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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Hurricane Ian Death Toll Climbs To 104; New Washington Post Reporting On Trump Lawyer, Mar-A-Lago Documents; Maggie Haberman Discusses New Book; NY Times Audio: Trump Claims He Took " Nothing Of Great Urgency" With Him After Leaving White House; Ukrainian Forces Push Farther Into Territory Putin Claims For Russia; Trump Says McConnell Has A "Death Wish". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 03, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Jomana, thank you very much.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us tonight.

AC 360 begins right now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Even as the remains of Hurricane Ian are still causing havoc even tonight with major flooding along the Virginia shore, the storm's death toll is rising, mostly in Florida, and especially in Lee County where the storm hit hardest and at least 54 people have now died.

John Berman here in for Anderson.

In all, Hurricane Ian is now responsible for at least 104 deaths and just as it did today, that number is expected to rise. Five days since the storm came ashore, Barrier Islands are still cut off from the Mainland. Search and rescue operations are still underway and serious questions are being asked about whether evacuation orders came too late for some.

Nearly 2,000 people have been rescued so far according to the Florida Governor. This is footage from Sanibel Island, blue skies overhead, but a neighborhood still flooded to the point that the only way out is by chopper.

We have two reports tonight. The first is from Fort Myers Beach and our Randi Kaye who was among the first reporters to get in and witness the enormous destruction and still ongoing rescue operations up close. This is what she saw.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is our first look from the ground at Fort Myers Beach. Hurricane Ian's winds combined with the storm surge chewed through homes and businesses sparing nothing in its path.

JENNIFER BROWN, K-9 SEARCH SPECIALIST, FLORIDA TASK FORCE 2: Massive devastation. It is something -- my first deployment actually was Hurricane Katrina, so I have seen a lot of hurricanes over the years. This certainly is a big, big disaster.

KAYE (voice over): Jennifer Brown is a K-9 search specialist with Florida Task Force 2. Her dogs, Fierce and Fame are searching for human remains here on Fort Myers Beach. They've worked dozens of missions since Florida's Task Force 2 first arrived at Fort Myers Beach, as the storm was still pounding this community.

BROWN: It was a good day. You know, I mean, again, it is like you -- you know, you don't want to leave any body behind. That's what we're here for. But then on the other hand, we didn't find anybody, that's a good thing.

KAYE (voice over): A team of 80 from this Task Force has been busy crisscrossing a seven-mile stretch on the beach, working 24/7 going house-to-house in search of survivors.

RYAN HUNTINGTON, FLORIDA TASK FORCE 2: We found a lot of residents who are still sheltering in place who need some info, need some help just getting out or just where to get water, ice, food, and just even just giving that information to them is a huge help for them.

KAYE (voice over): It is no easy task given the scene here. Homes crumbled, smashed, and stacked on top of others; businesses blown to pieces.

This building used to be over there across the street, it was moved by the sheer power of the wind and water.

CAPTAIN IGGY CARROLL, JR., MIAMI FIRE RESCUE: We had about 60 medical calls, medical emergencies that we responded to with two people who actually went into cardiac arrest, stopped breathing and those search and rescue personnel ended up performing CPR, able to get a pulse back and get them transported to a local hospital.

KAYE (voice over): The team rescued this elderly couple who were trapped in their home. The storm had washed away the entire ground floor of their two-story house.

KAYE (on camera): This is just one area of Fort Myers Beach where you can really see the destruction. Nothing is where it belongs.

This laundry machine came from that laundromat or what is left of that laundromat over there, and in this whole area here, these were homes, but now those homes are over there.

And just look at that level of destruction. They're up against the other homes, but they are shredded, crumpled. There is nothing left of them.

KAYE (voice over): This woman was rescued today. She has cancer and rode out the storm so she could continue her treatments nearby.

CATHERINE BATZ, SURVIVED HURRICANE IAN: It was rushing. It's like 30 miles per hour. It was pulling houses, roofs apart, literally. You could see them float by.

We were sitting up in my bedroom watching all those debris go by.

KAYE (voice over): There is no power or water in this area, so anyone still at the beach is completely cut off from services.

The search and rescue team has been using high-water vehicles and front loaders to navigate through the debris as they continue to search for anyone trapped in the rubble. Task Force 2 has found human remains, but did not say how many bodies they've recovered.

