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Biden Now Is First Sitting President To Join A Picket Line; New York Judge Finds Trump And His Adult Sons Liable For Fraud; Jan. 6 Witness Warns Trump Is Most Grave Threat To Democracy; Charges Dropped Against Officer In Fatal Traffic Stop Shooting; Police Foil Possible Shooting Plot At Virginia Church. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 26, 2023 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: With this suit, the Biden administration is now trying to break up three of the biggest technology companies around, Amazon, Metta, the owner of Facebook, and Alphabet's flagship, Google.


Depending on how these trials come out, the internet may look very different in a few years.

This programming note, if you missed the full interview, you can see it with Cassidy Hutchinson, I'm talking about. We're going to re-air it tonight at 10:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now.

President Biden offers an unprecedented show of support for striking auto workers as the first sitting U.S. president to join a picket line. We'll discuss the political impact of his Michigan appearance and the economic impact of the strike with the UAW president, Shawn Fain. He joins us live this hour.

Also tonight, breaking news, a New York judge has just found Donald Trump and his adult sons liable for fraud in a lawsuit by the state's attorney general. We'll break down what it means for Trump and for the trial that sets to begin in a matter of days.

And January 6th star witness Cassidy Hutchinson sits down with CNN. She's warning that Trump remains the most grave threat, direct quote, to American democracy and suggesting that Trump knew his words might incite violence at the U.S. Capitol.

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 with President Biden going where no U.S. president has gone before, a picket line. He's taking his pro-union message to a new level as he works to shore up support in the key 2024 battleground state of Michigan. United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain was with the president in Detroit today. He joins us live in just a moment.

But, first, let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Kayla Tausche. She's got more on the benefits and the risks of Biden's trip.


KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Biden making history today in Michigan using the picket line as the bully pulpit.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: You've earned a hell of a lot more than you are getting paid now.

TAUSCHE: Standing with United Auto Workers nearly two weeks into a strike, backing their calls for a 40 percent raise.

BIDEN: Stick with it because you deserve the significant raise.

TAUSCHE: For Biden, who had vowed to stay out of contract and legal talks, it's a political tightrope to bolster a core constituency.

BIDEN: I'm proud to be the most pro-union president in American history.

TAUSCHE: The president in June kicking off his 2024 campaign flanked by dozens of unions endorsing him. But one was missing, the United Auto Workers, whose newly elected leader had just slammed the White House for awarding Ford $9 billion, saying the last time the federal government gave the big three billions of dollars, the companies did the exact same thing, slash wages, cut jobs, and undermine the industry that for generations created the best jobs for working families in this country.

Since then, Biden aides have hosted UAW leader Shawn Fain, and the White House has ensured future loans would prioritize union jobs.

Fain, who invited Biden to Michigan but hasn't endorsed him yet, has high hopes.

SHAWN FAIN, PRESIDENT, UNITED AUTO WORKERS: We know the president will do right by the working class.

TAUSCHE: Fain says unions are having a moment.

FAIN: Whether we're writing movies or performing T.V. shows, whether we're making coffee at Starbucks, whether it's nursing people back to health, we do the heavy lifting, we do the real work.

TAUSCHE: And Americans agree. An August Gallup poll found support for unions at 67 percent, the highest since the 1960s, and 75 percent approval for UAW.

But former President Trump also vying for the working class vote, which he won in 2016, making a Wednesday visit to the Wolverine State and accusing Biden, his likely opponent, of writing his coattails. DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: He's selling our automobile companies, everything, right down the tubes. So, I announced that I'm going to Michigan, and then he announced 20 minutes later, I'm going to Michigan.


TAUSCHE (on camera): The White House has denied that Trump's visit to Michigan played a role in Biden's decision to go. And earlier today, the White House tried to walk back comments from the president where he appeared to support the 40 percent wage increase that those workers are seeking. But after reviewing the audio, one official told reporters that President Biden did say yes. I think they should be able to bargain for that. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kayla Tausche, our senior White House correspondent. Thanks very much.

Joining us now from Detroit, the president of the United Auto Workers, Shawn Fain.


