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Biden Says GOP Economic Plans Would Create Chaos In Fiery Speech; Secret Trump Team-DOJ Court Hearing On Mar-A-Lago Documents Ends; In The Bunker Of Ukraine Power Plant Targeted By Russians; Mortgage Rates Top 7 Percent For The First Time Since 2002; Families Of Uvalde Victims Slam DPS Chief, Demand His Resignation. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 27, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Biden just made a fiery appeal to voters, arguing that Republican's economic plans would create chaos, his words. We're getting new reaction to his message and whether it'll make a difference with the all important midterm elections just 12 days away.

Also this hour, a secret hearing involving the Trump team and the Mar- a-Lago document dispute. It ended just a short while ago. We're learning also that the January 6th select committee is now moving forward with interviews of top Secret Service agents and officials. Standby for the details, reported first right here on CNN.

And we'll have an exclusive report from inside the bunker of a Ukrainian power plant targeted by the Russians. I'll discuss the war and the new taunts from Vladimir Putin that are ongoing right now with key White House official John Kirby. He's standing by live.

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

We begin this hour with issue number one for so many American voters, the U.S. economy. President Biden is seizing at a new report showing a rebound in the past three months with the midterm elections only 12 days away.

Let's go to our White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz. Arlette, tell us about the president's economic pitch in New York State just a little while ago.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, with just 12 days to go until the election, President Biden really trying to tout some of the economic achievements that have been seen in this country, including that economic growth that came out with those GDP figures today, but he also sought to sharpen his messaging when it comes to trying to draw a contrast with Republicans. The president spoke very starkly about what he believes Republicans would do if they took office and how it would affect the economy, talking about how he believes some of their efforts would raise prices for Americans. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Tax credits for low energy bills, gone, corporate minimum tax, gone. Under the Republican plan, some big corporations are going to go back to paying zero again. That's the plan. I would argue it's reckless and irresponsible and will make inflation worse if they succeed. And then they're coming after social security.


SAENZ: Now, the president also sought to highlight some economic progress that has been made, including that growth in the economy of 2.6 percent, according to those GDP figures. He also pointed to overall job growth in the country and recent gas prices falling. But one big question is whether any of this will actually impact the way that the people are feeling about their pocketbooks, as there's still so much economic anxiety amongst voters when it comes to the issue of inflation.

Now, it's also worth noting that President Biden spent the day today out in New York. That is typically a blue state, but it's one where the governor's race is much tighter than expected. The president on the ground there trying to promote this recent $100 billion investment promise by a company called Micron in semiconductor manufacturing. He's hoping that things like that might resonate with voters, especially in a state like New York, in a district that is highly competitive as well.

So, the White House really, over the course of the next week-and-a- half, is expected to try to lean in more to this economic messaging. The president not just touting his achievements but also trying to draw a clear line in where he believes Republicans are different from the Democratic agenda.

BLITZER: Excellent report. Arlette Saenz, thank you very much.

Let's get a check on some of the key battle ground states right now with just a dozen days to go before the midterm elections. CNN's Omar Jimenez has our midterm countdown.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Midterm tensions on the rise in Arizona, police making an arrest after a break-in at the campaign headquarters for Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state and Democratic candidate for governor. Hobbs' campaign officials said earlier they believe the man seen here is responsible and placed blame in a statement on her Republican opponent, Kari Lake, and her allies for inciting threats against anyone they see fit. Lake refuting the allegation and suggested the Hobbs campaign was lying about the break- in.

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE KARI LAKE (R-AZ): Are you really buying that because this sounds like a Jussie Smollett part two.

JIMENEZ: Lake referencing the actor convicted of making false reports to the police.

In the Georgia Senate race, Republican Nominee Herschel Walker back on the trail today, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz stumping for Walker in a show of GOP unity in his campaign bus tour, all amid more scandal --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Herschel Walker says he is against women having abortions, but he pressured me to have one.

JIMENEZ: -- after another allegation that he paid for an unnamed woman to get an abortion in 1993.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am coming forward now because I saw Herschel deny the allegations by another woman who claimed that he had paid for her abortion.

JIMENEZ: Walker has denied these allegations.

LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): I'm also having to talk about something called the Oz rule.

JIMENEZ: Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, Democratic Senate Nominee John Fetterman's debate performance intensifying the scrutiny on his post- stroke recovery. Fetterman acknowledging the performance head on.

FETTERMAN: It wasn't going to be easy after having a stroke after five months. In fact, I don't think it's ever been done before in American political history.

JIMENEZ: While some supporters expressed concern the negative headlines will cost him voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just seemed very uncomfortable with his answers.

JIMENEZ: And in Wisconsin, attacks from both Senate candidates heating up with neither showing a clear lead in the polls.

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES (D-WI): He said that when (INAUDIBLE) the laws in our state, like our 1849 criminal abortion ban, they can just move, well, in 13 days, when will the state get to help move Ron Johnson out of office.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): That's why running again because our nation is in peril. We're already at a huge point. We've got one side pushing us down that road to socialism.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And back in Phoenix, the police department is actually now just releasing new details about that arrest, saying the 36-year-old Daniel Mota Dos Reis is the suspect in the break-in of Katie Hobbs' Democratic campaign headquarters. They said actually a patrol officer saw on the news last night an image released from that surveillance video and recognized that person as someone they had arrested for an unrelated burglary earlier in the day.

And the Hobbs campaign is putting out a statement where they said they are thankful that the Phoenix Police Department acted so quickly to arrest a suspect but also that Kari Lake's preposterous allegation that this break-in was staged is unfounded and her refusal to condemn the threats that have become common in our politics continues to sow chaos. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Omar, thank you very much, Omar Jimenez on the scene for us.

Let's bring in more of our battleground correspondents right now. Eva McKend is in Georgia and Kyung Lah is joining us from Arizona. Also with us, our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and our Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein.

Dana, we're less than two weeks from election day. President Biden is taking his closing arguments out there on the road, not necessarily to a battleground state but to a very blue New York State. What does that tell you?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That the White House is being very, very deliberate and quite limited with how they are deploying President Biden. Yes, it is a blue state but this particular district that he's going to is an open seat. It's an open Republican seat. John Katko, the Republican who was leaving, was the first Republican to come out in favor of impeaching Donald Trump about January 6th. He said he wasn't going to run for re-election.

So, this is actually a potential Democratic pickup. It's a rare sort of storyline in this election year where we know Democrats admit that the headwinds are against them. So, that is a big reason why this president went there. Then more broadly, just like in other states, even in the blue state of New York, the Democratic governor is having a tough time. It's a much more competitive race than they thought. So, that's why this president is being deployed there.

It's not as if he is sort of going -- barnstorming all across all of these toss up states, all these toss up districts, not at all, but they're being very deliberate, and this is one where they think he can actually help.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Ron, the president is touting some good economic news that was released today. But if this report isn't reflective of what Americans are really feeling right now, will this have any impact at all on Democrats' success in the election?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, the kind of plant that he was at today, Wolf, by 2024, is going to be a major part of the Democratic argument. I mean, we saw a few weeks at the Intel plant in Ohio, E.V. plants in Michigan and elsewhere, there is going to be a surge of manufacturing investment in parts of the country that had been losing jobs that flows out of the infrastructure bill, the semiconductor bill and the climate bill. And by 2024, Joe Biden would have cut a lot of ribbons in plants like that.

The problem in the immediate term is twofold. That development hasn't fully ripened, but more important, when people say that the economy is in recession, what they really mean, and polls have shown this, is that their income is not keeping up with their bills. As long as inflation is this high, it pretty much is a solar eclipse.


It blocks out any other positive economic news, and it's a downward drag on Biden's approval, which, in turn, is a downward drag on Democratic candidates.

BLITZER: Yes, good point too.

Eva, you're there in Georgia where some Republicans are now rallying around Herschel Walker in the wake of another allegation. I know you attended an event with Senator Ted Cruz earlier today. He says these attacks are proof that Democrats are scared. Is any of this changing voters' minds?

EVC MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, if Republicans are feeling squeamish about these new allegations, they're certainly not the ones showing up to Herschel Walker's rallies. I spoke to a woman today in Monroe and she said that she felt like these allegations weren't true, and she compared the situation to the one that Brett Kavanaugh faced years ago.

