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Judge Says, Trump Signed Legal Documents Knowing Info On Voter Fraud Was False; Early Voting Sets More Records 20 Days Before Midterm Election; Putin's Martial Law Takes Effect In Illegally Annexed Parts Of Ukraine; Climber Who Broke Iran's Hijab Policy Is Back In Iran; IRS Increasing Standard Deductions For 2023 As Inflation Rages. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 19, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, new evidence revealed in the investigation of former President Trump's efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election result. A federal judge says Trump signed legal documents alleging voter fraud knowing the information was false.

Also this hour, early voting is setting more records less than three weeks before Election Day. Tonight, President Biden is responding to voters' concerns about gas prices as inflation weighs on the Democrats and the battle for control of Congress.

And Vladimir Putin's new martial law order just took effect in parts of Ukraine illegally annexed by Russia. We'll have live reports from Kyiv and from Moscow.

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 with a major development in the probe of former President Trump's claims of election fraud. A federal judge says Trump signed legal documents containing evidence he knew to be false.

Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is working this story for us. Jessica, walk us through what happened.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, significantly, Wolf, this is actually the second time that a federal judge out of California, David Carter, has said that the former president likely committed a crime. Now, this is all related to emails from John Eastman. Of course, John Eastman was an attorney who was that architect pushing these baseless claims of election fraud.

And what the judge has done here is he has said that eight new documents from John Eastman must be revealed to the January 6th select committee because he is saying that those emails contain evidence of two crimes, conspiracy to defraud the United States, as well as felony obstruction. And the judge is pointing out that these emails between Eastman and Trump's team, they have pointed out that the numbers of wrong voters, invalid voters, that Trump and his team had pushed to a state court and a federal court were wrong. And the judge is pointing out here that Trump knew those were wrong, yet he signed off on them putting them into court documents anyway.

So, the judge is saying this. He says, the emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers both in court and to the public. The court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in the furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States.

And then the judge even said that some of these emails show evidence felony obstruction. And the judge said this. He said, President Trump filed certain lawsuits not to obtain legal relief but to disrupt or delay the January 6 congressional proceedings through the courts. The court finds that these documents are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of the obstruction crime.

So, Wolf, this is very significant. This is the second time that this judge is saying that the former president likely committed crimes and that's why he's releasing these emails. Now, it's in the hands of these other investigators, whether it's the Fulton County D.A. or the Justice Department to decide what to do with this evidence and whether to proceed with criminal action.

BLITZER: Yes. So, what comes next? Because conspiracy to defraud the United States, as is written in this document, that's a very serious crime.

SCHNEIDER: It is. So, it's all up to these investigators, prosecutors, to decide how to take these emails. And the question is do they even have these emails in their hands, because we know these emails are being handed over to the January 6th committee. The question is, are they also in the hands of the Justice Department and Fulton County D.A. These emails are further evidence, as evidenced by this judge, that there was criminal activity. So, we'll see what prosecutors do with this evidence.

BLITZER: It's a major development today. We'll watch it closely. Jessica Schneider, thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now is CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig, CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and CNN's Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz. Elie, how much danger could Trump be in as a result of this?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, any way you look at this, this is really bad news for Donald Trump. Here we have a federal judge making a finding that these emails are evidence that Donald Trump and John Eastman together were part of a likely criminal conspiracy.

And if you look at the ruling here, what's really important to me is the judge is very careful. He doesn't just make a blanket ruling, he goes through all of these emails. He finds that actually a lot of them are privileged.

But the eight key emails that Jessica talked about, the judge says, show two things, one, that Trump's real intent here was not to file a lawsuit but was to delay the January 6 count, and, two, that Donald Trump knew that the information he was relying on was false.

That in itself is potentially a crime. That's crucial evidence of his intent. The January 6 committee will now have these emails. And if they don't have it yet, then prosecutors may well get them as well.

BLITZER: Good point. Gloria, just how important could this evidence be to the January 6th select committee?


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYOST: First of all, let me say, Judge Carter is probably their favorite judge in the world because it was in March when he said that Donald Trump more than likely tried to obstruct Congress and now we see that he is saying, look, the plan Eastman tried to develop was illegal, trump knew it was illegal and they pushed forward with it anyway and so they're going to get the documents that they want. And from my point of view, if they don't do a criminal referral on this president, it may be because Judge Carter actually did it for them today.

