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Quest Means Business

Crypto Exchange Founder Facing Litany Of Criminal Charges; US Inflation Slows To 7.1 Percent In November; United Makes Historic Deal With Boeing; Biden To Sign Respect For Marriage Act; E.U. Agrees On $19 Billion Ukraine Aid, Hungary Drops Opposition; U.S. Officials Announce Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 13, 2022 - 15:00   ET



RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: The day started very nicely as there was an optimistic open, and then sort things, fell apart, let off steam.

Down -- we're still up, but barely. It could go any way over the course of the next hour. The markets and events of the day that has caught attention.

The FTX founder, Sam Bankman-Fried is charged with fraud and conspiracy. US authorities accusing him of using dirty money to buy political sway.

US inflation is easing and that is giving thought that the Fed medicine is on the way and the next dose tomorrow might not be so strong.

And President Biden is set to sign a landmark bill that protects the rights of same sex couples to marry. We will have that story for you in this hour

as the event takes place.

We are live in New York. It is Tuesday. It is December 13th. I'm Richard Quest and in New York, as elsewhere, I mean business.

It has been a day of reckoning for Sam Bankman-Fried just a month after his crypto exchange spectacularly collapsed. Now, the 30-year-old is facing a

litany of criminal charges from US prosecutors and financial regulators.

He is in the Courts in the Bahamas having been arrested on Monday. He is expected to fight a bid that would extradite him to the United States.

Ahead of the hearing the prosecutors unsealed eight charges against him including counts of fraud and conspiracy. A short time ago in New York, the

prosecutors gave us more details, accusing SBF of campaigning finance violations.


DAMIAN WILLIAMS, US ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: These contributions were disguised to look like they were coming from wealthy co-

conspirators, when in fact, the contributions were funded by Alameda Research with stolen customer money.

And all of this dirty money was used in service of Bankman-Fried's the desire to buy bipartisan influence and impact the direction of public

policy in Washington.


QUEST: Kara Scannell is with me in New York. There is everything here, isn't there? Every bit of dirty money, nastiness that you can think of. But

are the authorities confident they will get him back to New York or to the US to face charges.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Richard, I mean, the prosecutors here are saying that they have to let this process play out in the Bahamas.

I mean, the Bahamian officials are also conducting their own investigation, but the New York authorities moved first, they moved quickly, in a very

rapid succession. They authorized the indictment last week, the grand jury handed it up on Friday. And then of course, Bankman-Fried was arrested last

night in the Bahamas and is in Court there today.

But the US Attorney for Manhattan, Damian Williams, outlining what these charges are, eight criminal counts and multiple schemes including basically

stealing billions of dollars from customer funds and using it for his own personal benefit.

Prosecutors say he bought luxury real estate in the Bahamas, also took out more than a billion dollars in loans and steered a lot of this money into

political campaigns, tens of millions of dollars in what William said was an effort to try to buy bipartisan influence in Washington. As you know,

the crypto industry is a nascent industry, there's a lot of debate about regulations, and clearly, the prosecutors think that was a big motive here

for stealing customer funds to try to influence the outcome of the real regulation of this industry.

Now, one thing that I want to emphasize here, which the prosecutor did, is he is saying that while they moved quickly, this investigation is very much

ongoing. He said he would encourage anyone who is at FTX, who has not already come in to talk to them to do so now before they find them.

And he also urged any victims to reach out and any of the political candidates and campaigns that received money, he asked them to work with

the US Attorney's Office to return the funds to the innocent victims whose money was stolen by Bankman-Fried.

You know, and also one of the things that William said was that, you know, in the history of America and all of the different types of financial

fraud. His office had prosecuted, Bernie Madoff.

He said that it is fair to say this is one of the biggest financial frauds in American history -- Richard.

QUEST: So how do they envisage it proceeding from now? Because there's going to be a lot of talk on Capitol Hill and we'll be talking about that

in a moment.

You've got a question of criminal charges which has one set and one standard of proof and you have all the civil stuff as well. There are

multiple investigations.


SCANNELL: Yes. There are multiple investigations at hand, and these are the first steps that we're seeing. This is a 14-page indictment, they said that

it is very much continuing. He is charged with six of these counts that are about conspiracy, meaning that they believe he worked with other so it's

possible we could see other individuals charged as part of this fraud.

