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Georgia Voters Head To Polls to Decide Final Senate Seat; Trump Companies Convicted On All Felony Counts; Jan. 6 Committee Chair: Panel Will Make Criminal Referrals To DOJ; Election Night In America Continued. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 06, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: A guilty verdict against the Trump Organization for a 15-year scheme for tax fraud. That is the breaking news at this hour. Kara, Eli, thank you for bringing us that.

And CNN's special coverage of the Georgia Senate runoff election is going to start right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Georgians go to the polls in today's decisive final chapter of the 2022 midterms.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And I'm Erin Burnett.

And this is CNN special coverage of "Election Night in America Continued". This is the runoff election that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

BLITZER: Just three hours of voting left for most of the state. Senator Raphael Warnock is defending his seat against Republican Herschel Walker.

The stakes today for Democrats, enormous. An outright majority in the U.S. Senate instead of a 50/50 tie. Full control of committees and more power to conduct investigations.

BURNETT: And the challenge for Republicans is getting voters to the polls today, overcoming a traditionally Democratic advantage in early voting which set a record for midterms in Georgia this time. That and persuading voters for the state's Republican governor 5who turned up their noses at Walker in November, to actually give him another look and vote for him this time, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Erin, we have reporters at polling places and with the Warnock and Walker campaigns as well, as well as our own John King. He's over at the magic wall.

Plus, coverage of today's momentous decision by the House January Select Committee to refer criminal charges over to the U.S. Justice Department. That is major, major news. We begin, though, with Georgia right now. CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Atlanta for us.

Dianne, with two minor exceptions, polls were close in about three hours or so from now. So far today, what have you seen as far as turnout is concerned?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, turnout has been steady but easy for voters. We are talking about very smooth experiences across most of the state with wait times that hover between one and a half and three minutes, almost everywhere on average. Here with this southwest Atlanta location people came in, they voted, the biggest issue that we ran into was people who thought this was their precinct but it wasn't. They were confusing it with early voting locations, something that has been quite common across the Atlanta area here.

We spoke with many of the voters who said that they showed up today because they try to vote early during that compressed five-day mandated early voting period, but the lines were just too long. So they said they took a gamble to vote on Election Day.

Now, according to the secretary of state's office, more than 800,000 Georgians have already cast their ballots. That is probably a conservative estimate and we should be hearing from the secretary of state soon with another update on those numbers. Of course, you mention almost 1.9 million early votes as well as these campaigns continue to try and push for turnout on Election Day.

BLITZER: Dianne Gallagher on the scene for us at Atlanta, thank you very much.

Let's go next to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He is over at the Herschel Walker headquarters.

Jeff, election day turnout is obviously important in Georgia and other states as well, just how vital is that portion of the vote expected to be today to the Herschel Walker campaign?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, election day turnout is absolutely essential to Herschel Walker's chances today and here is why. As Dianne was just saying there, the early vote in Georgia has been quite robust; 1.8 million Georgians have cast votes early, but a good share of those are believed to be Democratic voters who likely supported Raphael Warnock.

So, the Walker campaign tells me that they have to have a robust turnout today. People going to the polls across the state to cast those ballots to make up some of the difference from that early vote. And that is one of the after action reports being discussed even before the polls close, that there is some consternation, should Republicans have been more forthright and more eager to vote early?

The Walker campaign was actually pushing early voting, advertising early voting. But there is some skepticism among the ranks of some Republicans just because of the questions of election denialism over the years about early voting.

But, the Walker campaign believes that it is getting out its vote, the sun is shining in parts of Georgia today. It's not here in Atlanta. We're outside the college of football hall of fame where the former football great is going to have his election party today, Wolf. Of course, he was recruited into this race by the former President Donald Trump and his chances rely on early vote. His chances rely on the turnout today at the polls.

So, certainly, Republicans are not feeling quite as confident as Democrats but there is still three hours left to vote here in Georgia, Wolf.


BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny on the scene for us as well -- all right, Jeff, thank you very much.

CNN's Eva McKend is also in Atlanta. She is over at the Warnock headquarters for us. She joins us right now.

