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Seoul Crowd Disaster Leaves South Korea Reeling As Death Toll Rises to 154; Luiz Lula da Silva Narrowly Defeats Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil's Election; U.S. Supreme Court Considers Ending Affirmative Action. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 31, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Monday morning, we're off to an early start with the devastating toll from South Korea's deadly crowd surge. Victims from more than a dozen countries, two Americans among them. A far right rebuke in the world's fourth biggest democracy, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro beaten in his re-election runoff.

And what could be a big blow to diversity at colleges. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court considers ending affirmative action. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Christine Romans. All right, the death toll is now at least 154 in South Korea's crowd surge, making it one of the country's worst ever disasters.

This morning, South Korea's president and first lady laying flowers at a memorial alter in front of Seoul City Hall as the nation begins a week-long period of mourning. Senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is live for us in Seoul this morning. Ivan, are investigators making progress on finding out what sparked this crowd surge?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're not hearing any conclusive details about that. But I do think that the shock of the scale of this tragedy is still sinking in. I'm here just basically a few steps away from the crowded alley way, the narrow alley way where so many young victims died on Saturday night, and you can see the makeshift memorial here.

There are plenty of journalists and plenty of just ordinary people who are coming to lay flowers and pause for a moment to remember young lives cut short. The Korean Ministry of Education says of the 154 victims, five were high school students, one was a middle school student. And I've spoken with some of the survivors.

These are people 20 years old, 22 years old, 18 years old, who were here Saturday night for a night of partying. Joking initially at the huge crowds that were packed into the narrow alley ways around the block, around the corner from where I'm standing. And then getting increasingly panicked as they were just packed more and more in like sardines until people started falling, and then we've seen images of rescue workers trying to pull people out from underneath the weight of the crowd and struggling and failing. And that's where affixation happened en masse. Again, at least 154

people killed, the vast majority, Koreans of course, and then dozens of international foreign visitors here, many of them students. There are some photos here of two Americans, exchange students over here for semester abroad who were among the many victims of this terrible tragedy.

Many people saying that there were no police or very few police present to control the thousands and thousands of partiers who were gathered. And that's all the more striking when, Christine, there's a police station barely a stone's throw away from where I'm standing right now. Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Ivan, thank you so much for that. Just a terrible story. More now on the two U.S. citizens killed in Seoul. Twenty-year- old Steven Blesi was a college student from Marietta, Georgia, out with friends after finishing his midterm exams. His father says he was an international business student with, quote, an "incredibly bright future" that is now gone. Anne Gieske was a University of Kentucky nursing student studying abroad this semester.

Her family says they are devastated and heartbroken, but comforted by knowing they will one day be reunited with her in God's kingdom. All right, at least 134 people are dead after a suspension bridge collapsed in western India. Officials say about 200 people were on that bridge when it collapsed into the river below.

A cable at one end of the bridge snapped. The structure reopened to the public just last week after repairs. The man who allegedly attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband had zip ties and duct tape with him, according to two CNN sources. Forty two-year-old David DePape faces multiple charges including attempted homicide and assault with a deadly weapon.

He also reportedly had a list of other people he wanted to target. Democrats and many Republicans now condemning the attack and calling for an end to the violence.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Violence or threat of violence has no place in our society. What happened to Paul Pelosi is wrong. And we hope for him a speedy recovery and that we're able to stop this crime across our country.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): This was a vicious attack meant for the speaker. This has been going on for years. The attacks on her and this group of MAGA extremists who by the way are putting up candidates on the ballot that Donald Trump supports.


ROMANS: Senator Amy Klobuchar calling for legislative action to increase security for elected officials on the federal and local level. The Supreme Court is poised to overturn another decades' long precedent after a hearing today. Affirmative action. The justices will hear two cases challenging race conscious admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

The schools used race as a factor in deciding which applicants to accept. The practice has been affirmed more than once by the Supreme Court. Harvard is accused of unconstitutionally discriminating against Asian-American applicants. Russian rocket attacks knocking out critical infrastructure across Ukraine this morning from the capital of Kyiv to Kharkiv in the east to Zaporizhzhia in the south.