BLITZER: He certainly did. These words in this document are very, very strong.

Katelyn, Judge Carter did not simply allow all of Eastman's emails to be turned over, but instead, he focused on four specific emails in particular that he regarded as very significant.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. Very significant, specifically around this idea that there could -- this could be evidence of the furtherance of a crime, specifically trying to block Congress. We know that is something the Justice Department has been investigating very, very aggressively.

And as Gloria was saying, Judge Carter is doing a lot for the House select committee. That's where this particular court case, what that's about, but he's also clearing the way for Justice Department criminal prosecutors to get whatever they may need. Whatever the House gets, the Justice Department is going to be able to get too.

And so I was talking to a prosecutor, a former prosecutor just recently after this ruling came out saying what do you call this, these types of documents in court, and the person said to me this is very compelling. That's what you call it. It's evidence and it could become very compelling.

BORGER: But we don't know. The Justice Department could already have these documents, right?

POLANTZ: Absolutely.

BORGER: And so they could be already pursuing these documents. I don't know about the Georgia case, but, you know, they may have this and maybe going on with it, but, of course, January 6th committee didn't.

BLITZER: But it does give the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, potentially a lot more to go ahead and actually charge the former president of the United States with a crime if he wants to.

BORGER: Well, there's, I think, the public pressure may be greater given what this respected judge said. I mean, you know, at the DOJ, you guys know more about public pressure on the Department of Justice, I don't know whether they listen to it or not. My sense is they probably don't, but there will be more of a groundswell saying, wait a minute, this judge said there's a criminal act here. How come you're not doing anything?

BLITZER: Well, let me get Elie Honig, our legal analyst, to weigh in. Elie, what do you think the attorney general is going to do with this new evidence?

HONIG: Well, Wolf, Merrick Garland has said at every occasion that he will make this decision about whether to charge Donald Trump or others completely without regard to politics or public pressure. That said, he's a human being. He sees what's going on out there. He clearly is responding to public pressure and here we have one more important, powerful voice of public authority saying this looks to me like a crime.

And let's also keep in mind. DOJ has taken significant steps towards John Eastman. They got a search warrant. They searched John Eastman. That's a big step. And John Eastman also was subpoenaed to testify in the January 6 committee. What did he do? He took the Fifth. So, the signs are gathering here. Ultimately, though, Wolf, this will be Merrick Garland's decision.

BLITZER: It certainly will be. Elie, while I have you, we also learned today that Trump was deposed today as part of that defamation lawsuit brought by the former magazine columnist, E. Jean Carroll. It is not clear if Trump answered questions, but the fact this deposition even took place is significant, isn't it?

HONIG: It is. So, the judge in this case, Wolf, explicitly called out Donald Trump's delay tactics. He tried to postpone this and the judge said enough is enough. You have to answer questions. Second of all, Donald Trump would be at a deposition, he would be under oath. It is a crime to lie under oath even in a civil deposition. And, third, we should find out, I assume our great reporters will tell us soon, something about what was said inside that room.

Donald Trump may have taken the Fifth. It's his right if he wants to, even in a civil deposition to take the Fifth. If he did, we don't know, that cannot be used against him in a criminal case but it can be used against him in a civil case, like the one E. Jean Carroll has filed. So, big step today because Donald Trump, we know, answered questions under oath. BLITZER: Yes. I assume we'll know a lot more in the next several hours, certainly in the next few days. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, we're getting new numbers right now on early voting from key battleground states as turnout hits very impressive highs and sets new records. We'll break it all down when we come back.



BLITZER: Tonight, a new sign that Americans are truly energized about the midterm elections with pre-election voting setting more records. With Election Day fast approaching, President Biden is responding to a major concern among voters out there, high gas prices.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more in our midterm countdown.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (voice over): Tonight, the economy and inflation are looming large over the midterm elections only 20 days before Americans choose which party will control Congress and state capitals. At the center of the campaign, gas prices on the uptick and the White House on edge as President Biden and Democrats fight to maintain their majorities in House and Senate.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We're going to continue to stabilize markets and decrease the prices at a time when the actions of other countries have caused such volatility.

ZELENY: The president once again tapping into the nation's emergency oil stockpile, hoping to rein in gas prices and ease the economic headwinds facing his party. He dismissed Republican criticism the actions were linked to the November elections.

