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Former President Barack Obama Hits Campaign Trail for Democratic Candidates in Upcoming Midterm Elections; Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steve McCraw Questioned by Families of Victims at Uvalde School Shooting During Public Meeting; Tesla CEO Elon Musk Completes Purchase of Twitter; 11 Days Until the Midterms, What to Expect in the Final Stretch. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 28, 2022 - 08:00   ET




JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Barack Obama is heading back to the campaign trail, firing up Democrats in the final push of the fall election.

OBAMA: Hello, Atlanta.

ZELENY: Starting in Georgia he's hitting at least five states hoping to stop or slow the prospect of a Republican wave in November. It's familiar terrain for the former president who for weeks has been popping up in television ads and campaign videos across the country.

OBAMA: Pennsylvania, it's up to you.

You can count on John Fetterman.

Wisconsin, you've got a big responsibility this year.

Gretchen Whitmer is Michigan tough.

Katie Hobbs is up the challenge.

OBAMA: This is going to be a close race, and we can't afford to get it wrong.

Vote Democrat on November 8th.

ZELENY: He's still one of the most popular figures in his party, going where President Biden is far less welcome by Democrats this year.

OBAMA: I am fired up. Are you fired up?


ZELENY: Of course, it wasn't always that way, like when Obama faced a punishing midterm election of his own back in 2010, losing 63 seats and control of the House, six Senate seats, and devastating defeats in state capitals.

OBAMA: I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night. I'm sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons.

ZELENY: And again in 2014.

OBAMA: Obviously, Republicans had a good night, and they deserve credit for running good campaigns.

ZELENY: His track record has been far better when his own name is on the ballot, but he's answering the call from Democrats. His itinerary begins tonight in Georgia followed by visits to Michigan and Wisconsin on Saturday, Nevada on Tuesday, and a likely trip to Pennsylvania for the final weekend of the race.

Congresswoman Nikena Williams, who leads the Georgia Democratic Party, said Obama has a unique ability to motivate and make the case for Democrats.

REP. NIKENA WILLIAMS, CHAIR, GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We've been trying to encourage people to go out and vote early. And so he can help us drive that message home and drive home what's at stake for not just our base but younger voters who remember some of the excitement around his election.

ZELENY: Obama is hitting a handful of states with competitive races, targeting not only contests that will help determine control of the House and Senate but also campaigns for governor and secretary of state, roles that often oversee elections.

OBAMA: It's a reminder democracy is fragile, that you have to tend to it, you have to fight for it.

ZELENY: Protecting democracy and election integrity have become a key focus since leaving the presidency. Advisers tell CNN it will be a central message for voters at his campaign rallies.

OBAMA: Hello, everybody.

ZELENY: His travels come after already casting his ballot, which he and former first lady Michelle Obama did last week in Chicago.

OBAMA: I want to punch it. That was fun. Get out some pressure.


ZELENY (on camera): So in the White House, midterm elections were never exactly Barack Obama's strong suit. Of course, that famous comment back in 2010, the shellacking the Democrats received. Of course, they hope that is not a replay this year. But the reality is Democrats are concerned about the House and, indeed, the Senate. It is why Mr. Obama coming to Georgia trying to fire up Democrats, it's all about the getting out the vote and turnout. So he begins that effort here tonight in Atlanta. Alex and Brianna?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, major fears of a shellacking. Jeff Zeleny in Atlanta, thanks so much.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And joining us now is CNN's chief political correspondent and co-anchor of STATE OF THE UNION Dana Bash. And Dana, you've been traveling to a lot of these states where there are competitive races. Can you just give us an overview of where things are?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: People are -- I know this is breaking news because you haven't been covering this at all on this show, people are really, really anxious, really anxious. I've been thinking about this, how many campaigns have we covered where we focus on gas prices, we focus on the jobs report, sort of the economic indicators that come out that the political consultants go, ugh? This is different at least in my political career in that -- political journalistic career -- in that I have not had the sense like I have now that people are genuinely worried about the basics, the real kitchen table things, literally. Eggs up 30 percent, milk, all of the things in their lives.

And then if you go up a notch, I've spent time with small business owners, it's them trying to not just make payroll but also try to figure out if they raise their prices, because all of their expenses are higher, and so on and so forth. So it's really in every facet of voters lives and their everyday lives, the fundamentals, the basics. And so the question is whether or not the people who are historically on the fence are going to take that ballot and use it as a weapon against the people in power just because they're so angry and so anxious.


MARQUARDT: Of course, so much hanging in the balance for Democrats. But as we've gotten closer to Election Day, so many of these races have tightened up. The Senate race in Ohio. The Senate race in Georgia. The gubernatorial race in New York. Did you expect it to come down to the wire in the way that it is?

