Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Ukraine: "Unprecedented" Emergency Power Cuts In Kyiv; Zelenskyy: Russians Will Be Sieged If They Stay In Kherson; 12 Days To Go: Biden Makes Economic Pitch In Blue State New York; Fetterman: Debating Oz In P.A. Senate Race "Wasn't Exactly Easy"; Walker Gets Assist From Sen. Cruz Amid New Abortion Allegations; A.Z. GOP's Lake Calls Tying Break-In Of Dem Hobbs' Office To Election "A Jussie Smollett Part Two"; Trump Announces F.L. Rally With Rubio, Doesn't Include DeSantis; Appeals Court Upholds House's Effort To See Trump's Tax Returns; Man Who Dragged Officer Into Mob Gets Years In Prison; Iran's Security Forces Open Fire On Mourners In Cemetery; An Early Respiratory Virus Season Overwhelms Children's Hospitals; Kanye West Has A Disturbing History Of Admiring Hitler. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 27, 2022 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Ukrainian troops are strengthening their defensive positions against Russia right now bracing for what they call the heaviest battles ahead in the fight for Kherson. CNN is reporting from the front lines as Vladimir Putin is lobbying new verbal attacks at the West.

Also tonight, President Biden touts unexpected economic growth as he tries to rev up Democratic voters in the blue state of New York. We'll break down his message and his challenges as recession fears persist 12 days before the midterm election.

And former President Trump's lawyers take part in a secret court hearing related to the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation. Why did they meet with U.S. Justice Department prosecutors here in Washington, D.C?

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

Let's get straight to Ukraine right now. The frontlines of what one official warns will be, quote, the "heaviest of battles" against the Russian invasion. CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is on the scene for us tonight.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Across these fields are the Russians that means we need to get into the trenches that sneak their way through this battlespace in southern Ukraine. (on camera): So this is the actual front line between the Russians and the Ukrainians. They say that the Russians are only a couple of kilometers in that direction. And obviously there's a lot of shelling that goes on here almost all the time.

(voice-over): A destroyed tank turret right outside the Ukrainian position shows just how fierce the fighting is here. Spent cartridges from cluster bombs and Russian flak vests also still lying around. While some thought the Ukrainians might quickly oust the Russians and take back the key city of Kherson in the trench a feeling of stalemate.

ALEXANDER, 59TH BRIGADE, UKRAINIAN ARMY (through translator): There is shelling every day. In some places less, in some more. We would shoot back, but we have nothing to shoot with here.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Inside the main headquarters, the unit commander who goes by the call sign Nikofor shows me the gear they use to monitor the Russians movements and communicate with their own units. He says they've observed the Russians strengthening their defensive positions here.

NIKOFOR, 59TH BRIGADE UKRAINIAN ARMY (through translator): They have done very well for the moment. But without efforts we are showing them that we are stronger and are slowly pushing them back from our territories.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): This territory was all Russian controlled, but now Ukrainian troops are inching ever closer to Kherson. Having taken out most Russian supplier routes across the massive Dnipro River, Ukraine's president says Moscow's forces need to get out of this region or risk being besieged.

PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: They're not ready to go out of Kherson. But they know that if we'll be, if we will have success, they will not have possibility to exit.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Ukraine's military is pushing Russian troops back on several front lines across the country. And as his army displays clear signs of weakness, Russian President Vladimir Putin ripping into the U.S. and its allies during his speech in Moscow.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Called domination is what the so called west betted game on. But that game is, without doubt, a dangerous, bloody, and I would say filthy one.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But then Ukrainian troops in the trenches say they are resisting for their own country's sovereignty and hope to retake much of this key area in South Ukraine before winter sets in.


PLEITGEN: And you know, Wolf, yesterday the Ukrainians claimed that Russia's private military company called Wagner was actually sending very sick people to fight on the front lines. Well, today, our own Sebastian Shukla, our producer, he managed to get a comment from Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner himself. This is someone who basically never talks in the spotlight, and he essentially admitted that this is true. He said, quote, "I carefully examined everyone I send to fight in Ukraine according to existing standards. There are no restrictions in Russian legislation for patients with hepatitis C and HIV infections."

So he's essentially admitting to sending very sick people to the frontlines to fight for Russia. Wolf.

