tv The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN December 20, 2021 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
infections and new emergency measures just ahead of the holidays. also this hour, democrats are scrambling once again to salvage the biden spending bill after it was torpedoed by senator joe manchin. i'll ask the progressive caucus chair representative jayapal about her new plan for moving forward. and verdict watch in the trial of kim potter, who says she mistook her weapon for a taser when she fatally shot daunte wright. we'll have the latest on the deliberations and the question jurors just asked the court. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." ♪ ♪ this is cnn breaking news. >> we begin this hour with very, very disturbing coronavirus news, breaking news.
the omicron variant, now, now is dominant here in the united states. let's go right to our national correspondent athena jones in new york for us. omicron appears to be spreading even so much faster than what the experts were predicting. it was 2% three days ago, now 70% of all the new cases. what are you learning? >> reporter: hi, wolf. is that right. this is sign of just how quickly this can spread and how much things can spread with the new variant just over a matter of days. the latest that we had was that omicron represented 3% of cases. now we learned it represents 73% of all new cases. officials in new york believe that omicron is driving a big spread here. this as people here and across the country prepare for a brutal third covid winter. >> it is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper
into the winter. >> america bracing for a tough winter that's beginning to look a lot like last winter. already in the midst oh of a delta surge, the omicron varmt acc -- variant accounting for just under 3% of karss but spreading fast. >> this has a doubling time of two to three days. it's going to take over. we know it's very contagious. >> you saw what happened in south africa initially. then in europe. now in the u.s. it's doubling about every two to four days, and we'll see the number of cases go up pretty steeply. >> the u.s. averaging about 1200 deaths a day, and 130 new covid-19 cases a day, that up 10% from a week ago. hospitalizations nationwide up 35% over last month, and intensive care beds nearly 80% full. new york setting a record for
new cases for the third day in a row on sunday. new york city, an early epicenter of the pandemic, seeing a spike driven by omicron. >> we have to move faster. we know that vaccination helps address omicron. >> reporter: still undecided whether tcrowds will be there i times square. the nba, nhl, and nfl also postponing games due to covid issues, and schools like harvard university moving graduate and professional schools to online classes for the first three weeks of january. covid striking maryland governor larry hogan and members of congress. with senator elizabeth warren, senator cory booker and congressman jason crow all testing positive for the virus. health workers and government
officials increasingly focused on boosters. >> we see that those who are vaccinated, those who received their booster aren't coming into the hospital at the same rate. >> reporter: moderna showing its half booster dose shot increased antibody levels against omicron, noting a larger sized dose raised them more. the company is working on variant specific boosters as well. >> right now, you need that third dose. i wish we would stop calling ate booster. it's a three-dose vaccine. >> reporter: just to reiterate here, just a few days ago, the omicron variant represented 3% of all cases. now that number is 73%. here in new york is a perfect illustration of how quickly it is spreading. the state has seen a threefold jump in infections in one week and broken the record of new coordinator cases reported in
one day. >> really disturbing. athena, thank you very much. athena jones in new york. let's bring in our pandemic experts. joining us now, dr. paul offit, the author of the book "you bet your life, from blood transfusions to mass vaccination, the long and risky history of medical innovation." and dr. megan ranee, emergency room physician. let met ge your reaction to this news, the cdc now reporting that omicron represents 73, yes, 73% of all new covid cases in the united states. what is your reaction? >> i think it's a combination of two things. one, it is a highly transmissible virus with a doubles time of two days. the second thing is even if you had two kdoses of mrna or one
dose of johnson & johnson, you're still likely to develop mild illness with the omicron variant. you're likely protected against serious illness, but that's what we're seeing.doses of mrna prov protection against serious illness. so it's a value to get the third dose, but don't disspare. if you haven't gotten any doses yet, you can still get two doses and be highly protected before omicron comes to your neighborhood. >> doctor, omicron is the dominant variant three weeks after the first case was verified here in the united states. what does that tell you? >> this reinforces just how contagious the new variant is. i and many others all thought
this could become dominant in early january in the united states. omicron has now exceeded our expectations in terms of how contagious it is. but as he mentioned, the proof is going to be in the pudding in terms of watching hospitalization. my health care system and others across the country are currently full of unvaccinated patients who are caught the delta variant. time will tell what omicron does in terms of hospitalization. for now, it's just cases, which are certainly concerning and have a big impact on all of us, but aren't the dreaded consequences that we've all been watching over the last two years with unvaccinated covid. >> dr. offit, if you do have covid because of the omicron and you're fully vaccinated with the booster, you might have mild symptoms, but you're still infectious, you can spread it rather quickly. how quickly do you expect omicron to continue to spread here in the united states?