BIDEN: It's not politically motivated at all. It's making sure there's enough oil that's being pumped by the companies so that we have the ability to be able to produce enough gas that we need here at home.

ZELENY: Early voting is underway with nearly 4 million Americans already casting their ballots, including more than 290,000 in Georgia, 450,000 in Michigan, 360,000 in Pennsylvania and 180,000 in Wisconsin.

From coast to coast, the campaigns are taking final shape. In the critical Pennsylvania Senate race with Republican Mehmet Oz --

SENATE CANDIDATE MEHMET OZ (R-PA): That's the real risk here.

ZELENY: -- Democrat John Fetterman issuing a new letter from his doctor hoping to cool the contentious debate over his health.

[18:15:05] His doctor said the Democratic candidate was recovering well from his stroke, but added Fetterman continues to exhibit symptoms of an auditory processing disorder, which can come across as hearing difficulty.

Fetterman and Oz are set to come face-to-face at the sole debate of a contest that could determine control of the Senate.

In Florida, a volley of heated exchanges over abortion rights Tuesday night between Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I'm 100 percent pro-life because -- not because I want to deny anyone the rights but because I believe that innocent human life is worthy of the protection of our laws.

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): You have been clear that you support no exceptions, even including rape and incest. Now, as a police detective who investigated cases of rape and incest, no, senator, I don't think it's okay for a ten-year-old girl to be raped and have to carry the seed of her rapist.

ZELENY: Across the country, Democrats are hoping supporters will be motivated by a fight for abortion rights, even as Republicans believe crime, immigration, and the economy will resonate with voters. Those challenges come alive in competitive contests like Michigan's eight district, where Congressman Dan Kildee acknowledges the pain of inflation but tells CNN the election should still be seen as a stark choice between Democratic and Republican policies.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Is it a challenge for us? Absolutely. People tend to hold the party who holds the White House responsible for everything. We just ask folks to really think carefully about what the alternatives are. Look at the current condition of the Republican Party. Look at their policies.


ZELENY (on camera): Now, Congressman Kildee there is clearly making clear that Democrats are facing headwinds, but he's also saying that it is a choice election with Republicans. Wolf, to break that down, what he's really saying, he's really trying to give a message to independent voters, to remind them with all they will be getting if Republicans win the House majority, election denying and all the rest.

Now, the question here is if this will change going into the final 20 days. There's no question inflation will not go down. By this point of the cycle, Democrats and certainly the White House had hoped inflation would have eased. That is not going to be the case. But, Wolf, as of now, nearly a half million people have already cast their ballots here in Michigan. It's unlikely that this dynamic will change in the next 20 days, Wolf.

BLITZER: Excellent reporting, as usual. Jeff, stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend and CNN's Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt. Kasie, the White House's midterm roadmap is clearly laid out in the president's schedule this week. He has events about abortion rights, gas prices, infrastructure, student loans. Does that sound like a recipe for success for the Democrats?

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think there're a lot of questions about that. But I think that you can see kind of a two-pronged strategy in their decision-making here because some of those events that you mentioned are designed to get Democrats, progressives, excited about voting for Democrats. So, abortion and student loans are examples of that. And that's extraordinarily important in a midterm election.

We did see Democrats kind of close the enthusiasm gap over a summer a little bit with Republicans, but there are some questions about whether or not that's sustaining.

Now, the other events that he's holding particularly around the economy, inflation, that's trying to convince people that they've got it under control and I think that's really the biggest messaging challenge for the White House, obviously, quite frankly, and where they have to kind of thread this needle of showing that the president empathizes with the pain that Americans are feeling while also trying to arguing that they are actually doing, taking steps to try and address it. And, you know, quite frankly, what people are experiencing in their everyday lives means that they have their own personal counterpoint to whatever the president might say.

BLITZER: Good point. You know, Jeff, the former vice president, Republican Mike Pence, he's making the case out there that Democrats are missing the mark. Listen to this.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: President Biden's statement yesterday that his number one priority if Democrats win the House and the Senate would be to codify Roe versus Wade. It's not surprising. I think they're literally grasping for anything at this point in the midterm elections. We ought to make the American peoples priorities our priorities.


BLITZER: You're traveling around the country right now, Jeff. You're in Michigan right now. What are you hearing from voters on the ground?

