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House Democrats Vote on Leadership Tomorrow; Interview with Tim Ryan; Trump Suggests Jail Time for Burning U.S. Flag; U.S. Military Prepares for "War in Space". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 29, 2016 - 13:59   ET



[13:30:53] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: As President-elect Donald Trump prepares for his inauguration, adds to his cabinet, House Democrats are preparing to decide if Nancy Pelosi will continue on as their leader. She's being challenged by Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, by secret ballot election tomorrow.

Our senior political reporter, Manu Raju, is joining us from Capitol Hill.

Manu, the votes tomorrow. Do we have a sense of the breakdown? I know a lot of people are saying they're supporting Pelosi but I've heard from some who say it's one thing to say you support Pelosi but another to vote for Pelosi in a secret ballot.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You're right, Wolf. The fact it's a secret ballot, it's impossible to know how the numbers will break down. A number of members, including 40 Democratic women, have come out supporting Nancy Pelosi, and just under a dozen or so saying they would publicly vote for her challenger, Tim Ryan. There are 194 Democrats occupying seats in the House next Congress, and those members will get a chance to vote in this secret ballot election tomorrow. We know, heading into tomorrow, Nancy Pelosi is the favorite heading into there. A lot of loyalty, raised a lot of money for members. That said, Wolf, there is considerable angst within the caucus whether or not the party has a right strategy to take back the majority. Not necessarily 2018, but in the 2020 elections. Pelosi suggesting making changes to leadership structure to bring in new voices, including freshman members, part of the leadership team. But Congressman Ryan sharply criticized some of the changes, saying Nancy Pelosi was trying to further consolidate power as the Democratic leader. We'll see if any pass mustard tomorrow, but right now, Pelosi is feeling confident while Tim Ryan is campaign behind the scenes, trying to lock down commitments to undecided Democrats - Wolf?

BLITZER: Manu, we'll watch that vote tomorrow very, very closely.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill, Pelosi's challenge for the House Democratic leadership, Congressman Tim Ryan, of Ohio.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. TIM RYAN, (D), OHIO: Thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: Do you think you have a shot at beating Nancy Pelosi


RYAN: Yeah. I think we're within striking distance. I can tell you that, for sure. A lot of members who haven't committed or are being very, very quiet and they could break either way coming into the last 24 hours and the vote's tomorrow morning. So, I feel really, really good about the campaign we've run. I think we've been very clear. I think we've been very respectful of Leader Pelosi but we need change and I've not relented on that at all. We'll see if my colleagues agree tomorrow.

BLITZER: Supporters say she's great at raising money. That doesn't always translate into picking up seats in the House. You lost in 2010, '12, '14, '16. What about the argument she's a great fundraiser for Democrats?

RYAN: The leadership position in and of itself bring as great cachet to the fundraising network, whether you're Democrat or Republican, around the country. They said the same thing about Paul Ryan. Would he be able to raise as much as John Boehner and he ended up raising more. I've seen quotes from Republican donors saying, if there's enthusiasm, energy, if there's a plan, that's how you generate money. Plus, we've not tried to raise low-dollar donations across the country. We've done a little through the DCCC, but significant numbers have not come in. That needs to be an approach I would bring to this leadership position.

BLITZER: What's your biggest problem with Nancy Pelosi?

RYAN: We're not winning. Like I said, we're down 60-some seats since 2010. The smallest number in the Democratic caucus in 87 years, Wolf. We've gotten slaughtered throughout the country, two-thirds of state legislatures, 33 governors, lost Washington, D.C., will soon lose the Supreme Court after Trump makes his appointments. We've got to hit the reset button and start over. Winners win, Wolf, and we've got to start winning. I'm worried that the Democratic Party is going to be accepting of being, of failing. Of not figuring out how to win again and we have to do that.

[13:35:11] BLITZER: Specifically, what would you do differently than what Nancy Pelosi would do if re-elected?

RYAN: First of all, we've not had an economic message. Trump won because he had a robust economic message and we don't have one. We try to slip up the electorate and talk to people, you know, whether they're male, female, black, brown, white, gay, straight. Look, everybody wants a good job, and sometimes we focus too much on minimum wage jobs as opposed to higher jobs, higher incomes for middle class earners and those wanting to get into the middle class. And as far as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee goes, we have 180,000 Millennials in each congressional district. We have no strategy to go after them, figure out how to talk to them. They could bump our numbers four and five points across country. That's one example. We have no idea what's going on at the DCCC. We're not winning and we need to make changes there as well. BLITZER: The fact that House Democrats did poorly once again in 2016,

most recent election, who's to blame? Nancy Pelosi? Would it be the president of the United States, who couldn't generate that kind of support, or Hillary Clinton, who failed in her own base to win the presidency?

