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Soon: Trump Will Have New Conference on Midterm Results; Race for White House Begins Following Midterms; Trump New Conference Following Midterm Elections. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired November 7, 2018 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: 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. I'm not sure Chairman Richard Burr of the Senate Intelligence Committee will be in the mood for launching investigations into House Democrats who are -- into whoever he thinks is leaking information. He would like to talk about Dianne Feinstein during the run up to the midterms as being somebody who leaked information. He was accusing her of leaking information in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. My guess is that you will have chairman after chairman on the Republican side in the Senate who are just not going to be in the mood for that sort of thing. I think that is bluster from the president.
One thing he also tweeted about this morning, Wolf, is the Mueller investigation. Obviously, we did not see -- Robert Mueller was laying pretty low in the runup to the midterms, very much unlike what we saw from the former FBI Director Jim Comey in the runup to 2016. Now a lot of Democrats are saying it is Mueller time and wondering what the special counsel is going to do over the next couple of months. And when the hammer comes down -- Wolf, when you talk to people inside the White House and the president's political circle, privately, they are still very much worried about the Russia investigation. They still think that the president needs to get rid of Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein. There are some who are very hard-lined Trump backers who would like to see the president get rid of the special counsel. None of that is going to happen, at least in terms of firing the special counsel, at least that is the way the conventional wisdom sees it. Wolf, they are in no mood to play patty cake here at the White House. This is not going to be a kumbaya moment by any stretch I think when the president comes out here. This is a president who feels like he has finished one battle and he is ready to start another Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. I know you want to sit down. The president will be walking out into the East Room for the news conference momentarily.
Speaking about Mueller, now that the election is over -- you have been doing a lot of reporting, Gloria, on this -- what do you anticipate, some announcements?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think he is done, to be honest. I think he is still very much involved in investigating Roger Stone, for example. I think that could prove to be significant. I don't think that he is on any particular time table here. There are people who heard who believe like tomorrow that will issue a report. I don't see that coming. Haven't finished deciding what they are going to do with the president's interviews. I think Mueller may be close to wrapping up. But not as close as a lot of people think. I think it being a new year. But I think the big question is going to be, if Mueller issues a report, which I presume he will, there are people in the White House who would like to keep it under wraps largely because of privilege. I think that is going to be a big fight in the Congress because the White House reserved the right to claim privilege even on interviews in which took no privilege for people who worked in the White House staff. I think there will be a huge negotiation that goes on over redactions. And with the Democratic controlled House there will be a lot of pushback about the fact that the whole thing needs to be released.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Can I offer you a couple of findings in the exit polls about the Mueller probe that I think were really interesting last night? Voters were asked, do they approve or disapprove of the way Mueller is handling the investigation. He is slightly upside down. It was 41 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove. More interestingly, voters were asked, do you think the investigation into Russian interference is justified or politically motivated. And 54 percent of voters yesterday, the same voters that elected a Democratic House, 54 percent said it is politically motivated, 41 percent said justified.
BORGER: How did it break down party-wise?
CHALIAN: Obviously, if you think it is politically motivated, you're a Republican.
BORGER: Republican, yes.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That is the exit poll that President Trump was citing in his tweet.
BORGER: Yes. Yes.
TAPPER: Although he ignored the other exit poll findings about the country going in the wrong track and the President Trump disapproval.
CHALIAN: Or party losing women by 19 points.
TAPPER: He likes that one.
CHALIAN: Yes, that one he likes.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It does seem to me that the White House has been for a while now trying to the extent that they can use Mueller as a tool to help the president get re-elected, to take those findings, and say people think this is politically motivated, and use it in the same way that they would argue Bill Clinton used the Lewinski investigation to argue that he was being politically persecuted. It seems to me that all of the shenanigans around subpoenas and privilege is going to be leading up to this idea that they want to make this seem as arduous as possible so voters say, you know what, what's the point of all of this, and they give President Trump a break in 2020.
[11:34:51] TAPPER: All right. We will squeeze in a quick break. Everyone, stand by. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the 2018 midterm elections.
Any minute now, we will hear directly from President Trump at the White House. We will hear his reaction to the Republican losses in the House of Representatives. We will hear his reaction to what is going on, the impact on his presidency going forward, and his own impact on races across the country.
