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Fragile Ceasefire Underway between Israel and Gaza Militants; Ukraine Accuses Russia of Shelling Largest Nuke Plant in Europe; China Launches Long-Range Airstrike Drills around Taiwan; White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese Interviewed on Spending Bill Recently Passed by U.S. Senate; Reporting Indicates White House Staffers Found Documents in Former President Trump's Toilet. Aired 8- 8:30a ET
Aired August 08, 2022 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: -- what it will look like is trying to explain in very practical terms why this matters for people's lives. We have for decades debating the idea of allowed Medicare to negotiate for prescription drug prices. But why it's so important is it will mean that millions of Americans can actually access those prescriptions they need at lower costs.
We've been debating for decades and trying for decades to really address the climate crisis in the way that we need. But what that means for families is lower energy costs, lower utility bills, making it easier to access things like energy-efficient upgrades for their homes, energy efficient appliances, and the like. So, the president will, our entire team will be out making the case. Obviously, right now we're focused on the last steps in this process, getting the bill through the House and to the president's desk for signature.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: When you say out, you mean traveling?
DEESE: Certainly, the president is the going to be out around the country on these issues. I don't have any specific announcements to make on travel, but you can expect that he'll be out in the country in the coming weeks.
KEILAR: OK, so it's going to take some time for some of these provisions to kick in, obviously. These are big provisions, specifically on prescription drugs. The $2,000 out-of-pocket cap doesn't start until 2025, as we understand. Medicare negotiation phasing in between 2026 to 29. How does this help Americans in the immediate future?
DEESE: That's a great question, and one of the important things about the way this bill was designed was to provide both immediate relief and also address longstanding challenges. So for example, on immediate relief, this fall, 13 million Americans will see lower health care premiums as a result of this bill, about $800 in savings. And those benefits will go beyond those 13 million Americans because it will mean more affordable health care coverage. So people going into fall and winter can rest a little easier knowing they'll have access to health care.
And at the same time, to your point, it takes on longstanding challenges of allowing Medicare to negotiate for prescription drug prices, which will take some time. But we've been waiting decades to put this reform into place, and we're going to do it right to make sure that those benefits are felt for the long term.
KEILAR: Starting next year, those drug companies that raise prices of drugs faster than inflation, which happens quite a lot, are going to have to pay a rebate to Medicare if they do that. Could we be seeing those companies rushing to hike prices before that?
DEESE: Certainly, Medicare has the authorities to make sure that, if they do so, that they will be -- that they will be strongly disincentivized from doing so. But look, the provision that you just described in the broader are going to result in lower costs for Medicare. And that means lower costs for consumers as well. And that's another point that's important here for your viewers. Reducing costs in Medicare is one of the ways this bill actually reduces the federal deficit. And when we reduce the deficit, we are helping on the inflation front as well because that's complimentary to what the Fed is trying to get done.
So in addition to lower cost for consumers, we're also lowering the costs to the federal balance sheet. Both of those are important at this moment.
KEILAR: How does Medicare stop them from doing that before this goes into effect?
DEESE: Well, if they were -- if they do that, then the rebate that they will have to pay --
KEILAR: No, I'm talking about -- the rebate doesn't kick in until next year. So between now and then, how would Medicare stop them from raising it?
DEESE: The drug prices for this year are already set with Medicare.
KEILAR: OK, so, they're not -- they have no wiggle room to do that?
DEESE: Correct. This bill will put them in a position where going forward, it can't go back on where we are this year, and going forward they will have -- Medicare will now have the leverage to make sure if they do raise prices quicker, then ultimately that cost is not borne by Medicare or borne by consumers.
KEILAR: OK, I know that's certainly reassuring to people who are paying those prices.
The president said that there's going to be a student loan forgiveness announcement this month. When are we expecting that?
DEESE: You've heard the president speak about this issue. I'm not going to get ahead of any decision he's made or any announcement. I don't have one of those for you today. But the issue is something that he has been focused on for some time, and he will speak to it when he's prepared to do so.
KEILAR: This month?
DEESE: I will leave the president's statements, the president's words on that to speak for themselves. And he will have more to say about it, and I'll have more to say about it when he makes that decision.
