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Trump Mocks Republicans Who Lost in Midterms; Trump Postpones Talks with North Korea; 2018 Midterms Set Records for Women in Congress; U.S. Attorney General Replaced By Mueller Probe Critic; Sources: North Korea Called Off Meeting With U.S.; Trump Insults At Combative News Conference. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired November 8, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Donald Trump fires his attorney general, the man he described as "a dumb Southerner" and "Mr. Magoo," replaced in the interim with a former legal pundit who made a career criticizing the Russia investigation.

From teleprompter Trump to a full meltdown, abusing and shouting at reporters, threatening Democrats, mocking Republicans who lost and then the president's news conference got really weird.

And for the first time, more than 100 women are heading to Congress in a midterm election which saw a stunning number of firsts across the political spectrum.

Hello, great to have you with us wherever you are around the world. I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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VAUSE: There's a new acting head of the U.S. Justice Department. That could mean some big changes for the Russia investigation after the president fired his much maligned attorney general Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

He is replaced for now with Matt Whitaker, who was Sessions' chief of staff. According to the Justice Department, Whitaker will be in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice. That means he'll oversee special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Sessions left the Justice Department late Wednesday and said goodbye to colleagues and shaking hands with his replacement. Trump has wanted to replace Sessions ever since he recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Earlier on Wednesday, the president played coy when asked about the fate of Jeff Sessions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us clarity, sir, on your thinking currently now, after the midterms, about your attorney general and your deputy attorney general?

Do they have long-term job security?

TRUMP: I'd rather answer that at a little bit different time. We're looking at a lot of different things, including cabinet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Joining me now from Los Angeles, former assistant U.S. attorney David Katz.

David, thank you for being with us.

DAVID KATZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Great to be with you.

Normally the president fires his attorney general or the attorney general quits, the already Senate confirmed deputy attorney general would take over. That would be Rod Rosenstein.

Instead we got this guy, Matt Whitaker, a virtual nobody; before he was working for the DOJ, he made his career criticizing the Mueller probe on television, like here on CNN last year. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I can see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment. And that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to an -- almost at a halt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: A nice plan just laid out there in full. So you see the timing here, the appointment of Whitaker as an offensive move by the president to get at the Democrats being sworn into office and taking over the House?

KATZ: Well, I do see it as offensive. I see it as him trying to grab the initiative. But this particular move, you have a great -- CNN has a great journalistic scoop. You have the reason to recuse him right on tape.

This is not an investigation that he should head, given that he's made those statements. Moreover, the firing of Sessions may be an act of obstruction of justice, just like the firing of Comey would probably be one of the counts of obstruction of justice.

And this man, Whitaker, would seem, as the chief of staff to Sessions, to know a lot about it, to be a percipient witness. So both because he's a likely witness to one of the alleged acts of obstruction of justice and because he made derogatory comments, talking about defunding the Mueller investigation, otherwise impeding it, he's utterly unfit.

And I think even the Republicans in the Senate will come around to seeing that he's unfit. Collins has already said so. Senator -- a new senator, Romney, has made a very strong statement that it is imperative that the Mueller investigation not be impeded.

And, of course, the Democrats, when they get control, I think it is January 3rd, of the House, they'll be all over this, John.

VAUSE: OK, so let's just have a little bit more of the punditry with -- which Mr. Whitaker offered up here on CNN. He defended that decision by Donald Trump Jr. to take that meeting at Trump Tower with pretty much every Russian who happened to be passing through New York on that particular day, including a Kremlin-linked lawyer who was promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Here's Mr. Whitaker again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITAKER: You would always take that meeting. You would have --

[00:05:00]

WHITAKER: -- somebody --

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PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: You would always take that meeting, so --

WHITAKER: -- try to get information.

BROWN: Would you take that meeting, when you're that high up, two weeks after your father was just nominated, with someone that you claim to not even know?

I mean, would you really take that meeting?

Because speaking to other people on our panel, they said that's not something that is typical.

WHITAKER: You know, if you have -- if you have somebody that you trust, that is saying you need to meet with this individual because they have information about your opponent, you would take that meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Even the language is the same language that the Trumps were using at the time. And the Trump Tower meeting is going to be a focal point of the Mueller investigation. So you got the guy here that is now in charge of the Mueller investigation that thinks a big focal point of the investigation is no big deal.

