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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Exclusive: Trump Adviser Kash Patel Has Appeared Before Grand Jury In Mar-a-Lago Document Investigation; Democrats Face Inflation Headwinds As Voters Head To The Polls; New Evidence Shows State Police Officer Giving Order To Police Not To Enter Uvalde Classroom; Georgia County's Election Official Posts QAnon, Election Conspiracies Online; British PM Liz Truss Resigns After Just 44 Days; Russia Evacuating Civilians From Kherson Region As Ukraine Forces Advance; Iranian Protesters Face Violent Crackdown From Security Forces; Actor Kevin Spacey Found Not Liable For Battery. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 20, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: But Spacey faces four charges of sexual assault in England and they are very serious and there's a much higher bar there for victory. He has pleaded not guilty in those.
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Meanwhile, now, it is time for AC 360.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Thanks so much for joining us.
We are learning the names of some of the top Republicans who have testified in multiple investigations involving the former President both in the Federal case involving the misuse of classified documents, and also the investigation in Georgia into the former President's attempt to overturn the election results there.
CNN's Sara Murray joins us now with details.
So, Sara, let's start with the Fulton County, Georgia investigation. Who has testified?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we have learned that there are two prominent witnesses who have testified before the Fulton County grand jury. One of them is former Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler. The other one is former White House lawyer, Pat Cipollone.
So both of these are big gets for the District Attorney down in Georgia, Fani Willis, and it kind of gives you an indication of just how wide ranging her investigation is.
COOPER: What about the testimony to the Federal grand jury investigating the Mar-a-Lago documents? MURRAY: That's right.
So, we are learning this evening -- my colleagues are learning that Kash Patel, who was one of -- a top adviser to former President Donald Trump has appeared before a Federal grand jury who is investigating the Mar-a-Lago documents, the mishandling of sensitive documents there.
Now, what we don't know is whether Kash Patel actually answered questions before the grand jury or whether he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
But this is an important person. You know, he has been deeply involved in this Mar-a-Lago documents dispute -- Anderson.
COOPER: Sara Murray, appreciate it. Thanks.
I want to talk to Elie Honig, former Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He joins me now.
So Elie, the testimony from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and former Senator Loeffler, how significant could it be in the Fulton County, Georgia investigation? Again, we don't know what they actually said because Cipollone obviously in other testimony has been very reluctant to -- you know, very concerned obviously about attorney- client privilege or executive privilege.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's exactly right, Anderson.
Well, first of all, anytime you have a former US senator and a former White House Counsel, testifying in front of a criminal grand jury, in a case focused on the former President, that is automatically a big deal. And I think Cipollone is really the point of interest here.
We do have some sense of what Cipollone likely testified about because as you said, he testified already in front of the January 6 Committee. However, as you also noted, there were certain key questions that Cipollone refused to answer under executive privilege. He would not talk about his one-on-one conversations with Donald Trump.
And so to me, the big question is, did the DA somehow managed to get that information out of Pat Cipollone? Did they compel him legally? Did they work out some sort of agreement with him? If not, then he likely testified to the same thing we've already heard. But if so, that could be a real breakthrough investigatively.
COOPER: Now that Fulton County investigators can question Senator Lindsey Graham about certain topics, I mean, can Graham just plead the Fifth? Or can Graham just not talk about some stuff that he doesn't want to talk about?
HONIG: Well, he certainly has the right to plead the Fifth. Anyone has that right. That would look horrible for Lindsey Graham. I suspect, he would be reluctant to do that. But yes, Lindsey Graham was dealt a legal setback today. He cannot
dodge this subpoena. He does have to testify. Graham argued that he was immune under this obscure constitutional provision called the Speech and Debate Clause, which says sitting Members of Congress can't be forced to answer questions outside of Congress. However, the Court today said most of what Senator Graham was doing was not legislative, coordinating with the Trump campaign, making public statements dealing with Georgia State legislators to try to pressure them, all of that is fair ground and Lindsey Graham will have to answer questions about those topics.
COOPER: So what does it tell you about the Fulton County DA's investigation. What we know about it so far. Do you have a sense of how quickly it is moving?
HONIG: This thing has gone from zero to 60 in a snap, Anderson.
Let's remember, the DA didn't even get a grand jury seated for about a year-and-a-half until this past summer. That is an awful long time to wait to get a grand jury seated.
