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Russian Airstrikes Continue against Targets in Ukraine; National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby Interviewed on Biden Administration's Policy toward Russian Invasion of Ukraine; Ohio Senate Candidates Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance Square Off in Debate. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 11, 2022 - 08:00   ET



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Zelenskyy says that he is going to inform the G7 leaders about the air strikes that have been taking place here on Ukrainian territory. Of course, we are here at the site of one of those strikes. This is where a children's playground was hit by one of those missiles. It was actually one of the first strikes that took place here yesterday morning. But as you guys have been mentioning, those strikes have been ongoing and have been happening in the early hours of the day once again as well.

The other thing that we do expect Volodymyr Zelenskyy to call for and to urge is more weapons deliveries to Ukraine. And one of the things that the Ukrainians have been saying is of extreme importance to them right now is air defense systems. They say they need them quickly and they need a lot of them, obviously because of what's been going on here other the past couple of hours, over the past couple of days. The U.S. has already said there was a phone call yesterday, of course, between President Biden and the Ukrainian president. The U.S. has already said it is committed to providing top level air defense systems. The Germans have already said that they are going to expedite the delivery of one air defense system as well. The Ukrainians are saying those can't come fast enough given what the country is facing right now, John.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And these air strikes, more of them overnight, what can you tell us about that, Fred?

PLEITGEN: Hi there, Brianna. You're absolutely right. There was another barrage of air strikes, and there was an air raid alarm here in Kyiv, here in the capital city, that lasted for about five hours. And then you have the southern city of Zaporizhzhia that was hit apparently by rockets that would normally be used for air defense. So those are rockets that are extremely inaccurate, and that hit the city of Zaporizhzhia, obviously causing a lot of damage there.

Also, we have some reports coming from the western city of Lviv, obviously one of the main towns in the west of Ukraine that apparently some energy infrastructure was hit in the region around Lviv, apparently two different sites there. So the attacks certainly very much continuing, and it's quite interesting, because just before we went to air, I got another alert coming from the Ukrainian command of the air force saying that their new preliminary information is that between 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., about an hour ago, there were 14 additional cruise missiles fired towards Ukrainian territory from the Russian military. And Ukrainians, of course, once again are saying they are able to intercept some of those, but in many cases not able to intercept all of those. So obviously those still pose a danger to Ukrainian citizens, and with that, for the people here on the ground, guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Frederik Pleitgen, stay safe, please keep us posted. Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Let's bring in President Biden's National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. John, thank you so much for being with us. You've been watching these two nights now, two days of air strikes. Is it more likely now that the U.S. would grant Ukraine's request for longer range missiles?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Well, I would tell you we have been helping provide air defense capabilities to Ukraine since the very beginning of this conflict, way back when we started sending stingers, which are short range air defense shoulder-fired missile systems to them, over 1,400 of them. We helped arrange through Slovakia the delivery of an S-300 advanced long range air defense system. And, of course, the president has expedited the order and purchase of what we call NASAMS, these are National Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems which will also give the Ukrainians some additional range here.

As you saw from the president's discussion yesterday with President Zelenskyy, of course, he's going to be speaking with President Zelenskyy this morning in the context of this emergency G7 session. We are absolutely committed to continuing to provide air defense capabilities to Ukraine in concert with their needs. And so we're going to have that conversation with them and we'll certainly continue to provide those kinds of capabilities.

KEILAR: Continuing with what you have or providing longer range, like these ATACMS?

KIRBY: I don't have any specific announcements to make today with you, Brianna, but, again, this is an iterative conversation. We're talking to them literally every day. In fact, I think Secretary of Defense Austin will be having another meet in Brussels this week with the Ukraine contact group and other nations to, again, work through the capabilities. I just don't have anything -- I don't want to get ahead of where we are in decision-making, just to reassert that we're going to constantly work with them to make sure that we are providing capabilities they need to succeed on the battlefield.

