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Don Lemon Tonight

U.S. Don't Ignore Vladimir Putin's Nuclear Threat; DOJ Believe Donald Trump is Still Keeping Some Documents; Herschel Walker Maintains His Denial; Oath Keeper Member Communicated with Secret Service; Former State Trooper Terminated from Her New Job. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired October 06, 2022 - 22:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is Don Lemon Tonight.

We begin with breaking news. A chilling warning from the president of the United. President Joe Biden had a fundraiser here in New York, warning about the dangers of Vladimir Putin's threats to use nuclear weapons as his forces suffer setbacks in Ukraine.

The President saying for the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have the threat of a nuclear weapon, and warning of what he calls the prospect of Armageddon.

Straight to CNN's Kaitlan Collins now with the very latest on this. Kaitlan, good evening to you.

These comments from President Biden are frightening. Walk us through it. What exactly did he say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Frightening, alarming, blunt, a lot of words you could use to describe these comments that President Biden made tonight at a closed-door Democratic fundraiser in New York, where he spoke pretty frankly about what he believes is the actual real threat that Putin is posing right now.

When he talks about this threat of nuclear wars, we've seen him kind of dangle out there in these speeches that he's given lately, and President Biden says he believes that's because of how terribly Russia is doing on the battlefield. As tonight, he used the word underperforming, talking about how he believes the setbacks, which have been humiliating. And of course, the draft that Putin has put in place that has driven Russian men out of the country is all factoring into this.

And it seems to be causing a real sense of concern for President Biden tonight, Don, who said he believes the world is the closest it has been to the potential nuclear catastrophe that it's been since the 1960. Since the Cuban missile crisis, of course, we are coming up on the anniversary of that quite soon.

President Biden said, we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis. He's talking about Putin. He says, we've got a guy I know fairly well. He is not joking when he talks about the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons, because his military is, as you might say, significantly underperforming.

He also made clear tonight, Don, you know, the Washington is still trying to figure out what Putin's end game is going to be here, what his exit strategy in Ukraine is going to be. That's notable as well because he first raised the prospect of wondering what that is back in May.

LEMON: Kaitlan, Biden's own National Security Council and State Department have been a bit more measured on this issue. How alarming is it to see the president speaking like this?

COLLINS: I have asked officials about this. They said that he's basically just making clear how seriously they are taking Putin's threats. We knew that because officials said they made clear to their Russian counterparts behind the scenes what the consequences would be if Russia actually decided to do this.

But you're right, we have not seen officials at the Pentagon or the State Department or the National Security Council go as far as President Biden did tonight, invoking Armageddon, saying that he believes there is no possible use of a tactical nuclear weapon without it actually getting to Armageddon.

You know, there's been this idea of what if Russia deployed one over the Black Sea? What if they used a smaller one in a certain area to send a warning shot? Basically, the president is making clear tonight that he believes if Russia goes that far, the cons -- consequences would be catastrophic. He is going further and basically just being more blunt in his language than we have seen other officials.

LEMON: I got to ask you, Kaitlan, because we've discussed this before. Remember he, the president was in Ukraine. He made some comments on -- he was in Poland. He made some comments in Ukraine. The White House walked it back, that he's made other comments. The White House walked it back. No one is walking back this.

COLLINS: Not yet. I have asked several hours ago the president is actually on his way back to the White House. Now I've asked if there's any kind of clarity that U.S. officials could add. They have not added anything on the record yet.

I will note that I did speak to an official who said that statement that the press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made on Tuesday. Saying that they do not believe Russia has changed its nuclear posture. That still stands. So that is what they were saying. It hasn't changed.

But clearly, President Biden is taking this very seriously. He says he doesn't believe President Putin is bluffing, and he believes essentially that because his military is underperforming, he's kind of being backed into this corner where those threats should be taken seriously.

LEMON: Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thank you very much. From Kaitlan now to CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Fareed, thank you very much.

These comments from Biden unscripted at this fundraiser, it does show what is at the top of his mind tonight. How serious do you think this thread is?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I think it's very serious, and I think you highlighted the most interesting aspect here, which is that the officials in the white, in the White House National Security Council and the State Department had been somewhat, more low key about this. Partly, I think they thought it was a bluff that Putin might not do it.

