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DOJ Files Former Appeal Of Mar-A-Lago Special Master; Trump Isn't Revealing If He'll Comply With January 6 CMTE Subpoena; Exclusive Video Of Lawmakers Scrambling To Secure Capitol On January 6 Beyond Footage Shown During House Hearing; Civilians Flee City In Eastern Ukraine As Russian Mercenaries Advance; North Korea Flies Warplanes Near Border, Launches Another Missile As Tensions With South Escalate; First Debate Tonight In High-Stakes Georgia Senate Race; Vulnerable Dem Gov In Kansas Walks Fine Line On Abortion Issue; Hearing Held On Parkland Juror Claim She Was Threatened. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 14, 2022 - 17:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Arizona's race for governor plus the candidates in Colorado's race for the Senate. That is Sunday morning at 9:00 and again at noon.

And this just breaking, a major development in Donald Trump's Mar-a- Lago case details right now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the U.S. Justice Department just filed a formal appeal of the appointment of a special master who's overseeing the review of highly classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago. Standby, we have details.

Also tonight, former President Trump lashes out at the January 6 select committee but doesn't reveal if he'll comply with a new subpoena from the committee. This, as CNN obtains exclusive extended footage of congressional leaders trying to work around Trump as they scrambled to secure the U.S. Capitol during the riot.

And even after a week of deadly Russian attacks, Ukrainian forces are making major gains in the occupied Kherson region, prompting Russian officials to announce an evacuation.

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 the breaking news on the battle between the U.S. Justice Department and the Trump team over that Mar-a-Lago special master. CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is working in the developments for us. He's got the latest information. What are you learning, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Justice Department filed his formal appeal of this ruling from Aileen Cannon, the justice -- I'm sorry, the judge down in Palm Beach who had given Donald Trump a chance to have a special master to review these 21,000 pages that were seized as part of the FBI search in Mar-a-Lago back in August. The Justice Department is saying that the judge had abused her discretion. They're quoting and say exactly, from a previous ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. And they're pointing out that, you know, not only does Donald Trump have no reason to have a special master appointed, he's not even asserted a claim of personal attorney client privilege.

I'll read you just a part of this court filing here, it says, "the plaintiff has not asserted a claim of personal attorney client privilege that would justify the district court's order. He has no plausible claim of such a privilege with respect to records that are bearing classification markings or any other government documents related to his official duties." They're pointing out that the judge in this case, Aileen Cannon, overstepped her jurisdiction here by appointing a special masters.

Now, we don't know where this will end up. We know that the appeals court has set forth a timeline, Wolf, for the former president's legal team to come back. They have a response in November, possibly according to the Justice Department, they're asking for oral arguments before the appeals court in Atlanta before this is going to get resolved. Keep in mind, the Special Master is already reviewing these 21 pages -- 21,000 pages that were seized as part of the Mar-a-Lago search. So it's quite possible that some of this might be, you know, moot by the time he's done with his work, which could happen obviously in the next couple -- in the next few weeks.

BLITZER: We shall see, I know you're working your sources. Standby, we'll get back to you Evan Perez with the breaking news.

There's more news we're following as well. Let's get to the January 6 investigation over 24 hours after the select committee's bombshell hearing, President Trump is dodging a very, very key question. Will he actually face the panel under oath? CNN's Kristen Holmes has the latest on the new subpoena for Trump and the chilling new video obtained by CNN.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY), VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all-in motion.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Trump ignoring the fact that the January 6 committee voted to subpoena him in a 14-page response posted on his social media platform. Instead, focusing on grievances around the 2020 election and passing the blame for security failures, quote, "The troops were ready to go, Nancy Pelosi and Muriel Bowser didn't do their job, they didn't like the look of soldiers."

Capitol Police have testified that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not involved in decisions about the National Guard ahead of January 6. This, after CNN obtained never before seen footage.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Are you calling the National Guard?


HOLMES (voice-over): Showing lawmakers including Pelosi fleeing the Capitol.

PELOSI: We have got to continue to proceed (INAUDIBLE).


