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First Native American Women Elected to Congress; Dems Win Control of House; GOP Keeps Senate; McConnell Speaks as GOP Holds onto Senate Majority; McConnell: Trump was "Very Helpful" in Senate Races. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 7, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00]

DEB HAALAND (D), NEW MEXICO CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: -- to feel like both Janice and I have broken this particular glass ceiling. 50 years ago, the first African-American woman was elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm. She went in and decided to go strong and represent her people. And that's what I intend to do. I have a wonderful district here in New Mexico. It's very diverse. And I love this state. I love the people in it. So I feel very strongly that many of the Native American issues are aligned with the issues of my district. So I'm excited and ready to get to work.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, a lot of work ahead for you, no doubt. What would your advice be, Congresswoman-elect, to your fellow Democrats in terms of how they should prioritize health care, for example, or to focus on the Russia probe and potential impeachment before the Mueller probe is wrapped up? What would you say to them?

HAALAND: Well, look, we -- I think you know the -- we won the House last night. Americans want Democrats to lead on all of these issues. And so, I mean it almost feels like everything is a priority. So I think we need to get to work on making sure that - yes?

HARLOW: But you know what I mean because -- what hearings will be held, for example. Interesting in our exit polling, 77 percent of self-identified Democrats support impeachment of the president in the exit polls. And I just wonder as someone who will be deciding on this. Do you think that should be the focus of the hearings, focus on the energy, the focus of the press conferences or would you say to fellow Democrats, let the Mueller probe you know run its course, let's focus on things like health care, let's focus on education, let's focus on infrastructure.

HAALAND: Well, I have absolutely said during my campaign that we need to make sure that the Mueller probe, the investigation moves forward unencumbered. And so, the Democrats can stop any, you know, any Republicans who were trying to, you know, bring that to an end early. We should definitely make sure that that investigation goes through. But at the same time, you know, there are people across this country hurting that we need to make sure that they are the focus of our attention, as well. So I really feel strongly that we can multi task, if you will. But yes, we have to hold President Trump accountable. HARLOW: And on one of those other issues that you will be multitasking on. It comes to health care, you have said, and I quote, "We need Medicare for all." As you know a study out of George Mason University has put a price tag of $32 trillion on that over the next decade. That is, of course in part, funded by the conservative libertarian Koch brothers. But that's an estimate that they have out of George Mason. Can you pay for that without raising taxes? Yes or no.

HAALAND: Well, I think if we have a fair tax policy. You know currently the Republicans gave folks who didn't need a tax break a tax break at the tune of close to $2 trillion - to borrow money for.

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Would you need to raise taxes for most Americans. Would you need to raise taxes from most Americans to foot a bill like that?

HAALAND: So Medicare is earned benefits. So, Americans pay into that fund to begin with. The Americans are paying for that already. We are already spending a lot of money on health care. We just need to reorganize and find a good way to make sure that we are able to give every single American health care. I don't think it will be a difficult proposition. We just need to get our hands together and make sure that we get it done.

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Congresswoman we appreciate you being here. I'm sorry to cut it a little bit short. I do have to get to this. Let's listen to Mitch McConnell speaking right now.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: First last night and then this morning, I talked to Leader Pelosi. We discussed ways we might be able to find a way forward. She and I actually have had some - have had an opportunity to work together for a number of years when we were both on the Appropriations Committee. She had the foreign operation, so I've committed and so did I. And so, we are not unfamiliar with each other. And we'll probably have a lot more dealings with each other in the future.

In looking at the race, I want to thank the president. He was extremely helpful to us in states where he is in excellent shape. He worked very hard, drew large crowds. And I think it clearly had a positive impact on the outcome. So with that, let me just throw it open to see what you want to talk about.

Yes ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you agree with the president's campaign rhetoric that the caravan is an invasion and that birth right citizenship should be dealt with (INAUDIBLE)?

[10:35:04] MCCONNELL: I will be happy to give you my own views on whatever you would like to talk about. But I generally don't do a running commentary on the president's observations out on the campaign trail. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. (INAUDIBLE) give me your views on those two issues.

