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Erin Burnett Outfront
Russia Blames Ukraine For Crimea Bridge Blast, Arrests 8 People; Trump Employee Told FBI About Moving Boxes At Trump's Direction; Dems Focus On Abortion, GOP On Crime With Midterms 27 Days Away; Milley: Russia's Attacks On Civilian Infrastructure A "War Crime"; Jury: Alex Jones Should Pay Nearly $1B To Sandy Hook Families; Why Is President Biden Going To Oregon Before Election Day? Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 12, 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, Putin accusing Ukraine of blowing up that bridge to Crimea, arresting eight people today. Tonight, we're going to take you frame by frame to see what truly caused the deadly blast.
Plus, breaking news. A Trump employee told federal agents about personally moving documents at Mar-a-Lago, the order to that employee came directly from Donald J. Trump himself. And that is after he got the subpoena for those classified documents. He told someone to move them.
And Oregon hasn't voted for a Republican governor in 40 years. So why is President Biden worried enough to go there in the final days of this campaign?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, Putin wants revenge. Russian authorities tonight announcing they've arrested eight people in connection with the bombing of that crucial bridge linking Crimea to Russia. The only way to get from Crimea to Russia is that bridge.
That blast cutting off a crucial supply route for Russian troops inside Ukraine. The eight people we know to be in custody are these, five Russian citizens, two Ukrainians, and a national of Armenia. Now, the FSB, Russia's security services, claiming they helped Ukrainian spies -- FSB is claiming that all these individuals helped Ukrainian spies to transport 25 tons of explosives to the bridge.
Now, the FSB is attempting to back up that claim by putting out this X-ray of the trucks. This is the inside of the truck. That's what they say they saw when they check vehicles getting on the bridge. They claim that what you see there are the explosives that were hidden on the truck.
That cargo was then loaded onto a different truck, according to Russia. And it was that truck that ultimately made its way to the bridge and exploded.
Now, this is a new satellite image of the damaged bridge. Ukraine, of course, is calling this entire investigation by Russia nonsense. So, in the moment, we're going to take an in-depth look at the blast. We're going to take you frame by frame to see what could have caused it.
You're going to hear from an investigator who is ruling out some of the widely, you know, mentioned theories of how that bridge blew up because the cause of the explosion and who was behind the fire ball on that bridge is crucial, because Putin is now using the explosion as a reason for revenge on Ukraine, launching those missile strikes across the country and targeting civilians.
According to Ukraine's military, one town in the Donetsk region was hit by more than 300 shells today. Russian missiles hit the city of Zaporizhzhia and its suburbs, destroying at least 30 homes. A 6-year- old girl, according to Ukraine's defense ministry, had to have both her legs amputated today.
And Biden today slamming these attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Same as it's always been. It's brutal. It's just -- it's beyond the pale.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT live in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.
And, Nick, what is the latest on the ground tonight?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yeah, horrifying scenes as we've frankly become accustomed to through the nearly eight months of this war from a town called Avdiivka in the Donetsk region which was hit by shelling from Russian forces. A central market hit, seven dead, many injured. Unclear, again, if this was a specific target or just a result of the often routine indiscriminate bombardment. It's been a hallmark, frankly, of Russia's invasion of Ukraine since the start.
Another town, Orikhiv (ph), in the Zaporizhzhia oblast, not from where I'm standing, hit by 300 shells, according to Ukrainian officials. Over the past two days we've seen an intensification of cruise missile strikes by Russia. But what we've been seeing today is really the hallmark of their presence here, frankly, persistent bombardment of civilian areas they're trying to move into.
We've also heard, too, from Ukrainian officials that some of the Ukrainian advances, which essentially are behind Russia's lashing out over the past days, they can't win militarily so they're hitting back at civilian areas and infrastructure. The advances in Kherson also continued today with five more settlements being liberated by Ukrainian forces. Essentially, they're pushing round the top of a city called Kherson, which is important, not quite there yet but adding pressure to it.
And the backdrop to all of this awful bombardment that we've been seeing, strange signals from Russian officials. They're leading diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister yesterday saying it's a lie that Russia doesn't want to talk, we're ready to talk but we haven't received a serious offer yet. Another senior official today holding out the possibility of talks to some degree.
