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Biden to Voters: Vote for Democrats and I'll Protect Abortion Rights; Record Turnout, Long Lines at on First Day of Georgia Early Voting; Putin to Meet with National Security Council; North Korea Fires 250 Artillery Shells as 'Warning' to the South; Freeze Warnings in Effect Across Eastern Half of U.S.; Inflation Adjustments Mean Lower Tax Rates for Some; Rubio, Demings Face Off in Debate. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired October 19, 2022 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden moving to keep gas prices down with the critical midterm elections fast approaching. Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Wednesday, October 19, and I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.
Today the president is expected to announce that he's authorizing the release of another 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Reserve. The drawdown completing a plan first announced in March to release a total of 180 million barrels.
And some good on the inflation front. Millions of Americans could see a bump in their paychecks next year, thanks to a new inflation adjustment to the tax code. More on that here in a moment.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This all comes as President Biden and Democratic candidates lock down their midterm messaging, with less than three weeks to go.
The focus now: the economy and abortion. President Biden was speaking at a Democratic National Committee event, trying to rally voters still angry about the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, pledging to protect abortion rights if more Democrats are elected to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now, we're short a handful of votes. If you care about the right to choose, then you got to vote. That's why these midterm elections are so critical to elect more Democratic senators to the United States Senate and more Democrats to keep control of the House of Representatives.
Folks, if we do that, here's the promise I make to you and the American people. The first bill that I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Let's go right to the White House. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is there. Jeremy, it was abortion yesterday. The messaging today on energy.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly, John. Yesterday you heard the president talking about an issue that he and his advisers believe is a winning issue for Democrats in midterm these elections, and that is abortion rights.
Today the president taking head on a political liability. That's the rising gas prices that we've seen over the last month across the country. Gas prices today up about 20 cents compared to last month.
And so today you'll hear the president address that head on and announce the release of 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S.'s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That rounds out 180 million barrels of oil that the president promised to release last spring.
All of this to counter not only that production cut that OPEC+ announced earlier this month, but also to counter the effects of the war in Ukraine.
What's interesting is that this 180-million-barrel release was intended to serve as a war-time bridge. But a senior official now telling us that the president is prepared to release additional barrels of oil beyond that 10 million, should market conditions call for that.
We're also going to hear the president announce a plan to replenish that Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is at an all-time low at 400 million barrels of oil.
Officials stay that's still enough to deal with any potential crisis, but that the president will announce a plan to buy more oil at 67 to $72 per barrel.
But again, what's important here: three weeks before the midterm election, the president wants to show American voters that he is on top of this issue of gas prices that's so near and dear to their hearts as they prepare to vote.
KEILAR: Jeremy, any concern from folks within his party about this focus on abortion?
DIAMOND: Look, there's certainly a segment of the party that says the president should only be talking about the economy, should only be talking about gas prices, but at the same time, we know that this issue of abortion rights is a galvanizing issue for the president's base.
And the White House press secretary was asked this question on CNN yesterday. Here's how she answered it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think it's a mistake to talk about that and to talk about what's at stake when it comes to Roe; what's at stake when it comes to these difficult decisions that women have to make. And also, it is also important to talk about the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: The reality at the end of the day, though, is that the Democrats have seen their momentum from the summer begin to slip. We are seeing some of those congressional -- generic congressional ballot numbers shift in favor of Republicans.
And so the president today, that's why you're seeing him talk about gas prices and not abortion.
KEILAR: All right. Jeremy Diamond, live for us at the White House. Thank you so much.
This morning early in-person voting resumes in Georgia after the first day set a midterm turnout record. More than 131,000 people cast their ballots Monday.
CNN's Ryan Young is live in Atlanta with more. A record, Ryan?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPOND: Yes. Good morning, Brianna.
Yes, a record. Some people were shocked by the big numbers, too. Over 130,000 people in the first day. Day two was yesterday. Another 130,000 plus people voted.
There have been folks who have been getting to the polls really early. Talking about at 6 a.m., waiting for the polls to open at 7 a.m.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, how are you doing?
YOUNG (voice-over): Georgia is energized.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think this is a really critical election.
YOUNG (voice-over): As the balance of power in Congress and some key state-level positions are being decided in these midterm elections.
REBECCA HILL, FULTON COUNTY RESIDENT: This is going to be a close race. You know, two big races. You know, the Senate and the governor's race. And I -- I want to make sure my vote is counted.
YOUNG (voice-over): Turnout for the first day of early voting here in Georgia, nearly double that of 2018's midterm elections, setting a new state record, according to state officials.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very busy, and it's very encouraging that people are taking the opportunity to vote so that we won't have any nonsense about votes not being counted properly.
