Return to Transcripts main page
Erin Burnett Outfront
Highly-Coveted U.S. Rocket Systems Arrive In Ukraine; Biden To CNN: Putin A "Rational Actor Who Miscalculated Significantly; DOJ To Supreme Court: Stay Out Of Mar-A-Lago Classified Docs Case; Herschel Walker Digs In, Denies Abortion Claims; "She is Lying"; Prosecutors Make Final Push For Death Penalty In Parkland Shooter Case; Iranian Protester To CNN: "A Lot Of People Have Been Killed Here." Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 11, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, more U.S. weapons arriving in Ukraine tonight on the same day Russia warns the U.S. about payback. This as we learn about a remarkable conversation reportedly between Putin and the world's richest man.
And Mitch McConnell says he's sticking with Herschel Walker in Georgia, as another top Senate candidate John Fetterman in Pennsylvania opens up about his long recovery after suffering a stroke.
Plus, another CNN exclusive. A protester in Iran speaking out about the atrocities on the ground.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, more U.S. weapons in Ukrainian hands. Ukraine's defense minister tonight saying four of the highly coveted HIMARS that have turned the tide of the war in Ukraine's favor, just arrived from the United States.
This as Russia warns the U.S. of payback for coming to Ukraine's aide. Putin's top spokesman today claiming the U.S. is, quote, de facto involved in the Ukraine war. Putin's deputy foreign minister saying Russia may take, quote, countermeasures against the United States.
President Biden tonight speaking out to CNN saying Putin knows exactly what he's doing. Here he is moments ago with our Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think Putin is a rational actor?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he is a rational actor who's miscalculated significantly.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Rational or not, Putin is in command of his war today firing off another 28 missiles across Ukraine. That's on top of 84 yesterday. Show you a before and after from downtown Kyiv. That's literally the way it was now today.
And tonight, an unbelievable conversation. Putin is not talking to Biden, but apparently he is talking to the world's richest man. World- renowned foreign affairs expert Ian Bremmer says that Elon Musk spoke to Putin after the sham referendum. Brenner says that Musk told Bremmer that Putin talked about a proposed peace plan, and Brenner says that Musk told him that Putin's plan has three components, Crimea remains Russian, Ukraine accepts a formal status of neutrality, and Russia's annexations of Luhansk and Donetsk and Kherson are recognized, also there will be water supply to Crimea.
Now, that plan down to the water supply to Crimea being controlled by Russia is almost identical to the so-called peace plan that Musk subsequently proposed on Twitter. Now, Musk is now denying he spoke to Putin. But this report comes as Britain's spy chief says Russia is running out of ammo and that Russia's forces are exhausted, the use of prisoners to reinforce and the mobilization of inexperienced conscripts speaks of a desperate situation, which may be why Putin needs backup and fast.
President Zelenskyy of Ukraine accusing Putin of having to now rely on a key ally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russia is trying to involve Belarus deeper into this war, spreading rumors that we allegedly are ready to attack Belarus. And clearly de facto Belarus is already involved in this war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Today, we have new video from Belarus, and it shows military equipment on the move. Tanks and equipment as the Ukrainian soldier on the front lines writes, quote, we are actively preparing for a massive attack and the joining of Belarus to hostilities.
In just a moment, I'll speak to the Belarusian opposition leader who says the situation there is dramatic now.
I want to begin tonight with our Fred Pleitgen live in Kyiv. Our Matthew Chance is also in Moscow.
Fred, I do want to start with you, though, on the ground, another day of a barrage of rocket attacks to Ukraine from Russia.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin. Yeah, it certainly was and it really once again started in the morning hours of this morning. That's around 8:30 that the first air raid alarms went off. And it was in force in the Ukrainian capital for about five hours. And during that time what has been in the past two days was that there
was barely anybody out on the street. It was eerily quiet. At the same time, you do sense that there's not a sense of panic here in the Ukrainian capital. In fact, there is a sense of defiance.
I was also able to speak to Ukraine's national security adviser said in the end, Ukraine will prevail. Here's what we're learning.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): As the Russian military continues to fire barrages of missiles at Ukraine engulfing the area around the capital in thick black smoke this morning, in an exclusive interview, Ukraine's national security adviser tells me Kyiv will strike back on the battlefield.
