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GOP Election Officials Blast Insane Lies of Bogus Arizona Audit; Bank of America Announces it will Raise its U.S. Minimum Hourly Wage to $25 by 2025; New York Won't Require Masks for Fully Vaccinated Starting Tomorrow. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 18, 2021 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: The GOP-dominated board of supervisors in Arizona's largest county is blasting the state senate's highly controversial recount of the 2020 presidential election results. These are Republicans criticizing this recount. The board's chairman calls the audit a, quote, grift disguised as an audit.

And in a new letter, the board is pushing back against false voter fraud claims made by former President Donald Trump and the state senate's president. They write, quote, we express our united view that your audit, in quotes, no matter what your intentions were in the beginning has become a spectacle that is harming all of us. Our state has become a laughingstock.

Worse, this audit, again, in quotes, is encouraging our citizens to distrust elections, which weakens our democratic republic.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, last hour we spoke with a Republican county supervisor in Maricopa County who signed that letter. Listen to what he had to say about this audit.


BILL GATES (R), MARICOPA COUNTY SUPERVISOR: We asked all the tough questions and the reality that Joe Biden won Maricopa County. But we have got to start speaking truth to folks. We have to say these are the results. I mean, this has gone through the courts over and over again and been re-litigated.

So what we need to do now is accept that and start to move forward as Republicans, start to make the case for why we should be elected in 2022.


HARLOW: Well, this so-called audit, this partisan endeavor is being conducted by a group called the Cyber Ninjas. It's a Florida-based consulting firm. Important to note, the founder, chief executive, has parroted President Trump's election lies. Meantime, a new defense for Rudy Giuliani and a new court filing, his attorney argues that he was being hyperbolic and not literally advocating for an insurrection when he said this on January 6th.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: If we're right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let's have trial by combat.


SCIUTTO: As you know, the combat followed. The argument comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Congressman Eric Swawell seeking to hold Giuliani and others accountable for inciting the violent siege on the Capitol.

CNN's Whitney Wild joins us now. Whitney, Giuliani, I mean, he made many times wild and false claims about the election at every opportunity on many platforms. Now, he is saying not to have listened to him?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Not listened literally, perhaps figuratively is the argument they're making. So they're offering really three rebuttals here. The first is that no one would have actually thought he meant trial by literal combat.

Here is just a quick quote from his filing. No reasonable reader or listener would have perceived Giuliani's speech as an instruction to march to the Capitol nor would anyone perceive the trial by combat reference as a call to arms to invade the Capitol.

And then second, they're basically arguing that Representative Swalwell is trying to do what the FBI cannot, which is tie Giuliani and others directly to the violence at the Capitol that day.

And then, finally, they argue that that violence was orchestrated by pro-Trump groups, pro-Trump extremist groups to which Giuliani had had no connection, Poppy and Jim.

HARLOW: Whitney, thank you. We'll follow it very closely.


I appreciate the reporting.

Next, our exclusive interview with Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, what he thinks about the economy going forward as we recover from this pandemic.


HARLOW: As the economy begins to recover, news this morning from Bank of America on wages for their workers, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan joins us exclusively. Brian, good morning to you. Thank you for being here.

BRIAN MOYNIHAN, CEO, BANK OF AMERICA: Good morning, Poppy. How are you doing?

HARLOW: I'm well, thank you. You know, two years ago, I believe it was, you guys raised wages to $20 an hour across the board. This morning, you're raising it to what and why?

MOYNIHAN: So, a few years ago, we announced at that point we moved to $20 by, frankly, '21 and we actually end up doing it last year, a year early in 2020 as part of our response to the pandemic.


Then as we look forward, we basically had two things to think about. One is to maintain a great standard of living for our teammates and share success with our teammates. We'll hire 15, 18, 20,000 people this year. We are going to $25 by 2025 as a starting wage in our company.

And then, secondly, a lot of people ask us about our vendors. We have now got 99 percent of our vendors to $15 an hour and we'll get the rest of them through. It's ten vendors with less than ten employees. And that's because the power of the company and the earnings and the great work those teammates do and it provides a great career opportunity for people coming in that is 40,000 plus a year now and would be up to 50,000 with full benefits and gives them a career mindset, which helps the shareholders also.

HARLOW: Okay. So that means independent contractors, for example, who are directly paid by Bank of America, but you use their service, like janitorial staffs, et cetera, they'll be paid $15 -- at least $15. What is $25 an hour for all of your direct Bank of America employees, which is a lot of people, what does that cost the bank?

