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Biden Sidesteps Blame After Dems' Disappointing Election Night; Republicans Eyeing Youngkin's Winning Playbook In V.A. Ahead Of Midterms, Including His Fine Line On Trump; Rep. James Clyburn, (D- SC), Is Interviewed About Democrats, Spending Bill; 28 Million Children Now Eligible For Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine; Voters Favor Law And Order In Election Tests Of Policing Reform; Minneapolis Voters Reject Police Dept. Overhaul After Floyd Murder; Lawyer: Deadly Shooting On Rust Set Could Have Been "Sabotage"; Pentagon Warns China Is Rapidly Expanding Its Nuclear Arsenal. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 03, 2021 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, President Biden sidesteps blame after getting a wakeup call from voters in the first big election test since he took office. Speaking just minutes ago, he acknowledged Americans want Democrats to get things done.

Also tonight, Republicans are celebrating their victory in the Virginia governor's race and studying Glenn Youngkin's winning playbook with an eye toward the midterms. This, as the fate of New Jersey Democratic governor is very much still up in the air with that nail biter race still too close to call.

And over up on Capitol Hill, Democrats clearly are feeling the heat. The House Speaker declaring that paid family and medical leave is being put back into the stall spending bill in a major post-election ship.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's begin right now over at the White House. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is standing by.

Jeff, only moments ago, we all heard it, the President was asked directly if he took any responsibility for the election outcome last night in Virginia. Tell our viewers what he said.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Biden stopped short of taking any personal responsibility as the leader of the Democratic Party after last night's very dispiriting win for Democrats in New Jersey, potentially, and the loss in Virginia. Now the President talked about the divide in his party, he talked about the need to get the agenda through. But he did not do any deep soul searching for what may have led voters to turn against him in states that he won overwhelmingly just a year ago. But again, he did call for Congress to act.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I do know is, I do know that people want us to get things done. They want us to get things done. And that's why I'm continuing to push very hard for the Democratic Party to move along and pass my infrastructure bill and my Build Back Better bill.

I think we should have passed before Election Day. But I'm not sure that I would be able to have changed the number of very conservative folks who turned out in the red districts who were Trump voters, but maybe, maybe.


ZELENY: So the President talking directly there about, in his words, conservative folks who turned out in red counties. But that simply is not a full reading of what happened in these off year elections in both Virginia and New Jersey.

In fact, in areas that the President won overwhelmingly, again, just a year ago, a decidedly different result. There were Independent voters who had a major swing, according to our exit polls and interviews on the ground over the last several days. There's simply were, you know, was a rejection of what they see as the Democratic policies and priorities here in Washington. And the President himself, his approval rating contributed to all of this, officials from campaigns certainly say.

So, the President was taking a few questions about these election results at the end of an announcement about vaccines. But Wolf, it was certainly not a full throated assessment of what happened or a look ahead to how to prevent deep Democratic losses next year in the midterm elections. The President again said, he wants Congress to act. The question is how and when? Wolf.

BLITZER: Good question. A major, major political setback for the Democrats right now.

Jeff Zeleny over at the White House, thank you very much.

Let's get some more in the election results. That left Democrats really worrying and pointing a lot, a lot of fingers. CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray has details.



SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republicans across the country celebrating big gains in the first significant elections during the Biden administration.

YOUNGKIN: All righty, Virginia, we won this day.

MURRAY (voice-over): In Virginia, political newcomer Glenn Youngkin handed former Governor Terry McAuliffe a stinging defeat as he flipped the Commonwealth red one year after this date delivered Joe Biden a 10 point victory.

YOUNGKIN: We're empowered by a conviction, a righteous conviction in our children's future. We're strengthened by our collective belief in the Virginia promise.

MURRAY (voice-over): Democrat McAuliffe made tying Youngkin to former President Trump a focus of his campaign.

TERRY MCAULIFFE (D-VA), FORMER GOVERNOR: We don't need a Donald Trump in khakis.