And that will play out, you know, once this extradition process plays through, whether that is, you know, a matter of weeks or months, or it

takes longer, he will be brought to the US and from there, you know, potentially going to trial, and all part of the effort by prosecutors to

try to recoup some of this money, the billions of dollars that they say were stolen.

Now, the FCC, and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission brought the civil actions, they will also be moving to try to return customer funds,

and as we've seen in past investigations, they have these massive asset tracing endeavors underway.

I mean, with Bernie Madoff, who I mentioned, they were able to recoup billions of dollars and distribute some of that to investors, though, of

course, no one was ever made whole -- Richard.

QUEST: Kara, thank you, at the Courthouse in New York. Sam Bankman-Fried was due to testify on Capitol Hill. His successor spoke as the new FTX

Chief Executive.

It was John Ray, and he said that the company's collapse was down to old- fashioned embezzlement, and then he revealed FTX's bosses used accounting software that was meant for individuals and small businesses.


JOHN RAY, CEO, FTX: They used QuickBooks, a multibillion dollar company using QuickBooks.


RAY: QuickBooks. Nothing against QuickBooks, very nice tool, just not for a multibillion dollar company. There is no independent board, right? We had

one person really controlling this.


QUEST: Matt Egan is with me.

Matt Egan, no independent board using poor technology.

Look, we can all throw this at the desk of SBF, what other regulators?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Richard, I think a lot of people are asking that question. Right now, this whole situation is a reminder that

crypto is very much the Wild, Wild West of finance. And so that's how you can get a situation like this.

You know, the new FTX boss, he did not hold back here. He really painted the picture of a company that is a train wreck. He said that employees were

communicating invoices over Slack. He says, you know, he has no confidence in the financial statements.

And you know, he said, it is really the worst that he has ever seen, which is saying a lot because John Ray is also the guy who led Enron through


And at one point, he was asked to compare FTX and Enron, and he said the crimes at Enron were highly orchestrated, and they were done by very

sophisticated people. He said at FTX, there really is no sophistication at all. And this is, as you mentioned, old fashioned embezzlement.

He said it's really just taking money from customers and using it for your own purposes.

But Richard, we shouldn't forget, real people were hurt by this, the FTX CEO, he says that some $8 billion of customer funds have been lost, and he

is not really that optimistic that they are going to make those customers whole.

QUEST: Okay, so in the grand scheme of miscreant financial scandals, you've got the auditors that are supposed to look at this. You've got

independent boards of directors or overseers who are supposed to look at it. You've got the regulators at all different levels who are supposed to

look at it.

And of course, you've got shareholders if there are any, which there weren't. So, where does the blame lie?

EGAN: Well, I think that there is a cascading series of failures here because, you know, the new CEO at FTX, he is saying that there really

weren't audited financial statements. He says there really was no corporate governance here. This is a company that was controlled, the vast majority

of the shares were controlled by one person and that's Sam Bankman-Fried, who, you know, had full rein over this company.

So you put it all together, and you have what prosecutors and regulators are alleging was a massive fraud.

QUEST: Matt Egan, thank you.

The SEC, which is the main regulatory body in the United States, as you'll be aware is accusing him SBF that is of violating Securities Law.

The Chairman of the SEC, Gary Gensler, described it as ". built a house of cards on a foundation of deception, while telling investors that it was one

of the safest buildings in crypto."

Meanwhile, the CFTC has filed its own charges. The big question, well, what regulation for crypto.

Joining me now is Congressman Jim Himes in Washington, DC.

Congressman, before we get to what needs to be done. You'll forgive me -- I'm a little bit weary of everybody sort of saying something needs to be

done, but all of these regulators, all of these various bodies that could have asked the questions and could have got close to it didn't.


REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yes no, that's right. And, you know, there's a lot of challenges to that, right? But at the end of the day, that is exactly

the right question to ask.

Now, look, FTX was based in the Bahamas, they didn't have you -- they forbade US investors from operating on their technology, at least on And so there were questions of jurisdiction.

