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Russia Launches New Round of Revenge Strikes in Horrific Turn; Uvalde Schools Superintendent to Retire Amid Fallout After 21 Killed; Key Trump White House Aide Cooperating in Georgia Election Probe. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 11, 2022 - 07:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: G7 leaders set to hold an emergency meeting this morning as Russia escalates its strikes in Ukraine.

After damning testimony before the January 6th Committee, CNN has learned a former key White House aide is now cooperating in Georgia's investigation.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our cameras were there as emotions ran high during Uvalde's school board meeting.

And Bernie Sanders warns Democrats on their messaging just a few weeks before the midterms.

KEILAR: Air raid sirens blaring across Ukraine overnight as Vladimir Putin launched a new round of revenge strikes.

Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be addressing a virtual emergency meeting of G7 leaders just in about an hour from now. President Biden and British Prime Minister Liz Truss are expected to be in attendance for this.

This is a meeting that comes on the heels of the first round of the air strikes carried out by Russian forces that killed at least 19 and wounded dozens across major Ukrainian cities. This includes Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro, and this morning, Khmelnytskyi and Vinnytsia regions -- or cities in those regions. Officials say missiles were launched from two Russian aircraft and that some were shot down.

President Putin threatening further harsh responses following the massive explosion over the weekend on a strategic bridge between Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Putin in 2014, and mainland Russia.

BERMAN: The top British intelligence officer, Sir Jeremy Fleming, is expected to say today that, quote, Russia is exhausted, their forces are returning out of weapons as they face staggering numbers of casualties on the battlefield. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live this morning in Dnipro, in Ukraine. Nick, the Ukrainian leader, Zelenskyy, to address the G7 leaders, an emergency meeting, what is he expected to say?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I think two things. He's referring to in a statement before this meeting how he's going to talk about the terrorist attacks. I suspect he will repeat calls from Ukrainian officials that the U.S. and its allies designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. That's one possibility.

Also, too, though, another plea we've heard repeatedly from Ukrainian officials for advanced air defense systems. But just last night, the White House said that they would, they pledged to supply those particular defense systems. So, a significant ask potentially already en route to Ukraine.

KEILAR: And, Nick, Russia hit Ukraine again. So, we've seen more strikes overnight. What can you tell us about these?

WALSH: Yes. Look, many people in Ukraine, including ourselves here, woken up by 9:00, broadcast message across smart phones telling people to be aware throughout the day of potential for more missiles. We heard air raid sirens during the night. There have, it seems, been a number of missiles, again, fired less, I should say, it seems at this point, than yesterday, significantly less.

And it appears, too, according to some Ukrainian officials, that these missiles have, some of them, been intercept intercepted. But nonetheless, reports of energy infrastructure, electricity, areas being hit in Lviv, reports also of damage to power structures in Vinnytsia, in Central Ukraine too.

More information still coming through about the damage, but it does appears that today's missile launches don't quite replicate the scale of the -- well, frankly, the fear generated by yesterday. Still, at least 19 dead, dozens injured and I think Ukraine is still counting the toll of exactly what's been done to its critical infrastructure by what is frankly the worst attack spate of violence from Russia against the civilian populations since the early days of the war in February.

BERMAN: Interesting though that the number is down today from yesterday, as there are questions about the capacity for the Russians to keep this up, to sustain the extraordinary level of attacks from yesterday. Nick Paton Walsh on the ground in Dnipro, Nick, thank you very much.

Ahead, we will speak to the former Russian foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev.

KEILAR: Outrage and raw emotion from parents at a Uvalde, Texas school board meeting, where they pushed for the superintendent to be fired last night. He had just announced retirement at the end of the academic year hours earlier.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is joining us live from San Antonio. Shimon, you were at the meeting. Tell us what happened here. SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's just this raw emotion, as you say, Brianna. This anger, this frustration from the families just continues with the school board and the school administration that is just not on the same page with the families, and then, Brianna, for the first time, we got to see this racial divide that exists within this community between the supporters of the superintendent and the families of the victims.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you commenting to the superintendent?

PROKUPECZ (voice over): For months, some Uvalde parents have called for the removal of their school superintendent.


On Monday, Hal Harrell gave in. The superintendent of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District announced his retirement via social media. Published on his wife's Facebook account, Harrell said, quote, my decision to retire has not been made lightly and was made after much prayer and discernment. At a Uvalde school board meeting after the announcement, emotions were running high inside and outside the venue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn't get to the meeting on time.