Bob and Rosemary Kopsack are some of the lucky ones. They lost everything inside their home, but were rescued today.

BOB KOPSACK, SURVIVED HURRICANE IAN: Our best friend, we have not been able to contact him. He is 92 and he said he is not leaving the island and I hope he did. His phone is out and so on. I have sent the police over to his home.

KAYE (on camera): But you haven't been able to reach him?


KAYE (voice over): So many people it seems still unaccounted for, leaving friends and loved ones to wonder if they made it out.



BERMAN: And our Randi Kaye joins us tonight.

Randi, the physical and emotional strain leaving friends and loved ones to wonder if they made it out. And are ready Kate joins us tonight. Randi, the physical and emotional strain on the responders is so obvious and they are still finding people today?

KAYE: They are, John, which is truly incredible. This was this team's third pass through this area. They are working that seven-mile area and they are still finding survivors, which is excellent news. Although the Task Force does tell me that it is those first 48 hours that are so critical, and in that time period, they were able to find 150 people who had fled to higher ground in their homes, many of them in attics to escape the rising floodwaters.

But now, you hear the Mayor here saying that they just don't know, they don't have a handle on how many people could still be missing. And of course, that is not good news for loved ones who can't reach their family members. They don't know if they are trapped or if they are alive or dead.

So, the Task Force and the search teams, John will continue here, 24/7 for as long as it takes, they say until their mission is complete -- John.

BERMAN: The work goes on.

Randi Kaye, thank you very much for that report.

More now on the broader sweep of the story in what emergency teams across the area had been finding today. CNN's Carlos Suarez has that.


CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Unrecognizable in parts, still underwater in others; Hurricane Ian's destruction and path so vast, search and rescue efforts continue days after the storm tore through Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't get over the bridge.

SUAREZ (voice over): Residents in DeSoto County hit by river flooding are stuck. Airboats are now key to getting supplies in and people out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These airboats are going out and taking people into town and it has been going for a while now.

SUAREZ (voice over): The death toll across the State climbing rapidly, two of the hardest hit Florida counties, Lee and Charlotte each adding a dozen deaths today alone.

DR. BENJAMIN ABO, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE'S VENOM ONE: A lot of sick people that are running out of their medications, a lot of people that are running out of their water, and until we can get everything up and going, we're trying to get them out.

SUAREZ (voice over): Hundreds of Sanibel Island residents cut off from the Mainland have been rescued so far, with no timetable to rebuild the only road to the island.

MAYOR HOLLY SMITH, SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA: We are encouraging everyone to get off the island, but we also need to understand that this is everyone's home and they need to get back and protect it.

SUAREZ (voice over): Meanwhile, there are mounting questions in Lee County over why the first mandatory evacuation orders there came just one day before landfall. County officials there are standing by the decision-making saying they based the orders on the storm's forecasted path.

BRIAN HAMMAN, COMMISSIONER, LEE COUNTY: They made the call as soon as the forecast called for them to make the call. Monday afternoon, we were telling people, you do not have to wait for evacuation orders to leave. You can leave now.

SUAREZ (voice over): But the county's own emergency plan suggests evacuations should have happened earlier, specifically when there is a 10 percent chance of six feet or higher storm surge.

It was Sunday night when the National Hurricane Center first mentioned four to seven feet of surge for that area. But the first mandatory evacuation orders for Lee County were not issued until Tuesday morning, over 24 hours later.

It turns out that the day before, the town of Fort Myers Beach, "Encouraged people to leave" with a Facebook post, which made a point of noting "The county's decision wouldn't come until the next day."

SHERIFF CARMINE MARCERO, LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA: I'm confident -- confident in the decisions that were made and like I said yesterday, standby them and I wouldn't change anything.

SUAREZ (voice over): Officials here say residents didn't want to leave whether they were ordered to or not.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): They informed people and most people did not want to do it. I mean, that's just -- that's just the reality.

SUAREZ (voice over): Mixed opinions from residents themselves on how the county handled the decision.

KEVIN "SHAWN" CRITSER, PASTER, BEACH BAPTIST CHURCH: And then when that evacuation order came, we were like 24 hours. That's not a lot.

BRITTNEY MONUS, FORT MYERS RESIDENT: We have so many retirees here and elderly that need more time to be able to get to places or people that don't have vehicles that need more assistance.