BASH: Kind of, because a lot of these states, Georgia, Arizona, we've seen this so many times where those races sometimes are not called for days, evenly longer. Even New Hampshire, the incumbent Democrat, Maggie Hassan, people thought once Don Bolduc, her Republican opponent, won the primary, he is somebody who switched his tune, but in the primary he was very much an election denier, very Trumpy, which works in a primary but not necessarily is a pretty purple state like New Hampshire, he's closing in on Maggie Hassan. And Republicans there are actually feeling bullish about it. We'll see.

So it's because of what we talked about before, because of the feeling out there. It's also because of what Jeff was just reporting on. It's history. It's just the way things tend to be, which is the party in power, particularly the party in the White House, the president in the White House, tends to lose seats, sometimes a lot of seats in his first midterm. And so this is maybe gravity taking hold.

We'll see. A lot of these Democrats could definitely come out on top, and that is why you're seeing President Obama in particular out there really trying to boost the turnout, because that is what matters now. It's a cliche, but it's cliche because it happens to be true.

KEILAR: Dana, thank you so much. And of course, we're going to be talking with you here more in a bit about your interview with the second gentleman Doug Emhoff. So very curious about that. We'll see you in just a moment.

BASH: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Look forward to that.

Now a new cruel chapter for the families of murder victims in Uvalde, Texas, demanding answers at a meeting in which the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety told them that they did not fail the community. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz was at that meeting and joins us like now in Austin, Texas. Shimon, what else did you hear?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's certainly a lot of pain, Alex, to hear this director, the director of the leading state law enforcement agency five months later still defending the actions of his agency. Certainly, a very painful moment for the families. The families came to the meeting for answers, demanding answers. They were told they were going to get their questions answered. They were told they were going to get information. Instead, they got more finger pointing and excuses.


PROKUPECZ: Raw emotion erupting at a meeting where frustrated family members expected to hear some accountability about the 77 minutes it took for law enforcement to kill the shooter in Uvalde.

COL. STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: He should have been terminated within 10 minutes, period. Plain and simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were they afraid of, sir?

PROKUPECZ: Aiming their frustration directly at the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steve McCraw, who was expected to deliver an update on the investigation today. First, the families of the victim spoke out.

JESSE RIZO, UNCLE OF STUDENT KILLED IN UVALDE SHOOTING: Misinformation after misinformation. When this occurs, you're actually adding insult to injury.

PROKUPECZ: Naming each of the victims, family members made emotional and often angry please.

BRETT CROSS, FATHER OF STUDENT KILLED IN UVALDE SHOOTING: You see it's been five months and three days since my son, his classmates, and his teachers were murdered.

PROKUPECZ: About 20 family and community members drove three hours from Uvalde for an update on the law enforcement response. RIZO: You basically lit a match and you set the town on fire. It's

time for you, sir, to keep your word and offer your resignation and turn in your badge. People have lost trust in law enforcement.

PROKUPECZ: McCraw gave a statement but not an update on the department's investigation.

MCCRAW: There was enough knowledge, there's enough information to do what needs to be done immediately. Sir, you're exactly right. That should have been terminated in ten minutes, period. By my God, right is right, and we were wrong. It's not a cop out saying that we as a profession failed.

PROKUPECZ: Brett Cross spoke directly to that failure and to McCraw during the meeting.

CROSS: Now, per Mr. McCraw's own words, and I quote verbatim, hey, "I'll be the first to resign, OK."

PROKUPECZ: Quoting a pledge that McCraw gave CNN more than a month ago.

MCCRAW: I'll be the first to resign, OK. I'll gladly resign. I'll tender my resignation to the governor, OK, if I think there's any culpability of the Department of Public Safety, period.

CROSS: Well, Steve, the time is now. If you're a man of your word, you'll resign.

MCCRAW: And I did make that statement to CNN. I can tell you this, if DPS as an institution, as an institution failed the families, failed the schools, or failed the community of Uvalde, then absolutely, I need to go.


PROKUPECZ: But still refused to talk about resigning.

MCCRAW: DPS as an institution did not fail the community, plain and simple.

PROKUPECZ: We spoke with Brett Cross after the meeting.

CROSS: You had 91 people sit outside for 77 minutes. I consider that a huge failure institutionally.

PROKUPECZ: Do you find that he's not willing to take any responsibility?

CROSS: Absolutely. Nobody wants to.

PROKUPECZ: With no new answers, McCraw faced more questions outside the meeting.

Sir, what happened to the director's report?

There was no response.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): And with that, the director went behind closed doors. There was an executive session where he said he was going to discuss some of the information in the course of this investigation and what they're working on.

It was also really interesting because really family members had traveled hours to come here. They traveled hours because they were told they were going to get some information and they wound up with nothing. And again, the director also saying that they're waiting still for autopsies to be completed, and that it could be yet another two months, two months, Alex, before any information will be publicly released.