But since then, the DA has been moving at an incredibly rapid case. We see her firing off subpoenas to powerful people -- Lindsey Graham, Pat Cipollone to name a few -- and fighting in Court and generally prevailing.
And so, this investigation to me seems to be moving the most quickly of all the pending investigations. I don't think we won't see any major indictments between now and the midterms, but I would look for indictments to start dropping in December, January into February.
COOPER: Separately. Obviously, we don't know what Kash, Trump adviser, Kath Patel said before the Federal grand jury in the Mar-a- Lago probe. The fact that he showed up, does that tell us anything?
HONIG: Well, it tells us first of all that DOJ is putting people in the grand jury and is compelling their testimony and that is testimony under oath that is deadly serious. It's a crime to lie to a grand jury.
I think the areas of focus with Kash Patel, first of all is, he has loudly and publicly claimed that Donald Trump declassified some of those documents. Well, okay, you can say it publicly. You can say it on TV, but you have to say it in the grand jury now.
So it'll be interesting if we find out was Kash Patel pressed on that? Did he stand by that claim? And did he have any proof to back it up? It's worth keeping in mind. Kash Patel is a hardcore Trump loyalist. But it's one thing to say things out in public, it is another thing to say things under oath with a grand jury there.
COOPER: Elie Honig, appreciate it. Thank you.
President Biden appeared in Pennsylvania today alongside the Democratic candidates for Senate there, John Fetterman. It's a pretty rare sight this election cycle to see the President on the campaign trail with a candidate in a tight race. He was there promoting his plans to boost American infrastructure.
The visit comes as a new poll from Monmouth suggests the Republicans may have an advantage in the midterms that are now just 19 days away. On the question of which party should control Congress, Democrats enjoyed a seven-point lead in August, 50 percent, Republicans, 43 percent.
Now in October, Republicans enjoy the lead 49 percent to Democrats' 45 percent.
We should note, poll numbers -- the poll, all adults are not registered voters. Also, they are well within the poll's margin of error in what has been a very volatile midterm season so far.
Just before airtime, I spoke with President Biden's Chief of Staff, Ron Klain about the numbers and the party strategy going to midterm.
COOPER: Mr. Klain, thanks for joining us tonight.
According to that new Monmouth poll, momentum in the race for Congress is shifting back to where the Republicans as compared to just a couple of weeks ago. Why do you think that is?
RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, look, Anderson, I'm covered by the Hatch Act, I have to be careful what I say about electoral politics here at the White House.
What I'll say is, there are a lot of polls. I think what they show as a whole is a very, very, very close midterm election and that is the way you'd expect it to be in a country where the politics are very close, the elections are very hard fought.
So my focus isn't so much on the polls, but on us continuing to do our job, delivering for the American people, doing things that are at the top of people's agenda, like the President's announcement yesterday to try to bring down the price of gasoline further, by releasing more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, setting a minimum price to rebuild the reserve, those kinds of things are going to really help families with their everyday expenses.
You heard the President talking about infrastructure today in Pennsylvania, bringing down the cost of getting goods to market. So, we're doing our jobs here at the White House, and I think that's what the American people want to see us doing.
COOPER: But when people say, you know, when -- I mean, poll after poll shows this, you may not like the polls, but say on the economy or inflation, when that's their top issue, they prefer Republicans by double digits. There are three weeks to go. Is it -- I mean, is there anything you're hoping to do to try to make that up? KLAIN: Well, first of all, again, I think the polls do show a very,
very close midterm election as a whole. I think on inflation, look, prices are high and the President is working to bring them down.
Inflation is a global problem. Actually, inflation is lower in America than it is in most European countries, but that's not good enough. We need to bring prices down. That's why the President is working so hard to bring down the price of gasoline at the pump. It's fallen this week in 13 States, it's fallen more than 10 cents, but we need to do more. That's why he made his announcement yesterday, we need to bring down the price of --
COOPER: Well, let me just ask you about the announcement yesterday, because over the summer, the price came down a lot as you've talked about. It's gone up more recently, and now releasing 15 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, it is a relatively small amount compared to previous releases from the reserve. Is that really going to have an impact on gas prices?
KLAIN: Well, I think it well because, look, first of all, you've already seen the price of gas drop this week and again, it continues to go down. I think the release from the Reserve was part of the announcement.
