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A.G. Garland Picks Former Prosecutor Jack Smith As Trump Special Counsel; Two Men Arrested For Making Threats To A New York Synagogue; Taylor Swift Ticket Meltdown Sparks Outrage Over Ticketmaster Power; FIFA Boss Goes On Tirade Against Western Critics On Eve Of World Cup; Investors Sue Tom Brady And Other Celebrities Who Endorsed FTX; Interview With Congressman-Elect Maxwell Frost (D-FL). Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 19, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

Two criminal investigations involving former President Donald Trump now in the hands of a special counsel. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Jack Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor and registered independent, will oversee both the investigation into sensitive government documents found at Mar-a-Lago, as well as Trump's actions surrounding the January 6th attack.

Garland says the move was prompted by extraordinary circumstances notably Trump's 2024 presidential announcement and President Biden's stated intention to run for reelection. Last night Trump spent several minutes railing against the special counsel announcement.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This horrendous abuse of power is the latest in a long series of witch hunts. They want to do bad things to the greatest movement in the history of our country but in particular bad things to me.


ACOSTA: CNN's senior crime and justice correspondent Katelyn Polantz joins me now.

Katelyn, what will the special counsel investigation look like? Is it going to be a continuation of what we've seen so far? And what about Trump? What's next for him?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it will be a continuation and this really is all about Donald Trump. If it wasn't apparent before this, with the search and seizure at Mar-a- Lago, with these January 6th investigations, is now and it is so underlined by what Attorney General Garland was saying yesterday in his announcement of this. The focus on Trump. Here he is.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Based on recent developments, including the former president's announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president's stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel. Such an appointment underscores the department's commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters.


POLANTZ: And so Garland here, another thing he says in that public statement and then in a statement that was released from special counsel Jack Smith by the department, they both noted that they want the pace to be quick. That they don't want much of a slowdown here for this office to get up to speed. And we know the office is theoretically pretty up to speed. It might not be physically set up yet. He is going to get an office for Smith to operate out of, but there are active grand juries in both of these investigations.

They've got lots of documents collected, phones seized, documents seized. They're bringing in witnesses. People are getting testimony dates for even the next couple of weeks before the end of the year. And so there's a large amount of facts that Jack Smith is going to be looking at as special counsel in the coming weeks and months. And then he does the real business of what a special counsel must do like every other special counsel.

He's going to have to make big policy decisions, specifically and very likely including whether to charge a former president of the United States and current candidate for president.

ACOSTA: All right. I suspect you'll be busy over the next couple of months. Sorry about that, Katelyn.


ACOSTA: All right, Katelyn Polantz, thanks very much.

Joining me now is the former attorney general under President George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales. He's currently a dean at Belmont University College of Law.

Mr. Attorney General, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it. You just heard the former president level all kinds of accusations against the Justice Department, saying that this was a horrendous abuse of power. I suppose it's not totally out of character for him to get personal like that. But what's your reaction?

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: To his remarks or the decision by Attorney General Garland?

ACOSTA: Take your pick.

GONZALES: OK. I think the attorney general made a wise decision. Obviously, the decision to appoint a special counsel is fairly subjective. But based upon the notion that you want to protect the integrity, you want to protect the confidence of the American people, and the investigations conducted by the Department of Justice, so it makes sense.

I agree that there was a fundamental shift when the target of these investigations decided that they were going to seek the presidency and combine that with the expectation that the person that appointed Merrick Garland as attorney general is likely to seek re-election, for me, that's a fundamental shift, as well, and so I can certainly support and understand the reasons why a special counsel would be appointed.


With respect to the comments from former President Trump, not surprising. Obviously unhappy generally at all the investigations that are currently going on with respect to his conduct both as -- mainly as president. And quite frankly, to me, I think the investigations as to the classified documents in Florida appear to be a much more straightforward case. Much easier case to prosecute than perhaps the actions or the inactions of the president relating to January 6th assault on the Capitol, simply because you've got issues you have to navigate such as free speech, the fact that he was president of the United States.

And so that one to me is going to be a little bit more complicated. But the Florida investigation and possible prosecution moving going forward appears to me to be much more straightforward.

