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Independent Spars With GOP's Lee At Debate In Key Senate Race; Debates Get Personal As Midterm Elections Near; Abrams, Kemp Face Off In Georgia Gubernatorial Debate; Two Workers Killed At Zaporizhzhia Power Plant; Infrastructure Targeted By Russians In Ukraine; Fitch Predicts Recession In The Spring; Sarah Palin A Preview Of Today's GOP. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 18, 2022 - 06:00   ET



REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), OHIO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You were calling Trump America's Hitler. Then you kissed his ass.



RYAN: It is true. And then you kissed his ass, and then he endorsed you and you said he's the greatest president of all time.

EVAN MCMULLIN (I), UTAH SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You were there to stand up for our Constitution, but when the barbarians were at the gate you were happy to let them in.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): I think I disagree with everything my opponent just said, including the words "but" and "the."


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A big debate night that was both contentious and personal. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

And bad blood between Tim Ryan and J.D. Vance playing out on the debate stage last night in Ohio. You saw it there in the first clip. They were sparring over the economy and inflation, clashing over racist rhetoric and abortion.

This race is more competitive than expected in a state that Donald Trump carried twice. Both men describing each other as ass-kissers and suck-ups, and that was the more friendly part of the debate.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, if you can believe that.

Now, in Utah, flashes of tension between the candidates. Independent Evan McMullin attacking incumbent Republican Senator Mike Lee there, accusing him of betraying America on January 6th.

The debate was also a chance for McMullin to confront Lee over text messages that he sent to Mark Meadows, then President Trump's chief of staff, in the leadup to the attack on the Capitol. Lee denied doing anything wrong.

BERMAN: CNN's Omar Jimenez up all night watching these debates play out. Omar what did you see?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, these were spirited to say the least. Contentious for the second time in a row, at least in Ohio, second time in as many debates between Tim Ryan and J.D. Vance, it felt personal at times.

While meanwhile in Utah, in that race, you've got the independent, Evan McMullin, against the incumbent, Senator Mike Lee; and it's the only race where Democrats didn't field a candidate. And so the independent is fighting an uphill battle.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): In two crucial Senate debates, party politics took center stage.

In Ohio, Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance debated for a second time in a closer-than-expected Senate race. And issue in one exchange: Donald Trump's endorsement of Vance.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "The New York Times" did a big story today, front page, that J.D. wasn't sure if he wanted my support. J.D. is kissing my ass, he wants my support so bad.

VANCE: I know the president very well, and absolutely, he was joking about a "New York Times" story. That's all he was doing. I didn't take offense to it.

RYAN: If you can't even stand up for yourself, how are you going to stand up for the people of the state?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Vance in return, hit Ryan repeatedly on his ties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

VANCE: The guy who's subservient to the national party is Tim Ryan, who's been begging for these guys to come into this race and save him from the campaign that he's been running.

RYAN: You keep talking about Nancy Pelosi. If you want to run against Nancy Pelosi, move back to San Francisco and run against Nancy Pelosi. You're running against me.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The debate's most contentious moment was when discussing the so-called replacement theory: the idea that white people are being slowly and intentionally replaced by minorities and immigrants.

RYAN: This is who he's running around with, talking about replacement theory. There's no big grand conspiracy. This is a country who's been enriched by immigrants from all corners of the -- the world. There's no -- the problem -- the danger --

VANCE: It's shameful for you to accuse me of that, given your family (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RYAN: The danger --

VANCE: It's shameful of you to accuse me of that.

RYAN: My pal, turn. My turn.

VANCE: Oh, buddy, your turn.

RYAN: All these guys, they just want to stoke this racial violence. We're tired of it, J.D.

VANCE: What happens is that my own children, my biracial children, get attacked by scumbags online and in person, because you are so desperate for political power that you'll accuse me, the father of three beautiful biracial babies, of engaging in racism? We are sick of it.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): In Utah, incumbent Republican Senator Mike Lee and candidate Evan McMullin agree on most policies, like inflation, the environment and student loan cancellation. It's McMullin's campaign as an independent in a conservative state that's distinguishing the two.