KATZ: Well, it's absolutely clear under American campaign finance law that you cannot take money or even in-kind help from a foreign power. Donald Trump Jr. knew this meeting was going to be with a foreign power.

Why do we know that?

We know because he received an e-mail that said you will get help from the Russian government. We have dirt on Hillary Clinton. He said in e-mail response, Donald Trump Jr. did, let's have the meeting. If you have what you say you have, that would be great.

One of the great things about the House and the rule of law and now that the House is Democratic, is they're actually going to subpoena people like Don Trump Jr. And they're going to subpoena people like Kushner, who were at the meeting and not take the answer, oh, well, I'd like to answer off the record. I'd like to answer somewhere else. I'd like to not provide documents.

They'll have the power to subpoena documents from people like Don Trump Jr., like Kushner, the son-in-law, and they'll also demand that they come to public hearings. I expect there's going to be a House hearing with both Kushner and with Trump Jr. in the coming year.

VAUSE: So given what we've heard, with Whitaker outlining a plan to essentially not end the Mueller investigation but strangle the resources, make it effectively, we heard him saying, a key focal point of the Mueller investigation is no big deal, wouldn't the Department of Justice then offer up advice to the incoming acting head, saying, much like they did for Sessions, you need to recuse yourself from all things Russia?

And that's what Sessions did. But Whitaker is probably unlikely to do that.

What are the implications if he doesn't follow that advice?

KATZ: Whitaker seems very unlikely to do that. With all due respect, it seems like that's exactly why Trump picked him because I have a lot of differences on policy with Sessions. He was kind of a type of hanging judge, hanging attorney general, always wanting the maximum sentence and the maximum charges from prosecutors.

He was anti-immigrant and he was anti- our marijuana laws here in California.

But he was an honorable man. He recused himself.

And after he threw himself at Donald Trump during the campaign, how did the honeymoon end?

The honeymoon ended because Sessions did have the respect for the law, to not allow political interference. He did not charge Hillary Clinton, with the far right demanding that Hillary Clinton be investigated a year, a year and a half after the campaign.

And he did have a fair recusal, that left Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to handle the matter. If sanity prevails, if the rule of law prevails in this country, Rosenstein will continue to manage the investigation, not strangle the investing of resources, not cripple it by underfunding it, also not tell Mueller, you can't do this and you can't do that.

You know, Mueller will make a very good record and history will know what this man Whitaker tells Mueller to do. It won't be hidden for all time. It will be known.

And Whitaker needs to think about that before he does something with Mueller. On top of that, let me mention one last thing, the report. The report is a critical thing. Mueller is going to make a report.

And with the Republicans in charge of everything, there was a fear that that report would get deep sixed, buried; no action would be taken. Now that report will be disclosed. It won't be sealed.

If they try to seal it, the Democratic House, come January, will make sure it gets unsealed. And the public knows what is in the Mueller report and what Mueller found out.

VAUSE: OK, David, there's a lot in this story. I think we have just barely scratched the surface. But it was a good scratch. So thanks for being with us.

KATZ: It's my pleasure, thank you.

VAUSE: "The Washington Post" reports Whitaker is unlikely to be nominated for the attorney general's job permanently. But when Donald Trump does decide on a replacement for Jeff Sessions, the confirmation process is now a whole lot easier, not only because of Republican gains in the Senate but those new incoming senators as candidates embraced the president.

And the way Donald Trump sees it, that means they owe him bigly.

As for those Republicans that ran and kept their distance, the president danced on their political graves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You had some who decided to --

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TRUMP: -- "let's stay away." "Let's stay away."

They did very poorly. I'm not sure that I should be happy or sad but I feel just fine about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: While the president's strategy of stoking racial fears and exploiting divisions worked to shore up the Senate, it was not without cost both politically and to the country.

Larry Sabato is Director of the Center for Politics at that University of Virginia. He joins us now from Charlottesville.

Good to see you, Larry. LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Let's start with the one big shiny bright spot for the president, Republican gains in the Senate. He reassembled his base in a red state. He knocked off some very vulnerable Democrats.

Maybe those Democrat senators shouldn't be there in the first place. Even so, it would suggest that Donald Trump feels emboldened with this victory under his belt, at least emboldened enough to fire his attorney general Jeff Sessions about 13 hours after the last polls closed on Tuesday.

SABATO: Well, I thought it was very kind of President Trump. He let Sessions have one last breakfast over there at the Justice Department. So I think that was very pleasant.

Look, is anybody surprised?