OLEKSIY DANILOV, UKRAINIAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR (through translator): Our reaction is at the front only. We are not at war with the civilian population and the Russian Federation. We are fighting with the Russian military.
It's only a matter of time when the Russian Federation will collapse under the problems it's accumulating.
The Ukrainians say they've been able to shoot down about half the missiles Russia fires off, but some have hit civilian targets like in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia.
Ukraine's president on an urgent G7 video call also attended by President Joe Biden demanded more Western air defense systems to protect Ukrainian cities.
ZELENSKYY (through translator): When Ukraine will receive a sufficient number of modern and effective air defense systems, the key element of Russian terror, missile strikes, will cease to work.
PLEITGEN: The Russians continue to claim their strikes in Ukraine are revenge for the weekend attack on the Kerch Bridge linking Russia and occupied Crimea. Even though Kyiv hasn't acknowledged it was behind the blast.
Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening even mover strikes in the future if Ukraine attacks Russia's infrastructure. But the head of the UK's spy agency says the reality is Putin's troops are in trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The costs to Russia in people and equipment are staggering. We know and Russian military commanders know that their supplies and ammunition are running out.
PLEITGEN: Ukrainian officials say they take the threat of possible Russian nuclear strikes seriously as Putin's forces lose ground on the battlefield. But that national security adviser says even tens of thousands of additional Russian men now being trained and mobilized will not turn the tide in Moscow's favor. DANILOV (through translator): We're going to push them out of
Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia and all the regions where these rats have entered our territory. We will send them all to the lord. They will all return home either alive or dead. They will have no other way.
PLEITGEN (on camera): The same time, though, Ukrainians do acknowledge that their critical infrastructure is taking a beating right now with these Russian strikes that have been going on. In fact, the energy minister told CNN earlier today that 30 percent of this country's infrastructure have already been hit by Russian strikes.
Now, Ukrainians say they are in a crunch at this point in time. They're urging people to conserve energy, while at the same time trying to fix things as fast as possible and get their infrastructure back up and running, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Fred, thank you very much live from Kyiv tonight.
I want to go to Matthew Chance, who is in Moscow.
And, Matthew, Ian Bremmer, who I mentioned, is a very credible and highly respected foreign affairs analyst. He is saying clearly and explicitly that Elon Musk told him that musk heard from Vladimir Putin directly.
Of course, Putin is not talking to Biden. It appears he's talking to Elon Musk. Musk of course denies that this conversation happened now.
But what is the view from Russia on all of this?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, whether or not the conversation actually happened, and of course, as you said, Elon Musk has come out and said it didn't happen, that's not true. Nevertheless, the peace proposal that caused such a splash a couple of weeks ago when Elon Musk put it out there on social media that with those four elements, the water supply, the ceding of Crimea permanently to Russia, neutrality in the elections of the referendum in Donbas, that was received very well by the Kremlin.
And the Kremlin went out of its way to praise that initiative, saying that Elon Musk is sort of coming up with ideas that international diplomats not coming up with. One figure who's very close to Vladimir Putin, the former president of the country, President Putin's longtime sidekick and prime minister, even sort of joked that Elon Musk should be given the honoree title of officer as a result of that peace initiative.
There have been other instances over the past couple of weeks as well which have, in the eyes of Ukrainian officials who, of course, categorically rejected this idea of a peace deal along the lines that Elon Musk suggested. There have been lots of questions that they've said to me in personal conversations I've had with Ukrainian officials about where Elon Musk's loyalties lie. There have been some outages, for instance, of the Starlink satellite
internet system on the front lines in eastern Ukraine. It's had a big impact on their ability to advance even faster than they have done. There are some questions as to why those outages have taken place at that inopportune moment for the Ukrainian military, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much of that crucial context from Moscow, Matthew.
OUTFRONT now, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader.
Sviatlana, I appreciate your time.
Belarus tonight saying that the joint deployment of forces with Russia along the border between Belarus and Ukraine is defensive. That's what they're saying. But we've seen the video that purportedly shows Belarusian military equipment including those T-72 tanks on the move today. I'm showing that right now.
