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Biden Calls On Congress To Approve 3-Month Gas Tax Holiday; Lawyer For Georgia Election Workers Joins New Day. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 22, 2022 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The White House calling on Congress to suspend the federal tax on gas through September. That's about 18 cents per gallon. In a statement, the president said it was to give Americans a little extra breathing room as they deal with the effects of Putin's war in Ukraine.

Joining us now is Amos Hochstein. He's senior adviser for global security at the State Department. Thank you so much for being with us.

Gas tax holidays are a concept that have been discussed in the past in different circumstances. Barack Obama, in 2008 -- and you went on to work in the Obama administration -- had this to say about the notion.


BARACK OBAMA, THEN-CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're arguing over a gimmick to save you half a tank of gas over the course of the entire summer so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say that they did something.


BERMAN: So why is this not a gimmick, in your mind, now?

AMOS HOCHSTEIN, SENIOR ADVISER FOR GLOBAL ENERGY SECURITY, STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, first of all, good morning. It's good to be here.

Over -- this is a -- we're in a different situation today where over the last several months since Putin has amassed troops outside Ukraine and ultimately invaded Ukraine, the cost of the price of a gallon has gone up about $2, which is -- and puts us in unprecedented times in the high cost of oil and high price of gasoline.

The president has always said that he will do whatever he can to reduce the price for the American families and for -- at the pump. And this act today calling on Congress to reduce -- to suspend the gas tax -- the federal gas tax by the 18 cents for a period of three months is what we can do to give some breathing room for the American people as we contend with a time of war where Putin is continuing to -- his war in Ukraine and the effects are felt in the United States and around the world.

So, this is an action that the president is taking, calling on Congress to do that. Calling on governors to do what they can on top of that to suspend the tax in -- at the state level, and in some cases, maybe perhaps other measures, such as rebates. Together, with the average cost of taxes at the state level of about 30 cents, that can give the American public about 50 cents off a gallon.

So in the conditions that we're in today, that's not a gimmick. That's a little bit of breathing room for the American people as we get into the summer driving season.

BERMAN: It could be 18 cents at the federal level; 50 cents if you add it altogether if those savings actually get passed on to the consumer. What guarantee do you have that the oil companies won't pocket the differential?

HOCHSTEIN: Well, first, we will call on -- we are calling -- the president is calling and demanding that the -- that the industry -- the companies and the retailers pass that on to the -- to the consumer at the pump.

And we've seen the research that when states that have already suspended the gas tax have done so, it is largely -- have been -- has been passed on to the American people, so -- and at the pump. So we would scrutinize it and we would call on the industry to do exactly that -- to pass it on.

But look, it's important to note that the president has taken extraordinary steps, so far, culminating in today's call on Congress to suspend the gas tax. He has released a million barrels a day -- 180 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He's led the world in increasing that amount so that there could be a global response all the way to 240 million barrels.

Think about what would be the price at the pump today if we didn't take those actions. And these are historic, unprecedented record actions.

He's called on the industry to increase oil production. And he's called on Sec. Granholm to convene the industry to hear their ideas of what we can do to bring some refining capacity that's been idled because of the pandemic back on so that we can have a more systemic support of reducing the price of gasoline at the pump.

BERMAN: In terms of what the industry is saying or feeling about the comments that the president and Energy Sec. Granholm have made, the Chevron CEO wrote an open letter to the president, saying quote, "Your administration has largely sought to criticize and at times vilify our industry. These actions are not beneficial to meeting the challenges we face."

If they say to you -- and they do say we don't see demand for greater refining capacity five years from now, why should we invest in increasing our output today? What do you say?

HOCHSTEIN: Well, look, we've had a dialogue with the industry and we'll continue to have a dialogue with the industry. The president is also going to call it as he sees it. And the industry has had record profits over the last several months

of these remarkable elevated prices of, at times, over $120-$130 a barrel. They've made $35 billion in profits combined just over the last several months compared to last year.


So, they -- we are asking for them to make money. We're all capitalists and we support them making a profit. What we want them to do is to also invest some of that money back in. And I've got to be honest with you, some of the companies are already doing that. They've announced increases in production, increases in capital spending.

We want to look at some of the refineries that went offline because of the pandemic when nobody was driving, nobody was flying -- and they, appropriately, took some of that capacity offline. Some of it's gone and won't come back, but some of it can come back.

