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At This Hour

North Carolina Power Outages Caused By Gunfire At Power Stations; Supreme Court Hears Case Of Web Designer Opposed To Same-Sex Marriage; Putin Visits Crimea Bridge After October Blast. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired December 05, 2022 - 11:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And so we'll be watching then. Until then, thanks so much for joining us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow. I'm Erica Hill.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to have you back, Erica. I'm Jim Sciutto. At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. At This Hour, power stations knocked offline in North Carolina, gunfire is the cause. And now federal investigators are getting involved in what's believed to be an intentional attack. Plus, the Georgia Senate runoff in the final stretch, finally, and Tampa's police chief resigns after flashing her badge during a traffic stop. This is what we're watching At This Hour.

Thank you so much for being here, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Let's start in North Carolina where the FBI is joining the investigation now into power outages that officials believe were caused by targeted attacks.

The power, it went out Saturday night after someone opened fire on two power substations causing damage to the infrastructure, about 36,000 customers are without power at this hour. And that may continue for days.

Schools in the county closed today, a mandatory curfew may be reinstated again overnight because of the situation. Whitney Wild is live in Moore County, North Carolina where all this is happening. What's the very latest you're learning, Whitney?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this is a very serious situation. It was cold overnight, making the situation so much more dire for the people here. Meanwhile, law enforcement says this is an all hands on deck situation. The FBI is involved.

The State Bureau of Investigation is involved, as many local law enforcement as possible is involved, to try to figure out who is behind the shooting. Right now, there are many more questions than answers. At this point, what law enforcement is prepared to say is again, what you had said that someone opened fire on these substations causing millions of dollars of damage. But they don't know why this person did this. They don't know who. And

they're not prepared to say what type of firearm was used, or how many rounds were fired at the substations. So a lot of questions remain there.

The biggest question, of course, is what is the motive. And at this point, law enforcement is not prepared to say what the motive is. There had been some talk on social media that this may have been connected to a drag show in a neighboring area, but still here in Moore County, that was set to take place around the same time that the power went out.

That drag show was supposed to take place at 7 o'clock Saturday night. The power went out shortly after that. Again, rumors circulating on social media that those two things are connected.

Meanwhile, here in Moore County, there is some good news. Duke Energy tells me that around 7,000 people had their power restored overnight. However, there are some bad news, they say that the majority of customers will not be able to get back online until Thursday because the damage is just so extensive. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Really it's good to see -- good that you were there. Whitney, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now for more on this is Mike Cameron. He's the assistant town manager and also fire chief in Southern Pines, one of the cities impacted in Moore County, North Carolina. Chief, thank you so much for being here. What's the latest you can tell us about what's known in this investigation? Do you have any leads?

MIKE CAMERON, ASST. TOWN MANAGER & FIRE CHIEF, SOUTHERN PINES, NC: Well, I'm the fire chief and that all leads are being sent to the Moore County Sheriff's Office, which obviously state and federal agencies are working on those. So those leads are being handled by those folks to be honest with you. So that is something they're working on.

BOLDUAN: Talk to me about what this is -- talk this to me about what this has meant for Southern Pines, what the -- how extensive the damage has been and what it's really meant.

CAMERON: So obviously, our area is used to dealing with hurricanes ever so often we're used to dealing with power outages from hurricanes or ice storm, snowstorms. This one is obviously a little bit different. We're not we don't have downed trees, won't have downed power poles, the infrastructure is still in place except for those two attacked transformers.

So obviously, Saturday night it put 38,000 customers in the dark now as customers that there's more than one customer most houses. And so that's caused some anxiety, obviously, amongst our population.

Our medical calls have increased due to people being on oxygen or having other medical devices that require power. We've had an increase in fire alarms. We've had an increase in traffic accidents just because our traffic lights are obviously not working.

We've had an increase in some actual fires because of the way people may be trying to stay warm or heat their home. And obviously we're trying to push those positive messages out there to make sure that we don't have those type fires and those type of issues.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Do you think the threat is over for your town and your county because this is considered an intentional and targeted attack?


CAMERON: So that has been the only attack at this point. Obviously we can't predict with absolute certainty that is over. However, there are things in place to keep those kinds of things from happening again, law enforcement, county wide is heavily involved in protecting some of our infrastructure to make sure that nothing else happens.

