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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
DOJ Mulling Potential Special Counsel If Trump Runs In 2024; Paul Pelosi Released From Hospital; When Law Enforcement Policies The Ballot Box; When Law Enforcement Policies The Ballot Box; Trump On The Campaign Trail, With An Eye On 2024; New Audio: Russian Commanders Angry About Paying For Gear. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired November 03, 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: She has maintained that she accidentally put the vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her suitcase and that she has a prescription for medical marijuana.
Well, the White House continues to press for her immediate release along with that of Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia for three years on espionage charges, which he denies.
Thanks so much for joining us.
AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
A lot to get to tonight. Just short of a week since he was attacked by an intruder who was trying to capture his wife, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Paul Pelosi is out of the hospital. CNN chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us talk about what Mr. Pelosi's recovery from a skull fracture might look like.
Also tonight, the President and two former Presidents all helping candidates in close races, making their closing arguments with control of Congress not just up for grabs, but within reach for either party.
We begin though tonight with breaking news: Exclusive CNN reporting on how the Justice Department could proceed with cases against former President Trump if he decides to run, as his surrogates are again loudly hinting for President again.
CNN's Sara Murray has the breaking news. She joins us now.
So what more are you learning?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, our sources are telling our team that the Justice Department is considering whether a Special Counsel might be necessary to oversee the investigation surrounding Donald Trump if he decides to run for President in 2024, which as you've mentioned, is a thing his allies are talking about, a thing that could be potentially an imminent announcement. And so they are looking at the Mar-a-Lago investigation, the
investigation surrounding January 6th, surrounding efforts to subvert the 2020 election and trying to decide whether a Special Counsel might be necessary.
Now, no decisions have been made, but the idea, of course, is that if you are in a position wherein Joe Biden's Justice Department is interviewing who could potentially be the candidate he is running against, that as a potential political firestorm that the Justice Department wants to avoid.
COOPER: Is it clear how likely an indictment against the former President actually is at this point?
MURRAY: We don't know that at this point. I mean, obviously, we know there are these investigations that have been swirling around the former President. We know they've gotten very close to a number of his allies, a number of people who have worked with him in the White House.
You know, we talked about how Kash Patel has been granted immunity to testify before a Mar-a-Lago grand jury. We just don't know how close this is going to get to the former President or if they are going to move forward with indictments against potentially his associates or against the former President.
COOPER: And what kind of timetable is the Justice Department looking at?
MURRAY: Well, this is an excellent question. What we know is that even though they have been in this quiet period, they have been moving pretty aggressively behind the scenes to try to subpoena witnesses in these secret Court battles to try to get them to appear before the grand jury. So we may know more once we get out of this quiet period after the Midterms.
You know, we should also remind folks, these are not the only criminal investigations surrounding the former President. There is also this criminal probe playing out in Georgia, and we expect indictments there could come as early as December -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Sara Murray, appreciate it. Thank you.
Some perspective now from CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero, served as top legal adviser in several capacities in the Department of Justice; also senior chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN contributor, John Dean who served as White House Counsel in the Nixon White House.
So Andrew, you heard what Sara Murray had to say. I wonder what your reaction is?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, boy, Anderson, this one brings back a lot of memories. You know, the investigation of a political candidate, and even if that
person is a candidate for the presidency, it doesn't require that -- there is nothing that protects you from investigation simply by being a candidate for office, and so certainly the Justice Department and the FBI wouldn't be required to appoint a Special Counsel during the campaign period. So if you think about that as any time after next Tuesday until Election Day on 2024.
However, after having lived through and had a role in the investigation of then candidate Hillary Clinton in her presidency in 2016, by the end of that experience, I believe very strongly, and still do that the Department and the Bureau would have been better served, had a Special Counsel been appointed to oversee that investigation during the period of the campaign.
It's just very, very hard to protect those institutions from the claims of politicization that invariably come from those investigations by people who are opposed to them or frustrated by them.
So, I would think that the Department would probably look very closely at that decision in the event that Donald Trump decides to announce his candidacy, and they continue these investigations that we're aware of.
