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Inside Politics

Putin Unleashes Missile Barrage, Kills At Least 11 In Ukraine; Ukraine: Russia Fired 84 Missiles Targeting At Least 10 Cities; Putin Blames Ukraine For Crimea Bridge Explosion; Sanders: "Alarmed" Dems Closing Argument Is Abortion; Sen. Rick Scott, Tom Cotton To Campaign For Walker In GA; 29 Days To Go: Key Races Deadlocked; Biden Condemns Putin's Air Assault On Ukraine; New Emails Undercut Key Trump Claim About Mar-a-Lago Docs. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 10, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Horrific, appalling, indiscriminate, worldwide condemnation now as Russia pummels Ukraine with a missile barrage, obliterating infrastructure and forcing civilians to ride out the bombs in shelters.

Plus, 29 days and enormous stakes. We count your midterm votes four weeks from tomorrow, settling which party controls the House, the Senate and much more. And a Republican senator office his take on crime. It's racist.

But we begin the hour in Ukraine and with Vladimir Putin's new and intense missile barrage. In Kyiv, a fragile calm shattered by bomb after bomb after bomb, air raid sirens sending residents sprinting for shelters. The wide-ranging attack striking at least 10 cities across Ukraine in the country's west, the south, the center and the east, and it killed civilians, 11 right now that we know of and knocking critical infrastructure offline.

In Kyiv moments like this, a pedestrian bridge engulfed by an explosion. Subway platforms filled with people scenes, recalling back to the very early days with Vladimir Putin bloody war. Elsewhere, a rush to put out cars on fire, black smoke, choking blue sky, life again on hold because of those bombs. Ukraine's president says Putin showed the world today that he is a terrorist.

A Russian dictator, making a brief on camera appearance this morning, said the strikes were a response to an attack on a key Russian supply line, and Putin promising more fire and brimstone. Should Ukraine go after other Russian targets?


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: In terms of the further active terrorism on the territory of Russia, the Russia reply will be harsh and will be corresponding to the level of threat to that Russian Federation, have no doubt about it.


KING: CNN is on the front lines of this developing story. We begin with CNN's Fred Pleitgen live for us in Kyiv. Fred, what's the latest?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. You know, one of the interesting things that Vladimir Putin also said is, he said that the Russians had precisely hits command and control infrastructure from the Ukrainian army. But where I am standing right now, this is actually a children's playground, and you might be able to see it's pretty dark here already. There is a gigantic crater here because this playground took a direct hit from one of those Russian rockets, I'd say the crater is about 15 to 18 feet deep.

And you can see over there, there are so, you know, those things that the children normally play on. And not far from here, I'd say about 500 yards, there's a crossing, a street crossing where there alone, five people were killed. We were talking today to some of the emergency services, who were clearing up some of the debris. There were a lot of cars that were destroyed and completely burned out there. This was next to a museum and a university building.

I want to show you again, we're on a children's playground. I'm standing on the playground right now. This is some of the shrapnel that was left over by this one Russian rock, and I would say we had about, you know, five to six that impacted here in the center of the Ukrainian capital, obviously, extremely sharp edges, extremely dangerous for anybody in the vicinity killing people instantly.

So, it certainly was a rude awakening in the early morning hours of this moment - of this morning for the people of Kyiv. It started around 15 minutes after eight o'clock in the morning when first that bridge that you were also showing that got hits in central Kyiv.

The latest that we have from the authorities. They do say that there was some infrastructure damage here in the Ukrainian capital as well. There are certain area of Kyiv that are still without power. But there were also a lot of civilians who were harmed here in the Ukrainian capital, as a lot of these rockets hit the center of Kyiv, John?

KING: Fred Pleitgen for us live in Kyiv. Fred, thank you for that. Let's move to the Dnipro now. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is standing by live there for us. Nick, in your part of the country, tell us what the impact has been of these new Russian strikes?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, John. There was a moment this morning where I felt like nearly all of Ukraine's major population centers were under missile attack. The Dnipro where we were later on - while there clearly were two missiles strikes that one hitting what seemed to be an abandoned telecoms building. Not quite sure what the target was there. A second two minutes later, slamming in next to a bus on which five people were critically injured, over a dozen needing hospital treatment.

So, strange often to think what exactly Russia thinks it's even targeting. Even though it's missiles blunderingly seem to be pretty imprecise. Across the country, though many running to shelters, damage to critical infrastructure, certainly the place we were at that missile too landed straight next to apartment blocks. Their glass blown out, a woman telling me how she ran her eight and one-year old child into the kitchen in a two-minute gap between those two missiles landing.