So we'd like to think we have taken the brunt of this. And we are in the recovery stage now where we are going to be able to get the power back on, hope that everybody no later than Thursday and get people back into a much more normal state before Christmas, obviously.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. That timing is noteworthy as well, of course. The sheriff has said that state and federal investigators are looking into it protests over a drag show held on Saturday in Southern Pines. Do you think there's -- do you think there's a connection there?

CAMERON: So at this point in time, there is no credible evidence to indicate that these two things are linked to each other. Obviously, that is something they're looking at. That is something I'm searching, there were some protests about that show on both sides of that event. But there is no credible evidence that these two things are linked at this point in time.

BOLDUAN: That obviously, as part of that investigation that will continue, just as this has all happened, we do know that the power may be out for the majority of the customers until Thursday, just what is your message for the community, this is obviously not something you want to, need to, or have time to be dealing with as fire chief, as you said, this has led to real car accidents that are have been attributed just to this power outage, I mean, you've got a lot already to deal with it?

CAMERON: Absolutely. So the message is pretty broad, to be honest with you whether we're doing a traffic safety, such as you mentioned, or whether we're dealing with heating in your home, because last night, I think the temperature dropped to 32 degrees. And obviously, we want to make sure that people aren't using unsafe manner of heating their house, we try to push that message out through our social media.

We try to make sure that we're not using candles to see, we rather use a flashlight or things like that in your house. We did have one fire that looks like it was caused by a candle that was significant damage to our house. So we're just pushing those things. We're also pushing the fact that, that we don't want people using

generators or carbon monoxide, or generators that generate carbon monoxide. Inside the house, we've had multiple calls on either houses being not vented properly from gas bogs or from generators being used in a garage or close to the house, creating those types of deadly atmospheres inside of houses.

BOLDUAN: It's one thing when you have to send these public messages out because of a result of a natural disaster, as you're talking, it's something it feels entirely different when it seems an intentional targeted attack, it seems completely unnecessary that you all are dealing with now. Chief, thank you so much for coming in. Go ahead. Go ahead.

CAMERON: Thank you, Kate. Absolutely, I just want to say last thing I want to say is the citizens of Southern Pines and Moore County are really pulling together to get through this and doing a great job at this point. So unfortunate, isn't it but we will get through it.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Chief, thank you for your time.

CAMERON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We're going to stay close to that investigation as federal authorities are now involved in that targeted attack. Let's turn to this though right now. It is the final countdown in Georgia, Election Day is tomorrow, which means votes in the Senate runoff race there will finally be counted.

Democratic senator Raphael Warnock, Republican challenger Herschel Walker, they're doing all they can, in these final hours, nearly 2 million voters have already cast their ballots and record shattering early voting efforts that we've been seeing across the state. Dianne Gallagher is live in Atlanta for us this hour. Dianne, what are you hearing there today?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so Kate, as you said, we are in the final hours before Election Day. And so both campaigns are kind of supercharging their schedule in these last moments trying to convince the millions of people who haven't yet cast their ballot to show up on Tuesday.

Now you can probably see behind me it is raining here in Atlanta, we're expecting that tomorrow as well. So the extra effort needed to push voters to get out and actually vote.

Now, more than 1.85 million early ballots were cast. And look, I can tell you that in the past few days, we have seen a market change and let's call it the vibe of the Warnock campaign. The candidate himself of course, warning his supporters not to dance before they actually get into the end zone.

But the campaign feels good going in tomorrow. Part of that is due to those early voting numbers. Nearly one-third of the ballots that were cast early were cast by black voters. In fact, it is a larger percentage by a few points, then the number that were cast in that 2021 runoff where Senator Warnock won his first seat. Both candidates blitzing today, Warnock here in the Atlanta area, Herschel Walker who's had a very light schedule, well, he has five events today, most of them in the North Georgia area.

That's the most that we've seen from him, Kate, really during this runoff period, especially recently, he took Five days off in just this four week period but they seem intent on getting out the vote also a teller rally tonight sources tell CNN from former President Donald on the eve of the election for Herschel Walker.


BOLDUAN: All right, Dianne, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And please, everyone out there, join us for CNN special live coverage of the Georgia Senate runoff, it starts -- our special coverage starts tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

At this hour, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case over LGBTQ rights and religious liberty, a Christian web designer who doesn't want to design wedding websites for gay couples. That is what at the center is at the center of work is a very big fight now. Jessica Schneider is live outside the High Court with the details. Jess, what have you heard so far in these -- from oral arguments?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, a very lively argument here with a lot of questions from both of the conservative leaning justices and the liberal leaning justices. The key here is that it looks like the Supreme Court will be poised to finally determine make that decision whether certain businesses can refuse to work with same sex couples, because of certain issues like free speech.

