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Races Heating Up As Midterm Elections Nears; Russia Unleashes Kamikaze Drones In Kyiv; Department Of Justice Recommends Six Months In Prison For Bannon; CNN Obtains U.S. Secret Service Documents Showing Agency Knew Of Potential Violence In Run-Up To Jan. 6; Prosecutors Recommend Six-Month Sentence For Steve Bannon. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 17, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: That's tonight at 9:00 eastern right here on CNN. You can follow me on twitter @JohnBerman or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of "THE LEAD" you can listen wherever you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now with Bills superfan Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, early voting is now underway in the critical midterm election battleground state of Georgia. We're awaiting the start of a high-stakes debate in that state's governor's race and a new dustup in the Senate showdown as well. Republican Herschel Walker on the defensive for using an honorary sheriff's badge as a political prop.

Also tonight, Russia intensifies its attacks on civilians, unleashing a swarm of kamikaze drones on the Ukrainian capital. I'll ask a former CIA director, retired General David Petraeus, about the U.S. response to this totally brutal phase of Vladimir Putin's war.

And CNN is on the scene with an all-female fighting unit supporting protest against repression inside Iran. Standby for an in-depth report on their battle and why they take it personally.

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

Right now, we are hitting a critical stretch for candidates of both political parties. The final chance to make an impression on voters with early ballots already being cast. CNN national correspondent Dianne Gallagher is joining us live in Atlanta right now. Dianne, all eyes are on Georgia for tonight's governor's debate there. That's where you are. Give us the latest.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it couldn't come on a more consequential day, Wolf, as early voting began here in Georgia. So, Georgians are casting ballots as a rematch between Stacey Abrams and Governor Brian Kemp will take place in the coming hours here in Atlanta.

Now, again, this is the first of two scheduled debates in this governor's race but they are very familiar with one another. Again, four years ago, Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp beating her narrowly for this job. She has maintained quite a bit of support in the state and built a national profile, something that the Republican governor has tried to use against her.

And again, people voting, Wolf, this is something that they anticipate to talk about especially in terms of voting rights, something that the Democrat, Stacey Abrams, has made a pillar of her campaign specifically in going after the governor and the changes made to voting laws in the state. But I would also anticipate much discussion about issues including crime, the economy, abortion rights and gun violence as we have seen in other debates here in the state.

BLITZER: Dianne, in the Georgia Senate race, Herschel Walker is strongly defending his use of a prop, sheriff's badge, during the debate the other night. What are you hearing?

GALLAGHER: That's right. You remember on Friday, he pulled that badge out after Democratic senator, the incumbent, Raphael Warnock, said I had never pretended to be a police officer. It's an honorary badge, but in an interview with NBC, he still insisted, doubling down that it is somehow legit.


HERSCHEL WALKER, GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: This is from my hometown. This is from Johnson County, from the sheriff of Johnson County, which is a legit badge. Everyone can make fun, but this badge give me the right -- if anything happened in this county, I have the right to work with the police getting things done.


GALLAGHER: Now, in that same interview with NBC, the Republican senate candidate here in Georgia also admitted that a $700 check that was sent to a woman was sent by him. She alleges that it was used to pay for an abortion he encouraged her to have. This woman has also said that she is the mother of one of his children. CNN has not independently confirmed that. Walker says he had no idea what she used that money for. Take a listen.


WALKER: This is still a lie because she is the mother of my child. So, you're going to see me a check or somebody gave her a check, so what I'm saying it's a lie.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS HOST: Do you know what this $700 check is?

WALKER: I have no idea what that could be for.

WELKER: Is that your signature in the check, though?

WALKER: Let me see. It could be. But it doesn't matter whether it's my signature or not. This is my check.


GALLAGHER: There was another Senate debate right here in Atlanta where I am last night. Democratic incumbent senator, Raphael Warnock, the libertarian candidate, Chase Oliver, and an empty podium for Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate who would not commit to any more than that single debate on Friday night, Wolf.


