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Nikki Haley Cracks Joke about Sen. Warren's DNA Test; Texas Senate Candidate Beto O'Rourke Brings Up Trump Impeachment; Indiana Rep. Joe Donnelly Breaks with Democrats on Trump's Border Wall; Rep. Dave Brat in Trouble in Virginia Race; Heidi Heitkamp In a Tight Race in North Dakota; Mueller's Russia Probe Won't End Soon; Paul Manafort Back in Court; U.S. General Had to Draw Weapon in Kandahar Attack. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 19, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT- LARGE: CILLIZZA: One person we know is running for president in 2020 is Elizabeth Warren. This week started, it feels always like a month ago, but this week started with Elizabeth Warren releasing that five- plus minute video on the DNA test and the Stanford geneticist saying --

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It sounded like a campaign video in itself.

CILLIZZA: Exactly. But it started with her trying to put that behind her, saying, look, I know Donald Trump is going to attack me, but I have a foolproof response. By the end of the week, not just Nikki Haley, we heard from plenty of people saying it didn't work as well as we or she had hoped. It's sort of a book end to the week that began with this surprise video from Elizabeth Warren.

BOLDUAN: If you learn anything from 2016, never apologize. Just double down, triple down, and keep whatever. Keep going.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Kate.

Thanks for joining me.

All right, coming up for us, Beto O'Rourke goes where a lot of top Democrats says he should not go. Who's right? That's next.


[11:35:29] BOLDUAN: If it was his closer argument, Beto O'Rourke went there. In a CNN town hall last night, the Texas Democratic Senate candidate went all in on an issue that is still dividing Democrats, whether or not they should push to impeach Donald Trump should they win majorities.

Here's O'Rourke last night.


BETO O'ROURKE, (D), TEXAS SENATE CANDIDATE: Let me put it this way. There may be an open question as to whether the president, then the candidate, sought to collude with the Russian government in 2016. But to quote George Will, very conservative columnist, when we saw him on that stage in Helsinki defending Vladimir Putin, the head of the country that attacked our democracy in 2016, instead of this country and its citizens and this amazing democracy, that was collusion in action. You may have wondered when he fired James Comey, the principle investigator into what happened in that election, whether that was an attempt to obstruct justice. But when, by broad daylight, on Twitter, he asked his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Russia investigation, I would say that's obstruction in action.


BOLDUAN: His position all the more interesting because former Vice President Joe Biden said just this week that Democrats should basically not do what he just did. Biden says Democrats need to slow down, wait for Robert Mueller to finish the investigation before reaching any conclusions.

Did O'Rourke help or hurt his case with voters last night in that hotly contested Senate race?

Here with me now, CNN political commentator, former communications director for the RNC, Doug Heye, and former executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Guy Cecil, who is now the chairman of the super PAC, Priorities USA.

Great to see you guys.



Guy, does Beto win in Texas taking this position?

CECIL: One thing we learned more than anything else this cycle is that people win when they are authentic, when they speak the truth about what they think, and that a lot of times even when voters might disagree with him on an issue, they respect that they're being forthright and honest, which frankly in politics these days we need more of. I know there's differences inside the Democratic Party whether people should be publicly for impeachment or wait until investigations are closed, but ultimately, I think the only way he wins is by being Beto, and that's what we saw him doing last night.

BOLDUAN: Doug, running against Trump is what has been energizing Democrats, but this, on some levels, is also energizing Republicans as well. Who benefits more? Does Cruz?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. One, I think this race has gotten more scrutiny than it deserves. It's Texas and it's still Texas. Republicans for a long time thought, in six years, in eight years, in 12 years, Texas will be a problem. It's not there yet. What we saw with Beto last night is he's more of a cause than a candidate. And I see that when I have seen Beto T-shirts on Broadway in New York and yard signs in Connecticut. Beto O'Rourke is a cause for Democrats nationally. He's not going to be a successful candidate for Senate. That's the reality. You can like Ted Cruz, not like Ted Cruz, and there are Republicans who fall on both sides of that, but Beto is not going to beat him because Texas is still Texas and Ted Cruz has done the job he needs to do to get re-elected.

BOLDUAN: Including going back on everything he said to get Donald Trump campaign for him.

HEYE: Absolutely. No question about that.

BOLDUAN: Being authentic, that's politics.

Guy, I want to talk about other races as well. You guys are spending money in Indiana. I want to play for our viewers the new ad from Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly, running in a tight re-election right now. Watch this.


SEN. JOE DONNELLY, (D), INDIANA: I split with my own party to support funding for Trump's border wall. The liberal left wants to chop defense spending. No way.


BOLDUAN: You watch that whole thing, Guy, that's like one of the more pro-Trump ads from a Democrat anyone has maybe ever seen or at least in a long time. If he's voting for the border wall, what kind of win is that for Democrats if Donnelly keeps his seat?