We know that the West and Kyiv do not trust Russia at the negotiating table, that they use it essentially as a pause to continue their military objectives.
But we're hearing a lot from Russia about diplomacy, often blaming others for it not happening. Putin, though, meets his Turkish counterpart in Kazakhstan tomorrow. There will be a lot of focus on what that might possibly bring as things continue here on the front lines to get worse for Moscow, Erion.
BURNETT: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much, on the ground tonight.
Tonight, Russia is blaming Ukraine for that attack on a key supply route, which is the bridge between Russia and Crimea. But the truth is it's not clear. So what really happened?
Oren Liebermann is OUTFRONT.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From three different angles, surveillance video catches the moment of the Kerch Bridge explosion. Video experts have played and replayed to figure out what happened.
What is certain is the explosion maximized damage, detonating between two bridge supports and causing the span to collapse into the water below. Satellite images clearly show the impact of bridge, a vital link between Russia and Crimea.
CHRIS COBB-SMITH, FORMER WEAPONS INSPECTOR: There are other variables put into the mix, which meant that the detonation happened at exactly the right time and exactly the right place.
LIEBERMANN: The low quality surveillance video played frame by frame at the moment of the blast raises many questions.
COBB-SMITH: We can't tell from that video footage whether that vehicle, whether it was that vehicle that detonated and caused this explosion.
LIEBERMANN: It's unclear whether it was a truck that carried the explosives or an undisclosed weapon, perhaps a missile or drone that struck the bridge in the darkness and caused the fireball.
Chris Cobb-Smith says it's unlikely the explosion came from below the bridge.
COBB-SMITH: There's certainly been a blast which has affected the span that still remains. There's a dip there. There's been some sort of overpressure definitively on the road. There's also signs of, we can call it soot, if you like, or signs of burning, which aren't evident on the underside of the bridge.
LIEBERMANN: The scant evidence make it's less probable that Ukrainian special operation forces connected explosives to the bridge or that the attack came from a boat on the water. Bridge is hundreds of miles from Ukrainian controlled territory by land or by sea. Both patrolled by Russian defenses. So no explanation is without its problems.
But Ukraine has shown its military capabilities before, flying helicopters in and out of Mariupol while it was under assault and attacking the Saki airfield in Crimea. An operation that still hasn't been fairly explained.
The Kremlin immediately blamed Ukraine for the attack.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Here, as reported, we have no doubts that this is a terrorist attack aimed at the destruction of the critical infrastructure of the Russian Federation. And the authors, executors and masterminds are the secret services of Ukraine.
LIEBERMANN: The U.S. has been tight-lipped about the Kerch Bridge explosion.
JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We don't really have anything more to add to the reports about the explosion on the bridge. I just don't have anything to contribute to that.
LIEBERMANN: The Ukrainians claim they don't know what happened.
DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I really don't know who blew up the Kerch bridge. I wouldn't exclude it's a Russian. It was something happening inside of Russia because this bridge is so heavily protected from all sides.
LIEBERMANN: But experts say it would be unlikely for Russians to target their own critical infrastructure. Russian state media said eight people have been detained over the explosion. All that's missing now is a convincing explanation.
BURNETT: And, Oren, it's certainly amazing as you went through each of the theories there. The question still out there. What do you know for sure about the explosive, what type, what size? What do you know about and what does that say?
LIEBERMANN: These are still difficult questions and ones that may become clear as we move forward and may not become clear. It would have to be something that whoever created this bomb would know that would get through Russian inspections even if those inspections weren't all that tight. So, perhaps a sort of fertilizer bomb, perhaps with an accelerant, or something similar. One thing experts do seem to agree upon is that this was a very large bomb that lends credibility to the truck bomb theory, something big enough to carry a bomb, and perhaps away from the missile or drone attack, which simply couldn't be a warhead or an explosive of the size that led to the fireball we have now seen over and over again.
Erin, still difficult questions and one that may become clear if more video, more evidence becomes available.
BURNETT: Oren, thank you very much.
OUTFRONT now, Mark Krutov, a reporter for Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, who has been closely analyzing what's going on, on the front lines since the start of this war.