But you know, our Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler has been saying for a very long time, and I'm not saying I agree

with him on this, but he's been saying for a very long time that I have the statutory authority to regulate exchanges and tokens, 90 percent of which

look like securities, and people are just wildly non-compliant.

Now, the SEC has originated a number of enforcement actions, but it is this very frustrating moment where you have the SEC Chair saying I've got the

authority I need, everyone is non-compliant, but people are staying non- compliant. So I think the challenge here is to figure out how to get these many entities that are still out there watching this disaster to actually

come register with the SEC and get into a regulated environment.

QUEST: You see the problem related to that, it is one thing, if somebody puts their hand in the till and removes the money, I'll grant you that you

can't legislate against that. Dishonesty is endemic or will be in certain environments.

However, how do you create safeguards when you have an industry that is specifically saying, well, we don't need those safeguards? Well, you old

fuddy-duddies over 50, what do you know about crypto and diversified and centralized finance? You're dinosaurs.

Well, isn't this a proof like with a meme stocks, that if it looks too good, it smells too good, it is too good.

HIMES: Richard, there is nothing that we can do in this building, or that regulators can do to solve that problem. You know, if investors want to

believe in fantasies, if investors want to believe that there are securities out there that are based in the Bahamas, that are run by 30-

year-olds living in some co-op with each other, playing lots of video games, and that somehow they've got a security that yields a risk free

eight percent, there's really nothing we can do to fix that.

What we can do, is what we've started to do already, and we started to do in the last couple of months, which is to say, okay, if you're going to put

a stable coin out there, a stable coin, of course, being a digital asset, it will be well reserved for every dollar that you say that stable coin is

worth, there will be a dollar in reserve somewhere.

So that's the kind of thing -- we didn't finish that piece of legislation, but that's the kind of thing it's on us to do.

QUEST: Congressman, the allegation of dirty money flowing through, it lapsed, and when I say at your door, I don't mean you personally,

obviously, it lapsed at the door of Congress, and all politicians at different levels.

Does Congress need to look at itself and say, were we too easily duped by lobbyists' money, which was subsequently found to be less than clean?

HIMES: So I don't think that's at play here. Now, there's a whole other conversation to be had about the permeation of money in the US political

system. And yes, that's a very, very good conversation.

But look, a year ago, very few Members of Congress had any idea what a crypto asset was, and very few people around here today have particularly

strong convictions.

I think most people are still learning. Yes, you might have been visited by one of these companies or whatnot, but this is really technical stuff. And

I've got asked a question just an hour ago. You know, if Sam Bankman-Fried had come and testified in front of your Committee, would people have been

easy on him, because you know, he gave somebody $2,900.00 in campaign contributions? The answer to that is absolutely not.

Now, I do want to have that other conversation about campaign finance reform, but in this particular instance, this is more a question of it

being an immensely technical and esoteric topic. With Members of Congress being far from experts on finance, much less on you know, next generation

finance or cryptocurrency.

QUEST: Right, now that's a great point because we all remember those toe curling, cringeworthy hearings where Members of Congress didn't even know

what the internet was at all, asking -- now, I'm not saying we're anywhere like that, but once we're dealing with crypto, I've seen many, many

hearings, where senators or congressmen are reading complicated questions legitimately written by staff to probe, but without having knowledge to

then supplement and go for the jugular.

What can we do? And believe me, by the way, sir, when I say that about Congress, I've seen the same in the European Parliament, I've seen the same

in the House of Commons. It is the nature of generalized politicians when they come face-to-face with highly specialized subjects.

HIMES: Now, you're absolutely right about that, and look, democracy is a messy, messy system. When you have a system where the people get to choose

whether or not I come here or not, guess what, you're not going to have 435 people who are, you know, deeply trained in the ins and outs of non-

fungible tokens and next generation finance.

Now what does happen is, over time, people take an interest, staff who are paid to become true experts on this stuff, learn, and I'm not making

excuses for the Congress, I hope that the Congress finishes the process of regulating stable coins and moves on to regulating the kinds of entities

like FTX, the brokers, the exchanges, and those sort of things.


HIMES: So I'm not making excuses here, but you don't have a star chamber in this building, you have elected representatives, and so there is a

learning curve.