>> even if you have just say two doses of an mrna vaccine and you have mild symptoms, you will shed less virus. so this remains a disease of the unvaccinated. all the children we saw, most of whom we saw over 5 and 12, the reason they were in the hospital, none of them were vaccinated. not their parents or siblings. get vaccinated, and we can get past this. but that's the issue. the issue is, again, vaccinating the unvaccinated is more important than offering a third dose to people who are largely protected.h predicts with omicron we could see up to a million cases a day, just staggering number, right? [ overlapping speakers ]
>> here would be my guidance to folks right now. get vaccinated if you haven't. get a booster if you haven't. but also, now is the time to put that mask back on in public indoor locations. because even those mild cases will ruin your christmas or your new year's eve celebration. it will take you out of work for ten days. e members of your community or your family sick. so this is the time to step back up those nonpharmaceutical inspections. things like mask and rapid testing that many have abandoned over the last few months. >> very worrisome in the news right now. doctors, thank you so, so much. if i don't see you, have a merry christmas and happy holidays. we'll all try as much as we can. just ahead, the fate of joe biden's agenda in limbo after a surprise play by senator joe manchin. we're going to hear from the prerogative caucus chair
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tonight, we're learning that joe biden and senator joe manchin have spoken to one another after manchin threw fellow democrats a curveball by declaring he's a no, a no on the biden spending bill. our chief national affairs correspondent jeff zeleny is joining us from the white house with more on this critical setback and what it means. >> reporter: the white house, pledging to salvage its economic agenda tonight, after west virginia senator joe manchin infuriated democrats by potentially seinking this legislation. >> we are going to continue to take steps, work like hell to get it done. >> reporter: cnn learned biden and manchin spoke by phone sunday night. but joe manchin's bombshell decision still sparking an extraordinary war of words. on west virginia radio today, the senator blamed aides to the president for a breakdown in negotiations. >> this is not the president, it's the staff. they put some things out that
were inexcusable, they know what it is, and that's it. >> reporter: the press secretary calling manchin's actions a breach of his commitments to the president and the senators in the house and senate. today, her tone was more meameasure as the president -- >> he's worked with senator manchin over the course of decades. they're long-time friends. >> reporter: the long simmering tensions inside the democratic party reaching a boiling point. with manchin blasting the build back better plan and deriding the tactics of liberal critics. >> surely, we can badger and beat one person up and get enough protestors to make that person uncomfortable enough. guess what? i'm from west virginia, and they can beat the living crap out of people and think they'll be submissive. >> reporter: chuck schumer
saying senators should make their positions known on the senate flash, not just on television. a clear dig at manchin who delivered his stunning decision on fox news sunday. >> this is a no on this legislation. i have tried everything i know to do. >> reporter: last week, imaginen told the white house he was willing to support a $1.8 million plan to expand affordable act subsidies and address climate change. he was unwilling to include the child tax credit, which became a key sticking point. his position also raising a new round of questions about whether he will remain a democrat, considering most members of the party are furious at him. still, he's a critical piece of the razor thin democratic maj majority. >> i feel like i'm fiscal ly responsible and socially compassionate. >> reporter: it's not only a staggering blow to biden's agenda, but a setback for
democratic unity. >> of course we would right to be curious with joe manchin. but it's up to leadership in the democratic party who, you know, made the decision to get us to this juncture and how we're going to move forward. >> reporter: tonight, the administration is preparing for an even more urgent challenge, the rising cases of covid-19, specifically the new variant, the omicron variant. the president will deliver a speech to the nation tomorrow afternoon from here at the white house, drawing a distinction between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. this is not a lockdown speech in the words of general pss -- jen ps psaki. that speech comes tomorrow here at the white house, wolf. >> jeff zeleny, thank you very much. let's discuss all of this with a key player, the chair of the congressional progressive
