Return to Transcripts main page
Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Uvalde School District Fires Former DPS Officer after CNN Report; NY Times: Justice Department is Said to have Told Trump Lawyers it Believes He has More Documents; President Biden Takes First Major Steps Toward Decriminalizing Marijuana; AZ Senate Candidates Face-Off In First And Possibly Only Debate. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 06, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: And it's going to be hard for them to move forward.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Right. Well, at the very least here, one thing we so certainly know for sure, which is that, that there are top secret documents that the President is now categorically refusing to return.
MILLER: And there's a risk to what's inside those documents, where they are, and who is seeing them.
BURNETT: That's right. All right, John, thank you very much. Evan, thank you. And thanks to all of you for being with us. It's time now for AC 360.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Just a day after CNN's Shimon Prokupecz revealed that the Uvalde School District had hired a former Texas State Trooper under investigation for her role during the Robb Elementary massacre, that officers now out of the job. Crimson Elizondo is her name. She was on the shooting within two minutes on that terrible day, but like many of those early arrivers on the scene did not follow universally accepted protocols for stopping an active shooter, and like more than 375 other law enforcement personnel, she too would end up standing by for 77 minutes before anyone confronted and killed the gunman.
As for how she viewed her responsibilities that day, how she saw her duty to protect the children inside, listen to this moment from Shimon's report as captured on video of her outside the school that morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): An officer asked if her children attend Robb Elementary.
OFFICER: Your kids okay?
CRIMSON ELIZONDO, FORMER UVALDE TEXAS STATE TROOPER: Yes, my -- my son is in daycare. He's not -- he's not old enough.
OFFICER: Yes, I saw you --
ELIZONDO: Yes, I know. If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: "If my son had been in there," she said, "I would not have been outside. I promise you that."
We spoke about her employment by the School District last night with a guardian of a 10-year-old. Uziyah Garcia, who was in the school and was murdered that day, someone who has been holding a vigil outside Uvalde School District offices demanding answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT CROSS, LEGAL GUARDIAN OF UZIYAH GARCIA: I've been out here for 192 hours, eight days. And my ask is simple. It's to suspend any officers that were there until an investigation is completed, and I've just gotten nothing but the run around.
So I mean, I told them I wasn't leaving and I'm not going to.
COOPER: So, they haven't given you any answers.
CROSS: No, sir. I had a meeting today, which they offered to pull the officers off campus. But if you can do that, why can't you suspend them until the investigation is done? It's a lot of the run-around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So again, just 24 hours later, the officer is gone.
Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with more.
So, what does the School District have to say about this? And what's the reason they're giving?
PROKUPECZ: Well, the reason they're giving, Anderson, is because of that comment that she made about if her son was inside that school, she would not have been outside. So, that's the excuse they're giving for why they're firing her.
They are not talking about the fact that there was this investigation of her and that is in part why they're firing her. So they're -- again, they're playing games here.
COOPER: So, they specifically cite what she had said.
PROKUPECZ: They said, as we learned from a report last night, these comments she made, they say that they found distressful, very concerning, and that is why they were firing her. They make no mention of the fact that there was this investigation.
And what is so troubling about that is that we learned today from the Texas DPS, her former employer, that the Uvalde School District, the Police Department actually reached out to them to do a background check on her when she applied for that job at the school, and they told the school that she was under investigation.
COOPER: Wow. Because that was a question we didn't have an answer to last night.
COOPER: Did the Uvalde School District know she was under investigation?
Let me just -- since they are citing that comment from her, I just want to play that again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ (voice over): An officer asked if her children attend Robb Elementary.
OFFICER: Your kids okay?
CRIMSON ELIZONDO, FORMER UVALDE TEXAS STATE TROOPER: Yes, my -- my son is in daycare. He's not -- he's not old enough.
OFFICER: Yes, I saw you --
ELIZONDO: Yes, I know. If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, in your reporting last night, she had -- there had been reports and you can cite the sources because I'm not clear on it -- that she had been concerned about not having the tactical gear, body armor, a long gun, in order to confront the gunman or to be inside the school. She seems to be saying that would not have been a concern of hers...
COOPER: ... on that day if her child was inside.
PROKUPECZ: Well, right. It seems that she would have treated the situation differently had her son been inside. The reason why even those officers are asking her, you know, was your son inside? Because there were police officers whose kids were inside that classroom. One of them died, was killed, a Deputy Sheriff, who was standing outside waiting to see his kid and his kid never came out.
So, because this is a law enforcement community, that's why they asked her that question and certainly, it was very troubling to hear her say that.
PROKUPECZ: But also, Anderson, keep in mind that investigators have had this information. They have known that she had said this. This bodycam footage has been viewed by many people now across the State, and the fact that they sat on this and didn't share it is also something that is certainly troubling.
COOPER: It's also just important to point out, there were many people from DPS there that day. How many are actually being under investigation, as far as we know?
