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CUOMO PRIME TIME
President Trump Fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Dems Win House Republicans Expand Senate Majority; GOP Loses At Least 29 Seats in the Midterms. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired November 7, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "COUMO PRIME TIME": All right, thank you, Anderson.
Hello, everyone, I am Chris Cuomo sitting next to Anderson. Welcome to Prime Time.
We have a reshaped Washington, D.C. The power has shifted on all levels of government, but the game remains the same. The President is distracting from the big story of the Democrats winning the House and state races all across America with a big move of his own.
Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, fired, replaced with someone who is not a fan of the Mueller probe, at least for now. Some races are not even over yet, but any early promise of a new day of deal making with the Democrats was quickly followed by a threat from the President to have the Senate investigate anyone who investigates him in the House. So, Democrats have a choice. Are they going to be deal makers or ball breakers? Really they promise to be both. So how will they do that? We're going to ask two Democrats fresh off their big victories, one in the Senate, another in the House. My friends, lots have changed, but will anything really be different? Let's get after it.
All right. So, the Democrats can now investigate the President and control what laws pass the House. In the Senate, the Republicans are more firmly in control, so what do we have a recipe here for, is this a standoff, or will shared d power be better for your interests? We're going to have a test just one day into the new normal.
Jeff Sessions is out. The Mueller probe is vulnerable. What will the Democrats do? Now, one winner who now has to walk that line between getting things done and getting after what matters is the honorable Joe Manchin, Democrat Senator, West Virginia, hung onto his seat last night in a deep red state. Congratulations, Senator. Good to see you.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Thanks, Chris. Always good to be with you.
CUOMO: So, you won last night. Why do you think you did?
MANCHIN: Chris, I'm just me. I'm just Joe from West Virginia. I mean, it's -- they want everyone wants to be in a tribe. What tribe do you belong to? Do you belong to Democrat tribe or the Republican tribe? And everybody is at war. I belong to the American tribe, and my branch of the American tribe is West Virginia, and I'm not at war with anybody. I'm just trying to make things work. And I think people understand that. They want that.
CUOMO: You voted with the President before, in fact, I mean look, you've been outspoken and arguably controversial about it. You voted for Neil Gorsuch, you voted for Kavanaugh. You even said once, hey maybe I would vote for Trump in 2020. I have to see what it would mean for my constituents back home and how I feel about it. Democrats didn't like it. You know, Chuck Schumer said, you know, he'll be fine. Well, let him see what he does. That's all in the past.
So now you've won and you've got a balance working with the President where you can, but also doing right by your convictions and the people of West Virginia. You got a challenge, senator. Getting rid of Jeff Sessions is an obvious move. We all knew it was coming. We didn't expect it the day after the midterms, but this is how he is going to distract from the big wins for the Democrats. They're putting somebody in as the acting who is there because he doesn't believe in the probe. Will you speak out about this move?
MANCHIN: Oh, I think we'll all speak out about it. I think you'll see Democrats and Republicans. We are very much concerned about that. We think Bob Mueller is the right guy doing the job that he's supposed to do and he will do it professionally and honorably. We have all spoken out about that. I'm on the Intel Committee, Chris, and we're watching it very carefully.
And we were very much hopeful that Jeff Sessions would be in this and the President has the right to do whatever he wants to do when he loses confidence or whatever. But in a situation as highly charged as this, you would have liked to seen Jeff stay until the end of the Mueller probe, until all the facts were in, and whatever decisions were going to be made were made. This throws a complete, complete wrinkle in it and I think it will be the first thing we take up when we go back next Tuesday.
CUOMO: But what are you prepared to do about it in light of the fact, Senator, that if you go tough on him, he's not going to want to work with you? You know how this President is. I mean look, politics is not an unusual game. He plays it, just more intensely than we've seen in the past. If you come after him about this, he's not going to want to work with you, you'll be the enemy. You're already the guy that they send people down to your state, including his son, and lied about your position on coal. That's how they play. Are you willing to take that on?
MANCHIN: Well, I've taken them on right now. This election just finish up was not election with me and my opponent. It was election with me and the President. For five months since the primary, every ad I've seen on television was the President, when he comes to the state -- he's been in the state eight times, three times during the campaign, and then Vice-President Pence was there I think three times, and his family has been there. So it really became a race that he ingested himself into, and every ad was vote for my opponent, Patrick Morrisey. It was a vote for him. [21:05:06] So it came down to where the people finally said, Mr.
President, West Virginia has spoken loud and clear. We want our senator, not your senator. So, I'm all about West Virginia. I work with him and I've always worked with whoever is in charge when I think it's good for my country and definitely my state. When it's not, I speak up. I think we can fix health care. I've asked the President, why don't you become the Mr. Fix-it President? Repair. We'll call it Trump repair care. My people need insurance. They need health care.
