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GOP Attempts To Contain Herschel Walker's Latest Scandal; U.S. Believes Elements Within Ukraine's Government Authorized Assassination Near Moscow; Emotional Day As Sanibel Residents Return For First Time Since Ian. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 05, 2022 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: He says his father's denials are lies.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R) GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I love him, I always support him and always have supported him and I always will. And I love him unconditionally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he's doing tremendous damage to you by coming out with those statements. Do you know why he's saying this?

WALKER: Well, the damage he's doing, he's letting people know that the left will do whatever they can to win the seat, and I told you when I got in this race, I'm going to win this seat.


BLACKWELL: Scott Jennings is a CNN political commentator, former special assistant to President George W. Bush. Nia-Malika Henderson is a CNN senior political analyst and co-host of "The Politically Sound" podcast. Welcome to you both. Scott, the question here, on this interview this morning, Herschel Walker said that he doesn't even know who this woman is. He doesn't know because they didn't publish her name. But she says that he wrote her a $700 check. You go back to 2009, find who you wrote a check to or if you didn't say I don't have that. There are ways to prove this or find out who this person is.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, he denies it. The "Daily Beast" hasn't printed her name. I find it interesting that no other media outlet will confirm the reporting either. So, I don't know what the truth here is. I tell you how Republicans -- at least a lot of Republicans are analyzing the situation, though. And that is it's in October, it seems to be a little nebulous what happened here. And you know, it feels like a lot -- like an October surprise. And so, you're going to see Republicans discounting it for that reason.

And then there's the macro argument of, you know, at the end of the day is Herschel Walker's candidacy perfect, no. Neither is Raphael Warnock's. And there's a simple question which is who's going to run the country, is it going to be Democrats running the country in full or are Republicans going to get a seat at the table by winning one or both chambers. And so, that issue may trump any personal trepidations they have about an individual candidate in Georgia or anywhere else for that matter.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Scott, do you -- I mean, this isn't the first time that Herschel Walker has said -- let me put it this way, Herschel Walker has a track record of not telling the truth about his past. He hasn't fully explained how many kids he had, owned up to, he's talked about his college education which turned out not to be true. He's talked about him having been involved in law enforcement, which turned out not to be true. I could go on. He has a long track record of saying untrue things. So, you're saying that in this situation, you believe him?

JENNINGS: No, I'm saying I don't know what the truth is. I'm saying the "Daily Beast" has run a story which nobody else will confirm, including CNN, by the way, and Herschel Walker says it's not true. I don't know what the truth is. But I will tell you this, there are a lot of Republicans out there saying in a worst case scenario it is true, and Herschel Walker did pay for an abortion. And you know what, Raphael Warnock wants to pay for all of them and up to the moment of birth. And so, you know --

CAMEROTA: What? I don't think that's right. Scott.

JENNINGS: Is this a perfect candidacy? No.

CAMEROTA: I don't think that's right, Scott, I don't think that


CAMEROTA: ... that's just not true. Raphael Warnock has never said he wants to pay for abortions up to the moment of birth. That is not true.

JENNINGS: He has voted -- he has absolutely voted for unlimited abortion access full stop. That is a true statement. 100 percent true. He did it earlier this year.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but the idea that there are abortions happening into the moment of birth is just not true, Scott. As you know. I mean, that's just -- that's a --

JENNINGS: I know you and I have argue good this before. But the bill that Schumer put on the floor this year which Warnock voted for, all the Democrats except for a couple voted for, absolutely had no limits on access to abortion.

CAMEROTA: That's different.

JENNINGS: And so, if you're a pro-life Republican and you're looking at these two situations, I'm telling you, that's how you would analyze it.

CAMEROTA: But that's different, Scott. That's fear mongering what you're describing. But I do want to move on. Because I know this is about -- this is about -- well, it is, Scott. I mean, that's just not happening. That's not happening.

JENNINGS: I'm describing a bill that was voted on in the United States Senate. How is it fear mongering to describe a bill that --

CAMEROTA: Because you're describing a frightening horror situation that's not happening. But let's move on. Back to politics -- back to the politics of this.

BLACKWELL: Nia, let's bring you into this conversation. Because as all of the things that Alisyn just listed -- and I'll add to it -- the accusations of domestic abuse. This is still a competitive race. It's five points, according to the latest Marist Poll. Is this baked into a Herschel Walker candidacy, that they have embraced all of the misstatements, the -- I'm not going to call them lies, but the things he said that weren't true. Well, they are lies. I should call them what they are. That people have baked this in.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think one of the things that we haven't seen before was a candidate's son come out and speak so viscerally about their father. A father that they love, a father that they campaigned for on at least one occasion, really call his father a liar. Say that he is no family man.


Say that he -- he's fathered four different kids by four different women and never had any sort of responsibility for any of those kids. So that I think has turned this candidacy upside down in many ways.

Listen, we don't know how much it'll hurt Herschel Walker's candidacy, I do think it will hurt his candidacy and we'll see how much. Listen, this is why Mitch McConnell was a bit skeptical of Herschel Walker. This is why lots of establishment Republicans didn't think he was the best candidate. Of course, Donald Trump did think he was the best candidate. He has come out and defended him after these allegations surfaced in the "Daily Beast."

