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Rare Protests Raging Across China Amid Fury Over COVID Lockdown; Pence Says, Trump's Meeting With White Nationalist Was Wrong; Kellyanne Conway Faces 1/6 Committee, Says She Didn't Tell Trump; Russian-Backed Officials Deny Ukraine's Claims Moscow Is Planning To Withdraw From Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant; New Audio & Details Of Dramatic Rescue From Plane Crash Into Power Lines. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired November 28, 2022 - 18:00   ET


CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: And I think that they would love to make a statement on the field as well.


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Our coverage now continues with Brianna Keilar who is in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. See you tomorrow.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, rare protests are raging across China amid growing anger over country's strict lockdowns as daily COVID cases set records. CNN is live in the region covering this extraordinary dissent against the communist regime.

Also tonight, former Vice President Mike Pence just spoke out against former President Trump's dinner with a white nationalist and holocaust denier. Top GOP senators are also condemning the meeting. So, what does that say about Trump's grip on the party and his 2024 campaign?

And a high-profile former Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway, met today with the January 6th select committee, an interview she decided not to disclose to the former president. Stand by for details on her appearance.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So, we begin this hour with the spreading protests in China, thousands of people taking to the streets demanding freedom from COVID restrictions and from the communist party's tight grip ton their lives.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson has our report from Hong Kong.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Anger on the streets of Chinese cities, the biggest nationwide display of discontent this tightly controlled country has seen in a generation, protesters pushing back against police and the government's zero-COVID policy.

The unrest triggered by a deadly fire in Urumqi, in China's west Xinjiang region last Thursday. Videos emerge of fire hoses barely reaching the blaze, which killed at least ten people. Among them, Qemernisa Abdurahman and four children

What happened to your mother and brothers and sisters?

SHARAPAT MOHAMMAD ALI, FAMILY KILLED IN APARTMENT FIRE: The fire started on the 15th floor. The smoke poisoned my family. The government could not stop the fire in time.

WATSON: Two surviving adult children of Qemernisa speak to me from Turkey. Unable to see their family since 2017 due to the harsh crackdown the government accused of putting up to 2 million of their fellow ethnic Uyghurs and members of other minorities in internment camps. They say their loved ones were trapped in the building by COVID measures.

MOHAMMAD MOHAMMAD ALI, FAMILY KILLED IN APARTMENT FIRE: They could not escape because the fire escape was blocked and the fire escape to the roof of the building was also locked.

WATSON: Accusations CNN cannot independently confirmed but Chinese authorities have been seen literally locking residents into buildings.

Outrage over the Urumqi fire compounded by previous deadly incidents in recent months directly linked to COVID prevention. Though CNN verified 16 protests in 11 Chinese cities this weekend, a Chinese government official told the journalist they just didn't happen.

ZHAO LIJIAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: What you mentioned does not reflect what actually happened. China has been following the dynamic zero-COVID policy and has been making adjustments based on realities on the ground.

WATSON: On Monday, the white papers that have become a symbol of the protests in Mainland China spread here to Hong Kong, where these small groups of demonstrators are holding a vigil for what they say are the victims are China's zero-COVID policy.

JAMES, PROTESTER FROM SHANGHAI: I am a victim. I cannot go home for many years, like two to three years, right? My parents were locked down for three months and even relatives of my good friends, they suicide because of the lockdowns. WATSON: With China reporting record-breaking new daily cases of COVID, there appears to be no end to the lockdowns in sight. Meanwhile, siblings Mohammad and Sharapat cannot pray for closure after suffering the unimaginable loss of five immediate members of their family.

Will you go home for the funeral of your family?

MOHAMMAD ALI: We want to attend the funeral of our family members, but if we went back now, China will put us in jail or even torture us.


WATSON (on camera): Imagine the fear is so pervasive for that family that simply going back home they fear they will be incarcerated.

Among the things that we heard some of the demonstrators chanting at these protests in Mainland China were calls for down with the ruling communist party and even slurs against Xi Jinping, who just a month ago secured for himself a precedent-breaking third term in office as the leader of China, which means he could basically rule for life.