PROKUPECZ: Supporters of Harrell gathered outside of the meeting and greeted him with hugs, despite continuing questions about the police and school response to the Uvalde massacre, as well as what role, if any, Harrell had in hiring a former Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.

Crimson Elizondo was under investigation for her response to the school's shooting, and has since been fired by the district. She has declined to speak with CNN. Harrell evaded CNN questions about her hiring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm going to enjoy this right now. Thank you.

PROKUPECZ: Inside the board meeting, Harrell received a standing ovation from supporters who were mostly white. Many came also to his defense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of us understand why he failed and needs to step down. You trusted your staff and they failed you. They failed you this time. But like a good captain that goes down with his ship, you feel its best.

PROKUPECZ: On the other side of an apparent racial divide, mostly Hispanic families of victims heartbroken and outspoken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will say this, if there had been 17 white kids, all of those people out there would have been in here. All of our kids matter. PROKUPECZ: Addressing the board members, family members cried and pleaded for accountability.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is it that you all are entitled to get a pass in the most violent school massacre in Texas? You all should have been fired or arrested for gross negligence, child endangerment, something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 19 children, 2 teachers, someone has to take responsibility for those deaths. We can't just all sit back and wait for an investigation to be completed. We're not asking for criminal charges. We're asking for accountability.

PROKUPECZ: Following a closed session, the board voted unanimously to begin the search for a new superintendent. But for many members of The hispanic local community, that won't matter much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all know that having a new school with the same complacent leaders is not the change this town deserves.

PROKUPECZ: Harrell announced earlier Monday that he will remain throughout the year until a new superintendent is named.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): And, Brianna, you know, at times, it was difficult to watch. You had family members of victims, family members of dead kids, sitting inside this board room as the supporters of the superintendent were outside hugging and cheering him on and talking about how much they were going to miss him and celebrating him while the families were sitting inside.

And the frustration that many of these families expressed last night was, where were these people? Where have they been in all these months when this community, when these families have been asking for their support? And as you can see and hear from many of those family members that were at this meeting, you see this emotion, you see this frustration, and it's just going to continue until they can get some answers and put some of this behind them. It's going to be difficult, but at some point, these families feel they need the get the answers and get some closure so that they can move on. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, understandably. Shimon, thank you so much for that report.

BERMAN: This morning, a jury could deliver a verdict in the defamation trial against Alex Jones. They are deliberating how much money Jones should pay for spreading the lie that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax.

The plaintiffs include 14 family members of victims of the attack and an FBI agent who responded to the scene. They say that, for a decade, they've been tormented and harassed by people who believed the mass shooting never happened.

KEILAR: A key witness in the House select committee's investigation of the Capitol attack is now also cooperating with prosecutors in Georgia. Sources tell CNN that Cassidy Hutchinson, the former Trump White House aide, is cooperating with the Atlanta area prosecutor who is investigating Donald Trump and his allies' efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Now, you may remember Hutchinson from the testimony that she provided to the House committee back in June.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO WHIET HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, please, make sure we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We're going to get charges, every crime imaginable, if we make that movement happen.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): And do you remember which crimes Mr. Cipollone was concerned with?


HUTCHINSON: In the days leading up to the 6th, he had conversations about potentially obstructing justice or defrauding the electoral count.


KEILAR: Joining us now, CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray. All right, Sara, so what exactly could Hutchinson offer prosecutors in Georgia? What are their interests there?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, obviously, this is someone who was working in the Trump White House and also worked closely with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. We know prosecutors have not been able to secure Meadows' testimony yet before the grand jury.

And she's the kind of person who could fill in a lot of gaps. She could talk about what she saw in the west wing around the 2020 election. She could talk about the run-up and the aftermath of that call between Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffesnperger, where Trump asked Raffensperger to find the votes for him to win Georgia, Meadows was on that call.

Meadows also made a surprises visit to a Georgia ballot audit site in 2020. So, she would know the details surrounding that. And, of course, she could have details of all number of things Meadows was involved in that we don't know about or that other folks that she witnesses in the west wing were doing related to Georgia. So, she could be an important witness for them.

KEILAR: Yes, maybe some things we haven't heard yet, right, in these hearings.

MURRAY: Exactly. KEILAR: It's interesting that right now, as we're heading into the midterms, both this Georgia process and the DOJ investigation have kind of, you know, taken this beat, because they have to be quiet a little bit ahead of election.

MURRAY: Right. They don't want to look like they are doing anything that could influence the upcoming election, even though, of course, Donald Trump is not the person who is on the ballot in this next election. So, I do think we're going to see a little bit of quiet period.

