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Virginia's Hotly Contested Governor Race Neck and Neck; Top Senate Democrat Still Wants to Question Donald Trump Jr.; Did Wilbur Ross Lie About Being a Billionaire?; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it is interesting. Ed Gillespie has tried to stay away from Donald Trump, the person, Rebecca, but he has inched closer to his policies definitely than Ed Gillespie had been before. Specifically with immigration. He was a proponent of immigration reform back when there were Republicans in favor of immigration reform. Now he's talking about MS-13, he's talking about sanctuary cities, talking about confederate statute.

It does seem that Ed Gillespie thinks there is a reason why a Republican candidate has to emphasize that now.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. He is making a bet that these sort of cultural, economic anxieties that Donald Trump so successfully latched on to in his winning election are going to actually propel him to victory in Virginia as well. But for Ed Gillespie, it's all about threading this needle between more traditional Republican voters and those Trump voters who kind of break the mold in a sense for Republicans.

And it's especially difficult perhaps for Gillespie because he is someone who has been around Republican politics for a long time, advised George W. Bush, lobbied in Washington, so he's not anyone who can run as a sort of Trump-esque outsider candidate. And so if he is successful, if he is able to harness that Trump enthusiasm on the one hand, and also bring in those traditional conservative Republican voters on the other hand.

It's exactly, as Ryan said in his report, that could be a very important template for Republicans moving into 2018 for what you would consider more traditional Republican politicians who are also going to be facing potentially some challenging primaries from some of these Trump-esque outsider candidates as well.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Salena, if you're a Democrat and you are looking at this race very closely in Virginia, a state Hillary Clinton took by five points, by 5 percent, you're freaked because you're not sure if you're going to be able to take this and what's the bigger picture and message if you don't?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I've spent several days down in Virginia talking to Democrats in the state and people there locally are very concerned about local issues like transportation, health care, business climate, and they're sort of turned off by the national attention. This state by and large is a Democrat state. It's about a plus five Democrat state.

If Gillespie wins it has a lot to do with a little bit of luck and also a lot to do with people being sort of exhausted. But I think -- I really think it might be the best thing to happen for the Democrats to lose this race in that they will understand that they need to start offering on a more national level more tangible benefits to win over those Democrats that voted for Trump in the last election, but who are easily -- you know, they can easily bring them back over to their side. So talk more about things like transportation and health care and business climate and, you know, those -- and education. Those are the things that meat and potatoes that can win Democrats back over to the Democratic Party.

BERMAN: I think Democrats will tell you they'd love to find a different way to learn that lesson than to lose a governor's race tonight in Virginia.

ZITO: That's true.

BERMAN: Errol, the Russia investigating in some ways heating up. We got the transcripts of the Carter Page interview with the House Intelligence Committee which are fascinating.

LOUIS: Absolutely yes.

BERMAN: I mean, absolutely fascinating, in addition to being just flat-out long, but he sent e-mails to the campaign, there were more communications with the Russians than we thought and we're now seeing it show up in the polls a little bit. 44 percent of Americans in the latest CNN polls say they're very concerned about the reports about Russia, up from 27 percent in July. And we saw the president's approval rating at its lowest level yet in our poll. Evidence that maybe Russia is taking a toll?

LOUIS: Well, that's right. Yes. It is starting to filter out. This is partly why the immediate response when questions come about the Russia probe, the immediate response of the administration is to attack the media. They do not want us talking about it. They don't want us talking about it right now as a matter of fact. They say it's nothing. It's a nothing burger. It doesn't matter.

Well, it does matter because people are smart enough to figure out that when somebody like this who is going to Russia, meeting with the deputy prime minister, saying that he told the campaign about it, saying that he got guidance about it or at least checked in with them about it, it kind of matters, or at a minimum, it contradicts this narrative coming out of the Oval Office that there's nothing to see here.

HARLOW: Salena, every morning John walks in and gives me a nugget of wisdom. Here is the Berman nugget this morning that he loves, that I love now. And that's this "Wall Street Journal"-NBC poll about these Trump counties. I mean, you're the expert in these Trump counties and what it shows is a little bit of slipping. These are counties where he flipped it from Obama or best -- how Romney did by more than 20 points, and he's down now, 48 percent approve of his performance, down a little bit from 50 percent in July. Why does that matter?

ZITO: Well, it does matter because there's these certain sets of counties especially along the rustbelt, Great Lakes, in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio that helped put him over the top to win this election, and a lot of -- a lot of very core supporters that will never leave him unless he becomes a -- you know, part of the swamp.

[10:35:14] But there's also these voters who at the last minute or calculated a long time ago they were never going to vote for Hillary that could be pulled away, they're not devoted, they're not as invested in him, as say someone who is a core supporter. So if you start peeling those away, you do have a problem because in some of these states he only won between 40,000 and 70,000 of the votes to put him over the top for the electoral win that he got.