PROKUPECZ: Seven. Seven have been referred for further --
COOPER: So there were dozens of DPS.
COOPER: Ninety-one DPS. So, only seven people have actually been referred for investigation. She was one of them.
PROKUPECZ: She was one of them, and it's because of her actions.
I went back and looked at some more video of her and it's really shocking in terms of -- she even described that day to investigators how she couldn't believe what was going on. She didn't believe that there was an active shooter at one point, because it was so quiet. You didn't hear kids screaming, you didn't hear kids yelling, you didn't hear kids crying.
She couldn't believe the events that were unfolding, you know, before her eyes, and so she describes not really understanding what was going on. But what's really shocking is that she basically spent her time during majority of the time kind of hiding behind a wall, behind another officer.
And at one point very early on, she tells the officer, well, there's something on the radio. There is some radio transmission. And she says, "Well, what do they want us to do? We're here."
Certainly, it deals with the kinds of comments that investigators have found very troubling. And that is why the Department of Public Safety, they still need to account for what their officers were doing that day.
So much blame has been placed on the local police department, but what we're now starting to uncover and what that video shows us and what her body camera footage now shows us is that the DPS was there much sooner and that they could have taken action.
COOPER: DPS is like the State Trooper.
PROKUPECZ: Yes. I mean, they have those long rifles. They have better equipment than the Uvalde Police Department, and certainly the school police, and they are better trained. The Active Shooter Training, that is like one of the key elements of their training.
COOPER: Shimon Prokupecz. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Now, some breaking news on the Mar-a-Lago documents. Reporting in "The New York Times" tonight, the headline reads "Justice Department is said to have told Trump lawyers it believes he has more documents." Still more documents.
CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman shares the byline quoting the lead: "A top Justice Department official told former President Donald J. Trump's lawyers in recent weeks that the Department believes he has not returned all the documents he took when he left the White House according to two people briefed on the matter." The Justice Department had no comment.
"The Times" story then noted the dozens of empty folders found in the latest search in August saying it raises further questions about whether all available documents had indeed been recovered.
Here to talk about it is Harvard Law School's Laurence Tribe, co- author of "To End A Presidency: The Power Of Impeachment."
Professor Tribe, I'm wondering what you make of this reporting by "The New York Times" and what does it tell you about where the Justice Department might be headed?
LAURENCE TRIBE, CO-AUTHOR, "TO END A PRESIDENCY: THE POWER OF IMPEACHMENT": It certainly suggests that the Justice Department is closing in on indicting Donald Trump, not simply for basically stealing top secret documents from the White House and secreting them in various insecure locations in Mar-a-Lago, but also for violating the Espionage Act and based on this recent reporting, obstruction of justice.
Those terms are -- they sound technical, but in this case, what is being obstructed is a national security inquiry, as well as a criminal investigation.
There are people whose lives are at stake if their identity has been revealed in some of these top secret documents, which clearly were marked human resource. They were marked to indicate that they would reveal the identity or location of basically American spies abroad.
They were marked to indicate signals Intelligence, so this is very serious, and when I take these recent revelations to mean, is that shortly after the midterm elections, indictments are likely to start flying.
COOPER: Do you believe that the Department of Justice might actually indict the former President?
TRIBE: I believe that it might well indict the former President for obstruction, for espionage. This is all quite apart from the possible indictment for seditious conspiracy and insurrection.
I mean, it is as though he is, you know, building a moat around Mar-a- Lago and then trying to swim in it himself. Basically, with every stroke he takes, with every move he makes, he is digging himself a deeper, deeper pit, and his lawyers must be absolutely beside themselves because he makes matters worse. He says "I want my documents back." He brags about having taken them himself.
TRIBE: Then he says, the General Services Administration packed the boxes, but they deny it. You almost expect him to say, you know, my dog packed the boxes, except we know he doesn't have a dog.
COOPER: The former President has filed this emergency application with the Supreme Court over the documents. Do you expect the court to wade into this?
TRIBE: Very unlikely. It is an emergency application that doesn't meet the requirements for an emergency. That is, he hasn't shown or even made any serious effort to show that he is irreparably harmed by the denial of the one thing he asks the Supreme Court to give him and that is the right to have the Judge who is serving as a Special Master review the classified documents, but the Judge has already said, I don't need to see them. I know they're classified.
The President, apart from his statements out of Court that he has some kind of telepathic way of unclassifying them hasn't really given me any basis to say that there are anything other than top secret documents that he has no business taking with him to Mar-a-Lago.
So the Supreme Court is very unlikely to weigh in, especially since there is an expedited appeal underway in the 11th Circuit that will, I think, probably get this loose cannon, Judge Cannon, off the case. She just injected herself at the request of the Trump lawyers who had to go 70 miles away from Mar-a-Lago to find a judge who might be willing to take this unprecedented step of saying, wait a minute, stop investigating. You can't use the documents that you lawfully seized because there is no suggestion that it was an illegal search and seizure. It was properly authorized by a warrant, you can't use them.