QUEST: So, finally, do you sort of feel like I do that, you know, I'm not quite -- I'm not against crypto, and I'm not against Bitcoin or any of

these things, because I sort of feel that this is the future.

And the idea of the smart contract is the future, and it is just how we get there and use it.

HIMES: I couldn't agree more. I mean, I would call myself sort of an optimistic skeptic. And I draw an analogy to the way the internet looked

back in 1996-1997. There were bizarre and insane ideas, an awful lot of people lost a ton of money investing in crazy internet ventures, right? But

at the end of the day, it was transformative.

Look blockchain as a mechanism for keeping records of establishing provenance of assets, things like stable coins as alternative and more

efficient payment mechanisms, I think there is some promise there, which is why again, we need to establish that regulated environment so that it can

become more safely pervasive.

QUEST: Congressman, I'm very grateful for your time, sir. Thank you. Have a good Holiday, sir. Thank you.

HIMES: Thank you very much.

QUEST: As we continue on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, US inflation, now the numbers are better than expected. And now, well, what does it mean for the

Fed after three-quarters of a point, because see, the numbers. We will have that after the break.


QUEST: The Dow close to flatline after better than expected inflation numbers. There you have them. But really, doing very little ahead of the

Fed's decision. My feeling is that it sort of it's a case of "wait and see."


QUEST: We had a strong session yesterday, which sort of bought on the rumor. The Dow was up really 700 points before deflating. Now, as you can

see where it is now. This is the Fed's response, and people are basically not wanting to take a position ahead of it.

Consumer prices rose 7.1 percent in 12 months to November, the lowest rate in almost a year. And inflation has now slowed for five months in a row.

But that chart really shows you just how low the slow is, and it is driven by volatile factors like food and shelter, as they offset the falling price

of energy.

The President -- President Biden said the figures provide room for optimism ahead of the Holiday season, when the President said inflation slowing down

gives consumers a bit of breathing room, and it's a sign his economic plan is working.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to be clear, it's going to take time to get inflation back to normal levels as we make the

transition to a more stable and steady growth.

Well, we could see setbacks along the way as well. We shouldn't take anything for granted. But what is clear, is my economic plan is working and

we're just getting started.


QUEST: Just getting started, Liz Young, so says the President. You're the head of investment at SoFi, you join me now.

So the number -- the fall of inflation is still very modest, and I guess the idea is whether the corner has been turned? Or are we just now treading

water at the upper limit?

LIZ YOUNG, HEAD OF INVESTMENT, SOFI: Well, if the corner was peak inflation, I do think the corner has been turned and peak inflation

happened in June of this year.

The issue now that you rightly point out is we're still high, 7.1 percent is still pretty high, and there is a lot of work to be done, especially if

the Fed continues to message that they're looking for two percent. That seems very, very far away from where we are, and a lot of work between now

and that point.

QUEST: All right, but do we -- if you were to leave rates where they are, wouldn't inflation just eventually come down on its own? Or do they have to

become, in your view considerably more restrictive. I know Fed Chair Powell is talking about more restrictive rates?

YOUNG: Well, it depends on your definition of restrictive. I do think that they need to become tighter than they are now. So today we're sitting

at four percent upper bound, we're expecting to see 4.5 percent after tomorrow's announcement on the upper bound, and the terminal rate or the

rate that we would expect or the market expects the Fed to stop hiking is still close to five percent, and that isn't expected to be seen until maybe

late spring of 2023.

So, if we stopped hiking right now and Chairman Powell has made this very clear that there's a bigger risk in stopping too soon, a bigger risk and

doing too little, then maybe a little too much and trying to reverse it later. If we stopped too soon, and we let inflation stay as high as it is,

or even just materially above the target rate of two percent, what you end up with is this increased fear of what's called a wage price spiral where

you have prices that stay high, wages that stay high, and that wage cost eats into the profits of corporations, which as we know, is really a big

part of the American economy.

QUEST: Do you think it's dawned on people that there is going to be a cut in living standards? Because to take exactly what you say, the wage cycle,

well, clearly to bring inflation down and to avoid the wage cycle spiral, people are going to have to accept less than inflation, and inflation is

going to eat into income and savings, therefore -- and we are going to see a reduction in living standards over the next few years.