CECIL: Look, the one thing we know about Joe Donnelly is that he's independent. That's how he won the race against a lot of prognosticators six years ago. And there are a lot of issues like health care that he's also been running ads on that he agrees with the majority of Democrats. I think this is representative of the fact that the Senate map, generally speaking, is covered in a lot of red states. And that's what you saw reflective in that ad. It may not be the position I hold on some of these issues.

But again, I want to get back to a simple issue. The reason why Joe Donnelly and Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin have been successful in their careers and have won elections in red states for a long time is because voters know who they are. They say what they think. When they agree with their party, they say so. When they disagree, they say so. Ultimately, at a time where we're actually hoping and desperately in need of politicians that just say what they think, shouldn't we be respecting those, even when we have a difference of opinion, which, obviously, on some of these issues I do with Joe.

[11:40:32] BOLDUAN: Yes, especially if someone can chop wood on camera. Always an impressive feat.

CECIL: I thought he did a pretty good job.

HEYE: Fans of the show "Veep" will recognize that ad. That's an ad that Jonah from "Veep" ran. So there's a little bit of copycatting happening there.

BOLDUAN: Oh, well --


CECIL: You mean there are political ads that look like other political ads? I can't believe that.


BOLDUAN: This is blasphemy.

Doug, you were also, everyone will remember, a top aide to Eric Cantor when he suffered the surprise loss to then unknown Dave Brat in Virginia. Now Brat is in trouble. He made a surprising plea in a surprising stop. Take a listen.


REP. DAVE BRAT, (R), VIRGINIA: I have $5 million worth of negative ads coming at me. How do you think I'm feeling? You think, I'm a congressman, life is easy. This guy is off having steaks. I have a daughter. She's got to deal with that crap on TV every day. It's tough.


BOLDUAN: Important note on that, he was speaking to a group of prison inmates. I'm serious.


BOLDUAN: Doug, thoughts on that?

HEYE: Yes, you know, I have not talked about Dave Brat for I guess about four years now on purpose. And in part, because he won fair and square, and our team didn't do the job it needed to do to win the primary and have Cantor potentially be speaker. I look at that and think, my goodness, of all the appalling things you can say at an addiction center to somebody in recovery, what they need is help. What they need are people who are there to help them and get them back to the place they are trying to go to. They don't need some accidental congressman to say, you know what, I have my own problems, too. And it's not so much about being out of touch. It shows he was never really in touch. That's not only a problem for the people who are there on the ground and who need help, but that shows why he has a problem for his re-election. It's a tough race for Dave Brat. I think he's ultimately going to win, but if he loses, it's not a situation of, wow, Republicans may lose the House. It's going to be, wow, Republicans are going to lose 45 to 50 seats if Dave Brat loses.

BOLDUAN: Guy, we're out of time, but I do want to ask, you mentioned Heidi Heitkamp, in North Dakota. She was already kind of in the fight of her career in how things have been shaping up in this race. And that was even before the mess over her campaign putting out a list of sexual assault survivors without getting the consent -- without getting their consent or getting their approval. This has become -- this is a real thing here. Do you think she lost her race with this?

CECIL: No. Look, I think Heidi did the thing she should have. She apologized. She held a staffer responsible. She apologized actually in the opening of a debate last night, which is what she should have done. I have been around politics for a long time. There's not a politician that is more humane, more thoughtful, and, frankly, stronger in terms of the politics of her state than Heidi Heitkamp. People have been writing her off for a long time. I remember in 2016 when I was at the DSCC and a poll came out, like five days before the election, that showed Heidi Heitkamp losing by 10 points, and she went on to win by a point on the same ballot as Barack Obama who lost by a lot in that state. On one hand, I think she did the right thing. On the other hand, I think she's an incredibly tough, strong person who knows her state and is going to run the race through the finish line.

BOLDUAN: We'll see.

Guy, Doug, great to see you.

CECIL: Thank you.

HEYE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a new timing update on the Russia investigation. And spoiler alert, the president's not going to like it. Details ahead.


[11:48:40] BOLDUAN: Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel in the Russia investigation back in May of 2017. In the past year and a half, Republican lawmakers and the president haven't stopped calling on him to wrap it up. Today, CNN is reporting that's not going to happen any time soon.

For new details just coming in, CNN Justice Reporter Laura Jarrett is here with the details.

Laura, what more can you tell us?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, based on the way the situation has been described to me, I don't think we should expect to see Mueller pack up his bags immediately after the November midterm elections. There's been a lot of speculation about when this will finally wrap up. I am told it could wrap up by the end of the year, but at least well after the midterms.

But there are some complicating factors for when this could all get worked out, the most significant of which is the fact there's no resolution whether the president will actually sit down with Robert Mueller's team. Our team has reported that they're exchanging communications, in negotiations for responding to written answers about collusion, but not obstruction of justice.

But the timing could be really critical for top-level officials at the Justice Department that are trying to hang on to their jobs in the meantime. We have the deputy attorney general, Mueller's boss, Rod Rosenstein, expected to appear on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and expected to face tough questions about those explosive reports that he mused about secretly recording the president in the wake of the firing of FBI Director James Comey. He denies every pursuing that. But depending on how he answers those questions, Kate, it could complicate his already delicate situation with the president.

