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The Lead with Jake Tapper

President Biden Tours Hurricane-Ravaged Florida; OPEC+ Cuts Oil Production By 2M Barrels A Day; South Korea, U.S. Test Missiles In Response To North Korean Launch; CNN In Liberated Ukrainian Town Littered With Dead Russian Soldiers; Record Number Of Women Running For Governor; Dozens Of CIA Officers Implore Congress To Examine Havana Syndrome. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 05, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Today officially marks the beginning of the fat bear bracket challenge in Alaska. And it gives bear lovers a chance to pick the winner of the fat bears.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: For those unfamiliar with this grizzly contest -- see what I did there -- live pictures here.

CAMEROTA: Live pictures.

BLACKWELL: This is Katmai National Park and Preserve. They spend all day feasting. And over the course of the week, they transform into fat bears. And we get to see who wins.

CAMEROTA: Okay. We'll keep watching this.

On that note, THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: President Biden putting politics aside to comfort hurricane victims.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Firsthand look. The president visits areas hard hit by Ian, meeting with families who lost everything. Plus, the emotional return for families of Sanibel Island, one week since Ian's landfall.

Also, the so-called Havana syndrome. The CIA sources blasting the agency, going to Congress to beg for help investigating the mysterious illness. What they are asking for in a CNN exclusive.

And, they are Democrats, Republicans, business leaders and moms. The historic year for women on the ballot in 2022.


HUNT: Hello and welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Kasie Hunt in today for Jake Tapper.

We begin this hour with President Biden getting a firsthand look at the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida. A short time ago, he made it clear the federal government is committed to helping the state, which he predicts will take years to recover.

Earlier in his visit, he also met with Republican Ron DeSantis who briefed him on the destruction. The two men on opposites ends of the political spectrum, but cordial today. The president praising the governor for his recovery efforts.

Biden's visit comes as the U.S. death toll from Hurricane Ian rises again to at least 110 people killed. Search and rescue teams are working nonstop to find survivors. For first time today, residents and business owners from Sanibel Island are allowed to return, but only to survey the damage. They can't stay. Local officials warn that conditions on the island are extremely unsafe.

You recalled that Hurricane Ian wiped out parts of the causeway connecting Sanibel Island to the mainland. Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered state officials to prioritize repairing the bridge. The bridge connecting nearby Pine Island to the mainland was also damaged. The governor announced today residents can once again access the island via a temporary drawbridge.

Let's begin with CNN's Randi Kaye who was on Sanibel Island earlier today.

Randi, what waits for residents and business owners as they come home?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A mess, Kasie, honestly. It really is a mess there. We took a boat along with a couple of residents. They had to hire this driver, Captain Brandon, because they can't get to the island without a boat or helicopter or airplane because of the causeway being destroyed by Hurricane Ian.

So, we took this vote with them. These are two women in their 60s. By the time we got there to the island, they had to climb off the boat, you can only get so far. Then we had to walk. Conditions were primitive. We had to walk a mile to their home.

And, again, they didn't know what to expect. They were nervous. The whole boat ride were very emotional. You could see as you walk, there were cars on the side of the road upside down. There were beach resorts that were destroyed, mattresses on the street.

There was a door from a women's rest room that had come from blocks away in their backyard. Their pool was destroyed. We, finally, after an hour of trying to get the hurricane shutters off, because they are done with power and there wasn't power, we went inside.

The upper floor, fine. They thought maybe they had a reprieve. They go downstairs and the lower level, it was destroyed. There was mud and muck. The smell was horrific. There was mold.

You could see the water line on the wall was at about six feet high. That's how much water there was. The refrigerator in the lower room was on its side on the counter. It had moved and floated in the water.

Here is what Vicki Paskaly had to say.


VICKI PASKALY, SANIBEL RESIDENT: Expected the devastation on the ground floor. That was a given. I slept 30 minutes last night thinking the back of the house fell off, the upstairs was flooded out as well. I think we ended up being a little more fortunate than some other people.