MCCONNELL: It's an interesting legal question that ultimately I assume would be solved in the courts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said on the White House drive way last week that he would be willing to work with and compromise with Nancy Pelosi. What to you believe are the top legislative priorities with the divided (INAUDIBLE)?

MCCONNELL: Well, first, we have to finish this session. And we have a number of items. We have to finish the farm bill and finish funding the government. The one issue that Leader Pelosi and I have discussed this morning is where there could be possible bipartisan agreement would be something on infrastructure. It could be a lot of other things.

I'm not putting you all down. But when we do things together, it almost never makes any news. Even in this current situation where we have Republicans controlling all three branches. I have a long list of things we did on a bipartisan basis from water infrastructure, the best appropriations process in 20 years, airport infrastructure, FDA authorization, on and on and on. There are plenty of things that we work together on. And I always have to tell constituents who think we all hate each other, that the Senate is a pretty collegial place. And even though we had obviously big differences over things like taxes and judges, there were plenty of other things we did together. There is no reason that would stop simply because the House now becomes Democratic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With infrastructure, what big issues are there?

MCCONNELL: We'll see. We'll see. We'll see. It will all be discussed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you insist on getting $5 billion for the president's border wall in this upcoming --

MCCONNELL: We certainly will try to help the president achieve what he would like to do with regard to the wall and border security. And it will obviously have to be done on some kind of bipartisan - excuse me - some kind of bipartisan discussion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) on the Kavanaugh (INAUDIBLE)

MCCONNELL: Very helpful. I think the Republican sort of core voters in the states that were critical to us were highly offended by the questioning of the presumption of innocence and the tactics. And I think it was like an adrenaline shot. We were worried about lack of intensity on our side. And I think the Kavanaugh fight certainly provided that. It was extremely helpful. It is noteworthy that the one Democrat in the red state who survived voted for Kavanaugh, Joe Manchin.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you credit the president for his work, for the Senate Democrats and red states. But you obviously lost the House last night too. So, I'm wondering what kind of impact do you think the president's rhetoric in the last couple of weeks is having on your party, particularly with women voters and suburban voters with some of the key races.

MCCONNELL: I'm going to try not to have us waste our time on the sort of routine questions about what the president may say at any given moment. I'm here to talk about the Senate. We had a very good day. I'm proud of what happened. The president was very helpful to us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you look at the exit polls, one of the most important issues to voters was health care. Take away from that the message that any effort to repeal A.C.A. at this point is dead?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think it is pretty obvious the Democratic House is not going to be interested in that. There are serious problems with Obamacare. Serious problems that need to get fixed. They raise the phony issue of whether or not we were for or against preexisting conditions. And I suspect it may have worked some places, fortunately in our races, even though they tried to define health care on that issue. I think all of our candidates who subsequently won were able to make clear to the voters that everybody we knew was in favor of covering preexisting conditions including the candidates like Hawley and Braun and others. So, the rhetoric doesn't solve the problem. And there are serious problems with Obamacare. And I think we're going to have to obviously now try to address it on a bipartisan basis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sen. McConnell, what was it that Leader Pelosi and the president talked about prescription drug prices? Do you think it is something the Senate could work with Pelosi?

MCCONNELL: I can't imagine that that won't be on the agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anything that the Senate Republicans could do to help President Trump in the event that Democrats in the House attempt to seize his tax returns?

[10:40:02] MCCONNELL: I'm sorry. I'm having a hard time -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would Senate Republicans do in the event that the House Democrats try to obtain President Trump's tax records?

