Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Ukrainian Forces on the Move; New Audio Revealed in Oath Keepers Trial; Florida Recovery Efforts Continue; North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired October 04, 2022 - 13:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. And thank you so much for joining us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We're following several developing stories this hour.

Ian is now one of the nation's deadliest hurricanes, more than 100 people killed. The death toll rising, as the window to find survivors is closing. We have the latest from Florida.

Plus, a major escalation. North Korea, without warning, launches a ballistic missile over Japan. This is something we haven't seen in years. What it could mean.

And we're following the Oath Keepers trial in Washington, D.C., where a secret recording of a meeting from November of 2020 was just unveiled, members of the far right extremist group talking about bringing weapons to the Capitol to -- quote -- "fight for former President Trump."

This was months before the insurrection, and the FBI was alerted. We have got it all covered.

But we began in Florida, where the race to find the missing is entering a desperate critical phase.

Let's go first to Boris Sanchez in Fort Myers.

And, Boris, update us on the search efforts.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, this is an arduous process for this community. It is still classified as search-and-rescue, but it is slowly becoming a search and recovery operation.

We heard from the sheriff of Lee County just a short time earlier today. And he shared with us the difficulty that his crews are having as they comb through communities that are now unrecognizable, sifting through debris and uncovering bodies.

Here in Lee County, there are at least 55 fatalities because of Hurricane Ian. This county makes up the bulk of all fatalities for the state of Florida. Still, the sheriff was giving off a message of hope to those who have loved ones missing. But as you noted, as we were nearing a week after Hurricane Ian made landfall as a near Category 5 storm, the hope to find survivors is dwindling.

Meantime, we are learning more about those killed in the storm. And one of those stories is especially tragic. Nishelle Harris-Miles was killed in the storm. She's from Dayton, Ohio, and she came down to Southwest Florida to celebrate her 40th birthday. Her mother telling CNN that she had warned her daughter about coming during a storm, during a hurricane.

Nishelle decided to anyway. We're learning that she was in a home with some friends when the storm hit. That home became inundated. She was injured as the floodwaters were rising. Unfortunately, she was unable to get out. She lost her life, leaving behind two daughters and two sons.

Her mom telling CNN that she was the life of the party. And that is one of so many tragic stories that we have heard about here in the Sunshine State, again, more than 100 fatalities across the state of Florida because of Hurricane Ian.

We should note, finally, Ana, that we are waiting to hear from Governor Ron DeSantis, who is set to speak later this hour, to update us not only on the death toll, but the current search-and-rescue efforts -- Ana.

CABRERA: We feel so sad for those four children that mother just left behind.

I want to turn to Nadia Romero who's a nearby Englewood.

Nadia, so many people, not just lost loved ones or friends, but they have lost homes and businesses as well. Where are they going to go? What are they supposed to do now?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, when you talk about what they have lost, there's that bit of a survivor's guilt when I talk to some people, because they see the images of Fort Myers Beach and of the barrier islands and they feel lucky that they survived.

But, for the past week, they have had to try to survive this aftermath, not having electricity for so long. And, so, many people are just grateful to be at places like this. We're in Charlotte County. This is the largest distribution site we have seen all across Southwest Florida.

And it's the bare essentials. So you have got boxes, cases here of MREs coming from the National Guard. You have got cases of water over here that people need as well. One of the things that everyone has been asking us about is, one, when is the power going to come on? And, two, do you have any ice? Do you know where I can get ice?

You can get ice here from the National Guard. Ice is set up here, ice bags, and then those boxes behind the ice, that's tarp. Tarps are so crucial because nearly everyone suffered some kind of a damage to their roofs or even to their cars, having their windows blown out.

So they need those tarps to try to seal up their homes again. But starting over right now is just a daunting task. I want you to hear from one woman who is really conflicted. She has so many emotions because it's just her and her kids, and they didn't have even had electricity since the storm, and she's just trying to survive.



SKYLA, RESIDENT OF CHARLOTTE COUNTY, FLORIDA: There's still a lot of people that are still in water.

There's still a lot of people that have no power, like us. We have no power. And it's just trying to help the neighborhood, because it's the trees that are down. Some have broken houses and roofs. And it's sad.

But I'm just thankful that -- it's going to take time, one day at a time.

ROMERO: There's water, there's ice, there's tarps, there's food. What do you need?

SKYLA: All of that.

ROMERO: What do you need the most? You have no power

SKYLA: Water and ice.


ROMERO: All of the above.