So, it's basically an attempt by the Trump lawyers to keep throwing sand into the gears, but the sand isn't working and the gears are turning and I think they will probably roll right over the former President.
COOPER: Professor Laurence Tribe, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
One other January 6th development tonight, a top lieutenant of the so- called Proud Boys, Jeremy Bertino is his name, pleading guilty to seditious conspiracy, the first group member to do so.
In this exclusive out of Atlanta, CNN has learned that the Fulton County District Attorney could start bringing charges as soon as December in the scheme to overturn President Biden's victory in the State.
CNN's Sara Murray broke the story. She joins us now. What more have you learned about the timeline of this investigation?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, sources are telling us that the Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, wants to move pretty quickly after the midterms to wrap up her investigative work. She has had that special grand jury seated there for five months collecting evidence and that she could move as soon as December to begin issuing indictments.
Now, there is going to be this quiet period before the election. So, there could be a period where we don't see or hear much out of her investigation and there are still a few loose ends she has to tie up. You know, she is still trying to get testimony from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, for instance.
But it is clear, she is sort of looking at wrapping up this investigation and moving ahead pretty quickly with potential indictments -- Anderson.
COOPER: Is it clear at this point who might actually be facing indictments?
MURRAY: It's not clear. You know, we know that prosecutors working on this case have warned Rudy Giuliani, the President's former attorney, as well as the 16 pro-Trump fake electors that they could all be potential targets as part of our probe. None of them have faced charges.
But we also know, this is the grand jury that has collected a lot of evidence in the time they have been impaneled. So you know, it is possible there could be indictments of others and of course, the big one is, you know, waiting to see if she actually decides to move forward with an indictment of former President Trump.
COOPER: Yes, Sara Murray, appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up next, the latest report in the abortion Herschel Walker allegedly paid for. His reaction to it, and how it affects his race for the Senate in Georgia.
Later, President Biden's sweeping marijuana pardon to anyone convicted of simple possession, that and a big step he took away from decades of lumping it together with far more dangerous substances.
COOPER: In the Georgia Senate race, another day of attempt at damage control for Republican, Herschel Walker. The abortion opponent who is reported by "The Daily Beast" to have paid for a woman's abortion, a woman whose identity Walker claimed not to know who then disclosed to "The Daily Beast" that she and Walker also had a child together.
And we should be clear this reporting is not CNN's own reporting. We have not independently verified these claims.
Walker's son Christian took to social media to blast his father repeatedly calling him a liar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIAN WALKER, HERSCHEL WALKER'S ON: ... lie after lie after lie. The abortion part dropped yesterday. It's literally his handwriting in the card. They say they have receipts, whatever. He gets on Twitter, he lies about it.
Okay, I'm done. Done. Everything has been a lie.
Don't lie on my mom. Don't lie on me. Don't lie on the lives you've destroyed and act like you're some moral family man. You should all care about that, conservatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, the Walker campaign has been trying to contain the fallout. More now from CNN's Evan McKend.
HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: You don't quit. You keep going. You can't get enough.
EVAN MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (voice over): A defiant Herschel Walker on Day Four of rebutting allegations that have rocked his campaign for Senate.
WALKER: I'm not deterred. I am not scared. I am not going to back down. The stakes are way, way too high.
MCKEND (voice over): Taking the stage Thursday at an event in Wadley, Georgia, the candidate made no mention of the latest development from "The Daily Beast," but once again faced questions about the report he paid for his then girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009.
And the new reporting that the woman says she is the mother of one of his children, according to the site.
WALKER: This year, the abortion thing is false. It's a lie.
MCKEND (voice over): CNN has not independently verified the allegations reported by "The Daily Beast."
Earlier today, Walker appeared on a conservative radio program to defend himself.
WALKER: If that had happened, I would -- I would have said it cause there is nothing to be ashamed of there.
CHRISTIAN WALKER: I am done. Don't lie.
MCKEND (voice over): Walker also asked about his son, Christian's comments earlier this week, calling his father a liar and making a series of accusations against him.
WALKER: I will always love him no matter what my son says.
MCKEND (voice over): With a little over a month until the midterms and locked in a tight race against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock, Republicans facing questions about Walker's path to victory after the latest revelations.
LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R-GA): I think every Republican knew that there was baggage out there, but the weight of that baggage is starting to feel a little closer to unbearable at this point.
MCKEND (voice over): The former NFL star brushing aside those concerns.
WALKER: People told me I couldn't play football. So, do you want me to listen to someone like that? I'm here to win the seat for the Georgia people because the Georgia people need a winner.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Herschel, please say a few words.
MCKEND (voice over): Walker allies say they want to see him give a more Trumpian response to the allegations. Many supporters say they simply believe him.
ROB HOLLEY, GEORGIA VOTER: I'll take Herschel for his word. If he says that it didn't happen, I believe it didn't happen.
TERESA MILLER, GEORGIA VOTER: I believe Herschel, and I do not believe he is lying.
