Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Sources: U.S. Believes Elements Within Ukraine's Govt. Authorized Assassination Near Moscow; Herschel Walker Campaign Scrambling To Contain Fallout From Abortion Report; Independent Evan McMullin Looking To Knock Off Trump-Backed Republican Mike Lee In Deep Red Utah; Key Oil Producing Nations To Slash Output, Raising Fears Gasoline Prices Could Surge; Iranian Govt. Arrests Eight After Teen Protester Found Dead. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 05, 2022 - 17:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The DEA says it found 15,000 rainbow colored fentanyl pills hidden in a Lego box. Prosecutors say a woman was arrested in Manhattan trying to bring the drugs from New Jersey. These pills, as you can see, look just like candy. Prosecutors say fentanyl is to blame for more than 80 percent of overdose deaths in New York City. And the DEA calls these rainbow pills an alarming trend, I would say so.

Our coverage continues right now in THE SITUATION ROOM.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Happening now, President Biden visits the Florida disaster zone as Hurricane Ian's death toll climbs to at least 110 people. It was an emotional day for so many residents and hard hit communities like Sanibel Island finally returning to their devastating home -- devastated homes, we should say, for the first time.

And also tonight a new twist in a Moscow assassination mystery. Sources tell CNN the U.S. intelligence community now believes elements within the Ukrainian government authorized a car bombing that killed the daughter of a prominent Russian nationalist.

And there are new fears tonight that gas prices could once again surge. A key group of oil producing nations is set to slash output by 2 million barrels per day, the biggest cuts since the pandemic.

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 let's get right to our top story this hour. Florida still digging out from Hurricane Ian exactly one week after the storm tore across the state. Our Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is traveling with President Biden who surveyed the damage today and our correspondents Leyla Santiago and Bill Weir are also in the storm zone reporting live from some of the communities hit hardest by Ian. Let's go first to Kaitlan. Now, Kaitlan, what was the President's message for the people of Florida?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Really, Pam, that it's going to be a long road ahead to recovery and have recovery is likely going to cost 10s of billions of dollars potentially given the damage that the federal government saw here on the ground as they've been on the ground ever since this happened with the FEMA administrator alongside Governor Ron DeSantis. And the days and in the aftermath is the scale of the loss of really what happened here has just become clearer with each day as you've seen more and more and more roads and places down near and become accessible.

And President Biden saying that federal government is going to extend the period that they pay for the debris cleanup and the response efforts because that is going to take so much time with a lot of people still not even able to access and get a look at where their homes are in certain parts of this area, including on Sanibel Island. President Biden saying that after he got that aerial tour of the damage and just saw the extent of it, that he believes it's going to take years, not months to rebuild.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a long road ahead of us, rebuilding entire communities from the ground up. I want the people of Florida to know, you have my commitment and America's commitment that we're not going to leave. We have one job and only one job and that's to make sure that people in Florida get everything that they need to fully thoroughly recover.


COLLINS: And Pam, you see there over the President's shoulder, Governor Ron DeSantis and firstly of Florida standing next to him. The President saying that they put their political differences aside, noting that they have very different political philosophies, of course, they have clashed many times in the past on certain issues, but that is not what they talked about today. And instead he talked about how closely they have worked, saying it's been basically lockstep ever since this has happened, the many phone calls that they've had, the briefings and moments they had in person today talking about what the recovery efforts here are going to look like.

President Biden even going as far as to praise Governor DeSantis saying that he believes he has done a remarkable job so far. But really, the overarching message coming out of this trip is that it is going to take a long time for the people here in Florida where the death toll is only continued to rise to recover and deal with the loss not just a life but also of their livelihoods, Pam.

BROWN: Yes, so much to grapple with there. Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

And for many residents of the devastated communities there, today was actually the first chance to visit whatever is left of their homes since Ian forced them to evacuate. CNN's Leyla Santiago is on Sanibel Island for this emotional return. She's joining us now.

