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Crucial Midterm Elections Now Just Three Weeks Away; Biden Vows Abortion Rights Law As Democrats Try To Rally Voters; CNN Gets First- Hand Look At Massive Attack Drone Used By Russia; Jury Acquits Primary Source In Trump-Russia Dossier. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 18, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, an epic midterm election with huge consequences for the nation is now only three weeks away. CNN is on the trail as high-profile candidates spar and early voting sets records.

Also tonight, President Biden is making a new promise to voters saying an abortion rights law will be passed if more Democrats are elected to Congress. Will his strategy work as many Americans are more focused right now on the economy? I'll ask the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre.

And the CNN, CNN gets an exclusive, firsthand look right now at a massive attack drone that's part of Vladimir Putin's arsenal in Ukraine. We'll go live to Kyiv, where a critical situation is unfolding as Russia strikes again and again.

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

We begin this hour with our midterm countdown and the crucial choices facing voters with just three weeks to go, three weeks before the Election Day.

CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend following some of the hottest races out there beginning in the key battleground state of Georgia.


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (voice over): With three weeks until the midterms, voters are already flocking to the polls in large numbers. In Georgia, the state set a midterm turnout record for early voting with more than 130,000 voters casting ballots Monday. On the trail today, Republican Senate Nominee Herschel Walker defending his transparency when it comes to reports he allegedly paid for an ex- girlfriend's abortion in 2009 and encouraged her to have another two years later, even as he now acknowledges the authenticity of a $700 check he sent the woman. SENATE CANDIDATE HERSCHEL WALKER (R-GA): I've answered that question time and time again and my campaign now has been about going forward because I've been honest.

MCKEND: Candidates also starting to showcase their closing messages with Pennsylvania Republican Senate Nominee Mehmet Oz today unveiling a new T.V. ad decrying political extremism, as he targets moderate voters in his tight race against Democrat John Fetterman.

SENATE CANDIDATE MEHMET OZ (R-PA): Extremism on both sides makes things worse.

MCKEND: Other candidates in key races facing off in debates. In the Georgia's governor's race, deja vu as Republican Governor Brian Kemp debated Democratic Nominee Stacey Abrams. Kemp took every opportunity to bring the conversation back to the economy and tie Stacey Abrams to President Biden's policies.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Georgians should know that my dire is desire is to help them fight through 40-year high inflation and high gas prices and other things that our Georgia families are facing right now.

MCKEND: And Abrams reprised her attacks on Kemp over voting rights.

ABRAMS: We need a governor who believes in access to the right to vote and not in voter suppression, which is the hallmark of Brian Kemp's leadership.

MCKEND: In the Ohio Senate race, Trump-backed Republican Nominee J.D. Vance tried to tie his opponent, Congressman Tim Ryan, to Nancy Pelosi at every opportunity.

SENATE CANDIDATE J.D. VANCE (R-OH): I really wish Tim Ryan had stood up to his party on this vote because it might have made the inflation crisis we've been over the last few months a lot better if he hadn't done what he always does, which is vote with Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden 100 percent of the time.

REP. TIM RYAN (R-OH): J.D., you keep talking about Nancy Pelosi. If you want to run against Nancy Pelosi, move back to San Francisco and run against Nancy Pelosi. You're running against me.

MCKEND: Trump's 2020 election lies took center stage in Utah, where Republican Senator Mike Lee is facing a fierce challenge from Independent Evan McMullin.

SENATE CANDIDATE EVAN MCMULLIN (I-UT): You were there to stand up for our Constitution, but when the barbarians were at the gate, you were happy to let them in.

MCKEND: Lee defending his actions on January 6th by pointing to his vote to certify the Electoral College results.

SEN. MIKE LEE (I-UT): Yes, there were people who behaved very badly on that day. I was not one of them. I was one of the people trying to dismantle this situation.


MCKEND: And, Wolf, it was a very busy day today here in Georgia. Herschel Walker wrapping up a rally not long ago with Senator Lindsey Graham, Stacey Abrams kicked off her bus tour here in Atlanta, Governor Kemp, about three hours away, making his appeal to farmers, and Senator Raphael Warnock holding an event in to get people excited about voting early. Wolf?

BLITZER: Eva, stand by. We're going to get back to you in just a couple of moments. Right now, I want to turn to President Biden's new appeal to vote voters out there and his effort to try to keep the issue of abortion rights for women front and center.