BLITZER: Alright, Dianne Gallagher in Atlanta for us. Dianne, thank you very much. Let's take a closer look right now at some of the new polling. Our CNN political director, David Chalian, is joining us right now. David, the midterms are three weeks from tomorrow. You have new numbers including what's clearly the key issue right now for voters. Tell us more.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. There is a brand-new poll, Wolf, out from "New York Times" and Siena College that gets at how Americans are feeling about the most important problem facing America. It's not even a close contest. When you add together those that say the economy is most important or inflation is the most important problem facing the country, you get 44 percent of voters.

Every other issue tested doesn't even come close, abortion, immigration, crime. Yes, these are issues in the campaign but this issue of the economy and inflation is driving this campaign. And overwhelmingly, what we see in polling, Wolf, is that that advantages the Republicans.

This is another advantage Republicans have. The incumbent Democratic president is upside down. We have more Americans disapprove about his handling his job than approve. Latest CNN poll of polls, 41 percent approval, that's an average of all the recent polls, 54 percent disapprove.

This is territory when other presidents were in this area of 40, low 40s, Wolf. Their parties suffered big losses in the midterms. But this generic congressional ballot is still tied, right. So, we see in the CNN poll of polls on which party would you prefer if the vote was today, who would you vote for, the Republican or Democrat in you district? Forty-six percent Democrats, 46 percent Republicans.

But I want you to understand when you look at this tie Wolf, recent political history shows that when this number, this generic congressional ballot is tied, that also usually translates to Republicans picking up seats.

BLITZER: Interesting. Alright, David, don't go too far away I need you to come and join our panel. I'll also want to bring in our senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly and CNN political commentator Mia Love.

Mia, I want to begin with your take on the race for the Senate in Georgia. You just heard Herschel Walker having to defend himself on two fronts. Do you fear your party, your Republican Party is losing credibility as it stands behind him? MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Everybody is losing credibility,

Wolf. It's really interesting to watch this. Me, personally, I have an issue with the abortion itself. Especially if someone uses abortion for unwanted pregnancies or as a contraceptive, which it isn't. But here is where I have an issue with hypocrisy.

This -- Democrats aren't upset with Herschel Walker for what he did, but they are going to use it against him in order to beat him up on it so they can win the race. I've seen this over and over again where people have to really evaluate what's more important to them. The race or the issue?

Because if the issue of abortion is important to Democrats, this is not the issue they should be upset with Herschel Walker for. It's certainly something that I would be upset with him for that I am, if he has made a mistake and he actually said -- and hasn't owned up to it. But if this is -- you have to figure out how you feel. Did you pay for an abortion? Just stand up to it and say you did.

If you didn't -- if your -- if you didn't, you've got a problem here. You've got to really stand up and talk about what you are for because what he is saying is not matching what he believed or have said in the past.

BLITZER: Let's bring in Phil Mattingly right now. Phil, the White House and you're over at the White House, is strongly defending the president's relatively light political schedule this midterm season. What does that tell you?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think to take you behind the scenes a little bit, it tells you that the president and his team can read the polls, to be frank. The same as that polls that David is laying out here. They've obviously seen some uptick in his numbers over the course of the last several months.

But the thing that I've picked up in talking to officials here, is in recognition both from the president himself and also his team that they want to do what they think will be most effective for Democrats out in the country. And they recognize that they -- that may not be holding campaign rallies. That may not be going to states like Georgia and Nevada.

They want the president to go and the president wants to go to the places where he will be most effective. And one of the most effective things they've found is on fundraising. Obviously, he's having a fundraiser in Pennsylvania with John Fetterman, the Senate candidate, later this week. He's raised tens of millions of dollars for Democratic Party committees over the course of the last several months.

He's held official events like the ones in Colorado and California and in Portland, Oregon last week with specific candidates where they feel like they can have an impact. But this is something the president and his predecessors have dealt with through midterms over the course of the last several decades.


A recognition that because of those numbers, because of those headwinds, the best way to help at least in the eyes of many White House officials right now is through the grass roots lists that the Democratic National Committee handles right and through fund raising and when candidates ask and when candidates think it can have a positive effect the president is going to go. If the opposite answer is true, the president I'm told, doesn't take it personally. Keep in mind, Wolf, he's been in politics for about five decades now.

BLITZER: He certainly has. Mia, you wanted to weigh in.

LOVE: Yes. I think it's important to know that the big news today is that Republicans have opened up 10 points among independents because of issues like inflation that David was talking about, the economy, gas prices. You want to know what's number one on American's minds? That's exactly what's happening.