So, Leyla, what did you hear from residents as they surveyed the damage?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Pam, it was sort of mixed reaction. There was pure relief from those who were preparing for the worst and didn't see it in their home individually. And then, there was disbelief from those who were coming back to a new reality, seeing their belongings just scattered all over the floor, determined to rebuild but still trying to figure out exactly how they'll move forward.



TONI TABOR, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: We just thought everything would be locked.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): An emotional return for the residents of Sanibel Island allowed back on the island for the first time to check on their homes and businesses a week after Hurricane Ian ravaged the area. While many found their homes completely gone, Toni and Dan (ph) Tabor shed tears of relief after finding their home still standing.

TABOR: We thought we'd come home and we thought those windows were broken and we thought we'd find water and that -- we've lived here for seven years and it's paradise and we thought we would come back and find everything gone. I mean, we just have to fix up our yard.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): But so many of their neighbors and friends didn't fare as well.

TABOR: I mean, the house over there. We know all these people. We've lived here with him for seven years. We have get togethers every other Friday at our clubhouse. I mean it's like family back here.


SANTIAGO (voice-over): The destruction here down power lines, personal belongings gone. In this case, an open Bible strewn along debris lined roads.

(on camera): So this is West Golf Drive, it's one of the main streets here on Sanibel Island. It's also one of the parts where residents told me was the worst hit areas. And you can tell, look behind me, this is now a street that is aligned with debris. You can see straight into homes and see personal belongings everywhere.

I mean look over here you also have part of a roof that is sitting on the side of the street. But to make the point of exactly how powerful this storm was, take a look at this home, residents told me that this was actually across the street. Now you can see straight in what was once a family room, a kitchen no longer here with the equipment and refrigerator now partially out the door and not much left to be salvaged. (voice-over): For those who lost everything, the list of needs is only growing.

STEVE SHULZ, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: It had three feet with the storm surge everything's pretty much ruined inside.

JOE SHULZ, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: Everything including dressers, beds, everything ruined. That's all on our front yard.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Steve and Lori Shulz are leaving the island for the first time since Ian hit. They rode (ph) up the storm at a friend's house but now they say it's time to go.



LORI SHULZ, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: Hopefully we're coming back to our house.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): But they remain hopeful.

L. SHULZ: Everybody works together everybody cares about each other. We'll be back.


SANTIAGO: And you know, Pam, we watched as a helicopter dropped off supplies here, water. And everyone who came on this island had to come by boat, that is why so many of them are keeping an eye on what Governor DeSantis has talked about with the causeway. Some sort of temporary fix to the bridge that links them to the mainland, the bridge that will allow them to bring in people, take out people, bring in supplies, bring in what they need to salvage what they can from these homes before it's too late and they have to tear them down. Pam.

BROWN: All right, Leyla Santiago there on Sanibel Island. Thanks for that report.

And let's get another update now from another devastated community by Ian. CNN's Bill Weir is joining us.

So Bill, you just took a trip to Pine Island which also suffered extensive damage during the storm. What did you find?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, we went out on one of the last boat lifts. Really there's a canal right over here, you can see against the mangroves there one of the boats going back and forth all day. There has been in our motto, folks, checking on property and bringing out supplies.

We went out with a charity called Global Empowerment Mission there in Ukraine for six months, came back home to help this. We took out a bunch of non-perishables with some of the local captains here and got back in time to see this, is a great sign. This is Pine Island Road. It is now reopened to locals. They have used back haulers and big earthmovers to fix the bridge that was washed out by Ian but this is huge because there are 1000s of people out on Pine Island from St. James City up to Bokeelia in the north.

But writing out with these locals, these guys who know this place so well, it was heartbreaking. They talked about losing their home entirely. Our captain had insurance, all of his neighbors do not, and they're emotionally distraught. They don't even want to know, honestly, what happened.