MOYNIHAN: Well, it would cost us a few hundred million a year ultimately as you move up to it. But it's just an investment in our teammates. Remember, we're hiring -- we'll hire 2,000 kids from school this year. We'll have 2,000 summer interns. As I said, we'll hire between 15 and 20,000 new employees in the company, not all starting levels because experience tiers.

But the goal is to provide a career mindset and help continue to show Come to bank of America, work for us, work for us for the rest of your career and we'll continue to make great progress. And to do that, we have got to get the best the society has to offer in terms of teammates working for this company because we're a people business.

HARLOW: So, part of this is a talent play, for sure, but we went and looked at all of the -- you know, your competitors and this will place Bank of America at $5 to $10 an hour higher than all of your big competitors by 2025 in terms of starting wages. Do you think then, Brian, are you saying that this announcement, you think it's a responsibility of your fellow big banks as well, particularly given how well you've all done in the last year to pay at least $25 an hour?

MOYNIHAN: Well, I can't speak for the other people. I can speak for what we think. We think it's part of sharing our success with our communities, our customers and our shareholders and society. But the reality is our teammates really need to -- it's a matter of just really investing in them.

And, frankly, you know, this will have a wage pressure up the line. We've absorbed it for many years. We operate the company this year on the same level of expenses we operated on 2015, to give you an example. And that is through all the great work we do, reengineering the platform.

So the shareholders get paid back by having teammates are more stable, think of a career mindset, stay with us longer, reduce the amount of hiring we do, develop a career path, do a great job for our customers and the teammates benefit better by starting at a higher wage and we get more talent. And that will have an impact.

Now, small businesses and high school part-time jobs, we don't hire that type of teammate. But, you know, that's a different case for very small businesses. They may do something different. But large companies like ours that are $8 billion last quarter have the opportunity to do this and we think it's the right thing to do.

HARLOW: And the question is do they have the responsibility to do this? Clearly, you guys think there is one for Bank of America that you bring up the question of small business, and this is where the fight is, Brian, over the federal minimum wage, right? Do you believe -- does Bank of America believe and agree with the Biden administration push for a $15 federal minimum wage across the country at this point?

MOYNIHAN: You know, I think that comes -- if you hear from our clients, there is very different points of view. In a rural area where you're hiring people for part-time work and stuff, there might be a different case. So I think I'll let that set. I think the key is for big companies like ours is to set a standard, where we can earn a great return for our shareholders and deliver a great wage for our teammates across the whole board, frankly, including our starting teammates, and then also who we hire. We hire 10,000 teammates from low and moderate income neighborhoods over the last four or five years, entire retail structure into that career mindset. We hire the kids from school.

And so part of it is the response we have a large company with a profit we can generate because of great customer base and great work our teammates do is to share back with them and that does provide a pull to society, yes. But that is frankly because we think it's the right thing to do.

HARLOW: Brian, since I have you, let's talk about the economy, inflation. You said just a few weeks ago in an interview, we have to be careful that inflation doesn't get ahead of us. The White House, the Fed are telling Americans, don't worry, we've got this, it's under control, it's temporary or transitory, as the econ folks say.

Larry Summers doesn't think so or he doesn't know so. Larry Summers is now warning about the risk of a Vietnam-like inflation scenario. Are you as worried as Larry Summers is?

[10:45:00] MOYNIHAN: Well, I couldn't go debate economics with Larry Summers because he's a very talented person in that area. But let's -- you put your finger on it. This question of what is transitory or what's temporary is the issue at the moment. So, to make it straight forward, if a price were 100 and went to 115, if the expectation when it was at 115 is it would only go 118, the economists would deem that temporary.

The problem is that's a big price rise and that is what you're seeing in what is lumber products, whether it's resins to make plastics, whether it's consumer goods. You're seeing the price rises take. I saw a stat the other day that the amount of wood -- $50,000 of wood only builds -- goes into two standard-size houses. It used to do ten or something like that. So think about that difference over the last few years.

So the question is that inflation or not? The economists would look at it traditional sense and say, if the expectations at the end of the inflation rise are not that it continues, it would be temporary. That's going to be an interesting tightrope for everybody to walk and that's why the fed is watching clearly.