ACOSTA: I mean, do you see with the case in Florida pertaining to the documents and how he was handling them at Mar-a-Lago that there might be a case there?

GONZALES: I do. Listen, they're not personal documents despite what he may say. They are classified documents and there are certain requirements with respect to how you handle classified documents. And once someone is no longer president, then those documents really belong to the archivists and they are expected to be presented to the archivists.

And so, again, I think that there's an uphill climb for the president's team with respect to trying to avoid some kind of successful prosecution in that particular case. But there are still a lot we don't know. There are things that the prosecution team knows that we don't know. And obviously there are likely defenses that the former president has that we're not aware of. So we'll have to wait and see.

ACOSTA: And the former attorney general, Bill Barr, also spoke about the documents at Mar-a-Lago. Here's what he had to say.


MARGARET HOOVER, PBS FIRING LINE: Is there ever a circumstance when you think it's appropriate to indict a former president? BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Oh, yes. If a former president

commits a crime, you know, especially a serious crime, they should be indicted for it. If the Department of Justice can show that these were indeed very sensitive documents, which I think they probably were, and also show that the president consciously was involved in misleading the department, deceiving the government, and playing games after he had received the subpoena for the documents, those are serious charges.

HOOVER: That's a serious enough crime?

BARR: That's serious.

HOOVER: That's a serious enough crime?

BARR: Well, I said I personally think that they probably have the basis for legitimately indicting the president. I don't know. I'm speculating.

HOOVER: You're speculating.

BARR: But given what's gone on, I think they probably have the evidence that would check the box. They have the case.


ACOSTA: What do you think about that, Mr. Attorney General? Do you agree with that? And do you think the fact that we're dealing with a former president, that that makes it a little dicier for the Justice Department to move forward with the case?

GONZALES: Well, we're all just speculating here, aren't we? I think that something makes it much more dicier that you're dealing with a former president. But it also makes it easier. It would be a much more difficult call if in fact we're talking about actions that occurred as president because as president, you're entitled to a lot of things that the normal American citizens aren't allowed to do. But these actions occurred after he was president. And so yes. I agree with Attorney General Barr that there's some serious challenges here for President Trump and his team.

ACOSTA: Now do you think that the former president and his team should be prepared for a prosecution of some sort? You think we might see that?

GONZALES: Well, of course, they're going to prepare for it. Whether or not there will actually be charges made and a prosecution moving forward, that will be up to Mr. Smith, quite frankly. He seems to me someone who has a reputation for getting down to business very quickly. And I think the expected is that we'll know fairly soon whether or not that they'll be making charging decisions, what those decisions are, and whether or not we move forward with the prosecution.

ACOSTA: You would be confident in Mr. Smith's handling of this case as the special counsel? GONZALES: Well, I don't know Mr. Smith. I'm certainly aware of his

qualifications based on what is publicly available. Everyone that has been quoted or, you know, asked about Mr. Smith, that's worked with him, speak very highly of him. And so I've got no reason to question Attorney General Garland's pick with this very, very difficult and very delicate assignment.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you about a different subject. It's caught a lot of attention in "The New York Times" today. "The New York Times" is reporting that a former anti-abortion leader has come forward claiming that the extraordinary leak of the Roe versus Wade decision wasn't the only recent breach at the Supreme Court.


The Reverend Rob Shank says back in 2014, he knew what the decision was going to be in the landmark Hobby Lobby case on contraception and religious rights, and that he knew this weeks before it was released. He claims he got the tip-off right after two of his star donors shared a meal with Justice Sam Alito and his wife. Justice Alito has denied he had anything to do with disclosing the decision. What's your reaction to this?

GONZALES: Well, we're talking about something that happened eight years ago. I'm very curious as to why this disclosure would be made now quite honestly. And as you just indicated, Justice Alito and his camp, they have denied that this happened. Nonetheless, the timing is very unfortunate for the court right now. They're under scrutiny. The reputation is not as -- I mean, it's -- I don't know if it's at an all-time low. But it's certainly lower than it has been in the past. And the notion that, listen, I suspect --

ACOSTA: Why do you suppose that is --


ACOSTA: If I may interject, why do you suppose it is so low right now?