BLITZER: That's pretty sick, indeed. All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on Vladimir Putin's increasingly aggressive rhetoric toward the west that has dire warnings to the world. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is working this part of the story for us.


Matthew, Putin clearly lashed out at Ukraine's Western allies again today. Tell us about that.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this was a multi hour rant, frankly, in front of an audience of invited guests to the discussion forum near Moscow in which he railed Vladimir Putin about the various offenses that have been committed in his eyes by the west against Russia. He accused the west of playing a dangerous, bloody and dirty game around the world as we heard in that previous report. And he also said that what we're on the brink of right now, and this has been borne out, I suppose, by events that he has unleashed is a very dangerous period to come.

Take a listen to what the Russian president had to say this time in Moscow.


PUTIN (through translator): We are standing at a historical frontier, ahead is the most dangerous, unpredictable, and at the same time, the most important decade since the end of World War II.


CHANCE: Yes, the most dangerous decades since the end of World War II. He also railed against western countries, including the United States for staging what he called color revolutions, attempts to change the regime in various countries, including in Ukraine, he said, in 2014. He also added that western nations are, quote, "losing the upper hand in global affairs," Wolf.

BLITZER: He also brought up, and this was very disturbing as you know, Matthew, nuclear weapons, the whole issue of nuclear weapons once again. What did he exactly say?

CHANCE: Well, he referred to nuclear weapons in a number of instances. First of all, he launched into another allegation yet again, stating that he believed that Ukraine was preparing a dirty bomb to escalate the war. That's been, of course, got no evidence attached to it and western governments, including United States have said that it could be possibly some kind of indication of a false flag operation by the Russians if that takes place. Certainly the Ukrainians have categorically denied anything about that.

But Vladimir Putin also saying that, you know, all this talk of nuclear confrontation was never something that Russia had sort of instigated. Even though we know that just a few weeks ago when he called up soldiers from, you know, people, civilians into the military, he made that explicit threat that Russia has nuclear weapons and it wasn't a bluff, he said. And just yesterday, of course, the Russian military, you know, stage strategic missile tests. But take a listen to what Vladimir Putin had to say about his use of nuclear threats.


PUTIN (through translator): We never intentionally said anything about the possibility of using nuclear weapons by Russia. We only responded with hints to western leaders statements.


CHANCE: All right, Vladimir Putin there, obviously completely denying he ever made any nuclear threats in the first place. Wolf.

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

Let's get some more in all of this. Joining us now, a Ukrainian Member of Parliament Kira Rudik.

Kira, thank you so much for joining us. Let me get you -- I want to get your thoughts on what we just heard from Putin in just a moment. But first, as you well know, civilians in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, are being urged to dramatically cut back on electricity in order to avoid what they call a complete blackout in the country with winter clearly closing in as well. How dire is the situation in the Ukrainian capital right now?

KIRA RUDIK, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT: Hi, Wolf, thank you so much for having me. While situation is indeed complicated, we know that we have to save energy and this is why we turn on lights only in one room in the evening, because we know that there are critical places where the electricity is needed, for example, hospitals or other critical objects of infrastructure. And this is why we are all, again, acting as one and trying to save as much as possible.

The outages are there and sometimes it's -- electricity available for only a couple of hours a day. And I can tell you, it's a huge difference between what we had before because if -- when you have this comfort of having hidden electricity and you have to go to a bomb shelter where you can sit with your phone or laptop and heat and where it is bright, it's one thing, but when it is dark and cold and children do not have even an ability to like play on their phones or read the books, it becomes very, very scary game for them. And we are still trying to explain it as a game.


So, as of right now, 40 percent of Ukrainian energy infrastructure is destroyed. And every day these distractions continue. So, it's so, so, so terrifying that today on the eighth month of the war --


RUDIK: -- we are begging the same thing that I was begging at the very beginning of the invasion to help us protect our skies. Because the distractions come from the skies with the missiles and the Kamikaze drones.

BLITZER: Right. And the Russians keep launching rockets and missiles at the infrastructure and destroying so much of it in Ukraine. As you know, Kira, Ukrainian forces are hoping to retake Kherson, the largest city still controlled by Russia before the end of the year. How critical is Kherson to the Ukrainian counter offensive and to Ukrainian moral (ph) right now?

