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Search for New British Prime Minister is On; Ukraine Strikes in South & East as Counteroffensive Intensifies; Biden to Talk Deficit Reduction, Student Debt Relief; Steve Bannon to be Sentenced in Jan. 6 Contempt Case; Missing Princeton Student Found Dead. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 21, 2022 - 06:00   ET



LIZ TRUSS, OUTGOING BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week. This will ensure that we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plans and maintain our country's economic stability and national security. I will remain as prime minister until a successor has been chosen. Thank you.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The high-stakes political scramble in Britain to find yet another prime minister. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman this morning.

Prime Minister Liz Truss stepping down after just 45 days in office, her tenure the shortest of any prime minister in British history. Truss's sudden resignation sending political shock waves across Britain and driving the British tabloids into a dizzy.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Who will be the next person to reside at 10 Downing Street? The Conservative Party expects to name a new prime minister by the end of next week. There appears to be no shortage of suitors. Even the names of former prime ministers are being floated.

Remember what Boris Johnson said when he left the stage? "Hasta la vista, baby." "The Terminator" quote he may have been looking for is "I'll be back."

Let's go live to London and bring in CNN's Terminator, Max Foster. Max, quite a moment in the U.K.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Boris Johnson, definitely the words -- the words on everyone's lips this morning here in Westminster. He hasn't even officially entered the race, but people were expecting him to go up against his arch political nemesis, Rishi Sunak, in a race to replace Liz Truss.

Anything truly is possible in British politics at the moment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FOSTER (voice-over): She went from this --

TRUSS: Mr. Speaker, I am a fighter and not a quitter.

FOSTER (voice-over): -- to this in a matter of hours.

TRUSS: I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.

FOSTER (voice-over): With just 45 days under her belt, British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced on Thursday she would step down, becoming the shortest serving prime minister in U.K. history.

Truss had been under immense pressure by some members of Parliament to resign. It came after a disastrous six-week tenure that put Britain into deep political and economic turmoil.

TRUSS: We set out a vision for a low-tax, high-grade economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit. I recognize, though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.

FOSTER (voice-over): In her resignation speech, Truss said she would stay on until her successor is named, saying a new leadership contest would take place within a week.

Many leaders were quick to react to the news, including London's Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan.

SADIQ KHAN, MAYOR OF LONDON: I'm not somebody who's easily surprised or easily shocked, but I am surprised and shocked.

FOSTER (voice-over): Speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Khan didn't miss his words.

KHAN: We are a laughingstock. Our reputation has been diminished every minute that Liz Truss has stayed in her office.

FOSTER (voice-over): President Biden, who just days ago called Truss's economic plans a mistake, was asked if he thought she did the right thing by resigning.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that's for her to decide. Look, she was a good partner on Russia and on Ukraine. And the British are going to solve their problems. But she was a good partner.

FOSTER (voice-over): Truss is the third leader to step down since the U.K.'s last general election, in 2019. Her resignation also means the U.K. will have the fifth prime minister in six years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tories out! Tories out!

FOSTER (voice-over): Overnight, protesters gathered outside 10 Downing Street, chanting, "Tories out," referring to Truss's Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party is the majority party in the House of Commons. By law, general elections can only take place every five years. The next one, likely in 2024.

A special early election could be called under special votes, but there are no plans for that. So despite the turnover, the next prime minister is expected to come from the Tory Party again. But not everyone agrees with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She made a lot of policies. Now, she's going back on her word. And, yes, it's definitely time for change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is completely useless. The whole government is. The country is a shambles and has been for the past 12 years.

FOSTER (voice-over): Others hope this latest political shakeup leads to real change as to how Britain chooses its leaders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that it won't be useful if we go to elections, because otherwise, I think think that is just the same thing. Obviously, she has, like, a high voice and can do a lot of things, but all the laws and all the directions of this country have been taken. It's not only about her. It's a whole team that is behind.


FOSTER (on camera): There's really no appetite for a long, protracted contest, so they speeded the process up. There could be a new leader in power by Monday.

It could be Boris Johnson. His big appeal is that he did get a landslide election for the Conservatives last time around. And he is seen by many as the best hope for achieving that again, John.

But obviously, a very divisive figure, and it does look extraordinary, I'm sure, to the outside world that he could get back in.


BERMAN: Indeed, yes. And the circus continues for the next week as we all watch what is happening there.

Max Foster, thank you so much for your reporting.

