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Putin and Biden Meet Face-to-Face, Issue Praise and Warnings; Divisions Over Cyberattacks and Human Right Persist; Militants Float More Incendiary Balloons into Israel; Wildfires Grow as Heat and Dry Conditions Grip U.S.; U.S. Federal Reserve Expects Interest Rate Hike in 2023; Democratic Senators Meet White House Officials on Infrastructure; Democrats Court Manchin Over Major Voting Bill. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 17, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was important to meet in person so there could be no mistake about or misrepresentations about what I wanted to communicate. I did what I came to do.


CHURCH: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his message to Vladimir Putin. We'll break down what happened at the summit and look ahead to what's on Mr. Biden's agenda now that he's back in the United States.

Plus a new warning about the COVID variant predicted to dominant cases in the U.S.

And China launches three astronauts into space. They're due to dock with China's space station at any moment.

Good to have you with us. Well, the U.S. president is now back at the White House after the highest stakes summit of his lengthy career. Joe Biden's big one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was considered a critical test of his ability to confront that country. The talks lasted just a few hours with both leaders calling them constructive and positive. We were warned from the git-go not to expect any dramatic breakthroughs or tangible results. CNN's Kaitlan Collins explains how the summit unfolded.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden summing up his first summit with President Putin. BIDEN: I did what I came here to do.

COLLINS (voice-over): The two leaders met behind closed doors for under three hours in Geneva and cited progress on their way out.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The talks were quite constructive.

BIDEN: The tone of the entire meetings, I guess it was a total of four hours, was -- what was -- was good, positive.

COLLINS (voice-over): But it was clear that divisions on critical issues like cyberattacks and human rights remained.

BIDEN: The bottom line is I told President Biden that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.

COLLINS (voice-over): Putin summed up the summit first, praising Biden while denying any role in recent ransomware attacks and brushing off concerns about jailing his political opponents.

PUTIN (through translator): They have said that most of the cyberattacks in the world are carried out from the cyber realm of the United States.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden said he pressed Putin on multiple fronts and would continue to do so.

BIDEN: I also told him that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have in our view. That's just part of the DNA of our country.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden expressing confidence that Putin would not continue to ratchet up tensions with the U.S.

BIDEN: The last thing he wants now is a Cold War.

COLLINS (voice-over): The two agreed to send their respective ambassadors back to their countries in an attempt to establish guardrails on cyberattacks.

BIDEN: I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack, period, by cyber or any other means.

COLLINS (voice-over): At times, Biden rebuked his Russian counterpart after he acquitted jailing political opponents with arresting rioters who stormed the Capitol.

PUTIN (through translator): As to who is killing whom or throwing whom in jail, people came to the U.S. Congress with political demands, 400 people.

BIDEN: My response is kind of what I communicated, that I think that's a -- that's a ridiculous comparison.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden saying they will know in three to six months if there can be a productive dialogue but growing visibly angry when asked if it would lead to real change from the aggressive Russian leader.

COLLINS: Why are you so confident he'll change his behavior, Mr. President?

BIDEN: I'm not confident. What the hell, what do you all the time?


BIDEN: When did I say I was confident?

COLLINS: You said the next six months we'll be able to --

BIDEN: I said -- I said -- what I said was -- look, let's get it straight. I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. I'm not confident of anything, I'm just stating the facts.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president later apologizing for his response.

BIDEN: I owe my last questioner an apology. I shouldn't -- I shouldn't have been such a wise guy with the last answer I gave.


COLLINS: During that summit President Biden said he did not make any threats towards President Putin but did say that, yes, the U.S. is capable of carrying out cyberattacks on their own, powerful cyberattacks at that and he said that is something the Russian leader is well aware of.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, traveling with the president in Geneva.


CHURCH: Well drawing the Russian president's post summit news conference CNN's Matthew Chance fired off a few questions about several contentious issues, some of the questions Vladimir Putin answered and some he didn't. Here is their exchange.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, could you characterize the dynamic between yourself and President Biden? Was it hostile or was it friendly? And secondly, throughout these conversations did you commit to ceasing carrying out cyberattacks on the United States? Did you commit to stopping threatening Ukraine security and did you commit to stop cracking down on the opposition in Russia?