MCKEND (voice over): Meanwhile, the Warnock campaign, up with a new TV ad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New details tonight about accusations that continue to follow Senate candidate, Herschel Walker.
MCKEND (voice over): Part of a sustained effort by Democrats to highlight Walker's turbulent past, even as they avoid focusing on the latest allegations.
COOPER: And Eva McKend joins us now along with CNN political commentator, Van Jones, who served as Special Adviser to President Obama during the Obama administration.
Eva, so Walker was also asked this afternoon about his comment this morning that if it had happened, that there is nothing to be ashamed of there. What exactly did he say in response?
MCKEND: So the issue here, Anderson, is sometimes it is difficult to understand what Herschel Walker is trying to get across. Many took his comments on the radio today, to mean there is no shame in accessing or paying for abortions, that he would have no shame in that. But it was so meandering if you actually go back and listen to the entire radio interview. It wasn't entirely clear.
This afternoon, though, when asked about this, he suggested what he was referring to were past allegations regarding his ex-wife and the accusations his son, Christian, made earlier this week.
COOPER: His answer, though, I've got to -- I mean, I've just got to say, I've just been reading his second answer to try to explain the first one to Hugh Hewitt and it is incomprehensible. I mean --
COOPER: I mean, literally, the reporter said, "You said this didn't happen. There's nothing to be ashamed of. How do you square that?" He said, "Wait, I never said," the reporter says, "You said that this morning in Hugh Hewitt's show." And he said, I'm quoting, "No, what I said, I was talking about something totally different. And I said, when I -- with my ex-wife, and in my past, nothing to do with what this woman said. I said this here, the abortion thing is false. It's a lie. And that's what I said. I said, anything that happened with my ex-wife or what Christian was talking about? I don't know. But as I said, if anything happened, there's nothing to be ashamed of, because my ex-wife and I have been best friends with her husband and my wife. So that's the thing that I've said, and I said nothing about it. If it did happen, because I said, that's a lie."
MCKEND: Yes, it is a word soup salad and it's hard to decipher. And this happens pretty often. It is going to be interesting when Senator Warnock and Herschel Walker take to the debate stage next week, because I think we are going to get a lot more of this.
COOPER: Van, do you think Republicans who want Walker to embrace a more Trumpian response to all of this, I'm not even sure what that would mean, I mean, a coherent response would probably be the first step. Would that work for Walker here, do you think?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know who knows what's going to work and what is not going to work? What I will say is the reason that this is so outrageous is because this is somebody who is saying he wants to be a senator. Why? Part of it is he wants to make sure that no woman can get an abortion, even if she is raped, even if there is incest and even if she would die in childbirth. He says, that woman should bear a child anyway.
And yet in his own life, he basically says, never mind. If I did pay for the abortion, if I didn't pay for the abortion, there is nothing to be ashamed of. So in other words, he wants the power to make sure that you can't get an abortion, but in his own life, he is willing to make sure that people that he gets pregnant do get abortions.
The hypocrisy here at a policy level, to put someone like that in the US Senate, who is incomprehensible when they communicate, a clear job for the Senate and who has an agenda that is an agenda that he won't live by himself, but he wants you to live by it. That's the problem here.
At the end of the day, it is a tragedy to have this family torn apart this way. It breaks your heart to hear Christian talking the way that he is talking, the clear pain in his voice, his son. But there are lives on the line here and this guy is a complete hypocrite and at some point that has got to matter to somebody.
COOPER: Van, we are going to be hearing from Georgia's Lieutenant Governor in our next hour, but I do just want to play somebody he told CNN last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNCAN: If we are being intellectually honest, Herschel Walker won the primary because he scored a bunch of touchdowns back in the 80s and he was Donald Trump's friend. And now we've moved forward several months on the calendar, and that's no longer a recipe to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It is so interesting how there has been an evolution among, you know, some evangelicals, among Republicans saying, you know, it used to be decades ago, you wanted somebody who was morally -- you know, morally strong, and their politics match their moral character. Now, it doesn't matter about the moral character anymore. That's passe, as long as they vote, the -- you know, punch the tickets that the Republicans in this case, why?
JONES: Yes, look, I think what we're looking at now is just -- you know, maybe it is just the times that we're in, but what is more important that they get that 50th vote, that 51st vote. As long as they get that, they are willing to look past anything.
You know, Trump proved that the moral majority ain't that moral and they're not the majority. That's basically what he proved, that they will put up with anything as long as they get power, and I think that that's part of the tragedy here.
Herschel Walker does not strike you when you listen to him as someone who should be in the US Senate and his behavior is not consistent with what his policy agenda is. If that does not disturb conservatives in Georgia, that they could vote for a Pastor or they could vote for a philanderer and they want to vote for the philanderer, that says something about the state of conservatism in the United States at this point.
COOPER: Yes. Van Jones, Eva McKend, appreciate it. Thank you.