President Fain, thank you so much for joining us.

You stood next to President Biden today as he became the first sitting U.S. president in history to join a picket line. What was it like for seeing him there wearing a UAW hat?

FAIN: Hey, thank you, Wolf. You know, it was a great day for our members. Today was about our membership, you know, and their fight and people understanding that fight. And so, you know, it was a historic day. I mean, the fact that a sitting U.S. president visited a picket line for the first time in our nation's history. I mean, that cannot be minimized. It can't go unnoticed. It's a very important time in our history. And this is a very important fight we're in. I mean, this is a fight for the future of the working class.

BLITZER: The president has now joined you, President Fain, on the picket lines. He appears to also have expressed support for your union's demands for a 40 percent pay raise. But you've declined at least so far to endorse him. Why?

FAIN: You know, well, first off, you know, our focus right now is 100 percent on getting a great agreement for our members. And, you know, today was really about our workers. You know, endorsements and things like that, you know, we'll do those things at the appropriate time. And there's still work left to be done. I mean, this E.V. transition, it's important. And, you know, we believe in a green economy, but it's got to be a just transition.

So, you know, we want these -- as we move forward in this transition, we want these jobs to have our standards in it. It cannot be a race to the bottom. And that's what these companies are trying to push. They're all for taking all of our tax dollars, helping finance this transition. But when it comes to taking care of the workers, the companies keep trying to take us backwards, and it's unacceptable. So, there's still work left to do.

BLITZER: I want to get your reaction, President Fain, to an op-ed in The New York Times from a former Treasury Department official in the Obama administration, and he writes this, let me quote. This increasingly militant UAW is overplaying its hand with an overly lengthy and overly ambitious list of demands. I don't think there's any way the automakers will be able to meet these conditions, and I worry about the implications for our economy and for President Biden. How do you respond to that?

FAIN: I think it's sad, you know, that all we hear is fear. And it's a sad time when workers are asking for their fair share of economic and social justice. Every time we step up and ask for something, we're painted as militant and we don't understand things.

Let me tell you what we do understand. In the last decade, these companies have made a quarter trillion dollars in profits off the backs of our members. They've made $21 billion in the first six months of this year off the backs of our workers. CEO pay went up 40 percent in the last four years. No one said a thing about how that's going to affect the price of cars or the economy. The price of vehicles went up 35 percent over the last four years not because of our wages. Our wages went up 6 percent in the last four years. We've went backwards in purchasing power. And that's the sad reality here.

And anytime working class people stand up for themselves, there's always this mantra of fear being put out there that if we pay the workers this, it's going to hurt the economy. It's going to raise the car prices. All these things have happened when we've went backwards in wages.

BLITZER: As you know, former President Trump will travel to Michigan tomorrow to give a speech to auto workers in Detroit. Many of your members are supporters of his. He wrote this on his social media, just ahead of the President Biden's visit there today. This is from Trump. Joe Biden's draconian and defensible electric vehicle mandate will annihilate the U.S. auto industry and cost countless thousands of auto workers their jobs. Is the former president right? Does the push for electric vehicles here in the United States hurt your union?

FAIN: It doesn't if it's a just transition, and that's what we're fighting for right now. It doesn't if the companies do the right thing and put this work under our agreements or to our standards. And, again, it's the companies driving this race to the bottom and they're using our tax dollars to finance it.

I find a pathetic irony that the former president is going to hold a rally for union members at a non-union business. And all you have to do is look at his track record. His track record speaks for itself. In 2008, during the Great Recession, he blamed UAW members. He blamed our contracts for everything that was wrong with these companies. That's a complete lie.

In 2015, when he was running for president, he talked about doing a rotation, taking all these good paying jobs in the Midwest and moving them somewhere in the south, where people work for less money, and then to make people beg for their jobs back at lower wages.


And the ultimate show of his -- how much he cares about our workers was in 2019, when he was the president of the United States. Where was he then? G.M. -- our workers at G.M. were on strike for 60 days, for two months, they were out there on the picket lines. I didn't see him hold a rally. I didn't see him stand up at the picket line and I sure as hell didn't hear him comment about it. He was missing in action.