RICHARD PHILLIPS, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: That would determine whether I go or not. It's all for each individual. What is right for me doesn't mean it is right for you.


BERMAN: And Carlos Suarez joins us now. Carlos, what is the latest from officials on this gap in the evacuation order?

SUAREZ: Well, John, officials across Lee County are defending that decision saying it was made with the best possible information they had at the time. At a briefing late this Monday the Governor, he grew frustrated when he was asked about this issue. He was asked about the evacuation orders and he said that Lee County officials have already explained that their decision, he was pressed on whether or not he was ready to order a formal review of the entire process and the Governor said he would -- John.

BERMAN: Carlos Suarez, thank you very much for your reporting.

Next, a potentially big new development in the Mar-a-Lago documents story. New reporting about what sources tell "The Washington Post" the former President asked one of his lawyers to say, something the lawyer suspected might not be true.

And later, my conversation with Maggie Haberman about her new book on the former President, what she learned about him in the making of it and what she learned we may never truly know about the man.



BERMAN: New reporting tonight in the Mar-a-Lago document story that does get into that area where people joke that MAGA stands for making attorneys get attorneys, or at least making them uneasy working for the former President.

"The Washington Post" headline reads "Trump lawyer refused Trump's request in February to say all documents returned: After initial return of 15 boxes, Attorney Alex Cannon thought there might be more records at Mar-a-Lago, people familiar with the matter said.

Our Sara Murray joins us with more on this. Sara, what else is in this "Washington Post" reporting and what does it reveal about what purportedly happened between the former President and his lawyer?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I think what this tells you, you know, it's a former President going to one of his attorneys. Alex Cannon earlier in 2022 and essentially saying, will you tell the Archives that everything they have asked for we've returned it, and you see in this "Washington Post" report, the attorney is just not comfortable making that statement.


MURRAY: And of course, we would later learn why, you know, if he had made that statement, and then it came out after the May subpoena, after the August search, there were all of these classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, that puts these lawyers in legal jeopardy and it is clear that this attorney had enough misgivings that he didn't want to make that declaration -- John.

BERMAN: So "The Post" also has some reporting about who packed the boxes that were initially returned to the National Archives. What did they say about that?

MURRAY: That's right. These are boxes that were returned to the Archives in January, and according to "The Washington Post," Donald Trump was the one who packed up these boxes. Now, certainly, this would be interesting if that is, in fact, true. If the former President is handpicking, you know, the things that go in these boxes.

We do have to say that, you know, CNN has not confirmed this reporting that the former President was the one who was actually going through it, but it certainly is an interesting anecdote if it proves true -- John.

BERMAN: Sara Murray, thank you so much.

Joining us for his perspective is CNN contributor and former Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean.

So John, how could this impact the Justice Department investigation into the former President and potentially criminal -- the criminal case against him?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I was listening to Sara as she was reporting, and thinking about Watergate there and how these kinds of stories keep coming out, but they are generally -- there is a long lag time. In other words, the key events have already happened. Alex Cannon may have already been in front of a grand jury. The buzz and the concern about his testimony or lack thereof, or how the attorneys were going to deal with it has already probably rippled through the Trump team.

So, it is just something we and the public are learning and it looks more and more from that information, like the Department is working on a very strong obstruction of justice case. This would fit right in that pattern.


DEAN: Why? Because a President is -- you know, at this point, the Department of Justice is actually in the investigation. The President is telling someone to not honor or be truthful about what you're turning over. He has dictated a statement that the lawyer is not going to put his name on, they will later get somebody who will do a modified version of that, but it's part of a pattern of obstructing the investigation.

BERMAN: So according to the report, again, you refer to Alex Cannon here, the former President asked this attorney, Alex Cannon to make the statement to the National Archives about the document. Because it's an attorney here, are there ways that the Justice Department can investigate it without hitting attorney-client privilege roadblocks?

DEAN: There certainly are. If this fits into what is called the Crime Fraud Exception, there is no attorney-client privilege. And if you have an attorney who is unwilling to do something, while he may not have told the Department directly himself, others might have reported it for him, and then he got asked the question, he would have to do it or claim the privilege.

It doesn't sound like a privilege has been raised here. Although, he would theoretically be able to fight for that for a while, both, he and Trump. It sounds like they're over that hurdle and this information is out and part of the investigation.