Up next, President Biden taking his first major steps toward decriminalizing marijuana with thousands of pardons. Details on that ahead.
And we are just minutes away from a midterm showdown, the likely only debate in the Arizona Senate race. We will take you to Phoenix, coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:30:42]
COOPER: President Biden is taking his first major steps toward decriminalizing marijuana. Today he pardoned thousands of Americans convicted on federal possession charges simple possession cases dating back to the 1990s, is not the only significant, if not historic step he took.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now from the White House. So, what more can you tell us about the decision about the President?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a campaign promise he had made, but obviously is, you know, Anderson sometimes the reality changes when you're actually in office. And some people have raised the question of why President Biden nearly two years and had not really talked about marijuana, and that campaign promises much. But today, they did announce that he is moving, making the biggest steps towards decriminalization that we've seen, really from any U.S. president, it's not the full decriminalization, because that's something that you would have to see Congress do. But President Biden is pardoning thousands of people who have been convicted under federal law of possession of marijuana. And that means that it's going to affect about 6,500 people, according to estimates from the White House, in addition to potentially thousands more who are prosecuted in the District of Columbia, and it's a life changing step obviously, for them.
And President Biden basically said his reasoning for that is why he said it on the campaign trail, he doesn't believe people should be in jail for simple possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana and the simple use of that, in addition, you know, not having other crimes as to part of why they are in prison.
And he talked about this Anderson is saying he does believe it disproportionately affects brown and black people saying that the use of it is similar among all races, but you can see when you look at the incarceration rates, how it affects that and he said that was part of the decision tonight, as well. But what he's also doing is encouraging governors to follow his lead here, because of course, this is just he can only deal with federal offenses. He is also encouraging governors to take similar states or similar steps and their states. And he's also asking the Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to look into how marijuana is scheduled as drugs. It is a schedule one drug currently, that means that they believe it has high potential for abuse, that it doesn't have any medical reasoning any medical use behind it. Even fentanyl is not a schedule one drug. And the President is saying he doesn't believe that should be the case. This doesn't mean it's actually going to change Anderson, but it does mean that the White House believes that at least a review should be conducted into that.
COOPER: Do we know why this is happening now?
COLLINS: I think people have raised questions. Obviously, the midterms are 32 days away. And this is a campaign promise that the President has made. This is something that appeals to people on both sides of the aisle, we'll see what the reaction is from the broader political world. You've heard from a lot of activists who said this is a good step. This is a step in the right direction, but they also want to see the full decriminalization. But it is still a massive step in and of its own, a massive shift really for the federal government for the President to pardon thousands of people who have been convicted for just the use of marijuana and making clear they don't believe that should be the case. And making clear that President Biden wanted to follow through on that campaign promise he made back in 2020.
COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, at the White House. Thank you.
Now to Phoenix we're in a few minutes Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly and his Republican challenger Blake Masters are set to face off and what will likely be the only debate of the Arizona Senate race. A crucial contest could help decide which party controls the Senate. Debate comes less than a week before early and mail-in voting begins in Arizona.
Joining us now with more CNN's Kyung Lah. So obviously critical battleground state here. What's at stake in this debate?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you're talking about the control of the Senate, which party will control the Senate. And that's really what this comes down to Anderson. And what we're talking about are very, very tight margins. A reminder that Senator Mark Kelly won in 2020 by just over two percentage points. And we released a CNN poll today. And that poll is showing this race between Senator Kelly and the challenger Blake Masters is very close. Among likely voters, Senator Kelly is leading by just single digits 51% to Blake Masters among likely voters at 45%.
But here's the wild card is that the underlying fundamentals here, what voters are telling our pollsters is that it all favors the Republicans. So, this is a very narrow race. Things can change very, very quickly in less than 30 minutes. Anderson we're going to see if any of these conditions are going to change on the debate stage.
COOPER: And what are the issues that are most motivating voters in Arizona?
LAH: You know, one of the key issue that we keep hearing over and over again, whether you talk to voters at the grocery store or at a rally or in our CNN poll it is the economy, it is inflation, the underlying economic conditions gas prices watching those pumped up prices at the pump either flattening rise drop that is having an impact here on the politics, especially in these midterms. But another issue that's really pertinent and has happened here in Arizona, is that in just the last few weeks, a judge in Pima County ruled that abortion essentially is illegal in all cases, except for when a mother's life is at risk. That is reverting back to a 1901 law with the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, abortion is on the ballot and playing a key motivating factor for voters here as well.
But also remember, Anderson, Arizona is a border state. So, immigration is always critical. We are expecting these candidates to talk about the economy, abortion as well as immigration. Anderson.
COOPER: Kyung Lah, appreciate it. Thanks.
As voters wait for that Arizona Senate debate, there's new CNN polling on the race and other key matchups unions. CNN's only senior data reporter Harry Enten joins us now with that. So, what are the polls saying about that Senate race?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATE REPORTER: It's close. But, you know, we've had a CNN poll, we've had in fact four polls that have come out over the last week from reliable pollsters. And they all have Mark Kelly ahead, by anywhere from about three points to six percentage points. Look, that's not a very large lead. But Arizona of course was a state that Joe Biden won by less than a point. So, we wouldn't expect anything less.