And that's what we heard from people time and time again. They just need everything because they have lost nearly everything in the storm. And if you haven't had electricity for about a week now, everything in your fridge and your freezer is spoiled. So people are buying coolers, but they need ice to keep all of that stuff cold.

And so this was the first day, Ana, that we have seen tarps and ice being handed out to people in need.

CABRERA: One day at a time, that line sticks with me.

Thank you so much, Nadia Romero and Boris Sanchez.

Now to a blockbuster audio recording just unveiled at the Oath Keepers trial. It's from an alleged planning meeting after the 2020 election and a few weeks before the insurrection. This group discusses fighting for then-President Trump and talked about what weapons to bring to Washington. Five members of the far right militia group are on trial for seditious conspiracy. They have all pleaded not guilty.

CNN law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild is live outside the U.S. district court in Washington.

Whitney, walk us through these new recordings. WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, this was

captured by an attendee. It was a roughly two hour meeting that occurred in November 2020.

The defense -- excuse me -- the Department of Justice, rather, has been trying to draw this timeline that begins basically shortly after the election and lasts through and even after January 6. In this recording, which, again, was about two hours, this is mostly Stewart Rhodes, who the Department of Justice says was the leader of the Oath Keepers, laying out plans for coming to Washington.

Throughout the recording, he is saying that people should pressure Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act. And, repeatedly, the Department of Justice has brought out evidence to suggest that Rhodes believed, if the former president invoked the Insurrection Act, that they could basically carry out these paramilitary plans that they had been putting together for several weeks.

Again, throughout this -- throughout this recording, he says that the Oath Keepers would be waiting when the former president invoked the Insurrection Act. Here's a quote from that recording.

"If things go kinetic, good. If they blow bombs up and shoot us, great, because that brings the president reason and rationale to invoke the Insurrection Act. Our mission going to be to go into D.C., but I do want some Oath Keepers to stay outside and to stay fully armed and prepared to go in if they have to, so if the 'expletive' hits -- kicks off, then you rock and roll."

Again, that was a clip from Stewart Rhodes, the alleged leader of the Oath Keepers. After that meeting, Ana, the Department of Justice brought forth the other evidence in which two other alleged co- conspirators, Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins, were saying that pepper spray is legal, Tasers are legal.

Excuse me. This is during the meeting. They were saying that pepper spray is legal, Tasers are illegal. Stun guns are legal. And it doesn't hurt to have a lead pipe with a flag on it. It was after that meeting that they're accused of saying that this was the moment that they were waiting for, that this was the call to action.

The defense tried to zero in on specific parts of this. And it was basically the word legal. And what the defense was trying to say is that, in fact, this recording shows that people like Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins were taking great efforts to act within the law, and that, while the language may be bombastic, it was not illegal, Ana.

CABRERA: And remind us, what do we know, Whitney, about connections between the Oath Keepers and any Trump associates?

WILD: Well, the defense -- excuse me -- the Department of Justice, rather, presented evidence using one of their key witnesses here, an FBI agent, who said that they were on this group chat called Friends of Stone. And, again, this was a group chat in which they were discussing --

discussing plans. And the FBI agent says that Roger Stone himself, a key Trump ally, was on this chat, although the FBI agent did not explain in what way Stone may have engaged with them, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Whitney Wild, thank you for bringing us that update from the courthouse.

I want to bring in CNN national security and legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

Carrie, a key piece of what we learned when they unveiled this new recording is that there was a person who apparently was at this meeting who tipped off the FBI that they had this recording, and that this was the contents of this meeting. And this was before the insurrection.


And yet the FBI didn't connect with this person in advance before the insurrection. It was after, in March, when this person went back to the FBI and said, hey, I have this recording. Here's what was said. Do you want it? Do you want to talk to me? And then they eventually did.

So what's your reaction to all of this? Did the FBI drop the ball on this?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's a lot of questions, Ana.

So there's two parts to this. There's the FBI and the Justice Department's role in prosecuting actions like this. And we dealt with this in the international terrorism context a lot of the last 20 years, in terms of their role in prosecuting and bringing to justice perpetrators of crime.

But then there's this prevention piece. And in the international context, the FBI worked for the last 20 years to prevent acts of international terrorism. And so with this latest piece of information about the recording, but, in addition, Ana, lots of information that has come to light over the course of the last year that indicates there were all sorts of other indications that there would be violence on January 6 raises the question of why there wasn't better warning in advance to those who were responsible for protecting the physical security of the Capitol.

