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Elon Musk Completes $44 Billion Takeover of Twitter; Biden, Obama to Campaign for Dems in Pennsylvania, Georgia; Health Officials: Get Your Flu Shot This Weekend; Mortgage Rates Top 7%; Treasury Secretary: No Signs of a Recession Coming; North Korea Fires 2 Ballistic Missiles in 'Serious Provocation'; View from the Front Line in Kherson; Schumer Caught on Hot Mic with Frank Takes on Key Senate Races. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired October 28, 2022 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It is a done deal. Billionaire Elon Musk completing his $44 billion takeover of Twitter. I'm Brianna Keilar with Alex Marquardt this morning.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Good morning.
KEILAR: Good morning. John Berman is off.
And according to sources, Musk immediately fired Twitter's CEO, the chief financial officer, and the company's top lawyer.
Musk first agreed to buy the company back in April, you'll probably recall. Then he spent months trying to get out of the deal, which was finalized just before today's deadline.
MARQUARDT: Musk attempted to reassure advertisers, posting an open letter on Twitter explaining why he bought the social media platform. He said, quote, "There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right-wing and far left-wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society."
And overnight, Musk tweeted, "The bird is freed."
Let's get right to the story with CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy. Oliver, a very dramatic start to Musk's reign at Twitter.
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Definitely. There is a lot of uncertainty, I think, over at Twitter. Employees aren't really sure what to expect after Musk came in, took control of the company, and fired the top executives.
So really unclear who the executive team is over at the company. Maybe Twitter employees will learn more at an all-hands meeting today. But all they know for now is really what Musk is saying, and what Musk is saying is, "The bird is free." Whatever that means.
KEILAR: Whatever that means. I feel like we'll be seeing that in a little bit. Whatever that means.
So a big question is what will he do about people, of course, who were banned from Twitter, Oliver, like Donald Trump.
DARCY: Yes, I think that is the big question. You know, Musk has said that he's not a fan of these permanent bans that Twitter has implemented over the years for people who repeatedly violate their platform rules, like the former president.
So it'll be intriguing to see who is allowed back on the platform. Is Donald Trump allowed back on the platform before the midterms? We'll see. And there are other people, like, you know, InfoWars's Alex Jones. Are they allowed back on the platform? That's all up in the air right now.
I think it's important to point out that, you know, Musk's ownership of Twitter, this deal comes at a really pivotal time for free speech in America. You know, there's been a lot of tension between balancing the desire for free speech with also the reality that you don't want misinformation. You don't want hate speech to be spread on your platform.
How Musk balances that, I think a lot of people will be watching. He said yesterday, as you mentioned, he doesn't want it to be a hellscape. But it sort of already is a hellscape. And so loosening those platform rules, I'm not sure what that's going to do.
MARQUARDT: Yes, a free-for-all hellscape.
KEILAR: Yes. Fact-check true. It's a hellscape.
MARQUARDT: Good luck to him cleaning that up.
All right. Oliver Darcy in New York, thanks so much.
DARCY: Thank you.
KEILAR: This morning, President Biden and former President Obama are hitting the campaign trail for Democrats with less than two weeks until midterms.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Philadelphia stumping for John Fetterman and also Josh Shapiro. And Obama will rally for Rev. Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams in Atlanta, Georgia. That is where, of course, Democrats are really starting to worry.
Even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, caught offering a bleak outlook on a hot mic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The state where we're going downhill is Georgia. It's hard to believe that they will go for Herschel Walker.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: CNN has the midterm races covered. Eva McKend is live for us in Atlanta. Athena Jones in Philadelphia for us.
First to Eva. Eva, what can we expect from today's campaign stop?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Georgia Democrats say President Obama is here in part to encourage Democrats to get out and vote early. Next week, of course, is the final week to do so in this state.
But beyond that, we know that Obama is really an effective surrogate for swing-state Democrats. He has a way of energizing reliable Democratic voters in a way that few others can. So that's why they're leaning on him.
This is a difficult environment for Democrats, a difficult midterm map. And you have one of the most popular Democrats in the country here to sort of wake folks up and get them engaged.
KEILAR: Who's Obama really there for? I mean, who is he hoping to really make a difference for? Is it Warnock or is it Abrams?
MCKEND: You know, it's really tough to say. It's hard to see how they don't both benefit. That being said, at the same time, surrogates aren't magic. There is a limit to what President Obama can do.
But when you have maybe some Democrats, some progressives, who might feel a little disillusioned, maybe wishing that Democrats were able to accomplish more in Washington than they did. Or just not maybe really paying attention or understanding the stakes.
When you have President Obama to come in here and turn up the energy, I think it helps both of them, both Abrams and Warnock. But tough to say who, Brianna, it helps more.