And we want to work with the industry. We've asked them to come and meet with Sec. Granholm to give their ideas. The president is willing to take extraordinary actions, as he has over the last several months, to address this situation.

But as long as this war is going on with prices -- and remember, Russia is one of the largest producers of oil, of gas, of refined products, of gasoline and diesel.

So we want to make sure that we have the tools here in the United States to alleviate the price hikes for the American public, and that's what he's going to do. And if the industry can come up with ideas of how we can work together to support that effort we will do that. We're here to hear their views and their concerns --

BERMAN: I want to --

HOCHSTEIN: -- but mostly to hear their ideas of how they can do -- how they can invest.

BERMAN: President Biden is going to Saudi Arabia where we do understand he will see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which is controversial in and of itself. What specific ask will he make to Saudi Arabia in terms of increasing output?

HOCHSTEIN: Well, first, the OPEC Plus -- OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, but OPEC has already taken action a couple of weeks ago where they announced that they will be increasing the supply and increasing their exports.

This was really the first time that they've been willing to acknowledge the demand crunch on the global economy and have said that July and August will see increased production. So they're going to increase by over 200,000 barrels a day of production in July and August. That decision, Saudi Arabia and OPEC have already made.

The visit is about strategic interests and stability in the Middle East and promoting that stability in the Middle East. And I think that's what the primary reason for the visit is, to address concerns that we have regionally and broadly, and the global economy. We are going to continue to talk to Saudi Arabia and, frankly, to all members of OPEC to encourage them to increase production further, beyond what they've announced in July and August.

And as the -- as their arrangement on their -- on their production increases -- ends at the end of August, we think a new agreement should be reached where additional capacity should be brought on the market.

BERMAN: Amos Hochstein, thank you so much for joining us this morning and talking about this announcement from the White House being made just this morning.

HOCHSTEIN: A pleasure.

BERMAN: I want to bring in financial journalist Jean Chatzky, the CEO of, and the cohost of the radio show "Everyday Wealth." Also here, financial analyst and investor, Dylan Ratigan.

The fact is there are only so many things an administration can do to lower the price of gas, and they can't even do this themselves, right? Congress has to pass this and that's not a given. It may even be unlikely.

What do you think of the move?

JEAN CHATZKY, CEO, HERMONEY.COM, CO-HOST, RADIO SHOW "EVERYDAY WEALTH": Look, when it comes to the pocketbook of the average American, I think this is largely optics, right? I mean, the administration needs to show that it's trying to do something.

But I did some very quick back-of-the-envelope math. The average American uses about 400 gallons of gas a year. This 18 cents is going to save them somewhere between $65 and $70 over the course of a year. And we're talking three months here, so you've got to cut that in four.

This is not a huge savings. If you combine it with the states, if they come along, and you combine it with some rebates, maybe that starts to help.

I think the administration is trying to put on a good face.

BERMAN: Dylan?

DYLAN RATIGAN, FINANCIAL ANALYST AND INVESTOR: I'm trying -- I feel a little bit more -- I feel a little bit of sympathy for whoever has the misfortune of being the president, the lead political party, the Treasury secretary at any time when you have a massive inflation crisis.

It's the same -- you're in a situation where the medicine -- the key -- think of it as cancer. It's a terrible metaphor but inflation is a cancer. It is decaying all the value of anything you do. And so the medicine -- the chemotherapy is I have to stop demand. I have to -- I have to reduce the velocity of demand, so I raise interest rates. People will spend less money on credit cards. They'll buy fewer houses.


Oil is getting jammed for a thousand reasons, not the least of which is the conflict and the response to the conflict, which is then to not buy -- and all the things.

The correct answer is to do the chemo, but aggressive chemo, which means you don't -- sort of imagine I don't want to cut gas prices right now because I actually want to reduce demand and I want to slow velocity. But at the same time, I don't want to make you pay all this money for gas. I would like to give you a little bit of a deal.

And so, I think it's a -- it's a really miserable situation to try to administrate.

CHATZKY: It's a really important point, right? They reduce the price, the demand goes up. I mean, this in and of itself could be --

RATIGAN: It's bad.

CHATZKY: -- inflationary, right, which is exactly the kind of thing that we are looking to avoid. But maybe in combination with Saudi Arabia -- you know, the oil companies -- they're in between a rock and a hard place, too, right?


