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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: DOJ Asks Judge To Force Top Trump Lawyers To Testify; Two Key Debate Showdowns Tonight; Police: School Gunman Armed With 12+ High-Capacity Magazines; Griner's Nearly Decade-Long Prison Sentence Upheld By Russian Court; New British Prime Minister Warns Of "Difficult Decisions"; Business Executives Say U.S. & European Recessions "Likely". Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 25, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The $6 million buy, a key battleground goes bionic?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Tonight, one of the most anticipated debates of the year. John Fetterman versus Mehmet Oz in their one and only face as this political season kicks into overdrive for candidates nationwide.

Plus, distraction for Democrats. The anger and outrage over a letter to President Biden now retracted.

And Moscow shuts down an appeal to release Brittney Griner from a Russian prison. Is there any hope left to bring the WNBA star home?


BERMAN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper.

And we'll get to the midterms in just a moment. But, first, a significant step for the Justice Department and its investigation into the January 6th attack. Sources tell CNN the DOJ is trying to force the testimony of Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin, the top two lawyers from Donald Trump's White House, and hear about their conversations with the former president.

This is exclusive new reporting, so let's get right to CNN's Sara Murray.

This is an attempt to break through a firewall of sorts Trump has used to avoid scrutiny of his own actions.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The former president has cited executive privilege, attorney/client privilege in trying to bar a lot of these top witnesses from sharing with criminal investigators looking to the events surrounding January 6th from getting too close to conversations folks may have had with the former president, those in his inner circle. So, what we are seeing with the staffer by the Justice Department to

compel Pat Cipollone and Pat Philbin to testify again is try to get closer to the former president and that inner circle. So, that's a court battle that's playing out in secret. It's a sealed proceeding.

We have seen the Justice Department have some success in piercing this sort of privilege shield with other witnesses, though. Sources have also told me and my colleagues, Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz, that two top aides of former Vice President Mike Pence, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, have already gone in and testified before a grand jury. They were facing similar privilege fights, and a judge ruled they had to go back and they had to answer more questions.

So this is really important for the Justice Department's investigation into January 6th. We, of course, reached out to a Trump spokesperson for comment. He slammed the weaponized Justice Department and called all the investigations surrounding the former president witch-hunts.

BERMAN: Sara Murray, thank you so much for this brand-new reporting.

I want to bring in Elliot Williams, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Elliot, what does it take to pierce a privilege like this? Whether it'd be executive or attorney/client privilege, what would it take for a federal judge to rule they have to testify?

ELLIOT WILLLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, look, and you are right with that question, John, because any former president is going to be entitled to some measure of protection for conversations that happen in the White House with attorneys either via the attorney/client privilege or executive privilege.

Now, look, as this has come up over the years going back to Richard Nixon, it's very hard for a White House to overcome the criminal process. And if criminal investigators are looking into something and believe there might be evidence of a crime somewhere, and certainly they can pierce those privileges and that may happen here.

BERMAN: Evidence of a possible crime. What then do you think it is that the Justice Department, that investigators want to get at? What door could be opened with the testimony of Philbin and Cipollone?

WILLIAMS: Now, look, if it's related to January 6th, my assumption is that it might be tied to the false elector scheme we've heard much about which is communications with the White House and individuals around the country as they were seeking to undermine the results of the 2020 election. That's a guess here. We just don't know, because as Sara's reporting noted, this is happening in secret, sealed proceedings because of the sensitivity of them.

But, look, any number of matters would have come through the White House, and certainly you and I are both well aware of the number of investigations surrounding the former president. So at this point who knows? BERMAN: Cipollone did speak to the January 6th committee, although it

was in specific areas with parameters. Presumably there wouldn't be the same parameters here. And I just want to make this understandable for our audience, who like me, we don't have law degrees. The issue here is what?

If prosecutors can prove to the judge, if they can make the judge determine that Pat Philbin is a witness to possible crimes, I guess the standard will be more likely than not that crimes were committed, if he was a crime to -- a witness to such crimes, then that testimony could be compelled?


