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AT THIS HOUR

Soon: Trump News Conference on Midterm Election Results; Sen. Bill Nelson Calls for Recount in Florida Senate Race; Senate Races Too Close to Call in Arizona, Montana, Florida; Key House Democrats Ready to Launch Investigations into Trump Administration; Democrats Consider Impeaching Trump, Protecting Mueller Probe; Trump: Pelosi Deserves, Earned Speakership. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 7, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And candidates like Senator Bill Nelson calling for a recount in his Florida race. There's still a lot of action happening. We will get to the very latest there in just a minute.

We will also talk to a top House Democrat on what is next for the new majority there.

Let's start at the White House. CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, joining me now.

Jim, what is the president's message this morning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we have never seen a president so happy about losing the House of Representatives. That is what we are seeing from President Trump. He put out several tweets basically declaring victory. He'll do that again and basically take a victory lap inside the East Room of the White House about a half an hour from now. Yes, even after losing the House of Representatives to the Democrats.

We saw the president this morning tweeting about the Mueller investigation. That is obviously on his mind. And also trolling the likely incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is going to be taking the gavel in about a month in a half or so.

Kate, the other thing we are looking towards in terms of what the president will have to say is what he plans to do about looming investigations, as we were talking about late last night into we morning hours. This president is facing a lot of different investigations on Capitol Hill inside the new Democratic House of Representatives. Democratic lawmakers have indicated they want his tax returns and want to dig deeper into the Russia investigation and haul officials to answer questions about, for example, the family separation program, taking children away from their mothers at the border, this caravan invasion, as the president calls it, and mobilizing the U.S. military to the border with Mexico. There's a lot the Democrats want to sink their teeth into. I've barely scratched the surface. It is going to be a good indicator as to how the president is going to respond to all of that when we get a chance to talk to him in a few moments.

I will tell you, Kate, when you talk to people close to the president this morning, they do seem to understand what he is up against in the House. Yes, they understand that he has to come out and declare victory. They did have a good night in the Senate. As one close Trump adviser said to me earlier this morning, the Democrats are going to, quote, "torture him" when it comes to requesting tax returns and other investigations that they want to launch. The president is not really acquainted with all of this. He was used to running roughshod over the Republican field during the 2016 campaign. He has had a Republican House and a Republican Senate and conservative Supreme Court until this moment. Now he has to deal with the other side of the aisle. He has to deal with Democrats.

The person he was going after out on the campaign trail, Nancy Pelosi, he was railing against her out on the campaign trail rally after rally before the midterm elections. Now he has to work with her. A lot of people across the country are wondering what he plans to do about that --Kate?

BOLDUAN: I think that would be a very important question for the president to be answering. One thing, if there's any certainty in Washington, investigations are coming.

ACOSTA: That's true. Yes, I'm sure.

BOLDUAN: That could be maybe the only one.

Thank you, Jim. It is great to see you.

ACOSTA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's take a closer look at the new balance of power in Washington, what it means for the country and what it means for the relationship of the president and how things are going to function, or maybe not, with CNN political analyst, Mark Preston, joining me now.

Mark, there are a lot of votes still being counted, a number of races still not called. Now Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is calling for a recount. Where do things stand right now?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Let's first start at 51- 49. Good night for Republicans in the Senate. Before we get to that, let's get right to Florida. As you said, this is the biggest news we have seen in the last half hour or so regarding the election. Look at how close this race is right now. That is 0.4 percent. That is less than half of a percentage. That would trigger a recount. We haven't heard anything from the secretary of state that there will be a recount. Bill Nelson has come out within the last half hour and has demanded a recount. In response, Rick Scott's spokesman said that is not the case. He said the race is over, it's a sad way for Bill Nelson to end his career. Top advisors for Rick Scott, they said they don't think Bill Nelson will be able to make up that ground. But this is going to be the covered certainly in the coming hours if not the coming days. We talked about Florida. As we said, Republicans picked up three

seats last night. They lost one. Let's see who is not coming back next year. For Democrats, they lost Joe Donnelly in Indiana. They also lost Claire McCaskill in Missouri. In addition to that, if you go up here, they lost Heidi Heitkamp.