GONZALES: Well, part of it I think was the leak of the Dobbs decision and the certain decisions at certain members -- certain people of the Congress, and a portion of the American public, are comfortable with certain decisions made by the court. And they believe it stems from the fact that the former president was able to make a substantial number of picks which gives a conservative majority the opportunity to roll back some very important and very divisive decisions.

And so I think for that reason the reputation is at a low. And I think stories about a leak that happened eight years ago, it's unfortunate. And the timing is not very good. That's all I'm saying. And, you know, we need to be careful about the way that we speak about the court and when we attack the court because the court serves an extremely important function in our society. And it's supposed to be neutral. It's supposed to be without bias, making decisions based upon the Constitution.

And if we lose confidence in the court, then, you know, to me, it's a very dangerous place to be, quite honestly. And so we just need to be careful about this. I'm not saying that we shouldn't publicize and if in fact leak occurred, you know, that shouldn't have -- the leak should not have happened. If it did occur, it was wrong. And as I said, from the outset, the timing, I'm not sure the timing can be any worse.

ACOSTA: All right. Former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.

GONZALES: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Good to speak with you.

And just in to CNN, New York police arrest two men accused of making threats to attack a synagogue. One had a large hunting knife and was wearing a Nazi arm band with a swastika. We'll have more on this shocking story that's coming up next.



ACOSTA: This just into CNN. Police in New York have arrested two men they say made threats to a synagogue. One had a large hunting knife and was wearing a red Nazi arm band with a swastika. They were arrested at Penn Station earlier this morning. The police also took an illegal Glock 17 firearm and a 30-round magazine.

CNN's John Miller is following this for us. John, this is an alarming story. What more do we know about these two men and this alleged threat?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, we know how this started. It started with online threats that started appearing days ago. FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and New York City Police were mote notified about this traffic in the Twittersphere yesterday. They were able to trace the IP address to a work location where it resolved to a computer.

And when they spoke to people there, they got the name of an individual. They started searching for him. Ended up searching a friend's apartment late last night, where they came up with the ghost gun with the extended magazine. They were both the subject of a citywide alert that went to thousands and thousands of police officers' smartphones with a photo.

According to the New York City Police Department, two MTA, Metropolitan Transit Authority police officers spotted them in Penn Station last night just after midnight. And Christopher Thomas Brown, 22 years old, has been charged with making terroristic threats, aggravated harassment and criminal possession of a weapon.

We're told that when he was arrested he had the red Nazi arm band, a large hunting knife, and the gun was found in the apartment of his friend, as police were closing in. So it looks like we really dodged a bullet here in the threat picture. ACOSTA: And, John, authorities in New York, I supposed in big cities

across the country, they have been on the lookout for this, this sort of activity, with this rise of anti-Semitic attacks that have been taking place across the country.

MILLER: You know, when you look at the past experiences, whether it was the synagogue in Poway, California, where the individual opened fire and luckily was encountered by a federal agent who happened to be passing by who was able to take him into custody, or the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, where numerous people were killed during synagogue services there by an individual who was posting online just before he moved in with weapons.

And then you look at an incident like this where they had obtained the weapons, Nazi paraphernalia, made online posts, talking about a date and a time, and the fact that they were able to get that word out to enough police officers to get them into custody before something happened is very, very lucky.


ACOSTA: A very disturbing case. John Miller, our law enforcement analyst, getting that story for us. John, thank you so much for breaking that for us on a Saturday afternoon. We appreciate it so much. Thank you, John.

Taylor Swift in the meantime is now addressing the bad blood between her fans and Ticketmaster, calling it excruciating to watch. It all started Tuesday when fans selected for the pre-sale were unable to purchase tickets even after waiting in a virtual line for hours. Folks across the country have been just going on and on about this has been just an incredible situation because the site kept crashing and freezing. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please God, please. No, what just happened? It keeps going to general public on sale. Why did it keep doing that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The amount of gaslighting that Ticketmaster does. The Web site has crashed. It went down again.


ACOSTA: People were freaking out for sure. Then came the announcement that Ticketmaster would be cancelling Friday's sale to the general public citing extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand. You think?

