401(k) Try to figure out for yourself how much do you need that money, what kind of financial straits you're in, and what you should do.

ROMANS: This is why we always talk about rebalancing, right? Because hopefully, if you're rebalancing every year you're not too much into all these tech stocks that are now not going to be in favor anymore. They were in favor for 10 years. They're probably not going to be in favor in the near term here so you need to rebalance.

And I agree with you. You need to keep investing. For millennials and younger workers, this is when you build your retirement wealth. Honestly, when stocks are going down, you need to always be investing. Keep investing.

If you're close to retirement or have you have a 529 college savings plan and you've got a kid going to college next summer or next year, you've got really think about whether you need to pull back and make sure some of that is more liquid in case this is a multiyear period in the stock market.

But again, nobody knows for sure. No one has a crystal ball that says there's going to be a recession. Nobody does.

We know that the national mood is very grim. The psyche is very grim here and sometimes that can feed into those recession worries. But we also know the Fed is taking really considerable -- doing considerable work here to try to jack up interest rates and cool off inflation.

And you can see that in the housing market. I mean, anybody who is trying to buy a house right now -- you know, mortgage rates have just leapt 5.78%. I mean, they were below 3% late last year. That is remarkable.

And a lot of people -- their biggest concern in the housing market hasn't been the cost of borrowing the money; it's been finding the house. It's been red-hot. So maybe this will cool down that scorching real estate market a little bit.

BERMAN: Christine, Sibile, thank you both so much for being with us.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

MARCELLUS: Thanks, guys.

KEILAR: This morning, the State Department is working to verify this photo that you see right here, which appears to show two Americans who were fighting alongside Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv in the back of a Russian military truck with their hands tied behind their backs.

Alexander John-Robert Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, both from Alabama, have been missing for nearly a week. The State Department has also identified Grady Kurpasi as missing in action in Ukraine. He's a U.S. Marine veteran. He actually hadn't been heard from since the end of April.

Joining us now is retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. He's the former director of European Affairs for the National Security Council.

Sir, what are you watching here with the cases of these three Americans?


LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN (RET.), FORMER EUROPEAN AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL (via Webex by Cisco): Well, there is -- there's an estimated 20,000 foreigners or volunteers operating under the Ukrainian armed forces in the Foreign Legion. And the fact that, at this point, more than four months into the war there are some POWs or captured foreigners, or even, unfortunately, killed in action isn't surprising given that large number of folks.

These are now going to be high-value targets or high-value bargaining chips for the Russians and their proxies -- Russian-controlled forces in the -- in the -- these republics.

I think they're generally safe. They're not going to be -- the Russians are going to want to use them as leverage to pressure the U.S. and the West.

Same thing with the British. For the Brits -- they convicted them of being mercenaries and plan to execute them. But I find that hard to believe that they're going to trade away those bargaining chips. They'd rather keep the pressure on the West.

So I think, frankly, for the short term, they are not in any real danger and they're going to be held safely in a -- in a location where they'll be out of danger for the foreseeable future.

BERMAN: What kind of pressure does it put on the administration? You have been on the inside of an administration before. They warned Americans don't go to Ukraine. Here, Americans did and now they appear to be in Russian custody. So, how does the White House approach this?

VINDMAN: It doesn't put that much pressure. From the Russian perspective, it seems like a good bargaining chip. From the U.S. side, we -- we're not going to negotiate with terrorists.

And I think, frankly, what it -- what we do need to do is we need to potentially look at avenues to negotiate in good faith to secure the release of American citizens. We can't be seen to be doing nothing. But at the same time, we're not going to make any big trades or any big swaps. It's just the reality of the situation.

They are volunteers operating under the Ukrainian armed forces. This is a war that's going to go on for months now. We passed on opportunities to make this a short war by helping the Ukrainians win.

And these things are probably going to unfold in the future also and we'll just have to deal with the forthcoming consequences of additional Americans and additional Westerners being captured by the Russians in some very, very difficult battles here in the east, but battles that are not going to make a decisive gain for the Russians in the short term. KEILAR: If you had to put the conflict -- if you had to put this war

into context right now, would you say that Ukraine is currently losing?

VINDMAN: I wouldn't say that. I think -- you know, when I looked at this situation about eight weeks ago -- we're 14 weeks into the war -- six weeks after the war started, I thought about this kind of scenario where the Russians were making slow gains back in that window weeks ago.

And they're only making this kind of incremental progress now. They are outmatching the Ukrainians in artillery and they're amassing troops in larger numbers than the Ukrainians can muster in these localized, kind of small locations. Their most intense fighting is occurring over about 100 kilometers.

So, Russia has some advantages there. But in the long run, they're fighting over some 600-800 kilometers. Russia cannot maintain the pressure and they're going to shift to defensive operations in the near future. The initiative is going to swing over to the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians will pick where to counterattack and start to gain ground, probably more so in the south around Kherson rather than the east.

So this is going to play out over a longer period of time. But in a scenario where the West is starting to actually flow in these more sophisticated systems -- that's critical. And then that's going to start to alleviate some of the burdens -- you know, long-term burdens with the Ukrainians in the direction this war is going.

Right now, both sides are being exhausted but I think in the long term the advantages still fall with the Ukrainians as long as Russia doesn't do a general mobilization.

KEILAR: All right. We'll be, certainly, watching that and seeing if some of those new weapons do make the difference.

Alex, thank you for being with us this morning. Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

BERMAN: New this morning, the U.K. approving the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges. Britain's home office says it has not found that extradition would violate his human rights.