That leaves a couple of races on the board. Those races in Montana, Jon Tester, Matt Rosendale, neck and neck. And 95 percent of vote has come in. However, we haven't called the race because we're looking at Missoula right now. More than a quarter of that vote is still out. Look at the advantage that Jon Tester has. There's a lot of vote out there. We want to see what happens.

[11:05:08] We get down to Arizona. This is not looking as good as Montana is for Democrats. Right now, Martha McSally has a lead in Arizona. A quarter of that vote is out, mail-in vote, military vote, what have you. We'll see what happens down there. So a lot going on right now in the Senate.

But when we get across to the House, Kate, this is where things get very interesting. Let's see where we are. This is where Democrats have done incredibly well so far. Right now, if you look at it, they have 229 seats. They can add to that total. Republicans with 206.

Where are we right now? Who lost? That is kind of an interesting story. What is still out and what we haven't counted? All of this blue is Democratic pickups of Republican seats.

I want to show you one race right here. Look at this. Mia Love, a Republican, the only African-American woman Republican, in the Congress. It looks like she will lose right now. And 100 percent reporting. We are waiting to count more ballots. This is an interesting race.

This is another interesting race because we talk a lot about Russia and what is going on with President Trump. Look at this race down here. This is really interesting. Dana Rohrabacher right now losing to Harley Rouda. Rohrabacher is the one who always talks very kindly about Russia -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's putting it mildly.

Great to see you, Mark. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Perfect on the land of where things are right now.

With their new majority in the House, Democrats are celebrating, but they are also preparing for battle. Some key House Democrats are making no secret that they are ready to launch investigations into everything from family separations to the president's tax returns. What is that going to look like?

Joining me is Congressman Jim Clyburn, the number-three top Democrat in the House.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. JIM CLYBURN, (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you so much for having me.

BOLDUAN: A big night for you, back in the majority very soon. Should the focus now for Democrats be more finding common ground with the president or investigating him?

CLYBURN: I think it ought to be finding common ground to the extent that the common ground can lead us to doing what we need to do for the American people. We ran the campaign not to do the investigations, but to provide a certain degree of hope, a certain degree of aspirational pursuits to the people that will be our constituents. That's what we have to do. I have been saying throughout this campaign that our primary challenge is making America's greatness apply fairly and equitably to all Americans. That's what we have got to do. We have to protect Americans who find themselves with preexisting medical conditions. We have to protect senior citizen who need Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. We have to protect students who are in pursuit of educational opportunities. And we must provide them with a debt-free education. These are the things people are voting for. These are the things that are going to be our primary mission as we move into the majority.

(CROSSTALK)

CLYBURN: Now, the committees will do their work. The Intelligence Committee has some work to do. The Oversight Committee has work to do. Let them do their work.

But I think this caucus is going to focus like a laser beam on the future aspirations of the American people.

BOLDUAN: With that in mind, do you think the Democratic majority, the committees even, should be trying to force the president to release his tax returns?

CLYBURN: That is the purview of only one committee that I know about. And --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Yes, and that committee could be moving that direction. What do you think?

CLYBURN: Elijah Cummings is a great chair, a great friend. His roots are in my congressional district. I know him very well. He will conduct himself in the proper manner. And I think the American people will be very proud of him. So if he sees the need to issue a subpoena to get bank records, I think that is something that should have been provided to the American people before the president ever - at least when he announced for office, but he didn't. So maybe it is time for us to see the bank records.

BOLDUAN: So Jim Clyburn fine with making that move in the House.

But also, Congressman, would it be a mistake, do you think, to move very quickly to explore the idea of impeaching the president with the new majority? CLYBURN: No. That is another thing we have to protect. We need to

protect the Mueller probe. He has been investigated for two years. We ought not to --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: So you --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: OK. So you are saying do not move to impeach the president immediately until the Mueller probe is concluded? Yes?

[11:10:00] CLYBURN: Absolutely. We need to get his probe behind us and that way the American people once that is made public, we can then see if there are grounds and what they are, and along with the American people, move forward in the proper direction. To get out in front of the Mueller probe I think would be a big mistake.

