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Jury: Alex Jones Should Pay Nearly $1 Billion To Sandy Hook Families; Russia Launches New Mass Casualty Missile Strikes In Ukraine; Dem John Fetterman Focusing On Philly In Critical PA Senate Race; CNN Poll: Biden Approval Rebounds From Summer Low; Biden Vows "Consequences" For Saudis After Oil Product Cut; Biden Says "Slight Recession" Is Possible But Unlikely; Key Inflation Gauge Shows Prices More Rose Faster Than Expected In Sept. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 12, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: -- Thursday nights at the Thomas household. Legal experts say that however the court rules, its decision will have rippling consequences for artists across the country.

All right, you can follow me on Twitter @johnberman or tweet the show @theleadcnn. If you ever missed an episode of The Lead, you can listen wherever you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues right now with Wolf Blitzer who is in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news a jury says conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay $965 million dollars to families of the victims of the Sandy Hook School massacre. This hour, we're getting new reaction from those families about the verdict and the impact of Jones's lies about the shooting.

Also tonight, Russia launches new mass casualty missile strikes in Ukraine, as the U.S. and NATO scrambled right now to beef up Ukrainian air defenses. I'll ask White House National Security Official John Kirby about the administration's response to Vladimir Putin's new provocation.

And we're also learning more about tomorrow's January 6 hearing and new evidence that will be presented. The Select Committee poised to argue that former President Trump remains a clear and present danger to democracy in America.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get right to our top story of Connecticut juries massive judgment against Alex Jones for spreading lies and conspiracies about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. For more on the jury's decision, let's bring in CNN Correspondent Alexandra Field.

Alexandra, the jury says Jones should say pay families of the victims nearly a billion dollars in damages.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if ever, there could be a win for families who have suffered as profoundly as these families had, from the loss of their loved ones and the decade of torment that has followed, this marks that win. It is a seismic moment, a huge award of nearly a billion dollars being awarded to 15 plaintiffs in the case, 14 of them family members who lost their beloved on that dark day, one of them an FBI agent who responded to the scene. They sat huddled together in the courtroom, embracing one another holding hands at time weeping into their hands at time as they heard what the jury had decided.

Again, nearly a billion dollars in compensatory damages for the suffering that came to these families as the result of lies spread by Infowars host Alex Jones, who had said that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary was a hoax, that the family members who lost their loved ones were crisis actors. They spent weeks testifying about the pain and the harassment that they endured from those who believed the lies.

Robbie Parker, who you're seeing on screen, was given the largest sum of money, awarded the largest sum of money from the jury $120 million. He lost his six-year-old daughter Emily at Sandy Hook. He testified in some of the most poignant moments of this trial that he felt that he had failed his young daughter in life by sending her to school, and that he had been failed her in depth by not being able to stop the lies and the misinformation surrounding her death and her young life. He spoke tearfully after the verdict was read outside the courtroom.


ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: The families that I've been associated with for 10 years through this tragedy, and it was beautiful people you'll ever encounter, and their children, and their moms and their wives are the most beautiful people you could ever get to know. All I can really say is that I'm just proud that what we were able to accomplish was just to simply tell the truth. And it shouldn't be this hard and it shouldn't be the scary.


FIELD: A long fought battle if ever there was one. This is a suit that started back in 2018. Of course, the suffering certainly predates that.

Wolf, what was so moving in this trial was seeing the way that these families banded together, sitting with each other every day, embracing one another being there to support one another. And this is something that they are sharing together tonight.

BLITZER: Alex Jones was not in the courtroom, he was live on the air, Alexandra, when the verdict came in. What was his reaction?

FIELD: He was not in the courtroom. Really to no one's surprise, he had made it pretty clear that he wasn't going to be there. He never testified in his own defense. He has spent his time deriving this process, often calling it a case in-group court. He mocked the decision today.


And he made it clear while streaming that he doesn't have the money to pay these families. His attorney did speak out on his behalf after the decision was read.