BERMAN: What would the possible criminality be asking your attorney to give false information to a government agency?

DEAN: Just that, asking your attorney to give false information, that is obstruction of justice. That is suborning perjury. That is suborning false statements. It is a nasty crime and one that the government is very active in pursuing in these types of investigations.

BERMAN: And the fact that "The Washington Post" reports that Trump packed the box or boxes himself, how does that impact the case? Does it give him knowledge or greater knowledge of what was in the boxes then?

DEAN: That certainly made me sit up when I was reading the story, I must say, that kind of detail that he would be involved in actually packing the boxes and deciding out of the thousands of pages of documents that are there, what to put in the box and what to keep himself, making decisions of that might be somehow explanatory.

Maggie Haberman will be much more attuned to this than I am in what we might learn from the pattern of what he did give and what he kept. So, I don't know if we will ever know all of that because a lot of it will be classified, but the non-classified might show a pattern of what he wanted to keep and why he wanted to keep it.

BERMAN: John Dean, thank you very much.

And John just mentioned the name himself, next, what the former President told Maggie Haberman about the documents he did and didn't take for the making of her new book and how that squares with the facts and more on what she learned about the former President's strange way of disposing of some White House papers.



BERMAN: And so I want to read you a portion of a recent item the former President posted on his social network. "Magot Haberman," it begins. It ends with, "She is a bad writer with very bad sources." And point of fact, Maggie Haberman is one of the best writers and reporters in this business. Her new book, "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America."

As for sources, well, one of them is none other than the guy in the title. That's right. He has had three lengthy interviews with her specifically for this book. Maggie Haberman, a senior political correspondent for "The New York Times." She is a CNN political analyst and has covered Donald Trump locally and nationally throughout her career. We spoke shortly before that "Washington Post" story on the Mar-a-Lago documents broke.


BERMAN: It is so great to have you here, and I so enjoyed reading this. And what you do here, just so people know, this isn't an "Oh, look at the crazy things that happened when he was President." You're doing something different here, which is looking back really at the beginning and drawing through line between how we got from there to here.


BERMAN: And so let me just start with that big picture: What's different or the same about talking to Donald Trump from before he was President, while he was President, and now after he is President?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That is an excellent question, and thank you for having me on to talk about this book. Talking to him before he was President was him taking himself to some extent less seriously. Once he became a candidate in 2016, and started seeing the crowds he got, he started taking himself more seriously. Talking to him as president, he was, I think, essentially playing a

role. You know, he described it to me, in one of our interviews, as before I did the presidency and I have never heard somebody describe elective offices as doing that office, it was as if he was talking about a show.

After, there was a real bitterness about what he has lost. But the through line, John, that is the same is he is so driven by grievance. He has a handful of moves that he uses and changes up and it is figuring out which move he's using, and he is basically saying whatever he has to say, to get through short increments of time.

BERMAN: And so, I want to -- my next question is sort of the very end of the book, and everything previous to the point, I think, to an extent is a build up to this. You have an exchange, and it is getting some play in the press right now, where Trump says to you at the end of one of your interviews, "I love being with her. She is like my psychiatrist."

Now, I'm sure that means something to you personally, to hear that from him and there are a lot of thoughts, given how hard you've woke up from him over the years, but you also know it's probably something bigger going on here.

HABERMAN: Yes, it doesn't -- it actually, John, didn't mean anything to me, because I think it was a meaningless line. It's intended to flatter. He has said something similar about the release of his Twitter feed, or he has said similar things to other people about how, you know, engaging in a contentious back and forth is like therapy.

The reality is he treats everyone like they are his psychiatrists, and he is -- it is his friends, pseudo-friends, staff, White House aides, rally attendees. He is working it out in front of all of us in real time. And in the course of doing that over the last, however many years, it has been six years now, he reoriented the country around his moods and emotions in a way that I never would have imagined was possible.

BERMAN: And you prove that in this book, and you lay that out, which is why I wanted to ask that, because that's the conclusion of the whole book and it is really remarkable to get to that point.

I want to ask you about something that has been in the news the last few days. It's not in the book, but it is, right? Because of everything that you establish. It is about his comments on Mitch McConnell, and his wife, the former Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, which are just racist. Put those into context based on what you've seen from Donald Trump from when he was here in New York.