HOLMES (voice-over): The exclusive video shot by Pelosi's daughter and documentarian Alexandra Pelosi giving you an inside look at Democrat and Republican lawmakers transforming Fort McNair two miles away into a command center. Even considering reconvening the congressional proceedings to certify the election for Joe Biden at the military base.

PELOSI: We've told the project days to clear the Capitol, and that we should be moving (ph), everyone here to get the job done. We'd rather go to the Capitol and do it there, but it doesn't seem to be safe.

HOLMES (voice-over): While Pence evacuated the Senate chamber, he stayed behind in the Capitol with his security detail.

PELOSI: I worry about you being in that Capitol room. Don't let anybody know where you are.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: I'd like to know a good goddamn reason why it's been denied.

HOLMES (voice-over): Then Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shouting at Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy after hearing a rumor Trump blocks the National Guard going to the Capitol.

SCHUMER: Please move, the whole Capitol is rampage. There's a picture of someone sitting in this chair of the Senate. We've all been evacuated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard shots fire. Shots fire.

SCHUMER: There's been shots fired. We need a full National Guard component now.

He said it was not denied. I'm going to call up the iffing secretary of DOD.

HOLMES (voice-over): A group of lawmakers including Republican leaders Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell calling Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller urging a faster response.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): By getting there in one hell of a hurry, you understand?


HOLMES (voice-over): And Pelosi and Schumer also confronting acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in a heated phone call.

SCHUMER: No, no, no, please answer my question. Answer my question.

JEFFREY ROSEN, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Senator, I'm going to do everything I can do.

SCHUMER: Does that include asking the president to get these people who are followers of ours (ph) to leave the Capitol?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to walk down to the Capitol.

HOLMES (voice-over): The footage also shows Pelosi earlier in the day reacting to Trump's speech,

PELOSI: (INAUDIBLE) and punch him out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is all I have. I would pay this --

PELOSI: Well, waiting for this for trespassing on the Capitol ground. I'm going to punch him out, I'm going to go to jail and I'm going to be happy.


HOLMES: I'm going to punch him out, I'm going to go to jail, and I'm going to be happy. Striking words here from the Speaker of the House talking about President Trump.

But perhaps the most interesting moment in all of this video really comes from Speaker Pelosi calling Vice President Pence and being genuinely concerned about his well-being. This is so interesting, given what we now know that President Trump himself was doing at this same time sending a tweet, as the rioters were there on the Capitol saying Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done, which many of his aides believe added more fuel to the fire.

BLITZER: Certainly did. All right. Kristen, thank you very much, stay with us.

I also want to bring back, Evan, he's still with us, as well as our legal experts, Shan Wu and Elliot Williams.

Elliot, I want to begin with your reaction to this news that we just got from Evan about the Justice Department now saying the special master should simply go away from continuing his investigation of what happened in Mar-a-Lago.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's simply, Wolf, they're just saying it should go away. Look, this is actually highly technical, legal, back and forth over the jurisdiction that courts have. But at the end of the day, it comes down to something very simple. When there is a criminal investigation, the president ought to, in effect, bend the knee to it. And they cite to Richard Nixon and Nixon vs. GSA, this case from the 1970s. That's really what this comes down to.

And also making the point, once again, that the president had no need for these materials under any circumstances. Now, certainly, there's personal property of the president, but this is not that, and they make that case very clearly here.

BLITZER: So let me get Shan's thoughts on this. Shan, could be the special master go away if the Justice Department prevails in this appeal right now?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, they could on. I mean, the 11th circuit could say that the actual appointment is wrong. I mean, Trump's trying to make some very technical arguments about why you can't get to that appointment aspect of it. But the department now fully joins the battle on that point.

And it's a very important one, because it's really unprecedented to use the judiciary to interfere with the criminal investigation. And that's what's happening here, it creates all sorts of possibilities for problems down the road if the department's looking at documents that the special master will later say, oh, you're not supposed to be looking at those.

BLITZER: Based on all your reporting, Evan, how likely is it that the Justice Department will prevail?