Yeah, we have a lot of damage. We have a lot of work to do. But I don't believe our house is unlivable at some point.


KAYE: And, Kasie, unfortunately, for them, that lower ground floor is uninsurable. That's how it works on Sanibel Island. So, all of that mess, all of that muck, they lost their Mini Cooper which is in the garage, completely flooded out.


That is all on them. There's no insurance, no flood insurance for that, Kasie.

HUNT: That's just devastating.

So, Randi, when do authorities expect that these people are going to actually be able to go home on a more permanent basis?

KAYE: Well, for those who have homes left, they -- it's going to be a while. They have to get off the island by 7:00. They were allowed to collect a few things and then they would have to leave right away. So, they can't walk around or show people around. We know the governor is working to try and get this causeway repairs, a temporary fix for it, by October, or in the range.

So, by the end of October, I should say. So, that is the plan. Residents are very, very anxious to see if that actually happens, because many of them want to go home, Kasie.

HUNT: Of course, they do. Randi Kaye reporting live from Naples, Florida, thanks so much for that report.

We're going to turn to our money lead. There's a pretty strong chance that you are about to pay more to fill up your gas tank. OPEC+, that's a group of major oil producers that includes Saudi Arabia and Russia, just announced the biggest cut to oil production since the start of the pandemic. This is the opposite of what the Biden administration have lobbied for.

The White House today called the decision short-sighted and a mistake and said it would hurt low and middle income countries already struggling with rising energy prices. It bodes poorly to President Biden in the quickly approaching midterm elections.

Here to discuss is Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council at the White House.

Brian, thank you so much for spending some time with us today.

This production cut will almost certainly drive gas and energy prices higher. It could increase fears of a global recession. What's the president's message to households that are already barely getting by?

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, thanks for having me. It was a short-sighted decision, and the reason is because the dominant challenge we continue to face in the global economy and global oil markets is constraints on supply as a direct result of Putin's invasion of Ukraine and the constraints that has put on.

So, we have consistently been encouraging every actor of the oil producing countries and others to support adequate supply on the global market. At the same time, with respect to U.S. consumers, we have made a lot of progress over the course of the last couple of months. Gas prices are down about $1.20, the most common price for gas today in the United States is $3.29. That's down quite a bit.

HUNT: They are still going back up.

DEESE: Well, they have stabilized in different parts of the country. Some are going down. Some are going up.

We still have more to go if energy companies actually reduce those retail prices, the prices that consumers pay, to align with the wholesale prices they are actually paying. Right now, there's a historically large gap between those two. We need energy companies to reduce that gap so that consumers aren't bearing the brunt of that.

And we're going to look at other things that we can do as well. But, you know, we are going to keep focused on doing we can to make sure this progress that we have seen in terms of gas prices coming down can sustain wherever it can.

HUNT: So, on that point, sources tell CNN that the White House pushed allies very hard to try and stop this slash in oil production. One U.S. official said the White House was, having a spasm and panicking, their words. CNN also obtained some draft White House talking points this week that called this possible production cut a, quote, total disaster and warned it could represent a hostile act.

Why didn't any of this work? What do you say to people who say, do you have this under control?

DEESE: Well, look, we have made our views clear to OPEC countries and other countries. We will continue to do that.

I think if you look at what this president and our administration has done since Putin began amassing troops on the border of Ukraine, what it shows is an unprecedented effort to rally a global coalition to meet that aggression and say the world will not stand by on that type of aggression and at the same time, we will use all of the tools at our disposal to have adequate supply of energy globally. As I have mentioned, those actions including our historic use of the

strategic petroleum reserve to release a million barrels into the market, has had an impact. Oil prices are down significantly from where they were earlier in the summer. As a result, gas prices are down as well.

We're going to keep at that. We're going to keep at that while maintaining the global coalition. We have to stand up to Putin's aggression and we have to maintain the coalition to do that.