RUDIK: Well, Kherson is critical, indeed. This is the regional center, the only major regional center that was captured by Russians at the very beginning of the invasion. And we of course, are hoping and praying that our military forces will be able to regain it for all the sakes, for everybody sakes, and of course, for the sake of the people that right now are there.

You know, Wolf, the issue is that at every city and village that our forces are liberating, we are finding the same things, torture rooms, we are finding mass graves and raped women. And we understand that every single moment when we are talking with you right now there are people who are suffering, who are suffering under the occupation, and we do really, really pray that our forces we'll be able to help them and liberate them as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Let's hope. The Ukrainian Member of Parliament, Kira Rudik, thank you so much for joining us. And stay safe over there as well.

Coming up, President Biden just touted economic growth here in the United States during his latest appeal to midterm voters in New York State. But will positive new numbers actually turn things around for the Democrats? Stay with us.



BLITZER: Stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied on news that the U.S. economy bounced back last quarter after shrinking in the first half of the year. The gross domestic product up 2.6 percent more than expected. And President Biden is touting the rebound out there on the campaign trail with less than two weeks to go until the midterm elections. Let's go to our White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, what 12 days ahead of the midterms, what does it say that President Biden is campaigning tonight in New York state?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Biden traveled to Syracuse, New York for an official event but the political undertones were evident throughout his remarks. The President, they are in Syracuse to tout $100 billion investment by micron in semiconductor manufacturing. It's a district with a highly competitive House race. But of course, New York is also a state that has a closer than expected governor's race as well, in a state that is typically reliably blue.

Now, the President while he was on the ground there also sought to sharpen his economic message as he's tried to draw a contrast between his platform and that presented by Republicans. The President touted some progress that's been made in the economy, including that new GDP figure that showed the economy grew last quarter. And he also touted other accomplishments overall, but he really leaned in to try to differentiate between what Democrats are offering and what Republicans would put forward if they are in Congress. And he spoke in very stark terms when it comes to Republicans saying that they would not potentially lift the debt ceiling. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITES STATES: Less we yield or manage to cut Social Security, Medicare, they're determined to cut Social Security, Medicare, and they're willing to take down the economy over it. There is nothing, nothing that will create more chaos or do more damage to the American economy for that to happened and if it were to happen.


SAENZ: The President also pointed to things Republicans would eliminate if they took control of the House and Senate, including some of the measures that were passed in that Inflation Reduction Act. But really, right now, what the White House is trying to do is show Americans that they have the economy as a top of mind issue for them, as voters have shown that the economy and inflation is really driving so much of the vote heading into these midterm elections.

BLITZER: Arlette Saenz at the White House for us, thank you, Arlette, very much.

Let's dig deeper right now to all of this. Joining us, our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borgia, CNN National Correspondent Athena Jones, and CNN Political Director, David Chalian.

David, how telling is it that the President is making his economic pitch to voters in a blue state, New York State, not necessarily traditionally a battleground state?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, it's telling that the blue turf is becoming the battleground turf. That does not bode well for the Democrats. As Arlette mentioned, you've got this closer than anticipated gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul and Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin, crime, the economy, inflation all central to that.

But it's also noteworthy, he went in this district, Wolf, today, the President did in Syracuse, currently is held by the Republicans John Katko, moderate Republican retiring, and in the redistricting version of this district. It's a district that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in by like seven and a half percentage points, and yet, that is where the President goes because his numbers are upside down nationally, he is more unpopular than popular. So, going to a blue district in a blue state is really the path available to him right now to try and turn up some Democratic votes.

BLITZER: As you know, Gloria, President Biden is touting this latest economic report, but is this necessarily reflective of what Americans are feeling right now? Will it have an impact on the midterm election?


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, it's very hard for the President right now, although he's trying to turn perceptions around. They got a good GDP report today, he said, your wages have gone up more than inflation. He's trying to be the optimist here saying things are going to get better when 65 percent of the American public believe that the economy is on the wrong track. So that's difficult, but he's trying to be the cheerleader here.

On the other hand, what he's also doing is saying, be very afraid if the Republicans take control because what they're going to do is they're going to try and cut your Social Security benefits, they're going to cut your Medicare, and that's what we want to save for you. So, he's being the optimist and telling people, you know, there's something to fear here. And that's kind of a -- it's a mixed message, but it's all he can do right now, in order to change people's perception of what they're really feeling at the very moment.

