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Key Lawmaker Demands Answers From Capitol Police On Pelosi Attack; Soon, Biden Speech On Threats To U.S. Democracy; Fed Makes History With Fourth Straight 0.75 Percent Rate Hike; U.S. Intel: Russian Officials Discussed Scenarios For Using Tactical Nuclear Weapons In Ukraine; Trump Election Attorneys Saw Justice Thomas As "Key" To Delaying 2020 Election Certification. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 02, 2022 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Also tonight, President Biden is getting ready to address threats against elected officials and against democracy itself here in the United States. We have excerpts from his speech renewing his warnings about efforts to undermine elections with only six days left between now and the midterm elections.

And the Federal Reserve unleashes another big interest rate hike, the fourth in a row, further ramping up its fight against inflation. We'll break down this historic move and how it could affect you and your family. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, the U.S. Capitol police say an internal security review is now underway amid growing and very serious questions about how the break-in at the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's California home could have happened let alone the brutal attack on her husband. I spoke just a little while ago with the San Francisco district attorney about the threat posed by the suspect and why she insisted he should be held without bail.


BROOKE JENKINS, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This is a person who was willing to go to extreme lengths to plan out this attack, to figure out how to get in their house and then to enact violence even in the presence of the police. And so we know that he presents a level of danger that's really as high as it gets.


BLITZER: Let's go to our CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell. He is joining us from San Francisco right now. Josh, the district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, she also told me the Pelosi family was set to meet with police today to hear Paul Pelosi's 911 call and watch the body camera footage of the attack. You worked in law enforcement. How important are these kind of meetings for the family?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is so important, Wolf. This is a deeply personal action that takes place. We talk about crime these days, we often talk about it in terms of statistics, but these are people. And although Paul Pelosi was the victim who was assaulted, obviously, the entire Pelosi family has been traumatized.

I dealt in previous life in law enforcement dealing with victims. Sometimes their family members want to experience and see for themselves exactly what happened, not always. Sometimes they can't bear to do so. The D.A., as you mentioned, telling you and confirming that exclusive reporting from our colleague, Jamie Gangel, that the Pelosi family would be getting access to the 911 audio as well as the body cam footage from the attack early Friday morning. The D.A. saying that that was happening today, it could still be ongoing. We expect that to be wrapped up if it hasn't already, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Josh, the chair of the House committee with oversight over the U.S. Capitol police force sent a letter tonight, demanding answers about how the break-in at Speaker Pelosi's California home could have happened. Tell us about that.

CAMPBELL: That's right, a very thorough letter from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House committee on administration. She has many questions for the U.S. Capitol police. And in this letter, what she's doing is two things. She wants to know what were the policies and procedures that were in place when that attack occurred here at the Pelosi residence. She wants to know whether they were latched up with local law enforcement in order to ensure that members of Congress are protected, not just in Washington, but also in their district.

She was also asking what they are going to be doing moving forward after this attack. We got a statement from the Capitol police after she sent that letter. They say that they will be fast track many of the recommendations that were suggested after the January 6th insurrection. We know that Congress had allocated additional money to the U.S. Capitol police. They were working to ensure that the Capitol itself was protected. But, obviously, in the wake of this brutal attack, they will now be, as they say, fast tracking a lot of the recommendations.

The Capitol police also confirming CNN's reporting that the security cameras inside or outside the Pelosi residence were not being monitored in real-time at the time of the attack. Of course, the House speaker wasn't here. The U.S. Capitol saying in that statement that they have over 1,800 cameras that they are monitoring in Washington and around the country, that these cameras were not being monitored in real-time.

Of course, the big question, Wolf, will that change moving forward? They don't have the personnel to be sitting in front of 1,800 cameras at any given time but can they leverage technology, motion sensors and the like to ensure that if an intruder comes to the house of a member of Congress, they are detected, they are alerted so that police can respond before tragedy happens, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Josh Campbell on the scene for us, thank you very much.

