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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Sen. Bob Menendez And Wife Indicted On Bribery Charges; Former Trump White House Aide Cassidy Hutchinson Say She Nearly Backed Out Of January 6 Testimony; Nikki Haley Unveils Economic Plan, Gains In New Hampshire Poll; U.S. Coast Guard Academy Bans Retired Captain From Grounds After CNN Report; New Video: Migrants Crossing Into TX Town Of Eagle Pass; Tropical Storm Ophelia To Bring Wind, Heavy Rains From Carolinas To Southern New England; Reports: U.S. To Provide Advanced Long-Range Missiles To Ukraine; Ukrainian General: Strikes On Crimea Important For Success Of Counteroffensive. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 22, 2023 - 20:00   ET


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And the United Arab Emirates. This is t an amazing change, and I'm always careful about these things, I'd never exaggerate. I think this is a pivot of history.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: You can watch the rest of the interview tonight on "The Source" with Kaitlan Collins at nine o'clock Eastern.

And thanks so much for joining us. Have a great weekend. It's time now for AC 360.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight on 360, just hours after his unprecedented second indictment with allegations of gold bricks and piles of cash, a new call for New Jersey's senior senator to step down, New Jersey's governor, a fellow Democrat now wants Senator Bob Menendez gone.

Also tonight, a remarkable new revelation from Cassidy Hutchinson about the danger she says she was warned about after testifying before the House January 6 Committee, so bad she says she literally could not go home and had to leave Washington.

Plus, the very latest on Ophelia now a huge tropical storm and heading for the East Coast with hurricane watches already in force.

We begin tonight with breaking news. Phil Murphy, New Jersey's Democratic governor is now calling a New Jersey senior US senator, Bob Menendez to step down.

It is the latest blow after the latest indictment for Menendez who chairs the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and yes, I did say latest indictment because Senator Menendez has been federally indicted before the last time around, the government failed to secure convictions. The allegations this time are remarkable and came with pictures.

Authorities say the senator traded his influence for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, and a Mercedes convertible. His wife is accused of working in the words of the indictment, to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to Menendez for the purpose of establishing and solidifying a "corrupt agreement" with an American Egyptian businessman.

Senator Menendez today notified Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that he is stepping down from his committee chairmanship. Schumer for his part said Menendez "has a right to due process and a fair trial."

All of this comes of course in the middle of Republican efforts to show that the Justice Department is tilted against conservatives, with Exhibit A for them being two federal indictments of the former president, a case that might be harder to make now the latest two big indictments from the Biden DOJ or of the powerful Senate committee chairman and the president's son, Hunter.

We're going to take that up in a moment with former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

First, CNN's Kara Scannell.


DAMIAN WILLIAMS, US ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Some of the cash was stuffed in the senator's jacket pockets.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Indicted again, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez facing corruption related charges for the second time in 10 years. Prosecutors announcing a three-count federal indictment against the Democratic senator and his wife over their dealings with three New Jersey associates and businessmen starting in at least 2018.

WILLIAMS: The senator and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes, in exchange for Senator Menendez using his power and influence to protect and to enrich those businessmen.

SCANNELL (voice over): The alleged bribes include more than $550,000.00 in cash hidden in the senator's home and safe deposit box, a Mercedes Benz convertible and gold bars worth tens of thousands of dollars, among other things.

The indictment also alleges the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, "Provided sensitive US government information and took other steps that secretly aided the government of Egypt."

WILLIAMS: Behind-the-scenes, Senator Menendez was doing those things for certain people, the people who were bribing him and his wife.

SCANNELL (voice over): The senator issued a defiant statement in response to the US attorney's latest allegations. "I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent."

Menendez has long maintained his innocence in this latest probe into his dealings telling CNN back in April --

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): This inquiry will end up, I believe in absolutely nothing.

SCANNELL (voice over): The senator faced similar corruption charges in 2015. He fought off conspiracy, bribery, and other fraud charges related to political favors.

MENENDEZ: To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are, and I won't forget you.

SCANNELL (voice over): That case ended in a mistrial, a partial acquittal, and all charges against the senator being dropped. In this latest case Menendez remains defiant saying he won't be "distracted by baseless accusations."


BERMAN: And Kara Scannell joins us from outside the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Kara, it has been a long day for you. The political reaction has been fast, furious and copious, I would say. What's the latest?