The other announcement was decision to rebuild the reserve next year at a guaranteed minimum price. That is going to increase confidence in production from the oil industry. And also, the President talked about the fact that the price of oil has actually been coming down, but the price of gas hasn't come down as fast and the industry needs to make sure they are not taking extra profits here as oil comes down, needing to bring down the price of oil, too -- price the gas, too -- but that's just one of our initiatives to combat inflation.
And the last thing I'll say on this, Anderson is, look, this upcoming midterm election, it is not a referendum. It is a choice. And you have the Democrats in Congress, Democrats here at the White House, working to bring down inflation, bring down these costs.
The Republicans have said if they get control of the Congress, what they are going to do is repeal the President's plan to let Medicare negotiate for the price of prescription drugs. What will that do to everyday costs? They're going to repeal the effort to the President's plan that put taxes on big corporations for the first time, minimum 15 percent taxes, they're going to repeal that. That'll blow up the deficit, that'll add to inflation.
KLAIN: So, I think what people need to look at is the choice between what the President -- what congressional Democrats have done are doing, and what Republicans are talking about this season.
COOPER: It just seems like people have -- whether they have looked at it or not, that message is not resonating with enough of them for the Democrats' concern. According to the -- normally, a President might be out holding big campaign rallies. According to "The New York Times," I think President Trump held 26
rallies in October of 2018. Former President Obama held 16 rallies in October of 2010. Clearly, a lot of candidates, Democratic candidates in close contests don't seem to want the President campaigning for them with big rallies.
KLAIN: Yes, you know, Anderson, and both President Obama -- I was here, I'll share responsibility for it and President Trump got walloped in the midterms. So I don't think it should surprise anyone that we're not using the strategy that failed in 2010 and the strategy that failed in 2018.
Instead, what you're seeing as the President is traveling the country, with Democrat, elected officials with Democratic candidates, like he was in Pennsylvania today with John Fetterman, our candidate for Senate there, and he is talking about the issues that really impact people -- infrastructure costs, choice -- a long line of issues that he is talking about.
So I don't think rallies have proved effective for candidates in the midterms. And so we're trying something different that we think will be effective.
COOPER: Ron Klain, appreciate your time. Thank you.
KLAIN: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Still to come tonight, new reporting on one of the State Troopers under investigation after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas where 21 people were murdered, 19 of them children.
Also tonight CNN's Drew Griffin on the effects of a still raging debate from 2020, a person who looks at a Georgia county election officials posting about QAnon and election conspiracies online.
COOPER: I want to bring you exclusive new reporting by CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who for nearly five months has been doggedly reporting on major developments in the investigation to the killings of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and the botched police response.
It took place May 24th and is one of the deadliest school shootings in US history. Two weeks ago, Shimon brought us the story of a Texas State Trooper, one of the first to arrive at the scene of the shooting who was under investigation for her actions or lack of actions that day. She had quit her job as a Trooper and was rehired as a School Police Officer in Uvalde.
Many parents were stunned to learn that someone under investigation for her response on the day of the shooting would be hired to protect the very same School District. That officer has since been fired.
Tonight, Shimon has new reporting about the actions of another State Police Officer under investigation and Shimon joins us now.
So what have you learned?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, so new information coming from newly obtained video and audio that has never before been seen, which now paints a picture of a Texas DPS Captain who ordered the tactical team that was ready to breach that classroom, get inside that classroom to standby.
This, despite the fact that there was a 9-1-1 call from a child inside that classroom saying they needed help. Thankfully, the attack team went in anyway and did not hear those transmissions. And now of course, this is all raising questions about the role of this DPS Captain and DPS in general that day.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): Amid the chaos at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas where nearly 400 law enforcement responded to a deadly school shooting last May, CNN has learned commands by a high-ranking State Police Officer may have contributed to the broader failed response that day.
While a gunman sat in a room full of dead, dying, and traumatized children, new police radio transmissions obtained by CNN show Texas Department of Public Safety Captain Joel Betancourt giving an order to stop police from entering the classroom.
And one internal memo describes him before he arrived telling officers to stay away from the school and remain on the perimeter during the initial response to the shooting.
Captain Betancourt was one of 91 DPS officers on scene in Uvalde. We are now learning he is one of the seven referred for further investigation over his actions.
After lionizing the police response in the initial days, the Texas Governor and State officials have pushed the blame for what has since been acknowledged as a failure on the local and school police. But CNN has now reviewed memos written just two days after the shooting that detail actions by the DPS that allegedly went against protocol for mass shootings.