President Biden is likely to cite the Pelosi attack in just a little while when he delivers an urgent new warning to the American people that American democracy is in peril right now.

Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us from Union Station right here in Washington, near Capitol Hill, where the president will be speaking in a little while. Phil, we got excerpts from the speech, I take it, just a short while ago.



It's a message that's equal part sharp and urgent in a location that's very intentional, as you know well, just a few blocks from the Capitol building where the January 6th attacks occurred. Keep in mind, Wolf, six days out from the election, most Democrats around the country are focused on economic issues, trying to figure out how to hammer away at their vulnerability on that that we see after poll after poll.

But President Biden and his top advisers, I'm told, became increasingly unsettled over the course of the last several weeks, unsettled by several Republican candidates saying they won't accept election results, are not committing to, and perhaps more than anything else, very taken aback and unsettled by the attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul.

Now, I'm going to read some excerpts that we just got from the White House detailing some of the tone you're going to hear from the president tonight, where he says, as he stands here, there are candidates running for office at every level of office in America, for governor, for Congress, for attorney general, for secretary of state who won't commit to accepting the results of elections they're in. This is a path to chaos in America. It's unprecedented, it's unlawful and it is un-American. As I've said before, you can't love your country only when you win.

And before that, Wolf, says this is also the first national election since the events of January 6 when an armed, angry mob stormed the Capitol. I wish I could say the assault on democracy ended that day but I cannot. There are echoes of the president's speech in early September in Philadelphia trying to lay out the stakes for democracy, trying to elevate this issue in this midterm campaign season.

But, clearly, the president and his top advisers have seen what's transpired over the last several weeks and felt he needs to speak on this issue again, lay out the stakes of this issue. We talked to advisers, they acknowledge this isn't an issue necessarily that resonates with a wide swath of voters. However, they do say for base voters this is something that matters. Perhaps that will help with enthusiasm on that side of things. But more than anything else, this is an issue the president is deeply concerned about and feels like he needs to speak directly to the country about, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Speaking about threats to American democracy, people are watching us right now all over the world and they are wondering what is going on here in the United States. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much. Let's bring in CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel right now along with Conservative Lawyer George Conway and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Jonathan Wackrow.

Jamie, the San Francisco district attorney told me here in THE SITUATION ROOM just a little while ago that members of the Pelosi family were set to meet with authorities this is afternoon to view the body camera footage and hear that 911 call. What are you learning from your sources?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, my understanding is this past hour that meeting happened, it may still be ongoing, it was not the entire family, it was a couple of members of the family, I believe two of the adult children, and that they were able to hear that 911 audio. We understand there are about three minutes of the audio and also to see the very dramatic body cam footage.

These are the moments when Paul Pelosi opens the door and the body cam footage, we're told, captures the moment when the assailant takes that hammer and hits Paul Pelosi over the head and then he falls to the ground. He's unresponsive. We believe he was unconscious for about three minutes.

I just want to say, Wolf, to reiterate what Josh Campbell said a few minutes ago, this is cannot be easy for the family but it's also critical evidence of what went on during that attack, Wolf

BLITZER: So, so important indeed. George we learned from the district attorney that the 82-year-old Mr. Pelosi, he laid, quote, unresponsive in a pool of his own blood. How horrific is it that any family should face that kind of violence all for a family member serving in public office, the speaker of the House?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Oh, it's absolutely appalling and it's very, very dangerous to our democracy. I mean, we can't have situations where people are trying to serve the public and have to worry about their own personal safety.

And I think it's actually compounding the problem that we have in the Republican Party. I mean, President Biden is going give a speech tonight but there's a limit to what he can do because he is himself a party leader. He needs to back up on this, back up in support of democracy from the other side and we really don't have that much at this time. You see that the Republicans have made examples of Liz Chaney and Adam Kinzinger. And so what we have is that Republicans are -- a lot of Republicans are afraid of speaking out precisely because of the violence. I think that's an underreported aspect of the story.