KEILAR: OK, great. And then Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday that those China tariffs that were instituted by former President Trump were a bad deal. That's what she called them, a bad deal. So why hasn't the president reversed them yet?
DEESE: I think you need to look at that issue in the context of our overall international economic policy. And the president ran for office, came into office reflecting the fact that the prior administration's approach to China and to international economic issues wasn't serving middle class families, wasn't serving manufacturing companies here in the United States.
And he has changed that fundamentally by working with our partners and allies, and by going at the core challenges that China really does pose to our economy. And if you look at what we're doing just this week, we're taking big steps on that front. The chips and science bill that the president will sign tomorrow is the biggest investment in our industrial base and in U.S. manufacturing in modern history. And a lot of that is designed to make sure that we have the capacity to build semiconductors here in the United States with secure supply chains that aren't relying on --
KEILAR: Are you saying he might let the tariffs stand?
DEESE: I'm saying that that's an issue we are looking at. The president is investigating, and we'll have an answer on that question when he's prepared to do so. But you need to look at that issue in the context of a much broader economic strategy, vis-a-vis, strengthening our own economic position in relation to China.
KEILAR: Brian, appreciate you making the time this morning. Thank you so much.
DEESE: Thank you.
BERMAN: I want to bring in CNN chief political correspondent and co- anchor of STATE OF THE UNION Dana Bash. Nice to see you this morning.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Happy Monday.
BERMAN: Thank you. So I was joking earlier that a headline this morning could be Democrats in array, right? Over the weekend, they passed the Inflation Reduction Act, and this follows several weeks of getting stuff passed here. How much of a difference do you think, a, this could make to the American people, b, this could make for Democrats heading into the midterms? BASH: First of all, it is -- it is what you just described. It is a
series of very important accomplishments, the capstone thus far, of course, what happened yesterday, which is this huge economic package with a lot of what Brian Deese was just talking about, a lot of the promises that Democrats have made. Some of them didn't make it into the package but a lot did, more than anybody had thought even just a few weeks ago.
The question that you asked about how much of a difference is it going to make, the jury is still out on that. And I've been actually thinking about this this morning. Brianna, remember when we were covering Obamacare.
KEILAR: Oh, yes, fondly. I loved working with you.
BASH: On the Hill. And this was an issue that Democrats -- it was partisan. No Republicans voted for it. Democrats said over and over, this is going to help you. This is going to make your lives better. And then what happened in the midterms? It was President Obama's first midterm election. They got shellacked. I think that was the word that he used. And the reason is people didn't feel it yet.
And then what happened, I don't know, not even 10 years later when Republicans were in control and they tried to overturn it, they couldn't. And they couldn't largely because people actually liked it. These things take time. And that is not conducive to an election that is three months away or even two years away. And that is just the reality.
The other thing is it's how people feel. ABC has a poll out that they conducted just I think Friday and Saturday -- 69 percent of Americans say that they don't think the economy is going well. That's seven in 10 Americans. And it's what you've been talking about all morning. It's because people just feel bad when it comes to the economy, which is the most important thing if you're going to the grocery store and you can't afford food. If you're going to fill up your car and you can't afford gas, or never mind housing. And so those are things that are going to take some time to turn around. And that is just the reality that Democrats are facing.
KEILAR: We want to ask you as well -- do you want to talk about these --
BERMAN: Oh, yes. Sure, I'll ask about the pictures. Maggie -- "Axios" published some of Maggie Haberman's reporting. Maggie, had earlier reported that White House staffers had found documents in Trump's toilet. It looked like they were flushed down, intentionally disposed of. And now "Axios" posted these photos this morning of what certainly appeared to be documents. One in these toilets is in the White House. Another one is during some kind of a trip. And I know people are going to make all kinds of toilet jokes here. But the bottom line is, is these are documents that are supposed to be preserved that are being destroyed here, Dana. BASH: It's not legal. There is a law that is in place since the era
post-Nixon that you have to preserve presidential records. And that is the people who work in the White House and the man who was elected to the White House. And that is the rule, which is why you have seen reporting from Maggie and others, the then president had a habit of ripping things up and throwing them in the trash. His aides would come quickly along and take them out of the trash and tape them back together, because that is the law of the land.