PEREZ: They have a good chance. I mean, look, they're -- one of the interesting things they do in this brief is they are citing the very same court, the 11th Circuit, pointing out that they in their previous ruling where the Justice Department was allowed to regain access to the 100 classified documents that Aileen Cannon, the first judge had denied them, you know, they're pointing out that this court itself had said that she had abused her discretion.

They also point out, Wolf, that the former president should not be getting rewarded for trying his attempts to delay this criminal investigation. That's really what the end game that Donald Trump is playing which is to just delay, delay, delay. And they're pointing out to this appeals court, don't let them do that. Because in the end, as Shan just pointed out, you know, this is still an ongoing investigation, he's not been charged with anything. So typically, these types of fights happen when you're about to go to trial, not now.


BLITZER: It's very dramatic development, indeed.

Kristen, I want to turn back to the January 6 committee's vote, we heard it 24 hours ago to actually go ahead and subpoena the former president of the United States. He's once again in this lengthy statement that he released today responding to all of this, he's refusing to say -- didn't say whether or not he will comply with a subpoena. But he is repeating all sorts of lies about what happened in the build up to January 6. And they're making the case that this is all premeditated what he was doing, and help focus in and create the opportunity for these rioters to storm the U.S. Capitol.

HOLMES: That's right, he issued this 14 page response to the vote to subpoena him, but yet never said if he was actually going to comply with a subpoena. And I talked to multiple aides who really were on both sides, you had one that doesn't get with the way it always is, with Trump, right? On one side, you have those saying, let's have a televised response. Let's get out there. Let's fight this.

And on the other side, they basically are telling him to be quiet and just take a step back. Don't do anything with this. But you're right, he is still fixated on the 2020 election. And this is one of the problems that we see with Republicans in general, when they're dealing with Trump, they still see him as the money magnet, as the leader of the Republican Party, but many of them wish that he would just move forward. We are now just weeks away from a midterm election, and he is still spreading lies about the 2020 election and sowing doubt in the democratic process.

BLITZER: Elliot, what options does the January 6 select committee actually have if Trump refuses to comply with his subpoena?

WILLIAMS: So that document sitting right there on the desk of under you, Wolf, if you were a judge, you could put a slap a sticker on that right now and call it evidence because that is the first piece of evidence in a possible contempt trial, because what it is that is a sign that he is not complying with the subpoena. They -- you know, he has an active subpoena right now. And he's basically issued a statement saying, well, I think this is not valid.

Look, Congress can proceed with holding him in contempt of Congress, but at the end of the day -- and then it would go to the Justice Department or charge him with a crime. At the end of the day, the clock isn't really on their side right now, we know that there's an election coming. It appears that if you follow what the pundits say, the House of Representatives is going to switch hands come January, there'll be less of an appetite within Congress for proceeding. But if they send it to the Justice Department, it's a crime, not complying with the subpoena, and he could be charged with it.

BLITZER: He certainly could.

You know, Kristen, I want to get back to that very, very dramatic video of what happened on January 6, the video obtained by CNN. I want to play for our viewers and for you that very, very powerful moment of the conversation that the Speaker Nancy Pelosi had with then Vice President Pence, who was in deep trouble, right now. Listen to this.


PELOSI: Hi, Mr. Vice President?

Hi, yes, we're OK. We're here with Mr. Schumer, Mr. McConnell, the leadership House and Senate. And how are you?

Oh, my goodness, where are you?

God bless you.

I worry about you being in that Capitol room. Don't let anybody know where you are.


BLITZER: That was such a powerful human moment between these two leaders who don't often agree on much.

HOLMES: Well, not just didn't agree, but it was a very contentious relationship between Pelosi and the Trump administration overall. And a reminder here that Trump never called Vice President Pence, that we spoke to a number of Pence aides who felt like it was unforgivable that he knew that he was in danger, that he was hiding in the Capitol, that the video shows he was just minutes away or seconds away from being in real harm and he never got a call from the president, yet Nancy Pelosi was calling and checking on him.