MANCHIN: Preexisting condition needs protected. These are things we fight for, and I feel very strongly about that. I think the tax bill is going to have to be reworked. I think it has problems. I'm willing to work with him if I think it's good, but I want to make sure that the average working person gets a permanent tax cut. And I think basically the corporate tax cut should have been at 25 percent. We took plans to the President of how we could get 10 or 15. Democrats really make it a bipartisan bill when they finally had 51 votes, there was no more talking, Chris. It was over.
CUOMO: Well, look, that's the way it was. They called it a middle class tax cut. It clearly wasn't. 83 cents out of every dollar went to the top 1 percent. And they hoped the base would swallow it. In part they did. But now, last night America spoke, and clearly the country wants more. The President lost the vote last night by an even bigger margin than he did against Hillary Clinton. So we'll see how you deal with the challenges going forward.
CUOMO: Senator, let me ask you this. I know you say you're about West Virginia and you are just Joe. But you are a Democrat. Now with the Senate, with a bigger margin for Republicans than before, are you a vote that can be counted on for the Democrats in the Senate?
MANCHIN: Hey, if I can't go home and explain it, Chris, I'm not going to vote for it. I don't care if it's Democrat, Republican or who comes up with the idea. If it makes no sense in West Virginia, you know, I'm just not going to vote for it. Nobody owns my vote. The only people who own my vote is the people in West Virginia. I told Harry Reid that. I've told Chuck Schumer that. I've told Mitch McConnell that. You know, it has to be something that makes sense and is going to be beneficial.
CUOMO: Then why not run as an independent or start your own party called the just Joe? Why be a Democrat?
MANCHIN: Just Joe. It's West Virginia Democrats. We have a heart and soul. We've always been there, always trying to help people better their lives, always been there when people fell down and needed some help. But we've always expected in West Virginia, the Democrats, we've always expected people to help themselves if they could, to get up and do something, to contribute. To make sure you are always adding value. And with that, we've all gotten along well. We never looked at our Republican -- West Virginia Republicans as our enemies. They had different ideas. And a Democracy, Chris, doesn't work with one-party system. It's not what our founding fathers fought this to be.
So I don't know why people think I have to be pigeon holed. I'm a proud West Virginia Democrat. I am not -- I am no way, shape or form a Washington Democrat. I've been very year about that. And my friends in West Virginia, the Republicans, they're not proud of the Washington Republicans. So we're going to still do our thing. I'm hoping our state can show the civility. Shelley Moore Capito and I work very well together. We show the civility, the collegiate attitude that you should have. And it always comes down to what's important for our state. We can be a Democrat and Republican, but you better be an American and a West Virginian first.
Let me tell you what I think, what I would hope with this new Congress going in, especially with the Democrats in control of Congress. They ought to put an agenda. There is an awful lot of good people there. I know a lot of them and a lot of good moderate Democrats. They ought to put an agenda forward. They ought to go to the President --
MANCHIN: So Mr. President, on these issues, hears where we are. Can we meet somewhere in the middle and make this work?
MANCHIN: And then go have a press conference and tell them what you've offered. Show the public what a progressive you want to do in basically helping --
CUOMO: Keep it transparent.
MANCHIN: And what you've laid out. That's exactly --
CUOMO: 100 percent.
MANCHIN: The President will play from that or off of that.
CUOMO: These people will see who makes the deal and who doesn't.
MANCHIN: Right. If he starts demonizing from the beginning and they start basically saying against, against, against, I'm for everything until you show me something that doesn't work. I'm not going to be for it. So I'm always going to accept something. If you give me an idea, Chris, I'm thinking you want to do something good and you want to help me. When I find out that was not your intent, I'm going to turn.
CUOMO: I hear you. I've seen you operate on the ground with your people in West Virginia. I know you care about them and I know they care about you and that's why they gave you your victory.
[21:10:01] MANCHIN: I love them.
CUOMO: My one idea for you is -- you should be on the show more so we can have more transparency about what's happening in the Senate. And the invitation is open.
MANCHIN: Chris, it's always been and you've been great to work with and I think the world of you. You know that, and the family, we all. But the bottom line is, you got to have a heart and soul for the people. This is a people's game if you want to play game. But if you don't have a heart and soul, get out of it. Let people that want to help people. Don't worry about the parties. This party system, this tribal stuff is killing us and it's not what people want. And I'm just not going to partake in it. I'm going to still be me and I'm going to fight for my country. I'm going to try to help my state. It's a Democrat idea and it's great, I'm with it. If it's a Republican idea and it's great I'm with it. And I'm going to work for whatever I think is best for my country and my state.
CUOMO: Senator Joe Manchin, let's see how it is going forward, the people are obviously demanding better. Thank you and congratulations.
MANCHIN: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate being with you.
CUOMO: All right. Joining us ahead, a man who knows what it's like to be fired by the Trump White House. Anthony Scaramucci, he knows what's going on. He understands the thinking from the White House. He understands what happened last night. We're going to talk about it all next.