Partly it was maybe he's thinking about threatening to use a smaller tactical nuclear weapon, which would destroy only a few thousand people or, you know, a part of a city. And I think that probably what happened is that they realized this was almost normalizing it.

And so, the president sat back and said, look, we have to reestablish the norm that has been in place since 1945, that nobody uses nuclear weapons. That that threshold has to be seen as one that is not to be crossed by any country.


And I think he wanted to sort of, you know, lay down that marker. And by using words like Armageddon, he's reminding, I think us all that, look, you might -- it might start with the tactical nuclear weapon, but then what is the other side doing? What is the other? This is the fear everyone has always had, which is that this can

escalate to Armageddon.

LEMON: Let's put the direct quote up because the president says, "I don't think there's any chan -- any such thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon."

As we've been saying, other Biden officials have been more cautious about this, including the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who you recently spoke to. Is this a disconnect?

ZAKARIA: It's not a disconnect, but I think they're looking at it much more from the point of view of, look at a tactical practical level what would happen if he were to use a, you know, a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine?

It wouldn't use against the United States. The Ukrainians wouldn't stop fighting. We wouldn't stop supporting them. So, what's, you know how to think about that. And I think what Biden is doing is pulling back and saying, look, the norm of no use of nuclear weapons is incredibly important. It's fundamental norm that orders the global system right now. And he's putting in a sense, he's upping the ante. What he's doing implicitly is saying to Putin, look, if you use a tactical nuclear weapon, we may have to respond and we may not be limited to tactical -- you know, in other words, this can get, this has always been the danger of nuclear weapons. That what keeps the peace with nuclear weapons is the -- is what people call mutually assured destruction.

You don't use them on me to destroy my society because I have enough that I can use them on you and destroy you. So, it would be a kind of mutual suicide. And he wants to, he wants to remind people that this is that dangerous, and that's why don't take the first step.

LEMON: So, this is a way then of giving, I would imagine, of giving Putin offramp. We've talked about offramp since this war started. The beginning of the war actually happened here on CNN with Matthew Chance and me. We saw the beginning of the war. We reported on the beginning of the war.

But is there, what is the offramp? Is there an offramp? Do you see one for Putin at this point?

ZAKARIA: Look, I think there are many offramps. I don't think we should be overly worried about that in the -- in this sense. Putin can claim, you know, the Ukrainians have not driven every Russian soldier out of -- out of Ukraine. They're still fighting very fiercely. The Russians may well hold onto a certain part of Donbas. They might even be able to hold onto parts of the -- of Crimea.

Putin can claim he has secured and supported the Russian speaking people he wanted to there. He can claim that he's gotten decently. Remember, he controls the media landscape 100 percent in Russia. So, he will be able to parlay some kind of negotiated defeat into, you know, a victory or a stalemate or something like that.

I think right now we should just focus on helping the Ukrainians win. Win these battles because the pressure he's feeling it means that he's also going to have to start to live with the reality. He's not going to get his cake. He's not going to get Ukraine. And we want him to get comfortable with that. You know.

And there are plenty of off ramps, there are plenty of negotiations. He has even said, which is one of the reasons, one wonders whether he's just bluffing. He has said that he's open to negotiations, of course, on his own terms.

LEMON: What does that mean?

ZAKARIA: Right. But he's, you know, so I think the most important thing to do here is worry less about giving Putin an off-ramp and just making sure he still feels the pressure.

LEMON: Well then, no doubt that he has heard about this already. Right? I'm sure you heard about it immediately. How do you think this is going to impact his calculus in this?

ZAKARIA: It's very difficult to tell. I think that he -- that was meant to be a kind of warning shot. I'm not sure any of us really knows whether he would use something like this.

My own sense is he's going to wait for these 300,000 troops to move into Ukraine. Remember, they've just been mobilized. They're going to start putting them into battalions. I think he still thinks that the Russian army can at least hold its positions, if not rollback. Remember, it's 10 times larger than the Ukrainian army. That's why what the Ukrainians have done is a miracle.

LEMON: You wouldn't know that from what's happening.

ZAKARIA: Right. Right.

LEMON: Right?

ZAKARIA: So, so he's, I think going to first try to use those 300,000 troops. Now if that doesn't work, we then do, I think he -- but he, his bag is not quite at the wall right now. He's flushed with money because unfortunately, you know, price of oil is high. And the oil embargo hasn't really worked.


