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U.N. to Send Team to Site of mass Burials in Izium; Takeaway from Primaries Ahead of the General Midterm Elections; Election Officials on Dangers and Challenges to Poll Workers; Line to Pay Respects to Queen Elizabeth II Now Stretches Five Miles. Aired 10:30- 11a ET
Aired September 16, 2022 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This morning we are learning the U.N. is sending a team from its human rights monitoring agency to Ukraine specifically to the recently liberated town of Izium in the east. This comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced there was a mass burial site discovered there. Authorities counted 440 graves, some of them fresh. The bodies buries were mostly civilians.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman joins us again live this morning from Kyiv.
Ben, just to see those crosses, to think about what Jim just described, what is the latest that you're learning about the mass graves found in Izium?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just seconds ago we received a statement from the Kharkiv governor who says that there're currently 200 law enforcement and aid officers and experts on the scene there at the moment. That they found around 450 bodies. He said that 99 percent of the bodies that have been examined so far show signs of a violent death, some of them have their hands tied, the bodies have their hands tied behind their backs. And one of the bodies has a rope around its neck.
Now we understand that the U.N. is sending an investigation team from its human rights monitoring organization to go to the scene. But certainly this is beginning to look very reminiscent of what was witnessed in Bucha, that suburb of Kyiv where almost 450 bodies were dug up after the Russians were driven out. Many of them showing signs of torture, beating, and summary execution.
Now what we heard from President Zelenskyy last night, he said in his nightly address that the Russians leave death everywhere and he and Ukraine wants Russia to be held responsible. Not just for the Izium situation, but also the war itself -- Jim, Poppy.
HARLOW: Wow. Ben Wedeman.
SCIUTTO: Yes, powerful.
HARLOW: Thank you for the details. SCIUTTO: Well, later today at the White House, President Biden will
meet with the families of two Americans still being held by Russia. Former Marine Paul Whelan, he's been in prison there for more than three years on espionage charges.
HARLOW: And WNBA star Brittney Griner detained since February in Russia. Remember she was recently sentenced to nine years in prison there on those drug charges. The White House says the president wants to assure their families that his team is working every day to bring them home. Sources tell CNN the State Department has proposed swapping Griner and Whelan for the convicted Russian arms dealer Victor Bout.
Well, up next, an increase in threats against election workers of Democrats and Republicans as we head into the midterms. We will be joined by two local election officials, one a Republican, one a Democrat about the challenges they're facing heading into this election.
SCIUTTO: With less than two months until the midterm elections, one theme has become very clear in Republican primaries, former President Trump still a very stronghold on his party. But his lie that the 2020 election was stolen actually becomes increasingly unpopular as candidates head into November. Often a dramatic difference between the positions they held during the primaries.
HARLOW: That's right. CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza, he's been tracking key examples. We've got you at the magic wall. Walk us through this. What do we know?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, Poppy and Jim. Look, the truth of the matter is, it is now sort of a litmus test position for the Republican Party on denying the election.
What you're looking at here, I'm just going to draw it quickly. This is 19 out of the 35 Senate Republican nominees who have expressed denial, full denial of the election results of 2020 or some doubt. Let me note here, there is no doubt about the election. It was free and fair. But 19 of the 35. I want to circle and I want to talk about a few who are in really competitive races. Let's start with this guy here, Don Bolduc. I want to tell you something that Don Bolduc said in August and something he just said this week. Big change. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DON BOLDUC (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE CANDIDATE: I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Trump won the election and damn it, I stand by my decision.
I've come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this. The election was not stolen. Was there fraud? Yes. President Biden is the legitimate president of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CILLIZZA: What? Yes, so that was August which was, and just in case you forgot, last month. And then on Thursday, so Bolduc doing an absolute flip-flop. What changed? Well, Tuesday was the Republican primary in New Hampshire and he won the nomination. That is an absolute flip-flop, and absolute turn. We will get to more of that later.
