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California Voters Decide Tomorrow if Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) Keeps His Job; Soon, Blinken Faces Capitol Hill Hearing on U.S. Withdrawal; U.S. Capitol Police Arrest Man Armed with Bayonet, Machete Near DNC Headquarters. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, tomorrow, voters in California will decide the political fate of Governor Gavin Newsom. He's making a final big push today to convince voters to vote no in the state's gubernatorial recall election.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: President Biden is part of that last-minute effort. He'll campaign for Newsom in Long Beach, California.

CNN Senior Political Writer and Analyst Harry Enten has been following all of this for us. So, Harry, what do the numbers tell us about what could happen tomorrow?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: I would you be very, very surprised if voters decide to recall Governor Newsom. And you can see in the average polls, my average of polls why that is. You see that percentage of voters who say they're going to be voting no on the recall has been going higher over the last month. It is now a 15 point spread. It was just a two-point spread a month ago. It is almost as if California voters realize, we're a blue state and we want to keep our Democratic governor.

And to put this in a historical context to give you an idea of how rare it would be for the polls to be off by 15 points, I looked back at every single the gubernatorial election since 1998 and there were just four, count them, four instances out of 243 in gubernatorial elections since 1998, in which there was a polling miss of at least 15 points. So, it could happen maybe in recall off-year, maybe these numbers underestimate the possibility, but it would extremely difficult.

One way which you could perhaps get an error would be if the turnout model was incorrectly assumed by pollsters. But if we look so far at the early vote and we look at the percentage of voters who are Democrats versus Republicans and you can compare that to the same point in the 2020 cycle, look at that, the numbers are pretty much identical so. So, that would suggest that the Republicans would need a massive turnout tomorrow on Election Day. It could happen but I wouldn't exactly be betting on it. SCIUTTO: Okay. So, for a lot of political leaders both at the state and national level, handing of the coronavirus pandemic is front and center in voters' mind. So, where does the polling show how voters view Newsom on that question?

ENTEN: It is the number one issue in terms of the California likely voters mind. And if you look, they overwhelmingly approve of the job that Governor Gavin Newsom has been doing on the coronavirus. No big surprise that he's leading in the polls. And more than that, they favor a vaccine mandate for large and outdoor areas, as well as certain indoor gatherings. So, again, Newsom favored, the issues are on his side.

HILL: We'll be watching. Harry Enten, thank you for that.

And be sure tune in for a CNN special coverage of California's recall election. It all starts tomorrow night, 10:00 P.M. right here.

SCIUTTO: Well, the secretary of state will face tough questions today from both Republicans and Democrats about the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. I'm going to speak with a Republican congressman on the House Foreign Affairs Committee about this and other issues, coming up next.



SCIUTTO: In a matter of hours, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will face tough questions on the Capitol Hill, this from both Republicans and Democrats on the administration's turbulent withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some Republicans have called for Blinken's resignation, along with that, the president's entire national security team.

One of those congressmen joins me now, Representative Andy Barr of Kentucky, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, thanks you for taking the time this morning.

REP. ANDY BARR (R-KY): Jim, good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: We're aware of your criticism of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and also your demands for Blinken to resign as a result. He's testifying today. I wonder, what do you want to hear from him today and would it be beneficial in your point of view to hear an acknowledgment of the failures here?

BARR: Well, it certainly would be. Because, in my view, this is the most humiliating, disastrous, catastrophic foreign policy failure of my lifetime, and I think this country is less safe today than we were on September 10th, 2001. It is telling that my ten-year-old daughter is last week and this week learning the history of 9/11. Not having been alive when that happened, and yet it seems that our own president hasn't learned the lesson of 9/11.

So we've got a lot of questions and the American people deserve answers to those questions. One of those questions to this president and to the secretary of state is -- national security team, is who made the decision to abandon the Bagram Air Base before we extracted and evacuated all Americans, all of our allies and our advanced military equipments before actually withdrawing from that country.


We want to know a full accounting of the American citizens that have been left behind and why the president on August 19th in an interview with George Stephanopoulos lied to the American people and admitted to keeping American troops in place until every American was evacuated. We know that is not true.

