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Governor Races Test Trump's Political Strength; Families Mourn Loved Ones Killed in Texas Church Attack; In Asia Trump Softens Tone Towards North Korea; Air Force Mistake Allows Texas Shooter to Get Guns; Carter Page Reveals Who in Trump's Inner Circle Knew about Russian Contacts. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining me, political director, David Chalian, and politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza.

David, the president weighing in on this race today. He hasn't campaigned there one day. Why is this race so important for him?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. He's not campaigning there one day was probably not his choice. Probably the choice of Ed Gillespie. Why is he paying attention? Because he understands that this kay is going to be viewed through a lens about him. That is how people are going to sort of assess where is the political landscape a year after Donald Trump's election and as Ryan was just saying, Kate, the gubernatorial race in Virginia and New Jersey we sort of look at that one year after the presidential election and see how those electorates are responding to the president, the new president, and that is -- and Donald Trump is keenly aware of that. He understands that if Democrats even on a smaller election like today, sweep all the high-profile contests, and there isn't a big high-profile Republican victory, that that's a really bad headline for him and his party heading into 2018.

BOLDUAN: Well, I guess with that in mind, Chris, do you think this means any more for the 2018 mid-terms than all the special elections we've been watching so close up to this point?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, and no. It's a bigger race with more money with more attention with messaging that's more similar particularly on Gillespie's side with what Trump ran on, so, yes, in that regard. No, in the sense that it's a gubernatorial, it's a state -- we're talking about state election in Virginia, state election in New Jersey, not a federal election. History suggests it is much easier to link an unpopular president to a federal race, Senate race, House rate race, than to a governor's race. The governor most see in a different light. That being said people will do it anyway and people will draw conclusions from this one way or another and I would say a lot of people criticize the media for doing this. I guarantee you David touches on this and want to expound on this, every politician in a marginally competitive district or state who is up in 2018 who might be considering retirement or trying to figure out how to run, they will watch particularly the Virginia gubernatorial election and draw some conclusions about their own fate. Those may be incorrect conclusions, they may be the wrong conclusion, but politicians are always looking around at other politicians to see lessons learned or things they shouldn't do. That will happen tonight whether or not it should.

BOLDUAN: All right. But polling never matters, David. No one ever pays attention to the polls. Remember. No one ever pays attention to polling anymore unless they absolutely do. What is this -- I'm intrigued about the Ed Gillespie element on how Ed Gillespie did not campaign once with the president. But as you know, and Ryan noted as well, he's been in his campaign, hitting on a lot of the kind of cultural themes that the president has definitely focused on, on confederate statutes, on MS-13 and immigration, what's going on there?

CHALIAN: It seems that's a lot more about a strategic imperative to enliven the Trump base and make sure those voters are enthused and energetic and a reason to show up today and vote than it does seem to be a continuation of Ed Gillespie's long professed policy positions because it just hasn't been that way, right. You noted with Ryan that Ed Gillespie is the very essence of establishment Republicanism, counselor to President Bush, serving as the RNC chair. This is the person that is the establishment. But he understands his only chance here -- and by the way, it's been working. He has successfully, really narrowed a gap here in the public polls and is closing quite strongly on these messages that are clearly getting the base generated, at least in the public polling. We'll see if it works when actual voters are casting their ballots today.

CILLIZZA: Kate, just to add to that, it's not just Virginia. I think the lieutenant governor, Gadano (ph), New Jersey, the Republican, is very likely to lose today. Largely because Chris Christie is incredibly unpopular. She has closed the gap using what message in the final couple weeks, sanctuary cities. If Gadano (ph) loses by a smaller than we expect margin, if Ed Gillespie wins, you're going to hear a lot about MS-13 and sanctuary cities in between now and the 2018 election because, again, whatever you think of Trump, Trumpism, Trump the person, it is, to David's point, something that absolutely we know activates the Republican base.

BOLDUAN: While folks are running for governor, everyone else is testing out messaging for 2018. That's what today is all about.

David, on where the president stands right now, a new CNN poll on the president's approval rating and it's at a new low point, 36 percent approval, 58 percent disapprove. What are you seeing behind the number right?

CHALIAN: The key thing behind that number, Independents have continued to flee away from this president. You can look at little chip -- sort of little chipping away at his core, core constituencies, but they're minor. Donald Trump --


BOLDUAN: But it's like one point.

[11:35:11] CHALIAN: Yes. Remarkably strong bond with the people who voted for him last November remains. It's actually one of the most -- one of the strongest bonds I've ever seen between a politician and electorate but Independents, who he won on election night 2016, have really drifted away from him and that's why he's at historic lows.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you both. Can you believe where we were just a year ago, almost today? It's amazing.

CILLIZZA: Happy Election Day.

BOLDUAN: Happy Election Day, guys.