Our White House Correspondent M.J. Lee has more on his remarks before the Democratic National Committee.


M.J., tell us about the president's message today just three weeks before Election Day here in the U.S.

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one big message that we heard from the president today was get out and vote. He said if you care about abortion rights, you care about reproductive rights, then you need to vote for Democrats. Because he said the alternative is Republicans take over Congress, then they are going to try to enact a national abortion ban and try to take away access to certain healthcare services.

This fits into the bigger goal that he has had for a while of trying to paint this contrast between Democrats and Republicans and particularly trying to cast Republicans as being for extremist policies. Now, when the president did speak on this issue earlier today, he made a specific promise when it comes to Roe v. Wade and he also specifically asked voters to channel their anger. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: If you care about the right to choose then you've got to vote. That's why in these midterm elections are so critical to elect more Democratic senators to the United States Senate and more Democrats to keep control of the House of Representatives. Folks, if we do that, here's the promise I make to you and the American people. The first bill that I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade.


LEE: Now, of course, it's important to point out that Democrats can't just snap their fingers and codify Roe. They need to first keep the House. They need to expand their majority in the Senate. So, this is going to be a tough thing for them to actually execute on.

And I will just say the other dynamic that the White House is very sensitive to is just being keenly aware that the economy still remains the top issue. When you look at poll after poll, it shows that the top issue for voters across the board remains the economy, it remains inflation, and far fewer people say that abortion is their number one priority. This is a part of the reason why tomorrow we are going to hear the president once again talk about gas prices, Wolf.

BLITZER: M.J., stay with us. Don't go too far away. Eva McKend is back with us from Atlanta. We're also joined by CNN's Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson.

Nia, we saw record midterm turnout yesterday on the first day of early voting in Georgia. What if anything can we make of what appears to be a very, very engaged electorate out there?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Listen, voting up so far 85 percent in Georgia over what it was on the same day in 2018. That is good news for democracy. We don't know yet what the makeup of the electorate was on the first day of voting and we don't know what it will be when all the voting wraps up.

Republicans are looking to see if they can get their voters out, and those are older voters. And if you're a Democrat, you want to see a more diverse electorate in terms of age, in terms of race, African- American voters, obviously, Latino voters, and Asian-American voters as well.

Folks looking at Georgia also trying to figure out what the new election laws and voting laws will mean for voters there. There were a lot of concerns from a lot of people in Georgia and in looking at Georgia to see if there would be sort of voter suppression as a result of the new laws on the book there.

But this suggests that at least people are showing up. They're engaged. They're interested and maybe they believe what politicians are saying, which is that this is the most consequential midterm election in quite some time. Listen, we'll have to see what the voting looks like going forward and then, of course, finally on Election Day, but so far, this should please both parties.

BLITZER: You know, Eva, you just showed our viewers part of a new ad that Dr. Oz is running in Pennsylvania, where he says we all need less extremism in Washington. Is that closing message likely to appeal to voters in that race and potentially in other races?

MCKEND: Well, we'll have to see. But it certainly makes sense for Oz to be making this type of appeal in a battleground state like Pennsylvania. He's endorsed by former President Trump, but he still have has to convince moderate voters in that state that he can represent them as well, especially going up against John Fetterman, who has been able to successfully be a bridge builder outside of progressive and Democrats.

When I traveled to the state a few weeks ago, even more moderate voters, more conservative voters, they supported Fetterman despite his policy positions, his very progressive policy positions, because they liked him as an individual. Well, we see now Oz trying to make this same appeal and trying to bring in as many folks in the electorate as he can.

BLITZER: Yes, indeed. M.J., in races across the country, Republicans are trying to link Democrats to the president and concerns about the economy. What is the White House's strategy to combat that?

LEE: Well, Wolf, certainly, it's politics 101 that when the economy is doing really well, you want your political party to take credit for it, and when the economy is in bad shape, you want to blame the other guys.


And I do think that in recent days, the White House has been in a bit of a tricky position when it comes to the economy. Even just a number of weeks ago, I think they were feeling pretty good about the economic message Democrats had heading into the midterms. The president and Democrats had scored a number of big legislative victories. They really felt like they had a story to tell about what they were able to deliver for the American people, on top of which we were seeing gas prices steadily coming down. And now we have a situation where gas prices coming down is no longer something they can count on. We know that inflation remains an extremely stubborn problem and people are very unhappy about the fact things are costing so much.