Eva, what are you hearing from inside the Warnock camp earlier today?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, good afternoon to you, Wolf. Yes, you are right, I am at the Warnock headquarters and I feel like I have a deja vu here because I was in the exact same place four weeks ago.

I want to talk to you about what I saw today. I was in Cobb County. I was in Atlanta and what I saw was just a steady stream of voters coming in and out. Some really surprised that they did not have to wait in line. You know, the early vote period was really characterized by these long lines. That is not what I saw today.

We also heard from Democrats that they were worried about the weather going into today. Well, you know, voters I spoke with, primarily Black voters in Atlanta, they told me you know, given the legacy in this country, there was no way that they were going to miss showing up today, many of those Democrats supporting Senator Warnock.

For the candidates' part, Herschel Walker, Senator Warnock, out on the trail today, making that final pitch, telling their supporters if they have not already done so to get out and vote, and we have three hours left until the polls close. And even at this critical hour, there are still volunteers making phone calls, imploring folks to get out and vote -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Eva, thank you very, very much. We'll, of course, get back to you.

Erin, lots at stake right now.

BURNETT: I know, Wolf. I mean, it is incredible to think about it. Here we are four weeks later and everything is on the line for the Senate. John King is at the magic wall.

So, John, what are you watching today as we see this -- you know, what's playing out in terms of turnout across the state of Georgia?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One last time, Erin. This is the final chapter of the 2022. Midterms you see Walker versus Warnock, two person race in the runoff now. This will start to fill about three hours from now.

Let's go back four weeks ago, just to remind people of why we are here. We are here because Senator Warnock got 49.4 percent, could not get above 50 percent. Herschel Walker right behind him at 48.5, libertarian candidate is no more. He got more than 2 percent of the vote right here. So, now, you have the two-way race.

So, what are you looking for?

Number one, most of the states population is right up here, Atlanta and the suburbs around it. So that is the most important place to look at the votes tonight. And again, going back to the race, going back, staying here a month ago is instructed in the sense that for Senator Warnock, your base is Fulton County. That's Atlanta.

It's the Black face of the Democratic Party. It is the number one county in the state by far. You see he got nearly 74 percent of the vote there a month ago. He needs to match that number may be even juiced up a little bit tonight if he wants to get to victory.

If you are Herschel Walker, I am going over to Cobb County. You say why are you going there for Herschel Walker? Warnock got nearly 60 percent of the vote, 57 percent of the vote a month ago.

This is what is key for Herschel Walker. Can he perform better in the suburbs this time that he did a month ago. Here is the comparison. You see Herschel Walker with 40 percent, 41 percent if you want to write that up in Cobb County. Look at Brian Kemp, the governor, the Republican governor. He got 40 percent in the same county.

Republicans don't have to win these suburban counties around Atlanta. They just have to run competitively. Kemp gets 47, Walker gets 40. This is Fulton County, you come through here. Then you go to one of the big suburban counties, north and east of Atlanta. This is Gwinnett County, it's the second largest county in the state.

Again, Herschel Walker got 39 percent a month ago, Governor Kemp 44 percent. The margins matter.

Can Herschel Walker get more of those votes in the suburbs? Can Brian Kemp who has endorsed Walker in the runoff, was nowhere near Walker in the general election, can his turnout operation help?

So you look at the blue suburbs around Atlanta, then, Erin, let me just get rid of that so it is not distraction. Then you look more of into the exurban counties. These are absolutely critical for Republicans.

Take Cherokee County, for example, seventh largest county in the state. Brian Kemp gets 47 percent a month ago, Herschel Walker gets 67 percent. So, even in the red county, Herschel Walker was underperforming Brian Kemp.

It's the simple math tonight. Can Herschel Walker improve his performance?

We know the Democrats have the advantage in the early vote, now we see if today, Herschel Walker not only has to win the election today, needs to win it big.

BURNETT: Right. And so, when you talk about those margins and how Herschel Walker needs to make those up for victory tonight, on the other side, Black voter turnout, you know, had been crucial in this race.

So what are you seeing there? I know it is sort of hard now to parse between what you saw on early voting which, of course, was records across the board, and what we are actually seeing today on election day. How do you read between the lines?