BERMAN: We should note both Salena and Poppy has been doing some reporting on this, with people. They have talked to Trump voters who aren't slipping at all or are still --

HARLOW: I'm going to Michigan on Friday.

ZITO: Right.

BERMAN: Some of them rock solid. Salena got a great piece about it in Pennsylvania.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: But, you know, the numbers do show a little bit of slippage.

Rebecca, I want to talk about guns for a second right now and the political discussion about guns. There are some who say it's too soon after the shooting. There are some who say it's the exact right time after the shooting. The president was asked about gun laws today while he was in South Korea. Let's listen to his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I wonder if you would consider extreme vetting for people trying to buy a gun.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There would have been no difference three days ago, and you might not have had that very brave person who happened to have a gun or a rifle in his truck, go out and shoot him and hit him. If he didn't have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I should note, Paul Ryan, the House speaker, is answering questions right now. He might very well be asked about this and we may drop out and take that in a moment's notice. But, Rebecca, what struck me rather than the debate on the pure policy

here was the president did not say one simple thing that he could have. He did not say that this killer should not have had a gun. It was a choice not to say that. And I'm curious, the political reasons, perhaps, behind that?

BERG: You know, it's an interesting decision, John, because other Republicans have noted that this man should have never had a gun under current federal laws, so to not even talk about potential policy solutions that could be advanced through Congress in addition to laws already on the books but we've seen Republicans pointing out that this person should have never had a gun in the first place.

Background checks failed in this case where they should have caught a prior conviction for assault. So the president could well have raised that issue, but the fact of the matter is that Donald Trump and Republicans at large really don't want to talk about gun control, don't want to talk about further restricting gun ownership because this is something that is bread and butter for their party.

This is something that consistently polls very strongly among Republican voters, that they don't want to see more gun restrictions, that they don't want to see their -- in their beliefs, their Second Amendment rights infringed upon, and so for Donald Trump, it just politically there's no reason for him to be talking about this issue, whereas if you look at his response after the terror attack in New York City recently, he responded very quickly, aggressively, saying that the government needed to take action immediately and that's because politically that is his bread and butter, national security, terrorism, that's where he feels his supporters really support him strongly.

HARLOW: Errol, do you think that it is a thought through decision by the president to not say those important words that John mentioned? Is this about playing directly into his base? He's very concerned about Second Amendment rights?

LOUIS: Although he's never been in politics before we should get used to the idea that the president is a consummate politician. Speaking only to his base. Let's keep in mind, there's been reporting some pretty good reporting suggesting that it was a lapse by the Air Force under the president's control.

HARLOW: Yes.

LOUIS: That really sort of helped make this tragedy possible. If he goes down that road, yes, they're going to have to point the finger of blame back at the federal government.

HARLOW: All right. Let's listen in to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I'd have to get back on you. I haven't looked at it closely enough.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When you (INAUDIBLE).

RYAN: 2015, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Promised a more open process. My understanding is last night the Rules Committee broke the record for the most closely (INAUDIBLE) on the floor in a session and also that you have not yet had an open rule yet on the floor.

Do you feel like this is an open process and if not what would you say to critics?

RYAN: Yes, we're doing -- absolutely. We have an open process. We're going through the committee process. All these bills are written by the committee but we also don't want to have amendments that are designed to try and stop this process. There are a lot of dilatory tactics that people on the other side of the aisle are trying to employ to basically stop Congress from advancing and we're not going to entertain dilatory tactics but we're going to give the members the kind of space they need to craft their legislation. But most importantly these bills are being written in the committee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question.

RYAN: That's right. More bills have passed through the committee in this Congress than the first 10 months of this administration than Clinton, Obama and both Bushes.

[10:40:05] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. The tax foundation that you mentioned also said there would be a deficit of about $1 trillion even with economic growth factored in. I'm wondering whether that gave you any pause.

RYAN: Well, first off, as you know they say the macroeconomic feedback means we're going to have more revenues than the static score shows. So they're showing a big static score feedback, they're showing higher wages, more jobs, higher wages across the board on all income levels, more jobs, about a million new jobs, but what we showed with our budget reconciliation instructions that we have a $1.5 trillion cushion.

We believe that we're going to be fine on that. We believe that when you look at other analysis whether it's going to be treasury or the rest that we're right there in the sweet spot with economic growth that gives us more revenue or where we need to be. The key is economic growth. We have not had a 3 percent economy in about a decade. You can't solve the kinds of problems we need to solve in America unless we get real economic growth of going to like 3 percent which we think we can achieve with tax reform and regulatory relief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's clear that mental health illness laws that Congress has passed have not stopped this type of mass shootings that we saw in Texas over the weekend. You've said you're not in favor of any gun control or gun reform laws, that that's not the answer. What other ideas do you have?