Meantime, Russia is backing out of a U.N. grain agreement critical to combating the global food shortage. Nic Robertson live on the ground for us in Kyiv. Nic, what have we learned about these infrastructure strikes and the damage they've caused?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: In Kyiv, we know that there are casualties. We don't know precisely what was hit. Officials say that rescue workers were on the scene helping pull people from the rubble of collapsed buildings. We also know from the mayor of Kyiv that 350,000 homes here in the city will be without electricity and water.

Kharkiv, critical infrastructure, Zaporizhzhia region in the east center of the country there, a big hydro-electric power plant, the biggest one actually in the whole of Ukraine, has been targeted there. In the west of the country, there's been more critical infrastructure targeted. Other locations, critical infrastructure as we have seen Russia targeting.

Now, Ukrainian officials say that 50 cruise missiles were fired into Ukraine. That they took down 44 of those. This has become typical of Russia recently to launch barrages of missiles and hope that some of them get through. These are the first missiles to have actually impacted the capital here in a couple of weeks.

Yet to find out precisely what's been targeted. But the fact that electricity is off to some parts of the city gives a clear indication, again, critical infrastructure. And as for that grain deal, the U.N. says that despite the fact that Russia has suspended its cooperation in that deal, they plan today to allow a number of ships, about a dozen ships in and out of Ukraine, to ship that much-needed grain out.

Criticism coming from the United States, from Secretary Blinken, coming from the European Unions. Foreign policy chief accusing Russia of essentially holding the world hostage over food by shutting down its cooperation. It's not clear yet what Russia is going to do with the fact that the U.N. says it's going to go -- that it's going to go ahead with the grain shipments.

That's an open question. Russians so far say they're engaging with the U.N., but we don't really know what that means going forward.

ROMANS: All right, Nic, thank you so much for that. Luiz Lula da Silva is set to become Brazil's next president, defeating his incumbent right-wing rival Jair Bolsonaro by a razor thin margin in a fiercely-contested runoff election. Paula Newton has the latest for us from Sao Paulo.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Supporters partied like it was 2003, the last time Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was swept into power and promised to transform Brazil for a new century. He is now pledging to do it again. These women, just babies when Lula was first elected hail him now as their political savior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happiness. We're just so happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): So happy. We couldn't take any more of Bolsonaro. We can dream again.

NEWTON: Lula cemented improbable political comeback destined now for the history books. He walked out of prison less than three years ago, appealing corruption convictions. After they were thrown out, he mounted a campaign to defeat conservative populist Jair Bolsonaro.

LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA, PRESIDENT-ELECT, BRAZIL (through translator): I consider myself a person who's been resurrected in Brazilian politics because they tried to bury me alive and I'm here.

NEWTON: A gratified Lula pledged Brazil is back for its citizens and the world.

DA SILVA: From January 1st, 2023, I will govern for 215 million Brazilians, and not just those who voted for me. There are not two Brazils.


We are one country, one people, one great nation.


NEWTON: Lula supporters flooded the streets of Sao Paulo relishing a fresh start.


(on camera): Despite this victory, uniting this country now will be difficult and quite a challenge for Lula, as he also considers a very determined opposition.

(voice-over): Bolsonaro did not formally concede on election night, the last time Brazilians saw their president was when he voted. But even the head of Brazil's Congress, a Bolsonaro ally, allowed Lula supporters their victory, saying Congress accepted the outcome. This Lula supporter says the war in her words, the culture war that Bolsonaro leaned into, is not over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Look at the amount of votes this man had. Even after everything he's done, almost half of the votes, the difference was really small. NEWTON: This is Lula's victory, but no longer Lula's Brazil. Years of

division and political acrimony have taken their toll, blind-siding this democracy and it could yet challenge this president like never before.


NEWTON: Paula Newton, CNN, Sao Paulo.


ROMANS: All right, Paula, thank you for that. The tax fraud trial of the Trump Organization ramps up today with opening statements and the first witness testimony. Among the key prosecution witnesses, Trump's long-time finance chief Allen Weisselberg, he's pleaded guilty and has agreed to testify against the company in exchange for a five-month jail sentence.

If convicted, the Trump Organization faces a fine of more than a million dollars and could face difficulties securing new loans and business deals. All right, Twitter's new owner Elon Musk already called out for spreading misinformation. Plus, did spies hack into the new U.K. prime minister's phone? And fighting for the critical Latino vote in south Florida.


