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Inside Politics

Walker Denies Report He Paid For A Woman's Abortion In 2009; GOP's Scott Defends Walker: Dems "Cranked Up The Smear Machine"; Kremlin Says Putin "Most Likely" To Sign Annexation Laws Today; President Zelenskyy Signs Decree Declaring Negotiations With Putin An "Impossibility"; Biden Speaks To Japanese PM After NK Missile Launch; Ian Death Toll Reaches 106 As Rescues Continue In Florida; Power Could Be Out For A Month In Fort Myers Beach; Secret Recording Shows Oath Keepers Allegedly Planning For 1/6. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 04, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. It is a very busy news day. Thank you for sharing it with us. Did Herschel Walker pay for an abortion? The Georgia Republican Senate nominee says this accusation is a flat out lie. But new reporting turns up receipts that show the Christian values candidate did give a woman $700 more than a decade ago.

Plus, Russia retreats. New pictures from the front lines show massive losses for Moscow, and Ukraine says no, we're sitting down with Vladimir Putin. And prosecutors today play a secret recording of our November 2020 meeting in the sedition case against five Oath Keepers on trial are plotting to block the peaceful transfer of power. This as a sitting Republican Senator Warren's political violence is escalating. That senator says this, "I wouldn't be surprised if a senator or a House member were killed."

Up first for us though, we count the midterm votes five weeks from tonight, and there is a blockbuster development today in one of the Senate races critical, absolutely critical to the balance of power here in Washington. The Daily Beast reporting Monday afternoon that Georgia's Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker paid for a woman's abortion back in 2009. Walker calls this accusation untrue.


HERSCHEL WALKER, (R) GEORGIA SENATE NOMINEE: It is a flat out lie. And now you know how important this seat is. The seat is very important that they do anything to win this seat lie because they want to make it by everything else itself. What are the two problems that we have in this country is this inflation, the border wide open crime, they don't want to talk about that.


KING: The former football star has campaigned on a no exceptions nationwide abortion ban. Now CNN has not independently verified this allegation. But the Daily Beast report does come with documentation with receipts. The woman making the accusation provided pictures to The Daily Beast of what she claims is a get-well card signed by Walker. And the outlet says, she also backed up the accusation with "a $575 receipt from the abortion clinic and a bank deposit receipt that included an image of a signed $700 personal check from Herschel Walker."

Again, Walker says, it's all alive, but this complicates his effort. This here very much so. Walker's 22-year-old son, a conservative influencer and social media says, the abortion account convinced him, it was time to speak out.


CHRISTIAN WALKER, HERSCHEL WALKER'S SON: Family values people, he has four kids, four different women wasn't in the house, raising one of them. Don't lie on the lives you've destroyed and act like you're some moral family man. You all should care about that conservatives.


KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, Carl Hulse of the New York Times, and CNN's Eva McKend. Eva, you've spent a lot of time on this race. Walker decided to go on Hannity last night and say, it's a lie. Inside the Walker campaign, what do they view as more damaging? Or how do they deal with the idea that you have this accusation from the woman about an abortion back in 2009? You also have his adult son, coming out and saying his father is not the person he claims to be in the campaign.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: And it is perhaps the some that is more damaging than The Daily Beast story because we don't know how long Christian will continue to speak out. That is the real trouble here. But listen, the Republican establishment seems to be rallying around Walker for now.

You have the NRSC as well as other groups, saying that this is all a distraction rather mounted by Democrats and their allies, and that they're going to stay laser focused on the issue. So, they're really saying all that they could say, in this matter. But notably in these statements, they are not repeating the fact that it is a lie, they aren't denying the accusations themselves.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And look what he's done time and time again. I mean, the revelations that have come out since he's been a candidate really just go to speak to it's a bad track record when it comes to credibility with voters because he criticized absentee fathers.

Then it came out that he had a child out of wedlock. Then it came out that he had not told his campaign staff about two other children that he had. It's just kind of been this pattern that you've seen. And there was a reason establishment Republicans did not want Herschel Walker to be the candidate here. They didn't want to initially put their support behind him because the red flags were there. KING: Right. And so, now we're five weeks out though, and the red flags were there much of the establishment wanted another candidate, didn't get another candidate. So, they rallied around Herschel Walker. So, five weeks out the National Republican Senatorial Committee is comparing this to smears against Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. To your point, they don't get the details.

Again, Walker decided last night, a candidate when something like this happened has to decide what do you want to do? Do you want to try to ignore it? Do you want to deal with it by written statements or do you go on television? Herschel Walker decided call, it a lie.



WALKER: I sent out so many get will, send out so much anything, but I can tell you right now, I never asked anyone to get an abortion. I never pay for an abortion and it's a lie.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: What about the $700 check? Is there anybody you can remember spending that much money to?