As we've been point out, he will come out and declare a victory, even though it wasn't exactly a victory for him. He has a lot to worry about.
What is also intriguing in the immediate aftermath of the midterm election, you know what begins? The race for the White House.
TAPPER: The race for the White House set to begin.
BLITZER: We will see a whole bunch of Democrats publicly declaring. We will see, I assume, the president of the United States stepping up his own activity.
TAPPER: One of the things we have seen this morning is people trying to pave the way to discredit what is a constitutional role of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which is oversight and investigations into the executive branch. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who had a great night last night, picked up seats in a midterm year, described Congress's oversight role, which Congress has not been doing in any credible way, as "presidential harassment." That is the term he used. You will hear this term a lot, I suspect. "Presidential harassment," the idea that members of Congress are trying to keep tabs on the executive branch, which Republicans did to Obama, Democrats did to Bush, Republicans did to Clinton, et cetera, as a harassment. In fact, Mitch McConnell compared it immediately -- immediately compared what the Democrats intended to do with the investigation into Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs, which is not what I understand Congress is intending to do. They are going to be looking at various corruption scandals, various corruption allegations, the president's tax returns. Why did the president decide to send the troops to the border a few weeks before the election? That sort of thing. They are already trying to pave the way for the campaign against the Democratic Congress and their role in keeping the checks and balances of the system. BLITZER: He also, Mitch McConnell, David, he suggested that it was
not necessarily politically smart for the Republicans in 1998 to launch all those investigations, the Monica Lewinski investigations, the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Politically, he wound up hurting him.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. He was right about that. I think he also knows that there's some queasiness among Democrats. Nancy Pelosi telling supporters this week they wanted to be cautious about impeachment. I think what Jake lists as a potential litany, are really tough, substantive issues that have not gotten attention or other aspects of environmental rules, how the agencies are operating, other areas of corruption. These are prime areas for oversight.
There will, however, be a lot of this energy to go directly after Trump. I feel like -- unless we are surprised, we feel like Trump is not confused about the message he wants for going forward into 2020. I think Democrats are a little bit confused. Look at the messaging and moderation in the Midwest compared to progressives in the Sunbelt who did not win. I think they are still trying to figure out who and how to go after Trump in 2020.
[11:40:10] BORGER: They haven't forgotten the Newt Gingrich overreach in 1994. I think that Democrats are going out of their way right now to kind of figure out, how you strike a balance, because they know it can back fire on them. Most of them were there for that. Nancy Pelosi was there for that. So she knows.
TAPPER: When you say the Newt Gingrich oversight, are you referring to government shutdown?
BORGER: No. no. Newt Gingrich, impeachment, Newt Gingrich --
BORGER: -- overreach. I'm sorry, I meant overreach.
It was pretty effective. The winds have really shifted on the war. There was such a desire for change that led to Obama.
GREGORY: But the aggressiveness on the part of Democrats after 2006 was pretty affective. Because 2008 -- but the winds have really shifted on the war. There was such a desire for change that led to Obama.
BORGER: If you want to do it about policy, if you want to do it about what happened at the border and the hurricane, et cetera, et cetera, those are policy issues that this is Congress's job, oversight.
BORGER: But if you focus only, say, on the tax returns, which Bob Mueller has, and who knows what is in them, then I think it becomes a different type of an issue for them. I think that leaves them a little bit more vulnerable, I think, if they do just that.
PHILLIP: Yes. I think the risk for President Trump is that it is not just that Congress can have oversight over him personally, but also just the entire federal government. As we know, his cabinet has already had a lot of issues without that oversight happening. The oversight hasn't been happening. He has lost several cabinet members to ethics scandals. I think we can expect to see that ramping up. That is another avenue of attack here for Democrats that is not just about the president personally, his taxes, whatever it is, or even about Russia. It's about the government, about Democrats perhaps creating an argument about corruption or maybe turning the swamp argument back on President Trump.
BLITZER: Abby, who is going to be leaving the administration? We expect a pretty significant turnover right now.