BLITZER: Yes, it was a very, very dramatic moment, indeed. We're going to have more of that video coming up. Kristen Holmes, Evan Perez, Shan Wu, Elliot Williams, guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, we'll have more once again at the chilling new video obtained by CNN showing top lawmakers trying to work around former President Trump to secure the U.S. Capitol on January 6. We'll talk about it with a key member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Plus, a juror in the Parkland School shooting trial now says she was threatened as another juror describes the trial as being like a horror movie. Stay with us.



BLITZER: More now on the exclusive and very dramatic video obtained by CNN of U.S. lawmakers scrambling to secure the Capitol during the January 6 insurrection, even more disturbing than what was shown in yesterday's House Select Committee hearing. Let's discuss this and more Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Let me begin with your reaction to this new video. What went through your mind when you saw what your caucus leadership was doing as they watched the January 6 attack unfold?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: What brought back painful memories probably to anybody who was there that day watching this video that you showcased. And then if I could say a word about what Speaker Pelosi said to the Vice President Pence, it doesn't surprise anyone that she was looking out for the safety and welfare of all those who were trapped in the Capitol that day, regardless of their political affiliation. It's just such a tragedy that day that Donald Trump was not doing the same for his fellow Americans and he was just sitting there watching this violence unfold in the Oval Office and didn't lift a finger to send the National Guard troops there to quell the insurrection.

BLITZER: Yes, he was just watching television.

I want you to watch a moment in this newly unveiled footage where we see the Speaker Nancy Pelosi trying to figure out a way to finish the proceedings to certify the election even as she was fleeing violence. Listen to the Speaker, listen to this.


PELOSI: If they stop the proceedings, they will have succeeded in stopping the validation of the president of the United States. If they stop the proceedings, we will have to totally failed.



BLITZER: Did you share her unwavering commitment on that day to finish the job in the U.S. Capitol, inside the US Capitol that day?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Absolutely, 100 percent. I think that's true with a lot of my colleagues and on both sides, quite frankly. I think there was shock and outrage and anger at what the insurrections were doing and what Donald Trump was not doing, and sending National Guard troops to quell the insurrection for hours and hours. But I think within those various places where people were trapped, if you will, there was bipartisan sentiment that we got to finish our job today, get back and certify this election and make sure that the insurrections do not prevail.

BLITZER: In this dramatic video, we saw Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy participate in calls with Democrats as the attack, the brutal attack on the Capitol was unfolding. It certainly appears as if the partisan divide had all but disappeared in that specific moment. Were you surprised though how quickly that divide was reestablished as some Republicans attempted to rewrite history?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I was a little surprised, Wolf, I'll be honest with you, because given what happened that day where we stared into the abyss, we saw what would happen if we don't uphold the fundamental principles of our democracy and certify legitimate election outcomes. That Kevin McCarthy, who appeared to show some spine that day and talking back to the president and doing as he did, would then turn 180 degrees and go a different direction within days and weeks was surprising, though. I guess I should not be surprised in light of what we've seen since then. But it was very unfortunate and distressing to say the least.

BLITZER: Certainly was. Congressman, we know if officials, including members of the U.S. Secret Service, had been warned repeatedly about potential violence on that day, January 6, but they were clearly not prepared. They didn't do anything to get ready for it. Who do you hold responsible? And I asked you as a member of the Intelligence Committee. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, unfortunately, our intelligence community did not do a good job preparing for that day to sit in the weeds. Another group that you didn't mention was the FBI, FBI field offices were warned about what the insurrectionists were planning, they actually had maps of what the insurrection has had in their possession with regard to the tunnels and the diagrams of the tunnels underneath the capitol that day, and yet they didn't kind of take action to prevent what was happening. And so, that's another reason why we have to reexamine that day, and make sure that we learn the lessons of that day and prevent it from ever happening again.

BLITZER: It was a major, major intelligence blunder, to be sure. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thanks as usual for joining us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, we're tracking new developments from the war zone in Ukraine where civilians in illegally annexed territory could be in danger of being sent to Russia.