But listen, with five weeks to go and people starting to go to the polls in a few weeks, this is not what any candidacy would want. Ideally, you know, campaigns we had seen rocked in these sorts of ways, you would have sort of a wife come out and defend her husband or you'd have a child come out and defend a father, and we haven't seen that. Maybe we will.

And I think the other sort of unknown going forward is what else is out there? Right. Republican operatives in Georgia knew about a lot of these allegations. What else is in the sort of resources on Herschel Walker and could that further damage his candidacy. Republicans, of course, rallying behind him. We see that from Scott Jennings here. They don't really have a choice, right. This is the candidate. This is the race. It's going to be tight no matter what.

BLACKWELL: Scott, let me -- you said you don't know if it's true. I wonder if you care. I want you to listen here to Dana Loesch, conservative show host. This is what she said about abortion a couple years ago, and this is what -- I'm going to play after that -- what she said after this report from the "Daily Beast."


DANA LOESCH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: Choice before conception. Afterwards its pro-infanticide. And choice is just a fancy word that people use to hide the fact that it is murder.

LOESCH: I don't care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.


BLACKWELL: Is that the theory now is that it doesn't matter if has violated the orthodoxy of the Republican Party -- which is antiabortion -- we want the gavel, we want control of the Senate, we'll dismiss this if it's true?

JENNINGS: Oh, I mean, absolutely. I mean -- one thing Nia said is true, extremely close race. And so, you know whether most people judge it the way you just put it, Victor, I think they will. However, on the margins --

BLACKWELL: I'm going to ask you what you think, Scott. Do you care?


JENNINGS: -- a thousand people here, a few thousand people there could make a huge difference. So, look, my view is there's too much at stake, and you're asking me as a Republican who thinks this country's off in the ditch, well, Herschel Walker maybe did something 13 years ago, so I got to let Joe Biden and the Democrats continue to have unfettered policy access? No, thanks. That's how I'm analyzing it and I suspect most Republicans will go there. But on the margins, you know, you never know. Some people may analyze it differently. But that's personally where I am.

HENDERSON: And listen, I think it's also probably true that more Republicans have abortions than we sort of think they do, right. Sort of a public and the political stance is an anti-abortion stance, but I think we know that both Republicans and Democrats have taken advantage of getting abortion and that'll continue in this country no matter what the sort of public and political pronouncements are.

BLACKWELL: The question is the hypocrisy. His own because he is against abortion, no exceptions.

CAMEROTA: No exceptions.


CAMEROTA: -- for the health of the woman.

BLACKWELL: And the party around him that if that is the orthodoxy, now we'll excuse this if it's true because they want control.

CAMEROTA: But we've got to let you go though. Nia-Malika Henderson, Scott Jennings, thank you.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: New information about a car bombing that killed the daughter of a prominent Russian political figure. We've got details next.



CAMEROTA: We're just getting this in to CNN's NEWSROOM. The U.S. intelligence community believes that the Ukrainian government authorized that car bombing that killed the daughter of a prominent Russian political figure, Alexander Dugan. This was near Moscow in August.

BLACKWELL: Let's go straight now to CNN's Natasha Bertrand. What more are we learning?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) ... intelligence community has assessed that in fact elements within the Ukrainian government were responsible for or authorized this attack on Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent Russian commentator, philosopher, political figure, that killed her in late August. It was a car bombing. And up until now it was really unclear who actually had carried out this attack. The Russians had accused the Ukrainians of being responsible, but the Ukrainians had vehemently denied it.

Now importantly it is unclear, according to the intelligence that the U.S. has, whether or not President Zelenskyy was actually aware of this and whether he himself actually authorized this to go forward. But we are learning that the U.S. intelligence community does believe and does have intelligence to suggest that elements within the Ukrainian government did sign off on this.

Now, obviously it remains unclear what happens from here. The Ukrainians have, in fact, been carrying out some successful strikes inside Russia since the invasion began in February.


But those have largely been contained to kind of southwestern Russia and areas along the border with Ukraine and Russia. So, this kind of strike in the heart of Russia right outside Moscow, a very brazen attack. It would be a significant expansion of their covert operations and one that the United States is probably a bit wary of to say the least -- Alisyn, Victor.

CAMEROTA: OK, Natasha Bertrand thank you very much for the breaking news there.

So, President Biden is on the ground in Florida. What he is promising to do and what Floridians say they need.



CAMEROTA: President Biden vowing that the federal government will help Florida until it recovers from hurricane Ian. Today he met with Governor Ron DeSantis, local officials as well as residents and businessowners.

BLACKWELL: Now on Sanibel Island, this is an emotional day. CNN cameras were there as people are returning, most for the first time to see what's left of their homes and businesses. Joining us now Fort Myers councilmember and Mayor pro-tem, Liston Bochette and James Evans. He lives in Fort Myers, rode out the storm at home. He's also the CEO of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, now working to support first responders as the islands recover from the storm. Welcome to you both.

