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New Day

Russia Returns Body of American Killed Fighting for Ukraine; Judge Orders Mark Meadows to Testify in Georgia Election Probe; New York Times Reports, U.S. Officials Felt Duped After Secret Saudi Oil Deal Collapsed. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 27, 2022 - 07:00   ET



CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: he said that it was a time in his life where he was having some mental health issues. But we haven't heard any explanations now.then they have to get out.


But, again, a very complicated, convoluted situation that's only getting worse. And all I was saying is that I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to start his own music streaming platform if he did get de- platformed and his music was taken off Spotify.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. But is it something for the long- term? A lot of times, it isn't with him. Although the things that he does long-term are just getting hit so badly, his business ventures here.

Chloe, thank you so much for the reporting.

MELAS: Thank you.

KEILAR: New Day continues right now.

Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It's Thursday, October 27th. And I'm Brianna Keilar with Alex Marquardt this morning.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to be back with you.

KEILAR: It's great to have you here. John Berman is off this morning.

And we're beginning with developments in Ukraine where battle lines are being drawn in the occupied southern city of Kherson. Ukraine says Russia continues to remove its occupation administration from Kherson but is enforcing the city with newly mobilized recruits, that Ukraine's military suggests are being used as cannon fodder. Russian officials say more than 70,000 civilians have left the city here in recent days as fighting escalates.

MARQUARDT: And overnight, a Russian strikes hit an infrastructure facility on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia, causing a fire and some damage but no casualties. The Russian strike also damaged the main network of Ukraine's power grid, prompting power restrictions in the Kyiv region.

And CNN also witnessed a prisoner exchange, which included the remains of an American fighter who had traveled to Ukraine to fight alongside the Ukrainian troops, his body now being returned.

CNN's Clarissa Ward joins us now live from Zaporizhzhia with her exclusive reporting. This really is an incredible story, Clarissa.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alex. It's not every day you get to witness a moment like this. And this was a moment, I should add, that really was two months in the making. Ever since Joshua Jones was killed back in August in Eastern Ukraine, these Ukrainian lawmakers, along with the office of the presidency here and his family back home have been working around the clock to bring his body home to his family, and yesterday that finally happened.


WARD (on camera): On the front lines in Ukraine he was known to his fellow fighters as Tactical Jesus because of his long hair and deep knowledge of the bible. To his mom, he was simply Joshie.

Tennessee native Joshua Jones was just 24 years old when he was killed fighting in Eastern Ukraine back in August. His passport and Ukrainian military I.D. showed up on Russian social media channels soon after, but his body was never recovered.

Since then, Ukrainian lawmakers Oleksandr Trukhin and Alexander Kovilov (ph) have worked tirelessly to get his body back. And today, it is finally happening.

Why is it important to you to recover the body of Joshua Jones?

OLEKSANDR TRUKHIN, UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER: He's a hero for me like our soldiers. So, we should make everything possible to give his body back to his family.

WARD: We are driving to the frontline in Zaporizhzhia. We stop along the way to link up with military intelligence. In another car, a Russian soldier sits slumped over. He is being released today as part of a larger swap in which ten Ukrainians were already freed.

The lawmakers talked with the officers to go over the plan once more. A makeshift white flag is put together for the moment of transfer. And we're off again, this time to no man's land. A rare two-hour ceasefire has been agreed by both sides and time is of the essence.

So, we've just arrived at the meeting point. They're waiting now for the Russians to arrive with the body.

A team of forensic investigators get ready for the task ahead. This is as far as we are allowed to go. Actual handover will happen just beyond the hill.

Waiting for their return, it is eerily quiet. Only the bravest dare come out in these parts. One of the transfer team captures the moment Joshua Jones' body is brought back into Ukrainian territory, as Russian forces look on.

For Kovilov (ph) and Trukhin, it's the moment they have been waiting for. Jones is now one step closer to being returned to his family.

Back in the car, they show us his personal effects.


TRUKHIN: This is his personal body cross, which he was wearing. He a very was religious guy.

WARD: What's your feeling in this moment, you've been working for this for a long time, to try to get Joshua Jones back to his family?

TRUKHIN: Our feeling, we are proud of our country, of our team. We are proud of president and we are proud that we are saving lives. Even when somebody is dying, his family continued to live, and they cannot live normally if they know that they don't have a place where to come for their son.

WARD: Thank to their efforts, Joshua's mother, Misty Gossett, in Tennessee will soon have the chance to say goodbye to her son.

