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American Held In Afghanistan Freed After 2+ Years; Russia Says Its Ready To Negotiate Release Of Griner, Whelan, Accuses U.S. Embassy Of Not Fulfilling Duties; Key Races To Watch Ahead Of November Midterms; Report: Efforts To Ban Books In U.S. Nears New Record; University Of Oregon Apologizes For Bigoted Chant At Football Game; Trump Attorney's Face Deadline To Respond To DOJ Appeal Of Documents. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 19, 2022 - 14:30   ET



KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That is according to an initial reading of his health situation.

And the Biden administration conducted a review in terms of what the U.S. government thought the impact would be of releasing Noorzai because he's a convicted drugs trafficker.

And what they found there wouldn't be a significant emanating from Afghanistan to Americans back here in the United States or on the ongoing drug trade in Afghanistan by releasing him.

And that's, of course, one of the factors that led to this prisoner swap.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Kylie, let's turn now to Americans imprisoned in Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry says now they are ready to negotiate.

ATWOOD: Yes. That is according to the spokeswoman from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

But we should note that that isn't an incredibly new development, guys, because just as recently as last week, we reported, according to U.S. officials, that there has already been ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and Russia.

So her coming out and saying the Russians are ready to negotiate doesn't actually reflect what we know has been this ongoing back and forth.

But the problem has been, according to our reporting, U.S. officials have been getting the same response from the Russians, making a demand that the U.S. is unable to actually grant to them.

And so what they continue to press the Russians for is to engage in some sort of back and forth here that is something that the United States could provide to try and push the ball forward. BLACKWELL: Important context.

Kylie Atwood, for us at the U.N., thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, now to politics. We're just 50 days out from the midterm elections. Republicans and Democrats now crafting new strategies for the final weeks. David Chalian with his cheat sheet, next.



CAMEROTA: Only 50 days until the midterm elections and the battle for Congress remains razor thin.

BLACKWELL: CNN's political director, David Chalian, joins us now.

David, good to see you.

Let's talk some key issues now, what each party is used to go try to get the voters to the polls.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good afternoon, guys. Fifty days seems like we're right upon it, but there's politics that could be an eternity.

But what's clearly happening right now, according to a slew of national polls that just came out in the last few days, there are two different midterm elections going on.

What do I mean by that? Take a look at the issue set and which party is seen by voters as better equipped to handle that issue set. This is according to the NBC poll that came out this weekend.

If you look at border security, 56 percent say the Republican Party are better able to handle that, 20 percent Democrats. That's a 36- point advantage for Republicans on border security. They also have a big advantage on immigration.

On the economy, which, if you combine inflation with the economy, is the overall number-one issue. Again, big advantage for Republicans, 19 percentage point lead, 48 percent to 28 percent.

Crime, another big Republican advantage issue, 45 percent to 22 percent. That's why we see Republicans spending millions of dollars advertising in the battleground race on the issue of crime.

But now look here -- that's one midterm election.

The other midterm election that's taking place in this country is being driven by issues like abortion, where Democrats have an enormous advantage over the Republicans in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, 47 percent to 25 percent.

A 20-point advantage on health care. And even a seven-point advantage, 40 percent to 33 percent, on protecting democracy, which is a top issue for Americans in this NBC News poll. And obviously, coming back to the fore with the January 6th Committee reconvening.

CAMEROTA: Real interesting, David.

As we understand it, Republicans are focused on basically four seats of Democratic incumbents in the Senate in order that they could win the majority. So what are the chances there?

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, focused on the whole playing field, but you are right, Alisyn. The way I sort of think about the battle for control of the United States Senate -- and obviously the House is up for grabs, key governor's race. But for control of the Senate, both parties have to be perfect.

So these four seats, with the incumbent Democratic Senators in tough battleground states -- you have Blake Masters against Mark Kelly, the Democrat in Arizona. You have Herschel Walker running against Raphael Warnock in Georgia.

Adam Laxalt against Sen. Cortez-Masto in Nevada. And Dan Bolduc, he just won last week in New Hampshire on the Republican side. He is taking on incumbent, Maggie Hassan.

These are the four Democratic Senators that if, indeed, they all hang on to their seats, it's very tough for Republicans to get the majority. They really need to win one or maybe two of these seats.

