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Biden Warns Russia: "Serious Mistake" To Use A Tactical Nuclear Weapon; Kanye West's Net Worth Takes A hit As Adidas Cuts Ties; Diplomat Fired By Trump Writes About How To Manage Ex-Boss. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 26, 2022 - 07:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: That Russia may be searching for a pretext to unleash such a weapon themselves, prompting President Biden to issue this stern warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me just say Russia would be making an incredibly serious mistake for it to use a tactical nuclear weapon. I'm not guaranteeing you that it's a false flag operation yet -- I don't know -- but it would be a serious, serious mistake.


KEILAR: Joining us now is Bill Taylor. He is the vice president of strategic stability at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He is also the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. It's so great to have you, especially as we're watching this alarming rhetoric.

What's Russia doing here?

BILL TAYLOR, VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGIC STABILITY, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Russia is trying to intimidate and break the will of the Ukrainian people. So far, he's failing. He's trying to intimidate President Zelenskyy. So far, he's failing. He's trying to intimidate the Europeans and the Americans. So far, he's failing.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: There are some concerns that the more we talk about nuclear weapons and the possibility of their being used, that kind of normalizes it and therefore increases the chance of something like this happening. Now we're talking about dirty bombs.

So, does that make -- are you more -- are you -- do you expect that something, whether it's a tactical nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb is more likely to be used now?

TAYLOR: Alex, I don't. I think the chances are still very low certainly on the tactical nuclear weapons side. The dirty bomb is something that can be put together not by super-experts. You have to be careful when you're using explosives around radioactive material, but that can be done.

And the Ukrainians at the Zaporizhzhia plant say that there's something going on with Russians who now control that plant around the spent fuel. That's troubling.

And the right thing to do is to send the IAEA -- the international inspectors -- to that part of the plant. There are a couple of inspectors there from IAEA. Go to that part of the plant where the -- where the fuel is stored and see if there's anything going on with the Russians there. I mean, that can be checked.

KEILAR: Let's talk about Kherson because this really does look to be the next big battleground. First off -- I mean, wow, right? The idea that here we are and this could be the next big battleground -- sort of a reversal of fortunes. But also, what are you watching when it comes to Russian troops there?

TAYLOR: So, Brianna, I am looking at those 20,000 Russian troops that are on the west side of the river in Kherson. There are a couple of bridges that connect the west side and the east side of the river. The Russians want to get supplies from the east side to the west side to try to reinforce those 20,000 Russians, or those 20,000 Russians want to get out of there. They want to go back across the river into areas that they control.

The bridge has been knocked out, or at least badly damaged by HIMARS -- by these weapons that the Americans have provided the Ukrainians. Very precisioned, very able to disable these bridges. So, those 20,000 Russian troops are vulnerable or in trouble. The Ukrainian military could surround them and they would have to -- they would have to surrender or be killed, or try to get back across the river.

MARQUARDT: No doubt it would be huge if the Ukrainians made inroads into Kherson where the Russians made such gains early on. But Russia is exacting an enormous price on the country right now, hitting the civilian infrastructure, taking out power, taking out heat. Ukrainians are suffering and winter hasn't even really started yet.

TAYLOR: You're right, Alex -- you're absolutely right.

So, the Russians are losing on the battlefield as we just described. They lost in the north and now they're about to lose, I think, in the south.

But the only thing that the Russians have left are these cruise missiles and these ballistic missiles, and these airstrikes on not military targets, civilian targets -- on the energy, on the heating, on the electricity. That's designed -- as we just talked about, that's designed to intimidate and try to break the will of the Ukrainians so that they won't resist. And again, so far, they're failing.

KEILAR: Progressive Democrats in the House had sent a letter to President Biden asking him basically to push for a negotiation between Ukraine and Russia -- to add that to the economic and the military aid that the U.S. is giving. There was a huge backlash. They had to clarify it and then they just ended up withdrawing this letter altogether.

What do you think of this?

TAYLOR: So, Brianna, the other thing they asked for in that letter was negotiations from the American side to the Russian side, and that just violates everything that President Biden has said -- nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. And that was what the letter pushed for -- was the Americans talking to the Russians about what was happening in Ukraine. That's just not going to happen and it shouldn't happen.


The negotiations, if they ever come -- and again, this is up to President Zelenskyy to decide when to negotiate -- it's not up to us. If those -- if those negotiations come, then we want to have the Ukrainians in the best possible position. But again, it's up to the Ukrainians.

KEILAR: A real interesting reversal of events on that.

Bill, great to have you. Thank you so much.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Brianna. It's good to be here -- Alex.


KEILAR: A group of tourists getting trapped in the Grand Canyon caverns for more than 30 hours. We'll have details of their dramatic rescue ahead.

MARQUARDT: And Kanye West no longer a billionaire -- that's according to Forbes magazine -- just as more companies are cutting their ties with the rapper following his antisemitic rants.

We'll be right back.


MARQUARDT: Time now for CNN Business.

According to Forbes, rapper Kanye West, who is now known as Ye, has lost his status as a billionaire. Now, this comes after Adidas is the latest major brand to cut ties with the rapper.