A source telling CNN the Justice Department has launched the antitrust investigation into the owner of Ticketmaster to look at whether the company has a monopoly in the market for concerts.

CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas joins me now along with CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. Chloe, people are really tearing their hair out over Ticketmaster. But

let's talk about this first. Taylor Swift, she put out a lengthy statement in all this. What did she say?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jim. Look, people are pointing the finger at Ticketmaster and so is Taylor Swift. I'll read you part of what she said. She said, "I'm not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them," meaning Ticketmaster, "multiple times if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could. It's truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets. But it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them."

Look, Jim, it goes without saying that people, even individuals I know personally waited hours in queues online, everywhere, trying to get these tickets. And like you saw they would crash or when they finally could get tickets, they would cost sometimes $1,000, we're talking, for nose bleed seats. And then some brokers, like StubHub, let's point that there, people are getting these tickets and then third party brokers are going to StubHub and listing them for upwards of $70,000, $80,000. So needless to say this has just been quite a mess.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And Joey, the feud between artists, fans and Ticketmaster has been going on for decades. I mean, back in 1994, a band that I recognize, Pearl Jam -- yes, I'm old enough to remember Pearl Jam -- took on Ticketmaster testifying before Congress. Let's watch.


STONE GOSSARD, BASSIST, PEARL JAM: All of the members of Pearl Jam remember what it's like to be young and not have a lot of money, although given our popularity, we can undoubtedly continue to sell out our concerts with ticket prices at that premium level. We have made a conscious decision that we do not want to put the price of our concerts out of the reach of our fans.

Ticketmaster's exclusive agreements with most of the suitable venues and promoters has left most bands without any meaningful alternative for distributing tickets. This absence of any alternative in turn gives Ticketmaster the power to exercise excessive control. The result for our fans has been higher service charges, meaning effectively that they pay higher prices for their tickets.


ACOSTA: All right. Now that complaint was quietly dismissed. But it underlines the point, Joey, this has been going on for years with Ticketmaster.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It has to be, Jim. Good to be with you and Chloe. And it speaks to the broader issue of the lack of competition in the particular industry. Just going back, you could recall in 2010, when there was the merger with Live Nation, a lot was said over what that would do. Anti-competitive practices. What it would do to competition. There was a decree entered into, Jim, at that time which spoke to the issue of Ticketmaster making a commitment not to force or otherwise coerce vendors to use them, right, to no avail. It was then extended in 2020 for five years.

What that decree, right, the agreement that Ticketmaster would play by the rules. And so I think what we're going to see is there's a place, as you mentioned, right, beginning this. There's an investigation that's happening now, with the Department of Justice. You heard Amy Klobuchar weigh in. She is of course a senator who ran for president from Minnesota. She sits on a subcommittee dealing with this sort of anti-competitive practices.

We've seen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weigh in on the issue, you know, certainly saying that the merger should not have happened in the first place. And finally, Jim, I think you're going to see state attorneys generals throughout the country weighing in.


What that might mean for the future could be a breaking up of this Live Nation-Ticketmaster monopoly so that we don't see people so upset and concern about this happening. You need competition in the market if this thing is going to work. And to date, because they have such a monopoly, you don't see that competition.

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, it's just like the Death Star hanging over much of the concert industry. And I mean, you know, people just want to go see a show. And I mean, it's just so obvious that people are getting fleeced. When you buy the tickets, you go online, you buy it, and then there are these service fees and so on. Sometimes they just make the price of the ticket go up like 30, 40 or 50 -- it's just all insane. They've got to fix this industry.

Joey Jackson, Chloe Melas, all the time we have. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

Coming up, the World Cup hasn't even started and it's already mired in controversy. FIFA's president is now launching an explosive tirade against critics. A report from Qatar is next.

You're live in CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: We're hours away from the first match of the World Cup taking place in Doha, Qatar. And already controversy is brewing.

Today, FIFA's president exploding in an hour-long press conference when he railed against Western critics of the tournament, arguing he understood discrimination because he was bullied as a child.


GIANNI INFANTINO, FIFA PRESIDENT: Today, I feel gay. Today, I feel disabled. Today, I feel a migrant worker. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: This event is historic. The first World Cup in the Middle East. But much of the buildup has been focused on alleged human rights abuses in Qatar.