ZELENY: There's no question that abortion rights and protecting abortion rights is top of mind for many Democrats and even independents and even some Republican voters. No question at all. But also inflation and the economy have risen above that in terms of just the overall sense of importance.

But here in Michigan, it could be slightly different. Michigan is one of the states where abortion is actually on the ballot.

[18:20:01] Voters here will be deciding on a constitutional amendment to add the protection of abortion rights on to the state constitution. So, that is likely to motivate some voters.

But overall, of course, what the former vice president is trying to do is rally his base, rally the conservative base here, the strong pro- life community, if you will, around this election as well. There has been some sense of the other side, if you will, has been more motivated by the Supreme Court decision.

But at the end of the day here, President Biden, yes, making that pledge, he also talked about that during his campaign when he was running initially in 2020. And the House and the Senate, of course, have not acted on that. He didn't have the votes for that. But, simply, what this is doing right now is base politics on both sides.

BLITZER: Eva, as you well know in Georgia and indeed across the country right now, voters are already turning out for early voting at a rate that is on par with the 2019 election. What can we glean from the fact that we're seeing a very, very engaged electorate this midterm cycle? EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, when I speak

to voters here, they are energized. They are excited. What I can say is specific to this state, though, is that Georgians really understand the power of their vote. In 2020, they were the decision makers. They were responsible for putting two Democrats in the Senate that made Democrats the majority party in Washington.

And so I think that we're seeing at least so much excitement here in Georgia because they are in that very same position again in a battleground state, in a purple state, where Georgia could determine who controls the Senate yet again.

BLITZER: Kasie, I want to get back to that important Senate race in Pennsylvania right now. Do you expect this new report from the Democratic candidate, John Fetterman's doctor, that he has no work restrictions, that's a quote, has no work restrictions as he recovers from a stroke, will that be enough to reassure voters that he's up to the job?

HUNT: Well, Wolf, I think the fact that they released this letter shows you that the campaign understood that it was becoming a political problem for them to not have more transparency around his health here. I do think that this is going to turn his upcoming debate with Mehmet Oz into a very significant test. I think voters are going to be watching to judge for themselves what this doctor is planning in his letter.

I mean, I think we should underscore this is not from his brain doctors. We don't know anymore about the nature of the stroke that he had. But what we do know and what they tried to answer, the question they tried to put to bed was his fitness to serve as Pennsylvania's senator.

So, to the extent that voters are willing to say, okay, if my doctor told me I could go to work every day, and I did that, I followed that advice and I feel that that should be true of my member of the United States Senate, I think it could potentially reassure some people.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, the impact of Vladimir Putin's new martial law order in Ukraine as it just took effect in areas he illegally annexed. We'll go live to Kyiv and to Moscow. That's next.



BLITZER: This hour, martial law is now in effect in four areas in Ukraine that were illegally annexed by Russia. We have the latest on Vladimir Putin's aggressive new moves and what it means for his war in Ukraine.

CNN's Nic Robertson is on the ground for us in the war zone.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Ukrainian civilians now under Russian martial law in Kherson City lined up to be evacuated, potentially to Russia. Russian imposed officials in illegally annexed Kherson have told them it's not safe to stay. Up to 60,000 forced out. Boats used to ferry away from the front line and their homes to an uncertain future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I bought extra clothes for my dog, my other half, my antidepressant.

ROBERTSON: Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of whipping up hysteria, compelling people to leave. Residents received text messages Wednesday morning from the pro-Russian administration. Dear residence, it read, evacuate immediately. There will be shelling of residential areas by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The punishment under martial law for failing to comply, unknown, the threat clear.

KIRILL STREMOUSOV, RUSSIA-INSTALLED DEPUTY GOVERNOR OF KHERSON REGION: I ask you to take my words seriously and to understand them as meaning as prompt an evacuation as possible.

ROBERTSON: Vladimir Putin is tightening his grip not just on Kherson, but Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, the four territories he illegally annexed last month, all put under military command.

Ukrainian forces have been advancing through several part of the Kherson region in recent weeks, capturing villages and farmlands along the western bank of the Dnipro River. The Kremlin's new commander for Ukraine said Tuesday that the situation in Kherson was far from simple and implicitly hinted his forces may withdraw.