KEILAR: Do you assess that Russia is running out or running low on cruise missiles?

KIRBY: We have been talking about this for a while. Without getting into classified information here, it is clear that Mr. Putin is having trouble with his own defense industrial base. It is also clear that we know, particularly with precision-guided munitions, that the sanctions and export controls have had an impact on his ability to purchase and supply the microelectronics that go into precision-guided munitions. And that's why in many cases you see, A, him using more dumb bombs than precision-guided munitions, and, B, why the precision-guided munitions aren't exactly always hitting the target that they're aimed for. So we know he's having trouble with PGMs, precision guided munitions, in particular, and that his defense industrial base is having trouble keeping up.


If you need more proof of that, you don't have to look any further than the fact that some of the drones that were used over the course of this weekend were Iranian drones, drones that he had to purchase from Iran because he was needing to shore up his own supplies.

KEILAR: And I know you heard the Kremlin spokesman pretty quickly ruling out a nuclear response to the attack on the bridge, which they blame Ukraine for. What was your thought on that? What was your assessment of that?

KIRBY: Look, I -- obviously we hope that that's a sincere statement, and that they mean to back that up. But we can't just take their word for it. So that's why we're continuing to monitor their nuclear capabilities as best we can. I can tell you that as of this morning, Brianna, we still have seen no indication that Mr. Putin has decided to use weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons at all at any level, and we have seen nothing that would give us reason to change our own strategic deterrent posture when it comes to protecting our interests over in Europe.

KEILAR: There are some Senate Democrats who are saying it is time to freeze Saudi cooperation over Russia ties. Does the White House agree with this?

KIRBY: I think the president has been very clear that this is a relationship that we need to continue to reevaluate, that we need to be willing to revisit. And certainly, in light of the OPEC decision, I think that's where he is. And he's willing to work with Congress to think through what that relationship ought to look like going forward. Again, I don't have any decisions to announce or speak to today. But I think you'll find that the president obviously disappointed by the OPEC decision and is going to be willing to work with Congress as we think about what the right relationship with Saudi Arabia needs to be going forward.

KEILAR: What is the timeline on that? You have winter coming. You have Russia hitting energy infrastructure in Ukraine. You have Europe about to go through tough energy limitations. So what is the timeline on looking at that Saudi cooperation?

KIRBY: I think the timeline is now. And I think he's going to be willing to start to have those conversations right away. I don't think this is anything that is going to have to wait or should wait, quite frankly, for much longer. You mentioned the winter coming. Clearly, that's a factor here, but more importantly for the president, it is really about our own national security, our national security interests and those of the American people, and that's what he's going to put foremost.

KEILAR: John Kirby, it's great to have you, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

KIRBY: Anytime, thank you.

BERMAN: Four weeks to go until the midterms. President Biden's approval rating sits below 40 percent in CNN's poll of polls. This as the president is sitting for an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper today. It will air tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern on CNN Tonight with Jake Tapper. With us now, CNN chief national affairs analyst Kasie Hunt and CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly.

Phil, I do wonder, look, Jake Tapper, incredibly charismatic and persuasive, which is no doubt how he got the interview with the president, but the White House agreeing to do this means they want to send a message. What is the message that you think the White House wants to get out to the American people today?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think there is a couple of things. I think the White House wants the president to frame any question-and-answer session why particularly a month out from the midterms he believes that the White House argument and the Democratic argument, and frankly, the contrast between the two parties that we have heard the president talk about in his public speeches, in his remarks, is very clear. And they want to start to make that case, even ramping up the president's political activities. And I think this will be a continuation of that to some degree.

But I also think there is a recognition of this moment in time in terms of the conflict in Ukraine. It has been less than a week since those off-camera remarks from the president related to his concerns about the potential for the use of nuclear weapons by President Vladimir Putin. John, there has been no interaction with the president and reporters or anyone in the public sphere since he made those comments. Officials have made clear, as you just heard from John Kirby, that there has been no change in what the U.S. intelligence has seen. There has been no change in the posture of the U.S. nuclear defense based on anything Russia has done.

