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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Intel Agencies Began Reviewing Some Mar-a-Lago Documents In May, As DNI Announces Formal Damage Assessment; The Roe v. Wade Effect; IAEA Team Heading To Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant Amid Shelling; A Once-Bullish GOP Will Be Up Against Democrats' Momentum At The Polls In November; Serena Williams Competing In What's Possibly Be Her Last U.S. Open; NASA's Moon Rocket Scrubbed Today, Next Try Friday. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 29, 2022 - 20:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: They say LaFlamme's hair color had nothing to do with the decision to let her go, though the head of CTV is now on leave after it was reported that he asked who approved the decision to "Let Lisa's hair go gray."

Well, tonight Wendy's is not the only company rallying behind LaFlamme, Dove also tweeting: "Age is beautiful. Women should be able to do it on their own terms without any consequences," #KeepTheGray.

Alright, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

AC 360 starts now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: New developments tonight in the battle over classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago including a former National Security damage assessment getting underway right now. That's an addition to what we have just learned tonight was a similar effort which began back in May, on material handed over in January.

At the same time the former President and his supporters are warning of consequences if prosecutors pursue charges. One is even adding that indictments will not could or might, but will spark rioting in the streets.

John Berman here in for Anderson, and whatever you make of what some critics are calling a thinly-veiled threat of political violence, you should know that it comes from a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the former Chairman, in fact, Lindsey Graham, speaking last night to former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'll say this. If there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle, which you presided over and did a hell of a good job, there'll be riots in the streets.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Now, the former Judiciary Chair did not follow that remark

saying that, of course, such violence would be wrong. Instead, he repeated and amplified what he said.

And on his social media network, the former President reposted several attacks on the FBI in a post of his own, in which he appeared to be calling for an uprising within the Bureau quoting now: "When do the great agents and others in the FBI going to say we aren't going to take it anymore." He also demanded to be declared, "The rightful winner" of the 2020 election.

And like Senator Graham, who used the 2016 decision not to charge Hillary Clinton as a reference point. Other Republicans had different criticisms.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Well, again, my biggest criticism, and I think the concern of most of the country is where is the transparency, right? We want to see it.

And one thing I was being very aggressive about was saying, look, if you're going to take unprecedented action, and raid a former President's house, well, you better have a strategy for unprecedented transparency.


BERMAN: So that's New Hampshire Governor, Chris Sununu, who is often critical of the former President. It is worth noting one of the two unprecedented aspects of this investigation is just how much the government has made public sometimes under Court order, but still, the other unprecedented aspect of it all is that a former President is at the center of it, and what he is saying about it in a supercharged political environment in which there has already been one armed attack so far on the FBI.

Tonight, the White House said President Biden will travel to Philadelphia on Thursday for a primetime address on what is being billed as the continued battle for the soul of the nation. We'll talk more about that tonight.

First, the latest on the documents, the Court fight over the documents and the damage assessment being done tonight by the Director of National Intelligence.

CNN's Sara Murray joins us with that. Sara, what have Justice Department officials said about their initial review of the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it was clear from a Court filing today that the Justice Department has already begun digging through these documents that they seized from this search at Mar-a-Lago. They're using a filter team, and what they said in the Court filing is they have discovered a limited set of materials that could contain, you know, attorney-client privilege information that the filter team has uncovered then.

Now even though this process has already been underway, this review has already been underway, the Trump team still wants a Special Master, essentially an independent lawyer involved in this review. They feel like they don't believe they can trust the Justice Department team. A Judge has said she is considering that, she is open to that and she's going to be holding a hearing on that issue on Thursday.

BERMAN: So, what else can you tell us about the damage assessment being done by the Intelligence Community regarding the documents recovered at Mar-a-Lago?

MURRAY: Well, of course, there's been a lot of concern about the sensitivity of these documents, how they were handled, and what could potentially happen if they had gotten into the wrong hands.

So, the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines did make it clear to Congress that the Intelligence Community is conducting this damage assessment. This is essentially a national security assessment about what would be the national security risk if these documents were exposed.

We're also learning, my colleagues are reporting that Intelligence officials along with the FBI had been looking into some of these documents that they previously, got remember that tranche of 15 boxes the National Archives previously got from Mar-a-Lago?