COOPER: Carrie Cordero, what is a Special Counsel? I mean, why does it -- why did why would it help the Department of Justice against appearances of partisanship. What does a Special Counsel do?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The reason, Anderson, that the Justice Department might appoint and it is entirely in the discretion of Attorney General Garland to appoint a Special Counsel in this matter is the Department has to conduct an inquiry as to whether or not there would be a conflict of interest or other extraordinary circumstances is what the regulations say.
CORDERO: And so this is just entirely in his discretion, whether he thinks that the appearance of conflict of interest, the actual conflict of interest, because he is appointed and a political appointee by the current President, and if there is going to be a future campaign between the current President and the former President again, then there is a potential -- there is an argument that there's a potential conflict there.
And the decision is whether or not appointing a Special Counsel would be in the public interest, and so it's a wide amount of discretion for the Attorney General. He has to think about, as Andrew, describes the institutions, he has to think about the integrity of the investigation, and what is the best choice to maintain the integrity and the conduct of an investigation to its rightful end whether that end means an indictment or whether that end means that the investigation stops.
COOPER: So Dana, I mean, if the Department of Justice does decide to move towards Special Counsel, do you think it matters whether they do so before or after the foreign President announces his decision to run? I mean, is there a ticking clock here?
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I mean, there's no ticking clock because as Carrie and Andy were just talking about, this is very much -- there is no specific hard and fast rule book on any of it.
And if you add in the fact that even if there was a rule book, Donald Trump would completely blow through that. That's really the key here.
I mean, Andy is talking about what happened during the Clinton campaign when they were investigating her and what was going on there. Then you kind of fast forward to Robert Mueller. I mean, he was a Special Counsel and it is not like it stopped Donald Trump from completely demonizing him and the investigation. It did not make it so the politics were not in involved in or at least, Mueller and his team were not accused of politics.
So when you're talking about Donald Trump, and the way that he approaches these things, he will use it as much as he can, not just as a political weapon, but as a political shield within and by his own party.
COOPER: And, John, if -- I mean, if these politically sensitive investigations do pick up after the election, what would you be looking for in the months to come that would indicate the DOJ is actively pursuing an indictment against the former President? What will the signs be?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the first case they'll focus down on is the Mar a Largo documents case. That's a pretty clean, basic case where documents are going to dominate with a few government witnesses and so, it's not a difficult witness heavy case.
And I think it is pretty black and white. That'll probably be the first indictment, and it will probably be a race between Trump and the Department of Justice as to which happens first. Trump may be still using his candidacy as a potential shield and jump in first and think that would make the Department have second thoughts. I don't think that's true.
So the much more complex case, Anderson, is the overturning of the election. It involves the insurrection, it involves the phony electors. It's very witness intense. The report of the January 6 Committee is going to come out and shed even more light, we don't know, and maybe the Department of Justice won't know. So, that's the least likely to be the initial one and I think these documents case could come.
COOPER: Andrew, I mean, other than a Special Counsel, is there anything else that Attorney General Garland could do to try to keep the investigations from even the appearance of influence by the White House?
MCCABE: You know, what they can do, Anderson, is to continue to do exactly what they've been doing: Follow the facts and follow the law wherever they lead.
I think John is absolutely right. Right now, the Mar-a-Lago case looks like the one that would come to some sort of a critical decision more quickly. And then that's when they could actually make that decision of indict or don't indict before the election gets, you know, into its final phases.
The January 6 case is way more complicated and a lot of additional considerations in there. It's hard to see that happening quickly. But it is pretty much, they do it the way they're doing it now, according to the book, under normal procedures or they bring in a Special Counsel. It's kind of a binary choice, and I think that once you add the intensity of the campaign, I think it leans pretty hard in the direction of a Special Counsel.
COOPER: Dana, I mean, do you see the investigation having an effect on the Republican presidential primary?
BASH: Oh, it absolutely could. Because we have seen that whenever Donald Trump calls himself a victim and calls himself the -- kind of a martyr, then it helps to rally the base around him. One thing though, I will say just in traveling, I've been to five States since Labor Day, some key battleground states this Midterm Election, and it has been striking to me that even though Donald Trump still has a big reservoir of support among Republicans, I heard more Republicans than maybe I anticipated say if there was another option for them inside the GOP, they would be okay with that, because this kind of thing we're talking about has become exhausting even for some of his most staunch supporters.
COOPER: Yes. Dana Bash, John Dean, Carrie Cordero, Andrew McCabe, thank you.
