Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Trump Goes To Supreme Court Over Mar-A-Lago Search; Ian's U.S. Death Toll Rises To 106 As Rescues Continue; Ukraine Recaptures Towns In Territory Illegally Claimed By Putin; Report: GOP Candidate Herschel Walker Paid For Woman's Abortion; Report Reveals Alarming Abuse Within U.S. Women's Soccer. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 04, 2022 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Born to poverty in Kentucky, Loretta Lynn, found her voice winning a singing competition that would ignite her meteoric to stardom. She often wrote about her tumultuous marriage in songs such as, You Ain't Women Enough and Fist City.

Loretta Lynn, 90 years old, may her memory be a blessing.

Our coverage continues with Pamela Brown in for Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, former President Trump files an emergency request at the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to intervene in the dispute over materials seize it at Mar-a-Lago. So, will the court restore the special master's review of more than 100 documents marked as classified?

And CNN is on the ground in Florida where rescuers are still trying to reach survivors nearly a week after Hurricane Ian. Officials say some communities could be cut off from electricity, but get this, for another month.

Also tonight, Ukrainian forces are making stunning gains on the battlefield, reclaiming territory illegally annexed by Vladimir Putin just days ago. We are going to get an update on the war from White House National Security Official John Kirby.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Pamela Brown and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we begin our coverage tonight with new developments in the Mar-a- Lago investigation, an emergency appeal from former President Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump's attorneys are pleading with the justices to intervene in a dispute over more than 100 documents marked as classified.

Our Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz has more on this filing. So, Katelyn, what exactly does the former president want from the high court here?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Pamela, what he is asking for is, essentially, he wants to turn back time. He wants to go back to the time period when Judge Aileen Cannon had a special master looking at all of the documents that were seized out of Mar-a-Lago this summer.

Basically, in recent weeks, what had happened is there was -- some of these documents were split out from what the special master that Judge Cannon appointed, what that special master was going to be working with, what the Trump team was going to be able to see. And that piece that was split out, it was 100 documents marked as classified.

The legal argument here is that Trump's team is saying that the Justice Department just can't come in and appeal what Judge Cannon has done at this stage. They want to make sure those 100 classified documents are marked as classified documents. Those are back with the special master. Maybe they could get access to them.

They've written in their filing, the Trump team says tonight, the unprecedented circumstances presented by this case, an investigation of the 45th president of the United States by the administration of his political rival and successor, compel the district court, Judge Cannon, to acknowledge the significant need for enhanced vigilance and to the order -- and to order the appointment of a special master to ensure fairness, transparency and maintenance of the public trust. That appointment order is simply not appealable.

So, in short here, what the Justice Department is saying -- or what the Trump team is saying is that these are just documents, it is just take document dispute, and we just need there to be transparency and oversight over it.

BROWN: It also struck me when I was looking through it that the filing argues something that we have heard from Trump publicly, right, that he had the right to declassify any information. Now, it is worth noting the special master that Trump's team appointed has asked for any information supporting just that. He is making this case here.

POLANTZ: Yes, absolutely. So, the special master really wanted them to say, well, did you declassify these documents or did you not? Let's deal with that first. Donald Trump's team has wanted to keep it open and they want to be able to say even to the Supreme Court now that maybe these documents are classified, maybe they're not, but no matter what, they should be in the hands of the special master.

One of the things that he wrote in this filing, this is a legal argument we are going to hear over and over again from the Trump team, President Trump had absolute authority under that executive order to declassify any information. There is no legitimate contention that the chief executive's declassification of documents requires approval of bureaucratic components of the executive branch.

Donald Trump also has been speaking about this publicly in a recent interview. Here is what he said there.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it is declassified, even by thinking about it, because you are sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you are sending it. I declassified everything.


POLANTZ: So, Pamela, one of the things here that he is pointing out, not just in that interview in the legal filings, is that these are potentially his records, personal records. Maybe they're presidential records he wants to claim privilege over.


But at the end of the day the Justice Department says, these documents are marked as classified, they shouldn't go to the special master or even to Trump's team. First, they should be in the hands of the federal government, they should be treated as classified if those words are written on the pages.