"The Kyiv Post" is reporting that Russian troops are arriving, they say, by the train load after Belarusian President Lukashenko said he'd allow thousands of Russian troops into Belarus. What are you seeing right now? How likely is it that Belarus gets drawn into this war?
SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: I would call this situation dramatic. And we can expect for escalation on the border between Belarus and Ukraine.
Putin and Lukashenko are raising stakes. They deliberately increased military presence of Russian troops on Belarus territory in order to create more pressure on Ukraine, but also to distract Ukrainian troops from the eastern front. We can expect more echelons with Russian equipment to come to Belarus in the next days or weeks.
Of course, it's outrageous. We will demand the withdrawal of every Russian soldier from Belarus and territory. But I really doubt that Belarusians will enter this war soon because our soldiers are not equipped and are not motivated.
If Belarusian troops will be ordered to enter Ukraine, it will be like political suicide for Lukashenko. You know, I think soldiers will defect, will join the Ukrainian army or they will turn guns against the regime in Minsk. It's because Belarusians are against Russian war. Belarusians don't support Russia.
You know, in contrast to Russia, you won't see pro-war moods here. Belarusians like Ukrainians and understand very well who is real threat and who is real enemy. It's Russia and Putin who don't see Belarus and Ukraine as independent countries.
BURNETT: Belarus' defense minister is saying -- insisting that the country doesn't want to fight Ukraine. It raises this question, though, Sviatlana, are you worried that Russia could carry out some sort of a false flag attack that would goad Belarus into this war, that would make the Belarusian soldiers actually want to fight?
TSIKHANOUSKAYA: You know, Lukashenko now spreads the message in Belarus that Ukraine is our enemy, that they want to invade us. It's made to justify his military actions inside Belarus. And I'm sure that any provocation on the border, if it happens, it will be from the side of Belarusian collabarants (ph) or Russian troops.
BURNETT: Sviatlana, thank you so very much. I appreciate your time.
TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Thank you.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now, Evelyn Farkas, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, now the executive director of the McCain Institute.
Evelyn, I appreciate your time.
So if the Belarusian President Lukashenko decides to join Putin's war against Ukraine, as Sviatlana, the opposition leader, is warning, as we're hearing from Ukrainian forces on the ground, what would this mean?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE, EURASIA: Well, Erin, it would increase the risk, frankly, of the West becoming involved because Belarus is so close to Lithuania, because there is a piece of territory called Kaliningrad, which is basically it's Russian territory. It's part of a weird World War II arrangement. But it's basically surrounded by the Baltic States, which are NATO countries.
So, there is increased danger that Russia could find some sort of excuse using Belarus or Belarusian troops that would threaten or infringe upon the territory of the Baltic States, and then sort of test us to see what we would do. Or he could just -- there could just be a mistake.
So, it makes me nervous, the idea that Putin would try to press Belarus deeper into this war. Having said that, let's not forget that Putin right now is trying everything he can to try to intimidate the West out of increasing or continuing our support to Ukraine.
BURNETT: Right, absolutely, as those -- those four HIMARS were just delivered formally, we found out tonight, right, and Putin, of course, is threatening the U.S. for payback for that directly.
You know, the context, though, Evelyn, is what happens to Putin, right, when he's put in a corner. I was fascinated to see a former speechwriter for Putin say that he thinks that Putin knows he's running out of time and his prediction, the former speechwriter, is that Putin won't lose power in a coup but that he would understand that it's in his interest to step down.
I was surprised when I heard that. Are you? Do you think that's realistic? FARKAS: I'm not really surprised because frankly that's how the
Russians essentially moved Yeltsin out of power and put Putin into power.
FARKAS: They told Yeltsin it was time to go and they provide for his economic wellbeing and his security to the end of his days. They actually did that with Gorbachev as well. So, that's the way the elite kind of takes care of one of their own who has gone too far, shall we say, or is failing.
So that is a possibility, yes. If Putin's guys tell him it's done, we need you to go off to the dacha, he'll probably do it.
BURNETT: Wow, which is pretty incredible and I don't think something a lot of people are hearing or considering. They think it's go down in nuclear flames or he stays in powers. At least that's the position that's being put out there. So, I think it's interesting to consider the other alternatives. Evelyn, thank you very much.