Coming up, they were parents, they were grandparents, they were teenagers and toddlers. We are learning more about the 26 innocent lives cut short in Sutherland Springs, Texas. We will bring you their stories. That's next.


[11:40:09] BOLDUAN: "I'm going to miss him every day, every minute, every second. My heart is breaking." That is from the daughter of one of the victims of the Texas church massacre. Starting to learn more of their names and stories of the 26 innocent people murdered. Among them, a 16-year-old girl who wanted to become a nurse caring for sick children, a husband and wife who were high school sweethearts, and grandparents who took their grandchildren to church with them.

Joining us with more is Alison Kosik.

ALISON KOSICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As we learn the names and ages of the people who were viciously gunned down, we learned that a lot of these people were in the prime of their lives and lives cut short. Sixteen-year-old Haley Krueger one of those. Learning from her mom, Charlene, this was a vibrant 16-year-old. She loved life. She was looking forward to trying out for the drill team next year and becoming a nurse in the NICU at the hospital, that she loved babies. On this day, on Sunday, she was at the church helping with breakfast and she was there on her own. Then there's Robert and Shani Cordigan (ph). They were from Michigan and moved to Texas. They part of the praise team at first Baptist. Robert served in the Air Force 30 years. He was the valedictorian of his class. They were high school sweethearts. Makes your heart break when you hear that they were still so much in love after all that time and for this viciously to happen. Then there's Richard and Teresa Rodriguez, killed that day, as well. They were married for 11 years and they attended church at First Baptist every Sunday. We did hear from Richard's daughter, Regina, on "New Day" this morning. She said how she's going to miss -- actually remembering her times with her dad on saturday mornings waking up and watching '80s movies and "Soul Train" together. And said that her dad often picked up her kids and took them to that church. Thankfully, he didn't do that on Sunday. But nevertheless, she did lose her dad. And she's having a really hard time coming to terms with it, as his sister is as well. Watch some of this interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REGINA SAMAS, PARENTS KILLED IN TEXAS MASSACRE: What could I tell him? My best brother, so sweet, so kind. I love him so much. I'm going to miss him a lot. He's always making us laugh. He was a character. He was really -- always making us laugh. He's going to be missed from us.

I'm going to miss him every day, every minute, every second. My heart is breaking. You were the last person I had and now he's gone.


KOSICK: These people taken from their families so quickly, and so just so shocking and hard for them to come to terms with this. The loss is just unbearable.

BOLDUAN: And the sheer magnitude of the loss for the community. And almost generations of families just wiped out in an instant.


BOLDUAN: Alison, thank you so much for bringing us.

We will bring you their names and stories and lift them up with you the more we learn of all of them.

We will be right back.


[11:47:56] BOLDUAN: He's in South Korea, just 35 miles away from the rogue regime to the north, and today, a change in tone. President Trump is avoiding some of the more biting rhetoric that he has used so often in the past towards Kim Jong-Un, saying, instead, Kim should come to the table.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't like talking about whether I see success or not in a case such as this. We like to play our cards a little bit close to the vest.

With that, yes, I think we're making a lot of progress, I think we're showing great strength. I think they understand we have unparalleled strength.


BOLDUAN: But the threat of military action is raising something very big questions on Capitol Hill. Our next guest is part of a group of lawmakers asking the White House and Pentagon to lay out what military action against North Korea would really cost the American people.

Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois, is joining me now. She's an Iraq war veteran.

Senator, thanks for being here. SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, (D), ILLINOIS: It's good to be on.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Have you heard anything from the Pentagon or White House on your question of the cost?

DUCKWORTH: We did get confirmation from the Joint Chiefs of Staff that it would take a ground invasion to truly secure North Korea's nuclear arsenal and in that same response, they also said that -- they also know that North Korea has both biological and chemical weapons. In order to truly secure North Korea's arsenal if we go to war it would take a ground invasion of U.S. troops.

BOLDUAN: But today he's not making fun of the North Korean leader with the Rocket Man. He -- Rocket Man nicknames. The president is calling on Kim to come to the table to make a deal. Do you find this change in tone today encouraging?

DUCKWORTH: Well, this is one day. It's not even 24 hours. We do know that this president is completely unpredictable. And you look at the totality of everything that he's said on North Korea, I don't have very high hopes that he will be a to maintain the discipline that he's shown in the last few hours of his trip. Frankly, everything that he has said, everything that he's tweeted so far, has endangered American lives both of those of our men and women in uniform in the region, there's sides of the border.

[11:50:07] BOLDUAN: You talked with Nicholas Kristoff and told him you thought the chances of preemptive strike coming from the president, the chances greater than 50/50 that the president will order a strike. Where do you see the chances today?