WILLIAMS: Yes, it certainly could be compelled. Now, look, any advice he's providing to the former president in his capacity as a lawyer is going to be protected. But there's a world of materials that might have happened outside of that scope if he's not advising on the law and merely seeing crimes happen, is a party to a crime himself -- now we don't have evidence if that's happening -- if he's aware of someone else's knowledge of crimes, all of those are fair game.

All these privileges, like attorney/client privilege or executive privilege, seek to protect are the communications themselves in the context of the person's job. But that's not going to protect law breaking if, in fact that did happen.

BERMAN: And the fact that Marc Short, who was chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence and Greg Jacob, who was himself a lawyer, the fact they have already testified through whatever legal process where you're compelled to or voluntarily, the fact they did, is that a precedent that will play here?

WILLIAMS: Oh, absolutely. Much more -- and Patrick Philbin, a senior attorney in the White House as well. Frankly that -- I made a reference to Nixon before, and the efforts that were used to pierce some of these attorney/client privilege questions.

But no, the mere fact that we have -- the nation has seen testimony from senior White House staffers and senior lawyers will absolutely be in the mind of the court that is considering whether it is appropriate to break or pierce these privileges.

BERMAN: All right. Elliot Williams, thank you for helping us understand this. We will watch this resolve itself perhaps quickly. Thank you so much.

In the meantime, we're just hours away from two of the most high- profile debates just two weeks out now from Election Day.

In Pennsylvania, Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz face out in their one and only debate in this important contest that could determine control of the U.S. Senate. Fetterman is hoping to convince voters he is healthy enough to serve after suffering a stroke earlier this year. And we'll see if the celebrity TV career of Mehmet Oz will help him in his first-ever general election debate. And in New York, incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul will

square off against Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin in a surprisingly tight race where crime has become a central issue. New polls show the race is tightening in a state where Democrats have dominated statewide races for some time.

Athena Jones is covering that New York matchup. Kyung Lah is in Arizona, where there are new allegations of voter intimidation.

But, first, to CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the Pennsylvania debate site in Harrisburg.

And, Jeff, the Republican Senate super PAC is planning to make a $6 million buy, hence, my bad bionic man joke, a $6 million buy there to boost Mehmet Oz ahead of this crucial debate.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And, John, that is a sense Republicans believe that Pennsylvania is a critical piece of the puzzle that we'll be watching two weeks from tonight as they try and win the majority in the U.S. Senate from Democrats. They do believe that Pennsylvania offers a good opportunity, that Dr. Mehmet oz has been gradually climbing throughout the last several weeks and months and now is within striking distance of John Fetterman.

Of course, all of that dynamic is coming onto the stage where for an hour this evening these two men, John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz, will come face-to-face for the first time. The last several months they've been going after each other quite aggressively from a long distance range, but doesn't all those issues that have been playing out will be front and center, crime, the economy, inflation, abortion rights.

So it sounds like a typical debate but this is anything but a typical debate. Of course, John Fetterman has been recovering from a stroke that slowed his candidacy earlier this summer. Tonight there will be closed captions, largely like the ones you see on your television screen, but the candidate will be relying on those to understand the question and make sure he can give the proper answer. We will see how Dr. Oz responds to that. He made his name and fame as a television doctor. The debate stage an entirely different thing.

But I'm told by advisers to the Oz campaign that he wants to keep it on issues and they want to show differences on crime, the Biden agenda, et cetera. So, the TV stage behind me here, the TV studio, the two men are going to be in there alone without an audience, just with two moderators and two large television screens with the closed captions.

So certainly the most interesting debate we've seen in this entire mid-term election cycle. We'll see if it changes the dynamics of this race -- John.

BERMAN: Jeff Zeleny, great to have you there to watch in person. Thank you very much.

Turning now to New York where crime and the economy are top of mind issues for voters ahead of tonight's debate.