MISTY GOSSETT, MOTHER OF U.S. FIGHTER KILLED IN UKRAINE.: Joshua was -- he was a soldier. He was a born soldier. He was named after the battle of Jericho, and he proved he lived up to his name so valiantly. And I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off of me.

WARD: A name and a life that will be remembered, even half a world away.


WARD (on camera): At least five Americans have been killed fighting here in Ukraine with the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. And those two Ukrainian lawmakers we spent the day with say that they believe there is also at least one American who is still alive who is being held by Russian forces. And they're hoping that yesterday was sort of a steppingstone, Brianna, to potentially work to bring that American home but also others.

There are many other nationalities to fly here to be part of this fight, who joined the Ukrainian Foreign Legion, and they're very much hoping that this could be a prelude to seeing more of those people who are still alive released and more of those who have been killed to have their bodies returned so that their families can have closure, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. It really is amazing to see what they're doing, the lengths they're going to to bring that to their families. Clarissa, thank you so much for showing that to us.

MARQUARDT: And back here in the United States, we are 12 days out from the critical midterm elections, and Georgia Republican Senate Candidate Herschel Walker is yet again playing defense again. An unnamed woman alleges that Walker pressured her into having an abortion nearly three decades ago.

CNN's Eva McKend is live in Georgia where Walker is campaigning this morning. Eva, the defense from Walker today is one that we have heard before, is it not?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It is, Alex. He is denying this allegation as well. But this woman coming forward because she suggested it's important to her to highlight his hypocrisy. She also says that he isn't morally fit to serve.

In her own words, she says he has publicly taken the position that he is about life and against abortion under any circumstance when, in fact, he pressured me to have an abortion and personally ensured it occurred by driving me to the clinic and paying for it.

For his part, Walker suggesting that this is all politically motivated.


SENATE CANDIDATE HERSCHEL WALKER (R-GA): They would do and say anything for power, and they don't realize that they mess with the wrong Georgia right here. This seat is too important for me to step down. So, now they're going to have to come through me to get to anyone else, because if they can do it to me, they are going to come after you next.


MCKEND: We'll have to see if Walker further addresses these allegations. He'll be up on stage here in a few hours here in coming Georgia at a coming rally. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Yes, a big question whether this changes anything for voters in Georgia. Eva McKend thank you very much for that reporting.

KEILAR: This morning, three men accused of supporting a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer have been convicted on all charges. They were found guilty of providing material support for a terrorist act as members of a militia group.

CNN's Jean Casarez has been following this and she is with us live. Tell us about this, Jean.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brianna. This was yet another trial focused on men who prosecutors alleged were trying to attack the Michigan state capitol and kidnap government officials, including Gretchen Whitmer. This time, it was in state court. Prosecutors alleged the defendants were men who provided firearm training, they helped to plan the operation, as well as assessing and recruiting potential members of the conspiracy.

Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico were all convicted of providing material support for terrorist acts, that's a 20-year felony, being members of a gang, a consecutive 20-year felony, as well as felony possession of a firearm. These three along with others they were arrested after a joint operation by state and federal authorities in early October 2020.


It exposed a plot that included targeting law enforcement officers, threatening violence to incite a civil war, planning an attack on the state capitpl building and kidnapping governor officials.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, she issued a statement after the verdict. It reads in part, these defendants believed violence was an appropriate way to address an ideological grievance. Today's verdict sends a clear message they were wrong. Violence is never the answer and the FBI remains committed to investigating and holding accountable anyone who seeks further and ideological cause through that violence.

Prosecutors argued that it was these three defendants who helped train Adam Fox and Barry Croft. They were convicted in federal court in a retrial this August of actually conspiring to kidnap Whitmer in 2020 along with one kind of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. The defendants were found not guilty in an earlier trial.

Fox and Croft, they are facing a maximum sentence of life in prison. Bellar, Morrison and Musico, they are going to be sentenced on December 15th. Brianna?

KEILAR: A very scary plot indeed. Jean, thank you for that update.

MARQUARDT: A judge has ordered Donald Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to appear before the Atlanta area grand jury in its investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Investigators are pointing to, among other things, Meadows' involvement in Trump's infamous call with Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.


MARQUARDT: Joining us now is CNN Political Analyst and Senior Political Correspondent for The New York Times Maggie Haberman. She's also the author of the new book, Confidence Man, The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America. Maggie, it's so great to have you with us this morning.