They've been sifting through those, looking at materials that were marked classified and trying to determine what the actual classification levels of these documents were, were any of them perhaps declassified? And are there any steps that the community need, the Intelligence Community need to take at that point to try to protect sources and methods?


So in many ways, this effort has already began -- John.

BERMAN: Sara Murray, thank you, as always, for your reporting.

Some perspective now from CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero, who served as counsel at the Justice Department to Assistant Attorney General for National Security; also with us, CNN political analyst, and AXIOS' managing editor, Margaret Talev.

So, Andrew, in terms of this damage assessment, how will DNI Haynes go about evaluating the national security risks posed by the former President having classified and top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So, the folks operating under DNI Haynes' authority are going to look through every one of those documents, and they're going to figure out which -- what is the home agency that made the original classification of that document, and then they're going to go back to that home agency, whether that is CIA or FBI or NSA, whoever that might be, and ask them to review each of those documents individually to say, "Do you feel you have sources in jeopardy by virtue of the release or the over the poor storage of these documents? Or has it potentially compromised a technical Intelligence collection opportunity?"

And they're going to wait to see what those whom agencies report back and with all of that, they'll have an assessment as to how much damage has actually been done.

BERMAN: So Andy, and as Sara just reported, the Intelligence Community's review of these documents began back in May, specifically to determine whether any immediate efforts needed to be made to protect methods and sources. So, how will those determinations be made, do you think?

MCCABE: So John, that's a reference to the first 15 boxes of information, which we now know by virtue of the letter from the National Archives that was revealed last week, those boxes were officially turned over to the FBI on or about May 12th of this year.

So, the FBI went through a process just like the one I just described to you, the Bureau would have looked through all those materials, pulled out, of course, those that are FBI documents or things that were classified by -- and of course with FBI investigations, and then, of course, handed out the others.

So, any CIA materials, NSA materials that are in there, those would have been sent back to those home agencies, and they would have been compiled the results of that classification review and that damage assessment.

BERMAN: So, Carrie, separate issue, I should say here, the fact that the Justice Department has come forward and said it has already basically completed its initial review of the documents seized at Mar- a-Lago for issues of privilege, does it make it less likely that the Judge will agree to the former President's request for a Special Master?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it weakens the argument for the Special Master for sure. So, not sure which way the Judge is going to go on this, the Judge has already indicated, perhaps a lean towards being inclined to grant the Special Master, but the fact that the Justice Department has already gone through these, and as we know, from the portion of the affidavit that was released, had laid out a taint team process, so a separate team, separate from the main investigative team that was designed to review privileged materials, which is a standard practice when they think that they may encounter attorney-client privilege materials.

And so I think the fact that they've already gone through them, they've employed that taint team, they had advised the Judge who approved the WARN in advance that they would use that team really makes the arguments in favor of a Special Master, much less strong, and they weren't very strong arguments to begin with, John.

BERMAN: So Margaret, Lindsey Graham, the former Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with his statement saying that there will -- will -- be riots in the streets if the former President is prosecuted. What do you make of that statement?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, John, Senator Graham and his team have said, you know, he is just predicting what his concern could happen. But clearly, there are a lot of people who are in the political world or the national security world, who say, hey, like, that's not enough that Senator Graham has an obligation as a member of the Senate, as a steward of good governance to insist upon the rule of law to preemptively, you know, condemn any violence, to defend the legitimacy of the work that the FBI is doing.

And clearly, if every Republican in leadership, you know, came out and said, you have to let the FBI do its job, there will probably be less of a chance of any kind of a repeat of January 6th.

I also want to say like Carrie and Andy are better experts on this than I am, but watch the Special Master argument unfolding later this week, it's very important. This is not just a matter of a third party having a look at it. The implications of a Special Master's involvement could go straight to one of the former President's favorite playbooks, which is to run out the clock and to delay to some extent, block the government from being able to handle the information that it has already got.


So, there's a lot going on here and Senator Graham is not a totally an uninterested bystander in addition to being an important ally, at times of former President Trump. He has also been actively trying to make it so that he does not have to testify to a grand jury in Georgia in that election interference case.

BERMAN: He's got separate things going on completely.

Carrie, the comments from Senator Graham, how will they be viewed within the Justice Department?