CHATZKY: They've been looking out to the future. They've been saying all right, we've got to get rid of what we're doing in the fossil fuel area and bring on more green energy. And now, people are saying whoa, stop -- just get my gas prices down and then you can worry about that. That doesn't quite work for that.

RATIGAN: It is the summer, so there's all that. I mean, the season couldn't be worse.

Very quickly, what I would really say is I think that the mostly likely -- the most aggressive but rational position would be to keep the rates up, allow gas prices to stay high, and then monitor unemployment and total consumer credit card debt. And if credit --

CHATZKY: It's getting worrisome.

RATIGAN: And then if credit card debt -- what you want is you want inflation to come down before unemployment goes up and before credit card debt explodes. That's like if you're sitting at the -- on the dashboard, you're like let's just keep hitting the brakes, hitting the brakes, hitting the brakes. Hopefully, inflation will come down before people start losing their jobs and consumer credit card debt explodes, but --



CHATZKY: But it's a dance, right, and it's a dance that people are losing faith that the Federal Reserve has the ability to execute, right? And people are starting to -- if you've been watching the headlines as I know you have, people are piling on Jay Powell at this point and wondering too late, too far. It's a precarious position and the ability to land this plane softly is completely in doubt.

BERMAN: I know people are watching this, then, saying Dylan, Jean, what you're saying sounds really concerning. You're making me nervous. What do I do?

CHATZKY: You control the things that you can control, especially in an environment like this.

So we're talking about gas prices. I can't control that but I can control going out of my house to run errands five times a day versus bunching them and going out one time a day.

I can't control the price of milk but I can control the fact that hey, during the pandemic I got really good at menu planning. I got really good at grocery shopping once a week and cooking, and I can bring my costs down in that way.

I know it sounds like boring -- your grandmother said this -- but these are the things that we actually can do that work.

BERMAN: My grandmother never said anything boring, trust me, if you knew her.

Dylan, you talked about unemployment and I don't want to let that hang. Because Larry Summers, among other people, are saying one of the ways that this may all end -- this inflation -- is if unemployment goes up. That is tough to hear but explain why that's so.

RATIGAN: Well, again -- so, whatever the price of gas is or the price of a mortgage is, or the price of groceries are, it's all much more endurable and sustainable if you have a job. So maybe you save less money, maybe you have a little bit more credit card debt, but you're getting -- there is still cash flow -- personal cash flow from work. So you're just enduring -- you're reallocating perhaps whatever the dollar a week or whatever the -- I'll just use a dollar, and how that gets spent.

But if fewer people have any dollars coming in -- so they don't have the cash flow to deal, that's great for inflation.

So here's the crazy thing about inflation, and we haven't done this since the late '70s -- I mean, it's been a long time since cable news or anybody was in this version of this conversation. The best thing for inflation is really high interest rates, really high gas prices, and really high unemployment. It will solve it in a weekend.

But human -- one --

BERMAN: A painful -- a painful weekend. RATIGAN: But that's not a human answer.

BERMAN: Right.

RATIGAN: That's a math answer on a spreadsheet but that's useless for human beings.

And so, the magic trick, whether you're the Federal Reserve or whether you're an adviser like Jean is, or whether you are involved somewhere in the middle, is how do we get this inflation to stop -- which, by the way, it's not just in America. It's a global thing. I mean, you're dealing with --

And so, I think Jean had the best answer in terms of -- because everybody that watches this segment is like thanks for nothing, John Berman.


RATIGAN: You know, that was the --

BERMAN: I get that a lot.


RATIGAN: But I -- the reality is that there are a lot of things that you can control and that this is an opportunity actually to take control of those things.

BERMAN: Dylan Ratigan, Jean Chatzky, thanks so much --

CHATZKY: Thank you.

BERMAN: -- for being here. I really appreciate it.

We're going to speak with the lawyer for the two Georgia election workers who were targets of the lies from Trump world.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, we'll be joined by the family of Amerie Garza, one of the young victims of the Uvalde mass shooting, after their latest plea for change.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He failed us. Do not make the same mistake he made and fail us, too. Please, please, we're begging -- get this man out of our lives.



KEILAR: We saw some pretty moving testimony from some of the people whose lives -- their daily lives have been completely upended by lies about the 2020 election, including from Donald Trump.