And so I almost wonder if this is having the opposite effect of rather than repelling fence-sitting conservatives, if, in fact, they are motivated to consolidate around him. That's actually what I'm seeing on the ground.

We know that Senator Chuck Schumer is concerned about Georgia. He was caught on a hot mic today saying as such. So, this is race going to be incredibly competitive, incredibly close, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung, you're in Arizona for us, where details there about the suspect that were just released in that break-in of Democrat Katie Hobbs' campaign headquarters. So, what impact is this having on this race based on what you're hearing?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a little too early to tell right now because we're starting to get this information in trickles. So, what we are hearing from the Phoenix police is that a 36-year-old suspect, Daniel Mota Dos Reis, has been arrested. He has been arrested and booked on one count of third-degree burglary.

What you're seeing behind me is some activity. That is a Kari Lake news conference. There are a number of cameras. It looks like every single local news station is here to try to cover what she undoubtedly will jump on, which is that there is a lack of evidence right now that this was anything more than just a crime, that it was not politically motivated, at least based on the evidence that Phoenix police have released publicly so far.

My colleague, Kate Sullivan, is talking with police and they will not say if this was random, if this was politically motivated. And that's key here, because what we saw from the Hobbs' campaign, the Democrat, Katie Hobbs, what we heard from the campaign last night is that they were trying to attach this to Kari Lake's rhetoric. So far, it appears to be a very thin attachment or a lack of evidence to any sort of political motivation, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Standby, Kyung Lah.

Dana, I want to turn to Pennsylvania right now where Democratic candidate for Senate John Fetterman is acknowledging he struggled when he debated the Republican candidate, Dr. Mehmet Oz, earlier this week. How are voters and donors responding?

BASH: With concern because of what they saw but maybe not complete surprise given the fact that the Fetterman campaign was very careful and strategic in releasing his doctor's note before this debate, explaining his issues and the fact he has issues with taking information and kind of turning it into words. It's not that he doesn't comprehend. It's actually turning that into the words he uses, which is not easy when you're in a high level debate. I mean, those debates aren't easy for anybody, never mind somebody who is five months out from a stroke.

The way that he handled it last night trying to connect with people, trying to get people to empathize and it's hard not to at least sympathize with him for what he's going through and make the case that he is somebody who clearly is a fighter and he's going to fight for them just like he's fighting himself right now, that's what he's got going for him.

And it's unclear whether or not because it's been very well-known that he's had this stroke, it's been very well-known what's been out there, whether that performance is really going to change things, but it is such a neck and neck race according to the polls and according to people on the ground. It very well could.

BLITZER: All right, we shall see. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, first on CNN new reporting about the January 6th select committee's plans to bring in top Secret Service officials to testify. What the committee could learn about threats to former Vice President Mike Pence, that's next.



BLITZER: Right now, we're learning new information about that secret meeting between the U.S. Justice Department and attorneys for former President Trump.

CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray is here with us in THE SITUATION ROOM. What can you tell us about this, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was happening behind closed doors in a courthouse in Washington, D.C. Today, we saw the prosecutors that are dealing with the Trump Mar-a- Lago documents dispute as well as members of Trump's legal team, Evan Corcoran, Jim Trusy and Lindsey Halligan.

This was all playing out behind closed doors, but what we have learned is this is part of the Justice Department's continuing request Trump return any sensitive documents, any classified documents he still has in his possession. We know the Justice Department has been insistent in court filings as well as privately to Trump's team that they still believe, even after the subpoena, even after the search at Mar-a-Lago, that the former president still has these documents in his possession.

Now, CNN caught the lawyers going in leaving the courthouse. We asked them what they were there for, they wouldn't talk about it. Again, this is all playing out behind the scenes but that's the detail we've been able to glean today as the Justice Department tries to move forward and, again, secure the return of all the documents they believe that Trump still has in his possession.

BLITZER: It's really important. Also tonight, as you know, the House committee is set to actually receive former President Trump's tax returns after a federal appeals court cleared the way for the IRS to turn them over to the House committee. Tell us more.