Still to come tonight, Paul Pelosi now out of the hospital after suffering that brutal attack. Our own resident neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta on what Mr. Pelosi faces after surgery due to a skull fracture caused by a hammer blow.
Also tonight, CNN's Drew Griffin on police departments now monitoring ballot boxes, concerns that according to the ACLU, they might "cross the line into intimidation."
COOPER: Six days after suffering life-threatening injuries at the hands of a hammer-wielding intruder, 82-year-old Paul Pelosi left a San Francisco hospital.
In a statement today, his wife, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he continues to progress on what she called "a long recovery process and convalescence." Joining us is CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel, as well as CNN
chief medical correspondent and practicing neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who has treated many serious head injuries such as the one Paul Pelosi suffered.
So Jamie, first of all, what more can you tell us about Mr. Pelosi's discharge from the hospital.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So Anderson, as you mentioned, Mr. Pelosi was released earlier today after recovering from that surgery last Friday to repair the skull fracture that was caused by the assailant hitting him over the head, I am told twice, as well as serious injuries to his right arm and his hands.
When he got home, I'm told that she has been there from the beginning, his wife, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is at home with him, other members of the family, his adult children. But considering the nature of the attack that he was hit in the head with a hammer, knocked unconscious for told for about three minutes, the extent of the injuries, obviously, Sanjay can talk about this much more. I think it's pretty remarkable that six days later, he was able to be released.
It's excellent news that the doctor felt he is ready to go home. I'm also told by friends of the family that he was pushing to get out of there as quickly as possible.
COOPER: So Sanjay, what does it say about Mr. Pelosi's injuries as Jamie said, considering he was released, you know, less than a week after the attack?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I think a couple things can be true at the same time. It was a very significant injury. You know, we have some details, thanks to Jamie's great reporting on this, you know, about 2:30 or so in the morning, because when this happened on Friday morning of last week, he was difficult to rouse, you know, maybe unconscious, as Jamie said. And then later that morning, he was taken to the operating room.
But we know a couple of things. One is that he was able to speak to his wife ahead of time before the operation, that certainly was a good sign. Also, Anderson, the doctors were quite optimistic almost from the start, basically saying they expected even at that point that he would make a full recovery. So as significant as the injury was, the doctors are pretty optimistic.
And I'll just show you something, Anderson, when we talk about a skull fracture and obviously, the bone is broken, it can bend, sort of inward. I think part of the reason that doctors would be so optimistic is because they would do scans trying to determine if there was bleeding underneath the bone on top of the brain, or even within the brain itself, and those scans didn't seem to show those types of concerns.
So again, as significant as the injury was, the fact that, you know, it made him unconscious for a period of time, he was able to recover quickly, even before the operation, and I think it bodes well, you know, going forward.
COOPER: Sanjay, I mean, is there a danger directly to the brain itself from an attack like this? Does the skull actually crack open? I mean, that is probably a dumb question, but...
GUPTA: No, not at all. The skull can crack up. It can be what is called an open skull fracture. That's what it would be referred to. And in that case, you know, you have the outer layers of the brain potentially exposed and that's why that operation has to be done. You want to repair that bone, you want to protect the brain.
But the big question in these situations from a trauma perspective is right away, you have to determine, did that blow also cause some sort of bleeding to occur either on top of the brain or just underneath the outer surface of the brain, or even within the brain? And I'm sure CAT scans were performed when he got to the hospital in those few hours before he went to the operating room to answer that question.
Given the doctors' optimism early on, I think that it is clear that those scans did not show that bleeding, which is again, obviously a good sign.
COOPER: Jamie, Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren said on CNN tonight that the lack of condemnation from the Republican Party on the attack is creating a "environment of permission." I'm wondering what you were hearing from sources on that ongoing discussion or debate.
GANGEL: I think that, unfortunately, this is the political climate that we are in. You know, Anderson, the January 6 Committee has been talking about, "The clear and present danger of disinformation of Donald Trump" continuing the lie about election, about election deniers, about promoting violence.
GANGEL: this is the place we find ourselves in and Paul Pelosi was the very
real victim here of a horrific attack, life threatening, but we can't forget that the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi was the target of it -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jamie Gangel, Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.