BROWN: Right. And some of them have the highest classification markers there are. All right, thanks you so much, Katelyn Polantz.

Now, let's bring in our CNN Political Correspondent, Sara Murray, CNN Legal Analyst was Paul Callan, and our Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic.

All right, Paul, I'm going to kick it off with you here. What more can you tell us about what Trump is arguing in this emergency request on the heels of what we just heard from Katelyn?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Pamela, it sounds like the former president really wants to get a look at those classified documents because this is an odd duck of an appeal. You would think he is appealing the whole Mar-a-Lago warrant and that the whole seizure was illegal. No, none of that is being appealed. The only thing that's being appealed here is whether the special master can look at the classified documents and then presumably share them with Trump's attorneys. Everything else has been left alone.

So, the question now becomes, why is the president and his lawyers, why are they so interested in looking at those classified documents, especially if the president himself declassified them and had them put in boxes? He would know already what is there. So, it is an odd duck of an appeal.

BROWN: So, Joan, on that note this is a big test, right? I mean, this could be a big test for the Supreme Court. It has three Trump- appointed justices, but also, as we know, they haven't always ruled in Trump's favor.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, as Paul suggested, this is actually a small, legal question over jurisdiction for interlocutory appeal, but any time you involve Donald Trump at the Supreme Court, it is a big deal. And you are right. Three of his appointees are sitting there.

But one thing I would point out about how this might actually be yet another long shot bid from Donald Trump, the individual, as opposed to Donald Trump who is defending certain policies up there, other times when Donald Trump has come up there during the election, rejected, earlier on documents from the archives, rejected.

So, this is the kind of thing that the justices could actually possibly just reject pretty quickly out of hand. We'll have to see. Justices haven't set a deadline yet for when the Department of Justice should respond, but on these kinds of applications that come to the court, they don't hold oral arguments or anything. They act pretty quickly. We will see some deadlines. We will see some more filings and maybe this whole thing could be resolved, frankly, in just a matter of days or a week or two rather than a series of months.

BROWN: All right. So, Sara, we know it is a narrow filing but it also raises the question, what is really the end goal here? I mean, Trump's team says that it wants a special master to have access to these classified documents. But if he prevails, that may not exactly work out in his favor, would it? I mean -- SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. I mean, one of

the things we have seen about the special master is that Dearie has been pretty tough on the Trump team in a way that Judge Cannon really has not. You know, he has really been kicking the tires about some of the claims that they have made, these sort of wishy-washy claims of are these documents classified, are they declassified, you know, things like that. He has really tried to get clarity from the Trump team. The Trump team resisted it.

But I think the one thing that team Trump has going in their favor that they know is that when there has been a dispute with the government in the special master we have seen, Judge Cannon swoop in and essentially side with Donald Trump on these issues.

So, if their goal is to get these documents in front of the special master and to be able to perhaps see some of these documents marked classified, they may very well be betting that if there is some kind of dispute in with the special master, that Judge Cannon is going to swoop in again and side with Donald Trump.

BROWN: All right. So, Katelyn, the Justice Department has been pretty busy with this, right, back and forth, back and forth. Now, they are going to have time to respond. What do you expect to hear from them?

POLANTZ: Well, right now, the Justice Department has things where they want them to a certain extent. I mean, these 100 documents that were marked as classified, they were diverted from the investigation, put in with all of the other things that were seized that the special master was looking at.

Right now, they are back with the criminal investigators. They are with the intelligence community where they're doing reviews of them, where they can use them in their criminal investigation. And so until there's a ruling from the Supreme Court or an order from the Supreme Court, that continues on.

So, that's where the Justice Department wants to be right now, at least with these. But we also know that they've made a lot of different arguments. They're going to continue re-upping those arguments. There are things like the appeals court was right here, we are almost certain they're going to hear them say that, the 11th Circuit did the right thing by saying Judge Cannon was out of line in what she did with the special master and these documents.

We're also probably going to hear them say that, you know, these documents were marked classified. There's no way they are Donald Trump's. There's no way he has an interest in them and could access them right now.