MURRAY: That's right. The House Ways and Means Committee should be able to get Trump's tax returns in about a week.


They've obviously been working for years to get their hands on this, the Democratic-led House. The big X factor though in all of this is whether Trump is going to go to the Supreme Court and ask them to intervene after all of this, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stay with us. Don't go too far away. I also want to bring in CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel along with CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers.

Jamie, you have some new reporting about plans where the January 6th select committee to actually bringing in top Secret Service officials for questioning.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: That's correct, Wolf. There is no quiet period for the committee. We have learned that the January 6th committee has been wrapping up going through more than a million pages of documents from the Secret Service and that they are now actually scheduling interviews with about a half dozen Secret Service agents, former Secret Service agents and high ranking officials. They want them to come in and testify in the next couple of weeks.

So, here's what we're hearing about the witnesses. They intend to call back former Secret Service Assistant Director Tony Ornato, Bobby Engel, Robert Engel, who is the head of Trump's detail that day, but there's also some new witnesses under consideration, Kimberly Cheatle, who is the new Secret Service director, Anthony Guglielmi, I hope I pronounced that correctly, who is the Secret Service chief of communications. He was just appointed in March, but he is key in that he has handled what the Secret Service has been saying publicly and to the committee, also Timothy Giebels, who was the head of former Vice President Mike Pence's detail on January 6th, and finally, we expect to be called back in the driver of former President Trump's SUV that day on January 6th. His identity has not been disclosed.

BLITZER: Because I know, and you're doing excellent reporting, you're also learned the committee wants to question these witnesses about the threats that were actually made to the then-vice president, Mike Pence.

GANGEL: Right, particularly. So, as you may remember in the last hearing on October 13th, the committee revealed new messages trafficked about threats to then-Vice President Pence ahead of January 6th and the insurrection. And there was one in particular, an online threat made against Pence. The quote was he would be, quote, a dead man walking if he doesn't do the right thing.

We have also learned today that Mike Pence's staff was never briefed ahead of time about these threats, that the first time they've heard about it was during that hearing.

BLITZER: Yes, terrible, terrible indeed. We all remember the video of hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence.

GANGEL: Correct.

BLITZER: That's something I never thought I'd hear up on Capitol Hill.

Jennifer Rodgers, I want to get your take on this decision from the appeals court to clear the way for the IRS to actually turn over Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee. How significant is this decision and do you expect the U.S. Supreme Court will intervene?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's not a surprise on the law, Wolf. This has always been an easy call. The statute has mandatory language that if the committee asks for tax returns, that the Treasury Department shall turn them over. The real question is why it took so long to get to this point, and just it points out again, you know, delay is basically justice denied in a lot of cases but particularly where it comes to Congress trying to do their oversight work.

I do think that the former president will appeal to the Supreme Court because we're a matter of weeks away from the Congress expiring and he thinks, I think, that if he gets to the Supreme Court, he'll have at least enough of a delay and he'll know whether the House is going to turn over if the House turns into Republican hands. I think everyone expects that they'll probably withdraw the requests for the tax returns, so I think he definitely will appeal. The Supreme Court should affirm, but the question is how long they take to do it. BLITZER: Yes. Jennifer Rodgers. Sara Murray, thanks. Jamie Gangel, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, CNN's exclusive look at a Ukrainian power plant pummeled by Russia as attacks intensify right now on Ukraine's power grid. I'll discuss the latest on the war with a key White House official, John Kirby. He's standing by live.



BLITZER: Right now, we have a CNN exclusive from Ukraine. CNN's Nic Robertson takes us inside a bunker at a power plant targeted by the Russians.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The sirens are going off. We've only just arrived at the power plant. Everyone's going into the bunker. We're going to have to go in, too.

There's no fuss. Everyone here knows what to do. We've agreed not to show faces or name the power plant for security reasons.

We've been given these safety jackets to wear. Officials here are telling us it's quite normal for them to end up in the bunker several times a day.