Mark, I want to play a clip for you from newly mobilized Russian soldiers who are already on the front lines. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSIAN SOLDIER (through translator): We got this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for training, knows what kind of house we're at. Three armor-piercing cartridges. We're in (INAUDIBLE) you guys.
RUSSIAN SOLDIER (through translator): What region? Luhansk region. We are mobilized. We don't have to be here at all. Eleven days from when we were deployed. We left Moscow 11 days ago. How many times did you shoot already? Once. Three bullet cartridges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Mark, that was their entire training. He says there that they shot one time, three bullet cartridges. That was the extent of the training.
It's worth noting that the town we just heard him mention Svatove is the lynchpin in any future Russian effort to secure, to retake Luhansk. So what does it say to you that they would have recruits like this in that town?
MARK KRUTOV, REPORTER, RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY: Yeah. I've seen the video today. Actually, we're trying now to exactly geolocate where (INAUDIBLE) because if you take a look at this video, you may notice paper on the wall. This paper remains from Ukrainian forces, which is the same building back in 2021. So, I think probably Ukrainian army would be able to geolocate this place.
As for the training, that's a very common problem. This guy actually was lucky he was brought to shooting ranch and he was able to shoot three bullet cartridges. At the same time, we know that a lot of conscripts, a lot of those Russian men mobilized, they are not even given this, they were just taken to the military registration offices. Then they have one day in some regional hub. And then they're just being rolled to the border and sent to Ukraine. So, yes, the lack of training is another problem. And that's what the
wives and mothers most often complaining about.
BURNETT: When you see that on social media. And, Mark, I mean, what are you hearing about deaths of recruits on the front lines at this point?
KRUTOV: We have some unconfirmed reports about 100 or even 200 recruits who already were killed on the front lines. But these reports are unconfirmed.
Yesterday, one -- yesterday, there was a story about one conscript who was allegedly killed. And his mother learned about that not from her military registration officer or from the minister of defense. She learned about that from social media.
And only after that she was able to call the military registration office. They said to her that they don't know nothing. Then journalists started to call authorities. They said that they don't know.
At one moment they said that he is wounded, not killed. But most probably he was killed. But this is unconfirmed. But we have confirmed reports about records being taken, prisoners of war. This we haven't yet.
BURNETT: Mark, thank you so much.
KRUTOV: Thank you, Erin.
And, next, breaking news. We are learning a Trump employee told federal agents that the worker was directed by the former president to move boxes of sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Plus, Democrats think keeping the spotlight on abortion rights is key to winning on election day. One Democrat, though, is not so convinced, David Axelrod is OUTFRONT.
And conspiracy theorist Alex Jones told to pay nearly a billion dollars for his lies about the Sandy Hook school massacre.
BURNETT: Breaking news: a Trump employee told federal agents about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the direction of Donald Trump himself. A source telling CNN that Trump told people to move boxes to his residents at the property. And he did this after he had received a subpoena for the classified documents. So, in response, he told people to move them away.
And, also, we understand that the FBI now has surveillance footage showing a staffer actually moving boxes out of the storage room.
OUTFRONT now, Josh Dawsey. He first broke this story for "The Washington Post."
So, Josh, from your reporting, what else do you know about this employee, this person that Trump directed to move the boxes? What do you know about this person and what the person has told investigators?
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, what the person has told investigators is that after the Department of Justice sent a subpoena to Mar-a-Lago to former President Trump for the documents in May, former President Trump directed this person to move documents to his residence, and this person did so.
What we know is that when the FBI approached this person, the witness about this, at first the witness said that it had not happened, there was no knowledge of that. And later, the person changed their account and told the FBI that the former president directed him to do it. There was also security footage of that time.
What we know happen is that the FBI decided to go back and re- interview this person based on things that they had been told, based on things that they saw. When they went back on the second time, the person changed their account and detailed how they were instructed to move boxes to the residence after the subpoena arrived.
BURNETT: Which is interesting. I guess we don't necessarily know why they didn't tell the truth whether they had been directed by the former president not to, who knows. What made them change their mind, whether it was a security footage or something else.
I guess and that's the question, Josh, how crucial was the security camera footage, which showed the boxes being moved by this person. How important was that in all of this?
