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Uvalde Children Return to School for First Time Since Massacre; Judge Appoints Special Master for Docs Seized from Mar-a-Lago; Companies Want Workers Back in Office Today Amid Resistance; Biden Tests His Political Strength in Return to Campaign Trail. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired September 06, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: An uneasy back-to-school day in Uvalde, Texas. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.


And this is a morning that has brought anxiety for so many parents and children. That town is still raw, three months after an 18-year-old killer gunned down 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary school.

Now no students or staff will be returning to Robb this morning. They'll be absorbed into other schools. At least 15 districts across Texas will be showing their support by wearing Uvalde's maroon and white colors.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Beefed-up security measures are in place at several Uvalde schools, including law enforcement officers, cameras, and fences.

Comfort dogs and counselors are on hand, as well.

But parents still have safety concerns. Some who lost children in the massacre feel the district has not done enough.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in Uvalde this morning, where not long from now, Shimon, parents and kids, they'll take that walk or drive to school for the first time since the shooting.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and as you guys point out, certainly a different kind of anxiety and anticipation for the first day of school here in Uvalde.

School reopening delayed here for several weeks as the school district worked to implement new security measures. You can see this fence behind me. This was not here before the massacre at Robb Elementary. It was something new that the school district put in place to try and give a sense of safety to many of the parents, who as you say, will be walking their kids through the doors of these schools, you know, in anticipation, in sort of this concern over safety.

And the concern over the fact, whether or not their kids will feel safe. Whether or not they'll be in an environment where they can learn. And this is something that was on top of mind here by many of the school officials.



PROKUPECZ (voice-over): The sights and sounds of back to school have begun in Uvalde.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got room to run! He's got blockers to run in front of the quarterback.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Friday night football.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's out of bounds at the 10-yard line.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): The annual Palomino Festival.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, Palomino fans!

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): But for the students, their families and the entire Uvalde community, the return to school today feels nothing like normal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not the same. And you always kind of feel like a little bit heavy-hearted about everything.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): In a community still reeling from the last days of school at Robb Elementary, coming back for the first day of school is hard to imagine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We feel like it's just happened yesterday. We need some -- some happiness.

ROLAND RAMIREZ, ATTENDED UVALDE SCHOOLS: You know, this town has been through a lot, through a lot of heartache, a lot of pain.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): The grief here permeates every event.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The theme for Palomino Fest this year is Uvalde Strong.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Not just strength. There's plenty of pain and anger here, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our babies are dead. Our teachers are dead.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Parents still asking for answers, demanding change and accountability.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We ask for justice for our grandkids, our kids.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Robb Elementary, where 19 students and two teachers were shot to death on May 24, has been shuttered. Nearby, memorials for those who were slain.

Some parents of students who survived the massacre that day, decided the district was no longer safe and are sending their children to nearby private or Catholic schools. Others are opting for a virtual school.

Those going back to public school in person are being absorbed by other schools in the district, like nearby Uvalde Elementary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have our buzz system right here.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): New security measures, including eight-foot non-scalable fencing and Department of Public Safety officers.

The school district police, blamed by local and state officials for the failed police response at Robb Elementary, are now relegated to a supporting role.

District Police Chief Pete Arredondo was fired at the end of the August after a drawn-out battle with the Uvalde School Board. The superintendent, Hal Harrell, who faced criticism for a culture of noncompliance with safety policies, pledges to do more.

HAL HARRELL, SUPERINTENDENT, UVALDE SCHOOL DISTRICT: I'm going to dedicate our school year to our two teachers and 19 wonderful students who lost their lives and also those who were injured.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Around this small town, 21 murals color the sides of buildings, honoring those who were lost. The tributes a constant reminder things will never be the same.

JAIME PRADO, MURAL ARTIST: We're remembering them and their legacies, as well.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): As for the students who now face going back to school in a district marred by tragedy, they say they will turn to each other to move on.

RAMIREZ: One heartbeat, one community. And they're all here for each other. Everybody knows each other. Everybody supports each other. That's what this town is about.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): And despite schools reopening and things trying to get back to normal here, you know, parents here still want accountability. There's still a lot that we don't know about the shooting and what exactly took place.


And parents here say they are going to continue to fight for that accountability with the school, with the law enforcement officials.

One of the things that is happening here also is that there's this mistrust with law enforcement. And that's why we're seeing different police officers come here: from the state, the Department of Public Safety. They will now be patrolling the school, as this community really

continues to try and get accountability, as they continue to mourn. And really, just continue to feel this pain from that day in May.

BERMAN: Yes. And you've been there since that day in May, Shimon, pressing for answers. And we're grateful for your reporting. And that entire community, they're going to need each other today. So glad you're there, Shimon. Thank you.