CORDERO: Well, Senator Graham is on the Judiciary Committee. So, the Justice Department always pays attention to what he and other members of their Oversight Committee say, but the way that I look at Senator Graham's statements are from the perspective of the Justice Department, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security actually have responsibilities to conduct assessments regarding acts of political violence or domestic violent extremism.

And so Senator Graham is in a position where he could actually turn to the executive branch and say, "Is this something that you are learning about in the course of your investigative and your analytical, national security and homeland security responsibilities?"

What concerns me is that that doesn't appear to be what he is doing. Instead, he is just sort of saying, this might be something that happens.

And so the difficulty is that when there is a legislator who is quite knowledgeable about matters of the Justice Department, quite knowledgeable about national security and foreign policy speaking about threats to Homeland Security that are not grounded in actual analytical assessment, then that can have a damaging effect both on assessments that are made in the future about homeland security threats, as well as just really confusing the public about what the status of political violence is in the country right now.

BERMAN: And Andy, a bit of news just in. We just learned that US Secret Service Assistant Director, Tony Ornato, who was at the center of so much a former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony to the January 6 Committee has left the Secret Service.

What can you read into that? And should that or will that have any impact on whether the Committee can or will compel him to testify?

MCCABE: You know, it is hard to read too much into that, John. You know, Federal agents and particularly Federal agents in high-ranking leadership positions are eligible to retire when they reach age 50 and have 20 years of service and most do retire shortly after they're eligible because they have opportunities for second careers in the private sector.

It's entirely possible that that's all that's happened here. We've heard some reporting that he was planning on leaving before Cassidy Hutchinson testified.

The important thing here, though, is what is the January 6 Committee going to do about obtaining his testimony, the fact that he is no longer with the service doesn't mean he's beyond the reach of the Committee. If they want his testimony, if they feel like he is an important witness whose side of these events they need to hear, they are going to need to drop a subpoena on him and compel his appearance.

So, the thing to watch here, I think is how the Committee reacts to this development, and whether they continue to pursue him.

BERMAN: And we will watch that to be sure. Andrew McCabe, Carrie Cordero, Margaret Talev, thank you all.

Next, how fallout from the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe versus Wade is already having motivating factors for Democratic voters influence at, at least some Republicans' campaigns.

Also tonight, the very latest on the Ukrainian military operation now underway and whether it amounts to the long talked about big counteroffensive against Russian forces in the South.



BERMAN: New tonight from CNN's K-File investigators, they have discovered that Arizona Republican senator candidate, Blake Masters has scrubbed his campaign website of controversial language including the false claim the 2020 election was stolen. Also got a passage saying Democrats were trying to "import" his word a new electorate language mirroring far-right conspiracy theories about Democrats using immigration to weaken the power of native-born Americans.

They were not however the only items gone from the site or change somehow; others, concern abortion. The changes speak to how mobilizing the issue already appears to be for women voters and how much more it could become by November and as CNN's Kyung Lah reports, candidate Masters is not alone.

(Begin VT)

BLAKE MASTERS (R), ARIZONA SENATOR CANDIDATE: Most people support commonsense regulation around abortion.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Republican US Senate nominee Blake Masters, surrounded by his children trying to reset the debate over abortion rights.

MASTERS: I support a ban on very late term and partial birth abortion, and most Americans agree with that.

LAH (voice over): Just after this digital video dropped, Masters campaign's site scrubbed strict antiabortion language. Before, Masters wrote he is 100 percent pro-life calling Roe v. Wade a horrible decision then listed a series of strict stances on abortion.

Now, a softer tone. Roe went from horrible to a bad decision. The words 100 percent pro-life removed from this section and that list of positions is shorter.

JOHN THOMAS, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There is no getting around it that abortion in his particular race is a hot, hot issue for one of those swing coalitions. He has to speak to that issue, and being pro-life 100 percent of the time isn't going to get him there. So, he has to attempt to make that pivot.

LAH (voice over): Masters' campaign says he remains 100 percent pro- life, but he is not the only one retooling.


LAH (voice over): In Michigan's Seventh Congressional District, challenger Tom Barrett fundraised in the Republican Party as 100 percent pro-life, no exceptions; but over the weekend, his website that listed a value section to protect life from conception is now gone.


Barrett's campaign tells CNN, "We regularly update the website."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should all abortions be illegal in this country?