SERGEI SUROVIKIN, NEW COMMANDER, RUSSIAN SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES: Our further plans and actions regarding the city Kherson will depend on the unfolding military and tactical situation on the ground. I repeat, it is already very difficult today. ROBERTSON: Across the rest of Ukraine, Putin's forces kept up their barrage on power stations. And despite at least four cruise missiles and ten drones shot down by Ukrainian forces, another three electricity-generating plants hit.


More Ukrainians denied power and water.

Amid those dwindling supplies, President Zelenskyy calling a crisis meeting to head off a nationwide blackout, vowing to keep critical infrastructure up and running.


ROBERTSON (on camera): After that crisis meeting, government officials here announced more than 40 percent of the power infrastructure in the country is down. And as of about five hours from now in the morning time here in Ukraine, there will be rolling blackouts across the country. The government saying, do your best to switch off any electrical items that you're not using. That will limit those blackouts.

So, however, while Putin is turning out the lights here, it is Ukraine that's taking the key commodity here, and that's territory. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Nic Robertson on the scene for us, stay safe over there in Kyiv.

Let's go live to Moscow and CNN's Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance. Matthew, why is Putin declaring martial law in these areas right now?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, firstly, I think it's a reflection of the genuine military crisis that the Russians are facing in those areas right now, particularly in Kherson, where they're confronting a concerted advance by the Ukrainian military. And so martial law is probably what exists on the ground anyway, and so they're just formalizing it.

But I think the real significance of it is it's not just the martial law in those areas in Ukraine, it's the new security and military control measures that have been imposed across the rest of Russia for the most part, particularly in the border areas between Russia and Ukraine in those provinces there. There's been a much tighter security regime put in place, travel restrictions, checkpoints, industry in the area focused on supplying the military with the equipment and supplies it needs to fight what they still call their special military operation.

And even further afield here in Moscow, there are much tighter security measures that are being brought into action. The Moscow mayor says it's not going to affect the regular life of Moscowites, but, I mean, that genuinely remains to be scene. We don't know exactly what's going to -- what shape these measures are going to take. But I mean, the overall message is a response to Putin's critics that he's not doing enough to fight this war effectively. It also sends a very message to the country, preparing them, putting them more on a war footing in case the situation for Russia gets worse.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance in Moscow for us, thank you very much, Matthew.

I want to dig deeper right now. Joining us, CNN Contributor on Russian affairs Jill Dougherty, and CNN Counterterrorism Analyst Phil Mudd.

Phil, what is Putin trying to accomplish with this so-called declaration of martial law?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think there's a couple of things going on here. I don't interpret this as a sign of weakness, Wolf. I couple this with what we saw against drone attacks against civilians a few days ago, and that is Putin's willingness to say in the face of military problems, if we get resistance from the population, I will show even more resolve than you've ever seen. To me, it's a sign that he's continually committed to the war. I think there's a tactical piece to this that is clear the territories so that we can have a firefight with Ukrainians.

And, finally, my biggest concern here is a strategic question. If Putin is clearing the area out of -- clearing this area of Ukrainians, when might they return, if ever, and will there be a step instead to say that's Russian territory, we're going to move Russians back there because they are more easy to control and they'll accept Russian control. I think there are big implications here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very big implications.

Jill, I'm anxious to get your thoughts. Is Putin laying the groundwork right now for an even more brutal crackdown?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: I think definitely. And, you know, it's already starting now that this is in effect. Whether or not he can carry it out throughout those four areas, which are not totally controlled by Russia, is still a question mark. But in the areas that are controlled by the Russian military, this is very serious. I mean, people who live in those areas, and remember, they are Ukrainians, they're living in those areas, there will be curfews, they can be evacuated, as we've talked about. They can seize property. They can goon people into serve. They can create people's militias for which you have to serve. So, it's very, very serious.

And I think the one thing that we're all thinking right now is there was a feeling that perhaps Putin could enhance martial law within Russia itself, Moscow, big cities, et cetera. He didn't do that. But I do have a feeling, and this is only my feeling, that it could be a dress rehearsal for doing precisely that in Russia if things go south.


I mean, you've already had some blowback because of that partial mobilization where a young man fled the country. There have been bombings at recruitment stations, things like that. So, I think this could be, Putin kind of makes a move, sees what happens and then makes another move, and this could be that.