KING: So, Eva teed it up really well. It's a short or early voting period. Democrats are happy, they believe they have an advantage in the early voting, but they also have a list. Who didn't vote early? You have to get them out.

And when it comes to the Black vote, that is going to be starting right here in Fulton county. The most important piece of the Democratic Party, right here the black vote. Increasingly in the suburbs as well, and just again, if you're talking about a race on the margin, you want to turn out the black vote down here in Muskogee County, this is the Columbus area around here.

And Senator Warnock, his headquarters in Atlanta tonight, but he is from Savannah. So in the Savannah area, he has localized ads here saying, hey, I'm one of you.


In Chatham County, it's the fifth largest county in the state. So, we look at Atlanta and the suburbs, when it comes to the Black vote, though, you see the blue down here, in the rural the there are pockets everywhere. Early vote helped.

The question for the Warnock campaign, can you deliver on Election Day? The voters you know you need the most.

BURNETT: This is going to be crucial here. And as we said, now, less than three hours until almost all the polls close, a couple will be staying open a little bit later.

And we have got much more of our special coverage of the Georgia runoff election tonight.

But, first, breaking news: the verdict just in against the Trump companies and the fallout to come. This was pretty incredible verdict tonight.

We're also live on Capitol Hill, the House January 6th Committee deciding it will refer criminal charges to the Justice Department.

Plus, the special counsel in the Trump investigations issuing his first subpoena.

Also, what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has to say, finally, about formal president with no respect for the Constitution that they both swore an oath to defend and uphold.


BURNETT: Welcome back to our special election coverage of election night in America continued. We are counting down to the polls closing in Georgia.

But first, the breaking news, a Manhattan jury just moments ago returning its verdict against the company's bearing Donald Trump's name. Guilty on all counts.


CNN's Kara Scannell has the very latest and joins us now.

So, this literally is just happening, Kara. Can you tell me exactly what the verdict is and what the Trump companies have been found guilty of?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, so this just came down moments ago after about two full days of deliberation. The jury of eight men and four women came back with counts of finding the Trump Organization companies guilty across all counts. So there were two entities charged and the jury found them each guilty of the following. A scheme to defraud, conspiracy, three counts of tax fraud and multiple counts of falsifying business records.

This all relates to a 15-year tax fraud scheme where the company is now found guilty of doling out of the books compensation to a number of its top executives. That was company paid-for apartments, car leases and in a case for former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, the private school tuition of his grandchildren.

Now according to prosecutors, this was a win-win. The company was able to pay less in taxes and lessen salary to its employees and those employees, they paid less in their own taxes. So this was a trial that has lasted, we're in our seventh week, prosecution called five witnesses.

Star witness for them was really Allen Weisselberg. He had pleaded guilty to 15 counts admitting to his crimes in his 50 New York tax fraud scheme. But he walked a fine line in his testimony. He told the prosecutors and the jury that he had conducted this scheme with other people at the Trump Organization, but he said he did not scheme or conspire with any members of the Trump family.

Of course, the former president was not charged in this case, but prosecutors say keep they believe he actually solicited some of this fraud -- Erin. BURNETT: Kira, thank you very much with the breaking details here.

Joining me now, Elliot Williams, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutors.

Okay, Elliot, I understand that there's going to be fins here. Maybe $1.6 million, we'll get to the sentencing. But when you talk about these entities, these corporate entities, with Trump's name on them are charged, they're found guilty of helping individuals, individuals to conduct tax fraud. So, what does this mean? Are any individual going to pay a price?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, they are really not, Erin. At the end of the day, look, for the purposes of criminal law, corporation is treated like a person and can be charged with the crime and so on.

Now, if you are going to take a corporation down, one of the kind of things that can undo a corporation, major, major fines -- you know, tens of millions of dollars or sending many people to jail from a corporation. That is just not happening here. Most Americans don't ever see one $1.6 million in their lives, but this is certainly not a significant financial hit for the Trump Organization.

Look, it might be embarrassing, for it as a company, but this is not going to cease the Trump Organization as a business entity.