This is clearly a bid by Moscow to put fear into Ukrainians. It doesn't really seem to have worked, but it's also a bit by the current (Ph) show that they can control some parts of the narrative. After weeks of embarrassing defeats for poor management, poor supply lines across the front lines here in Ukraine, we've been seeing ourselves, John. And then of course, the attack on the Kerch bridge between the Russian mainland and Crimea.

There were many feeling that Russia would respond in some way. They have a new military commander, Sergey Sirotkin. And this may be his putting his mark on the campaign. He was responsible for the Russian military intervention in Syria and through which many civilians also died. There's a slight change in tone. Here's the ferocity of the power being used. The firepower being used. The nature of the targets designed to hit civilian infrastructure.

I should point out, killing civilians is nothing new for Russia in this war. We've seen it happen against bomb shelters in Mariupol hospitals too. But there is something slightly different in the fact, 80 plus cruise missiles were used in one mass attack across Ukraine, lots of which had begun away from the ferocity of the frontlines to get back to some kind of normal life, but very absent for most Ukrainians today, John?

KING: Nick Paton Walsh, live for us. Thanks to Nick and his crew for that reporting. Nick, thank you. Joining our conversation now to add some important perspective is General George Joulwan. He's the former NATO Supreme allied commander general. General, you just heard Nick Paton Walsh there, and then Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv, the capital. These attacks were everywhere. 80 plus cruise missiles, pretty much across the country. Is there a strategy behind it, beyond as Nick says, just to try to terrorize and scare the Ukrainian people?

GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I think that the building of the bridge was a strategic effort by Putin to connect the Donbass with what's happening in Crimea. Taking out of the bridge was the strategic move by the Ukrainians to send a message. The response was also strategic. I used to have a saying when we were against the Russians or the Soviets in the Fulda Gap, don't poke at the bear, the bear may poke back.

This was one of those times that the bear poke back. It's what we do now that's important. What the Ukrainians do, what the alliance does, all of that is important now. We have to make sure that the Ukrainians come out of this where they can protect their people, particularly in Kyiv because I think that's the ultimate target.

KING: So, if the Russians are now going to, we'll see if this is a one-day event, or if it's a continued event. But if they're going to go back to sending missiles into major population centers, which had - was the very beginning of the war, but then we've gone sometimes weeks and weeks without seeing something like that. From a military perspective, what does Ukraine need to do? And what help does it need?

GEN. JOULWAN: Well, it needs to be able to have some sort of air cap or Iron Dome or some way to be able to take that initiative away from the Russians. And we've been kicking this around now for some time, but they need a way to protect themselves from both air and artillery strike, which is the strength of the Russian military.

KING: But there's an emergency G7 meeting on this tomorrow. President Zelenskyy says, he will speak to that meeting remotely. Again, is it words beyond words, what physical assets did it? Whether it's the G7, whether it's NATO, whether it's the United States singularly need to step forward at this moment and say, you know, Putin is trying to get the alliance to flinch. What's the response?

GEN. JOULWAN: Put Pershing missiles into Ukraine, give them the capability to control their air. That's going to be from artillery as well as airstrikes. And that's going to be critical here I think in the days and months ahead.

KING: The NATO secretary general was saying this this morning that he spoke with the Ukrainian foreign minister, condemned the horrific and indiscriminate attacks, pointing out some of them on civilian infrastructure. This is the key part. NATO will continue supporting the brave Ukrainian people to fight back against the Kremlin's aggression for as long as it takes. You know, the territory, you know, the seasons, defined for as long as it takes.

GEN. JOULWAN: I would say that, sooner rather than later, I think you have to give them the capability. Look at what the strategic advantage the Russians have is in their artillery. In 1945, they obliterated Berlin by bringing in hundreds of artillery pieces, and just plummeted Berlin. I don't want that to happen in Kyiv.


KING: And so, is there a specific U.S. weapon system, and then obviously, the Germans can fall, the French can fall. But should President Biden or should the Pentagon be saying alright, Vladimir Putin you have escalated, this is our response?

GEN. JOULWAN: Iron Dome, as we did in Israel and elsewhere, they need some sort of air cover that is going to protect their key structures like Kyiv and elsewhere. But without that, the Russians have a clear advantage of the artillery and air part of it. And we have to give some capability to the Ukrainians sooner rather than later. And the debate has to stop because now, you poke at the bear, you blew up his bridge, his comeback with indiscriminate missile strikes all over Ukraine, and now you say how do you take that advantage away from the Russian.

KING: Gernal George Joulwan, grateful for your insights. Several watches, this one plays out. Next for us. The final four, as in four weeks left in a feisty midterm campaign, control of the Senate hinging on a few key battleground races.