BLITZER: That's a good point. Jonathan, how key is that body camera video and the 911 to this overall investigation and eventual prosecution?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it's critical, right, because it's items of evidentiary value that actually show the crime happening in real-time.


I mean, that is really important. And the other aspect of this beyond the criminal investigation is that it actually counters the narrative that we've seen metastasizing online around this event that really is rooted in these conspiracy theories, right?

So, what we're going see is the truth, the video, the audio and what we can witness through evidence countering this rampant conspiracy theories around Mr. Pelosi and the genesis of this horrendous incident. So, this evidence, the body video camera, the video from the residence, as well as the 911 call from beginning to end will really, really support, one, the criminal prosecution, but really tamping down these conspiracy theories.

BLITZER: And let me follow up with you Jonathan. You're a former U.S. Secret Service agent. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren wants answers from the U.S. Capitol police. What lessons do you believe law enforcement should take from all of this and do they have anywhere near enough resources to put those lessons in to place?

WACKROW: Well, Wolf, the reality is that they don't, right? So, since January 6th, Capitol police have literally been trying to build the plane as they fly it. What do I mean by that? They have 9,000 threats or more than 9,000 threats that are being directed towards members of Congress year-over-year, and that number is just growing.

So, really, what the question should be is really how are they assessing these threats from the means, opportunity and intent to cause harm towards members of Congress? And from that assessment, that's really what we call protective intelligence, threat analysis, is really diving into, okay, once we understand what this threat is and how it's directed toward members of Congress, how do we then implement various layers of protection at different levels for members of Congress so they can do their jobs.

BLITZER: George, how bad do you think it has to get before a bunch of Republicans take this threat, this very real threat seriously?

CONWAY: I think it's going to have to get a lot worse, unfortunately, because they don't seem to take this threat seriously. And they're actually -- at least, they are not showing the requisite amount of sympathy and empathy for their Democratic colleagues here.

And I think part of the reason, as I said before, is they themselves are afraid of the people that have been stirred up by demagogic rhetoric on the right over the last few years and misinformation that has been percolating out there that causes people like this person, DePape, or whatever his name is, to do the thing that he did, and what caused January 6 and what can cause future events. And I think they are afraid for their own safety. And that's why they remain silent and they are actually at risk.

BLITZER: Yes, it's very, very disturbing what's going on in our country right now. Guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, there are fresh demands right now for answers from U.S. Capitol police about the break-in and the brutal attack at the Pelosi home. I'll speak with a key member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: More now on our top story. The chairwoman of the committee that has oversight over the U.S. Capitol police force is demanding answers about the attack on the husband of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the very serious questions it's raising about security for all U.S. lawmakers.

Let's get some analysis, some reaction from Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. I want to begin with this new letter from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. She is demanding answers from the Capitol police chief. Do you echo her demands, her concerns?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, Wolf, and thanks for having me, it's obviously important that we do a review of what happened and ask ourselves the question of was everything done to prevent this kind of thing. I understand that there may have been cameras that were unmonitored. And as a member of Congress, I will tell you that each and every one of us should be interested in making sure that our security is as good as it can get so that we don't ever have to live through what we've all just lived through with this brutal attack on an 82-year-old man.

But, Wolf, what really worries is not so much a question of cameras being monitored or not. What worries me much more is the response of some people to this. It's a dehumanized character-free response that says that there is something other than pure empathy and an unconditional condemnation of violence that is somehow appropriate. Somebody makes a little joke, the son of the former president puts up a quip on social media, people draw political conclusions that suit their preexisting narratives. If leaders don't respond with two things and two things only, empathy and a clear and unconditional condemnation of violence, this will get a lot worse. It will not get better and more people will be hurt.

BLITZER: Yes, good point, indeed. What questions, Congressman, other questions do you want U.S. Capitol police to answer about your safety and the safety of your colleagues?