FARKAS: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And don't miss Jake's interview with President Biden. You can see it tonight at 9:00.
And, next, the Justice Department tonight asking the Supreme Court to steer clear of Trump's request in the Mar-a-Lago case. Will they?
Plus, a CNN exclusive. Our Manu Raju talks to the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about Trump's racist remarks regarding McConnell's wife. So, what did McConnell say or more importantly, what did he not say?
And Pennsylvania Senate nominee John Fetterman requiring closed captioning software to answer questions about his recovery from a stroke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN FETTERMAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Especially early after the stroke, the ability to really understand what exactly what I'm being heard, but it gets much, much better where I take in a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, the Justice Department asking the Supreme Court to stay out of the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. That new filing coming late tonight after former President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court to intervene. Trump wants the special master to review the 103 classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago during the FBI August search. The Justice Department is arguing that, quote, Trump has not even
attempted to explain how he is irreparable harmed, injured, I'm sorry and, quote, has no plausible claim of privilege in or ownership of government records bearing classification markings.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.
And, Evan, this is a new filing to the Supreme Court. It's just the latest of this salvo, this back and forth between the DOJ and Trump's team about the role of the special master in this investigation.
So, what more do you know?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, that sentence right there that you just read where they point out that Trump hasn't even shown that he has any harm from the fact that the Justice Department is investigating him really goes -- the Justice Department really goes after Aileen Cannon, the judge whose orders really have upturned all of this. They say that this is an application really about the unprecedented order by the judge there, Aileen Cannon, who gave the former president pretty much everything he wanted, which was to appoint a special master to cut off access to some of these documents that the Justice Department says it needs as part of its investigation.
It's very unusual, as you know, Erin, for the courts to be interjecting themselves at this point and in a case where the former president has not even been charged with a crime. So that's one of the things that the Justice Department uses here to go after the former -- the judge there in palm beach whose orders really began all of this.
BURNETT: So, now, that's for the Mar-a-Lago investigation, I also understand that there are new details tonight about the January 6th committee, and evidence specifically that the secret service is handing over to the committee. What do you know about that?
PEREZ: Right. These are 1.5 million communications records, some of them are planning documents, emails. It appears these do not include are those missing text messages that the Secret Service says were lost as a result of a changeover of equipment.
But this is obviously, Erin, very important for the January 6th committee because they want access to all of this information that the Secret Service had in all their communications before and during January 6th as part of the ongoing investigation that they have.
BURNETT: All right. Evan, thank you very much.
And I want to go now to Ryan Goodman with me the co-editor in chief of "Just Security" and former special counsel at the defense department.
So, Ryan, what stands out to you in the DOJ filing, this constant back and forth? What is the most important thing today?
RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think the most important thing is they just identified a number of boxes that Trump needed to check off and didn't. So, one of them is irreparable injury that he had to show that somehow he's harmed by the government having the classified documents. They say, how could you? These are classified documents.
BURNETT: He hasn't even tried to, right? He's not even tried to show irreparable harm.
GOODMAN: Right, you didn't even fill some information in the box. And if you tried to, maybe the reason you didn't is because you couldn't.
BURNETT: You left that one blank.
GOODMAN: Yeah, you left the blame maybe because it's classified documents, you don't have a personal interest in retaining classified documents. Then they also do executive privilege, which might've been his strongest argument that he's basically didn't put anything in that box either. The word executive privilege, those words do not appear in his petition to the Supreme Court. So where is that argument?
And then the last one is he doesn't fill in a box which is to say that his constitutional rights have been violated. And that's actually one of the conditions for Judge Cannon to exercise jurisdiction. In fact, the 11th Circuit says it as well. They say you have to prove it's a necessary condition, it's a box you must fill in, that there's a callous disregard for your constitutional rights, and you didn't say that they were.
BURNETT: All right. So, they just left all these two crucial things blank.
OK. So Trump -- I know that all of this has been really his plan to delay, right? Delay and delay and delay and drag this out, get past the midterms into some sort of presidential announcement, right?
But now, the National Archives is publicly debunking one of the defenses that he actually has given to this whole thing, which he made at a bunch of rallies over the weekend. First let me play it so everyone can actually hear this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Bill Clinton took millions of documents from the White House to a former car dealership in Arkansas.