MURRAY (voice-over): But the now governor-elect kept Trump at arm's length, even as he welcomed the former president's support. Instead Youngkin highlighted issues such as taxes, critical race theory, and parents' rights in schools.

YOUNGKIN: Friends, we're going to embrace our parents, not ignore them.

MURRAY (voice-over): That playbook, a potential roadmap for other Republican candidates to replicate in the 2022 midterms.


In New Jersey, another warning sign for Democrats in a state Biden won by double digits. The governor's race between Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli still too close to call. Ciattarelli focusing his campaign on the economic woes felt across his state.

JACK CIATTARELLI (R), NEW JERSEY GOV. CANDIDATE: Like all of you, I love this state. And I realize it's broken. You know, it's broken. And I'm convinced, I'm convinced that together we can fix this stake.

MURRAY (voice-over): In other races across the country, moderate Democrats showing some strength. Eric Adams coasting to victory in the New York City mayoral race. In Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown declaring victory after losing the Democratic primary and launching a write in campaign against self-described socialist, India Walton.

MAYOR BYRON BROWN, (D) BUFFALO: We are a city where no one will be left out and no one will be left behind.

MURRAY (voice-over): And in Minneapolis, residents rejected a referendum that would have replaced the city's Police Department with the Department of Public Safety. The biggest referendum though perhaps aimed at the Biden presidency, with a majority of Virginia voters saying they disapproved of the President's job performance. That, combined with Democratic inaction on Capitol Hill, leaving the party looking for a path forward. SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Look, congressional Dems hurt Terry McAuliffe. I mean, I'm going to be blunt, it's humbling to say it, but if we had been able to deliver infrastructure and reconciliation in mid-October, he could have sold universal pre-K, affordable childcare, infrastructure, creating jobs. Our inability to come together and get a result hurt him.


MURRAY: That governor's race in the Garden State is still too close for CNN to call. And obviously far too close for comfort for Democrats, an indication of the struggles they are facing across the country right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sara, thank you very much. Sara Murray reporting for us.

So let's get some more in all of this important developments. Our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash is with us. CNN Chief Domestic Correspondent Jim Acosta is with us. And CNN Political Director David Chalian is watching all of this very, very closely.

Just how big of a wakeup call, David, is this for Democrats?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's huge. I mean, this is, you know, yes, it is the swinging of the pendulum of American politics, but it's won pretty convincingly last night, and there are real lessons to be learned here.

Most specifically, Democrats need to find a way to run campaigns that are focused on what voters are focused on. There seem to be a disconnect in the way Terry McAuliffe was running his campaign and what issues he was being front and center with throughout the campaign and what we saw voters say were their most important issues yesterday, the economy jobs, and of course, education, which the Republicans sort of converted into a powerful issue for him, the winner, Glen Youngkin.

So, I think that Democrats can look across the board last night and say, they're in a tough political environment. But there's no indication that that political environment is going to get better for them. So they need to get back and come up with a different approach to deal with how to run in a tough political environment, because that's likely what will be next November.

BLITZER: Yes, clearly, that -- you're absolutely right.

You know, Dana, just a little while ago, we all heard President Biden say he's not sure passing legislation in Congress would have changed the outcome of the election in Virginia. But while Democrats have been fighting amongst themselves, did they forget the basics of this race? Because Americans are clearly facing rising prices at the pump, at the grocery store, and they're still obviously dealing with COVID.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, the President might not believe that the stalled agenda in Congress hurt Terry McAuliffe, but his fellow Democrat, his fellow predecessor for -- in Virginia, Tim Kaine you heard in Sara's piece, he believes that that's the answer. And so, you know, I don't think there's any reason not to listen to what he is saying. He knows Virginia, he won in Virginia, and he happens to be a sitting senator.