BROWN: All right. So, Paul, will you be surprised if the Supreme Court decides to take this up?

CALLAN: Yes. I would be very surprised, Pamela.


And the reason I say that is in order for the Trump lawyers to win, they have to show, number one, there's a strong likelihood that more than four justices will vote to hear the case and that five justices will vote in their favor if the case got to be argued before the Supreme Court itself.

And they have to prove a third thing also, that there will be irreparable harm to Donald Trump if this appeal is not granted. Now, I ask you, what harm to Donald Trump is going to occur if these documents are reviewed or not reviewed by the special master? I don't see any irreparable harm to the former president regardless of which way the court goes. So, I think they fail on that third important test.

BROWN: And, you know, Sara, it also -- it does make you think, as you well know, covering Trump for awful of these years, I have as well, so much of his strategy is the legal strategy but also the P.R. strategy, using delay tactics, does that appear to be what is also going on here?

MURRAY: Oh, I think this is absolutely a delay tactic. And, look, I think he also expects his lawyers to do anything possible to exploit any advantage that they might have. And when Donald Trump looks at the Supreme Court, he still looks at the Supreme Court and sees justices that he put there, and he still --

BROWN: Hopes, he expects to be loyal to him.

MURRAY: -- that he expects to be loyal to him. And so he still thinks, if we can get something in front of the Supreme Court, we should try do so anyway we can because these people I put there, these people should be loyal to me. That is how he has always viewed these things.

BROWN: Even though that the election did not quite work out in his favor and January 6th.

BISKUPIC: He is likely to be let down again.

BROWN: Yes. All right, we shall see how this plays out. Thank you all for that fulsome discussion.

Just ahead for you tonight, we are going to get a live report from Florida where rescues are still underway in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Officials are warning tonight some residents might not get their power back for at least another month.

We will be right back.



BROWN: Right now, we are following the excruciating recovery from Hurricane Ian in Florida, the devastation underscored by the climbing death toll and a new warning tonight that some communities could suffer without power for a month.

CNN's Carlos Suarez has our report from the disaster zone.


CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The need for help in Florida, immediate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of our food at the house went bad.

SUAREZ: At one food distribution site in North Fort Myers, the line of cars grew by the hour. The Cajun Navy Foundation on the ground in Florida for days, handing out crucial supply for residents without basic services.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we got diapers. I know there's water, food.

SUAREZ: Thousands so far have been rescued from destroyed or flooded homes with harrowing stories of survival.

STAN PENTZ, HURRICANE IAN SURVIVOR: We got pushed away and I went around the building and I was able to find some bushes and I grabbed on to it and I pulled myself in, halfway in, and I just stayed there for hours, hours.

SUAREZ: State officials working to compile a list of those missing.

KEVIN GUTHRIE, DIRECTOR, FLORIDA DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: We hope to have a better number on that going into the next couple of days.

SUAREZ: Hurricane Ian's death toll now over 100. More than half of those deaths in Lee County where rescuers face large areas of homes, boats and bridges shattered in Ian's wake.

SHERIFF CARMINE MARCENO, LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA: We are probably still another three to four days left in search and rescue and recovery. But until we go through the rubble, until we see exactly what we have, we're not certain who is missing and what those numbers will be.

SUAREZ: County officials identified 46 of the 55 bodies recovered. One of those killed, an Ohio mother celebrating her 40th birthday in Fort Myers, who could not find transportation to leave her vacation rental before the storm.

MARCENO: These are not numbers. This is -- this is family members.

SUAREZ: For the hardest-hit barrier islands, the only way in and out is by air and boat.

CATHY EAGLE, BOAT TOUR GUIDE: I just dropped some people off at their house. I'm just going to get supplies.

SUAREZ: Emergency officials are racing to build a temporary bridge to connect Pine Island to Cape Coral, north of Sanibel.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We are going to have that bridge patched this week, so they're going to be able to go and access.

SUAREZ: The National Guard and a group of volunteers began an airlift of food and supplies for stranded residents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got extensive water damage within this building.