Meanwhile, George H.W. Bush took millions of documents to a former bowling alley and a former Chinese restaurant where they combined them, with no security and a broken front door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, it makes for good rally language, Ryan, but, of course, it's not true. The Archives put out a statement today and talked about the buildings and says it leased them from government agency and that, quote, all such temporary facilities met strict archival and security standards and have been managed and staffed exclusively by Archives employees.
Obviously, unlike Mar-a-Lago, just to make the point here. So, in other words, what he's saying here is not true. Do you think this could come back to bite him?
GOODMAN: Sure, because if a person is out there making false claims or defenses as to why they did things, that could be used against them in a court if this goes to trial, they can say you said these things were declassified, they weren't. You said that you thought that the other presidents had their Archives put in this kind of situation of just a totally unsecure environment, they weren't. In fact, you got a letter from the Department of Justice on June 8th, strongly telling you that the Mar-a-Lago had no secure location for classified documents so you knew that to be false. Now what?
So I think that he maybe thinks he gets away with it by saying in a court of public opinion, in a public arena, but not in a court room. But they could introduce it at some point.
BURNETT: It could make it much worse. Interesting.
All right. Thank you very much, Ryan.
And OUTFRONT next, Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker digging in, tonight slamming the woman who claims he paid her to get an abortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is she lying?
HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Yes, she's lying. Yeah, she's lying. Yes, she's lying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, a CNN exclusive. Anti-government protesters defying and dying inside Iran. Tonight, you will hear from one protester about the horror that he is witnessing and living including security forces firing indiscriminately into people's homes.
BURNETT: Tonight, quote, she is lying. Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker in a new interview says the woman who claims he paid for her to have an abortion is fabricating the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever have a conversation with this woman at any time about an abortion?
HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: No.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever, to your knowledge, give money to pay for the cost of an abortion?
INTERVIEWER: Is she lying?
WALKER: Yes, she's lying. She's lying. Yes, she's lying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, this comes as "The Washington Post" reports that the woman had to press walker more than once to pay for the abortion that she says that he is the one who wanted her to have. Now, Walker, of course, says he would support a national abortion ban without exceptions for rape or incest. He campaigned today alongside Senators Rick Scott and Tom Cotton in Georgia four weeks before election day, and the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell tells our Manu Raju in an exclusive interview that he is sticking with Walker, too.
Manu is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill.
And, Manu, you spoke to Senator McConnell exclusively and extensively. I mean, this is the first time we have heard him comment on the allegations against Walker, and he is, of course, the Republican leader. What did he tell you?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I asked him if he had any concerns about these allegations. And he said that, quote, we're going to steak with Herschel Walker. He indicated that he's been speaking with them fairly often, he said, talking to him giving him political advice. I asked if they had talked through this episode as well.
And I asked him if he was concerned that this could hurt Herschel Walker's campaign. McConnell is betting that the election will turn on Raphael Warnock, the Democrats' alliance to Joe Biden, now, there's concerns and controversy over alleged hypocrisy involving Herschel Walker on this issue.
Now, I also asked McConnell about the midterm environment as well. And he indicated to me that it is still uncertain whether or not he believes Republicans can take back the Senate or if it will turn into the Republican debacles of 2010 and 2012 when weak general election candidates emerged on the Republican side and they faltered in November ultimately leading the Democrats retaining the Senate majority. He said it is still uncertain whether these flaws for the Republican candidates this cycle will be, quote, fatal or not. He said we'll have to wait until next month to decide.
BURNETT: Interesting he at least acknowledges flaws. I know that you also had a chance to ask him about former president Trump who just weeks ago posted thinly veiled, threats against McConnell and racist taunts aimed at McConnell's wife Elaine Chao, who was, of course, Trump's transportation secretary. McConnell's response to you, though, was surprising. Tell me about it.
RAJU: Yeah, he didn't want to engage in this whatsoever. I asked him first about that attack against him, saying that McConnell has a, quote, death wish for his support for unspecified bills. He said I'm not going to comment on that. Then I asked is it acceptable for the former president to levy in a racist attack against your wife Elaine Chao, who, of course, is from Taiwan originally. He said he didn't want to talk about that either.