And look, the fact is that if you look inside what is in the Democrats agenda, there are bread and butter issues. There are issues like universal pre-K, helping with education, like, you know, childcare like other affordable help for care for elderly and so on and so forth, not to mention the larger separate infrastructure bill, which you could, and they will tout that as a jobs bill.

But that's not what we heard. What we heard in Virginia was the Republican is Donald Trump. The Republican is Donald Trump in khakis. The Republican is Donald Trump in a fleece best. And that's not what the voters wanted.

And if you look back, Wolf, when Donald Trump has not been on the ballot in midterms, Democrats have been successful when they push issues that the voters care about and leave Donald Trump out of it as much as possible.


BLITZER: You know Jim, Glenn Youngkin was able to navigate what they call the Trump factor in this race. Is that a one off? Or is this the start, you think, of a new political dynamic for Republicans?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think other Republicans are going to try it. Other Republicans are not going to be able to get away with it because they've given Donald Trump too much of a bear hug here.

But look, Wolf, I mean, right now the Republican Party is caught in a riptide of disinformation. It's carrying the rest of the country out to see.

Glenn Youngkin, even though he held Donald Trump at arm's length, fully embraced Trumpism, I mean, if you look at what happened in Virginia, he was carpet bombing the commonwealth with disinformation. He was saying the critical race theory was coming into Virginia schools. No, it's not. That's not the case at all.

He was also saying that election results need to be audited in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Is he going to ask for his own election results to be audited? I guess we should be satisfied that there's not going to be an insurrection in Richmond. But that's the kind of campaign that Glen Youngkin was running.

Now at the same time, Dana and David are right, Democrats have some big issues here. Some of them are candidate issues.

I was talking to a Democratic operative who is close to Terry McAuliffe, has worked for him for several years, who said that McAuliffe made a big mistake when he made that comment about parents not being involved in their children's education. That was a huge coup for Glenn Youngkin. But the other thing, Wolf, that you have to keep in mind, and remember, I'm a Virginia native, a proud graduate of Annandale High School and James Madison University, I know that terrain pretty well. If you look at what happened in those red counties, those bright red counties from the Shenandoah Valley all the way down to southwestern Virginia, Dana knows this so well, because she's such a trusted veteran political correspondent, that is Trump country. And Democrats have not been able to make inroads in that part of Virginia and those kinds of rural areas around the United States for a very long time now. And I suspect that Democrats may need to do a little less lecturing and more in listening when it comes to those rural voters to help them get back into the good graces of those kinds of Americans.

BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right. You know, David, and as Jim just mentioned, the issue of education clearly dominated the Virginia race, especially the aftermath of the awkward statement that McAuliffe made about parents having no role in their kid's education, which obviously was played over and over and over again on every ad that the Youngkin campaign put out.

Democrats apparently haven't yet figured out how to address the anger that parents feel over these long years of COVID closures, restrictions, other issues, have they?

CHALIAN: Yes, Wolf. I mean, think about it, this is the third school year that parents are dealing with COVID and their kids in school, the third consecutive school year. The exhaustion around that, the frustration around that is palpable in any conversation with any parent of a school age child. There's no there's no doubt about that.

And clearly, in Virginia, Terry McAuliffe was not able to really tap into that in some way. And what Glen Youngkin did, strategically and quite definitely, politically, he used the issue simultaneously to excite the base and enthuse the basis, as Jim was just mentioning about sort of the critical race theory and the Fox News chatter and what the Trump crowd wants to hear on it. But he also gave real voice to the parents' frustration about this going on for as long as it has, and that helped win over some Independents. I mean, we saw big huge --

BASH: Yes.

CHALIAN: -- swings among Independents and in the suburbs, and this is -- this had something to do with it. So he was able to use it both for the base and to start winning back some folks that drifted away in the middle.

BLITZER: Yes. And Dana, there's no doubt the Democrat --

BASH: And if I can just add?