So, this has certainly factored into sort of the political thinking and the political traveling even for the president. I can't tell you the number of times that the White House press secretary has been asked in the briefing room recently, so, why isn't the president traveling to places, like Nevada, Arizona, where there are some of these really competitive races, and it just reflects the reality that they are being picky and sort of choosey about where exactly to dispatch him because he's not necessarily going to be the most helpful in some of these races. Wolf?

BLITZER: M.J. Lee, Nia-Malika Henderson, Eva McKend, guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, I'll ask the White House press secretary, Karine Jean- Pierre, about President Biden's new abortion rights promise and whether he can actually deliver given the tough fight Democrats are facing right now to hold on to control of Congress.



BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is making it clearer than ever that he's counting on the issue of abortion rights for women to bolster Democratic candidates as the high-stakes midterm election gets closer and closer.

Joining us now, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre. Karine, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, for President Biden to make good on his pledge to codify Roe, Democrats would have to keep the House majority, pick up Senate seats and eventually change the filibuster rule as well. That's a very tall order. Is the president setting himself up potentially for failure?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, I'll say this, Wolf, and thank you so much for having me. Look, I can't get into politics or talk about elections, you know that, because of the hatch act. So, I'm going to be careful in what I say, as I'm standing right in front of the White House here.

Look, what you heard from the president is his continuous fight to fight for millions of women across the country. When we saw what the Supreme Court did in this unconscionable decision to overturn Roe, it put millions of women's lives at risk.

And here's what's at stake, Wolf, and this is why this is so important, and this is why you'll continue to hear from this president on this issue, and we have, is that we're seeing these draconian laws across the country by Republicans that are putting forth laws that, again, is going to put women's health at risk, but also criminalizing doctors for doing their jobs.

And if you look just right behind me at the Capitol, you have Senate Republicans who are introducing national bans. And the president says this. If there's a national ban on abortion, it's not going to matter if you're in a red state or a blue state, abortion will be illegal all across the country.

So, this is what is at stake. That's what you heard from the president today. This is what he's going to continue to speak about, to talk about, to make sure that the American people who are with us, the majority of Americans agree with Roe, a majority of Americans disagreed with the court's decision.

BLITZER: I will say this, with all due respect, Karine, we're talking about policy, an important policy issue. We're not talking so much about politics. I know you're restricted on what you can say about politics from over at the White House.

What is the president's plan to protect abortion rights for women here in the United States, Karine, if Democrats don't control Congress next year?

JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'm not going to get ahead of what could happen in just a couple of weeks. I'm not going to get too much into hypotheticals here. What I'm saying to you, the president has been clear on what needs to happen. We need to make sure, and he's speaking very, very clear about this, that Americans need to make their voices heard. There is so much at stake now right now in this moment when we're talking about women's health, when we're talking about the difficult decisions.

These are not abstract stories when we hear about women who have to deal with a miscarriage, unfortunately, or we hear about a rape survivor, or we hear about a woman that is in an abusive relationship. These are private decisions, personal decisions that they should be made. And the president believes we should treat women with compassion and with dignity, and that's what he's going to speak to.

Look, I'm just saying to you that you've heard from the president directly on what he's looking to do. Again, I'm not going to get into what the --

BLITZER: This is what I want to do, Karine --

JEAN-PIERRE: -- complexion of the Congress is going to look like, but we are committed, committed to getting this done.

BLITZER: Let's watch, Karine. Let's watch how President Biden actually framed this issue today. Listen to this.


BIDEN: I want to remind us all how we felt that day when 50 years of constitutional precedent was overturned.

I'm asking the American people to remember how you felt, how you felt that day the extreme Dobbs decision came down, when Roe was overturned after 50 years.


BLITZER: So, why is the president reminding people? If this is -- is this an admission that the energy and enthusiasm around this issue has faded?

JEAN-PIERRE: No. Look, we've seen poll after poll after poll that a majority of Americans, Wolf, as you know, I know you watched this very closely as well, that majority of Americans disagree with the court's decision, that a majority of Americans support Roe. This is something that has been continuous. And what we are doing is what the president is doing is he's showing that he is going to continue to fight. That's why he made the announcement of saying that his first piece of legislation that he will send to the new Congress is going to be a piece of legislation that is going to codify Roe.