The coal fired power plant hit twice since Putin began targeting electrical facilities 17 days ago. Cards, dominos, messaging loved ones passes the time. But as this 29-year veteran of the Soviet-era plant tells me every minute in the bunker is time wasted. They need to be up top repairing the bomb damage.

An hour-and-a-half later, the all clear, everyone back to work.


One of the first things you notice here is how quiet it is, no generators thumping away.

Around the corner, engineers already out of the bunker making repairs. But those cables, the easy bit, Russian cruise missiles and drones rip through the hardest part of the plant to repair.

The drone they say got tangled up in the high-voltage cables up here, ripping equipment apart, all on the ground here, all around burnt out cables, and over here burnt out equipment. And the problem officials say is that this part of the site was the most sensitive part. It's been offline since.

Officials here convince Putin's power engineers are revising his military, how to crash Ukraine's grid.

PAVLO BILODID, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, DTEK GROUP: For sure, they know the weak place and actually they hit three times in the same place.

ROBERTSON (voice over): As for how long repairs will take, no one knows.

BILODID: The equipment is quite unique. To produce some of them, we need from 8 to 18 months, and actually we don't have so much time.

ROBERTSON: The clock despite some speedy repairs ticking in Putin's favor, more than 40 percent of the grid taken offline in less than three weeks.

This is where the cruise missile impacted. Two drones came down over there. The pylons here were taken out. They've been repaired already. But that's the big test right now. Can Ukraine repair faster than Russia can bomb and destroy?


ROBERTSON (on camera): And Russia was bombing again in this region around Kyiv just last night. The effect has been officials now in this city warning blackouts could last longer than four hours. About a million residents in this city without electricity during the day, about 500,000 homes in the Kyiv region also without electricity. It seems that the power problems in this country are set to get worse.

And the problem for government officials is there's very little they can do about it without getting a lot more air defense. Essentially, what we were told at that power plant today is you can only secure this place if you have air defense around it, air defense around all these facilities in the country, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's getting colder and colder as winter approaches in Ukraine. Nic Robertson, thank you very much.

As the war rages on in Ukraine, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is lashing out at the west. Listen to Putin and his very provocative new comments along with a new denial that he's planning to use nuclear weapons. Listen to this.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: We are standing at a historical frontier. Ahead is the most dangerous, unpredictable and at the same time the most important decade since the end of World War II.

Power over the world is what the so-called west is banking on in this sort of game, but this is a dangerous game. It's a bloody game and it's a dirty game.

We never intentionally said anything about the possibility of using nuclear weapons by Russia. We only responded with hints to western leaders' statements.


BLITZER: All right. Joining us now, John Kirby, he's joining us from the White House, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications. John, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me quickly get your reaction to what we just heard from Putin, and I want to get that reaction quickly. But, first, before we even get to that, can you tell us about any potential additional military aid the U.S. is considering sending to Ukraine?

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I think that, you know, very, very soon, Wolf, you'll see some additional security assistance being provided to Ukraine from the United States through our drawdown authorities. You know, we've had now more than 20 of those packages going forward. And I think very, very soon, you'll see another one from the United States. We're going to keep at this, as the president said, for as long as it takes.

BLITZER: What's your response to that escalating rhetoric we just heard from the Russian president accusing the west of playing what he called a bloody game?

KIRBY: Yes. Look, I mean, he talked about this being one of the most dangerous and uncertain times since World War II. I mean, he's the reason. He's the one who invaded Ukraine in a completely unprovoked manner. Ukraine posed a threat to anyone, let alone Russia. So, if it's uncertain and it's dangerous right now, it's because of Mr. Putin.

And it wasn't the west who raised concerns about nuclear weapons first. It was Mr. Putin. We were reacting to his rhetoric, which, Wolf, I know you remember, he was using way back in the early weeks of this war. So, we have to take that language very, very seriously.

Now, look, I mean, this war could end today if Mr. Putin would just do the right thing instead of the bellicose and the rhetoric and the speeches and threats.


He can end it today just by walking away from Ukraine and removing his forces from the field.

BLITZER: Yes. If he were to do that, that would be excellent.

Putin once again today repeated his totally baseless claim that Ukraine is preparing to use a radioactive dirty bomb against its own people. Why has the Russian president seized on that particular accusation in recent days?