But at the end of the day, he needs to win on the battlefield and that's where we can help the Ukrainians the most.

LEMON: So, since we've been speaking you have been saying, listen, this is how, you know, Biden, you said it's a warning shot, right? I don't want to misquote you. Like if you use a nuclear tactical weapon, then we will -- we will have to respond.

So, what -- what happens if Russia does use, or Putin uses a nuclear tactical weapon, how do you think that U.S. should respond then?

ZAKARIA: I think the most sensible thing to do, and I think that this is what my understanding is, is being thought about, is that the United States should not respond to a nuclear weapon by Putin, even if it's a small tactical nuclear weapon with a -- with a nuclear strike.

If the Russians behave irresponsibly and break that norm, the United States should not follow suit. But the U.S. combine with NATO can bring enormous firepower to bear and at that point, NATO should enter the struggle because that, that to me would be a trigger.

NATO and the U.S. could probably within a few weeks destroy every Russian armored column in the whole of Ukraine. In other words, essentially destroy all Russian troop formations. The Ukrainians would then have essentially won the war. They would just walk in reoccupy their territories.

General Petraeus has talked about sinking every ship in the Black Sea. And the thing about this is, this is quite doable for the American military. They own the skies. They know how to do this thing. This is sort of like Gulf War one. And I think something like that would be both a sufficient deterrent. And I know something like this has been communicated to the Russians. I don't know the specific, but some kind of major response. And at that point, Putin would have to think about, because Putin is

all -- all he's thinking about is his own power. He's thinking about how do I stay in power? And to have an utterly humiliating, crushing military defeat where your entire army is decimated. The Ukrainians reunite their entire country within few weeks. That's pretty bad for him.

So, I think it's a -- that's a smart way to think about deterring him.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you. I appreciate you coming in here to this evening.

ZAKARIA: When it may be -- it may be, but the last time, unless you have me tomorrow. So, I do want to say you have done an amazing job, a terrific show as a viewer.

I've just loved it and I can't wait to see you in the other on the other side of the day,

LEMON: You're going to wake up?

ZAKARIA: I'm not making any promises. If I do, I'll be watching in my pajamas not on the show.

LEMON: That is very kind of you. Thank you, Fareed. It's been a pleasure. And I'm -- I appreciate you watching, but more than anything, I appreciate you coming on. Thank you so much.

DOJ officials demanding the former president return any classified documents he still has after months of effort and effort from the National Archives and the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. What is he trying to hide?



LEMON: New tonight. Now source telling CNN the DOJ demanding in recent weeks that the former president return any classified documents he still has. Making clear that they don't believe he's returned everything he took when he left the White House. Did you catch that? In recent weeks.

So, after 18 months of efforts by the federal government after the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago, the DOJ believes he still hasn't turned over everything he was supposed to. The big question is in all of this is what is he trying to hide?

I want to bring in now CNN's senior legal analyst Laura Coates. Laura, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.

After all this back and forth between the federal government and Trump's team to get everything back. Even after the FBI search at Mar- a-Lago, the DOJ still doesn't think that they got everything. I mean, this keeps growing. LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, isn't it stunning to

think about, and the big question, of course, is why does the former president think he is entitled to retain the classified documents, and why is he fighting so hard to ensure that he had actually retained it?

I mean, there's no question as to why the DOJ does not trust him. They've been able to recover documents. They seem to have had, although we don't have full daylight into all the transparency here. They have a trove of documents marked classified, marked top secret, and other things.

The fact that at this point, 18 months in, there is still an ongoing dialogue about trying to get documents even when the courts had been involved, the Supreme Court has been alerted, a special master has been assigned. To think that he would feel so entitled in some respect to either a, have them or not to be able to have the level of trust and credibility with the DOJ.

When he's the former head of executive branch of government to say, trust me, is really quite stunning.

LEMON: Would the Justice Department demand that Trump return any outstanding classified documents if they didn't know he, he had them?

COATES: You know, on the one hand, yes, to make sure to dot the I's or cross the T's. If you do not believe that somebody actually has been truthful with you, then the demand can be out there to preserve your ability to make the argument in a courtroom later on to say, look, we made the demands as oppose to saying, well, you never asked me. We don't know what I had because you never said anything to me. This preserves that argument ability.