YOUNG: Yes. I am suspicious that it already has eaten into living standards at this point. I think that consumers have likely made some

choices in order to maintain a standard that they're comfortable with. But it's also going to affect different levels of income in very different


And we continue to talk about this high level of savings that everybody has built up, but if you look at where the savings rate is right now, it is at

one of the lowest levels that it's been in decades.

So people are clearly not saving as much as they were a year ago, but they're continuing to spend. So at some point either they do have to dip

into their savings, or we have a situation where we have high income levels, doing most of the saving and having that dry powder and lower

income levels with not much savings left and that might be seen in the fact that credit card balances have gone up considerably over the last few


So we could be heading for a little bit of a data awakening as far as the consumer is concerned and yes, I do think that people are starting to

realize that this is going to eat into their income and it is going to eat into their savings.


QUEST: Liz, I promise you -- I promise you, in the New Year, we will talk about something more cheerful.

YOUNG: I hope so. I hope so. I hope there is something to talk about that is cheerful.

QUEST: Well, there will be, but we'll talk more cheerful matters, I'm grateful for you. Thank you for tonight.

YOUNG: Thank you.

QUEST: Continuing the miserable news -- sorry about this. The airline stocks, they are lower, and airline stocks are down after JetBlue warned

that demand this month is less than expected.

United Airlines is off seven under quarter percent, and this is despite the fact United announced it is buying more than a hundred-wide bodied planes

from Boeing, in fact, it is buying hundreds of planes from Boeing.

A short while ago, I was talking to the United Chief Executive who spoke to me from the Boeing factory about why they're buying so many planes.


SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED: The for the white bodies, you know, we start from the fact that we have a large installed base of 787s and we're trying

to grow really as fast as we can in the next several years and bringing on another fleet type, because of all the training turn that it creates for

pilots, really would have limited our ability to grow in the next few years.

Also add to that, that a lot of these airplanes, the first deliveries in the 78s are going to replace the 767s, and the 787 is just a better

replacement for the 76.

QUEST: I mean Boeing is in a certain amount of difficulties, in a sense. You've chosen a good moment to go in and get a good deal. Did you get a

good deal?

KIRBY: We got a good deal, but it's also important that we support Boeing. We wouldn't have done it if it wasn't a great airplane, if we

weren't confident and if we didn't get a good deal.

But you know, we're a longtime partner of Boeing has been there for us in the past, and frankly, you know, as a US citizen, I think Boeing is one of

the most important companies in the country; our largest exporter, high tech manufacturing, the very kind of jobs that everyone in Washington on

both sides of the aisle wants to create and bring back to this country.

And so be able to do it in a way that's good for United, but also support Boeing is something that's important to me personally.


QUEST: We'll talk more from Scott Kirby of United on tomorrow's program.

An experimental vaccine from Moderna has been shown to reduce mortality and people with melanoma. It is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Now you combine the vaccine with Merck's immunotherapy drug, Keytruda, I think I pronounced it and it slashed the risk of dying or of having a

recurrence of cancer by almost half compared with using Keytruda on its own.

Moderna shares were up sharply as a result, you'll see that on the screen.

Far more important though, than the stock price is the impact it could have on cancer patients.

Elizabeth Cohen is with me.

I'm always very worried, Elizabeth when I we started talking about wonder this and wonder that for cancer and melanoma drugs, but it seems like this

is the real thing.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Richard, I'm with you. I think we should be very, very careful when we use words like

wonder or game-changing or any expressions like that. I'm just going to stick to the facts here, and here are the facts.

Moderna and Merck, which as you mentioned makes the other drug did a trial, and so what they did is they had 157 patients, and some of them got this

vaccine, which is an mRNA vaccine because of course Moderna makes mRNA vaccines many of us got them against COVID.

So some of the folks got an mRNA vaccine plus Merck's immunotherapy and some of them just got Merck's immunotherapy, and what they found was that

these folks with stage three and stage four melanoma, so pretty far along that it reduced having both of them, reduced the risk of recurrence or

death by 44 percent compared with only getting the immunotherapy.

So does this look promising? Yes. Are these good numbers? Yes. But it's only 157 patients. We definitely want to wait to see how this works in

later stages of this clinical trial -- Richard.