And so he's making that promise.


He has taken bold actions since the day that we heard that decision back in June. He made -- he took executive action, used his executive authority to make sure that he did everything that he could to protect women. But right now, what needs to happen is Americans across the country need to make sure that their voices are being heard.

BLITZER: And you're right. The polls do show the majority of Americans support abortion rights for women. But look at the latest numbers coming out on other issues. 44 percent say the economy and inflation are the most important problems facing the country right now compared to just 5 percent who say abortion is their top concern. President Biden clearly wants to bring attention back to the abortion rights issue before the midterms, but is that a mistake when so many Americans have these other worries right now? JEAN-PIERRE: Look, it's not a mistake when we're talking about saving women's lives. I don't think it's a mistake to talk about that and to talk about what's at stake when it comes to Roe, what's at stake when it comes to these difficult decisions that women have to make.

And also it is also important to talk about the economy. The president yesterday talked about -- he put a statement out about hearing aids, making sure that hearing aids were available for 30 million Americans just across the country, saving thousands of dollars. That matters. That's going to put money back into people's pockets.

Tomorrow, you're going to hear from him talking about gas prices. The president took historic, historic efforts in the past several months to make sure that we brought gas prices down because of Putin's tax hike. And it's 98 days, we saw prices go down because of the president's plan. So, we're going to hear more from him tomorrow.

Look, we are doing everything that we can. We are taking this very seriously when it comes to inflation, when it comes to lowering costs and the president's going to continue to do that work. That's why the Inflation Reduction Act was so important and --

BLITZER: Let's talk about the economy a little bit right now, Karine.

As you know, a Fitch Ratings report first obtained by CNN today predicts a mild recession starting next spring here in the United States. And they also are suggesting millions of American jobs will be lost in the process. Is that in line with what President Biden is expecting? As you know, he recently told our Jake Tapper that a slight recession is indeed possible.

JEAN-PIERRE: And also the president said that he did not think it was going to happen, a recession was going to happen in that same vein. And he has said that many times.

So, here's the thing, Wolf, and we -- when the president walked into the administration, he took bold action in making sure that our economy got back up, right, got started again. And because of the actions that this president took, we have seen economic growth that we have not seen in modern times or in a very long time, 10 million jobs created, we have -- again, jobs are up, income are up, we have unemployment rate that is the lowest that we've ever seen.

So, we have a situation right now where we are in a better place than most of major other countries, major countries clearly across the globe in making sure that we're dealing with this global issue of inflation. So, the president has done the work and so we are going to continue to do everything that we can again to lower costs. But as it comes to a recession, we feel that our economy is resilient because of the policies that this president has put forth.

BLITZER: Former President Obama recently weighed in on one of the Democratic Party's shortfalls, as he called it. I want you to listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: How does politics even -- how is it even relevant to, you know, the things that I care most deeply about, my family, my kids, you know, work that gives me satisfaction, you know, having fun, you know, not being a buzz kill, right? Sometimes Democrats are. It's like, you know, sometimes people just want to not feel as if they are walking on egg shells.


BLITZER: Does President Biden agree with former President Obama? Does former President Obama have a point?

JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, that's the first time I'm seeing that, Wolf. I don't know the whole context of that interview, so it's hard for me to comment on that. Look, we respect President Obama. As you know, they were partners here not too long ago in the administration. And so we appreciate his support. We respect the president. Again, it's hard for me to really comment on something I have not seen the full context of the video.

BLITZER: Karine Jean-Pierre, thanks so much for joining us. You got a tough job over there. I appreciate it very, very much.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Wolf, I appreciate it.

BLITZER: Thank you. Coming up, exclusive new reporting from Clarissa Ward. She's on the scene for us in Ukraine right now. Stand by for her firsthand look at a new, a new Russian weapon that may be even more dangerous than those deadly kamikaze drones.



BLITZER: Tonight, Russian drone strikes in Ukraine are taking a worsening toll as Vladimir Putin targets power plants and other critical Ukrainian infrastructure, as well as civilians.

CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward got an exclusive look at one type of extremely dangerous drone in Putin's arsenal.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At an undisclosed location, Ukrainian Military Intelligence Officer Oleksiy (ph) takes us to see one of Russia's newest threats on the battlefield, an Iranian-made drone known as the Mohajer-6.

It's big.

Used by the Russians for reconnaissance and bombing.


Yes, it was shot. I can see this is the hull from where you shot it down. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. This is hull from the rocket of Ukrainian forces. You can see 02/2022.

WARD: So, this is the date when it was made?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think that this plane was made in this year when the Russian began to fly these drone. We have new problems on the battlefield.

WARD: In just the last eight days, more than 100 drones have been fired at Ukraine, mostly kamikaze Shahed 136 drones, smashing civilian infrastructure and terrorizing ordinary people. The Kremlin today said only Russian equipment with Russian numbers is used in its so-called special operation, but Oleksiy (ph) says there is no doubt where this drone comes from.

Now, I don't see any writing in Farsi, in Iranian language. How do you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that this Iranian plane by two main things. The first thing, we watched the exhibitions of the planes in other countries, and some years ago, Iranian other companies showed this.

WARD: this exact model?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This plane. And the second thing why the Iranian plane is we have one, only one written by hand.

WARD: Can you show me?


WARD: So, that's Farsi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, yes, you're right.

WARD: So, if I understand, you're saying that they tried to hide the fact that this was made in Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, yes.

WARD: Ukraine has called for more sanctions against Iran for supplying the drones, but so far, sanctions have had little effect. The components are commercially available in a number of different countries, from Japanese batteries to an Austrian engine and American processors.

This is the Mohajer-6. Now, we're seeing these kamikaze drones, the Shahed 136. And you say there's a new generation of drone coming too, the Arash 2?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arash 2, yes. We worry very much from this.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WARD (on camera): So, Wolf, that Arash 2 drone that you just heard Oleksiy referenced, he said that they are anticipating or they believe that Iranian are preparing to supply the Russians with them in the coming months. They're very concerned because those Arash 2 drones can carry a lot of explosives.

The smaller Shahed, these so-called kamikaze drones, that we've seen how much havoc they've been wreaking, they can carry a payload of roughly 40 kilograms or 88 pounds, or thereabouts. This Arash 2 can carry five times as much as that. So, that's a lot of firepower. You can understand why the Ukrainians are concerned.

One other important note and a recent development, CNN is now learning that not only is Iran lying about supplying these drones to Russia, Iran has actually sent trainers to Russian-held Crimea at the moment and those trainers are working with Russian forces to help them use these drones to maximize their devastating impact that we are seeing on the ground, so, really, tonight, Wolf, punching a huge hole in the lies that we have been hearing from both Iran and Russia on this issue of drones and weaponry being supplied. Wolf?

BLITZER: Very important development, indeed. Clarissa Ward, thanks for all your excellent reporting. We're grateful to you. Stay safe over there.

Right now, I want to bring in retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General Hertling, let me get your reaction, first of all, to that report we just heard from Clarissa. How challenging is it for Ukraine to counter this growing threat that Russia poses with these Iranian made drones?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLIN (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's extremely difficult, Wolf, because you have to have several layers to deal with different types of incursions into your country, ballistic missiles, rockets, these kinds of drones that Clarissa was just pointing out, the Mohjer-6, which is more of a command and control drone.

That drone specifically has about a 250 or 130 mile range, has a max speed of 200 kilometers per hour. It has four slots per missile. But that particular drone has the ability to see the battlefield.


And it can shape the targeting of the Shahed 136 drones, which we've seen in the last couple of days going in in swarms, which don't have a camera on board.

So, these two drones work in tandem. They're very different. One is an unmanned combat aerial vehicle. The other one, the Shahed, is a lower ammunitions drone. I don't mean to get too technical, but they have to work together in order to attack the target. And it's very difficult because these drones work below the normal level. They have a very low radio, a radar signature, so it's hard to knock them down.

BLITZER: General Hertling, we also just heard new reporting from Clarissa. How concerning is this evolving relationship between Russia and Iran right now, as you heard Iranian trainers are actually on the ground in Russian-occupied Crimea helping the Russian military?