CNN's Athena Jones is following the race for governor.

Athena, this is a more competitive contest than many predicted. So, what are you expecting tonight?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, it's a big deal that this race is closer than expected. The state of New York has not elected a Republican to statewide office since 2002.


So it's been 20 years. Lee Zeldin thinks he has a chance and I expect to see the congressman trying to score as many political points as possible against the governor on the issue of crime and public safety. These are issues that are top of mind for voters in New York. It's something that Zeldin has effectively pushed Hochul on in recent weeks. He almost never misses an opportunity to show up at a subway station or a bodega or some place where a violent incident has occurred in order to push Hochul and other Democrats on crime.

This, of course, is something that's happening all over the country, Republicans trying to tie Democrats to being soft on crime. When it comes to governor Hochul, I expect her to tout her achievements when it comes to job creation. Her record protecting abortion rights, gun safety, for instance, raising the age to buy a semiautomatic weapon to 21 years old after that Tops Supermarket shooting.

But the real issue will be how she responds to the charges that they haven't done enough to keep New Yorkers safe. She's also likely to try to paint these efforts at crime fighting as an ongoing continuation of a strategy. That's what she told me when I caught up with her in Harlem on Sunday after she and Mayor Eric Adams had made a big announcement about adding more police to subways. So she is going to argue she's been focused on this for a long time.

Bottom line here, though, Zeldin is optimistic. What will it take for him to win? He would have to win upstate which is rural and more likely, do very well down state and do very well in New York City, a very progressive city. It's only grown more progressive. That is where he could see challenges. So, we'll be watching to see what happens tonight.

BERMAN: All right. Athena Jones, thank you very much.

Let's go out west to Arizona and an update on the reports of armed individuals patrolling near ballot drop boxes. Two organizations are seeking a temporary restraining order against a group they allege is running a campaign of voter intimidation, what is being called a vigilante incident such as in Maricopa County seen in this video. This after the Arizona secretary of state referred six reports of potential intimidation to the Justice Department and the state's attorney general.

CNN's Kyung Lah live in Phoenix.

So, Kyung, what can you tell us about these lawsuits?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the hearing will be scheduled for tomorrow, so we'll get many more details about exactly what the grounds of this is.

But I can tell you what this lawsuit is about, John. It's about the silver box that you see behind me. There are two of them in Maricopa County, and this one here in Phoenix is where people drop off their early ballots. It's very innocuous. It's something that's been around for quite some time.

But where I'm standing is where almost like in shifts people have been setting up lawn chairs watching people with binoculars, taking pictures of the voters themselves or of license plates.

And so this lawsuit filed on behalf of two organizations, a group representing retired persons and another representing a Latino organization, they call this voter intimidation, especially when you look at what is happening in Mesa, Arizona. There was that video you just showed, John, of those two people who were standing there in the back of a pickup truck armed and watching in tactical gear and masks.

So, while we do know what the impact of this is already. There have been six complaints filed with the Arizona secretary of state's office, voters saying that they are simply intimidated to vote. John?

BERMAN: And, Kyung, it's not just the ballot drop box watchers but hearing more from official about other security concerns.

LAH: Absolutely. What you see is this chain link fence. There's now a wrought iron fence beyond that. None of this existed before 2020. This was an open area where people could come in and observe at their whim. They could speak to election officials face-to-face. The reason why all of this is here is because of threats.

There have been a number of arrests against election officials here in this very county. Their lives at risk, their addresses posted, their children's names posted. And that's something these local officials are facing now since 2020, John.

BERMAN: Clearly done for a reason. Kyung Lah in Phoenix, thank you very much.

Oh, boy, do we have a lot to discuss in terms of the midterms with just two weeks to go.

Let me start with CNN's Kaitlan Collins here -- get your sleep while you can. That's my advice to you. Look, this debate --


BERMAN: Right now.