Of course, they came close to deciding that about four years ago, but instead they made a very narrow decision in a case involving a Colorado Baker who didn't want to make wedding cakes for same sex couples. This case is much broader.

This is a Colorado website designer who says she does not intend to work with same sex couples to design their wedding website, she says because it conflicts with her religious views.

And she's arguing before the court or her attorneys are arguing before the court this morning that a Colorado law that is an anti- discrimination law that says you can't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. She says that conflicts with her free speech rights as an artist here.

Now the big question from the liberal leaning justices so far has been where exactly do you draw that line? If you start saying you won't serve same sex couples when it comes to their weddings? What else will people say? What else will people say -- they don't want to endorse the messaging off. So here's the questioning from Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the answer from the websites attorney.


KRISTEN K. WAGGONER, SMITH'S LAWYER: Do you don't believe they should be telling their story and what they're asking you to do is tell their story, then you don't have to do that in the same way.

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: So it does't really, there is no line on race, there is no line on disability, ethnicity, none of the protected categories in a public accommodation law.

WAGGONER: But the First Amendment is broad enough to cover the lesbian website designer and the Catholic calligrapher. The line is that no one on any side of any debate has to be compelled to express a message.


SCHNEIDER: And so what this lawyer is arguing and what several of the conservative leaning justices seemed to be gleaning on to is the fact that this is an artist, a website designer is an artist, it would be compelled speech if she were forced to endorse messages that she doesn't believe in. So a very lively argument, we're about one hour into it, Kate. And we'll see, the court won't decide this case until next year, at some point likely in the spring or summer. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Jess, great to have you there. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now for more on this and much more, Republican Governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu. Governor, it's great to have you here. Thank you for coming on. This is an interesting moment that we have today, especially as we're coming off is we're talking about these oral arguments, because you have two things kind of happening at the same time, which is this case before the High Court.

And you also have Congress likely to send a bipartisan bill to the President's desk this week, offering more protections to same sex married couples. So you have -- it feels like unity on one side, and then a major legal fight on the other. What do you think this says about where the country is right now?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Well, again, you have two very separate bodies there. And so again, one is going to look at the Constitutional aspects and one is going to look at the law. And those should be actually taken separately. The justices shouldn't be making law and the Congress shouldn't be deciding, you know, what is legal and what isn't.

They pass the laws. So it's -- a lot of this has effectively been turned to the States. I think where the country is on same sex marriage is very obvious. It's very clear. We've -- I think New Hampshire was one of the first states to legalize same sex marriage. It's been here, it's working across the country, we're moving on.

And so whatever Congress wants to pass here in New Hampshire, we have no problem with it at all. But again, these for me, these aren't the issues of the day, they're important issues, to be sure, but their issues of the day are still for families in terms of where we go in terms of our government is inflation and fuel costs.

And, you know, worrying whether the power is going to be on this coming winter. So important issues to be sure, but as a governor, I got to balance a budget. I got to make sure that our citizens are taking care of on their basic needs first, which over these past couple years, surprisingly, it's just not being met and bad policy out of D.C. is really driving a lot of that.

BOLDUAN: And, you know, all of this, right, I mean, you've made this very clear, and politicians should all be able to walk and chew gum at the same time and handle all of these issues at the same time, then you've shown that as governor, one thing is the reason this case before the court is so front and center is because of the true concern amongst many after what happened with Roe that Obergefell could be next, I mean it also leads to kind of the Republican Party is evolved on this issue certainly, but it's not like we're seeing all 50 Senate Republicans that are supporting the Respect for Marriage Act.

Do you see this as an upcoming fight within the Republican Party? Or do you think this is a debate that Republicans should be having?


SUNUNU: Well, so that your question is really looking at the fight and the debate within the Republican Party? I think it'll be a debate nationally, I think it's been decided. I think there's precedent, I think it's been decided. And I think you would agree, hopefully, we've all moved on.

If it really is returned as a pure states issue where the federal government isn't going to have any oversight or say in the matter, or it's not going to be backed by the Supreme Court in any way, then every state's going to have to decide their path. And unfortunately, it's not going to be consistent. I think it should, I think it should just be a done deal.