HABERMAN: So there's a couple things about that comment. One is, there is a racist comment about Mitch McConnell's wife, it is just objectively racist. Donald Trump has been, you know, engaging in casual racism throughout his life, according to my reporting, all kinds of comments that, you know, were offensive to people who heard them that were about Black people, or were about gay people, or -- and so forth and so on. And he often will claim that he was being misunderstood and we have

seen that with him, so that allows his supporters to claim something else was going on here. That's not possible with this McConnell comment or this comment about McConnell's wife.

The other piece of this comment about McConnell is it is menacing. You know, he had a line where he said he has a death wish. Now, his allies are insisting that meant political death wish. That's not what he said after January 6th. There should be no confusion for anyone that when Donald Trump says certain things, his supporters hear it a certain way.

And one of the through lines that I tried to establish here is how much violence sort of informed his sense of strength and that in turn would inform his sense of what a strong leader was. And he tends to talk about violence, he tends to talk in violent terms, he tends to glorify violence. All of this is something that you see here throughout his life.

BERMAN: And just to be clear, Elaine Chao was Secretary of Transportation under Trump. She had been Secretary of Labor under previous administrations. She's had a bunch of jobs to her credit.


BERMAN: But this is about Trump more than it is about Elaine Chao. In the news with this book is a conversation that you had with Donald Trump, where you brought up the correspondence he had with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

"New York Times" released audio of this. Now, we have audio of this conversation. So let's listen.


HABERMAN: Did you leave the White House with anything in particular? Are there any memento documents you took with you? Anything of note?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing of great urgency. I had great though, you know, the letters to Kim Jong-un, letter, I had many of them.

HABERMAN: You are able to take those with you?

TRUMP: Look at what's happened. I think that has the -- I think that's in the Archives, but most of it is in -- but the Kim Jong-un letters, we have incredible things. I have incredible letters with other leaders.


BERMAN: This was before "The Washington Post" reporting that he had taken the Kim Jong-un letters or a Kim Jong-un letter, some Kim Jong- un letters. But you can almost see the wheels turning there when he was talking to you.


HABERMAN: And it was unclear what this meant in real time. I asked him on a lark, this question about taking memento documents, just because I knew how proud he was of the documents that he, you know, would wave around in the Oval Office as if they were trophies and the Kim Jong-un correspondence had been among them. He then brings up the Kim Jong-un correspondence, his immediate reaction to me is to say I didn't take anything. And then it's almost like he wants to boast that he has something, he sees my reaction, and he starts backtracking. It's only clear now why that was. And this exchange is much more relevant after the August 8th FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.

BERMAN: So, let's end on January 6th, because also there's audio of a conversation you had with him about what he was doing that day. Let's listen.


HABERMAN: But what were you doing when -- how did you find out that, that there were people storming the Capitol?

DONALD TRUMP, FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I had heard that afterwards, and actually, on the late side, I was having meetings. I was also with Mark Meadows and others. I was not watching television, I didn't have the television.

HABERMAN: You weren't, OK.

TRUMP: I didn't usually have that the television on. I'd have it on if there was something. I then later turned it on and I saw what was happening. I also had confidence that the Capitol, who didn't want these 10,000 people --

HABERMAN: The Capitol police, you mean?

TRUMP: -- that they'd be able to control this thing. And you don't realize that, you know, they did lose control.


BERMAN: There's a lot in there.


BERMAN: There's a lot in there that we believe is not true. Based on our reporting, your reporting, every reporting.

HABERMAN: Testimony.

BERMAN: He was watching TV.

HABERMAN: And was aware that things were bad, pretty early. You know, he's describing this as if this was a situation that, you know, who knew that this was the Capitol police, you know, we're in this situation, it was really clear early on at the Capitol police were in trouble. Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C. was trying to reach people at the White House to get the National Guard ordered up to the Capitol. Very little as according to our reporting of what he said there is true, but it was fascinating to me that that was where he chose to go,

BERMAN: What do you want people to take from this as we head into 2024? And I know, you said and we've talked about it, that you think he may very well run, you're not sure whether he has the same type of energy the that he has before. But what should people take from this as they evaluate his candidacy?