BOLDUAN: The most immediate question, I guess, maybe before the new majority is, who will be leading it? The president had an idea this morning, if you're interested. He wrote out in a tweet, "In of all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen as speaker by House Democrats. She has earned this great honor," he wrote.

He might have ulterior motives in writing that, saying that this morning. But do you have any doubt that she will be speaker again?

CLYBURN: Let me tell you something. I don't find myself in agreement with this president. On that score, I agree with him. She has earned it. I have said from day one Nancy Pelosi has been a great speaker. I support her. As long as she is in pursuit of the gavel, I will be in support of her. That is the way I see it. I'm glad to know that the president is so enlightened today.

BOLDUAN: Congressman Jim Clyburn, thank you for coming in, Congressman. Appreciate your time.

CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, we're taking a live look at the White House in the East Room. President Trump will hold his first news conference since Democrats took back the House. His first public appearance since Republicans expanded the majority in the Senate.

CNN special live coverage is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:02] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. And welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with Jake Tapper. This is CNN's special live coverage of the 2018 midterm elections, the day after.

Minutes from now, we will hear directly from President Trump over at the White House. He will talk about the results of this truly historic midterm election.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yesterday's vote was considered a referendum on the first two years of President Trump's White House. The outcome could alter the course of his presidency over the next two years. The vote saw Democrats retake the House. meaning President Trump will face the first real check of his executive powers.

BLITZER: It also saw Republicans actually make gains in the U.S. Senate with some races still too close to call this morning. It saw the president's unorthodox and controversial campaign style pay off in some key races, but not necessarily in several others.

Jake, what did we expect to hear from the president in the next few minutes? He is going to come out presumably swinging as he always does.

TAPPER: I assume he will pretend that it is not a big deal that the Democrats have recaptured the House and that last night was a big victory. He will look at the Senate races, the fact that they picked up seats, which is an achievement. The Democrats had a horrible map going in. But you have to acknowledge that Republicans got a good ground game out there, got their voters to the polls, took away seats in Missouri, in Indiana, possibly in Florida, although that state looks like it is headed for a recount. So I assume he will declare victory and pretend that the big development of the night, which is the House being recaptured by Democrats, didn't happen or isn't a big deal. It wasn't the shellacking that Obama went through in 2010. I assume that President Trump will not even acknowledge that it was anything of a setback.

BLITZER: How worried should the president be that the Democratic majority in the new House will have subpoena power and go after oversight and try to investigate what he is up to?

TAPPER: I defer to the reporter of colleagues on the Hill and the White House as to what the Democrats are planning and what the White House is prepared for. My guess, based on the conversations I have had, is it is going to be a very aggressive oversight process. There will be subpoenas. The likely new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Ritchie Neal, who most people have never heard of, will be able to, with the simple majority vote on his committee, get the president's tax returns, which the president has done everything he could over the last several years to keep from the sight of the American people.

I have a feeling that the White House has no idea what is headed their way at all. Really, it is going to be a tsunami.

BLITZER: Yes, it'll be dramatic, indeed.

Let's bring in our panel. We have our CNN chief political director, David Chalian, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our White House correspondent, Abby Phillip, and CNN political analyst, David Gregory.

Abby, you cover the White House. What do you anticipate unfolding at the news conference and then in the next few weeks and months?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT; President Trump is something of a glass half-full kind of guy.

(LAUGHTER)

I think this is going to be a --

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a different way of putting it.

PHILLIP: This is going to be a victory lap for him. He is going to look at only the parts of the map that reflect favorably on his performance in the midterms, meaning that any place that he went where his guy won, that is what he is going to be focused on. I think, whether you like it or not, that is what he is most likely to do when you see him today. He is probably not going to talk very much about the House of Representatives. He is going to say, well, I didn't do anything in the House of Representatives. That is why we lost as much as we did.

You will see him talking about his people, like Ron DeSantis, who was able to pull out a victory in that state when it looked like he could not do it.

I think President Trump is going to be setting up a foil for the rest of this year, for the rest of his term, which is going to be him against the Democrats, him against Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. This is going to be, I think, one of those freewheeling press conferences that we are used to with President Trump. He has nothing else on his schedule. He has all day to take questions and talk to reporters and spin the story the way he wants it to be told on tomorrow's front pages.