This debate tonight in Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman, we've talked a lot about John Fetterman, we're going to in a second, but Mehmet Oz, the CNN poll that just came out shows he's widely unpopular in Pennsylvania, very high unfavorability, a net negative favorability rating.

So if you're Dr. Oz going on that debate stage tonight, what do you need to do?

COLLINS: Well, he's been focusing on the issues that our polls show that Pennsylvania voters care about which is crime, economy, inflation, those issues they've been looking at that he's been talking about. The other thing I'm interested by, he has been unpopular in some of these numbers but you've seen Republicans coming around him and closing around him in the last few days.

You saw Senate Republicans and their fund them use to help candidates fundraise moving funds out of New Hampshire, putting it in Pennsylvania. That's interesting to see them surrounding him and seeing these core voters of his really close in, Republicans, around him to help him in this. So, that's what I will be watching to see how he handles that because, of course, you know, the way he talks about that and the way he talks about what matters most to these voters could be what he determines if they win two weeks from now.

BERMAN: The net favorability issue, do you think that might make him cautious in trying to poke Fetterman on health issues?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, yeah, I think, if I were him, I'm not sure I would poke it at all. Just stick to the issues. And Fetterman is going to rise or fall on this debate based on whether he can actually defend his record. A lot of that, I think, is going to come on crime.

I mean, Democrats and Republicans are arguing about inflation right now broadly but specifically in this race, that's one of the things that has reeled in Fetterman for the Republicans is this issue of his track record on the votes, on the parole board, his views on crime. I would see Oz going to that well over and over tonight.

BERMAN: So expectations, the expectations, which I learned covering Scott's old boss, George W. Bush. In the 2004 campaign, the Bush campaign called John Kerry the best debater since Cicero.


BERMAN: That was said there. So, the Fetterman campaign is trying to set up expectations going into this debate and this is from a campaign memo to reporters from the Fetterman campaign. John is ready to share his vision for Pennsylvania, defend his record and make the case against Oz, but if we're all being honest, Oz clearly comes into Tuesday night with a huge built-in advantage.

FINNEY: Well, he is a former TV personality, so he does know a little something about being on television and stage presence, I'll give him that.

But I do think going back to this popularity and the sort of depth of the support for each of the candidates, I think Oz has a different challenge which is also to come off as authentic, as somebody who cares about the people of Pennsylvania, because he has so easily been cast as out of touch, very wealthy.

Fetterman is considered so salt of the earth, of the people. I suspect on the crime, you when you talk about poor people who end up over 500,000 people currently in jail because they can't afford bail. We're not talking about violent criminals.

If he comes in and talks about tell a couple of real stories about real people, Oz has got to come off as trustworthy. He's got to come off as someone that you believe is going to go to Washington and fight for him and not just be beholden to the Trump ideology or the Republican Party.

So I do think -- I like what they were trying to do with expectations. I will shift them just a little bit.

COLLINS: Yeah, they were saying, you know, this is Oz's format. One number that showed up in our poll, we are seeing where they believe Oz has the advantage when it comes to the economic issues, but one thing CNN polled was whether or not they believe Pennsylvania, they would be better off basically in Pennsylvania if the GOP got control of Congress -- 46 percent said they believe they would be better off, 45 percent said worse off. It's pretty close when it comes to determining what the whole ticket looks like in Pennsylvania.

JENNINGS: Yeah, a close generic ballot and I think the Biden number here is really important. If you believe Joe Biden is 45 or better, you won't see Oz going to that well so much tonight trying to tie Fetterman to Biden. If you believe, which I think the Republicans do, that Biden is south of 45, sort of in the low 40s, you will see him saying regardless of how you feel about us personally, the direction of the country under full Democratic control is not good and you have a chance to correct it. That takes the personal out of it, right?

You may not love me but you certainly don't love $1,000 head of lettuce at the grocery store and we can't even keep the Wawas open because there's so much crime. So, that takes the image off the table and on quality of life issues.