LAH (voice over): In Iowa's Republican primary to represent the Third Congressional District --

ZACH NUNN (R), IOWA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: All abortions, no exceptions. LAH (voice over): The man in the center, Zach Nunn won the Republican

nomination. The incumbent, Democratic Congresswoman Cindy Axne turned that primary debate moment into a campaign ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even in the case of rape, even in the case of incest, even if a woman's life is in danger --

LAH (voice over): Nunn's campaign did not respond directly to CNN's request for comment on the Democratic attacks, but Nunn wrote in an editorial that the ad was false and says while he opposes abortion, "We must be compassionate toward both women and unborn children."

In Minnesota's gubernatorial race, Republican nominee Scott Jensen, a doctor said this in a radio interview before the primary.

SCOTT JENSEN (R), MINNESOTA GUBERNATIONAL CANDIDATE: If a mother's life is in danger, I think that that would have to be a medical consideration and an area for potential exception.

HOST: No exceptions for rape or incest?

JENSEN: Unless the mother's life is in danger.

LAH (voice over): Now, in the General Election, he is calling his previous words "clumsy."

JENSEN: If I had been unclear previously, I want to be clear now, rape and incest, along with endangering the mother's mental or physical health are acceptable exceptions.

THOMAS: It is an animating issue, particularly in very tight Congressional and Senate races where there are lots of college- educated White women, but that's not every district in America.

So, in select races, you're seeing these shifts on abortion. The challenge is on some of these very hot issues, the other campaign keep receipts, meaning they have the website, they have the primary TV ads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too dangerous for Arizona --

LAH (voice over): Those receipts are now appearing in General Election ads. Democratic campaigns and groups have spent more than $50 million in ads referencing abortion since Roe was overturned, sensing a chance to energize voters this November.


BERMAN: And Kyung Lah joins us now.

You know, Kyung, there are pivots in politics, especially in General Elections where the electorate is different than the makeup of the primary campaigns, but on an issue like this, as central as abortion, the question is, can you do it on this?

LAH: Well, TBD November, right? And a lot of these close races are going to test whether or not they actually can because you're right, John, we're talking about a wedge issue like abortion. This isn't like shifting on land use policy.

So, it really comes down to when you talk to Republican consultants, how sincere that candidate is, how earnest, how convincing and whether or not voters buy it.

Republican campaigns by and large, many of them that I've spoken to still feel that inflation, the economy will be key motivating issues in November.

But in Arizona, getting back to Blake Masters, John, where gas today is $4.00 a gallon. That is a big drop from where it was a few months ago. Those issues take less precedence. We'll see where the gas price is in November -- John.

BERMAN: Kyung Lah, terrific report. Thank you so much.

Joining us now with all the numbers, CNN senior data reporter, Harry Enten. Harry, we're both in primetime.


BERMAN: We've invaded the primetime.

ENTEN: We finally did.

BERMAN: Listen, what are the numbers on Roe and overturning Roe in Arizona where Kyung just filed that report?

ENTEN: I think if you look at the polling in Arizona, what you see is the clear majority of voters disapproved of the decision to overturn Roe v Wade. In fact, I've looked at all the swing states that are up this year and you see it continuously.

The vast majority, the clear majority overturning Roe v. Wade, they did not like it and if you look at that Senate race, right, you look at Blake Masters, why perhaps is he all of a sudden coming out with new language on his campaign website? Well, maybe it has to do with the fact that he is down by eight points to Senator Mark Kelly in the latest FOX News poll from out of there.

So, it's pretty clear that voters in Arizona are against the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and they're not for Blake Masters at this particular point.

BERMAN: What about the national stage?

ENTEN: Yes. So, if you look nationally, right, and you say, okay, normally abortion, if you look in years past as a motivating factor for Republicans, those people who are against abortion rights, but look at this "New York Times" poll from last month, and essentially they said, okay, what's your most important issue?

And if your most important issue is in fact, abortion, who do you favor in these races? If you look on that slide, you see the Democratic candidates are favored by an over 50-point margin at this point. You know, I like studying polls, John, I've never seen anything quite

like that.

BERMAN: No. That's an enormous margin to see on a single issue.

What is this doing your how is this moving or what are you seeing, I should say, in that generic congressional ballot test?


ENTEN: Yes, so you know, the generic congressional ballot test is a question that ask, you know, if the election were held today, would you vote for the Democrat or Republican in your district?