[11:50:17] BOLDUAN: Round 100.

Great to see you, Laura. Thanks so much.

JARRETT: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Speaking of the Russia investigation, former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is back in court this afternoon, this time, in a prison jumpsuit, after being convicted on tax fraud and banking crimes. His lawyers will be in court to discuss his sentencing.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

Kara, what are we expecting to see happen today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Kate, about 90 minutes from now, Paul Manafort will be back in this courtroom, the first time he's been back since he was convicted of eight counts of tax and bank fraud charges. Manafort will be in a prison jumpsuit as Judge T.S. Ellis denied his request to wear a suit and tie now that he's a convicted felon.

We're expecting the judge to likely set a up sentencing day. He's indicated that could be as soon as the end of the year. And we're also expecting there to be some discussion perhaps about the cooperation that Paul Manafort is providing the special counsel's office. He pleaded guilty in a Washington, D.C., court to related crimes, and he's been cooperating with Mueller's investigation ever since. CNN has been reporting he's been in at least nine times in the last month. We might learn more about that cooperation today if the judge sets the sentencing date.

The other issue on the table is what they will do with the 10 counts that the jury hung on. The judge is pressing the prosecutors to drop those or decide and make a decision on whether to retry Manafort on that. Prosecutors are hoping the judge will let them keep these 10 counts hanging over Manafort's head to keep the pressure on, so he continues to cooperate. They're hoping the judge will let them put that decision off when he sets the sentencing, and when Manafort's cooperation is complete. Now, again, we're waiting to hear today from the judge about when that sentencing will be. It could be perhaps as soon as the end of the year -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Kara, we'll see what happens in court today. We appreciate it. Thanks so much. Coming up for us, it was close call, maybe too close. The top U.S.

commander in Afghanistan had to draw his gun during an attack. More on that, coming up.


BOLDUAN: Nearly 10 percent of homeless adults in the United States once served in the armed forces. When Army veteran, Chris Stout, saw some of his former comrades fall into the cracks, he built a solution to help them. That's why he's this week's "CNN Hero."


CHRIS STOUT, CNN HERO: What branch were you?

After starting to work we veterans, I realized there was a huge gap in services. If you ever served, you know if one of your fellow platoon guys need help, you help them. What we do here is give them an opportunity to get stable, a safe and secure place, and then fix what got them there in the first place.


[11:55:15] BOLDUAN: Now more than 650 cities are interested in replicating Chris's program. To find out more, go to

On that note, I want to highlight my personal hero. My grandmother, one of the most outstanding women in the whole world, she's 105 years old. Yes, you heard that. Sure a role model, such an inspiration. Happy birthday, Grandma B. I love you.

We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: New information this morning about the deadly attack yesterday in Kandahar, Afghanistan, that left a top Afghan security official dead. We are learning just how close that attack came to the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon with has the latest on this.

Barbara, what happened here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. General Scott Miller, U.S. Army, four-star, heads up the troops in Afghanistan. He had gone to this meeting in Kandahar yesterday, gets up, leaves the meeting, when gunfire erupts. A lone gunman going after the Afghan security official. U.S. personnel were wounded. General Miller, the commander, the four-star, so close by that he, we are told, had to draw his own sidearm. He did not fire. His security people killed the gunman very quickly. Make no mistake about it, it's not every day of the week that a United States four-star is in a situation, even in a war zone, where they have to draw their weapon. A lot of people looking at this. This is a problem in Afghanistan. You have these lone gunmen that suddenly basically pop up and they have to be dealt with. The other wounded, we are told, are still recovering -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Barbara, what are you hearing? As you said, this is so rare. Do folks think that the general took too much risk?

STARR: Well, no. Military people will tell you that basically that, you know, what he did is he takes the same risk that his troops take in the field. He didn't walk into a fire zone, but he took risks by meeting with Afghans.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Barbara, still the mission continues and it's important to highlight General Miller and the work that all our servicemembers are doing overseas.

Thank you so much, Barbara. Really appreciate it.

Thank you all for joining me today.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts now.

In a CNN town hall last night, Texas Democratic Senate candidate, Beto O'Rourke, went all in on an issue that is still dividing Democrats, whether or not they should push to impeach Donald Trump should they win majorities. A new ad from Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, running in a tight re-election in Indiana, appears to be a pro-Trump ad in which Donnelly says he supports Trump's border wall. Former Rep. Eric Cantor suffered a surprise loss to then unknown Dave Brat in Virginia, and now Brat is in trouble. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was already in the fight of her career in North Dakota, but then her campaign put out a list of sexual assault survivors without getting their consent. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed in the Russia probe in May of 2017, and Republican lawmakers and President Trump have called on him to wrap it up, but that won't happen any time soon. Paul Manafort is back in court this afternoon with his lawyers to discuss his sentencing after being convicted on tax fraud and banking crimes. New information this morning about the attack yesterday in Kandahar, and just how close the attack came to the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, who had to draw his own weapon.>