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DeSantis Gets Standing Ovation After Flying Migrants To MA; What To Watch In Final Sprint To Midterm Elections; Biden: "Too Early" To Consider 2024 Reelection Bid; Russian Missiles Target Another Ukraine Nuclear Plant; Zelenskyy Says No Lull On Frontline With Russia As Troops Prepare To Recapture More Territory; Biden: U.S. Would Defend Taiwan Against Invasion by China; FAA Rejects Controversial Request To Reduce Pilot Hours. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 19, 2022 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: This is an NPR/PBS/Maris poll from September 1st, just a souple of weeks ago, that shows four others issues more important to voters than immigration -- inflation, abortion, health care, the January 6th hearings.

Why would Republicans focus on this issue, immigration, ahead of the midterms?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So look at those issues. Abortion, which is important, is an issue that Democrats are now doing usually well on.

Health care has consistently been a Democratic issue. January 6th is an issue that has really hurt, you know, Donald Trump. So inflation obviously an issue that's a real problem for Democrats.

Guns, though, is an issue that's beginning to really trend towards Democrats after shootings like Uvalde.

So when you look at that issue set, some of those issues traditionally are Democratic issues.

So what you see the Republicans doing is saying, you know what, maybe we're not winning enough on inflation and on the economy, although they are winning. But maybe we have to add some fuel to the fire.

The fuel they're adding are the traditional Republican culture war issues, which immigration is very, very important.

The Democrats now have a culture war issue that's running towards them in large numbers. And that is, of course, the issue of abortion, after the Supreme Court decision.

So things are kind of topsy turvy in lots of parts of the country.

CABRERA: So midterms are just around the corner. All eyes pivot to 2024.


CABRERA: President Biden raising some eyebrows this weekend --

BORGER: Wasn't that interesting?

CABRERA: -- when he was asked if he plans to run for a second term.

Let's listen to his response.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's much too early to make that kind of decision. I'm a great respecter of fate.

My intention as I said to begin with, is that I would run again, but it's just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen.


CABRERA: Why so noncommittal?

BORGER: He's equivocating, isn't he?

Look, I went back and looked at what he said in March of 2021. He said, "My plan is to run for re-election. That's my expectation." Now, the cement is cracking beneath his feet.

And I think that's because he wants to see, number one, who else is running. If Donald Trump were to run, that would be an incentive, I think, for him to run.

I think he wants to see how his agenda is doing. I think -- he's 79 years old. I think he wants to see how he feels.

And he also does not want to say I am not running for re-election, because then he becomes a lame duck. And he's smart enough to know that presidents who are lame ducks don't get a lot done. So I think he's sort of holding that at bay.

But remember what Jill Biden said recently. She said, "We haven't really discussed it." Now, come on. Do you believe that?



CABRERA: They both are trying to keep everybody just hanging by a thread on what they're going to do.

BORGER: Right. But this is further than he's gone. This is really opening the door, I think, in a way he hasn't before to not running.

CABRERA: So interesting --

BORGER: Yes, it is. CABRERA: -- given the momentum that he has currently in the party as you just laid out previously.

BORGER: Exactly.

CABRERA: Thank you, Gloria Borger. Good to see you.

BORGER: Good to see you.


CABRERA: Russia is ramping up attacks on critical facilities in Ukraine. Missiles hitting the industrial site of another nuclear power plant. This time, in southern Ukraine. We have the latest.



CABRERA: To Ukraine now. And Russian missiles targeted another Ukrainian nuclear power plant. This one in southern Ukraine.

Now, security cameras captured this moment when those missiles hit the facility just a few hundred yards from the reactors themselves. Officials say the plant's power units are still operational, thankfully.

Meantime, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy insists there's no wall on the front line with Russia, saying his troops are preparing to take back even more territory as part of its sweeping counteroffensive.

Let's bring in CNN military analyst, Colonel Cedric Leighton now. He's a retired U.S. Air Force colonel.

We have seen Russians go after another nuclear power plant, Colonel. How do you make sense of this? What is Russia thinking?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Ana, this is really the difference in the way the Russians wage war versus how we wage war. The Russians are deliberately targeting the nuclear power plants that Ukraine has, along with the rest of the infrastructure that Ukraine controls.

So what it means is that the Russians are also probably going to use or at least make the attempt at using the nuclear power plants that are still in Ukrainian hands as possible weapons against the Ukrainians themselves, targeting them by forcing them offline.