BLITZER: So, here's the question. Here's the question, President. What about a meeting with Trump? Would you meet with him when he's in Detroit tomorrow?

FAIN: I see no point in meeting with him because I don't think the man has any bit of care about what our workers stand for, what the working class stands for. He serves a billionaire class and that's what's wrong with this country.

BLITZER: Well, that effectively sounds as an endorsement for Biden. Am I wrong?

FAIN: It's not an endorsement for anyone. It's just a flat out how I view the former president.

BLITZER: The UAW president, Shawn Fain, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

FAIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: This note to our viewers, we've also extended invitations to the presidents of the big three automakers here in the United States to join us as well. We'll see what their answer is. Stand by.

Coming up, breaking news on a ruling by a New York judge against former President Donald Trump, finding him and his two adult sons liable for fraud.

And later, a slew of fellow Senate Democrats turning on Bob Menendez, urging him to resign after his bribery indictment, including his New Jersey colleague, Senator Cory Booker.



BLITZER: Right now, we're following breaking news in the New York attorney general's civil lawsuit against Donald Trump and his family business in New York, a judge finding Trump and his adult sons liable for fraud.

CNN's Kara Scannell is joining us. She's in New York. Kara, tell us about this ruling and what it means for Trump and his business.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if this involves the lawsuit that the New York attorney general brought against Trump, his adult sons, alleging that they had engaged in fraud for decades by producing these fraudulent financial statements and inflating the value of a number of his properties.

In this ruling the judge sides entirely with the A.G.'s office on this issue of the financial statements saying that they were completely fraudulent, and they've been for a decade, and that they've been persistently used in business. That is a big blow to Trump.

So, the issue going forward at trial, which is currently set for next week, is this issue of how much Trump would need to pay the attorney general on that issue. There are remaining claims in this case that will also be part of the case going forward.

Now, the judge also finding that, rejecting entirely Trump's arguments about how he came up with the valuations for his property, the A.G. has said that he inflated some of those properties over the years in these statements by as much as over $2 billion, even as high as $3.6 billion. And the judge is saying that how Trump derived these valuations was a fantasy world, not the real world.

And they also -- he also addressed this question of one of the allegations is that Trump had inflated the value of his penthouse, saying it was three times as big as it was. And that has been one of these claims that has really stood out because it is more tangible than some other arguments here about valuations and appraisals. And the judge said on that, this inflation of the size of his penthouse, that's 10,000 square feet. Trump, in one of the financial statements, said it was 30,000 square feet. The judge said a discrepancy of this order of magnitude by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades can only be considered fraud.

So, this is a complete rejection of Trump's defense and he didn't inflate his financial statements, his net worth for a decade. You know, this was the vehicle through which he obtained loans and insurance, and that is part of this ongoing case.

Now, I just want to also note that there is still an appeal here. Trump's lawyers have sued the A.G.'s office and the judge last week. An appeals court is expected to rule this week. It's unclear how that will affect the start of the trial, which is now set for Monday. Wolf?

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Kara Scannell reporting, thank you.

Let's bring in Conservative Lawyer George Conway and CNN Anchor and Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates.

Laura, first of all, what are your takeaways from this ruling and what does this mean for the Trump Organization's ability to do business in New York State?

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that's pretty much a dead deal when it comes to that the idea that we're hearing a summary judgment motion, this is so significant, Wolf. Summary judgment essentially says, listen, judge, even if we were to have a trial on the facts that I'm presenting to you right now as a matter of law, there's no argument that could possibly be made either with a straight face or otherwise that would change the outcome of this particular part of the case.

The judges are normally quite averse to doing that sort of ruling because in their minds, they say it should be before a fact-finder, a jury have an opportunity for the person to have even in a civil liability case, a presumption of innocence and have it be proven by the prosecution in this case. To have a summary judgment motion tells you just how clear cut the evidence must have been in front of this judge to suggest no matter what you could possibly tell me at a trial, as a matter of law, you are liable. This is so significant.