If you look at the Lee Zeldin race, gubernatorial race in New York, that shouldn't have been a race. They're head-to-head right now. And, mark my words, we may see the first Republican governor in New York in a very long time, if ever. I have to look that -- I have to make sure I look that up, but it certainly going to be historic.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly. And you know, David Chalian, no one looks at these numbers more closely than you do. What do you think?

CHALIAN: Yeah. There is no doubt with the economy and inflation driving what is on voter's minds, that is going to be an advantage to the party out of power right now and that's the Republican Party here. Wolf, I think we do not yet know where we sit three weeks now from when the votes will be counted, if this is going to be a huge red wave of election or if this is going to be more narrowly contested.

The battlefield, itself, of truly competitive House seats, it's not as large as it has been in the past. So, it's unclear exactly what a big wave would look like, but it is clear that Republicans right now for the House are going to ride this economy issue all the way, they hope, to the majority.

The Senate as you know, Wolf, is a state-by-state battle and as each of those critical battleground states come to the end here, it is not yet clear which way that will go, but what is clear, Republicans only need one Senate seat in order to win the majority.

BLITZER: Yeah. The voting has already started, as we pointed out, in Georgia. Three weeks from tomorrow, the election takes place. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we're following new developments right now, critically important ones in Ukraine, where swarms of Russian kamikaze drones terrorizing and killing Ukrainian civilians. I'll discuss this and more with the retired U.S. General David Petraeus. We'll discuss right after the break.


BLITZER: Ukraine is on edge tonight amid a swarm of attacks from so- called kamikaze drones. At least four people are dead and officials say they're bracing for Russia to launch more strikes. CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has our report from the war zone.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDNET (voice-over): It was at the crack of dawn when the terror began. Air defenses in Kyiv firing into the sky, leading to chaos in the capitol streets. Police officers taking aim at the kamikaze drones sent by Moscow. In this case, successfully taking one down. But the drones kept crashing into the city.

This person here, the soldier says, "Do you have any water?" The woman on the ground answers, "My head is buzzing." In total, Ukraine says its forces managed to shoot down 36 of 42 kamikaze drones and three cruise missiles launched at the entire country.

But the projectiles that did hit their targets caused devastations. The Ukrainians saying several energy installations were damaged as was this residential building in Kyiv killing four people.

We were in the room when the blasts started, this man says. We then went out and saw the staircase was gone, all gone to the ground floor. Ukraine says the drones Moscow uses are supplied by Iran, which Tehran once again denies. Ukraine's president venting his anger at Russia.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translation): All day long we have been clearing the rubble at those places which the Russian terrorists managed to hit today. Vladimir Putin can record another achievement. He killed another pregnant woman.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): All this as Russia continues to face problems with its own mobilization effort, 11 killed by two gunmen in the Belgorod region this weekend, Moscow acknowledges. And authorities in remote parts of Russia offer a bizarre incentive to families.

YEVGENY GRIGORIEV, MAYOR OF YAKUTSK, RUSSIA (through translation): Families of the mobilized residents can go to the local support center and get a one-off packet of fresh vegetables. These include cabbage, potatoes, carrots, beet root and onions.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And Moscow is not only facing problems motivating recruits. A Russian SU-34 military jet crashed into a nine- story residential building in the south of the country tonight, sending emergency crews scrambling to the scene.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And Wolf, tonight, the Russian authorities saying that at least four people were killed when that jet crashed into that building and 17 apartments in that building were destroyed. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians are saying this is now a matter of the utmost urgency. They say they immediately need better and more capable systems to fight off those Iranian-made drones especially because those drones attack in big swarms, Wolf.

BLITZER: They certainly do. Alright, Fred Pleitgen on the scene for us. Thanks very much. Stay safe over there.

Joining us now, retired General David Petraeus. He's the former commander of the U.S. Military Central Command, also the former cia director. General, thanks so much for joining us. AS you know, Russia is inflicting enormous pain on Ukrainian civilians right now. But does this latest wave of drone attacks by the Russians do anything to advance Putin's broader war goals?

DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: No, it doesn't, Wolf. It's really all that he can do though. The dynamic on the battlefield that faces him now is a very harsh reality.


That Ukraine has a larger and more capable military in Ukraine than does Russia. And that's why the Ukrainians are steadily taking back territory that Russia captured since 24 of February. It will be slow. There is tough fighting, more casualties and so forth, but there's virtually nothing he can do to reverse that dynamic.

The partial mobilization as your reporter noted has been shambolic, more Russian men have left the country than have gone to the conscription stations reportedly. Those who do actually show up or get dragged into serving are given absolutely minimal training, poor equipment and just sent into the front lines. They are essentially cannon fodder.

So, Putin is just running out of options. The one action he can still take is punish Ukraine with missiles, with rockets, with bombs and with these drone swarms with these suicide drones provided by Iran, which are hugely problematic.

The Ukrainians are knocking down a large percentage of those but still a number get through and you can see the damage that they are causing especially because many of them are targeted at civilian infrastructure that's very important to the Ukrainian economy, especially power generation and distribution.

BLITZER: Yeah. It's really, really punishing. As you know, general, Ukraine has been pleading and pleading and pleading for more air defense systems from the U.S. and the other NATO allies. How does the U.S. tailor its military aid to this new phase in the war, particularly with Russia's increasing reliance on these Iranian-made drones?

PETRAEUS: Well, it does have to adapt to the challenges on this battlefield. And in fact, Secretary Austin at the NATO meeting last week pledged to rush several additional systems there. Other NATO countries are pledging the same. The problem is that we don't have a particularly effective counter drone defense of our own. We struggled with that, as you know, on the battlefields against the

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Again, we have come up with reasonable elements, but we've got to get those there now and perhaps call on those that Israel has developed, given the threats that they've faced from Hamas over the years, as well.

You have to have a layered system. No single element in you air defense and ballistic missile defense system will take down all of these. You have to have layer that goes everything from short range on up to longer range and actual ballistic missile systems, as well. That's got to be an imperative.

I actually know it is. I've talked to individuals in the Pentagon. They are rushing, scrambling to get this over there. But this is a threat I think that we did not completely appreciate. And when it showed up on the battlefield and the magnitude of the challenge it presents, again, now, there is an awful lot of scrambling going on in the U.S. and in our NATO allied countries, as well.

BLITZER: It's a critically difficult phase, right. Retired General David Petraeus, thanks so much for joining us.

PETRAEUS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, prosecutors seek the maximum sentence for former Trump adviser, Steve Bannon. Will he actually serve jail time for defying the January 6th Select Committee's subpoena?



BLITZER: Tonight, federal prosecutors are seeking the maximum six months sentence for former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, convicted of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House January 6th Select Committee. CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is joining us right now with the latest. So, what's your reporting suggesting? Will Bannon see jail time?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is quite possible, Wolf. He was convicted by a jury of two counts of contempt of Congress. The Justice Department says that this is worth at least six months in prison and that it -- also, a $200,000 fine at the end of all of this.

Bannon is due to be sentenced on Friday. He's asking for a probation and also, he's saying that because he is appealing this verdict, that it should all be delayed, at least until the outcome of this appeal and given the fact that this is a nonviolent offense that he was convicted of.

BLITZER: We'll see if he winds up in jail for six months. We should know fairly soon. The January 6th Select Committee is also looking for more information right now from the U.S. Secret Service after new documents show that the agency knew a lot about the threat to the U.S. capitol that day. What's the latest? PEREZ: Well, Wolf, we heard from Zoe Lofgren, one of the members of

the committee and for the first time we've now heard her say that she wants to hear more from Tony Ornato who was obviously a senior member of the Secret Service. He was inside the White House. And even though according to his legal team, he's already talked to the committee a couple of times, they do believe, this committee believes that he has more information.

And they are basing this based on additional information they say they have that has come in in the last few months from the Secret Service, from these communications that they've been able to obtain. They want to know a little bit more about Trump's movements. They also want to know about some of the communications back-and-forth inside the Secret Service, leading up to January 6th and of course, on that day.

BLITZER: Yeah. They've been collecting more information, I assume, all the time. Alright, Evan, thank you very, very much.

Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us, CNN's chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller, CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow and CNNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

John Miller, these new Secret Service documents prompted you to write a very important piece for where you explore whether January 6 was actually a failure of intelligence or a political failure. Explain what you think.


JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, there's a few things that could have been game changers there that obviously didn't happen. So, was the intelligence shared widely enough? I mean, we see from the Secret Service cache that most of it was intelligence from other agencies that was being distributed. So, we know it was out there.

What are the three things? First of all, the Department of Homeland Security did not do a comprehensive threat assessment for that event on January 16, and pulled together all that information and put it out so everybody had a common operating picture. People were operating on these fragments. The Capitol Police did a very good one, but that stayed largely within the Capitol Police.

Number two, the same department, Homeland Security could have, and only by order of the secretary declared January 16 a national security special event in NSSC. And that would have put the Secret Service in charge of the whole thing and they would have been able to draw resources from all over the federal government. Instead, what you had was the Capitol Police chief begging for the National Guard three days before January 16, then trying to run it through the Capitol Police Board and people kind of blowing him off.

So, with all of that have changed it, we'll never know. But having 1000 extra people in uniform on that front line certainly could have none of that happened.

BLITZER: Yes, Jonathan, you're a former Secret Service agents. So what's your reaction to this analysis?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ABALYST: Well, you know, first of all Commissioner Miller is correct. The Secret Service is a consumer of intelligence. They don't generate -- or typically they don't generate their own intelligence.

I think that what we're talking about or in advance of January 6, the level of analysis and information is what we call current intelligence. It's oftentimes very time sensitive analysis of newly acquired information written quickly to disseminate out to consumers, such as the Secret Service that oftentimes highlight a potential threat.

The challenge, though, in this current intelligence reporting, is that oftentimes the sources are unverified. The intent is to try to disseminate information quickly and allow components to react on it. So, the challenge for the Secret Service in advance of January 6, was assessing the means the opportunity in the intent for those individuals making the threats to actually assess really what was going to manifest itself.

I break it down like this, January 6, was not a failure of intelligence, it was a failure to act on the intelligence warnings, where law enforcement did not calculate the likelihood of these threats manifesting themselves, and they miscalculated the inherent vulnerabilities of the U.S. Capitol. And Wolf, it always with a tragic result.

BLITZER: Yes, a hugely tragic result, indeed.

Carrie, you're our legal analyst, you just heard Evan report the federal prosecutors now want Steve Bannon to be sentenced to six months in prison. What do you make of that recommendation and Bannon's request for probation?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the Justice Department has laid out in its sentencing memorandum the reasons why it thinks in this case, it's appropriate for him to pay the substantial fine as well as have the six month of jail time, which is at the high end of the federal sentencing guidelines. In this case, they say that he has not expressed regret for what transpired and that he really just continually acted in bad faith in his interactions with the committee that he made absolutely no attempt to cooperate in any way. And it lays out in the sentencing memorandum by the Justice Department just repeated efforts on his part to try to thwart the committee's work. And so, the Justice Department argues that both for his own conduct as well as for the principles of rule of law that the congressional committee issued a valid subpoena, and he simply chose not to comply with it and made every effort to avoid it at all costs, that that warrants the high end of the sentencing guidelines.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much, Carrie Cordero, Jonathan Wackrow, John Miller, appreciate it very much.

In the next hour, by the way, I'll speak with a key member of the January 6 Select Committee, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He'll stand by live.

Also ahead, Donald Trump but draws widespread condemnation after complaining American Jews don't, and I'm quoting him now, "appreciate" him enough.



BLITZER: Former President Donald Trump is facing backlash tonight after complaining U.S. Jews aren't, quote, "appreciative" enough of his policies toward Israel. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now. He's working the story.

Brian, this isn't the first time the former president has targeted Jewish Americans with this kind of rhetoric.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is not the first time, Wolf. Last year in an interview Trump said quote, "Jewish people who live in the United States don't love Israel enough, end quote. This latest vent has many worried that Trump will trigger anti-Semitic forces in the US to possibly commit violence.


TODD (voice-over): Donald Trump lashing out against American Jews for not being more appreciative of what he did for Israel as president. On his social media platform Truth Social, Trump says quote, "No president has done more for Israel than I have. Somewhat surprisingly, however, our wonderful evangelicals are far more appreciative of this than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the U.S."

