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At This Hour

Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock Wins Georgia Runoff Race; Germany Arrests 25 Suspected in Plot to Overthrow Government; January 6 Committee Finalizing Report. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 07, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone.

AT THIS HOUR, a big win for Democrats. What Georgia now means for the Senate and Biden's 2024 future.

Plus, dozens of people arrested in Germany. Police point to a massive plot to overthrow the government.

And the Justice Department's inspector general will soon release its report into the beating death of Whitey Bulger.


BOLDUAN: Democrats are celebrating a big win in the hotly contested Senate runoff in Georgia. Senator Chuck Schumer took a full victory lap on the fact he now has a 51-seat majority. Raphael Warnock is also making history as Georgia's first Black senator to win a full term. Listen to this.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): It is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: the people have spoken.


BOLDUAN: Warnock's win over Herschel Walker gives Democrats an outright majority in the Senate after two years of a 50-50 split. Another blow to Republicans and another rebuke of Donald Trump's influence and his hand-picked candidates. Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill for us.

What do we hear about the victory and the path forward?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chuck Schumer was downright jovial. His message was that Democrats not only defied the odds from Arizona to Nevada to now last night in Georgia but that this is a moment that practically really matters in the U.S. Senate.

The difference between a 50-50 Senate and 51-49 Senate is really significant for Democrats. There's a few reasons he outlined. One of them, the way committees will now do their work.

No longer will the committees be evenly divided. Now Democrats will have the clear advantage in these committees, which means moving nominees more quickly through the process.

Also passing legislation more easily, that's significant. Also, going ahead and issuing subpoenas without having to get a Republican to sign off. That's significant.

Also, it gives majority leader Chuck Schumer a bit of breathing room. I want to emphasize there, Kate, just a bit of breathing room. Over the last several years, the political universe has centered around Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

That's going to change; Schumer could lose one of them. Now I did ask him how he plans to deal with the Republican-controlled House. If Kevin McCarthy is the Speaker and he's still working to get the votes on that, he said he is ready and willing to work with McCarthy. But Republicans will have to give a bit and Democrats will have to give a little. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you so much for that.

So the numbers, the margins, the demographics, who showed up to vote, what does it all tell us about Warnock's victory?

John, what do you see in that?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: First of all, Raphael Warnock, the margin is 95,000 votes. That's up quite a bit from what it was just one month ago in the November election. He led with 37,000 votes in November. Now ahead by 95,000.

Let's see where he overperformed the general election, almost everywhere. Warnock did almost better everywhere. Let's look at it a different way.

Where did Walker underperform?

Now this is telling, right?

What jumps out at you is this area here, right around Atlanta. These are huge counties in terms of population. Fulton County right here, that's 280,000 votes to 85,000 for Herschel Walker. And it was an improvement for Raphael Warnock, in terms of percentages. This time he got 76 percent.


BERMAN: These are urban. But also suburban counties like Gwinnett, the Atlanta suburbs, Warnock got 32 percent. And as we leave that circle there, the demographics of the state, percentage of Black population -- this line is around Atlanta -- this has a very high percentage of African American population.

Raphael Warnock did very well with them also. Suburbs and the Black population, that was the key to Raphael Warnock's success.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, John.

Joining us now, Manu Raju and Clyde McGrady.

Manu, let's start with the big number, 51 seats in the Senate.

What does that mean for the Democrats and Joe Biden in terms of their agenda, come January?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It means they may have a better chance of getting nominations quicker to the floor. Remember we're headed into a divided Congress. It will still be incredibly difficult to get legislation through.

They were successful in passing legislation along straight party lines, in two key instances and they did that when they had the House and Senate.

They no longer have the House. Legislating will be difficult. The Senate has to confirm nominees. And if there's a Supreme Court vacancy, that give them breathing room. They won't have to rely on senator Joe Manchin in particular to come their way.

That's what Democrats are most harmed about. And when there's a possibility of a 50-50 Senate again or just the possibility of one vote on an individual issue, having that additional vote is hugely significant in the difference between legislation stalling or legislation failing.

BOLDUAN: John Berman was just highlighting where Walker lost, where Warnock really won. One key was Black voters in Georgia. You spent a good bit of time looking at this before the election.

What did you learn here?