CNN Sports' Amanda Davies and Don Riddell are in Doha.


AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: People still trying to digest one of the most controversial FIFA press conferences in history ahead of the most controversial World Cup in history. And that is quite something given the history of this organization.

It was, at times, quite jaw-dropping from the president. Particularly, so quickly, falling off the back of that letter that he sent to all of the competing federations, suggesting they should stick to the football, not talk about politics or morality.

Don Riddell was there listening in, watching on.

What did you make of it?

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: It was extraordinary, wasn't it? And the day before the World Cup kicks off. I don't think football was really mentioned.

He arrived. And to say he was bristling with irritation at the media's coverage of Qatar and everything going on here, would be a monumental understatement.

He said he was going to talk a few minutes, maybe 40 minutes, take some questions. But he was still going with his monologue after an hour, which was quite incredible.

There was false equivalents. There was a lot of "what aboutism." He wasn't furious and angry-angry. You could tell he was so annoyed and so irritated about everything that's been said.

The thing that surprised people came right off the bat, when he said, "I feel Qatari, I feel Arabic, and then, I feel like I'm a migrant. I feel I'm gay," which, of course, he's not. He's none of those things.

Comparing himself to a migrant when you're in a job that earns millions every year struck many as being extremely tone-deaf.

He kind of tried to suggest that he understood the situation because he was bullied at school because he had red hair and freckles. It seems as though the whole thing was going completely off the rails. And it was very, very strange.

This is coming the eve of the tournament where, as you say, he wants everybody to be talking about football. He wasn't doing that.

He says that Qatar can defend itself, come after me, he said crucify me, he even said. Don't come after Qatar. They can defend themselves. But he wanted to be defending themselves, as well.

DAVIES: It was inflammatory language at a time of -- and talk about the double standards of the West as he hit back on that criticism.

Here we are, now, Don, after the longest buildup to any World Cup in history. Sunday is the day. The football finally gets under way. Qatar, the host, playing their first ever match at a World Cup final. We suspect that's not going to stop the controversy.


ACOSTA: Lots of controversy.

All right, thanks to CNN's Amanda Davies and Don Riddell for covering the World Cup for us in Doha.

An investor has now sued disgraced former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and many celebrities who endorsed the platform, including NFL star quarterback, Tom Brady. And now the man who took the helm of the company is calling the collapse a complete failure of corporate control.

CNN's Brynn Gingras as more on the exchange's sudden collapse and the shockwaves hitting the crypto market.


STEPH CURRY, NBA PLAYER: With FTX, I have everything I need to buy, sell, and trade crypto safely.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Steph Curry, Tom Grady, Gisele Bundchen, celebrities now caught in a swift collapse of FTX trading. They are among the defendants in the class-action lawsuit for their promotion in the failed cryptocurrency exchange.


CHARLES K. WHITEHEAD, PROFESSOR OF BUSINESS LAW, CORNELL LAW SCHOOL: If you are a celebrity, we regularly do endorsements. You endorse sports drinks. You endorse tennis shoes.

Financial instruments are different. And so, going out and saying that a financial instrument is great is not the same thing as going out and saying that a sports drink is great. And that creates liability.

GINGRAS: FTX founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, the lead defendant in the suit, once a superstar in the industry, who "Fortune" magazine hailed as possibly the next Warren Buffett, now his alleged business practices drawing comparisons to Bernie Madoff.

WHITEHEAD: It's not entirely clear who's actually getting the money and what's being done with the money. Yet, it begins to look like a Ponzi scheme.

GINGRAS: The company, once estimated by "Forbes" at $32 billion, imploded in just 10 days when an industry publication questioned FTX's inner workings, setting off a downhill spiral of investors quickly pulling out funds, the company filing for bankruptcy.

Investigations and accelerating chaos in the cryptocurrency ecosystem, an unregulated market where consumers trade digital currency not backed by a central bank.

RANA FOROOHAR, GLOBAL BUSINESS COLUMNIST & ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "FINANCIAL TIMES": In some ways, this collapse of FTX is the Lehman Brothers moment of the crypto world. It is a classic financial crisis.