And we have a lot of other questions as well about how this was so avoidable and the intelligence was apparently either not delivered to the president or he ignored intelligence, that it was clear that their shift in policy to an unconditional retreat was going to fail.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you question though. As you know, the previous president, Trump, committed to withdrawal, in fact, by an earlier day, of May 1st, this was later than that original date, and a big portion of it was based similar to this, on cooperation from the Taliban. Do you equally oppose President Trump's planned withdrawal as President Biden's, as it was carried out?

BARR: Well, let's try to be fair about this. This narrative that this was an identical strategy or that President Biden inherited this strategy is totally false. Look, this president has, in almost every case, abandoned the prior administration's policies, whether it'd be foreign or domestic policy. But the truth is this was a shift in policy. And we knew it in April when Secretary Blinken announced it to the Congress, they were shifting from a conditioned-based withdrawal that Secretary Esper, previous secretary of defense, announced in Doha in 2020 to an unconditional retreat by a date certain of 9/11, 2021.

At that time I asked Secretary Blinken why September 11th. I can think of 364 better days to choose, if you're going to choose a date certain. But, secondly, what do they plan to do with Bagram Air Base? This was an unconditional retreat. It was not based on conditions and certainly this administration has shown an ability to shift away from the prior administration's policy that was no -- there was no commitment that they have to stick with whatever --

SCIUTTO: Point of order there, you do know the previous administration released thousands of Taliban prisoners in advance as well. And I do want to ask you -- I want to test the question of troops though, because --

BARR: I disagree with that.

SCIUTTO: It was part of the Doha agreement. But I don't want to look back. I do want to look forward because I think that's where the American people are looking right now. It is about solutions at this point. Would you send troops back in now both for a counter-terror presence but also to ensure with the safe evacuation of Americans or is it too late, in your view? BARR: No, it is not too late, and this is what any president should do. It is what this president should do is to honor his own commitment to the Americans that he left behind enemy lines. He said on August 19th, we will stay until every American has been evacuated. He lied. The fact of the matter is that he abandoned Americans behind enemy lines and now we have private American citizens, Afghanistan veterans risking their lives without the support of the American military going back into that failed state trying to rescue Americans and our allies.

And, by the way, we're worse off now than we were before 9/11 because we left because this administration, so it is incompetence left $85 billion in advanced military weapon systems in the hands of the enemy and now we once again have an incubator of terrorism in that failed state and we have no control over the southern border of the United States. We have people on the terror watch list.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Separate issue for now because --

BARR: Our homeland is in jeopardy.

SCIUTTO: Given our focus on Afghanistan, but your position on the Foreign Affairs Committee, so you want to send troops back in. How many troops and for how long?

BARR: Well I asked, knowing full well this strategy was failing. And, by the way, it was a bipartisan concern in the early part of the summer. In May, we had in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the ambassador, Khalizad, in front of us, and I asked him, when this strategy fails do you have the ability to go back in to Afghanistan and retake Bagram Air Base once you give it away to the Taliban. And he deferred me to the Defense Department on that.

So, that's a question I have for Blinken, how are we going to retake Bagram? And, by the way, if the grand strategy is to shift and pivot to China, which is a very important objective, why on Earth would we just give away an air base in the only with physical border with the Chinese Communist Party. This makes absolutely no sense. We don't have to be nation building. This is not about the endless war, it is about counterterrorism operation, preventing attacks on the homeland, like 9/11 again. And it's also about containing and countering the threat from China.

And this president may think he's ended an endless war, but he has not ended any war. The Taliban and the terrorists that they are harboring are still at war with us.

SCIUTTO: Just quickly before you go, so you do support U.S. troops going back there for how long, right? Because the end, endless war campaign, idea was one of both President Biden and President Trump, repeated many times by President Trump.


How long would you put U.S. troops back in Afghanistan?

BARR: You know, the situation that this president inherited from President Trump was 2,500 U.S. boots on the ground. That was less troops than we have currently in Spain. We've had 20,000 or more troops in Japan, in South Korea and in Germany for over 75 years. This is about counterterrorism, it is about preventing a homeland -- an attack in our homeland, it is about countering the threat from the Chinese Communist Party. It is not about nation building.