So will the president detail what his thinking is there? Why his concerns are so acute in this moment in time? Because we simply haven't heard them up to this point. And you put that in the context of everything else we have seen in Ukraine over the course of last couple of weeks, and it's a moment where there is a lot of value to the president detailing what he's thinking, what he's seeing, and in where his administration is headed on this issue.

KEILAR: Kasie, what are you looking for in this interview?

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, don't forget, we are just a couple of weeks out from the midterm elections, and obviously, the president's approval rating, which we led into this segment with, is not great. And one of the biggest challenges for Democrats on the campaign trail has been answering questions about whether they want to see the president run for reelection, whether they want him to campaign for them, et cetera, et cetera. So this is -- maybe it is Jake's great hair, Berman, you never know. I realize yours is good, too.

KEILAR: Good hair.

BERMAN: There's great hair, and there is Phil Mattingly, right? And then there's Jake Tapper.


HUNT: We have a lot of it going on here today. But Jake has such a sharp political sensibility. I'm really interested to see how the president responds to some of the pressure that I'm sure he's going to come under here, because there are a lot of Democrats concerned in the final stretch that Republicans are -- that the momentum has shifted, quite frankly, especially in critical places. Pennsylvania, for example, is something that I think Democrats had felt good about, and now I'm sensing more and more nerves. That's a seat that the Senate could hinge on.

Obviously, Herschel Walker has got a ton of challenges in Georgia that we have covered extensively, but the polling still seems to show that he's in a pretty strong position, and ultimately that seat really could hand the Senate to Republicans. And if Republicans take both the House and the Senate, the back half of the Biden administration looks very, very different than the front half, and especially in the event, say, there were changes on the Supreme Court, the Senate is obviously the critical body there. I think you'd really see another set of challenges for Democrats trying to keep control in Washington, and I think that really underscores the gravity of the moment for the president.

BERMAN: Kasie, Phil, stand by for a minute, and we will remind people again that President Biden will speak exclusively with Jake Tapper. The interview airs at 9:00 eastern on Jake's new primetime show "CNN TONIGHT WITH JAKE TAPPER."

So, a closer than expected Senate race in Ohio heating up last night. Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance faced off in their first debate. CNN's Omar Jimenez has the story.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A nail-biter Senate race heating in Ohio.

J.D. VANCE, (R) OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: We're very close to Halloween, and Tim Ryan has put on a costume where he pretends to be a reasonable moderate.

TIM RYAN, (D) OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm for Ohio. I don't kiss anyone's ass like him. Ohio needs an ass-kicker, not an ass-kisser.

JIMENEZ: Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance in a closer than expected contest that could determine the balance of power in the Senate. On abortion, Ryan pledged to codify Roe v. Wade.

RYAN: We've got to have some moderation on this issue. He's got a very extreme position. J.D., you've called inconvenient, right. Rape is not inconvenient. It's a significant tragedy. And he thinks that we should have Ohio state law which says if you're raped or pregnant through incest, then you should be forced to have the baby. This is the largest governmental overreach in the history of our lifetime.

JIMENEZ: Vance says he's not as extreme on the issue as Ryan claims.

VANCE: I am pro-life. I've always been prolife. My view on this is, generally speaking, Ohio is going to want to have different abortion laws than California, than Texas, and I think Ohio should have that right. But some minimum national standard is totally fine with me.

JIMENEZ: But then the abortion issue took a heated turn when Vance brought up a 10-year-old girl's rape case. That girl traveled to Indiana for an abortion after Roe v. Wade was overturned and Ohio banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

VANCE: I've said repeatedly on the record that I think that that girl should be able to get an abortion if she and her family so choose to do so. The thing they never mentioned is that poor girl was raped by an illegal alien, somebody that should have never been in this state in the first place. You voted so many times against border wall funding, so many times for amnesty, Tim. If you had done your job, she would have never been raped in the first place.