Is this a break from Trump's precedent?

The fact that he can call what happened on Tuesday "a near total victory" suggests a disconnect with reality. But we've seen it so often and it is so normalized, it is disturbing.

VAUSE: Look, with that in mind, here's how the president at least publicly states how he sees the next two years ahead, with Democrats now controlling the House.

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TRUMP: I really believe that we have a chance to get along very well with the Democrats. And if that's the case, we can do a tremendous amount of legislation and get it approved.

I really believe there's going to be much less gridlock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Is there anyone, including the president, who actually believes that?

SEBASTIAN: I think he can fool himself for at least 48 hours. I will be surprised if that sentiment lasts through the weekend, if you follow his Twitter account. It is lunacy.

Of course, there's going to be gridlock. There's no possible way for the Democratic leadership to work with Donald Trump on his priorities because they're directly opposed to the Democratic Party's priorities and the Democratic base would go after the leadership if they ever did it.

VAUSE: During that same very contentious news conference, Trump had no shortage of praise for Trump. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: This vigorous campaigning stopped 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 campaigning, 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: In terms of votes, though, the Democrats did better on Tuesday than the Tea Party wave in 2010, which came out against Barack Obama. But here Democrats will pick up about 30 seats in the House, compared to 2010, when the Tea Party Republicans had a gain of more than 60 seats.

So how do you explain that?

Does this just come down to gerrymandering?

SABATO: Part of it is gerrymandering, maybe about half of it. The other half is that Democrats are much more highly concentrated in a smaller number of districts, not just because of gerrymandering but because large communities, for example, of minorities or young people at college tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

And it is very difficult to split them up into different districts.

Republicans have more economically distributed their voters, almost by accident. But what is really important here is to keep this in perspective.

Republicans lost, in our view, at least in my shop, we think it is going to be 34-35 seats once all the seats have been allocated and the recounts done.

That is the most seats Republicans have lost in a midterm since the disastrous Watergate election for the Republicans in 1974. That was a long time ago. Unfortunately, I remember it but it was a long time ago.

VAUSE: And there are a lot of similarities right now with that time.

I'm curious, if you look at the strategy that the president employed here in the last few final weeks of the midterms, were you surprised that there was still such a large number of Americans that are willing to go out and vote and support a president who blatantly lied, made outrageous and bigoted statements, a man with the backing of the former KKK grand wizard, David Duke?

SABATO: Well, I'm surprised and not surprised. I'm not surprised because, as we pointed out --

[00:15:00] SABATO: -- a million times before Election Day, the Senate was being contested on very different grounds than the House of Representatives. The House was more representative of the American population, though, as you pointed out, Democrats did much better in votes than they did in seats.

But in the Senate, the key contest, for the most part were in red states, deeply red Republican states. And that is where Trump campaigned and -- personally, I think he was willing to sacrifice the House and did sacrifice the House in order to save the Senate.

So all of those things he said in rallies, that people in North Dakota and Indiana and Missouri just loved, that was a turnoff to the suburban House districts, that switched from Republican to Democratic.

VAUSE: This was considered a very tough Senate election year for the Democrats.

Will Republicans face that same uphill battle in two years' time?

Could these gains that they made on Tuesday, could they be fleeting, if you like?

SABATO: We have taken a good look at the seats up in 2020. You never know if there's a recession or an unpopular war or some awful thing like that. It may make it more difficult for the Republicans.

I have to tell you, there are only a few obvious seats that could switch and one of them is a Democratic seat, Doug Jones in Alabama; probably Cory Gardner, a Republican senator from Colorado, which has become a very blue state. That could switch.

But I'm hard pressed to see many seats that could switch because our states now, the vast majority of them, are either deeply red or deeply blue.

VAUSE: Yes. It may just keep getting bluer and redder and I guess that's the trend which we've been seeing for a while now.

Larry, thank you so much for putting everything in perspective for us.

SABATO: Thank you, John. Enjoyed it.

VAUSE: The U.S. president is still claiming progress is being made with Pyongyang in nuclear talks, even though North Korean officials canceled the meeting this week with not giving any kind of official reason.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo was expected to meet with a senior envoy but late Tuesday the North Koreans abruptly canceled. Officially the State Department is blaming the old scheduling conflict. But U.S. military officials and foreign diplomats say negotiations on denuclearization are at a standstill over the U.S. refusal to lift sanctions. But President Trump says it is all good. Don't stress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're going to change it because of trips that are being made. We're going to make it another day. But we're very happy how it is going with North Korea. We think it is going fine. We're in no rush. We're in no hurry. The sanctions are on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You still expect to be --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, no, excuse me. Wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, sir.