HUNT: So, speaking of the coalition and the actions that the president has taken, especially abroad. It has less than three months since the president went to Saudi Arabia. He had that controversial meeting with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. And you today said the trip was not a waste of time, and White House has said the trip wasn't about oil.


But there was one tangible delivery that Biden brought home from that, this OPEC move cancels it out.

I mean, does the president regret making that trip to Saudi Arabia?

DEESE: The president's intention in making that trip was to represent U.S. national interests. That's what he did. And we saw that that had results across a broad array of issues, including security issues, including representing Israel's interests in the region. And so, that's what the president is going to continue to do.

The president, wherever he sees an opportunity to represent and advance U.S. national interest, national security interests and economic interests, he is going to continue to do that. With respect to the thing that a lot of American families are focused on, the price at the pump and the overall costs that they are facing, you've got a president and the administration that are waking up every day focused like a laser on doing what we can to try to bring down those prices.

As I said, we have made progress on gas prices. There's more we can do. We can make more progress on bringing down other prices for American families as well, like prescription drugs and health care costs. We're going to make progress this month.

So, that's the president's focus, representing the national interest, representing the interest of the American families. That's what he is going to keep doing.

HUNT: All right. Brian Deese from the National Economy Council, thanks very much for your time today, sir. We really appreciate it.

DEESE: Thank you.

HUNT: Coming up next, the united show of force in response to North Korea and its recent series of missile launches, including a warning today from the U.S. Plus, the power of the October surprise. Can dirt on a candidate

really change the trajectory of a race? We're going to dig into that coming up.



HUNT: Topping our world lead, a flurry of military activity in Asia after North Korea's belligerent missile launch yesterday soared over Japan and ignited widespread panic.

Now, South Korea, Japan and the United States are doing military exercises. As CNN's Alex Marquardt reports, the three world powers are flexing their military might.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The U.S. and allies responding to North Korea's latest missile test with shows of unity and fire power. Joint aerial and ground exercises with Japan fighter jets in the sky, with South Korea launching long-range precision rockets, designed to remind Kim Jong-un what he could be facing.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: To make sure we have the military capabilities at the ready to respond to provocations by the north if it comes to that. Now, it shouldn't come to that. We have made it clear to Kim Jong-un, we are willing to sit down with no preconditions.

MARQUARDT: The launch prompting the U.S. to call for an emergency Security Council meeting at the United Nations today.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We can and must return to a time when we spoke with a unified voice against the DPRK's maligned behavior.

MARQUARDT: U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken today calling North Korea's actions dangerous and reckless.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have called on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and engage in a sustain and substantive dialogue. This is something we proposed going back many months. If they continue down this road, it will only increase the condemnation, increase the isolation, increase the steps that are taken in response to their actions.

MARQUARDT: North Korea has carried out missile tests this year, 23 so far. The latest on Tuesday flying almost 3,000 miles or 4,600 kilometers, right over Japan for the first time in five years. A major provocation and escalation.

JEFFREY LEWIS, DIRECTOR, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE EAST ASIA NONPROLIFERATION PROGRAM: They don't care if people are angry about it. They know what they want to do. I think they are dead set on doing it.

MARQUARDT: Kim's meetings with former President Donald Trump proving little help in slowing North Korea's missile and nuclear development.

LEWIS: He believes that these are the things that safeguard his regime. And so, I think that he is both talking that talk, but he is walking the walk going on about his business of building up his nuclear arsenal.


MARQUARDT (on camera): The White House says that there has been no response to their offer to sit down with no preconditions, nor is there any indication that they plan to denuclearize, Kasie. In fact, quite the opposite. Analysts believe that we could soon see a nuclear test by North Korea. One analyst telling me it could happen at any time, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Alex Marquardt, thanks very much for that report.

And sources tell CNN the U.S. intelligence community believes a car bombing that killed the daughter of a prominent Russian political figure back in August was authorized from within parts of the Ukrainian government. "The New York Times" was the first to report this. Right now, it's still unclear exactly who signed off on the assassination and if Ukrainian President Zelenskyy was aware of the plan. Ukraine previously denied any involvement and has not responded to CNN's request for comment.