If you go back before Roe v. Wade was overturned, Republicans had a clear lead on the generic ballot, an average three-point lead. I was not expecting that to change after Roe v. Wade was overturned based upon some of the polling that we were seeing. But if you look at the generic ballot today, in fact, it is tied.

And you know, John, I like looking back at history. I don't really ever recall this happening where in fact, the momentum is going towards the President's party, because normally over the course of a midterm year, you do in fact, see the momentum turning against the President's party, but in fact, what we're seeing is Democrats gaining ground and really while there are other issues, such as gas prices, to me, abortion is the clear line where once that decision happened, you saw Democrats gaining ground and the truth is, they really haven't stopped gaining ground.

BERMAN: No, and you see some special elections, you saw them before and after the margin shifted then, the ballot test has shifted , and there have been other things, as you said, gas prices and other things.

Also the President's approval rating, what's happening there?

ENTEN: Yes, so if you look at the President's approval rating, again, the normal thing that happens here is that the President loses ground as they are heading into a midterm election.

But if you look at over the last 40 days or so, Joe Biden was basically at his bottom, right? He was in the mid-30s, then all of a sudden, you look 30 days ago, he gains a point. You look 20 days ago, again, you're seeing a gain, 10 days ago, you're seeing another gain.

Today, you're seeing a gain, and now he is in fact, in the low 40s, which is not awesome.

BERMAN: No, it's not great.

ENTEN: It's not great, but compared to where he was, it is very clear that whatever is happening and the generic ballot is also helping Joe Biden, I think, also, obviously, the Inflation Reduction Act, so- called, is helping Biden as well. But when you put it all together and you're kind of painting this

midterm picture going forward, it is very clear to me that Democrats have momentum at this particular point.

Will it be enough?

BERMAN: Will it keep going?

ENTEN: Will it keep going?

BERMAN: But there has been movement. There is no question at this point that over the last four weeks there has been movement.

ENTEN: And that's exactly right, John.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, great to see you.

ENTEN: Hey, maybe we'll do it again tomorrow morning.

BERMAN: Let's do it tomorrow morning.

ENTEN: Yes, sounds good.

BERMAN: All right. Up next, we're going to talk about this data on abortion and President Biden's rising approval rating with our political commentators and get their take on what this all could mean for the crucial midterm elections.



BERMAN: Just hours ago a Russian appointed official said Ukrainian forces launched an attack at a Russian held town in southern Ukraine knocking out its electricity and water supply. This comes as new reporting from CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, says that according to two senior U.S. officials, Ukrainian forces in the south are preparing the battlefield for a significant counter offensive.

And in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia an inspection team from the UN nuclear watchdog is on its way to the city's nuclear power plant amid shelling and fears over a possible nuclear accident. City authorities are handing out iodine pills to residents in case of an official warning. The delegation is expected to arrive in Kyiv today.

Joining me now with the latest and he is reporting CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. Jim, thanks so much for being here. What more have you learned about this Ukrainian counter offensive?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks like John, we're seeing the first steps of it the ground, first ground steps of this counter offensive in the last 24 hours over the weekend, we were seeing as we reported the shaping exercises that affect striking targets to prepare the battlefield for the ground offensive. And now throughout today we saw Ukrainian forces take four villages, this around the area of Kherson, and now these attacks you just mentioned there. And this is how it goes, you start with the shaping operations soften up the target in effect. And then you go and move those ground forces. It's the view of the U.S. officials I spoke to that this is going to be quite a significant counter offensive and one that involves both ground and air attacks.

BERMAN: So we have seen some operations, small scale over the last couple of months, which they did call counter offensive operations.


BERMAN: What's different about this now, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Is the size range of targets and really ambitions. I mean, the ambition here from the Ukrainian perspective is to gain back territory that they lost weeks or months ago, in the early stages of this invasion, it appears that the focus will be in the south around Kherson. It's really the only provincial capital that's been captured by the Russians since the start of the invasion, their ambition here -- and John, you and I have reported on the public comments of Ukrainian officials right up to the Ukrainian president in recent weeks and months saying, listen, we're not going to sit back and satisfy ourselves with defending so that we don't lose more territory, the intention of the Ukrainian president and his commanders is to pull back some tterritory that's already been lost.