One Lieutenant wrote: "I heard someone shout out 'Captain Betancourt said all DPS personnel need to be on perimeter. do not enter the building.'" And a Sergeant reported he knew this was clearly against established training and so he entered the school anyway.
By the time Betancourt says he arrived outside Robb Elementary, students and teachers had already been trapped for more than an hour.
OFFICER: They think there's kids in there. Supposedly, one kid called in and he was in there with him. DPS JOSHUA BRODOVSKY BODYCAM: We don't know if he has anyone in the
room with him, do we?
I think he does.
Eight or nine children.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): Some at the scene like this Border Patrol medic are aware of the urgency inside the classroom.
BORDER PATROL EMS: I thought he said victims, room 12.
OFFICER: No, we hadn't heard that, no. We're in the 4s, right? This is building 4.
BORDER PATROL EMS: Anybody hurt?
OFFICER: No, not here. No, sir.
OFFICER: Yes, there are.
BORDER PATROL EMS: EMS in there already?
OFFICER: No, we have an active shooter.
BORDER PATROL EMS: He's in here. Okay, I'll stand here and be ready.
OFFICER: the last contact -- hold on. The last contact we had was one of our school PD officers, his wife is a teacher. She called him and said she is saying.
MERINO BORDER PATROL EMS: They just had a number of kids in room 12. A kid in room 12. Most of the victims in room 12.
BORDER PATROL EMS: [Bleep], we're taking too long.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): A Border Patrol Tactical Unit is preparing to end the standoff and stormed the classroom.
OFFICER: Units making breach, come in.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): In a move that sources tell CNN has shocked people inside DPS. Betancourt picked up his radio and tried to stop the breach.
BETANCOURT OVER POLICE RADIO: Hey, this is DPS Captain Betancourt. The team that's going to make breach needs to stand by. The team that's going to breach needs to stand by.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): The transmission can be clearly heard on several body worn cameras inside and outside the hallway of Robb Elementary. The tactical unit was already making entry. OFFICER: Subject down. Subject down.
OFFICER: Kids. Kids. Kids.
PROKUPECZ (voice over): The shooter is killed and a devastating scene is revealed inside the classroom.
In an interview with investigators that has been detailed to CNN, Betancourt said he did not know there were any children in the building until after the breach.
That's despite 9-1-1 calls from children inside the room. Betancourt says he was relying on information from Uvalde Sheriff, Ruben Nolasco that the gunman was a barricaded subject, and no longer an active shooter, and that a better SWAT team was on its way.
He admits he never spoke to former School Police Chief Pete Arredondo who has been labeled the on-scene commander until after the shooter was killed.
The memo referencing Betancourt's actions and another corroborating it are some of the clearest evidence that questions are being raised internally at the Department of Public Safety about the actions of its officers.
His orders over the radio contradict the official narrative that the State Police were never in command of the scene and never issued substantive orders.
When questioned by CNN in September, DPS Director Colonel Steve McCraw confirmed the investigation into Betancourt and promised to resign if his agency was shown to have culpability for the botched response.
PROKUPECZ (on camera): Was there -- there is apparently footage of him inside the hallway, telling people not to breach that door. Have you heard that?
COL. STEVE MCCRAW, DPS DIRECTOR: You know, I've heard a lot of things.
PROKUPECZ: But is there any credibility?
MCCRAW: Look, I don't know if there is or not, but that's one of the reasons why we're doing the investigation. Okay.
PROKUPECZ: I know. I know.
MCCRAW: And we're going to be thorough.
PROKUPECZ: And let me just explain something to you. I don't want to do this but your --
MCCRAW: Hey, I'll be the first resign. Okay. I'll gladly resign. I'll turn in my resignation to the Governor. Okay. If I think there is any culpability of the Department of Public Safety. Period. Okay.
But we're going to hold our officers accountable. No one gets a pass. But every officer is going to be held accountable.
PROKUPECZ: But you are looking at this Captain Betancourt for information that you have that he may have told the officers not to go in the hallway?
MCCRAW: Yes, absolutely.
COOPER: How is Betancourt responding to this?
PROKUPECZ: So, he hasn't, Anderson. You know, this is something we've been working on for quite some time. We had heard information from sources inside DPS, who were really alarmed and concerned over the fact that Betancourt would give this order over the radio without having a full account of what happened.