DAWSEY: Well, we know that the FBI decided to raid the former president's property after several things happened. They believe that the former president and his team were not telling the truth, that witnesses were telling them there were more documents. They believe documents had been moved from the storage room to other places.
They then obtained security footage where they saw documents being moved from the storage room. And then they realized that all exhaustive efforts, according to our sources, they believe had been fulfilled. And they had asked for the documents, they had not gotten them.
They had subpoenaed the documents, they had not gotten them. They told the former president's team not to move the documents, the documents have been moved. They got some of the documents, not all of the documents.
So, they realized after all these efforts that they were not getting back the documents. And then when they went and raided, they got copious amounts of classified material, sensitive materials in various locations.
So we know there were confluence of factors. But two of the main factors were the account of this witness and the security footage that they gleaned through a subpoena.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Josh Dawsey, as I said, first to report this.
John Dean joins me now, the former Nixon White House counsel, along with Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was the White House communications director for then President Trump.
So, Alyssa, let me start with you. Josh talking about this Trump employee, tells federal agents that this person moved boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the direction of the president himself, not hearsay, not secondhand, directly from him to this person. They do it. Security camera footage shows this person doing it.
Let's just start with this. Does any of this surprise you?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. And what's actually pretty stunning about it is the Department of Justice actually gave Trump a pretty long leash to cooperate. They had told him, you know, turn over these documents if you have them. He had months that he was back and forth. And he could have done the right thing.
And then this employee who, like, ultimately I think only ended up telling the FBI the truth that he had moved these boxes at the former president's direction was because the security footage corroborated it. So, I mean, it just puts a very fine point on what we already know which is he mishandled classified documents, he took federal records that he had every opportunity to turn over to NARA and did not.
And then it's just the open question of how did he -- to what degree did he potentially put our security at risk by doing so.
BURNETT: And, John Dean, you know, it's interesting Alyssa pointing out, it seems that the security footage is what they presented this person with to say we saw you moving the boxes so it seems that way, although we're not 100 percent sure of the timing.
But what does it say to you that a person would, at the direction of the president, this isn't a staffer of some sort, this is somebody else, move the stuff, and then lie for him?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's very hard not to do what the president tells you and then rationalize in some way. So, I think what -- he got caught in the lie, he probably was ready to run with it until they showed him video, explained they had it, whatever it was. He said, oh, my God, it's -- it jigs up, and had to fess up.
And this is happening time after time after time. They're clearly building an obstruction case. And it's -- they've got a lot of witnesses to work with.
BURNETT: Well, it's pretty amazing. Again, the president tells you to do this and you do it. And then you lie for him to say, you know, when he said don't tell anyone about it, this actually becomes really crucial. And I'm curious because the witness's account has been one of the most closely held secrets of this investigation, how they found out these boxes were there. And they've been trying to protect this person from Trump supporter threats.
But what about Trump himself? How is he going to react? The person he told to do it who clearly on some level got to lie for him. He now knows --
GRIFFIN: Well, this is something that Michael Cohen has talked about quite a bit is this thuggish mentality of the president where he really puts pressure on the people close to him to do his bidding and then it's followed with intimidation if you don't do it. So, I mean, I have -- I don't want to call it sympathy, but I get the position this person was in.
But we now have a five-plus-year track record of people who worked closely with Donald Trump who have been put in positions to do wrongdoing. They end up facing the legal consequences. And he'll hang them out to dry as soon as that happens. And I worry for this person and others who may have been involved. It's almost always followed with death threats with, like, rampant harassment when their names get out, and even if done under subpoena.
BURNETT: And, John, what do you think happens here. If they are able to prove that the president himself, the former president said directly, do not say anything to anybody, don't tell them if they ask. And, by the way, keep in mind, he asked the person to do this after he had a subpoena for the documents, right? So he was doing it to obfuscate and hide and move them. That's a fact.
What would the next step be if they can prove that he told them to lie?
DEAN: Well, I'm fortunate. I have tapes of all my conversations. I just did great size when I got this kind of directions.
But this is human nature playing out. And, you know, the natural thing is they want to please and Trump is a very forceful person. Then they fear retaliation. And so, it is a repeating sequence in the relationship to Trump and his employees and his gophers and his doers.