PHILLIP: Yes, we do. There are several officials who have already said that towards the end of this year they will be heading out the door. The top of the list probably is what might happen at the Justice Department. The president obviously is unhappy with Jeff Sessions. He is probably very near the top of the list. But you also have a lot of White House officials who are coming up on two years in the White House. They are perhaps looking to 2020 to find jobs on the re-elect, to spend time with their families. I think there are some people that is not just a euphemism. I think --
TAPPER: Sarah Sanders.
PHILLIP: -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for example, has been someone who has been there for quite some time and might be headed out. I think that there's a sense that there has been some turnover. Bill Shine came in and upended the internal structure of the White House. Could that see more officials leaving? People have been talking about James Mattis. How long could he be in that role? He has been there for some time. His standing with President Trump has fallen. There are a number of cabinet-level officials. Ryan Zinke, who is in a lot of ethics trouble, who we know that White House officials are unhappy with.
TAPPER: Secretary of the Interior Department.
PHILLIP: Exactly. The president is turning attention to that now. Now is the time for turnover. They are obviously going to have to prioritize because they can't do all of those people, especially if they are Senate confirmable all at one time.
BORGER: How about Kelly, chief of staff?
BORGER: He has convened a working group on how to deal with Democratic control of the House. He seems pretty involved in all of this, but --
PHILLIP: He told the president he would stay through 2020. You are hearing whispers of whether or not that might actually be the case considering how his power has eroded.
GREGORY: You know who he thinks deserves a promotion? Me, myself and I. He's looking in the mirror saying, my gut instinct is better than Paul Ryan's. I know how to keep my base engaged. I have the feel for what I want to run on. I'm in touch with my voters, who are really my party.
I think what has got to unnerve the president -- and in the past week, reaching out to China, for example, he wants a deal on trade that he can take credit for. He wants the markets to stop being spooked and to have some gains. For him to go into 2019 with a softening economy, maybe something worse, that is obviously something that he can compute and be afraid of.
TAPPER: One of the interesting things about last night I think is -- and, David, this is the point you have, which is, how did President Trump expand his base today? What did he do to expand his base today? He won the electoral vote in 2016 but he lost the popular vote by three million votes. What did he do? The truth of the matter is, you look at the results last night, and he didn't do anything.
TAPPER: He didn't do anything. In fact, he lost ground.
CHALIAN: He has big problems. Exactly.
[11:45:03] TAPPER: There are suburban districts where he won, where it was him versus Hillary Clinton, and he won, that he lost seats in. There were Republicans who were able to win in Clinton districts, like Barbara Comstock, for example, and they lost, too, which says that the Democrats are more energized and they've learned some lessons from 2016. So I recognize he has to take a victory lap. I recognize that it is an anomaly to win Senate seats in such a year, even though we have been saying the Democrats have a horrible map to deal with. It was a bad night for President Trump and it is about to get worse.
CHALIAN: Yes. Two things on that. The "about to get worse" in terms of Washington, I think we forget also he is so not of Washington. I know that's an attribute politically for him. But he has no idea what is about to hit him having a party out of power. He hasn't lived through what that is like, divided government, for an administration. I think this will be new for him in many ways.
Politically, Jake, you are so spot on. Do you know that four years ago, in 2014, the Republican Party won the suburbs in that election by 12 points? Now it was an even draw? You can't go from that big of an advantage to just dividing with the other party. Independent voters, we forget this all the time because we talk so much about his base strategy, Donald Trump won Independent voters in 2016 by four points. His party lost them by 12 points yesterday. There is a -- Hillary Clinton was potentially the first female president. We know she was a flawed character and had questions about her. She won women by 14 points. Democrats won women by 19 points yesterday.
There are clear trouble signs ahead that if Donald Trump just puts his head down and continues doing what he is doing about quadrupling down on the base and making sure, yes. Is he going to have Florida again? Probably so. As you were saying, David, looking into Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania, which were critical to his success, he is going to need to make some sort of --
GREGORY: But unlike a midterm, which is a referendum on him, a presidential race is a choice.
GREGORY: He gets to run against somebody.
CHALIAN: Without a doubt.