OK, I want to move on because it's not the only place it's happening. Here you have Mark Kelly, the Democratic senator from Arizona. Blake Masters is here, the Republican nominee. Here's Blake Masters, he's a then and now. This is what Blake Masters had on his Web site in the primary in Arizona about elections. "We need to get serious about election integrity, 2020 election was a rotten mess. If we have a free and fair election, President Trump would be sitting in the Oval Office."
What does Blake Masters' Web site say now? Just left out all this part. Just says this. We need to get serious about election integrity. Well, that's a pretty big change, right?
It's not just those two races. Let's keep going. Here we have John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, and Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee in Pennsylvania. Oz has danced around the same thing. He got Trump's endorsement in the Republican primary. He won it narrowly. He's danced around the topic as well.
Why do you see these changes happening? I'll show you. This is a CBS poll. This is -- people were asked, do you want election officials to say Joe Biden didn't win the election? The numbers here are striking. Overall just 19 percent of people say yes. A majority, 52 percent say no, we do not want election officials saying that Joe Biden didn't win, which by the way is, you know, counter factual. Joe Biden did win the election so you should not want people to say that.
This is where Republicans get in trouble, Poppy and Jim. 38 percent of Republicans want their election officials to say Joe Biden didn't win. So to win a Republican primary you have to say it, but in a general election, it is a loser. And that is why you're seeing these candidates so transparently and blatantly flip-flop. It's not the last time we're going to see this. We're going to see it a lot I think in these next two months.
Back to you, guys.
HARLOW: Yes. Except trust in democracy and the system is so far above politics. It certainly shouldn't be like this.
Chris, thanks. You really helped us lay it out very well.
All right. So joining me now two people committed to this. Deeply familiar with the election process on a local level. They've both faced threats at their offices as disinformation about elections have spread. Omar Sabir is the vice president of the commission that oversees elections in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. He's a Democrat. Justin Roebuck, a Republican, is a county clerk in Ottawa, Michigan, who trains all of the poll workers there. He is also the chairman of the Michigan Council of Elected Officials.
Thank you both for coming on. I think it's so important that people over and over again can see people from different parties, they probably want different candidates to get elected but who agree in the importance of a democracy in the system that people could trust. So thank you both for taking the time this morning.
And Omar, let me begin with you because you were recently commented by President Biden for your exceptional work in supporting voter participation in the elections in Philadelphia. But you have had to go so far as to hire security for a time because of violent threats. So I just wonder what keeps you going? Why you keep doing this?
OMAR SABIR (D), VICE CHAIR, PHILADELPHIA CITY COMMISSIONERS: Well, it is very simple. I mean, so many people sacrifice for our right to vote. And elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. And if we don't have great elections, then we don't have a democracy. And the shadows and the footsteps of Medgar Evers, Octavius Catto, all these people that came before me that sacrificed so much, I can't stop. I got to keep on going and my family they keep on pushing me as well.
So it's all about democracy, and while I have this little small time I'd like to thank all the election workers, poll workers because election happens because of you. And these poll workers are neighbors, they're little league coaches, they are block captains. These are elections and that is the cornerstone of our democracy.
So I thank you and I encourage you to keep on being poll workers and do not be determined or deterred by any nonsense that you're hearing.
HARLOW: I'm sure that means a lot to them, Omar.
And Justin, what about you? I mean, you talk often about election administrators as in your words our currency is trust. What have you faced and why do you keep doing what you do?
JUSTIN ROEBUCK, COUNTY CLERK IN OTTAWA, MICHIGAN: Yes, I do it for my kids. I do it because I want their generation to grow up in a country where we have this foundational trust in the system and the process that makes it so great as Americans, right? I mean, we are an example for the world of what it takes to become a democratic and a free people. And, you know, President Reagan said famously, right, we're only one generation away -- freedom is only one generation away from extinction.
And I think, you know, previously I used to think that was maybe a little dramatic. But I think this is where we're at today. We're in a point where we have to stand and fight for what we believe. And that is a system where our elections are upheld as institutions, where there is honesty and openness, transparency on the part of election officials but also accountability on the part of elected leaders and political leaders to acknowledge the truth and the facts.