We're moving on, but you're going to have states kind of like the abortion issue where you're going to have a lot of differences between the states, and then that creates a lot of chaos. I mean, it creates chaos in terms of benefits, it creates chaos in terms of, you know, the process, but most importantly, it creates chaos, because it's not fair. And it's just not right.

Same sex marriages is the law. It's what we do. It's fair, it's the right thing for individuals. It's part of their path and their process and their life. And we have to honor that. That's kind of what we do it here in New Hampshire in terms of the Live Free or Die state, we honor that. We let people do what they do best. And that's take care of themselves.

BOLDUAN: Your state has also been in the spotlight, for a different reason this week. The DNC moving ahead of changing their primary calendar, pushing South Carolina to be their first primary, which would then force New Hampshire to lose its first in the nation status. You are not happy about this. Why? SUNUNU: Well, this is just personal political payback politics by Joe Biden. Joe Biden is saying, well, we're going to send it to South Carolina for no other reason, then his, the party bosses and his buddies in South Carolina want it. It's really unethical if you look at it.

And by the way, didn't Joe Biden say that he's going to be a candidate in '24. So now you have a candidate dictating what state is going to go first, again, for no other reason than he did well in that state.

So if you look at let's say, turnout data, right, who votes? Well, New Hampshire is always the one of the top states in the country in terms of voter turnout, voter engagement, South Carolina is always below average, Nevada, not only is below average in that category, but I think they're still counting votes from an election about a month ago.

So you have to be able to do it, right. And we have the data in New Hampshire that says, look, it doesn't matter what your name I.D. is, doesn't matter how much you spend, everyone's got a shot. New Hampshire is the great equalizer on that political field for presidential candidates.

And we worked very hard at designing a system that gets that engagement, has that trust. And again, we're that first filter where we say, you got to look us in the eye, we have to buy off on you as an individual, before we even get to policy. And that's a great first filter to have.

But again, you just have, you know, personal, you know, personal partisanship, if you will, coming in Joe Biden says is going to going to be to help his buddies in South Carolina, it's the absolute wrong reason to do it. And it hurts the whole system nationally, it really does. Because you want your first states to be reliable to be with high voter turnout to not be money driven all the time.

Unfortunately, for the Democrats in South Carolina, that's the way it's going to be. The last thing I'll say is we're still going first, right, New Hampshire is still going to have its primary when we have our primary, what the Democratic Party does with that is up to them.

But we're going to have Democrats on our ballot in the first in the nation primary before any other state. And we can -- our law says that we're going to guarantee it. Well, Joe Biden and the other candidates who want to get in the race, how they deal with that is up to them. But we're going first, make no mistake about it.

BOLDUAN: The governor has no shortage of opinions on that one that is for sure. So let me ask you this. The only Republican who has so far declared that he is running for president in '24 is Donald Trump. This weekend, he called for and suggested terminating the Constitution and overturning the 2020 election results to have himself reinstated into power. You have made clear governor that you don't think he has a path to winning in '24. But what do you think of that statement when you saw it?

SUNUNU: It's outrageous. And it's just driving even more people away from him in terms of his race and '24 because he's proving day after day that he becomes more, or I should say less and less electable in November of '24. So yes, anybody can win a party nomination. That ain't the hard part.

We need to win in November of '24. And week after week, he's making statements and doing things that are driving people even further away. The dinner with the white nationalist and the, you know, anti-Semitic statements that Kanye had made, and he's having dinner and then tries to claim that he doesn't know who he's having dinner with.

Has anyone ever come to your house and you don't know who you're having dinner with? You think that actually happens for a former president? No, of course not. That's outrageous.

So week after week, he's doing things that are making them less and less viable as a winner in '24. And that's just going to catch up with them. And so we'll see how the next year plays out, but it ain't going well. The end of '22 ain't going too well for the former president.


BOLDUAN: Governor, thanks for coming on. Appreciate your time.

SUNUNU: Anytime. You bet.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

So Iran considering changing its long standing hijab law after months of protests, what this means though, for the people of Iran, what is reliable and trustworthy here and what this means for those anti- government protests, the details are next.


BOLDUAN: It's a symbolic move from Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting the bridge linking Russian annexed Crimea to Russia's mainland. This is the same bridge that was hit by a truck bomb back in October. CNN's Will Ripley is live in Kyiv for us. Will, what more are you hearing about this just as Russia has launched a new barrage of strikes on Ukrainian power facilities?