I say that because. take a look at these other four seats, the other bucket in the way I think about the Senate race. These are places where Democrats are hunting to pick up a Republican seat and try to pad their majority.

So Mehmet Oz against John Fetterman, currently a Republican-held seat of retiring Pat Toomey. Ron Johnson, and incumbent Republican running for reelection against Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.

J.D. Vance in Ohio. We saw Donld Trump rallying on his behalf over the weekend against Congressman Tim Ryan. And Ted Budd in North Carolina, a congressman there, against Cheri Beasley.


This is where Democrats are hoping, Pennsylvania most among them, where they can pick up a race and perhaps have a little bit of breathing room as they try to defend their majority.

BLACKWELL: David, what's the influence of the men who are not on the ballot, President Biden and former President Trump?

CHALIAN: Yes. Here are the two 70-somethings who are still a total force inside American politics for each of their parties. This is the way to look for and think about these two men as we head into the final seven weeks of the midterms.

Donald Trump, who clearly is increasing his presence on the campaign trail, he has the ability to inject enthusiasm among his base and turn out can spike among his core supporters.

We have seen that when he's on the ballot. We're going to see if he can do that when he's not on the ballot.

But the flip side of that is he has the potential to turn away the Independents, the suburbanites, the very critical voters in the battleground states that caused him to lose his re-election campaign in 2020. So he has both sides of the coin.

Biden, the key thing to watch is, do Democrats want this president who is hovering between 40 and 45 percent approval rating with them on the campaign trail, or is he seen at not all that welcome in the key battleground districts?

Watch for that over the next seven weeks.

BLACKWELL: Certainly will.

David Chalian, thank you, sir.


CAMEROTA: So the effort to ban books from libraries and classrooms is reaching record levels. Who is behind this movement? That's next.



CAMEROTA: Efforts to ban books across the country are on track to set a new record. And 1,651 books targeted this year across the country in just the first nine months. That's compared to 1,597 titles last year, which broke records at the time.

These are books about gender, race and sexual identity. Primarily, those were the ones most challenged.

Let's bring Deborah Caldwell-Stone. She's the director for the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Deborah, thanks for being here.

So 1,651 individual titles this year alone. It's the highest number since you started tracking it. What's going on? Why is this year so high?

DEBORAH CALDWELL-STONE, DIRECTOR, OFFICE FOR INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM, AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION: Well, we're seeing a coordinated campaign among a number of advocacy groups to limit reading choices to books that they approve of, that match their moral and political viewpoints.

And they are really well organized. They are going to local school board meetings, library board meetings to demand the removal of books, often long lists of books. That's the other remarkable thing about what we're seeing this year.

It used to be that individuals, a parent might see a young person reading a book and it raised a concern about a single book with a librarian or an educator.

But nowadays, we're seeing individuals show up at board meetings with long lists, 15, 20, sometimes 50 or more books that they want removed.

And they are getting these lists from social media. Often we're finding that they are really unacquainted with these books or even aware if the book is on the shelf at the library that -- whose board meeting they are going to.

So we're seeing a real political movement, a real effort to target what's available to young people who read and to limit the voices of those who have been traditionally marginalized or underrepresented in our society.

Which is a real detriment to us all, but especially to the young people who are deprived of the opportunity to both see themselves reflected in the books on the library shelf.

But also to learn more about a wider world and be better prepared to go to college, enter the military, and start a career once they leave school.

CAMEROTA: And when you say that this is a coordinated national campaign, by whom? Who is doing this?

CALDWELL-STONE: We're observing local chapters of Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education, a group called No Left Turn in Education, all activating local members to attend board members and challenge books.

And there's a number of more local efforts in other states and other communities that follow the same pattern, adopt the same talking points.

It's really remarkable to see how much social media has had an impact on this. We'll see one challenge brought in a community on the east coast, and two days later, the very same challenge is filed on the west coast.

So social media has enabled these groups to organize well, disseminate information, misinformation and disinformation about the work of the library, the contents of books, and the purpose of the library itself.


CALDWELL-STONE: And so the end result is a real effort to end our ability to read as we choose or for families to choose what they wish to read.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's one of the interesting, I think, ironies about this is they are trying to ban some of these books in libraries. Nobody forces to you drive to a library or ride your bike to a library and check out a book.