HARLOW: Omar, you spoke just a moment ago about those whose footsteps you walk in, right, and who you follow and the duty you feel to uphold the process. And you've said that this work matters now more than ever before. I wonder if you can speak to how that impacts how you train workers, how you train people that help secure and maintain trust in the process?
SABIR: Sure. So as we go on our poll worker recruitment, the first thing that we got passed increase their pay because, you know, for years and decades the elections have been underfunded. So we were pleased to be able to raise the pay for the poll workers. But also, we have to build up spirits. As I recruit poll workers, a lot of times they are afraid, I don't want to be on January 6th, I don't want my life threatened.
But far too often we remind them of the sacrifice that happened. Just recently I was in Selma, Alabama, and as we are 57 years from the Voting Rights Act, Bloody Sunday, all these different challenges that happened, you know, we have so much encouragement from all across the country for our poll workers to keep on participating. And every time we have these conversations I just want to be an ambassador to encourage poll workers.
Right now we are calling on younger poll workers to be poll workers. So all across the country we are making calls for younger poll workers, if you are millennials, generation Z, we need you to participate. The average age for a poll worker is 65 years old, many are retired or on fixed incomes and then a lot of them were tired and they're ready to take a break. So we're calling on millennials to step up. But, you know, we definitely have to always keep encouraging.
This is about enthusiasm. I mean, because you get into the data, the facts, because when you talk to people that deny the election, you have evidence about the election and they want to tell you, I just believe that the election wasn't right. And I said what evidence do you have, what are you talking about?
HARLOW: Well, and they often believe people in positions of power who know better as our Jake Tapper said last hour. Who know better and spread those lies.
Justin, quickly to you. To any of your fellow Republicans who have, as you know, denied the results of the election without evidence, I was so struck by reporting this week from FiveThirtyEight that 60 percent of Americans will have an election denier on their ballot this November. What is your message to Republicans who spread those lies?
ROEBUCK: Well, there's the thing. We have to follow the facts. You know, in my work and in election administration, it's kind of a heads down, kind of a nerdy job, right. We look at data and we follow the facts. And that is what our voters deserve. You know, we sit here administering the election and the process of the election and we have to follow accurate data and facts. And that is really important for us. And again, I think that is the currency seat that will effectively engender the trust in our process that we need. HARLOW: Yes. And tell the truth. What those facts reflect.
Justin, thank you very much. Justin Roebuck, Omar Sabir, it's really great to have you on together. And we'll be right back.
SABIR: Thank you.
ROEBUCK: Thanks so much.
HARLOW: Well, for the first time as the new monarch, King Charles III and the queen consort are visiting Wales. The two were met with both cheers and some boos outside of Cardiff Castle as they arrived.
SCIUTTO: CNN correspondent Scott McLean live at the end of the line in London where people continue to pay their respects. We just read that David Beckham among those waiting for more than a dozen hours.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it is true that there is no fast pass for the vast majority of the population to get to this front of this line because David Beckham had to wait in line, we understand, according to what he told the British broadcaster, for 12 hours.
Let me just set the scene for you, Jim and Poppy. So this officially is the end of the line. Once you get in the line, then you will snake around to the lines that you're seeing here which go up and then back several times. Until you finally will reach the end of this park and when you get to the end of this park, and it will take you based on what people have told us probably about three hours to get to the end of this park.
You'll cross the road into another park, do this kind of thing again, then you'll get on to the -- near the Thames River and then from there you have five miles, and who knows how many hours it could be from there.
So officially the estimates for how long it will take to get to the front of the line are about 14 hours. But everyone that we've met so far says it is well worth it.
SCIUTTO: Wow. Two parks, the Thames River, five-mile lines.
Scott McLean, good to have you there.
HARLOW: Great to see.
All right. Thank you so much for joining us. Have a wonderful weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right after a quick break.