KEILAR: All right. Eva McKend, live for us in Atlanta. Thank you.
MARQUARDT: Now let's head on up to Philadelphia where we find our Athena Jones. That is where President Biden is going to be campaigning later today. Athena, there are two very contentious races in Pennsylvania for both Senate and governor.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alex.
That's exactly right. That is why President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are coming here to Philadelphia later today to campaign together to try to boost those candidates, Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman, for governor and for Senate respectively, in a state that is very, very important for the Democrats this cycle.
They're going to be at the Pennsylvania Democrats dinner here in Philadelphia. And early in the day, Kamala Harris, Vice President Harris, is going to be attending an event with Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon. It's going to be focused on abortion rights. So in addition to talking about abortion rights, I expect to hear from the president more of the message we heard yesterday in Syracuse, where he began hitting Republicans on what they would do if they take control of Congress for the economy. He's been arguing that the economy is strong and that Republicans would threaten it.
They would bring back Trump-era tax cuts. They would repeal provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act around drug pricing and healthcare costs. They would threaten to cut Social Security and Medicare.
So that's going to be part of the message as these two campaign together, which is rare, in this all-important state -- Alex.
MARQUARDT: And Athena, Biden has been to Pennsylvania in the past two years almost 20 times. So what does that tell us about how much he thinks this is a critical seat for Democrats?
JONES: It's remarkable. This is one of the few states that he's visited repeatedly during this midterm cycle. But he's also been coming to Pennsylvania repeatedly overall this time.
He was, of course, born in Scranton and speaks about that frequently. But this is a state that President Biden flipped back to the Democratic column in 2020. He only won it by about 80,000 votes. So it's a very, very close state but one that's clearly symbolic in a way for -- for the president and for Democrats. And they want to make sure to do everything they can to try to get voters out to the polls.
There's also an ad that President Obama cut for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, focusing on threats to the economy and to women's right to choose, saying when those things are on the line, you've got to come out and vote.
One point I'll make. Early voting is well under way here. More than 700,000 ballots have been cast. That is more than 10 percent of the total ballots cast in the 2018 midterms -- Alex.
MARQUARDT: Fascinating races in Pennsylvania. Athena Jones in Philadelphia, thanks very much.
KEILAR: Say "boo" to the flu. And I'm here with your mom jokes all day long.
Health officials say get your flu shots this weekend, by Halloween, if you have not gotten one already. The CDC warning flu activity is already on the rise about a month earlier, actually, than usual.
CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen with us now.
Elizabeth, tell us about why this is the perfect time to get the flu shot. But also, I don't think saying "Say boo to the flu" is probably going to work for getting, say, my little ones to get their flu shots.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's true, but I used it on my 16-year-old yesterday, Brianna. I used that lame mom joke, and it worked. I said, "We need to get our flu by boo." KEILAR: Oh, I love it.
COHEN: She thought I was a total nerd. But it worked.
KEILAR: But we are.
COHEN: So yesterday, she and I yesterday went and got our shots. Yes, exactly. Exactly.
So we went and got our shots yesterday, and I explained to her that flu seems to be early this year. We could have a pretty bad season that starts next month. Usually, it's not that early.
And so you want to get your flu shot by the end of October. It takes about two weeks for those antibodies to fully kick in.
And flu shots are so important. I know people talk about the flu like it's nothing, but it's really serious. Every year, about 500 kids die. That's what happened a couple of years ago in the flu season just before COVID; 500 children died.
And I will tell you, Brianna, I have sat with those families as they cried. I have cried with them at the loss of a perfectly healthy child from the flu.
Adults, nearly 25,000 adults died that year of the flu.
So get yourself a flu shot. I know people say, Oh, the shot causes the flu. That is an old wives tale. It's not true. It's garbage. Don't listen to it. Save your life; save your child's life. Get a flu shot this weekend -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Five hundred. That is huge.
And I like the coupling of it with Halloween. You know, pair it with something nice that they have to look forward to.
COHEN: Yes. Yes.
KEILAR: So how effective -- do we know this yet? How effective is this flu shot?
COHEN: You know, we never quite know year to year. It's usually -- it's not the most effective shot out there, but still, it's like 50, 60 percent effective. So why not have that advantage?
If you can be 60 percent less likely to get really sick from the flu or die of it, take it. That's a pretty good thing.
So let's take a look at what happened in the 2019/2020 flu season. Flu vaccines prevented 6,300 deaths in the United States. They prevented more than 100,000 hospitalizations and 7.5 million illnesses.
Why would you not want that? It's always a good thing to stay out of the hospital. It's always a good thing to be alive -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Sure is. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.