MCCONNELL: Well, you know the whole issue of presidential harassment is interesting. I remember when we tried it in the late '90s. We impeached President Clinton. His numbers went up and ours went down. And we under performed in the national election. So, the Democrats on the House will have to decide just how much presidential harassment they think is good strategy. I'm not so sure it will work for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, so just to go back to that. Do you -- are you recommending that for House Democrats that oversight that they have said that they're going to do might back fire on them? Or you're saying that they --

MCCONNELL: No, no. They are not interested in my recommendations. All I'm doing is making a historical observation that the business of presidential harassment which we were deeply engaged in in the late 90's improved the president's approval rating and tanked ours, thus my observation that that might not be a smart strategy. But it is up to them to decide how they want to handle that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anything that you are going to be doing in the coming months to increase the number of women who are being recruited on the Republican side to run for office?

MCCONNELL: It's been a frustration. I think I have mentioned it to you before that we have had plenty of women candidates, a lot of them, not one. Marsha Blackburn won. We are hopeful that Martha McSally will win. I'm going to be trying to convince one of our women for example to go on that Judiciary Committee, something I have tried and failed the last couple of Congresses.

I mean we need to do a better job of recruiting women candidates and getting them elected. Hopefully we will have two new women Republican senators here shortly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator?

MCCONNELL: Yes.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Talking about that House oversight, (INAUDIBLE) the president tweeted this morning saying that if the House continues with their investigations that we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all the leaks of classified information and much else at the Senate level, two can play at that game. Can you respond to that? What do you think about that?

MCCONNELL: Well, I like the focus on finishing up this session. We've got work left to do. And we'll see what happens next year.

SERFATY: Have you had discussions with the president about any of that? I know you'll avoid that right now but --

MCCONNELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This session, can you rule out a government shutdown?

MCCONNELL: Hopefully - you know, look, we need to work this out. We had the most successful appropriations process already in 20 years. 75 percent of the government got funded before the end of September. And we all know we need to work together here toward the end to finish that up. And we are going to do the best we can to try to achieve the president's priorities and hopefully we will not be headed down that path.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator?

MCCONNELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of doing a DACA fix (INAUDIBLE) or next year?

MCCONNELL: What? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DACA fix?

MCCONNELL: Oh my goodness. Well you know I can't imagine with all the things that we have to do here to wrap up this Congress that we would revisit immigration but who knows?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about next year?

MCCONNELL: It's on the agenda every year because we have serious immigration issues. I would remind all of you the Democrats had total control of the government in 2009 and 2010 and never dealt with the immigration issue. So it seems that no matter who is up or who is down, we have not been able to come to some kind of conclusion about what to do on immigration. The one thing I thought we all agreed on was this border security issue. Most Democrats voted for it 10 years ago. But we have had a challenge on that, as well, as evidence by the president's desire to build a wall and the reluctance on the other side to support it. So I can't imagine we'll do anything beyond trying to deal with this funding issue on the wall here and the end of the session.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, just a follow-up on that. The president made a real issue going into the midterms about the migrant caravan and the crisis that was crossing the border. (INAUDIBLE) Do you agree with the characterization the president used that it was a crisis from this migrant caravan that's coming?

MCCONNELL: Well that's sort of an executive branch issue about what - you know how to deploy security forces to deal with that. I'm sure the president will handle it skillfully.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

[10:45:00] MCCONNELL: It's not a legislative issue. It's a question of how you want to deal with the security at the border. The president has wide latitude to do that and he's taking advantage of the opportunity he has.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McConnell, Democrats do engage in oversight of the Trump administration. How does that impede your ability to work on a bipartisan (INAUDIBLE) --

MCCONNELL: I'm having a hard time hearing you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Democrats do engage in the House in aggressive oversight of the Trump administration would that impede your ability to work with possible Pelosi on things like infrastructure?

MCCONNELL: No, I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the judge in Texas rules to strike down all or part of Obamacare, how do you think (INAUDIBLE)

MCCONNELL: If what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the judge in Texas strikes down all part of Obamacare.

