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Liz Truss Resigns U.K. Premiership; President Biden Returns to PA Bridge Collapse Site to Tout Infrastructure, Campaign for Fetterman; Ukraine Curbing Electricity Use. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 20, 2022 - 11:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for being here, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. AT THIS HOUR, we're following breaking news. British prime minister Liz Truss has resigned, out after only six weeks on the job.


LIZ TRUSS, OUTGOING U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.


BOLDUAN: It was just yesterday that Truss fiercely declared before Parliament that she was, quote, "a fighter, not a quitter."

But the reaction and the fallout from her government's handling of the current economic and energy crisis in the U.K. clearly forced her hand. Truss will now be the shortest serving prime minister in British history. Let's get straight over to Scott McLean. He's outside of the prime minister's residence in London.

So Scott, what now?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you ask the opposition Labour Party, there ought to be a general election.

But the Conservative Party has zero incentive to actually call a general election because, if you consult the polls, you will find that the Conservative Party, were an election be held today, would be absolutely trounced by the Labour Party.

Labour likely getting twice the share or more of the vote as the Conservative Party. And so there is very few scenarios, if any, that the Conservatives would be able to hold on to power after a general election. What we know for certain, Kate, is that there will be a new prime

minister. Liz Truss is still the prime minister until the new one is chosen. And that leader should be chosen by the end of next week.

Now in theory, this should work with party MPs whittling down the potential candidates to just two and then letting the party membership vote.

Perhaps, though, the party may be a little bit skittish about doing that, considering what happened last time, which was they got Liz Truss, who was much more ideological and less pragmatic than the moment seemed to have called for.

Either way, the party is keen to do this quickly. This is the chair of the back bench committee of the 1992 committee of back bench MPs that would ultimately have given Liz Truss the scenario and outline that her prospects of staying in power was pretty bleak. Here is what he said. Listen.


QUESTION: How disappointed are you in this?

This is the fourth -- third prime minister in four months and the public must be thinking, what on Earth is going on, this is the governing party and they're not running the country.


GRAHAM BRADY, CHAIR, 1922 COMMITTEE: I think we're deeply conscious of the imperative of national interest of resolving this clearly and quickly.


MCLEAN: In terms of who might put their name forward, there is plenty of talk about the people who ran in the leadership race over the summer, where Rishi Sunak came in second and Penny Mordaunt came third.

Even though some allies of Boris Johnson say he may throw his name into the ring, which is remarkable since he was forced out by scandal just six or seven weeks ago.

BOLDUAN: Everything about this unprecedented and remarkable at this moment. Scott, it is good to see you. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now is Bianca Nobilo and Nic Robertson.

So Bianca, remind people of the economic policies that Truss was pushing that did set off this tailspin.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, that is an important point because Truss was both a victim and an architect of political misfortune. A victim because the poison chalice that she inherited was one of

soaring inflation and the cost of living crisis in the United Kingdom. And she promised to tackle that by keeping taxes low and stimulating growth. That was her overarching plan.

But what happened just a week or so into the political thrust of her time as prime minister, because, of course, Queen Elizabeth II died on her second day. So there was a brief reprieve in political activity.

She announced --


NOBILO: -- that is democracy in action. There are some protesters to my left outside Parliament. But Liz Truss announced this mini budget, which is bit of a misnomer. It sent the market into a spiral.

The most controversial aspects were that they decided they were going to cut taxes for the wealthiest earners in the U.K. and remove caps on bankers' bonuses. And that infuriated the public because this winter, people are concerned as to whether or not they could pay both their heating and their food bills.


NOBILO: Meantime, it looks like the prime minister is being supportive of the wealthiest whereas they don't feel taken care of, the people that are struggling.

So that sent the market into a spin and made people within her own party concerned about her economic and political judgment and her sense of optics in taking the temperature in the nation. So that is one of the reasons that we've got to the place where we are now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Game over. Game over.

NOBILO: The game is indeed over for Liz Truss and I think as this gentleman --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Game over. Game over.

NOBILO: -- I'll pass it over to Nic Robertson in the U.K.

BOLDUAN: Bianca, you are a true professional. Stick with me as long as you can.

Nic, this is clearly rocking the U.K. President Biden specifically mentioned Ukraine in his first statement about Truss' resignation.

What does this kind of instability mean for allied efforts in Ukraine where you are?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The U.K. has been a huge, robust supporter of Ukraine in military terms and humanitarian terms and President Zelenskyy developed a close relationship with Boris Johnson and became a big fan of Boris Johnson and his support.

And Liz Truss vowed to continue that. And I think there was a sense of continuity, because Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, was one of the only ministers in Boris Johnson's government who wasn't replaced. So there was continuity of spirit.