CUOMO: All right. We got your first assessment of President Donald Trump. The reaction from the President, immediately go after the Russia investigation. He took out his frustration maybe by firing his attorney general, but let's be honest. We all thought that was going to happen anyway. This soon? No. Tonight we have the Former White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci. It's good to have you back on Prime Time, especially after last night.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yeah, I think it was an interesting night because there was something there, Chris, for everybody. It was sort of like that box of chocolate in the Forrest Gump movie. You know, you open it up, there's a little bit there for everybody. So -- but by and large, if you look at the historic situation, the President really did have a great night. It was definite his momentum going into those rallies that helped people like Senator Cruz, et cetera. So I think he feels very good about the effort that he put in over the last three weeks, very tiring, too.
CUOMO: Well, look, I think that what it proved last night is that we are a diametrically opposed country. We are as divided as I have seen in my lifetime and yours. The President did well, where he has done well, in the way that he's done well. But the base shrunk and he got rejected in the overall vote more than he did in the 2016 election. I think those are just the raw facts. But I want to ask you about something else. I'm happy to get into the election.
[21:15:10] SCARAMUCCI: OK. We can get it but the participation is down. He wasn't -- he himself wasn't on the ballot.
CUOMO: Participation was down? He was on the ballot in every way except legibly.
SCARAMUCCI: Yeah, but it's off from 2016.
CUOMO: And there are more people who voted last night than we've had maybe in any other midterms.
SCARAMUCCI: I understand that, it's still only 49 percent. But make your point.
CUOMO: It's higher than ever before, so how is the participation down, Anthony?
SCARAMUCCI: I'm talking about off the 2016 campaign.
CUOMO: This is the midterm.
SCARAMUCCI: I understand but he himself was not on the ballot.
CUOMO: He said he was.
SCARAMUCCI: Well --
CUOMO: He told your candidates and the rallies, vote for me like I was on it.
SCARAMUCCI: Of course, he said that, but he wasn't on the ballot and so we both know that. And so that's why the data that you're looking at, I don't think is 100 percent accurate. But if you guys want to use that --
CUOMO: Here we go.
SCARAMUCCI: If you want to use that data, you're getting -- you know, the Democrats will be set up to lose again in 2020.
CUOMO: How so? They have a better map in 2020 for the Senate. And it's fake data. All right, just because you don't like --
SCARAMUCCI: I didn't say it was fake data.
CUOMO: But I mean that's what he's staring to suggest to. I'm starting to hear, you know, a little bit of narrative coming out.
SCARAMUCCI: I didn't say it was safe data. I said it's not Presidential electoral politics data. It's midterm data, which is different. That's all I said.
CUOMO: Oh, that's true.
SCARAMUCCI: Definitely accurate data. I'm saying --
CUOMO: I did but he was on it. He took a victory lap in the races where he says he helped. He blamed the people who lost for not embracing him. And we know --
SCARAMUCCI: That's true. CUOMO: It's not true. What is true is that him going at immigration
with fear and loathing the way he did compromised races across the country. And that's why you guys took the beat down that you got in the House. You don't see Presidents with an economy that he benefits from right now getting shellacked the way he did last night.
SCARAMUCCI: Chris, President Obama got shellacked using his own words in 2010 --
CUOMO: He didn't have this economy and he had cultural revulsion against him.
SCARAMUCCI: Chris, he didn't get shellacked last night, OK. He lost 33 seats. They were tight races --
CUOMO: With this economy?
SCARAMUCCI: You're missing something that happened last night that's virtually going to assure his reelection in 2020. And that was Ron DeSantis in Florida. OK. The President needs to win that state. He's now got a Republican senator in place and he's got Ron DeSantis, one of his close allies in Florida. That's typically been a swing state and it's been turning redder as a result of President Trump's work, his policies, economically and otherwise. So, I hear you. I did say it's a mixed bag. I want to be very fair. The Democrats had a very good night last night. But from a presidential perspective in the set-up to 2020, the President did pretty well.
CUOMO: Here's what I'm saying.
SCARAMUCCI: And he picked up three seats up in the Senate. I think that's the number.
CUOMO: He picked but he had a good map in the Senate, those Democrats were in red states. They were vulnerable. Joe Manchin got through. Tester got through. Heitkamp didn't. McCaskill didn't. She was in a bit of a different basket. He does well where he does well. The base is for real. Trumpism is for real in those places. But I'm just saying fear and clothing, Anthony, doesn't sell his retail politics across this country, it doesn't
SCARAMUCCI: He said 48 hours ago there might be a change in tone in the offing.
CUOMO: Yes, how would that work then?
SCARAMUCCI: Let's see. Let's see what happens.
CUOMO: What do you mean let's see? We saw today, he goes right at it with the media, we leave that to decide. We should not be the story. I don't want to get into that. I got enough other stuff to talk about.
SCARAMUCCI: OK, go ahead.