YOUNG (voice-over): More than 131,000 Georgians cast their vote on Monday, these numbers almost as large as the state's first day of early voting turnout in the 2020 presidential election, according to Georgia's secretary of state.
STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We need a governor who believes in access to the right to vote and not in voter suppression, which is the hallmark of Brian Kemp's leadership.
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): 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.
YOUNG (voice-over): A major controversy ahead of these elections, Georgia Senate Bill 202, also known as the Election Integrity Act passed in March of 2021, which many critics say restricts voters.
LAUREN GROH-WARGO, STACEY ABRAMS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: What Brian Kemp did is a strategic, surgical voter suppression law. He said, Joe Biden won by 11,000 and some votes. Of the 11,000 and some votes, 7,000 of them were provisional ballots that were counted in his race. So what did Brian Kemp do? He got rid of provisional ballots on election day.
What does the Abrams campaign do, then? Really push early vote turnout, because Georgians can vote at any location during early vote.
YOUNG (voice-over): Georgian election officials disagree.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The main thing is, it's kind of hard to say he's suppressing the vote when you're seeing record turnout. We make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.
YOUNG (voice-over): The bill expanded early voting access for many counties, including an additional mandatory Saturday and extended voting hours.
Potential issues resulting from some of the bill's other changes, such as time constraints for when one can apply for an absentee ballot, and the deadlines for when ballots must be counted, won't be known until we get closer to November 8.
For now many passionate about the issues at hand aren't waiting until election day to cast their vote here in Georgia.
HILL: Voting in person seems like it's important. I felt like 2020 was a nightmare in terms of, like, worrying that somehow, my vote would be invalidated, given the politics about -- about Fulton County votes, in particular.
YOUNG (on camera): Yes, Brianna and John, I can tell you, yesterday when we were talking to folks in line, the average wait was about 34 minutes.
People told us they found it pretty easy to show up to the polling locations with their I.D., stand in line, and make that vote. But there were some people who felt like, especially on those lunch runs -- and you guys understand this -- it was too long to wait in line, so they plan to come back in the next few days.
You understand with weeks of voting for the next -- for this to be open, there are plenty of people who can come over the next few weeks to make that important vote here in the state where so many commercials are flooding the airs (ph) right now, and people are just tired of the negative campaigning.
KEILAR: Yes. I can only imagine. Ryan Young, thank you so much, live for us from Atlanta.
After voting unanimously to subpoena former President Trump, Congresswoman Liz Cheney says the January 6th Committee plans to issue that subpoena in short order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): You know, I think we all felt it was -- there was no disagreement on the committee. We all felt that our obligation is to seek his testimony; that the American people deserve to hear directly from him; that it has to be under oath; that -- that he has to be held accountable.
And so we'll be issuing the subpoena shortly, both for his testimony under oath, as well as for documents. And we'll take whatever next steps we have to take, you know, assuming that he will fulfill his legal obligation and honor the subpoena.
But if that doesn't happen, then we'll -- we'll take the steps we need to take after that. But I don't want to go too -- too far down that path at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Trump is not expected to comply with the subpoena. The subpoena could also trigger a prolonged court battle over Trump's possible compliance which could even outlast the committee itself.
BERMAN: This morning, the top Russian military commander in Ukraine has indicated that Russia's on the key Ukrainian city of Kherson is tenuous, at best.
This news comes as President Putin is preparing to huddle with his national security council. They'll assess a series of recent Russian setbacks in Ukraine, including possibly now, Kherson.
There was a new round of kamikaze drone strikes overnight in Ukraine.
CNN's Nic Robertson is live for us in Kyiv this morning.
Nic, to hear a Russian military commander admit that this key city, that they've held nearly since the beginning of the invasion, their hold on it is tenuous at best. What's the status there?
NIC ROBERTSON, INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, and the only city, the only big city that they have that's West of that important strategic Dnipro River that runs North to South in Ukraine. He's saying that his troops will grind -- grind on the advancing
enemy, which is interesting in and of itself, because it's admitting that they are losing territory there.
The very fact that he went on national TV in Russia to talk about the situation there -- to say that it's difficult; to say that the bridges across the river are badly damaged; to say they're having difficulty getting food and supplies into the city -- is an indication of apparent weakness that we don't often see by Russian generals on Russian state media.
And reading between the lines there, pulling out the civilians from that town, telling them to leave. And this does appear that Russia is preparing, potentially, to give up that ground it's taken.
Nevertheless, strikes again hitting power-generating facilities in three towns in the center of Ukraine overnight, depleting their electricity and water supplies there.
BERMAN: And this is the pretext for the security council meeting that Putin will attend. What is anticipated to come from it?
ROBERTSON: Hard to know what is realistically said behind closed doors, because Russia has such an effective propaganda machine. We do understand that it's already met today, that it will reconvene again later this afternoon.