So we're going to get a lot of this. We're going to hear this story over and over.
BURNETT: It is -- it is amazing though, just to put kind of the exclamation point on it. He gets the subpoena. He's misled them again and again. He tells someone to move them and he directly lied (ph) --
DEAN: He's very good at obstruction.
BURNETT: It's pretty on the face here.
GRIFFIN: It's what we think is the definition of being caught red- handed that this person lied about it and then there seems to be corroborating footage. BURNETT: Yeah.
GRIFFIN: I mean, don't lie to the FBI, moral of story.
BURNETT: Right, right. I mean, and did it on camera. Apparently not realizing that was the case.
All right. Thank you both so very much.
And, next, New York City overwhelmed by the influx of migrants from the southern border, under a state of emergency now. Schools strapped after taking in migrant students and some parents are up in arms.
And it's one of the most under-covered states in this election cycle. Yet what happens there could tell us everything we need to know about how election night will turn out.
TAPPER: Tonight, doubling down. In one of the nation's most competitive Senate races, the Democratic candidate Mandela Barnes who is trying to unseat Ron Johnson in Wisconsin is doing everything he can to keep the spotlight on abortion, going on a so-called Ron against Roe Tour, and blanketing the air waves with this ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Johnson supported a ban on abortions. He co-sponsored a bill that makes no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the woman. And Johnson said, if women don't like it, they can move.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That is the Democratic message from the top down.
And there are only 27 days left to the midterms, you'll see a lot of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's going to choose, if Republicans win control of the Congress, abortion will be banned.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many of these extremists, so-called leaders, are calling for an abortion ban nationwide.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): In nearly every Senate Republican already voted to push national abortion bans, America beware, America beware.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BURNETT: Abortion is top of the list for Democrats. And OUTFRONT now is David Axelrod, the former senior adviser to president Obama and a CNN senior political commentator.
So, David, you know, we hear it again and again, abortion, abortion, abortion. They have made it a cornerstone of the Democratic argument to win in the midterms -- governorships, everything that's up. Is this the silver bullet Democrats think it is?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know that it's the silver bullet. It certainly energized Democrats. If you think back to before the Dobbs ruling, I mean, there was a sense that the Democratic electorate was slumbering in a normal midterm election, it's a referendum about the incumbent party. This turned into more of a choice. Choice turned into more of a choice.
Is it enough? We'll see. I mean, I think that the economy is still a hugely important issue to people. And of course Republicans are doing the same thing with crime, the crime issue. So it's a test of wills between Republicans and Democrats.
I think in some of these suburban areas, the abortion issue is going to make a difference, whether it's enough in some satisfy these statewide races, we'll see.
BURNETT: And, of course, as you say, it has energized. It is something though that touches specifically some people but not everybody. Crime seems to be a wider swath of the population, then that's what the Republicans have made their issue.
AXELROD: Yes. You know, what I would say is that the abortion issue is more than just an issue in and of itself. It's symbolic of a drift right word on the part of the Republican Party. And if you think of when the vote really shifted and Democrats got back in the game, it was in June, and it was not just the Dobbs ruling, it was the re- emergent of Donald Trump and the kind of election deniers he was endorsing in primary campaigns. There were two mass shootings at that time that put a spotlight on the gun issue.
And there was a sense that extremism was -- you know, that the Republican Party was in the thralls of some extreme elements. So the abortion issue is not just an issue about abortion as important as that is to many, many people, it's also a surrogate for a right-word -- right-word extreme drift. And that's really how Democrats should play it.
I don't think it's a silver bullet. I think it's part of an argument about, you know, the values and the focus of the party.
BURNETT: Right. So, as part of this, when you mention all of these events that happened, right, they all contributed to actually helping Joe Biden overall. His ratings have gone up. Our newest CNN poll shows 44 percent of Americans now approve of his handling of the presidency. That's up from 38 percent in June and July, which were horrific numbers, right? So this is a big improvement.
And, in fact, it puts him about the same place as Obama, Clinton and Reagan at the same time, all of whom won re-election. Now, you've raised the issue of Biden's age. You've called it a major issue. He'd be closer than 90 to 80 at the end of his second term.