GINGRAS: The new CEO now leading FTX through Chapter 11 saying in a court filing, he's never seen, quote, "such a complete failure of corporate controls." This, from the same man who managed Enron through its bankruptcy.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Dick Durbin demanding documents from FTX to explain how billions just disappeared.

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED, FOUNDER, FTX: How much of this is effectively an empty, you, know product?

GINGRAS: For his part, Bankman-Fried taking to Twitter, saying he F'ed up.

And in an interview with the "Vox" reporter last night, showing little remorse for money lost, saying, he's trying to fundraise to pay customers, but it's likely the billions will never be recouped.

(on camera): We reached out to celebrities named in the suit but haven't heard back.

On a larger scale, this is having a ripple effect in the crypto community. It's not really seeped into the financial markets. Advisers are hopeful that doesn't change, but say, you know, it's possible considering we haven't seen the full aftermath of this fall.

Washington, for its part, is speeding up the process of possibly instilling regulations, on this industry.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


ACOSTA: And with me now is CNN's Jon Sarlin.

John, what more are we learning about why customers trusted FTX with their life savings? It sounds like people sort of ran in the direction of crypto because it sounded cool and like they could get rich quick?

JON SARLIN, PRODUCER, CNN DIGITAL: It sounded cool. And FTX offered legitimacy or appearance of legitimacy, in a shady industry. This is an industry that has often times seen hacks and companies that outright steal their customers' money.

FTX seemed to be different. It seemed to be different for two reasons.

The first was Sam Bankman-Fried, who was this boy wonder, who was on the cover of magazines and became quickly one of the most powerful in business, in academia, in journalism.

And with, that he cultivated this image of someone who was a mainstream, respectable, trustworthy figure.

On top of that, FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried paid money to the most powerful people in sports and in Hollywood, to, you know, rep the FTX brand, Steph Curry, Tom Brady, Larry David, Naomi Osaka. All are named in lawsuits and all were under the FTX brand.

But it wasn't just celebrities like that. It was also politicians. In April, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton appeared alongside Sam Bankman- Fried in the Bahamas in the FTX conference.

This is something that we have seen before. Look at Theranos. Theranos infamously had a board of former government officials that gave this fraudulent business credibility.

With FTX, people around the world saw FTX and the powerful people associated with it and thought it was a safe harbor for their money. Now, that's money they might never get to touch again.

ACOSTA: Yes. It has a fire festival feel to it. We have to wait for the documentary to come out.

SARLIN: There will be a lot of those.

ACOSTA: I think so. Incredible stuff.

All right. Jon Sarlin, thanks for breaking it down for us. We appreciate it.

Coming up, Nancy Pelosi is stepping down as House speaker, specifically pointing to the need for a new generation to lead. One of that new generation's members just got elected to the House of Representatives, Congressman-Elect Maxwell Frost. He joins me live, next.


He's the first member of Generation Z ever elected to Congress. There he is right there. We'll be with him next.


ACOSTA: The most powerful woman in U.S. politics is stepping aside for the lead of the House of Representatives after leading House Democrats for decades. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is passing the torch.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I'm grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: And a new crop of fresh faces will soon be sworn in on Capitol Hill.

Among them, Democratic Representative-Elect Maxwell Frost, from Florida's 10th congressional district. A 25-year-old, he's he first Gen-Z member of Congress when he's sworn in, In January.

And Congressman-Elect Maxwell Frost he joins us now.

Congressman-Elect, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

I guess, first of all, congratulations. I don't remember what I was doing when I was 25 years old. But I was not getting elected to Congress.


I want to talk to you and what you want to do on Capitol Hill in a moment.

But first, let me get a reaction to Nancy Pelosi's decision to step down as speaker. What did you think?

REP.-ELECT MAXWELL FROST (D-FL): Thank you for having me on.

Almost our entire freshman class was on the floor for that historic announcement. The speaker has been the dedicated leader in the caucus for the last two decades. And she's earned an ability to take the rest that she needs.

And obviously, she will be staying with our caucus for a bit. I'm honored to be able to serve with her over the next term. And excited to see what new leadership steps up.