BLITZER: In Ukraine tonight, Moscow back occupiers are scrambling as they lose their grip on territory illegally annexed by Vladimir Putin for many civilians trapped in the war zone. That could mean being sent to Russia as Ukrainian forces reclaim their cities. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen has our report.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Even as Russia has been bombarding Ukraine with missiles and drones this week, Ukrainian forces have been pushing Moscow's troops back in the south of the country raising their flag in newly liberated areas like this village called Araniuska (ph).

MAX TRACH, UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (through translator): The boys worked for six seven months on liberating Aranuiska. They are raising the flag of a free and united Ukraine.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Kherson region is one of the area's recently illegally annexed by Russia. But Ukraine's army is now advancing so much that Russian installed officials are asking for civilians to be evacuated to Russian territory.

VLADIMIR SALDO, RUSSIAN-INSTALLED GOVERNOR, KHERSON REGION, UKRAINE (through translator): Because of this, the Kherson administration has decided to organize opportunities for Kherson families to travel to other regions of Russia for leisure and study.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Kyiv announced the move saying Russia is deporting people rather than saving them. Ukraine has vowed to take back all the territory Russia has seized, the country's president said at a celebration for Ukraine's Defenders Day on Friday. PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINE (through translator): By defeating this enemy, we will respond to all enemies who encroached on Ukraine and those who lived, who lives and who will live on our land. This will be a victory for all our people.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But in the east, a different story civilians fleeing the Russian advance on the industrial town of Bakhmut. The charge being led by Wagner, the private military company headed by the man known as Putin's chef, Yevgeniy Prigozhin.

These photos showing Vagner troops on the ground in the areas surrounded Bakhmut on social media. Prigozhin announced Thursday that Wagner forces have taken a small town on the outskirts of the city. But Wagner group has established complete control over Ivangrad. He said, "I want to emphasize that there was not a single person from other units, except the employees of Wagner group in Ivangrad."

Wagner has long been known for brutal tactics. CNN has unearthed evidence of the group's mercenaries committing massacres on civilians in Libya, Sudan, Mozambique, and the Central African Republic. Recently, Wagner and Prigozhin have dropped their shadowy veil. Prigozhin himself seen recruiting convicts in prisons, admitting he owns Wagner and even attending funerals of one of his fallen fighters.

Wagner units have already been prominently involved in Russia's campaign in Ukraine, it seems they are now the spearhead of Vladimir Putin's invasion force.


PLEITGEN: And Wolf, you know, Vladimir Putin, he was at a conference in Kazakhstan today and there he said he believes that Russia doesn't need to conduct these large-scale airstrikes that we have seen all over Ukraine over the past couple of days. However, there's top level U.S. officials who believe that the reason for that is that the Russians simply are running out of some of their most capable and most modern munitions.

Vladimir Putin also saying that he believes if there were a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO, that it could have catastrophic consequences. Wolf?

BLITZER: Certainly could. Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv for us. Fred, be careful over there. Thank you very much.

We're also following growing tension right now on the Korean peninsula. North Korea flying warplanes near the border with South Korea and launching yet another missile as the dictator Kim Jong-un talks up his regime's nuclear threat.

Our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us. Barbara, what are U.S. officials warning and worried about tonight?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they are worried about so much, Wolf, is those rising tensions could lead to even further trouble miscalculation between both sides. So where are we tonight? Well, North Korea now over Thursday and Friday has flown the aircraft within just about 7 miles of what's called the limit line. That's the line throughout the DMZ that essentially separates both countries.

They came within seven miles of that. In return, South Korea flying its most capable aircraft in that region, including its F-35. North Korea, again, launching missiles now the 27th missile launch of this year. South Korea launching hours of live fire artillery drills. So this is very concerning. Both sides going tit for tat responding, ramping up the tensions.

And what concerns the U.S. is what could, of course, come next. Kim Jong-un may well be preparing for his next underground nuclear test, a seventh test. There are signs at that underground launch site in North Korea, that it is ready to go, that the North may be getting ready for an underground nuclear test.

That is one of the biggest concerns right now facing the Biden administration. And they're just not, at this point, seem to be a way to ratchet it down. Kim saying his troops again, are ready for war. No indication North Korea has any interest in diplomacy or coming to the negotiating table. Wolf?