BLITZER: I just want you to add, but there's no doubt that Democrats, they have to look over exactly what happened, otherwise, they're going to be in enormous trouble a year from now in the midterm elections.

BASH: That's exactly right, and what David was saying, Wolf, about Independent voters. I mean, if you -- leading into Election Day, we all saw the momentum that Glenn Youngkin had, you could feel it, you just could. And so, we looked at that, and we felt that, but we also looked at the data and the reality of where Virginia has been for the past decade plus, which is rapidly moving towards the Democrats. So -- and that is still the case.

So what that means is that Youngkin was able to use all of the arguments that we've talked about, particularly education, particularly the bread and butter issues from, you know, grocery taxes on down to lore, not just those rural Republicans, because you can't win with them in -- just them in Virginia, to lore Independent voters in the voter rich suburb. And as David Chalian says, until he's blue in the face, the modern political story, the story of our time is that the suburbs are where races and -- statewide races and then also national races are won and lost.


BLITZER: Yes. That clearly was underscored that yesterday in Virginia.

Guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, so what is the best strategy for Democrats now in the wake of the very disappointing election results? The number three Democrat in the House, Representatives James Clyburn, he's standing by. He'll take our questions when we come back.


BLITZER: Tonight, the shockwaves from the election are pulsing through Washington. Just a little while ago over at the White House, President Biden said the best thing Democrats can do is get things done and passes infrastructure and social spending bills.


Let's go to our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju.

Manu, how are last night's election results impacting negotiations among Democrats right now when it comes to passing President Biden's spending bills?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are two different schools of thought shaping up among Democrats. The House Democratic leaders are pushing ahead trying to get a vote as soon as tomorrow on that large social safety net bill, $1.75 trillion, and then move on to that infrastructure package that's been awaiting action in the House for months. Nancy Pelosi just told her caucus that a vote could happen as soon as Thursday, but that timing could slip. And there are still some significant disagreements within the ranks about what exactly should be included in this bill.

And in an abrupt shift, Nancy Pelosi today changed her strategy. For months, she's been saying that the House will only take up a bill, the social safety net expansion that could also pass the Senate. That is no longer the case. And she made that clear today when she announced that she would include four weeks of paid family leave in this proposal.

Even though it has the opposition of Senator Joe Manchin, who says that he will not support this bill if it includes that, and he's indicating he will push to get that stripped out, saying it is not the right legislative vehicle to include that. And Pelosi is facing some criticism among some of her (ph) moderates who are saying they want to vote on a bill that will only pass the Senate, not take this vote multiple times. So it's uncertain how that plays out.

And there's one school of thought, too, Wolf, that in the results of that last night that they should take some more time to vet these bills thoroughly and wait until having those final votes. Senator Joe Manchin has that and is urging his caucus to slow things down.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): You know, Manu, I'm not going to speak on the message that was sent. I just think that the messenger is really saying, if we're going to do something, let's take time and do it right. Let's make sure that people know what's in it.


RAJU: But still uncertain how quickly this will get done, Wolf, even though they want to have a vote this week. It may not -- it may slip into next week, and the Senate Democratic leaders want to put on the floor as soon as the week of November 15, but it could still potentially get pushed after Thanksgiving. So a lot of questions, Wolf, on how this ultimately plays out.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you very much. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

Let's stay up on Capitol Hill. Joining us now the House Majority Whip, the South Carolina Democratic Representative James Clyburn.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

As you just heard President Biden said that he recognizes that people want their government to get things done. How much was Democrats failure to get things done, responsible for last night's devastating blow to the Democratic Party?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP: Well, first of all, thank you very much for having me, Wolf. I think all of us are aware that the people would like to see their problems addressed. And there are significant problems. COVID-19 has exacerbated in many of those problems. And so they would like to see us get those things resolved.