QUEST: And when we have those numbers and details, you will be able to tell us all about it. Thank you.

Joe Biden -- President Biden is set to sign the Respect for Marriage Act. We will be at the White House shortly where you will see the signature,

same sex and interracial marriage codified into law, and we'll discuss the reasons why this is necessary, in a moment.





President Biden's expected to sign the so-called Respect for Marriage Act. These are live pictures at the White House. They are doing the ceremony

outdoors, on a lovely clear day.

There's the Speaker, outgoing speaker, Nancy Pelosi, speaking. This bill, which the president is going to sign, codifies marriage rights for same-sex

and interracial couples. It was fully approved last week, both houses.

And the push for federal protection of marriage rights grew after Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. Don Lemon is there at the ceremony, Don

Lemon joins me now.

I can hear an argument that says this shouldn't have been necessary, to have had this act. But the Supreme Court made it necessary following Roe v.

Wade is overturned.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, because they thought that it might have an issue when it comes to same-sex marriage. As a matter of fact, one of the

conservative justices here in the United States, Clarence Thomas, talked about that right after the Dobbs decision, overturning abortion rights here

in the United States.

I'm whispering because I'm with a crowd of people. Usually, Richard, you've been in the situations that you know how it is.

Usually people are talking, right?

And we don't have to whisper. But they are intently listening to the House Speaker, the outgoing House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi talking about why it's

important that this bill gets passed, why it's important that 39 House members, Republican House members, voted on to this, 12 Republican


That there's actually room for bipartisanship here in Washington. And room for Republicans to move on same-sex marriage. But the ceremony is underway.

The vice president and the president is expected to speak now at any moment. They are pretty much on time.

You should see, Richard, you've been here to the White House in the United States, you should see this lawn. It is packed with members of the LGBTQ+

community and allies, I don't think I've ever seen this many people in the South Lawn, at least not in quite a while, especially since the last


But we're all here, everyone is quiet, everyone is listening. And it is a great mood here at the White House.

QUEST: I will let you get back to listening.


QUEST: But neither you nor I really can talk about this without, I suppose I could say proudly but also an interest of transparency, as someone who is

in a same-sex marriage, I got married in Las Vegas.


QUEST (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) but wondering what and when and how it will be changed.

LEMON: Yes, you're right. And to be fully transparent, you are married already, my husband to be is in the crowd. He is not paying attention to

me, he's actually paying attention to the podium. We brought our marriage license in hopes of maybe getting one of the politicians to sign it. Not

sign as a license, just to sign it as an autograph.

Because we've got until December 18th to get married. We went to city hall in New York City, just like everybody else and we've got our marriage

license a couple weeks ago. And then this happened and I got an invitation from the White House.

I'm not supposed to be reporting, as a matter of fact, I was still invited, an invited guest. And CNN said, you're going to be there?

Then get in front of the camera. So here I am talking to Richard Quest on CNN International.

QUEST: Good, well, it is an extraordinary day. When I read the Clarence Thomas lines in that Dobbs judgment and then I heard the speech.

To be fair, Clarence Thomas is right: if Dobbs is correct then all the decisions that rest on Roe v. Wade have to be revisited.

LEMON: Yes, that's why we're here, to make sure that, if you believe, as you said, if he is right about it, then same-sex marriage is in jeopardy.

And so, we are in a position now where same-sex marriage in the United States, for the most part, as you said -- I think you mentioned there were

carveouts for religious freedom.

But same-sex marriage in the United States won't just be decided by nine people on a court; it will be law.

QUEST: Go and see if you can get old Prez Biden to sign your marriage certificate. Go on, go on. Listen, he's probably eligible to do the

ceremony there and then. Save the money.

LEMON: I have to tell you a secret. When he was running for president, I saw him, I think it was in South Carolina. I did an interview with him and

I said, you know, I'm engaged?

He said, you want me to do the wedding?

LEMON: And I said, of course.

He said, I'll marry you.

And I said, wait a minute, I said you'll perform the ceremony?

He said, yes, I will. So I'm waiting on him to do good on his promise. But we'll see.

QUEST: I'll let you get back to enjoying it.

LEMON: Entertainment, entertainment. I thought it was the president or the vice president.