KEILAR: New developments overnight in the search to find Eliza Fletcher, who was kidnapped while jogging in Memphis.

Officials there are working to identify a body found about 20 minutes from where Fletcher was violently abducted. Fletcher is a teacher, a 34-year-old wife, and mother of two, who was seen on surveillance video jogging when a man chased her and forced her into an SUV on Friday.

Police say there is physical evidence that Fletcher suffered serious injury. Today, the suspect, Cleotha Abston, is set to appear in court. CNN will be on scene in Memphis, ahead.

BERMAN: A legal victory for Donald Trump. A federal judge granted his request for an independent special master to review materials seized from Mar-a-Lago.

The ruling shows something of a wrench -- or throws something of a wrench into the Justice Department's ongoing investigation of Trump and the potential mishandling of classified documents. How much of a wedge is up for discussion.

CNN's Kara Scannell is here, and Kara, you've been doing reporting on this. First of all, what does this ruling say?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, so this is a big win for the former president. The judge appointing a special master to review the more than 11,000 documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

So this person, once appointed, will look for anything that is personal to the former president, anything that could possibly be covered by attorney/client privilege or executive privilege.

Now, the judge also said in this ruling that DOJ cannot use these documents at all as part of its criminal investigation until this review is completed.

This judge, Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, said one of the reasons for this was she wanted the perception of fairness. Here's what she wrote.

"As plaintiff" -- that's Trump -- "articulated at the hearing, the investigation and treatment of a former president is of unique interest to the general public, and the country is served the best by an orderly process that promotes the interests and perception of fairness." She also -- you know, the FBI had a filter team, separate from the

investigative team, that was reviewing this. And she also said one reason why she was doing this, because she kind of lacked confidence in that review. Here's what she said on that.

"For the same reasons -- chiefly, the risk that the government's filter review process will not accurately safeguard plaintiff's privileged and personal materials in terms of exposure to the investigative team or the media -- plaintiff has sufficiently established irreparable injury."

Now the Justice Department said they're reviewing the decision. Big question here is will they appeal it? Either way, we're looking at a delay of this investigation, the criminal investigation.

The judge setting a deadline of Friday, saying that both lawyers for Trump and the Justice Department have to come up with the list of candidates who could serve as a special master, come up with a schedule, who will pay for it, and importantly, what the duties and limitations of the special master will be.

BERMAN: Yes. Two deadlines now. Friday, the plans for the special master, but before then, we need to hear from Justice whether or not they'll appeal.

SCANNELL: That's right.

BERMAN: That will be interesting to see. Kara Scannell, terrific reporting. Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Joining us now is former federal prosecutor Joseph Moreno. Joe, great to have you on this morning. What did you think about the order?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there's no doubt it's a victory for Donald Trump, but how much of a victory and how long- standing is really up in the air.

I mean, he gets some good headlines, and he gets that delay that Kara rightfully pointed out, which means that there's basically no chances there will be a case brought, if there's ever a case brought, before the end of the calendar year.

That's a good thing, right, when you're in the sort of -- the defense mode.

But it doesn't change the fundamental dynamics of what's happened here. What seems like Donald Trump walked himself into what should have been a completely avoidable situation, in playing games with the government for a year and a half about these documents. And then, potentially, lying about it, which is what we learned in the last couple of weeks with this application for the special master.

So this might get him a break, but it doesn't get him out of the woods.

KEILAR: You think the government appeals this, definitely?

MORENO: They will. Because, while Judge Cannon rightfully noted that, you know, there's an issue with attorney/client privilege. And you know, her position was what's the harm in having an independent observer come in? That's sort of fair in a high-profile case like this.

The big question is executive privilege, because there's a fundamental difference of opinion between the DOJ and the Trump camp as to whether or not a former president can assert executive privilege.

So the special master will not only be in place, but there will be a question on appeal as to whether what that person's scope is. Are they just an attorney/client privilege or executive privilege, which is much broader? And remember, we're talking about thousands of pages of documents here. This will go on for a long time.


KEILAR: But -- and do you think that stands? Which part stands? Which part has better, stronger footing?

MORENO: The special master appointment probably will stay in place for at least the attorney/client privilege review.

Now, the DOJ has said, look, you kind of waited here a long time here, Donald Trump. We've effectively finished our review already, and we've moved on. So it's a bit of a moot point.


MORENO: But there will be a second set of eyes.

The executive privilege, though, I would say I would -- I would probably lean toward DOJ winning. They have a stronger argument that a former president does not have a strong executive privilege argument. But it's a jump ball; it's up in the air, really.

KEILAR: Are charges more or less likely against Donald Trump at this point?

MORENO: You know, Brianna, two weeks ago, I was adamant in saying I don't see the government bringing a case based solely on classified documents. Because I feel like you get into this quibble about declassification authority. And I feel like that's just not the way you want to go in a case so unprecedented against a former president.