COOPER: Just to be clear, he was giving an order to the tactical team, which was finally assembled to move in. This is after, well, 70 minutes.
PROKUPECZ: Well, at the 77-minute mark.
COOPER: So he was telling that team, which had finally assembled, which are the ones who actually finally stopped this.
PROKUPECZ: That's right. He claims he didn't know that that was the team, that that was this BORTAC team. He was concerned that they weren't experienced enough and that is why.
He also has said that well, one of the things that went into his thinking was he was told this was a barricaded subject. At no time did he hear that this was an active shooter. However, there are those 9-1- 1 calls from a kid, a child inside that classroom that is clearly heard on police radio. It is being broadcast saying that there are kids inside the room. Why he didn't hear this? Why this information was not relayed to other DPS officials is certainly raising a lot of concerns.
COOPER: The lack of just communication and disorganization is incredible in this. You have this Captain giving orders. He says the Sheriff was in charge. Department of Public Safety head says Arredondo was in charge. I mean, is it clear who was actually in charge?
PROKUPECZ: I think a picture is being painted that it's not exactly clear who was in charge. One of the things that has been so striking to me in gathering some of this information and talking to sources is that no one actually it seems from the DPS or any high level official went in to talk to Pete Arredondo, the former School Police Chief in the hallway to find out what he was dealing with, to find out other information.
He was communicating with people, but no one it seems from the DPS, which is these highly trained officials, law enforcement officers who have all kinds of weaponry, who have the skills and have the equipment to go in and are supposed to go right in. It seems that some of that information was never relayed to them.
COOPER; We should just also point out, the standard training for Police Departments around the country is who is ever there, who is ever on scene assemble and go in and just neutralize the shooter. That is the basic 101 of active shooter training.
PROKUPECZ: Right, and the argument is being made that while people thought this was -- they keep saying they thought this was a barricaded subject. Okay, maybe at first, but how could they think that when there are 9-1-1 calls from these children inside the classroom, and how that information never made its way through the chain of command and why no one took the lead on this is still very much unclear.
COOPER: We saw you speaking with Colonel Steven McGraw, the Director of Texas Department of Public Safety. He told you he would resign if the Department was proved to be culpable or found to be culpable. Betancourt is part of DPS. Has McCraw had anything to say?
PROKUPECZ: No, he is not, but we are expected to hear from him next week on Thursday. There's a Public Safety Commission hearing and on the agenda is Uvalde. What he will say and exactly what details he will give, but that will be the next step and to hear from him on the latest perhaps on this investigation.
But again, of course, all of this is raising even more questions about the law enforcement response to that day.
COOPER: Incredible. Shimon Prokupecz, really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
One more note on Uvalde tonight, Lexi Rubio was a student at the school. She was 10 years old when she was murdered that day. Her mom Kimberly reached out to us because she wanted us to know and you to know that today was Lexi's birthday. She would have -- should have turned to 11 today, and our thoughts are with her and her family and all those in Uvalde still waiting for answers and justice.
Coming up, a County Elections Chair in Georgia says he and his team hang their political hats at the door and do the people's work. When you look at his social media postings, it is a different story. That story is next.
COOPER: With less than three weeks until the midterms, the Arizona Secretary of State referred what they're calling a potential case of voter intimidation to the Department of Justice, the Arizona Attorney General's Office. According to a state official, a person leaving their ballot in an early voting drop off box in Mesa this week said they were approached and followed by a group of individuals. A county official warns that it's this is an escalation from initial reports of people taking videos of people dropping off their ballots.
Meanwhile, in Harris County, Texas with less than a week to early voting, the Secretary of State's office says they'll have inspectors performing quote, randomized checks on election records, and observing the quote handling and counting of ballots and electronic media as the most populous county home to Houston, and a Democratic leaning electorate. They also told Harris County election officials they'll quote, dispatch a task force to immediately respond to any legal issues identified by the secretary of state inspectors, poll watchers or voters.
Now we want to take you to Georgia as part of our continued look at potential threats to democracy and the vote. Here's CNN's Drew Griffin.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In meetings, the chair of the Spalding County Georgia Election Board sounds like any other government official.
BEN JOHNSON, CHAIRMAN, SPALDING COUNTY ELECTION BOARD: We hang our political hats at the door when we come in and do the people's work. There ain't no room for politics and elections.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): But County elections chairman Ben Johnson's actions online tell a far different story. Johnson is beyond partisan, a staunch election denier. On social media, he posted to fellow insurrectionists and he posted Biden is an illegitimate president.