NORM PATTIS, ALEX JONES' ATTORNEY: We live in divided times. They've been weaponized and used for political purposes in this country, in my view, and today is a very, very, very dark day for freedom of speech.


FIELD: The Jones team now saying, of course, that they will be appealing this decision, Wolf.

BLITZER: Alexandra, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan and our Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig.

Elie, this is a very, very powerful, significant victory for these families. What do you make of this decision, this verdict?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it's a monumental verdict. It's a massive verdict. It's a statement verdict. Alex Jones attacked these innocent victims with knowing intentional lies, and this jury sent a message that you cannot do that without paying the price.

I think it's also worth noting, Wolf, that this was a careful verdict. The jury didn't just give some blanket standard fee to every plaintiff here. They went very carefully through the evidence gave different awards plaintiff by plaintiff, that will help this verdict stand up perhaps on appeal, it shows that the jury consider the evidence carefully and dispassionately for each plaintiff individually.

BLITZER: You know, Paul, the jury just awarded, as we noted, nearly $1 billion in damages to these families. But Jones says, and I'm quoting him now, he says there, quote, "ain't no money." Will these families actually receive any of the damages owed to them?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's a good question, Wolf, but I have to say this award may well be the largest award for this kind of a case in American history. But collecting it, of course, will pose difficulties. Now there was testimony during the trial, that his company generated income in excess of $100 million over the course of a period of years.

Remember, what he would do was he would perpetuate this hoax, the hoax that crisis actors were playing the victims at Sandy Hook, that there weren't any real victims, to get people to listen to him on the radio so we could sell supplements and other products. He'll certainly be put out of business. And whatever money he made in the past, that's still available will be securable. And by the way, judgments are usually enforceable for up to 20 years. So this judgment will haunt him for the rest of his life.

BLITZER: Certainly will. And Alexandra, punitive damages are yet to be determined, right?

FIELD: Right. This is just the start. These were the compensatory damages. There are the punitive damages.

The jury decided that yes, he should pay punitive damages, it will be up to the judge to determine what that amounts to. These are -- this is an award that will cover the legal fees, the attorneys' fees. So that's something that the judge will determine at a later date during a hearing. And there are also additional damages that could be paid for violating Connecticut's Unfair Trade Practices Act that the judge will be determining as well down the line.

BLITZER: And Elie, Jones, as you know, is already vowing to appeal this verdict. So where does all this go from here?

HONIG: Sure, he certainly will appeal. He may get the amount reduced somewhat on appeal, but -- of course, I don't think he'll get it thrown out entirely.

Wolf, it's really important to know Alex Jones is telling his fans who he's soliciting money from, donate to me, don't worry, I can declare bankruptcy and hide your money. That's not the way it works. Because this is an intentional, willful tour and a court judgment, he cannot discharge this debt through bankruptcy. He can try to hide his money elsewhere, but if he does that and he does it in a fraudulent way, then he is running the risk of getting himself in more trouble.

So, Alex Jones' legal troubles are just beginning. This is a major blow to Alex Jones, but he's still got another trial ahead, and he's still got plenty of problems to deal with.

BLITZER: He certainly does. Elie Honig, thanks very much. Paul Callan, Alexandra Field, thanks to you guys as well.

Coming up, we're going to get a live report from the war zone in Ukraine and new reaction just coming in from a key White House National Security Official, we'll talk to John Kirby.

Plus, CNN is learning new details about tomorrow's January 6 House Select Committee hearing. We'll share those with you right after a quick break.



BLITZER: Tonight, Ukraine is under an intense renewed bombardment for a third straight day as Vladimir Putin escalates his bloody war. CNN International Security Editor Nick Payton Walsh is joining us from the warzone right now.

Nick, Russian missiles killed more Ukrainian civilians today. What's the latest?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, it's important to point out, Wolf, hitting civilian targets is something that's been happening since the beginning of the war, but a particularly awful incident in Avdiivka in Donetsk, I should point out a part of Ukraine that falsely Russia claims is its own territory since the annexation process, it went through a matter of weeks ago, now a market -- a central market hit by shelling, killing seven, injuring a significant number as well. We've heard of scenes like this certainly over the past month, but the occasional ones stick out very acutely.