HIMES: Well, we're learning, right, Wolf. And thank God these things are still pretty few and far between. I mean, in my career here, apart from this horrific attack on Paul Pelosi, Steve Scalise was attacked -- brutally attacked with -- a lunatic with a firearm. I remember the day that Gabby Giffords. Thank God these things don't happen every day or every week. They are still pretty rare.

But in an environment, where -- and, again, I'll come right back to this, where leaders who have millions of followers on social media don't clearly and unconditionally condemn this stuff, somebody is going think it's okay.

And you know what? It doesn't need to be 70 percent. I don't believe that 70 percent of Republicans believe that this is okay but all it takes is one. It just takes one individual who looks at the absence of clarity on the part of this nation's leadership and says, you know what, maybe it's okay, maybe it is time for me to go after that traitor, that un-American, that communist, whatever language that individual has been fired up with, and that's a real problem.


BLITZER: How are you, Congressman, about your security, your safety?

HIMES: Look, it's always in the back of my mind. But I'm a representative, right? My title is the same as my job description. And there's no way I can do my job if I'm not constantly interacting with my constituents. And it's not just me that needs to think about that, everybody out there. When you respond to a social media post, which is something other than unconditional condemnation of violence, you need to ask yourself, do I really want to live in a country where my elected officials are behind bulletproof glass, they're inaccessible, they don't do town hall meetings? That would be just a dagger in the heart of our democracy. And I think that it's as much up to citizenry to condemn what we saw, to not laugh about jokes that are made about violence as it is to leaders to condemn that violence.

BLITZER: Very important, indeed. Stay safe out there. Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, as President Biden's approval slips right now, our exclusive new CNN poll shows what's on voters' minds just a few days ahead of the midterm elections.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: We now have excerpts from the speech President Biden will be making shortly about the threats facing U.S. democracy. We also have exclusive new CNN polling underscoring the challenges for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections only six days away.

CNN's Chief National Correspondent, the anchor of Inside Politics, John King is with me over here at the magic wall. Let's talk a little bit, John, about our CNN poll, which shows President Biden's approval numbers sort of going down right now.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At the wrong time, six days before the election.

So, here is the current balance of power. Republicans need only a handful of plus to take control of the House. So, let's look at the polling and the context of the competitive House districts into the final days. There are 78 in all. That adds up to 75 because three of these are new districts created after the census, right? But, look, you can tell just by looking at those numbers. Democrats are on defense in more of these districts from coast to coast, the blue districts.

How is the president's approval rating factor in? Let's just start right there. Not only, Wolf, is his approval rating going down, as you noted, his disapproval is going up. That gives Republican momentum. A Democrat will tell you every time the president goes down a little bit, it makes one of those blue districts more difficult to win.

Also in our poll, look at this, choice for Congress. Just a month ago -- excuse me, pardon my back just a second. Let's stretch this out. Just a month ago, we had Democrats at a very slight edge. Who are you going to vote for when you cast your ballots for House? Now, look at this, Republicans with a lead as head into Election Day of four points, outside the margin of error, Republican momentum.

hy? the country, Wolf, is in a funk. Two and a half years of COVID plus now the punishing of inflation, the Fed raising interest rates just again today. 72 percent of likely voters say things in the country are going badly. Only 28 percent say, well. When you have a number like that, that means voters want change. The president and his party are in trouble.

BLITZER: What do voters say as the top issue for them right now?

KING: I want to switch maps when we answer that question, because this looks at the House, a very bad dynamic for the Democrats in the House. Let's switch quickly over to the Senate. It's 50/50 right now. But if you look at this map heading into the final days, the yellow states we have as toss ups, the light blue, that's leaning Democratic, the light red leaning Republican. Close statewide races are won in the suburbs.

Democrats hopes that after the Dobbs decision in June, then you saw evidence in July and August with the registration going up and polling changing. Win in the suburbs here, win in the suburbs, win in the suburbs here, win in the suburbs here. That would be enough. That would be a net plus one. They also thought maybe if we win in the suburbs here, here and here, we could even pick up one or two. That's what they thought in July and early September.