SCANNELL: Yes, John, I mean, that first move by Menendez stepping down for now as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as you said something that Senator Schumer said was the right thing to do for now. But there is a growing chorus in addition to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, of lawmakers in New Jersey who are calling for him to resign his Senate seat.


Menendez digging in tonight, striking back saying, "It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push them out of his seat. I am not going anywhere." -- John.

BERMAN: One after another of the Democratic congressmen calling on him to resign. What more can you tell us about the allegations involving Senator Menendez and the Egyptian government.

SCANNELL: So prosecutors say that he used his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to aid Egypt and specifically they point to a few examples, one of them being that he allegedly ghost wrote a letter for Egypt to send to several US senators to try to convince them to lift a hold of $300 million of aid to Egypt. And he also allegedly got information about staff in Egypt, highly sensitive information and provided that, that information to Egyptian officials authority say.

Now he, if convicted faces as much as 20 years in prison, and he and the other five defendants, including his wife are due in court on Wednesday. The prosecutors say that this investigation is very much continuing -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Kara Scannell outside the courthouse, great work all day long. Thank you.

With us now, someone who has seen his share of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, investigated and sometimes prosecuted, CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe.

Andy, I said, you've seen your share of corruption indictments, but here you know, gold bars and Mercedes convertible, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, some of it in a jacket that says Senator Bob Menendez. It almost seems like a Hollywood script corruption indictment.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's incredible, John, that indictment is -- it is extraordinarily detailed and the inclusion of the photographs. It's just -- it's a very impactful document. It makes serious, serious charges against the Senator.

They are allegations at this point, right. This is -- he has not been proven guilty of anything yet. But if true, the conduct laid out in the indictment is damning, it is brazen, and it really goes to show that incredibly high bar that we have in public corruption cases now as a result of the case against Governor McDonnell years ago that went to the Supreme Court. It is a very high bar to be able to prove these cases, you have to show a very clear quid pro quo that the politician accepted something of value in return for committing an official act.

While the things of value are laid out explicitly in this indictment, and it's just -- it's an impressive document. It is going to be one that he is going to have a hard time defending against.

BERMAN: And according to the indictment, Senator Menendez, "provided sensitive US government information and took other steps that secretly aided the government of Egypt." How does that maybe increase the gravity of this?

MCCABE: Well, it certainly raises the specter of kind of inside dealing against the interests of our own country. Now, he has not been charged with an espionage offense or anything like that, but that's what it feels like when you're reading it. And I think it's -- you know, they've included details to kind of substantiate that by indicating in some paragraphs that these interactions he was having with foreign officials did not include any members from his Senate staff or from the staff of the committee that he chairs, Senate Foreign Relations.

So it's little details like that that go a long way to showing that this activity was really conducted kind of under the radar in a very personal way by the Senator and not as part of his official duties as a government official.

BERMAN: Senator Menendez essentially beat the rap last time around with a hung jury. What does that perhaps say about his mindset this time around? MCCABE: The timing here is incredible, right? So we know that the previous case was all the charges were dropped by the Department of Justice in January of 2018. The conduct alleged in this indictment begins in 2018.

So literally right off the heels of that prior experience of having to defend himself, going to trial, you know, being successful in that effort, it shows him being right back into some sort of corrupt activity with a whole new group of people.

Again, if true, it really raises questions about his judgment and his inclination to engage in this sort of, you know, corrupt behavior for his own enrichment rather than what he is supposed to be doing as a senator.

BERMAN: Andy, you've heard over the last several months, if not years, Republicans attack the Department of Justice as somehow weaponizing the Department to go after conservatives, yet in the last you know month alone we've seen indictments against the Democratic presidents' son and now a powerful Democratic committee chairman.


Does that undercut some of the claims by Republicans?

MCCABE: Well, it should, John. I mean, you know, listen, to be clear, this indictment is not about defending the Department politically, this indictment -- the professionals in the Department of Justice who do this stuff for a living bringing this case because they have solid evidence and probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

But in the broader sense, Americans should look at this and really question those people who are constantly harping on this falsehood of the weaponization of the Department.

DOJ brings cases where they are, whether they're against Democratic politicians or Republican ones. They follow the facts and they follow the law, and I personally think this indictment is a very good example of that. I hope it convinces some folks that those claims of weaponization are absolutely baseless, but we'll see.

BERMAN: All right, Andrew McCabe, thank you very much. Have a nice weekend.

We do have more breaking news. Just days after accusing Rudy Giuliani of groping her on January 6, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson has more to say and once again, it is striking.