CUOMO: What does he do? He fires Sessions. Wow, what a shocker. SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think --
CUOMO: You now that what he does. He knows the story is bad for him, let's get rid of him and let's replace him with a guy who came on my ear for one message. The President's right, the Mueller probe, it's no good, it shouldn't be happening. Now he's in charge. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If Bob Mueller and his small U.S. attorney's office as I've heard it described today, does go beyond the 2016 election and get into Trump Organization finances, I think that would be crossing a red line. And I think that's when the deputy attorney general, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, Rod Rosenstein who I served with in the Bush administration, he needs to step in and pull the reins back on Bob Mueller.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: How much younger I look. That was only a year ago. So what do we know? We know that he came on his legal commentator. He auditioned, he succeeded, he got a job in the government. He's there now and now he is the acting A.G.
SCARAMUCCI: You're oversimplifying the whole thing. You know that's not what happened and so do I. What basically happened was the President had sent indications that he was not happy with the attorney general.
SCARAMUCCI: Like a good CEO, after the referendum took place, he fired him immediately f. You're going to get fired, trust me, and I have been fired more than once. If you get fired, you want to get fired very quickly so you can move on to something else.
CUOMO: And didn't happen here.
SCARAMUCCI: In the attorney general's case, they allowed him to resign which I think is respectful.
[21:20:01] CUOMO: Yes, I know but they're been dragging it out and he is been punching him like a Pinata for months.
CUOMO: He has Democrats feeling bad for Jeff Sessions.
SCARAMUCCI: OK. But it's over now and as it relates to the designee or the person that's going to be at least in charge in the interim basis, perhaps on a permanent basis, I think that is very unfair. The guy is a very experienced guy. He's got incredible credentials in the Republican Party, and you know I went to law school with Rod Rosenstein. He was in my section. I have an unbelievable amount of respect for him. I do think the President is going to be treated fairly, but I think it was time to move on for everybody, and that's the way it goes in Washington. You know --
CUOMO: Well, look, he was at the press conference today --
SCARAMUCCI: And that's the way it is. I experienced that. I took it and walked away.
CUOMO: That's true. But you know what, you're a one off in terms of the respect you maintained for the President, how you handled it, and how you've done going forward. It doesn't usually go that way for people around Trump, so bravo for you. But what I'm saying is, he was asked about it for the presser, and he played dumb on it. I don't want to talk about that, we don't know what's going to happen. They were planning to fire him. This is the way they thought they distract from the story. It's not going to happen on my watch because the story last night was the Democrats in the people in this country coming out the way we've never seen in the midterms. And this is done to distract from that.
SCARAMUCCI: You're overdramatizing it, Chris. He is CEO as President of the United States. He didn't like the situation and the chemistry he had with the attorney general. And after the referendum, he let the person go. It's that simple. It's not really much more complicated than that, so.
CUOMO: I hear you. Look, I hear the way you phrase but that's not an accurate description of it.
SCARAMUCCI: But Chris, that's what happened.
CUOMO: There is nothing CEO about him. One, he's never really been a CEO. As we both know, it's not like your company, Anthony. It isn't.
CUOMO: It's not like both of the companies that you've run with a lot of staff --
SCARAMUCCI: Maybe I'll send you the audio version of my book. You can listen to the book.
CUOMO: How many big words?
SCARAMUCCI: He has been a CEO. OK. He was a television star --
CUOMO: What has he ever run, a television star makes you a CEO? Is Anderson Cooper a CEO?
SCARAMUCCI: He ran the Trump Organization for 35, 40 years.
CUOMO: But what's the Trump Organization? It's a sales pitch machine for him. Come on, you know that, you've been to his offices.
SCARAMUCCI: He had hotels, airplanes, casinos.
CUOMO: He has his name on those companies. And the more he managed them the more likely they went down. Come on, Anthony.
SCARAMUCCI: I thought after your brother's victory last night, you'd be better on a much better mood than this. You're testy tonight, OK.
CUOMO: Hey, when my taxes come down in New York State I'll be in a better mood.
SCARAMUCCI: OK. Well, --
CUOMO: Nobody gets a pass with me. Even if you look exactly --
SCARAMUCCI: You and I should team up with him on that. The entire state would be very happy with the two of us. But back on the President, I think he did very well last night on a relative historical basis. I'm just trying to be political --
CUOMO: No, I hear you on that. Let me give you one last question on that.
SCARAMUCCI: Go ahead.
CUOMO: Let me give you one last question. All right, look, the people came out and voted. That's all that matters to me. The turnout was everything for me. And now, we'll see if the politicians respond, if not they'll get a bigger dose next time. If the President, just looking at raw politics, if you mess with the probe in any way, OK, no matter how many layers of insulation that there are, how does the President ever expect to get a clean bill of health and complete exoneration if anybody can ever say, he messed with the process?
SCARAMUCCI: I don't think Robert Mueller is going to say that the President messed with the process. Once the report is done, we'll go back to what David Axelrod said in the last program. Robert Mueller is an incredibly respected guy. If Robert Mueller --
CUOMO: Except by the President.