PUTIN (through translator): Well, the first overall evaluation, I don't think there was any kind of hostility. On the contrary, our meeting was obviously a fundamental one. Many of our joint positions are divergent but nevertheless I think that both sides manifested determination to try and understand each other and to try and convert our positions. I think it was very constructive.

As far as cybersecurity is concerned, we agreed that we would begin consultations on that issue and I believe that it is extraordinarily important. Obviously both sides have to assume certain obligations there.


CHURCH: So let's bring in our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is standing by in London. Good to see you, Nic. So what has been the overall assessment and reaction to the Biden/Putin Summit and is there any sense this may change President Putin's behavior in any way?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think you're listening there to Matthew Chance's question of Vladimir Putin. And Matthew was speaking after that press conference and he said something that I think was a very important take away. And that is that for the past 20 or so years Vladimir Putin has been behaving this way with a variety of U.S. presidents and none so far has been able to find a way to change the direction of Vladimir Putin's behavior.

So I think that, you know, the overall take away has to fall into the camp of what President Biden said, which is we don't know, we need to wait three to six months to find out. Have any of the sort of deeper more sort of philosophical arguments that Biden thinks he has that reaches around Putin's intellect and Putin's view of his own personal standing on the international stage, the standing of Russia on the international stage, Russia's ability to do business in the future, Russia's potential threats from China, all of these things sort of fall into this envelope of why Biden believes that change can happen. Not that it will, but that it can.

So you know, I think that's a judgment that as Biden says we just can't see at the moment. What is clear is that Putin on the stage was playing in the press conference to his domestic audience, deflecting criticisms of questions that were implicit in the questions that Matthew Chance and others asked and looking uncomfortable when he was really pressed on questions about his treatment of Alexei Navalny, which President Biden said if there was a death of Navalny in Russian custody, then absolutely he would hold Putin accountable.

You know, so I think Biden -- Putin, rather, is able to walk away having spun this to his domestic audience that there was no day mash put on him there were areas of agreement and that there was nothing that he feels that he didn't answer and categorize and essentially say that's not really our problem, look at America, America is worse than us.

CHURCH: All right. CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joining us live from London. Many thanks. Militants in Gaza have floated another round of incendiary balloons

toward Israel causing at least four more fires, but no injuries so far. It's a tactic they've used many times in the past, only now Israel has been responding with air strikes against Hamas targets.

Let's go live now to Jerusalem and journalist Elliott Gotkine who is standing by. Good to see you Elliott. So how are Israelis react to go Naftali Bennett's handling of his first big test as Prime Minister and is there concern there that this could trigger another round of violence?


ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, I don't think anyone sees this just yet as a major escalation. And given that Naftali Bennett has frequently criticized even ex-Prime Minister Netanyahu's stance and response to attacks from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip and given that the Defense Minister Benny Gantz is the same defense minister that served alongside ex-Prime Minister Netanyahu. I don't think there's a huge surprise in terms of Israel's response to these incendiary balloons. Which have been sent across from the Gaza Strip to the surrounding areas and over the past three years have burned some 10,000 -- more than 10,000 acres of fields or nature reserves that are in the surrounding area.

I don't think that was a huge surprise in that sense. I think at the same time those people that supported this incredibly unprecedentedly diverse coalition, those that supported it probably won't have changed their views. Those that were prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt will still be giving it the benefit of the doubt. And those that were critical of this government, particularly ex-Prime Minister Netanyahu, deriding it as in his words a left-wing government that wouldn't be able to stand up to Hamas and attacks from the Gaza Strip, I think that they will continue to oppose this government and will no doubt criticize it for being too weak or being too easy or not responding to all of these balloons.

And indeed we haven't yet had a response to these incendiary balloons from yesterday. There were air strikes the night before which didn't result in any casualties in the Gaza Strip. There weren't any strikes last night. That doesn't mean there won't be any. But in the past we've heard from the Israeli Defense Forces saying any attacks, whether they are rockets or incendiary balloons, will be met with a powerful response.