I think perhaps one person to look to, the former president, former prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of that security council. Often in recent times has had strident comments to make.
So I think look to him and what he says to get a sense of how Russian propaganda is going to play that meeting.
But it comes at a time when they are on the back foot. And we've had the head of defense intelligence here in Ukraine saying, Look, we're going to have victory by next summer. Russia is going to lose, and this is going to lead to the destruction of Russia.
Ukraine is sounding very bold at the moment, if you will, despite the strikes on the electricity supplies. And Russia seems to be posturing itself to pull back more and lose more ground here.
BERMAN: Yes. We'll have to wait and see what we hear from that council meeting today. Nic Robertson, in Ukraine, thank you so much.
KEILAR: North Korea firing 250 artillery shells off the Eastern and Western coasts on Tuesday in a, quote, "threatening warning" to the South.
South Korea began military drills this week, in response to the North's nuclear and missile threats.
CNN's Paula Hancocks is live for us in Seoul, South Korea, with the very latest here. Hi, Paula. Tell us what's happening.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, what's happening at this point is we are well and truly in the midst of tit- for-tat action when it comes to what's happening on the Korean Peninsula.
Just in the last 24 hours, North Korea has fired hundreds of artillery shells off both the East and the West coast of North Korea, showing its displeasure at those military drills happening between the U.S. and South Korea.
They were close to the DMZ, the Demilitarized Zone, and they say that they ordered their military to fire threatening warning shots into the water. That's according to state-run media.
Now, some of these shells overnight, local time, actually fell into a maritime border buffer zone. Now, this buffer zone is effectively something that was decided between North and South Korea back in 2018 when relations were far better than they are at the moment.
But North Korea has been whittling away at that military agreement in many ways over recent weeks. Every expert I have spoken to at this point expects the missile launches to continue, potentially slightly quieter this week, while the Chinese Party Congress is ongoing.
Pyongyang certainly doesn't want to annoy its main ally, Beijing. So certainly, by next week, experts are assuming that the missile launches will continue -- John, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. We'll be watching. A time of such activity in the region there. Paula, thank you.
BERMAN: So, millions of Americans are bracing for the big chill. Kevin Kline, Tom Berenger, Meg Tilly. Actually, I think they're talking about the weather. Temperatures plunging, and frost or freeze warnings expected across the Eastern half of the country tonight.
I want to get right to meteorologist Chad Myers.
You know, Kevin Costner cut from that film all together, Chad.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And what is the best way to know if spaghetti is done, John?
BERMAN: Throw it at the refrigerator?
MYERS: Throw it at the wall. Throw it at the refrigerator, absolutely. I remember that movie well. I watched it so many times.
Millions of Americans today, though, waking up to that low tire pressure warning going off in your car. The air is cold. The wind chill is cold.
Remember now, pets don't have their winter coats yet. They're still in that summer form. So they are not ready for this freeze warning. And this isn't mid-winter cold, but it's certainly below freezing. And
so therefore, you are going to see those temperatures cold enough across all of these areas East of the Rockies, really, to kill your tomatoes, to get all of those things that you were trying to grow and took so good care of all summer long, probably the end of the season for them.
Even some snow coming across parts of Pennsylvania this morning. Watch the mountains and the hillies [SIC] -- and the slick sections there, especially on some of the hills in Western Pennsylvania. It could be very tricky this morning, especially before the sun comes up.
There's an awful lot of snow across the U.P. of Michigan. About 30,000 people were without power for a while yesterday. And temperatures don't warm up until the weekend. But when they do, they really will warm up.
This winter cold is gone and back into fall or what even may feel, after this, like spring -- John.
BERMAN: Weather whiplash. All right. Chad Myers, thank you very much.
MYERS: You're welcome.
BERMAN: Inflation hurting wallets now but possibly could fatten paychecks next year. The announcement from the IRS ahead.
KEILAR: And Elnaz Rekabi, the Iranian rock climber who competed without a hijab, has returned to Iran. Concerns for her safety this morning.
BERMAN: So, an announcement from the Treasury Department overnight means that millions of Americans could see a bump in their paychecks.
This is because of inflation adjustments to the tax code. This again announced by the IRS overnight.
With me now is chief business correspondent and my tax adviser, Christine Romans.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's never too early for taxes.
BERMAN: So this is -- Look, inflation is bad, don't get me wrong.
ROMANS: Yes, yes.
BERMAN: But there are some tweaks, to Social Security, cost of living adjustment.
BERMAN: And something like this, where people could see little boosts.
ROMANS: Yes. Cost of living adjustments. The highest inflation in 40 years. It will mean big changes at tax time.
This is the largest change to deduction since it began the cost of living adjustments during the Reagan administration, by the way. It will mean lower tax rates for some in 2023.