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the timing certainly not a coincidence to have Russian state media showing Vladimir Putin driving across the Kerch Bridge, which was badly damaged back in October, at the same time, that there were more than 70 Russian missiles launched from the Black Sea from the Caspian Sea from the Rostov region of Russia.

Those missiles intended to debilitate the power grid in Ukraine. And there was very, very limited success in terms of this operation. The Ukrainian Air Force says they intercepted more than 60 of the missiles that were launched. Some of them did hit their targets, however, which has resulted in blackouts, total blackouts, loss of electricity and power in at least to Ukrainian cities, but also power interruptions here in Kyiv, to the east, in Donetsk and to the south, in Dnipropetrovsk.

This comes at a time that U.S. intelligence has been saying that the fighting is going to slow down during the winter months, the temperatures are really plummeting here. It is not a good time for Ukrainians to be without electricity. And yet there is still active fighting happening out in the East in Donetsk with Russian troops trying to make an advance towards the west, but having very, very, very limited success.

They're being held off by the Ukrainians. So we'll have to see if the fighting does indeed slow down, Kate. Certainly these Russian missile strikes have really revved up the situation once again, they were anticipated, though by the Ukrainians who say it's time now for the United States to make a decision on those Patriot missile defense systems that they say they badly need.

BOLDUAN: Interesting. Will, thanks. It's great to have you there.

Joining me now for more on this is CNN contributor, Jill Dougherty. She's a former CNN Moscow bureau chief. It's good to see you Jill. On Crimea and the bridge we're talking about here, what do you think Putin is doing with this bridge? What is the message -- what message is there to see in this?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Kate as soon as I heard that he did that. I went back to 2000. And if you remember, during that period, right before he was elected for the first time, he flew a plane, a fighter jet into Chechnya. So this is classic Putin, you know, I'm strong, I'm out there. This is our bridge, we're back in operation.

And remember, this really is his bridge. I mean, he got the money for it. He gave the order to build it. It's very, very personal. And just look at that video. He's literally at the wheel, I believe of a Mercedes, but at least a big car driving across. So symbolic and, you know, I think it's a sign that he's digging in his heels and this war is going to go on.

BOLDUAN: And also potentially a different type of symbolism in two air bases deeper in the fact that there are two air bases that are deeper than we've seen before within Russia being hit with some sort of explosions overnight, no one claiming responsibility for the blast, Jill, but the Russians are talking about it. What do you think this could mean?

DOUGHERTY: Yes, it's a little unclear. But if it is the Ukrainians, and the Ukrainians, usually, in cases like this, actually, there haven't been many cases like this. This is serious. This is inside Russia, but they usually gloat or mock, but don't really take responsibility. So if it is true, they are now expanding the war as they have been incrementally into Russia. And again, another sign that this war is going to continue and probably escalate in these move east.

BOLDUAN: You know, one part about, you know, one aspect of all of this, of course, is Putin's ability to continue funding his war. And we've learned that the United States and Western allies, they've now agreed to impose a price cap on Russian oil, saying that they won't pay any more than $60 per barrel. Russia is now rejecting the price cap. What do you think this does?

DOUGHERTY: You know, it's a new tactic, and nobody really knows exactly how it's going to work. But the idea is, you know, doing two things, you kept the money that Russia makes on oil, so they get less money to spend on the war. That's the theory. But at the same time, you don't hurt the market.

So that, you know, consumers don't have to pay very high energy prices. Whether that will work the way they think it will is, you know, a question, they think it will. But ultimately, it could hurt Russia's ability to have more funding to fight the war. At least that's the idea.

BOLDUAN: That's the idea, though, you know, as Ukraine says they need help now. And they need the war to end now, not later as this this price cap trickles in and gets into effect. It's good to see you, Jill, as always. Thank you.

So a major shift in Iran right now, after months of protests. The country's Attorney General says that they're reviewing the nation's mandatory hijab law. And they're growing questions this morning about the future of the morality police who enforce it. Nic Robertson has more on this for us. He's joining us now. Nic, state media is pushing back on some of this. What are you learning?


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, it's interesting because the Attorney General said over the weekend on Saturday that the morality police were going to be abolished state media pushback on that. Now look, the Attorney General does doesn't have responsibility for the morality police, that's something that's a responsibility of the Interior Ministry.