KING: Four weeks out after the midterm election and a leading progressive, now questioning the advice of many leading Democratic campaign strategists. Those strategies recommend abortion rights, be the major closing focus for Democrats in most races, but Senator Bernie Sanders today taking issue. In a new op-ed essay in The Guardian, The Vermont senator writes this. It would be political malpractice for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and allow Republican lies and distortions to go on answer.

With us to share their reporting and their insights, Jonathan Martin of The New York Times, Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal- Constitution, and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post. Now, let's come to Senator Sanders weighing in here. Strategists are not saying ignore everything else, but the strategists are telling Democratic candidates, they believe the overwhelming focus should be on draw contrast with Republicans on abortion rights. Senator Sanders there, clearly again, there's little context question, but he thinks things are out of balance.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought this day would never come, John, that Bernie Sanders and James Carville would be together as one, but this is extraordinary because James Carville has quote in today's story from our friend Steve, peoples - AP, who is in Nevada last week, and Carville says almost the exact same thing, which is you can't just run the abortion rights issue and let the Republicans batter you, crime and on the cost of living.

And Sanders is saying something very, very similar. Their politics couldn't be more different. But I think it's revealing that both of them, old pros and politics here are saying this is not the silver bullet for us because they see this average advertising onslaught across the country that right now that is, I think a lot of state hurting Democrats, and it's not enough in their view to just push back with abortion rights.

KING: You have a great in your state, great race for governor, great race for Senate. Senator Rick Scott who runs the Republican campaign arm is going down there this week. This is important to physically show, literally show you are standing by Herschel Walker by going down there. Senator Scott says this, he says, the Democrats want to destroy this country and they will try to destroy anyone who gets in their way. Today it's Herschel Walker, tomorrow it's the American people.

Important context, a woman accused Herschel Walker of the Democrats, a woman accused Herschel Walker says, he paid for her abortion back in 2009. He denies it. But Senator Scott trying to make this about something different. But how important is it to the Walker campaign that you have Senator Scott, Senator Tom Cotton, coming to say, we're with you, even in this controversy?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: It's very important because we know that Herschel Walker can't afford to lose parts of his base. So, they're coming up to try to keep Republicans from abandoning Herschel Walker. They start feeling like Herschel Walker's campaign is a sinking ship, you can get, you know, you can find out if Republicans stay home or leave that race blank. And that's what they don't want.

And I think that it's also important because the criticism isn't just coming from Democrats. You know, you have Herschel Walker's own son who is the Republican activist, lobbying some of these concerns about him. So, they're really trying to shore him back up and create a unified front because they need to win this seat.

KING: And trying to convince voters, it's a smear, so they may turn their focus away from the particulars. As I said, it's four weeks from tomorrow. It's the first midterm election of the Biden presidency. In any president Democrat or Republican learns in the first midterm, it's usually the wind is in your face. And what do we know about this president's plan in the final four weeks? We do know, Democrats don't like to talk about it publicly. But a lot of places he's not quite welcome because inflation, because his approval rates are underwater.

YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that's right. And you know, we were just talking about how he is not - he's clearly not going to the races that matter the most to Democrats. We haven't seen him go to Arizona. Even in Pennsylvania, he went around Labor Day, but it wasn't an official campaign event. It was an event he goes to most years.

So even it seems like John Fetterman doesn't really want him to appear with him in the final stretch of the race. He's not going to Georgia, you know, and I think that's pretty clear that he doesn't seem to be helpful there. So, we don't know a whole lot. We know he's going to be in the west coast this week for most of the week, and it's doing a west coast swing, but not in really any critical states sort of---

MARTIN: Raising money, yes.

ABUTALEB: Exactly. Safer ground for Biden and for Democrats. And I think Democrats do view his approval rating as a drag and on their races, and you know, people do not approve of his handling of the economy. Inflation is up. There's fear that oil prices are going to go back up with OpEx decision to cut production. So, you know, it's not a great stretch for him right now.

MARTIN: Here's a question. Who will do more public events campaign, including now the midterms, Barack Obama or Joe Biden?

ABUTALEB: Barack Obama is one it.

MARTIN: Because Obama is actually going to come back out there and do rallies. He just won that right? I think Biden's focus is going to be largely raising money. I think the reason is going to California, he's raising money out there. And I think we're going to see much more of that, him doing his high dollar events raise money, that's where he can help the most of the party right now, conveniently large donors.


KING: Certainly, in the last four weeks, the spending will matter the money. But it'd be interesting to watch the president's counted. Up next for us. Donald Trump, remember claimed the boxes containing classified documents were packed and sent to Mar-a-Lago by a government agency, but new evidence says otherwise.