BLITZER: It's an important point, indeed. Phil, President Zelenskyy tonight is warning Ukrainians in these occupied regions that Russia may try to actually recruit them. Is that a sign of just how bad things have gotten for the Russians?

MUDD: I think it is. I mean, obviously, if you look at Russian recruitment efforts and the resistance in Russia, one of the easiest ways out is to tell the Ukrainians to fight for them. But I'm going to tell you, if you look at the history of governments and militaries that have tried to recruit locals to fight for them and serve as surrogates, that doesn't go well.

If you think you've got a problem with the Russian military in terms of morale on the battlefield among the rank and file in the military, add to that a Ukrainian who is told at gunpoint he will fight and kill his counterparts and among Ukrainian civilians. Morale will be horrible.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, is Putin's declaration of martial law in parts of Ukraine, parts that he seized, a sign of weakness or a precursor to even more dangerous moves by the Russians. I'll speak with a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That's next.



BLITZER: Right now, we're getting new reaction from a key lawmaker to Vladimir Putin's declaration of martial law in occupied parts of Ukraine.

And joining us now, Senator Chris Murphy, he's the leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, the White House says Putin's declaration of martial law in parts of Ukraine is a desperate tactic. Is this a sign of weakness or do you fear this foreshadows even more dangerous Russian moves in this war?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): It's certainly a sign of weakness, Wolf. There are limited cards that Putin can play right now as he continues to lose territory on the frontlines and as the international community turns against him. And so while he can't push the battlefront any further towards Kyiv, he can try to make news and create the illusion of control.

The fact of the matter is he is asserting martial law over territory that he doesn't control. There are portions of his so-called annexed territory that actually are right now in Ukrainian hands, and even those that technically in Russian hands, so they don't have any effective means for Moscow to enforce this declaration. These are continued war zones. So, these are moves that Putin is making because he has a real vice grip around his forces by Ukraine and the allies that are supporting Ukraine.

BLITZER: At the same time, Senator, sources are telling CNN Iran has now sent military trainers to Crimea to train the Russians into how to use those Iranian-made drones. How concerning is that for the United States?

MURPHY: Well, let's put this in perspective. I think at the outset of this war, Russia had hoped that there would be more significant military powers coming to its aid than Iran. In fact, at the outset of the war, it looked as if there was going to be a defensive alliance, a military alliance between Russia and China. But Russia has received zero military assistance from China. Obviously, they are getting no assistance or help from any NATO or U.S. or Ukraine-aligned countries. And so the only place they can go is Iran.

Now, Iran does have certain capabilities that are menacing, and one of them is this drone capability. But in the long run, Iran can't replenish the tanks that Russia is losing. Iran can't help with air defense and aircraft. Iran has limited abilities to help Russia. One of them is these -- this drone technology. And while it is absolutely devastating when they are flown and flown into civilian buildings, it's yet another sign of the, I think, tightening noose around the Kremlin.

BLITZER: These drones though, these Iranian drones in Russian hands are killing a lot of Ukrainian civilians in the process.

Israel, by the way, today ruled out supplying what's called its iron dome air defense to Ukraine, offering help with a warning system instead. Does the U.S. need to ramp up pressure on Israel, Senator, to step up and provide these weapons to Ukraine?

MURPHY: Israel needs to get off the sidelines. Israel is part of the community of democracies and it needs to stand up for Ukrainian democracy. I just don't buy that countries like Israel need to play both sides. This is a moment where you have to take a side and you have to stand with the people of Ukraine.

Now, it's important to note that it's not only Israel that possesses iron dome capabilities that could assist Ukraine. The United States, in fact, could move towards transferring some of our iron dome capabilities to Ukraine as well.


And so Israel I think can do much more here. You are right that these drones are absolutely devastating when they hit civilian areas. We've got to continue to push the Saudis to stop financing this war. It's the money that Russia gets from these high oil prices that allows them to buy the technology from Iran and we can do work and Israel can do work to try to increase the missile defense capabilities inside Ukraine.

BLITZER: Yeah, the Ukrainians would love that Iron Dome Israeli anti- aircraft missile system. They would also love the Patriot air defense system that the U.S. has so far not provided the Ukrainians. They'd love to get their hands on that as well.

You think the U.S. should provide those Patriots to the Ukrainians?

MURPHY: I think in the short run, the system that is more effective for the Ukrainians is the AMRAMS. These are air to air missiles that can also be deployed in ground to ground systems, systems that right now are currently inside Ukraine.