But what there hasn't been, despite the turbulence of Boris Johnson's leadership, is a continuity of faith and confidence.

President Biden has said, look, the relationship with the U.K. is an enduring one. We'll work with the government.

We've heard from president Macron, saying a quick return to stability is needed from the U.K.

I think if you look at the relationship with the United States and with Europe who are the key supporters of Ukraine, faith and trust and confidence in the U.K. got rocked back in 2016 with Brexit. And it has been rocking at steeper swings ever since as the U.K. has wrestled with its divisions over that particular decision and what happened.

Quite an extreme swing of the pendulum at the moment. I think there is confidence among international leaders that the U.K. can come back and be a key and central and important and stable player in the support of Ukraine.

I don't think that is particularly in doubt. Again, Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary, on a rush trip to Washington to meet with Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, to work on the issue of Ukraine, so the relationships are there.

But it does send worrying signals that countries like Russia are ready to exploit. And the foreign ministry spokesperson today in Moscow, Maria Zakharova, called Liz Truss a disgrace.

In fact, when Truss was foreign secretary in Moscow at the beginning of the year, the Russian authorities trolled her for her lack of experience and knowledge in international affairs. They're trolling her again.

None of this is helpful and relationships that get onto rocky grounds or where Truss and confidence is shaken, it doesn't automatically reset itself to a previous position. So the U.K. has a lot of work to do but its partners really want it back where it was, strong and firm.

BOLDUAN: Nic, it is great to see you.

Bianca, thank you so much.

And so also happening this hour, President Biden is heading to Pennsylvania, his 18th trip to the Commonwealth since taking office and maybe the most consequential visit yet with nothing short of Democratic control of the Senate at stake. The president will be touting the administration's infrastructure

achievements while he's there. He's also set to attend a fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman. Phil Mattingly is at the White House this hour.

So what is the White House trying to do with this visit?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We just saw Marine One take off about 1.5 minutes ago. And what we're going to see today in Pennsylvania, as you noted, the president is no stranger to Pennsylvania.

Even though he has not touched down in many of the other key battleground states heading into this midterm election, Pennsylvania has been a very clear exception. You noted 18 visits since the start of his time in office, nine just this year, once he sets foot there today.

And we'll see mostly the playbook for the president and his team when it comes to this lead up to the midterm election. He will hold an event today in Pittsburgh on infrastructure right in front of a bridge that collapsed during what was supposed to be a January visit to talk about infrastructure.

That bridge now expected to be completed by December not because of the infrastructure laws funding but in part because that funding from the new law that the president signed --


MATTINGLY: -- gave Pennsylvania state officials more room to expedite that process. Then he'll have the fundraiser. There is no major campaign rallies or tens of thousands of people.

The White House feels like this is best way for the president to deliver for Democrats leading up to the election, cognizant of his approval ratings and his ability to raise money and talk about achievements that they believe are popular in the media.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Phil.

Let's go to Texas, because the secretary of state's office there said that it will be sending what they're calling inspectors ho Harris County to monitor the general election count even before early voting has began (sic), raising questions about the motivations behind this move. Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas for us.

Why is the secretary of state doing this?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want you to take you back a little more than a year ago. The Texas secretary of state's office announced that it would conduct an audit of the 2020 election of four different counties in Texas.

Harris County, the Houston area, is one of those counties. So now just days before early voting is set to begin, the Texas secretary of state's office said that it believes it has found serious breaches of proper elections records management.

And because of that, it is going to send a team of inspectors to monitor the central area where the records are kept.

And now in this letter, the secretary of state's office goes on to say that they believe that there are questions of chain of custody issues and record management related to 14 different mobile box ballot locations that were used during the 2020 election.

Of course, the timing of all of this is raising red flags for many Democrats in Harris County. Harris County is a significant number of -- where a large number of Democratic voters in Texas reside.

So this has been a county that has been the focal point of these kinds of fights for several years now. The secretary -- the county judge there said that the timing of this letter is at best suspicious in that she believes it is an attempt to possibly sabotage voter efforts there in that county. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, so much. Really appreciate it, Ed.

So Mike Pence is making it clear that he is leaving himself a pathway to run for president, today sidestepping a question about his future and also his support for Donald Trump. Here is what Pence said last night at an event in Georgetown University.


QUESTION: Mr. Pence, if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president in 2024, will you vote for him?


MIKE PENCE (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, there might be somebody else I would prefer more.


PENCE: What I could tell you, is I have every confidence that the Republican Party will sort out leadership. All my focus has been on the midterms and it'll stay that way for the next 20 days. After that we'll be thinking about the future, ours and the nation's and I'll keep you posted, OK.


BOLDUAN: Worth noting that Pence has an autobiography coming out next month and he's made frequent stops in primary states since leaving office, laying the ground work for a future run.