QUEST: I'll let you get back to enjoying it. It's a moment where you're there as a guest, you are not there to flog the horse on behalf of the --


LEMON: -- it's good to see you. We have to see each other in person soon.

QUEST: Absolutely. Don Lemon at the White House.

Don talks there about the president saying that he'd marry him. I've still got a chit that I have to take out. The president of a certain country I

visited has promised to bless my marriage on the beach. Just got to get to the Seychelles, to have it done. Not sure what Chris, my husband, thinks

about that.

All right, there's another extraordinary story I must bring to your attention. By the, way we will go back to the White House when the

president does start speaking.

E.U. members have broken a deadlock that was holding up $19 billion of funding for Ukraine. It was all because Hungary finally dropped its veto.

It's part of a wider political bargain. Hungary now gets access to $6 billion of E.U. funds for its COVID plan. It was delayed by E.U. members'

concerns over Hungary's attitude to the rule of law.

The E.U. can now go forward with a minimum corporate tax rate and prevent a public standoff between Brussels and Budapest. Nic Robertson is in London.

Can I just ask you this question bluntly, Nic Robertson?

Did Hungary basically blackmail the E.U. -- my word, not yours -- on the basis of Ukraine funds and win the day?

They threatened to withhold Ukrainian funds unless they got their development funds or COVID funds and they got them.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Richard, you and I both know how convoluted and complicated and complex the E.U. and

bargaining with the E.U. is. That was always the assertion, that this was blackmail by Viktor Orban.

But the reality is he got that $6.1 billion unfrozen for COVID recovery, for green energy transition, for digital transformation, key cornerstones

of moving forward in the European Union, moving forward and doing things in lockstep.

But at the same time, he got another $6.8 billion withheld that the country was due. And, again over the same issues, over these issues of

concerns about corruption within the country, that the rule of law doesn't measure European Union standards. And Orban has been a real holdout against



ROBERTSON: They set 21 big milestones, key milestones for him and the country to achieve, to get the funds flowing again. That $6.1 million, I

told you this was complicated, right?

But it does give the appearance that Viktor Orban and the E.U. have blinked. We all remember, a couple months ago, when the European Commission

president Ursula van der Leyen went to Budapest, hoping to fix everything, it didn't happen.

But here's the hard reality, Richard. You'll know this better than me. Viktor Orban is cash strapped. His country, the economy, like many at the

moment, is not doing well. He needed to move his position because he needed the E.U.'s money. And maybe that was a long term E.U. calculation, they

could almost outwait him.

QUEST: Changing subjects, with the speed of a gazelle, this bribery and corruption story at the E.U. The E.U. people I'm hearing from, the

president of the commission, Ursula van der Leyen; all the various officials, it's almost like the "Casablanca" line.

Gosh, do you mean there's gambling going on at this establishment?

I don't know what you mean.

I'm not saying they were involved but they must surely have recognized the serious possibility of alleged bribery.

ROBERTSON: You know, that's interesting because the E.U. ombudsman, who oversees transparency within the European Union, was saying almost the same


Look, there is no surprise that this has been going on because cash speaks. But the problem, she said, was, quite simply, that the E.U. has had an

opportunity to tackle this sort of thing and put foreign interests down in a transparent register so that people would know.

This problem is not ending here. This is a police investigation ongoing by the Belgian police. Of course now, the European Union, the European

Parliament needs to look at every decision they've made -- the allegations about Qatari money, the Qataris rejected it.

But there's a lot of European MEPs, members of Parliament, saying we were approached by the Qataris and kind of economically seduced, if you will,

along the way. So the allegations are going to stand.

But what decisions, what policy has the E.U. changed its position on, with regard to Qatar?

And maybe other countries too.

QUEST: Nic, I hope you're planning to take some time off over the holidays. You have done such sterling service for us all over the last

months. Good to see you, sir. Thank you, I'll be in London next, week and we will catch up.

And here's something. Netflix now has over 20 million households watch the first three episodes of "Harry and Meghan." Netflix says the program

appeared in the top 10 TV listings in 85 countries. It was obviously number one in the U.K.

The figures make it the best debut for a documentary on Netflix. And there is more to come on Thursday.