Do these approval numbers convince you that he should run for re- election or no?
AXELROD: You know, first of all, there are all kinds of different polls. He has made improvement, and it's not just because of a reaction to the Republican Party and Trump. It's also because he had a very good summer in terms of legislative achievements. He's shown leadership on the Ukraine issue and so on. So there are reasons why his numbers have moved up.
I've said all along, Erin, I don't think this is a political decision. I don't think it's one based on polling. This is an actuarial decision. He has to make a personal decision on whether he can face the voters and say at 82 he's ready to go for another four years.
You know, I think he said last night with Jake that he's going to think about the next election after this election. But that's what he should be thinking about. No -- these numbers are fine. I mean, you know, Obama had worse numbers a year out or a little more than a year out before he ran for re-election.
You can fight back from bad numbers. The question is just, you know, he's in a unique position, and that has to be considered.
BURNETT: Right. Right. Well, you can't turn back time.
All right. Thank you very much, David Axelrod.
AXELROD: It was good to see you.
BURNETT: And next, the Joint Chiefs chairman pulling no punches over Putin's ramped-up attacks in Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: Indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilian targets is a war crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I'm going to speak to the USAID administrator Samantha Power about what she just saw on the ground there.
And Alex Jones now, they say, must pay nearly a billion dollars in damages to Sandy Hook families.
BURNETT: Tonight, war crime. The chairman of the joint chiefs using incredibly strong language to describe Vladimir Putin's attacks across Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MILLEY: Russia has deliberately struck civilian infrastructure with the purpose of harming civilians. Indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilian targets is a war crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Samantha Power, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development and also the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. And I know that she just returned from her latest trip to Ukraine.
Ambassador, I know you saw evidence of war crimes on your trip. Can you tell me more about what you saw?
SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, I think most of your viewers have seen evidence of war crimes as well of just the images from both the places from which Russia has receded where mass grave after mass grave, with people with -- their hands tied, children, women, elderly left for dead, often having been tortured.
What I saw in downtown Kyiv were the remnants of attacks on civilian infrastructure along the lines of what Chairman Milley was just talking about. We visited a school 189 doors of which had been blown off by a shell that landed nearby right at the beginning of the war back in February. Little did I know that a couple days later having departed that area that Russia would again be raining down missiles on the capital city, although, of course, that is always a weapon in Putin's toolkit, terrorizing the capital, terrorizing civilian centers that we have grown accustom to.
So, what we are doing is helping Ukrainians simultaneously fight the war, as you know, but also USAID's efforts are aimed at repairing those schools, those pipes, because the most salient thing that I saw on the ground in Kyiv, in the capital, is that Ukrainians are getting on with it.
POWER: They're getting on with moving farm machinery that might've once been in territory that's now occupied to the western part of the country so that they can plant seeds and harvest seeds. They're getting on with that school, I mention, that had to be closed down because of the missile fire back in the early part of the war. They're opening it next week, in fact, because of the repairs that have been made.
POWER: It had been used in the meantime as a bomb shelter. Now it's going to be a school room for 1,500 students. And that's spirit of the people of Ukraine that has just so awed us all.
BURNETT: It really has. I mean, seeing those schools of children going to school even right after the Russians left and the bombed out schools, and windows blown out, they were going back. It was heartbreaking and yet empowering to see it.
Do you have a sense, Ambassador, of who's committing all of these war crimes? When you see the mass graves that you've actually seen, is this rank and file soldiers, or is this being done by at the behest of military leadership from Russia?
POWER: Well, I think, Erin, all of that is going to be very well- documented over time, and the Ukrainians are doing a tremendous job on the ground not only gathering the forensic evidence, the heartbreaking searing forensic evidence from these mass graves not only gathering testimonies from survivors of torture or -- and indeed Ukrainian prisoners of war who had been released to sort of describing the most ghastly experiences they've in Russian custody. There's all of that and all of their memories about who perpetrated these crimes.
But also Russian prisoners of war are being debriefed about who gave them the orders. And all of that is being documented. There's an International Criminal Court investigation that's being opened. The human rights council is gathering this evidence. So all I can say is that there is no question that when you see a pattern of war crimes committed so consistently across the territory, this is not the work of uncontrolled elements. This is top-down order, top-down command.