BLITZER: You're right. George, what do you think? How big of a blow potentially is this for the former president and his adult children?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: It's essentially the equivalent of the corporate death penalty for the Trump Organization in New York State. And the reason for that is the statute that was invoked, it's called the Martin Act. It was enacted 102 years ago. And it is an extremely powerful weapon that the state can use against fraudsters.

And it's powerful for a number of reasons. One is it doesn't require proof of fraudulent intent by the business or its CEO or any of its officers and it doesn't require proof that the false numbers that are cooked up in the business are actually relied on by anyone.


It's enough that the numbers kept on the books, whether the company be publicly traded or a private corporation, like the Trump Corporation, it's enough that the numbers be false.

And here, as Laura accurately pointed out, there was no dispute that the numbers were false and substantially so. And, in fact, the Trump's defense, which isn't a defense under the Martin Act, was, well, nobody was going to rely on this because we basically said nobody should rely on this because, you know, essentially, everyone knows I'm lying because I'm a liar. I mean, that's a little bit tendentious, but not far from the truth.

The other aspect of the Martin Act, and that's the most -- which is the most important piece of what happened today, is that it provides for extraordinary remedies even in the civil context, and that those remedies include basically the stripping of the ability to do business in the state of New York and the ordering of the dissolution of a business doing business in New York.

And that's what the judge did today. No matter what he finds in the damages phase of this trial, the Trump Organization is out of business. And that's not good for Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a huge, huge setback for the former president. George Conway, Laura Coates, stay with us. You'll both be back in just a moment.

Just ahead, former Trump White House Aide Cassidy Hutchinson sounds the alarm in a new CNN interview.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: That Donald Trump is the most grave threat that we will face our democracy in our lifetime and potentially in American history.


BLITZER: Stand by to hear more from Hutchinson on Trump and her take on what he intended to happen on January 6th.



BLITZER: Tonight, former White House Aide Cassidy Hutchinson is sending a very clear message that Donald Trump is dangerous and should be disqualified from serving as president again. The star witness in the January 6th congressional hearing sat down for a one on one interview today with my colleague, Jake Tapper.


TAPPER: Let's talk about January 6th, because one of the things you really brought to everyone's attention in your testimony was how much Donald Trump wanted to go to the Capitol on January 6th, demanded to go to the Capitol on January 6th. And I think one of the big questions that I have is why. What did he want to do at the Capitol?

HUTCHINSON: You know, I can't speculate. I heard several things.

TAPPER: You can speculate. You have more information.

HUTCHINSON: But I could, but that wouldn't be responsible because I -- definitively, I don't know what he wanted to do that day.

TAPPER: Like what are some ideas --

HUTCHINSON: What I would know is there is a reason that he wanted to go to the Capitol. There is a reason he wanted to be with his supporters.

And Donald Trump also knows the impact that his words have. And he knows the impact that his presence has on his supporters. He knows that he himself riles people up. He knew that the crowd was armed that day. He knew that there were people angry about this. So, knowing Donald Trump, knowing what I knew inside the White House, that was not a mistake.

He did not want to just go to the Capitol to go there and make a little speech and then go back to the White House. There isn't a reason that he wanted to go there.

And, again, I would like to restate that Donald Trump knows the impact of his words. So when he -- on January 6th, when he wanted to go to the Capitol, everything that that was intentional, the Mark Milley tweet that you earlier mentioned from this past weekend, he knows the impact that those words will have. He knows that people will come out and be violent against these people. And that's what he wants.


BLITZER: All right, let's bring back George Conway and Laura Coates for their reaction.

George, how significant is what Cassidy Hutchison said about Trump's intent in trying to go to the Capitol on January 6th?

CONWAY: Well, I think she's absolutely right. He did want to go there for a reason. I think he did want to rile up the crowd some more. And I also think that but he did it also because he's a megalomaniac. He's someone who was reveling in the fact that these thousands of people were heading to the Capitol and ready to do his bidding, and that they were -- and, frankly, that they were armed.