HABERMAN: This is, I think, the most complete picture that I have been able to paint of him. And I'm hoping that people take a fuller portrait of this person who is, you know, whatever he was in New York decades ago, he is now a person of consequence. And I'm hoping that they have a greater understanding of how much overreading gets done of why he's doing various things. It is often purely about getting attention. It is often purely about trolling. And it is very difficult to look at him through the prism of any typical politician.

BERMAN: And he knows what he's doing.

HABERMAN: He is often more calculating than people realize. That is a big thing that I try to show here.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, the book is Confidence Man. It is well worth the wait.

HABERMAN: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Thank you.

Coming up, a first look inside a strategically important city in eastern Ukraine that is now back in the hands of Ukrainian forces. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh was there shortly after Ukraine gain control, and days after Vladimir Putin claimed it in other territories as part of Russia. What Nick witnessed ahead.



BERMAN: Russia's attempts to redraw maps as it loses territory in Ukraine continued today. The lower house and as Parliament ratified the attempted annexation of four territories Vladimir Putin announced last week. This after Ukraine reportedly made further gains in the south toward Kherson and after they're forced to seize this strategically crucial city. These strategically crucial city of Lyman in the east over the weekend.

Today, Russia removed the top military commander in that region. And now according to sources who spoke with CNN, Ukraine is trying to obtain longer range missiles in exchange for giving the U.S. veto power over targeting. CNN was in Lyman hours after Ukraine gain control, our international security editor Nick Paton Walsh joins us now from Kryvyi Rih in Ukraine with those details.

Nick, so what can you tell us about what you saw on the ground in that key city?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I think the striking thing about Lyman, John, is when you understand its significance is basically because it is a source of railways, it is split into by huge railway tracks, which is a remarkable thing to think about in terms of how warfare is being fought by Russia in 2022. It was about maintaining control of trains. And the damage done to the town was extraordinary frankly, it's been the site of fighting back and forth over a number of months key buildings there pretty much all of them damage. But it was also quite ghostly. There were very few Ukrainian troops still there. When we went there. So many have already moved on to their next targets further east, and very few locals too. Some said in fact, many had left before the Ukrainian push towards that particular city.

One thing too, we did not see as much of as we thought we would do, which was Russian prisoners of war, potentially Russian casualties. We were told there had possibly been some that were taken away earlier. But locals also said that at one point Russian troops did manage to get themselves out before they were finally encircled by the Ukrainians or Ukrainian officials did also say that some Russians tried to get out and were hit as they tried to flee. So, a mixed picture certainly in terms of the damage done to Russian forces in Lyman, but make no mistake at all, this is a huge strategic defeat for Moscow. They are absolutely struggling now to regroup, find defensive lines back from that front. But most importantly, the political consequences are very extreme open bickering in the Russian elite. That's not something Vladimir Putin has faced at all in his 22 years, effectively leading Russia and that will have far reaching consequences in the months ahead as Moscow struggles to get a grip on its campaign. John?

BERMAN: Nick, do we know where the Russian forces have retreated to?

WALSH: It seems as though they've moved Further east a town called Kremena and other town called (INAUDIBLE) complicated to explain, but essentially they're shifting east towards Russia's own border. And that's been something we've seen slowly happening since about a month ago when the last Russian route happened around the second largest city in Ukraine Kharkiv. Ukrainians we thought might regroup, might pause, but actually they kept pushing south and a bit east as well. Lyman was the ultimate target because Ukraine has been clear. If it hits the supply hubs that keep Russia's army, they're fed and fueled, then they can see it crumble.


The same thing happened with Lyman, that was their focus. And now we're beginning to see the impact on their positions moving back towards their border, it's probably not going to be an overnight route like we saw around Kharkiv. But it's certainly causing many to wonder exactly. When the problems stopped for Russia and they begin to regain control their positions.

Where I'm standing now in Kryvyi Rih, John is the source of another major problem for Moscow. They're losing ground on the west side of a key river down to the Black Sea called the Dnipro, very fast rate at this stage, unclear precisely how fast it's going well into Ukrainian military secrecy, I should say about where their troops are at the moment, but extraordinary developments here as well. And this, frankly, just means that day by day, there's less of a frontline for Ukraine to worry about. And they can focus their energies more intensely on certain parts of it. And that's yet more bad news for Russia, who was struggling to get fresh recruits in any meaningful way to the frontline. John.

BERMAN: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much for your reporting.