SCARAMUCCI: If the President messes with the process then we have a problem, you can invite me back on. And I'll call it a problem.
CUOMO: I'll invite you on anyway.
SCARAMUCCI: OK. But I'm just saying -- as it relates to this, I don't think the President did this. He's just making a personnel change due to the personal chemistry of the situation and he's moving forward. I make a few predictions before you let me go.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
SCARAMUCCI: Number one, I think he gets a deal done with China relatively quickly. I think that's before the end of January. That's my personal prediction based on my market knowledge and sort of what I know is going on there in China.
CUOMO: All right. Give me two more. SCARAMUCCI: And then secondarily, I do think he's going to cross the
aisle and possibly cut a deal on infrastructure because that's a very good frame --
CUOMO: Good. Would be nice to see, we certainly need it.
SCARAMUCCI: Yes. It's a good frame up and set up for the 2020 election.
CUOMO: Well, let's see.
SCARAMUCCI: And I think you're going to get an interesting version of the President, my prediction is that he will tone down some of this rhetoric going forward.
CUOMO: We'll see.
SCARAMUCCI: And I think that will improve his approval ratings.
CUOMO: We'll see. And I think he is going to be very well positioned given where the economy is, Chris.
CUOMO: We'll see. Last night he was weighed and measured and people clearly sent a signal that they don't like the way he leads. That's just the way you look at the raw vote.
SCARAMUCCI: Let's see what happens.
CUOMO: 100 percent. Everybody wants better and you're always welcome back. Be well.
SCARAMUCCI: I appreciate, God bless.
CUOMO: So look, what have we seen? Since last night, the President has been lighting all kinds of fires to distract from what happened. We will not lose focus. It all matters, but what happened last night matters more.
[21:25:01] We'll discuss why it happened and what it means going forward for you.
CUOMO: You know, look, there are still outstanding races going on. Some may have legalities, others it's just about ballot counting. But we do anticipate that the House is soon going to be in Democrats' hands. The President will be up against something he has never experienced. Forget about us. We're nothing compared to politicians with subpoena power, especially if they are determined to hold him accountable. So, the question is how will he handle it? The President, as usual, fighting with his own set of threats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect that when the Democrats take over the chairmanship of all these important committees you're going to get hit with a blizzard of subpoenas on everything from the Russia investigation to your cell phone use to your tax returns?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ready? If that happens, then we're going to do the same thing and government comes to a halt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they start investigating you, that you can play that game and investigate them --
TRUMP: Better than them. They can play that game, but we can play it better because we have a thing called the United States Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you compartmentalize that and continue to work with them for the benefit of the rest of the country?
TRUMP: If they do that, then it's just all it is a war-like posture
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: One day into it and already it's face grabbing toxicity and talk. Let's discuss why what happened last night happen and what it means going forward. Dana Bash, Phil Mudd, Ken Cuccinelli. Great panel, thanks for having everybody there. You know, I see 24th.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I know. It's like --
CUOMO: So, this is not a new day, OK? This is not -- we're getting better --
[21:30:00] BASH: Cuomo's time.
CUOMO: That's right. It's a different show, same suit. So, the idea of we're all going to change. It's going to be better. Oh, if Congress tries oversight, the House, we'll do the same to them, you know.
BASH OK. First of all, it doesn't work like that.
CUOMO: Your phone goes off all the time.
BASH: Who is calling?
CUOMO: I want you to know that and it's OK.
CUOMO: It's mooch. He's with my brother. All right, so how do you see it?
BASH: I don't remember the question. No, so look I mean, it doesn't work like that. All of us who -- never mind went to law school, but have basic understanding of civics, the United States Congress has oversight of the executive branch. And it is the role of the Congress, in particular the House, it is just much easier to get the subpoena power. Again, it was designed this way -- in order to get information. There is this part of the executive branch that you work for called the FBI, but it is not legal for them to be used by a President for political retribution. It's just not the way it works.
And he talked about the Senate -- I guess, you know, certainly there are some political ramifications, good and bad for what we saw last night. We were reporting on all night, the expansion of the Republican majority. But it's also not that easy to do. And like you said, big picture, the war footing. I mean, everybody should try to take a breath. And that certainly should go on both sides. And the President started out that way. It certainly didn't end up that way in this press conference.
CUOMO: Yes, look, I don't believe that's where he is. But we'll see. Everybody has got to be open and optimism. The idea with the probe, again, I don't believe in coincidences. They didn't like that story last night, we know that they've been thinking about moving on Sessions for a long time. They say, he resign to clear but he didn't says in the letter at your request I submit a resignation. That's not a resignation. So, messing with the probe, Anthony says that's not what it's about, Anthony Scaramucci. He just as a CEO and he didn't like some of his staff? What are concerns and considerations?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Let me minor and let me go major. Minor, I mean, if you're the CEO, call the man in as you should have done with James Comey, as you should have done with Secretary of the State Rex Tillerson and say you're done. I think that's fine, you serve at the pleasure of the President, when the president says, go, you go.