FINNEY: But does he know what a Wawa is? Has he even been there --

JENNINGS: I wouldn't advise him to go. Apparently they're pretty violent.

FINNEY: I mean, you know, again --


BERMAN: Well, let's talk about crime for a second. In New York, Kathy Hochul, the governor running for election, Lee Zeldin making some in- roads, how nervous are Democrats?

FINNEY: Look, this race has become uncomfortably close, let's just be honest about that, and part of that is some of the criticism, I'll be honest, has been that Kathy Hochul's campaign has been a little bit, I would say, sort of understated, right? And she needed to be out there and more aggressive. She clearly in her debate is going to do two things. She's going to have to talk about the economy and the ways in which she is trying to lower costs and improve the economy in the state of New York and crime.

And one of the challenges, as we know, for statewide politicians in New York, how you talk about crime, how it resonates in New York City versus upstate New York, very different. We've seen many politicians make that mistake.


And so, she's going to have to really balance that conversation in this debate tonight.

BERMAN: You're seeing Democrats nationwide pivot to the economy and crime.

I'm so sorry, I just wanted to get to this other issue, which has sort of transcended U.S. borders, all the way over to Ukraine, which is that 30 progressives did sign this letter which was sent to the president suggesting that the White House be willing to negotiate with Vladimir Putin. Now they have since retracted that letter after there was serious blowback from this.

How has this happened?

COLLINS: A lot of blowback from members who said they signed it months ago and if they had known it would come out now would not have signed it given where things stand with Ukraine, basically saying that Biden needs to change his approach, have direct talks with Russia. Of course, Biden has said all along they would not have these conversations if Ukraine is not in the room. It's up to Ukraine to decide what this looks like.

And it's funny because you see these now mainstream Democrats siding with people like former Vice President Pence who said, you know, appeasement has never worked. And he was speaking to people in his own party after Republicans were talking about maybe, you know, aid to Ukraine isn't to be guaranteed if we take the majority, maybe not at the level you've seen it so far and now you've seen a complete backpedaling by these progressive Democrats, pulling back these.

The White House distancing themselves from this letter. And they are saying that's not what we think is the right approach. This is up to Ukraine to decide what this looks like not saying they shouldn't be having these direct talks.

JENNINGS: This totally has obliterated a talking point on TV that the Republicans are the pro-Putin party, et cetera. You have a massive number of Democrats here who, by the way, months ago, months ago, were calling into question America's commitment to helping our Ukrainian friends fight off these Russians. It's not like they came to this revelation in the last 24 hours.

It's a total mess, it's a total fiasco, and I do think this. At the end of the day, there will remain a bipartisan consensus to help Ukraine, but this -- but the idea we shouldn't be in it has been covered as though it's only a Republican issue and it's clearly not the case.

FINNEY: You have had some Republicans early on who praised Putin and his strength, the current leader of your party. So I wouldn't say that talking point has been completely obliterated. At the same time it was obviously a huge mistake. The timing is not what anybody wanted. I do think after the election what our support for Ukraine looks like in a bipartisan fashion is probably going to be different than it is now.

BERMAN: Scott Jennings, Karen Finney, Kaitlan Collins, now go get that sleep. Now go get that sleep. Thank you all so much for being with us.

Next, we zero in on crime after yet another deadly school shooting. The weapons police say a gunman carried into a St. Louis high school.

Plus, scary moments for a CNN crew as Ukrainians track the movements of an incoming Russian attack.



BERMAN: In the national lead, today, police say the 19-year-old behind Monday's deadly St. Louis high school shooting was armed with an AR-15 style rifle, more than a dozen high-capacity magazines and more than 600 rounds of ammunition.

The teacher who managed to escape says he was one of the targets. Listen.


MANFRET MCGHEE, DEAN OF ARTS, CENTRAL VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS HIGH SCHOOL: I stepped into the hallway to find out a little bit more about what was going on. At that moment the shooter was in the hallway and fired a shot at myself and another co-worker.