But, you know, in Georgia, that doesn't mean that they can't be looking over the evidence that they've already collected. We may not see subpoenas flying, they're not going to be dragging witnesses in front of the grand jury, but they've collected so much information from witnesses already, there's nothing to stop them from poring over that, from working on the report that they're going to issue. And we do expect they are going to wrap up their work pretty quickly after the midterms and sources have told us the D.A. there could begin issuing indictments early as December, Brianna.

KEILAR: They still have stuff to do. All right, Sara, thank you so much.

MURRAY: Thanks.

BERMAN: Today, Republican Senators Rick Scott and Tom Cotton will be in Georgia to rally support for embattled Senate Candidate Herschel Walker. This race could help determine if Republicans will win back control of the Senate. Republicans have largely stood by Walker despite reports that he asked a woman to terminate two pregnancies.

CNN's Eva McKend live in Atlanta with the latest. What are you expecting to see on the ground, on the trail, in Georgia today?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, John, I anticipate that Walker and his surrogates in Senator Cotton and Senator Scott will strike a pretty defiant tone, and that has been in line -- that will be in line with how it has been the past week since this scandal broke with the full weight of the Republican establishment really rallying behind Walker, disputing these allegations.

Here's what Scott says about today's visit. He says, today, it's Herschel Walker, but tomorrow, it's the American people. He goes on to say he's proud to stand with Walker and then shifts the conversation back to the policy debate over the future of the economy. A similar sentiment from Senator Cotton, a spokesperson for Cotton telling us the Arkansas senator believes Walker will be a champion for Georgia, notably.

Not the same sort of robust response from Georgia Republicans, prominent Georgia Republicans in the state, namely Governor Brian Kemp. What a difference a year makes. Walker was not the chosen candidate of the Republican establishment, and, namely, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. But they quickly got onboard and stayed onboard with their candidate when they've seen how popular Walker is among conservatives in this state.

KEILAR: Is he, Eva, going to need -- is Walker going to need more help from sitting lawmakers to win this race?

MCKEND: Well, I would imagine on both sides, both Democrats and Republicans in the final weeks here in Georgia, are going to have high-profile surrogates come out for them. I don't know how much it moves the needle for either Democrats or Republicans. I think, really, Georgia voters are not going to be voting based on surrogates but voting based on issues, interestingly, watching the local news, many of the newscasts leading with crime, crime stories.

And so, ultimately, perhaps Georgia voters are going to be thinking about matters of public safety when they vote. Today, actually, is the last day to register in the state.

KEILAR: Last day today. All right, Eva, thank you so much, Eva McKend for us live from Atlanta.

BERMAN: In a new op-ed, Senator Bernie Sanders says he is concerned Democrats have been told to focus only on the issue of abortion. As the country heads into the midterms, he writes, quote, as we enter the final weeks of the 2020 elections, I'm alarmed to hear the advice that many Democratic candidates are getting from establishment consultants and directors of well-funded super PACs that the closing argument Democrats should focus only on abortion.


With me now is National Political Correspondent for The New York Times Lisa Lerer. She's also the author of upcoming book, The Fall of Roe and The Rise of a New America. This is an examination of the strategic fight to end abortion over the last decade. Lisa, great to see you here.

I feel that there a lot of different strawmen at work in this. Bernie sanders is not saying don't focus on abortion, and I'm not totally sure if consultants are saying only focus on abortion, but Sanders in this op-ed writes, while the abortion issue must remain on the front burner. So, he says, we should focus on this, Democrats, he says. It would be political malpractice for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and allow Republican lies and distortions to go on unanswered. What's going on here?

LISA LERER. NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I reached to people close to the center, and they said he's largely reacting to the sheer number of ads that Democrats are using to wrap up this election. He's right, democrats are spending tens of millions of dollars in ads focused on the abortion issue.

But there's a reason for that. This is something that is working in their favor, an election where not much else is. President Biden's ratings are better but they're still under water. Inflation is high. People are worried about crime, they're worried about an economy that feels really uncertain. And what we do know and what I've seen even in Republican messaging documents, is that Democrat have the advantage when it comes to abortion. People do not like -- they liked Roe. You know, they liked having that federal abortion rights standard, and they don't like that the Supreme Court took it away.

BERMAN: And a lot of this is about Bernie Sanders, whose message, whose political message, has been the same since like 1974. He's focused on economic inequality. That's Bernie Sanders' raison d'etre in politics.