MCMULLIN: I'm not going to Washington, if we prevail, to be a boot- licker for Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

LEE: To suggest that I'm beholden to either party, that I've been a boot-licker for either party, is folly, and it's contradicted by the plain facts.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): It's unclear if McMullin can win as an independent in a state Trump carried in 2020. That election dividing the two candidates.

LEE: Yes, Joe Biden is our president. He was chosen in the only election that matters, the election held by the Electoral College.

MCMULLIN: Senator Lee, you advised spurious so-called legal efforts to mislead tens of millions of Americans that the election had been stolen. And congratulations, you succeeded.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Text messages reported by CNN in April reveal that Lee did reach out to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the days after the election, initially supporting efforts to challenge the results.

MCMULLIN: You advised the White House, find an alternative slate of electors for Trump to overturn the will of the people. That's what you said.

When the barbarians were at the gate, you were happy to let them in.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Despite the evidence, Lee issued a stern denial.

LEE: There is absolutely nothing to the idea that I would have ever supported, ever did support the fake electors plot.

MCMULLIN: If you can keep us divided, then that's how you hold onto power. You're used to that. but we're building a cross-partisan coalition to replace you, Senator Lee, and it must be done.



JIMENEZ (on camera): And in that race, Utah Senator Mitt Romney has declined to endorse either candidate, saying he's friends with both. And in doing so, he's the only GOP senator who hasn't endorsed Lee, despite Lee pleading for him to do so.

In Ohio, we've seen an effusion of national Republican money, which means that despite Tim Ryan vastly outraising J.D. Vance from July through September, Vance is set to outspend Ryan $11 million to $3 million, at least on ads, from now through election day, which by the way, is three weeks away.

BERMAN: Three weeks exactly, Omar, which is why it's getting so heated. Omar Jimenez, thank you very much for that.

KEILAR: And in a rematch of their fiery debates for the same job back in 2018, Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams made their final pitches to voters last night.

The stakes were arguably higher for Abrams, who has trailed here in recent polls. Here she is, challenging Kemp on gun control.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): There's a federal background check on every individual that buys a firearm in the United States over of America.



KEMP: But the point -- I understand.

ABRAMS: That's not true.

KEMP: I understand the -- the point you're making, but the point is, when you buy a firearm, you get a background check.

ABRAMS: Mr. Kemp --

KEMP: None of the laws were changed.

ABRAMS: Mr. Kemp, if you purchase a weapon in Georgia through a gun sale or a private sale --

KEMP: Well, Ms. Abrams, I haven't --

ABRAMS: -- through a gun show or private sale, you are not subject to that.

KEMP: I have --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to have to move on.

KEMP: -- not interrupted you tonight.

ABRAMS: I apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Candidates, we have to move on.


KEILAR: Voting rights was also front and center.


ABRAMS: Brian Kemp was the secretary of state, and he has assiduously denied access to the right to vote.

We know that the right to vote is the only way that we can make the changes we need in the state, the only way we can make the changes we need in this country. Whether it's access to the right to an abortion, the ability to take care of our families, we need a governor who believes in access to the right to vote --


ABRAMS: -- and not in voter suppression, which is the hallmark of Brian Kemp's leadership.


KEMP: I'm the person that created the online voter registration system in this state, where any Georgian can vote -- register to vote 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So for someone to say that we have been suppressive in our state, when we've seen turnout increase over the years, including with minorities like African-Americans, Latinos and others, is simply not true.


KEILAR: Early voting is already under way in Georgia. with election day, of course, exactly three weeks away.

BERMAN: All right. New developments in Ukraine this morning. The mayor of Kharkiv says his city is under fire, with a series of explosions reported.

Russian strikes targeting critical infrastructure in at least three Ukrainian cities, including the capital of Kyiv, have triggered power and water outages. Shelling destroyed a two-story residential building in Mykolaiv. A man's body pulled from rubble there.

And Ukraine says two workers at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were kidnapped Monday. Let's go right to CNN's Nic Robertson, live for us in Kyiv this

morning. Nic, what is the situation in the capital?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, two workers killed during a strike on an electrical power plant here just a couple of hours ago. Strikes in Dnipro, South and East of here, on electrical power plants there. Also, to the West of here, shots (ph) strikes on power plants there, strikes in the East -- Eastern city of Kharkiv, as well.