Also, a town called Orikhiv in Zaporizhzhia were blast near where I'm standing here, hit by well over 300 shells. Today, possibly signs of Russia's persistent bombardment of civilians continuing Russia.

Later, though very clear, it wants to continue its messaging about the backdrop of nuclear threats that Russia has been giving. A senior NATO official speaking on background saying there'll be unprecedented consequences for Russia if it did use any kind of nuclear weapons jetting, that could include a physical response, possibly from all of NATO itself. So stark messaging there about that continued background threat, even though I should point out the last time we heard from Vladimir Putin, he didn't explicitly reference that. Wolf.

BLITZER: :You know, Nick, Russia spy agencies making new claims about an attack, that attack on that bridge that connects Russia to occupied Crimea. What are you learning about that?

WALSH: Yes, that focusing in on the idea that of truck carried across within 22 metric tons worth of plastic sheeting, cling film wrap essentially, that contained the explosives. They say eight people have been arrested and they suggest that the journey of this truck began in the desert and weaves its way through a number of countries before it got eventually to that bridge.


Still questions to be answered, who was driving, how did it move? Many other suggestions about how it may not necessarily outside of the Russian explanation may this explosion, may not have originated from the truck. A lot of questions still around this particular attack. But this comes at a time to where we're hearing from Russian officials odd talk of diplomacy. It's clear that the west -- Washington that Ukraine do not trust Russia in the negotiating table, and therefore do not want to begin significant peace talks about this.

But we've heard from Russian officials that they still want to push back on the idea, that they're not ready to have those conversations. We heard that yesterday from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other senior Russian officials saying look, there may well be the possibility for diplomacy.

Is this Russia making a PR offensive to sound like it's not on the offensive when really it is? Or is this an underhand move to try and get talk started? We know that Putin is meeting his Turkish counterpart in Kazakhstan tomorrow, a lot still moving, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens there. Nick Payton Walsh on the scene for us. As I say to you every day, stay safe over there. We'll get back to you. Appreciate it very much.

Let's get some more right now on the Biden administration's response to this crisis. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us with details.

Kaitlan, a week after President Biden warned of nuclear Armageddon, he's providing fresh insight into Putin's actions and thinking. Tell our viewers what you're learning.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, President Biden says he's directing those comments to President Putin himself, saying that he does not believe the Russian leader should be able to speak with impunity about something as grave as this idea of using potentially a nuclear weapon as you've seen Putin do and some of his recent speeches, including one where he said it was the west in the United States that set the precedent for potentially using them. And so, in light of that, President Biden saying he doesn't ultimately think that Armageddon like situation that he warned about behind closed doors last week at a Democratic fundraiser will come to pass but still saying he doesn't believe Putin should be able to make those comments and just let it pass.

He also said he does believe that Putin is a rational actor. He doesn't believe that he's acting irrationally. But he says that some of the decisions that he's made like sending troops into Ukraine is not a rational decision. Clearly, of course, it did not go the way that Putin expected it to go. All of that is President Biden is weighing in on basically what he views as the Russian leaders mindset right now as this war is still dragging on.

BLITZER: And Kaitlan, the White House also revealing in its brand new, very lengthy national security strategy review what it sees as America's most consequential geopolitical challenges. Tell us more about that.

COLLINS: Yes, this is a 48 page document, Wolf. It was actually delayed the release of it because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And some people may assume that it says that Russia is the foremost threat that the United States believe is being posed to them right now. But actually, they lay it out, they say they believe China is the one that they have to worry about out competing in the decades to come. That is what is his biggest national security concern at this time, China, Russia, and of course, democracy, you're at home.

Basically making the argument that China and Russia both pose challenges, but they pose different ones, because what Russia's invasion of Ukraine has revealed is that their military is not as scary as some people may have thought it was potentially, it's not as well equipped as people may have initially believed. But China, the President is worried that it can out compete, that it is going to try to reshape the international order and that it actually has the ability to do so whether that is via military, technology, diplomacy, all of those factors. That is why China takes it in this document that the White House released today, Wolf.