Coming up: What some have been starting to call the alarming trend, local law enforcement coming involved in the Midterms in some places with armed police officers questioning voters about their ballots. More on that ahead.
CARLSON: Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson is facing a tight race to keep his job declined today to commit to accepting the outcome. Quoting the senator now, "I sure hope I can, but I can't predict what the Democrats might have planned."
Along those lines that we learned today that a top election official in Milwaukee has been fired for allegedly obtaining ballots through fraudulent means and sending them to a Republican State lawmaker. Yet now Senator Johnson is actually trying to use the incident to make his own case. CNN's Omar Jimenez joins us now with the latest, so what about this Milwaukee elections official?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson.
So this was the Deputy Director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, Kimberly Zapata. She allegedly got military ballots for fake voters through a Republic site called My Vote and then sent them to a Republican State lawmaker.
JIMENEZ: That State representative said that these ballots were all addressed to a woman named "Holly" with different last names, someone who did not and had never lived at this particular address. And while the specific motive isn't known at this point, the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Election Commission says she believes this since the fired deputy was trying to point out that you could go to a public site, make someone up and still request a ballot.
This representative turned everything over to law enforcement, who has now turned things over to the District Attorney's office, who now said they expect to file charges in the coming days.
I should also point out a lawyer for Zapata told me that they will litigate this in the Courtroom, not the media.
COOPER: What was the reaction from the Wisconsin Elections Commission?
JIMENEZ: Well, as you can imagine, they took this very seriously. They said that this was a violation of election law and the administrator for the Commission said she is stunned.
However, she says: "The actions of the single individual were swiftly detected and will have no impact on the November 8th election. We however, recognize that the damage caused by this action is damage to public confidence. While this case, understandably, will receive a lot of attention, the fact remains that election fraud is extremely rare and when it does occur, it is quickly discovered and there are consequences."
They also said there are multiple checks in place to ensure that just because you request a ballot, it doesn't actually get counted, especially on the military ballots side, including potentially flagging if a military ballot is requested to go to an address that's not a military facility.
They also went on to say that in total, on average, they make up about 0.07 percent of total ballots requested. So, we're talking about a small sliver here. However, as you can imagine, there are going to be many forces who are going to try to use this to paint a picture of this coming election being not secure.
COOPER: Yes. Omar Jimenez, appreciate it. Thank you.
CNN's Drew Griffin has filed several reports in the last few weeks about the potential for election interference. Tonight, he looks at what happens when the armed individuals policing election ballot drop boxes are the police themselves.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Early voting in Berks County, Pennsylvania is underway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get your ballot.
GRIFFIN (voice over): Where voters face a short questioning by an armed Sheriff Deputy before they drop their early ballot in a secured ballot box.
DONNA GORMAN, BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: He just asked if those were our ballots and we said yes.
GRIFFIN (voice over): You would think this is in response to some sort of vote fraud that took place in Berks County, but it is not.
CHRISTIAN LEINBACH, BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: It's about giving voters confidence that this is a safe place to vote.
GRIFFIN (voice over): County officials said there were no security issues with drop boxes, yet by September, they adopted a new policy of Deputies questioning voters spearheaded by County Commissioner, Christian Leinbach.
LEINBACH: If something negative was going to happen, some criminal activity may be perpetrated, a Sheriff's Deputy is trained to respond.
GRIFFIN (voice over): Election experts are concerned about the potential impact.
MARIAN SCHNEIDER, SENIOR VOTING RIGHTS POLICY COUNSEL, ACLU PENNSYLVANIA: Anytime that you have uniformed and armed law enforcement around places where people are trying to vote that that raises a dangerous risk that you'll cross the line into intimidation.
GRIFFIN (voice over): What's happening in Berks County as part of an alarming trend of law enforcement becoming involved in elections across the country. Some Sheriffs say they plan to safeguard the Midterm Elections even though that is normally the duty of election officials.
SHERIFF MARK LAMP, PINAL COUNTY: We're going to make sure that people are not coming over and over again putting ballots in the boxes.
GRIFFIN (voice over): An Arizona Sheriff named Mark Lamb now leads a right-wing group of roughly 70 colleagues across the country. He has launched an initiative with True the Vote, a controversial nonprofit that has trained poll watchers and pushed your false claims of fraud. LAMB: There's nothing more important than defending your vote.