Chairman Powell has been clear, they want to see unemployment get down to 4 percent range. They want to see wage growth strong. They want to see the economy put on footings. But, remember, our basic projection for economy that will cross over and be as big as it was in the pandemic this quarter or last quarter, depending on how you look at it, it will be growing at a 7 percent rate this year, which is three times the rate it was growing and is predicted to grow the second year to 5.5 percent rate, which are too highest growth rates that I can remember in business back to back. And that puts the fear of inflation in people's minds. I think we have to watch this play out a while.

But that is debate temporary versus expectations and permanent. And it's going to play out. But I think it's going to take a few more months and weeks and quarters for people to really get an opinion on that.

HARLOW: Okay. But you're not worried about it? So we'll keep a very close eye on that. And, clearly, you guys are as well.

Brian, I do want to ask you about a report -- go ahead.

MOYNIHAN: I was going to say, the number one thing we have to worry about is getting this pandemic behind us. And you're seeing that take hold slowly but surely, quickly, frankly, for the miracles of modern medicine and the vaccines. And so if that happens, the inflation will be a nice thing to worry about if we can actually get the pandemic fully behind us. So I think, yes, we have to worry about both of those things. But number one priority is still the pandemic.

HARLOW: That's very good point. Brian, before you go, I do want to ask you. I think it's important to hear from you on this New York Times reporting. They reported just in the last few days after interviewing two dozen former and current Bank of America employees that those employees voice serious concern that your number two at the bank, COO Thomas Montag, fostered an environment where some felt pressure to come to the office during COVID-19 and, quote, workers grew fearful that if they didn't go into the office, they would lose their jobs or their bonuses. The Times goes on to report, quote, the culture that Mr. Montag built also allowed women to be objectified.

Brian, is this a widespread culture problem at Bank of America?

MOYNIHAN: Well, at Bank of America, we have 100,000 women working for our company. They are more satisfied and then they turn over a lower rate. It is not a cultural problem and Tom has done a great job driving that business. And we'll let the reporting be what it is.

But here are the facts. We are now trying to get our teammates to come back to work who are vaccinated and prioritizing that because that's normalizing operations, which helps our company, which helps our clients, helps our teammates and frankly helps the economy. So, Tom has done a great job for us and I'll let you read the report and make what you want of it.

HARLOW: Brian Moynihan, thank you for being with us this morning.

MOYNIHAN: Thank you, Poppy.


SCIUTTO: Important conversation there. In just minutes, we will be getting an update from officials in North Carolina on the fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. We're going to bring you their statements from that room there coming up.



HARLOW: New York is reopening in a big way. The governor announced the state is following the new CDC guidelines of not requiring masks or social distancing in most places for people fully vaccinated starting tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's a big change in New York, as mask wearing was nearly universal here, at least in my experience.

CNN's Alex Field is in Times Square now with more. I mean, it's an exciting moment for the city. Anybody who was here in the depths of this last spring, I mean, this town is like a scene from it I am Legend. It's changed. It's come back.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a giant leap forward really by every measure, Jim and Poppy. And you do remember these images of Times Square back in March and April of 2020 when it was fully abandoned, a ghost town. And life has returned now. You are seeing a number of the restrictions being eased in the city and the state. We've already seen the elimination of a dining curfew for outdoor dining. The same thing will apply to indoor dining later this month. As of tomorrow, more capacity restrictions will be lifted.

But, really, the most visible symbol of the step forward being the fact that the state is moving in to compliance with the new CDC guidelines saying that if you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear the mask indoors or outdoors. There are exceptions. You still need to wear a mask if you're on public transportation or in schools or some other communal spaces. Of course, if you are not vaccinated, you must keep that mask on.

So, will the streets of New York look different? That's a question. We're out here today seeing a lot of people still wearing masks and many more people not wearing their masks. I spoke to some of them. They said they've really made their decisions already. Those who were not wearing a mask already say they believe in the efficacy of the vaccine, they believe that they are safe, even before the governor says they have the right to take it off tomorrow.


For those who plan to keep that mask on, they say, yes, they trust the CDC but they still believe it just feels better to keep that mask on.

And, Jim and Poppy, I just want to tell you, we spoke to Colombian (ph) tourists who were out here earlier today. They came to the city in search of a vaccine. It is a stark reminder of the fact that we have access in this country that is not available in so much of the world.

SCIUTTO: No question. I don't know what I'm going to do with all my masks. Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

HARLOW: And thanks all of you for being with us both today. We appreciate it. We'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts right after a short break.