Now I think we did a great job with the Rescue Act, spending of $1.9 trillion to rescue families, getting children out of poverty, and doing other things that are necessary to get families stabilized. Now, we have been debating for some time now, what are we going to do about our infrastructure, people want to see the roads and bridges fix, they want to see water and sewage develop, they want to see ports and rails repaired. And these are the kinds of things that create jobs. And so people know that we make these investments in their communities. Jobs will be created, and a lot of them will have (INAUDIBLE) broadband.


CLYBURN: So, we have not done it. And so they want it done. And I think that a lot of what we saw yesterday was people exasperated over that fact.

BLITZER: You mentioned, Congressman, the infrastructure bill. The Senate passed it bipartisan, 69 senators, 19 Republicans voted in favor, all 50 Democrats in the Senate voted for it. Mitch McConnell, Senate minority there voted for it. That was back in August.

It's now November, it's still sitting in the House. Was it a mistake, Congressman, for House Democrats to link it to the other spending plan and failed to pass that traditional infrastructure bill, $1.2 trillion, creating millions of jobs, and as you say, building roads and bridges and airports, was it a mistake to kick that to the side and delay it?

CLYBURN: Well, some people might think so.

BLITZER: What do you think?

CLYBURN: Well, here is what I think, I think that that was a pretty, what I would call moderate, and maybe even conservative piece of legislation. Now there's some other things we need to do that people want to see get done.

One of them is reducing the price of prescription drugs. That's not in that bill. That's in the Build Back Better Bill. And that's what we're trying to do.


We're trying to take care of more than one segment of the American people. And quite frankly, within our caucus, which is a very diverse caucus, we have a little harder job of finding common ground than you have with people who by and large have the same sets of experiences and backgrounds. And that is what the problem is.

We have 57 African Americans in our caucus, only two in the Republican conference. And we -- that is the kind of thing that makes it difficult to find common ground.

BLITZER: But Congressman, I understand completely what you're saying, the reconciliation package, the $1.75 trillion tax has a lot of critically important issues. But it's been, what, 30 years since Congress passed a traditional infrastructure package, 1.2 trillion. It would have created enormous jobs.

Both Democratic senators in Virginia, Senator Warner, Senator Kaine, they both say if you had passed it in August when it came to you, it would have changed things dramatically.

With hindsight, Congressman, was it a mistake to keep it on the sidelines and link it to that broader package? CLYBURN: As I said, some people think so. And that may be the case. But that is water under the bridge, I would say.

So, what we need to do now is go forward so we can spend a lot of time saying what have happened if we had done it back then, we didn't do it back then, it is still before us now. And I think that the better part of wisdom is for us to get the common ground within the next several hours. Try to pass that bill this week, both those bills this week.

If you didn't pass both, pass the infrastructure bill. Do and send the other bill over to the Senate.

BLITZER: Because the infrastructure bill, you're going to pass it I assume in the next day or two, that has already passed the Senate, it'll go to the President, he will sign it into law. The reconciliation bill that's going to take probably weeks to go back and forth between the Senate and the House, right?

CLYBURN: That's correct. We'll send it to the Senate. They'll have their vote-a-rama, which might last into fob and young (ph) Thanksgiving, and maybe we'll get something out of them before the end of the year. And that's just the way the Senate operates as opposed to the way that we operate.

And these are the kinds of things that the American people don't understand when we passed this bill. They're going to be looking for something to get done about prescription drugs, because we'll have passed it in the House. But it won't get done until it's agreed to by the Senate. And I do know that there's some people over there, they may see it differently.

BLITZER: Well, at least the infrastructure bill, the traditional infrastructure bill, correct me if I'm wrong, will become very quickly the law of land, right?

CLYBURN: Yes, it will.


CLYBURN: I'm sure the President will sign as soon as it arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure he will. And I'm sure he would have signed it in August when it first came to the House of Representatives as well.