MARQUARDT: Turning now to the economy. It just has become more expensive to buy a home if you need to borrow money. Mortgage rates rising again this week, topping 7 percent. That's for the first time since 2002. The last time it was this high George W. Bush was president, a gallon of gas cost $1.37, and new episodes of "Friends" were airing on Thursday nights.
But despite those high rates, soaring gas prices and inflation, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is now telling CNN that she's not predicting a recession. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I don't see signs of a recession in this economy at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Joining us now is CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans. Christine, what did you make of Yellen's thoughts in that interview?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Well, I think that GDP number we saw yesterday backs her up on that. You saw economic growth bounce back after two negative quarters here.
And so you've got an economy that, in July, August, and September, was doing OK. So at this point, she said, she doesn't see a recession.
I think the concern is going forward. The concern is what happens next year. And all these headwinds that we've been talking about so much here. Is the economy vulnerable sometime next year, you guys?
KEILAR: What's really startling is when you talk about these mortgage rates, these extra-high mortgage rates now.
KEILAR: What it means if you are buying a home now versus a year ago.
ROMANS: It means you're going to pay a lot more for the same house or you're going to be able to afford less of a house here.
We're talking about more than a thousand dollars more in interest every month when you talk about a mortgage rate that's at, say, 3.09 percent last year at this time, that is now above 7 percent right now. So that is real money.
And this is where, you guys, we have seen the Fed's medicine to try to tame inflation really working. You had a red-hot housing market, and now you've seen the brakes slammed on housing, in part because of those higher mortgage rates. So everybody out there in the housing market trying to buy or sell a
home knows how much things have changed, how dramatically things have changed in real estate.
MARQUARDT: Yes. Expensive time to borrow money. Christine Romans, thanks very much.
MARQUARDT: An overnight ballistic missile test from North Korea has put the South on edge.
KEILAR: And CNN is on the front line and in the trenches in Southern Ukraine as Ukrainian fighters inch closer to the occupied city of Kherson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So this is the actual front line between the Russians and the Ukrainians. They say that the Russians are only a couple of kilometers in that direction. And obviously, there's a lot of shelling that goes on here almost all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: New overnight, North Korea firing another pair of short-range ballistic missiles, South Korea calling the move a serious act of provocation.
It's the 28th time that Kim Jong-un's regime has launched cruise or ballistic missiles this year, and there are fears that a nuclear test could be next.
CNN's Ivan Watson is covering the story for us from Hong Kong. He has the very latest -- Ivan.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there.
Brianna, North Korea has been on this missile-launching binge. The two missiles launched around noon local time flying about five times the speed of sound, short-range missiles that went about 140 miles, some 230 kilometers, landing in the sea East of the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S. military has said that they pose no immediate threat to U.S. personnel or their allies. The South Koreans have said that this was a provocation.
It's a clear sign of the escalating tensions in recent months on the Korean Peninsula. The North Koreans are angry about military exercises between the U.S. and its allies. South Korea just this week conducting exercises, amphibious military landings, for example. These things make Pyongyang very angry.
Both North and South Korea have been firing warning shots on several occasions this month in the buffer maritime zone. Another sign of the tensions. And next week, the U.S. and South Korean air forces are also going to conduct joint air force drills, the first in years, which will also make -- likely make the North Koreans very angry.
So we don't see a way out of this cycle any time soon.
KEILAR: This is a clear violation of U.N. resolutions. Is the North going to face repercussions for these tests, Ivan?
WATSON: It is already one of the most sanctioned countries in the world.
And you mentioned before the possibility of a nuclear test. The question is not if. From the U.S., from South Korea, it sounds like the question is when that will be conducted. The State Department saying they're seeing signs the North Koreans are getting ready for this.
And listen to the head of the international nuclear watchdog, what he just had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL MARIANO GROSSI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: Well, everybody is holding its breath about this, because another nuclear test would be yet another confirmation of a program which is moving full-steam ahead in a way that is incredibly concerning. Further tests, of course, means that they are refining the preparations and the construction of their arsenal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: Now, North Korea has already conducted six nuclear tests. The U.S., its allies Japan and South Korea, have vowed an unparalleled response if a seventh test does take place, but it's unclear what leverage they have left, Brianna.
North Korea is already one of the most isolated countries in the world. And just last month, its government passed a law declaring itself a nuclear-powered state. The dictator, Kim Jong-un, he said the status is irreversible.
So they intend to go forward no matter what potential threats or isolation they could further face.
KEILAR: All right. Ivan, thank you so much. Live for us from Hong Kong.