SUAREZ: School buildings unspared. Desoto County schools say a high school will remain closed for two months. An elementary school in Fort Myers Beach shows desk and debris everywhere. School officials say they may relocate students, teachers and staff.

CHRISTOPHER BERNIER, SUPERINTENDENT, SCHOOL DISTRICT OF LEE COUNTY: This is not going to stop us from opening our schools as soon as we can.


SUAREZ (on camera): And, Pamela, preparations are well underway out here ahead of President Biden's visit tomorrow. We expect that the president is going to get a look at the damage by air and ground. The White House says he is going to meet with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and he is going to get a briefing by him as well.

BROWN: All right. Carlos Suarez, thank you so much.

And for more on Hurricane Ian's aftermath, I want to bring in Dana Souza. He is the city manager from one of the hardest-hit communities, Sanibel Island. Dana, thanks for your time tonight.

I know how busy you have been trying to help out residents. So, Sanibel residents will be allowed to return to the island tomorrow to assess their property. Can you describe what your residents will face when they return tomorrow?

DANA SOUZA, SANIBEL CITY MANAGER: Well, thank you, Pamela. I think that what they will see is really an up-close look at the destruction that they've seen from the video clips that have been offered on the news and some other photos that may have been shared through local sources, and it is going to hit home. It is going to be emotional when they see their properties up close and the amount of damage that this storm inflicted upon them. I know it a little bit personally from Hurricane Irma, when that struck my home and caused damage, and even though I had been involved in storm recovery and response, I just wasn't prepared for the damage on my own property.


So, I think it will be an emotional day for a lot of people.

BROWN: Yes. Homes are much more than just the physical structure, right? It can represent and symbolize so much more than just that. It will be a difficult day.

The fire chief there said just about every home has some sort of damage. You also have the mayor of Sanibel saying it is critically important that no one lives on the island right now. How long do you expect it will be before Sanibel Island is habitable again?

SOUZA: Well, unfortunately, I think it will be quite some time. The infrastructure that supports our life on the island is really devastated. Our electrical infrastructure has been damaged. Most of the poles and transmission lines are down. We are just starting to generate water through the Island Water Association. Wastewater systems are down. So, without those necessary infrastructures, it is difficult to sustain a community of 7,000 people year around. And as you might know, our seasonal population grows to 35,000 and our daytime population is immense. So, it will be some time before we can resume normal life on Sanibel.

BROWN: What is your message tonight on that note to residents who may have not only just lost their homes but may now be out of work as businesses are shuttered as a result of Hurricane Ian's destruction?

SOUZA: Yes, there will be many businesses that will not provide work for their employees, and I know many of them are looking for work in other locations, but it is really devastating to the community in a lot of regards, both from a personal perspective and for people's homes but the economic perspective for people who live there and thrive there with their businesses.

They all rely on the seasonal population as well, and we would be arriving in season within the next month or early parts of season, so it is a difficult time for this hurricane to hit. There's no good time for a hurricane to hit, but to have this amount of devastation that really knocked out all of the infrastructure and knocked buildings off the foundation, caused damage to every structure, as the chief said, very significant damage on Sanibel.

BROWN: Yes. Just before that, like you said, that the key season starts there in Florida, in that area. Dana Souza, thank you.

SOUZA: Thank you.

BROWN: Coming up, stunning gain goes by Ukraine on the battlefield sending Russian forces fleeing. We are on the ground with the very latest. Plus, new details tonight of the U.S. response to Iran's brutal crackdown on protesters. We're going to talk about all of it next with key White House Official John Kirby.



BROWN: President Biden is speaking today with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who says they discussed additional sanctions against Russia and the situation on the battlefield, which has taken dramatic turns in Ukraine's favor.

CNN International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh is there with the latest. Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Pamela, startling advances in the south by Ukrainian forces, frankly hard to keep track of the pace at which this is developing, even according to Russia's Ministry of Defense, who released maps today which showed a significant amount, possibly a quarter or a third of the area that Russia has occupied on the western side of a key river running through Ukraine now under Ukrainian control, compared to their map 24 hours ago.