Joining me now is Jeff Zeleny.

It is good to see you, Jeff. Let's start with Mike Pence.

What do you think of this latest answer and what are you hearing about what his possible lane is in the Republican presidential primary? JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, the former vice president obviously wants to run for president. You could see it there. There would be someone else I would you prefer.

I think a good follow-up might have been, but if not you, is Donald Trump your second choice?

Look, the reality here is that the divide between the former vice president and the former president is well-known right now at this point. But it is hard to see much of a lane for former vice president Mike Pence.

Yes, he's out there campaigning aggressively on the midterm election cycle. He's very popular in some conservative circles.

But if the former president jumped in, it is hard to imagine that Mike Pence could suddenly leapfrog over some of the other potential 2024 stars, like Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley; the list goes on and on. So I think he'll be in the mix.

But it is hard to imagine him finding a very specified lane. But we do not know who is all going to run. So he is at least right now putting together a team, I'm told, and is planning for it. We'll see how the months shape up ahead.

BOLDUAN: Months ahead. A lot of time for lots of people to make lots of moves. So let's talk about President Biden heading to Pennsylvania. He's doing a fundraiser but no big political rally if you will for John Fetterman, which is something of a break from tradition if you will of past presidents.

Trump loved rallies. Obama could also definitely draw a crowd when he would hold rallies during midterms.

Why do you think they're avoiding rallies?


BOLDUAN: Is it more about Biden or just the political environment or both?

ZELENY: Both. I think the answer to both of those is yes. Joe Biden is not the rallying kind of president. He was not when he was running for president, even before the pandemic. The first part of the Democratic primary, his events were among the smallest of any of his rivals. And he won the presidency without many rallies at all.

He's just not the rallying kind of president. So the White House is leaning into that. They acknowledge that. A lot of Democrats aren't excited to come see him. But they're trying to focus on the substance and his policies.

But there aren't a lot of campaigns that want to hold rallies with him, who want to have him speak at his big events in big groups. But there is a Democratic president who will be doing that. That is Barack Obama. He is going to be campaigning beginning next week in Georgia and

Wisconsin and Michigan and Nevada as well. So for President Biden, it is a function of his age. He is used to these rallies. That is all Donald Trump did, it works for him.

But some people come back to the rallies again and again. We're not sure how much it motivated voters. But it is pretty usual for Joe Biden.

BOLDUAN: So the Senate race between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz, we know that is why Biden is going to be in Pennsylvania. It has gone, in my view, from an interesting race to a really riveting race. We're looking at your screen right now.

President Biden, he's going to be talking -- landing or taking off. Either way he is in process of heading to Pennsylvania. But back to the Senate race.

Jeff, what do you make of where that race stands and where the momentum is?

ZELENY: It looks like he's arriving at Joint Base Andrews and will be on Air Force One. John Fetterman will fly from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia this evening where he is appearing in a fundraiser with him.

But Kate, you're right, this is one of the most competitive and most interesting Senate races in the country and it has very unique dynamics. There is a debate next week which does have some big significance because John Fetterman suffered a stroke earlier this summer and he's not been out campaigning nearly as much as he planned to be.

His campaign is still on the defense about that. They released a letter yesterday from his doctor, saying he's fit to serve as a senator but also acknowledged that he has some processing issues. He doesn't hear all of the words that are said.

So how will voters react to that?

And at the same time, Mehmet Oz campaigned on the far right; he, of course, had the endorsement of Donald Trump. But now he's campaigning in the middle. He's saying that Pennsylvania voters want to elect someone who works with both sides of the aisle.

So he's trying to go back to his former audience as a television star. We'll see how much that is actually possible in this polarized environment. But that is why the Pennsylvania race is so important.

And the underlying reason of all of that, Republicans hold that seat.


BOLDUAN: Jeff, sorry, I have to jump in. We have to go to the White House. President Biden is leaving the White House headed to Pennsylvania. He spoke to reporters. Let's listen to that. JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, she was a good

partner on Russia and Ukraine. And the British are going to solve their problems. And -- but she was a good partner.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about the spillover effect of the U.S. economy, given the political --

BIDEN: No, I don't think they're that consequential.



BIDEN: I delivered that privately.

QUESTION: John Fetterman is here with you today in Pennsylvania. John Fetterman is here with you today in Pennsylvania. There haven't been that many candidates campaigning with you.

BIDEN: That is not true. There has been about 15. Count.

QUESTION: There are going to be even more?


QUESTION: Should there be any restrictions on abortion at all?

BIDEN: Yes. Yes, there should be.

QUESTION: What should they be.

BIDEN: And Roe v. Wade. Read it, man. You'll get educated.

BOLDUAN: All right. So Biden taking some questions as he's heading to Marine One. I think Jeff is still with me.