On the other hand, there's probably some inkling based on experience with the former president and his counsel not to believe everything. You know, there's the idea of, you know, you can trust what you believe your own eyes and trust what you see or trust, but verify.

That's the phrase I think that comes to mind with the DOJ. And when it comes to somebody who has retained documents has fought this hard and still believes in some respect that classified documents, and potentially privileged documents believe, should be in the same realm to be reviewed by a special master.

LEMON: Listen, and remember, according to the search inventory list at Mar-a-Lago where 48 empty folders with a classified banner. Is that the major clue that they hadn't gotten everything, or do they have other evidence, you think, or testimony perhaps, Laura.


COATES: Well, you know, it could be. Right? There's a lot made about these folders. His camp, was likely to say, no, no, no, they're empty because we just had, you know, random Manila folders. Who among us doesn't have cabinets of random Manila folders, A virtual junk drawer of short -- of sorts. I don't really buy that because I think to myself a document like

that, there is essentially a chain of custody. There is somebody to bring those documents. They're contained in the folders. The person is supposed to return them to the person who brought them to you, and so on and so forth to ensure that documents are not becoming the virtual junk drawer and the proverbial Manila folder in somebody's filing cabinet.

On the other hand, this could be an indication they believe that there are things that are unaccounted for, and the empty folders themselves suggest that there are documents that have yet to be traced. I still go back this notion though, it's not just what the former president retains. None of us have really seen him carrying these files, right?

Not as if you see him with the briefcase or the file box, or he is somehow moving himself. So, the chain of custody, every fingerprint that ought to have been on these documents or these files is, is game to be questioned as to why they were not able to be going back, why they were able to be retained. I think that's on the horizon of the next inquiry here.

LEMON: You know, Laura, with the Justice Department tied up in these legal battles with Trump's attorneys. I mean, could we see this -- this is what I've been wondering for a while. Could we see another search? And where would they look? Would they search maybe a different Trump property? Remember you saw the boxes off the airplane and all that. What do you think?

COATES: You know, he does have more than one property. And therefore, if there is a chance that there are other areas where documents could be, normally search warrants will say things like, you know, and I'm paraphrasing the language here in layman's terms, look, this is my -- this might be where we're going to find something.

We're likely to find something in this area. You don't have to be -- have precise to say, in this particular filing cabinet marked this particular row, but the general area it's supposed to be in if that includes more broadly properties.

And remember, it's already been, we've recovered and understood from reporting a bit of a feud between the different lawyers for Trump, some wanting to be quite forthcoming and saying things like, listen, I can't say that we've actually given everything. I don't know that to be the case. Others saying, have a more combative tone on these issues and fight to have the documents go to the special master.

For that very notion of some sort of a feud, maybe there is something more on the horizon to suggest that there are other places where documents could be found. I don't want to get ahead of my skis and speculate to that extent, but it is probable when you're talking about past as prologue, Don, if there's already a fundamental mistrust based on the behavior of the person I'm asking for information from. Then it's fair game for me to question where else it could be.

Again, I mean, I'm an 80s baby. I'm going to say you're an 80s baby for the sake of this conversation right now, and just say to you the idea here that we are dealing with paper still and actual just paper documents, belies the fact that we are an electronic world. The fact that there are there -- there might be areas or things in other spaces not documented in a tangible way. I think that is common sense to think that that might also be a part of the searches.

LEMON: Yes. I'm a 90s baby. I don't know about you.

COATES: There you go. I didn't want to make you younger than me, Don Lemon.

LEMON: Thank you, Laura. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.

COATES: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you. More damning reports. More adamant denials. Will Herschel Walker be able to outlast the scandals? We'll discuss, next.



LEMON: Herschel Walker, George's GOP nominee for the Senate continuing to deny a report that he paid for a woman's abortion in 2009. The denials coming after more reporting from the Daily Beast last night that the anonymous woman was the mother of one of Walker's four children. Walker fielding questions about it on the campaign trail today.


UNKNOWN: Have you reached out to any of the mothers of your children?


UNKNOWN: To ask why, why not?

WALKER: Why do I need to?