WALKER: Well, I send money to a lot of people. I give money to people all the time because I'm always helping people.


KING: The conversation among Georgia Republicans today is that this is damaging. Walker's trying to say, it's all made up. It's a smear.

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY" AND "UP FIRST": Well, and that was a choice, right? Like not to take ownership of it or say that, you know, maybe this happened, but now I've changed. But he said, no, it's a flat out lie. The problem is his son who was very conservative, this is not a leftist, you know, son who's estranged from his father, this is a conservative, who's on, you know, who speaks about all these issues.

Who's saying, you know what, I don't believe my father, I think he's lying. He's destroyed. You know, he's destroyed many lives and committed. According to his son, atrocities. I mean, that's the biggest issue for Herschel Walker right now is that his own son is saying, if I talk more, I could destroy this candidate, this candidates - candidacy from day one.

KING: And that is where, forgive me, for interrupt. That is where it gets very difficult, in the sense that you mentioned some of the red flags, some of the surprises to his own campaign staff is more of his biography has come out. This is Herschel Walker's flesh and blood, a 22-year-old young man say, dad, we told you not to do this. And we told you if you did it, be honest from the beginning.


CHRISTIAN WALKER: We were told at the beginning of this, he was going to get ahead of his past, hold himself accountable, all of these different things. And that would have been fine. Go ahead. He didn't do any of that. Everything's been a lie. Everything's been downplayed. Everything's been cutting corners, the whole thing. And who is whose expenses that up? Me, my mom.


KING: I don't know how you deal with that.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's really difficult. And what he did is undergird the credibility of the report, right, which we were all going to look at and review it in that way. And it's interesting with Republicans. I've talked to a couple this morning. They're shocked by it. They're rattled, but they also think, well, we have no choice.

You know, we're five weeks out, we can't replace him. And he would have to agree to step aside and he's not going to do that. So, the Senate's hanging in the balance on this race. They were always nervous about it, as Kaitlan said, now their unease has come true. And I think this is very problematic right now.

MCKEND: What's notable, John, though, is that Democrats aren't pouncing on this. Like every day, I get emails from Democrats in Georgia, saying that Walker is wrong for Georgia put on this, the Democratic Party in the state, silent like they don't want to overplay their hand on this.

I'm speaking to sources who say, you know, we shouldn't get too gleeful about this. Look at the former president who went on to win election when a very damning allegations came out about him in the final hour. So, their response has been something to watch as well. In addition to Senator Warnock who steered the conversation back to the policy issue of abortion and reaffirmed his pro-abortion stance didn't double down in knocking Walker.

KING: Right. Warnock, but the incumbent Democrat said, I'll leave this up to the pundits. I just want to reiterate my support that the government does not belong in the room between a woman or doctor, maybe a person of faith, keep the government out of the room.

That's what Senator Warnock says. It's complicated because it's a family matter. It's complicated, because you have this allegation of something that happened a long time ago. It's also complicated, because in this campaign, Herschel Walker has left no gray area. This is Herschel Walker talking about his view on abortion rights.


WALKER: It's OK for a woman to tear her baby (Inaudible)


KING: I can't square it. I can't get around it. So, his problem here number one, is if you believe this account, and you see the documentation, it's hypocrisy. He doesn't say I speak as a senator there. He doesn't say this is complicated. He says, I can't square it. I'm against it. And he has no room for exceptions, right, and says life of the mother.

RASCOE: And that's the problem with, you know, you have the majority of the public that supports some abortion, you know, in some trimesters. And then you have this concern that you have politicians who will get out there and say, oh, we don't believe in abortion, but when it comes to their personal life, they live a whole other thing. And that's the problem.

People don't believe in it, right? They believe that you're saying one thing, and you're doing another. And if you want grace for yourself, you want to say maybe you evolved. That's not what he's saying. But you want to say I evolved, I have come to the light, I found Jesus, but you don't want to give other people that chance. That's the problem.

KING: Right. And so, the conversation last night and in other races this morning was that Republicans are making some progress or at least stopping democratic momentum in some of these races five weeks out. If you'd look at, you mentioned it's a 50-50 Senate. So, if you look at the map of key Senate races around the country, you know, Republicans are thinking we might lose Pennsylvania.


There was a Republican incumbent there. He's not running for re- election. That's a competitive see. So, you need - if that's the case, if you're going to lose one as Republicans, they haven't seen it that, they want to win that race, but you're thinking we have to pick up a couple of these blue states. You had Georgia, target number one, because it's a non-presidential. Then you go out to Arizona, then you go to Nevada, but in terms of the Republican math - New Hampshire, in terms of the Republican math, this is troubling.