That's pretty startling. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, it certainly is extraordinary what we're seeing from these protests. Ivan, if you could stay with us while I bring in CNN's New Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly along with our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Jim, you lived in China. You've reported from there. Have you ever seen anything like this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I haven't and China hasn't seen anything close to this scale for -- really, for decades, and that's by design. China has developed over the last 20 years an enormously powerful electronic surveillance system, right? It's been a police state for years. But it's harnessed technology to control and stifle dissent and to stop organization of things like this that we're seeing right now in advance. But you got a lot of clever people there, particularly young people who have been leading these protests in many of these cities, who have managed to get around that and organization.

Now, let's put this in some context. These protests in these cities, multiple cities tend to be numbering in the hundreds. They are not in the thousands, the tens of thousands, but that is still an active enormous defiance of that police state, of the Chinese government, of Xi Jinping and there are also enormous acts of courage, right, because China punishes people. And we have seen a lot of videos of people carted away in police vehicles for simply standing out and taking part in these protests.

The final point I would make is this, is that China is a controlled system but it's not a closed one and people in China can see that what they are going through in terms of COVID policy is pretty much unique in the world, that as they watch the World Cup, for instance, they are seeing countries from all over the world developed in developing countries who seem to moved beyond the pandemic and they have not. They are still locked in their apartment buildings and that's something that just seems to have reached a breaking point there.

KEILAR: Yes, it is a different reality that we see there. Phil, how is the White House responding to this?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, it's a remarkable moment but it's also one that's in the early stage and a very unpredictable moment. When you talk to White House officials, they make clear they are watching things very closely right now. President Biden has been briefed on what White House officials are seeing on these grounds. But they are not going too far in terms of backing up what protesters are saying. Instead, they are making clear that they have the right to protest. This was how White House Spokesman John Kirby framed things today at the briefing.


JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: This is a moment for the Chinese people and the Chinese government to speak to. We have been nothing but clear and consistent.

A lockdown is not a policy that we support here, but, obviously, there are people in China that have concerns about that. And they are protesting that and we believe they should be able to do that peacefully.


MATTINGLY: And, Brianna, that's the biggest thing, the White House making clear they support the right to peacefully protest but not going much further than that. I think part of that caution, to some degree, beyond the fact that this is very early stage and unpredictable is what was happening two weeks ago, President Biden sitting down with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping, securing a few concrete steps forward in a relationship that had really been at a low point compared to decades prior in terms of at least opening lines of communication.

Kirby making clear to me earlier today that's something the White House officials, White House still wants to see come to fruition right now. As to what would happen if a Chinese crackdown grew very harsh and public, Kirby said right now, White House officials just waiting and watching very closely as things play out.

KEILAR: Ivan, are there any indications that President Xi will relax the zero-COVID policy?

WATSON: Well, there are some little perhaps glimmers of hope. The Beijing City government on Sunday announced that it was prohibiting the authorities from blocking the entrance ways to residential buildings. And presumably this is linked to the fact that there are serious suspicions that residents could not escape from that apartment fire and this may have been a signal.

But at the same time, the COVID cases in China are going up. They have been breaking daily records for the last six days. So, the authorities are kind of in a trap. Do they loosen up and the COVID cases keep growing and it spirals out of control, or do they try to keep a grip on all of this?

I think that one of the real realizations there is that there doesn't seem to be an end in sight to these really onerous restrictions. The rhetoric of the government has not changed nationally, and that means that Chinese citizens are likely to continue to face this immense psychological, emotional pressure, schools closing, being lock in their apartments for months at a time potentially without very much notice.


And then imagine the pressure this makes economically and financially. How can you plan to run your company, to have a business, to earn your salary, and this is part of the reaction why we're seeing such a fervent reaction out on the streets.

KEILAR: Yes. And, Jim, I wonder what you are going to be watching when it comes to a reaction from the government here in the days ahead, because, obviously, the concern is that clamping down too aggressively could add fuel to the fire.