She now says that mere minutes before being sworn in by the House Select Committee and then giving such damning testimony, she nearly backed out of the whole thing. She toughed it out, of course, famously, but testifying only brought new concerns. This is what she told CBS News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: In the days after my testimony, you know, there's the immediate security protocols and security concerns. So my life changed in the fact -- the way that I was living my life for a while.

TRACY SMITH, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You couldn't go back to your apartment.

HUTCHINSON: I could not go back to my apartment. I ended up moving down to Atlanta for several months.

SMITH: They didn't even think it was safe for you to stay in DC.



BERMAN: With us now is a Select Committee staffer who spent more time with Cassidy Hutchison than perhaps anyone the day she testified, Hannah Muldavin served as committee spokesperson and joins us now from Washington.

Hannah, thank you so much.

What more can you tell us about your experience with Cassidy Hutchison and concerns for her safety?

HANNAH MULDAVIN, FORMER COMMITTEE SPOKESPERSON: The Select Committee was concerned about the safety of all of our witnesses when they came to testify. We had over 20 million people watching our first hearing, 13 million on the day that Cassidy Hutchinson testified.

And so when I was with her that entire day, we went to even more extremes than we'd gotten with any of the other witnesses. I don't know if folks at home will remember, but we kind of announced this hearing as a surprise because we didn't want there to be a chance for her information to be leaked out, for her to be in any more danger. And the reason why is because of what she was saying, right?

We can remember the things that we didn't know before Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Donald Trump knew that there were weapons in the crowd during his Ellipse speech, and so when he said, let's march over to the Capitol, he knew that those people had weapons, right? That was what we learned because of Cassidy Hutchinson.

We learned that Donald Trump lunged forward when he was in the car, after his Ellipse speech to the Secret Service driver because of Cassidy Hutchinson.

And so that day when she was rehearsing, getting ready for her debut as a witness live in one of our hearings, she was really nervous. And I mean, I can understand why. Cassidy and I are of similar ages, which is why I was with her that day, but I was so impressed with how she came across during that hearing.

She got across the fact, she stood by her testimony, and her testimony still stands today and we wouldn't know a lot of the things that we know now if she didn't decide to go through with that.

BERMAN: You know, in the CBS interview, she talks about the moments just before she was about to testify, this is what she said: "I almost ran out of -- there's little hold room outside the Committee room that we're about to walk in, and I almost darted. I heard the door click open and I turned around and I looked at my attorney and said 'I can't do this.' And I started to walk and he gently pushed my shoulders and he said, 'You can do this.' And then we walked out."

So as you were saying, I mean you were with her the entire day there. How nervous was she? And how much did she grasp that her life was about to change?

MULDAVIN: Cassidy is a smart young woman and I think she was so nervous because she knew the men including Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, that she was going to publicly go out and testify about, and when she was standing in front of those doors, it was surreal.

You know, we went to the women's restroom at the same time. We were the only two women in that group, and it was a moment where you're kind of alone, and I said to her and I don't know if this was the right thing to say, "You're going to be iconic." And that might have made her more nervous.

It could have been the wrong thing to say, but it is true because what she was doing was of that nature and she grasped that. I will say the way that she went out there so poised was not surprising to me, but it was very impressive.


I was sitting behind her during that testimony and the number of cameras in her face and how she didn't bat an eye was just a testament to who she is, as a person. I believe Liz Cheney in that hearing brought up the fact that there are many men who are a lot older than her that pled the fifth to a lot of the questions from the Select Committee.

But Cassidy Hutchinson kept coming back, testified in front of our hearing to America and I think really brought to light a lot of the facts about Donald Trump and his plan to overturn the 2020 election.

BERMAN: You also had a moment I understand during a break in the testimony, can you tell us what you talked about and how it impacted her?

MULDAVIN: Yes, I mean, after we had one break in the middle of the hearing, so we went back, and it was sort of a breath of relief that the first part had happened.

I think it was interesting to see how her testimony was coming across. And as we were reflecting on that, I said to her as frankly, a young woman as well, "You came across really, really well. And your story is being told and because of you and the power of your words, we're going to know a lot more." And so she went back out there and for another probably hour, testified to more of the things she had witnessed being in those powerful rooms.

And it was surreal, but I think even now and we'll learn more about her experience in her book, we'll get to see what her experience was like and I don't envy her experience, especially afterwards.