He said the only time I respond to Donald Trump is when he gave me the nickname Old Crow, saying he was fine with that because that was Henry Clay's favorite type of bourbon. And I said what about this? Will you respond to this? He said I am going to leave it at that.
McConnell does not want to get into a tit-for-tat with the former president at this time in the election. He is concerned that this could be a distraction for his campaign for the Republicans' campaign. And, Erin, when I asked him do you prefer Republican candidates who might be in the mold of Donald Trump or Liz Cheney, who battled Donald Trump's election lies, he said I am for candidates who will win, and I don't have a litmus test, one way or the other -- Erin.
BURNETT: Interesting to see in this world if you can get through without having a litmus test.
Manu, thank you very much.
I want to go now to Jonah Goldberg, editor in chief of "The Dispatch" and an "L.A. Times" columnist, also a political commentator here at CNN.
So, Jonah, to this point, it is clear, no major establishment Republicans right now are abandoning Walker, right? You see Cotton. You hear McConnell.
Manu saying that McConnell making it very clear that he is going to stand with Walker, and Walker knows he can survive this, he's not backing down at all. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: It's sad that people say October surprise. But you're destroying families. And this race is too important for me to give up or for me to stop. So October surprise is not going to faze me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, look, Jonah, they're willing to go ahead with whatever hypocrisy and dishonesty and whatever this whole thing could actually mean. Could this controversy ultimately work to Herschel Walker's advantage?
JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's possible that it could work to his advantage in terms of this rally around the victim. You know, Herschel Walker's playing a victim here, which I think is ridiculous. But so be it. I think, though -- look, if you gave truth serum to virtually all the
Republicans that you name-checked there, they would all say, gosh, I wish we just had a generic bland normal fill in the blank Republican running for this seat, because that's what Mitch McConnell was sort of getting at is that if you just ran a non-Trump-picked normal Republican, even one who is a little critical of Trump like Brian Kemp, the governor, I think the Republicans would take the seat in the cake walk.
But this guy is deeply damaged and they all know it, but they feel like it's too late, they can't back out now. And I think it's sort of a shameful moment, but it's the political reality of it.
BURNETT: And the political reality here, to the point about a litmus test that McConnell made to Manu, right? Nobody wants to pick a fight with Trump. Even McConnell on something as deeply personal as the racist epithet that Trump used against his wife Elaine Chao.
What do you take away from McConnell not responding to Trump on this even on that particular issue?
GOLDBERG: Yes. Look, as a husband I think it's kind of gross and the things people do for politics are things I would not be willing to go. But, on the other hand, I think that what McConnell is showing is that he has something that Donald Trump doesn't, which is actually discipline. And he knows that if he gets into this tit or tat, it's good for Trump, it's good for people to talk about on cable news, but it's not actually good for Republicans who want to make the entire midterm election or referendum on Joe Biden and the Democrats instead of the just fecal festival that has become so much of the Republican Party. And so, he's keeping his ammo dry.
BURNETT: Fecal festival. I thank you for introducing that term. No, I do like -- it's appropriate.
All right, thank you very much, Jonah. I appreciate it. Good to talk to you.
GOLDBERG: Good to be here. Thank you.
BURNETT: OK. And next, the Democratic nominee John Fetterman opening up about his stroke and why he needs to rely on closed captioning software on a computer when being interviewed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN FETTERMAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: As long as I have captioning, I'm able to understand exactly what's being asked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, we're going to take you inside the Florida courtroom where prosecutors made their final push to persuade jurors to sentence Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz to death.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Tonight, John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee in that crucial Pennsylvania Senate race, opening up about his health. He suffered from a stroke in May. And in his first face-to-face interview since the stroke, Fetterman tells NBC News that his daily life has been significantly different following the stroke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What has that recovery process been like? How has it changed your day-to-day experience?
FETTERMAN: Everything -- it changes everything, everything about it has changed. Basically having a conversation with your wife to having a conversation with your children, just, you know, things especially early after the stroke. The ability to really understand what exactly what I'm being heard. But it gets much, much better where I take in a lot.
But to be precise, I use captioning. So that's really the major challenge. And every now and then, I'll miss a word every now and then or sometimes I'll maybe mush two words together. But as long as I have captioning, I'm able to understand exactly what's being asked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.