TRUMP: The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: CNN;'s Alexandra Field joins us from Hong Kong.

OK, the president may be playing all of this down, saying it is all good and everything is moving along. But the North Koreans, it seems, are angry and more than a little frustrated over the progress of the negotiations -- or lack thereof.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not just a scheduling conflict. It is clear that there's more going on behind the scenes. That's not just according to sources who've spoken to CNN.

It's also made quite obvious when North Korea began to ratchet up its rhetoric about a week ago, threatening to build up some of its nuclear forces if they did not soon see sanctions relief.

So this does seem to be in lockstep with a changing mood or atmosphere within North Korea. You do have these sources telling CNN they are becoming increasingly angry and increasingly frustrated, that talks are at something of an impasse, that there's a deadlock over who would make concessions first.

And the priority for North Korea really is to see some of the sanctions lifted before they would make any concessions.

We understand from some officials who are familiar with the conversations that the talks so far have focused on steps that North Korea could take, shutting down a test facility, the purported destruction from North Korea of another test facility; the possibility allowing in inspectors and taking additional unspecified steps at a new nuclear facility.

A source familiar with these talks has said that the U.S. had in exchange for some of those steps talked about the possibility of an agreement, stating the end of the Korean War. We know that's a major priority for North Korea, that North Korea was sticking to a hard line, wanting to see sanctions relief. And so it all came about this week that apparently North Korea

canceling that meeting, thinking it just would not get them anywhere. The State Department and the president in lockstep with each other, trying to show they're not sweating it, putting out this picture, this image with these words, that things are going well.

They're at least publicly expressing confidence. John, we should, of course, point out that we've seen these talks scrapped at the last minute before. It was just back in August, when Secretary Pompeo was expected to travel to Pyongyang.

At the last minute Trump called off that trip, saying there hadn't been enough progress. He then made his trip later in October. So we have seen a lot of stops and starts along the way. But certainly this is an indication that the mood does seem to be changing a bit inside Pyongyang.

VAUSE: It is the rubber band effect of diplomacy.

[00:20:00]

VAUSE: Alexandra, thank you.

When we come back, it was a night when more than 100 women shattered the glass ceiling in U.S. politics while others are reshaping the political landscape like never before. You're watching CNN.

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VAUSE: Elections in the U.S. often swing like a pendulum from embrace to rebuke. The cerebral, Vulcan-like Barack Obama, a rebuke of the frat boy, shoot from the hip George W. Bush.

Eight years before that, W. Bush was seen as a grown-up, a compassionate conservative, the antidote to the freewheeling, always close to the wind, depends on what the definition of "is" is, Bill Clinton.

And it seems the 2018 midterms were a rebuke to Donald Trump on a personal level. The response to what many consider his blatant misogyny with a record number of women elected to Congress, more than 100, mostly Democrats.

Trump has repeatedly used a racial slur to deride Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and her claim to Native American heritage. So for the first time, two Native American women have been voted in to office, Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico.

And they'll be joined by the first Muslim women in the House as well, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

And congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland is with us now from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Congratulations on what is an incredible historic milestone for Native Americans, which only took like 229 years.

DEB HAALAND (D), U.S. HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

HAALAND: Yes, I'm thrilled. Thank you so much. We worked super hard. I'm not the first -- neither Sharice nor I are the first Native American women to run for Congress. We're the first to win. So we're both thrilled.

VAUSE: It is that moment which just took so incredibly long to get to. So I'd like to play part of your victory speech from Tuesday night. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAALAND: Growing up in my mother's Pueblo household and as a 35th generation New Mexican, I never imagined a world where I would be represented by someone who looks like me.

(APPLAUSE)

HAALAND: Tonight in New Mexico, you are sending one of the very first Native American women to Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: If you look at the number of firsts from Tuesday night, including the record number of women who won office, in a way, did the American voters cross the Rubicon?

HAALAND: Yes, I think that more and more women will run now that they see themselves in this body of our government. I think more women will run, more women will win.

I, as the first Native American woman in Congress, I intend to keep the ladder down so that I can encourage other Native women to climb up.

VAUSE: How much of this moment --

[00:25:00]

VAUSE: -- is being driven as a counter response to the words and the actions of the current U.S. president?