Congressman, good luck. I know you got a lot going on. We always appreciate you joining us.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, children aged five to 11 here in the United States now eligible for the Pfizer COVID vaccine. But many parents are voicing concerns. We're going to address them with one of our medical experts when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: A major milestone tonight in the fight against COVID 19. The first of 28 million American children are now receiving a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine after the CDC endorsed the recommendation of its advisory panel.

Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Ashish Jha, the Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Jha, as usual, thanks so much for joining us. The problem is only 27 percent of parents want to vaccinate their children right away while 33 percent want to wait and see what happens. As a doctor and as a parent yourself, Dr. Jha, what do you say to parents who want to wait before getting their kids vaccinated?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, so good afternoon, Wolf, thanks for having me here. You know, I do want to get my nine-year-old vaccinated right away. And I'm excited to do that because I think it's the right thing for him. And what I say to people who are not so sure is as I explained my logic of why I think vaccines clearly protect children against COVID and it's much, much better for them to be vaccinated than to unfortunately get COVID.

But for people who have lingering questions, it's really straightforward. They need to talk to their pediatrician, their family practitioner. They need to talk to people who have been taking care of their kids, and get advice from them.

BLITZER: That's which would be really, really important. But what do you say to parents, Dr. Jha, who are worried about what could be unknown long-term side effects from the vaccine, we've heard concerns over all sorts of things, but fertility for example?

JHA: Yes. So in -- what I remind people is in the history of vaccines, we have never seen a side effects show up more than about eight weeks out after people have gotten vaccinated. There is no such sort of thing as a vaccine side effect that shows up five years later, it doesn't happen. It's not how vaccines work. But we do know that there are real long-term effects of COVID. And those are, we're still sorting out.

So, you know, we know the safety profile of these vaccines quite well. There's no effect whatsoever on fertility. That is a piece of misinformation that gets brought up on every vaccine.


JHA: We have given vaccines to almost 4 billion people in the world. They're very, very safe.

BLITZER: Are there any children, Dr. Jha, who shouldn't receive a COVID vaccine?

JHA: Well, there are people might have a severe allergic reaction to some of the ingredients, so that's a place where if you have a very specific allergy to those very specific ingredients, talk to your pediatrician. Those are extremely rare.


And again, they're just -- not for general allergies, but for allergies to specific ingredients in the vaccine. Other than that, everybody benefits from the vaccine.

BLITZER: What about children who have already recovered from COVID, should they get the vaccine? And if yes, when should they be vaccinated?

JHA: Yes, that's a really good question. And the CDC is arguing -- and I agree with this, that those kids should still get vaccinated. I think it's reasonable to wait a little bit of time. So if you want to wait up to maybe 90 days after the child has been infected and recovered, that would be reasonable because you still have a very high degree of immunity.

The problem of natural infection is that you do see a waning of that immunity over time. And so it's really important that those kids still get vaccinated, maybe three months or so after their initial infection.

BLITZER: Very important information as usual from Dr. Ashish Jha. Thank you very, very much for joining us.

Just ahead, Minneapolis voters soundly reject a controversial ballot measure that whatever place the city police with the Department of Public Safety. We're taking a closer look at what message voters are sending about law enforcement.



BLITZER: The election results make it clear voters in both parties care about and support law enforcement. Former Police Captain Eric Adams easily won New York City's race for mayor. In Minneapolis, a large majority turned down a ballot measure that would have replaced the city police with what they call the Department of Public Safety.