But, Wolf, here's where we ending the campaign when you look at the top issues right now. Abortion has faded. A majority of Americans, 51 percent say the economy and inflation is the top issue, dwarfing abortion or election integrity. The president will talk a little bit about that tonight. The Republicans look at that number, they look at this map, think they can get to 51, some Republicans think they can get to 52 or 53 or maybe more as we head in. Again, a few days left, but today looks good for the Republicans.

BLITZER: Keywords, a few days left. Let's see what happens.

John, stay with us. Don't go too far away. Right now, I want to take a closer look at some of the high stakes races around the country. CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah is in Arizona, where former President Barack Obama is trying to give Democrats a boost.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Fresh off a Nevada rally, former President Barack Obama continues on his West Coast defense. He's headlining an Arizona rally to boost Democratic turnout for Incumbent Senator Mark Kelly and Gubernatorial Nominee Katie Hobbs. Polls show both in tight races with Republicans. They want Obama's sparkle but not the national party's issues.

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE KATIE HOBBS (R-AZ): Well, I don't know about my party but I can tell you we're talking about the economy to voters every single day. It's one of the top concerns.

LAH: With voters overwhelmingly saying the economy is their top issue and Democrats faced with an unpopular president at the top, Democrat Josh Shapiro, nominee for Pennsylvania governor, is creating sunlight between his state and Washington, D.C.

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE JOSH SHAPIRO (R-PA): I can't speak for national Democrats or national Republicans. I can speak to what I hear in Pennsylvania every day. And I would just tell you, I think Pennsylvania voters, Republican and Democrat, they know how to walk and chew gum.

LAH: Across the battleground states, voters are hearing closing messages. In Wisconsin Senate campaign, Incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson attacked his opponent on the campaign trail.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Mandela Barnes is demonstrating his contempt and disdain for America, certainly for law enforcement and, quite honestly, for Wisconsin.


LAH: While presenting a softer side in his closing message in his ads.

JOHNSON: Aren't you tired of the division and anger? I know I sure am.

LAH: Democrat Mandela Barnes and his final ad chose to go on offense against Johnson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And while our costs are rising, he supports a plan that would raise taxes on the middle class. Ron Johnson looks out for himself, not us.


LAH (on camera): While former President Obama will be holding his rally here at this Phoenix high school, former President Trump will be holding a tele-rally. That's a rally over the telephone for the top of the Republican ticket here in Arizona, as well, showing once again, Wolf, power in Congress, it runs straight through Arizona. Wolf?

BLITZER: Good point. Kyung Lah on the scene for us, thank you very much.

BLITZER: Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, CNN Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Anderson, CNN Contributor and New Yorker Staff Writer Evan Osnos, and CNN's John King is also back with us as well.

Nia, let's talk a little bit about what we're learning about the president's speech that's coming up very, very soon. According to the excerpts that have already been released, he's going to be calling threats to democracy, and I'm quoting him now, the path to chaos in America. That's incredibly powerful.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's powerful and strong language from a president who wanted to run for president because he saw it as a battle for the soul of the nation. So, I think you'll hear similar themes tonight. It's also similar to a speech he gave in September, where he talked about democracy inequality being under assault. He'll essentially say tonight that democracy inequality are on the ballot.

Now, the folks I talk to at the White House don't necessarily think this is a campaign play. If you saw some of the numbers there, election integrity isn't like a driving force in terms of people going to the ballot. But it's certainly something that is important to this president. He feels it's important to America, important to democracy. And so he'll give a forceful speech tonight really focusing Americans' attention on the issue of democracy.

BLITZER: I'm anxious to get Evan Osnos' thoughts on this as well. Evan, you've written a very strong biography of President Biden. How important is it for him to rise to the moment with his speech later tonight less than a week before the midterm election?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There are speeches, Wolf, sometimes that have an immediate political effect and then there are speeches that, in some sense, transcend the boundaries of the day-to-day politics. I can go -- going all the way back to when Biden was vice president, I remember him telling me that, as a president, you have to have a cause, meaning the thing that really drives your presidency. What is it you are there to do?