RYAN: There's enough blame to go around, Wolf, for everybody. Look, we lost. I don't hang 2016 around Leader Pelosi's neck alone. There's plenty of blame to go around. Clearly, Democrats do not have an economic message. We need to have one. We need to have one to move forward. That's what we've got to do. We need to go into 30 or 40 congressional districts and figure out how to win in the south. How to win in rural areas. How to win in places like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. We haven't done that. And we better figure that out or we're going to be a minority party for a long, long time.

BLITZER: If you lose tomorrow, what do you see your role in the party, in the House of Representatives? What's your future?

RYAN: I have no idea. I haven't looked much past tomorrow, Wolf. We've got 24 hours to go in this campaign. We're running really hard. Burning up the phones, having meetings, getting endorsements, and we can talk about that maybe at the end of the week, but I think we've got a good shot at winning this thing.

BLITZER: There's like 198 or so Democrats in the House of Representatives. You need - you need a simple majority to be elected the minority leader, right?

RYAN: That's right.

BLITZER: How close do you think you are right now to getting, say, 100 of your colleagues to support you?

RYAN: Within striking distance. Like I said, very, very close.

BLITZER: What does that mean? Striking distance?

RYAN: Part of the game here, Wolf, is not to give away your numbers. You've been doing this a long time. We're keeping our numbers close. We have a lot of commitments, more than most think and I think a lot of surprised faces tomorrow.

@: The fact this is a secret ballot, that presumably helps you. right?

RYAN: Big time. Big time.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman.

RYAN: You know, I'm not going to hurt anybody who's not with me and when the person in power sometimes is able to use other tools to keep people in line.

@: Congressman, Tim Ryan, we'll check back with you tomorrow.

Thanks so much.

RYAN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Big vote tomorrow morning.

Coming up, the president-elect says jailtime is perhaps the correct punishment for burning the American flag. What his words could mean. That and more, when we come back.


[13:42:42] BLITZER: As President-elect of the United States Donald Trump continues to add to his cabinet another issue that's come to his attention, though, today involves flag burning. Trump says it should about crime here in the United States. He tweeted this, "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag. If they do, there might be consequences. Perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail, exclamation point."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag is protected under free speech, and in a 2012 interview with CNN, the late justice, Antonin Scalia, explained why.


ANTONIN SCALIA, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: If I were king, I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged, and it is addressed, in particular, to speech critical of the government.


BLITZER: Jonathan Turley is professor of law at George Washington University.

Jonathan, thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: You studied the issue closely. Scalia, obviously taking a different position than the man who greatly admires him, the president-elect.

TURLEY: That's right. In 2989, 2990, the court ruled you couldn't restrict free speech for flag burning, saying flag burning is a form of political speech, perhaps the ultimate form of political speech. Scalia was a textualist, he was a historical person in terms of the purpose and history of the Constitution. And it's interesting, because Donald Trump has really cited Scalia as his model for the Supreme Court. But what President-elect Trump is suggesting can't be done. He's got to get through not just the Supreme Court but the Constitution itself. He can always move for a constitutional amendment. That was done in 2006. He can also try to change the Supreme Court. He has the seat open of one of the people, Scalia, who voted to protect that type of speech.

BLITZER: All of those initiatives are difficult, but that was a 5-4 ruling saying you can burn the American flag, as disgusting as that is. It's part of the First Amendment free speech. But foreign justices disagree, the minority?

TURLEY: It's always been close. '89 was close, '90 was close. Earlier ruling in the '60s that was close. People like Earl Warren seem to agree with President-elect Trump's position, that if you could criminalize burning of the flag. The problem that you have is the slippery slope if you start to criminalize speech. The First Amendment has never been amended itself. We've never abridged free speech with a successive amendment. The question is, do we want to start over something that happens literally a handful of times each year, five maybe seven time a year. Do we want to change the Constitution for that? Or do we want the court to say certain types of free speech can be criminalized and who will determine which speech crosses that line?

[13:45:41] BLITZER: Stripping someone of citizenship is not a simple procedure either, unless the person wants to be stripped of his citizenship?

TURLEY: That's right. The curious thing of protecting the symbol of our rights by limiting our rights. That's a rather odd response to a very small problem.

BLITZER: Jonathan Turley, of George Washington University Law School. Thanks very much.

TURLEY: Thanks, Wolf.

Coming up, the U.S. is urgently preparing for the next potential threat, a war in outer space. We have details. You'll want to see this, when we come back.