We talked to some folks from the ASPCA, Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, they are first responders. I saw them in Puerto Rico -- Maria (ph) before FEMA, they get on the ground, make sure people are OK but also make sure pets and animals are OK so the owners don't have to worry about and stress about their animals. The Cajun Navy told me they rescued 250 exotic birds, parrots off of this island yesterday and two lemurs. So it's a multi species effort out here as well.

The channel markers are all broken off as we took this trip now. So for boaters, which everybody here is a boater, it's so perilous because you've got these markers underwater, you've got racks that can rip the proper head off your boat. They're telling us several friends that already had holes punched into their boats. They say it'll take years to find all of the boats that are scattered all around here as well.


But for now, this is a huge -- oh, here's a FEMA truck going by. So this is a huge sign of hope right here that this main artery can now move supplies in by road, it'd be much faster to get in. Continue to check proof of life continue to get people the resources they need to start rebuilding.

I asked him, I said, what do you tell somebody who doesn't understand Florida? Why are you even considering rebuilding here, Pam? He said, this is one of the best fishing spots in the whole world. They love it here and they can't even think about retreat. Back to you.

BROWN: Yes. That's one good reason. All right. CNN's Bill Weir, thanks so much.

And coming up for you tonight, did Ukrainian government officials approve a car bombing near Moscow that killed the daughter of a prominent Russian. We're going to get some new information from our sources coming up for you.

Plus, a new warning from the U.S. to Kim Jong-un following a show of force and response to North Korea's increasingly aggressive missile launches. We'll be right back.


BROWN: Tonight, sources are telling CNN that U.S. intelligence believes the car bombing that killed the daughter of a prominent Russian political figure was authorized by elements within the Ukrainian government. That comes as Kyiv's forces are pushing ahead with major advances in the eastern and southern parts of their country.


CNN Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is on the scene for us tonight.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Ukrainian forces on the move. Kyiv says this video shows its soldiers advancing in the east of the country under heavy fire.

Since taking the strategically important town of Lyman, Ukraine's army says its forces have managed to enter the Luhansk region, one of the few areas that had been under Russian control almost completely. Residents greeting the troops as they sweep small towns and villages.

Ukraine's military says it's not only beating Russian troops back in the east, but in the south as well, where Kyiv claims Russia's defensive front is collapsing in some areas.

The Ukrainian military released this video purporting to show its forces in a major firefight in the Kherson region. Dozens of settlements have already been liberated since the Russian pseudo referendum this week alone, Ukraine's president said.

All this as Russia's President Vladimir Putin this morning move quickly to sign off on the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, even as his forces are increasingly losing ground there. Putin spokesman brushing off concerns about the Russian military retreat.

Certain territories will be taken back, he said. We will continue to confer with a population there that wishes to live together with Russia.

And Russia continues to unleash havoc in many regions of Ukraine. This is the sound of kamikaze drones hitting buildings about 50 miles south of Ukraine's capital. Ukraine says several Iranian supplied drones like these shown in an Iranian military video hit the town of Bila Tserkva in the early morning hours, causing massive damage to several buildings and wounding at least one person.

There was a roaring noise, a piercing sound, this man says. I heard the first strike, the second I saw and heard, there was a roar and then boom followed by an explosion.

Drone and missile strike so far have shown no signs of halting Ukraine's recent advances, though, and Kyiv says it will continue to press forward in its quest to expel Russian troops from all of its territories.


PLEITGEN: And you know, Pamela, you were mentioning that sources within the U.S. intelligence community are telling CNN that the intelligence community believes that at least elements within the Ukrainian government signed off, authorize the killing of Darya Dugina. She's of course or was of course the daughter of that very well-known Kremlin, pro Kremlin propagandist, Alexander Dugin. Those same sources are telling our own Natasha Bertrand that the U.S. had absolutely no prior knowledge of that plot. And it's unclear whether or not Vladimir Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, actually signed off on it himself.

