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New Day

19 Days to Election, Biden Touting Infrastructure and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) in Pennsylvania; Trump, DOJ Split on Who Owns 15 Records Kept at Mar-a-Lago; Pentagon Says, Iranians Are in Ukraine Assisting Drone Ops. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 21, 2022 - 07:00   ET


CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: And they have their backs against the wall.


Again, Houston's Alex Bregman breaking open a scoreless tie in the bottom of the 3rd, which a towering three-run jack to left field here. That was his 14th post season home run, the most ever by a third basemen.

Yankees cut it to 3-2 in the 8th. Aaron Judge had a chance to tie it. This will look like it might be gone, but Kyle Tucker, what a defensive play here just over the short wall in the right. So, the Astros hold on. Game 3 at Yankees Stadium tomorrow night.

And on his podcast Monday, Tom Brady compared the sacrifice and commitment required in a long NFL season to that of a military deployment, which drew plenty of black lash. Brady addressing that issue at the start of his Thursday press conference.


TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS QUARTERBACK: Earlier this week, I made a statement about playing football and the military. And it was a very poor choice of words. And I just want to express that to any sentiments out there that people may have taken it in a certain way. So, I apologize.


MANNO: He didn't elaborate further than that, John, said he does know the difference between the two.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Smart to apologize. Carolyn Manno, thank you so much. Great to see you.

NEW DAY continues right now.

All right, 19 days until the midterms. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

Some Democrats have been keeping their campaign distance from President Biden but he traveled to battleground Pennsylvania, touting his infrastructure law and raising money for Democratic Candidate John Fetterman. Fetterman is neck and neck with Republican Mehmet Oz in a race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate. Today, the president will be in his home state, Delaware, talking about his student loan relief program after separate challenges to the program were rejected in a federal court and the Supreme Court.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Another hotly contested Senate race is in Georgia where the embattled Republican candidate, Herschel Walker, is in a tight race with Democratic Incumbent Raphael Warnock. After largely avoiding the abortion allegations that are swirling around Walker, Warnock is now releasing this attack ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herschel walker wants to ban abortion.

SENATE CANDIDATE HERSCHEL WALKER (R-GA): There's no exception in my mind. Like I said, I believe in life.

There's not a national ban on abortion right now, and I think that's a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But for himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Herschel Walker paid for an abortion to his then girlfriend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She supported her claims with a $575 receipt from the abortion clinic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even his own son is saying Walker is lying.


KEILAR: And across the country, it does appear that voter enthusiasm is high heading into this all important election.

And also another story that we are watching this morning, it is sentencing day for Steve Bannon. The longtime Trump ally was convicted of contempt of Congress for failing to supply with a subpoena from the January 6th House committee, and we'll have more on that in a moment.

BERMAN: All right. Here with me, CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten. Let's talk about midterm, as Robert De Niro says in the Untouchables, enthusiasms.


BERMAN: Enthusiasms. I mean, where is the enthusiasm right now?

ENTEN: It is high. It is high. It is high. It is high. So, extremely enthusiastic about your midterm vote right now, 28 percent in our last CNN poll, it's very comparative to that 30 percent in 2018, which, of course, saw record midterm turnout, significantly higher than 2014, which saw the lowest midterm turnout since the Second World War. So, we're more on track for what we had in 2018 than in 2014.

BERMAN: There's a difference though in enthusiasm by party, yes?

ENTEN: There is very much a difference in the enthusiasm by party. So, compare 2022 to 2018, you look at 2022, Republicans are much more enthusiastic than Democrats. Of course, that was not the case in 2018 when, in fact, Democrats were more enthusiastic than Republicans. So, it does seem that, at least on the enthusiasm, Republicans are much more revved up than Democrats.

BERMAN: That just got me revved up.

ENTEN: There you go.

BERMAN: And another sound effects this morning.

Listen, you look at the primary turnout. What lessons can you learn from what we've seen in the voting so far this year?

ENTEN: Yes. So, polls are one thing, actual people voting is something else. And I love when the two kind of come together and mesh and tell a similar story. So, in primaries overall, 2022 to 2018, turnout up, it was up. But here's the key thing. In the Republican primaries it was up. In the Democratic primaries it was down. So, that meshes with what we saw on the enthusiasm measure, which showed Republicans more enthusiastic than 2018, and Democratic enthusiasm down. We're seeing the same thing in primary turnout. And, of course, again, 2018 featured record high midterm turnout in the last century. So, this all kind of works.