BERMAN: Hannah Muldavin, you had a front row seat. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.

And as you say, we are going to learn a lot more. A quick reminder, Cassie Hutchinson will be Jake Tapper's guest next Tuesday on "The Lead." That's 4:00 PM Eastern Time, Tuesday. That's right here on CNN.

Next for us tonight, new signs of life for one candidate not named Trump in the New Hampshire primary race, that and more signs of trouble for another, that would be Ron DeSantis.

And later, another presidential hopeful, former Congressman Will Hurd on the migrant crisis hitting the southern border and the Texas district that he served.



BERMAN: In presidential politics tonight, a new look at where one Republican candidate stands on policy that matters to everyone. Also, where she now stands in the polls in New Hampshire. I am talking about former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley. She unveiled her economic plan today. It comes as she appears to be getting more traction, at least in New Hampshire.

Recent CNN polling there shows her narrowly in third place with former leading contender Ron DeSantis now fifth, basically, there's a four- way tie for second. More on that with our political panel including, tonight, a Republican pollster.

First though, CNN's Jeff Zeleny in New Hampshire.


NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I pick a fight, the people always win.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nikki Haley is increasingly picking that fight in the Republican presidential race, trying to break through a crowded field.

HALEY: We need a leader who will stand up to Democrats and Republicans. Republicans talk a big game, but they're nearly as reckless as the Democrats on spending.

ZELENY (voice over): She is eyeing voters who are seeking anyone, but Trump and hoping to add even more to their ranks by confronting the former president directly on spending and more.

As she unveiled her economic plan today in New Hampshire, she said Trump was no better than Democrats in the White House.

HALEY: Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Barack Obama added more to our national debt than the previous 42 presidents combined.

ZELENY (voice over): It's a tenuous tightrope for the former South Carolina governor who's trying to distinguish herself through conservative policy rather than by policing the conduct of the former president and whose administration she served as US Ambassador to the United Nations.

She is proposing to eliminate the federal gas tax, reform Social Security and Medicare programs for future generations and revoke $500 billion in green energy subsidies from President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act.

HALEY: Democrats and Republicans don't want to admit it, but Americans deserve the hard truth: Entitlement spending is unsustainable. We need reform.

The longer we wait, the harder it gets and the more painful it will be.

ZELENY (voice over): Haley's strong showing in the first Republican debate --

HALEY: You have no foreign policy experience and it shows.

ZELENY (voice over): It won over Tom Boyer (sp?), who came to see Haley today at St. Anselm College.

TOM BOYER, VOTER: She argued with Ramaswamy. I appreciated what she said and agreed with her whole heartedly.

ZELENY (voice over): He hopes Republicans seize on the opportunity to turn the page in this election.

BOYER: If the problems that Trump is having bring him down a little bit, I like her more than any of the other candidates.

ZELENY (voice over): Haley is attracting fresh attention in Iowa, too, which opens the GOP nominating contest in January.

KATIE CLARK, IOWA VOTER: I think she sees the big picture from the border to China, Russia. I think we have to have somebody strong, which I think she is. I'm very pleased with her.

ZELENY (voice over): To prepare for the next debate, Haley is taking questions from voters, sharpening her answers and distinguishing herself from rivals, including Trump.

HALEY: Why should we care about Ukraine? You always have to have a president with moral clarity, someone who knows the difference between right and wrong, someone that knows the difference between good and evil.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN: And Jeff Zeleny joins us now. Jeff, how important does the Haley team see next week debate for her?

ZELENY: John, very important. I mean, they're trying to keep the momentum alive from that debate a month ago in Milwaukee, and attending her campaign events over the last month, which we have here in New Hampshire and in Iowa, there is an excitement and a curiosity about her candidacy and she is winning over some moderate Republican voters, but it's through talking about conservative policies largely talking about spending, the runaway spending during the Trump years.

But the stakes are high for her, no question, but also for many of her rivals, particularly Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, her fellow South Carolinian, Tim Scott each have their own sort of imperative for that debate next Wednesday at the Reagan Library.


But John, what this really is becoming of course is Trump is skipping these debates. For right now this undercard is a race for second place, and that is very important, of course, because she wants to be the one standing face-to-face one-on-one at some point with Donald Trump -- John.

BERMAN: Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

Let's have more now in how all this is playing out in New Hampshire and whether any Republican stands a chance there and elsewhere against Donald Trump.