I mean, we saw the part of -- there was the part of the Jake's interview of Cassidy Hutchison where she's talking about the fact that he knew they were armed. He was empowered by these people and their willingness to commit destruction.

BLITZER: Well, on that point, Laura, let's listen to another exchange about Trump's mindset in those critical weeks after the 2020 presidential election. Listen.


TAPPER: And Trump says, I don't want people to know we lost. It's embarrassing. I mean, that's potentially of significance, legally, if he knows that he lost.

HUTCHINSON: Correct. But, you know, that's -- and I elaborate this on this in my testimony too, where, you know, I can't climb inside the former president's mind and know exactly what he was thinking. But it's not just me that has come forward with information like that. General Milley has also said that he was in the former president's presence when he admitted that he lost, Alyssa Farah Griffin as well.

You know, I can't speculate about his actual mindset and his motivations behind this, but in that moment, it was clear to me that there was some concession.


BLITZER: The crux of the special counsel's election meddling case against Trump is proving that Trump knew he lost. Does this suggest to you that prosecutors have enough evidence to do that?

COATES: Well, I think her testimony really is corroborated by really her earlier testimony. I'm calling her interview today testimony in part because there's a lot of consistency from what we heard in that televised interview before the January 6th committee that followed, I think, two separate occasions when she was actually deposed by them as well.

[18:30:11] And so you've got a theme of connective tissue of the same story being told by this person.

Now, if it can be corroborated by other sources as well, those who might have had a firsthand knowledge of a particular statement that he made, a statement that he's made to other people, that would only buttress for credibility and the ability of Jack Smith.

But also, don't forget Fani Willis, of course, in Fulton County. She's likely listening to all this with bated breath to figure out whether he was a part of an overall conspiracy based on his knowledge that he had lost.

BLITZER: And, George, Hutchison also reacted to the mug shot of reformer boss, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who's facing criminal charges for helping Trump try to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Listen and watch this.


TAPPER: What goes through your mind when you look at that picture?

HUTCHINSON: I see someone that didn't have to be in this position. You know, I see that picture and I feel sorry for him in some ways because he had a lot of opportunities to do the right thing and to come forward.

You know, he's a man that has a family. And that's also another unfortunate impact of all of this is when you are in Donald Trump's circle and you have that loyalty to him, it impacts your life in more ways than one can imagine.

And, you know, I hope that Mark is doing the right thing if he hasn't already been doing the right thing, as what I define the right thing.

TAPPER: You hope he's cooperating with the investigators?

HUTCHINSON: I hope he would cooperate and uphold the oath that he swore because he knows a lot more than I know about what happened during the November 2020 through January 2021 period.


BLITZER: George, do you think for sympathy for Meadows is warranted? And is there any sign he is cooperating in either the federal or Georgia election meddling cases?

CONWAY: Well, on the sympathy point, yes and no. And on the cooperation, maybe.

To go to the sympathy point, it is pathetic. It is pathetic that he's a -- you know, he's a human being. These are all human beings who made the mistake of casting their lot with Donald Trump. And the amount of destruction that he has caused in people's lives, causing them to be indicted, causing them to -- for their careers to be wrecked is absolutely astounding. He is a walking human wrecking ball of people's lives.

That said, you know, these are people who did what they did because out of greed or grift or stupidity or cowardice. And, you know, to some extent, they deserve it. But it's very, very sad.

Now, in terms of the whether or not he's cooperating, it's probably pretty clear that he is not cooperating with the Georgia prosecutors. And it's clear -- well, not that clear. It's not clear what's going on on the federal side, except that he seems to be trying to straddle some kind of a line with the prosecutor, trying to provide some helpful information, but he hasn't cut a deal with them.

BLITZER: You know, Laura, Hutchinson also says Mark Meadows was regularly burning documents. This spokesperson today insisted those were just newspapers to help start a fire. Listen to her response to that. Listen to this.


TAPPER: What do you think he was actually burning there? It wasn't newspaper?

HUTCHINSON: I can't speak to what exactly he was burning, but I'm confident that it wasn't just newspaper.

TAPPER: Do you think he was burning documents? I mean, you suggest in the book that what he was doing could have been a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

HUTCHINSON: It could have been, yes.