MARQUARDT: And now to Ukraine and one of the potentially most significant battles of the war so far could be brewing around the Southern city of Kherson. Ukrainian officials are now saying that Russia has sent more troops to
defend the occupied city. A Kremlin-backed official says that a top aide to President Vladimir Putin has visited Kherson ahead of an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive to take it back.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen went with Ukrainian troops to the front line. He joins us now from Odessa.
Fred, a major offensive brewing.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, major offensive brewing, Alex, and in many cases, already under way.
You know, we were in several places along that front line, near Kherson. We saw some Ukrainian artillery and went in the trenches with the Ukrainian soldiers.
And you know, what we saw there was the Ukrainians very confident, saying they do believe they'll be able to take that city back possibly before the end of the year. But they're under no illusions that it's going to be an extremely tough and an extremely dangerous fight.
Here's what we saw.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Across these fields are the Russians. That means we need to get into the trenches that snake their way through this battle space in Southern Ukraine.
PLEITGEN: So this is the actual front line between the Russians and the Ukrainians. They say that the Russians are only a couple of kilometers in that direction, and obviously, there's a lot of shelling that goes on here almost all the time.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): A destroyed tank turret right outside the Ukrainian position shows just how fierce the fighting is here. Spent cartridges from cluster bombs and Russian flak vests also still lying around.
While some thought the Ukrainians might quickly oust the Russians and take back the key city of Kherson, in the trench, a feeling of stalemate.
"ALEXANDER", UKRAINIAN ARMY (voice-over): There is shelling every day; in some places less, in some more. We would shoot back, but we have nothing to shoot with here.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Inside the main headquarters, the unit commander, who goes by the call sign "Nikofor," shows me the gear they use to monitor the Russians' movements and communicate with their own units. He says they've observed the Russians strengthening their defensive positions here.
"NIKOFOR", UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES (through translator): They have dug in very well for the moment. But with our efforts, we are showing them that we are stronger and are slowly pushing them back from our territories.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): This territory was all Russian-controlled, but now Ukrainian troops are inching ever closer to Kherson. Having taken out most Russians supply routes across the massive Dnipro River, Ukraine's president says Moscow's forces need to get out of this region or risk being besieged.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: They are not ready to go out of Kherson. But they know that it will be, if we will have success. They will not have possibility to exit.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Ukraine's military is pushing Russian troops back on several frontlines across the country. And as his army displays clear signs of weakness, Russian President Vladimir Putin ripping into the U.S. And its allies during a speech in Moscow.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Well, domination is what the so-called West bet its game on. But that game is, without doubt, a dangerous, bloody, and I would say, filthy one.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): But the Ukrainian troops in the trenches say they are resisting for their own country's sovereignty and hope to retake much of this key area in South Ukraine before winter sets in.
PLEITGEN (on camera): And Alex, we do have some new information for you this morning. The Ukrainian defense ministry now saying that they believe the Russians have already brought 1,000 newly-mobilized people to the front lines here in the Kherson region. Obviously, the Russians reinforcing their positions, Alex.
MARQUARDT: Fred Pleitgen in Odessa. Thank you so much for that terrific report. You and your team stay safe down there.
Now Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer caught on a hot mic expressing some concern for key Senate seats.
KEILAR: And no confidence. Faculty at the University of Florida passing a symbolic vote against the move to appoint Republican Senator Ben Sasse as the school's next president.
KEILAR: With less than two weeks to go until the midterm elections, Democrats are turning to former President Barack Obama to help boost turnout in high-stakes races. The former president will headline rallies in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada.
And in a hot-mic moment, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed some concerns over the fate of the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCHUMER: The state we're going downhill is Georgia. It's hard to believe that they will go for Herschel Walker. That seat, we're in danger in that seat. We'll see.
It looks like the debate didn't hurt us too much in Pennsylvania, so that's good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss, CNN political commentator Errol Louis.
Always interesting, Errol, to kind of get a look behind the scenes, isn't it? What did you think about his assessment of Georgia?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I take him at his word. I mean, Senator Schumer, I've known him for a long, long time. He is one of the better vote counters out there.
And remember, Brianna, he's the architect of the Senate Democratic majority. He goes out and recruits candidates. He raises the money. He supplies a lot of the messaging. He travels all over the country. He lines up the surrogates.
This is somebody who really is the architect of this big national effort. And if he says there's problems in Georgia, I assume that there's real serious problems in Georgia.
MARQUARDT: Hey, Errol, what about in Pennsylvania? There, of course, was the debate between Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman earlier this week. A lot of questions about how that would impact the race, given Fetterman's halting performance after his stroke.
There you have Schumer saying that he doesn't think it damaged Fetterman's chances.
LOUIS: Yes. You know, we have the same.