HAALAND: I think, yes, I think many, many women who ran this time around were inspired by the Women's March. They were inspired by a number of things. You know, their children suffering from gun violence and, you know, their communities being disenfranchised from voting.

There's a lot of reasons why women of color are running for office. There's several reasons why they're winning; namely, because they're all working extremely hard and know what is at stake in this era, in this political era. So, I joined -- I felt that our voice needed to be heard and that is why I ran.

VAUSE: It does seem that this is a president who, in many ways, seems determined to roll back the progress and the gains which have been made over the years when it minorities, especially to minorities as well as women.

HAALAND: Absolutely. Well, we can just look at the voting rights issues that happened across the country this time around: in North Dakota, disenfranchising Native Americans; in Georgia, disenfranchising African Americans and other people of color and also in Kansas, in that small town.

It is terrible that the Republicans have to do that in order to win.

VAUSE: The Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, she was asked about the record-breaking number of women who will be seated in the next Congress and what role they will all play. This is her answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Now they have more women coming in, will we have more emphasis on things like childcare and this and that?

We have a big emphasis on that. And we need to make it stronger in the majority. I want women to not just be talking about those issues because we view every issue as a woman's issue. We believe in national security of our country is a woman's issue. The economic security of our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And the same could be said for what you basically campaigned on. These are issues which are just not issues unique to Native Americans. You promised to fight climate change when you get to Congress.

HAALAND: Absolutely. Well, we don't have much time left. This is the issue of our time. You know, a lot of folks have mentioned to me that that's not an issue that a lot of folks are campaigning on.

But I am. I'm a lifelong environmentalist. New Mexico has over 310 days of sun per year. We should be a leader in renewable energy because I think it could create a lot of jobs and be really good for our economy.

VAUSE: Very quickly. I want to ask you, how do you see Congress benefiting from being more diverse and from hearing people like yourself on these big challenges and issues that affect everybody?

HAALAND: Absolutely. All of these women, women of color and, you know, the women who are coming into office now, they all have different backgrounds. They come from different parts of the country. They have different experiences, to go to Congress and share.

I just truly believe that representation matters and that diversity matters. We need all of our voices at the table to solve the issues of our time. So I have full faith that women will be right there, making the change we need for this country.

VAUSE: I wish you the best of luck. Congresswoman Deb Haaland, thank you so much and good luck.

HAALAND: OK, thanks.

VAUSE: Defensive, defiant and downright angry, the U.S. president facing reporters on Wednesday just hours after he lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Sit down, please. Sit down! I didn't call you. I didn't call you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[00:30:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Thanks for staying with us. I'm John Vause. An update now on the top stories this hour, Donald Trump has fired his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. U.S. President has been at odds with Sessions ever since he recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Sessions' Chief of Staff, Matthew Whitaker is critical of that investigation, has been named Acting Attorney General.

CNN has learned a high-level meeting set to Thursday between Senior U.S. and North Korean officials that was probably called off by North Korea without explanation. The talks were meant to help pave the way for a second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

But sources say, those negotiations are deadlocked. Mr. Trump brushed it off, saying his administration is in no rush to seal a deal with Pyongyang.

Two children kidnapped from a Cameroon boarding school, assuming held hostage, following the release of 78 of their classmates. The school officials said the children's parents are high-ranking members of the government. Police spokesman claims the hostage takers are Anglophone separatist fighters are calling for independence from the Cameroon's French-speaking majority government.

Today, the Republicans lost control of the lower House. A combative and visibly angry President Trump faced reporters at a White House news conference on Wednesday. Keep in mind, just two days earlier, the President said he would like to try and soften his tone.

Even so, he seemed to hit a new low and nasty, and once again called reporters the enemy of the people. Here's one exchange between the President and CNN's Jim Acosta, who would ask him about the migrant caravan in Mexico. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: They're hundreds of miles away, though. They're hundreds and hundreds of miles away.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know what?

ACOSTA: That's not an invasion.

TRUMP: Honestly, I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN.

ACOSTA: All right.

TRUMP: And if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.

ACOSTA: Let me ask -- If I may ask a question.

TRUMP: OK. That's enough.

ACOSTA: Mr. President -- if I may ask you --

TRUMP: Peter, go ahead.

ACOSTA: one other question. Are you worried --

TRUMP: That's enough. That's enough.