BLITZER: And definitely worth reading, this lengthy, lengthy document, indeed. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Let's discuss all of this and more with the National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby. He's joining us from the White House.

John, thanks very much for joining us. As you know, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Milley today said the goal is to create what he called an integrated air and missile defense system for Ukraine. Is that really possible given the nature of the fighting and Ukraine's vast size?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We do believe that certainly President Zelenskyy is right when he says he needs additional air defense capabilities. General Milley, Secretary Austin out in Brussels today working with the international community to see what additional capabilities can be provided.

And when we talk about integrated air defense, I mean, what the General Milley is referring to is the fact that air defense in any regard is a sort of layer to process. I mean, you have short range, medium range, long range, and you kind of collate and use those in a coordinated way to try to defend your skies and defend your troops on the ground. And that's what we're trying to help Ukraine develop is a better layered air defense processing program in place.

BLITZER: Do you have any update for us, John, on when the first two desperately needed U.S. air defense systems will actually arrive in Ukraine?

KIRBY: You're talking about these NASAMS, these national advanced surface to air missile systems which were jointly developed by Norway and the United States. There are eight on order to get to Ukraine. The Pentagon believes that they can get the first two into Ukraine in coming weeks. I don't have a deadline for you, but obviously everybody's focused on trying to see if we can accelerate that timeline and get them there a little bit faster.


In the meantime, you know, we continue to work, as I said, with these more than 50 countries around the world who also have different air defense capabilities that can be provided to Ukraine to see if that can also supplement some of their needs right now.

BLITZER: General Milley, as you know, says Israel could provide Ukraine some very capable air defense systems. Israel has this Iron Dome system, as you know.

KIRBY: Right.

BLITZER: Has the U.S. actually asked Israel to step up and do so? KIRBY: We've asked countries all around the world to contribute what they believe they can to Ukraine's defense, and every country answers that call differently, Wolf. It's a sovereign decision, we respect that. I'll let the Israeli speak for what they will or won't do or what they are doing, that's the appropriate way to handle this. But we have been nothing but open and candid with all our partners around the world.

Now more than 50 nations participating in these contact groups that Secretary Austin's been hosting to see what they can do. But it has to be in accordance with their own security needs and with their own ability to provide security assistance to Ukraine.

BLITZER: A senior NATO official says a Russian nuclear strike -- a nuclear strike would almost certainly trigger a physical response from the allies. How much is the risk growing right now of the U.S. and NATO being drawn into this conflict?

KIRBY: The risks are high now, I mean, there's no question about that. Given the rhetoric that Mr. Putin has been uttering here in the last few days, given the fact that he's now trying to add to his troop count through these mobilizations, these sham referenda and political annexations, I mean, all of this, of course, in the airstrikes over the last 48 to 72 hours, all of which raised the stakes and nobody wants to see this conflict escalate any higher than it already has. It's already visited way too much violence and death and destruction on the Ukrainian people. And that's why we're going to be focused on making sure we continue to get Ukraine the kinds of capabilities they need to succeed on the battlefield so that if and when it can get to a negotiated settlement that Mr. Zielinski has the leverage he needs to be successful in that negotiation.

BLITZER: John Kirby, thanks as usual for joining us.

KIRBY: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Up next, Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman answers questions about his health following his stroke. Let's take a closer look at how that and the battle for African American votes in Pennsylvania could eventually determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Plus, President Biden says a slight recession is indeed possible but unlikely he says, even though Americans are still facing rising inflation. We'll take a closer look. Stay with us.



BLITZER: We're counting down to tomorrow's highly anticipated January 6 House Select Committee hearing, the final public testimony before the midterm elections. Our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is here with the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So Evan, I know you're doing a lot of reporting on this. What are you learning about the new evidence that we anticipate will be revealed tomorrow?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think what the committee, Wolf, wants to drive home is the -- what they say is the continuing danger to democracy that Donald Trump opposes not only from what happened in January 6 but also some of the conduct that he continues to push in his rallies and so on. You're going to see new video, you're going to see a trove of new documents, e-mails, internal e-mails from the Secret Service that they believe -- members of the committee believe are going to shine a light into the events of January 6 and the current present danger.