REP. MARIA ELVIRA SALAZAR (R-FL): Why are the Hispanics coming to the GOP? Because we are not stupid! Because we know --




ROMANS: All right, Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams facing off in their final debate before the midterm election eight days from now. The debate was heavy on substance and light on fireworks, with the two candidates highlighting their differences.


STACEY ABRAMS, CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR OF GEORGIA: Under Brian Kemp's four years as governor, crime has gone up, six hospitals have closed, housing prices are skyrocketing and communities are in turmoil. They are worried about their rights and they are worried about their future. But I want to do better by Georgians. I want to put you first every single day.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): We have the lowest unemployment rate in the history of our state. We got the most people ever working in the history of our state. And we're seeing the economic opportunity, no matter your zip code or your neighborhood, because we've been focused on strength -- focused on strengthening rural Georgia and many other things. Unfortunately, Stacey Abrams said we live in the worst state in the country. Well, Marty, Jarrett, Lucy, Amy Porter and I, we don't believe that.


ROMANS: Both candidates agreed to accept the outcome of the election. More than a million and a half voters have already cast their ballots in Georgia. The race in Florida's Latino-dominated 27th congressional district is up for grabs, and in these final days of the campaign, Democratic nominee accuses her Republican opponent of spreading fear among voters with a campaign of misinformation. The south Florida district includes parts of Miami. CNN's Boris Sanchez has more.


SALAZAR: Why are the Hispanics coming to the GOP? Because we are not stupid! Because we know, we know very well --

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Running in Florida's 27th District, the centerpiece of congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar's re-election campaign resonates in a largely exile community.

SALAZAR: And you know, socialism is a really bad, dirty word for people that speak and sound like me. Why? Because we have lifted. And you know, it's beautiful in theory. It's miserable in practice.

SANCHEZ: The daughter of Cuban refugees says her party has made recent gains with Latino voters because the GOP is defending them from what they call radical policies put forward by Democrats.

SALAZAR: Unfortunately, the Democratic Party leadership has been infiltrated and it's been hijacked by radical forces that are neo- Marxists. No one has to misinform them. They recognize it.

SANCHEZ: When your opponent calls you and your party socialists and communists, you say what?

ANNETTE TADDEO, CANDIDATE FOR U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I say really? Because I am the one that came to this country because my father was kidnapped by a Marxist, terrorist group.

Lamenti Rosa(ph) as they call my opponent --

SANCHEZ: Salazar's rival Annette Taddeo argues it's hypocritical for Republicans to link her party with radical authoritarians when they support former President Donald Trump.

TADDEO: So how can you fight for democracy in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua if you're not going to fight for it right here in the United States?

SANCHEZ: The Democratic Florida state senator believes misinformation is a key reason more Latinos are voting Republican.

TADDEO: We need to fight back when they call us out, and call them out, because they're the ones taking our freedoms away. AMORE RODRIGUEZ, CO-FOUNDER, CUBANOS PA'LANTE: There's the fear of

losing their second home because they already had to lose their first --

SANCHEZ: Amore Rodriguez, who founded a liberal group focused on Latino outreach says it's a manipulative message preying on an area dominated by immigrants fleeing far-left regimes.


RODRIGUEZ: And this is why I've been so frustrated with the Republican Party using the term socialism and communists, you know, as equivalent to Democrat as a way -- as a fear tactic to tap into the tragedy of our community.

SANCHEZ: A tactic she calls cruel because it's torn her family apart.

RODRIGUEZ: We don't even agree on reality.

SANCHEZ: She says one of her family members now believes conspiracies spread on social and Spanish language media.

RUY TEIXEIRA, SENIOR FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The idea this is driving this big movement of Hispanic voters away from the Democrats, I think it's absurd.

SANCHEZ: A left-leaning analyst who has studied the Latino vote for decades, Ruy Teixeira, argues that by blaming misinformation, Democrats are avoiding more serious questions about their approach to Latinos.

TEIXEIRA: It's actually like unproductive for the Democrats to think about it this way because it prevents them from thinking about what aspects of the Republican message are really working with these voters and why? And why are -- why is our party not as attractive to these voters as it used to -- what are we doing wrong?