But Mark Kelly clearly has the advantage. And I would argue the reason he has the advantage is because his favorable rating is higher than his unfavorable rating, but Blake Masters favorable rating is underneath his unfavorable rating. That is more people dislike Blake Masters and like them. We'll see if in the debate tonight, Masters is able to turn that around a little bit.
COOPER: What about in some of the other states that control the Senate it could hang on?
ENTEN: Yes. So, I have essentially selected six key racist. Democrats need to win at least four of those. Arizona, Mark Kelly ahead, you can see that right there on your screen. He's ahead by an average about six percentage points. New Hampshire is an easy one, Pennsylvania where John Fetterman is ahead, he's up by five points. That's a fairly easy one. The 50th state at this point is Georgia, where Raphael Warnock is up by about four percentage points in the polls, obviously, there's been a lot going on in Georgia.
But here's the key. Democrats only lead in about 50 states right now, including the states that they currently hold the safe States, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So right now, control of the United States Senate is in fact very, very close. And in a number of states like Nevada, where Democrats currently have that seat where in fact, the Republican kind of animal exit (ph) is in fact, a hit.
COOPER: So on -- in Georgia, is there any evidence either way about the latest information about Herschel Walker and allegations about how that's playing (ph)?
ENTEN: Look, we're going to see what happens. I don't know. You know, I'm not a fortune teller. I wish I were, you know, I get the lottery numbers, everything would be great. But here's the key thing to know about Georgia, even before all of this stuff came out. If you ask voters, what is the main reason that you aren't fact voting for Herschel Walker? Is it because you like him? Or is it because he's merely the Republican nominee? Or you really don't like Raphael Warnock? Just 20% of Herschel Walker voters said the main reason that they are voting for him is because they actually really like the guy. So, I think the question you have to ask yourself is, is this latest scandal going to get at some of those 20% Because arguably, the other 80% they're just going to vote for Walker anyway, because they don't like Warnock and Herschel Walker is a Republican, he's still going to be a Republican, no matter what happens to him.
COOPER: Now, I also understand you have an important update from the world of sports and you're here to educate me.
ENTEN: Yes, that's correct. So, you know that you and I love sharing our moments together with the National Football League. I drag you along. I educate you, I educate the audience. That's what I like to do.
ENTEN: And if you look right now, my Buffalo Bills, look at the chance that they will in fact, win the Super Bowl. Look at that, 19%, 19% chance of winning Super Bowl. Anderson, as long as either you or I have been alive, the Buffalo Bills have never in fact, won a Super Bowl because they have never won a Super Bowl. Rooting for the Bills is like, you know, rooting for the dog that has three legs. That's what you really want to do.
But my question to you is Anderson, do you happen to know what the mascot is for the Buffalo Bills?
ENTEN: Yes. You get it. It is a buffalo. You pass my quiz.
COOPER: And I mean it seems so obvious but yes.
ENTEN: You know, sometimes the obvious answer is the correct answer.
COOPER: Yes. Wolf Blitzer from Buffalo.
ENTEN: That is correct. Wolf Blitzer and I huge Buffalo --
COOPER: Wait, you're from Buffalo?
ENTEN: No, I'm from the Bronx.
ENTEN: But here's another trivia question for you. What is --
COOPER: Don't try to claim Buffalo (INAUDIBLE).
ENTEN: What is the only team in the NFL that plays in the state of New York?
COOPER: The Giants?
ENTEN: No, the Giants play New Jersey.
COOPER: OK, don't trick me. Don't come on here and trick me about sports.
ENTEN: Well, I'm educating you by tricking you.
COOPER: Just be gentle with me. I'm trying to get in sports.
COOPER: I've been watching sports documentaries, I'm learning.
ENTEN: I'll send you some clips, and maybe we'll watch a Bills game together. Wouldn't that be nice?
COOPER: Sure. That would be lovely.
ENTEN: Thank you.
COOPER: Harry Enten, thank you.
Coming up. Breaking news, President Biden warns of the growing nuclear threat at a fundraiser in New York City just moments ago. We'll be right back.
COOPER: There's more breaking news, President Biden speaking tonight in New York about the threat of nuclear weapons in very stark terms, invoking his words, the prospect of nuclear Armageddon. Busy night for CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us once again. So, what did the President say tonight, Kaitlan?
COLLINS: Making clear Anderson, that he is taking these explicit nuclear threats that you've seen coming out of Russia very seriously, because we've heard what Putin has said, we've heard what President Biden's top officials have said that they believe is realistically the case they don't actually see any movement toward using nuclear weapons in Russia, but they are on high alarm. But President Biden is at this Democratic fundraiser in New York tonight. And he was speaking to donors making clear he is taking it seriously saying that this is reminding him of October 1962, saying, quote, we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. And he went on to talk about he knows President Putin pretty well. He said, I know the guy fairly well. He is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons, or biological or chemical weapons, because his military is might, as you say, significantly, underperforming.