He talked about a lot of things. First and foremost his first on- camera reaction to the resignation of Liz Truss, saying she was a good partner in Ukraine and he was asked about what we're just talking about as well, Jeff, about the campaigning for John Fetterman today.

And the president putting a different spin on how many -- how many candidates want to or have asked him to campaign for them.

ZELENY: Look, his words about the British prime minister, she was a good partner but a brief partner. He didn't mention that.


ZELENY: But I cannot recall a briefer statement. The White House released a statement a short time ago. It was very brief, almost 44 words, which was she was in office for 44 days. Back to if he's in demand on the campaign trail.

This is a little frustrating to the president. We did a story a couple of days ago, talking about how, when he went out West, Air Force One was flying over some of the biggest battlegrounds, Nevada, Arizona. They didn't stop because the candidates didn't necessarily want to appear with Joe Biden.

This is not unusual. This is not unique to him. The president's party is always under fire in midterm elections. So he's wanted some places; some places he's not. But Pennsylvania is a place he goes back to again and again.

And infrastructure and spending, which he'll be talking about in a Pittsburgh -- that matters. They want voters to focus on that as opposed to the other controversies.

BOLDUAN: And focusing on the economy and inflation, which is the delicate dance that is happening. Jeff, thank you so much.

So CNN is on the front lines of Russia's war on Ukraine.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): That is our Fred Pleitgen. We're going to take you there as Russia continues to target the country's power grid. That is next.






BOLDUAN: Ukraine is urging its people now to cut back on how much electricity they use after more than a week of Russian aerial strikes against the power grid.

Ukrainians are facing rolling blackouts as almost half of the country's power stations have been crippled in the attacks. Fred Pleitgen is live with the latest on this.

And you've seen the intensity of the attacks firsthand.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you look where I am, in the area where we were yesterday, fighting is extremely intensive there. And it is extremely brutal, especially the region why I am.

Vladimir Putin has put in place some of his most brutal forces, the Wagner military group. And we came under massive artillery fire yesterday in the center of that town. And for the people who live there, it is obviously a traumatizing thing. They've been dealing with it for eight months.

And on top of that now, here in the eastern region and most other places in Ukraine now, you do have the issues with power and with electricity. There are sort of spotty blackouts that we have here in this region; the same thing is true at other places in Ukraine as well.

And the authorities are urging people to consume as little power as possible. They're cutting down on energy use in a major way but also telling people don't use any sort of electrical devices or appliances if you have to. Right now, it is a difficult situation. Especially on this day.

It is interesting, because I spoke to a senior official a week ago and he said they're able to repair things pretty quickly, to do that as fast as possible. But of course, the Russians keep attacking. It is very difficult to keep up with that.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It is good to see you, Fred, thank you so much.

So joining me now, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor.

It is good to see you, Ambassador. Thanks for coming on. So Ukrainians have been under attack for eight months now.

What does crippling almost half of the country's energy infrastructure do to the people there and their ability to fight off Russians as they're heading into the cold temperatures of winter?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: It is the cold temperatures of winter. And winters are cold in Ukraine. There is no doubt about it.

What it does, though, Kate, is it further enrages Ukrainians. I was there last month. I talked to Ukrainians every day. They are so angry that this has happened to them. Again, remember, there is no reason for this whole war.

There is no reason for these attacks and no reason that Putin should be committing these war crimes, these atrocities against Ukrainians. So they're angry. They're determined to win. They know that they've got a tough winter coming up.

They organize themselves. Let's remember, these people have been through difficult times. And they'll go through this difficult time again. We should help. The Europeans should help. We should help them with defense against these drones. That is apparently coming.

But we should also help them with finance and with additional energy supplies. We need to help because they're fighting our fight. And they're angry and determined and they're -- they say they're going to win.

BOLDUAN: To that point, Israel's defense minister said Israel will help Ukraine develop an air defense alert system. But they're still holding back on supplying the weapons that could help shoot down the drones.

What do you think of this? TAYLOR: I think they should not hold back. I think the Israelis should make it clear that they're supporting the Ukrainians. The Israelis know something about how to defend against these Iranian drones. So they could clearly help.

The Israelis could clearly help the Ukrainians as they try to defend against these drones, that the Iranians are sending to the Russians and the Russians are using against Ukraine. So I think the Israelis are coming to the position, coming to realize that Iran is their enemy, Iran is helping the Russians. So they should, Israelis should help the Ukrainians.

BOLDUAN: Looking at all of this kind of altogether, the secretary of state was on ABC. And George Stephanopoulos asked Tony Blinken if he believe that Vladimir Putin is a rational actor or player. Let me play what he said.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It is hard to put yourself in someone else's mind. I think he's rational. But the decisions he's making or, maybe better put, his objectives are not rational.