So I do think that this is an additional piece of information that congressional investigators in particular on the January 6 Committee and the other Homeland Security Committees should be looking at to determine whether or not the FBI and other law enforcement organizations were doing enough on the prevention side.

CABRERA: Much more to learn there, but stay with me because we have some new details in the Trump documents probe.

Months before the FBI recovered dozens of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, the former president instructed a lawyer to say that all White House records there had been turned over, but that lawyer refused to follow that instruction.

CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz joins us now.

Katelyn, lay this out for us.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Ana, this is new reporting from CNN's Gabby Orr. And it highlights a really key moment in the lead-up to that search and seizure at Mar-a-Lago this summer.

This was happening in January of this year. So, at that time, that was when Trump and the people in Mar-a-Lago were turning over 15 boxes back to the National Archives, because the Archives had been trying to get them for a full year, essentially, after Trump left the presidency.

Alex Cannon, he's a former Trump Organization lawyer. He was a lawyer that was working with Donald Trump, after the presidency, working with the Archives, making sure that they were going to be getting everything. And this exchange after those 15 boxes were handed over with Donald Trump, it was Donald Trump telling him, please, tell the Archives that everything has been turned over.

And Gabby Orr is able to report that Alex Cannon said at that time he was not going to do that, because he just didn't know if everything had been provided back to the hands of the federal government at that point in time. His relationship with Donald Trump really deteriorated. But it was quite clear that the Archives knew what they were missing.

And there were several things that they had been seeking they really wanted back. They weren't getting them all. They said there were two dozen boxes that they knew Trump had. They ended up getting 15 in January. They also knew that there was a correspondence between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that they did not have. They did get that back, we believe.

And then, of course, there was the letter between President Barack Obama and Donald Trump for his first day in office that the Archives had been seeking for a full year. So, that is that extremely interesting exchange between Cannon and Trump leading up to more of what we know happened as this investigation was building.

CABRERA: So, Carrie, you're a prosecutor here. Is this evidence of a crime? And, if so, what?

CORDERO: Will, so, in -- Ana, what I take away from this is really what the role of the lawyers are who are advising the former president or who were in the positions of advising the former president. There are so many individuals who were in his inner orbit, both giving him legal advice, and being advisers to him.

And if they were in the position of being asked to do things, making assertions in a government proceeding, where then what they are potentially exposed to, for example, would be obstructing justice. So, if that lawyer were to have signed a document that went back to the Archives attesting to something that individual knew to be untrue, they could potentially be in violation of obstructing the process of the Archives in doing their work to get back those official governments (sic).

And so it just -- it exposes, Ana, the risk that all of these individuals face when they are dealing with, A, a client who is not truthful to them, B, being asked to sign their name to official government proceedings when they don't know or have reason to believe that the facts they're being told are not true.

CABRERA: But, Carrie, going back just to the ask, I mean, there appears to be a pattern here.


Trump goes to Alex Cannon, who says, I won't tell the Archives everything's been turned over. I don't know that that's true. Then, apparently, Trump drafts a statement essentially saying all of these records had been turned over, even though that would be a legally officially turned-over statement.

CORDERO: Right. It would be an official statement to the government.

CABRERA: Right. And yet...

CORDERO: It would be an official statement to the government.

CABRERA: And yet, apparently, he was told by aides that's not such a good idea. You better get the lawyers to clear this statement. Ultimately, that statement doesn't go out.

We do now know, in June, eventually, Trump did get a lawyer to say that all classified records had been turned over, which now we know wasn't true. Just the persistence on the part of Donald Trump to try to get that statement out there in an official context, does that -- is that proof of potential intention to obstruct or mislead?

CORDERO: Well, I think it does add an additional piece that potentially could be involved in the obstruction investigation that the Justice Department is conducting.

So it could be an indication of obstruction the part of the former president. But, in this case, the statement wasn't actually attested to by that individual. So I think it speaks to the legal exposure that the former president has, but it also speaks to the legal exposure that all of the individuals, including the lawyers who are advising him, are exposed to as well.

CABRERA: Carrie Cordero, Katelyn Polantz, thank you, ladies.

It is a terrifying escalation the world hasn't seen in years, North Korea firing a ballistic missile directly over Japan. Wait until you hear just how high, how far, and how fast it flew and what it means for global security. Plus, a city on edge. Police in Stockton, California, now linking two more shootings to a string of five others. What investigators are saying now, as locals fear a potential serial killer is among them.

And a dramatic new twist in the Elon Musk Twitter saga. After months of trying to back out, a new report says Musk is now going through with the deal after all.



CABRERA: President Biden holding a critical phone call with Japan's prime minister today, hours after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan.