And what did you hear from Black voters?

CLYDE MCGRADY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, you know, you have this historic race, where there are two African American candidates. And, you know, you would think there would be more excitement around that.

But you know, some of them were a little, I don't know, uncomfortable with the campaign and Walker's candidacy. They didn't feel like he was representing Black interests.

Now of course, Black people tend to vote for Democrats at a pretty high rate. But you know, some of them talked about this embarrassment they felt at the way that Hershel Walker ran his campaign.

And they were motivated also, you know, by just keeping another Trump- backed Republican out of office. They spoke about that again and again, you know, as a motivating factor.

BOLDUAN: And Manu, a noticeable absence throughout the runoff was Joe Biden as well. He stayed out of the state the whole time. To be fair, so did Donald Trump as well.

But what does that say about the key to winning these days, that the current president wasn't called in to help?

And what are you hearing about the fact that, you know Trump's hand on the Hill today, that another one of Trump's hand-picked candidates fell?

RAJU: I've been talking to Republicans all morning long. There's blame game, anger, soul-searching about what happened. And also it was directed at Trump. It was his decision to go into some of these states late, like having a rally in Pennsylvania, rallying in Nevada as well.

Senator John Thune, the number two Senate Republican, said Donald Trump's presence late on the campaign trail gave Democrats an issue, created a contrast that helped them ultimately. He also criticized those candidates who embraced the bogus notion that the election was stolen. Listen.


RAJU: Was Trump a problem this year?

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): He was active, of course, in the primaries and then even in the general election. He was a presence out there, when it should have been a referendum. The Democrats in many cases were able to turn it into a choice election because of Trump's presence.

Was he a factor?

I don't think there's any question about that, because a lot of the candidates that had problems in these elections were running on the 2020 election being stolen. I don't think independent voters were having it.



RAJU: Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the Republican leadership, told me, quote, we need better candidates. Rick Scott, chairman of the committee, said they had quality candidates. He also defended the decision by his committee to not engage in the early primaries to prop up more electable candidates, something Republicans want to do in the next election cycle.

Lindsey Graham and others say Republicans need to do a better job of getting voters to the polls early, specifically things Donald Trump says as a demagogue on the other hand. That needs to stop.

BOLDUAN: The key there, these are all things that Donald Trump, who has been the person sounding off the most about, how bad he thought mail-in and early voting was.

Clyde, thanks so much. And Manu, thank you.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in the case that's focused on the future of federal elections. State lawmakers could really end up with significantly more power. Jessica Schneider is following all this from Washington for us.

Jessica, what are you hearing in court so far?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There is actually some pushback, because, of course, if the Supreme Court finds in favor of the Republicans, it could upend how elections are run.

We heard recently from Brett Kavanaugh, expressing some concerns that some Republicans are taking their arguments too far.

What Republicans are pushing here is this idea that state legislatures have unchecked power to control election procedures and redistrict and state courts and state constitutions have no role in checking that power. That's something that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson expressed skepticism and concern about.


JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Mr. Thompson, just following up on what was just mentioned, I guess what I don't understand is how you can cut the state constitution out of the equation, when it is giving the state legislature the authority to exercise legislative power.

It's the state constitution that's telling the legislature when and under what circumstances it can actually act as the legislature. So let me ask it this way.

What if what is at issue is not any particular exercise of the state's legislative authority, such as its ability to make time, place and manner determinations, but whether the entity that is purporting to exercise that power qualifies as this particular state's legislature?


SCHNEIDER: So there's a lot of debate and talk here as to what exactly the Founders intended, what the meaning of the Constitution is, Kate, because it's this election clause that says the time, place and manner are determined by state legislatures.

The big question is, is that the end game?

Is it just state legislatures or is that power checked?

That's the big tension point here. The argument is still going on, probably will be going on for a while and a decision not expected until probably the springtime.

BOLDUAN: Jess, thank you so much. A major plot to overthrow the German government, with thousands of

police conducting raids, being described as with one of the biggest counterterrorism operations in the country's history. Details are next.





BOLDUAN: The story we're following out of Germany, where thousands of police have launched overnight raids, arresting 25 people, authorities are saying this has to do with a far-right plot to overthrow the government.

Prosecutors say the terror group was even planning an armed attack on the parliament. Nic Robertson is following this.