BURNETT: So, right, so the next question is then, does it change really anything about how it operates or organize us or how much Trump can make from it? Any chance he or his children who are also executives at the company, Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric, will pay any financial or criminal price?

WILLIAMS: Nothing major here. Now it bears mentioning that the New York state attorney general has a $250 million civil lawsuit against the family. Look, in civil court, there is a lower standard for getting evidence in. It could be made to pay down the road, but nothing today is going to lead to anything major or significant for either the Trump Organization or the individuals in the Trump family.

BURNETT: All right. Well, this is the analysis that matters so much when you get a headline like that. Elliott, thank you very much.


BLITZER: Erin, there's also big news here in Washington at this hour. The January 6th Select Committee announcing just a little while ago it will make what are called formal criminal referrals to the U.S. Department of Justice. The panel's chairman, Bennie Thompson declined to say which individuals will be subject to these referrals or how many he expects the panel to make.

But it's now clear the committee has found evidence of crimes as part of its investigation into the 2020 election.

Let us go to CNN's Sara Murray. She's part of the team that actually broke the story here on CNN.

So, what more can you tell us, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Bennie Thompson, he's the chair of the committee, told us a little bit earlier today that the committee will make criminal referrals. This is a big deal. This means that this committee believes they have collected enough evidence that a crime was committed, that a referral -- of course, DOJ doesn't take their cues from Congress. They are moving ahead with their own investigation.

But it is a significant step a combination of the committee's work. The committee put out a statement today saying they're going to deal with the specifics of this in the coming days, that predicate of this criminal referral, who is actually going to be on this list, for potential criminal referrals.

This source tells our team they are going to focus on the main organizers and leaders of the attack, at the U.S. Capitol. That is really what, the point that these committee members want to drive home when they finally release these criminal referrals.


BLITZER: Significant development indeed.

All right. Sara, we're going to get back to you. We're following all of these developments.

Right now, I want to bring in Mark Preston, CNN senior political analyst, Audie Cornish, CNN anchor and correspondent. Also with us still, Elliot Williams, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. And Jamie Gangel, CNN special correspondent, is with us as well.

Jamie, the January 6th Select Committee saying these criminal referrals are going forward as you know, based on the main organizers and the leaders, that is what they are calling the leaders of the attacks. Does this suggest to you that Trump himself might be included?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: In a word, yes. We are being told that Trump is likely to be one of the criminal referrals once -- front and center and then we are talking about allies, people around him, who were involved, as Sara said with the attacks.

I think it is important, Wolf, to remember that, look, while Congress has no power here, you would be the first to say this is up to DOJ, members of the committee has made it clear they are not trying to pressure DOJ, the Justice Department. They feel that these criminal referrals are a critical part of their work, for history, for the record, that they must go on the record. It would be notable if they didn't because of what they found in their evidence and testimony during the hearings.

BLITZER: We are also learning, Elliot, this is also very significant, that the U.S. Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith has subpoenaed locals officials in both Michigan and Wisconsin, and reportedly, Arizona as well, for any and all communications with former President Trump.

What does that say to you?

WILLIAMS: That is hugely significant for the former president. Look, when you are investigating someone wealth, what do you do, try to talk to that person, if you can't talk to that person, you talk to and bring in subpoenas for individuals who interacted with them.

So number one. It is a suggestion that the president himself, as Jaime reported, the president himself is probably under investigation here. And we know that.

And number two others around him, senior White House staff, campaign aides, lawyers, also might be pulled into this.

Now we certainly know of investigations and in all those states, Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona, and so on, and the federal authorities are looking into that as well. So it is a very, very big deal. Even just the transmission of those subpoenas is itself significant.

BLITZER: More bad legal needs for Trump himself.

Audi, it's clear that the new special counsel, Jack Smith, he is moving very, very quickly, right?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is his reputation first of all. Maybe the word isn't quickly but decisively. That is something that when it comes to special counsels, I think a lot of people are hungry for it, especially after what happened with the Mueller investigation. There is a sense that there has been so much dialogue, evidence presented to the public that someone needs to make a decision that will lead to some form of accountability we don't know that what form that will take.