This isn't necessarily even in the classroom. This is part of the panoply of options at libraries.


Here are just some of the books. This is from Pan America. These are some of the top-most banned books this year.

So "Gender Queer, a Memoir." I think we can assume what that is. "All Boys Aren't Blue, "Our of the Darkness." There "The Bluest Eye." I often see this on ban books. This by Toni Morrison written in 1970. It is about tough topics, about racism and incest and child molestation.

I understand why some parents of young kids wouldn't want that in the classroom. But, again, this is a library.

And "The Hate You Give," which I think all of my kids were assigned in school. I think they got a lot out of it. I'm not sure why that would be on a banned book list.

So do you understand why they're targeting -- obviously, these are different topics. But do you understand they they're targeting those books?

CALDWELL-STONE: They falsely claim that any books that touch on difficult topics, including gender identity or sexual orientation, are inappropriate for any minor to read.

And that may be true for themselves and their families. And certainly, any parent has the ability and right to guide a child's reading.

But we say that one parent, one group shouldn't dictate what books are available to the community as a whole.

Especially when we know that communities are diverse and libraries, particularly publicly funded, have an obligation to represent the interests and lives of everyone who lives in the community and not just one group.

CAMEROTA: Deborah, quickly, what is the solution?

CALDWELL-STONE: The solution is for everyone to get involved at the local level. Attend board meetings, school board meetings and raise your voice against book bans.

There's a grassroots advocacy platform, called, with resources and information to individuals and community groups who wish to make sure that the community is a place where everyone can choose to read freely and make decisions about what they want to read.

CAMEROTA: Deborah Caldwell-Stone, thank you very much for being with us and alerting us to what's happening. Thank you.

CALDWELL-STONE: Thank you. BLACKWELL: We are just getting this in. The University of Oregon has issued as apology after some students yelled a bigoted chant during Saturday's football game against Utah's Brigham Young University.

CAMEROTA: For more, let's bring in CNN's Camila Bernal.

Camila, what is Oregon now saying about this incident?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alisyn and Victor. They're apologizing and saying that it is not -- goes go against what the university stands for.

But I want to go directly to what the university is saying and read their words because that's important.

What they said is that, "The University of Oregon sincerely apologizes." And saying that this was "an offensive and disgraceful chant coming from the student section during the game against Brigham Young University."

And then they went on to say, "These types of actions go against everything the university stands for and it goes against the spirit of competition. We can and will do better as a campus community that has no place for hate, bias and bigotry."

The university had said they were going to investigate this incident and I think everyone is on the same page. There's student groups on Twitter saying they are ashamed of what happened on Saturday and do not stand with the people that chanted this in the game.

And as you mentioned, the governor is also getting involved. Utah's Republican governor tweeting a video of the incident, which is what you see, where you see some of these students chanting the F-word and directing it to the Mormons.

And then Oregon's Democratic governor also getting involved and tweeting out and speaking and releasing a statement saying it was also unacceptable.

She said, "In Oregon, we strive to be a welcoming, inclusive state to all regardless of race, religion, gender or background."

So really everyone denouncing what happened on Saturday and standing together against this type of hate -- Alisyn, Victor?

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is not the first time that chant has been uttered against BYU. But we are hearing now from officials, from the school, from the governors on the topic.

Camila Bernal, thank you so much for the reporting.


The royal family is saying good-bye to Queen Elizabeth II in a private burial now. We are live from Windsor Castle with details, next.


CAMEROTA: A federal appeals court giving Donald Trump's legal team until noon tomorrow to respond to a request by the Justice Department to continue assessing the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

BLACKWELL: A federal judge blocked prosecutors from using that evidence while the special master reviews the classified documents.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us now.

Jessica, what's at stake with this appeal?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's at stake is that the DOJ wants to get back to using those 100 classified documents they seized from Mar-a-Lago in their ongoing criminal investigation. So that's why they're appealing to the 11th circuit.

And they also say they want to keep those classified records out of the hands of Trump's attorneys' and the special master in this case, who is Judge Raymond Dearie.


So those are the two things that they are asking the appeals court to step in and rule on, you know, since the lower court judge her, Aileen Cannon, she refused to roll back that part of her ruling.

And it's possible that the appeals court could potentially step in quickly.