And this is something that U.S. officials have seen, and has been communicated to them from the Ukrainian side for some time now. Of course, the test will be how much of that territory? Can they gain back, and over what period of time?

BERMAN: Yes, and how much can they hold?


BERMAN: And how long will the front be? These are all questions we have to watch and see how this develops. Also, Jim, in recent days, there has been this increased concern of a potential, the potential for disaster at the Russian held nuclear power plant the Zaporizhzhia plant. Just how dire is the situation on the ground there?

SCIUTTO: Listen, it is dangerous for two reasons. One, you've got real fighting going on around Europe's largest nuclear power plant with multiple reactors. This has never happened before to have a war shut down and operating nuclear power plants. So there's that element. And by the way, that fighting still going on shelling in both directions, the Russians now hold that territory. But then you have another factor here, which is the suspicion among Ukrainian officials in some of the West that Russia intends to steal the power from this plant, that's already been cut off from the grid. And they basically funnel it back towards Russia, which would have a significant impact on Ukraine and the Ukrainian economy.

The good news is that all sides have agreed to allow IAEA inspectors who are going to go in there and just see the state of the operations. You do have the Ukrainian technical staff still they're attempting to do their jobs as best they can. The question is, does this lead to something that provides for a longer term or sustainable safety around that plant for instance a no fire zone but we haven't seen any evidence of that yet.


BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, you broke the news of the counter offensive this morning. I've been following it all day. I appreciate you joining us tonight to tell us --

SCIUTTO: Thanks.

BERMAN: -- how it's progressed.

Next, back to politics, new polling and the impact of the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade.


BERMAN: Earlier our data cruncher Harry Enten showed us how voters disapprove of Roe vs. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court and there is talk that this could shift more votes to Democrats in November's midterm elections. Let's turn to our political commentators for their take, conservative columnist S.E. Cupp and Democratic consultant Karen Finney. Good evening to both of you.

S.E., you know, we heard from Harry about the poll numbers about this. How much do you think this could help Democrats in November?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A lot and that was clear. You know, the second Roe v. Wade was overturned. If you look back at historical trends, abortions, really unique. Attitudes on guns have changed a lot over the years climate for sure, gay marriage, you know, attitudes have changed significantly. When it comes to abortion if you shrunk down from 1976 to now, it's basically a straight line. People want legal abortion with some restrictions.

So when abortion was going to be effectively banned, I mean I said at the time there was not going to be a better motivator, a better turnout driver for Democrats than this issue. But I also think it's just also representative of a larger extremism that I think folks in the middle, independence folks who even lean center left center right, and extremism that they see out of the far right that is encapsulated in the abortion and rolling back access to it. But it's in all kinds of other things. Regressive education policies, book bands, it's sort of this dystopian DeLorean that, you know, most people don't want to get in. They don't want to ride in that DeLorean.


BERMAN: I didn't know that DeLorean was going to be part of this discussion. So Karen, when you look at the overall numbers, and you can see the congressional ballots is looking better for Democrats and in the president's approval ratings, not as bad as they were. Do you see the overturning as Re as being that driving factor? KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, 100%. John, actually, we saw this several months ago. As you know, I'm Vice Chair of the Board of NARAL Pro-Choice America. And frankly, we've seen over the last 10 to 20 years, growing from about six and 10 Americans who support Roe v. Wade to now eight and 10 Americans. And I think it's really important that we understand, it's not just about abortion. If you look at what happened in Kansas, if you look at what happened in New York, '19, it's about freedom. It is about a fundamental freedom in this country, and whether or not women are equal citizens or not. And when you're talking about women like myself, who have now had a right taken away, and you've got young women, recognizing that a right they took for granted has been taken away. It's been a wake up call.

And the other thing, I think that's so important, John to remember is that as we saw last week, in states like Tennessee, we have additional states that will continue to have these abortion bans coming online throughout the fall. And that is going to continue to mobilize voters and they're mobilizing and support Democrats.

BERMAN: So S.E., you know, as also Harry pointed out, President Biden's approval rating is creeping up ahead of the midterm election. This generally does not happen to a president heading into a midterm of presidents party typically does not do well, in a midterm election. So what do you think is driving that increase S.E.?