We'll get perspective now from Matthew Chance, who was reported this year from both inside Ukraine and Moscow and CNN military analyst and retired four-star General Wesley Clark, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.

And General Clark, let me start with you, the loss of Lyman, this key rail hub, how much of a setback is this for Russia?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK RET., CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It is a significant setback, because that was the rail hub that connected the Russians, to Belgrade, in Belarus, where they could bring logistics and reinforcements forward into the Donbass. So, it is a setback, there's no doubt about it. The big thing, though, is that it's pushing more disorganized Russian troops back on Russian positions, and are demoralized, disorganized mass of troops is really hard to handle.

So, this is a real defeat for Russia. It's very heartening for Ukraine. And we just have to hope that the momentum continues for Ukraine.

BERMAN: So Matthew, what does this sort of embarrassment mean, for Vladimir Putin? And how might you expect him to respond?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it puts him in a very difficult position. I'm particularly because he's coming under a lot of pressure, domestically. And we're seeing the sort of upsurge in an extraordinary amount of criticism, which is really what you don't hear very much of in Russia traditionally, when it comes to Vladimir Putin. But it's coming from a sort of very powerful sort of group of, you know, section of society. We're talking about people who blog about military, people who are very connected with his military circles. And with his power circles, they're coming out and saying, you know, look, this is not going well. You know, that there should be, you know, a change made in the military command.

And Ramzan Kadyrov, who's a figure who is very close to Vladimir Putin, who is the sort of President of the Republic of Chechnya, in the south of the country, has even said, look, you know, we should be looking at using tactical nuclear weapons to sort of turn the tide of the battle. Inherently, that's, well, explicitly that they're criticizing battlefield tactics and battlefield commanders. But indirectly, that's a criticism of Putin, particularly because he's the person who it's believed has been calling the shots when it comes through this, this military operation. And so yes, he's facing an unprecedented amount of criticism from within. And also, people are voting with their feet, we're seeing these hundreds of thousands of people attempt to leave the country to avoid being called up and sent to the front line. So, a very precarious situation for Vladimir Putin at home.

BERMAN: General Clark, Matthew mentioned tactical nuclear weapons, and Vladimir Putin seems to be talking about the idea of nuclear weapons even more now, reminding the world that he has them. How likely is it do you think that he is taking them under serious consideration? And there is news today, the United States indicated that it is preparing for a response should Russia try to use any of these. What kind of response do you think that would be?

CLARK: Well, I think it is, is something we should take very seriously. I think the likelihood of the use has gone up. It's difficult to use these battlefield tactical nuclear weapons effectively, especially against a mobile Ukrainian force. We've done it in exercises for years and the United States military during the Cold War. and found that it's a lot more difficult problem than it looks like on paper even with like 10 kiloton warheads, the area of destruction is relatively small, the likelihood of missing is relatively high, you create a hell of a mess, excuse me, a big mess in the country, but it may not have the military significance that he thinks.


Now what we have to do, though, is be prepared, and hopefully will show signs of that preparation, not just by words, but by action. We need to stage our Air Expeditionary capabilities in Romania, Bulgaria and in other countries that are there. So, there's no question that Putin knows that we could and would respond, taken out those troops with Russian troops on the ground is tough. We could take out Russian maritime assets, we could go after certain logistics and control points. But it would be a big, big deal for the United States airbeam firepower (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Matthew, the in an effort apparently, to get the U.S. to provide a long-range rocket system, the Ukrainian government is now saying that it would more or less grant U.S. veto power, the U.S. veto power over any strike they propose. Do you see that as a workable solution, Matthew, based on what you saw on the ground in Ukraine?

CHANCE: Well, it certainly would offer the United States that the sort of security they're looking for in terms look, I mean, the reason they haven't given Ukraine these longer-range weapons yet, is because the Biden administration says they're concerned that those longer-range weapons would be used by Ukraine to fire sort of into targets inside Russia itself. And that's something that would be escalatory. But what the Ukrainians are offering now, as I understand it, is they're saying look, you will essentially get veto over any targets we choose. And that would offer you the kind of security you need, so that you can give us these army tactical missile systems with a call with a range of about 200 miles with confidence that it's not going to escalate the conflict beyond where it is kind of now. I think what the U.S. is concerned about is being drawn into basically battlefield decision making in that way, would be in itself crossing a red line, and will be considered by the Kremlin as the United States being actually actively engaged in the conflict. And so, it's something they want to avoid.