BERMAN: That teacher's 16-year-old son was injured in the attack.

Jean Kuczka, a 61-year-old PE teacher, died along with 15-year-old Alexzandria Bell, three weeks shy of her 16th birthday.

CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst Jon Miller is here with me now.

John, by the numbers, the police arrived four minutes after getting the 911 call. It took eight minutes once there to find and kill the gunman. Compare that to Uvalde, that sure sounds good.

There were security officers on the scene at the school, though, and I think there are questions whether they could have maybe prevent this had from happening. How do you access all of this?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, the security officers in that school are largely unarmed so they have radios and they keep order with the kids, but they don't have guns. Their real function during this was organizing evacuations where had they could, communicating over the radios and, importantly, passing that information to the responding officers. I think if you look at Uvalde and you look at this, this went by the book, and the book is relatively new, forming contact teams, immediately engaging the threat.

If the 911 call comes in at 9:11, they're there at 9:15, by 9:23 they've engaged the shooter, by 9:25 they're on the radio saying he's down, that is -- I mean, those incidents aren't supposed to happen, that's how the police response is supposed to go.

BERMAN: That is relatively quick once them got there, eight minutes. Police aren't sharing details about how the gunman was able to get into the building but they say locked doors probably slowed him down. They won't say more than that and this is a quote, because I don't want to make this easy for anybody else. Do you think that's the right call?

MILLER: So, I think eventually the information will come out, but they have a point. You are dealing with an individual who is 18 years old, who has been planning this for a long time, who has brought multiple 30 round magazines and fit them in the pockets of a tactical vest which he purchased for the purposes of this shooting. It would not be out of the realm of possibility that he would have also obtained breaching tools or something to facilitate entry.

On the other hand, he's also a kid who went to that school and every kid knows how to get into or out of the school in ways that strangers wouldn't.

BERMAN: So there's been a rise in what's called swatting incidents which are fake calls about fake active shooter incidents, active shooter incidents that aren't happening.


John, is this a case of crank calls or there are so many now people are wondering whether there is something coordinated or maybe even more nefarious about it?

MILLER: This is what drove me crazy when I was in the NYPD and it's driving all of my former colleagues crazy around the country, which is -- there's two things happening here and particularly in the post- Uvalde world. One is, get there fast. Don't stand around waiting for the SWAT team or putting on your heavy vest. Nobody in those classrooms has any of that protection. Run in and engage.

So, that's what happened yesterday. When you take the SWAT-ting incident the rules are the same. You get the call. You get there fast. You go in. You're looking to engage. Your gun is out. You're searching and scanning for the threat.

You raise the danger when there is no threat. People say why are you here? What happened? We got a call. It's extraordinarily dangerous. One of the positive things that comes out of this is they put a lot of

work into tracking down who is on the other end of that call and if they can, they arrest them.

BERMAN: Yeah, you can get in serious trouble for that. It puts lives at risk.

MILLER: It does.

BERMAN: John Miller, thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

MILLER: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up for us we have much more on the ground from Moscow and in Russia what may be the real reason Putin is ramping up calls for a dirty bomb in Ukraine.



BERMAN: Topping our world lead, Putin just hit the gas. Today he told his newly formed coordination council they need to speed up decision making and manufacturing to win the bloody war he calls a special operation. It comes as Ukraine's military touts a potential retreat of Russian forces near the key southern city of Kherson.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen followed along with Ukrainian military unit. He reports its members are confident they're one step closer to taking back that shining city in the south.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): En route to the front in one of the most active areas of the brutal war in Ukraine with a rocket artillery team taking aim at Vladimir Putin's forces.

They're called Karlson and use light trucks with missile pods mounted on the bed. The rockets carry a message of retribution. This one signed on behalf of a fallen soldier, from the witch, it says.

UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (through translator): Our vehicle is very effective because we can set up quickly, fire, and get away again.

PLEITGEN: Now they're aiming at Russian positions several miles away. But Russia's artillery is also dangerous and could fire back fast. It's not safe, he screams.