BLITZER: Let's turn to Pennsylvania right now. Athena, you're in Philadelphia. Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, as you know, is acknowledging his shaky debate performance. Let's listen to what he said. Listen to this.


LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN, (D) PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Doing a debate wasn't exactly easy. You know.

(INAUDIBLE) that's never been done before in American political history before actually. You know, I (INAUDIBLE) I got knocked down, but I got it back up.


BLITZER: Athena, how are voters responding over there based on what you're hearing to Fetterman's decision to go ahead and debate despite his ongoing health challenges?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, look there's mixed reaction, even one Democratic operative said he wouldn't have advised Fetterman to do that debate against a Dr. Oz because he's still recovering from this stroke he had five months ago and because Dr. Oz a longtime T.V. talk show host. But some voters supporters of Fetterman who spoke with my colleague Dan Merica said that they are certain to vote for him, they have not changed their minds after seeing this debate but they're worried about other people looking at that shaky performance, maybe thin setters moving towards Oz after this.

But you know, people are calling it a profile encourage. One former GOP congressman said that Fetterman disgraced himself and show that he's not up to the job. And now a Trump backed super PAC, MAGA, Inc., has put $2.6 million behind an ad by asking that very question, is John Fetterman up to the communication and physical tasks of the job as a U.S. senator?

But I should mention that Fetterman himself has -- in his campaign says that they raised $2 million by Wednesday afternoon, so not even 24 hours after that debate performance. They are using that money to fund an ad highlighting Dr. Oz's debate response on abortion, thinking that that's really going to sway voters. Oz saying that abortion should be left to women, doctors and local political leaders. So, there's a lot of worry here, but there's some hope that it's going to -- he's going to have to pull it out.

BLITZER: All right, let's see. David Chalian, in Georgia right now we're seeing some prominent Republican senators rally around Herschel Walker in the wake of another allegation. Are these developments likely to change voters' minds at this very, very delicate moment?

CHALIAN: We don't see a ton of evidence of that yet, Wolf, and we'll continue to watch and see what the results are when the votes are counted in just 12 days. But what we do see is what you rightly note, which is a total fortification around Herschel Walker with his potential future Republican colleagues. Yesterday he was on the trail with Lindsey Graham, today it was Ted Cruz, as you see there on the campaign trail with Herschel Walker. This is a united front from the Republican establishment to help Herschel Walker get over the finish line here.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, let's turn to Arizona for a moment where candidates for governor are trading jabs after Democrat Katie Hobbs campaign headquarters was actually broken into. Hobbs' campaign is placing blame on Republican Kari Lake for "inciting threats," direct quote, "inciting threats." Let's listen to how Lake responded.


KARI LAKE, (R) ARIZONA GOV. CANDIDATE: Well, that is absolutely absurd. And are you guys buying that? Are you really buying that? This is sounds like a Jussie Smollett part two.


BLITZER: It's a reference to the actor convicted of making false reports to the police. This is just the latest in a very, very contentious race, right? BORGER: First of all, let us just say that we have no facts here at all. We do not have any information from the police yet who was responsible for this. And so, these candidates are just throwing charges at each other right and left. And I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

Hobbs' campaign said this is a direct result of a concerted campaign of lies and intimidation against Hobbs. We don't know, Wolf. We haven't seen a debate between these two women. Hobbs has said she would not debate Kari Lake, that she wasn't worthy of debate. And so, all they're doing is chucking mud at each other.


And we don't know what the police are going to tell us. So I think everybody ought to sort of take a breath and wait until the police say, you know what, we figured out who it was and we're going to tell you.

BLITZER: Let's wait and see.

David Chalian, former President Trump, as you know, he just announced the rally in Florida with Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Notably not mentioning the Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. That's telling isn't it?

CHALIAN: Yes, notably, indeed. It's a glaring omission. And one that Donald Trump is eager for all of us to take note of.

Listen, this is this continued sort of shadowboxing that's happening in advance of a potential 2024 Republican presidential primary matchup between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. And so, it is clear, there is no love lost right now between these two guys as they try to figure out each other's latest political moves.