But I think -- instead of it happening fast, think of it more as a culmination of many, many months of investigation and someone is now making decisions.

BLITZER: You know, all of this, Mark, is happening as the Congress today honored the actual police officers who defended and risk their own lives defending the U.S. Capitol back on January 6th.

In a remarkable statement, the family of fallen Officer Brian Sicknick refusing to shake hands with Republican leaders Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy among others, the family saying the two have shown too much fealty to Trump.

What do you make of that?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, there's -- a couple of things. One thing, this is a moment in time. It is a picture that, if you are Kevin McCarthy or Mitch McConnell, you've got to be thinking inwardly, like how disgraced you feel because this is happening in front of everybody.

But look, this is all out of context right now: 21 house Republicans voted against giving the police officers the congressional medals. One of them, Louie Gohmert, went down to Miami earlier this year and met with one of the defendants who was serving 60 days for her involvement in the January 6th hearing. When she walked out, he handed her a American flag that was flown over the United States Capitol.

Put into context, you can understand why these folks are extremely upset.

BLITZER: Yeah. Would shake hands with these Republican leaders in the Congress.

All right, guys, everybody standby.

There's more important news we are following right now, next, he has been notably silent on the former president's call for actually terminating parts of the U.S. constitution over his 2020 election defeat. So what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is finally saying as of now?

Our special coverage continues right after this.



BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage of "Election Night in America Continued".

We are watching the developments right now in Georgia as voters go to the polls in this historic runoff election with so much at stake.

But, first, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today weighing in for the first time on Donald Trump's call for the, quote, termination -- termination of the United States Constitution.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Anyone seeking presidency, who thinks that the Constitution should now be suspended or not follow it, it seems to me would have a very hard time being sworn in as president of the United States.


BLITZER: CNN's chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju is joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Manu, McConnell used what, similar language when he criticized Trump for a meeting with a white nationalist at Mar-a-Lago not that long ago, but he's yet to say Trump should actually be disqualified as serving pres -- as president again.

[16:30:14] MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. In fact, just last week, Mitch McConnell did the same thing. He began his weekly press conference criticizing Donald Trump, saying in the aftermath of that last meeting that Donald Trump had a Mar-a-Lago, white supremacist, and antisemites, that, quote, he is finally unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.

Last week, I asked him whether he could still support Trump if he became the Republican nominee in 2024. This week, I asked him again in the aftermath of his criticism, of Donald Trump's post that the Constitution should be terminated, whether he would still support Donald Trump if he were the nominee, and McConnell again sidestepped.


RAJU: This is the second straight week you've come out to begin your press conference criticizing Donald Trump. Can you say categorically that you would not support him if he were the Republican nominee?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): What I am saying is, it would be pretty hard to be sworn in for the presidency if you're not willing to uphold the Constitution. That's what I said and I just said it again.


RAJU: But Mitch McConnell is very deliberate about the words he chooses, in fact he rarely mentions Donald Trump. In fact, he rarely addresses any Trump controversies. They have been -- he has been done with the relationship for the former president -- in the aftermath of January 6th, even though he voted to acquit Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, he accused Trump of being responsible, morally and practically responsible, for the events of January 6th, and Trump, of course, have called for McConnell's ouster time and again.

But, Wolf, this taking with his antisemitic dinner and as well as Donald Trump pushing Senate candidates who have faltered, have led to serious break with Republicans on Capitol Hill and have Herschel Walker loses tonight in Georgia, undoubtedly you will see here more criticism from Capitol Hill directed to the former president if that were to come to pass -- Wolf, Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Manu. Thank you.

And joining me now, Bakari Sellers, former Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, along with David Urban, longtime Republican strategist and former senior adviser to the Trump campaign. Karen Finney also here, former senior spokesperson for Hillary for America, also part of the 2021 special election polling team for Raphael Warnock. And Jonah Goldberg, editor-in-chief of "The Dispatch".