RYAN: I haven't said that but -- UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What other ideas do you have to stop --

RYAN: How about enforcing the laws we got on the books? This man should not have gotten a gun. You know why? Because he was a domestic abuser. We have laws on the books that says if you're a domestic abuser you're not supposed to own a gun. He was a domestic abuser. And that's why we got all these questions with the Air Force right now which is, how did this get -- slip through the cracks? How is it that this person who is convicted of domestic abuse by the Air Force -- how did he get through the system and get a gun?

Because the laws we have right now on the books say a person like this should not have gotten a gun. So this speaks to making sure that we actually enforce our laws that we have on the books and then that's why we have questions for the Air Force about how is it that this person left the Air Force after he was in jail for a year, I think? How did he get -- slip through the cracks and what has to be done to make sure that we're actually enforcing these laws on the books because this man should not have had a gun in the first place. Thank you.

BERMAN: House Speaker Paul Ryan there speaking words that are undeniably true. This killer in Texas should not have had a gun. The law should have kept him from having a gun. Those words also words that the president -- we were just talking about -- has chosen not to say today, but Paul Ryan making quite clear that the laws were not enforced as written and they should be.

Very, very interesting.

HARLOW: Interesting indeed. All right. Quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:46:46] BERMAN: All right. Just in to CNN, some new information about the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the matter of Russian election meddling. This has to do with Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting last year with that Russian lawyer.

Let's get right to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill who's been talking to the ranking member of that committee.

Manu, what are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And remember this is of course that meeting that Donald Trump, Jr. was promised dirt from the Russians and he met with several Russians including as well as Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and Paul Manafort.

Now what we do now know is that Don Jr. still is someone that this committee wants to talk to and wants to talk to very soon. Senator Mark Warner, I asked him -- the top Democrat of the committee, I asked him specifically about Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who said to Bloomberg earlier this week that Donald Trump, Jr. at that meeting suggested an openness that they would rethink the sanctions on Russia that the Kremlin badly wants to get rid of. I asked him what did he think about that. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: We've still got a couple additional people to talk to and then we hope to talk to Mr. Donald Trump, Jr.

RAJU: Do you think that he may have been open to redoing the sanctions or suggested that the president -- now president would be able to redo the sanctions?

WARNER: I think we owe him the opportunity to present his case to the committee.

RAJU: And when do you think that may happen?

WARNER: Soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Happening soon, meaning that this is still a key area that this committee wants to investigate, to learn more about that meeting that they continue to learn different accounts from some of the players in the room.

Donald Trump, Jr.'s attorney put out a statement yesterday saying that what Natalia Veselnitskaya said is actually consistent with what his client said, but still this committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee have interviewed other Russians who are in the room and the House Intelligence Committee last week interviewing one of the Russian translators who was in the room, Ike Kaveladze.

The question is whether or not their stories all line up or whether that adds to anymore questions -- answers to any questions that this committee is trying to answer about any potential collusion --guys.

HARLOW: Happening soon. You let us know when you have a date.

Manu, thank you for that reporting.

We're going to take a quick break. Much more when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:53:23] HARLOW: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in the headlines again today but a different story. He said he was worth billions of dollars. He told "Forbes" magazine that it was underestimating his wealth.

BERMAN: Now Forbes, though, says Ross lied about this and could be worth less.

Joining us now, CNN Money correspondent Cristina Alesci.

What's going on here? CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: OK. This story is

explosive because the magazine has outright called the Commerce secretary a liar.

Here's what happened. Forbes listed him at net worth of $2.9 billion earlier this year. When his financial -- when Secretary Ross's financial disclosures came out everybody saw that they only listed assets of about $700 million. So Forbes started asking Wilbur Ross what accounts for the difference, where are the $2.1 billion, and Ross told the magazine, allegedly, according to the story, that he had put that money in a trust for his family.

Well, "Forbes" is now calling that an outright lie because they've not -- he's not provided any evidence of that and the story goes even further to say that Ross had lied about his wealth for years.

HARLOW: This matters because this is a guy with a really big prominent position in the Trump administration who already has questions about his honesty given his ties to the shipping companies and ties to Russia that we talked about yesterday, now this. What are your sources telling you?

ALESCI: Well, it's interesting because I'm just hearing from someone who is close to the Treasury secretary and he is saying that this "Forbes" story cites employees who are no longer employed at the firm and they have no direct knowledge because there are employees who outright call him a liar.

[10:55:07] We have a former executive at Wilbur Ross' company saying that he doesn't have an issue with, quote-unquote, "bending the truth," and he's lied to a lot of people.

But to your point, Poppy, this is a much bigger deal for administration whose already -- that face a lot of questions about whether or not officials were truthful in many different ways and this was supposed to be a big week for Wilbur Ross I'm told in Asia as he's traveled with the president.

HARLOW: Yes. Of course.

BERMAN: We're going to see how much smoke the administration wants to put up with.

Cristina Alesci, thank you very, very much.

HARLOW: All right. So the Air Force with these -- an admission that they did not pass on the information about the Texas shooter to civilian authorities now launching a review of all of that. It would have stopped the gunman from buying these guns. So what happens now? That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)