WILLIAM PERRY, GEORGIA ETHICS WATCHDOGS: I think the whole structure in Spalding County isn't insider threat.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Last March, Johnson wrote going to do anything about the 2020 election. The flow of data from the counties should not pass through a foreign country.
(on-camera): Which is one of the key fictitious complaints about Dominion voting. So, he believes in this disproven theory.
PERRY: Yet he is now running the elections of Spalding County, which also affect the entire state. It's a scary situation.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): He has posted about QAnon more than a dozen times, including this supportive tweet. I hate to say it, but a hell of a lot of the information dropped by Q has turned out to be accurate. Red, white and Q, he writes. And other nonsensical codes that are the hallmark of the conspiracy group.
Keep in mind as chair of the election board, Johnson is in charge of the county's certification of election results. Dexter Wimbish, a Democrat who sits on the election board with Johnson says Johnson always acts professionally but --
DEXTER WIBISH, SPALDING COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS: The community has concerns about officials who are in positions where they could potentially impact the outcome of an election.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Now CNN has learned the Fulton County District Attorney intends to subpoena Ben Johnson and two other Spalding County elections officials as part of the investigation into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Georgia's 2020 presidential election.
WIMBISH: There is a concerted effort to suppress the vote of people in this country. There is an effort to make people believe that the government does not believe in democracy. And that's just not -- that's just not true.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Election deniers who are now in charge of elections across the country are a concern to pro-democracy groups nationwide. In one Nevada County, the new interim clerk in charge of elections was one of six so-called fake electors in Nevada. In Michigan, according to police, the clerk of Lake Township believes the 2020 election was fraudulent and shared voting machine materials with someone allegedly involved in the breach of those machines.
In Colorado, the sitting clerk of Elbert County spreads debunk conspiracies that voting machines contain hackable wireless devices.
UNDENTIFIED MALE: How am I supposed to know if anybody has used that wireless device to access our system?
LAWRENCE NORDEN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: The danger is that these are people who may lie about election results, who are certainly likely to cast doubt about the Trussworthiness of elections.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): As for Ben Johnson, and what he has to say about all this in a word, nothing. He's refused to answer questions in an e- mail accuse CNN of being on a witch hunt. When we went to his Spalding County Offices, we were told on the phone that he was in a meeting. But when we tried talking to him.
(on-camera): Hey, it's Ben Johnson here?
UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not. Can I help you?
GRIFFIN (on-camera): Are you sure?
(voice-over): Spalding County early voting under the leadership of an election denier began this week.
COOPER: And Drew joins us now with more news. The Georgia Secretary of State's office believes someone is already trying to discredit this election. In what way?
GRIFFIN: Yes, it's breaking down here and it's happening in Spalding County, Anderson. Yesterday they found a fake ballot somehow slipped in among the 1,520 actual cast ballots at the county's only early voting site. Sources tell me it was such a fake that it seems to investigators the intent was for this fake ballot to be found in somehow used to discredit the electoral process. It's launched yet another investigation in the same county, whose elections are led by an election denier who denies he has anything to do with this. And on Twitter stated every vote should count. Anderson.
COOPER: Drew Griffin, thanks so much.
Up next, the surprise resignation at 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Liz Truss leaving office after a very short time. We'll look at why and what comes next.
COOPER: A lot of political upheaval in the United Kingdom. Liz Truss has resigned as the British prime minister after only six weeks on the job at 10 Downing Street, and with Britain facing deep economic turmoil.
Joining us for their perspective, CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour and CNN business editor-at-large, Richard Quest.
Christiane, what happened to the Prime Minister?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, basically a huge disaster of her own making. Everybody here says including her own party, that this was a self-inflicted wound that started with a party of to her and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng back on, you know, that September, where they just delivered this mini budget that was so out there, with no road testing, with no rules of the road, none of the normal fiscal accountability was in place. And sure enough, it just created mayhem and chaos in the markets and in this country. And ever since she's been trying to ride the ship. But eventually it was clear that the uproar here especially amongst her own party, was too much just untenable. And today she had to leave.