SANCHEZ: Boris Sanchez, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right, great piece from Boris there. Thank you so much. Let's bring in Sabrina Rodriguez; national politics reporter for "The Washington Post". Good morning, nice to see you.


ROMANS: All right, so Sabrina, Republicans made some sizable gains among Latino voters in 2020, and inflation is helping the GOP kind of hold on to those gains. What are you seeing?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, across the country, we keep hearing Latino voters talking about the economy. I mean, similar to other voters, you know, the economy is a top priority for them. And hearing, you know, Boris' segment and the conversations around socialism in south Florida, it gets always tied back to these policies and saying, OK, well, these economic policies don't benefit us in -- with Democrats.

And then hearing Republicans really capitalize that to make further in-roads. You know, Republicans saw what happened in 2020 under Trump, and they've invested heavily on messaging, saying, you know, we are the ones that are going to help the economy. We are the ones that, you know, when you're looking at gas prices or you know, how much a gallon of milk costs, we're the ones that are going to solve that. And that obviously resonates in a community that is counting dollars.

ROMANS: Sure. You know, you're covering the races in Georgia too where abortion has been front and center. We've seen it with, you know, Herschel Walker, that race against Raphael Warnock for Senate, and in last night's debate between the two candidates for governor. Listen.


ABRAMS: He refuses to protect us He refuses to defend us.

KEMP: We are a state that values life. I understand people disagree, and it's not my desire to go move the needle any further.


ROMANS: Governor Kemp then deflected. He'd rather talk about Joe Biden and inflation. Where are voters in Georgia on this?

RODRIGUEZ: At the moment we've been seeing in the polling that -- in the governor's race that Stacey Abrams continues to trail behind incumbent Governor Brian Kemp. And the reality is that, last night's debate was really her last opportunity to make that pitch, to highlight the differences between them.

I mean, they could not be more different candidates in terms of policies. There's little room for agreement between the two of them. So it was really that moment to highlight the differences. And we saw that they kind of chose, you know, Kemp to really tie her to the Biden administration, you know, mentioning Biden in different opportunities.

And then hearing Abrams have a fresh attack on him when they were talking about abortion, which remains front and center in this race and across the country. But her really saying, you know, we're tying him to Walker who has all these scandals that we've seen, you know, resonate at the national level.

ROMANS: You know, I guess the morning after is, there are -- anyone gain or lose during last night's debate?

RODRIGUEZ: I would say it was a draw at the end of the day. But really that opportunity for the two of them -- they're not about fighting and fireworks, but really about saying we are -- we have different visions for what Georgia looks like today and what Georgia can look like in the future.

ROMANS: All right, Sabrina Rodriguez at "The Washington Post", nice to see you this morning, thank you. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, could Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu begin his political comeback this week? And Iran ordering an end to protests. Students refusing to comply.



ROMANS: All right, tomorrow, voters in Israel go to the polls for the fifth time in four years. They'll decide whether to return controversial former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power. Netanyahu in the middle of a corruption trial right now. CNN's Hadas Gold is live in Jerusalem for us this morning. What are Netanyahu's prospects, Hadas, in tomorrow's vote?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, you know the movie, "Groundhog Day" because we're starting to feel like Bill Murray's character where we're in the cycle of elections once again, fifth elections in just over three years. But just like in the previous four elections, much of the question for voters is whether they're for BiBi Netanyahu or against Bibi Netanyahu.

And yet, once again, the polls are showing that no bloc, either the Netanyahu bloc or the anti-Netanyahu bloc have a clear majority. The magic, 61 seat number they would need in the 100-seat -- 120-seat parliament in order to have power. However, though, in the last few days, the opinion polls do show that the pro-Netanyahu bloc are closer to that number that they have 60, some are even showing him having 61.

But it's very much sort of razor-thin margin whether he will be able to push it through, and that's why Benjamin Netanyahu in the past few weeks has been campaigning in his stronghold cities to try to get every last single vote out there. But while this is the fifth election in just over three years, there are a few differences to the last four times run.

The main difference is that Benjamin Netanyahu is not going into this election as prime minister. He was pushed out after 12 years as prime minister by an unlikely coalition of parties from across the left to the right.