KING: This just into CNN, the president United States responding now to Russia's overnight all out air assault on Ukraine. President Biden says, the barrage only reinforces the U.S. commitment to stand with Ukraine, "as long as it takes." Let's get more from CNN's Phil Mattingly at the White House for us. Phil what else?


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. The president joining most all western allies in condemning those missile attacks across Ukraine earlier today and making very clear that the U.S. use this as a primary example of the brutality of what Biden called Putin's illegal war. And this statement, all of these statements coming just a day before what is expected to be an emergency meeting of G7. Leaders by video conference where President Zelenskyy is expected to speak. President Biden is expected to attend.

In his statement saying, these attacks only reinforced - only further reinforce our commitment to staying with the people of Ukraine for as you noted, John, as long as it takes alongside our allies and partners, we will continue to impose costs on Russia for its aggression, hold Putin and Russia accountable for its atrocities and war crimes, and provide the support necessary for Ukrainian forces to defend their country and their freedoms.

And, John, we've been hearing it throughout the course of the day, European leaders making very clear that this, to some degree feels like another shift in the dynamics coming in the wake of that bridge explosion just a few days ago. What President Biden and all at the coalition are making very clear, there will be no change in the western posture, more than anything else, there will probably just be a ramping up of the significant amount of assistance we've seen over the course of the last seven months.

KING: Phil Mattingly, live at the White House. Phil, thank you. Obviously, we'll keep a close eye on that important meeting tomorrow. Some new reporting now under cutting a key Trump claim about the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. The former president and his allies have insisted falsely, that a government agency, the general services administration pack those boxes that were ultimately sent to his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago. But now, the agency has released hundreds of pages of files and pictures proving that simply was not the case.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is here, with more on that. Kristen, what have you learned and why is it significant?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, in between these pages and pages of minutia about office supplies and what's going where, there was actually quite a bit of news, and we start with, as you said, that claim. From Trump and his allies that the former president couldn't possibly be held responsible for anything that was found classified document wise by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago because he simply did not pack those boxes, nobody in his orbit packed them.

It was done by the GSA, the small agency that helps with transmission, and they were the ones that did this. So, nobody knew anything about it. These documents, debunk that claim, while the GSA did move the boxes, that's part of their job. I want to pull up that picture again, because this is how the GSA found the boxes when they arrived to move them. You can tell here they were not unpacked in any way. They are completely packed, they are labeled, and they are shrink wrapped, waiting for the GSA to pick them up.

And this picture came from a Trump aide who was showing the GSA what it was that needed to be moved and transported down to Florida. Now, there were a couple of other interesting findings I want to know. One of them, this is about the timeline and the dates on those emails. Because while we know now that these boxes were simply sitting on pallets and an empty office space in Virginia shrink wrapped, including 30 banker's boxes were toward the type of boxes that were retrieved by the FBI.

This is happening at the exact same time. The National Archives was starting to sound alarms, raised concern that they were missing some of the presidential records. What's interesting about this is that that never comes up, documents never come up in these exchanges back and forth. But what does come up is the National Archives.

This is raised because an aide asks the GSA if you'd be willing to transport a 300-pound, six foot by eight-foot portrait of Trump that he received as a gift down to Mar-a-Lago. The GSA says, they will not do that, that that is a gift, and then talks about the rules of the National Archives. What goes there and says that that's personal property. So, it doesn't fall in the same category.

But interestingly, none of those documents ever come up. And, John, I do want to note, we cannot confirm that any of the documents that were in those boxes were what was recovered by the FBI or turned over to the archives. But all of this happening at the same time.

KING: Kristen Holmes, thank you for that important reporting. Let's bring the former state federal prosecutor Elie Honig into our conversation, our great reporters with us as well. Elie, on this point. As Kristen just noted, smartly, we don't know if the classified documents that were recovered by the FBI are in this here.

But the idea that Trump and his allies have said well, the GSA pack these boxes. The GSA did this. When you have the visual proof and the email exchange, saying no, actually these were all hacked up by Trump transition aids. It's a boring email. But it's very important when you're talking about who did what, right?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John. It's crucial because it goes right to the heart of the issue of knowledge. This is something prosecutors are going to be looking at. If in fact, it was the case that GSA packed up these documents, that GSA transported them without Donald Trump or people around him knowing what went down to mar-a-Lago. That would be a significant point in defense of Donald Trump and the people around him.

But of course, it turns out that's not the case. As Kristen just reported, there's documents showing that these documents were packed by people around Donald Trump, and frankly Donald Trump has acknowledged such in his public statements. He's acknowledged that he knew documents were moved from the White House and brought down to Mar-a-Lago.