SCIUTTO: True. Here is the thing. Authoritarian states, they don't admit mistakes, right? And China's zero-COVID policy is a failure. They are three years into this pandemic, they have a vaccine that largely doesn't work. They refuse for nationalistic reasons to bring in foreign vaccines, mRNA vaccines, that have had greater success. They don't have a healthcare system that could sustain a big increase in illnesses among an aging population. So, they are between a rock and a hard place. They can tweak but they can't really reverse without admitting failure and giving up some control and opening up, and this just not a government that does that.

It's also not a government that will not tolerate sustained dissent. They may tolerate this, what you're seeing now, for some time. If it gets bigger, if it becomes a genuine threat -- well, not threat or challenge to government, right, or the police forces, they have got a history of cracking down. Ivan is in Hong Kong. Hong Kong had months and months of protests until China said enough and they cracked down. A lot of those folks are in prison. And the sad fact is, based on China's record, that's a likely end for folks taking part in these protests right now. That's why they are so brave.

KEILAR: Phil, how worried is the Biden administration for Americans who are in China?

MATTINGLY: Look, they have obviously put out warnings right now. They have made clear that they are, A, watching things closely, but, B, very cognizant of the dynamics right now, again, a level of unpredictability and instability right now. I think there's both for Americans on the ground, there have been warnings about how they need to prepare for this moment in time, but also, more broadly, I think, just here domestically, they are looking at the global economy, they are looking at the impact that, A, shutdowns would have, but, B, any shifts related to those shutdowns may have. This is widespread effects not just on the ground in China but really across the world, Brianna.

KEILAR: Phil Mattingly, Ivan Watson, Jim Sciutto, thank you to all of you for that conversation.

And just ahead, former Vice President Mike Pence has just weighed in on his former boss' evening with a white nationalist and holocaust denier. The latest on what some are calling former President Trump's disgraceful dinner party, next.



KEILAR: Tonight, new Republican condemnation of former President Trump's recent meeting with a white nationalist and holocaust denier. Former Vice President Mike Pence speaking out just a short while ago. He is not the only one.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is covering all of this for us. Sunlen, this is a change from what we have been hearing.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. Republicans largely across the board have been silent on this for days, but this afternoon, a growing number of Republicans are now speaking out about the controversial dinner, including Trump's own former running mate, Mike Pence.


SERFATY (voice over): Backlash and criticism with some Republicans now condemning the former president's controversial dinner.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an anti-Semite and a holocaust denier a seat at the table, and I think he should apologize.

SERFATY: The former vice president saying Trump should denounce his dinner guests without qualification.

PENCE: The president demonstrated profoundly poor judgment in giving those individuals a seat at the table.

SERFATY: Pence joins a small but growing group of Republicans speaking outs. The Senate's number two Republican, John Thune, telling CNN the dinner was a bad idea on every level. Another top Republican senator, John Cornyn, saying it's bad, there's no question about it.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): I don't think it's a good idea for a leader that is setting an example for the country or the party to meet with a vowed racist or anti-Semite.

SERFATY: Still, some GOP leaders in Congress have remained silent. West's the recent anti-Semitic remarks caused companies that he was affiliated with, including Adidas and Balenciaga to drop him from their brands. Fuentes is a 24-year-old holocaust denier who espouses racist rhetoric on his podcast.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Nick Fuentes is a racist and anti-Semite and someone who revels in just saying hateful, bigoted things against Jews and other minorities.

SERFATY: Fuentes was also grounds of the capital on January 6th, prompting the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack to issue Fuentes a subpoena in January.

MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: It's incredibly poor judgment, and I think that ever since the election in 2020, I think the president's descended deeper into darkness here.

SERFATY: In a post on his Truth Social platform Friday, Trump denying knowing Fuentes, writing West unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends who I knew nothing about. The dinner was quick and uneventful.

KANYE WEST, ARTIST: So, Trump is really impressed with Nick Fuentes. And Nick Fuentes, unlike so many of the lawyers and so many people that he was left with on his 2020 campaign, he is actually a loyalist.