COLLINS: Yes. And there had been this sense. I feel like among Republicans that maybe Democrats did have a really good summer, and they were feeling optimistic, but they were experiencing somewhat of a bounce back in recent weeks. And then, of course, this headline comes out in Georgia.

And that has been the entire argument that's played out between Rick Scott and Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, about the quality of these candidates, because so much hangs in the balance, depending on Georgia, depending on Pennsylvania. And a headline, like, what came out yesterday with Warnock and or with Walker. And the concerns about hypocrisy is not what they want him to see eye witnesses.

HULSE: Well, I think also, the Democrats have been feeling much better about New Hampshire and Arizona, which then make Nevada and Georgia, extremely important to them. And, you know, to your point, I think the Democrats are going to sit back and let everybody else talk about this.

Their big goal is to win outright on election day. Otherwise, if neither gets 50, then it goes to December 8, and they're worried about the environment in a runoff there. So, you know, I'm sure they're sitting there, looking at this going, maybe this can help us pull that out.

KING: And again, just last point, you have the strong statement from the National Republican Senatorial Committee calling us the democratic smear and making clear on paper there with Herschel Walker, watch the money, five weeks from election day, watch this day, TV ad money continues to flow into Georgia. Do they make a calculation to move that money somewhere else something to keep an eye on in the days ahead?

Up next for us, though live to Ukraine. Today, President Biden and Zelenskyy speak. This as Ukrainian forces make significant battlefield gains, Russian fighters in retreat.




KING: So big developments today in Russia's war on Ukraine. In just the last hour, we learned President Biden spoke today with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that call this morning. And that called coming as a senior U.S. defense official tells CNN, the United States now set to announce another $625 million Ukraine aid package.

Ukrainian forces are making significant ground, making up significant ground in their fight to reclaim key territories, pushing Russian troops further to the east. Look at this new video released by Ukrainian special ops, shows them ambushing a Russian unit in Donetsk. Now CNN cannot verify the authenticity of that video.

All this is the Kremlin propaganda machine tries to suggest all as well. Today President Vladimir Putin set to sign documents, declaring four Ukrainian regions are now part of Russia. But the international community of course, calls that a sham. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us live now from inside Ukraine. Nick, a busy day of the two presidents speaking. What is playing out on the battlefield?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes. I mean, it's many different reasons why Biden and Zelenskyy could have talked today. There's the possibility may relate to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying that he can't write would not engage in negotiations with Vladimir Putin. It's also entirely possible, it relates to announcement of extra eight of HIMARS missiles from the United States to Ukraine. But it's also possible, it relates to the extraordinary developments on the battlefield that we've seen.

In the last 72 hours, to be honest, it was at the weekend, when it became clear that Ukraine had taken Lyman in the east, vital Russian supply hub, out of which Russian troops appear to have fled Friday, Saturday. At the very moment that Russia was busy declaring, here where I'm standing and other parts sorry, they're in Donetsk and Luhansk, and other parts have occupied Ukraine as Russian territory. At the same time, we are seeing in the south here, extraordinary developments. This is now two fronts that Russia appears to be retreating on. Debbie bread, which is a sort of central settlement in the whole area of Haisyn (Ph) that Russia occupies, that back in Ukrainian hands, making some concern that we're seeing an exceptionally fast retreat by Russia in an area of Ukraine that it occupies, that is cut off from the rest of its forces by a river, the bridges across which are being repeatedly hit.

There have been voices certainly saying in Russian analysts' circles that this area of Haisyn was very vulnerable to a Ukrainian attack, that appears to be underway. They've waited, they bluffed. They appear to have shaped the terrain ahead of them. And now they're moving forward very fast, quite extraordinary to see yet another front going against Russia's favor, very hard to see how Russia turns around this Ukrainian momentum. John?

KING: Nick Paton Walsh, it's grateful to have that recording from the ground to put the reality in perspective. Nick, thank you. Another big international call today for the president United States. This one to Japan's prime minister following of course, North Korea's latest ballistic missile launch during that call. We are told that president reinforced the United States commitment to Japan's defense. The missile flew over Japan overnight is believed to have landed in the Pacific Ocean.

That sound there, air raid siren sounded people in Japan urged to take cover. Japanese officials say, they've been working on a new national security strategy that does not rule out counter strike capabilities. The White House says it is monitoring this situation very closely. It's significant because the last time North Korea fired a missile over Japan was back in 2017.

Crews working around the clock in Florida, searching for survivors that of course after Hurricane Ian. At least, 102 people now confirmed dead in Florida or more in North Carolina from the storm. More than 400,000 people still in the dark, some areas we are told will not have power for at least another month. In hard hit Lee County, officials say more than half of the schools were damaged, some may be beyond repair.