[11:20:20] TAPPER: You said something to me back stage, which is what is his last tweet about?

PHILLIP: It is about the Mueller investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIP; He is going to be pivoting back to that thing. He wants to finish, in his view, the job. He knows it is on the horizon. The election is over. Mueller will be back in the news. He is not wasting any time reframing that conversation as a witch hunt. The 12 angry Democrats, it is back in a tweet this morning and it's not even been 12 hours since the election.

GREGORY: And he is going to have a villain now in House speaker, perhaps, Nancy Pelosi. He hasn't had that before. They will have subpoena power. It will make things really unpleasant. See what happened to the Bush administration after losing in 2006. But he will have a villain. I think the optimistic side is more that he believes in American carnage and sees a dark vision about a hardline view on immigration as being something that really helped him win, about standing up for Brett Kavanaugh. And I think the Brett Kavanaugh effect was really huge in terms of uniting all of the conservatives, all of the Republican Party beyond Trumpism.

What we might expect him to come out with is humility, to pull a move where could maybe get suburban voters back on the immigration our on the economy, touting the economy. That is just -- we keep thinking we will see that. We haven't seen that over and over and over again.

BLITZER: He did make a phone call last night to Nancy Pelosi.

GLORA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he did.

BLITZER: To congratulate her on the Democrats winning the House.

BORGER: He also said, you know, I think the Democrats should really elect Nancy Pelosi.

(LAUGHTER)

Is he trolling? Is he trolling here because he wants Nancy Pelosi to be in charge.

My big question is, given the fact that there will be these investigations, and the fact that the Democrats have to prove that they can get something done, which I think is also true, will all of them be able to walk and chew gum at the same time and compartmentalize in the way that Bill Clinton did when he was under investigation. He was able to get pass legislation, get stuff done, and not tweet about it every day. Not tweet about a witch hunt every day on Ken Starr. I don't know that Donald Trump has that ability to do that. If he does ,we certainly haven't seen it so far. So the question is, how will that, with the Robert Mueller investigation, the subpoena of the tax returns, and investigations on what happened on border policy and the hurricane in Puerto Rico, how will that impact the urge to do something together on prescription benefits or criminal justice reform? I don't think we know the answers to that yet. I think it largely depends on what the president is willing to do and how he can navigate something that is very nuanced here with Democrats.

BLITZER: What do you think, David?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The one thing in looking historically that I think Donald Trump is going to feel really good about, in addition to his success last night in specific races, if you look at Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, at their first midterms, they were about the same approval rating that Donald Trump is at now. They lost the House as a part of those first midterms and they each went on to get re-elected to a second term. I think it is that history that Donald Trump is probably going to feel a bit gooey about today.

TAPPER: One thing I think would be interesting, and I don't imagine he will do it, but President Trump could come out and embrace the diversity that we see in this new Congress. The first native American woman elected to Congress. Two of them, actually. The first Muslim- American women elected to Congress on the Republican side. The first female Senator from Tennessee, a Congress woman, Korean immigrant, Republican Congress woman-elect from California. He could talk about how there are more than 100 women in Congress and what a great thing that is. Some are Democrat and some are Republican, but of course, overwhelmingly Democrat. But he could come out and embrace that. That would be a nice note. I don't expect that he will do it.

(LAUGHTER)

I do think that that would be something that the Kellyanne Conways and Ivanka Trumps of the world would want him to do.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIP: That would require him to focus on someone other than himself.

TAPPER: And that's the problem.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: You still wonder whether he has moments where he says, I know how to win, I know how to be even bigger, better, which is, now I can win on immigration. I had this dark vision, but now, can I somehow pull off a deal? I think part of him would love to do that. I think he wants that issue. He wants the issue --

(CROSSTALK)

[11:24:57] CHALIAN: Throughout the course of his presidency, I spent every day trying to look at what did he do to broaden and expand his appeal.

GREGORY: I agree. But he gets talked out of it or talks himself out of it.

TAPPER: He has like a little five-minute period where he wants to make an immigration deal.

CHALIAN: Right.