There is an issue here, and that is it's a bit late in the game. I've got a weigher that Mueller has been around. And I know Robert Mueller. I served under him for 4 1/2 years. He doesn't like to sit around. He is not there sitting around saying, let me cross T's and dot I's. Mueller is sitting there saying I'm at the "end game." If there are further indictments to drop, they're not going to take forever, I think it's too late for the President to say, let me change the team and they can sort of push back the Mueller investigation. I think it's over. I don't think it will work.
CUOMO: Now, you say look at the speak of different politicians, of Grassley and others about what they think of the probe. That's as indicative of anything else. Why?
MUDD: One message, and that is if you want to change the probe, presumably one thing you would do is to select a future attorney general who would say, I'm going to limit it. The people who can limit that are the Senate, who might say, we're going to confirm the next attorney general. And the message to the attorney general is, A, limit it, and B, we want the investigation to move forward. I want to see what Mitch McConnell says.
BASH: Can I just add a real quick C?
BASH: Or keep the investigation under Rod Rosenstein as it is now. That would have eliminated all questions. It would have made sense, OK, he doesn't like Jeff Sessions, he can get rid of Jeff Sessions. He can put somebody else in there, but keep this Mueller investigation as it is overseen by the guy.
KENNETH CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL & POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, but Whitaker doesn't have any basis for recusal that Sessions had. And he's stepping into the acting attorney general role.
CUOMO: Opinions about the case? No? Opinions about the case isn't enough?
CUCCINELLI: You know, I was listening to Lara -- well, everybody in America has an opinion about it.
CUOMO: Right but not everybody is in charge.
CUCCINELLI: Now it's time to make decisions. To your point earlier, Chris, this is one of those things we have to see. We can sit here and speculate and hyperventilate and do all the rest, but I remember the night Comey was fired. I sat with seven other people here at CNN and they were all sure the Russia investigation was going to be shutdown the next day. Within 48 hours, McCabe was testifying before the U.S. Senate that everything was running just the same as it was before Comey was fired. Don't assume that this is going to be major disruption. The proper assumption is that it is not going to be major disruption, and frankly, I think the President will benefit from seeing Mueller all the way through.
CUOMO: 100 percent.
CUCCINELLI: There is not any collusion. There are other things like --
CUOMO: Whatever the disposition is. If he's so confident of what you say -- I've never understood this, honest to God, I've never understood it.
CUCCINELLI: He just fights almost naturally.
CUOMO: Look, I think -- I'm just telling you, I think I understand what's going on and I don't think my opinion matters. But I do know this as a matter of fact. If you believe you've done nothing wrong -- I said this during the Kavanaugh hearing, I say it again about this or any probe -- you want a thorough investigation unless you have damn good proof they're out to get you in an abusive process way because if you mess with the process in any way, if you allow Dana Bash to be able to report at any point, x, y or z was done to hedge, to contaminate, to change, to obstruct, you'll never get a clean bill of health. And that's what the President wants.
[21:35:15] CUCCINELLI: Chris, we're about to see the Democrats take over the House. They're going to have the subpoena power. There has never been a partisan subpoena issued in the history of the world that didn't have the duel interest in a fishing expedition. Look, let's just face it and be honest about it. Both parties, and so everything that goes forward on this has more than just the objective purpose of what's in front of it.
CUOMO: Well, look -- CUCCINELLI: It also wants to find out --
CUOMO: I get the skepticism. I'm just saying the only way you get a clean bill of health is to let it happen. Nothing is found on you and you move on. Ken, Phil, Dana, you were great last night. Thank you very much for everything.
BASH: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. So, last night, brava to the women. I don't care what your partisan stripe is, what your tribe, your team, or whatever you're calling it, it doesn't matter. Women were on the ballot and they won the night. Women voted in ways we haven't seen. Truly her story was made, and one of the women who made it is here next. Her story not his story, come on, you worked in intelligence?
CUOMO: At least 101 women will be serving in the next Congress. That is a good record. Many of them are first timers, and that, too, is an unqualified good. No matter if you were on team left, right, or God forbid reasonable, within that number there are even more firsts, including the first black female member of Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Her name is Ayanna Pressley, and we spoke earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[21:40:04] CUOMO: Congresswoman elect, thank you for having the time with us on the show.
AYANNA PRESSLEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: Thank you for having me on.
CUOMO: All right. Congratulations on the win. Historic, first African-American congresswoman from Massachusetts, what does that mean to you personally?
PRESSLEY: It is humbling and surreal. And, you know, in order for there to be a second, there has to be a first. And so I'm encouraged by the strides that we're making, although they've happened incrementally, it does seem that considering Massachusetts and the trend throughout the country, that there was a seismic shift that occurred last night. And I know that the people in the districts that we represent will be better served by more diverse inclusive and representative government.