BERMAN: What are you seeing in the numbers about why enthusiasm is so high?

ENTEN: Because how important is voting this year compared with past midterms, people believe it is more important, 66 percent of them. So, they feel like their vote matters and that's why they're so enthusiastic and it's also so many turned out in those primary elections as well.

BERMAN: So, people are already voting. A lot of people are already voting in the general election. We see the daily count in the early vote and it is worth watching, Harry. However, I can see by the grimace on your face that you're not so sure about early voting being --


ENTEN: I'm aware. Look, I love numbers. I love keeping track of things, but we have got to be wary. Why? Because, remember, votes on Election Day count the same. We don't know this year that early votes will make up the overall total and they can mislead on partisanship because the GOP is more likely to vote on Election Day. I can't tell you how many times I see Democrats turning out early. Yes, the GOP is going to wait until Election Day to vote. So, we've just got to be wary. Yes, we can track it but a skeptical eye doesn't hurt once in a while, John. BERMAN: Which is why your hand is on your chin.

ENTEN: That's right.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much for being with us this morning. Brianna?

KEILAR: Joining us now is CNN Political Commentator and Host of Smerconish, Michael Smerconish. It is so great to have you with us, Michael, as always.

And I want to ask you first about this ad that we are now finally seeing from Raphael Warnock. Because he has, for so long now, stayed out of all of these abortion allegations that are swirling around his opponent, Herschel Walker. Of course, it all started with The Daily Beast report saying that he had paid for an abortion of a former girlfriend. He denies that, of course. What do you make of Warnock now wading into this?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm surprised that he's dropping it now. I would have expected that this would have been a commercial that he would have dropped instantaneously when the greeting card and the check and receipt all first came to light. Maybe he has polling data that suggests that it really does move the needle, but up until now, Brianna, it doesn't seem to have been the thunder clap that one would have imagined.

I think the only way this issue really resonates in the end is if the woman steps forward, we see her, and she tells her story. People are so entrenched with the polarization in this country. These elections have become so much more about the opponent than the candidate that you're voting for. Meaning it's a vote against Raphael Warnock, it's a vote against Democratic control of the Senate rather than a vote for Herschel Walker among his supporters, something that you also see with the Trump voters. They're voting very often against Nancy Pelosi, against Chuck Schumer, rather than for any affinity that they feel for Donald Trump.

BERMAN: So, the president was in your backyard yesterday, Michael Smerconish, appearing with John Fetterman at an event in Pittsburgh, that's your far backyard, and then a fundraiser in Philadelphia overnight. A lot of these candidates in swing states have kept their distance from President Biden. What do you see as the calculation there?

SMERCONISH: Let me put this in terms that I hope you'll appreciate, John Berman. The Padres are in town, okay? San Diego was now in Philadelphia for a weekend three games. The entire vote rich southeastern of Pennsylvania is hoping for Philly a sweep.

I think the person who doesn't want the Phillies to sweep is John Fetterman for this reason. The one and only debate is October 25. And if that series with the Padres goes seven games, guess what it conflicts with and guess what nobody is going to watch, the debate.

And Fetterman, I think, is seeking to run out the clock because the polling data suggests that he has got a very slim lead over Dr. Oz. And he pushed off the debate until the final hour of this, no doubt, because he wanted more recovery time from the stroke. But it's Fetterman trying to run out the clock and it's Oz now closing in on him. It's a real horse race.

KEILAR: Where do you think things stand when it comes to his health? I mean, even, for instance, at this event, and we know he needs Fetterman accommodations at this point in time. We know that Oz has moderated how he is approaching the issue of Fetterman's recovery from his stroke. Where do you think it stands with voters?

SMERCONISH: Brianna, it's interesting that, yesterday, they were in Pittsburgh together for the infrastructure aspect of the visit. Fetterman didn't speak publically. It was not rally. It was not an event where the two of them addressed the public, which I think is something you would traditionally expect to see.

Now they come to Philadelphia and it was a fundraiser behind closed doors. All I know is that which was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which says that Fetterman spoke for about 20 minutes. And there was no report of him having difficulty. This is largely an issue of his own making. I don't mean having a cardiomyopathy and a stroke but I mean the initial reluctance to be forthcoming. So, it's put a lot of pressure on him.