BURNETT: So, ambassador, "The Washington Post" recently reported that a member of Putin's inner circle confronted him over his handling of the war. Now, this is according to U.S. intelligence. We didn't know whether this person wanted him to ramp it up or not. We just know there was a confrontation. You've had interactions with many members including the foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. And I'm just showing a picture of you with him right now.
Do you think Lavrov, Ambassador, or anyone, will stand up to Putin on using nuclear weapons or that Putin could be in danger of seeing any crumbling in his inner circle?
POWER: Well, what happens in the Russian inner circle is not something that I'm going to speculate on. But what I can say is that we see the entire world standing up to Vladimir Putin and indeed, today, this very day we have seen an unprecedented vote count at the U.N. that Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Putin could never have anticipated when they launched this invasion 143 countries, the largest number of countries voting in opposition to what Russia has done, only five countries standing with Russia, the usual suspects.
But countries like Senegal, Angola, Madagascar, countries that had abstained and wanted to duck taking a strong position, just not wanting to get on the wrong side, let's say, of the Russian Federation, given all of the intimidation that goes on behind the scenes, today saying enough is enough, and making clear that Ukraine's borders will not change, that Luhansk is Ukraine, that Donetsk is Ukraine, that the fact that there is a temporary occupation here does not mean that Russia gets to do these referendums and try to ratify its maneuvers.
Again, we are focusing on that large coalition and one of the strengths that has really, in addition to the bravery of the Ukrainians that we've spoken about, having so many countries coming together to support Ukraine in its hour of need has made a huge difference.
BURNETT: Ambassador, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
POWER: Thank you.
BURNETT: And, next, an historic verdict. A jury decides Alex Jones should pay nearly a billion dollars to the families in Sandy Hook.
And Biden hitting the campaign trail on the final weeks before election day headed to Oregon, which has not elected a Republican governor in over 40 years. So why is it worth the time of the president of the United States to go on the ground to campaign?
BURNETT: New tonight, nearly $1 billion, that is how much a jury says conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay several families of the Sandy Hook school shooting massacre and along with a first responder. The group sued Jones and his company for defamation over numerous lies that he pushed about the tragedy, including that he said that the shooting itself was a total hoax.
Alexandra Field is OUTFRONT with more.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After nearly a decade of profound and excruciating suffering, a jury awarding nearly $1 billion to the families of eight victims killed at Sandy Hook elementary school, and an FBI agent who responded to the scene of the massacre.
CHRISTOPHER MATTEI, ATTORNEY FOR THE FAMILIES OF SANDY HOOK VICTIMS: Today, a jury representing our community and our nation rendered a historic verdict, a verdict against Alex Jones's lies and their poisonous spread, and a verdict for truth and for our common humanity.
FIELD: The money compensatory damages not for the brutal loss of their loved ones but for the lies that followed spread by "Infowars" host Alex Jones who called the massacre a hoax. Its victims, crisis actors.
ERICA LAFFERTY, DAUGHTER OF SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL DAWN HOCHSPRUNG: I know that this is not the end of Alex Jones in my life. I know that his hate, lies and conspiracy theories will follow both me and my family through the rest of our days. But I'm also hopeful what happened here today, that it may save other families from high profile tragedies from the cycle of abuse and retraumatization.
FIELD: The plaintiffs holding hands and comforting one another while the jury read each of their decisions. Each of them rewarded tens of millions of dollars. The largest award of $120 million to Robbie Parker, the father of a 6-year-old girl Emilie killed in Sandy Hook. He had testified of the pain others had endured from the lies believed by so many.
ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF 6-YEAR-OLD EMILIE PARKER: And I was especially feeling like I was failing her in her death because of what people were saying about her and what they were saying about me trying to remember her.
FIELD: The jury's award as close to a win as any these families could have.
PARKER: All I can really say is that I'm just proud what we were able to accomplish is just to simply tell the truth. And it shouldn't be this hard, and it shouldn't be this scary.
FIELD: Jones was not present in the courtroom for the reading of the verdict. He never testified in his own defense during the course of the nearly month long trial, but he made fiery statements during a cross-examination.