caucus, representative pramila jayapal. thank you so much for joining us. at one point, you reportedly sat down with senator manchin for what was described as a three-hour private dinner. did you see his announcement yesterday on fox news coming or were you stunned? >> wolf, it's good to see you. i did sit down with senator manchin. i don't know if it was three hours, it might have been two hours, and it wasn't a dinner. but we had a very good conversation. i will say i left most of the negotiating to the president and to the white house. they were the ones negotiating with the senator. we continued to speak over the next couple of weeks. we spoke several times, and he called me this morning. it was a complete stunner, a complete shocker, because the president told me that senator manchin had committed to that framework, that the president unveiled to us right before he went to cop26, and that was the
framework that the progressive caucus then endorsed. as you sew, wolf, as we nod held up the legislation that time and the time before, we wouldn't have gotten that framework. but we knew how important it was to get senator manchin to commit which is what he did to the president. unfortunately, yesterday he went back on his word. >> what was his message to you and your conversation with him this morning and what was your return message to him? >> my message was the same thing i said in my statement yesterday and that i said, you know, today, in speaking with press that the only thing we have to trugs, wolf, around here is our word. and it's unfortunate we can't trust senator joe manchin's word. we have spent months, months waiting, negotiating, getting to
an agreement, what we thought was an agreement. i think iffer to look at history and the fact that we thought we had an agreement, that apparently he's now saying we don't have, i don't see how we can negotiate with somebody twhos whose word you cannot rely on. that sun fis unfortunate. i like him as a person, but i thought we had his commitment, and i think he is going to have to answer to the american people to women across this country two have been pushed out of the economy because they don't have child care, to people who desperately want pre-k to lower their cost, to families who want to see their insulin capped at $35, wolf. that's what is in the build back better plan is lowering costs, for american families and giving people an opportunity to feel differently about their lives and livelihoods.
we're not giving up, but i have to be clear that we are also going to, at the same time we work on legislation, call on the president to take executive action, so that we truly can build back better and deliver on the agenda he laid out and progressives have been fighting for this entire time. >> so when you told him you can't trust him any more, that he backed out of his word, effectively lying to you, what was his response? >> i'm going to let him speak for himself. i can just tell you what i said and i can tell you that it's not different than from what i'm saying here. i haven't said anything to you that i didn't say to him. so it has been frustrating, because what we're talking about are people's lives. we're talking about the whom is still at home, pushed out of the workplace because of no child care. we're talking about families that have been depending on the
child tax credit and are not going to see that check in january, february, or march. young people waiting for us to save the plan et and take real action on climate change two are now saying what does this mean for me and my future? i think we have to keep that at the forefront. that's what build back better is about. it's why the overwhelming majority of the american people support build back better. we're not going to wait for one man to decide on one day that he's with us, and on the other day that he's not. and that's why at the same time we work on legislation, the president needs to take urgent executive action on a number of ings this, and we'll meet tonight at the progressive caucus and talk about that. >> senator manchin says he would like to think there's still a place for him in the democratic party. do you think he still belongs in the democratic party? >> look, we welcome everyone to the democratic party that can back the president's agenda, the
house, the white house and the senator ran on. we know there are problems with the senate where we twist our severa -- ourselves into parliamentarian presitzels. we worked from cutting the bill to $6 trillion to $1.75 trillion, the framework that they committed to. and that is what we now need to deliver on, and we will -- we are not going to stop because it is too important. we will fight, but we need to use every tool in the toolbox. >> representative pramila jayapal, thank you for joining us. appreciate it very much. >> thank you, wolf. coming up, jury deliberations begin in the trial of former police officer kim potter who faces manslaughter charges in the killing of daunte wright. potter says she mistook her gun for a taser during the fatal traffic stop. stay with us.