Let's take a closer look right now what's going on. Baltimore's Former Police Commissioner Anthony Barksdale is joining us and CNN Political Commentator Errol Louis is with us as well. Errol, in New York, Eric Adams ran a law and order campaign touted his credentials as a former police officer. But he also talked about his own personal experience with police brutality and he ran on reforming the police force. Where does someone like him fit into the broader Democratic Party right now?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if we're lucky, we'll have a more adult conversation within the Democratic Party and everywhere else about the proper role of policing. That's really what the Adams victory signals. This is somebody who spent 22 years in the NYPD but he also was a vocal critic, even while he was in the NYPD. And this is stuff anybody can look up. I mean, some of the major litigation against the department over abusive stop and frisk tactics were -- was opposed publicly by Eric Adams while he was in the police department. And it was that combination of credibility when it comes to actually fighting crime, meaning, he strapped on a bulletproof vest and a gun and went out in the streets every night, along with real reform credentials. I think that's what made the difference in the Democratic primary and, of course, that carried him to victory last night, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. You know, Anthony, what do you make of the fact that Minneapolis city that we all know was traumatized by the murder of George Floyd resoundingly voted down a measure to replace the police department with this so-called department of public safety?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, FORMER ACTING BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: I think that it shows the citizens are watching the crime. They see what's happening in their communities, and they're tired. So if you just want to get rid of the police department, what are you going to do? Who's going to do the job of the police? How effective will it be?

So I believe that it's a vote to say, we need officers just treat us right. We'll stick with them, but you have to improve.

BLITZER: Yes, you have to protect people out there. Errol, how much of a setback was last night for what's called the Defund the Police movement?

LOUIS: Well, look, I think it's a corrective to the Defund the Police movement which properly speaking if you think about it, Wolf, really should have always been called the reconfigure the police or unbundle the police. The reality is, if the George Floyd killing represents anything, it represents the idea that you don't need a squad of men with guns to go investigate the possible passing of a $20 counterfeit bill.

There are some things that the cops don't need to be involved in. They should be chasing down scary criminals, people who are carrying guns and using guns and robbing banks and selling drugs. But when it comes to emotionally disturbed persons, when it comes to squabbles on a playground between kids, when it comes to passing a $20 counterfeit bill, there are other agencies that need to do it.

And so, defunding is not about the dollars, it really, properly speaking, should be about reorganizing police departments to do what we need them to do with deadly force when it's called for and not so much of everything else. It's tricky. It's an adult conversation. It involves skillful management and leadership from the political class. And in many cases, we just haven't had that.

BLITZER: What do you think, Anthony?

BARKSDALE: I think he's 100 percent spot on. There are a lot of things that you can take away from the police right now. Take it off their plate, but they still have to deal with falling criminals with guns out there shooting, killing people robbing, the police have to deal with that.

We look at the increase in homicides in 2020 versus 2019. 30 percent increase in homicides. The police must get back to policing but they have to treat the community the right way with dignity and respect. Get them back to working again.

BLITZER: Anthony Barksdale, thank you very much. Errol Louis, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, new questions right now if possible sabotage in that deadly shooting on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie "Rust." Did someone deliberately put a live bullet in a box that was supposed to contain blanks?



BLITZER: New developments tonight in the investigation into the deadly shooting on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie "Rust." CNN National Correspondent Nick Watt is working the story for us. Nick, a lawyer for the young woman who was in charge of weapons on the set is now raising the possibility that the gun that Baldwin fired had been sabotaged with a live bullet. What's the latest?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that is a pretty bold accusation to be throwing around. And so far, we have had no proof from the lawyer for that armorer. We are still waiting, of course, for the FBI analysis and for the local sheriff's incident report, both of which might give us some facts and shed a little bit more light on just what happened nearly two weeks ago.



WATT (voice-over): The armorer on the set of "Rust" is in the spotlight. Her lawyer now claims this could have been sabotage.

JASON BOWLES, ATTORNEY FOR HANNAH GUTIERREZ-REED: There was a box of dummy rounds and the boxes labeled dummy. She loaded rounds from that box into the handgun.

WATT (voice-over): But, of course, we now know the round was live fired by Alec Baldwin, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

BOWLES: We're assuming somebody put the live round in that box. I believe that somebody who would do that would want to sabotage the set, want to prove a point, want to say that they're disgruntled, they're unhappy.

WATT (voice-over): No comment on that theory from the sheriff's office. Meantime, a crew member who resigned the day before Hutchins died is talking.