It was interesting, because I was actually in Moscow on August 28 when this killing happened, and the Ukrainians were very quick to deny that they had anything to do with it. Of course, the Russians from the get go had said they believed that the Ukrainians were behind it, Pamela.

BROWN: And now we're learning that this new reporting that there were elements within Ukraine that were responsible for this. Thanks so much Fred Pleitgen live for us from Kyiv.

Let's get more on this. CNN Military Analyst Retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.

All right. So General Clark, considering the risk here of Russian retaliation, was it a mistake for these elements of the Ukrainian government to authorize that assassination?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I can understand why they would authorize an assassination like that, because it's no operational impact. So, it just doesn't make sense.

If you were going to try to attack Russia, you go after Putin, you go after General Gerasimov, you go after someone who's got some operational role if you were going to do that. There are assassination squads or hit teams on all sides moving, I have no doubt about that.

There's a lot of stuff going on in the occupied zones of Ukraine, but this doesn't make sense to me. I can't understand why anyone in Ukrainian government would do it unless they did it deliberately to embarrass the Ukrainian government.

BROWN: That's an interesting theory. So Sources tell CNN that the U.S. did not have any knowledge of this plan beforehand. What do you think the message should be from the U.S. to Ukraine now in the wake of this?


CLARK: Well I think the message is clear, I don't think anyone even has to say it to the Ukrainians, they must be severely embarrassed. It's absolutely incompatible with the way they're -- with what they're trying to do and the values they're projecting. And there's no operational sense behind it either. So it just doesn't make sense. I'm sure words have been exchanged behind the scenes on this.

BROWN: Yes, there's definitely more reporting to be done on that front. All right. I want to discuss with you Ukraine's stunning advances in the east and the south. How is Ukraine pulling this off? How significant are these gains in your view?

CLARK: Oh, I think they're very significant, not only because of the territory, they're taking back, but because of the impact on public opinion in Russia and the demoralization of the Russian military. Now, what we can't know from here from publicly available information is? How strong are the Ukrainian forces? What kind of casualties are they taking? How far -- how much further can they go before they culminate the attack simply because they've got exhausted troops run out of ammunition, equipment needs to be repaired and so forth?

We just don't know those things. But it's certainly heartening to see the advances that they've made. It's certainly good in terms of reassuring western donors that the assistance is paying off. And it's good and bringing Russia to heel and it brings the end of the war closer.

BROWN: General Wesley Clark, always great to have you on. Thank you so much for all of your insight.

And this just in to CNN, the South Korean military says North Korea has just fired a ballistic missile toward the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. I want to bring in CNN Selina Wang. She's been working the story for us from Tokyo.

What are you learning Selina?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pam, that's exactly right. We're just learning that on Thursday. This is according to South Korea that North Korea had fired an unidentified ballistic missile off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. We are still getting more details on that. This has been the concern since the first launch on Tuesday that that was just the start from North Korea and more to come.

Now in response, we've already seen this very unified, coordinated show of force from the U.S. and South Korea. They conducted two joint exercises in less than 24 hours, including bombing and missile exercises. The clear message here from the U.S. and its allies is that they had the capability to strike back militarily if necessary. We also heard from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that if North Korea continues down this path, there's going to be more condemnation or isolation and a more stepped up response.

Now we did learn from South Korean military that one of the missiles they had fired actually failed after launch and ended up crashing shortly after launch. They are still investigating that case. They say there are no casualties.

Now the U.S. has also been conducting joint exercises with Japan. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden held a phone call where Fumio Kishida said that this is a grave challenge posing not just to Japan, North Korea poses a challenge to the world, to the region. This is of course an extremely frightening moment for the people here in Japan because that missile fired on Tuesday by North Korea flew over Japan for the first time in five years. People in the northern part of Japan they woke up to sounds of sirens blaring and alerts from the government to take shelter. So the concern here of course, is that this is just the beginning of more and more significant tests to come from North Korea, Pam.