Assange is wanted in the U.S. on 18 criminal charges after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified files in 2010. WikiLeaks plans to appeal the decision. If convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.

Fish or cut bait. The top Republican negotiator in the bipartisan gun talks leaves without a deal. So where do things stand today?

KEILAR: And FIFA announcing the 16 host cities for the 2026 World Cup.



BERMAN: Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is leading negotiations on the Republican side for a potential gun safety bill, warns that talks could collapse if they continue to drag on, telling reporters, quote, "People just need to make a decision. It's fish or cut bait."

Joining us now, Alayna Treene, congressional reporter at Axios who has been reporting on these discussions. Alayna, they don't seem to be going great -- at least they weren't last night. What's the latest you're hearing?

ALAYNA TREENE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, AXIOS (via Skype): Well, that's right. That's exactly right, John.

And it's tough. I mean, it's incredible that they've been able to get a framework. A group of bipartisan senators, including Cornyn, released that last weekend and it had the support of 10 Republican senators. It also, later this week, gained the support of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader.


But translating that into text is really where the snags are starting to come out and it's going to be really difficult. Getting the framework and an agreement on principles is very different than writing out legislative text, and that's something that many Republicans, including Cornyn's team, has warned me about and other reporters in the Capitol.

And there's a couple of things here. There is stuff about red flag laws and the boyfriend loophole, which is about domestic abuse and people -- and couples who -- whether they should have guns or not if they are domestic abusers, unmarried or not.

But the problem is that the clock is really running out and they need to get a deal and have legislative text done by the end of next week in order to get this done before the July Fourth recess, and that's a really difficult timeframe.

My colleague and I reported out how a lot of conservatives and a lot of Republicans in the Republican Conference in the Senate are really concerned about this process. They're uneasy about the way that John Cornyn has been handling these talks. They feel like they've been really let out of this and they're concerned that they're going to be forced to vote on a massive and controversial package without having a lot of time to look over the bill text itself.

And so, there's a lot of controversial sticking points here that they need to hammer out, particularly over this weekend, if they want to see a bill on the floor by the end of next week.

BERMAN: How willing are the Democrats -- Chris Murphy, in particular -- willing to give on some of these points that John Cornyn seems to be hung up on? TREENE: Well, they're very willing. And I think this is something that Democrats and Republicans have kind of praised Chris Murphy about from the beginning. He's been very realistic about what the boundaries of the package are and the limitations to what he has to work with.

He recognizes that any deal that comes together -- any bill that's going to get at least 60 Republican -- or at least 60 votes in the Senate -- that means at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate -- will be not a package that most Democrats want but a step toward progress.

And I think that it's probably been frustrating and I know -- I've spoken with Chris Murphy. I talked with him yesterday in the Senate and he says he's still hopeful they'll be able to work this out. They've been doing this for 30 years now and he really doesn't think that they're going to give up or see this fall apart.

But the urgency is what I think is most concerning to Democrats. They recognize that if they go on their recess at the end of next week -- it's a 2-week recess -- they might lose that momentum that they've had since the Uvalde shooting to get this done.

And so, I think it's going to be a lot of compromise. There's a lot of details that are still being hammered out. And at this point, it really is a question of whether this fish or cut bait tactic by John Cornyn and other Republicans is more of a negotiating strategy or if there really is going to be a lot of hiccups that they might not be able to hammer out this time.

BERMAN: Yes. If the goal is to get this through by the end of the next week, minutes and hours today matter.

And I know you're watching this very closely, Alayna Treene. Thanks so much for being with us.

TREENE: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So, new this morning, some election officials tell CNN they fear for their physical safety ahead of the midterms. We have new reporting just coming in.

KEILAR: And next, we'll be joined by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with all the new revelations from the January 6 hearings.



KEILAR: A toxic political environment has local election officials across the country concerned about their physical safety ahead of the midterm elections in November.

Sean Lyngaas joins us now with some new reporting that he has. What can you tell us, Sean?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: Well, Brianna, I've been covering election security for several years and this is a new type of post-2020 environment. Given the rise in baseless claims about election fraud and the disinformation environment, bad information about the way that the voting process works, there's a lot of people who don't trust the system and are often taking it out on election officials.

I talked to one election official for Ingham County in Michigan -- home to the capital of Michigan -- Lansing -- who -- she told me she was investing in a new pair of blinds for her office because she was concerned about people looking at her from across the street.

So, whereas before 2020, we had a lot of concerns around cybersecurity or at least vigilance, and we still have that. Now, you add to that the exhaustion that election officials are feeling having to rebut these false claims about the voting process that are often pushed by former President Donald Trump and his supporters, Brianna.

KEILAR: Look, it's very real concerns that we're hearing, Sean, and I wonder how broad is this? When you're talking about officials, how broad are they experiencing these concerns?

LYNGAAS: Well, one survey that we cite in our reporting from the Brennan Center for Justice, which is a nonprofit that focuses on elections, found that -- a poll found that one in three election officials know someone who has left the profession because of the concerns about their physical safety or harassment and intimidation. So it is -- it is quite a broad sentiment.

The good news, if I could point out some good news, is that these are still experienced professionals -- those who have stayed in the game. And they've built closer ties over the last several years since 2016 in the aftermath of the Russian interference with both federal officials and themselves. So they have a network they can share information with. They're more savvy than they have been in the past. And so, it is exhausting and grueling and they need more resources and support, but they are a professional bunch.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, they're worried about their families and this is certainly not what they signed up for with these jobs.

Sean, thank you so much.