GRIFFIN (voice over): E-mails obtained by CNN show Lamb has been reaching out to other Sheriffs asking them to join his so-called election integrity efforts.
Document show his group recommends increased patrol activity around drop box locations and video surveillance with access points directly on Sheriff Department computers, warning, if they don't do that, the opportunity for illegal activity is incredibly high.
And Lamb is far from the only Sheriff spreading bogus election conspiracy theories.
SHERIFF RICHARD VAUGHAN, GRAYSON COUNTY, VIRGINIA: I saw the True the Vote documentary "2000 Mules." It should open anybody's eyes and if the Federal government is not going to investigate that, I think the Sheriffs should.
SHERIFF CALVIN HAYDEN, JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS: I talked to some guys yesterday that actually showed the algorithm of the machines.
I think they've been programmed in by some foreign entities and they are manipulating the vote.
SHERIFF DAR LEAF, BARRY COUNTY, MICHIGAN: They get offended when you start questioning the election. And folks, this been going on a long time, this vote manipulation, the electronic and computerized voting.
GRIFFIN (voice over): Again, none of that is true.
The fear of what could happen in this Midterm Election is based on what's happened in America's past.
MARY MCCORD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ICAP AT GEORGETOWN LAW: law enforcement meddling in elections throughout history in this country has been used for oppressing Black voters, other minority populations, and the signaling there is "We don't trust you. We think you're cheating."
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Back to those deputies in Berks County, Pennsylvania's interim Secretary of State warned the county to not station deputy sheriffs outside of ballot drop boxes in Berks County and to refrain from stopping and questioning prospective voters. That didn't happen.
Fact is this is a county that went for Trump. There is no vote fraud. The deputies are nice. Voters don't seem to mind the deputies.
RAEDELL MARKS, BERKS COUNTY, PA VOTER: Because of everything that has gone on with the contentious things happening and that's perfectly fine. If it makes people feel better, great.
D. GRIFFIN (voice-over): But remember people should have already felt great about the last election in Berks County. It was secure. It was fair unnecessarily having armed deputies guard this election may be sending an entirely different message.
MCCORCD: It sends this broader message that our elections aren't secure, that there's widespread spread fraud. We the law need to be there to ensure that's not the case.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Drew Griffin joins us now. Guarding ballot boxes is one thing there are fears the sheriff's might -- I mean interject themselves in the election itself.
D. GRIFFIN: That is the fear, Anderson. Remember these sheriffs have been searching for this mythical fraud for two years now. So, they are eager to find something. And this Election Voter Rights people are very concerned that in these small counties where the sheriffs exists, they might interject themselves, get involved in the electoral process. And that could potentially impact the local voting there.
COOPER: All right.
COOPER: Drew Griffin, appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
Just ahead, CNN's Jeff Zeleny following the former president, who's now on the campaign trail and hitting states, there'll be key for another run at the presidency.
COOPER: A breaking news this evening sources telling CNN that the Justice Department is mulling whether to appoint a special counsel to oversee its investigations the former president should he run against again for president? No decisions had been made, as far as we know, at least by the Justice Department. But the former president is now on the campaign trail not only in key swing states for the midterm elections, but once he'll need to win if he does indeed run again.
Our Jeff Zeleny is on the trail talking with Republican voters.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To say Donald Trump is coming back to the campaign trail would suggest he's ever gone away.
DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Make America great again.
ZELENY (voice-over): But starting tonight, he's back in a new way for rallies and five days in a sprint to election day.
TRUMP: Hello, Iowa.
ZELENY (voice-over): Iowa is hardly the hottest spot on the map of 2022 battlegrounds. But the state has something even more enticing. It hopes to ring the opening bell of the next Republican presidential race. As Republicans ride a wave of optimism in the final days of the midterm elections, the 2024 campaign is about to burst from the shadows and the former President is eager to solidify his role as the party's top leader, inching ever closer to announcing another bid for the White House.
TRUMP: In order to make our country successful, safe and glorious again. I will probably have to do it again.
ZELENY (voice-over): The question is whether potential rivals would join him or step aside. A parade of Republicans with presidential ambitions have already visited Iowa this year, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rick Scott of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and outgoing Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Aren't you glad to live in the Free State of Florida?