We wish him god speed and I advocate for people being both empathic and objective. Don't lose your objectivity. I think it's fair to know as a Pennsylvanian is he capable of doing the job while also being empathic.

BERMAN: So, our friend, Jake Tapper, spoke with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush last night on CNN Tonight, and he was asking Governor Bush about Mike Pence and the possibility of maybe Mike Pence running in 2024 or others running in 2024. Listen to what Jeb Bush said.



FMR. GOV. JEB BUSH (R-FL): He's certainly well qualified to do it. He's earned that position, as have others. And my guess is -- I don't know this for a fact, I'm not a great pundit on these matters, but my guess is there's yearning for, A, a new generation of leadership in our country in 2024, and, B, candidates that are focused on the future, not necessarily the grievances of the past.


BERMAN: I'm still so interested in how restrained Jeb Bush is in so many of his answers. I still don't think we've seen the Jeb Bush unplugged there. But, Michael Smerconish, what do you make of what he said?

SMERCONISH: It's interesting. I think that they're similar personalities, meaning Pence and Jeb Bush. They share a lane but it's not the passion lane. I mean, you just did the segment with Harry Enten talking about passion. These elections have become not so much about persuasion but about motivation. And therein lies the strength of a Donald Trump, of a Kari Lake, of a Ron DeSantis. They may have a narrow band of support but those folks who support them are coming out held or high water.

Pence or Jeb, respected but I don't think that they're people that wild horses wouldn't keep away from voting. So, it's not where the GOP is today. That's what I think.

KEILAR: You mentioned DeSantis. This is what Jeb Bush said to Jake about DeSantis.


BUSH: He's done the things that I admire as governor and he also has strong appeal outside the state because he's tackled these cultural issues that have pretty broad appeal in the Republican mindset right now.


KEILAR: How do you characterize that praise from Jeb Bush?

SMERCONISH: Yes. I'm kind of surprised by it, frankly, because I don't think of Ron DeSantis and Jeb Bush being cut from the same cloth. I put Jeb Bush more in a bush 41 mode, sort of a throwback to what the Republican Party was in the 1980s.

I think that if Lake wins in Arizona then all of a sudden you're going to hear a lot of conversation about DeSantis and Kari Lake as the alternative to a Donald Trump should something befall the Trump candidacy that we all expect is coming.

KEILAR: Yes. We'll have to wait and see if that happens. It will certainly be a fascinating turn of events to see. Michael Smerconish, great to have you this morning. Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: Nice to see you, guys. Thank you.

KEILAR: Donald Trump's or Uncle Sam's? The Justice Department and the former president are split on whether some records kept at Mar-a-Lago belong to Trump or do they belong to the federal government. A new court filing shows the DOJ claiming 15 of nearly 22,000 documents have disputed executive privilege claims and asking the special master to decide on this. These are 15 records that include several clemency requests and documents that are related to immigration and border control laws.

BERMAN: In just a couple of hours, former Trump Campaign Chief and Adviser Steve Bannon will be sentenced for defying a subpoena from the January 6th committee. He was convicted of criminal contempt of Congress. Federal prosecutors are recommending a six-month sentence for Bannon. They're also pushing back on a request by Bannon to delay serving any sentence while his appeal of the conviction plays out. KEILAR: Former President Trump has now hired a conservative lawyer to help deal with the expected subpoena from the January 6th committee. CNN is learning that Trump and his legal team are debating how to respond once this comes.

CNN's Kristen Holmes has this reporting for us.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Brianna. Well, Trump has hired a conservative trial lawyer to help navigate that impending January 6th committee subpoena. Her is Harmeet Dhillon, and she has represented a number of witnesses who have appeared before the January 6th committee, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. And she's expected to work side by side with another one of Trump's attorneys, Jim Trusty.

Now, that subpoena has not yet been issued. And we're told by sources that Trump and his team are discussing how exactly to respond to it. No firm decisions have been made. The only sort of insight that we have had into Trump's mindset on this has been a post to his social media page in which he posted an article that claimed that he loved the idea of testifying.

Now, of course, that was before he actually hired a lawyer, so, yet to see if that's actually what they end up doing or if that lawyer has different ideas. John and Brianna?

BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to Kristen for that.

The Pentagon says that Iranians are on the ground in Crimea helping Russian forces with drone attacks on Ukraine. The Pentagon press secretary says Iran is complicit in exporting terror to Ukraine. Tehran has denied sending weapons for Russia to use in the war.