And, Elizabeth, Fetterman's health has been a major focus in this crucial race, right? He had been off the trail for a long time. The reporter who conducted that interview obviously spent time with him even before the interview. And she said this tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: In some of the small talk prior to the interview before the closed captioning was up and running, it did seem that he had a hard time understanding our conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Elizabeth, when you see in the interview Fetterman reading the transcription off the computer. He said he needed the closed captioning. When you look at this interview, when you hear what the reporter said, what stands out to you most?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What stands out to me the most, Erin, and what stood out to a neurosurgeon we talked to who specializes in stroke is thinking about auditory processing. He actually when he had the captions up, he really did seem to understand the reporter quite well, he didn't seem to have trouble understanding what she was asking. So, the problem seems to be in auditory processing.
And so you can make a lot of progress in that in the next couple of months. That is possible. The neurosurgeon who we spoke with, he said, look, I've had patients who had very, very significant strokes and they have returned to a very high level of functioning. It seems like he's come a long way in the five months or so since he had his stroke.
And if he has good physical therapy, good occupational therapy, all the things that we would expect that he has, he really could make good progress. And it's not unusual in many ways that people sometimes need help, they need aides and things to help them as they recover. It doesn't mean that they're not going to do well, they just may need help.
BURNETT: Which is interesting because when you talk about it being auditory, you know, she's saying in the small talk before the captioning it wasn't clear he understood her. So it seems to be more auditory, as he described it.
But also, Fetterman is still suffering from speech challenges k actually talking, which he talks about in this clip I'm going to play.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN FETTERMAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I always thought I was pretty empathetic -- emphatic. I think I was very -- excuse me, empathetic. That's an example of the stroke, empathetic. I thought I was always empathetic before the stroke. But now having a stroke, I really understand, you know, much more kind of the challenges that Americans have day in and day out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Elizabeth, Fetterman says he will be much better by the time he takes office. But the reality is that his campaign is still refusing to disclose his medical records. So, what do you make of that refusal in this context?
COHEN: So, Erin, because we don't have his medical records, because his doctors aren't talking, we don't know how far he's come since his stroke in may, and we don't know therefore what kind of progress he might be able to make if he gets elected he would take office in a few months. So that's hard to say.
I must say that as I heard him and watched him struggle to come up with the word "empathetic," I thought other people sometimes struggle to come up with words. Many times you'll be talking to someone who's trying to think of the word. So that wasn't incredibly shocking to me.
BURNETT: Elizabeth, thank you very much for the perspective there, but obviously significant that he is speaking out just one month before election day for that first interview.
And next, the powerful closing argument from prosecutors as they ask a jury to sentence the Parkland school shooter to death.
And a CNN exclusive. Communications are down for many in Iran. But tonight, you are going to hear from a protester who is there in the country risking their life who says security forces are shooting and terrorizing residents even shooting in their homes.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:50:30]
BURNETT: Tonight, systemic massacre. The lead prosecutor in the Parkland high school shooter's death trial making closing arguments today, asking jurors to sentence 24-year-old Nikolas Cruz to death in the 2018 high school shooting.
Carlos Suarez is OUTFRONT.
MIKE SATZ, LEAD PROSECUTOR: It was calculated. It was purposeful, and it was a systematic massacre.
CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lead prosecutor asked jurors to sentence 24-year-old Nikolas Cruz to death, outlining gruesome details of how Cruz meticulously planned and carried out the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
SATZ: AR-15 rifle was right against her chest and right up on her abdomen, right on her skin. She was shot four times and she died.
SUAREZ: Taking the families of those killed down a horrific memory lane of the attack minute by minute.
SATZ: He researched prior mass shootings.
SUAREZ: As Cruz looked on without emotion. The lengthy try that began six months ago is drawing to a close.
The prosecutor said proof of Cruz's intent to harm others could be found in his social media posts, pointing to his writing as, quote, a window to his soul, reading his YouTube comments in court.
SATZ: I'm going to kill a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ton of people and murder children. I love to see the families suffer.
SUAREZ: Almost a year after Cruz plead guilty to killing 14 students and three school staff members in parkland, Florida on Valentine's Day in 2018.