UNKNOWN: Well, because according to the article one -- the woman who says that you paid for her to have an abortion is also the mother of one of your children. It seems like that's an easy way to --


WALKER: Because of the article I had more kids. That's why I didn't reached out to anyone because I said no, and that's what I mean. When I said no. I said, It's not correct. That's a lie.

This here, the abortion thing is false. It's a lie. And that's what I said. I said anything happened with my ex-wife or what Christian was talking about. I don't know.


LEMON: All right. CNN has not been able to independently verify the allegations. Joining me now CNN political commentator, Alice Stewart and CNN political analyst, Natasha Alford, also with us, Tara Palmeri, senior political correspondent at Puck.

Good evening.

Tara, I'm going to start with you because he goes on in that when he is asked about what he's, you know, he's blaming it on the Democrats. The Democrats want the seat, what have you. And it says, but these are people in your family. It's not, this isn't political.


LEMON: This is your son.


LEMON: He doesn't really answer that. He just says, I love my son, but he doesn't answer that. His son is very conservative.


LEMON: He's not a Democrat, and it's -- members of his family are not exactly Democrats who are saying that he is lying about this. So, CNN reach out to him and he put out a statement saying that he is not backing down. But there are -- there are calls for a more Trumpian response to this. Is he capable of pulling that all?


PALMERI: That's a good question, Don, because I think the big difference between this and the Access Hollywood tape, which it's being compared to a lot of Republicans are saying he's a celebrity like Donald Trump.

That means he may be able to overcome what would normally take down a regular mortal who is not a celebrity politician, but yet Herschel Walker he's a Heisman Trophy winner, a star in Georgia. And maybe like Trump these kinds of things just slide right off him and they're trying to testing that out right now.

The big difference though between when that Access Hollywood tape dropped during the 2016 election and now, is that you didn't hear anything from Ivanka Trump. You didn't hear anything from Melania Trump. You didn't hear anything from the ex-wives. The family was pretty silent and stood behind him, right? They were defiant.

In this case, you've got his son pretty like, I think the son to a lot of the Republicans that I spoke to are either worked for him or near him in supportive of him. They're like, this is an X-factor we could have never planned for. Because there's already a narrative out there that Herschel Walker can't keep track of his kids, that he's a hypocrite on some of these issues like pro-life issues.

But when you throw in the fact that his son who he -- who isn't, you know, a liberal who isn't, you know, who doesn't not believe it.

LEMON: His son is to the right of him.

PALMERI: Exactly. His son makes charts that say canceled. You know, like this is a kid that is not defying his father because of political reasons. He just feels that it's a moral reason and I think that's really hard for Republicans to wrap their heads around. You need the family behind you.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think one of the challenges to your -- to your point is, can he do this like, Trump was able to do this. He is taking a page out of the Trump playbook and his response to this, which is to deny, deflect and demean the accusers here.

And the question is, will that work for him? I happen to think Trumpism only works for Trump, and even though, Herschel Walker is a star, I'm a Georgia Bulldog. I think he is a great football player. Not everyone can pull that off.

And from a crisis communications standpoint, having worked on many campaigns, the best way to respond to something like this is have a short, concise, and accurate response. Say that, say it once, twice, and then pivot. Go back to the issues that the voters of Georgia are concerned with. So, this does not continue to pop up.

But the more he does interviews, it seems though it peels back another layer and another layer and another layer. And we are still talking about this, as opposed to him getting back on message, which I think could help him.

LEMON: Did you have any idea? Because if you go -- if you played the length of that, that was probably only like two minutes that he took questions and he kept saying, no, no, no, no, no. And when they would ask him specifics, all he would say is, we're going to win this seat right to the plane, to the crowd of supporters who were there, or, I love my son, which was not an answer to any of this. It was a word salad.

Did you understand anything that he said? Did he convince you of anything?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it just, it felt very familiar, right? So, I do agree that it's a similar approach. It's a similar strategy to deflect, to deny and even to dismiss that this even matters.

But I look at it a little bit differently, and that's because, you know, at The Grio, we serve American readers and voters, and a lot of African American voters saw him as a body anyways, right? They saw him as somebody who was selected. Just because he was black and because he could go against Warnock, right?