COOPER: Richard, I mean we saw the complete U turn on fiscal policy from Liz Truss as Christiane was saying, people said it was a self- inflicted wound. Can you just walk us through the effect her economic policy had on markets?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: She went on a massive spree of cutting taxes, arguably spending a fortune on things like energy relief for the whole country. But she never told anybody how she was going to pay for it. And at the time when the country is in recession, and will probably stay there for some time. The markets basically said you have a 60 70-billion-pound, $80 billion hole in your books, how are you going to pay for it. And when they didn't come up with the other side of the equation, the market took it out on the pound, which fell to extraordinary lows just about parity with the U.S. dollar. And they took it out on government borrowing by raising the cost of UK government borrowing.
And you know, Anderson, when all said and done when the new prime minister is in place, when everybody's forgotten about it, that higher cost of borrowing will still be costing the UK taxpayer and still be costing higher mortgages in Britain for years.
COOPER: Christiane, who are some of the front runners to replace Truss?
AMANPOUR: Well, of course, the name Rishi Sunak comes up again. Of course, he was the chancellor previously, he's the one who essentially launched the downfall of Boris Johnson. We also hear that it could be anybody from the woman called Penny Mordaunt who is head of the House of Commons, the Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. And guess what, some people even suggesting that Boris Johnson could throw his hat back in the ring, despite the fact that apparently the in-house Tory Party rules for leadership, prevent anybody who's resigned from actually being able to run again. And he is just surrounded by, you know, the whole accusations of sleaze of party gate of all of that nothing there has changed at all.
COOPER: Richard, the energy prices keep going up in the UK, things like meat, bread and milk eggs are skyrocketing with inflation. As you said, that's going to continue, right.
QUEST: Absolutely. The latest numbers on inflation came this week 10.1% and will probably rise higher. And as a result of what Liz Truss government did by just flooding potentially money, getting rid of any form of fiscal prudence. So, inflation is likely to be hired to for longer, and the Bank of England pulling in the opposite direction will have to raise rates even higher.
As economic look, I've been doing -- I've been covering economics for some time. As economic policies go, I cannot ever imagine a more dreadful, disastrous calamitous set of events that all came to a head within two weeks and exploded so spectacularly.
COOPER: But I mean, Christiane, if that's the case, I don't understand what was -- what were they thinking? I mean, what were -- what did --
AMANPOUR: Clearly, clearly Anderson, they weren't thinking, they were thinking with hubris, and really in a very close quarters. I said it was just her Chancellor, by and large, who came up with this and just landed it on the people without, as I say, going through any kind of safety net.
And you know, Richard has been covering business for a long time. I've been covering people for a long time. And it is a disaster for the people of this country. The idea of mortgages in the United States you have these fixed is for long periods of time, 15, 30 years. Here, you don't it's variable often, and it's really difficult people have panic. Now we've got a major problem for the people here it's terrible for the people.
COOPER: So, it doesn't show, I didn't know that that in the UK, you don't have a 30-year mortgage. That's not common?
AMANPOUR: No, no, no, no.
COOPER: And Richard, and it will be King Charles who welcomes the new prime minister whoever it is.
QUEST: Yes. It's his first prime minister. His late mother had more than a dozen, we will look back on this. I mean bear in mind of course Liz Truss was the last political act or the last official major act that Her Majesty the Queen did appointing her and then she died a couple of days later. It's extraordinary you couldn't write this, Anderson, you couldn't write it.
COOPER: Yes. Richard Quest, Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Still ahead, intense fighting in eastern Ukraine. We'll take you there as the Pentagon reiterates that Iran is aiding Putin's army. The latest on that, next.
COOPER: The Pentagon today double down on their claim that Iran is helping Russia's war efforts. According to the Pentagon press secretary Iranians had been on the ground in Ukraine assisting Russian for versus with drone operation saying that Iran is complicit in terms of exporting terror. Both Iran and Russia deny the claims.
Meanwhile, Ukraine says that Russian strikes have damaged as much as 40% of their power infrastructure. Ukraine state energy supplier today said they've been forced to put restrictions on electricity use in Kyiv and other central regions. President Zelenskyy said the infrastructure attacks were aimed at creating a new wave of refugees.
CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is on the ground in eastern Ukraine with the latest.