First off, what are the implications for this investigation now that the court has ordered Meadows to appear?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, we don't know yet whether Meadows is going to try to appeal. We know his lawyers say that they're looking at all of their options. But should Meadows testify, he obviously can provide key insights, not just into conversations that were happening around the White House broadly but certainly what Donald Trump himself was saying and I think efforts the prosecutors would eventually make. That's not what this grand jury would be, but eventually make, should they move ahead with the case, to try to describe what Donald Trump's state of mind was. Meadows is key in all these investigations he just has not been forthcoming.

KEILAR: What would this mean even if he appeals -- but he ultimately has to testify, what would this mean for former President Trump's legal exposure, potentially?

HABERMAN: Look, potentially, Meadows could speak to what Trump was telling people, what was on his mind, what his state of mind was. Brianna, one of the things that has come up with Donald Trump repeatedly in these investigations, and this is a key in any investigation, but it has been problematic for prosecutors and investigators over and over with Trump is getting someone who can speak to intent.

Now, I think there is a hope that Meadows could be someone who could do that because that is key if prosecutors move ahead with a case. And Meadows can speak to various activities that were going on. He could speak to what Trump was talking about, he can speak to what members of Congress were engaging with, with the White House. So, he offers a pretty broad perspective.

MARQUARDT: Do you have a sense, Maggie, of how Trump himself is reacting as yet another potential domino falls?

HABERMAN: This is not actually a case that Trump is that focused on because it is anything that is slightly in the distance is not really top of mind for him. He is much more concerned right now with a bunch of the other cases, particularly not criminal ones. He's really focused on things like E. Jean Carroll case and he is focused on the New York attorney general case into his company and the upcoming trial of his company in Manhattan.

KEILAR: So, I want to ask you about a pretty interesting moment on tape, this is from a documentary, where former President Trump is taking Blake Masters to task. Masters, of course, the Arizona GOP Senate candidate, he had sort of moderated in a debate when it came to talking about the election lie and election fraud in Arizona. And this is the phone call, and Trump is holding up Kari Lake, who, of course, is running for governor in Arizona, as the model for what Masters should do. We don't know exactly when this phone call took place, but it would have been after the October debate. Here it is.


TRUMP: And if they say, how is your family?


She says the election was rigged and stolen. You lose if you go soft. You're going to lose that base.



KEILAR: So, he says, I'm not going soft. But, of course, we'd seen Blake Masters, he had removed from his website some stuff about election fraud. He kind of moderated, Maggie, what he was saying, right? But then after this call from Trump, it appears he might have kind of taken his advice?

HABERMAN: It's very interesting, because Masters is yet another candidate, and we have seen a bunch of these, Brianna, over the last couple of months who are afraid of offending Donald Trump because Donald Trump could then attack them and hurt them in their races.

On Trump's part, Trump has been saying for well over a year that this is something that he thought the candidates needed to be focused on, that he was privately criticizing candidates who weren't talking about it, that he believed that focusing on the 2020 election was something that he wanted to press officials to do because, of course, it relates to him.

But it is really striking actually getting to hear a phone call like that and watching as the candidate tries to soothe Trump so Trump is not upset.

MARQUARDT: What does it signify, do you think, Maggie, that we now know that Trump is going to be holding a rally in Florida with Marco Rubio but not with Ron DeSantis? And what do we know about that tension between the governor and the former president?

HABERMAN: I suppose it could change and DeSantis could get invited to this rally, he could show up. But as it stands now, this is a friction point. And it's a big foot move by Trump. It's a moment of Trump saying, I'm going to do this in this state. I'm not going to adhere to what you want in your re-elect. And people around DeSantis are not thrilled with it.

Again, we'll see how much it matters. I think DeSantis' folks are feeling confident in the race right now. But it just speaks to what we are likely to see, if you see these two, Trump and DeSantis, running against one another in a Republican primary next year for president.

MARQUARDT: All right. Maggie Haberman, thank you so much for your time this morning. I appreciate it.

HARBERMAN: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Now, were American officials played by the Saudis on a secret oil deal that collapsed? We'll be speaking with a New York Times reporter who broke the story.

KEILAR: Plus, is the U.S. in a recession? The big report on the economy that is coming later this morning.

And a mystery unfolding in Iowa, a woman claims her late father was a prolific serial killer.