And so, they didn't really believe that he was a quality candidate. They didn't necessarily believe in his character, or his ability to explain himself, you know, in these very difficult situations. So, I think that there were low expectations to begin with. And then I do think some voters are just saying, you know, this is

just a hit job, or really one paid for abortion if he's going to go in there and uphold this policy that stops all of these abortions. I will compromise my values, right? That I say I believe in, because this man will get the job done. It's about power and party.

LEMON: OK? So, let's just be honest here. Because when you talked -- when you talk about quality candidates from early on, even the lieutenant governor was on last night of Georgia who said people knew from the beginning but basically echoing some of what you're much of what you're saying tonight.

He lied about law enforcement. He lied about, you know, the college that he graduated from. He lied about a whole lot of things before, things that are provably false. And yet, and still they stuck behind him for a month. This is what been over a year that they've been doing this.

STEWART: Right. And this is the, I think the residual effect of Donald Trump. We already suffered under Donald Trump in the runoff election with Purdue and Loeffler and lost those races because --


LEMON: OK, so then why?

STEWART: -- because of Donald Trump.

LEMON: My question is then why.

STEWART: OK. The question is, Donald Trump has sway over the Republican base in Georgia, the base of the Republican Party in Georgia. The problem is, that does not translate to a general election, and we learn -- we should have learned that in the last time we had this special election. Unfortunately, we're doing this again.

There were good quality candidates running in this primary that I think would've been a much better GOP primary candidate that would've been a more moderate candidate and been --


LEMON: But now.

STEWART: -- a great selection.

LEMON: But now, go on.

STEWART: But here's the thing.


PALMERI: I just wonder if he needed Trump's endorsements because he is so famous and popular in Georgia.

STEWART: It's -- PALMERI: Perhaps he really didn't need Trump to win the primary.

STEWART: It certainly elevated his profile and gave him a little bit more gravitas with the base. The problem is he has not been able to appeal to the independent voters. And here's the thing. Many Republican voters are going to say, you know, this is a lot of baggage, an awful lot of baggage. But he is much better than the alternative when it comes to policy.

LEMON: But Alice, listen. I get -- I get all of that.

STEWART: And they're look -- they're voting at this from a policy standpoint.

LEMON: I'm just being honest here. When the man speaks, I had no idea. I speak to a lot of people and I try to understand, I try to read between the lines. I don't know what he's talking about. I don't know. I'm like, what the hell is he talking about?

ALFORD: Well, can I also say that --


LEMON: It makes no sense most of the time.

ALFORD: It's confusing and again, insulting to the intelligence of African American and voters who are like, wow, you really picked this guy who's just up there saying anything because you think that because, just because he is black, I'm going to go and vote for him.

LEMON: Not just say that there saying anything. He's saying nonsense.

ALFORD: Saying anything and nothing at the same time.

LEMON: There you go.

ALFORD: And it's a risky bet, Don. And everyone on this panel, because he's betting on the fact that this woman is anonymous right now. Right? And so as long as she stays anonymous, he can sort of cast doubt on her story, but you may also be enticing and challenging her to come forward and put her name.


LEMON: Not may also, she said that.

ALFORD: She's going to put her name.

LEMON: She said last night to the Daily Beast.


LEMON: She said, I'm not going to get run over again and again.

PALMERI: There you go. LEMON: I'm paraphrasing here.


LEMON: And guess what. Christian Walker said pretty much the same thing is that, you know, you keep doing this to my mom and me over and over and over again, and I'm tired of it.

Listen, I want to play this because this is from Hugh Hewitt, Hugh Hewitt, who asked him about the allegations. This was earlier in the day. Watch this.


WALKER: If that had happened I would've -- I would've said, there's nothing to be ashamed of there. You know, people have done that, but I know nothing about it.


LEMON: OK. Again, to my point, I don't, what is he saying here? This is, he said later, Walker said that he was talking about something different, but what do you think he was saying? Was he implying there's nothing to be ashamed about having an abortion? Which, I mean, which one should voters believe here?

STEWART: He has said a little bit of everything. That's where, back to my point of the way you handle something like this is you have a short, concise, and accurate answer and say that over and over and over and don't --

LEMON: That was my first question to Tara. Can he pull that off?

STEWART: The time will tell.

ALFORD: Well, the (Inaudible) pretty hard today.