So, making clear that when Putin gives the speeches like he did last week, and it was very blunt terms, reminding the world that he believes you know, the United States set the precedent for using nuclear weapons and kind of putting, basically making clear that nuclear weapons are on his mind as he is looking at what's happening with his military in Ukraine. President Biden says he's taking that seriously Anderson. And he said, I don't think there's any such thing as the ability to use a tactical nuclear weapon and not ended up with Armageddon.
He went on to speak more at length about foreign policy during this fundraiser tonight Anderson talking about what he believes, you know, they're still trying to figure out what the off ramp for Putin could be in this war that he has been waging since February saying that basically he believes the Russian leader is trying to assess where can he have this off ramp where he saves face on a global level, but also at home in Russia, because obviously, that has been a really big concern. And big focus ever since Putin has ordered this partial mobilization of forces, with Russian men fleeing the country. You've seen Russian propagandists on state television saying that they believe they need to change their tactics on the battlefield.
But I mean, it is really striking. We get these notes all the time, these pool reports from reporters who are traveling with the President of comments he makes at events like this on rope lines to supporters to fundraisers, but saying we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and making clear that he is taking Putin seriously and at his word when he dangles the threat of nuclear weapons is really striking, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Just how -- do we know, because I know this is just, I think from the pool reporters, you're saying. Was this a written that -- were these remarks written out? Was it something he said off the cuff, do we know?
COLLINS: We can't say for sure. But I've covered the White House for a long time. Typically, these events, the President is speaking off the cuff. He's walking around a room of small room of donors tonight through the House of James Murdoch. He's not typically on prompter, as you see it in a -- for an official White House event. And the reporters are not actually in the room. They're in a staircase next to the room. They're typically, they're, you know, within well within a distance of the President, but not always sitting in the room.
And so, he's clearly speaking very bluntly, and we've seen that from before, but from President Biden talking about prospects that Democrats have on the in the midterm elections, his own, you know, reelection potential running for reelection, but speaking this bluntly about foreign policy, and about how seriously he is taking this threat from Putin, when it comes to nuclear weapons, something that really is a remarkable landscape in and of itself, is quite striking and making clear that he is taking it incredibly seriously.
COOPER: Do you expect the White House to sort of make any comments about this, this latest statement?
COLLINS: It's interesting, because Jake Sullivan, who is the President's national security adviser has been very measured when speaking about these threats. And he did tell me last week when they had a briefing that they take the threats from Russia seriously, but they've said they haven't seen any indication that Russia has changed its nuclear posture. So, they say, you know, it does appear to just be a lot of bellicose rhetoric coming out of Russia. But clearly with these comments from President Biden, he is taking it seriously and saying, no, Putin is not bluffing when he puts this out there. And making clear it's something that has become a real concern inside the White House that because Russia is doing so terribly on the battlefield underperforming so much more than they thought they would, that maybe he could resort to doing this.
And so, what that is driven officials here at the White House to do is kind of game out what their response would look like. They said that they've made that clear to Russia. They've obviously not disclosed that to reporters who have asked multiple times, but they said that they have made clear to Russia what the United States would do in response to Russia actually using a tactical nuclear weapon. The just the idea that it is being seriously discussed is as President Putin notes tonight, not something you have really seen since the 1960s.
COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thank you.
Meanwhile, according to Ukraine's president saying his country's forces and taken back more than 500 square kilometers of territory in the Kherson region all in less than a week. He also said they've seen success in the eastern direction and that the day will come when they talk about the, quote, liberation of Crimea. This comes as Russian forces abandoned many of their positions in the south with them being battered on the frontlines and morale slipping.
CNN's Melissa Bell has exclusive reporting from Russians Wagner group, mercenary organization aiding in the war against Ukraine. We want to warn you some of the images you'll see are disturbing.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chaos of Ukraine's front lines through the eyes of a Wagner mercenary.
UNDENTIFIED MALE: Legs, guts, arms boys, (INAUDIBLE).
BELL (voice-over): A video shared exclusively with CNN by a member of Vladimir Putin so called private army. One of those that have you seen enough.
UNDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, bro. I'm sorry.
BELL (voice-over): A far cry from the slick propaganda used by Wagner to entice recruits to the depleted Russian front lines, long kept in the shadows by Moscow, the elite paramilitary group or the musicians, as they call themselves now lionized for their role in Russia's springtime victories. Like the surrender of Azovstal or the full of Mariupol. The mercenaries experience initially making all the difference to Moscow according to this former Wagner commander.
MARAT GABIDULLIN, FMR WAGNER MERCENARY (through translation): Without their active assistance, the Russian armed forces would not have been able to move forward at all.