So what I've proposed is that the AMRAMS that we right now have designated to Saudi Arabia be redirected to Ukraine. I would also like to see the United States take a look at a Patriot system that we own and operate inside Saudi Arabia and look at sending those either to Ukraine or our other allies on the eastern flank of NATO.

Patriots certainly should be on the table. Iron Domes should be on the table but the immediate priority is these air to air AMRAMS that can be converted to ground-to-air systems. That's probably the fastest way to try to save lives inside Ukraine.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yeah, so important to save lives.

Senator Murphy, thanks so much for joining us.

MURPHY: Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Coming up, the Iranian rock climber who competed abroad without her hijab is back now in Iran. Why there's major concern over whether she'll be punished for breaking the country's strict dress code.



BLITZER: The Iranian rock climber who competed abroad without her hijab is back in Iran tonight. Since her return she's reiterated, it was an accident. Some say her statements were coerced and she could still face very, very serious repercussions by the Iranian regime.

CNN's Nada Bashir has the latest.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A hero's welcome amid a storm of controversy. Elnaz Rekabi's return to Tehran may have drawn crowds of supporters, but it was her appearance without a hijab or head covering at a climbing competition in South Korea which drew the spotlight.

ELNAZ REKABI, IRANIAN ROCK CLIMBER (through translator): The situation happened entirely accidentally. The struggle that I had with wearing my shoes and preparing my gear made me forget about the proper hijab which I should've had. I apologize to the people of Iran and for the turbulence and worry that I created for them.

BASHIR: The pro athlete's words reentering an earlier apology shared on her Instagram page, though some human rights organizations have expressed concern that Rekabi may have been speaking under duress and could still face repercussions at home.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing, however, says it has received clear assurances that Rekabi will not suffer any consequences and will continue to train and compete.

Rekabi's return from Seoul comes amid ongoing protests across the country, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who died in the custody of Iran's notorious morality police after she was detained for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly.

Women and young girls have been openly defying the regime's conservative dress code.

The Iranian rock climber has so far refrained from publicly voicing her support for the movement, but she has become yet another symbol of defiance for those protesting for change, prompting fears that Rekabi could be used by the regime to set an example to other women.

MAHMOOD REZA AMIRY-MOGHADDAM, DIRECTOR, IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS: They just can't let it go, unpunished, because they know how crucial it is to maintain this barrier of fear among people.


BASHIR (on camera): Look, Wolf, while the Iranian authorities claim that any reports of an impending detention for Elnaz Rekabi are, in their words, fake news, there continues to be concern for her safety in Iran, particularly as protests across the country continue to gain momentum -- Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Nada Bashir, thank you very much.

Just ahead, high inflation is making the IRS change its rules. Stand by.



BLITZER: The IRS changing its rules due to high inflation which means you could see more money in your paycheck starting next year.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman to explain what's going on.

Break down, Tom, how these IRS changes will help almost everyone's wallet.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These were automatic changes in the tax code. They seem really big because they're triggered by inflation and inflation is really big right now. Let's talk about the standard deductions that so many people rely on. They're going to go up about 7 percent. So, if you're an individual, about $900 more in terms of your standard deduction, head of household, $1,400, if you're married, $1,800 more.

There are also tax bracket changes. If you were in the 22 percent tax bracket for single taxpayers this year, this was the range of where your income could be before you kicked into the higher bracket. Again, about a 7 percent increase because for 2023, it will kick up to a little more from like $42,000 to almost $45,000, almost $95,000 at the top.

So, if you're right on that knife edge, this gives you a little more head room to get past that and not kick into a higher bracket. And the flexible spending account for health, a couple other changes as well. This is one of them. If you're putting money into a health flexible spending account, you can put in an additional $200 in 2023. That will also be tax-free.

Now, remember when I said that, 2023. This will not affect the taxes you file for next April. This year's taxes are set. You're going to deal with those. But this is money that you might see in your paycheck starting in the early part of next year.

And bear in mind, will it really pay out for you? Hard to say. U.S. inflation in September was at an 8.2 percent rate. It will depend on your actual mileage, as they say, as to whether or not these breaks from the IRS will get you oh the extra money you're already spending -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, a lot of people could use that money. Thanks very much. Tom Foreman helping us. We appreciate what's going on.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.