MCCONNELL: Well look, the health care system is still a pretty big mess. And it's obviously now going to have to be addressed on a bipartisan basis because the Democrats will control the House. And I don't think anybody is satisfied with the status quo. And the American people have given us divided government which they have given us most of the time since World War II. They seem to like divided government. And I think the message is figure out what you can do together and do it. And I think health care is still a crisis and needs to be fixed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McConnell, if House Dems push to expand Russia probes, do you think this is an effort to undermine the president and is there a potential to get out (INAUDIBLE)

MCCONNELL: Look, on the Senate side, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been looking at that issue. And we expect them to report at some time - at some point in the future. And I look forward. So far they operate on a pretty bipartisan basis, Sen. Burr, Sen. Warner. I look forward to hearing what they have to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sen. McConnell -

MCCONNELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you spoken to Governor Scott or Congresswoman McSally about their races? And how do you feel about (INAUDIBLE)

MCCONNELL: Well, Governor Scott and I traded calls last night so I'm not actually connected with him yet. I will be talking to him shortly. And I have not spoken to Martha McSally, although we traded calls, too. They were pretty late at night. I decided to go to bed and talk to her this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will have extra seats on the Republican side. What will that enable you to do? Is it to ease traditional nomination? What is the --

MCCONNELL: Well, you know what my top priority is -- I have made it very clear. It's the judiciary, the two Supreme Court appointments, 29 circuit judges, the 84 overall number of judges. We are not through doing those this year. The president I think has done an excellent job in picking young men and women who believe the job of the judge is to follow the law. And we intend to keep confirming as many as we possibly can for as long as we are in a position to do it. So it will still be my top priority in setting the agenda here in the Senate.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Perhaps truer words have never been spoken. The Senate majority leader is going to push hard for judges. Now he has a bigger majority in the Senate. There are few headlines. He called the question of birth right citizenship an interesting legal question to be settled by the courts.

HARLOW: There you go.

SCIUTTO: He also said the president was very helpful to us in the Senate last night. A lot of smart people here. Bakari, was the president very helpful to Senate Republicans?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I think he was helpful to - excuse me - I'm miss you, Joe already. He was helpful to future senator-elect Braun. Of course he was helpful to Kramer. And you look around the country. I think that you know he actually did a good job.

Donald Trump did something that Barack Obama could not do which is drag his coalition to support the Senate candidates. And I think he deserves some credit for that. He did not do the House any favors because around these urban centers in the suburbs and exurbs you have for example new Congressman-elect Underwood right outside of Chicago. That is a seat that Democrats should have trouble winning and she won by five -- seven points, Lucy McBath in Georgia. So, he didn't do the House any favors but they owe him you know some diet Coke and Big Macs. He did them a favor.

HARLOW: Kristen, to you. We just heard McConnell at the beginning of that Q&A session there when Manu Raju, our colleague, asked a very legitimate question about the president's rhetoric for the party and the implications when it comes to women and immigrants. He literally said let's not waste our time on the president's rhetoric. I mean, I get that he doesn't want to answer the question. But it is partly the president's rhetoric, to Bakari's point, that helped him - that helped Republicans gain in the Senate.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I completely understand why Mitch McConnell gave that answer. I don't think he is interested in picking a fight with President Trump today. And I don't think he sees there's any benefit -

(CROSSTALK)

[10:50:04] HARLOW: I get that but is he not that worried about the rhetoric and what it does for the Republican Party, long term beyond yesterday?

ANDERSON: I think I have found that when you ask people in politics to think long term it doesn't really happen. People are worried about the next election, period. And I think for Mitch McConnell, the election that just happened within the last 24 hours was very good for him. The president's rhetoric may have made things very challenging for his colleagues on the other side of Capitol Hill that did not hurt him.

SCIUTTO: So, Julie, we are already hearing the Republican response to oversight from the House now controlled by Democrats. You heard, asked the Senate majority leader there about the requests for the - or demands rather for the president's tax return. He called it presidential harassment. The phrase we've been hearing a lot. Will they legislate or investigate? They are preparing for this.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, that is going to be a key part of the pushback is sort of the thematic of you know, they are just obstructing, they are just harassing. This is all a political score that they're trying to settle now that they have the gavels on the House side. It is a rhetorical thing but it's also actually a substantive argument. Because if it is a question of whether the House can subpoena the president's tax returns actually does get to the point where it is being tested in the courts.