So, Jonah, you hear Senator McConnell, anyone seeking the presidency who seeks the Constitution to be suspended or not followed, it seems to me, would be hard for them to be sworn in as president of the United States. And then when asked, that doesn't mean you support Trump? Says -- he repeats it basically. OK. So, how do you square that circle? Why is this so hard?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, look, I have a great deal of sympathy for Mitch McConnell. Maybe not for the Republican Party in general but this is the problem that you get when you have, when you are trying to extricate yourself from Donald Trump. Mitch McConnell cannot say he will not support him. Because politically that would make the issue a big fight between McConnell and Trump, and his whole strategy, much like Ron DeSantis's tragedy and Glenn Youngkin's strategy is to not give the big baby the bottle. Not create a narrative of this big feud but instead try to make it seem like he is old news, and move on. It is not a profile in courage, but it may be the smartest politics.

BURNETT: All right. Bakari, it's interesting, because you just mentioned Glenn Youngkin. Glenn Youngkin did come out, governor of Virginia, and say, I completely disagree with this comment. So, at least he made it personal.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Where is the bar? In hell? I mean, the bar is the lowest bar ever. I mean, the fact is this, Republicans for very long period of time created a monster because they were afraid to take him on full frontally.

All of this -- and I get the politics of the Capitol and I think that Mitch McConnell's politics of trying to manage a caucus is different from those individuals who maybe trying to protect democracy or being president of the United States. You have to have some courage and some fortitude.

That's what the American people are looking for. They're looking for somebody who is going to stand up, you won't stand up to Donald Trump, how will you stand up to the president of China? How will you stand up to any of our foes around the world?

And the most -- I guess for those watching, I think the thing that I can say that is disenchanting the most about these Republicans is when you have someone like Donald Trump talk about Mitch McConnell's wife, or Ted Cruz's wife, and they won't even fight back, then you know that those individuals are either beaten by Trump or don't have the fortitude or courage to be a leader because if that was me, they'd be some furniture moving.

BURNETT: So, David, okay. What is interesting is what McConnell did right, is try and say I am for the Constitution, which is a line that everyone is trying to walk.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Technically impossible for Trump to be sworn in on a document he refuses to sign.

BURNETT: So, I guess, there is a technicality here. I get it. But he is not alone on that. Here are just a few more examples.


[16:30:03] REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I fully support the Constitution.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Obviously, I am a strong supporter of the Constitution.

MIKE PENCE: I think everyone that serves in public office, everyone that -- serve again, should make it clear that will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.


BURNETT: Okay. Pence --



URBAN: No daylight between me and the Constitution.

Look, Jonah has a correct, right. It may not be a profile to encourage but you don't want to fight with Donald Trump every tweet, on -- are you back to that? Again, I think Republicans want to put some space speech when the former president and themselves and every tweet, every dinner, every meal every, snack every, thought that he has or else they will be stuck in this downward spiral role and -- we were right in the midterms. We are trying to separate ourselves -- further away from the Republican Party.

So, again, as Jonah characterized, it -- it may be best strategy for the Republicans.

BURNETT: Karen, those are top two Republicans in the House. You may agree with them that this is the strategy, is it the right one?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is for them now. Now that the American people of actually shown backbone, I mean, they have more backbone than the Republican leaders because they are the ones that went on it voted and said we are done with this. We don't want this. So in terms of profiles and courage, it is not a lot of courage to come out and announce, criticize Donald Trump when the American people have already made it okay for you to do that. Because let's remember, in terms of the politics. There are one third of the Republican Party that believes Donald Trump pretty much no matter what he says.

And for the last four years, many of the Republicans are also afraid of those voters because they need those voters. That is part of the reason they don't want to get into a back and forth publicly.

BURNETT: And the person who needs those voters is Herschel Walker.


URBAN: That's right. He's on the ballot. He's hoping they're showing up as we speak. Come on out, people.

BURNETT: All right. All, thank you very much, and stay with me.

And more to come with our special coverage of election night in America as it continues. Christian evangelical leader Ralph Reed, a top supporter for Herschel Walker's campaign, will join us next.



BURNETT: Welcome back to our special coverage, "Election Night in America Continued".

For Georgia voters headed to the full polls right now to decide the last uncalled Senate race in the country. Democrat Raphael Warnock versus Republican Herschel Walker and whoever wins this race, will make history becoming the first black person from the state of Georgia to win a full term in the U.S. Senate.