KIRBY: Well, I wish I knew the answer to that, Wolf. I mean, I wish we could get inside Mr. Putin's head and figure out what's rattling around in there and what's causing him to do this. But when he calls the secretary of defense and says he has information that we know is just transparently false, the Ukrainians have no plans to do this and no desire to do this, it makes you think, because it's in the Russian playbook, they often blame others for that which they are doing themselves are about to do. So, that's why we have to take that seriously. Now, also, I'd tell you that we're not seeing any signs, even today, that the Russians are planning to use a dirty bomb or to even make preparations for that, but we're going to watch this as best we can.

BLITZER: Let me get to another critically issue while I have. Amid an ongoing oil dispute that's going on right now, John, Saudi Arabia now claims it's acting as the more mature partner in the relationship with the United States. You responded to that saying, and I'm quoting you now, it's not like some high school romance.

Now, Vladimir Putin is effusively praising the Saudi crown prince. Does it worry you to see the Russians strengthening their tie the Saudis at such an uncertain time for the Saudi-U.S. relationship?

KIRBY: What worried us about this OPEC decision was that we believe and still do that it benefitted Mr. Putin. Because by limiting supply on the market, they were able to keep prices high, around $90, I think, a barrel, keeping them high enough so that Mr. Putin can continue to profiteer. And that's what it is, it's profiteering of the oil he has on the market so that he can continue to use that money to kill more Ukrainians. So, we did think that this decision sided with Russia.

But what we're concerned about is any effort to help Mr. Putin continue to fight this war, including the support that he's getting from Iran with drones. And we're concerned that there're reports of the potential provision of surface-to-surface missiles from Iran. Again, all these things are not going to do anything other than to increase the death and destruction inside Ukraine and increase the threats to the Ukrainian people.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. John Kirby, thanks so much for joining us.

KIRBY: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the New York Police Department is sounding the alarm over extremists targeting election workers. We have details. That's next.



BLITZER: There's growing concern tonight about security around the midterm elections 12 days from now. And tonight, officials in some jurisdictions are actually sounding the alarm.

CNN's Brian Todd is working for the story for us. Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's a new bulletin tonight from the New York City Police Department warning about the threat to extremists to polling stations and election offices. We're getting new information tonight about threats across the country and holes in security that are worrying local officials.


TODD (voice over): An urgent warning tonight from America's largest police force, more vigilance is needed for security for the upcoming midterm elections. The New York Police Department issuing a new bulletin warning that, quote, malicious actors, especially racially and ethnically-motivated violent extremists and anti-government, anti- authority extremists will continue to prioritize the targeting of political rallies, voting sites, poll workers and election officials.

JOHN MILLER, FORMER NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTELLIGENCE AND COUNTERTERRORISM: You've got poll workers and election officials literally quitting their jobs because of the atmospherics. They are worried about what they are seeing and about what they are hearing.

TODD: The NYPD says there are currently no credible threats to New York City polling sites, but there have been threats elsewhere. We spoke with Scott McDonell, the clerk of Dane County, Wisconsin.

SCOTT MCDONELL, CLERK, DANE COUNTY, WISCONSIN: We've got some social media threats. I've had -- and, actually, we had some wandering around, all in camos (ph), in the April elections, shaking on doors, trying to get into places. By the time the police reacted to that, he was long gone.

TODD: Recently, armed individuals in tactical gear were seen outside a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona. Officials in Texas have asked the Department of Justice to send monitors to Harris County, where Houston is, where efforts to intimidate election workers have been reported, incidents that prompted this vow from the U.S. attorney general.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Justice Department has an obligation to prevent, to guarantee a free and fair vote by everyone who is qualified to vote and will not permit voters to be intimidated.

TODD: Law enforcement officials and analysts say the threats are being fueled by extremists who still promote the falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and that they'll use all sorts of tactics to intimidate voters.

MARY MCCORD, FORMER ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: It can be things that suggests to a person that they're being watched, that maybe what they're doing is illegal, following voters to their cars, recording their license plate numbers, certainly asking them many questions about their eligibility to vote or any kind of thing like that.