SERFATY: A source told CNN that Trump found Fuentes, quote, very interesting, particularly Fuentes' ability to rattle off statistics and his knowledge of Trump world. At one point during the dinner, Trump declared he liked Fuentes.

According to that same source, the dinner grew tense at various times, including when West, who recently launched his own presidential bid, asked Trump to join his 2024 campaign ticket as his vice president. President Joe Biden, who is still weighing whether he will seek re- election in 2024 responded to the dinner from Nantucket over the weekend.

REPORTER: Mr. President, what do you think of Donald Trump having dinner with a white nationalists? What do you think about it, sir?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: You don't want to hear what I think.



SERFATY (on camera): And Democrats are certainly trying to draw attention to this. This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, he blasted Trump and the dinner from the floor of the U.S. Senate, Schumer saying it's disgusting and dangerous. And he says that Trump giving an anti-Semite even the smallest platform, much less an audience over dinner, is pure evil, he said and he called on more members, Brianna, both Democrat and Republican, to condemn the former president.

KEILAR: Sunlen, thank you so much for that report. We appreciate it. And joining us now, we have CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend, CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny and CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, who is the author of Confidence Man, the Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.

Maggie, I'm really curious what you make of Pence's reaction here. Because on one hand, he says he thinks that Trump should apologize, but he also says that he doesn't believe he is anti-Semite.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Brianna. He writes this in his book. Pence, as he notes, that he, you know, he insists that Trump is not a bigot, that he wouldn't have served on the ticket with him. I think that Pence is trying to make two things reconcile, and one is trying grapple with things that Donald Trump said and done over a long period of time while condemning him right now.

I will say, Pence is condemning him more forcefully than a lot of other Republicans have. Only he and Chris Christie have really spoken out this way. But you are correct, that, often, these condemnations come with some tempering or some whataboutism about what happens on the political left. And it is either right or wrong what Trump did and people seem so have trouble saying it directly.

KEILAR: Yes. Jeff, it's a really good point that Maggie makes when you compare this, how it is relative to other criticism with Republicans.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Without question. And, look, I think one sort of commonality here is he was asked that question in an interview, the former vice president was, and Asa Hutchinson was asked the question in an interview. What we are not seeing are Republicans coming out on their own, Republicans coming out and denouncing this on their own.

And some Republican officials I talk to said it's over a holiday weekend, everyone wasn't paying attention. The reality is it happened nearly a week ago, it was reported on Friday. So, this has certainly been in the bloodstream, if you will.

But there is no question that Republicans are beginning to, I think, feel more freely to speak out against the former president. It's happening very slowly at a snail's pace almost, but you are beginning to see this. But as was just Maggie just saying there, I cannot recall a time where the former vice president spoke as directly and really forcefully without any whataboutism at all against Donald Trump.

KEILAR: Yes. And, Maggie, it's worth noting there is this -- you know, Trump's defense here is sort of a I didn't know, I didn't know him, I wasn't aware, kind of defense. But I was actually going back through how many different people Trump has used that defense when it is really hard to believe. It's actually impossible to believe with many of them. He used it for his former campaign head, Paul Manafort, Matthew Whittaker, who was the acting A.G. during his administration, Stormy Daniels, obviously, he knew who Stormy Daniels was, Anthony Scaramucci, even kind of with Vladimir Putin. So, do you just not give any stock to this when you hear him say, oh, I don't know who this is?

HABERMAN: There is one other person who he did that with, Brianna, and it was David Duke in 2016.

KEILAR: Very true.

HABERMAN: David Duke, the most famous, you know, KKK member out there and a notorious anti-Semite was praising Trump and offering his support. And it took a while for Trump to give what was a half-hearted disavowal and this support continued over many months. And it was another I don't know this guy, even though Trump, in a column under his own name in the 2000 presidential race, referenced Duke as, you know, part of why he was not going with forward with a campaign of his own. So, no, I think this is something we have seen Trump do over and over. I hardly know the guy is a very standard line.

But here is the thing, Brianna. Let's just say that's true. Let's say that, for benefit of the doubt, he didn't know Fuentes. It's hard to believe just given Fuentes' ardent support of him, but, fine, let's say he didn't know. Now that he does knows and now that he has been duly informed of what Fuentes says and stands for, he could denounce it and he is notably not saying anything, denouncing it at all.