With me here CNN senior data reporter, Harry Enten and in Washington, CNN political commentator and Republican pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson.

Harry, DeSantis ticking down; Nikki Haley ticking up. What else do you see in the numbers in New Hampshire?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, you know, I'm a fan of going on Twitter sometimes. And there used to be this meme of like this dumpster fire. And that, to me is the Ron DeSantis campaign in the state of New Hampshire because the fact is, he started off the year with north of 40 percent of the vote among New Hampshire Republicans and those Independents who might vote in that primary and he has ticked down continuously, ticked into the 20s by the middle of the year and now he's at just 10 percent of the vote.

So you know, Nikki Haley going up, Ron DeSantis, very much going down at this particular point.

BERMAN: So Kristen, if you are Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis now very much in this four way tie for second or Vivek Ramaswamy there also, how do you break out?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think an important way to break out is to continue to do well in these debates and cement yourself as the person to go head to head with Trump. There were a lot of folks that said this first debate won't matter that much. Trump's not going to be there. And it's true, it didn't affect Trump's standing to have not been there. But it really did elevate Haley to the top of that pack and it proved to Republicans who want to move beyond Donald Trump, hey, you've got a really good option here.

Now the problem is going to be that, for instance, Nikki Haley is doing quite well in New Hampshire, but Ron DeSantis, is still doing reasonably well in that second place-ish spot in Iowa. So there may well be a split decision. Then you go to a place like South Carolina where that's Nikki Haley's home state. If you don't win your home state, that's kind of a challenge.

So there may be a different winner of all three of these first couple of states and that leaves a really murky picture and a murky picture benefits Donald Trump.

BERMAN: That's for sure.

All right, Harry, let's talk about general election polling. President Biden, there are some new CNN numbers that show him with a head-to- head lead over Trump in New Hampshire. What does that say about a relatively swingy state, New Hampshire, about how Biden is doing in swing states in general?

ENTEN: Yes, you know, I don't just like one data point, I like to see if you can see it duplicative in other states. And we know the national polling has not exactly looked great for President Joe Biden. He's, in fact, trailed within the margin of error of Donald Trump nationally, which is something that just simply put didn't happen back in the 2020 cycle.

But if you look at the swing state polling, look at New Hampshire, where he is up double digits over former President Trump. Look at Wisconsin where there was a Marquette University Law School poll out earlier this summer that had him ahead by nearly 10 points, you'll look at Pennsylvania, where he's up by a point within the margin of error, but clearly not doing worse than he did back in 2020 and this paints a very different picture of what we're seeing nationally, where Biden is doing worse than he didn't 2020.

The swing states, the states that ultimately matter, Joe Biden is either holding his own or doing better than he did in 2020, a very different picture.

BERMAN: Yes, this New Hampshire poll was one of the first ones I think the Biden campaign can smile about in some time.

You know, Kristen, back to the Republicans in the New Hampshire primary, less than five months away at this point. If you are one of these Republican candidates not getting traction, maybe not in that second tier, when do you have to start thinking about maybe bailing out?

I remember, it was the Democratic side, but people forget, Kamala Harris was once seen as one of the most powerful Democratic candidates in 2020. She actually dropped out before the first contest.

ANDERSON: That's right. And usually the decision is driven by resources. Running a campaign is not cheap, and so if you're able to continue to get support of donors, big and small, the folks that write the big checks and the folks that will just kick you ten, twenty bucks online, that's what you need to keep one of these machines going.

And if you're only polling in very low digits, it can be hard to sustain that, especially if you don't show up say on the third or fourth debate stage. We already know what the criteria will be for that third debate now, the bar keeps getting raised.

Eventually if you are still down in the low single digits, it makes sense to maybe stay in through Iowa cross your fingers and hope you've got a shot. But campaigns are expensive and you'll probably see the field very much narrow once we get past Iowa and New Hampshire.

BERMAN: Look, all of this points to all of them needing to make a mark, maybe some fireworks in next week's debate. We'll talk to you then.

Harry Enten, great to see you, Kristen Soltis Anderson, thank you so much.

An update on a story we brought you last night about a Coast Guard captain turned college president and allegations of misconduct while he taught at the US Coast Guard Academy.

Less than 24 hours after CNN's report aired, the Academy announced, it had banned Glenn Sulmasy from its grounds, banned him.

CNN had obtained a Coast Guard prosecution memo from 2016 that said he had: "Offered to give high grades and show favoritism in class and exchange for sexual banter." The Coast Guard's attorneys had recommended prosecutions back then, its leaders rejected that.