The obstruction charges, though, that's much more basic. People can understand that. When Donald Trump told the National Archives, I've given you everything, and then the DOJ comes back and says, I think you have more.

And he says, OK, now, I've given you everything, in May. And then they say, No, I think you have more, and they come and they find a lot more. That's pretty basic. Either you told the truth or you didn't. And so

people can grasp that. People can understand that. That's something that's much more, I think, concrete.

But if the DOJ says, Look, we're not going to quibble about classification. But you can't lie to us and you can't lie to a grand jury, that's fundamental. And I think that's what his danger zone is right now.

KEILAR: Really interesting. Joe, thank you for your analysis.

MORENO: Thanks, Brianna.

BERMAN: So today is the day that many Wall Street firms have targeted for employees to return to the office full-time, but that's not what some workers want. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is here with the latest on the office showdown, Vanessa.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. It's back to school, back to work, back to reality, is how one expert put it.

Companies are looking this week to make the push to get employees back into the office. They want to have more oversight over workers, and they want to justify the millions in square feet of office space they're paying for.


YURKEVICH (voice-over): A five-day work week is nothing new. But post- pandemic, five days in the office can feel overwhelming.

Post-Labor Day, some companies are now requiring employees to hang up their house slippers and get back into the office for good.

YURKEVICH: What would your immediate reaction be to that?


YURKEVICH (voice-over): It's a feeling many Americans may be having. About 56 percent of full-time U.S. employees, more than 70 million workers, say they can do their job from home.

But companies like Goldman Sachs, Tesla, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley are requiring employees to return to the office full-time.

KATHY KACHER, PRESIDENT, CAREER/LIFE ALLIANCE SERVICES INC.: They're feeling very confident about, you know, it's back to school. It's back to the office; it's back to reality.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): About 6.5 percent of employees in the U.S. were teleworking last month, fewer than in July, a sign that some workers could be getting called back in.

CARROLL: Hey, you did a good job.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): For attorney Jessica Carroll, the prospect of going into the office full-time again would be a challenge.

CARROLL: You've kind of gotten used to this hybrid work-from-home experience. It would be hard to just go from what it is now to five days. It's kind of like ripping off the Band-aid.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Like most, Carroll was in the office every day in early 2020.

CARROLL: It was pretty demanding.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Then COVID hit. She had a newborn and changed jobs. A hybrid schedule was important, where she could be on a conference call and still pick up her older kids after school. The mother of three says so far, her new firm has been flexible.

CARROLL: Having people in the office and more available by person, rather than by phone, it's something that they encourage. But there's no strict policy.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): After two years working from home, some companies have fully embraced it.

This summer, Yelp announced it would close offices in three major cities after just 1 percent of employees voluntarily returned in person. But some jobs can't be done remotely.

STEVE COLON, CEO, BOTTOM LINE: There are moments in our work where it's really important to be in person.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Bottom Line is a not-for- profit organization that helps lower-income high school students get into college. Eighty percent of its 140 employees have in-person jobs and started their return to office this summer.

YURKEVICH: Did you face any resistance from staff?

COLON: I think there was trepidation across the board.

YURKEVICH: Did you lose anybody along the way?

COLON: I'm sure we lost a few, who for them, the decision to be back in the office wasn't the right decision.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): With over 11 million unfilled jobs -- that's about two open positions for every job seeker -- a return-to-office mandate could be a deal breaker.


Bottom Line has 15 in-person roles to fill.

COLON: We haven't been immune to the great resignation. We've seen, you know, higher turnover in the last couple years. It absolutely is a concern.

(END VIDEOTAPE) YURKEVICH (on camera): Sixty percent of all employees who are working from home say that, if their employer said, You have to come back into the office, they would actually switch jobs. That's according to a Gallup poll.

And companies are really making the push to get people back in the office, more so on the East Coast and around major cities, according to an expert. That's because the commute times into the office are a lot longer.

You have to remember, folks who are used to commuting from their bedroom, stopping for coffee in the kitchen, and then going to their desk and working from home. And this is going to be something, John, that I think we say -- see play out over the next couple years. This is certainly not the last showdown between employers and employees -- John.

BERMAN: There's a lot less traffic on the way from the bedroom to the coffeemaker --

YURKEVICH: That's true.

BERMAN: -- than on some commutes. Look, we'll see the free market play out. We'll see very soon who has the leverage, whether it's the workers or the employers.

Vanessa Yurkevich, terrific report. Thank you very much.

So President Biden testing his political clout with three appearances in Pennsylvania in a single week.

Antarctica's doomsday glacier, holding on by its fingernails. That's in an actual scientific report, warning that if it breaks away, it could raise sea level by several feet.