PALMERI: Exactly.

ALFORD: With that answer.

PALMERI: Exactly. And he said he was going to sue the Daily Beast and they've yet to do that. And also, all that we'll do is open up a whole lot of questions in discovery. And as we know, it's sometimes the coverup that's more than the crime, which is why a lot of Republicans are saying, just come forward.

I mean, these are people saying privately he should have just come forward and used this as part of his redemption story, right? I'm a different person now that -- than I was then instead of just flat out denying it because he might end up falling flat in his face, with another round of stories if she ends up coming forward or there's even more evidence or they end up, you know, having a lawsuit and it falls apart.

LEMON: Allison -- Alice, Alice, not Allison, Alice, quick answer, if you will, because you have contacts within the circle, Republican circles. What are they saying? I know they're pouring a lot of money into that but it doesn't mean that he can win or he will win. They want him to win. But does he -- is he -- is it winnable for him at this point?

STEWART: Look, you know, the numbers are tight. Raphael Warnock is ahead right now, but clearly, the Republicans, he raised half a million dollars since this started. Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott.

LEMON: How did it translate to a win?

STEWART: Exactly. Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott are --


LEMON: I just -- do you know the internal polling? What is it saying? What's the internal polling and the internal scuttlebutt about?

STEWART: The internal polling is what we're seeing. There's about, Warnock has about a four-point advantage at this point, but that is within the margin of error. And they're looking at that from the margin of error standpoint. And their main goal is to make sure that what is happening, what the goal here is not to shame and cast out dispersions on Christians and have them stay home and vote because of, of all -- of all this about abortion. And that's the big fear.

LEMON: Don't you think Warnock is doing that without Republicans. He's doing that himself. That's all him. I don't know what he's saying. He's saying a lot. What is it? So, talk -- talking lot and saying nothing. I forget what it is. Thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Don.

ALFORD: Thank you.

LEMON: Talking loudly and saying nothing. That's what it is.

A big day in the Oath Keepers trial on seditious conspiracy charges. We're learning that the Oath Keepers founder was allegedly in touch with the Secret Service agent in the final weeks of the 2020 campaign. We'll be right back.



LEMON: So, there are new developments tonight in the Oath Keepers trial. Members facing charges including seditious conspiracy. One former member testifying Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes was in touch with a Secret Service agent in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election.

I want to bring in now CNN senior national correspondent Sara Sidner who is covering the trial, and Daryl Johnson, a former senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security.

Good evening to both of you.

MS. Sidner, I'm going to start with you. Because this former Oath Keeper testifying the Oath Keepers leader was in touch with the Secret Service in 2020. Tell us more about this please.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Former Oath Keeper John Zimmerman testified that he believed Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes was actually in touch with a Secret Service agent to ask about what weapons they could bring or be allowed to bring near a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina in the lead up to the 2020 election.

So, we contacted the Secret Service because this was a revelation that was testified to in court, and they responded by saying that they couldn't confirm there was actual contact in that instance, but said that they often have contact with protest groups.


And so that begs the question, if they had regular contact with the Oath Keepers and other extremist groups as and protest groups, why didn't they look into any signs or even the warnings that groups like the Anti-Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center had been putting out in the lead up to January 6th about groups including the Oath Keepers, Don?

LEMON: Daryl, what strikes you about this? Is it surprising?

DARYL JOHNSON, FORMER SENIOR DOMESTIC TERRORISM ANALYST, DHS: Well, I've got a little bit of a mixed feelings. I mean, the Oath Keepers is a far-right anti-government extremist group. That we all know. They have a sole purpose of recruiting current and former military as well as law enforcement.

So, on one hand, I can understand the Secret Service is just processing a normal call that comes in trying to answer questions. But on the other hand, we need to be smarter with who we're dealing with on the phone, because these extremist groups could use that contact exploited. This person if they gave them information could actually be kind of an insider threat. So we really don't know the extent of this relationship, but it does give me pause for concern.

LEMON: Yes, Sara, the judge also ruled that the jury can't see a death list of Georgia election officials in this trial. What is this about?

SIDNER: There was a handwritten note that was found during the search of defendant Thomas Caldwell's home in Virginia when he was arrested in January, 2021. He was one of the first associates of the Oath Keepers to be arrested. And so, what you saw there is this handwritten note that was titled death list and it had the names of Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea Shaye Moss.