BLITZER: Laura, what's your reaction to that?

COATES: Well, the fact that there is a question as to whether he was burning newspaper or documents that should have been retained via that Presidential Records Act is quite concerning, but it's directly on theme of what we have seen about the allegations of complete recklessness and carelessness with respect to these documents.

Remember, these documents don't belong to the personal diary or storage bin of an individual. They are the records for the people of the United States. So, it's concerning that she can't have a definitive answer. And the answer should be no, but, again, it's directly on theme.

BLITZER: Laura Coats and George Conway, guys, thank you very much.

This note to our viewers, be sure to join Laura later tonight as she anchors CNN Tonight, 11:00 P.M. Eastern. And you can, of course, see the full Cassidy Hutchinson interview with Jake Tapper once again at 10:00 P.M. Eastern later tonight.

Just ahead, embattled Democratic Senator Bob Menendez faces growing outcry right now after being indicted as more and more of his Senate colleagues call on him to resign.


Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.


BLITZER: All right. This just into CNN, Senator Bob Menendez is again insisting he's innocent of the bribery charges against him, but the New Jersey Democrat is dodging questions about whether he'll seek re- election. This, as more and more of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate are urging him to step down.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is up on Capitol Hill for us. Melanie, with at least 23 Democratic senators now calling on Menendez to resign, is this a tipping point?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the dam has certainly broken. At first, it was a trickle. It was mostly vulnerable Democrats who were up for re-election calling on Bob Menendez to resign. But then it really became a flood, especially after Cory Booker, a fellow New Jersey Democrat, who's a longtime ally of Bob Menendez's, called on him to step down.


But it's unclear whether that pressure is going to influence how Menendez decides to proceed. And, in fact, he is digging in. Just take a listen to what he told reporters moments ago.


REPORTER: Will you run for re-election, Senator Menendez? Will you run for re-election, sir?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): As I said, I'm here to do the work of the people of the Jersey.

REPORTER: Why won't you resign, sir?

MENENDEZ: Because I'm innocent. What's wrong with you guys?


ZANONA: Now, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer previously said that Menendez has voluntarily agreed to step down temporarily from his post atop the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but Schumer did not comment on the floor today, and instead he used his floor remarks to talk about how the Senate is going to attempt to avoid a shutdown this week. Wolf?

BLITZER: And in another matter up on Capitol Hill, Melanie, Senate leadership has just agreed to a short-term spending deal to avert a government shutdown in four days. But that doesn't necessarily mean the House of Representatives is on board. ZANONA: Yes, not at all. In fact, Manu Raju and I just reported that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy plans to add a House GOP border security package to any stopgap measure if it comes over from the Senate. And that would tee up a massive showdown over immigration on the eve of the shutdown spending deadline.

And Republicans really want to make this shutdown fight all about the border. I did just catch up with Speaker Kevin McCarthy on his way to vote and asked him what they're going to do if the Senate sums something over. And he said, I think we're going to send over something of our own, so definitely hinting at the plans ahead.

But the problem, Wolf, is unclear whether McCarthy has the Republican votes to be able to pass anything around here. They've been trying to pass their own stopgap measure, even after they loaded it up with conservative priorities. But there's this block of hard line critics who won't support any stopgaps under any circumstances.

So, still no solution in sight with just days to go until the deadline, Wolf.

BLITZER: Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentators Scott Jennings and Kate Bedingfield.

And, Kate, let me start with you first on Menendez. How can Menendez continue to serve as the calls from his Democratic colleagues for him to step down grow and grow and grow. And why haven't the Democratic leaders in the Senate or the House, for that matter, as well as President Biden, actually weighed in?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's going to continue to get harder and harder for him to serve, frankly. And I think even just watching the clip that we just saw is a perfect illustration of what life is going to be like for him every time he is in front of the press for the foreseeable future.

So, you know, we're continuing to see more and more Democrats say that he needs to step down. I think it will continue to be an even bigger distraction. Obviously, he will ultimately have to make that decision. But the politics here are certainly not on his side.