Meanwhile, Putin's forces are losing more land in Ukraine. For first time since Russia's invasion, Ukrainian forces are advancing into the eastern Luhansk region, where a Russian correspondent embedded on the frontlines admits Putin's army doesn't have the, quote, manpower.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in a southern Ukraine, in a town littered with Russia's military relics and bodies of Putin's soldiers.

A warning here, some of the images you're about to see are disturbing.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): We don't leave our own behind, a Russian war slogan you hear less these days, especially along the road south by the Dnieper River where the Russians seem to be collapsing since the weekend on yet a third front.

The pace of Ukraine's advance, you can feel on the road here. And it's hour by hour that they move forward, these road lines with Russian bodies, abandoned Russian positions. It's clear people left here in a hurry.

In just the last three days, they have swept along the west bank of the river through Russian positions. The shallow, shabby foxholes of an army with almost nothing at hand. Even what little they had was abandoned, especially this tank, a model that first came into service 60 years ago when Vladimir Putin was nine. [16:20:04]

Here, the village of Mykolaevka (ph), right on the river, is getting cellphone service for first time in six months and aid. Shells slammed into here 90 minutes ago from the Russians still across the water. It's the price of their freedom.

The Russians would check on us, she says, try to make us vote in the referendum. But we didn't. We survived. We old people always have food supplies.

Outside the village are more of the short-lived occupation, left in the tree line with a sleeping mat and shells.

In nearby Lyubimovka (ph), there was heavy fighting Saturday. And then Sunday, the Russians just vanished. Gratitude for aid and liberation going spare to almost anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): I cry because two of mine are fighting too. I am crying as I am happy you are here.

WALSH: Smiles that it is over and shock at how fast.

It was very scary, we were afraid, she says. Hiding. They were bombing, robbing. We survived.

They ran. The rain came. And they ran.

Signs all around of how their unwanted guests just did not know what to do when they got here. All have food or beds. They filled that gap with cruelty.

Andrei had a generator and would charge locals' phones. So, the Russians decided he was Ukrainian informer and beat him.

They brought me from here and they put a hood on my head and taped it up, he says. We walked a few steps up and down. They beat him so badly, his arms turned blue from defending his head, still there months later.

Stalemate had turned this huge expanse up for months. Now, it's broken, as has the fear of the Kremlin's army here, bereaved, abandoned, filthy and vanishing down the road.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, along the Dnieper River, Kherson Region, Ukraine.

HUNT: Our thanks to Nick for that report.

Up next here, the huge year for women on the ballot, and the key issues pushing their campaigns.



HUNT: In our politics lead, is 2022 the year of the woman? It might be. This year, a record 25 women are running for governor.

CNN's Kyung Lah tracks these historic races and the one qualification that many of these female candidates are touting, the fact that they are moms.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Arizona Republican nominee for governor Kari Lake pitches her conservative credentials.

KARI LAKE (R), ARIZONA NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR: I do not like this woke garbage.

LAH: And her own identity.

LAKE: You do not want to mess with a middle-aged mama who is pissed off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love it. Women solve programs. We get things done.

KATIE HOBBS (D), ARIZONA NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR: I am Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

LAH: Running for the Democrats, Katie Hobbs. Her platform, defending abortion rights and democracy.

HOBBS: One of the biggest threats to our elections is the campaign of misinformation and disinformation.

LAH: Two women vying to be Arizona's top state executive in what is a historic year for women running for governor.

Lake and Hobbs are among a record 25 women nominated by major parties, 16 Democrats and nine Republicans. And in five states, women are facing off for the governor's mansion, more than in all of U.S. history.