DUCKWORTH: I don't think the chances have changed. I think if you look at everything that has happened in the past ten months of this president's tenure in office, everything has ratcheted up. You know, as recently as August of this year, Secretary Mathis was sitting down to meet with the South Korean leadership on how to go about what the protocols would be for a nuclear first strike. Whatever the president says today, the movements that have been happening out of this administration, his rhetoric have shown the White House is moving towards potentially a proactive strike. I think American people deserve to know what a war with North Korea would cost in terms of lives of American troops and what it would cost of American dollars.

BOLDUAN: Senator, do you believe it's more likely than not that the president will order a preemptive strike against North Korea?

DUCKWORTH: I think that this president is trending towards where he is more likely than not that he would call for a preemptive strike. Whether his advisers can talk him out of it is a different question. I believe this president has moved beyond whether or not we should go to war to what do we do when we do and how do we go about doing it. I want to have the tough discussions we have not had so far and didn't have running up to the Iraq war on what the cost of this would be. American people would then get the transparency they deserve as -- listen, going to war with North Korea is what we need to do to protect America, then I will support it. But we deserve to know what that is going to cost.

BOLDUAN: And the president also maintains he ran on and won on maintaining a position of keeping his cards close to his vest because he doesn't want to telegraph any military move. So there is this struggle.

I do want to ask you about some other news Senator. The news following the Texas shooting that the Air Force failed to relay information about the shooter to the national database. Information that would have helped keep a gun out of this guy's hands. Should people lose their jobs over this?

DUCKWORTH: I want to know what exactly happened to keep the Air Force from doing what they were supposed to do which is correctly report this. There are loopholes in our gun laws in this country where this young man if he had famed the check --


BOLDUAN: Separately from loopholes, this is one way -- we can't speculate. He may have been able to get a gun in another way, but this would have been one roadblock in his way that wasn't there, and it's on the Air Force.

DUCKWORTH: It is on the Air Force and I certainly want answers from the Air Force as to exactly what happened. Why they did not report it and what the failures were in the system so we can fix those problems. And if there was negligence and if there was wrong-doing, then we need to take a look and see what needs to be done. But bottom line, you know, we have had multiple, multiple mass shooting events in this country. And frankly, I'm a marksman. We still need to go after stronger gun laws in this country. I'm not going to take away anybody's sporting or hunting weapons. But frankly, we need to take a look at even things like bump stock, which we seem to have forgotten about, and it's only been a couple of months or so.

BOLDUAN: But Senator, when it comes to the Air Force and negligence that you say could be uncovered, do you think folks should lose their jobs?

DUCKWORTH: It's up to the Air Force to decide in terms of the legal system, the Uniform System of Military Justice. And I think if it's determined that someone did something and failed to do their job, then they probably should lose their job, absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Senator Tammy Duckworth, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

DUCKWORTH: Of course.

[11:54:15] BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, six hours of testimony and more than a few headlines coming out. What former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, told congressional investigators about the Russian officials he met with and who in the Trump campaign he talked to about it. Lengthy transcript. Let's get to it. That's next.


BOLDUAN: New details in the Russia probe, courtesy of former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. His more than six hours of testimony behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee last week is revealing more about who in Trump's inner circle knew about Page's contacts with Russian. And it's just not any Russians. How high up his contacts went for news as well?

With me now to discuss, CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has much on this.

Shimon, six hours of testimony. They released a transcript though. What's more important -- what is the most important thing that Carter Page said to Congressional investigators, do you think?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Kate, Carter Page has said his trip to Russia during the campaign was a personal trip and that he didn't meet with Russian officials. But during his testimony, we have learned a different story. He's now saying during that trip he met with Russia's deputy prime minister, and then that he e-mailed Trump campaign officials wanting to relay some of the information that he obtained in that meeting. He also testified that he told several Trump campaign officials that he was going on the trip. Now, this is important. He's saying he e-mailed Corey Lewandowski and J.D. Gordon, who is a national security adviser. And Gordon is saying he doesn't remember the e-mail from Page. And Lewandowski said Page shouldn't represent the campaign while in Russia. Also interestingly, Page, according to some of the testimony, floated the idea of then-Candidate Trump taking a trip to Russia. This is the second person now in the campaign who had access to senior members on the campaign suggesting Donald Trump should go to Russia. And we should note that Page told the committee he was interviewed by the FBI, at least six times, and they are the ones investigating any potential Russian collusion with the special counsel, and, Kate, no matter how anyone views this, we have two people who had access to the highest levels of the campaign admitting to talking to Russians.

BOLDUAN: And Russian officials high up in Putin's inner circle.

Great to see you, Shimon.

Where does it go from here? Stay tuned until tomorrow. We'll cover that. Much more of that coming up.

Also, much more coming up on the dark past of the Texas massacre shooter. And now the Air Force admitting that they dropped -- that they failed to report information on his conviction to a federal database that would have kept him from - kept a gun out of his hands.

Thank you so much for joining me.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.