LANE LUPER, FIRST CAMERA ASSISTANT, "RUST": I think with "Rust," it was a perfect storm of, you know, the armorer, the assistant director, the culture that was on set, the rushing.

WATT (voice-over): When he quit, Lane Luper sent an e-mail to producers, "During the filming of gunfights on this job, things are often played very fast and loose," he wrote. "So far, there have been two accidental weapons discharges."

Luper also lambasted LAX COVID restrictions and the lack of nearby hotel accommodation for crew.

LUPER: And specifically gun safety, a lack of rehearsals, a lack of, you know, preparing the crew for what we were doing that day.

WATT (voice-over): "Mr. Luper's allegations around budget and safety are patently false," say rusts producers. "It is truly awful to see some using this tragedy for personal gain." Baldwin, producer and star, says he can't comment on the investigation but shared what looked like comments from the film's costume designer with the instruction read this. It reads, in part, "The story being spun of us being overworked and surrounded by unsafe chaotic conditions is BS."


WATT: Now, we haven't been able to reach that costume designer for comment, but we have seen another resignation e-mail from another crew member who quit. "I also feel anxious on set," he wrote. And he went on saying that the assistant director, quote, "Rushes so quickly that props hasn't even had the chance to bring earplugs, and he rolls and the actors fire anyway." Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Nick, thank you very much. Nick Watt with the latest on that front.

Meanwhile, a very disturbing warning from the Pentagon tonight saying in a major news study that China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, and could have as many as 1,000 warheads by the end of the decade. Our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann is working the story for us. Oren, how alarming is this report?

OREN LIEBERMAN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's concerning not only in the short-term on the nuclear stockpile and how fast China's modernizing and expanding that but also in the long-term. The 2021 China military power report, which looks at Chinese actions over the course of the past year, says they could go from the low to hundreds in the nuclear stockpile they have now to 1,000 by 2030.

But that's not the only concerning part, it's the speed with which they're modernizing every part of their military. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley perhaps put it best when he spoke earlier today.


GEN. MARK MILLEY. JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We're witnessing, in my view, we're witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power that the world has witnessed and it only happens once in a while. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMANN: And it's not just in the short-term. China's broader goals, as they've stated before from their leadership is that by 2049, so by the midpoint of this century, China aims to supplant U.S. global influence, replacing U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region and around the globe with their own. 2049 is the 100th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. And their broad goal of modernizing and advancing focuses on that goal with some intermediate deadlines. Wolf?

BLITZER: You know, Oren, this report comes right in the middle of heightened tensions between China and Taiwan. Is there concern over China's plans for this expanded arsenal?

LIEBERMANN: Absolutely. China in the past has stated for decades now that it wants a lean and effective nuclear stockpile, but obviously, 1,000 nukes would be well beyond that. And it also puts into question, their stated No First Use policy with some suggestions here that they may have exceptions to that, where there would be a first use policy.

And there are other warning signs as well. A report from the Federation of American Scientists says China is rapidly building out a number of missile fields or missile silo fields out in the western part of the country. And that too, would be concerning with its intent by 2027. That's one of the intermediate deadlines or interim deadlines, or modernization timelines for the Chinese. They aim to have a number of options when it comes to Taiwan, such as perhaps, Wolf, blockading the island or an amphibious assault.

BLITZER: Yes, lots going on, indeed, very worrisome. Oren Liebermann, thank you very much for that report.

There's more breaking news coming up here in The Situation Room. President Biden sidestepping blame as Democrats real after deeply disappointing election results, and worry about what it means for next year's midterm.



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, President Biden just responded to the warning voters sent to him and his party. He admits a key piece of his agenda should have passed before the election but he's declining to take responsibility for the Democrats' disappointing night.

We're also following all the political fallout from the Republican victory in the Virginia governor's race and the razor close contest for New Jersey governor that's still playing out tonight.