There is some question about whether if the Democrats can't show that they have a legitimate oversight purpose for asking for these tax returns, they would be able to survive the legal challenge because the statutes that they'll be relying on, if you read them it is pretty clear that it is not you know just for any old tax return that you may want to see or anyone you want to bother. I mean, it is specifically supposed to be because they have the authority and the obligation to be able to see into any taxpayers tax returns for an oversight.

SCIUTTO: You could make that case because you're not to look for potential conflicts of interest.

DAVIS: Absolutely you could. And Democrats, I'm sure will make that case. But what I'm saying is it is more than just a sort of thematic argument of harassment. You know they're trying to take down the president. It could actually be a legal strategy.

HARLOW: How do you think, Ryan, Democrats or can they get on somewhat of the same page on these issues in terms of, OK, where are we going to put the bulk of our energy, our press conferences, our hearings? Are we going to put it on you know this oversight before the Mueller probe wraps up or are we going to really pour our energy on the promises we've made on health care because they just seem so divided on that internally.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a good question. If you look at Nancy Pelosi's comments last night, it's not like she really emphasized oversight investigations and got into the nitty-gritty of tax returns.

HARLOW: How?

LIZZA: But you have some chairmen that are coming - that are taking over these committees that have been extremely frustrated by the way that the Republicans have run these committees, right?

HARLOW: Right.

LIZZA: So, when Adam Schiff replaces Devin Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee that is a big difference, right? And there are a lot of questions on the Russia investigation that Adam Schiff and these Democrats have been dying to get answered. They are not going to you know swap that all away because you know others want to talk about health care. Those investigations are going forward.

And Elijah Cummings who has a lot of experience doing -- running these kinds of investigations, there is a lot of pent up demand from Democrats to look into these things. But I take your point. Sometimes the public doesn't always have the appetite for that, right?

HARLOW: Right, (CROSSTALK) when they are looking at their health care bill every month.

LIZZA: And going into 2020, they are going to -- they are going to have to strike that balance. But I think a lot of Democrats look at this election as the most important thing obviously they did is they took back the House and that House, what they have now is a tool -- an oversight tool. They don't really have a policy tool because they can't get anything through the Senate and get on to Trump's desk.

SCIUTTO: Oversight has power and there is another guy, another name, Robert Mueller, reports are about to drop. And you have to think this is some job security for Robert Mueller. Is it not with Democrats with the --

SELLERS: I think the - so first, I think the first thing Democrats would do is pass a bill, whether or not it makes it to the Senate or not to protect Robert Mueller. I think that is just something that they should do, they will do.

But to Ryan's point, Democrats have to have some introspection right now, right, because this is going to get me in trouble, but we did not win any races last night because of House leadership, right? We won races because of the energy that was brought by candidates like Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, Beto O'Rourke. You know we recruited great candidates but a lot of these individuals came in with them. So, Democrats and what I would ask them to do is set aside the talk of impeachment, put forth infrastructure bills, put forth pharmaceutical drug bills, put forth bills that help poor people in this country, stop talking down to people and try to actually put forth policy points and initiatives that have a vision. And then have leadership that looks like it.

SCIUTTO: And give you something to run on in 2020. Forgive me for raising that already. Minutes into this season - everyone thanks very much. In just minutes, we should remind you the president will speak for the first time since these midterm election results. We're going to bring that to you live right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:59:24] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. To our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I am Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me. Americans have spoken and their message mixed. The country today more divided than ever. And the Congress now reflects that.

So, what does President Trump say about this new reality post midterm election? We're going to find out just minutes from now. He's going to be holding a press conference in the East Room of the White House, his first public appearance since the blue wave in the House met the red wall in the Senate.

And to be clear, there are still results coming in at this hour and candidates like Senator Bill Nelson calling for a recount in his Florida race. There are still a lot of action happening. We're going to get to those to the very latest there in just a minute.

We're also going to talk to a top House Democrat.