CUPP: Yes, and that's despite, you know, what I think was the student debt debacle. I mean, I know there are Democrats who don't think that that was a good idea. Certainly not a necessary one and one that's going to hurt a lot of Democratic state candidates around the country. So even in spite of that, in spite of a, you know, shaky economy, Biden's numbers are going up, what does that tell you, that tells you people I think are now starting to be able to envision 2024? And what does that mean, who are Republicans offering? Well, it's Donald Trump so far, and maybe Ron DeSantis. I think to a lot of people, you could say Democrats aren't getting the economy, right, maybe they're making some mistakes.

But again, I think this version of extremism that's being offered up by the far-right, is really scaring off a lot of moderates. That's it plain and simple.

BERMAN: And I've heard, and we've heard -- go ahead Karen.

FINNEY: Well, I was just going to say I think the other factor, look, the climate for Democrats is improving. Is that going to mean we win the House? We don't know. It certainly looks a lot better in the Senate. And I agree with S.E. We're talking about candidates who campaigned in their primaries on extremist policies and loyalty to Donald Trump. And many of these candidates, not just running for the Senate and the House, but running for the ways to control the levers of our democracy, running for attorneys general, running for governor.

And I think that has also been a real wake up call. And it's turned the election into a choice between a party that is talking about the future and protecting our rights. And the party that really wants to take us backwards. BERMAN: S.E., how much of a factor do you think Donald Trump is at this point? It -- he is much more in the news that he was a few months ago, some of it because of the raid, some of it because of how he's responded to the executed search warrants. How much of a factor is he and I asked because President Biden he made this comment where he said some followers of Donald Trump engage the MAGA philosophy is semi- fascist or something along those lines to paraphrase there. And instead of running away from it, he seems to be leaning into it.

In fact, Joe Biden's giving a speech Thursday night in Philadelphia to talk about what he calls the continued battle for the soul of the nation. What do you see there S.E.?

CUPP: Yes, I mean, he's, he's not wrong. I think I prefer, you know, he leaves the punditry to us, but he's not wrong in his diagnosis. And I think he feels emboldened saying that, but if you're going to ask how big a factor Donald Trump is, I mean, ask a conservative like Ben Shapiro, I don't know if you saw his thread today on Twitter, but he is blaming Donald Trump for Republicans losing momentum in the midterm elections. I think Republicans have decided to run with Trump and the ones that you hear the most about the most vocal are the craziest, right? The ones that want to rollback voting rights and abortion rights and banned books and all of that nonsense. So people equate that with Trump. I think Trump is a huge factor.


BERMAN: S.E. Cupp, Karen Finney, thanks to both of you.

And as much as Serena Williams in the midst of what is possibly the final U.S. Open of her career. Up next, we're going to speak about this historic match and her legacy with ESPN tennis analyst Patrick McEnroe and sports broadcaster Cari Champion who are at the match.


BERMAN: The legendary tennis career Serena Williams is coming full circle tonight as she is currently playing what could be her final U.S. Open going up against Montenegro's Danka Kovinic. Earlier this month, William said she will quote, evolve away from tennis after this year's U.S. Open after decades of dominating the tennis world. The matter the outcome of the match are 23, 23 Grand Slam singles titles will go down in history as the most by any player in the Open Era and just one shy of the all time record and that's not her only fee. Williams has also won every doubles Grand Slam title at least twice along with two or four mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. Williams is set to play her doubles match with her sister Venus on Wednesday after they received the wildcard entry.


Joining me now ESPN tennis analyst and former professional tennis star Patrick McEnroe. Also with us by phone, CNN contributor and sports broadcaster Cari Champion. They're both there at the open tonight.

You know and Patrick, look, Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam at in 1999 at the open at the age of 17. So how fitting is it that this is where her pro career cadet?

PATRICK MCENROE, ESPN TENNIS ANALYST: Oh, it's absolutely its so fitting. John, as you said full circle for Serena. You realize that when Serena started her professional career, which is in 1995, she was a teenager, over 70 players that are currently in the field that's 127 of the other players, over 70 of them were not even born yet. So here's Serena as a mother, as someone, as you said, he's done it all in tennis, you will go down as the greatest of all time, no matter what happens tonight, and for the rest of the tournament. And this is a celebration of Serena, all that she's meant for tennis all that she's meant for sport. And of course, all that she's meant for speaking out on behalf of women, on behalf of African-American women. She has just the -- what she will leave behind is way more than what she's done on the tennis court. And that's saying a lot.