BLITZER: It's extremely serious situation unfolding. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

Let's discuss all of this with retired U.S. Major General Spider Marks. He's a CNN Military Analyst. General Marks, thanks so much for coming in. I want to get your thoughts on North Korea. I know you're very worried about that as well, in just a moment. But let's get back to the battlefield in Ukraine right now. Why is this Russian mercenary group is it's called the Wagner group, making gains in Ukraine right now, while the regular Russian military seems to be on retreat?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The Wagner group -- well, first of all, there's very little differentiation between the brutality in humanity and the criminality that both the Wagner group is capable of, and the conventional Russian forces that we've seen. So let's just kind of put that on the table. All of this is bad.

But the Wagner group is a much smaller group. It's probably very well- funded, and they're out on the open market, and they're buying whatever they need to buy in order to equip these forces. So rather than have a 300,000 mobilization, you can imagine how administratively disorganized that really is, Wolf. But with the Wagner group, they can be much more focused, and they can be much more precise on very specific targets. That's what we're seeing right now.

BLITZER: The regular Russian military seems to be burning through their high-tech weaponry pretty quickly right now, how much longer can they continue if they're losing all these kinds of sophisticated weapons?

MARKS: Well, they've demonstrated that they can achieve their objectives, which is kind of mass killings and indiscriminate firing without the smart weapons systems. They've been doing it with artillery, I mean, it's in their history. They do that exceptionally well. So they load up with artillery and they just blast areas, you know, irrespective of what's in that. So the fact that they might be losing precise weapons system will not decrease their ability to achieve their objectives which is kind of brutality on the ground.


BLITZER: On the Korean peninsula right now, how worried are you about the escalating tension with North Korea? There's still, as you and I well know, tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel in South Korea.

MARKS: Yes, the Korean Peninsula, I would say if you're asking on a scale of one to 10, I'd say we're probably at a five or a six normal activities on the peninsula or around the two to three range. In other words, North Koreans are really good at provocations. But both of these militaries on the north and in the south and full integration between the United States and the South Korean forces, it's quite phenomenal, are leaning forward all the time.

So there really is a razor's edge there. So these provocations, as Barbara indicated, really could lead to a miscalculation. Some troops out in the lines, or somebody who's flying an airplane decides to do something because they feel like they're personally threatened. That's the provocation we have to be very concerned about.

BLITZER: Do you have any sense why Kim Jong-un is escalating the tensions right now?

MARKS: He wants to be noticed. I mean, he's an autocrat, right? Everybody's autocrats are in play right now.

BLITZER: It's a very dangerous situation.

MARKS: Yes, everybody's looking at Putin.


MARKS: She's speaking in his ear. He wants everybody to remember (INAUDIBLE) peninsula.

BLITZER: All right, Retired Major General James Spider Marks, thanks as usual for coming in.

MARKS: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we're counting down to a crucial debate in the high stakes Georgia Senate race. CNN, of course, is on the scene. And the embattled Republican Herschel Walker is speaking out. Stay with us.


[17:40:58] BLITZER: In Georgia tonight, a crucial debate in a high stakes race that potentially could decide control of the United States Senate. Republican Herschel Walker will face off with incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock as Walker fights allegations he encouraged and paid for an ex-girlfriend's abortion.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is over at the debate site in Savannah for us. Dianne, both candidates have been prepping and playing the expectations game as it's called. What's the latest?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You know, this is the first debate ever for Herschel Walker. CNN is reporting that the Republican rookie has been leaning hard into preparations, even talking to the likes of seasoned debaters of Newt Gingrich and Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of Walker's team.

Just a few moments ago literally told me, Herschel's ready but the candidate himself has been working hard to lower expectations leading up to tonight.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not that smart. And he's a preacher. He's a smart man, wear this nice suit. So he got to show up and embarrass me at the debate October the 14th. And I'm just waiting you all show up and I'm going to do my best.