Georgia election workers Wandrea "Shaye" Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman say their lives were just turned upside down after the former president and Rudy Giuliani targeted them. Trump mentioned Moss by name 18 times on his now-infamous phone call to Brad Raffensperger. He called her, quote, "a professional vote scammer and hustler."

She says the election lies spawned racist and hateful threats.


WANDREA "SHAYE" MOSS, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: A lot of threats wishing death upon me, telling me that I'll be in jail with my mother, and saying things like be glad it's 2020 and not 1920.

RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: Do you know how it feels to have the President of the United States to target you?


KEILAR: Joining us now is attorney Mike Gottlieb. He represents those two Georgia election officials that you saw right there.

They told us so much, Mike, about what their daily lives have been like and how upended it's been. But I wonder what yesterday was like for them testifying and also listening to Brad Raffensperger and Gabe Sterling defend them.

MIKE GOTTLIEB, ATTORNEY FOR RUBY FREEMAN AND WANDREA "SHAYE" MOSS, PARTNER AT WILLKIE FARR & GALLAGHER: Yes. I mean, thanks for having me on, Brianna. It's great to be here.

I mean, it was just a really powerful moment for them to be able to -- for Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman to be able to take their voices back and to be able to tell their story. And to be willing to do that under oath in front of the American people and in front of cameras, I think was a very powerful demonstration of what the January 6 hearings can accomplish. It's a powerful rebuke to the notion that nothing matters.

The truth is something ascertainable and facts are stubborn things. And when you have ordinary heroes like election workers like Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman that are willing to stand up for the truth and talk before the American people, that can send a very powerful message.

KEILAR: Do they feel like their reputations are on the way to being restored? Do they feel like that's possible?

GOTTLIEB: That's the objective. That's the objective of the litigation that they have filed. That's the objective of coming to tell their story under oath and answer the committee's questions is to demonstrate what I think most reasonable people knew when these lies were first told is that they were categorically false.

And I think you saw that demonstrated in the hearings yesterday sort of piece by piece every aspect of this conspiracy theory was just dismantled by Republican officials who were willing to stand up also under oath and tell the truth.

KEILAR: I want to listen to a little more of Shaye describing what life has been like for her.


MOSS: It just turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card. I don't transfer calls.

I don't want anyone knowing my name. I don't want to go anywhere with my mom because she might yell my name out over the grocery aisle or something. I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere at all.


KEILAR: With your assistance, they've sued OAN. They've gotten a statement sort of, I guess, rejecting what OAN said about them. They're also suing Rudy Giuliani. What does she want from Rudy Giuliani?

GOTTLIEB: Well, first of all, I think anybody who watches that testimony can't help but be moved by it. I mean, she -- Ms. Moss is a -- is a hero and is so courageous for being willing to stand up and tell her story. And I just -- I'm just proud to be associated with somebody that has that character and courage.

The lawsuits are designed to try to sort of achieve accountability and restore the reputation of Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman who were made the objects of this character assassination for political convenience by Rudy Giuliani and others in his -- in his orbit.

Our colleagues at Law for Truth -- that's a project that protects democracy that's designed to combat disinformation -- have, along with us and other lawyers, filed a lawsuit in Missouri against The Gateway Pundit. We have filed a lawsuit in D.C. that was against OAN and Rudy Giuliani. The lawsuit against Mr. Giuliani continues.

And the design is for them to have their day in court and to be able to tell their story and achieve accountability, and demonstrate with all of the powers of the legal system and the judicial system that everything that was said about them was a lie, and help restore their reputations.

They've had their lives completely upended as we heard during the testimony yesterday. Ms. Freeman had to leave her home at the direction of the FBI.


Ms. Moss has had to leave her job. She's had her entire family and life upended. Her -- the stories about her grandmother, and her son, and her family being targeted and threatened, and harassed. All of that helped motivate wanting to achieve some kind of accountability for them and the legal system can be effective in doing that.

KEILAR: It was distressing to hear how distressed they were by what happened to them.

Mike, thank you so much for being with us.

GOTTLIEB: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: There's some new reporting on Ivanka Trump expressing two different views on election fraud while in public versus what she said in closed-door depositions.

BERMAN: And we're getting new information just in on a powerful earthquake in Eastern Afghanistan. The death toll continues to rise. At least 1,000 people killed.


KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Wednesday, June 22.