Here's a couple of members of the committee describing what to expect.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We still have significant information that we've not shown to the public that's available to us.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA), JANAURY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: There's some new material that, you know, I found as we got into it pretty surprising.


PEREZ: And Wolf, we don't expect any live witnesses, but this is going to be a couple hours where they're going to make a presentation to drive home some of the new things that they say that they've learned since the last time we saw them.

BLITZER: And it's also interesting, Evan, this is the first hearing since the FBI actually searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate and since the committee interviewed several high profile witnesses. How will that factor in?

PEREZ: Well, you know, some of those witnesses are very important witnesses like Mike Pompeo, for instance. These are people who we now know, Wolf, have sat down with the committee. Some of the information that has come out includes that there was some consideration of trying to figure out a way to remove the former president because of the concern of what happened on January 6, people like Elaine Chao. Of course, we now know that Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas has also come in for an interview with the committee. So all of this, the committee members are going to put together in a presentation that they believe, again, serves to button up what they've been driving home over the last few months, and of course, we have the election just in a few weeks.

BLITZER: Certainly it was very, very significant. All right. Evan, thank you very, very much. Evan Perez, reporting for us.

An important programming note to our viewers. Our special coverage of tomorrow's January 6 House Select Committee hearings begins at noon Eastern right here on CNN.

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman is answering questions about his health. He sat down with NBC News for an interview using closed captioning to help as he recovers from the stroke he had in May.


LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN, (D) PENSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I use captioning. So that's really the major major challenge and every now and then I'll miss a word, every now and then. Or sometimes I'll maybe mosh (ph) two words together. But as long as I have captioning, I'm able to understand exactly what's being asked.


BLITZER: During questions about his health, this campaign is also focusing on appealing to voters who will be key to winning in November. CNN Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean traveled to Philadelphia to talk to African American voters.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Philadelphia is home to Pennsylvania's largest concentration of black voters.

MALCOLM KENYATTA, PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE: Black voters are always the key to winning tough races in Pennsylvania.

DEAN (voice-over): And if Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman is going to win in November, he'll need to run up the score here.

KENYATTA: This comes down to trust. Who do I trust to give a damn about communities like mine, community that we're in right now?

DEAN (voice-over): State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta is from North Philadelphia. And while he now supports Fetterman, Kenyatta ran against him in May's Democratic primary. In that race, Fetterman received 58 percent of the vote, winning all 67 counties in the Commonwealth. But he underperformed in Philadelphia where he got less than 37 percent of the vote.

The battle for black voters is front and center in the race between Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, a race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

KENYATTA: There's not really a competition in terms of who black voters are going to be for.

DEAN (voice-over): Oz allies are trying to weaken Fetterman standing here, running ads highlighting a 2013 incident in which Fetterman then the mayor of Braddock, said he heard gunfire, grabbed a shotgun and pursued an unarmed black jogger. Fetterman has said he did not know the joggers skin color until they came face to face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did John Fetterman see black man and do that? He knows why. And our community does too.

ALYN WALLER, SENIOR PASTOR, ENON TABERNACLE BAPTIST CHURCH: I think he has addressed that issue appropriately. All of us wish that would have never happened and I'm sure he probably wishes that never happened.

DEAN (voice-over): Alyn Waller is the senior pastor at a Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, Philadelphia's largest African American Baptist Church. Waller said he's concerned by what he sees as a younger generation that does not trust the political process or government institutions. He's focused on making sure people vote.

WALLER: I'm concerned about turnout, because at the end of the day, what we know about Philadelphia, and what we know about Pennsylvania, is Philadelphia. If we turn out, we can impact the election.

DEAN (voice-over): Fetterman's campaign knows this too. It opened the second campaign headquarters in the city after his primary win and says it's spent millions of dollars to target black voters with radio and digital ads as well as direct mail.