And so, the issue of whether or not to give the Ukrainians these longer-range weapon systems has not yet been resolved.

BERMAN: Matthew Chance, General Clark, thank you both very much.

Just ahead, more on that comment I discussed earlier with Maggie Haberman, once so incendiary that even the Wall Street Journal editorial board says it's ugly, even by the former president (INAUDIBLE) and says quote, deserves to be condemned. Plus, the awful language he used about Elaine Chao former cabinet secretary and wife of Senator Mitch McConnell.



BERMAN: Mostly (INAUDIBLE) from Republican ranks after something I discussed earlier with Maggie Haberman, what appears to be a racist comment from the former president over the weekend that also invokes political violence. The full mark (ph) was aimed at Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. At the end of it he says and McConnell quote, he has a death wish. Death wishes in all caps. That's the only part of the comment in all caps and comes as members of Congress in both parties are facing a surge in threats.

The former president then writes that McConnell quote, must immediately seek help and advice from his wife and goes on to use a clearly derogatory term instead of her actual name, Elaine Chao.

On Sunday, our Dana Bash pressed Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott, who was overseeing Republican efforts to retake the Senate about these comments.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): You're a member of the Senate GOP leadership. Are you OK with this?

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Well, I can never talk about it respond to why anybody else says what they said, as you know, you know, the president likes to give people nicknames. So, you can ask him how he came up with the nickname. I'm sure he has a nickname for me.

BASH (on-camera): Nicknames are one thing, but this this is -- this appears racist. Is that OK?

SCOTT: It's never ever OK to be racist.


BERMAN: I'm joined now by CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, co-anchor of CNN "STATE OF THE UNION."

Dana, what did you make of how Senator Scott responded or didn't really respond to your just how quiet the Republican Party has been on this?

BASH: Extremely quiet. Now, it's been several days that this comment has been out there. The fact that Rick Scott, it took a lot of prodding to get him to condemn, particularly, the part that was clearly racist, is really indicative of where this party is right now. It's not as if they're not privately disgusted, because they are, I'm sure you're talking to your sources as am I, John. They're absolutely disgusted. But they're also looking at the calendar and noting that they're just a little more than a month away from midterm elections, particularly in the Senate, where they are extremely, extremely worried that a map that should be they think favorable to them, will not give them the majority because they don't, Mitch McConnell has said publicly he doesn't think the candidates on his side are necessarily strong enough to do that.

So, they're trying to stay focused on the issues that they think will help them, an issue that they do not think will help them is getting into a feud with Donald Trump. Despite how absolutely outrageous and egregious and racist those comments were.

BERMAN: There were the parts that were racist. And there was the other part which seemed to invoke violence. The president said McConnell has a death wish and political violence is on the rise in that country. Don't they care about that the Republicans in Congress?

BASH: Yes, well, not only is it on the rise there is very recent evidence that they most of them were actually a part of physically when rhetoric like that invoking violence actually results in violence. And of course, I'm talking about January 6.


So yes, they are concerned. But getting them to speak up about it again, so close to the election, especially when you have Mitch McConnell, who was the target of Donald Trump's ire in this particular case, telling his conference telling Republican senators privately over and over again, don't take the bait from him. Stay focused on the issues that we think matter most to voters, the economy, immigration, crime. That is the message coming from McConnell, so he's trying to take his own advice. It will be very interesting, John to see what happens after Election Day, meaning the midterm election day to see whether or not he changes his tune. Because this is a whole new level privately as you can imagine, I'm told that he is not happy, but he is biting his tongue publicly, because he's trying to keep his eye on the prize, which is he wants to be majority leader again.

BERMAN: And just to reiterate, and we have about 15 seconds left Dana, you think McConnell is going to stay quiet on this even the attacks on his wife until Election Day?

BASH: I wouldn't be surprised unless he's pressed if somebody corners him and gets him at the right moment maybe. But, John, you've covered him for a long time as well. He is incredibly disciplined when he wants to be.

BERMAN: Manu Raju --


BERMAN: -- if you're listening tonight, Manu Raju, and we're talking about you there. Dana Bash, thank you very much for your reporting.

We'll be right back.

BASH: Thanks, John.



BERMAN: The news continues. Time for Kasie Hunt in "CNN TONIGHT."