What's happened here?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This is a group that didn't believe in the legitimacy of the German state. And their plan was quite simply to go in there with guns and take it down and replace it with an alternative leadership. The police at the beginning of the day said they were going after 52 people; they have 25; 22 of them are members of this group, Reichsburger or Reich Citizens' group.

They are still chasing another 27 or may be in the process of capturing them and have yet to update us about that. This is 3,000 police right across Germany, one of their biggest operations ever.

More than 150 different locations were targeted. Potentially it could have been very violent. These were heavily armed, by German standards, heavily armed police who went in to some of the properties.

You see some forensic agents wearing not only forensic overalls but flak jackets on top of that. It potentially, had the coup d'etat gone ahead, it could have potentially been deadly right at the seat of the government.

Prosecutors say they have identified a ringleader, a minor German royal, and another one arrested was a former MP. However, this group itself is a fringe minority group. But like QAnon, believing in conspiracy theories, some kind of deep state has a hand in running the country.


BOLDUAN: Much more to come on this. Nic, thank you very much.

We're also tracking a major reversal. China announcing it's easing some of the most draconian COVID-19 restrictions. This is after all of the widespread protests in recent weeks. Ivan Watson has the latest from Hong Kong.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For the first time in months, the Chinese government has announced a relaxation, significant relaxation, of its strict zero COVID policies. That has triggered some real excitement.

For example, a surge in inquiries about plane tickets for internal travel.

Why is it so important?

Because look at some of the changes. For example, the government says no longer will people need to be required to get negative PCR tests to go into public places like shopping malls, for example.

Previously, a lot of cities required people to line up and get tested every 48 hours, just to do things like travel on public transport or to go to public places.

Asymptomatic COVID cases, people with mild symptoms, and close contacts of COVID cases are no longer going to be bundled off government quarantine, where there have been reports of poor accommodations, poor food, poor sanitary conditions. They can now do home quarantine.

Another big change is a lifting of restrictions on travel between regions and provinces. So I spoke with a friend in Shanghai and told her about this for the first time. She said, this is wonderful, I can go travel to see my parents, who I haven't seen in another province in months now.

There is a flipside to some of this excitement. That is that the Chinese government has been warning about the fears, the dangers of COVID for years now. And now suddenly, the narrative is changing. And it's saying hey, this new variant is milder. You can live with it.

There are still prominent fears in the population. There is a run on over the counter medicines for fever and respiratory illnesses, for example, at pharmacies.

But there are some real threats as well. Epidemiologists are warning that there are large numbers of Chinese that are very vulnerable to COVID. For example, 23 percent of citizens over 80 are completely unvaccinated. That is like 8.4 million people now at risk.

China is trying to rush out vaccines to these vulnerable parts of the population right now -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


BOLDUAN: Ivan, thank you so much for that.

The Justice Department's inspector general has outlined a series of mistakes that led to the beating death of gangster Whitey Bulger. What are some of the mistakes?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Essentially the inspector general said there was nothing malicious but it could have been done better. Let's back up to this report.

Whitey Bulger, a notorious gangster, was transferred out of one prison to another one, Hazelton, notoriously a violent prison. After he was killed, like Kate said, hours after arriving there, beaten to death by three men.

A lot of questions have been raised, how come he wasn't taken better care of?

Essentially what this report, which Hannah Rabinowitz, my colleague, just got briefed on, essentially said 100 Bureau of Prison workers were made of his transfer prior to him coming there.

If you think about that, that's a lot of people who knew about a notorious gangster coming to a prison that's notoriously violent. Essentially saying some people talked about his arrival among other inmates, which you can imagine is not good.

There's 11 different recommendations that will go to the Bureau of Prisons, talking about better training amongst transfer staff and a list of others.

BOLDUAN: The fact that that many bureau prison employees knew about the transfer and knowing that he had clearly lots of enemies, probably in that very system, is quite something.

Good to see you. Thanks for bringing it. Appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Two of Trump's companies found guilty of fraud.

What does this mean for the future of his businesses?

That's next.





BOLDUAN: The January 6 committee report is coming and a deadline is fast approaching as Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives in a matter of weeks.

As part of the committee's final work investigating the attack on the Capitol, the committee decided to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department.