DESIREE WHITFIELD, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: We know, you know, how important it is to get someone in there that's going to speak for us.

DEAN (voice-over): Desiree Whitfield voted for Kenyatta in the primary but now backs Fetterman.

WHITFIELD: I truly believe that black voters feel confident. They feel that they have a man that really listens to them.

DEAN (voice-over): Back inside Enon Tabernacle, we asked church member Harriett Garrett for her thoughts.

HARRIETT GARRETT, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: I think he's genuine. He, you know, his attire kind of threw me off initially. But I think that he knows the people. I think that he has a heart for the people. I don't think us is the same way.

I think he's kind of a neighborhood guy. I think he's kind of a community guy. And I hope that I'm correct. And we shall find out.


DEAN: For his part, Republican Mehmet Oz is focused on crime and violence prevention and his pitch to black voters across the Commonwealth. He's held a couple of events he called safer street initiatives here in Philadelphia, also in Pittsburgh, Wolf, as he looks to really build support within this critical constituency. Wolf?

BLITZER: CNN's Jessica Dean in Philadelphia for us. Thank you very much for that report.

Let's get some more in all of this. Joining us now CNN's Audie Cornish and CNN's Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt. Kasie, you're from Pennsylvania, how important --


BLITZER: -- is Philadelphia, the largest city, obviously, in the state to this Fetterman campaign? HUNT: I mean, it's huge. It's huge for any Democratic campaign, right? And, you know, the reality here is -- and just because piece was great, it really kind of highlighted the fact that what Republicans and people who are opposed to Fetterman are trying to do is discourage black people from voting, right?

They're not really making a plea to those voters to come vote for Mehmet Oz. That's not what you're seeing in these TV ads. So this is one of the weaknesses that Fetterman had in the primary and it's something that he had to pivot a little bit on in his general election campaign because he really has focused on Trump voters quite frankly especially in the western part of the state where he lived and was mayor of Braddock, many of them are white voters.


He is touted the fact that they show up to see him in places where perhaps Democrats have typically had trouble in recent years getting a crowd. But if you don't turn out the African American, the black vote in Philadelphia, you are going to lose the election as a Democrat in Pennsylvania.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Although I want to mention one thing, which is sometimes there's a conversation going on about black voters that's not actually with black voters. And that happens quite frequently with crime. So post-2020, there was this discussion out of the Black Lives Matter movement about what it means to have progressive criminal justice ideas. Fetterman is following in that footsteps along with Larry Krasner, who's also the DA in Philadelphia.

So the voters in the suburbs are actually hearing this in the context of a broader discussion about how crime is fought, where you have Fetterman or Krasner out there saying, look, the Democrats should continue pushing along this track with more progressive policies. And then Oz, the Republican party saying no, no, no, no, look what's happening. We got to go back to the law and order days.

BLITZER: That's interesting. As we take a look at all this, I want to turn to our new CNN poll, which finds, and this is significant I think, it finds that President Biden's approval rating right now, Kasie, has rebounded from its summer low. What do you take away from these latest numbers?

HUNT: Well, so that trendline, Wolf, I think is always the most important thing, especially since we're now four weeks or so out from the midterm elections. My question is, we don't have the data yet. What is that line doing right now? Is it continuing to go up? Or is it starting to trend downward the same way that gas prices have been trending upward.

His approval rating and gas prices have actually tracked pretty closely because what you really want on election day, especially in midterm election, and especially one where the House of Representatives is on the line because it sort of, you know, moves in the most generic way from a political perspective, you want that line as voters are heading to the polls to be going in your direction. So I actually think that while this is not bad news for the White House, we don't actually have the full picture that they need to know what is happening right at this moment.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Audie, because Biden's approval numbers may be going up a bit. But when it comes to the economy, if you take a look at the polls, Americans are pretty pessimistic about the future of the economy right now. And that's not good going into these midterm elections for the Democrats.