ACOSTA: And there seems to be a lot of movement in supporting Hakeem Jeffries to success Pelosi. Where are you on that? Is that what you are, as well? What do you think?

FROST: Yes, definitely. And you know, Representative Jeffries will be the first black man, first person of color, to lead either caucus in the history of our country. We have history afoot here.

I'm excited for the direction of the caucus. And we have a lot of work to do over the next two years.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you this. Your campaign was built around doing more to combat gun violence, climate change, protecting abortion rights.

Republicans have control of the House. The main focus, at this point, appears to be on launching investigations into the Biden administration. They've mentioned Hunter Biden, for example.

What are your thoughts on that? Is that disheartening? Are you being confronted with how the reality of Capitol Hill works? It may not be the business you were running on when you were running for election. FROST: Yes. I'm disappointed but not surprised. This is what the GOP

leaders do. They will spend the election time talking about inflation and talking about this and that, putting all of the blame on the president.

When they take control of the House of Representatives, they don't want to talk about affordable housing or bring prices down for working families. They don't want to talk about the leading cause for death for children is gun violence.

They want to talk about Hunter Biden. This is the reality of Republican leaders right now.

We're going to fight against that. And also make sure we're focusing on issues that working-class families care about.

The Republicans will do what they want the in the House of Representatives. But here in this district, in District 10, people can rest assured that we're going to do the work. And people that have outstanding constituent services and building power in central Florida.

ACOSTA: I know you can't speak for all of Generation Z. But you're part of the new generation of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. What is it about Gen Z that really turned the tide in this recent midterm?

Of course, a lot of people were expecting a red wave. Not everybody, but a lot of people were expecting a red wave. And Gen Z really turned out. Why do you suppose that is?

FROST: I think it's because we've been born into this world and seen that gun violence is taking 100 lives a day. The climate crisis is taking lives and is here. And the worst is preventable.

And the fact that we have all of the problems and great solutions. And we want to talk about the problems and what we need to do. But we want to be a part of the solution. We want to be a part of making this country a greater place.

I'm not one of the people that say we need to clear House and have young people making decisions. I think young people need to be at the table. I think we need a government that reflects the country. And right now, we're not at that point.

We're excited that we saw this generation, voted over 64 percent for Democrats. And half of Gen Z is not old enough to vote yet. The youngest Gen Zer is not old enough.

ACOSTA: I hate to put you on the spot. You haven't been sworn in. Are you going to support Joe Biden if he runs for re-election?

FROST: Yes. If the president runs for re-election, I will support him.

Part of the reason that young people came out in large numbers is he's put forth a transformational agenda. Bold policies that will change people's lives. Cancelling student debt. I know it's in limbo. We'll be able to get through this.

The unprecedented amount of money he's put towards combatting the climate crisis. Being the most pro-union president we've seen. This is all really important.

As long as we keep that up and we're not afraid to talk about the bold transformational change that our country needs, the young voters will vote Democratic.

Not just young voters, but all people, poor and working-class families that are crying out for the help they need.


ACOSTA: All right, Congressman-Elect Maxwell Frost, thank you very much for your time. If you need any pointers on how to get around D.C., give us a call.

We appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

We'll be right back.


ACOSTA: She was a rising political star transformed by gun violence. Now you can watch her inspiring comeback story.

Here's a preview of "GABBY GIFFORDS WON'T BACK DOWN".



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joining us now is Representative Gabriel Giffords.

GIFFORDS: If an idea is a good idea, it's a good idea.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Congresswoman Giffords was the target of the mass shooting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's beginning several months of rehab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me two fingers. All right. Give me five.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have not allowed to quit on me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good news about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. She was discharged today.

GIFFORDS: The words are there in my brain. I just can't get them out.

SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): She laughs at my jokes, even when they're bad.

GIFFORDS: It's funny.


GIFFORDS: Funny, funny, funny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gabby Giffords making her way back to the capitol.

GIFFORDS: Too many children are dying. We must do something.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody could have been more compelling than Gabby was that day.

ANNOUNCER: "GABBY GIFFORDS WON'T BACK DOWN," tomorrow night at 9:00, only on CNN.