James, let me start with you. And the most important question, how is your family, and how did your home hold up during the storm?

JAMES EVANS, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA RESIDENT: Appreciate it. We're doing OK. Thanks to the generosity of Pat Perdisco (ph) who donated her home to my family and I. We are just happy to be somewhere safe and be able to help the community recover from this disaster.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I read, James, that you said that you did stay in your home during the storm, and you would never do that again. Was it scarier than you anticipated?

EVANS: Yes, Alisyn. So, we -- I was here during hurricane Charlie. I was working for the city of Sanibel, and also during Irma and helped with those recovery efforts as well. But this -- those storms paled in comparison to this one event. We have a hurricane safe room that's built into our home. It's set at a flood elevation of 10 1/2 feet, which is above the FEMA flood stage.

But we still had over a foot of water that came into that room along with the sewage that was coming up through the sewer lines backing up into that room. So, it was scary. We had to vertically evacuate. And when it was all over, you know, we all hugged. And it was like the last scene in "It's A Wonderful Life." we were just happy to be alive.

BLACKWELL: Councilman, we know that the recovery effort is moving forward. There's progress. One thing we don't talk about often are the schools, because so many of them have been damaged and several in varying degrees. What do you know about the recovery, the schools, and when they'll potentially reopen for students?

LISTON BOCHETTE, MAYOR PRO TEMPORE, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA: Right Victor, Alisyn and James, best wishes to you. I know you're just down the street from us. School systems are vital not just for educational purposes but to allow parents to get back to work and try to get into their normal routines. Leaving these thousands and thousands of students without something to do is another potential damage. How do you feed them? How do we get our supply lines? City of Fort Myers had a group in from

Puerto Rico who's rebuilding 850 schools from the damage they are suffering. We have 11 schools down. Some are going to be partial, some may need some massive rebuilding. But the first step is to get these kids active, get them re-engaged, emotional impact and let their parents get on and be good parents.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and Councilman, President Biden is obviously down in your town today. What do you want to hear from the president and Governor DeSantis today? What do Fort Myers residents need to hear from them today?

BOCHETTE: We have quite -- most people who live in southwest Florida, particularly Fort Myers, live here because they want to live here, not because they have to. This creates a different mindset because they are surviving type. We've close to live here. We want to be here.

Everyone appreciates the president and even the governor. We know this is a show of faith that they're with us. We completely understand that the brunt of the work is going to be done by local hands and our local government is moving very quickly to establish a protocol and a recovery period time frames.

BLACKWELL: The FEMA director was with the president today, James, and she has said several times that when considering to rebuild or whether to rebuild to make some informed decisions. Will you rebuild? I know you didn't have as much damage as others. What will inform your decisions?

EVANS: Yes, Victor, are very lucky. Our home wasn't damaged nearly as bad as many of our neighbors. Of course, I toured Sanibel Island Saturday helping with the rescue efforts out there on Saturday, and we're in much better shape than most. We lost part of our roof down to the wood, but that can be repaired. You know, but the envelope of our home stayed structurally sound throughout the storm.


We have some minor repairs, cleaned up some flooding issues. But we're in much better condition than most.

Liston Bochette and James Evan, thank you both very much. We appreciate you taking the time. Thanks for sharing personal videos and everything with us. We're obviously thinking about you and everyone down in your area today.

BLACKWELL: All right, the group that controls most of the world's oil just decided to cut production. What that means for gas prices here next.


CAMEROTA: New York Yankee star Aaron Judge made home run history last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it goes! Deep left, it is high, it is far, it is gone! Number 62 to set the new American League record!


CAMEROTA: Victor as you know, I know a lot about sports statistics. And so, I can tell you that 62 home runs in one season is a new American League record. That was previously held, I can tell you, by fellow Yankee Roger Maris since 1961.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there. That's it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep that ball. Keep that ball.


BLACKWELL: I was waiting for your sport history insight.

CAMEROTA: Oh, I'm sorry.

BLACKWELL: Imagine being the guy who made the catch.

CAMEROTA: How much is the ball worth?

BLACKWELL: Well, it's worth $2 million.

CAMEROTA: That's pretty cool. Is he going to sell it?

BLACKWELL: The fan says he doesn't know yet whether he will keep the ball or give it back to Judge.


BLACKWELL: He doesn't know.

CAMEROTA: $2 million, I mean that seems like an easy question.



CAMEROTA: All right, no let's end on something light.

BLACKWELL: Favorite story of the day.

CAMEROTA: Bear with us. Today officially marks the beginning of the Fat Bear Bracket Challenge in Alaska. And it gives bear lovers a chance to pick the winner of the fat bears.

BLACKWELL: All right, so for those unfamiliar with this grizzly contest -- you see what I did -- live pictures here. This is Katmai National Park and Preserve. They spend all day feasting in over the course a the week they transform into fat bears. And then you got to see who wins. CAMEROTA: OK, we'll keep watching this. On that note, "THE LEAD" with

Jake Tapper starts right now.