ZELENY (voice-over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is eyeing an Iowa trip of his own after his reelection campaign is complete. CNN has learned further fueling and intensifying duel with the former president. While his loyal base of supporters is already lining up behind him, a Trump candidacy would test the full party's appetite for reliving the 2020 campaign and litigating a string of his legal challenges.
Susan Stewart is an Iowa Republican who voted for Trump.
SUSAN STEWART, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: There are Republicans who never supported him in the first place. There are others who have mixed feelings about him. But by and large, I would say there's more diehard Trump supporters in any of those other categories.
ZELENY (voice-over): Conversations with Republicans in other states reveal a measure of hesitation.
LINDA FRANK, PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN VOTER: I am perplexed, because I was a Trump supporter. And I don't know where I stand now.
BILL SUPRENANT, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN VOTER: I feel like we got betrayed and especially when he attacked the -- you don't attack the Capitol, that's for sure.
ZELENY (on-camera): So, you wouldn't want to see him run again?
SUPRENANT: Oh, definitely not.
ZELENY (voice-over): But many Trump loyalists do, and the former President has repeatedly signaled he's poised to launch a new campaign, built around false questions about the last one. TRUMP: May just have to do it again. Stay tuned everybody, stay tuned.
COOPER: And Jeff joins us now. Is it clear how much of the campaign blitz by the foreign president is about boosting Republican candidates versus stoking his own ambitions to return to the White House?
ZELENY: Anderson, it's definitely a mix. I mean, Iowa is not the biggest battleground this year on this windy night as the former president takes the stage at the rally behind me, Senator Chuck Grassley just a short time ago, praise the former president and thanked him for coming here. The reason is this. He's running for an eighth term. He was first elected 1980. So, there is some fatigue here for Chuck Grassley. So, the former president, smooth some of that.
But make no mistake, this rally here tonight is about Donald Trump. It's about his presidential ambitions. But as we talked to so many Republicans, one thing becomes clear, even fans of the former president say they're open to a bigger field of contenders. The question, of course, is whether those contenders will jump in, if Trump does first. Anderson.
COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, appreciate it. Thanks, Jeff.
Perspective now from CNN political commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin, who a White House -- excuse me, former White House Director of Strategic Communications for the former president. And CNN political commentator, Bakari Sellers, Democratic former legislator from South Carolina.
How much power Alyssa, do you think the former president has on the campaign trail for these candidates?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's no doubt that it'll help get, you know, bring out some turnout. But honestly, a lot of these candidates that are running at least in competitive races, we're generally shying away from appearing with him in the general election. He's somebody who he's the boosts that you want in a primary he's not necessarily if you're in a competitive race.
But to the question that you asked Jeff, this is about Trump campaigning for 2024. He handpick the states he's going to because they benefit him for a potential run in the future. If there's one thing I know about the man, he acts purely in self-interest, it's not about boosting Republicans. In fact, I'm not even sure he cares that much about if Republicans take back the Senate majority or take back the House. It's about raising his profile ahead of 2024.
COOPER: Bakari, Donald Trump's not the only foreign president, obviously, on the trail. I want to ask you about former President Obama's closing message. Here's what he said in Arizona last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA (D) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I know folks out there, including Republicans may be thinking there's no way somebody like that's actually going to enlighten. You, you may think that's too extreme for Arizona. But we've seen -- folks can win if we don't do our part. And if you've got an election denier serving as your governor, as your Senator, as your secretary of state, as your attorney general, then democracy as we know it may not survive in Arizona. That's not an exaggeration. That is a fact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Bakari, I heard you recently said the former President Obama is the best messenger in the Democratic Party. Do you think he can close the deal actually get people to vote?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think so. First of all, he is by far the best messenger we have. He's the sharpest messenger we have. He's the most articulate messenger we have about the issues of the day. Just listening to the message that he just gave in Arizona was a sharp critique of Kari Lake and Blake Masters. He's somebody who needs to be out on the trail to, yes, close the deal. I mean, while we also have Kamala Harris, who's been on the trail a lot, it's very hard to put Joe Biden on the trail that much with a 40% approval rating, in some states, even lower and others. You do have the most universally popular, elected official, former elected official in the country. And that is Barack Obama.