GREGORY: And we have to believe they will learn some lessons and do better in those areas. And they certainly --
BLITZER: Beginning right now. There are still some empty chairs. The president running a little bit late for his news conference in the East Room at the White House. We will take a quick break. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: Any minute now, we'll hear from President Trump at the White House. We'll hear his reaction to the midterm elections and how he thinks it might impact his presidency.
Let's get back to our panel.
And, Gloria Borger, you were talking about the potential Democratic overreach --
BLITZER: -- in their oversight. But the truth of the matter is, that could happen. But there are a lot of different committees and a lot of different explorations and we have no idea how they're going to tackle this. We have no idea -- I don't even know what the new House Ways and Means chairman's voice sounds like.
Ritchie Neal of Massachusetts.
BLITZER: Been in the House for 30 years.
TAPPER: In the House for 30 years. [11:50:06] BORGER: But you know, Maxine Waters will head Financial Services. I'm sure Donald Trump will have something to say about that.
GREGORY: He'll have a weekly lunch.
BORGER: I think, look, Nancy Pelosi made it clear in the interview she gave before last night that she is aware -- she's not talking impeachment, for example. There are Democrats who are. Jerry Nadler, who is going to run judiciary, is not talking about impeachment. So they clearly understand that they don't want to rush into anything, because I do think that they are also running a chamber, and maybe if Nancy Pelosi can cut a deal with the president on prescription drug costs, that she's going to try and do that.
TAPPER: That's part of it, but also part is it is they don't want to overreach.
TAPPER: They don't want to turn off the American people.
BORGER: And then they'll get in trouble because the American people will say, we elected to you do things and you're not doing things, you are just doing oversight. But, but oversight is their job. So that's the flip side of it. I mean, if you want to have hearings about how families were separated at the border, I think that is something the American public just might be interested in --
TAPPER: Or the deaths -- or the deaths in Puerto Rico.
BORGER: Deaths in Puerto Rico. So there's plenty of things. How decisions were made.
They also don't want to stop on Bob Mueller, I think, and that is a big deal.
TAPPER: Another issue or another area that will be ripe for Democrat, voter disenfranchisement, voter suppression.
BORGER: Yes. Yes.
TAPPER: A lot of people very upset about the elections in Georgia and Florida and saying that some of the reason that the Democrats didn't win theirs is because of efforts to make it harder for people to vote. That will also be a subject for hearings.
BLITZER: It's not often the president has a formal news conference in the East Room of the White House. It is a tradition on the day after a midterm election for the president to walk out and hold this kind of news conference. Usually, presidents acknowledge that they've, as we've been saying, had a little shellacking, thumping, whatever. This president will, no doubt, not acknowledge that at all. He did lose a lot of Republicans in the House of Representatives but they gained seats in the Senate. And I'm sure will focus in on that.
Jake, I'm sure the president will open up with an opening statement, in effect, declare victory for himself, for the Republicans last night, try to ignore what happened in the House of Representatives. He'll have that prepared statement. Whether he reads it from a Teleprompter or ad libs something unclear but he'll make a statement and then he'll call on reporters. And let's see how that goes.
TAPPER: I want -- one things that will be interesting is, oftentimes, you have two completely different statements, the one that the president reads on the Teleprompter or from the papers in front of him, and then the one he actually believes, which he says extemporaneously or goes off the cuff while reading the speech.
BLITZER: We've just been told no Teleprompter in there so he'll have some note, no doubt, and make a statement. I'm sure he's been thinking about it a lot. And as we all know, he watches a lot of television, a lot of cable news, so he gets a lot of information from that source.
TAPPER: One of the things that is going to be interesting, is I think when President Trump was first elected there were a lot of people, including Chuck Schumer, who were hoping this was a president that wasn't whetted to any particular ideology, except himself, and maybe this is somebody they could make deals with, do infrastructure, cut a deal on immigration, cut a deal on any other number of things. Obviously, that's not been who President Trump ended up being.
Is he going to nod in that direction, Abby?