I think in terms of President Biden, you know, remember, again, Senator Menendez is not a household name. He's not a -- you know, he certainly has an important role in the Senate, but, you know, he's not on par. If you stop somebody on the street, they're probably not going to know who he is.

And so for Democratic leadership, for President Biden, as they're thinking about what they want to be out talking about, the message they want to be putting forth, do they want to be talking about Bob Menendez's troubles? No, they don't.

So, for them to proactively raise this, there are communications equities there. But I would imagine that it will just -- it will continue to get harder and harder for him, and he will face a decision fairly soon on whether he's going to go ahead and step down now or not.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Let's bring in Scott Jennings. Scott, the speaker, Kevin McCarthy, he walked back -- this is interesting. He walked back his call for Menendez to resign. Republican Senator Tom Cotton tweeted out support for Menendez's right to remain in office as he fights all of this in court. What's going on here?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's interesting. I mean, obviously, you can't force him out, as we've seen in the House with George Santos. He's been under indictment and he's been able to hang around. Not a household name either, by the way, although he got plenty of commentary.

I mean, my thinking is Menendez is hanging on principally because Biden has not commented on it. And Chuck Schumer actually not only did he comment on it, he said Bob Menendez was a dedicated public servant. And so I think as long as you've got the support of the Senate Democrat leader, all these other people aren't going to mean much to Menendez.

So, I have heard some members of Congress comment that they think people should be afforded due process, but I think it's hard for Democrats to criticize Donald Trump the way they do under his indictments. Chuck Schumer, in fact, said no one is above the law when Trump was indicted, but at the same time continue to harbor Menendez in the conference.

So, I really think, honestly, Wolf, if this is on Schumer, when he says something, then you might see movement until then. I don't know. I don't know that Menendez has to do a darn thing.

BLITZER: Interesting. Kate, on the issue of a potential government shutdown, the deadline coming up this Saturday, Speaker McCarthy is trying to shift blame to President Biden for his own struggles to pass a funding bill in the House. Are you concerned Republicans will be able to successfully convince voters that President Biden is responsible?

BEDINGFIELD: I think the blame is very squarely on the Republicans here, on the hard right caucus in the Republican Party that has essentially handcuffed Speaker McCarthy.


You have, you know, Donald Trump tweeting out every single day they should shut the government down, they should accept no concessions, they should not negotiate. So, no, it is very clear where the blame for this shutdown lies. And this is something Republicans are going to have to own as they move forward.

BLITZER: What do you think, Scott?

JENNINGS: I think Kevin McCarthy's statement tonight that he wants to attach a border security provision to something the Senate sends over is a good stroke. It puts his hardest-line members in a tough spot. They don't want to vote against border security and it sets up a debate the Republican Party wants with Democrats on what Republicans see as one of Joe Biden's biggest failures.

That would be a tough debate to throw in here, but I think it's a good move for McCarthy. We'll see if it's enough of a rabbit to pull out of the hat at the last minute.

BLITZER: Right now, the stakes for the American people with the potential government shutdown, the stakes are enormous.

Kate Bedingfield, Scott Jennings -- guys, thank you very much.

Coming up, there is joy and anger after a judge drops all charges against a police officer involved in a fatal shooting. We'll have a live report from Philadelphia when we come back.



BLITZER: A judge dismissed all charges against the Philadelphia police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a driver. During a traffic stop, the officer Mark Dial is seen approaching the car with his gun drawn before shooting Eddie Irizarry.

Last month, the incident was captured on a police body camera which contradicted the police's initial account. A warning to our viewers, the footage is disturbing.


BLITZER: CNN's Danny Freeman is joining us live from Philadelphia right now.

Danny, I understand the district attorney says this case isn't over.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The district attorney is saying earlier today that they have already re-filed these same charges at a higher court. They say that this is not over yet. But, man, was it an incredible blow to this particular case earlier today when the Philadelphia Judge Wendy Pew said shortly and clearly that she agreed 100 percent with the defense's arguments that Philadelphia Police Officer Mark Dial in no way committed murder when he shot and killed Eddie Irizarry back in August.