KELLY DITTMAR, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, CENTER FOR AMERICAN WOMEN AND POLITICS: We have seen more and more women do that successfully and more women running for these positions with less of that traditional pushback about whether or not they can do the job.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: I will do everything in my power as a woman, as a Michigander and as your governor to protect women's reproductive rights in Michigan.

LAH: In Michigan, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer leans on her identity as part of her defense of abortion rights.

While Republican challenger Tudor Dixon uses her gender into attacks against the incumbent.

TUDOR DIXON (R), MICHIGAN GOV. CANDIDATE: This is going to be an epic battle between a conservative businesswoman and mother, and a far left, birthing parent and career politician.


LAH: In Oregon, three different appeals from three women vying for the governor's mansion.

Democrat Tina Kotek.

KOTEK: And then there were some other words for tough that women get called.

LAH: Republican Christine Drazan.

CHRISTINE DRAZAN (R), OREGON GOV. CANDIDATE: And I'm running for governor. But more importantly, I'm a mom.

LAH: And independent Betsy Johnson.

BETSY JOHNSON (I), OREGON GOV. CANDIDATE: This daughter of Oregon won't give up on the state I love.

DITTMAR: It's a particularly good year for women running for governor. That said, all will hinge on how many of these women ultimately win.

LAKE: You can call me Trump in a dress any day.

LAH: These nominees for governor are shifting the landscape on running to be the state's top political boss.

In Arizona, Lake has attacked her opponent using language that a man would be called sexist for.

LAKE: She came out last week with a mask over her face. Actually, that might be a good look for her.

HOBBS: Her rhetoric is continuing to ramp up violent threats and harassment against me. And I don't think that's really a gender thing.

LAH: Pointed attacks as women are poised to make history.

What does it say about the state of women leadership right now in politics?

LAKE: I think it's fantastic. I call it the mama bear movement, which is happening right now. You see the mama bear saying, wait a minute, we need to get involved at the school board level, because we don't like what's being taught to our children. We need to get involved in Congress because we need to impact change for America.


LAH (on camera): The numbers of women nominees for the U.S. Senate and the House is actually lower in 2022 than it was in 2020. It's in the governors races we are seeing some progress when it comes to women nominees. It's also in the governor's mansions that you see a potential pipeline to the U.S. presidency which has remained the ultimate glass ceiling in politics -- Kasie.

HUNT: That it has.

Let's discuss here with our panel.

Thank you all for being here.

Kirsten, let me start with you. This is as Kyung laid out, a historic year for female candidates. We can't necessarily have that conversation without talking about abortion, which is one of the foremost issues on the ballot in so many ways.

This new campaign ad from a Louisiana congressional candidate, Katie Darling, she's running against Steve Scalise, so it's a long shot.

But let me show you the video because you'll understand why it's worth watching. Take a look.


KATIE DARLING, LOUISIANA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Louisiana deserves better than the path we are on. I'm Katie Darling and I'm running for Congress because I want that better path, for you, for her and for him.


HUNT: So, I'm not going to lie. I would not be brave enough if I were running for office to include footage from that event in my campaign ad.

But what do you make of that? How do you think these two issues go together? Women candidates and issues that clearly are polling shows women care so much about.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, well, I think it's obviously going to -- has very much activated women and activated Democratic voters and some independent voters that lean Democratic. It's not necessarily the top issue for everybody. The economy and crime are ranking very highly.

But I think the reason that she did, in fact, she said this, the reason she wanted to do this is that there's this idea that conservatives put out that if you are pro-choice, if you're pro- abortion rights, that you aren't pro-children or pro-having babies. So, then, in fact, the two things very much go together. She's somebody who had health issues, and was very concerned about what would happen to her, that she could die from having a child, was afraid to give birth in Louisiana, and decided to run for office.

So, I think she's highlighting those issues that abortions, in fact, are people who have children. And so, I think it's important for people to understand that you can be both things. You can be pro abortion rights and pro children and babies and families.

HUNT: Alice, how do you react to that? Because I will say, I mean, as someone who's, you know, in my 30s, I know a lot of people going through this kind of thing. And there are things that are classified as abortion care that women who desperately want to have a baby are utilizing and need in their day to day health care.