ACOSTA: Mr. President --

TRUMP: That's enough. That's enough.

ACOSTA: The other folks.

TRUMP: That's enough.

ACOSTA: Pardon me, Ma'am. Mr. President --

TRUMP: Excuse me, that's enough.

ACOSTA: Mr. President, I have one other question. If I may ask on --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The President's often short fuse was shorter than usual, when a reporter asked him why he'd call himself a nationalist just a few weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: On the campaign trail, you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that as an emboldening white nationalist. Now, people are also saying --

TRUMP: I don't know why you should say that.

ALCINDOR: that the President --

TRUMP: It's such a racist question.

ALCINDOR: There are some people that say that now, the Republican Party is seen supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric.

TRUMP: Oh, I don't believe that. I don't believe that.

ALCINDOR: What do you make of that?

TRUMP: I don't believe. I just -- well, I don't know. Why do I have my highest poll numbers, ever, with African-Americans? That's such a racist question. Honestly, I mean, I know you haven't written it down and you're going to tell me. Let me tell you, that's a racist question. But to say that -- what you said is so insulting to me, it's a very terrible thing that you said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist and L.A. Times Columnist, Michael Hiltzik, is with us now from Los Angeles. Michael, Michael, Michael. OK. When all of this began --

MICHAEL HILTZIK, COLUMNIST, L.A. TIMES: John, John, John.

VAUSE: It just seemed like a garden variety sleepy Donald Trump statement, you know, the President reading words badly from a teleprompter, but then, came the meltdown. Here's a little bit more of it. This is what happened when Peter Alexander with NBC News, tried to defend Jim Acosta. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Peter, go ahead.

PETER ALEXANDER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: In Jim's defense, I've travelled with him in Washington. He's a diligent reporter who busts his butt like the rest of us.

TRUMP: Well, I'm not a big fan of yours, either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: OK. So, any of the questions -- were any of the actions of the reporters out of line? You know, I'm always been taken aback at how differential this presidential news conferences are, compared to other countries like, you know, Australia and Britain?

HILTZIK: Well, I agree with you. I've been in -- at press conferences all over the world. They don't take no for an answer. They don't take prisoners. I think you're right. This press corps has been far too deferential. They've left Trump, sort of, ran with the (INAUDIBLE) in his teeth.

I think, if there's anything encouraging by this -- from this display today, it's that maybe the White House press corps is going to show more spying going forward. But I think what we really saw is, Donald Trump as the quintessential projector.

[00:35:11] He projects his faults on other people. He calls reporters, rude, and he does it rudely. He is -- he has embraced racism. He's been embraced by racists. And when he's asked about it, he labels the question, racist.

And basically, he is -- he is trying to invest, the people who are doing their jobs by questioning him, with all of his absolutely worst faults, and there are more of them than we know how to count.

VAUSE: Yes. You know, amid the yelling and the demands reporters to sit down, there was this exchange between the President and a reporter from Japan. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, can you tell us how you focus on the economic --

TRUMP: Where are you from, please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Japan.

TRUMP: Say hello -- say hello to Shinzo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TRUMP: I'm sure he's happy about tariffs on his cars. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) so how you focus on the trade and economy with Japan? You asked Japan to do more? Would you think (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: I don't -- I really don't understand you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And he did that again to another reporter, I think from somewhere Latin America. But, is he trying to bait reporters into a conflict here? Is he trying to put us in a position of being the real opposition that he really wants us to be?

HILTZIK: Well, I think, that may be part of what motivated this meltdown and this display that he wanted to -- he wanted the reporters to come back at him as impolitely as he treated them. I think to Jim Acosta's credit and Peter Alexander and April Ryan, who got baited as well.

You know, I think they handled it very well, very politely, with a great deal of dignity, because they were being faced with a school- yard bully, and essentially, somebody who acts like an 8-year-old. And I have to say, I think it's going to get worse before it gets better, because he really is acting as though he's got his back against the wall.

He's got two months left before Democrats actually take power in the House of Representatives and really start investigating him for all of the wrongdoing that has been going on, the lavish, lavish criminality that's been in this administration, up to now.

VAUSE: You know, he threatened to retaliate against Democrats if they try to investigate his administration, you know, which is a blatant abuse of power, and this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But they can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You know, then, it got really weird, with Trump suggesting he had a secret plan to solve the whole abortion debate in the country. Again, listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I won't be able to explain that to you because it is an issue that is a very divisive polarizing issue. But there is a solution, I think I have that solution, and nobody else does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: If the President gets this unhinged, this abusive, this Looney Tunes, after a few tough questions, you know, from the press corps, how will he react when the Democrats in the House use their new subpoena power to go after his tax returns, his family, you know, his business records?