This is a vital area for commercial reasons in Ukraine for anybody who wants to control access to the Black Sea. And it is also an area where Russian forces have, to some degree, been increasingly cut off from the rest of Russia's occupying forces on the other side of that river. People were, for much time, talking about the possibility of some sort of collapse there. That may be beginning to happen. And it is hot on the heels of what we saw around Lyman over the weekend. That's in the east. And the knock-on effect of losing that strategic hub is being felt in other parts of Russian-held areas in the east there.

So, while in Moscow, scenes of Russia's two parliamentary bodies rushing through the rubber stamping of the alleged annexation of these areas occupied by Russia in Ukraine is a remarkable continuation of Ukrainian success on the battlefield. Startling to see these two different versions of the events, the reality of the battlefield and the fiction of Russia's annexation or what they thinks is their annexation, and also remarkable too to see exactly how fast things are changing here. Pamela?

BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, Nick.

CNN learned that the U.S. is expected to slap additional sanctions against law enforcement officials and others directly involved on the crackdown on protesters in Iran.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports the demonstrations against the country's regime are growing, as is the backlash.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This religious propaganda song released by the Iranian government with a tribute to former Quds Force Commander General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike, is also a pledge of allegiance to the supreme leader and the ideology.

Critics of the regime say it is part of an effort to indoctrinate the next generation to carry on the Islamic revolution, but that generation is now rising up, saying enough to repression, demanding rights they've never known.

In Tehran, spontaneous outbursts of defiance, young girls on the streets waving their head scarves, chanting death to the dictator and the now familiar women life freedom slogan of the protests, they have cars honking their horns in support.


More and more video now emerging of teenage girls joining in the protests. In this video the girls remove their head scarves and chase an official out of the school, throwing water bottles and other objects as they chant, dishonorable. Girls emboldened by the young women who have been at the forefront of the nationwide protest, braving the bullets, the threat of prison or flogging, standing up to the Islamic republic and its so-called morality enforcers, risking it all for their freedoms, for their right to choose.

No one knows how this will all end, but one thing is for certain, the barrier of fear has now been broken.


BROWN: Okay. We don't have any sound from Jomana there, but thank you for that report, Jomana Karadsheh, we appreciate it.

So, let's get more on all of this with John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications. Hi, John.

We are going to get to Iran in just a moment, such an important story. But, first, Presidents Biden and Zelenskyy, they spoke today as the U.S. announced yet another military aid package to Ukraine. How will these new weapons sustain Ukraine's major advances in the east and south?

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, if you look at the systems that are in this package, more of these high-mobility advanced rocket systems, artillery rocket systems, you got more howitzer ammunition, more of those more small arms and ammunition, more vehicles, all these things that you see in this package are very consistent with what you've seen in the last three or four going back several weeks now. Because we know from talking to the Ukrainians that these are exactly the kinds of systems that they want and they need in this fight, particularly in the Donbas, which is like farmland, kind of like Kansas, very wide open, lends itself to what we call long-range fires which is what these systems are all about.

BROWN: All right. So, I wanted to shift our focus back to Iran. As you saw, Iranians are risking their lives to protest amid this brutal crackdown. Beyond sanctions, what specifically will President Biden do to show these brave young Iranian women that the U.S. stands behind them?

KIRBY: He stood in the well at the United Nations just a week or so ago in a sweeping speech and made sure that he mentioned these brave women and what they're protesting and that they have the right to do so and should be able to do so peacefully. He has been very clear publicly about that. Clearly, our administration stands with these women as they protest for their rights, and they shouldn't have to be told what to wear on any given day. They should have these rights, a right to protest peacefully.

And we have already sanctioned some of the morality police and some other Iranian intelligence officials that we know were responsible for cracking down on these protesters and were responsible for Ms. Amini's death, and we are doing everything we can to make sure that the Iranian people have access to the internet, that they have other means to get information and to stay connected because, clearly, they want to be connected to the international community.

And, lastly, I think you will see us issue some more sanctions going forward. I don't want to get ahead of announcements right now, but I think you will see that in coming days. And, of course, we are going to keep our options open going forward.