JIMENEZ: Vance then went on offense to paint Ryan as toeing the Democratic Party line, despite former president Donald Trump carrying the state twice.

VANCE: Tim Ryan has done nothing to stop the flow of fentanyl. He talks about wanting to support a stronger border. He talks about wanting to be bipartisan and get things done. Well, Tim, you've been in Congress for 20 years, and the border problem has got worse and worse and worse.

JIMENEZ: Ryan, then alleging the former venture capitalist depended on foreign workers.

RYAN: He has businesses in Ohio that actually hire foreign workers. Do you think we're stupid, J.D.? And we're not. I'm just telling you that you are -- you're from Silicon Valley. You don't understand what's going on here in Ohio.

JIMENEZ: And claiming a new wave of younger leadership is needed in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want President Biden to run again in 2024?

RYAN: No, I've been very clear. I'd like to see a generational change. Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, the president, everybody, like, we need a new generation of leadership.

JIMENEZ: Vance and Ryan also sparred over the threat of MAGA Republicans and election deniers.

VANCE: Are we having a good time? Is it great to have the president back in Ohio?

JIMENEZ: Vance has repeatedly invoked Trump's support throughout his Senate race and rallied with him.

RYAN: I want people in Ohio to understand, this is the crowd that J.D. is running around with. The election deniers. The extremists. He's running with an extreme element here that is very, very dangerous.

VANCE: I find it interesting how preoccupied you are with this at a time when people can't afford groceries, people can't afford to walk down the street safely. Let's focus on the significant issues right now, Tim.


JIMENEZ: Omar Jimenez, CNN, New York.


KEILAR: And we're back now with Kasie Hunt and Phil Mattingly for a look at that very good piece by Omar putting together the highlights of this debate.

I want to go back to that abortion moment and see what you guys thought about it.

You have Tim Ryan going in for the kill and then JD Vance turning it around and making it about immigration.

Did you think that landed?

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, I think this is one of those issues that really is one where people mostly have their minds made up already. So, I think what you saw was the necessity of JD Vance pivoting away from the issue that Democrats want to talk about, right?

I mean, Democrats know they're on solid ground, most Americans don't support the full overturning of Roe versus Wade. Perhaps they would support some restrictions at some point in pregnancy, but that's not what we're seeing, including in places like Ohio where there have been some really difficult stories about people who haven't been able to access care that the vast majority of Americans think they should be able to access given the certain circumstances.

So, I think that's kind of what you're seeing on display there. Tim Ryan leaning in, Republicans having to pivot away, it is the story of the whole issue.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I think that's the exact point. This is the idea of there has been kind of parallel campaigns running here, you have candidates on both sides not talking about anything that actually converges with the other thing, not battling it out over specific policies on the same exact idea and instead they're moving toward the ideas that they think is most important for them and their election.

And if you look at the state of Ohio, not unlike most states, Ohio is the greatest state in the entire Union, all 50 states if you're a Republican, all you want to talk about is inflation and economy and border security is a primary issue that Republicans, if you look at the numbers, it is 20 to 30 points spread in terms of Republicans to Democrats.

Democrats have made very clear tens of millions of dollars just in the course of last 30 days have flown into advertising on the abortion issue. I'm not so sure it is as salient in Ohio as it maybe in other states, but it is clearly an issue that Tim Ryan has an advantage on, even in the state of Ohio. And certainly, JD Vance's response to that underscored it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You keep talking about Ohio. And, by the way, Phil, I know you'll be rooting for the Cleveland Guardians as all good Americans will, but Tim Ryan really tried to make this debate, I think one of the most notable things was about authenticity and about who is the real Ohio, and he kept going after JD Vance on that.

And I do think that Democrats in that state and around the country see that as a weakness for Vance, that somehow he doesn't come across as authentic.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, and just for the record, go blue, okay. I love Phil, but we can't just have the Ohio greatest state in the country like stand.