That would have a significant impact on the Ukrainian energy grid and on the power supply in Ukraine itself.


So that is the Russian goal. It's really a war against the civilian population more than anything else. CABRERA: President Zelenskyy says this current phase right now is not

a lull, that this is, quote, "preparation for the next sequence." A preparation for the liberation of even more cities.

On one hand, he's expressing confidence. I don't know if he's trying to rally the troops. But do you think it's wise for them to preview that that's their plan?

LEIGHTON: It kind of goes both ways. On the one hand, I would say it's best not to preview the plan. You know there, is something to be said for operational security and for keeping these things under wraps.

The other thing is, this may be a way of motivating the troops and of telling them and also the civilian population, frankly, and telling them that this is something that's coming next, you can expect more advances.

And it may, in the third analysis, be a signal to the West, saying, hey, we're not stopping, we're moving forward, and we need your help.

So there's clearly a multi-faceted approach that President Zelenskyy is undertaking.

And they want to make sure they can maintain their momentum. In order to maintain that momentum, they need the population to stay on their side and they also need the West to continue to provide them with weapons.

CABRERA: And of course, winter is on its way to the region. How is that going to change things, do you think?

LEIGHTON: Well, General Winter, as he was known during World War II, euphemistically, is a key element in the weather in Ukraine and really in the way in which all of the forces move or don't move over that terrain.

So as colder temperatures come into play, what you're going to see is, in some ways, it's going to be easier for tanks and armored personnel carriers to move across the country, up to a point.

But after a certain temperature, things can start to freeze. If they don't have the right kind of antifreeze, things could get stuck. And that could really put a damper on things.

And it could stall out any advances that the Ukrainians are planning. And the same goes for the Russians, of course.

So what we're looking at is, I think the Ukrainians are moving forward as much as they possibly can to gain as much territory before the onset of the really cold temperatures.

CABRERA: Let's switch gears for a quick moment here. Listen to what President Biden just said about Taiwan and how the U.S. would respond if China were to invade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: There's a One China policy, and Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence. We are not moving -- we're not encouraging their being independent. That's their decision.

SCOTT PELLEY, CO-HOST, "60 MINUTES": But would U.S. forces defend the island?

BIDEN: Yes, if, in fact, there was an unprecedented attack.

PELLEY: So unlike Ukraine, to be clear, Sir, U.S. forces, U.S. men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?



CABRERA: So this isn't the first time the president has said something like this. But that's a lot less ambiguous. And that is not official U.S. policy.

Why go that far? Is that risky?

LEIGHTON: It is certainly risky, Ana. And I think, in part, what the president was doing is he was outlining the fact that -- and the Chinese are well aware of this -- that the United States has an operation plan to defend Taiwan.

We have had one for many years. And the Chinese know that we have this plan. They are also maneuvering their forces to show that it would be very difficult for us to defend Taiwan.

They can defend certain parts of it, but the Taiwanese are at risk of being surrounded by a Chinese naval blockade. As one example, the Chinese now have that capability, which they really didn't have before. And they showed that in their latest exercise.

So the president is going ahead with some of these statements kind of signaling to both Taiwan and China that, yes, the United States would defend it if there were an unprecedented attack on Taiwan.

But if the country, if Taiwan decided to peacefully reunify with China, then none of this, of course, would be on the table.

So that's kind of a message that he's sending. He's saying the One China policy still stands, but that the Chinese better not go ahead and try to invade the island.

CABRERA: Not to do anything forcefully.

Thank you, Colonel Cedric Leighton. I appreciate your time.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Ana.


CABRERA: It's a case that got nationwide attention in that hit podcast "Serial." And moments from now, a judge will decide whether to vacate the murder conviction of Adnan Syed.


CABRERA: This just into CNN. The FAA just rejected a controversial request from an airline to slash pilot hiring standards to tackle the pilot shortage.

CNN's Pete Muntean joins us.

What can you tell us? Fill us in.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: We've been talking about the pilot shortage for months, Ana. All these flights cancelled or delayed, more than 50,000 this summer alone.

The gold standard that airlines say is keeping them from hiring more people is what's known as the 1,500-hour rule. That is how much flying time a new pilot needs before going to the airlines.

And what happened back in April is that one of these regional airlines where most new pilots for the airlines start out, Republic Airways, it flies about 1,000 flights a day for American, United and Delta.


It said that its pilot that graduate from its own training program don't need to be under the is 1,500-hour rule. They said and argued to the FAA that they should only have to have 750 hours of flight time.