KEILAR: Overnight, active combat in the Russian-occupied Luhansk region as Ukrainian forces continue to claw back territory. Ukrainian fighters reportedly hitting the region with American-made rocket systems.

Let's go to CNN's Nic Robertson. He is in Kyiv with the very latest. Tell us what is happening there, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: According to Ukrainian officials, they're trying to take back that territory held by Russian and pro-Russian forces. They're using the HIMARS, multi- barrel, highly-accurate rocket-launching system. They've been using it to target weapons depots and places where the Russian troops are congregated. What the mayor in that region is saying is that the Russians have been

moving into civilian houses in that area and are hiding out there. According to Ukrainians, there have been a significant number of casualties among the Russian and pro-Russian forces.

The pro-Russian forces there are saying that civilians have been killed as part of this offensive, that it is -- it is the offensive that has been successful recently for the Ukrainians in taking back territory. But that appears to be where the sort of most -- or the heaviest fighting along the front line at least is going on today.

KEILAR: And so Russians are continuing to relocate civilians from Kherson, we have learned. What do we know about this?

ROBERTSON: The rate of relocation seems to have slowed down. Ukrainian forces still intending to advance and take the town. The reports are that the Russians are digging in, hardening their bunkers, hardening their structures around tanks to better protect Kherson and dig in and last longer.

But that area, of course, is now under military control. That's martial law. So civilians there have very little opportunity other than to do what they're told.

But the number of people actually being evacuated are reducing. And the Ukrainians are concerned that the Russians, despite what the Russians are saying, that the Russians are actually preparing to blow up a nearby dam, which could damage a lot of properties, some towns and villages in the area, as well as cause problems upstream that could affect the amount of water that's available to the nuclear power plant further up the river and that could be dangerous in and of itself.

KEILAR Worried they're going to blow up a dam, that is certainly something we'll be watching. Nic Robertson live for us from Kyiv. Thank you.

BERMAN: Just 19 days now until the midterm elections. Today President Biden will address deficit reduction at the White House before heading to Delaware for remarks on student debt relief.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond, live at the White House with the latest on the messaging and the politicking, Jeremy.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. Entering this final stretch of midterm campaigning, you might expect to see President Biden holding raucous campaign rallies in key battleground states.

But instead, what we're seeing is the president focusing more on official events where he can tout the administration's policy accomplishments, and also playing his key role as fund-raiser for the Democratic Party.

That's exactly what we saw yesterday when the president was in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania. He first held an event on infrastructure, highlighting the federal funding to repair bridges across the country. And then he went and fund-raised with the Senate Democratic nominee, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman.

This new campaign strategy was explained last night by the White House chief of staff, Ron Klain.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Both President Obama -- I was here, I'll share responsibility with it -- and President Trump got walloped in the midterms. So I don't think it should surprise anyone that we're not using the strategy that failed in 2010 and and strategy that failed in 2018.

I don't think rallies have proved effective for candidates in the midterms, and so we're trying something different that we think will be effective.


DIAMOND: And John, Biden advisers have told me that they still see President Biden's message as that of chief messenger -- his role, rather, as chief messenger and chief fund-raiser for the Democratic Party. He's just delivering that message in different ways.

Today, of course, we'll see him talk about his administration's efforts on deficit reduction and also head to Delaware State University, where he'll talk about his student loan plan.

The president is making clear, though, that he will be traveling in the coming weeks. He said yesterday that he's gotten 16 to 18 requests to travel to battleground states with Democratic candidates, including Nevada and Georgia. He doesn't know yet if he'll go.

But we do know that next Friday he'll reprise that role for chief fund-raiser in Philadelphia for that state's Democratic Party -- John.

BERMAN: Which will be his 19th trip to Pennsylvania, after his 18th yesterday. Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thank you very much.


KEILAR: It is sentencing day for Steve Bannon. The long-time Trump ally was convicted of contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena from the House January 6th Committee.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is live outside the U.S. district Courthouse in Washington. So tell us, Katelyn, what is DOJ saying about Bannon requesting to delay serving any sentence here?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Justice Department essentially saying Steve Bannon never wanted to comply with any subpoena from the House Select Committee, never tried to comply, and still is acting in bad faith. The Justice Department, as we head into court today, they are arguing

for Bannon, essentially, to get a high level of punishment for failing to turn over documents and for not sitting for testimony in the House Select Committee's January 6th investigation.

The Justice Department is asking for six months in jail for him. That's a pretty high level of the range that he could get. They're also asking that he's fined $200,000, the max, basically because Bannon said, I'll pay whatever. I'll pay the max. I'm not giving the court any of my financial information.