MILLER: The online chatter is like nothing we have seen before in terms of an election season. They're talking about attacking political meetings.

TODD: And a new CNN report says federal funding for enhanced security measures at election offices and polling places often isn't getting to officials who would put those measures in place because of bureaucratic snafus or breakdowns in communication.

MCDONELL: If there's money available at the national level, we don't know about it.


There's no coordination and it's deeply frustrating for us on the front line.


TODD (on camera): Security analysts tell us they're worried that all these threats and those holes in security at election sites will prompt some voters to stay away from the polls this time, figuring it's simply not worth it for their security.

BLITZER: So disturbing indeed. Thank you very, very much.

Coming up, mortgage rates here in the United States are the highest they've been since 2002. The upward rise is making it even harder for prospective buyers to afford a home.



BLITZER: A conflicting outlook on the U.S. economy tonight. A new GDP report shows the economy grew by 2.6 percent, but now, mortgage rates have risen past 7 percent.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us right now.

Tom, mortgage rates are at their highest point in decades right now. What does it mean for home owners or people who want to buy a home?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What it means if you're one of those people, if you're trying to do it, somebody else trying to do it, it means this is the most important story of the day for you. That's what it means. Mortgage rates for the first time in 20 years cracking the 7 percent level.

The Fed has been playing with interest rates, which is the money between banks loaning money, that affects this number. That's one reason this ticked up. They've been doing that because they've been trying to control inflation, but, boy, has it affected the mortgage rates out there.

Look at this, July 2021, under 3 percent, now it's been a rocket ship ride up here to 7.8 percent. Wolf, this is whopping number out there if you're trying to get a home right now.

BLITZER: Let's not forget this makes it much harder for people who have homes, too.

FOREMAN: People trying to get one. People who have any way that they're affected by this.

Take a look at this. If you wanted to go buy a home right now for $390,000, a little below the median rate right now and home prices have risen about 14 percent in the past year, last year, 30-year mortgage, 3.14 percent, your monthly payments $1,339. Right now, same house, same deal but with this rate, your monthly payments are now $2,093, about $750 more per month.

You take that over 30 years, Wolf, the costs of this house just sky rockets.


FOREMAN: And that is going to affect a lot of people.

BLITZER: There were some good news today as we know. New numbers on the GDP that came out.

FOREMAN: Much needed, we've had lot of mixed numbers for quite some time. GDP surprisingly for the last quarter did better than expected after a couple of quarters of it not doing particularly well. A lot of people looked at this and said, oh, that's a recession for sure.

This says hold the horses maybe not especially when you consider the question of how we still have low unemployment, wages are rising, inflation's rising. It is a tremendously mixed bag right now, but obviously, if you're someone rooting for the economy to do better, this isn't a bad number. Your higher GDP, GDP of course being the combination of value of all things produced during that period of time and all services rendered in that period of time.

That's doing better, that's a good sign, but boy are there mixed signs right now.

BLITZER: That was a surprising good number indeed. All right. Tom Foreman, thank you very, very much.

We'll have more news just ahead, including new developments in the Uvalde school massacre investigation.



BLITZER: Victims' families of the Uvalde school massacre say the Texas Department of Public Safety once again refused to accept responsibility for their failures.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz takes a closer look at today's very emotional meeting where families left with more questions than answers.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 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 ten minutes 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 victims 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 pleas.

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

PROKUPECZ: About 20 family and community members drove three hours 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 his department's investigation.

MCCRAW: There's enough knowledge, enough information to do what needed to be done immediately. You're exactly right, that thing should have been terminated within ten minutes, period. But by God, right is right, and we were wrong. There's not a cop-out saying 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, okay.

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

MCCRAW: I'll be the first to resign, okay? I'll be glad to resign if I think there's any culpability with 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 failed the families, failed the school 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 he's not willing to take any responsibility?

CROSS: Absolutely. Nobody wants to.

PROKUPECZ: With now 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 so, Wolf, he was due to give this directive report. We have no idea what happened today. We were expecting one thing, completely something different happened. Certainly, you can see the frustration on the families who really expected to get something today, and they didn't, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of disappointment. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for that report.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.