MARQUARDT: The New York times is reporting that the Biden White House made a secret oil agreement with Saudi Arabia only to face a bait and switch. According to The New York Times, members of the administration believed that Saudi Arabia agreed to speed up a planned OPEC+ production increase by a couple months, then the Saudis would convince OPEC+ to further increase oil production by 200,000 barrels per day for the rest of the year.

And while the first part of that deal did happen and President Biden then met with Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman shortly after that, the second part did not. In fact, OPEC+ slashed its oil production by 2 million barrels per day.

Joining me now with his reporting is Washington Investigative Correspondent at The New York Times Mark Mazzetti. Mark, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

Now, in this reporting with you and your colleagues, you say that this wasn't an explicit agreement. You guys write, what happened over the last half year is a story of handshake agreements, wishful thinking, missed signals and finger pointing over broken promises. So, how was this so misread by the White House?

MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, happened, recall that as President Biden was considering taking this trip to Saudi Arabia was highly controversial. He had pledged during the campaign to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah and shun Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince.

However, there were some in the administration who pushed for the trip, they thought the Saudi alliance was important and, of course, the whole looming issue of oil prices and gas prices were dragging down the Biden approval ratings and threatened Democrats in November.

So, the arrangement that got worked out, in the view of the U.S., was an acceleration of oil production over several months. And the critical acceleration would be September through December, 200,000 barrels per day increase. And this would have the effect, they thought, they believed, lowering gas prices.

And elements after the trip of this deal actually were followed through on. The Saudis began increasing oil in the summer. But then, as you said, the critical OPEC meeting a couple weeks ago, they did the opposite of what they said. They said, we never had a firm commitment. Market conditions are what determine OPEC's decisions. But the White House clearly felt that they're going to bait and switch.

MARQUARDT: So, you report that right before this pivotal meeting in October, when OPEC+ slashed oil production quite significantly, that the U.S. was still getting assurances from MBS, from his brother, the energy minister, and then just a couple of days later, they did the complete opposite. So, how angry is the Biden administration?

MAZZETTI: Well, their anger was pretty clear when the OPEC decision was announced, that everyone from the White House spokesperson to the secretary of state basically have said, we are going to reassess the relationship with Saudi Arabia. Yes, they had had what they believe were these reassurances just days before the OPEC meeting, that there was not going to be cut in production.

Now what happened? One possibility is that there was a briefing by MBS' brother, the oil minister, that basically said, look, oil prices are plummeting, they're going to plummet down to $50 a barrel. And if that happens, your highness, there's not going to be all the modernization plans that you envisioned. And so they got nervous and they reversed course.


Now, is that true? Everyone is trying to figure out exactly what's in MBS' mind, and this is going to get worked out over time.

MARQUARDT: Yes, always trying to figure out what's going on in MBS' mind.

The Saudis, of course, are arguing that this is not political, this is purely about economics, that, as you say, they need higher oil prices for all their projects, that big city that they're building. But what is your sense of what the administration feels that this is a way for Saudi Arabia to continue supporting Russia and their efforts -- their war in Ukraine?

MAZZETTI: That's certainly been the charge, that they're basically siding with the Russians in this war. Now, they also say that the next critical point is in December, the next time OPEC gathers, to make a decision on cutting production. By that time, the Russian oil will be coming off the market because of the sanctions that are going.

And they say -- American officials are basically saying the Saudis are going to have another choice in December. If they cut production again, which would effectively raise the price of oil, they're basically putting more money in Vladimir Putin's pockets and helping him finance this war. So, they're basically -- there's a charge out there, we're watching.

Even as that happens, even yesterday, Secretary of State Blinken basically reiterated this idea that the U.S. is reassessing this relationship. We'll see sort of how close up to the brink both sides want to go.

MARQUARDT: It's not just anger from the White House, it's anger from Capitol Hill, as you say, threat to reassess this relationship. So, all eyes will be on that OPEC+ meeting on December 4th.

Mark Mazzetti, thank you so much, terrific reporting. I appreciate it.

All right, with the midterm elections just 12 days away, where do things stand in the most competitive races? Chris Cillizza is here to break down the numbers. That's coming up next.

KEILAR: And also coming up is CNN investigation into how two men in Michigan lied to an elections clerk to gain access to 2020 voting machine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was word of that the machines are going to be wiped tomorrow. So, I was contracted. I was from like the Department of Defense contact.



KEILAR: That was actually a lie. We have the story, next.