And there's also been multiple reports in Palestinian and Israeli media saying that Israel has been trying to get a message to Hamas through the Egyptians saying that, look if these continue then Israel will escalate and that they will start taking out, you know, Hamas operatives. We are not at that stage just yet, but whenever there is a round of fighting or tensions rise, Rosemary, there will always be a concern that things could escalate.

CHURCH: That was Elliott Gotkine joining us live from Jerusalem, many thanks. Well now that U.S. President Joe Biden is back in the states he is

facing a new showdown with Republicans and members of his own party in Congress. We will have the latest on the infrastructure talks, federal voting bills and the new federal holiday that could be signed into law today.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And coming up next we're talking about one of the most impressive heat waves the U.S. has ever seen and it's happening before summer each officially arrives. We'll have more on that coming up in a few minutes.



CHURCH: This is just one of several wildfires burning in western U.S. as the region experiences record heat and dry conditions. Emergency officials had advised people just south of Reno, Nevada, to evacuate. Late Wednesday night they lifted those orders saying the fire was now under control. Two fires in Arizona have together scorched more than 220,000 acres. And a wildfire that started Sunday on the Montana/Wyoming border has burned more than 20,000 acres.

CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins me now. Just incredible these fires, these high temperatures. I mean, where is there an end in sight here?

JAVAHERI: You know, summer of course officially arrives in North America and northern hemisphere on Sunday. So we expect the hottest temperatures climatologically to kick in in the middle of July into early August for about a month ahead that have pace. Which is really remarkable when you take a look at how things have played out in recent days.

Look at Death Valley, California, well known for being the U.S. hot spot. The all-time record for the day comes in at 123 degrees, over a century ago, the titanic just finished being built back in 1911, that's the last time it was this hot across that region for the date and they set a new record. Las Vegas hottest it has ever been 117, they come in with 116, that sets a daily record. Phoenix sitting 10 degrees above what is considered normal for this time of year. And again, this pattern continues across a large area of the western U.S., South Dakota, Kansas, even into Nebraska triple digit heat where over 50 million Americans underneath these heat alerts that have been in place.

Now, we talk about the dangers of heat, how lethal it is in nature, especially when it's a long duration event. And notice this, the next seven days temps fail to come back down to average, that's really concerning. Even the overnight temperatures staying close to 90 degrees. Hot spot again, back in Death Valley 128 degrees, Phoenix into the one teens, Kansas City climbing up to 101 degrees as well.

And that's not all we have to talk about. Look at what's happening in the Bay of Campeche, 90 percent chance within the next week or so, we've got ourselves a tropical storm, that is called often a home brewed tropical storm because it develops in a body of water in the area that it's going to impact. Potentially this heads as Claudette -- will be the name of the tropical storm -- northward and could bring in tremendous rainfall at the very least towards portions of the Gulf Coast. A lot of weather going on -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Most definitely, and you have it all covered, Pedram, many thanks, appreciate it.

Well the U.S. Labor Department releases its weekly jobless report in just a few hours and the number of people filing claims is expected to fall for the seventh straight week. This week's report will be the last one in which full federal pandemic benefits are in place across all 50 states. Meantime, U.S. financial markets are hoping to bounce back from Wednesday's woes.

I want to take a look at U.S. futures, you can see they are all in negative territory. We'll keep an eye on all of that. And of course, the growing U.S. economy could bring an end to the Federal Reserve's easy money policies pushing interest rates higher. CNN's Clare Sebastian has the details.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This was an acknowledgment by the Federal Reserve that the U.S. economy is recovering faster than expected and policy might need to change quicker, too.


Now there was no actual policy action at this meeting, interest rates are staying at record lows and the fed is going to continue purchasing $120 billion in assets every month to support the recovery. But we did get a few signals. They are increasing their forecast for GDP for this year to 7 percent from 6.5 percent in March. They've now increased their inflation forecast as well to 3.4 percent and a majority of Fed board members now think there will be a rate rise in 2023. That is also in contrast to their previous predictions.

And the markets going into this were looking for any signal at all that there might be a change in the Fed's other emergency measure that $120 billion in asset purchases. This is what Fed Chair Jerome Powell had to say about that.

JEROME POWELL, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: You can think of this meeting that we had as the talking about talking about meeting, if you like. And I now suggest that we retire that term which has served its purpose well, I think.