More ominously, Trump says later in his post, quote, "U.S. Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel before or it is too late."


The head of the Anti-Defamation League outraged at what he calls Trump's anti-Semitic tropes, says after 2021 when the ADL recorded the highest number of anti-Jewish incidents it ever has, Trump's words are even more disturbing.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: People are feeling, you know, attacked and hidden from both sides, it's incredibly concerning. So when the president says before it's too late, it sounds like a threat in an environment where Jews already feel threatened.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts struggling to figure out Trump's political calculation for this vent on the eve of the midterm elections.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It does seem as though watching this, it is Trump expressing peak more than it is him executing an electoral strategy. I suspect that this will reinforce the doubts about Trump among the majority of Jewish voters about Republicans.

TODD (voice-over): Aaron David Miller, who worked for six secretaries of State in Republican and Democratic administrations, disagrees with Trump's claim that he's done more for Israel than any other president. But he says Trump can legitimately claim actions that have supported Israel.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Recognizing, for example, Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights. We know Israeli government never asked him to do it. Identifying Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the embassy, which was largely symbolically extremely important, certainly to Israelis.

TODD (voice-over): And Miller points to the 2020 Abraham accords brokered by Trump's son in law Jared Kushner, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries. Despite the fact that Kushner is Jewish, that Trump's daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism and that some of his own grandchildren are Jewish, this isn't the first time Trump has been accused of failing to counter anti- Semitic forces, like after white supremacist violent rallies in Charlottesville.

MULTIPLE SPEAKERS (chanting): Jews will not replace us.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

TODD (voice-over): Trump has, on occasion, condemned anti-Semitism, but Miller is worried about his latest message.

A. MILLER: He's enabled the sorts of extremist forces that have fueled anti-Semitism. And if Jews aren't secure here, where will they be secure?


TODD: Trump's post comes not long after the rapper and sometime Trump supporter Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, tweeted a strong implication that he wished violence on Jewish people, prompting Twitter and Instagram to remove his posts. So far, Republican leaders have responded to Trump's criticism of American Jews mostly with silence. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, silence. Thunderous silence, I must say.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian Todd reporting for that.

As of tonight, people in the United States with mild to moderate hearing loss can buy hearing aids online or in stores without a prescription and for a lower price, thanks to a new rule changed by the FDA.

CNN Health Reporter Jacqueline Howard is joining us right now. She has details. Jacqueline, if you're suffering from hearing loss, how big of a game changer potentially is this?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Wolf, this is a huge game changer. And we have nearly 30 million people in this country who could benefit from wearing hearing aids. So making them accessible and more affordable over the counter is a big game changer for that population.

And when you look at hearing loss in this country, about one in eight people over the age of 12 have hearing loss. But not everyone has the access or the means to afford hearing aids. Usually around $12,000 per pair is how much hearing aids cost when prescribed. But with this new move to make them available over the counter, they could be as low as $200 per pair. And some of the stores that have announced that they'll have these hearing aids include Walmart, Walgreens, Best Buy, HyVee, CVS. So this is a big game changer, Wolf, for this group of people.

And hearing loss, when you think about it as a medical condition, it's connected with poor physical health, but it also has impacts on mental health. Many people who have struggles with hearing might isolate themselves at times and that can lead to mental health concerns. So having this accessibility for hearing aid assistance for these medical devices can really impact physical and mental health as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Potentially. A very, very significant development, indeed.


BLITZER: Jacqueline Howard, thanks for that report.

First on CNN, next, Kurdish Iranian women taking up arms against the brutal and deadly crackdown by Iran's regime.



BLITZER: The death toll from a fire a Tehran's notoriously brutal Evin prison, known for housing political prisoners, has now risen to eight. There are reports guards fired tear gas during the chaos, forcing inmates to break windows to breathe. This comes one month into protests over the death of in-police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini detained for allegedly not wearing her head covering properly. The regime's crackdown on demonstrators has been especially brutal on the Kurdish community.

