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At This Hour

Georgia Voters Head to Polls in Crucial Senate Runoff; January 6 Hero Capitol Police Officers Receive Congressional Gold Medal. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 06, 2022 - 11:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yes. I think the people knew the words, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I think they knew one or two. Perhaps because it is a very popular karaoke song. And that impromptu performance also a rare appearance for the 81-year-old music icon.

He announced his retirement from touring in early 2018 due to Parkinson's disease. Great to see him out there for opening night on Broadway. I think I need to go see the show. There we go.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure you will.


HILL: OK, Jim, I guess you're not coming.

Thanks for joining us today. I'm Erica Hill.

SCIUTTO: I will go. I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

HILL: Yes.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. AT THIS HOUR, we're keeping an eye on Georgia, where it is once again Election Day. And also finally the day votes will really be counted here in this Senate runoff.

Polls are open across the state in this fight between incumbent Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenge Herschel Walker, the result critical to the balance of power in Washington, specifically in the Senate.

Will Democrats have a clear majority with Raphael Warnock winning or will Republicans maintain some bargaining power if Walker wins? We're also focused on Capitol Hill. You're taking a look at live

pictures inside the Capitol Rotunda, where congressional leaders are gathering right now to honor the heroism of so many members of law enforcement on January 6, presenting them with Congress' highest honor to those who defended the Capitol during the attack nearly two years ago now. We'll bring that to you live when it begins.

But let's start in Georgia, Amara Walker live.

What are you hearing from voters today?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Voters are saying they're very pleased with how officially voting has been going this morning on Election Day.

In and out in about two minutes is what most people are telling us. I spoke with the COO of the Georgia secretary of state's office, Gabriel Sterling, a few moments ago. And he told me the average wait time across state, across 2,700 polling locations, is just over a minute.

Compare that to early voting wait lines and it is a huge difference. He says about 400,000 people have already cast their ballots as of this morning. And he does estimate about a million plus turnout overall today.

Will it be 1.1 million or 1.4 million, that is hard to predict and it remains to be seen. But a ton of interest in this runoff. Early voting numbers breaking records, 1.85 million ballots were cast during that shortened voting period.

The bottom line is turnout today will be key. And of course, both candidates, Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker, are hammering this message home. Listen.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R-GA), U.S. SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: The best thing I've ever done, including the Heisman trophy, Horatio Alger (ph), all the thing, best thing I've ever done is run for office right here. A vote for my opponent is a vote for Joe Biden and a vote for Chuck Schumer.



SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Matter of fact, call your father and your mother, your sister and your brother, call Lottie, Dottie and everybody. Tell them it is time to vote. Tell them that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children.


WALKER: And remember, we are here in this runoff because Raphael Warnock did have about 37,000 more votes than Herschel Walker did but fell short of an outright majority. So it will be interesting to see one of the things that a lot of people are watching is how governor Brian Kemp is campaigning.

If it will help Herschel Walker and if it will actually help convince the suburbanites, who split their tickets in November. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for that.

We're standing by to see how it all turns out. For more on this big day and what will be a big evening, let me bring in correspondent Jeff Zeleny, also in Georgia.

So Jeff, every election comes down to turnout, we know this. But Election Day turnout is especially interesting to you in this one.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It definitely is. Herschel Walker and the advisers around him know that turnout today must be incredibly strong to sort of counterbalance the big rush of early votes that Democrats banked in the last week or so, 1.8 million votes cast.

Of course, there are many Republican votes in them as well. But the lion's share are Democrats. And talking to advisers to the Walker campaign, they know that they need to do a big turnout today. So this is going to be a lesson as we go forward in if Republicans are going to be more willing to do more early voting.


ZELENY: Of course it is been really at center of the story for the last couple of years. Donald Trump spent a lot of time sort of bashing early voting. And that has seeped into the mindset of some Republicans.

Well, Republican officials here and campaign strategists believe that has to change. Republicans should be at parity with Democrats going into Election Day. But the turnout today, absolutely is important.

They're keeping an eye on the weather and the rain has stopped by and large at least here in Atlanta. The sun is shining in other parts of the state. So that is giving them hope. And that is why turnout is so important, more important today for the Walker campaign than the Warnock campaign.

BOLDUAN: Jeff, talk me through the strengths for each of the candidates going into today.

What do you see?

ZELENY: Well, look, I think the strengths for Senator Raphael Warnock is simply some the legislation that he has pass and voted on -- lowering the price of insulin, for example; signing on to the infrastructure plan, other positive parts of the Biden agenda. Of course, a downside for him in the eyes of some voters are that he

is a Democrat and he is tied to the Biden agenda. That is at the heart of the Herschel Walker campaign message, saying that a vote for Raphael Warnock is a vote for Joe Biden.

So that is the question here, when you boil it all down. The Democratic majority of the Senate is in place.

But is it going to give the president and the White House some more breathing room here?

And Herschel Walker, he's really running on who he is, as a football great from Georgia. But by and large he's running on someone who he said would be a Republican through and through, would vote a straight Republican ticket and would be sort of a -- a check on the Democratic agenda here.