CNN's Nadia Romero joins us now live from Englewood, Florida. On the southwest coastal area, whereas you can see behind her basic essentials being handed out. Nadia, what are you seeing?


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. This is really ground zero for people who have run out of supplies. It's the largest distribution site that we've seen and there's more items here than at any other site. Now they tell me that they've been open for four days, in the last four days 10,000 cars, they've been able to service. Today alone, more than 500 and it is the bare minimum.

This is the MREs that you can get here from the National Guard just so you can feed your family. Water bottles are so important here cases of water because it is so hot outside. For the first time since after the storm, these are two things we're seeing, tarps, because people need to repair their homes and their vehicles and ice.

This is the hottest commodity. This is more valuable than money. This is worth its weight in gold. A bag of ice is something that we've been asked time and time again. Where is my power coming on? And do you know where I can get some ice? So, this is what people are able to get. They're going to be loaded up by the national guard here. Car after car after car because so many homes and so many people in southwest Florida had been impacted by the storm, John?

KING: Nadia Romero, live on the ground, and our thanks. Everybody is watching those pictures, think those national guard members and others helping out on the ground. Nadia, thank you. That important report. Up next. Live outside the U.S. District courthouse here in Washington. Inside the courtroom today, prosecutors playing a secret recording from an alleged November 2020 meeting on the meeting of the Oath Keepers on trial.




KING: Right now, here in Washington, bombshell evidence introduced in the trial of five members of a far-right group, militia group accused of plotting to overthrow the United States government by rioting at the Capitol. Prosecutors unveiling new audio and alleged Oath Keepers planning meeting in November 2020, where the leader Stewart Rhodes. You see him here, says, "we're not getting out of this without a fight." The two-hour long meeting was secretly recorded by an attendee that according to the FBI agent Michael Palin, who was the prosecution's first witness in this important trial.

CNN's Sara Sidner, live now outside the D.C. courthouse. She's been monitoring what's happening so far. And Sara, so far, pretty dramatic testimony.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. because it is coming out of the mouth. Prosecutors say of Stewart Rhodes himself and some of the other members of the Oath Keepers, who are charged here with the most serious charge in the January 6 cases that we have yet seen, which is seditious conspiracy, that is one of several charges, but that one is the most serious, and if they're convicted, they could go to prison for up to 20 years.

So, let's get into what we heard and what the jury heard in court today. They heard some of these secretly recorded audios of prosecutors say Stewart Rhodes talking to his group, they have a meeting in November, as you mentioned of 2020, around the time of the election. And here are some of the things that were said about what was happening in Washington.

One of the things said, my only regret is that they should have brought rifles. We should have fixed it right then and there. If he's not going to do the right thing, he's just going to let himself be removed illegally. That is Rhodes allegedly talking about President Donald Trump at the time. But we heard more audio. The prosecutors play some of this audio in their opening statements, and then using the FBI agent Paley. And they use him to verify that this is the voice of those people that they have listed out.

So, we heard some of that at the beginning of the trial. But then we heard more from Rhodes, allegedly in these particular audio recordings. This is from a GoTo Meeting Chat, where really, it's kind of the first time that we've seen the prosecution lay out a large piece of evidence that speaks to what they are charging these people with. And that is that they conspire to stop the transfer of power, the peaceful transfer of power from then President Trump to President elect Joe Biden at the time.

And one of the other things that we also heard is, so our mission going to go to D.C., but I have to - I want some Oath Keepers to stay outside and stay fully armed and prepare to go in if they have to. Rhodes can be heard saying on one of these audio recordings. You'll also hear from other members of this Oath Keepers group. Kelly Meggs saying, we'd been issued a call to action in D.C. And this is the moment we signed up for. So, a lot of these things are all sort of - excuse me, all sort of come together to try and prove the prosecution's case. So, this was a seditious conspiracy case, John?

KING: It's off to a fascinating beginning. Sara Sidner, will be there, tracking it for us throughout the days ahead. Sara, thank you so much. Let's bring the conversation in the room. This is the illegal proceeding. These five members of the Oath Keepers including the leader on charge for seditious conspiracy. As Sara knows, they could go to prison for up to 20 years. It's a very important case.

One of the most significant cases of all those charged in the January 6. As we watched that play out, we are now five weeks from tonight we'll be counting votes. There are still some members of the Republican Party who want to downplay, almost erase your memories about what happened that day. Just today, incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who is running for re-election. He's on the ballot in Wisconsin. This is him at a Chamber of Commerce event saying, not that big of a deal.