But reminder DeSantis is on the ballot for reelection. So the president -- former president doing a rally just for Rubio and not having DeSantis along, that's a very deliberate signal he sent there.

BORGER: Well, and if DeSantis had said he would have served out his full term in his debate, maybe Trump would have had him up there with them. But remember, DeSantis refused to do that.

BLITZER: Good point, Gloria.

Guys, thank you very, very much.

Up next, a secret hearing in the Mar-a-Lago probe between former President Trump's lawyers and the U.S. Justice Department. We'll discuss what happened to behind closed doors here in the nation's capital.

And the January 6 rioter who dragged a police officer into the mob will now spend years, years behind bars. The terrific details in the attack. That's next.



BLITZER: All right, this just into CNN. The House Ways and Means Committee is now poised tonight to get former President Trump's IRS tax returns. A federal appeals court has just denied Trump's request to hold up the release. CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is joining us right now. Evan, this is a victory for the House Committee. How quickly will it actually get his tax returns?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: As soon as a week from today, Wolf. This is what the appeals court has said unless the former president gets the Supreme Court to delay that. And it is possible that he'll appeal to the Supreme Court to try to fight this out longer, litigate this longer. What the appeals court has says is that this the IRS is now free within the next seven days, seven days to turn over the tax documents to the House Ways and Means Committee that has been working for years to try to obtain these documents to investigate the former President's tax returns.

And so we don't yet know whether they're going to appeal just because of what we've seen in the past. We believe that he probably will. And it'll be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether this is a something that they should take up or they should delay.

BLITZER: And as you know, Evan, Trump's lawyers appeared in Washington DC federal courthouse today for a secret hearing with top Justice Department officials. What are you learning about that?

PEREZ: That's right. This is an extraordinary appearance by the Trump legal team, Wolf. We see them there. That's Jim Trusty, Evan Corcoran and Lindsey Halligan, they appeared before the chief judge in the DC Courthouse with the legal team, the Justice Department's legal team that is handling the investigation into those documents at Mar-a-Lago. They would not tell us. We asked them they would not tell us what exactly they were discussing.

But this is happening inside the sealed courthouse -- courtroom rather. We were not allowed in there. And we know that this was really the backdrop of all of this is the Justice Department's push for Trump to turn over whatever additional documents that at least the Justice Department believes are still missing and may still be in the possession of the former president.

They have continued to maintain that they believe there continues to be government documents that are missing. And they want the former president to figure out whether they are still in possession at one of his properties, and how to turn them back over to the federal government.

Again, we don't know exactly what went down in this court in this court hearing today, but it was before the Chief Judge there at the DC courthouse. And it was a matter that was under sealed.

BLITZER: Well, it could be potentially significant. Evan, stay with us. Don't go too far away. I also want to bring in the former federal prosecutor Shan Wu. Shan, how significant is this decision from the U.S. appeals court clearing the wait for the IRS to turn over Trump's tax returns?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it's very significant, Wolf, not necessarily in a sense is going to lead to some immediate evidence or disclosure of criminal charges. What's really significant is this is a gradual whittling away at this kind of no-fly zone that's developed around the presidency.

Congress can strengthen its oversight ability. If the courts are saying yes, this is legitimate oversight. And it actually offers the Supreme Court a chance to rebalance things here if they stay out of this which they should do let Congress do its job.


It will chip away at this over amount of influence that the Supreme Court has developed for everything goes to them. And even though Trump is a former president, his sort of stubbornness is forcing the separation of powers issues into the courts. And the result is going to affect many generations of future presidents. And hopefully, it'll result in a more balanced separation of powers system that we're supposed to have.

BLITZER: And Shan, let's also get back to that secret meeting today, between former President Trump's legal team and Justice Department prosecutors handling the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation. You're a former federal prosecutor, can you help us get a sense of what might have taken place during this secret meeting?

WU: Yes, based on Evans reporting, and the fact that there didn't appear to be witnesses there or witness, counsel, this likely is about the ever continuing search for the documents that Trump has not turned over. It sounds like they're probably negotiating over compliance with that original Grand Jury subpoena.

And I really do hope that the department is not being too generous towards Trump in allowing them to negotiate a possible second search warrant. I mean, the whole point of the search warrant is you can't trust people to turn over the documents, but sounds like it's about the documents.