So when you break it all down, it is quite simply that. What the views are of the Biden agenda. And former president Trump also plays a role in this because he recruited Herschel Walker to run in the first place.

But it is really astounding, as much as Joe Biden and Donald Trump have been at the center of all this, neither of them have been here at all because they're also viewed as a detriment by both sides.

BOLDUAN: I was going to say what a turnaround, what a few months could make, because Biden hasn't been to Georgia in months. And Trump has also steered clear of the state in recent weeks. But both of them speaking and reaching out to voters through the radio and in a telerally. Let me play this for everyone.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It really is critical because, look, all of the things that Reverend Warnock has supported are things that the people of Georgia care a great deal about.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: A vote for Raphael Warnock is a vote to give Chuck Schumer and the unhinged far-left Democrats total control of the United States Senate.


BOLDUAN: But still no in-person campaigning despite how important, it is very clear as you've laid out, how important the result of this race is to both sides. That is quite a statement.

ZELENY: Absolutely, without a doubt. And the former president there, he loves to hold rallies as we know. He loves to be at the center of these rallies and he was during the runoff two years ago. But that produced Senator Raphael Warnock. So he stayed away at the request of the Herschel Walker campaign.

But he did call into a telerally last evening. And that is where those words came from. But look, Senator Warnock would Democrats and Chuck Schumer more breathing room. Democrats like the idea of that.

So as Georgia voters have the last word on this 2022 national campaign at least, what type of a message is it going to send going forward?

Trump-backed candidates have really been -- independent voters have soured on them in state after state. That is one of the reasons that Republicans did not win control of the Senate.

So the outcome of this race tonight is about more than Herschel Walker and about Raphael Warnock. It's going to say a lot about Trump and Joe Biden going forward as we head pretty quickly into the next election.

BOLDUAN: Well, that is exactly what you get with a runoff, right. It is bleeding right into the next election. And there is always going be lessons learned coming out of every runoff and any kind of special election if you will because that is what must be done.

I was kind of trying to think through the challenges that both of these candidates, you were talking about the strengths and the challenges that both of these candidates are facing. That is slightly maybe different than what they were up against in November.

And I was thinking that Walker this time, he doesn't have governor Brian Kemp, the popular Republican governor at the top of the ticket or other Republicans to help maybe draw swing voters. You tell me if you agree.

And then Warnock, I think that I saw this is -- I think I calculated right.


BOLDUAN: His fourth election in two years. So the challenge of trying to rally people who support you one more time to come out to vote for you, once again in such a short period of time.

ZELENY: Sure. Those are the challenges without a question. And on the Walker side, look, he is --

BOLDUAN: Jeff, I'm so sorry. I have to jump in. We need to head back to Washington right now, where the ceremony is now underway, honoring law enforcement heroes who defended the Capitol on January 6. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is speaking now. Let's listen.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We gather here exactly 23 months ago, our nation suffered most staggering assault on democracy since the Civil War. January 6 was a day of horror and heartbreak.

Yet it is also a moment of extraordinary heroism. Staring down deadly violence and despicable bigotry, our law enforcement officers bravely stood in the breach and ensured that democracy survived on that dark day.

So on behalf of the United States Congress and the American people, it is my honor to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the United States Capitol Police, the Metropolitan Police and every hero of January 6, from every agent that responded that day.

May this medal, the highest honor that Congress can bestow, serve as a token of our nation's deepest gratitude and respect not as full but as a token. And in accepting this medal, you bring luster to this award, just as you bring luster to the Congress and the Constitution of the United States.

Will our leaders please join in this presentation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Chief Jay Thomas Manger of the United States Capitol Police.

CHIEF JAY THOMAS MANGER, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE: Good morning, Madam Speaker, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, Chief Contee, distinguished guests and all of my Capitol Police officers and civilian employees and all of my law enforcement colleagues, many of whom were here on January 6th.

We welcome you here again today. I'm honored to accept this Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of --


MANGER: -- the men and women of the United States Capitol Police, who bravely sacrificed their own safety in order to protect the Capitol building, the members of Congress and our country's legislative processes on January 6th, 2021.

I also want to thank our law enforcement partners, especially the Metropolitan Police department who came to our aid that day. Words cannot adequately express our gratitude for what you did to help our officers by joining in the fight that was taking place.

It was a day like --


MANGER: -- it was a day unlike any other in our nation's history. And, for us, it was a day defined by chaos, courage, tragic loss and resolve. And I especially want to recognize our officers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Officer Brian Sicknick, Officer Howard Liebengood and I want to recognize also Officer Billy Evans, who was lost in the line of duty on April 2nd, 2021, when he was attacked outside of the Capitol by a lone assailant.

I cannot thank our officers enough for their courage, for their resolve in order to help us protect the Capitol and the Congress from such a horrific attack. And on the very next day, these officers went back to work and continued to carry out our mission.

I know that Congress appreciates that you all continued to do your job with dedication each and every day.