BROWN: All right. So, you mentioned sanctions. On that note, is it time to officially pull the plug on the Iran nuclear deal talks? I mean, can the U.S. really dangle sanctions relief while Iran is killing protesters in the streets?

KIRBY: I'll tell you, there's not a lot of dangling going on right now, Pamela. We are not anywhere close here to inking a return to the JCPOA. We are, in fact, farther apart now than we were just about a month ago. And that's unfortunate but that's where we are. So, for those that are worried about sanctions relief coming immediately with respect to the JCPOA for the Iranian regime, that's just not going to happen any time soon.

What will happen is we're going to continue to hold the Iranian regime accountable for the way they treat their own citizens and protesters inside their country. And what will happen is we're going to continue to make sure that Iran cannot achieve a nuclear weapons capability.

Now, obviously, the president would prefer to do that through diplomacy. We still would prefer to do that through diplomacy, but we have to make sure we have other options available to us and we will do that because no problem in the Middle East, and I mean none, including what is going on inside Iran right now, none of them get easier to solve with Iran having a nuclear weapon at their disposal.

BROWN: Okay. Let me ask you that. I just want to push a little bit on this because you had said that the situation is worse now than they were with talks over the deal. But would the administration, would the White House be willing to walk away from those talks if the situation continues to escalate in Iran? Is that under consideration? KIRBY: I don't want to get ahead of where we are right now, Pamela. Where we are right now is we are looking at additional sanctions to hold the Iranian regime accountable for the way they're treating their protesters, their own citizens, and I think you will see something soon. We are not afraid to call it out the way it is and we're not afraid to act on those concerns, and we have done it in the past here with Iran and we will do it again.


The president believes that Iran should never be allowed to achieve a nuclear weapon. He still believes diplomacy is the best way to do that. But, honestly, Pamela, we are just not close to a deal.

BROWN: All right. We are getting news in as you were just answering that question. I'm being told that the U.S. and South Korea have fired four missiles, that's according to the Joint Chiefs. This, of course, is in the wake of North Korea's ballistic missile launch over Japan. What more can you tell us about this?

KIRBY: Well, I think what you are seeing, and you saw yesterday when we conducted some air exercises over the west sea and also with our Japanese counterparts up off the coast of Japan, we -- and this is not the first time we have done this in response to provocations by the north, to make sure that we can demonstrate our own capabilities bilaterally with the South Koreans and with the Japanese and trilaterally between all three countries, to make sure that we have the military capabilities at the ready to respond to provocations by the north, if it comes to that.

Now, it shouldn't come to that. We made it clear to Kim Jong-un we are willing to sit down with no preconditions. We want to see the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He hasn't shown an inclination to move in that direction and, quite frankly, he is moving in the opposite direction, by continuing to conduct these missile tests, which are violations of Security Council resolutions.

So, short of him being willing to sit down and have a diplomatic path forward, we have to make sure, just like with Iran, when we were talking about it a few minutes ago, we have to make sure that we have the capability it and readiness in place to meet our national security interests, our treaty commitments in the region, and we're going to do that.

BROWN: All right. John Kirby, thanks so much for your time.

KIRBY: My pleasure. Good to be with you.

BROWN: And just ahead, prosecutors unveil a major piece of evidence on the second day of the Oath Keepers sedition trial. We are going to have more on the secret audio recording expected to play a key role in the case against the extremist group.


[18:40:00] BROWN: We are following dramatic developments from the second day of the Oath Keepers' sedition trial. Prosecutors have just unveiled a major piece of evidence against the extremist group.

Our Senior National Correspondent Sara Sidner has more.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): FBI Special Agent Michael Palian took the stand as the government's first witness in the seditious conspiracy case against five people affiliated with the Oath Keepers for their alleged roles in the January 6th attack.

The agent verified Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes' voice on secretly recorded audio of a planning meeting the far-right militia group held shortly after the 2020 election, the scratchy audio played in federal court where cameras are not allowed.

We're not getting out of this without a fight. There's going to be a fight, Rhodes can be heard saying. But let's do it smart and let's do it while President Trump is still commander-in-chief.