So, rolling him out at this point is a perfect time. Do I wish he might have gotten out there sooner? Maybe. But the fact is, he's going to the states where this will matter. And we talked about whether or not Donald Trump will turn out voters in Iowa? Well, Iowa the cake is kind of baked, Arizona, it ain't. And that is where Barack Obama is going. You've seen him in places like Georgia, you've seen them in places like Nevada. You've seen him in places like Arizona. That's how sharp of a messenger he is. And people still get excited to touch quote unquote, the proverbial hem of his garment. He was a superstar --
SELLERS: -- type president, and he still is a superstar type post president.
COOPER: Alyssa, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said that she thought that President Trump might announce a presidential run soon, he's being urged by some people to still have a November surprise, she said. Do you think that's for real?
A. GRIFFIN: I've been hearing for some time that he was going to do it right after the midterms. And by the way, that was he it took a lot of outside effort to convince him to wait till after the midterms, because it could have hurt Republicans if he did it sooner. I anticipate he'll announce soon. I think he wants to be the first out of the gate to announce. But I do think that there will definitely be others who challenge president, the former president.
COOPER: Do you think they will?
A. GRIFFIN: I think there will be. The DeSantis reporting that he may be reconsidering and putting it off that rings true to folks I've talked to, but listen, Mike Pence is gearing up to run, Mike Pompeo is gearing up to I think Nikki Haley's considering it. I think people see the former president. Yes, he's the leader of the party. But he's incredibly vulnerable with all of his many, many legal issues.
COOPER: Isn't that weird for Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley to be running again?
A. GRIFFIN: Oh, it's going to be completely weird. And it makes no sense why folks aren't distancing themselves from him now because they're inevitably going to have to do it. I give pence credit that he's been beginning to do that, because it's inevitable. You have to explain why you are superior to him as a choice. So, the sooner folks distance themselves from Trump, the more boost them as a potential contender.
COOPER: Do you think he really wants to be president again?
A. GRIFFIN: I think half of the calculation frankly is just concerned over his legal exposure. I think he probably misses the limelight more than he does the governing and the role and not coming to COVID task force meetings for example, but I do think he's going to run.
COOPER: Yes. Did he (INAUDIBLE)? Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you. Bakari Sellers as well.
Up next, fresh signs of how badly Russia's invasion of Ukraine is going in the words of Russian commanders caught on tape from the battlefield itself.
COOPER: Tonight, there are new signs of just how bad it is for the rest of the military in Ukraine. Ukrainian intelligence says they've intercepted a call between two Russian commanders upset that they have to raise money for the gear they need on the battlefield. Here's a portion of the call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): So, tell, me did you definitely receive a Telegram for the shovels and all this other (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Yes, yes. I already had three or four of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Four? This (INAUDIBLE) is starting to annoy me to be honest. I'm not sparing any money for this (INAUDIBLE). It's just where do you get the money from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I spoke with four ensigns and they're throwing in some money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now according to Ukrainian intelligence are talking about raising money through the social media site Telegram to pay for shovels for the soldiers. Commander is continuing with one sharing details on the complaints he's hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Now the officers are starting to look off to the side, they're showing their dissatisfaction like is the war being paid for with our money or what? Where's the government and all of this. This is the type of conversation going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Meanwhile, there are conflicting signs but possible Russia withdrawal from the strategic southern city of Kherson. CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour joins us now from Ukraine with more.
So Christiane, these conflicting signs of Russian withdrawal in the city of Kherson, what are you hearing?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, you know it is unclear we even asked a couple of senators actually who here, senior senators on a bipartisan delegation, that's Chris Coons of Delaware, Democrat and Republican, Rob Portman here to assure this country of America's continued support. They would not give out any intelligence details. But suffice to say, the Russians in Moscow are denying it the government, the Ukrainians saying on the ground, that they see no evidence of a mass withdrawal from the city of Kherson because it's massively important that, you know, as the first one, that Russia actually occupied almost on the first day of the war.
And yes, there are some fears that it could use just be a feint, and that Ukrainians have to be very careful before they launch their highly anticipated counter offensive to retake that city.
COOPER: You talked about the two senators, President Zelenskyy, I know met with them. What came out of that meeting?