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a jury is now deliberating the fate of former police officer kim potter, charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of daunte wright. cnn is working this story. so what's the latest, adrian? >> reporter: wolf, the jury has been deliberating about 4 1/2 hours. about an hour ago, member ofls t -- members of the jury had a question. they wanted to know the date
that former officer potter interviewed with dr. miller. dr. miller was the witness called by the defense. he's the psychologist who talked about action era or slip and capture. during the testimony, it was revealed potter told dr. miller she never made a mistake. now today during those closing arguments, mistake was a word we heard repeatedly from defense attorney earl gray. he said, in fact, this was a mistake, that officer potter intended to pull her taser, not her gun. defense attorney gray challenging members of the jury to think about how potter could recklessly handle a firearm if she didn't know she had a gun in her hand. by contrast, the prosecution argued daunte wright was shot to death by a highly trained officer who had a gun in her hand. listen to those arguments.
>> everybody makes mistakes, nobody is perfect, ladies and gentlemen. and this lady here made a mistake, and my gosh, a mistake is not a crime. >> this was a colossal screw-up. a blunder of epic proportion. accidents can still be crimes if they occur as the result of recklessness or culpable negligence. you're not going to find the word "accident" or "mistake" or "error" anywhere in your jury instructions. >> reporter: members of the jury are approaching their fifth hour of deliberations. the judge said she will end deliberations at 6:00 p.m. local time today. meanwhile, in that deliberating room, members of the jury had the gun that potter used the day she shot and killed daunte wright.
they also have the taser she intended to pull. this is an opportunity for them to see and feel the difference between the two weapons. wolf? >> adrian, thank you very much. let's get some more on this case. joining us now, cnn legal analyst elliott williams. and dave erinberg from palm beach county, florida. dave, can you read anything into that first question from the jurors? >> good evening, wolf. jurors want to see if this was a real mistake, and if she was sincere on the stand with all of her tears, and the jury wants to decide between the prosecution's focus on the jury's heads, like look at the elementis of the crime, a mistake can be a crime, compared to the defense lawyer's focus on their hearts. hey, everyone makes mistakes, right? and they are not criminally charged. two different styles. but i think in the end, wolf, the key will be whether the jury
believed in the testimony given by kim potter. she took the move of testifying. she cried a lot. i wonder if that invoked the sympathy of the jurors, even to the point of jury nullification, which means yeah, she did it, we feel bad for her and she couldn't go to prison. >> 26 years on the police force. the defense attorney said that daunte wright caused his own death. how shocking is that? >> it's not shocking. look, it's a common refrain by defense attorneys to say that the victim actually was complicit in his or her own death. the prosecution still has a very compelling point here is that the words she uses at the scene where she says, number one, she shouts "taser" and then number two, she says, i intended to tase him, that's negligence right there and adds -- the way
negligence works is you're accepting this person's conduct based on how a reasonable person would have acted, a reasonable officer. and any officer should have -- oh, my goodness, i'm ringing, sorry, guys. any officer would have known based on their training and experience whether it was a gun or not. so it's not uncommon for defense attorneys to go where they did here, but i think the prosecution has a compelling point. >> the prosecutor, dave, argue that accidents can still be crimes as a result of recklessness or negligence. is that the key issue that is another stake right now? >> it is, wolf. i think the prosecution may have overcharmed here. i do think this case is more of a culpable manslaughter case. they may have overcharged and
you can lose credibility in the eyes of the jury. with culpable negligence, you just have to show she took a chance of causing death to daunte wright. when it comes to first degree manslaughter, you have to show kim potter recklessly handled or used a firearm and death or great bodily injury was reasonably foreseeable, and made that decision to ignore the risk. but she couldn't have ignored a risk she wasn't aware of. >> thank you very much both very much. just ahead, three retired u.s. generals are urging the pentagon to prepare for another insurrection in 2024. i'll speak with one of them to try to find out why they spiel so compelled to sound the alarm.