And you know, if this was a drug dealer, it was a jewel thief, you pretty obvious that you would search all of their residences, and they already searched one and found things that were being concealed. So I hope they will continue down that path, Wolf.

BLITZER: We shall see. Evan, does this mean, based on your reporting, that the Justice Department still believes the former president has government documents in his possession?

PEREZ: They continue to tell the former president's legal team, Wolf, that they believe that there are still documents missing. And the question is, how do you try to retrieve those? I don't think anybody believes that. The FBI is going to go back in and do -- and conduct a forceful search like they did last time. But that's why I think you go before a judge to try to force the former president to comply with a subpoena which, you know, most people don't need multiple times to be reminded to, to comply.

BLITZER: That's right, Evan, thank you very much, Shan Wu, thanks to you as well.

The rioter who pulled Washington DC police officer Michael Fanone into that mob storming the U.S. Capitol back on January 6, has now been sentenced to more than seven years in prison. The man named Albuquerque Head dragged Fanone away from his fellow officers wrapping his arm around Fanone's neck and tearing him into the crowd, which beat him unconscious. Fanone who is now by the way, a CNN contributor suffered a heart attack as rioters beat him and tased him repeatedly.

The judge in her sentencing told ahead that Fanone was protecting America and called the attack on the U.S. Capitol, one of the country's darkest days.

Just ahead, protesters in Iran are braving gunfire and tear gas from government security forces. We'll have the latest of the deadly crackdown. That's next.



BLITZER: Iranian security forces opening gunfire and unleashing tear gas on mourners marking 40 days since the disappearance of a teenage girl missing since a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini who died in the custody of Iran's so called morality police. CNN's Nada Bashir is working the story for us. Nada, clashes and crackdowns are still intensifying. What's the latest?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Wolf. We've really seen these protests gaining momentum once again over the last 48 hours. We've seen crowds of people gathering over the last two days at the burial sites of Mahsa Amini, as well as Nika Shakarami, yet another young women believed and died at the hands of the Iranian authorities that familiar chart of women live freedom now of course coupled with calls for regime change.

But the focus today has really been on the city of Mahabad in the West Azerbaijan province where we have now seen clashes between protesters and the Iranian security forces. This after a funeral was held for a protester who was reportedly shot dead yesterday amid those demonstrations.

We've seen raw (ph) videos of chaos emerging from Mahabad scenes of unrest at buildings on fire, tear gas being deployed on peaceful protesters, and according to Amnesty International, even live fire being used by the security forces against those protesters, yet another example of the excessive and lethal force being used by the Iranian regime against these demonstrators.

According to Hengaw, an Iranian human rights group based in Norway, at least one protester has already been confirmed dead but there have been reports of an internet blackout in the region raising concerns that there could be more evidence and more news that has yet to be able to come up from the city.

BLITZER: It looks like the Iranian government not maybe actually laying the groundwork for even more brutality. What are you learning?

BASHIR: There are real concerns of this violent crackdown could intensify over the coming days following an attack on Wednesday evening on the Shah Cheragh Shrine in the southern city of Shiraz. According to the authorities and state media the responsibility for this attack which claimed the lives of at least 15 people and injured 14 more has been claimed by the Islamic State. The regime characterizing the three assailants identified as foreign nationals. But this because essentially set the pretext for the Iranian regime to really double down on its crackdown and intensify what is already a brutal and deadly repression of protesters across the country.


BLITZER: Certainly. Nada Bashir, thank you very much for that report. Stay on top of this story. Coming up, Kanye West allegedly has a very, very disturbing history of admiring Nazis and Adolf Hitler. When people once close to the artists are now telling CNN. And my doctor's fear the surge of respiratory illnesses among children here in the United States. They actually get worse before it gets better.



BLITZER: The surge in respiratory cases among children here in the United States has some hospitals nationwide scrambling right now to find available beds for them. CNN's Amara Walker is joining us live from Children's Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta. Amara, is the hospital there where you are overwhelmed? Not sure Amara can hear me. Amara, can you hear me?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, judging by -- yes, yes. Yes, I can, Wolf. And yes, judging by the numbers the hospitals here in Atlanta are absolutely overwhelmed. For example, here at The Children's Hospital of Atlanta, the wait time for the emergency room here behind me has been more than three hours. In fact, all three locations for this hospital system the wait time is over three hours for the emergency department. And it's been this way for the past several weeks.