BROWN: And of course we will continue to monitor this breaking news, bring you the latest. CNN's Selina Wang, thank you for that.

And coming up, Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker is responding to son's viral comments calling him a liar after a blockbuster report claims he paid for a woman's abortion over 10 years ago.

Plus, how an independent candidate is closing in on a two time incumbent Republican senator in one of America's most conservative states. That's next. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BROWN: Embattled Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker says he doesn't know the identity of the woman at the center of a shocking story in The Daily Beast that claims he paid for his then girlfriend's abortion in 2009. CNN's Eva McKend is following the story for us.

So, tonight Walker is denying the allegations and he's putting out a new campaign video.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Now Pam, the campaign is clearly in defense mode. This ad just coming out where he is going after his opponent, Democrat Raphael Warnock, saying that Warnock is running a nasty and dishonest campaign. And then also I think sort of in an empathetic way trying to talk about his own mental health challenges.

So, real defense mode here, before this ad Walker took to friendly territory, going on Fox News to rebut the allegations against him.


HERSCHEL WALKER, (R) GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: So like everyone is anonymous or everyone is leaking and they want you to confess to something you have no clue about, but it just shows how desperate they are right now. They see me as a big threat.


MCKEND: Now in that same interview he took to actually taking issue with some of the card, the -- he suggested a get well card that is the source that is mentioned in that interview that the H that was signed in that card that The Daily Beast offered is evidence or that the woman at the center of the Beast story offered as evidence. He said that he didn't actually -- he doesn't sign his cards that way, and again just trying to refute this story.

BROWN: Interesting. And it is interesting because Raphael Warnock, from what I've seen, he hasn't really seized on the story. He's kind of said, look, I haven't really seen it, that's what we saw yesterday, right?

And I also want to ask you about his son, Herschel Walker's son. He responded to that viral video from his son calling him a liar.

MCKEND: Yes, he has been asked about this, but he isn't taking on the very serious allegations that his son puts forward. He's just reiterating that he loves him and that he will continue to support him but not addressing the very serious allegations directly.


CHRISTIAN WALKER, HERSCHEL WALKER'S SON: I was saying that lie after lie after lie, the abortion card dropped yesterday. It's literally his handwriting in the car. They say they have receipts, whatever. He gets on Twitter. He lies about it. OK, 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.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I love my son unconditionally. And that's where I've always been. I always love him unconditionally, but his father is always there for him, I always will be for him and my kids and I love them.


MCKEND: You know, Walker, also in that interview really spoke at length about his faith. We didn't see him today, but he will be back out on the trail tomorrow. No doubt. We'll have to go before reporters. And we'll see if he answers some of these questions in a more robust way.

BROWN: We shall see. All right, Eva McKend, thanks for bringing us the latest there.

And in Utah now, Independent Candidate Evan McMullin is hoping to bring together and unusual coalition in his race against Trump-backed incumbent Republican Senator Mike Lee. And as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, McMullin has the backing of many state Democrats creating one of the most unique contests this fall.


EVAN MCMULLIN, (I), UTAH SENATE CANDIDATE: We have to be willing to stand up to the broken politics of division and extremism. JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's no longer a Republican. And he's never been a Democrat. But Evan McMullin is asking voters from both parties to join his insurgent campaign to win a Senate seat as an independent from Utah.

MCMULLIN: Our democracy is at great risk right now. And we will decide as a nation over the next two cycles, this cycle in the next whether we still are a democracy or whether we're going to head down a road towards authoritarianism.

ZELENY (voice-over): In one of America's most conservative states, McMullin is going against the grain to challenge two-term Republican Senator Mike Lee.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): God bless you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator from Utah.

ZELENY (voice-over): And to take on the entrenched two-party system in Washington. It's become one of the most unique Senate races of the fall after Democrats here decided to stand down and not feel the candidate.

BEN MCADAMS (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It's time to break the glass and pull the fire alarm. This election in 2022 and the election in 2024 will be a critical moment for our country.