CUOMO: You know, usually the tale of the tape is here's what happened. Oh, and women, blah, blah, blah, blah. It's always a second or third line. Not last night. If not for women like you --
PRESSLEY: That's right.
CUOMO: -- the Democrats have zero to celebrate today. How much does that mean? That the women weren't an afterthought, they were also, they were an everything last night? PRESSLEY: Sure. Well, truth be told, you know, women have been
leading in the Democratic Party and in our communities every day, and still are. And not all of them have a comma and title after their names. But so far as this moment in time, I am proud and humbled and excited to be entering into a Congress that is in the Democratic majority, and the most inclusive and representative of freshman class in the history of the Congress.
CUOMO: So now you're in the job, you have to do the job.
CUOMO: And you are immediately faced with a massive challenge coming from outside and a massive challenge inside. First outside, the President gets rid of Jeff Sessions today. The Attorney General is out. Was he fired? Did he resign? Who knows. But we know why it happened today and we know the intentionality behind the move and it is obvious because of who the acting attorney general will be. How do you deal with what is an apparent move by the President of the United States to compromise the Mueller investigation?
PRESSLEY: Well, on the departure of Jeff Sessions, I would say, you know, bigot, exit stage left. I'm glad to see, he and his bigoted mind-set and his policies exiting the White House, but certainly no more encouraged by who will succeed him. Given the track record of the current occupant of the White House, to obstruct justice and to delay the investigation, it is going to be incumbent up on myself and my colleagues in government to make sure that this investigation remains one that is independent and to keep the special counsel. And that's why I'm feeling especially emboldened as we head into a Congress that is in the Democratic majority so that we can be the checks, the checks that he's not had in this lame duck Congress.
CUOMO: So, you are saying that you will be in line with your party's efforts to protect the Mueller investigation and check the executive. All right, so that's one challenge.
PRESSLEY: Absolutely and to hold the DOJ accountable.
CUOMO: And you have the internal challenge, which is, who are you guys? I understand the big tent talk.
CUOMO: I get it. You guys won your races, everybody had to appeal to their own districts, I get it. But now you've got to make a sense of who sits where inside the tent? And the party is going to have to figure out if Nancy Pelosi, the leader who got you here, is the leader who you stay with, and what your party makes its priorities. Are you going to be about abolishing ICE or are you going to be about cutting a deal how to keep the border secure, what's your head on what you want?
PRESSLEY: Well, you hit the nail right on the head. We need to have a conversation as a party. There are lessons to be learned from these midterm elections, and the candidates that made it possible for us to be entering the House in the Democratic majority. Again, the leadership he choices that we made, the type of campaigns that we ran, the platforms that we ran on, and so we need to do that postmortem and that analysis and take that inventory. And I think put those things into practice. Until we better understand who we are and the vision for the future of this party, I don't know that we can pick the most effective leader to steward us if we're not clear on who we are.
CUOMO: So you're saying right now you're not ready to say that you'd be with Nancy Pelosi?
PRESSLEY: I'm waiting to see who all puts themselves forward, and I look forward to meeting with all of those candidates and then making a fully informed decision. But we have time here. That's not a vote that will take place until the final week of November. In the immediate, I'll be making my way to Washington in the next couple of days for freshman orientation and I'm looking forward to that.
[21:45:12] CUOMO: Good luck to you in doing the job that --
PRESSLEY: Thank you.
CUOMO: -- that deserves the respect from the people who elected and put you there. Congratulations and good luck, congresswoman.
PRESSLEY: Absolutely. I'm very humbled. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: So many came out, that vote, ma message was sent and let's see if it was received. I'll tell you what? It's not that long that the Democrats have and that's why tomorrow we have a PRIME TIME exclusive one on one with Nancy Pelosi. She did a lot to get the Democrats where they are today in their celebration. What does it mean going forward, what does she think the majority means? A lot of questions for the leader. That's tomorrow.
Now, today an African-American reporter asked the President a really important question about him calling himself a nationalist, and what that means to people's ears who can think. His response, she's a racist. You'll see it next.
CUOMO: Well, in what was supposed to be the first day of better, it was certainly a remarkable day at the White House as the President took a lot of questions from a lot of reporters, almost an hour and a half.
[21:50:06] So according to the White House, the President actually took 68 questions from 35 reporters. Again, that's big. And some of them were combative. But there was one that stood out. I want you to listen to this exchange with Yamiche Alcindor of PBS NewsHour. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR: On the campaign trail, you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists. Now people are also saying, that's a --
TRUMP: I don't know why you say that. That's such a racist question.
ALCINDOR: There are some people that say -- that now the Republican Party is seen as supporting white nationalist because of your rhetoric.