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with the right tech solutions. so you can stop at nothing for your customers. this just coming into "the situation room." the january 6 committee has requested an interview with a member of congress for the first time. the panel formally asking for a sitdown with republican representative scott perry of pennsylvania. but stopping short of actually issuing a subpoena. the senate report characterized perry as a key player in helping former president trump try to overturn the 2020 presidential election. we'll continue to watch this. as we near one year since
january 6, three retired u.s. generals are now warning the pentagon to prepare for a possible insurrection or civil war after the 2024 election. they fear an uprising could be fueled by divisions and potentially lethal chaos, their words, within the u.s. military ranks. in "washington post" op-ed, they write, we are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time. they argue that the potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines from the top of the chain to squad level is significant, should another insurrection occur. the idea of rogue units organizing to support the rightful commander in chief cannot be dismissed under such a scenario. it's not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war. let's discuss with one of the authors, retired general pauley.
thank you for joining us. why do you feel so compelled to raise the alarm? >> wolf, thank you very much for inviting me. the intent of the op-ed is to bring up the possibility that the armed forces of the united states could be infected by what we are watching develop in the republican party. we tend to be a conservative lot. the military installations have a constant feed of fox news going in there, and what we have got is an opportunity for the republican party, 39% who don't believe that joe biden is the duley elected president of the united states, 17% of the republican party espoused the use of violence in a future election. we've got 10% of those charged during the insurrection on 6
january were veterans. we have 124 retired generals and admirals who wrote a letter that stated they don't buy the election results, and they also questioned the suitability, the competence of joe biden to serve as president. you have governors in oklahoma, florida, texas, who believe that they, not the commander in chief, the president of the united states, will have complete control over the national guard in their states. these are indications and a warning. these are data points that create a sense of malaise in those who are studying the problem. so the point of the op-ed was, this is a possibility. these are some of the indications and warnings that we need to pay attention to. and here are some mitigating
opportunities to buy down the problem. so it is a -- it's a warning. it's heads up. >> what do you say, general, to the critics out there who argue you're being too alarmist? >> well, i hope i am. i absolutely hope that i am. but i've been around enough that i can see the context and units that will do this. we, again, our young men and women understand the constitution of the united states and that they support and defend the constitution of the united states. the military is a very h hierarchical organization. at the top is the commander in chief, the president of the united states. if an entire political party is able to insert doubt into the electoral process, they are inserting doubt into the chain
of command and the perception of the chain of command by the rank and file of the united states military. that is dangerous, and that is exactly what's going on right now. and the sanctity of our electoral process is exactly what the men and women of the armed forces are supporting as they support and defend the constitution of the united states. >> very alarming. retired general paul eaton, thanks for your service. i hope you have a merry christmas and happy new year. coming up, breaking news just this past hour that the omicron variant is now dominant, yes, dominant here in the united states. so what less ons can america learn as we look to other countries first hit by the omicron variant? get $1500 lease cash toward a 2022 rx 350.
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omicron is already spreading wildly in the uk. cnn's scott mcclain is in london for us. >> reporter: wolf, the uk just recorded its second highest number of new infections is, but the prime minister has decided not to put new restrictions in place before christmas. despite government scientists urging him to take action to prevent near record high hospital admissions. johnson met with his cabinet today and acknowledged that omicron is surging across the country and now hospitalizations are rising quickly in london. that's the omicron epicenter. health officials are planning to treat some covid patients at home to free up bed spaces. and the head of the health service in england says one in five health workers in london could be out sick with the virus by christmas. the good news is that the uk is putting booster shots into arms at a record pace, just not faster than omicron, which is spreading exponentially. wolf? >> scott mcclain in london,
thank you very much. new precautions in israel, including tighter travel restrictions and a new elliot? >> wolf, israel is adding ten more countries including the united states and canada to its red no fly list taz braces itself for the full force of a fifth covid wave. from 5:00 p.m. eastern time tuesday, these countries will be off limits to israelis unless they get special her mission. travelers returning from those country lfs to go through seven days of quarantine. easier israel has been steadily adding upon countries to its red list in its bid to reduce the spread of the omicron variant. and 380 suspected ones, most were infected overseas. meanwhile, israel's daily covid case load has gone above a thousand for the first time in two months. the prime minister says the main priority now is to vaccinate children before, in his words, the main omicron wave arrives.