MARQUARDT: Traveled for hours and had so much pain in their voices. Shimon Prokupecz in Austin, Texas, thank you so much for being there.

Now Twitter has a new chief. Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, the billionaire head of Tesla and SpaceX, he completed his $44 billion takeover of the social media giant last night. And one of his first orders of business, fire the CEO and two top executives.

Joining us now, Donie O'Sullivan, who is of course a CNN correspondent, and Elizabeth Lopatto, she is a senior writer at "The Verge" and author of a newsletter all about Elon Musk called "This Week in Elon." Elizabeth, let me start with you. How surprising is it that this deal was actually completed by Elon, because it was in the air for so long?

ELIZABETH LOPATTO, SENIOR WRITER, "THE VERGE": I think that's a really good question. I think one way or the other Elon Musk was going to wind up as the owner of Twitter. You may recall there was this lawsuit where Twitter tried to make sure that he would go through the bid after he tried to withdraw. He canceled the deal a couple of times, which didn't really have a formal legal meaning. And as we were coming close to his depositions, I think that's when negotiations got serious, and that's when it started to look like things were close. We got a stay in the case, and then of course Twitter is now an Elon Musk company.

KEILAR: What does an Elon Musk Twitter look like, Donie, do you think?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Elon, as we know, is full of surprises. Look, last night around the time that this news broke Musk was also sending a rocket into space from SpaceX. Look, while running Twitter might not be rocket science, he is going to find that it is a very difficult task ahead of him, right? We have seen other platforms -- Elon Musk is not the first person to say we want a pro free speech platform. We've seen that in the likes of Trump's True Social and other social media companies has well.

And what all of those platforms have run into is the very real issue of, yes, you can be pro free speech, but there are limits on that when it comes to inciting hate and violence, and also harassment type rhetoric. So we're going to expect to see some of that type of moderation decision still happening on Twitter, perhaps some blowback on Musk, but most importantly, and of course most critically perhaps even to the midterm elections, is we might see Musk reversing the permanent bans of people like former president Donald Trump, even people like Alex Jones and Info Wars. So certainly a turbulent few weeks and months ahead for Twitter.

MARQUARDT: Elizabeth, what about that? Do you expect some of those higher profile, more controversial people to be allowed back on the platform?

LOPATTO: I wouldn't be at all surprised. For instance, Donald Trump is a moderation decision that the previous CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, struggled with. I will say, though, I think there are going to be some limits, because there was a message to advertisers that Musk tweeted out on Thursday where he said he was buying the country because he was interested in a digital town square. And then he went on to say that he wanted to make sure that a wide range of beliefs could be debated in a healthy manner.

So I think he's acknowledged that there is at least some need for moderation. And I think part of that is because you need moderation in order to get rid of spam bots which is something that he's been very clear about not wanting on the platform.

KEILAR: What does, Donie, a Twitter look like that has Donald Trump -- we know what that looks like. What does it look like if it has Donald Trump, Alex Jones on it under Elon Musk?


O'SULLIVAN: Look, I think as Elizabeth mentioned there, that note to advertisers, the letter to advertisers that Elon Musk sent and raised a really, really important point. After January 6th, we saw a purge across major social media platforms including twitter of a lot of centers on the right, the far right. People liked the former president and people who were espousing those conspiracy theories.

People -- there are hundreds of thousands of followers, a lot of them migrated to other platforms, platforms specifically designed really for far right figures. What Musk is saying is that we shouldn't live in a society where the left are having conversation over here and the right are having conversation over here, that that is a breeding ground for extremism.

And I do think there is validity to that market. So people can have a conversation, which is an admirable goal. Whether it can work in practice, practicably in this country right now, it's going to be a challenge.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: It's going to be a challenge. It's going to be tough to figure out, to strike that balance, to reconcile all that.

O'SULLIVAN: Hopefully, he might unblock you. He might unblock you, Alex. We know as much as Musk likes free speech. He blocked Alex after broke a news story about him.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I know, right. It sort of goes against that principle. I'm glad you mentioned it, Donie. Thank you so much.

And, Elizabeth, thank you as well.

MARQUARDT: Appreciate you, guys.

All right. We are watching and waiting for a new inflation report this morning. We will bring you those numbers as soon as they have been released.

And he's the first second gentleman in American history. Dana Bash has an exclusive interview with Doug Emhoff. That's coming up ahead.

KEILAR: And in a new interview with Chris Wallace, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg revealing he was still attending meetings from the hospital where his son was battling a respiratory virus in the ICU.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION: I will put my work ethic against any of my critics any day.





SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The state where we're going downhill is Georgia. It's hard to believe that they will go for Herschel Walker. It looks like the debate didn't hurt us too much in Pennsylvania, so that's good.