So, anyway, but, look, John, I think to your point, I think you hit on what is exactly at the heart of this race. The reality is there is no reason we should be actually needing to air a piece about an Ohio Senate debate a couple of weeks out from the midterm elections. Republicans should put this race away a long time ago. The fact they haven't yet, the fact they still have to spend money to prop up JD Vance is because Tim Ryan has been running a very, very strong campaign as someone who is very rooted in Ohio.

You can tell from the way that he talks, from the ads he puts on the air he has a natural feel for the state in the place he's from. JD Vance has had a different back story, but he also by many accounts and, you know, I had a lot of conversations with strategists who are extraordinarily frustrated with how he has run his campaign, we have done a lot of reporting here at CNN on the ground, et cetera, looking at the fact there are local officials there who say, like, where is this guy? Why haven't I seen him? Why is he not doing all of the things you're supposed to do to do this?

Now, Phil's point about the fact that Ohio structurally is a certain way really leans in the Republicans' favor. I think it is still probably more likely you end up with Senator Vance than Senator Ryan on election night. But the reality is this race is much, much closer and that's because of the way Tim Ryan has been operating his campaign and the way he's been talking to voters.

KEILAR: Kasie and Phil, it is great to have you, with your enthusiasm as well, for Ohio.

MATTINGLY: Can Berman tell me, when do the Red Sox play?

HUNT: When is that game?

MATTINGLY: Is that a night game?

KEILAR: In his mind.

BERMAN: The Red Sox enter the season tied for first place next year.


KEILAR: In his mind.

All right. Thanks, guys.

Senate Democrats urging President Biden to end cooperation with Saudi Arabia. We were talking about this. This is because OPEC+ countries decided to slash oil production, increasing prices as we're going into winter here with this war that Russia's waging in Ukraine.

And a 17-year-old remains in critical condition after a police officer shot him at a McDonald's parking lot while he was eating in his car. We're going to speak to the police chief who fired that officer.


BERMAN: And a dramatic Coast Guard rescue as two men fend off sharks. Yikes. We have the story ahead.



BERMAN: A New York school district superintendent is being accused of drinking and driving just hours after he was seen crowd surfing at a high school football game. Superintendent Jason Thomson of Baldwinsville Central School District was seen in the student section and several students reported to the staff they thought Thompson had been drinking. CNN reached Thomson by phone who said, quote, there was a lot more to the story, no comment. Thomson is scheduled to appear in court later this month.

KEILAR: An unbelievable rescue, the U.S. coast guard spotting two men fending off sharks with bites on their hands before a Coast Guard crew pulled them from the water. The third person was hoisted out by helicopter and the survivors are speaking out this morning.


LUAN NGUYEN, RESCUED AT SEA: That's when the shark bit the life vest in front of me. And I pushed him in the face. And I think that's when I caught the injuries on my hand. Don't really remember, but pushed him in the face and he wouldn't leave. I took my two thumbs and jabbed him in the eyes. And he took off.


KEILAR: So, this rescue lasted more than an hour after a family member reported the boaters missing after they failed to return from a fishing trip.


My goodness, are they lucky, counting their blessings today.

Coming up, Senator Dick Durbin joins us live as colleagues are calling on President Biden to stop cooperating with Saudi Arabia. Does he agree? We'll talk about this, next.


BERMAN: Senate Democrats urging President Biden to end cooperation with Saudi Arabia. The calls come after OPEC plus countries decided to slash oil production which could send gas prices soaring.

Senate Foreign Relations leader Bob Menendez is urging a freezing of all aspects of Cooperation, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary to defend U.S. personnel and interests.

With us now is Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He's the Democratic whip and the chair of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks for being with us.

How far are you willing to go here?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I think it's time for us to imagine a foreign policy where we do not count on Saudi Arabia. Look at what's happened here.