What authorities are saying is that, in these areas, particularly over in what they call the left bank of -- left bank of Kyiv here behind me, in the city, electricity is out in some of the neighborhoods. And that means the water supplies are out.

And this is beginning to take an effect in different cities around the country. And as you say, in Mykolaiv, in the South, strikes on that city, killing a man, destroying a flower market -- John.

BERMAN: -- we seeing in terms of changes in tactics by the Russians?

ROBERTSON: This does seem to be a change in tactics. They're using these Iranian-made drones more, but the fact that they continue to go after these important but not massive power-generating facilities.

Russia appears to be embarking on a war of attrition, to step-by-step, across all cities in the country, degrade the electrical generating capacity of the country, stop the citizens getting electricity, stop them getting water, impose hardships on them through the winter.

Russia is not winning on the battlefield. This is a war of attrition to stop Ukraine functioning -- John.

BERMAN: Nic Robertson, thank you very much.

KEILAR: So this just in. Fitch Ratings, the credit rating firm, warning that inflation and the Fed's interest rate hikes will push the U.S. economy into a 1990-style recession, starting in the spring. This is just the latest in a recent string of warnings, from JPMorgan Chase's CEO Jamie Dimon to the International Monetary Fund.

And here's what President Biden told CNN last week.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every six months, they look down the next six months and see what's going to happen. It hadn't happened yet. It hasn't -- there is -- there is no -- there's no guarantee that there is going to be a recession. I don't think there will be a recession. If it is, it will be a very slight recession.


KEILAR: Joining us now, CNN reporter Matt Egan and CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

So Matt, kind of add this to the pile, I guess, here. Let's start with this Fitch Ratings forecast. Why is this significant?

MATT EGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Brianna, this is just adding to the growing sense that the economy faces real challenges in the months ahead.

In this report from Fitch Ratings, obtained first by CNN, they are slashing their economic outlook for the United States for both this year and next. And they are pinpointing the start date for a likely recession as the second quarter of next year. I mean, just a few months away.

Then you might be thinking, didn't we just go into a recession two and a half years ago? And we did. So it is pretty incredible that we're already preparing for the next one.

but the problem is that inflation, after being very low, almost no inflation for years, now inflation is really high. And so this is crushing families and businesses, and our retirement accounts.

And worse, this is also causing the Federal Reserve to slam the brakes on the economy by rapidly raising interest rates, and they are -- they are basically trying to slow this economy down. And if they lob enough massive interest rate hikes at the economy, eventually, they're going to succeed.

One other key point here from Fitch is they're worried about a spillover from Europe. Many fear that Europe is either in or near a big recession, because of the war in Ukraine, because of soaring energy costs there, and that is going to cause problems here, because Europe is one of our biggest trading partners.

KEILAR: Any bright spots here, Matt?

EGAN: I mean, definitely. You know, not all recessions are created equally. And Fitch is not calling for an economic meltdown like the last two recessions.

You know, one way to think about how severe a recession is, is by looking at how much the unemployment rate goes up. And during the COVID recession of 2020, we saw this massive increase of more than 11 percentage points for the unemployment rate. More than 5 percentage points during the Great Recession.

But Fitch is calling for something more like that 1990 to 1991 recession, which was considered relatively mild.

Now, we don't want to minimize any job loss, right? Anyone losing a job is painful. But there are some reasons why the next recession could be more mild.

The jobs market is strong. Consumer finances are pretty solid. People don't have quite as much debt as they have in the past recessions. There's no epic housing glut like the one that preceded the Great Recession. And banks are a lot stronger than they were in 2008.

I do think, though, at the end of the day, you know, there are a lot of moving forces here. High inflation, aggressive Fed, war in Ukraine. No one really knows exactly how this is going to play out.

BERMAN: Romans, I was trying to figure out what a 1990s-style recession was, whether it's like the Gin Blossoms playing in the background or something?


BERMAN: It actually means that it's not as bad as it could be.

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: It means a mild recession, which maybe we should have highlighted right there.