I want to go now to Ralph Reed. He is the founder and chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. He's a Herschel Walker supporter and also the former chair of the Georgia Republican Party.

So, you have a horse in this race and you know the state as well as anyone can know it. Ralph, I really appreciate this time, I am glad to speak with you.

So back on November 8th, of course, no one got over 50 percent. So we are at this runoff. Walker trailed Warnock on that date right, he trailed him by about nine tenths of a percentage point. You know the Georgia electorate. Why do you believe that Walker can do better this time, that he can pull this out on election night?

RALPH REED, FORMER CHAIR OF THE GEORGIA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well the reason is really pretty simple. They overperformed in the early vote, and Herschel was likely to have overperformed today. That is not just you know, hope. That is based on hard data.

There is about 200,000 more are likely Republican voters than Democrats that had not yet voted for the early vote. And there is about, you know, roughly 330,000 more very high propensity, almost guaranteed Republican voters, base voters. These are what consultants refer to as four by fours. They have voted in four out of four elections. So, there's about 330,000 vote advantage there for the Republicans.

So, you know, look, Erin, I would've preferred when I was party chairman here, and when you look at the campaigns that are running in Florida, by the party there, you would much rather have a closer gap in the early vote. But the data is there. The math is there. But it is all going to blow out to turn out.

If the Republican voters turnout today on the level that they are capable of and preliminary -- based on what the secretary of state is projecting, they are today, this is going to be an nail biter. I mean, it could be a very late night BURNETT: Right. All right. So, we're going to see what happens. You

know, look, the reality of it is and what you are seeing mangy may come to pass but the reality of it is we are in the situation because a lot of Republicans who voted for Brian Kemp, the Republican at the top of the ticket did not vote for Herschel Walker a month ago, right? If they had done that, he would've won. But they didn't. So he has to turn this around.

And some Republicans in your state come forward to say Walker was just the wrong candidate for the GOP in Georgia and it is the candidate that is the problem. One of them is the current Republican lieutenant governor of the state, Geoff Duncan. I asked him about Herschel Walker the other day, here's what he told me.


LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R), GOERGIA: Herschel Walker is going to go down is probably the worst Republican candidate in the history of politics, right? It's no way to run away from that.


BURNETT: Okay. What do you say, Ralph? I mean, could a different Republican candidate have just run away with this four weeks ago?

REED: I mean, candidly, nothing against Geoff who I have known for a long time, that is just absurd. I mean, you are comparing an incumbent Republican governor against a challenger to an incumbent U.S. senator who is outspending him three or four to one. It's apples and oranges.

And Herschel came up 37,000 votes short on November 8th compared to Kelly Loeffler losing to Warnock by I think about roughly give or take 100,000 votes two years ago.


So how is Herschel the worst candid ever? I mean, it is just an absurd thing to say. And I would just simply say that if Herschel wins tonight, and I think he's more than capable of doing it, all of this conventional wisdom will be shattered. But regardless, I can tell you this, I have been involved in every statewide campaign in the state of Georgia for 44 years.

And I can tell you, I have never seen a candidate take the hits he has taken and not only survive but thrive. He got resilient, he only got stronger. He became a better candidate. And I think he has the possibility to really surprise a lot of people. I think there is a good chance he could win tonight.

BURNETT: Well, as you point out, it certainly would fly in the face of conventional wisdom. You are right about that and we will see what happens.

I want to ask you about one other thing, Ralph, since we're together because you were a very vocal supporter and defender of President Trump, you wrote a book making the argument for evangelical support for Trump --

REED: Yeah.

BURNETT: -- despite the things he had done. Okay. So now in the past few days, he has called for the termination, that is his word, of the Constitution in order to overturn the 2020 election. He, of course, has already announced his candidacy for 2024. Could you support a candidate who was called for the termination of the Constitution?

REED: Well. I certainly appreciate the question, it's a fair question. But I am not going to talk about 2024 at all until this runoff is over. I have said that publicly. I'm not going to speculate about 2024.