TAPPER: He has a little five-minute period where he wants to do an infrastructure deal. And then --

GREGORY: I'm saying, to your point, for the things he could do, does he care to address the fact that he really lost women, that he's losing suburban Republicans, at he thinks of 2020?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: He has his base. And he thinks they -- I talked to a Republican strategist last night who said, without Donald Trump in these key states, without him going to the mat for Kavanaugh, this strategist said, we would have lost, we would have lost the Senate.

TAPPER: Absolutely. But at the same time, you can't help but look at the results and say there's good news in here for Democrats --

(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: -- not just in the suburban districts and Democrats taking the House. Democrats had significant victories in states that Trump won, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin. Scott Walker was defeated.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: There's a path --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: There's a path there for Democrats to defeat President Trump. I don't think it runs through Florida. I think that --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to go to CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who is in the East Room waiting for President Trump.

Jim, what are you expecting the president to talk about today?

ACOSTA: Jake, I think we are expecting a victory lap here in the East Room of the White House. Usually. when a president loses the House of Representatives to the other party, there's an acknowledgment of a shellacking or whatever you want to call it, whatever we've heard from previous presidents in the past. This president is calling it a success. Frankly, I have never seen a president so happy about losing the House of Representatives. I think the president is going to give us an indication here as to what is to come.

You were having the conversation a few moments ago as to whether or not he is going to extend the olive branch. My conversations with Trump advisers earlier this morning is that he will be extending the clinched fist. That he'll be going after Democrats, using Nancy Pelosi in the same way he used her during the run up to the midterms, in the run up to 2020. I was talking to one Trump advisor this morning who is already handicapping the Democratic field and saying they've gone too far to the left during the midterms and that that was a trap that they all sort of fell into. If you look at the Brett Kavanaugh hearing and so on, they feel like that was a trap that the Democrats fell for. And they will be using that in the exact same way they used it during the midterms for the 2020 campaign.

The problem for the president in all of that, in all of that overconfidence, is obviously because Nancy Pelosi is likely to become the speaker of the House. The Democrats will take control of the chairmanships and committees and have subpoena power and the ability to ask for the president's tax returns and so on. So I think this news conference will be very illuminating because we will ask, are you going to turn over tax returns, is they ask for your tax returns. Are you going to cooperate with the Russia investigation if Adam Schiff is in charge of the House Intelligence Committee, and so on?

Guys, I think one other very large point needs to be made, and that is this immigration issue that the president used. Yes, you want to ask the questions about moving forward. But looking back, I think the president is going to be asked in this room, if he opens it up for questions and doesn't look for softballs, was it a racist ploy to demonize immigrants in the run up to the midterm elections, running that racist ad that we saw the Trump campaign running in the final days before the midterm? And will the president acknowledge that or will he continue to beat the drum of going after immigrants because it worked so well in the midterms or they feel it worked so well during the midterms. That is going to be something that Democrats are going to be wanting to look at when they take control of the House. They want to have hearings on what's happening at the border. What are the troops going to be doing that the president wants to send down to the border? Does the president see this as an invasion? And will the family separations that we saw the president and his administration undertake earlier on in the administration, are we going to see a return of that moving forward?

Yes, there will be talk about infrastructure. We see infrastructure week come and go.

But remember, the president had that very big meeting of Democrats and Republicans on the issue of gun control after what happened down in Parkland. The president sounded very open to the possibility of compromise on a range of issues. Then he met with the NRA and back- pedaled. This is a president, when in doubt, he goes back to his base. My sense is you will see the president indicate that when he comes out here in just a few minutes, guys.

BLITZER: I assume he will open with an opening statement that declared victory last night.

I did note, and I want to get your reaction, Jim, this one tweet that the president posted, "If the Democrats think they will waste taxpayer money investigating us at the House level, then we will be likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all the links of classified information and much else at the Senate level. Two can play that game."

He is basically getting ready for a major confrontation.

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. I do think there's a reality check that might be in order. Yes, Republicans did weaponize the House Intelligence Committee to some extent. Devin Nunez was sort of an attack dog. The way that Darrell Issa was. We'll recall when he was the chair of the House Oversight Committee.