KEILAR: Yes, it's such a good point.

And, Eva, I do want to note, you are in Georgia. I think you moved to Georgia, actually. You were there one week and a day before the big Georgia Senate runoff. We are learning that Trump is not going to appear with the Republican Senate candidate, Herschel Walker, in- person. I wonder why that is and if you could explain the rationale behind that.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I think it depends on who you speak to, Brianna. If you hear Herschel Walker, you know, he hasn't distanced himself at all from the former president. During the one and only debate between Walker and Warnock, if you remember, Walker referred to Trump as a friend.

And, of course, there are a lot of Trump supporters that show up at Herschel Walker rallies.


But, yes, of course, there are some Republicans that are squeamish about the former president coming here thinking it's going to do more harm than good. They still blame him for Republicans losing that other high-profile runoff contest here in the state.

But it's also worth noting that President Biden is, as far as we know, as of now, not coming here in support of Senator Warnock. Listen, this runoff is about turnout. So, ultimately, both of these campaigns are trying to figure out which surrogates are going to help boost turnout, excite voters, get people out, and they are just strategizing about who can do more harm -- who can do more good than harm at this point, Brianna.

KEILAR: I wonder, Eva, what voters are saying to you on both sides about what is motivating them to come out to the polls.

MCKEND: You know, it's really a range of issues. When you are at a Republican event, you are more likely to hear about the economy and inflation. But when you are at an event with Democrats, you will hear a gamut of issues, whether it be climate change or voting rights. The battle over Saturday voting that was waged here between Democrats and Republicans, where Democrats ultimately won and Saturday voting was permitted really energized the Democratic base around that issue of voter access. So, it is really a range of issues. And then it's also, of course, the candidates themselves, Georgians gravitating towards the election arguments of Senator Warnock or Herschel Walker, a political newcomer.

KEILAR: It's interesting, Jeff, because when you listen to what voters are telling Eva, they are focused very much on the issues. If you are looking at this from the national perspective, this is a race, no, it's not going to change the balance of power, right, but it certainly would change potentially the dynamics of the Democratic Party in the Senate.

ZELENY: Without question, and that's a important race. Democrats are going to control the Senate. The question is if they are going to do it with any breathing room or not. And if Democrats happen to win this, if Senator Warnock wins, that means that the committee assignments are going to be not 50-50 as they have been, but Democrats will indeed have a majority.

That makes a big difference in terms of what you can do in terms of investigations and other things. So, since the House is now going to be narrowly controlled by Republicans, Democrats want that breathing room.

But the reality here is, the reason that the former president and the current president likely are not going to a campaign there is because the independent voters in the middle here are who are going to turn this race on. Governor Brian Kemp won 200,000 more votes than Herschel Walker. So, those are the people who are sort of turned off by this, who they are trying to get out this week. But it's definitely a nationalized race outside, but inside, as Eva was saying, it is turning on local issues in some respects. But it's still a very big deal. That's why tens of millions of dollars are being spent in the final week.

KEILAR: And why we are watching it so closely. Jeff, Maggie, Eva, thank you so much to all of you.

Coming up, former Trump Adviser Kellyanne Conway meets with the House January 6th committee as it nears its final report on the Capitol insurrection. We'll tell you what we're learning about that interview, next.



KEILAR: Kellyanne Conway, who was, of course, a key adviser to former President Trump, has met voluntarily with the House select committee investigating the January 6th committee Capitol insurrection.

CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray is here with the latest. Sara, what did the committee want to know from her?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, sources said that what they really want to know from Kellyanne Conway was, of course, about her discussions with Donald Trump after his 2020 loss as well as discussions around January 6th Capitol riot. In particular, they had questions about an exchange that appeared in a book called The Big Lie, where Kellyanne apparently told acquaintances Trump had acknowledged privately that he lost the 2020 election. This has been a big deal for the committee trying to pin down the notion that Trump actually knew he lost.