HILTZIK: Well, I don't think it's going to be very pretty. And just, you know, he's in a side, for him to think that the U.S. Senate is going to investigate the House of Representatives, I think -- you know -- he -- somebody has to sit him down and counsel him about how our government works and how the three branches of government work, because he clearly has no idea what he's talking about.

VAUSE: Would not be the first time. We did hear from the Republican senator and the President's new best friend, Lindsey Graham, he tweeted this out, it's apparent to me the White House press corps lives in a bubble and the way they are conducting themselves today will do nothing to improve their standing with the American people.

You know, politicians attacking the media, that's always been seen as a win-win. Is that still the case here with Trump's news conference where reporters be the one who come off second best? Did the President just simply go way too far this time?

HILTZIK: You know, I don't think that politicians denigrating reporters has been a win -- necessarily been a win for them all the time. I mean, we just need to go back to Richard Nixon who played the same game. He wasn't quite as rude and childish as Trump, although, he was pretty rude and childish himself. He did not win that battle. He -- it did not make him look better.

It did not raise the estimation, the esteem that he has held by the American public, it lowered it. I think you are going to see the same thing with Trump. And I think we have seen that already.

I think if you look at the results from Tuesday's elections, it is plain that a lot of the voters who Trump thought were in his base, are disgusted with him and voted against him in great numbers.

[00:40:16] I mean, this was a massive win for Democrats in terms of the seats they gained in the House of Representatives.

So, I think -- I think, and somewhere, deep down, he's aware of that. And that's what he's reacting to for all of the persiflage that he uttered today about how it was a great night for him and he is celebrating a victory, that's just wrong. That squares with common sense and it squares the facts.

And I think he knows it. And I think he knows he is going to face a really tough two years with the Democrats in power in the House of Representative -- in the House of Representatives. And that is what we're going to see. And as I said, we're going to see more of it and it is going to get worse before it gets better, if it ever gets better.

VAUSE: Well, yes. The coddled presidency of Donald Trump has come to an end, at least, when January hits. So, Michael, as always, great to see you, thank you.

HILTZIK: Happy to be here.

VAUSE: Still to come, why one political race in Nevada, proves you don't actually have to be alive to be elected into office.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Well, the U.S. midterm elections had a few unusual and surprising results, like the dead guy, he won in Nevada. Here's Lynda Kinkade.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tuesday's midterm elections in the U.S. were full of surprises. One race proving you don't even have to be alive, to win. Dennis Hof, a Nevada brothel owner and reality T.V. star, who died last month, won Nevada's 36th assembly district. Hof, who ran as a Republican, beat Democratic challenger, Lesia Romanov by more than 7,000 votes.

Felony indictments were also not a hurdle for two Republican congressmen, Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California, both winning.

With Democrats taking the House, and Republicans holding the Senate, it can be hard to figure out where America's head is. Sometimes, you have to look at the state and local level, to learn about America's priorities, like a few quirky amendments, also in the ballot.

In the state of Colorado, a referendum was passed to remove language from the state constitution that allowed forced prison labor without pay, believe it or not, more than a dozen states, technically, still allowing voluntary servitude, as a form of criminal punishment.

In Georgia, the so-called brunch bill on the (INAUDIBLE) mandate passed, restaurants will now be allowed to start serving alcohol on Sundays from 11 a.m., rather than the current time of 12:30 p.m.

Pink was the color of the day in Nevada. The majority there voted to strike down the pink tax on feminine hygiene products. That will be exempt from sales tax through to 2028.

And begged into the ballot in Michigan, was a measure allowing recreational marijuana use for people over 21. But don't light up just yet, marijuana won't be commercially available there, for sale, until 2020.

And one of the weirdest ballot initiatives was in Florida. Voters there passed a referendum bending offshore drilling and vaping, in one amendment. The state put together two completely unrelated issues, one, prohibiting offshore oil and gas drilling, and the other, banning the use of e-cigarettes in indoor workplaces, both approved.

[00:45:12] From ballot bundling to brunches, and even the election of a dead brothel owner, 2018, is now one, for the history books. Lynda Kinkade, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN.

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[00:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)

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