Fred, the fighting where you are in eastern Ukraine continues to be bad. What do you see?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, there's a lot of really heavy fighting, especially in the area where we are around the town of Bakhmut. In fact, tonight, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that this is really the main focal point where the Russians are trying to advance and we've seen that over the past couple of days here. We were in Bakhmut ourselves. And we immediately came under fire by Russian artillery. And, you know, the Ukrainian forces there on the ground say they face that every single day, several times a day with those Russian forces trying to move forward. And these are mostly forces Anderson from the Wagner private military company. So, these are some of the most brutal forces that Vladimir Putin can muster. And certainly, people who are very battle hardened.
And so right here, it's a difficult situation for the Ukrainians. But they do say they want to hold on to every inch of territory. COOPER: And what about the forced evacuations by Russia of thousands of residents in the Kherson region, what could that signal about the next stage of this conflict?
PLEITGEN: Yes, that's really one of those things where the Ukrainians believe that these are essentially deportations of the local population there. Obviously they're seeing us in a very negative light and they see it this is something that's very, very dangerous to the situation down there. The Ukrainians have been advancing around the Kherson area, but they're actually still pretty far away from the actual city of Kherson. But again, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He came out tonight, and he said that the Ukrainians have information that the Russians have mined a strategic dan doubt in that area and could actually flood the battlefield. If the Ukrainians continue to advance it just get a breathing space between the air forces and the Ukrainian forces. That could have extremely dangerous consequences, including taking cooling water away from the biggest nuclear power plant in all of Europe, and flooding around at villages and towns.
So, it's certainly down there. Right now. The Ukrainians are advancing, the Russians are acknowledging that it's a very difficult situation for them. But it certainly seems as though in general for this conflict. That is really where things could get very ugly very soon.
COOPER: Yes, Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it. Thank you. Be careful.
In Iran, women and men continue to risk their lives showing up for anti-government demonstrations. Now in their fifth week, given the oppressive Iranian regime and the power their security forces, what we're witnessing in cell phone videos and learning about through first person accounts is extraordinary.
CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, spoke to one woman who has been on the street protests. And we want to warn you some of the images you'll see are disturbing what we think they're important for you to see.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every day for the past five weeks, a little bit of video trickles out of Iran. Giving just a small window into the repressive Republic. A snapshot of the bravery of protesters and the ruthlessness of regime forces.
The government's internet restrictions have made it hard for us to speak to those on the frontlines of this battle for change. But we got a rare opportunity to speak briefly with a 28-year-old protester. We're not identifying her for her safety.
UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I ran to protest location, I was really scared and I was like, what am I doing here? Here's a warzone. And I was so scared. I realized that if we want to make a change, I should start with myself.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): That defiance was met with shield brutality. Women who've been beaten up with batons and shot at. This protesters body riddled with shotgun pallets according to rights group (INAUDIBLE), many have been dragged by their uncovered hair. And according to human rights groups and Amnesty International, some sexually assaulted in plain sight of the very forces claiming to be the enforcers of morality.
UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: Individuals and Basji forces attack people and beat them, and to scare people. I saw a lady who was coming back from class and the Basji forces hit her with a baton in her sensitive place and she couldn't walk.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): She recounts in terrifying detail what she and others have witnessed firsthand. Security forces roaming the streets on motorbikes attacking people, opening fire on peaceful protesters and chasing them into buildings.
UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we were attacked, we ran into a store and the salesman closed and locked the door. So, the forces couldn't see inside. My heart was pounding and I was shaking. My friend said, do you want to go home? I said, no like going home. I didn't come to run away. Nothing has happened to me yet, and I and I was able to escape. But it is possible at any moment. We are now in the worst time of our life. We do everything we can, despite all this stress, even if it costs our lives.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): Too many lives already lost in a battle they say for women, life, liberty. But that's not stopping the fearless generation rising up to reclaim freedoms they've never known.
Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.
COOPER: It's incredible bravery.
Just ahead, a victory for actor Kevin Spacey after he was found not liable for battery. Details next.
COOPER: Victory for actor Kevin Spacey today after about an hour of deliberations. New York jury found Spacey not liable in a battery claim brought by actor Anthony Rapp. Rapp is best known perhaps for his role in Star Trek Discovery. Also renting jurors concluded that Rapp did not prove that Spacey quote touched a sexual or intimate part of himself. The judge formerly dismissed the case.
Despite this win, Spacey still faces other accusations in the UK. In May, Spacey was charged with four counts of sexual assault against three men and one count of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent by Britain's prosecuting service. He's pleaded not guilty to the charges.
[21:00:06] The news continues. Time top handed over Jake Tapper in "CNN TONIGHT." Jake.