And so they're asking for a max there. And they write to the judge, heading into this sentencing, "Throughout the pendency of this case, the defendant has exploited his notoriety through courthouse press conferences and his War Room podcast to display to the public the source of his bad-faith refusal to comply with the committee's subpoena: a total disregard for government processes and the law."

We do know going into this today that Bannon is going to be asking for a very lenient sentence, perhaps only probation. But the way the law is set up around complying with congressional subpoenas, there's a mandatory minimum, one month in jail.

So now the question is what is the judge going to do with the sentence and also, will Bannon be able to perhaps delay things so he doesn't have to serve the sentence while he's pursuing appeals for his conviction here -- Bri.

KEILAR: And I also note, you know, in regard to former President Trump's documents that were seized by the federal government from Mar- a-Lago, you have some reporting about a disagreement between DOJ and also Trump's legal team about these 15 records that are in existence, about whether they're personal or whether they belong to the government. What's going on there?

POLANTZ: Right. So in this proceeding, where the government has seized all of these records and a special master is going to pick through them with the Trump team and the Justice Department, they're just starting to go through the records and make calls about what Trump wants to call them and what the Justice Department wants to call them.

Donald Trump is saying these are personal records. These should not be part of your investigation. The Justice Department is saying, There's no way that's the possibility. These are absolutely government records.

And the ones in this batch of 15 that they're just going through now and sending to the special master so the special master can make a decision, Donald Trump is -- is basically highlighting these are his personal records.

And yet, the Justice Department is pointing out they are things like clemency requests, like immigration policy documents, an email from someone at a military category, the sort of things that were absolutely sent to Donald Trump while he was president because he was president. But it's going to ultimately be up to what the special master does

here. There's still a month or two to go, and there's a lot more documents they're going to have to go through -- Bri.

KEILAR: Really interesting. Katelyn, thank you so much for that reporting.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaking at an event in Chicago last night. The topics here ranging from having four women now on the court to getting along with fellow justices that she doesn't see eye- to-eye with, like Clarence Thomas.

She said, quote, "I have disagreed more with him than any other justice, which means we don't come together on many cases. And yet I can tell you that I spend time with him, understanding that he is one of the few justices who knows practically everybody in our building. He knows their name. He knows the things about their life, what their family is suffering. He'll tell me, you know, that that person's wife is sick right now, or that person's child is having difficulty."

She says Justice Thomas cares about people, and for that, she appreciates him.

BERMAN: This morning, an awful tragedy at Princeton University after a missing student was found dead on campus. The medical examiner is now working to determine her cause of death and says there is no obvious sign of injury or criminal activity.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has been covering this story in Princeton; joins me here now. Brynn, really just awful.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's just a tragic conclusion. Because this family, they were there on the campus when we were there. They -- just searching for answers. And this is, of course, how it ended.

They were looking all over this weekend for the 20-year-old junior at Princeton. The Mercer County prosecutor's office, though, confirmed in a statement that Misrach Ewunetie's body was found outside the campus, outside the school on facility grounds, though, behind tennis courts. She was found by a facilities worker.

The statement also said, as John mentioned, there were no obvious signs of injury, and her death does not appear to be suspicious or criminal in nature. And the medical examiner will, of course, have to determine her cause and manner of death.

The school released a statement, which read, in part this: "Misrach's death is an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts go out to her family, her friends and the many others who knew and loved her."

In addition, school officials said there was no threat on campus. Now, this news coming after just an intense search by local and state authorities after Ewunetie was last seen in her dorm room and then seemingly just disappeared over the weekend.

BERMAN: That would be so hard on that family, Brynn. Thank you so much --


BERMAN: -- for being with us this morning.

Oh, I should ask you, what is the family saying?

GINGRAS: Actually, I talked to them, and you know, as I said, they were just so desperate for answers. And they traveled all across the country trying to get to the school campus, essentially just telling me that she was the light of their life, the youngest of three. She had a promising future. She had a job all lined up. And you know, obviously this is just devastating for them.

BERMAN: All right. Brynn, thank you very much.

GINGRAS: Thanks.

BERMAN: More on the sudden resignation of British Prime Minister Liz Truss and the search for her successor. The U.K.'s former ambassador to the U.S. joins us, next.

KEILAR: Mortgage rates are up; home sales are down. How this is impacting the housing market.

And major pushback this morning on these comments from Arizona's gubernatorial nominee, Kari Lake.