As you can imagine, though, Kellyanne was peppered with many questions as she was leaving today. Here is a snippet of what she had to say to reporters.


REPORTER: Why did you choose to be here today?


REPORTER: But you said you came here voluntarily, so you were not under subpoena.

CONWAY: I am not under subpoena, no.

REPORTER: Does the former president know you are meeting with the committee today?

CONWAY: He doesn't know that from me, I don't know, even that from you.

REPORTER: And just to be completely clear, you did not plead the Fifth once during that?

CONWAY: Not at all.


MURRAY: So, she said she doesn't plead the Fifth. And, interestingly, she said she did not let former President Trump know at that time that she would be appearing there today, Brianna.

KEILAR: It's so interesting, right?

Also interesting is what this report from the committee is going to look like, and it appears that there is some internal debate over that. MURRAY: Right. Well, look, I mean, one of the things I think we are seeing from Kellyanne's appearance today is they are still conducting their investigation while they are trying to write the report. But there is some friction right now about what should be included, as you can imagine. A lot of people have done a lot of work on this committee at the member level and at the staff level, a lot of different people want to see their stuff highlighted, their stuff included. Here is what Adam Schiff had to say about what he wants to see in the report.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I would like to see our report be as broad and inclusive as possible. We are discussing as a committee among the members what belongs in the body of the report, what belongs in the appendices of the report, what is beyond the scope of our investigation, and we'll reach those decisions, you know, in a collaborative manner.


MURRAY: The reality is this is a work in progress. You can still bet it's going to be a report that is very Trump-centric. But I think the question is how much of the rest of this waterfront can you cover and also hope people still read.


KEILAR: Yes, very good point.

All right, so, Sara, stay with us, if you will. I do want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams to talk about this. To Sara's report there, Kellyanne Conway saying she did not at all plead the Fifth. Were you surprised by that?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, look, most people appear voluntarily as she did here. So, you know, that's not that uncommon. She probably didn't plead the Fifth. She talked to her lawyer and said there is no chance or there is very little chance you have criminal exposure here based on your role outside of the White House and the kinds of conversations you had with the president. So, just go in and answer at least some of the questions. But I think when people don't have anything to fear, they don't plead the Fifth.

KEILAR: What about Trump's exposure here? I mean, you heard, obviously, what the committee could get to know from her.


KEILAR: What do you think?

WILLIAMS: No, absolutely. And I think there are a couple of things that she could shed light on. Number one, she has a conversation with someone in the White House, there is a report of a conversation on January 6th trying to get the president, call him off, you know, in the course of the people who are placing calls at the White House, number one. Number two, he acknowledges to her at some point, prior to January 6th, that he lost the election. Both of these things speak to the president's level of knowledge that he lost, which is relevant to a lot of these criminal charges that he might be facing one day. Did he know he lost the election and still proceed with some acts of fraud either on the state of Georgia, where they are investigating him, or the federal government?

So, she actually could be quite a useful witness if she said anything useful to the committee.

KEILAR: Sara, back to your point earlier that Kellyanne Conway has spoken to Trump recently, what is that process when it comes to, you know, discussing what's happening with the committee? I could imagine so many reasons why she wouldn't want to do it. How is it going to go over with him?

MURRAY: Look, I think Kellyanne Conway, one, has lived through a number of investigations and she has a seasoned attorney with her and probably knows when you are about to make that appearance. You don't want to go to the guy who is central to this investigation and say, just a heads-up, and also let me know what you want me to say. No, you don't want do that if you are a witness.

But, secondly, she maybe just didn't want the earful from Donald Trump. I mean, we know how he feels about the committee. He has railed against it publicly. If she's made a decision that she is going to go in, she's going to go involuntarily, she is going to answer questions to the best of her ability, you know, maybe she just calculated it's best to just get it over with.

KEILAR: It's not like she can't talk her way around things, though, Elliot. So, even though she is not taking the Fifth, I wonder if you think that she would be fully forthcoming with the committee.