And I think he has come to the view, and he said this very clearly during the campaign, that he sees it as nothing less than democracy on the ballot, democracy at stake. He's going to say tonight, this is no ordinary year. In a sense, what he's asking of Americans is to say, I know you are hurting economically because of inflation. I know you are thinking you are divided and in many ways distressed, but this is about something bigger because if we don't make choices to put people in office who fundamentally accept the notion of defeat, then, in fact, we are risking democracy itself. This is at the core of how he sees himself as president.

BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right. John King, we're learning that President Biden also intends to say, and I'm quoting now, you can't love your country only when you win. What do you make of that kind of language?

KING: He's trying to convince American voters, let's say, there in Arizona, their candidate for governor, their candidate for Senate, their candidate for secretary of state, all election deniers. In Nevada, the candidate for governor is questioning the election, the candidate for secretary of state is a clear-out election denier. We can go across the country at almost every level. There are Republicans who deny the election.

The president is trying to say this is un-American. It is un-American to say that when you count the votes and you get to do your protest or your recount or go to court, in the end, there has to be a process. And if you lose, you have to say, I lost, and move on. That's part of it, to convince voters, think twice before you vote for these people.

The other part of this speech is the president is trying to convince people think bigger. I know inflation is punishing you right now. I know you're mad at me right now. Inflation will eventually pass. If we let the foundation of our democracy crumble, the building will fall. The president is trying to get people to lift and make this a bigger issue than it is right now for voters in their mind. That's a giant challenge.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Nia about that. Is the speech we're about to hear from the president of the United States and the message he's going to be focusing on in line with the top issues that Americans are concerned with?

HENDERSON: Quite simply, no. I mean, 51 percent say it's the economy. 15 percent say abortion. I think 9 percent election integrity. So, it's not where Americans are. But I think, as John said, he is trying to grab these voters, particularly independent voters who do show -- much concerned with this than other voters. So, if they can tap into that segment of voters, maybe they can move the needle along the margins, because we know that this is a campaign that is going to be won or lost in the suburbs and on the margins.


BLITZER: His approval numbers are only at 41 percent right now. You showed us those numbers. In politics, the pollsters, the political analysts and the pundits out there, the experts, they always say, going into an election like this, you ask the American people, is the country moving in the right or the wrong track? If the overwhelming numbers are on the wrong track, the incumbent party is going to lose.

KING: The traditional North Star is in the midterm election. The president's approval rating, right track, wrong track, those are dismal numbers right now for the Democrats. We've had a volatile year, I say the most unpredictable midterm year in the nearly 40 years I've been doing this because of the Dobbs decision, because the return of Trump for a while. Was that going to change dynamics? They have competing issues in the suburbs. Nia talks about issues like crime working against the Democrats, inflation working against the Democrats. Trump works for the Democrats, abortion works in favor of the Democrats.

It appears in these final days it is settled. The president's approval rating is way underwater. He's about where Trump and Obama were at this point in their first midterm. They both lost the House big time.

BLITZER: You and I have worked that. We remember it well, Nia does as well. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, as the Fed sets a record with yet another three quarter point rate hike, Americans brace for impact. We'll take a closer look at what it means for the average American consumer.



BLITZER: Wall Street rattled as the Federal Reserve made a historic fourth interest rate hike, three quarters of a percent, in an effort to try to tame the inflation impacting all Americans right now.

CNN's Brian Todd is over at the Federal Reserve in Washington. He is joining us now live. Brian, interest rates are now at the highest level since 2008.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. As you mentioned, a historic move today by the Fed. A key question tonight, will the Fed now start slow down and reduce interest rates from here to keep American consumers from feeling more pain?


TODD (voice over): Battling urgently to put the brakes on inflation, the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates for the sixth time this year, another three quarters of a percentage point. The Fed chairman saying this is necessary given how much Americans are hurting from inflation.

JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: It erodes purchasing power, especially for those least able to make the higher cost for essentials, like food, housing and transportation.

TODD: How much more of this can American consumers take?

MICHELLE SINGLETARY, AUTHOR, WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR MONEY WHEN CRISIS HITS: It's really tough on their psyche. Because you hear about these rate hikes and they know your credit card is going to cost more, that auto loan is going to cost more. That mortgage is going to cost more.

TODD: 30-year mortgage rates are now averaging just over 7 percent, levels not seen in almost 20 years, and they're stifling the housing market. Home sales in America, dropping for months. One realtor telling us, buyers and sellers have to adjust.

MARK RUTSTEIN, REALTOR, THE RUTSTEIN GROUP OF COMPASS: Sellers need to reduce prices because homes are going to sit on the market. It's affordability, it's what buyers are willing to pay for your property. Buyers are going to have to go ahead and sacrifice the number of bedrooms or bathrooms on where they're going to live.

TODD: For homebuyers, like Sean and Julianna (ph) Fitzgerald in Indianapolis, looking to buy their first home, rising mortgage rates mean they need to lower their price range.

SEAN FITZGERALD, HOMEBUYER IN INDIANAPOLIS: Our budget changed about $20,000, less than what we initially thought we could buy.

TODD: Will these rapid-fire interest rate hikes push the U.S. into a recession? Experts say that's a risk but --

CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: What the Fed wants to do is to raise rates just enough so that they can cool demand but not so much that they tip us into a recession. And it's really hard to calibrate exactly. They're hoping that it's just enough medicine that doesn't kill the patient.

TODD: But a possible silver lining could be that the Fed hinted today that the next rate hikes could be less high or could be spaced further apart in time.

In the meantime, analysts say, if you're thinking about that holiday trip or buying a car --

SINGLETARY: I think you need to pause, maybe not take that trip for the holidays, maybe don't get the most expensive car, get a used car.


TODD (on camera): I asked Analyst Michelle Singletary if the advice for the average consumer is to wait to make a big purchase, like a car or an appliance. Well, how long should you wait? She said, if you can hold out, try to wait for a few months, up to as long as a year for prices to cool down. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd over at the Federal Reserve, thank you very much.

Coming up, Russia is already hammering civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. Now, U.S. intelligence suggests Russia's military has held worrisome discussions about whether to use nuclear weapons there as well. We'll go live to Ukraine. Stay with us.



BLITZER: There's new concern tonight of Russia possibly using nuclear weapons as it faces ongoing battlefield losses in its war against Ukraine.

CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining us from Kyiv right now.

Clarissa, Russia is now responding to increasing concern from U.S. intelligence agencies that officials in Moscow are considering using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine. What is Russia saying? CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well,

essentially, Wolf, they're re-emphasizing a position that they have held as recently as 2020, whereby they say that they would only ever use a nuclear weapon defensively, and that there are very strict parameters for the use of any nuclear weapon. This is coming from Russia's foreign ministry today. It is no accident in terms of the timing. That reporting coming out earlier from intelligence officials saying it appears that Russia's military leaders may have had discussions about the possible of potential use of tactical nukes on the battlefield in Ukraine.

I should hasten to add, though, there was no suggestion that they had agreed that they intended to use those nuclear tactical nukes on the ground, but this essentially a statement of intent from the Russians that they do not plan to do that, except to defensively. As we know and have seen in the past, Wolf, that often, the Russian government will say one thing and do another, Wolf.

BLITZER: A good point.

Clarissa, I know you just got back from traveling with a team of investigators who are actually going door to door in Ukraine looking to talk to survivors of sexual violence.


What did you see?

WARD: Well, Wolf, this is something that is always very difficult for survivors to talk about and so many of these cases go unreported. But we are traveling through villages in the Kherson region that have been liberated in the last month where people were living under occupation for six or seven or eight months and endured unspeakable traumas, many of them.