I mean, how's that play to the politics of this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, clearly, the pro-life issue has been front and center for galvanizing Republicans and conservatives ever since Roe v. Wade was put into place. For 50 years, this has really turned out voters.

What we have seen -- and there's no denying the fact that since it has been overturned, it turned out more women and men as well, to support liberal candidates and Democratic candidates. But what I expect to see in the next five weeks as we get closer to the midterm elections, women are concerned with pocketbook issues, the economy and inflation and crime and education, all in a flux.

Women are going to steer towards candidates that are focused on those issues, the economy is top of mind. Look, the abortion has galvanized some women, but overall, they are not single issue voters and the economy is a big issue.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So, on polling about whether abortion should be legal, there isn't much of a gender gap anymore. Men and women are very similar on that. Democrats do have -- the gender gap is significant on the races. We see -- just about every Senate and gubernatorial race, you're seeing a substantial gender gap between women more pro-Democratic than men, also a significant generation gap, younger than 45 Democrats are running very well older than 45.

So, it's interesting. The salient -- the view on the legality of abortion isn't that different. But the view on the salience does seem to be. I mean, it does seem to be --

HUNT: How much does it matter?

BROWNSTEIN: How much does it matter to you? And it is moving more women voters I think than men voters, even though the underlying position isn't that different.

HUNT: Yeah, let's dig into a specific race where this is a thing. You are back from Georgia. Herschel Walker was on "Fox and Friends" and he responded to the reporting that said he paid for his girlfriend to get an abortion and to respond to attacks from his own son calling him a liar.




BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Have you figured out who it is? HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Not at all. And that's

what I hope everyone can see. It's sort of like everyone is anonymous or everyone is leaking.

KILMEADE: What do you say about your son? Is he telling the truth?

WALKER: I love my son unconditionally. And that's the way I've always been.

KILMEADE: Do you know why he is saying this?

WALKER: Well, the damage he is doing is letting people know that left will do whatever they can to win the seat.


HUNT: OK. So, Tia, I think we should point out, first of all, that Christian Walker, his son, is actually pretty well-known conservative.

The allegation that he leveled at his dad is that you're lying, you can't pretend to be a moral man. He details things he went through when he was a kid. I mean, what do you take away from that response? And are voters going to buy it?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA-JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: Yeah, I think so -- I think there are some voters who are prepared to vote for Herschel Walker no matter what. I don't know what he could do to turn them off at this point, because for them the importance is getting more Republicans in to push that Republican Christian agenda that they really want and that Herschel Walker said he will embrace regardless what we believe about list personal life. He said if he was going to come to senate, he would do these things. A lot of voters, especially on the Republican side, think it's important.

I do think where voters could start to care is if they start to believe that they can't trust him. We know that trust and feeling a candidate is telling you the truth does resonate. That where his son more so than the reporting, his son's reaction is tough. We see Herschel Walker really not addressing the things his son --

HUNT: I mean, that's a tough thing to hear from your own father, the way he responded there.

STEWART: But I think it's important to note moving forward that this is a personal issue that he is answering to and he is denying. Republican voters in Georgia and voters across the country, what I'm hearing, I'm from Georgia Bulldog, and what people are saying to me, they are not as concerned about what is happening in his personal life, but what is he going to do politically? They support the fact that he is all about fighting inflation, talking about the economy, fighting crime.

HUNT: All the other issues.

STEWART: And there's a reason why the campaign is raising half a million dollars in the last two days when this came out because Republicans across the board support his policies and they want to --

POWERS: Yeah, but, Alice, I sat here with you and I heard you talk about what abortion is and what you believe abortion is and you believe it's a killing of a baby. That's what these people say. So, you are saying that they care more about those things than what they claim to believe that abortion is the killing of a baby and they are willing to overlook it? There's something that doesn't add up here.

HUNT: That's what we have known all along.


BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, look, we know that the general trend is that our elections are becoming more parliamentary. The less about individuals, more about which party you want to see control, not so much about the name in the book.

HUNT: What jersey you're wearing.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, more about the color on the front of the jersey.

But having said that, not all voters are there. In a state like Georgia that is as closely divided, even a few voters saying, this is just something that I will be embarrassed about by my senator, could make the difference.

Similar to what we're seeing in Arizona or Pennsylvania where the Republican candidates are laboring under high personal negatives. Yes, there are voters who will vote for them because they want Republicans to control. But is that enough to get you over the top? That's a big, big hill to climb.

HUNT: So, Ron, we have talked over the years about October surprises. This allegation was floating out there in Georgia political circles months if not years and people knew about it. Why is it reported now?

BROWNSTEIN: Interesting, the reporter who broke it said today that he is not sure what he found is the allegation that has been floating out there. There may be another story out there. Look, October surprises are at this point no surprise.

HUNT: Indeed.

All right, guys. Thank you very much for this conversation. I really appreciate having you today.

Ahead, that mysterious illness known as Havana syndrome. Sources say the CIA isn't doing enough to investigate it. And a CNN exclusive, how they are trying to get action next.



HUNT: And we're back with our buried lead, stories we feel aren't getting enough attention. This just in to CNN: sources describe friction at the CIA. Dozens of current and former officers are desperate for answers about Havana syndrome.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta dove into the mysterious illness in his special report, "Immaculate Concussion". Listen to a CIA doctor describe it.


DR. PAUL ANDREWS, FORMER SENIOR MEDICAL OFFICER, CIA: I was awakened with severe pain in my right ear.

I had a lot of nausea and a terrible headache. I have never suffered from headaches before.

The amount of ringing in my ears was astounding. Things were getting worse and worse and worse.

I started to hear the noise. I'm really in disbelief.


HUNT: Let's bring in CNN's Katie Bo Lillis and Kylie Atwood, who worked on this reporting.

Thank you both for being here.

Katie Bo, how were the CIA officers trying to raise the alarm about what's going on here?

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Yeah. So, Kasie, what we have learned is that as many as three dozen current and former CIA officers have travelled to Capitol Hill over the past year to raise concerns with the intelligence committees that the CIA task force that's supposed to be investigating who or what might be causing these strange episodes isn't doing enough. They are raising concerns that the task force isn't aggressively following up on leads, that it's not being aggressive enough in its overall investigation.

Some of them have been concerned enough that they have lodged formal whistle-blower complaints with Congress.

What makes this so hard, Kasie, is that officials who are familiar with the task force intelligence community's investigation overall, say they don't have good answers at this point.


There's about two dozen cases that the intelligence community just hasn't been able to explain by any other known means. And officials familiar with the investigation are telling us that, look, at this point, they just don't have any really solid evidence linking any of the cases to a foreign government or even good proof that any one of the cases is caused by the same thing that the next one is caused by.

This is super, super frustrating for victims. Many of whom are having pretty uncomfortable flashbacks to the early months and years after the first of the cases first began appearing when they say they felt gaslit by the Trump administration. HUNT: Really, really interesting.

And, Kylie, we learned Sanjay talked about there in his reporting, that the symptoms can last for years. This isn't something you just -- that seems to go away. Has the government been doing anything to help people who are struggling with had currently?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. So, by law, the government is required to compensate them. We have learned that earlier this year, the CIA began compensating some victims. We're now learning that the State Department is in the process of doing so. A senior State Department official said there are a dozen diplomats and their family members who are victims, who have applied to get compensated. And they will get $140,000 or $187,000. That's based on the severity of their symptoms.

They have to have received medical attention for a year to be qualified to receive this compensation. Of course, compensation is one thing. What the victims are saying is they don't want the U.S. government to forget about this. It's not just about the money for them.

HUNT: Just pay me and forget.