GALLAGHER: Now, on the other side, there are Democrats, Senator Raphael Warnock is going to likely be trying to put some daylight between him and the President. His team when they sent out notes about what to expect tonight even went so far as to highlight when the senator stood up against the Biden administration to keep a Combat Readiness Training Center here in Savannah open, expect Senator Warnock to highlight his independent streak in his record in the Senate. And I would expect Walker to try and tie Warnock to the President as much as he possibly can while they talk about issues.

BLITZER: There have been a lot of questions and a lot of allegations as you well know about Herschel Walker's personal life. How do we expect that to play into tonight's debate?

GALLAGHER: You know, Wolf, I think it's inevitable that it will come up, because it is something that's being discussed so much swirling around this race here, the most expensive race in the nation this term so far. But I would not expect much time to be spent on questions about those allegations, in part because we haven't seen any real willingness from Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock to engage in that. And Herschel Walker, the Republican has simply answered each time denying it saying that it is a flat out lie.

BLITZER: Dianne Gallagher getting ready to watch the debate. Thank you very, very much.

Let's go to Kansas right now where the governor's race is testing the political power of the abortion issue in unique ways. Our Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip explains.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Perhaps the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent governor in the nation is here in reliably red Kansas. It's also the place where this summer voters overwhelmingly opted to protect abortion rights.

GOV. LAURA KELLY (D) KANSAS: He vote on August 2 made it very clear how that can be that Kansans attend to elect to the governor's office a very moderate common sense thoughtful person to run their state and to make sure that the basic services are provided for them.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Governor Laura Kelly has tried to brand herself as a bipartisan leader.

KELLY: But if asked me, the middle is the best place to be.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Meanwhile, her Republican opponent Attorney General Derek Schmidt, has criticized her handling of COVID-19 lockdowns and has sought to tie her to national Democrats.

DEREK SCHMIDT, CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR OF KANSAS: Laura Kelly won't stand up to the liberal Washington agenda, but I will.

PHILLIP (voice-over): The Kansas vote in August was a political earthquake, one that prompted Democratic governors in other states to run explicitly on abortion access.

KELLY: Nearly $30 million going towards 30 new projects in 30 Kansas communities.

PHILLIP (voice-over): But on the campaign trail in Kansas, Kelly is making sure to keep food costs, prescription drug prices, and infrastructure funding front and center.


KELLY: What they want me as governor to do is to focus on the kitchen table issues. You know, they want me to focus on the economy and we have done that.

PHILLIP (voice-over): At recent debates, Kelly and Schmidt have both been pressed on their abortion positions.

SCHMIDT: I prefer a Kansas that has fewer abortions, not more. Obviously, Kansas voters spoke to a portion of this issue in August and made the decision that any state involvement in this area is going to have to satisfy exactly and judicial scrutiny. And we have to respect that decision going forward.

PHILLIP (on-camera): Derek Schmidt has has said that he doesn't think that you are upfront with the voters about where your limits are when it comes to abortion. Have you?

KELLY: I am a firm believer that medical decisions, women's health care decisions need to be made between them, their doctor and their family, and that women have the right to bodily autonomy just like men do.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Retirees Jim and Linda Schottler are among the Kansans who rejected attempts to change the state's constitution on abortion.

LINDA SCHOTTLER, VOTERS: We're both registered Republicans.

PHILLIP (voice-over): And they also intend to support Kelly in November.

SCHOTTLER: We voted no believing that a woman's right to her own body should be her decision.

PHILLIP (voice-over): They are exactly the kind of voters, Republican voters, that Kelly and Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids need in order to win reelection. Kansas' third district is now more conservative than it was two years ago because of redistricting. But Davids isn't shying away from abortion.

REP. SHARICE DAVIDS (D) KANSAS: I've met with folks who the purpose of the meeting was to talk about farm bill issues. And then at the end of the meeting, I've had folks say, where are you at on the constitutional amendment because our family went through something, you know, that was really difficult.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Now with just two weeks to go until November, Democrats in Kansas and across the country are grappling with how to capture the energy unleashed by the abortion debate, while also answering voters' concerns about the economy.