Joining us now is CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans. This is the one that hurts, Christine.



The billionaire rapper and fashion mogul, a billionaire no more, says Forbes. The bulk of his net worth tied to future earnings from that Adidas deal -- a deal now dead. It is all fallout, of course, from a stunning stream of antisemitism.

Earlier this month, he shared antisemitic remarks on various social media platforms before he was blocked. In one on Twitter, he wrote, "going def con 3 on Jewish people." He doubled down on antisemitic remarks in rambling, bizarre interviews.

One-by-one, his partnerships crumbled. He was dumped by Balenciaga, the talent agency CAA, film studio MRC, Vogue, Gap, Foot Locker. And finally, Adidas, the company who makes his very pricey, very trendy Yeezy shoes.

In recent days, West taunted Adidas.


KANYE WEST, RAPPER, FASHION DESIGNER: The thing about me and Adidas, it's like I could literally say antisemitic (bleep) and they can't drop me. I could say antisemitic things and Adidas can't drop me. Now what?


ROMANS: Wrong -- Adidas dropped him in a statement saying, "Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. Ye's recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful, and dangerous."

And Adidas will lose money -- a lot of money. It will lose $246 million in the fourth quarter by ending this lucrative deal. And West loses billionaire bragging rights.

Forbes writes, "Without Adidas, Ye is worth $400 million. The remainder of his fortune comes from real estate, cash, his music catalog, and a five percent stake in ex-wife Kim Kardashian's shapewear firm Skins." Forbes reporting -- Forbes reporting he is no longer directly involved in that brand.

Now, no comment from West on the new Forbes ranking, but Forbes reports he has previously quibbled with the magazine over its billionaires' list, once complaining in a text message to the magazine, "It's not a billion, it's $3.3 billion since no one at Forbes knows how to count."

Well, today, Alex, they are counting a lot fewer dollars for Ye -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Well, I think Ye is going to be just fine while his comments continue to cause damage and lots of pain and potentially, are dangerous.

Christine Romans --

ROMANS: That's right.

MARQUARDT: -- thank you very much.

A fiery debate between candidates for New York governor as crime takes center stage in the tightening race.

KEILAR: And Donald Trump's former ambassador to the European Union is speaking out about his time with the Trump administration, including testifying against Trump during his first impeachment. He joins us next.




DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL FOR HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE: You confirmed to President Trump that you were in Ukraine at the time and that President Zelenskyy, quote, "loves your ass," unquote. Do you recall saying that?



That's how President Trump and I communicate -- a lot of four-letter words. In this case, three-letter.


KEILAR: All right, that was Donald Trump's former ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. Sondland now speaking out about his experiences working with and eventually testifying against the former president in his first impeachment trial.

In his new book, "The Envoy: Mastering the Art of Diplomacy with Trump and the World," he writes, "To deal with a bully, you have to stand up to him. To deal with an egomaniac, you have to feed that ego. To deal with a decision maker who sees black and white and not shades of gray in every decision, you have to give him two options and paint one of them -- the one you want -- as obviously far more attractive."

Former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, is joining us now. Thank you, sir, so much for being with us here.

I want to talk to you about why you decided to write this book. It seems like some of it is correcting the record, but a lot of the reviews have sort of said this is about how to deal with a difficult boss. I mean, is that your intention here?

SONDLAND: Good morning, Brianna. Thanks for having me on.

No. I wrote the book for several reasons. First of all, I wanted to know that anyone can do anything in the United States if they set their mind to it. In "The Envoy" I point out that I'm a college dropout. I came from Holocaust survivor parents. And I wound up as the ambassador to the European Union, which is one of the most consequential posts in the U.S. government. The reason I wrote it is I wanted to encourage people to consider a

couple of things. First of all, we need to be working very closely with the European Union, which is our largest trading partner and our most powerful ally. Because when we work together we're an unstoppable bloc.

I know for a fact the Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians, the North Koreans do not like it when they see no daylight between us and the European Union, and we don't take advantage of that often enough. We squabble over all kinds of things that are not important and we don't focus on the big things that are important. And that's one of the reasons I wrote the book.

KEILAR: You were, of course, infamous in the first impeachment hearing of former President Trump. You testified behind closed doors that there was not a quid pro quo when it came to that conversation with President Zelenskyy. And then, later, you testified in front of Congress that actually, you had recalled a conversation and you believed there actually was a quid pro quo. So your story had kind of changed there.


And you say in the book that in the end, you truly believed the whole Ukraine issue was actually a red herring. Explain why.

SONDLAND: Well, first of all, the quid pro quo that I described was very simple at the beginning. President Trump apparently threw Mayor Giuliani -- wanted the Ukrainians to restart an old investigation that had been ongoing under the administration before Poroshenko -- and actually, Zelenskyy had campaigned on that issue. He said if he's elected president he's going to restart all of the corruption investigations.

And President Trump asked him to restart that investigation. And he said if you announce that you restart the investigation I will invite you to the White House and we'll have a meeting. And then that began to spiral into all kinds of other asks that all came through Mayor Giuliani. The president never told me any of those things directly and I testified to that effect.