SATZ: Dr. Scott asked the defendant, why did you stop shooting? I couldn't find anyone else to kill.
SUAREZ: The defense tried to persuade the jurors to spare Cruz's life, to consider his lifetime of struggles at home and in school, including claiming that he was born to a woman who abused drugs and alcohol while she was pregnant with Cruz, and being raised by a loving, single adoptive mother who was overwhelmed by caring for a child with special needs.
MELISA MCNEILL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We recognize what he really is, that damaged, brain damaged, broken, mentally ill person, it becomes a human issue. And every human life has value.
SUAREZ: Instead of taking his life, the defense wants jurors to sentence Cruz to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
MCNEILL: Sentencing Nikolas to death will change absolutely nothing. It will not bring back those 17 innocent victims that he viciously murdered.
SATZ: For Luke Hoyer.
SUAREZ: The prosecutor ended his closing argument by reading each of the 17 victims' names out loud, urging justice for the dead.
SATZ: The appropriate sentence for Nikolas Cruz is the death penalty.
SUAREZ (on camera): And, Erin, at one point, the defense asked the jury to show Cruz mercy, something his own attorneys said that Cruz did not show some of his victims, pointing out that he walked up to some of them, shot them several times just so that he knew they were dead. Deliberations will get under way tomorrow. And in Florida, a jury's decision on death has to be unanimous or Cruz will spend the rest of his life in prison -- Erin.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Carlos.
And next, a CNN exclusive: a protester in Iran reveals new details about the brutal crackdown he and others are facing right now.
BURNETT: Tonight, former President Obama and Michelle Obama speaking directly to the Iranian people amid a month of nationwide protests, saying, quote: We are moved by your acts of protest and bear witness to your bravery in facing down the brutality of a regime resisting calls for change.
Jomana Karadsheh is OUTFRONT speaking exclusively with a protester risking their life inside Iran.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what the Iranian regime doesn't want the world to see -- its ruthless crackdown on protests in the Kurdish City in Sanandaj has turned into it a war zone. Security forces moving around on motor bikes terrorizing residents, shooting indiscriminately at protesters and into people's homes.
Human rights monitor says several people have been killed, including a 7-year-old child who died in his mother's lap. Communication restrictions making it almost impossible for them and for us to tell the story of that child and the many others they fear have been killed. After days of trying, we were finally able to briefly speak to a protester inside the city. For his safety, we're concealing his identity. PROTESTER (through translator): The security forces are using a lot
of force to confront the people. A lot of people have been killed here. Because the Internet is cut, we couldn't send any information on social media. The people are really scared.
KARADSHEH: The regime says it is separatists fuelling the uprising in the Kurdish region, armed gangs that have attacked its forces, but offered no proof.
The little video breaking through the government's internet shutdown just enough to see some of the horror unleashed on the people of Sanandaj.
PROTESTER (through translator): Last night, the security forces were fire manage the direction of houses. They were using military grade bullets. And until now, I hadn't heard such bullets.
The people were really afraid. They were firing lots of tear gas in the direction of houses, the backyards, even the balconies.
We've heard that the hospital is full of injured people. Many people have been arrested, and it's not clear where they're being taken because they're not telling anyone anything.
KARADSHEH: Human rights groups say the government is using the blackout to hide its crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The scale of the massacre is way, way bigger than what we have been able to report. This is just a drop of the ocean. We have received videos from the Sanandaj that the IRGC and other security forces have used 50-caliber machine guns. These are not normal guns. It's basically like shutting protesters, let's say, on one of the streets of the United States by M2.
KARADSHEH: But those bullets and bloodshed haven't stopped the will of the people. Some brave protesters still taking to the streets. Refusing to be silenced.
KARADSHEH (on camera): And, Erin, that human rights organization not only worried about the rising casualty figures, they're very concerned about those who have been detained. They say they've gotten reports that prisons and detention facilities in the city are filling up, and that now security forces are holding people in abandoned buildings and warehouses.
And they say they have gotten reports from residents around those buildings hearing screams and cries they believe are of prisoners being tortured -- Erin.
BURNETT: Jomana, thank you very much for that important report.
And thanks to all of you watching.
"AC360" starts now.