It's how high, how far and how fast it traveled that makes this missile extra concerning. Just take a look at its power here. This missile traveled roughly 2,800 miles. And, according to Japanese officials, it went 600 miles high. For reference, space begins about 62 miles up. This missile went 10 times higher. And it was fast, traveling about four miles per second, more than 17 times the speed of sound.

And here's a look at where it could reach. Everywhere in red here, that's within 2,800 miles. Now, this was North Korea's 23rd missile launch this year, the most since Kim Jong-un came to power in 2012.

CNN's Will Ripley is following this story for us from Taipei.

Will, the last time North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan was in 2017. So, talk to us about the significance of this test.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I remember when that happened, Ana, in 2017. I was based in Japan at the time. And you never forget the sound and the feeling that you get when those air raid sirens go off. And it's a warning of an incoming North Korean missile.

And you think it's probably just another test. But you're not entirely sure. And that's a very unsettling feeling for anybody that goes through it. And people in Japan went through it again in the morning hours on Tuesday. And you showed something really crucial just now in your introduction, that map with the area and red that's within striking range of this missile, which is believed by analysts to be a Hwasong-12, a missile that North Korea has tested in the past.

But what we haven't seen them do is demonstrate just how far it can go. So, 2,800 miles, Guam, the crucial U.S. territory and home to key military installations that help guarantee the security of the entire Indo-Pacific region, North Korea has threatened Guam in the past. That's only 2,100 miles away from North Korea. This thing flew 2,800 miles, so well within striking range of Guam.

And that's probably one of the things that North Korea wanted to demonstrate with this test. And the fact that they did it over Japan, analysts say, really, it indicates, Ana that this is a sign that Kim Jong-un has basically abandoned diplomacy for now and is ready to ratchet tensions up even further when it comes to potential nuclear tests, when it comes to launching missiles from submarines.

Ana, this is not yet at the level it was five years ago, the last time that North Korea did this, but it's getting there. And analysts that I have been speaking with throughout the day today are really troubled about what the coming months could bring and what North Korea could do and that the risk for miscalculation and also the fact that we're seeing such a coordinated military response from the United States, Japan and South Korea, including just today, precision bombing exercises, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, lots to watch there. Thank you, Will Ripley, for that reporting.

I want to get to Ukraine now, because we're following reports of major gains in the south. It had been one of the toughest areas for Ukraine to retake, until now. This hour, Ukraine says it is liberated to more towns as it pushes toward Kherson. That city is the center of a region Vladimir Putin illegally annexed just this past week.

And CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is just north of all the action for us.

Nick, despite all the moves by Putin in recent days, Ukraine continues to have momentum right now.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean, moves by Putin entirely on paper or in his rubber-stamp Parliament, nothing that's actually changed situation the ground.

What has changed that and what, frankly, I'm still struggling to get my head around is the rapid advance in the south.

Now, maps put out by the Russian Ministry of Defense which suggested about maybe a quarter of the area, possibly more, on the west side of the Dnipro River, around the town of Kherson, an area which has been under Ukrainian pressure for a while, where we know Russian troops are cut off from the rest of the Russian presence in occupied Ukraine by the river, well, nearly a quarter has fallen back in Ukrainian hands, it seems just today, according to that Russian Ministry of Defense map that they showed in their daily briefing, compared to the same map yesterday.

That is staggering. It certainly aligns with statements from Ukrainian officials. And it suggests, given the time lag that we often hear between gains made public and gains on the battlefield, that they could be pushing yet further ahead.

This means now that, on two separate fronts in Ukraine, Russia is in retreat, at the same time that Ukraine is sustaining pressure in the east, to the east of Lyman, where we were at the weekend, the strategic camp for Russia that they have now lost, and they're losing further ground to the east, but most importantly in the south. That's always been a focus, because it's somewhere really where many felt Ukraine could make significant gains ahead of the likely slowdown in conflict of the winter. That's also vital for Ukraine's economy too, the access to the Black Sea that that provides.

This is exceptionally damaging for Russia. No other way to phrase it, frankly, particularly on a day where they're still going through the charade of rubber-stamping legal moves that they say mean they have annexed these parts of Ukraine that are essentially falling back into Ukrainian military hands hour by hour, a startling development.

CABRERA: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you for the latest there from Ukraine.

A California city on edge, as police investigate a string of killings. Now two more cases are being linked.

And, staying in California, four members of a family, including a baby girl, taken against their will and now missing. The search is on for the suspect who police say kidnapped them.