This looks nefarious. We don't know the specifics. I don't know if we're going to get to the bottom of what exactly was in there because you're going to have to have the former president cop to it, and there's no indication that that is something that he would do. I was zooming in on my phone on these pictures. I'm sure you guys were also.
BASH: It's a sharpie and it looks like Donald Trump's handwriting. It looks like it. Can we prove it? Are we handwriting experts? No. But it's just not legal, full stop.
KEILAR: Yes. Sparkling clean toilets, thank God, I have to say.
KEILAR: So this could be much worse.
BERMAN: It's the little things.
KEILAR: I just want to put that out there.
You had some great interviews this weekend on STATE OF THE UNION, including you spoke with Lindsey Graham about whether he would support Donald Trump in 2024. I want to play this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): I think he was a consequential president. If you compare his policies to what's going on today, I think he's got a hell of a story to say. I think we should look at election integrity measures to make sure some problems don't happen again. But if he runs for president, talking about 2020 is not what people want to hear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So interesting. He says election integrity even as he says move on.
BASH: Look, he's actually one of those few Trump supporters who's not an election denier. He says the election was not stolen. Joe Biden won the presidency, full stop. And what he did in addition to that clip is look into the camera and basically say, Donald Trump, stop talking about 2020. That hasn't happened. It's not going to happen. Just this weekend he spoke at CPAC and he was even further down the election lie rabbit hole than he has been recently because he had this huge crowd of people who were just eating up the conspiracy theories, and not just from him, but from other people.
So this is just the reality that Republicans are going to have to deal with if, in fact, Donald Trump runs, and if, in fact, he gets the nomination, that this is what all of this talk about what happened in 2020 and the Trump presidency isn't ancient history. It could be the future. And it is about the most slippery slope that you can think of for a lot of these Republicans.
BERMAN: Look, if Lindsey Graham thinks he's being successful as a Trump whisperer, it doesn't appear to be working.
BASH: Not on that issue.
BERMAN: I'm not sure it's ever worked, at least not the way he thinks it has.
You asked the same type of question to Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut when it comes to President Biden and whether or not Senator Blumenthal would support Biden running for reelection in 2024. And I want people to watch this. I think this follows a long exchange where you basically had to drag an answer out of him. So let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D-CT): I think this November is going to determine how successful President Biden is in the next two years and how strong he would be as a candidate.
BASH: Your non-answer is going to likely be perceived as an intentional dodge. You won't say, yes, I support President Biden. Is that where you want it to be?
BLUMENTHAL: I will support President Biden.
BASH: Do you want him to run?
BLUMENTHAL: If he decides he wants to run, and I think his decision will be determined by how November ends for the Democratic Party and for senators like myself who are running for reelection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I think I followed that, Dana, there, but it was interesting how kind of torturous the answer was.
BASH: And for so many Democrats. I actually think what he said at the end was the most illuminating, which is President Biden is likely going to decide based on how bad or not so bad things end up after Election Day this year, three months from now. And we don't know if he's right. What we do know is the message from the White House is that President Biden intends to run. I talked to Kamala Harris, maybe two months ago, and she said, full stop, he's running, she's going to be on the ticket. But the reason why these questions are being asked, I didn't sort of ask it out of the blue, is because you have other Democrats who are on the ballot from South Carolina, which is obviously very red state, to Minnesota, a couple of Congress people there who are so-called front-liners, saying that they don't think that Joe Biden should run.
And so, this is a debate that's happening. And it's not because the accomplishments we talked about at the beginning are not long legislatively. It's not because there are not other things that he has done that Democrats very much support. There are lots of other factors that they are considering.
BERMAN: Dana Bash, fun to see those interviews. Thank you for joining us this morning. Great to see you.
BASH: Thanks for having me, guys.
BERMAN: Warnings of a nuclear disaster possible as Russia launches rockets at Europe's largest nuclear plant.
And how the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza based militants is holding after a weekend of strikes?