Today's ceremony means a great deal to the entire United States Capitol Police department. I appreciate the fact that Congress is acknowledging the courage, the strength and resiliency of each and every member of the United States Capitol Police, sworn and civilian.

We are equally as grateful for the recognition to our law enforcement partners who fought shoulder to shoulder with us until peace was restored in our Capitol. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Chief Robert J. Contee III of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.

CHIEF ROBERT J. CONTEE III, WASHINGTON, D.C., METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good morning, Madam Speaker, attending members of the United States Congress, Mayor Bowser and to my many law enforcement colleagues, both of those in attendance and those who are unable to join us in person.

My name is Robert J. Contee III, chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department. And on behalf of the men and women, both past and present, of MPD, it is a tremendous honor to accept the United States Congressional Gold Medal.

This medal is symbolic of our members' contributions not just to the District of Columbia but to the entire country on January 6, 2021.

Today --


CONTEE: -- today marks a significant moment in the history of the Metropolitan Police Department. Our profession is rooted in a culture of guardianship. And there has been no better representation of this than what the world witnessed from our police officers on January the 6th.

I thank all that voted in favor of this recognition but I must also thank our law enforcement community for their extraordinary response.

To our heroes, for many of the officers with us, today's ceremony is the first time they have returned to the Capitol complex. Many of us still carry the physical, mental and emotional scars after that mob of thousands launched a violent assault in an attempt to halt the counting of electoral ballots.

The sound of metal poles and other objects striking the bodies, helmets and shields may still ring loudly.


CONTEE: The air still thick with bear spray and other chemicals, making it difficult for our officers to see and breathe, the calls for your fellow officer to be harmed, just as loud as the day this occurred.

But there is hope because through adversity comes growth. And we continue to grow together and deliver excellence to our community. Perspective, the kind that really matters, comes through risk and courage. And you delivered.

The urgent request for the Metropolitan Police Department to assist in defending the U.S. Capitol is something that you will carry with you for the rest of your careers and lives.

Regardless of your political affiliation, you responded like you do each and every day, without hesitation, with courage and an unwavering duty to uphold your oath.

You were confronted by individuals engaged in heinous behavior with the intent of causing you harm and destroying our democratic process. You did not give up and you did not give in. And, yes, with you were vastly outnumbered.

But you were determined. Exhausted and injured, it was your blood, your sweat and your tears that mark these grounds where we stand today. And you endured this without reluctance.

This commitment to our nation is a reflection of your spirit and serves as an enduring reminder that adversity is also an opportunity. And one of the greatest strengths is our ability to overcome insurmountable obstacles.

That day you showed the world just a glimpse of who we are. I am immensely proud of the work you did that day to return the legislative body to the chambers and restore order to our democratic process.

Your actions were powerful and MPD's legacy strengthened. An unprecedented crisis that called for unprecedented action and the Congressional Gold Medal is a product of your efforts as guardians of our democracy.

So on behalf of the 4,000 members of the Metropolitan Police Department, I am humbled and privileged to accept this highest honor bestowed upon us by members of Congress. God bless everyone.

And to our police officers, you're an inspiration to all Americans. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the United States Army Band "Pershing's Own" Army Chorus.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Kevin McCarthy, Republican leader of the United States House of Representatives.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I appreciate the House and Senate for agreeing to use the Rotunda to honor the Capitol Police and D.C. Police. Today we pay tribute to their service and sacrifice on January 6th.

These brave men and women in uniform stood strong in the line of duty for our country. And we're forever grateful for that. This Congressional Gold Medal commemorates their courage, professionalism and patriotism.

There is no more fitting place to show our gratitude than the Rotunda of the Capitol, a room that is a symbol of a sacred building, the symbol of a great nation, a symbol of freedom and self-government here and around the world.

The Capitol Police and D.C. Police are valued members of this community. But they're also members of another community, the community of law enforcement, the brotherhood of law enforcement.

By awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal, we're not only honoring them for protecting our nation and community on January 6th but we're honoring them for the essential brotherhood as well.

To all of the law enforcement officers who keep this country safe, thank you. Putting on the badge means putting yourself in harm's way to protect others, to keep the country safe. These brave men and women are heroes, heroes who protected so many from harm on that day.

Heroes who live out the code to protect and serve, heroes who do the noble work. Too many people take that for granted. But days like today force us to realize how much we owe that thin blue line. We're forever indebted to them for their heroism.

Today we take an important step toward repaying the debt by presenting them a Congressional Gold Medal. As Congress' highest honor, this award says that the service and sacrifice of these officers will not be forgotten.

I hope every American will see this award and feel the gratitude for every law enforcement officer who answered the call of duty every day but especially the Capitol Police and D.C. officers on January 6, because that is what is great and grateful nations do. Thank you and God bless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of the United States Senate.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: It doesn't take long before anyone working in the Capitol complex comes to see our police men and police women as familiar colleagues. They're the first faces that we see on our way in each morning and our last Senate goodbyes every night.

Just like members, just like staff, the USCP are part of the ordinary bedrock of daily life.