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: Fitch is predicting maybe a mild recession, which I'm not saying is a good thing, but it's better than an awful recession.


BERMAN: What is the consumer to make of this?

ROMANS: And it's noting that consumer finances are much stronger today than they were the last time we had the real big financial crisis and even in the 1990s.

So what should consumers know? I think people need to realize you have to have a lot of humility to be trying to forecast what's happening or will happen in the economy. Because this is a very unusual period.

If you have high-interest credit card debt or high-interest debt, you need to be paying down that debt. You need to be handling -- controlling the things you can control.

You know, I've said this before. Personal finance rules, those boring personal finance rules, are more important today than they were last year, because interest rates are higher. Right? And it's going to cost you more to carry that debt. So you just really have to get your own financial house in order.

It's still a very good job market, still a good time to be trading up for a different job. It is still a good time to be paying down debt and, you know, getting a flexibility fund, emergency savings fund. But for the most part, there's a lot here you -- normal people cannot control, except for how they're handling their own money.

BERMAN: You should write a book on this.

ROMANS: I think I will.

BERMAN: You did two.

KEILAR: I hope there are some Gin Blossoms, though. I will say that. T

Matt Egan, Christine Romans, thank you so much to both of you.

Next, how Sarah Palin's emergence over a decade ago changed the course of today's Republican Party.

Plus, they fled a bloody crackdown on protestors in Iran, and now these Kurdish women are armed and fighting against the Iranian regime.

BERMAN: And a Boy Scout troop trapped by a rising river saved in a dramatic airlift.




LEE: Yes, there were people who behaved very badly on that day. I was not one of them. I was one of the people trying to dismantle this situation, trying to stop it from happening, because I believe in this document written by the hands of wise men raised up by God for that very purpose. I followed it. I studied it, and I defended it to a "T."

MCMULLIN: The Constitution is not a prop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have 30 seconds here in a moment.

LEE: For you to suggest otherwise looks right in the face of truth and in the face of the Constitution. How dare you, sir?

MCMULLIN: Senator Lee has been doing this thing with his pocket Constitution for the last several years. Senator Lee, it is not a prop. It is not a prop.

If you're committed to the Constitution, then stand up for free and fair elections. Stand up for the peaceful transfer of power.


KEILAR: The fiery debate in Utah between Republican Senator Mike Lee and independent challenger Evan McMullin, where January 6th was really front and center.

McMullin accusing Lee of betraying his oath to the Constitution with his initial efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, calling it the most egregious betrayal of our nation's Constitution in its history by a U.S. senator.


Joining us now to discuss is former senior adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain -- and the John McCain campaigns and the creator and co-host of "The Circus" on Showtime, Mark McKinnon. Always great to have you here with us here, Mark.

I know you're watching this race incredibly carefully. I wonder, what did you think of this debate, and what do you really think of the possibility that McMullin has a chance here?

MARK MCKINNON, HOST, SHOWTIME'S "THE CIRCUS": I think he's got a real shot. This is a race that's been off the radar screen, because people just assume that an incumbent Republican in the state of Utah would be in fine shape. Well, that's not the case.

In fact, Senator Lee has been begging Mitt Romney for his endorsement and hasn't gotten it. And so last night, the stakes were really high. And it was fiery. And it was -- and McMullin has made this a real contest.

So there's a few races that have been off the radar screen. We've been looking at all the obvious races in Arizona and Georgia, but -- but Utah is one that could make the difference in November on whether we have a Republican or an independent senator from Utah.

BERMAN: You mentioned Mitt Romney. What do you think Mitt Romney is doing? Why don't you think Mitt Romney -- he's the only Republican senator not to endorse Mike Lee, and it happens to be the other senator in the state that he represents.

MCKINNON: Well, you know, Mitt Romney is an interesting character in this -- this Shakespearean drama going on in the Republican Party. He's one of the very few left. There's Liz Cheney and a few others, who stood up against Donald Trump, and -- and stood for the truth and about what happened on January 6th.

So that's -- that's a real point of contention with him and Senator Lee, and that could make the difference in the election.