ZELENY (voice-over): Ben McAdams is a former Democratic congressman and Mayor of Salt Lake County, who's supporting McMullin.

MCADAMS: We've been calling on Republicans for many years to put their partisanship aside and do what's right for the country. And I think this was a time for Utah Democrats to do the same.

ZELENY (voice-over): As he introduces himself to voters, McMullin talks about his service as an undercover CIA officer.

MCMULLIN: My experience in the agency shaped the way I look at our country.

ZELENY (voice-over): And why he left the Republican Party in protest of Donald Trump, even mounting an independent presidential campaign in 2016, that Lee's allies are now using against McMullin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a foolish vanity campaign for president, Evan McMullin's under a mountain of debt.

LEE: Nothing in the Constitution --

ZELENY (voice-over): Lee, who was first elected during the Tea Party wave of 2010, cast himself as a fighter.

LEE: When government threatens your freedoms, I fight back, every time.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mike, thank you. ZELENY (voice-over): But his close ties to Trump --

LEE: Cuatro anos mas.

ZELENY (voice-over): And helping craft a legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election still infuriates voters like Andrew Mayfield.

ANDREW MAYFIELD, UTAH VOTER: Peaceful transfer of power and free and fair elections are the bedrock of a functional representative government and I believe in this. And I would expect at a minimum that he act like an adult and he show good faith in the principles he committed to uphold.

ZELENY (voice-over): Not all Republicans are looking for a new senator. And Mia Love, a former Republican member of Congress who's backing Lee, question whether voters know enough about McMullin.

MIA LOVE (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: He is an unknown to the state of Utah. He just seems like a person who pops up and wants to be an elected official, really wants to get himself to Washington somehow.

ZELENY (voice-over): Fellow Utah Senator Mitt Romney is Lee's only Republican colleague to not support him, telling CNN, "Both are very good friends of mine, so I'm not endorsing." The question is how many moderate Republicans are willing to join a new coalition McMullin is seeking to build.

JASON PERRY, DIRECTOR, HINCKLEY INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: It is the math. He needs almost all the Democrats. He needs most of the unaffiliated in the independents and a chunk of the moderates.


ZELENY (voice-over): McMullin says he understands the challenge, but urges voters to see that his allegiance is to Utah, not a political party.

MCMULLIN: I'm not running to be a bootlicker for the leader of any party or the, you know, or a president of any party, I will work with anybody to get things done for our state and our country. But at the same time, it's my job to hold them accountable.


ZELENY: Now, McMullin tells me he realizes he's not a perfect fit for everyone. Some Republicans believe he's too liberal. Some Democrats believe he's too conservative. But Pamela, that is really at the root of his candidacy. He's saying he would simply vote for Utah and their interests.

The question is, what would you do if he won? Of course, all senators join his side. He tells me he would not caucus with either side. He would not vote for a majority leader either. So if there is a balance of power issue, this could be certainly very interesting here. Of course, there's still five weeks to go. Utah is a Republican state, but everyone is watching this race without a doubt.

He tells me the dividing lines are not Republican or Democrat. They're -- those who believe in democracy and those who simply question it. So one of the most interesting races.

BROWN: Really interesting. Great reporting. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Well, just ahead, U.S. gas prices could soon shoot up after a major cut to the global oil supply. Plus, new surveillance video captures what appears to be the final moments of a young Iranian protester.



BROWN: Get ready. Gasoline prices in the United States could be about to spike after a key group of oil producing nations just agree to slash output by 2 million barrels per day. CNN's Brian Todd is on the story for us. So the big question here, Brian, what kind of impact is this going to have on American drivers? What are they going to feel this?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're going to feel it at the pump and they could feel it for months, Pamela. The manager of the Shell station just told us that just a couple of hours ago, he was instructed to raise prices by two cents a gallon. Get ready for more where that came from, as American motorists will feel the brunt of decisions that are far beyond their control.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight growing concerns about the future of gas prices in the U.S. after OPEC plus, a cartel of some of the world's biggest oil producers, including Russia and Saudi Arabia decided to cut oil production more than expected by 2 million barrels a day. And despite a fury of last-minute pressure by the White House.