The recording was the first major piece of evidence the prosecutors used to establish the defendants hatched a plan to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, to keep President-Elect Joe Biden from taking office months before January 6th. So, our mission going to be to go into D.C. but I do want to some Oath Keepers to stay outside and stay fully armed and prepared to go in if they have to, Rhodes can be heard saying.

The attorney for Rhodes got the FBI agent to acknowledge that his client was referring going to D.C. on November 14th and that the date January 6th was not mentioned.

Another defendant, Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, is also heard on the call, prosecutors said. We have been issued a call to action from D.C. This is the moment we signed up for, he is heard saying.

Jurors also have heard secretly recorded audio of Rhodes after January 6th, trying to get a message to Trump, they said. My only regret is that they should have brought rifles. We could have fixed it right then and there, Rhodes can be heard saying about the Capitol attack. If he's not going to do the right thing, he's going to let himself be removed illegally.

Prosecutors relied on videos to establish the defendant's some and military combat gear were at or in the Capitol, including new video of Thomas Caldwell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, I wiped my ass on Pelosi's doorknob.

SIDNER: Prosecutors also zeroed in on a patch Kelly Meggs wore at the Capitol that says, I don't believe in anything, I'm just here for the violence, and showed jurors messages from a group chat on the Signal app called friends of Stone, as in Roger Stone. It was the first evidence the jury saw of Rhodes interacting with someone close to President Trump. And in signal messages to fellow Oath Keepers days after the election, Rhodes wrote, we aren't getting through this without a civil war, too late for that. Prepare your mind, body and spirit.

Prosecutors say some began planning for violence election night, showing text messages between Meggs and his wife while watching the results roll in. Trump wins Kentucky. I'm so nervous. I'm going on a killing spree, Pelosi first. Shut the F up. You're getting me stressed.


SIDNER (on camera): Now, each of the attorneys for the defendants, all five, of them had their crack at the witness on the stand, which was the FBI special agent, Palian. Caldwell's attorney went after the FBI saying in their initial case they got a lot of details wrong about his client, they might be wrong about other things. And we'll have more on this case on Thursday. Back to you.

BROWN: All right. Sara Sidner, thanks so much. We look forward to that update.

Coming up, a twist in a closely watched race that could determine control of the Senate.



BROWN: Former football star and Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker says the report that he paid for a girlfriend's abortion is a, quote, flat-out lie.

Let's dig in digger with this. CNN national politics reporter Eva McKend and CNN senior political analyst Nia-Malika Henderson.

So, Evan, can you explain first of all the details of this allegation?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Pam, this story has really up-ended this competitive Senate contest between Walker and Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock.

"The Daily Beast" spoke to a woman who said when she and Walker were dating in 2009, he urged her to get an abortion. The woman, who the site did not name, said Walker reimbursed her for it and showed evidence to the reporter in the form of a $575 receipt from the abortion clinic, a get-well card from Walker and a bank deposit included an image of a signed $700 personal check from Walker.


On the trail, Walker has expressed opposition to abortion rights, saying last month he'd support a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks. In May, he said he would support a ban with no exceptions. He took to Fox News to defend himself while his son Christian Walker took to Twitter to slam his father.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I have no idea, but it is a flat-out lie, and now you know how important the seat is. The seat is very important. I'd do anything to win this seat. I never asked anyone to get an abortion. I never paid for an abortion, and it's a lie.

CHRISTIAN WALKER, SON OF HERSCHEL WALKER: Lie after lie after lie, the abortion yesterday, it's literally his handwriting on the card. They have receipts, whatever. He gets on Twitter and lies about it, okay, I'm done. Done! Everything has been a lie.

Don't lie on my mom, don't lie on me, don't lie on the lives you've destroyed and act like you're some moral family man. You all should care about that, conservatives.


MCKEND: Now, Pam, Walker initially said that he would sue "The Daily Beast." But we have heard no more of that. That lawsuit has not been filed, and we haven't heard any more about it from the campaign today.