CNN's Clarissa Ward joins us live now from Central Ukraine. In addition to this, Clarissa, there is concern because the Ukrainians are saying -- and we've talked about this.


The Ukrainians are saying the Russians may intentionally blow up a dam not far from where you are in Kherson right now. What do you think about that?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, basically, this started a few days ago, John, when the Russians started warning that they believed the Ukrainians were going to blow up a critical dam, the Kahkovka dam, in the Kherson region. And the Ukrainians immediately began saying that they thought this was sort of the start of potentially a Russian false flag operation because their argument was that they have no clear incentive to blow up this dam.

Now, we heard from President Zelenskyy last night, speaking to European leaders, who said that they believe that the Russians have already mined this dam and that their fear is that the intention could be to blow up the dam, to create even more widespread damage to critical infrastructure with the ultimate goal of creating another refugee crisis.

As it gets colder, as we go into winter, the endgame, President Zelenskyy believes, of the Russians is now to try to force ordinary Ukrainian civilians out of their homes and out of the country because the situation will become untenable with regards to electricity and also potentially water. Needless to say, John, the Russians are saying this is nonsense. So, everybody tense and waiting to see what, if anything, happens with that dam.

BERMAN: Yes, no doubt, because it will affect thousands and thousands of people in profound ways.

Clarissa, John Kirby, the National Security Council suggested that Iranians are in Crimea, which would be Ukraine, assisting the drone attacks in these drone attacks on the Ukrainian civilian population. The significance of this?

WARD: Well, this has been a real game changer. If you look at the battlefield, the momentum was very much on the side of the Ukrainians. They had all sorts of counteroffensives in the northeast and also in the south, and they really were making great strides. Then in the last ten days or so, we have seen Ukraine's critical infrastructure just get slammed primarily by these drone attacks, these Shahed 136 Iranian-made drone attacks.

The belief is that they have ordered thousands, more than 2,000, according to Ukrainian officials, that Russians have ordered of these Shahed drones. They also believe that they are in the process of ordering a sort of next generation of drone called the Arash 2, which has five times the capacity in terms of carrying explosives as the Shahed 136.

And so this has become a real challenge for the Ukrainians as they try to defend critical civilian infrastructure. And that's why they have called for more sanctions on Iran and they have called repeatedly for more sophisticated anti-air defense systems, some of which should be delivered from NATO and various other allies. But it's a challenge because this is a huge country, John, and there are many different types of weapons systems that they need to defend against.

BERMAN: Clarissa Ward for us in Kryvyi Rih this morning, toward the south in Ukraine, thank you so much for being with us.

The warning from doctors this morning on the rise of a respiratory virus among children.

KEILAR: And ahead, a CNN exclusive from Uvalde, Texas, what we are learning about an order to delay that classroom breach.



KEILAR: A CNN exclusive on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and 2 teachers. Commands given by a Texas state police captain may have contributed to the failed response that day. A tactical team ready to breach the classroom was ordered to stand by.

CNN's Crime and Justice Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz has the very latest on this. This is terribly sad to learn about this. Tell us about these new developments.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly troubling in a sense that even though this breach team, this tactical team wound up going in anyway, we've learned that a captain with the state police, with the Department of Public Safety, gave orders to the breaching team to stand by. And, of course, this is renewing questions and the focus on the actions of the commanders and the state police on that day and, really, who was in charge still remains the big question.


PROKUPECZ (voice over): Amid the chaos at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, where nearly 400 law enforcement responded to a deadly school shooting last may, CNN has learned commands by a high ranking state police officer may have contributed to the broader failed response that day.

While a gunman sat in a room full of dead, dying, and traumatized children, new police radio transmissions obtained by CNN show Texas Department of Public Safety Captain Joe Betancourt giving an order to stop police from entering the classroom. And one internal memo describes him before he arrived telling officers to stay away from the school and remain on the perimeter during the initial response to the shooting. Captain Betancourt was one of 91 DPS officers on scene in Uvalde. We are now learning he is one of the seven referred for further investigation over his actions.