But after the break, I'm going to turn my attention to the World Cup update. Argentina is taking a commanding lead over Croatia. And we need to

analyze, after the break.






QUEST: QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight. U.S. officials are touting a breakthrough in nuclear fusion. We talk about that in a moment.





QUEST: A year dominated by talk of an energy crisis may be remembered instead for a breakthrough in clean power. U.S. scientists now confirm what

we talked about last night, that, for the first time, they've created nuclear fusion, a reaction to produce more energy than it took to put into


It took place last week in a California lab. Nuclear fusion is still a long way off as being a reliable energy source. And the Energy Secretary,

Jennifer Granholm, said it's nevertheless a step closer to reality.


JENNIFER GRANHOLM, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: It's the first time it has ever been done in a laboratory, anywhere in the world. Simply put, this is

one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century.


QUEST: Rene Marsh is back with me.

We talked yesterday, Rene, about this. Now it's confirmed, so I guess they know it wasn't a fluke. It wasn't a one-off. They can actually repeat it

and do it again.

So what do they do now?

What is the next stage?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: You know, before we talk about what's next, just please let's indulge in the moment.

And that is the fact that they have successfully created a brand-new source of energy that never existed and now has the potential to exist in decades

to come.

As far as what's next, there is still a lot of work to be done, Richard. They've got to figure out how to replicate this on a larger scale, so that

more power is being produced. Yes, they did, within this fusion, produce more on the output than they did on the input.

But you need even more power in order for you to be efficient and effective in powering things like our homes. So they have to be able to expand the

amount of power that they are able to produce.

Then they have to figure out, how do we harvest that power?

How do we collect and bottle up that power and then transform it to a power facility and to the power grid and get that to homes?

So there is so much more to go but we don't get to the wide scale use until you get to what we discovered here at this Department of Energy lab in

California. So it is a critical step. But we're nowhere near the finish line.

QUEST: No. I also wonder, other nations watching this, it does make you wonder because obviously the transparency means we know what the U.S. is

doing. But we aren't sure where Russia is and where China is in all of this.

If you go back to nuclear bombs and things like that and the U.S. was on its own in a sense at the beginning but those weren't far behind. Makes you


MARSH: Yes, absolutely. And this is not something we've been working on in a silo. Researchers all around the world have been trying to get to this

point. It just so happens U.S. scientists beat everybody to it.


MARSH: But there have been other breakthroughs before this, in generating the power in itself. But what's different here is, again, the viability of

being a true power source because they were able to, again, produce more power on the output as opposed to the input.

The big picture of why this all matters, we talk so much about energy crises; we talk so much about the climate crisis. And this is something

tangible now that we can lean on for the future, to pivot away from those dirty energy sources.

So that's the other side of this. But when we talk about pivoting away, that's not going to happen for decades to come. Scientists are estimating 2

to 3 decades from now before this is being able to be eased on a wide scale level.

QUEST: Rene, thank you.

Going to share quickly what's happening with the markets and as we head off tonight. The Dow is sort of nothing, up 120 but there were gains of 700 at

some point. It's all because they're waiting for the Fed. No one wants to be on the wrong side of a Fed decision tomorrow. It's simply not worth the


We have a "Profitable Moment," after the break.




QUEST: Tonight's "Profitable Moment," you will forgive me, I hope, the marriage equality and the same-sex marriage act signed in the White House

by President Biden shortly, it's tempting to say change comes slowly.

One of our producers were saying Rome wasn't built in a day. You have to look at things in the rearview mirror and you see how far we've come. That

is certainly true except for one thing. This particular act now being enshrined into law he is being done because of the Supreme Court decision.

It's not being done to actually make a great improvement in the whole question of same-sex marriage or marriage equality. It's being done to

potentially repair what could be a very nasty mess if the Supreme Court gets its hands and follows the Dobbs ruling into other areas of American


Of course, as somebody who got married in this country, in Las Vegas, I was somewhat concerned.

I saw the law and I realized, well, my marriage still going to be valid.

But what about those who come next?

What about those who need this protection of the law?

And that is the significance of the event today. The significance is really simple. It's putting right a wrong that arguably should never have been

made wrong in the first place. Pays your money, you takes your choice.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight. I'm Richard Quest in New York. Whatever you are up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.