CORNISH: I mean, I think there has been an effect in terms of the kind of Republican language about how bad the Biden economy is. And it's been a puzzling economy to describe, it's one where you have plenty of jobs, high wages, but then are struggling at the grocery store. So I think it's a complex picture. And it's not so easy to put on a bumper sticker.

HUNT: Yes. Wolf, I mean, look, I think the challenge the administration has here, and where they've struggled on economic messaging so far, is acknowledging the pain that many Americans are feeling while still defending the policies that they have put in place. And some of the Republicans I've talked to actually feel like voters are telling them that sometimes he's hit the wrong note.

He hasn't come across as empathetic because he's saying, no, no, everything's fine. Like, it's fine. The gas prices are going down. This is all Putin's fault. You shouldn't be worried when people are really having a different experience in their own lives. So, you know, I think if that takes a dramatic turn for the worst, we don't know what kind of events may occur in the next four weeks before Election Day. I mean, this is potentially a very, very dangerous territory for Democrats.

Or if things continue to remain relatively steady the way they are, things are moving kind of slowly in the wrong direction. Democrats could probably hold on to the momentum that they gained over the summer.

BLITZER: You agree?

CORNISH: Oh, there's always the Trump effect, right? We've got four weeks to go. Who knows what could happen in that arena? Well, I'm being serious because it means that --

HUNT: It's so true.

CORNISH: -- you can always detour from the economy, from gas prices, from those things. Republicans want the race to be a referendum on.

BLITZER: Such as gas versus those food prices --

CORNISH: Exactly.

BLITZER: -- as well. There's a lot going on. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, President Biden says there will be consequences for Saudi Arabia's decision to slash oil production. He's also weighing in on worries over the U.S. economy, saying Americans could be in for what he calls a slight recession in the coming months.



BLITZER: During an exclusive interview with CNN, President Biden vowed, quote, consequences for the Saudi led decision to slash oil production. For more than that, I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California, he's a key member of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

First, I want you to listen to how the White House Press Secretary today spoke about these oil cuts and the goals of President Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia back in July. Listen to this.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The way we see it, it was short-sighted because it was, you know, it was a decision that was self-interest decision. And so, you know, we have been very clear, to your point, our trip this past summer to the Middle East was not about oil. Yes, it was energy security. A topic? Absolutely, energy security was a topic.


BLITZER: Congressman, what's your reaction to that?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA), HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, look, the Saudi decision is appalling because it reeks of ingratitude. America has done so much for Saudi Arabia. We supply them with 70 percent of their arms. We stood up for their sovereignty when Saddam Hussein was going to invade.

And for them to hurt and fleece Americans in their pocketbooks at a time of crisis is just wrong. And there need to be consequences. The President has said there need to be consequences. Senator Blumenthal and I today introduced legislation to put a pause on all arms sales to the Saudis.


BLITZER: This pause you're proposing legislation actually to halt U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, at least for the time being. Does it give you any pause, Congressman, at all, that this potentially could provoke Saudi Arabia, and maybe even backfire big time actually raise prices on Americans here at home?

KHANNA: No, Wolf, because they've already made such drastic cuts. And if they cut any further, the other people in OPEC, other countries, I think, would not go along with that pledge. I mean, here's the fact. They have made almost $100 billion on their sales of oil in 2022. They've got a 70 plus percent margin on the oil. So the argument that the economics aren't working just doesn't make sense. And I think it's time we use our leverage. I mean, look, we can literally ground the Saudi plane Air Force to a halt. They rely on American technicians to fly their planes. And again, it's time that they respect America for all that we've done for them.

BLITZER: Do you have any sense, Congressman, of whether or not President Biden will actually get behind your proposed legislation?

KHANNA: Well, he was asked about it directly today. He said he's considering it. Senator Blumenthal and I have both been in touch with senior White House officials who have said that the President is reexamining the Saudi relationship that he plans to take action. And I'm confident he will take some action that is going to be significant. Now, whether it's the exact proposal Senator Blumenthal and I proposed, I don't know, but I do think there are going to be consequences.

BLITZER: What are the implications here, Congressman, for Democrats heading into the midterm elections?