WILLIAMS: I don't recall whether she's fully forthcoming with the committee, because that's the answer she could give to virtually every question and still be answering mostly truthfully. I don't recall the specifics of the question you are asking. I mean, there is probably some innocuous things she could have put on the record.

But you're absolutely right, Brianna. It's hard to know exactly how forthcoming or helpful she was. One day, years from now, someone will write a book on all of this and we will hear probably what she said. But until then, we've just got to wait and see.

KEILAR: Yes. I am sure it was fascinating, nonetheless. Elliot, Sara, thank you so much to both of you.

Just ahead, Iranian soccer players reportedly facing threats from the regime in their country after a show of solidarity with protesters.


[18:40:00] KEILAR: In Qatar, all eyes are on tomorrow's high-stakes World Cup match between team USA and Iran. But there is drama and controversy off the field as well.

CNN's Brian Todd has more on that for us. So, Brian, this is a match that could have geopolitical ramifications.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It already pretty much does have those ramifications, Brianna. All eyes tomorrow will be not just on the game between Iran and the United States but also on what happens during the playing of the team's national anthems following a threat made to Iran's players by their own government.


TODD (voice over): One of the most stirring moments of the World Cup and of the recent protests in Iran, members of the Iranian national soccer team refusing to sing their national anthem, a pregame tradition before their World Cup game last week against England, seemingly a show of solidarity with the protesters.

Tonight, CNN has learned the Iranian regime has threatened the players' families with imprisonment and torture if the players fail to, quote, behave before their crucial match tomorrow against the United States. That's according to a source involved in the security of the games.

CAMERON KHANSARINIA, NATIONAL UNION FOR DEMOCRACY IN IRAN: It's not an empty threat that they are facing, that this could be a serious consequences that they are forced to face, and you can see it on some of their faces.

TODD: The source who spoke to CNN said after the players' refusal to sing at anthem at that first game, they were called to a meeting with members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. The source said they were told at that meeting that their families back home would face, quote, violence and torture if they did not sing the anthem or if they joined any political protests against the regime.

Before their next game against Wales on Friday, the Iranian players did sing their anthem.

What might the regime do to their families if they don't, quote, behave?

KHANSARINIA: If what we're seeing right now in the past two months of this protest movement is any indication, it could be very dire. They could be killed. They could be tortured. They could be prevented from leaving the country.

TODD: On the same day as players refused to sing the anthem, Iran's coach, Carlos Queiroz, who is from Portugal, spoke of the enormous pressure the Iranian players were experiencing.

CARLOS QUEIROZ, COACH, IRANIAN NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM: You don't even imagine, you don't even know and behind the scenes what these kids, they have been living. Whatever they do, whatever they say, they want to kill them.


TODD: CNN's source says Revolutionary Guard members also met with Queiroz, but the source did not say what was discussed with the coach.

American players have expressed solidarity with their Iranian counterparts.

WALKER ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDER, U.S. NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM: We know that they are all emotional, they are going through things right now. They are human. And again we empathize with that human emotion. So we completely feel for them.

TODD: The U.S. Soccer Federation temporarily posted a changed Iranian flag on social media accounts to show support for the protesters in Iran.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: They have taken opportunities when they've been given them to make statements, social statements, cultural statements, political statements. Bravo to them.


TODD (on camera): We tried to reach officials with Iran's mission to the U.N. to get their response to CNN's reporting on the players' families' being threatened. We were not able to get a response.

In recent days, Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei praised members of a militia that has led the crackdown on protesters, what the supreme leader refer to as, quote, rioters and thugs.

Brianna, tomorrow is massive.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It certainly is. Brian Todd, thank you for that report.

Coming up, are Russian forces really preparing to withdraw from that embattled Ukrainian nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia? We'll go live to Ukraine for an update right after the break.



KEILAR: In Ukraine tonight, pro-Moscow officials are pushing back on claims that Russia is planning to withdraw from that occupied nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.

Our senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is on the scene for us in Ukraine.

Sam, first off, just tell us what's the status of this facility.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So the status of the facility is that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was captured by invading Russian troops back in March. And since then it's been used as a fire base by Russia, it has received a number of regular incoming rounds, some of it inside the facility itself. Both sides blame each other for those threats that at times have caused the disconnection of the reactors.