KEILAR: All right. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, that is him caught on a hot mic expressing some concern over the Senate race in Georgia and some optimism over the Senate race in Pennsylvania with 11 days to go until the midterms. What can we expect?

Let's talk about it with the host of "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?", Chris Wallace himself.

I do appreciate a hot mic moment, right?


KEILAR: You get the truth. I found it interesting what his assessment was there. What did you think?

WALLACE: Well, it is interesting because you would think in the old politics that Herschel Walker with all of the allegations from a pro- life candidate, that he would be in real trouble. You would think that Fetterman would be in real trouble after his very revolting performance in the debate and what Schumer is indicating, it looks like Fetterman may not be in such trouble and Walker is doing pretty well in Georgia.

I mean, the Senate is so close. It's 50-50. If Democrats can't flip one, they have to hold on to every one of their incumbents like Raphael Warnock. So, I mean, this is going to be flat out -- you know, as opposed to the House, which tends to be more of a wave, you can see a swing of 20 to 30 seats, at this point more likely in the Republican direction than Democratic, in the Senate, it's just block by block, each individual candidate.

MARQUARDT: Let's talk about your next episode of "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?" One of your guest is the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. One of the things you spoke to him about is being a parent. We have a clip. Let's take a listen to that first.


BUTTIGIEG: I was always there to deal with anything that needed my attention. I want to make very clear, I'm accustomed to working very, very hard. I have never worked as hard as I did during those weeks that Chastain and I were taking care of our newborn premature infant twins. My workday started about 3:00 a.m. And it was beautiful, rewarding work.

But there's this attitude that's still out there that parenting is not work, that it's some kind of vacation. Let me also say, there were times when I left the ICU bedside of my son fighting for his life, went into another room and shut the door behind me and opened the laptop and set a background with a couple of flags so nobody in the zoom was distracted by a background that was obviously a hospital room and got on with my job.

I would put my work ethic against that of any of my critics any day.

WALLACE: On a personal level, what are the biggest lessons from being the parents of these two precious little babies for the last year?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it changes you. It changes you in so many ways and it adds just a dimension of joy to your life that I can't even describe. Things I can't believe -- for example, I don't -- I can't sing, I'm not much of a dancer. And so, occasionally at 7:00 in the morning, I'm asking myself, what am I doing while I am sipping and dancing in order to keep my son entertained while he's eating his bananas?


WALLACE: Let me just say, you'll have to watch "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE" to find out what song he sings to his twins.

KEILAR: Oh, great.

WALLACE: He tells us but he wouldn't sing it.

MARQUARDT: But he did catch some flak for taking paternity leave. Do you get the sense all of this rankles him?

WALLACE: Absolutely. You know, we've all talked to Pete Buttigieg. He's a very buttoned down, very emotionally controlled guy. That's the most emotional I've ever seen him. You can see it in his eyes.


I played clips of a couple of people who, you know, last year at the height of the supply chain crisis, he took a couple of months of paid parental leave. It wasn't known at the time that his kids, particularly the little boy, was suffering from RSV, from a real respiratory issue and was in ICU in the hospital.

And when I played those clips, you could see in his eyes how emotionally upset and what a strain but he had taken care of his family and had done his job as secretary of transportation.

KEILAR: I like that, though. A dimension of joy you can't describe. I think it's such a great description of parenthood.

You also asked him if he still wants to be president. What did he tell you?

WALLACE: Hell, he -- he talked to us -- this was more of a closed off Pete Buttigieg. He said, look, there was a moment and it fit the moment for me to run in 2019. You're saying the man in the moment might never coincide again? I'm 40, yeah.

Look, there's no question in my mind this is a man who wants to serve and would like to serve in higher office and, look, if he's 40 years old, he could run in 2040, 2050, or whatever the year stuck up.

I absolutely think this is a guy who sees a role in higher office, whether it's in the Senate, whether it's president, but this isn't his last job in public service.

MARQUARDT: As a 41-year-old, being reminded he's younger than that in the cabinet is very humbling.

WALLACE: I find it kind of humbling you mention you're 41. Thanks a lot, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Well, Chris Wallace, it's fascinating interview. Just a little bit of what we've seen. Can't wait to see it this weekend.

WALLACE: And we also have Michael Imperioli, you know, who was Christopher on "The Sopranos." And he tells stories about working in "Goodfellas and "The Sopranos". I promise you, you will fall off your chair. They are hilarious, and you've never heard him before.

MARQUARDT: Such a terrific actor.

KEILAR: Can't wait for that. That's great. MARQUARDT: Chris Wallace, thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir.

WALLACE: You bet.

MARQUARDT: All right. You can catch "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?" Sunday at 7:00 p.m. on CNN.

Now, new report finds significant racial disparate between adults receiving life saving CPR treatment.

KEILAR: And here in minutes, a key inflation report will be released. We will break down the numbers, next.