HERTLING: Well, it tells me two things, Wolf. First of all, it tells me that Russia has had problems with their alliances. They are having challenges in getting equipment because of the sanctions. But they're also reaching out to countries like North Korea, Iran and Belarus, the three most popular, to try and get equipment. Let's include Syria in that. So, these are dictatorial countries or authoritarian regimes, and those are the only ones that are supporting Russia in this conflict.

The second thing it tells me that is Russia is hurting big time in terms of being able to generate new forces, new weapons systems. The sanctions have had an effect and it's going to be increasingly challenging for them to continue to execute this ground combat.

BLITZER: General Hertling, thanks so much for joining us.

HERTLING: A pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, new audio of former President Trump talking with Journalist Bob Woodward about the letters from North Korea's Kim Jong- un that sparked a U.S. Justice Department investigation. It's a CNN exclusive. Stand by.



BLITZER: The special master reviewing documents seized by the FBI from Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Florida home is upset by the limited information he's getting from both the U.S. Justice Department and from Trump's defense lawyers.

CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray is joining us right now with details. Sara, this judge is clearly expressing lots of frustration. What's the latest?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. The judge, Raymond Dearie, the special master in this case, is holding a conference call with the Justice Department and the Trump lawyers, and that he clearly was not happy about the amount of information he was getting from either side about these documents that may have potentially been in dispute that were seized from Mar-a-Lago.

You know, the judge at one point told the sides, where's the beef? I need some beef. And at another point, he said I have no patience from either one of you on this point. It gives you an indication of sort of how messy, how slow moving this process is going to be. In one of the instances, they were going back and forth about this one specific letter. It was a letter that was addressed to the Justice Department from the Trump team but it had not been signed. And so Dearie was saying to the Trump team, did you guys ever send this letter? They're not answering. He's saying to the Justice Department, did you receive this letter? They're not answering.

So, you can see where the judge's frustration is. He wants to get a better sense of exactly what's going on with the documents that are in dispute and also just what the universe of disputed documents is going to look like so that they can make progress and work through this, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see if they follow up with that. Thanks very much, Sara Murray, working the story for us.

Now, a CNN exclusive, excerpts obtained from a new audio book by Bob Woodward containing 20 interviews the legendary journalist conducted over the past four years with now former President Trump. And they include conversations about his correspondence with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. The audio book, by the way, is called the Trump Tapes, and it comes out next week.

Let's dig deeper right now with National Security Analyst Shawn Turner, former Director of Communication for the U.S. National Intelligence Community. Shawn, thanks very much for joining us.

I want you and our viewers to listen to this audio clip where we hear the former president share classified information with Woodward, including so-called love letters from the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. Listen to what Trump says as he hands them over. Listen to listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Nobody else has them, but I want you to treat them with respect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand. I understand.

TRUMP: And don't say I gave them to you, okay?


TRUMP: I think it's okay. Normally, I wouldn't, I wasn't going to give them to Bob, you know? What, did you make a Photostat of them or something?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I dictated them into a tape recorder.

TRUMP: Really?



BLITZER: Shawn, from a national security perspective, what concerns does this raise?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, and endless number of concerns. Look, we've known for a long time that the former president has had somewhat of a disregard for classified and sensitive information. What really stands out to me is when he gives Bob Woodward the documents and he says, don't tell them that I gave them to you, and when he suggests that he thinks it's okay. Now, you compare and contrast that with what the president has said about the documents that were recovered from Mar-a-Lago. In that instance, he's been very clear, very matter of fact about his right, his authority, what he believes is his right to possess those documents and to do what he wants to do with those documents. So, that statement in and of itself is a stark contrast to what the president has claimed in regard to these other documents.


But I think more important than anything, Wolf, is that that sort of disregard for classified information. It comes through in the president's own words here, and it's the kind of thing that as I've said many times before should give everyone pause because we don't know what the president has done with other classified information he's taken from the White House.

BLITZER: Shawn, listen to a little bit more of this newly released audio of the former president. Listen to this.


OPERATOR: Mr. Woodward, the president.


My whole life has been deals. I've done great, far greater than people understand.

I respect Putin. I think Putin likes me. I think I like him.

It's law and order, Bob. Law and order.

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR: Why don't you give me your taxes? No, seriously.

TRUMP: I said to the king. King, you've got to pay us for protection. If it weren't for us --


BLITZER: So, what do you make, Shawn, of those comments, specifically about Putin? The former president saying he respects the Russian president, for example.