So, as a result, officials here at this location just north of Atlanta called Scottish Rite, they have erected an overflow tend to deal with this surge that they've been seeing in respiratory illnesses among children here in Atlanta.

Now there is no -- there are no beds inside this tent. There are eight bays and it is fully staffed with doctors and nurses but they are only treating children with minor injuries or illnesses inside this tent. Of course, those with serious illnesses will remain inside the hospital. What's notable here, Wolf, is here in Atlanta, the vast majority of respiratory admissions in the ER have to do with the flu. But compare that to just last week where more than 75 percent of the respiratory missions were children with RSV so what we're seeing here is early is an early RSV season and early flu season earlier than expected, and that trend is likely to move north according to one doctor here in Atlanta, listen.


DR. ANDI SHANE, CHIEF OF PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES, CHILDREN'S HEALTHCARE OF ATLANTA: So oftentimes, especially with RSV, it starts in the southeast and then sort of moves up with in the United States. And so, what we do probably predict will happen is that some of the northern states will start to see more children with influenza after they see more children with RSV.


WALKER: And of course, health experts are concerned about this confluence of three viruses creating a perfect storm as we head into the winter months. Keep in mind there is no vaccine for RSV, although there is a vaccine for the flu and for COVID-19. So the advice is for you and your children to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Good advice. So what are the doctors they're telling you, Amara, about when parents should actually bring their children to the emergency room?

WALKER: That's a really good question a lot of parents are asking. So a couple of things doctors told me number one, check to see if your child is struggling to breathe if you see your child's stomach muscles, retracting a lot, and also check if they are dehydrated, if they're not urinating, not drinking, you may want to seek medical attention pretty quickly. Wolf.

BLITZER: Very disturbing developments, indeed. Amara Walker on the scene for us. Thank you very much. Also tonight, sources once close to Kanye West, are now telling CNN he has long been fascinated by Adolf Hitler, a former TMZ producer is talking publicly about West being confronted for anti-semitic remarks he made while visiting TMZ.


VAN LATHAN JR., FORMER TMZ EMPLOYEE: He said something like I love Hitler. I love Nazis. Something to that effect when he was there. And they took it out of the interview. One of the producers at TMZ actually stood up and said, I'm Jewish, and that is offensive to me what you just said.


BLITZER: CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas joining us right now, Chloe, you've been doing a lot of reporting on this excellent reporting, people who knew West, they say you had a history of talking about Hitler. What we're here to tell us about that? CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Good evening, Wolf, really shocking information. So in an exclusive report that CNN we've just published a few hours ago, for high level people who worked with Kanye West on his album, his 2018 album, Ye, they tell CNN that up to the final hours of working on this album that Kanye was adamant that he wanted to name the album, Hitler, and that there was a lot of contention in the camp.

People were begging him not to call it Hitler, that this would be career suicide, that this would be obviously offensive, hurt his career and obviously not be the message that they would want out there. And we've reached out to Def Jam, which is part of Universal Music Group who did not comment but they directed us to a statement earlier in the week in which they condemn anti-semitism. We're not exactly sure why Kanye finally agreed to not call it that.

But I also want to tell you something else is disturbing, Wolf. We spoke to one of those execs, one of those individuals so sources was a high level executive within Kanye's camp for several years.


And he has a settlement that we have reviewed, which claims that Kanye created a toxic environment in his offices and that he would openly praise Hitler and talk about reading mind calm and say a lot of really disturbing things about the Nazis.

BLITZER: So, so disturbing. Chloe Melas, thank you very much. Finally, this hour, we want to mark four years since the deadliest anti-semitic attack in U.S. history. A gunman burst into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, during a very quiet traditional Shabbat service and open fire. 11 people were killed, six were wounded, including four police officers responding to the scene.

In a statement today, President Biden mourn the loss and condemned the attack and the dramatic increase in anti-semitism here in the United States. We of course send our deepest condolences once again to the families of the victims. May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

Coming up, 12 days before the midterm elections, some welcome economic news for President Biden and Democrats. Will it be enough though for them to fight in their uphill battle to keep control of Congress?