So committee participants were of the view that since we adopted that guidance in December the economy has clearly made progress, although we are still a ways from our goal of substantial further progress. Participants expect continued progress ahead toward that object. And assuming that is the case it will be appropriate to consider announcing a plan for reducing our asset purchases at a future meeting. SEBASTIAN: Jerome Powell did acknowledge that this is an

extraordinarily unusual time he called it, and that there is no template for how the Federal Reserve should be dealing with this. He did say though, that he still believes the most likely scenario is that that surge in inflation that we've seen recently does start to ease over the next few months as the demand surge in supply chain bottlenecks start to come down.

He also believes that the jobs market will start to recover a bit quicker, that has lagged behind expectations recently and that will come as kids go back to in-person school and enhanced unemployment benefits go away and more people find new jobs after the pandemic. And the markets dipped a little bit on the Fed's statement, as investors start to digest the prospect of a gradual end to the Fed's easy money policies coming slightly sooner than expected.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: Well after a showdown abroad U.S. President Joe Biden now faces one back home. A small group of Democratic Senators met with White House officials on Wednesday to discuss a bipartisan framework on an infrastructure plan. A working draft document is circulating the halls of Capitol Hill although Democrats say it will likely change before being formally rolled out. The draft breaks down how the nearly $600 billion would be spent on roads, bridges, rail, power and broadband projects.

And Democratic Senator Joe Manchin now says he may support voting rights legislation after previously opposing it, but only if certain changes are made. And Senate Democrats seeing an opening have been quietly wooing him. CNN's Manu Raju has more.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He said laid out a series of changes that he wants, one of which is actually a nonstarter for a number of Democrats, it would actually require an ID to vote. That's a voter ID requirement that has long been pushed by Republicans, that Democrats have said is off the table in a push to try to reform voting laws. But Joe Manchin, I'm told from Democrats who have engaged with him, is open to some modifications to that proposal. He's also open to potentially even moving ahead with this legislation even if it does not have Republican support.

I'd asked him today would you support a revised bill even if Republicans don't get behind it? He did not go that far, even though that had been his red line for weeks. Now, this came -- this comes after withering criticism that he has gone from the left for being the lone Senate Democrat to not sign off on that bill because of his concern. He had said that such voting laws changes should be done on a big bipartisan basis, there should be a deal between the two sides.

What Democrats really want to get him on board because they want to make the argument that the whole caucus is behind this and that Republicans are the ones who are standing away. Having Joe Manchin defect could undercut that key argument they plan to make going forward. It's important to note here that still 60 votes would be needed to advance such legislation. They simply do not have 60 votes even if they do get Joe Manchin on board.

But nevertheless, the key test vote, the first test vote could occur next week. Chuck Schumer the Senate majority leader just took the necessary procedural steps to set up a vote that would happen sometime next week. So all moving towards that as Democrats try to woo one of their own to get behind their party's effort here.


CHURCH: U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says policing negotiations have taken a big step forward. On Wednesday he told CNN, quote, we maybe had a breakthrough and added he thinks a deal could be reached by next week.


Negotiators have been hung up on how to criminally prosecute police officers. Democrats want to lower the standard to charge them in order to make individual officers more accountable, but Republicans don't agree.

President Biden is expected to sign a bill today making June 19th a federal holiday, Juneteenth, national independence day, will commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. The House approved the measure last night although 14 Republicans voted against it, most U.S. states already commemorate the day. In 1865 an army general in Texas announced the news of then President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves.


REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): I just want to take this moment for thanking all of my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, who showed America that there is unity in the understanding of our history. That history of slavery is the original sin and should never be ignored, but now we have a national independence holiday for Juneteenth. Let us come together.


CHURCH: Following the highly anticipated summit in Geneva CNN's Matthew Chance pressed Russian president Putin on some key issues. We will have his answers, that's next.

Plus could a more contagious coronavirus strain convince more people in the U.S. to get vaccinated. What health experts are saying.


CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, Joe Biden is now back in Washington after wrapping up his first presidential trip abroad. First he shored up western support while attending the G7, NATO and EU summits, before the week.