wolf? >> elliot gotkine in jerusalem. thank vur much. the omicron variant is also driving up-let positivity rate in south africa but so far, not necessarily hospitalizations and deaths. cnn's david mackenzie has the latest from johannesburg. >> wolf, seeing record number of covid-19 cases dominated by omicron and also extremely high positivity rates you but at this stage, there is still plenty of space in hospitals. scientists say this wave is not as bad in terms of hospitalizations and even death. we were out with ambulance workers who are saying previous waves were worse. they ever seen people in hospital for a shorter amount of time, fewer who are ventilated. it's now not clear whether this is because of previous infection giving immunity or because of vaccination rates in this country. but it is milder, they say. i asked one top health official
what his advice is for the u.s. and other countries. he said don't panic. wolf? >> all right. cnn's david mackenzie in johannesburg. thank you. just ahead, a chinese tennis star a garnered international concern when she disappeared from the spotlight following her accusations of sexual coercion against a senior chinese official. now, she's reemerging in the public eye with a very different story. is the planning effect. this is how it feels to have a dedicated fidelity advisor looking at your full financial picture. this is what it's like to have a comprehensive wealth plan with tax-smart investing strategies designed to help you keep more of what you earn. and set aside more for things like healthcare, or whatever comes down the road. this is "the planning effect" from fidelity. (kate) this holiday, verizon has the deal that gets better and better and better. get iphone 13 pro, on us, when you trade in your old or damaged phone. better? (guy) better. (kate) hey. and up to $1,000 when you switch.
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>> reporter: chinese tennis star peng shuai is silent no longer about previous allegations of sexual coercion against a former-top chinese official. but her latest public comments likely won't satisfy anyone outside china who is concerned about her welfare. >> translator: i want to emphasize one thing that is very important. that i have never spoken or written about anyone sexually assaulting me. this point is very important to be emphasized clearly. in terms of the weibo post, first of all, it's my personal privacy. there possibly has been a lot of misunderstanding. >> it looks troublesome. it is something that is just down downright disturbing. >> and it is almost a complete turnaround from what peng said previously. in a since-deleted social media post in early november on the chinese blog site weibo, she publicly accused former vice premiere zhang gaoli of coercing her into sex at his home three years ago, so now, her words of
assault versus coercion might be significant. at that time, she was censored by the chai needs regime, after an international outcry, chinese state-controlled media released so-called proof of life photos and video of peng. this latest video was made as part of an interview with a chinese language newspaper. one lan anne list says the chinese government may not have outright threatened peng to change her story. but -- >> there is a phrase called having tea where a couple people with authority and with the coercive powers of the police state behind them come to you to have a chat about what may be in your best interest, what you might want to do as a patriotic chinese to help the party and the threat can be implicit initially. they don't have to spell it out or go after her family. she knows what kaun country she lives in. she knows what the state is capable of. she knows that people get -- disappear. >> reporter: the women's tennis association, which earlier suspended all its tournaments in china in protest of peng's treatment, potentially costing it hundreds of millions of dollars, it isn't buying that
latest video from peng. saying her appearances quote do not alleviate or address the wta's significant concerns about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion. in late november and early december, the international olympic committee reported having two video calls with peng, and claimed she was safe and well but didn't make the calls publicly available. >> the ioc has absolutely been complicit in this coverup. there is no doubt about it. the international olympic committee is in bed with china. the olympic games are starting february 4th in beijing and the ioc just wants smooth sailing. >> reporter: the ioc said it was addressing concerns directly with chinese sports organizations. as for the regime in beijing, chinese authorities have not acknowledged peng shuai's accusations against the former vice premiere and there is no indication an investigation is under way. wolf. >> brian todd reporting for us. thanks very much. finally tonight, just in time for christmas. the bidens are welcoming a new puppy to the white house.
they even put out a video to celebrate the arrival of the pure-bred german shepherd they are calling commander. we are told kmantder was a gift to the commander from his family and cnn also learned that a cat will be joining the bidens at the white house in january. to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. i am wolf blitzer in the situation room. "erin burnett outfront" starts right now. outfront next. breaking news. the omicron variant now the dominant strain in the u.s. accounting for 73% of cases. it was said to be just 3%. the u.s. surgeon general is my guest. plus, on again, off again and cnn slaerning of the president's speaking to senator joe manchin after the west virginia senator torpedoed the centerpiece of his doomt agenda. where do discussions tand stand tonight? and closing arguments in the case of the former officer who shot and killed daunte wright.