Both of whom we saw testify in front of the January 6th committee. They are Georgia election officials who said that they had been dealing with such terrible harassment. They were afraid for themselves. And so, the fallout from some of this is really, really harsh for just regular people trying to do their jobs. But they were pulled into this sort of voter fraud conspiracy theory, and they were just working at as election officials.

Now the jury is not going to see this death list note because the judge ruled that it was too prejudicial and not really relevant to the case at hand.

LEMON: Yes. Daryl, we're also watching what is happening with the Proud Boys. Today, Jeremy Bertino, a top lieutenant to leader Enrique Terrio pleaded guilty to judicious conspiracy and he's cooperating with the Justice Department's investigation. Is this significant?

JOHNSON: Yes, both these cases are very significant. These are actually the, probably the toughest charges that have been brought to bear so far on these insurrectionists from January 6th, as well as some of the events that happened, you know, earlier than that when we had the, you know, upheavals and the, you know, discord in the country back in 2020.

So, both of these cases are very important and the Justice Department is, you know, bringing these charges against them that are very serious. You can get up to 20 years in prison for sedition here in the United States.

LEMON: Daryl, Sara, thank you both. I appreciate.

A big update to the story we brought you last night about a former Texas state trooper under investigation for her role during the Uvalde massacre. She is now out of a new job. We'll explain, next.



LEMON: We have a major update to a story CNN's reporting exclusively on. Today, the Uvalde Texas School District terminating the employment of newly hired school officer Crimson Elizondo, a former state trooper who responded to the massacre at Robb Elementary back in May. Her firing coming after CNN's report last night that Elizondo is one of the officers under investigation for her actions during the mass shooting when officers waited 77 minutes before taking out the gunman.

Nineteen children and two of their teachers were killed. That day Elizondo was heard on police body camera footage saying the following, when asked if her son was inside the school.


CRIMSON ELIZONDO, FORMER TEXAS STATE TROOPER: If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that.


LEMON: After leaving her job as a state trooper, Elizondo was hired as an officer at an elementary school where children who survived the Robb Massacre are now being sent. Parents who recognize Elizondo there were outraged.

Alarming comments tonight from President Joe Biden about the threat of nuclear Armageddon, what he said next.



LEMON: So, happening tonight. President Biden's stunning warning tonight about the danger of Russian President Vladimir Putin using a nuclear weapon as his forces suffer setbacks in Ukraine.

At a fund-raiser here in New York, this is what he said. He said, for the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have the threat of a nuclear weapon, if, in fact, things continue down the path they are going.

I want to bring in straight away CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly, retired lieutenant general Mark Hertling, global affairs analyst Suzan Glasser, and Max Boot, senior fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations.

Good to have all of you on. Thank you very much.

Phil, I'm going to start with you. Because these comments are startling from the president. What more can you tell us about it.

I think they were startling and they were jarring, they were very vivid. I think that's what caught a lot of people off-guard when he made these remarks in this fund-raiser. It's not on camera. He tends to be more candid in his fund-raisers. We've seen over the course of the last several months.

But the administration has been very kind of calm and collected when they discuss this. They don't appreciate the saber-rattling. They warned against it. But they've made clearly, they have not seen any signs that we are moving closer to a nuclear conflict. That element has not changed.

I've talked to multiple U.S. officials tonight, they say there has been no sign that President Putin is moving towards using nuclear weapons, no new signal over the course of the last 24 hours that he has decided to use nuclear weapons, and the U.S. has not changed its posture when it comes to nuclear weapons.

So that's an important note here. I think what the president was getting at was something that U.S. officials have been trying to grapple with since President Putin's speech just last Friday where he, once again laid out in very detailed terms, the potential for nuclear war.

And I want to read one thing the president said in particular, because I think it gets to this. He said I don't think there's any such thing as the ability to easily use tactical nuclear weapons and not end up with Armageddon.

And what this gets that right now is the president has kind of work through this process analytically, is the idea that this has been thrown out as a potential kind of half measure that President Putin could take. Just use tactical nuclear weapons.


The U.S. has warned Moscow directly behind the scenes, officials say what they would do if that were to occur. But the president's point here is, there is no half measure.