Since that report aired, CNN received documents that include more allegations of misconduct. Sulmasy's attorney previously called the allegations false. An attorney for Sulmasy did not immediately respond to our request for comment today.

Earlier this year, CNN reported on a secret Coast Guard investigation that found dozens of sexual assaults and rapes at the Academy that had been mishandled and in some cases covered up.

The report was never publicized until a CNN investigation and now the Senate has since launched an inquiry.

Just ahead, new video of the migrant surge that overwhelmed the Texas border town of Eagle Pass this week. Former Republican Congressman Will Hurd represented that area, he is now running for president, he will join us to discuss what he thinks can be done as fears mount that the surge could become even worse.



BERMAN: New video coming into CNN today. Migrants locking hands and crossing the Rio Grande into the Texas border down of Eagle Pass. A recent surge has really overwhelmed the town.

Late tonight, the mayor says the numbers have dropped significantly, but says it is possible this may just be a pause in that large numbers could eventually resume. Authorities are trying to prevent a difficult situation from getting worse. You can see law enforcement giving migrants life jackets as they cross.


Earlier this week, the bodies of two migrants, including a three-year- old were found in the Rio Grande.

With me now is former Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, who previously represented Eagle Pass and is now running for president. Congressman, thanks for being with us. You were in Eagle Pass recently. What realistically can be done to address this influx of migrants there? How long would it take?

WILL HURD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first off, stop giving people benefits for breaking the law. We shouldn't be shocked that when you allow people to have the ability to work when they come into the country illegally, that that's going to entice other people to come.

We also should be prepared that as the summer months dwain and it's not 110 degrees, you're going to start seeing an increase in activity. It's -- the simple solution is that should happen today. Doesn't require congressional notification. Doesn't require Congress to pass anything. We know Congress can't pass anything, is stop treating everybody as an asylum seeker.

Asylum is real. People should be able to apply for asylum. But when you let other people abuse the asylum laws, that impacts the people that actually need it. And wanting to come to the United States to get a better paying job is not a reason for asylum. So that's one.

Two, we got to start treating these human smugglers like terrorist organizations. And what do I mean by that? We got to have the Border Patrol's collecting what we used to call in the business pocket litter. You know, information about where they picked up a bus, phone numbers of who they called in order to get to this location.

We should be actioning that and dismantling that and working with our partners in order to do that. Those are two things that can be done today that border patrol is asking to be done and is not happening because of policy decisions in Washington, D.C.

When I was down on the border last week for several days, one of the things that was most disappointing for me is morale amongst border patrollers, the lowest it's ever been. Because they are being forced to do something that's pretty terrible. And we also -- look, the difficulty about all this is for 20 years. We've had elected officials lying to us about the difficulty of how to deal with this task. Republicans and Democrats. We need somebody in the White House that understands border security.

We need people at Department of Homeland Security that actually understand what operational control is. This is one of the reasons why I'm running for president and the folks that are watching want someone like that. Help me go online to, give at least $1 so that we can have this debate on the debate stage in 72 hours.

BERMAN: You have heard complaints from New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other local leaders around the country where migrants have been sent. Mayor Adams says the crisis is going to, quote, "destroy New York City". What do you say to that?

HURD: Well, it is true. Like, this is the reason that Joe Biden is getting a backlash from blue states and blue cities because now they're dealing with what border communities have been dealing with for years now.

The fact that -- you know, a town like Eagle Pass, I think it's about 35,000 people. New York is how many millions? This is something that Eagle Pass is having to deal with. This is also going to get worse because of this current issue. You've had to shut down the rail lines that are going back and forth between the United States and Mexico.

30 states in the U.S., the number one trading partner is Mexico. If something like this continues, you're going to start seeing an impact in our -- the cost of food in our grocery stores, the cost of equipment to fix your car. There's going to have a whole lot of secondary and third effects.

BERMAN: So you talked about short-term answers. You know that real change has got to go through Congress. You also know how little --

HURD: Yes.

BERMAN: -- Congress has been able to accomplish for more than 20 years. House Republicans were the ones who basically stood in the way of comprehensive immigration reform some time ago. So how do you convince Republicans in Congress to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats? And you know that this may be part of the reason that Republicans are going to shut down the government.

HURD: Look, it's -- Republican -- and again, I'm not questioning your statement, John, and I agree with you. Republicans, many Republicans have been against this. Many Republicans want to see a decrease in the number of legal visas that are brought in.