BELL (voice-over): The Kremlin didn't respond to our request for comment. But a month-long CNN investigation has found what the war has cost Moscow's elite fighting force. It's men, it's confidence and it's (INAUDIBLE).
Marat Gabidullin says Wagner fighters are paid $5,000 a month to do the work regular Russian soldiers can't or won't.
GABIDULLIN: There is not enough motivation, only money. Russian piece for the American dollars.
BELL (voice-over): Through their Telegram channels and through intercepts, Ukrainian intelligence, keeps a watchful eye.
Morale within Wagner is low, says Andri Yusov, it wasn't designed to participate in a full-scale war.
GABIDULLIN (through translation): They are dissatisfied with the overall organization of the fighting, the inability to make competent decisions to organize battles, and of course, this means losses.
BELL (voice-over): This video shared with CNN by Ukraine's Defense Ministry shows a mercenary desperately asking why there is no body armor for them.
UNDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): There are no more flak jackets, no more helmets either.
BELL (voice-over): Of the estimated 5,000 Wagner mercenaries sent to Ukraine, 1,500 have been killed according to intelligence sources in Kyiv. In Russia, that's men recruitment drives, from front pages to billboards. The W orchestra is waiting for you says this one with a number to call and no experience needed. A recruiter telling CNN through WhatsApp that barring thuggery, terrorism and sexual impropriety, all criminal convictions are negotiable. A man who appears to be the founder of Wagner, if any precaution personally offering clemency to prisoners for six months of military service. The elusive oligarch no longer denying ties to the group, that the war in Ukraine has both exposed and transformed.
UNDENTIFIED MALE: That really shows that these guys are in trouble. So, they really don't have people there. They're ready to send anyone. There's no criteria for professionalism anymore.
BELL (voice-over): And that couldn't be more possible war crimes, especially on the retreat. This video shared with CNN by a Wagner soldier appears to show mercenaries lining up the bodies of dead Ukrainian soldiers. In a chilling conversation, they debate whether to booby trap them, or shoot those who come to retrieve them before realizing that they're out of ammunition.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Melissa Bell joins me now from Poland. And this is extraordinary since the Wagner group and the Russian Armed Forces are operating in the same battlefield as Russia loses ground in this war. Is there political conflict that we know between Wagner and Russia's Ministry of Defense?
BELL: Well, we do have an idea Anderson and that when the war began, there had been a falling out between the (INAUDIBLE) and Vladimir Putin that is according to the Russian Free Press that functions largely in exile the idea, the two men who are very close, they go way back to Vladimir Putin, St. Petersburg days, were no longer functioning terribly well together. That's why some of the mercenaries that went in the beginning, were not Wagner mercenaries. You'll remember that when the Russian Armed Forces started to see those setbacks in February, March retreated from areas like Kyiv. The idea is that that is when Wagner came in. And remember, Anderson, that that is when Wagner began to make a massive difference, not because the men were that numerous, simply because you were talking about the most experienced on the battlefield.
And so, you had those victories, Mariupol, Kherson, all of those victories we saw in the spring that were largely credited to Wagner, because although they were functioning within the structures of the Russian Armed Forces, their experience, the fact that they were battle hardened, helped to make that difference on the ground. The question is now or rather, what we've seen these last few weeks, whether they're continuing to add that value, Anderson.
COOPER: I mean, how are their recruitment, the Wagner's recruitment efforts going in that ad, they're saying, no experience necessary. That doesn't seem to be a great ad for the professionalism of the Wagner thugs?
BELL: Exactly. It isn't simply their material losses, the fact they've lost 1,500 men we hear on the ground, but also they've had to recruit not just as battle hardened, experienced men that they'd sought from their theatres of action in Africa in the beginning of the war, but rather they filled their ranks with people who simply aren't doing that same sort of fighting. And of course, that has made a massive difference, their ability to make a difference on the ground. They simply aren't what they were when this war began, as you heard then they are not the fighting force that was meant to be functioning inside a full-scale war in Ukraine, it turns out has taken its toll not just on the wider regular army, but also on Wagner itself.
So, there are these two recruiting drives, one is from the Russian state it is of course the bigotry, the money is less than within Wagner, Wagner is voluntary they are paying more. And yet on the ground, of course, what they're finding is that it is not that many Russians that are choosing to sign up. Hence the recruitment drives in the Russian prisons.
And of course, that remember, Anderson that this matters on the field, not just because what we're talking about it's not just the retreats or the advances the Russian army and Wagner mercenaries within it, but in the end, the power that has said them there, and the credibility that it now represents. Anderson.
COOPER: Melissa Bell, appreciate it. A really fascinating report.
Ahead, an update on the family of four that was kidnapped, killed in California where authorities are saying about the suspect.
COOPER: Just two days after four members of a family were kidnapped to California and the bodies including an eight-month-old baby girl were found in an orchard. The suspect is in custody.
CNN's Nick Watt has details.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is the suspect he looks up at the camera takes out a weapon.