PHILLIP: You know what, he'll put the ball in the Democrats' court. And we should also be looking for him to take some of his own lessons from the way that the midterms ended out in the last couple of weeks where he pivoted hard on immigration. You know, a lot of people will disagree that was a successful strategy. I would suggest President Trump is going to claim it was and say that means that the voters gave Republicans the ability to move forward on that kind of agenda. That message, if he delivers something like that today, will alienate Democrats. That won't be the kind of message you go into a "let's compromise" on. Because the way that the midterms ended was divisive, it was hardline on some of these kinds of policies, and I wouldn't be surprised if the president took -- if the lesson he takes from all of this is that worked for his people. But for compromise in the future with a Democratic House, that's going to be a nonstarter.
BORGER: Do you remember when Barack Obama came out after he lost, what, 63 seats, and said, we had a shellacking.
BORGER: And he was sort of humble about it. Anyway, he came out and said, look, we really -- we really --
TAPPER: That was a red wave. That was the red wedding. BORGER: But he talked about why. He talked about -- he sort of gave
an intellectual discourse on why that might have happened. I don't think we'll hear that today.
[11:54:52] GREGORY: Let's also remember, as he gets closer to re- election, he has to -- it can't be American carnage all the time because if he's been in power for four years, he wants to show he kept some promises and made things better. I don't know if that's motivation to do something with Democrats and use it as a club against them or to ignore what voters he lost and just dig in with his own support. But at a certain time -- I thought at the end, the idea of promises made, promises kept, something the FOX News was advancing even more than he did, is something that he's going to want to get around to.
CHALIAN: I think it will also depend about how the Democrats choose to play ball or not to. Because the other side of this equation is there will be a Democratic presidential nominating contest under way that is going to provide a very robust and perhaps cacophonous and, at times, detrimental debate inside the party about how they want to move forward and how Nancy Pelosi is sort of harnessing that energy in her caucus that is, no doubt, out on the campaign trail, there will be lots and lots of presidential candidates railing for the party to do obstructionist things and not do anything with the president. How they strike that balance and how specifically Nancy Pelosi handles that, if she is the speaker, is also going to be part of the equation about how Trump will respond.
BLITZER: Jake, he's going to Paris this weekend. He's got meetings in Paris, remembering the anniversary of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Then he's heading to the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires at the end of the month. So in addition to the domestic issues he's focusing on, he's going to be meeting with world leaders in the coming days, as well. He is the president of the United States.
TAPPER: That's right. One thing, to David's point, about Nancy Pelosi trying to keep the caucus in line, in 2006, when Democrats regained the House the last time, there were a whole bunch of moderate Democrats. What Nancy Pelosi called her majority makers. These were the people from swing districts, who were less liberal, the Conor Lambs of the caucus, as it were, who were less liberal, maybe even less supportive of her personally. She is going to have to balance those majority makers with the needs of the Democrats running for president, as you point out, where they are running to the left, just as Republicans running for president run to the right, trying to get their bases excited. And you'll have a whole bunch of Senators out there talking about the end of ICE and how they need to end the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Then you'll have a bunch of Democrats in the caucus saying, we need to take border security seriously, and that is going to be -- here's President Trump. Let's listen in.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please. Thank you.
It was a big day yesterday, an incredible day. And last night, the Republican Party defied history to expand our Senate majority while significantly beating expectations in the House for the midtown and midterm year. We did this in spite of a very dramatic fundraising disadvantage driven by Democrats' wealthy donors and special interests and very hostile media coverage, to put it mildly. The media coverage set a new record and a new standard.
We also had a staggering number of House retirements, so it's a little tough. These are seats that could have been held pretty easily and we had newcomers going in and a lot of them worked very hard, but it's difficult when you have that many retirements.
We held a large number of campaign rallies with large, large numbers of people going to every one. To the best of my knowledge, we didn't have a vacant or an empty seat. I'm sure you would have reported it if you spotted one, including 30 rallies in the last 60 days. And we saw the candidates that I supported achieve tremendous success last night. As an example, of the 11 candidates we campaigned with during the last week, nine won last night. This vigorous campaigning stop, the blue wave that they talked about -- I don't know if there ever was such a thing but could have been -- if we didn't do the campaign probably, there could have been. And the history really will see what a good job we did in the final couple of weeks in terms of getting some tremendous people over the finish line. They really are tremendous people. But many of them were not known, but they will be known.
This election marks the largest Senate gains for a president's party in a first midterm election since at least President Kennedy's in 1962. There have been only four midterm elections since 1934.