KARI LAKE (R), ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: If MLK, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., were alive today; if JFK were alive today; if our Founding Fathers were alive today, they would be "America first" Republicans.




KEILAR: A new leadership contest will take place in Britain within the next week to replace outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss After 45 turbulent days in office, Truss is stepping down, becoming the shortest serving prime minister in British history.

Joining us now to talk about this is former British ambassador to the U.S. Kim Darroch. Sir, thank you so much for being with us, and I'm so glad to get your perspective this morning.

Does there need to be a general election instead of just a leadership election?

KIM DARROCH, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: There doesn't. What happens in the British system, it's a party to form the government, not an individual. And the leader of that party becomes the prime minister.

So when Liz Truss resigned, she resigned as leader of the Conservative Party. So it's for the Conservative Party to choose a successor to her. It's a slightly weird system, but -- but there it is.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, we understand how the British system works, but how does the Conservative Party effectively govern here? How is this not just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic for a party that really has very little power right here at this moment?

DARROCH: That's a fair question. And there will be a lot of pressure for -- from the media and from the opposition and from the public for a general election, as we are onto now the -- the fifth prime minister in about six years. And that's not the British way. It's -- it looks very unstable.

However, if you're a Conservative, and you are worried about keeping your seat, you don't want an election now. I saw a poll this morning that had the Labour Party opposition at 53 points and the Conservatives at 14.

So if you have an election tomorrow, that would mean a complete wipe- out for the Conservatives. So I don't see them opting to go for a general election.

However, strong objectively, the argument for it is for a while, yet -- I mean, they have another couple of years to run before there has to be an election.

KEILAR: I mean, the numbers, as you point them out there, are staggering. When you're showing how little support the party has right now. Is this just -- is this party over country at this point in time?

DARROCH: Well, some of us might say that. And those numbers sound extraordinary, Brianna, until you realize that the last prime minister, in her 44 days, effectively crashed the economy. She had to sack her chancellor and appoint a new chancellor, who reversed everything.

But amongst other things is (AUDIO GAP) -- there are tens of millions of people who have mortgages in the U.K.-- have more than doubled. So as a direct result of what the government has done, mortgage costs has escalated for millions of families around the country. And that's not going to make you popular.

KEILAR: Boris Johnson not officially throwing his hat into the ring yet but that does appear to be a possibility here. What do you think of that? Is that a good idea?

DARROCH: Yes, I mean, we hear that he's been on holiday in the Caribbean, and he's flying back urgently to consult with people. And look, if he comes back and he decides to run, he needs to get 100 MPs to back his candidacy by the end of the weekend if he's to appear on the ballot paper.

And most predictions are that he could get 100 MPs. But he's a profoundly divisive character, both in the party. Remember, he -- he had to step down, because 50 ministers refused to work for him. They resigned.

And he's very divisive in the country, too.

So whether he's really the answer for the Conservative Party, I'm not sure. But I think it is quite likely that he will run. And if he does run, if he gets through to the last two, which we will know by Monday night, it goes to an online poll amongst party members, he has a very good chance. Because out there amongst the 180,000 members of the Conservative Party, he is very popular.


So I wouldn't bet your house on Boris becoming prime minister again, but I wouldn't bet against him either.

KEILAR: But do you think it's a good idea? I heard a report -- a separate report from you last night. You seemed a little more sour on the idea.

DARROCH: Yes, I don't think it's a good idea myself. They need to move on.

I think that there is -- there is a belief that he is a great election winner. But the election he won in 2019 was against Jeremy Corbyn, potentially, the most unpopular candidate the Labour Party has ever put up.

So I'm not sure you can build from that experience the argument that he is -- he is their best chance of winning the next election.

And he had a very mixed record as prime minister. And there is still hanging over him this inquiry into whether he deliberately misled Parliament, which if it was to come against him, he might have to stand down and refight his seat.

So there's an awful lot of baggage with Boris Johnson, and I wouldn't personally advocate bringing him back. But I'm not a member of the Conservative Party.

KEILAR: Well, former ambassador Kim Darroch, we very much appreciate you being with us. Obviously, a lot of eyes in America watching what is happening there in Britain. Thank you.

DARROCH: Thank you.

KEILAR: Mortgage rates are rising again as home sales fall for the eighth month in a row. Christine and Rahel are here with what homeowners and home buyers -- with what you need to know.

BERMAN: And the warning from doctors this morning on the rise of a respiratory virus among children.