We spoke to one 56-year-old woman called Tatiana. She didn't want to show her face or give her last name. And she told us about her experience being raped at gunpoint by a Russian soldier in her brother's house at the end of August. Take a listen to what she had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He pinned me against the wardrobe and groped me. He ripped my clothes off, and I was caught in his grip. It was very hard and painful for me. I was crying, begging him to stop but with no success. Do not tell anyone anything or it will be worse. That's everything he told me. And then he left. It's very hard for me.


WARD: What's interesting, wolf, is that Tatiana in this case actually a few days after the rape went to the Russian commander in her village and complained and told them what had happened that she had been raped. And the commander told her that he punished the soldier who she accused of raping her by punching him in the jaw and that he was ready to shoot him if necessary. Tatiana's response to that was, I wish I could shoot all of you.

But it is certainly interesting, Russia in the past has denied this type of practice from the soldiers and any evidence of systematic rape on the battlefield, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Clarissa, thank you very much. Clarissa Ward, reporting from Ukraine, stay safe over there.

And you can watch, by the way, much more of Clarissa's story about the sexual violence in Ukraine on "CNN TONIGHT" with Jake Tapper. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

We'll have more news just ahead including the heartbreaking and gut- wrenching 911 call from a young girl trapped inside her Uvalde classroom with a killer.



BLITZER: CNN has exclusively obtained a truly heartbreaking and chilling recording of a 911 call from a child who was inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, pleading and pleading for help during a gunman's rampage there. The then 10-year-old described a terrifying scene unfolding inside the school while police were waiting outside for more than an hour.




DISPATCHER: I'm calling with the police department. Are you OK?

TORRES: No, there's a school shooting.

DISPATCHER: OK, yes, ma'am. I have multiple units there. Are you with officers or are you barricaded somewhere?

TORRES: I'm in classroom what the classroom number? 112.


TORRES: 112, 112, yes, ma'am.

DISPATCHER: What's your name, ma'am?

TORRES: Khloie Torres. Please hurry. There's a lot of dead bodies.

DISPATCHER: Stay on the line, OK? You said you're in room 112?

TORRES: Yes, ma'am. Please send help.

DISPATCHER: You need to tell them that they need to be quiet.

TORRES: I am. I am. I'm telling everybody to be quiet and now nobody is listening to me. I know how to handle these situations.

My dad taught me when I was a little girl. Send help. Some of my teachers are still alive but they're shot.


BLITZER: So heartbreaking. Khloie's parents spoke to CNN about the trauma their daughter and other children experienced that day.


JAMIE TORRES, PARENT: She's not doing very good. She's a really strong girl, so one day at a time.

RUBEN TORRES, PARENT: Those kids actually that day, in my opinion, stopped being kids that day and now are -- had to be as grown as parents in survival mode, protection mode. And that's what we see with our daughter. That's what we hear from the other survivors as well.


BLITZER: Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in that brutal, horrible attack.

Also tonight, emails revealing that attorneys for former President Trump saw U.S. Supreme Court (VIDEO GAP) presidential election that Trump lost.

CNN's Sara Murray is here with the latest information, we're getting.

Sara, what are you learning about Trump's lawyers' plans?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in a series of email exchanges, you see that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was key to their plan to try to prevent Joe Biden from being the certified winner of the presidential election in this email exchange, they're saying we want to frame things so that Justice Thomas, we can make the case that there should be no certification of the election results on January 6th.

It's interesting, though, because when you dig further into the emails, you can see one of the lawyers on this chain, Ken Chesebro, he acknowledges that there's a less than 1 percent chance that this kind of plot is going to be successful before the Supreme Court before January 6th. So, even as they're trying to cast this plot sort of (AUDIO GAP) also acknowledging in the email chain that their odds of success are very (AUDIO GAP) cementing his victory that day, Wolf.

BLITZER: We also know some of Trump's lawyers were actually concerned (AUDIO GAP) as well.

MURRAY: Absolutely, they were concerned about that.

BLITZER: Sara, thank you very much for that reporting.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.