KEILAR: You went from no quid pro quo to quid pro quo. But I asked you about the red herring. You said that you believed the whole Ukraine issue was a red herring.

And you basically say in the book that it's because after that phone call there were people running around the White House very concerned about it. But because they never brought it to you, you felt that it was actually, I guess -- and you correct me if I'm wrong -- sort of disingenuous how alarmed they then later appeared to be.

You said that if there was a shadow of a doubt that were we complicit in something illegal, someone -- Bolton, Hill, Vindman, whoever -- should have stepped in and said so. That they should have said something to you. Is that --

SONDLAND: Well, I thought -- I thought that --

KEILAR: That's why it was a red herring?

SONDLAND: No, no -- not to me, to an entire group of people within the State Department and the cabinet that were working on Ukraine issues.

KEILAR: Well, to you --


KEILAR: -- Kurt Volker or Rick Perry is what you write in the book. But is --

SONDLAND: I -- but there were --

KEILAR: That's why you thought it was a red herring?

SONDLAND: No. There were many, many others. As the book -- as the book lays out -- as the book lays out, the hair on fire that you heard during the testimony from the witnesses, other than myself, was completely disingenuous. Because while they were worried, allegedly, about this phone call, no one talked about the phone call. No one said something inappropriate had gone on. In fact, they said the opposite -- that was a good phone call. There was nothing remarkable about it, I think were the words.

So, it was a little bit disingenuous to say all of a sudden when the impeachment hearings began that there was a problem when we were continuing to work on the Ukraine file, trying to bring the Europeans closer together with the U.S. on Ukraine matters. And in the meantime, all of these so-called problems were occurring.

So, yes, I stick with the --

KEILAR: But there were concerns --

SONDLAND: -- disingenuousness of it.

KEILAR: There were -- Ambassador, there were concerns at the time about the phone call. I mean, you talk about that in your book that there were people concerned at the time in the White House --


KEILAR: -- you later learned. You weren't aware at the time.

SONDLAND: Later -- exactly -- later.

KEILAR: But at the time, they were. You later learned about it but at the time, they were concerned. You just -- you weren't aware of it.

Is it possible they didn't trust you? I mean, you were -- they didn't trust you. There's a --

SONDLAND: They didn't trust Ambassador Volker. They didn't trust Sec. Perry. They didn't trust --

KEILAR: Well, there was a shadow -- there was sort of shadow diplomacy going on with Rudy Giuliani. It seemed like everything was a little bit foggy and concerning. I think -- you could probably understand why they had some concerns, right?

SONDLAND: Well, Brianna, I'll tell you. One of the things I did say in the book was I was very disappointed that President Trump did not want to deal with the Ukraine matter directly.

Ambassador Volker and Sec. Perry, and the rest of the delegation, and I, came back from Ukraine very excited about having met Zelenskyy. We thought he was going to be a great leader. We thought he was going to clean up corruption in Ukraine. We thought he was going to be the new face of Ukraine.

And we came back and met with President Trump and said we're excited about this guy. You should get him in here and meet with him -- period, paragraph, end of story. And President Trump, for whatever reason, wanted Rudy Giuliana working on this, which to me was highly inappropriate.

KEILAR: You say in your book -- and this is a passage that's gotten a lot of attention -- that it "...was like staying at an all-inclusive. You're thrilled when you arrive but things start to go downhill fast. And eventually, you begin to wonder why you agreed to the deal in the first place."

You know, what is your biggest regret, and would you do it all over again?

SONDLAND: First of all, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It was the greatest honor of my career and my life to serve our country. And it's an incredible job. And I really feel good about what I got done there. I could go on and on and on. You don't have enough time in this show.


What I regret is not having pushed harder to remove obstacles to having President Zelenskyy come to Washington, meet with President Trump without preconditions, and dispensed with all of this sort of circuitous nonsense with Mayor Giuliani, which really was not appropriate.

Had the four of us really put our foot down and said we don't want to deal with Giuliani and we want you to meet with Zelenskyy, I'm not sure that would have changed Trump's mind, but I'll tell you the outcome would have been a lot different had he done so.

KEILAR: Ambassador, thank you so much for the time this morning. We do appreciate it.

SONDLAND: Brianna, thank you so much, and I hope people read "The Envoy." Thank you.

MARQUARDT: A high-stakes debate for the Senate between Pennsylvania's John Fetterman and Dr. Oz. What are the key takeaways from the debate? We'll tell you. That's ahead.


KEILAR: The spotlight on Pennsylvania in the high-stakes race that could determine control of the Senate.

I'm Brianna Keilar with Alex Marquardt this morning. John Berman is off.

And Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz facing off in their first and only debate.

Fetterman insisting he's fit to serve, addressing his recovery from a stroke right at the beginning. There was concern that it would impact his debate performance and it clearly did. He used a closed-captioning device throughout it.

But the two candidates went toe to toe on the issues. They were hitting each other on abortion and fracking, both of which are major issues in Pennsylvania.