Motorists here in Northern Virginia, exasperated that they could take yet another hit at the pump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is an inconvenience. It's a lot of money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's not just affecting me, it affects the whole world.

TODD (voice-over): How exactly does a 2 million barrel a day cut in production make gas prices go up?

STEPHEN SCHORK, OIL ANALYST, CO-FOUNDER, THE SCHORK REPORT: Less supply of crude oil equals less supply of gasoline less supply of gasoline at current demand levels equals higher prices.

TODD (voice-over): But analyst Stephen Schork doesn't think this will mean gas prices will get to the high levels where they were at the beginning of this summer. Why? SCHORK: If the economy continues to falter or fall off a cliff as some analysts on Wall Street are now saying, then that will lead to a significant decline in demand. We'll just see oil prices regardless of what OPEC is saying fall.

TODD (voice-over): Still, Schork says, we could see an increase in prices by the end of this month just in time for midterm elections. The worst possible timing for President Biden, whose team said he was disappointed in OPEC's decision, calling it short sighted.

The President himself saying, "I am concerned, it is unnecessary." This comes just three months after the President visited Saudi Arabia, the biggest player in OPEC. Despite the alleged involvement of its leader Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an accusation bin Salman denies. Biden fist bumped MBS and asked him to increase oil production. Instead, Saudi Arabia did the opposite.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: And in the end now in October, we're seeing he was not able through that trip or through a month-long lobbying campaign of other White House officials to prevent this outcome.

TODD (voice-over): The move is also seen as a win for Vladimir Putin boosting the price of Russian oil as the Kremlin looks for ways to fund its Ukrainian war effort. In the U.S., average gas prices soared to a high of $5.02 a gallon in June, then fell as low as 364 in September, but have ticked back up to 382 in the week since.

Democrats now again concerned that gas prices could hurt them at the polls.

TALEV: With gas prices, every time you fill up and you're thinking about it. There's only so much control any American president has over gas prices. But voters blame the people in charge when gas prices go higher.


TODD: And there's more pressure tonight on the Biden administration to punish Saudi Arabia for this. Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna calling on the White House to retaliate by preventing arms sales to the Saudis and by cutting off their supplies of aviation parts. It is unclear if the administration will do any of that. But the White House is leaving the door open now to possibly releasing more supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in America in order to maybe ease some prices just a little bit, Pamela.

BROWN: Brian Todd, thanks for that.

Let's get more on the story from Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She is the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congresswoman, what did President Biden get out of his fist bump with the Saudi Crown Prince when the Saudi led coalition is now going ahead with this major cut? I remember at the time, you had expressed concern about him going to Saudi Arabia. [17:45:01]

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): That's exactly right, Pamela. That's what I was going to say as I never thought that was a good idea. I thought that we had to get much tougher with the Saudis. I didn't think that going on a visit, if there was diplomacy to be had, perhaps that needed to be had behind the scenes. But we do have leverage with the Saudis, the Saudis do need us.

My friend Ro Khanna is correct, that the Saudis depend on us for a lot of support. But in addition, we have tools within Congress in terms of, you know, being able to, for example, repeal sovereign immunity, which the Biden White House made -- they didn't specifically say that, but there was some mention in their press release about being able to use some of the tools that Congress has to, for example, repeal sovereign immunity from antitrust legislation that would allow us to punish oil producers who try to manipulate prices for profit.

And so, I think that these are some of the things that we have to look at, because it is clear to me that this move was done between MBS and Putin and others who want to affect the U.S. election. I just don't see how else you can look at this a month before the election. But I also want to say, Pamela, that the other really important thing that I have been saying for a very long time since gas prices started going up is this is why we need the transition to clean energy.