But, unfortunately, Republicans and Democrats would rather use this issue as a political bludgeon to hit each other over the head and during elections. There's a piece of legislation that's sitting on the table called the USA Act that was negotiated between me and Pete Aguilar, a Democrat from California that had -- would have had over 250 votes in the House. And I think at the time, we had 58 senators. When Speaker Pelosi came into power the second time, she refused to bring that up even though she knew it would be able to get a bipartisan solution. But you're right. We have to streamline legal immigration as well.


And this is not just about, you know, whether we improve agricultural workers in Florida or Hospitality in Texas. We need to be making sure that the best and the brightest around the world and the brain gain that the United States has benefited from for the last 50 years, continues.

And I agree, Congress needs to get their act together and do something.

BERMAN: Will Hurd, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.

HURD: Always pressure.

BERMAN: We do have breaking news ahead. Details from a new update just minutes ago on tropical Storm Ophelia with part of the eastern seaboard already under a hurricane watch as the storm approaches.


BERMAN: More breaking news. A hurricane watch is in effect right now from portions of the North Carolina coast as tropical Storm Ophelia takes aim at the state in areas north, including Washington, D.C., New York City, all the way up to southern New England. Millions of people will be in the path of the storm this weekend. A new advisory just out from the National Hurricane Center.

CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers joins us with the details. Chad, give us the latest on Ophelia, the trajectory, what to expect.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: 70 miles per hour right now, still moving to really the northwest toward the Carolina coast, less than 100 miles away right now. Now, there's not really an eye getting this thing stronger, but the hurricane watch is posted because now this thing is in the Gulf Stream in the warmest water off the eastern part of the United States.


Look at the rain all the way up to Virginia Beach. That's a couple of hundred miles away from the center in Virginia Beach. You just had a gust to 56 miles per hour from a tropical storm, hundreds of miles away.

It's going to rain, and it's going to flood, and then there's going to be storm surge. There's going to be wind that pushes all of this storm surge on shore, all the way up and down the east coast.

Now by Tuesday afternoon, it's gone. Sunday afternoon, we're only about 30 miles per hour around D.C. But 30 miles per hour in a saturated ground can clearly still cause some power outages and all the way down the coast here with the tropical storm warnings, there could be many power outages that may take some time.

There's the only area with the hurricane watch because the storm, John, could still get stronger.

BERMAN: Obviously, every storm is different. What are some of the biggest threats that you expect from Ophelia?

MYERS: The biggest threat I think is that people go to bed tonight saying, oh, it's only a tropical storm. I don't care about that. And they wake up tomorrow and it is a hurricane, and it is flooding their property all up and down the east coast.

Maybe even water going over some of the outer banks. That is something really some over wash. We're already seeing these surges at 2.5 feet. So -- and the storm still 100 miles away, so these surges are going to go higher. These coastal inundations is push of the salt water is going to be 4 to 6 feet.

And I know that's not 15 to 20, like sometimes we see in the Cat 2, 3 or 4. But that's enough for a lot of people that live along the coast to lose some property, even if they parked their cars in the driveway, not thinking that that car is going to be half underwater by morning.

BERMAN: And look, a lot of rain, and we've had a whole lot already.


BERMAN: Chad Myers, thank you very much.

MYERS: You're welcome, John.

BERMAN: Just ahead, new reports on an advanced U.S. weapons system headed to the war on Ukraine. Plus, one of the most audacious attacks to date on Russian-held territory. Our Fred Pleitgen talked to the commander of the Ukrainian counteroffensive about that, as well as the current pace of the war. That's next.



BERMAN: Despite a far-right rebellion in the House over Ukrainian war funding, and on the day President Biden met with President Zelenskyy, there are multiple reports tonight that the U.S. has finally approved shipping advanced long range missiles to Ukraine.

These have been long sought by the Ukrainians, in part because they can hit deep behind Russian lines. The news comes the same day that Ukraine launched one of its most audacious attacks yet, a direct strike on the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea fleet in Crimea.

Our Fred Pleitgen spoke with the commander leading Ukraine's counteroffensive about that attack and the war ahead.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL (voice-over): Smoke billowing from Russia's Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol. Moscow blaming Ukrainian launched cruise missiles, Kyiv only confirming they hit the building. I sat down with the commanding general for Ukraine's counteroffensive in the south, Oleksandr Tarnovsky and he tells me strikes like these are invaluable for his troops.