TURNER: Yeah, across the board, the president has said he gets along better with leaders who are meaner and badder than others, and I think in this case with regards to Putin, we're seeing it. The president is focused on the wrong leaders. He should have been focused on our partners and allies and building those relationships. Putin, Erdogan, Kim Jong-un, those are not the kind of relationships the president should have been focused on.

BLITZER: Shawn Turner, thanks so much for joining us. We'll stay on top of the story.

Coming up, fears are growing over whether a female Iranian athlete will be punished for competing without a hijab.



BLITZER: Concerns are rising tonight over the well-being of a female Iranian athlete who did not wear a hijab during an international competition. Iran requires women to cover their hair in public with a headscarf or hijab including athletes who compete abroad.

CNN's Nada Bashir has the latest.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The fate of Iranian athlete Elnaz Rekabi could hang in the balance after video emerged showing the prominent rock climber competing in South Korea without her mandatory head scarf or hijab. The religious veil is mandated by the Iranian regime, both at home and overseas, when officially representing the country.

ELNAZ REKABI, IRANIAN SPORT CLIMBER (through translator): The future is very bright, especially for women in rock climbing.

BASHIR: Her hopes for the future, however, now in limbo. In a post on Instagram, Rekabi issued an apology saying she had been called to climb unexpectedly, creating an unintentional issue with her hijab. Though some activists have questioned whether her statement was written under duress. Now some fear she may face punishment upon her return to Iran.

MAHMOOD REZA AMIRY-MOGHADDAM, DIRECTOR, IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS: Based on the knowledge that we have from the Iranian authorities, they will do whatever they can to try to undo this so-called damage she has done to their authority.

BASHIR: Iran's strict dress code is in forest, often violently, by the countries notorious morality police, the very authority under whose custody 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in September. She had detained for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly.

Amini's death has, however, sparked a moment of reckoning for the country's hard-line regime, with nationwide protests now entering their fifth week.

Women and girls across the country removing their mandatory hijabs and even cutting their hair in a show of defiance against the regime's severe restrictions on women's rights -- a movement which has gained support across the international community.

RAVINA SHAMDASAN, SPOKESPERSON, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE: What we have to stress is that women should never be prosecuted for what they wear.

BASHIR: With the Iranian regime continuing to pursue a brutal and deadly crackdown on protesters, and there are growing concerns that Rekabi could be used by the regime as an example to other women.

AMIRY-MOGHADDAM: The bravery that she has shown would certainly inspire millions of Iranian girls and I think that's the main problem.

BASHIR: While the Iranian embassy in Seoul claims that reports Rekabi will be arrested upon her arrival in Iran are, quote, fake news, fears remain that she also will face the brutal repression of the Iranian regime.


BASHIR (on camera): And, look, Wolf, the real question now is what situation awaits Elnaz Rekabi upon her arrival back home in Iran? There are real concerns that she could face arbitrary detention, ill- treatment, even potentially torture for her apparent violation of Iran's strict dress code regulations -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nada Bashir, thank you very much for that report.

We'll have more news just ahead. The primary source for the infamous Trump Russia dossier has been found not guilty of lying to the FBI. How big of a loss is this for the special master John Durham? We'll explain, that's next.



BLITZER: The federal jury has just acquitted the primary source in the notorious Trump/Russia dossier on all counts of lying to the FBI.

CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is following the story for us.

Evan, this was an investigation launched during the Trump administration. How big of a blow potentially is this in terms of finding any wrongdoing by the FBI?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it began with such great promise under Bill Barr, the former attorney general, under former President Trump. They said that this is an investigation of the investigators that was going to indict all kinds of people into what they said was a deep state. In the end, this jury found Igor Danchenko not guilty on all four counts. He was facing the judge on Friday who dismissed another count of dying to lying to the FBI. This is the second trial by John Durham. Both have ended in acquittals.

And as you pointed out, this means -- it's a big blow for Durham given the great promise that Trump and Barr had said when they appointed him. What we expect now to happen, Wolf, is that after the election we're going to see a report from John Durham if what he said before this jury is any indication, he's going to argue that Trump was treated unfairly by the FBI in the Trump/Russia investigation.

BLITZER: Well, that will be significant indeed if that happens. So we'll watch it together with you, Evan. Thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.