KHANNA: Well, look, it's not good for Americans, and it's not good to see gas prices go up. But that's obviously politics 101. But I don't -- my interest is not the politics. My interest is, why is Saudi Arabia not taking into consideration Americans and our gas prices at a time where we are hurting because of the war and Putin and why Saudi Arabia aligning with Putin and serving Putin's interest instead of ours?

BLITZER: Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks so much for joining us.

KHANNA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, President Biden telling CNN exclusively that if there is a recession, he thinks it will be only slight. But what does that mean for you? Plus, we'll take a closer look ahead to tomorrow's January 6 select committee hearing with a key member of that panel. Congressman Jamie Raskin is standing by live.



BLITZER: President Biden telling CNN in an exclusive interview that he thinks a, quote, slight recession is possible. But unlikely, he says. However, a key inflation gauge out tonight shows prices rose faster than expected in September.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, the new numbers could be at odds with the President's remarks.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They could be, Wolf. Most economists will tell you we are technically not in a recession yet. But there are indications that it could be coming. And we have some good advice from experts on how Americans can prepare for it.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, a new gauge of how Americans are being pinched in the wallet. A government report on the inflation that businesses are feeling says those prices are still rising really fast even if they rose not as fast in September, as in August.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, WASHINGTON POST OPINION COLUMNIST: Some of that cost growth will get passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices for food, higher prices for energy, higher prices for the services that they purchase as well.

TODD (voice-over): It comes as President Biden tells CNN he doesn't share the gloomy outlook of some top economists.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think there will be a recession. If it is, there'll be a very slight recession. That is we'll move down slightly.

TODD (voice-over): What might a slight recession look like in America?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: People are going to lose jobs. Unemployment is going to rise. We're not going back to 10 percent that we had during the pandemic. But the labor market is hot, and interest rates are designed to cool it down. And that therefore means there will be an increase in unemployment. It won't be huge, but it will be that.

RANA FOROOHAR, AUTHOR, "MAKERS AND TAKERS": The cost of a home, that is going up dramatically. I think that it's going to be harder to ask for wage hype.

TODD (voice-over): Two of America's most respected economic voices disagree with President Biden's prediction that there won't be a significant recession. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon giving their prognostications on THE SITUATION ROOM and CNBC respectively, with slightly different timelines.

LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: I think it's more likely than not that sometime in the next year or 18 months, we will have a recession.

JAMIE DIMON, CEO, JPMORGAN CHASE: Likely to put U.S. in some kind of recession six, nine months from now.

TODD (voice-over): Economists telling Americans don't panic and be patient. High prices at the store may take longer than you expect to level off. And even though it may not last long, gas prices are on the uptick again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to do my best to kind of go find the cheapest gas prices around but, you know, after a while doing that, you're just spending even more money doing so.

TODD (voice-over): How can the American consumer prepare for a possible recession and ride it out if it comes? FOROOHAR: You can bolster your nest egg. You can save as much as possible and you can pay down debt.

RAMPELL: If you don't need to make a big expensive purchase especially one made on credit, don't do it right now. Especially if you think that there's some chance, you could be laid off or you could have your hours cut back in the next year.


TODD: Another important barometer of just how much all of us are being squeezed economically will come tomorrow with a new report on the Consumer Price Index.


The inflation that all of us feel at stores, gas stations and elsewhere. This is going to be a critical measure that the Federal Reserve will look at when it decides whether to raise interest rates again, those rates are probably going to be raised at some point.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what everybody anticipates. All right, Brian, thank you very, very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Coming up, new testimony and evidence expected in the final January 6 select committee hearing tomorrow before the midterm election. We're learning new details about what we're likely to hear. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Happening now, the January 6 Select Committee is preparing to reveal significant new evidence and testimony with a focus on the threat still posed by former President Trump. I'll ask a key panel member Congressman Jamie Raskin for details on tomorrow's hearing.

Also tonight, a powerful new verdict against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for the lies he told about the Sandy Hook School massacre. A jury deciding Jones should pay nearly $1 billion to the families of the shooting victims.