[13:50:04] BLITZER: The next war the U.S. potentially faces is taking shape hundreds of miles above us, in space.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, gained rare access to classified U.S. military command and operations centers. He investigates the new weapons built to disable or destroy U.S. satellites in a CNN special report that airs later tonight, "War in Space."


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the nightmare scenario, chaos on earth as our adversaries disable and destroy our satellites in space. The first shots in the fir space war.

PETER SINGER, AUTHOR: Explosions in space that no one will hear. SCIUTTO: Peter Singer wrote about this dire scenario in his book,

"Ghost Fleet." He now advises the Defense Department on just this type of threat.

SINGER: You are now in World War III, so besides losing your ability to take out money from an ATM, your nation is in World War III.

SCIUTTO: This is not fantasy. This is the future, for which the U.S. is now urgently preparing.

GEN. JOHN HYTEN, COMMANDER, STRATEGIC COMMAND & FORMER COMMANDER, SPACE COMMAND: If you say is it inevitable, the answer is probably yes.

SCIUTTO: General John Hyten, until recently the head of U.S. Space Command, has been promoted to lead Strategic Command, charged with crucial missions ranging from commanding nuclear warfare to cyber warfare to war in space.

HYTEN: Any time human beings have come to new territory and contested it, conflict has followed. Human beings forever have wanted what's beyond the hill, the horizon, as we go out there, there's always been conflict. Conflict in the wild west as we move into the west. Conflict twice in Europe with horrible world wars. So, every time humans physically move into that, there's conflict. And in that case, we'll have to be prepared for that.


BLITZER: Wow. Jim Sciutto is joining us now.

Jim, why does the U.S. military think a war in space may be inevitable?

SCIUTTO: Partly the point General Hyten made there, this is kind of the natural course of human events. It's contested space up there and that leads to competition. But in addition to that, it's because the U.S. Believes our adversaries look at us and say that the U.S. is more advanced, therefore, we're more dependent on space. You are, for things we deal with every day, stock market transactions, banking, etc., but our military really is. It's so advanced when you think about the bombs we drop, the way we communicate, the way our soldiers in the battlefield - you've seen them, they have laptops. They can see the battlefield in part based on space assets. Our adversaries see those advantages and say, listen, if we get into conflict, we'll have to take those advantages away from the U.S. And that's why they're making advances in this direction.

BLITZER: And the enormous fear is that China and Russia, they've already sent weapons up in space?

SCIUTTO: That's the idea, or at least testing them, or things we fear are weapons, and it's things like satellites that can move and satellites that have been then stalking our satellites. They'll show up around a sensitive military communications satellite and orbit in very close range, about a mile away, which is very close when you're going 17,500 and hour. It then has the ability to ram into the satellite, take it out. It could conceivably use lasers. There are already lasers being tested that could blind or destroy satellites. There are other weapons. Missiles that could be fired from earth. The Chinese put a satellite up that has an arm on it that can steal satellites out of space, take them out of commission.

When I started this project, I thought they were conceptual things but they're already floating around in the skies above us.

BLITZER: Does the U.S. have a similar capability?

SCIUTTO: The U.S. won't say. What they will say is they haven't made the decision to deploy those weapons. That the U.S. wants to keep space a peaceful environment. But we know they've used rockets to take down satellites in space. And what's interesting, if you watch the documentary tonight, we hear the first public comments from senior U.S. military officials saying this is a direction we may have to go.

BLITZER: It's amazing they gave you access to this really sensitive information.

SCIUTTO: It is. I think they want the public to be aware that it's a threat but that also want the public aware that they're doing something about it.

BLITZER: Really looking forward to tonight's documentary.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting for us.

To our viewers in the United States and around the world, you can watch the premier of the CNN special report, "War in Space, The Next Battlefield," it airs later tonight 9:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.

[13:55:53] Coming up, we're learning new details about a plane crash in Colombia that killed at least 75 people. And the few that survived.


BLITZER: Brazil has declared three days of mourning after a plane carrying members of one of the country's top soccer teams crashed in the mountains of Colombia. At least 75 people were killed, six survived. We're told the charter flight took off from Bolivia and, minutes before the end of the flight, the pilot declared an emergency due to an electrical problem before losing contact. Players, coaches, journalists, and invited guests of the soccer team were on board. The team having a Cinderella season and was set to play in the first leg of the South American Cup finals tomorrow.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."

The news continues right now right here on CNN.

[14:00:06] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN on this Tuesday. Thanks for being with me.

Donald Trump. Donald Trump's cabinet is becoming clearer --