KEILAR Plus, four Muslim men shot and killed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, three in just the last few weeks here. Officials are now looking into a possible connection. We will be speaking to the City's Mayor.
BERMAN: This morning, we have some developments in crisis zones around the world.
In the Middle East, a tenuous ceasefire after three days of fighting in Gaza and Israel. On Friday, Israel fired missiles at Gaza to stop what they said was an imminent Palestinian attack. Islamic Jihad, a militant group in Gaza has fired at least 1,100 rockets into Israel since then. The fighting left at least 44 Palestinians dead including 15 children and more than 300 wounded, that's according to Palestinian officials.
Tension is also between China and Taiwan as the Chinese are conducting four straight days of live fire drills around Taiwan including land and air exercises. It comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to the island.
And in Ukraine, the United Nation warns that fighting around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant risks "nuclear disaster." Concerns mounted this weekend after shelling damaged that forced one of the reactors to stop operating.
Now, no radioactive leak has been detected.
BERMAN: I want to get straight to CNN senior international correspondent, David McKenzie who is in Kyiv for us this morning.
David, what's the latest there?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the latest new is a very alarming development that there has been shelling in and around that very large nuclear site, the biggest Europe to the south of where I am standing.
Now, the atomic watchdog saying that the combatants are playing with fire. The Ukrainian military and spokespeople including the President, of course, is saying that it's Russian attacks on this very large site, not immediately at the site of the nuclear reactors, but within the vicinity, the Russians are saying it was the Ukrainians shelling that site.
Since March when the Russians took over Zaporizhzhia, they have been shelling Ukrainian positions, particularly across the Dnipro River, from in and around that.
So many accusing them of using the nuclear side as a shield because Ukrainians now -- it is just too dangerous to strike back.
Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine saying more needs to be done by the international community to avoid a disaster that could, in his words affect the whole of Europe.
Earlier today in Tokyo, the UN Secretary-General weighed in.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL: Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing and I hope that those attacks will end and at the same time, I hope that the IAEA will be able to have access to the plant and to exercise its mandated competencies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: The IAEA, that's the atomic agency says they want to get in there and make sure that it is safe. At least one of the reactors was shut down. No leaks, as you say, John, but very disturbing.
There are heavy caliber weapons and artillery, even rockets operating just in that immediate vicinity in the southern theater of this complex and this shelling over the weekend really does raise the stakes in terms of the safety, security of that nuclear site where Ukrainian operators have been working under the occupation of Russians for several months now -- John.
BERMAN: It is such a precarious situation there to say the least.
David McKenzie in Kyiv for us. David, thank you so much.
KEILAR: And joining us now is CNN senior national security correspondent, Alex Marquardt and former spokeswoman for the US Mission to the UN and former National Security Council Middle East Director, Hagar Chemali, who is with us.
Alex, does Russia have an appreciation for the risk here? Are they acting like that? And how fragile is this situation?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's extremely fragile. You heard the Secretary-General they're calling it suicidal, potentially, and the head of the IAEA saying that this is a small miracle that nothing worst has happened.
This seems to be a bit of a cynical ploy by Russia to accuse the Ukrainians of bombing the facility. Of course, the Ukrainians are accusing the Russians of doing it. We have seen the Russians putting their forces, their weapons, their vehicles in civilian areas for protection, assuming that the Ukrainians are not going to fire on those facilities. This is obviously the most dangerous one here.
What we have, according to multiple authorities are rockets and mortars being fired on 174 casks of spent fuel and three radiation detectors that were destroyed. You heard David McKenzie there talking about no radiation being detected yet, but those detectors, if they are destroyed, that could really weaken their ability to see if there is some kind of nuclear disaster.
So according to the Ukrainians, the Russians sent their troops underground as this attack started, so it does appear to be, you know, he-said-she-said, of course but the Russians are really trying to make it look like Ukrainians are going after this biggest nuclear power plant in Europe and creating a very, very potentially dangerous situation.
We've seen all kinds of destruction of course across Ukraine. This could potentially be one of the most dangerous situations we've seen yet.