KEILAR: Plus, an incredible story out of the U.S. Open. The American who upset Rafael Nadal and his backstory.



KEILAR: Nine weeks to go until the midterm elections, and the sprint begins. President Biden traveling to battleground states Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and continuing his attacks against MAGA Republicans.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not your father's Republican Party. This is a totally different party, man. These guys are different. I've worked with a lot of Republicans. Conservative Republicans, I worked with. Got a lot done. But it was always -- there was always something decent about the work.

We have a choice. When we -- we -- Trump and the MAGA Republicans made their choice. We can choose to build a better America, or we can continue down this sliding path of oblivion to where we don't want to go.

One of the things that is clear to me is that this new group, headed by the former president, the former defeated president, we found ourselves in a situation where we really don't look forward or look backwards. And it's clear which way he wants to look. It's clear which way the new MAGA Republicans are. They're extreme.

Democracy's really at stake. You can't be a democracy, when you support violence when you don't like the outcome of an election. You can't call yourself a democracy when you don't, in fact, count the votes that people legitimately cast and count as we won. You can't be a democracy and call yourself one if you continue to do what you're doing. You can't say you love the country when, in fact, you either win or you have been cheated. And that's where we are now.


BERMAN: Joining us, now political and investigative reporter at "Spotlight PA," Angela Couloumbis.

Angela, three visits from Biden in one week, one visit from Trump. It must feel like people are paying attention to you.

ANGELA COULOUMBIS, POLITICAL AND INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "SPOTLIGHT PA": Well, it also feels like it's a presidential election year. It really has been something. And I think it underscores the importance of Pennsylvania, not just in this midterm election, but in the 2024, all-important presidential election. Pennsylvania is a bellwether, and it has some pretty hot races that have the attention of the nation here.

KEILAR: Do you think Biden, Angela, can help Democrats there? He has had some pretty low approval numbers, but they've been starting to go up.

COULOUMBIS: I think that's still a question mark. I -- definitely, we have seen some of the Democratic candidates for the big races not necessarily appear and speak with him. But that is also a function of the actual races here themselves.

And we did see one of the high-profile candidates, Josh Shapiro, who's running for governor in Pennsylvania, appear with President Biden. So there does seem to be a sense that he can help them and, at the very least, bring attention to what they're saying and their platforms.

BERMAN: Is Pennsylvania right now a microcosm of the U.S. as a whole? Or are there specific issues within the commonwealth that will play big in the midterms?

COULOUMBIS: No doubt, access to abortion, access to the ballot, those types of elections integrity issues are very important, not just in Pennsylvania, but in the country as a whole.

But because in Pennsylvania, we have two very big hot races -- one is for governor and one is for U.S. Senate -- those issues have been magnified here. And the candidates, both on the Democratic and the Republican sides, have been magnifying those as they've hit the campaign trails.

What we've seen is Josh Shapiro for governor going around and saying that this is really a test about whether there's going to be access to abortion going forward in Pennsylvania. And you have his Republican opponent say the exact opposite, which is that this is a ballot preservation of life.

And these are the types of issues that have played really hugely here. And I think we're going to see it playing out in other battleground states this year.

KEILAR: The Senate race between Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz is being bitterly fought.


Of course, Fetterman recently had a stroke. You're even seeing some -- you know, he's recovering from that. He's talked about that. You're seeing some of that sort of play into some of his scheduling. He's not as densely scheduled as he otherwise would be, for sure. He's not doing as many interviews.

Do voters -- you know, what do voters think about that and about the fact that he isn't, for instance, debating?

COULOUMBIS: Well, I think Dr. Oz is trying to make hay with that issue and really make light of Fetterman's health issues.

What Fetterman has said is that he -- yes, he suffered a stroke in mid-May. He had to take a break from the campaign trail. He has not been able to speak directly to voters, and in fact, has avoided those kind of real heavy one-on-ones, both with reporters and with voters.

But he's also said that he's going to be making -- his doctor have said that he's going to be making a full recovery. And that he still suffers from some auditory processing issues, but that he does intend at some point, his campaign has said, to have a one-on-one with Dr. Oz. It has not been scheduled yet.

But Dr. Oz has really, really spotlighted that issue of his health and his fitness for office. And that definitely is -- the whole questioning of somebody's fitness for office definitely has a long tradition in American politics.

But it has become so personal here in Pennsylvania in this race that it has the potential to go either way, to help him or to really hurt him, if he crosses the line into sounding insensitive.

BERMAN: Angela Couloumbis, thanks so much for being with us this morning from the commonwealth.

COULOUMBIS: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Californians bracing for blackouts today as record heat grips the state. KEILAR: And a glacier bigger than the state of Florida hanging on by

its fingernails in the Antarctic. Why climate experts are so concerned about it breaking away.