TOM BONIER, TARGETSMART CEO: Vichy of choice is an economic issue to many voters when they look at that decision around their family. Kansas was the first indicator and seen that women, younger voters and voters of color were so engaged in that election and turned out at such a high rate.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Democrats know that diverse coalitions like those that came out in the primary season are critical.

CARLA RIVAS-D'AMICO, COMMON SENSE KANSAS TRAINING DIRECTOR: We should be talking to every community.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Organizers are pounding the pavement in this working-class Latino neighborhood outside of Kansas City hoping to drive even better turnout in November.

RIVAS-D'AMICO: The overwhelming 60 percent win restored confidence in the idea that when we get out there and we organize and we talk to each other, we win.


PHILLIP: It's clear on the ground in Kansas that Laura Kelly and Sharice Davids are running two different kinds of races. But what Laura Kelly has to do in particular is get a lot of moderate Republicans to come out and vote for her. And both of those candidates say the abortion issue has just allowed them to have more conversations with voters who otherwise might have stayed home or would not be looking at a Democratic candidate.

So that's why this has been so interesting in the state of Kansas that really took the whole country by surprise earlier this summer. Wolf?

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Excellent report. Abby, thank you very much. Abby, we'll have a lot more on all the midterms this weekend on Inside Politics Sunday, 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up, like a horror movie, that's how well one juror describes the Parkland School shooter's trial as another juror says she was threatened during deliberations.



BLITZER: There's new controversy tonight surrounding the trial of the Parkland Florida school shooter after the jury recommended a sentence of life in prison despite a majority of the panel voting for the death penalty. CNN's Brian Todd is learning more about the jury deliberations. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have new information tonight about some real tension inside the jury room. Jurors disagreeing, arguing one juror even claiming to have been threatened.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, the Florida jury which sentenced the Parkland shooter to life in prison faces more scrutiny. Prosecutors asked the judge to interview a juror who claimed to have been threatened by another juror during deliberations. Prosecutor Carolyn McCann describing a call her office got from the allegedly threatened juror.

CAROLYN MCCANN, ASSISTANT FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: -- support staff member who took the call, said that the person who left the message was upset and then said that they've seemed frightened.

TODD (voice-over): The Broward County Sheriff's Office says it will investigate the alleged threat. Another juror, Melody Vanoy, told CNN she was not personally threatened, but that it got ugly after the vote. Jurors like her who voted for life in prison instead of the death penalty were treated with disrespect and sarcasm.

MELODY VANOY, JUROR IN PARKLAND SHOOTING SENTENCING: The energy was so heated that we wanted to get out of that room. They had to take us down for over 30 minutes to just give us fresh air so we could kind of move around a separate. That's how he did it got after the fact.

TODD (voice-over): The tensions in the jury room also reflected in a letter written by another juror to Judge Scherer, denying that she had made up her mind to vote for life in prison before the trial even started. That juror saying she'd heard that others who did vote for the death penalty had accused her of that, quote, "Some jurors became extremely unhappy once I mentioned that I would vote for life. Parents of the young victims remain unhappy.

TONY MONTALTO, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM GINA MONTALTO: It's just an unfathomable verdict. I would want them to place themselves in our shoes and look at the innocent victims.


TODD (voice-over): These jury room dramas not surprising to Veteran Judge Gregory Mize.

GREGORY MIZE, FORMER SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: The stresses build up and people's habits and and foibles among the jury can rankle one or another, and tensions build. We have strangers trying to come together to reach unanimity.

TODD (voice-over): But could any of this change the outcome of the life sentence?

PAUL CALLAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It's highly unlikely that the court will set the verdict aside or that the outcome of the case would be changed.


TODD: Both Paul Callan and Retired Judge Gregory Mize say it's also possible that one or more of the jurors could come back to the court at some point and say they regret voting the way they did. But both of them say that likely would not change the finality of this verdict either, Wolf, despite how excruciating it was for the families.

BLITZER: Very painful for those families. Thanks very much. Brian Todd, with that report.

There's more breaking news we're following, a formal appeal by the U.S. Justice Department of the Mar-a-Lago, a special master appointed to review the documents seized from former President Trump's Florida home.