LERER: Exactly. And Bernie Sanders sees world through these economic inequality issues. He thinks those are the most important issues in American politics, and you're right, that's been the same for many, many decades. But on abortion, the situation has changed. It's not the same fight that was happening in 1973 when Roe became law. We're in a new world where it's a state-by-state battle to redefine these rights. And Democrats have an advantage on that, so they're certainly going to press it.

And Republicans, frankly, are sort of the dog who caught the cart here. They don't have a response in this post-Roe environment. They don't really know where they stand. It was very easy for many decades for them to just say that they're pro-life, but when it comes to defining what that means, what does it mean in terms of miscarriages, what does it in terms of cases of rape or incest, it's been a little trickier for them. Certainly, politically, it has been.

BERMAN: Lisa Lerer, it's great to see you. I have to say, I'm looking forward to reading your book. We've been talking about it for some time. I can't wait for it to come out.

LERER: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you so much. Brianna?

KEILAR: And tonight. President Biden talks exclusively with Jake Tapper. This interview begins at 9:00 P.M. Eastern on Jake's new primetime show, CNN Tonight with Jake Tapper.

BERMAN: A rough perception from University of Florida students for the person who could be the new president of the university.

KEILAR: Plus, Kim Jong-un's new wardrobe, why experts say could be a sign of his military strategy.

And the Los Angeles City Council president resigning her leadership role over a racist remark, several of them, actually. But some critics say she didn't go far enough. She is still on the council.



BERMAN: Hundreds of University of Florida students protesting Republican Senator Ben Sasse as he visited the campus, this ahead of his likely appointment as the new school president. CNN reported that he plans to resign from the Senate by the end of the year to take the job. CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now live. Look, it's a big campus, there are a lot of students. Still, that was some greeting.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not necessarily a warm welcome for Senator Sasse, who is likely going to be the next university president of the University Florida. And all of this went down on Monday afternoon where he was hosting an open forum to talk to students, staff and faculty. And according to the student newspaper, he left that forum about 15 minutes early, at which point 300 students walked into the room and began chanting for Sasse to leave.

They said they were upset over his past remarks calling him homophobic, saying that he was racist. Remember, he was vocally opposed to the 2015 SCOTUS ruling that allowed for same-sex marriage. Just listen to some of these furious students with one saying that they could find a better qualified candidate in downtown Gainesville on a random Thursday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe that Ben Sasse, the senator from Nebraska, is wholly to be the next president of the University of Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just does not reflect the diversity of our campus and our student body here and his values go against everything that we claim to value as an institution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ben Sasse is not welcome at this university. He's not a part of our community and he won't have an easy time here if he chooses to accept it.


VALENCIA: The students are just furious with Sasse's past comments but also the secretive selection process that the university had to select Sasse out of a reported 700 candidates. They're baffled that he is the sole finalist, or is being named the sole finalist out of this report of 700 candidate field. Brianna?

KEILAR: Has the senator responded? Has the university responded to this?

VALENCIA: Not to the demonstrations. But last week, when a source told us that Sasse was expected to step down from his Senate seat and resign to take this job at university president, we did hear from the university, in fact, the person in charge of this selection committee.

And this is what they had to say about the Republican senator of Nebraska. Ben brings intellectual curiosity, a belief into power and potential of American universities and an unmatched track record of leadership spanning higher education, government and the private sector.

Look, guys, before he started his Senate career, Sasse was a president, college president of a small liberal arts school in Nebraska. And now, it seems, it's only a matter of times before he becomes the university president at the University of Florida. John and Brianna?

BERMAN: Nick Valencia, thanks so much for that report, Nick.

So, Kim Jong-un is sporting a brand new wardrobe in recent days. Why some experts say the new look could be part of a military strategy.


KEILAR: And another round of missile attacks this morning in Ukraine. We will speak to Russia's former foreign minister, next.


KEILAR: This morning, North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un is sporting a new look, as you see here. These new images show him in a white tunic, he's wearing black slacks, he has a khaki sort of safari hat on, and he's also been spotted in a brown field jacket. Experts say that he's sending a message that he's bold, proud and the in control of his nuclear program. The reclusive nation has conducted at least seven missile tests in the past two weeks.

CNN's reporters are covering the latest all around the world.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Will Ripley in Taipei. For the first time in six months, North Korean state media is not just only acknowledging their mass missile testing, 25 launch events so far this year, according to CNN's count, but they're actually threatening South Korea.

Quoting their leader, Kim Jong-un, that nuclear combat forces are fully ready to hit and wipe out South Korean targets, including air force and potentially U.S. military bases, threatening tens of thousands of American lives.