We do not need to be dependent on these dictators around the world for production of oil. The sooner we make this transition, the better. If you do what Republicans are calling for, and just open up drilling, let's just be clear that the problem we have now is not that there's not leases out there, there are leases, they are not being utilized --

BROWN: Right.

JAYAPAL: -- for a whole host of reasons. This is not a quick --

BROWN: But --

JAYAPAL: -- answer to this. We need to use our leverage in Saudis.

BROWN: The bottom line is you bring up the election, what are the implications here for Democrats for the midterms with gas prices going up now?

JAYAPAL: Well, obviously, it's not good to have gas prices going up. However, I'm not sure that we will see the reaction so immediately. The President is going to release more oil reserves from the strategic oil reserve, more barrels from the strategic oil reserve. But it's obviously not good.

We don't like October surprises. And when the election is this close, I still believe that we have a very good shot of maintaining the House and hopefully expanding the Senate. But it's close, Pamela, we all know that. And the idea that Putin -- Vladimir Putin and MBS are essentially trying to interfere in our election through these actions using OPEC is extremely troubling. And we should all be concerned about their influence.

BROWN: And that's how you see it clearly. All right, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you very much.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: Coming up, new surveillance video could shed light on the mysterious death of a young Iranian protester in Tehran.



BROWN: In Iran, the government says eight people are under arrest tonight after a young protester was found dead. The circumstances of the teenage girl's death are unclear but as CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports, new surveillance video could shed light on her final moments.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Nika Shakarami, one of the thousands of young Iranians who took to the streets on September 20, but Nika never made it back home. She disappeared. 10 days later, her parents found her -- a lifeless body at the morgue of a detention center in Tehran. Nika's aunt spoke out in a BBC Persian interview.

ATASH SHAKARAMI, NIKA'S AUNT (through translation): I was in contact with her until 7:00 p.m. on September 20. Her friend said Nika put a story on Instagram to show she had burned her headscarf and she said to her friend, she was running away because security agents were after her. That was the last contact from her.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): According to her aunt, Nika's phone was switched off and her social media accounts deactivated.

SHAKARAMI: At the morgue, they showed a body. They only allowed her mother and her brother to identify the face. They were not allowed to unzip the cover to see the torso.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): While the circumstances of her death remain unclear, human rights groups have documented the brutal force used against protesters. Iranian security forces have dragged on veiled women by their hair, with some also reportedly sexually assaulted, according to Amnesty International.

Iranian state media released the CCTV video that investigators say shows Nika going into a building possibly falling from it later. They say they've arrested eight workers who are there. Authorities say there is no evidence the teenager was killed by police. Prosecutors say they've launched an investigation into her death. That comes just weeks after Mahsa Amini collapsed and died in morality police custody.

Amini's family say doctors told them she had had trauma and believes she was beaten to death. Police said the 22-year-old died of a heart attack. They deny any wrongdoing. And it's been nearly three weeks since that investigation was announced.

At Nika's funeral, this mourner cries, today was your birthday. Congratulations on your martyrdom. Nika Shakarami was buried on what would have been her 17th birthday.



KARADSHEH: And Pamela despite this tragic news, despite the ongoing government crackdown, today we saw more video emerged from Iran capturing remarkable acts of defiance by fearless young school girls who've now joined in the protests. And in the capital Tehran, pro- government supporters took to the streets in an organized rally, blaming the protests on the enemies of Iran as they chanted Death to Israel and Death to America. Pamela?

BROWN: CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much.

And coming up for you tonight, more on Hurricane Ian's devastating impact. We're going to get enough data from a key official and one of Florida's hardest hit communities. The vice mayor of Sanibel Island joins me in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BROWN: Happening now, President Biden gets a personal tour of Hurricane Ian's devastation, this as emotional residents returned to their homes and communities that suffered some of the storms worse damage.