We have to get out of here as fast as possible because the Russians might target this position after they get hit by the salvo from our rockets. Their key to accuracy comes from the air. The drone scopes out the target and then watches as the artillery hits a Russian military repair shop, the unit says.

UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (through translator): We are the eyes of the unit, we did reconnaissance making sure the target gets hit.

PLEITGEN: The Russians are under such pressure, they started evacuating tens of thousands of people from Kherson and the Ukrainians believe Moscow is making its unfounded claims about preparing to use a so-called dirty bomb because Russia's troops are pinned down in this area.

The Karlson's commander believes it's only a matter of time before they oust Vladimir Putin's army from here.

UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (through translator): By the end of the year, we believe Kherson will be under Ukrainian flags.

PLEITGEN: And they hope their unit will make a small difference in the battle for Kherson.


PLEITGEN (on camera): It certainly seems like one of the most active regions in this bloody war going on in Ukraine. We spent a good amount of time in Kherson and really the entire time we were there, John, we could hear the thuds of artillery and rockets being exchanged there. So, they say they are concerned about some of the rhetoric coming out of Moscow with allegations about a dirty bomb. The foreign minister of Ukraine saying he believes the fact the Russians are so pervasive and keep uttering those allegations shows the Russians may be planning a false flag operation.

BERMAN: Fred, what a perspective. What a window you gave us into one of the crucial areas in Ukraine. Thank you so much for that report. You and your team stay save.

Fred Pleitgen in Kryvyi Rih in Southern Ukraine, appreciate it.

Next, Brittney Griner's request to get out of a Russian prison denied. Is there any avenue left to bring the basketball star home?



BERMAN: We're back with more of our world lead and a huge setback for Brittney Griner.

Today, the WNBA star lost her court appeal in Moscow. Her lawyers say the ruling means the legal process to free her from Russian custody is, quote, basically over. The 32-year-old, who brought less than a gram of cannabis oil into Russia in February, could spend nearly a decade in a penal colony.

As CNN's Kylie Atwood reports, U.S. government negotiations, diplomatic negotiations, might be her only play left.



behind bars in a Russian prison, Brittney Griner made her final plea in court today.

GRINER: People with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given.

ATWOOD: The American basketball star also apologized once again for what she called a mistake, accidentally bringing cannabis oil into Russia.

GRINER: I did not intend to do this, but I understand the charges brought against me. I just hope that is also taken into account as well, that I did plead guilty.

ATWOOD: But the Moscow court upheld her conviction, leaving her guilty of smuggling drugs into the country only slightly reducing her 9-nine year prison sentence by only a few months.

U.S. officials responded swiftly, calling the Russian judicial system a sham.

ELIZABETH ROOD, U.S. CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, MOSCOW: Nothing in the result of today's appeal changes the fact the United States government considers Ms. Griner to be wrongfully detained.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are in constant contact with the Russian authorities to get Brittney and others out.


And so far, we have not been meeting with much positive response.

ATWOOD: White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that Biden administration officials are working, quote, through every available channel to get Griner and Paul Whelan, another American wrongfully detained in Russia for nearly four years, back home.

PAUL WHELAN, WRONGFULLY DETAINED IN RUSSIA: A victim of political kidnap and ransom.

ATWOOD: The Biden administration has worked on this effort at a persistent pace in recent months, following the initial proposal from the United States for a prisoner swap that included Victor Boot, a convicted arms trafficker serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.

But so far U.S. officials say Russia has repeatedly responded with a demand that is not feasible for the United States to deliver on.

BIDEN: We're not stopping.

ATWOOD: And today. Griner's lawyers had a somber outlook for the two- time Olympic gold medalist's future in Russia.

MARIA BLAGOVOLINA, BRITTNEY GRINER'S ATTORNEY: She had some hopes and the hopes vanished today. So I think that's why she is doomed.