I know it's your job to ask the question. And believe me, we get it everywhere we go. Everyone wants to talk about 2024. We have got roughly two and a half hours left before the polls close. I have still got people making phone calls and canvassing voters. We are still flush in the vote here. I will focus on the 2024 after this runoff is over.

BURNETT: So, in two and a half hours, you'll make -- you'll make a -- you will be willing to answer?

REED: I didn't say that. I said I am not going to comment on it until after this election is over.


REED: But I will say, this without addressing 2024, Trump was the most pro-life, pro-religious freedom, pro-family and pro-Israel president in my lifetime. He is a friend of mine. I think if he goes out there and he runs, he'll get a fair hearing from evangelical and faith-based voters.

I'm not predicting the outcome of the nomination. I think it will be very contentious. But I think he will get a fair hearing given the record that he had as president.

BURNETT: So just to make sure though. You are saying that his pro- life stance may be more important to you than his lack of support for the Constitution, his call for terminating it?

REED: Well, I think that is what campaigns are about. They will presumably be crowded and contentious primaries, and there'll be others making other cases. But when you got the kind of record that he had on life, on court appointments, on religious freedom, on support for Israel -- all I'm saying is, he's been a very good friend to the faith community and on those issues. So, he's going to get a fair hearing.

BURNETT: All right. Ralph Reed, thank you very much, I appreciate your time today.

REED: Sure, Erin. Good to be with you. BURNETT: All right. And coming up, more of our special coverage as

"Election Night in America" continues. We're going to break down which candidate could be winning the battle to get the vote. Our political director David Chalian will join us next.



BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN special coverage as election night in America continues.

Just over two hours before polls close in Georgia, I am joined now by CNN's political director David Chalian, he will discuss what is motivating voters right now who may be turning out.

What can you tell us David, about the November elections vote breakdown for both Senator Warnock and Herschel Walker, and what it means signal for today's runoff?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right, Wolf. So, we went back to look at the exit polls from November 8th to see what the makeup of the electorate was like that got us here, right? What did the electorate look like on November 8th that prevented either of the candidates, Warnock or Walker, getting to 50 percent and therefore we are in this runoff.

So this is not today's lecture, I want to make that clear. This is from the November 8th election. We see here among young voters, we see that that was a big Warnock area of strength. Eighteen to 29 year olds, Warnock, that is 63 percent of them, Walker at 34.

Look at the other end of the age spectrum. With senior voters 65 an older, this was a Walker block of voters. 58 percent voted for Walker, 41 percent for Warnock. So obviously Herschel Walker, dependent on Election Day turnout today, hopes that there are going to be a lot of seniors in the Election Day electorate today.

We also took a look at black voters. A key component of the electorate on November 8th, they made up 28 percent of the overall Georgia electorate that day, 90 percent of African-American voters went for Warnock, 8 percent for Walker.

And perhaps the most critical bloc of voters in that November election were independent voters wolf. Look at how they split here. Warnock won them by double digits, 53 percent to Walker's 42 percent. That important middle block, those independents, helped give Warnock that edge, helped keep Warnock and Walker below 50. And put us in this runoff portion for today.

BLITZER: How much was control of the Senate, David, an actual motivating factor for both Warnock and Walker voters back in November?


And without that in play, how might that impact this election today? CHALIAN: This is so interesting. We ask folks back in November, how

important is party control of the Senate to your vote? Among Warnock voters, Wolf, 74 percent said very important, 19 percent somewhat important.

But look at this. It was even more important to Walker voters. Among Walker voters in November, 82 percent of them said that party control of the Senate was very important. But here is the thing. We already know party control of the Senate. So this was a really important piece for Walker's coalition back in November, and it doesn't exist today because we know now due to the mat that the Senate is going to be controlled by the Democrats, irrespective of tonight's result.

BLITZER: It will either be 50-50 or 51-49, but the Democrats will be in control.

David Chalian, thank you.

We will have more special coverage just ahead as "Election Night in America" continues.

Coming up, one of the top election officials in Georgia will join us to talk about turnout, and seeing CNN's John King is standing over at the magic wall.

We'll be right back.