BROWN: It's interesting, too, that video from his son, his son had been previously before this, supportive of his dad on the campaign trail. He also identifies as a conservative. So it is worth noting that in the wake of this video.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We have seen October surprises before. We have seen candidates get in trouble because of relationships, because of sexual misconduct. We've never seen this kind of a reaction from a family member, a son, a visceral reaction where he says that the breaking point was not only some of the other stories that have come out about his father. He mentions on that video that his father has four kids by four different women and didn't -- wasn't in any of those households, didn't raise any of them.

So this idea he is a good family man and a Christian family man who lives his life that way is a lie. That's essentially what Christian Walker has said.

We don't know how this will impact the campaign. It certainly isn't good. It will damage the campaign. I think the question is how much and how do they go into damage control mode.

Typically, you would see, you know, a candidate like this roll out their wife or a family member. We'll see if that's a tactic they take. They obviously have a family member out there who is saying very disparaging things about Herschel Walker.

So, listen, all hands on deck in terms of what the walker campaign needs to do about this. So we'll just see what rolls out over the next couple of days.

BROWN: And so far, Republicans are largely sticking by Walker. HENDERSON: Of course, they are. They don't have a choice.

BROWN: And what about Democrats?

HENDERSON: Democrats are essentially lying low. They almost don't even really need to say anything. Raphael Warnock was asked about it, he said I haven't really read the story, and concentrated more on his campaign, in his views, on abortion.

So, listen, this is a tight race, it'll only likely get tighter. So this is a real turning point.

MCKEND: That was notable for me how quiet Georgia Democrats were. It doesn't seem like they want to take any glee on this.

BROWN: As you said, it writes itself.

All right. Eva, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you so much.

And up next, a new report reveals alarming abuse in U.S. women's soccer.



BROWN: Shocking results from an investigation into widespread abuse in U.S. women's professional soccer.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, this report is just completely incredible. It's shocking. It says the abuse was rampant, brazen, that the coaches involved had no accountability and that the players essentially had nowhere to go to complain.


BECKY SAUERBRUNN, CAPTAIN, U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM: We are horrified and heartbroken and frustrated.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, members of the U.S. women's national soccer team furious over a devastating new report on systemic abuse and misconduct in the American women's professional league.

SAUERBRUNN: People in authority and decision-making positions have repeatedly failed to protect us, and they have failed to hold themselves and each other accountable.

TODD: The independent investigation led by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates says there was widespread misconduct on the part of male coaches toward players in the National Women's Soccer League, from verbal abuse to sexually charged comments, to sexual touching and, quote, coercive sexual intercourse.

The probe by U.S. Soccer was only launched because of reporting from "The Washington Post" and "The Athletic."

MEG LINEHAN, SENIOR WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: In terms of scope and the smaller details, all of it combined, it's truly awful in so many ways.

TODD: The investigation mentions Paul Riley who coached three NWSL teams and was once under consideration for the U.S. Women's National team job. An expose by "The Atlantic" says Riley sexually harassed players and in one incident coerced a player to have sex with him.

Player Mana Shim told ESPN about another incident when she says Riley invited her to his hotel room.

MANA SHIM, FORMER PORTLAND THORNS PLAYER: He quickly shut the door behind me, and I saw that he was just in his underwear. And he told me to get on his bed and watch film. But there was no film pulled up.

TODD: Riley denied the accusations in "The Athletic" report. CNN has been unable to reach him for comment.

Another coach, according to the Yates report, allegedly asked a player to look at game film at his house but showed her pornography instead.

SALLY JENKINS, WASHINGTON POST SPORTS COLUMNIST: A woman athlete should not have to fear watching film to try to improve their performance and worry that she's going to chase around the hotel by her head coach.

TODD: The coach's behavior was repeatedly covered up by the league and its teams, according to the Yates report. Players' complaints ignored.

ALANA COOK, DEFENDER, U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM: The things that have gone on, much bigger than soccer, much bigger than any training or game.


TODD (on camera): The National Women's Soccer League says it will review the findings of the Yates report -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. CNN's Brian Todd, thank you for that.

And I'm Pamela Brown in THE SITUATION ROOM.