But now we're hearing from the FAA that it is soundly rejecting that, saying that the graduates of Republic Airways' own flight training program essentially don't meet the same level of safety that the airlines and the FAA would like to see.

So this is a pretty big shift here. And this was a huge controversy. Remember, that unions, pilots unions were pretty against this, even though some trade associations were pushing for this.

The airlines say one of their biggest issues right now is simply hiring people. They just need to get people in the door, and sometimes regulations can get in the way.

Remember, back in 2009, this all changed after this Colgan Air crash in Buffalo. That is when families of those who were killed in the crash really pushed and lobbied the federal government to change those rules.

The standard went from 250 hours to become a new co-pilot of the airlines to 1,500 hours. Now we've seeing the Republic Airlines, in its push to get that knocked down by half is unsuccessful here -- Ana?

CABRERA: That's in the "better safe than sorry" bucket today.

Thank you, Pete Muntean.

Donald Trump returning to his Florida estate for the first time since the FBI search that found classified documents at his property. Supporters were there cheering him on at his motorcade arrived back at Mar-a-Lago last night.

In a social media post, Trump said he wanted to see for himself what agents did during the search. And he accused them of ransacking his home and not taking off their shoes in his bedroom. We don't know if that's true.

But this comes as Trump's team faces another major court deadline in their fight over access to the seized documents.

CNN's senior crime and justice reporter, Katelyn Polantz, joins us with the details.

Katelyn, DOJ had appealed the special master decision that came late Friday. Trump's team still has to respond. Where exactly do things stand right now?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Ana, we have parallel tracks of activity in court tomorrow. We have a deadline, a hearing, and it's all around the Mar-a-Lago special master situation.

The focus right now is still on 100 documents with classified markings on them found in the search. The Justice Department can't work with those right now. And their criminal investigation is on hold while special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, out of New York, while he starts doing his work.

But while he's working, the Justice Department is pursuing that appeal. They want emergency help, emergency intervention from the court.

So first, at noon, Donald Trump's team has a deadline to submit a filing in the appeals court overseeing Florida, responding to prosecutors who want the classified records from the broader special master review.

The Trump team is likely to defend the special master process as it stands now because, Ana, it essentially has the Justice Department at bay.

And it gives Trump's team quite a window into what all was in those boxes that were seized last month.

They don't know what's in them right now, but Trump's team support the only entity like that.

Here's President Biden last night on "60 Minutes" also talking about these documents.


PELLEY: You don't know what was in those documents?

BIDEN: I have not asked for the specifics of those documents because I don't want to get myself in the middle of whether or not the Justice Department should move or not move on certain actions that they can take.

I agreed I would not tell them what to do and not, in fact, engage in telling them how to prosecute or not.


POLANTZ: So then, at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, Special Master Dearie will be at work in his courtroom in Brooklyn. Donald Trump's team will have a check-in with him in person as he gets going -- Ana?

CABRERA: Katelyn, thank you so much.

Now to a case made serious from the "Serial" true-crime podcast. Just minutes from now, a judge could decide whether to vacate the murder conviction of Adnan Syed in the death of his ex-girlfriend Hai Min Lee.

CNN's Alexandra Field following this one.

Alexandra, why are prosecutors asking for a new trial?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, this is absolutely huge because Adnan Syed has maintained his innocence for more than 20 years since being convicted.

Defense attorneys have always sought to appeal the conviction, get it overturned. But now it's the prosecution which has embarked on a year- long reinvestigation of the case and they say there's major reasons to doubt the conviction itself.

They are citing the up reliability of cell phone data at the time. They're citing advances in DNA testing that were not available at the time of the trial.

And more strikingly, they are talking about the fact that there are two alternative suspects. There was information that was known about those suspects at the time of the trial, that they say it was not properly disclosed to the defense.

And they say the state, thus, did not adequately rule out those alternate suspects.

CABRERA: And so quickly, if this judge vacates the conviction, what happens next?

FIELD: Well, the state is saying that Adnan Syed should be released from prison. The case would then automatically go to a new trial status But it would be up to prosecutors to determine whether to pursue that trial or dismiss charges all together, making him an entirely free man.


CABRERA: All right, we'll be watching.

Thanks so much, Alexandra Field. And that does it for us today. Thank you for being with us. I'll be

back here same time, same place tomorrow. You can also find me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

The news continues right that with Alisyn and Victor.