TRUMP: Oh, I don't believe it. I just -- well, I don't know. Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African-Americans? Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African-Americans? I mean why do I have my highest poll numbers? That's such a racist question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: None of it makes any sense except the way Yamiche Alcindor handled that. She was a consummate pro asking a legit question that was handled horribly. But boy, did she stand strong in the face of power. That's not easy. Don Lemon is here, your take, my brother?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It makes no sense. They're right. And what do poll numbers have to do with anything? I'm not surprised. Maybe that he said it publicly because it's been said, trust me, behind the scenes for reporters of color who have challenged him on issues, especially when it comes to birtherism. I don't want to do an interview with that person. That person is not going to treat me fairly because they're racist, like saying that, you know, an African- American reporter is racist towards him because they ask him a serious question as Yamiche did. I thought she handled it perfectly. I thought she was great. His answers speak for themselves. And for him to sit there and point, that is so racist, well, explain your answer. Do you actually think he doesn't understand what nationalism -- when he said, I'm a nationalist? He doesn't understand the implication of that?
CUOMO: He understands it.
LEMON: He doesn't.
CUOMO: You can't not. Look, I believe it can't be a coincidence, OK? Nationalist, don't show me what it says in the dictionary. Use it as it's been applied since World War II. America first.
CUOMO: Enemy of the people. Make America Great Again. All of these are extracts of very ugly periods of rhetoric.
CUOMO: He knows it. What he's hoping is that his base doesn't get it.
LEMON: Yeah. CUOMO: And that they'll listen to his explanation. But it didn't get
there today, and I've never seen a poll that shows anything impressive about him and African-Americans.
LEMON: Well, absolutely. And, you know, he will quote --
CUOMO: A real poll.
LEMON: Yeah, a real poll. He'll quote outliers and polls that don't live up to the standards of most mainstream news organizations. But if he doesn't know the implications of saying, I'm a nationalist, then we have bigger problems than we think we have. That is of dictatorships. All of those terms that you used. And the day he said that, white nationalists, which are racists, applauded. They cheered.
CUOMO: David Duke and others.
LEMON: They cheered. So are those the people you want to animate? Do you really want that sort of support? Because if I did that even inadvertently, most people would say, I don't want that support. That is not what I mean by that. And if that's what nationalism or being a nationalist means, I am not that. He won't say that. He doubles down.
CUOMO: What do you mean?
LEMON: Attacking the reporter is what he does.
CUOMO: She handled it great. Tell me what you got.
LEMON: You know Whitaker?
LEMON: He is going to be the new acting. It's interesting because he's been on my show and he talked about his strategy to make this investigation go away by taking away the resources and resources. And then all of a sudden a year and a half later, the President said this is the guy.
CUOMO: I actually subbed in for you and interviewed him on your show.
LEMON: Did you talk about that?
LEMON: Certainly, you don't watch when you're not on.
LEMON: All right. I don't watch when I'm on.
CUOMO: D. Lemon, off last night, dresses awesome every night.
All right, power in Congress is soon going to be split. Don't show him but there doesn't have to be a bitter divide about it. Americans deserve better. I have a closing argument about what last night hopefully means.
LEMON: Don't hate me because I'm pretty.
[21:57:16] CUOMO: Hooray. Now we know. No more speculation, pundits, panderers, projections though some races are still close to call. Good for you. Close to 50 percent of eligible voters came out. Well over 100 million strong. That makes this midterm a high watermark. Here's the breakdown by partisanship. Take a look at this on your screen. See, everybody came out. The Democrats came out most. All were represented. But women, brava to the women. Huge on the ballot. They won the day for the Democrats. If you're a Democrat, you cannot be happy without thanking the women who came out as voters and candidates. But they ran from all parts of the political spectrum. So to all the women who voted, those who ran, good for you.
Now, let's just be clear about what happened last night. Trump was on the ballot effectively. This was largely about his rule. The President was weighed and measured and found lacking in the main. He lost another popular vote, this time by millions more than even the last time, maybe twice as much in a margin. We'll have to see. He did well where he has always done well. But the base got smaller, and the people who oppose his words and deeds came forward and were counted, and they are much bigger than his base.
We also know why this happened. Fear and loathing works in some places. Negativity in politics can be like catnip. But we see at rallies, Senate races, it worked. But the American people overall demanded something better, and that is more clear than ever. Here's the proof of your discontent. Look at this. 76 percent of Americans say they see it. More divided, all right? The reality is right there. The question is will you get something better? Judging by today, optimism says change will take time.
The President says he wants to change tone, that he wants to make deals. The Democrats say they want to create jobs, that they know you want political peace. But we only know what they show. And the President offered more of the same outwardly today, threats to opponents, the media. Oh, and he fired the attorney general today, in part, I argue, to distract from his loss last night. And yet there is reason for optimism, and here it is. Because he and all of them now know you will come out. You made the powerful realize they answer to the many, and that reality may make them less likely to cater to the few. Remember one of the axioms of politics. Those in power often act out of fear of consequence, not conscience, and now they know you're watching. Good for you. Onward.
Don't forget our exclusive interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tomorrow right here on PRIME TIME." Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon right now. Right by my side.