But what this president has done through this disastrous foreign policy is leave Americans behind enemy lines and make the homeland left safe. You talk about a jail break of terrorists. It is not about the Doha agreement. We saw thousands of hardened jihadists escape the Bagram prison. These are individuals who --

SCIUTTO: I hear you. I've been there.

BARR: -- because of President Obama's decision on Guantanamo, these individuals, Al Qaeda, ISIS-K, the Haqqanis, they were all released because of the overrun of Bagram Air Base.


BARR: And now they are on the loose again.

SCIUTTO: I've been to that prison, but I will note that 5,000 were released under the Doha agreement under the Trump administration. We can have a longer conversation. Congressman Andy Barr, we do appreciate the time you took this morning.

BARR: Thank you very much.

HILL: Breaking news out of Washington, U.S. Capitol Police, we're learning, have just arrested a man near the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Details on the weapons he had in his car. Stay with us. That's next.



HILL: Breaking news. U.S. Capitol Police, we're learning, have just arrested a man near the Democratic National Committee headquarters. He reportedly had a bayonet and machete in his vehicle.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill following this breaking news. Lauren Fox, tell us about this threat and what comes next?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, U.S. Capitol Police releasing a statement just a few minutes ago saying that around midnight, a 44-year-old Donald Craighead of California was arrested for illegally carrying prohibited weapons.

Now, this was part of just a routine cruise around Capitol Hill where a police officer noticed that this truck, a dodge pickup truck, had a swastika, as well other white supremacist paraphernalia on top of it. And instead of having a license plate, there was a picture of a U.S. flag. This tipped off an officer who went question the individuals and then found these weapons within the vehicle. Of course, this come ahead of that planned Saturday rally. And just minutes -- in just a few minutes, we expect that Pelosi, as well as other top Republican leaders are going to be meeting to discuss the Capitol security posture ahead of that rally on Saturday.

I mean, this is just part of a slew of concerns and safety considerations up here on Capitol Hill. Given the fact that there seems to be a target out at the U.S. Capitol after January 6, where extremists are viewing this place as somewhere to go to display their issues with the situation and politics right now, frankly, Jim.

And I think that that is part of the concern here on Capitol Hill, is that you have a series of these kinds of individuals coming around the Capitol. Obviously, U.S. Capitol Police is saluting the officer who was doing good, just normal work that they do every day up here at the U.S. Capitol. But I think this is just part of a growing concern with the security posture at the U.S. Capitol. Jim and Erica?

HILL: To your point about those concerns, as you just said, Lauren, in just a few minutes, House Speaker Pelosi is going to be meeting with top security officials with congressional leaders briefing about this justice for J6 rally that's scheduled for the weekend. I'm just curious, do we know how much of what we just learned, as you pointed out, this was last night, is part of that briefing, and have you heard from any lawmakers? I know this is all new news, so apologies to put you on the spot there but wondering if you've heard any reaction to this breaking news from lawmakers just ahead of that briefing as well?

FOX: Well, we're still waiting any reactions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. But I will tell you that U.S. Capitol Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding why this man was outside of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Was he here as part of that planned rally on Saturday? That is the question we just don't have any kind of answers to right now.

So I think that one thing to be keeping an eye on is who are the individuals that are attracted to coming to Washington, D.C. on Saturday. This is why lawmakers are taking Saturday's rally so seriously. There are a lot of lessons learned after January 6 and the security posture, the security failures, really, that happened surrounding that event. Lawmakers on both the Republican and Democratic side want to make sure that they are not missing any potential threats.

But, obviously, it is concerning that you have someone who told law enforcement agents that he was just doing a patrol outside of the DNC and then was found to have these prohibited weapons, at least prohibited in the District of Columbia.

SCIUTTO: Well, that gives him a right to patrol, and we should note that a lot of the recommendations for enhanced security around the Capitol recommended as part of that security review post-January 6 have not been implemented and yet we have another rally coming.


Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto. Very nice to have Erica Hill next to me. I look forward to working with you.

HILL: Good to be with you this morning.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts after a quick break.



Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. Here is what we're watching at this hour. Biden heads west.