CNN's Chief International Investigative Correspondent Nima Elbagir reports that many women are now fleeing to Iraq and joining armed opposition groups to support protesters inside Iran. We want to warn our viewers this report contains graphic video.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a remote area in northern Iraq's Kurdish region, an all-female fighting unit belonging to the armed Kurdish Iranian Opposition Party pack continues to train.


These women have been pulled back from the front line. For the last three weeks the area they patrolled in the northeast of Iraq has been hit by shells sent from across the border by Iran. This unit is part of a larger fighting force. For every single one of these women, this war is personal.

Rezan (ph), not her real name across the border from Iran with the help of smugglers just over a week ago. The city of Sanandaj, which she calls home is in Iran's Kurdish majority western region. And in recent weeks has been likened to herbalism according to its residents as protests have erupted here.

And across Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian, Rezan, just a teenager joined these protests.

REZAN (PH), KURDISH IRANIAN FEMALE FIGHTER (through translator): We were treating casualties but we were also like most people participating in the revolution in the uprising. Everyone who suffered from the oppression of the Iranian regime came down to the streets and market and defied the government. I was also participating and I had no fear of death.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Rezan says that while she was dragged by her uncovered hair, she passed prone lifeless bodies. And even after she left she says she's continued to receive information about people she knows who have died.

Like this man, Yahya Rahimi (ph), a newly married 27-year-old murdered by Iranian regime forces for sounding his horn in solidarity with protesters.

(on camera): What is happening with your family?

REZAN (through translator): My family told them that no matter how many members of my family they arrest and for as long as they oppress my people, I will not surrender to the invading Iranian government. We are ready to die.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): When Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amina died in police custody, her name became a symbol of the oppression of women across Iran. But Mahsa is not her true name. Her Kurdish name is Gina, a name Iranian authorities barred her family like many other ethnic minority groups from using. The regime only legally registered Persian names. Yet in her last recorded moments, Gina resorted to begging her captors in her Kurdish mother tongue and treaties which were ignored, we enforcing the fears of Iran's Kurdish minority.

Iran's reach to oppress the protests within its borders is stretching far beyond. Over the last few weeks, Iranian missiles have fallen into the Kurdish region of Iraq almost every day. The onslaught is relentless.

This map shows where Iranian strikes have hit, killing at least 18 and injuring at least 63 to date. This video filmed by a local television channel shows the moment just after an Iranian drone and several missiles struck one of the Kurdish Iranian opposition policy bases, killing eight soldiers and injuring more. On a day on which 70 missiles Kurdish authorities say rain down in the space of just four hours.

This base only two years ago was on the front line in the fight against ISIS after pack received U.S. training. It isn't far from U.S. Central Command CENTCOM forces. Just one day after the attack on the pack base, CENTCOM shut down another Iranian drone, which appeared they say as a threat to CENTCOM forces stationed in the area. And as the U.S. anti ISIS presence in Iraq is set to continue, so is the threat Iran poses.

These female fighters have vowed to fight until there is a regime change in Iran. They say they share Gina's pain, called by a name forced on her by a repressive regime. All of them have a Kurdish name just like her not spoken outside their homes. All of them say it's hard to imagine going back to how life was before.


ELBAGIR: Those who've made it here to Iraq say they consider themselves the lucky ones despite having to circumnavigate a militarized response and live fire from regime forces just to get here with their lives. Despite feeling lucky, they say they carry with them the guilt at leaving behind their families inside Iran, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nima Elbagir, excellent reporting. Stay safe over there. Thank you very, very much.

Coming up, Russian kamikaze drones raining down terror and death on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. CNN is live on the scene, we'll go there next.


Also, we'll speak with a key member of the January 6 select committee about documents newly obtained by CNN showing the agency knew of potential violence in the run up to the Capitol insurrection.


BLITZER: Happening now, CNN witnesses the desperate search for survivors after Russia's deadly kamikaze drone strikes on the Ukrainian capital. We'll go live to Kyiv and I'll get reaction from White House official John Kirby.

Also tonight, federal prosecutors are pushing for Trump ally Steve Bannon to serve six months in prison for his defiance of the subpoena in the insurrection investigation. I'll speak with January 6 Select Committee Member Congressman Adam Kinzinger. We'll discuss live this hour.

And as early voting begins in the key midterm battleground state of Georgia, we're closing in on the start of a pivotal debate in the governor's race.