BERMAN: So Cari, how electric, how much of a celebration, has it been in the stands with Serena Williams on the court?

CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's been a great one. And first of all, thank you all for having me, Patrick, I have to go find you once I get off this phone call and harass you. Second of all, the mood is electric. Everyone is excited. I'm speaking for myself. But I'm also speaking for the fan. So as Patrick said, is absolutely correct. She beat her generation and then the next, and now she's starting against the other and she knows it's time to take a bow.

But doesn't she do it in such a queen like fashion, the near ration of Queen Latifah giving us a minute or so video to open it up for the fans here and those who are watching at home to talk about what type of queen she has been for so many of us.

And I'm speaking for women, I'm speaking for black women, I'm speaking for women who have never read (INAUDIBLE). Serena's contribution far exceeds what she's done on the court. It's awesome (INAUDIBLE) to me that really matters. I don't have to know her to relate to her. I don't have to know her to understand her battles and what she'd been trying to prove. I don't have to know her to understand that while she may have not been necessarily appropriate for some, she spoke for a lot. And that is where we are today. Everyone is excited.

BERMAN: I mean, there is nothing like it on earth, when you have 100% of the crowd at the U.S. Open and Arthur Ashe behind you and she has more than 100%. And I know that's not even mathematically possible.

You know, Patrick Cari's -- what Cari is describing there is Serena Williams as a transformative figure. How?

MCENROE: Well I think because as Cari so eloquently put it, she speaks for so many people. And she's been in some ways, unapologetically brash in the way she's gone about it. And sometimes that's gotten into a little bit of hot water. But that Serena, and that, again, is speaking for people in a predominantly white sport, let's be honest, for years and years coming up as an African-American young girl from Compton, California with their big sister Venus and having to deal with racism as they were kids. In fact, that's one of the reasons their dad Richard, we saw that in the movie, King Richard took them out of junior tennis because he saw what they were having to deal with didn't want that to happen.

Well, of course, it happened along the way. It's probably still happens to women to some degree, but she has always been out there. She's been out there speaking for young girls, for women, for the African-American community. And you know what, plenty of women girls have picked up this sport, from all backgrounds because of what Serena and Venus have done. And she's also changed John, the way the game is played on the court, from players from all over the world. So there's just so many layers to what she's done.

And I think for her, this is tricky this spot at the U.S. Open, because she's the ultimate competitor, the ultimate winner. And for her to know that this is all going on swirling around her. She agreed to have this type of send off. Really, I think for her fans more than anyone else. USTA has a whole thing plan. After this match tonight, win or lose, some tells me if maybe Serena can go on and win this match and by the way, she's looked awfully good in the opening set and a half. Serena may be thinking about just one thing, her next match on Wednesday night which would be against the number two seed who want her match earlier tonight.


BERMAN: That will be something. Listen, Serena Williams is a sensation. Cari Champion, Patrick McEnroe, our thanks to both of you for helping us share this evening.

CHAMPION: Of course, of course. Thank you.

MCENROE: Thanks, John.

CHAMPION: Have a good one.

BERMAN: Next, in historic mission delayed, NASA scrubs the first rocket launch of this much anticipated return to the moon. Why the launch was postponed and when NASA will try again when our countdown continues.


BERMAN: NASA scrubbed its Artemis 1 space launched today a key step and its historic mission to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972, and then go further into space. Engine cooling trouble was to blame along with a series of weather issues including another possible lightning strike like the one that hit a nearby tower on Saturday. NASA will try again on Friday, they will be using the most powerful rocket ever built, generating 15% more thrust than the Saturn rocket used during the Apollo mission 50 years ago.

So just eight minutes after liftoff the rocket will be 100 miles over Earth before its core stage will separate followed by the upper stage at 2,400 miles above Earth when the Orion capsule will separate and travel solo the rest of the way to the moon in eight to 14 days and beyond. When it's time to return to Earth the Orion capsule traveling nearly 25,000 miles per hour in indoor temperatures of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, 11 parachutes should deploy in a precise sequence and slow the spacecraft to a landing speed of 17 miles per hour for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. Did you get that there will be a test.


The news continues. So let's hand it over to Victor Blackwell in "CNN TONIGHT." Victor.