BERMAN: Just following all the others, right, and Alex used the phrase, "a cynical ploy" here, Hagar. Is there any sign the Russians are being pushed back here? They've been making this concerted effort in the Donbas. They seem to be making up ground there as much as they want. And in the south this offensive we've been hearing about from Ukraine hasn't materialized to the extent that I think some had hoped.
HAGAR CHEMALI, FORMER SPOKESWOMAN FOR THE US MISSION TO THE UN: Right. You have -- the Ukrainian military has seized back certain villages in certain areas, and it is largely in part due to the military equipment they've received from the west.
So you have that, but I always am very cautious about overstating Ukrainian advances here and overstating also Russian losses. They have lost a lot of troops, yes. They lost a lot of equipment, but there are a lot of tools in their toolbox they haven't used yet.
They have an entire other army on the eastern side of their country that hasn't even been deployed yet. They have more foreign mercenaries that they've used.
[08:235:10] CHEMALI: I look at the attacks on this nuclear plant as saying --
signaling three things because, first, the Russian government knows very well what it is doing. It survived -- it went through Chernobyl -- they know how criminal this move is, but their entire tactic is to terrorize civilians and terrorize the country to bend to its demands and they're not going to stop at anything to do. That's their goal. That's their message.
The second two parts of that, they are not done in the east that once they seize control of that, they're going to continue into Central Ukraine. They're not done with their mission, and the third is that this war could really linger and we have to all be prepared for it.
MARQUARDT: Can I just note that Zaporizhzhia is an area that is not fully under the control of the Russians, and that the Russians are very much trying to take over. It is in middle of the country and this is one of the areas where we believe Russia is going to try to hold a sham referendum to officially, in their mind, annex it.
KEILAR: Which makes it even more dangerous, right, how tenuous it is there.
I want to talk about Israel and the ceasefire that we're seeing. So Israel and Islamic Jihad have reached a ceasefire after a few days of fighting. How is this conflict different?
CHEMALI: So well, it didn't expand or go or even seem at risk of getting out of control. Usually, when I was at the White House, we had a few times where there were spats between Israel and Hamas, Israel and other militants or Israel and Lebanon. In fact, I was there when they had spats there as well.
And the first thing the US government does is rush in Washington, in Tel Aviv, rush to call for a ceasefire and the reason is because the US gets very concerned about any kind of conflict that could spiral out of control. Why? Because it's not good for Israel obviously, but also because the US has a Defense Pact with Israel so we don't want to be invoked into anything.
But with this one, the difference is it did seem like a very targeted mission. I will tell you that the Israelis usually while they're very receptive to American meetings, they will unapologetically finish their mission and so when they've reached a ceasefire, it usually means that they feel that they achieved their mission or at least most of it.
BERMAN: There may be a political impact inside Israel, Alex.
MARQUARDT: There could be. We have a new Prime Minister in Israel, Yair Lapid, who does not have a military or national security background --
BERMAN: Which is rare.
MARQUARDT: Which is very rare. Benny Gantz, the Defense Minister, he is a former general. So, he certainly has those credentials. But the question remains to what extent was there a calculation in Lapid's mind. This was a preemptive strike by Israel that started on Friday.
This was, you know, 50 hours, so just over two days, crisis was averted in that it could spiral out of control. I covered the Gaza War in 2014, which lasted more than 50 days. However, of course, there were a lot of casualties, 44 Palestinians were killed. Israel is saying most of them were Islamic Jihad militants. The health authorities in Gaza are saying at least 15 of them are children and that there are other civilians.
So this still is a tragedy, of course, because we're no closer to helping the people of Gaza have better lives or reaching any sort of longer lasting peace deal.
This was a short, thankfully, spurt of violence, one that could easily have spiraled out of control. It's not and what's most interesting, guys, is that Hamas did not get involved in this.
This was Israel against Islamic Jihad. Hamas said essentially, we're not taking part. We're going to condemn this attack, but they did not want to get involved.
KEILAR: Alex and Hagar, thank you so much for being with us this morning.
MARQUARDT: Thank you.
KEILAR: A North Carolina Sheriff announcing plans to have AR-15s on hand on campus.
BERMAN: And Beyonce's big debut, her new album topping the charts and helping her set a record.