After lionizing the police response in the initial days, the Texas governor and state officials have pushed the blame for what has since been acknowledged as a failure on the local and school police. But CNN has now reviewed memos written just two days after the shooting that detail actions by the DPS that allegedly went against protocol for mass shootings. One lieutenant wrote, I heard someone shout out, Captain Betancourt said all DPS personnel need to be on perimeter, do not enter the building. And a sergeant reported he knew this was clearly against established training, and so he entered the school anyway.

By the time Betancourt says he arrived outside Robb Elementary, students and teachers had already been trapped more than an hour.

Some at the scene, like this border patrol medic, are aware of the urgency inside the classroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we hadn't haven't heard that, no. We're in the 4s, right? This is building 4?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not here, no, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: EMS in there already?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No, sir. We have an active shooter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's in here, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. I'll stand here and be ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last contact we had was one of our school P.D. officers, his wife is a teacher, she called to say she was dying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just had a number of kids in room 12, a kid in room 12. Most of the victims in room 12.

PROKUPECZ: A border patrol tactical unit is preparing to end the standoff and storm the classroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Units making breach, come in.

PROKUPECZ: In a move that sources tell CNN has shocked people inside DPS, Betancourt picked up his radio and tried to stop the breach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, this is DPS Captain Betancourt. The team that's going to make breach needs to stand by. The team that's going to breach needs to stand by.

PROKUPECZ: The transmission can be clearly heard on several body-worn cameras inside and outside the hallway of Robb Elementary. The tactical unit was already making entry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Subject down. Subject down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids, kids, kids.

PROKUPECZ: The shooter is killed and a devastating scene is revealed inside the classroom. In an interview with investigators that has been detailed to CNN, Betancourt said he did not know there were any children in the building until after the breach, that's despite 911 calls from children inside the room. Betancourt says he was relying on information from the Uvalde Sheriff Ruben Nolasco that the gunman was a barricaded subject and no longer an active shooter and that a better SWAT team was on its way.

He admits he never spoke to former School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who has been labeled the on-scene commander until after the shooter was killed. The memo referencing Betancourt's actions and another corroborating it are some of the clearest evidence questions are being raised internally at the Department of Public Safety about the actions of its officers. His orders over the radio contradict the official narrative that the state police were never in command of the scene and never issued substantive orders.

When questioned by CNN in September, DPS Director Colonel Steve McCraw confirmed the investigation into Betancourt and promised to resign if his agency was shown to have culpability for the botched response. There's apparently footage of him inside the hallway telling people not to breach that door. Have you heard that?


PROKUPECZ: Is there any credibility to that?

MCCRAW: I don't know if there is or not. But that's one of the reasons we're doing the investigation, okay?

PROKUPECZ: No, I know. Okay.

MCCRAW: And we're going to be thorough.

PROKUPECZ: And let me just explain something to you. I don't want to do this, but your --

MCCRAW: I'll be the first to resign, okay? I'll gladly resign, I'll send my resignation to the governor, okay, if I think there's any culpability on the Department of Public Safety, period, okay? But we're going to hold our officers accountable, no one is going to get a pass, but every officer is going to be held accountable.

PROKUPECZ: But you are looking at this Captain Betancourt for information that you have he may have told officers not to go in the hallway?

MCCRAW: Yes. Yes, absolutely.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): And, Brianna, people are calling for the colonel there, Steve McCraw, to now resign, as we continue to report on information, new information, which really shows that the Texas Department of Public Safety had a bigger role there that day than, of course, we have all been initially led to believe.

We are expecting to hear from the colonel, Steve McCraw, the head of DPS, next week, on Thursday, where there's going to be a public safety commission hearing. On the agenda for that hearing is Uvalde. We don't know what information he's going to be providing, but we do expect some kind of update on the investigation, Brianna.

KEILAR: Shimon, I just thank you for asking the question again until you get answers. I mean, that's how you have been getting answers time and again when it comes to this shooting in Uvalde, where you said, have you heard that, well, he's heard a lot things. And then you asked him again to make clear, yes, he heard it. What was your reaction to this revelation of the state police orders?

PROKUPECZ: Certainly, my reaction has been -- I've been disturbed by it, because I can't understand why, with all the training, this is not a newly trained officer, this is a captain, a commander over at the Department of Public Safety, who's been with the department since 2007. For him to give that kind of communication over the radio without knowing exactly what was going on, you know, he claims he gave it because he thought it was still a barricaded situation.

But the point is that there were 911 calls from kids inside the classroom, 40 minutes, basically, before he made this command over the radio indicating they were trapped.