There are six reactors in this nuclear power station that provides when it's full capacity 20 percent of Ukraine's electrical power- generating capacity. Now, it's for that reason that it's so strategically important, both to Russia and to Ukraine. The Ukrainian head of the atomic energy authority here saying that he believes that Russia may soon try to evacuate it. The Russians have rejected that, out of hand.

KEILAR: And tell us, Sam, Ukrainians are bracing for more Russian attacks. What is happening right now in the conflict, if you can just give us a sense of that?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very briefly, just tonight, there have been a number of missile attacks on Dnipro, just up river from where I am here in Zaporizhzhia. But really the focus of the Russian effort, the most intense fighting is in the east of the country, particularly around the town of Bakhmut, which has been surrounded on three sides effectively by Russian troops.

Ferocious fighting there, and the villages north and south of it, as Russia tries desperately to try to force its way through and get some kind of territorial gain after what has been months of losses on the battlefield, both in the north and of course most recently in Kherson where they were driven out of Kherson city and 40 percent of the rest of that region -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yeah, they must be desperate for some successful show of force.

Sam Kiley live for us in Zaporizhzhia, thank you.

Up next, we have some new audio from the crash of a small plane -- you've probably seen it, here it is hanging from a tower of power lines just outside of Washington. This led to a dramatic hours-long rescue.



KEILAR: In Buffalo tonight, some closure, perhaps, for the loved ones of the ten people slaughtered by a gunman inside of a grocery store back in May. The killer pleading guilty to charges of murder and terrorism after he targeted a predominantly black neighborhood. The gunman's parents say that their son will be, quote, held accountable for his actions.

We do have some new audio tonight from that plane crash outside Washington, D.C. that knocked out power to 120,000 people.

CNN aviation correspondent Pete Muntean has the very latest. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Firefighters are calling it a high stakes rescue from high voltage power lines. Two people on board this private airplane survived this crash, only to remain trapped 100 feet up as crews de-energized the wires.

PETE PIRINGER, MONTGOMERY COUNTY FIRE & RESCUE: This is challenging events, of course. It's like with a car crash, you know, up in the air.

MUNTEAN: The crash caused power outages for 120,000 people in the blink of an eye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw like two big flashes. I thought, oh, it's just lightning.

MUNTEAN: But the rescue of pilot and passenger took hour after cold hour. Pepco power crews, along with firefighters from Maryland and D.C., responded to the scene, reassuring the pilot and passengers over the phone.

CHIEF SCOTT GOLDSTEIN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY FIRE & RESCUE SERVICE: They were anxious. They were concerned about the stability of the aircraft, the stability of the aircraft remaining in the tower structure.

MUNTEAN: The pilot and passenger were carefully loaded into a specialized 178-foot cherry picker, then lowered to the ground.

The 65-year-old man and 66-year-old woman were rushed to hospital with hypothermia. The crash took place in the dark. Only a mile from the fights destination, the Montgomery County Airport. The single engine Mooney apparently aligned for landing on the southeast-facing runway.

But moments before the crash, air traffic controllers warned the pilot that he was getting too low.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Lower altitude alert, Baltimore altimeter is 2944.

MUNTEAN: The weather at the time in the crash was reported as low clouds, and bad visibility. Just one of the factors the National Transportation Safety Board will be considering as they start the investigation.

MARC ELRICH, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: So, I'm just really happy that, you know, this hasn't been a tragedy. Ask yourself what it would be like in a car to hit a rod 80 to 100 miles an hour, I'd say pretty lucky.


MUNTEAN (on camera): We are just learning tonight from firefighters that one of the survivors this crash has now been released from the hospital. Firefighters point out one extra piece of luck. That plane first sliced through the power lines and then crashed into that transmission tower behind me. They are calling it incredible that nobody here was electrocuted -- Brianna.

KEILAR: So lucky. CNN's Pete Muntean, thank you so much for that report.

I'm Brianna Keilar in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.