ATWOOD: Yeah, it's about flexibility at work, it's about continued support as they continue experiencing what are the aftereffects of these attacks.

HUNT: And you talk to one victim developed a rare form of cancer. Is there a sense that's connected?

ATWOOD: There's no direct correlation. This was someone who was a victim of Havana syndrome. They developed this cancer, which is associated with exposure to microwave or radiation. The reason that that's concerning is because there was a panel of experts, scientists earlier this year who said that that pulse microwave energy is one of the things that could have been the cause of these incidents. The fact that this person has developed this cancer is creating concern among victims who are saying, what are going to be the long-term affects for me? They don't have answers to that.

HUNT: The implications of the fact it's happening and we can't figure it out are astonishing.

Katie Bo Lillis, Kylie Atwood, thanks very much for your great reporting. Really appreciate it.

Coming up next, the alarming factors leading an overwhelming number of people to say, America has a mental health crisis on its hands.



HUNT: In our health lead, 90 percent of Americans agree that mental health is a crisis in the United States. That's according to a new CNN poll with the Kaiser Family Foundation. But why is this number so high?

I want to bring in CNN's Dr. Tara Narula.

Tara, it's good to see you. What issues did people in this poll specifically point to as a crisis?

DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kasie, this was a survey of 2,000 adults in America over the summer and identified not just a problem but really what were crisis situations. Over two-thirds highlighted the opioid epidemic as being a crisis. Over 50 percent talked about mental health in kids and teens and also severe mental illness in adults.

About 45 percent, not surprisingly, highlighted anxiety and depression as a crisis and this was interesting to me, 39 percent talked about stress or anxiety from politics and 25 percent mentioned loneliness.

In addition, the survey found that one in three described feeling anxious over the prior year, 20 percent had felt depressed or lonely or even had missed work because of a mental health issue.

So really not a great picture of what is going on right now.

HUNT: Pretty dire. What are some barriers people encounter when they try to get access to mental health care and how do we fix it?

NARULA: That's really the important question. There are a lot of barriers. First and foremost, 80 percent identified cost. If you've talked to anybody who tries to see a therapist, many times the cost is in the hundreds of dollars. This is out priced for many Americans in addition to prescription medication cost.

About 70 percent or so highlighted insurance coverage as being a problem for mental health or their provider is lacking insurance coverage, and then about 62 percent talked about stigma. So, as much as we're talking about this, there is still clearly a lot of Americans that feel this is something they're ashamed about or don't want to bring up, and 55 percent couldn't find a provider. I hear this from my patients who want to see someone and are waiting months to get in.

One another interesting statistic, 35 percent surveyed don't feel comfortable opening up about their mental health to family and friends because again, they may be judged. They may encounter people that don't feel compassion or give them that empathy and they don't want to be a burden to them. So there is a lot we can do as family and friends, as communities to support those that we care about.

HUNT: Really important point. So, based on the survey, who is struggling the most and do people know where to go to get help for their problems?

NARULA: Well, 20 percent rated their mental health as fair or poor. That's not really a great number. And in fact, there were certain groups that were more likely to rate their mental health as poor. For example, younger populations 18 to 29, those in the LGBT community, those who had poor physical health and those with economic hardship. [16:55:07]

HUNT: Dr. Tara, thanks for much for your reporting today.

And remember, if you or anyone you care about needs to talk to a crisis counselor, don't hesitate. Contact the suicide hot line by calling or texting 988.

Coming up next, the children's toy that led to one of the biggest drug busts in New York city history.


HUNT: Word today of the largest fentanyl drug bust ever in New York City. The DEA found 15,000 rainbow-colored fentanyl pills in a Lego box. Prosecutors say a woman was arrested in Manhattan, trying to bring the pills from New Jersey. These pills as you can see look like candy.

Prosecutors say fentanyl is to blame for more than 80 percent of overdose deaths in New York City and the DEA calls these rainbow pills an alarming trend. I'd say so.

Our coverage continues right now "THE SITUATION ROOM."