ALEX JONES, CONSPIRACY THEORIST: I don't apologize for it.
FIELD: His attorney says Jones and his company Free Speech Systems will appeal the jury's decision. Jones who has derided much of the legal process calling the trial a kangaroo court was back on the air waves where he mocked the decision and used it to fund raise.
FIELD (on camera): So, Erin, Alex Jones is already out there saying this is money the families will never see. He says with his company in bankruptcy there's almost no money left, but this is a night where Alex Jones' words matter a little less to those families. It's not about the dollars as it is about the justice and they could see more of that coming soon after the hearings next month. The judge will determine punitive damages on top of the compensatory damages already awarded -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alexandra.
And next, why is President Biden going to Oregon? Harry Enten on why it is the state to watch politically tonight.
BURNETT: Tonight, yes, indeed, President Biden is going to Oregon, in the final weeks before Election Day. This is how the president of the United States is choosing to spend his valuable time and energy on the campaign trail, going to a state that has not elected a Republican governor in 40 years.
But this could be the year that changes. Biden will be joining Democrat Tina Kotek on the campaign trail. She's trying to fend off Republican Christine Drazan and third party candidate Betsey Johnson.
Harry Enten is OUTFRONT now.
Harry, not everybody would notice this. But, look, you're the president of the United States. Your time is really important. People want you with them right now. His approval rating has gone up.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yeah.
BURNETT: You're going to Oregon. This race is the most important one?
ENTEN: I don't know if it's the most important one but certainly one in which a Democrat is in trouble in a deep blue state. I mean you can take a look where the forecast is for this race and it's well within the margin of error. In fact, Tina Kotek is down a point.
Why is she down a point as you can on your screen right there as the Republican candidate. There are a few reasons why. Number one, obviously, you have a third party candidate in there who's a former Democrat. Number two, the incumbent Governor Kate Brown not very popular.
You look at the issues that are basically sort of plaguing Oregon -- homelessness, cost of living. We know Tina Kotek happens to have an aggressive record from her time in state legislature. But it's more than that, right? It's more than that.
It's also about who the Republican candidate is and the Republican candidate right now, Drazan, is somebody who actually believes Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election. What an idea, that candidates matter.
BURNETT: So you don't have a litmus test. This is just a straight policy discussion.
ENTEN: This is a straight policy discussion and you look in Vermont as well where Phil Scott is basically running reelection as a Republican and he's someone again who believes the 2020 election is legitimate versus the two candidates versus Massachusetts or Maryland there who are basically trying to succeed incumbent Republican governors and they don't believe the election is legitimate.
If you give blue states a chance to vote for, quote-unquote, I would argue say Republicans who believe actual things that actually happened, they can, in fact, win.
BURNETT: OK. So, there's this Oregon situation, which again, I'm just saying, 40 years -- I understand there's a third party thing going on there, but for the president of the United States to be going there and campaigning in Oregon, that's kind of stunning, okay? But it's not just Oregon. You're talking about several competitive house races out there.
ENTEN: Yeah. There are several competitive House races out there right now. There are, in fact, three competitive House races out right now that the Republicans could take over now. One of those is, in fact, a newly drawn seat.
But essentially, we're looking at two toss up races, one race that's probably going Democratic but at least it's competitive. So, this is a state where I think Biden can get a lot of sort of bang for his back.
And, remember Democrats only need to have a net gain -- net loss of five seats for Republicans to maintain control. So in theory it's plausible that Republicans could pick up more than half the seats in order to gain back the House just in the state of Oregon.
BURNETT: Just in the state of Oregon.
ENTEN: Just in the state of Oregon.
BURNETT: OK. So -- but they're now -- the way you're looking now Republicans have a decent chance of taking back the House.
ENTEN: I would argue so. I think, you know, the Senate leans Democrat but this particular point if you're looking at the house overall Oregon I think is a good snapshot. Republicans are certainly favored there. The question is whether they get 10, 20, or potentially 30 seats if it's a good Republican night.
All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Harry Enten with the data. Watch Oregon.
And thanks for watching us. Now watch Anderson if you will.
"AC360" starts now.