BRIG. GEN. OLEKSANDR TARNOVSKY, UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCE (through translator): A destroyed commander means a destroyed command link. And if there is no command, then there are no coordinated actions. Hitting infrastructure like factories, bases, warehouses containing weapons is also a factor for victory.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): In the past weeks alone, the Ukrainians say they've hit a Russian ship, a submarine, an airbase, and a surface to air missile system in occupied Crimea. Still, Ukraine's president faces skepticism both from many Republican lawmakers and the public about the U.S.'s continued support for Ukraine.

Tarnovsky asking for patience.

TARNOVSKY (through translator): We have one goal, liberation of our territories. However hard it is, we will keep on working. And I want to thank even the skeptics. Their criticism also influences our task success.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): It's been a slow grind for the Ukrainians on the southern front. Progress, so far, incremental. But the U.S. has cautioned time might be running out as fall progresses, making the earth here soggy and movement difficult.

(on-camera): How much do you think that you can achieve before the winter sets in? How far do you think your forces can get realistically?

TARNOVSKY (through translator): The weather can be a serious obstacle during an advance, but considering how we move forward mostly without using vehicles, I don't think the weather will heavily influence the counteroffensive.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): General Tarnovsky says he remains optimistic that Ukraine's counteroffensive will be a success, especially if Ukraine continues its campaign targeting Russian forces in the rear, like Crimea.


BERMAN: And Fred Pleitgen joins us now. So Fred, when you spoke to this general, did he have any concerns about Russia retaliating to an attack like the one we saw today?

PLEITGEN: Well, they certainly do have that concern, especially if you look at Russia's track record, John. Definitely some of the Ukrainians are saying when it comes to attacks in and around Crimea, it's usually been Russian counterattacks with missile strikes that have been followed right after that.

In fact, it was just this week that the Russians after the Ukrainians targeted that submarine and that landing boat, that the Russians that came out and targeted Ukrainian infrastructure really across the country here with cruise missiles.

The Ukrainians, however, now believe, John, that they have better surface to air missile systems to counter that threat and to try and shoot a lot of those Russian cruise missiles down, John.

BERMAN: Are the Russians saying anything about the attack on Sevastopol?

PLEITGEN: Well, they're being fairly mute about the whole topic. In fact, one of the things that I was hearing is that Russian state television is reporting very little about what happened there today. It was quite interesting also from the Russian authorities.

We did hear that there was an attack on these headquarters in Sevastopol. The Russians claiming that five of the cruise missiles, as they put it, that were fired towards that headquarters had been shot down. But, of course, if we see some of the video that came out later, it does appear as though at least two of those cruise missiles did hit that headquarters.

So, very little coming from the Russians, but they do acknowledge that there were hits on a very important installation, John.

BERMAN: Very important, right. Fred Pleitgen in Ukraine for us tonight. Fred, you and your team stay safe. Thank you.

And we'll be right back.



BERMAN: For the past year, CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has been investigating a group, which some call a cult, that believes President Kennedy and his son John F. Kennedy Jr. are alive and in hiding. Donie traveled across the country to meet believers and their frustrated families and confront their QAnon conspiracy pushing leader.

You can see his report this Sunday on The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The assassination date right over here, go add it up. 11, 22, 19, 63. 11 plus 22 plus 19 plus 63, 115. We are at War 115.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): So what is the significance of 115?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll find out. You'll find out 174. O'SULLIVAN: What is -- what's mine number?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trust the plan 174.

O'SULLIVAN: What's my number?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is 174, but it's also 218, but I got to go.

O'SULLIVAN: Why is it that people like you so much? Are you a con man?


O'SULLIVAN: Are you? Are you taking these women for a ride, literally?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. They're taking me for a ride.

O'SULLIVAN: You were bankrupt, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I make them, like, I'm not bankrupt and they know it. See you later.

O'SULLIVAN: How do you make it all --

So what did you make of that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I saw a few things in there. One was what I call thought terminating cliches.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just kept saying, you'll find out, you'll find out, you'll find out and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll find out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- that's the kind of thing that there's no real answer to. There's no explanation needed. You can just repeat these things and there's no way to kind of prove or disprove you'll find out.


BERMAN: "Waiting For JFK: Report From The Fringe", a new episode of the Whole Story with Anderson Cooper, Sunday at 08:00. P.M. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.