ATWOOD: Now we also heard this afternoon from Lindsay Colas, Brittney Griner's agent, and she said what happened today was disappointing yet unsurprising, said it further validates Griner is being held as a political pawn in Russia, and telephones very clear she was trying to rally support for the urgency around the need to get Brittney Griner home, reminding folks of what has happened to other American detainees and warning something might happen at any time -- John.

BERMAN: Nine years at a penal colony. Kylie Atwood at the State Department, keep us posted. Thank you.

The CEO of one of America's biggest banks says a recession in the coming months is not his biggest worry. Hear what is next.



BERMAN: In our world lead, Britain has a new prime minister again. Rishi Sunak went through the formality of meeting with King Charles who asked him to form the government.

Later in front of 10 Downing Streets, Sunak warned of tough times ahead.


RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will place confidence at the heart of this government's agenda. This will mean difficult decisions to come.


BERMAN: The British just like the U.S. and other countries are being battered by inflation but is the prospect of a recession the world's biggest problem right now or is a more sinister threat out there?

CNN's Richard Quest just sat down with a group of prominent business executives at a forum in Saudi Arabia.

Richard, quite a day or days for you at this point you've had. What worries them the most?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: There is obviously the issues but then you have the structural and the bigger problems that really they can't do much about. And we're talking about global instability.

When I spoke to Jamie Dimon, that was very much on his mind. Was it the issue of recession or was it something bigger?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMIE DIMON, CEO, JPMORGAN CHASE : I think the most important thing is the geopolitics, what's going on with Russia and Ukraine, America and China, relationships of the Western world, that to have me more concerned than whether there's a mild or a slightly severe recession.


QUEST: Because they know how to deal with a mild and slight recession but the question, of course, that they do have to face, is those rising interest rates and bedded inflation, slow-downs in the economies, which potentially lead to recession. And here, two of the top Wall Street bankers were in agreement.

BERMAN: Yeah, they both told you, Richard, that they believe a recession is likely?

QUEST: Yes, listen to David Solomon and Jamie Dimon, both of them saying that they think the recession is now the most likely outcome, however bad it might be.


DAVID SOLOMON, CEO, GOLDMAN SACHS: So I too am in the camp that we likely have a recession in the U.S. going to have I think most likely a recession, there might be a recession in Europe.

QUEST: Jamie?

DIMON: I agree.

QUEST: You agree where do you think we are in the process?

DIMON: Six months away.


BERMAN: All right. We lost Richard Quest. You can tell quite a day of discussions he had with some of the biggest most prominent leaders in the world.

More businesses are cutting ties with Kanye West after weeks of public pressure to act. Is his anti-Semitic hate speech finally catching up with him?




KANYE WEST, RAPPER, ENTREPRENUER: I can say anti-Semitic things and Adidas can't drop me. Now what?


BERMAN: Well, this morning, Adidas was the first shoe to drop on Kanye West or Ye as he's known legally. Then, hours later, Gap started pulling Yeezy gap merchandise from his stores -- from its stores. One might reasonable ask, what took so long for this step to happen or these steps to happen?

Kanye tweeted back on October 8th, more than two weeks ago he was quote going death con 3 on Jewish people and now the corporate world is finally catching up. Kanye's Instagram post deleted, Twitter locked his account, Balenciaga fashion house ended its partnership with him and his talent agency dropped him as a client.

George Floyd's family also sued Kanye this month for saying Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose instead of a police officer on his neck for nine and a half minutes.

Again, one of the questions for Adidas now is, why so many days after?

All right. Be sure to join Jake Tapper on "CNN TONIGHT". Jake sits down with former Republican congressman turned libertarian Justin Amash. Amash was one of the first Republicans to speak out against Donald Trump.

And tonight, Jake will get his take on the hold the former president still has on the Republican Party and what it means for the upcoming midterm elections now just two weeks away. That's tonight at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

You can follow me on Twitter @JohnBerman or you can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN.

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Our coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."