AMANPOUR: Well, they said that they were continuing to give absolute support. Because you know, with the midterms coming up, where you have, just under a week, there's been some chatter, that there may be a little bit of wobbliness ahead, given the economic headwinds, the cost of living, the inflation and the like. And that perhaps, according to Kevin McCarthy, you remember the Minority Leader in the House, there wouldn't be quote, unquote, a blank check for the Ukrainians anymore. But when I spoke to these senators, they were absolutely clear that America would stand behind Ukraine, and its defensive democracy, not just any old thing that absolutely convinced that this fight is also America's fight. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): This is not the time for us to back off. In fact, it's a time for us to redouble our efforts because the Ukrainians have shown through their bravery, their courage on the battlefield, that they are making progress, have made tremendous progress in the last two and a half months. It's because of that, out of desperation that Vladimir Putin is doing what we see behind us here tonight, he can't win on the battlefield. So instead, he's turning to attacks on the civilian population.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I think the overwhelming bipartisan majority of members of Congress will respect that the Ukrainians have fought fiercely, have fought bravely. Americans have stood for freedom at home and abroad for decades and decades. And I find it hard to believe that we would abandon the Ukrainian people right now as they are facing in some ways, the most challenging test of this war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And this challenging test as you can see, behind me is this darkness of the city and others have been plunged into rolling emergency blackouts because as they suffer their defeats and setbacks on the battlefield, the Russians over the last couple of weeks we've as we've seen, have been attacking civilian infrastructure which basically means the heart of the energy infrastructure, which is designed to really try to get the city the people here to essentially cry uncle.
I've been speaking to them, they're nowhere near that they are absolutely clear that whoever's responsible for their pain is in Russia, not here. And they still say they're going to stand firm until they win. That's the feeling here.
COOPER: Yes, it's going to be a very cold winter. I mean, then in so many places, really tough. Christiane Amanpour, really appreciate it. Great to see you there.
Up next, the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2022. Everyday people changing the world for the better. You'll meet them.
COOPER: It's that time of year again. We are proud to salute our CNN Heroes, everyday people who are committing their lives to making the world a better place and safer place. Here are the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2022.
COOPER (voice-over): From California when elderly dog owners can no longer care for their pets, Carie Broecker helps them stay together or finds these beloved family members new forever homes.
From Nashvill, Richard Casper uses art to heal the wounds of war. He's helping fellow veterans share their stories visually and vocally.
Nelly Cheboi, is bringing technology to young people in her native Kenya, recycling old computers. She provides the tools and education for brighter futures.
North Carolina innovator, Nora El-Khouri Spencer is training women for well-paying careers in construction, while also helping seniors aide safely at home.
From South Philadelphia, after spending five years in prison on drug charges, Tyrique Glasgow is now providing his neighborhood long challenge by poverty and gun violence and safety and opportunity.
Alaska nurse, Teresa Gray leads volunteer medics into global hotspots delivering vital care and support to those in need.
Meymuna Hussein-Cattan is helping refugees and immigrants transition to lives in the U.S. with critical resources and support while also sharing their culture with the LA community.
Aidan Reilly brought together a nationwide network of young volunteers, tackle food waste and insecurity. They're rescuing tons of excess produce from farms to feed the hungry.
From Chicago, Debra Vines struggled to find support and resources when her son Jason was diagnosed with autism. Now she's providing services and education to African-American families and first responders.
And Atlanta's Bobby Wilson is feeding and healing his urban community by teaching thousands of people how to plant, grow and prepare their own healthy food.
COOPER: These really are 10 amazing individuals, each of them proof that one person can make a difference. These are people who didn't necessarily have access to money or, or people of influence in their communities, but they saw a need and they rolled up their sleeves and they just started working and getting things done.
You can help decide which one of them will become CNN Hero of the Year. Each of them will be awarded $10,000. The person wins gets enough of your votes to be the CNN Hero of the Year will get an additional $100,000 to continue their work. You can go to cnnhheroes one word.com cnnheroes.com. You can vote up to 10 times a day every day for the heroes who inspired you most. Be sure to join me and my friend Kelly Ripa as we celebrate all this year's honorees live Sunday, December 11th at 8:00 p.m. during the CNN Heroes and all-star tribute.
Once again congratulations top 10 CNN Heroes of 2022. I hope you go out and vote for them.
The news continues. Want to hand it over Jake Tapper in "CNN TONIGHT."