Wolf, the whole preliminary hearing took less than two hours earlier today. And I just want to describe the two focal points of this particular hearing was, first, what did Officer Dial's partner say right before the shooting, and what did both of these officers see when they approached this vehicle.

Well, prosecutors called Officer Dial's partner who said that he screamed "knife" right before Officer Dial opened fire on Eddie Irizarry. But then the defense on cross-examination played a video that appeared to show his partner yelling "gun" in addition to "knife" right before those shots were fired. Then the defense also said that the knife that Eddie Irizarry is alleged to have been holding at the time of the shooting, they argue that it looked like the handle of a gun.

Then the judge dismissed these charges, agreeing with the defense family very, very torn up about this. Take a listen to what one family member said earlier today.


ZORADIA GARCIA, EDDIE IRIZARRY'S AUNT: There are videos everywhere, witnesses in the neighborhood prove, they prove that my nephew did not come out of that car. He locked the doors to his vehicle. His windows was upped. Where's the threat? Even if he has the small pocket knife, where's the threat, where is it?


FREEMAN: And I'll say, Wolf, for as much emotion as there was on the side of the family of Eddie Irizarry, police officers in the courtroom who were there witnessing, they cheered when these charges were dismissed. But prosecutors say this isn't over yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Danny Freeman in Philadelphia, thank you.

Still ahead, police arrested armed man who made online threats against a church in Virginia. We'll have a report from the scene, when we come back.



BLITZER: Police say they foiled an apparent shooting that was to take place at a church outside of Washington, D.C.

CNN's Brian Todd is covering the story for us.

Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight we have new details from the pastor and from police on just how close this alleged attacker came to inflicting carnage inside this church.


CHIEF KEVIN DAVIS, FAIRFAX COUNTY, VIRGINIA POLICE: We put our hands on him literally in the nick of time.

TODD (voice-over): An armed gunman bent on mass murder stopped inside this church in northern Virginia Sunday morning, police say.

DAVIS: We thwarted a diabolical plot to kill many churchgoers.

TODD: Police say Rui Jiang posted threatening early-morning messages, naming the church, alleging it was attended by top-secret government clearance holders and referring to families about to be killed. Early Sunday, someone spotted the threats and called the police.

Three police agencies in two states mobilized. Officers went to Jiang's home, but he was already gone, so was his car. At Park Valley Church, Pastor Barry White says security noticed him coming in wearing all black and wearing sunglasses on a rainy day.

PASTOR BARRY WHITE, PARK VALLEY CHURCH, HAYMARKET VIRGINIA: He came down here, was began shadowing him at this point.

TODD: He entered the sanctuary as the service was going on.

WHITE: I was told he sat kind of in the very back on this side of the stadium seating.

TODD: Then came back down to the lobby. Staffers challenged him to show some ID.

WHITE: Was confronted in that area by two of our safety personnel, pretty much simultaneously as Prince William County police were coming in.

TODD: An off-duty police officer hired by the church recognized the car license plate from an alert and came inside.

DAVIS: He immediately we went into the vestibule of the church, saw him, put his hands on him, and recovered the gun and the extra magazine.

TODD: Police say a one-page writing was later found in his apartment.

DAVIS: A kill manifesto, the likes of which I've never read. It's disturbing systematically and logically identifies his grievance with the government, identifies his intent to harm and kill.

TODD: One expert says the speedy coordination among three police departments was remarkable, and the tip from the public was key.

JOHN MILLER, FORMER NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: The lesson we get from this is people need to overcome their hesitation to report something on the idea that, well, what if he's just kidding. They need to move forward with those calls.

TODD: The pastor says the suspect had attended the church at least once before but can't explain the targeting.

WHITE: As bad as it was, it was a victory.


TODD: And more jarring information from Pastor White. He says there were about a thousand people inside the sanctuary at the moment the gunman was apprehended, in addition to about 300 children who were elsewhere inside the complex. Rui Jiang has been charged with threats of bodily harm and with carrying a dangerous weapon in a place of religious worship -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you, Brian.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.