KEILAR: There are text messages between Lee and Mark Meadows, who was then Trump's chief of staff, that show how much Lee was pushing Trump folks towards Sidney Powell, how much he was pushing this fake electors scheme, pushing them towards John Eastman.

In the end, though, he didn't vote to contest the results of the election. Do you think that saves him?

MCKINNON: No. I mean, I think the fact that they're having this debate and that McMullin has so much ammunition, and that -- that he has the receipts of Mark Meadows phone.

Mark Meadows should have thrown that phone in the river, you know, given how much damage he's doing, not to Mike Lee but a lot of other people. You know, it's kind of a primary evidence in the hearings these days about what happened on January 6th.

But it's clear that -- that McMullin is really getting a lot of traction. And Utah is really -- it's a very different state. I mean, it's not just a typical sort of red/blue -- or red or blue state. So I think it's a state in which somebody like an independent candidate like Evan McMullin can actually -- can win there.

BERMAN: Mark, you've been around for a minute or two, as the kids like to say, and you've seen a lot of midterm elections. And a lot of them start to have a feel to them. Does this one have a feel to it yet, with gas prices inching up and Americans in the latest poll saying the economy and inflation are the No. 1 problems?

MCKINNON: Sure. I mean, you can sort of feel how things are going in the last weeks of a campaign where the momentum is headed.

This campaign has really been kind of in three phases. The Spring was, you know, really tough for Biden. No legislative accomplishments. The wind at the back of Republicans. It was going to be a huge wave.

Summer, we had the Dobbs decision, legislative accomplishments for Biden. Suddenly, it's like, Ah, Democrats are climbing back into this thing.

Well, last week's inflation report and other economic news has put the wind back at the Republicans' back. So it looks now like it will be a conventional outcome, which will be significant Republican gains in the House and perhaps in the Senate, as well.

KEILAR: It's a really interesting moment, Mark, from your show "The Circus," where you and former GOP strategist Tim Miller are talking about the trajectory of the Republican Party and the role of Sarah Palin in that. Let's listen to this.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.




TIM MILLER, GUEST HOST, SHOWTIME'S "THE CIRCUS": The voters didn't want a "campaign finance reform Sarah Palin." Right? They wanted the "anti-elite, grievance Sarah Palin."

MCKINNON: Well, and to me, it's just -- that's a critical point that I look at. I mean, lots of things have happened over the last decade or two to bring us to where we are today.

MILLER: At the time I don't think anyone could have predicted that a -- the monster would have blossomed out of her to the degree that it did.


MILLER: That you still have to grapple with the reality that that was the embryo for all the stuff that we see now. MCKINNON: No question about it.

MILLER: And there's this direct line from -- from Palin and those monster truck rallies that she had.

MCKINNON: Tea Party -- Tea Party, Trump.

MILLER: Kari Lake.


KEILAR: First off, thank you. I love that you chose this beautiful background as you discuss what I know you guys kind of consider the end of times for the Republican Party.

But I just wonder if you're looking at this now, and that's the trajectory, where does the Republican Party go now on this trajectory?


MCKINNON: Well, I think the -- the lineage becomes clear. It's kind of Palin to Trump to Kari Lake now and to Marjorie Taylor Greene.

I mean, Marjorie Taylor Greene is probably the best example. She's barely in Congress two years. Didn't even have committee assignments in the last two years, and she's going to be right at the center of Republican power, likely, when Republicans take over in a few months.

So I think Marjorie Greene is the logical extension. And people saw her as an outlier. Now the Republican Party has moved to where Marjorie Taylor Greene is, which is the ultimate extension of kind of the Sarah Palin runway.

And so the Republicans are going to be really, you know, a fringe party to the extent that they are represented by the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kari Lake.

BERMAN: Mark McKinnon, great to see you. Thank you so much. It was a great episode of "The Circus," as well.

MCKINNON: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right. Ahead, Senator Mark Warner from Virginia will join us as control of the Senate does hang in the balance.

Brittney Griner will spend her 32nd birthday today in a Russian prison. What her family and supporters of the WNBA star are doing to remind the world about her plight.

KEILAR Plus, Kurdish women who fled Iran's brute's crackdown on protesters are now taking up arms against the Iranian regime.