Let's break it all down here. The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly rises to $27,700. For single tax payers and married individuals, it's $13,850.
And the IRS will adjust the income levels for the seven tax brackets, ranging from 10 percent, of course, to 37 percent. The top income tax rate, of 37 percent, will apply to individual income above $578,000 and change and $693,000 for married couples.
The IRS is raising the maximum contribution to your flexible spending account by another 200 bucks; also raising the estate tax and the annual gift tax limit. So if you have rich relatives, which neither of us do, they can give you more money, outside of paying more taxes.
BERMAN: If anyone was planning on leaving me $12 million, they can now leave me more --
BERMAN: -- than $12 million.
ROMANS: This is inflation. This is all because of inflation that is grinding in our weekly budgets. This is how the IRS going to adjust for it in your taxes next year.
BERMAN: What it means is all the way up and down the tax code, is that less of your income is going to be taxed at the higher rate.
ROMANS: Exactly. That's exactly right. So when you're at the highest tax rate, that's about $40,000 of your income will now be taxed at 35 percent instead of 37 percent. So that will be savings.
ROMANS: And then it goes up and down the tax code.
BERMAN: And again, if you do withholdings, you'll see a change. You will see a change in your paycheck. Of course, it's going to go to things like food and gas and other things.
BERMAN: But that's the way it is.
Christine Romans, thank you very much for that.
KEILAR: Newly-obtained video giving us a glimpse into Florida's crackdown on supposed voter fraud.
BERMAN: Tensions high in Florida's first and only Senate debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Americans have a Second Amendment right to protect themselves. They have -- and these killers that are out there, if they're intent on killing, as they are, they have found multiple ways to get ahold of weapons and cause mass destruction.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: How long will you watch people being gunned down in first grade, fourth grade, high school, college, church, synagogue, a grocery store, a movie theater, a mall, and a night club --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswoman --
DEMINGS: -- and do nothing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: I'm 100 percent pro-life. Because I -- Not because I want to deny anyone their rights, but because I believe that innocent human life is worthy of the protection of our laws. That said, every bill I've ever sponsored on abortion, every bill I've ever voted for, has exceptions.
DEMINGS: But what I can say to him and I can say to Florida, we are not going back, Senator, no matter how obsessed you are with a woman's body and her right to choose. We are not going back to a time where women are treated like second-class citizens or like property.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Senator Marco Rubio clashing with his challenger, Congresswoman Val Demings, in last night's debate for Rubio's Senate seat in Florida.
In addition to abortion, the two sparred over guns, elections, homeowner's insurance, which is on the minds of many Floridians in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
With me now, CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp; and "New York Times" national political reporter Shane Goldmacher.
You know, S.E. this was a microcosm of what is the national debate, three weeks minus one day into the midterms.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: yes. I thought it was interesting, and I thought that both actually acquitted themselves pretty well for their audiences. I thought they were both forceful. They had a good facility with the facts. They landed some interesting -- some good lines for their bases.
Interestingly, no one brought up Trump, which you, you know, might not do in Florida, right? If you're Val Demings, Trump is still very popular, but then so is DeSantis. I thought that was interesting. It was a Trumpless debate, in a very Trumpy state.
BERMAN: You know, what is Florida at this point? Because -- because it was a purple state. It was on the knife's edge in terms of swinging one way or the other. But now it's kind of leaning red, perhaps.
SHANE GOLDMACHER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": The biggest surprise in Florida is that it's just not a swing state in this year's election.
If you draw a map of the most important Senate seats, Florida is dangling at the bottom of a top ten list. Right? Florida's been at the top of the top ten for years and years. These seats have been the closest in the country.
And so while this debate is one night of getting national attention, while national Democrats have been pouring money into Val Demings Demings' campaign, this has not gotten the money from the outside super PACs. This is not seen as a top-tier Democratic pick-up opportunity.
And so yes, Demings and Rubio had a very intense debate last night. It's pretty clear that Val Demings does not care for Marco Rubio as a person. You saw his skills as a debater, too.
GOLDMACHER: But this is just -- it's just not a critical state at this point to who's going to control the U.S. Senate.
BERMAN: Look, he did learn some lessons on the presidential debate stage. Thank you, Chris Christie. I mean, I think he knows how to navigate now tough, potentially high-tension debates.
I want to go back to a comment that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made to Punch Bowl News yesterday that I'm not sure got enough attention. It was about how he might approach aid to Ukraine if he becomes House speaker.
And he said, "I think people are going to be sitting in a recession, and they're not going to write a blank check to Ukraine," indicating that his Congress, if he's leading it, might not be as forthcoming for aid to Ukraine, S.E.?
CUPP: I think that was a signal in a couple ways.