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Likely Incoming Judiciary Chairman: Whitaker "Not Fit"; Wexton & Slotkin Will Not Support Pelosi as Next House Speaker; Trump Threatens to Pull More Press Pass after Clash with Jim Acosta; Trump Slams Michelle Obama After Saying Trump Put Her Family in Danger Peddling Birther Conspiracy. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 9, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:00] REP. JERRY NADLER, (D), NEW YORK: He's also illegal because he cannot be attorney general until he is confirmed by the Senate. He cannot act as attorney general until he's confirmed by the Senate because the Constitutional requires that.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's what he believes.

What does the new House majority, Democratic majority, what can they and will they do about it?

Joining me now, wo members of the incoming freshman class in the House, two members who just flipped red seats to blue in the midterm election, Virginia's Jennifer Wexton, and Michigan's Elissa Slotkin.

Thank you both so much for being here.



BOLDUAN: Congresswoman-Elect Wexton, Matt Whitaker, what is your reaction to the president making him acting attorney general?

WEXTON: Well, we're not quite sure what the president's intentions are, but it looks like he's making a move to end the Mueller investigation. I would call upon the members of Congress, who are going to be leaving soon, to do the right thing on the way out the door and pass the legislation that would protect the independent counsel's office. I think that protecting the Mueller investigation is more important now than ever.

BOLDUAN: Do you think it's -- I actually talked to Nadler about that. He actually suggested that Democrats should hold up funding the government at the end of the year in order to get that passed. Do you support that? You have a lot of federal employees in your district? WEXTON: I do not support shutting down the government. But I think

that they need to try to push it through as soon as they can. This is a real opportunity for all of those members, who declined to run again, to do the right thing on the way out the door.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman-Elect Slotkin, we're talking about Whitaker. He has made no secret of his criticism of the Russia investigation, the special counsel, or his views on constraining that investigation. He said it here on CNN. Officials are allowed to have personal opinions. Why is that disqualifying?

SLOTKIN: I just think it shows a bias that is something we should be deeply concerned about. We need to let the Mueller investigation go forward. He's been on record talking about his concerns about it. And he actually described ways he would shrink the budget and sort of starve the investigation. It has to go forward. Let the rule of law, you know, lead. And I just think someone who has been so open about that, it raises deep concerns about his role and leadership.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman-Elect Wexton, Nancy Pelosi wants to be speaker again. During the campaign, you did not say publicly if you would support her. It is now a very real question before you, post- election. Will you support her as speaker of the House?

WEXTON: Well, I still need to know who the candidates are who are running. And quite frankly, after the last 20 months of giving everybody my elevator speech, I'm looking forward to having some candidates giving me their elevator speeches for a change.

BOLDUAN: What do you need to hear though? I'm very curious. What do you need to hear from Nancy Pelosi in order to support her? She would say the proof is in the pudding, she has already shown you why you should support her, she helped win back the majority in the House.

WEXTON: I want to hear what the vision is for the future of the caucus. You know, what kind of legislative priorities they intend for us to push when we get into the majority, and just, you know, what they see for now and in the future. Somebody who can unite and inspire our caucus going forward.

BOLDUAN: You're still not ready to say how you have decided. I promise you, you will be hearing from Nancy Pelosi very soon.


BOLDUAN: Congresswoman-Elect Slotkin, you have come out, you were very public that you will not support Nancy Pelosi. Does anything in that change post-Tuesday?

SLOTKIN: No. I have been really clear for a long time now, I never want to be disrespectful to anyone who served, especially a woman who broke glass ceilings, but we need to hear what people are telling us on the ground. They want a new generation that thinks differently and works harder and takes the caucus in a new direction. I think that's on both sides of the aisle, so I have been open about that and I'm sticking to it. BOLDUAN: See, Congresswoman, there's your elevator pitch for change.

You need it.


Elissa Slotkin has provided you.

I do want to finally ask both of you -- first to you, Congresswoman- Elect Wexton -- what does it mean to be part of this historic class of incoming lawmakers? A record number of women serving in the House. I was reporting from your election-night headquarters and saw all of the women who were there supporting you, and men, supporting you and talking about kind of the history that was going to be made.

WEXTON: It's amazing. I mean, just the inspiring class of new freshman women we're going to have joining us. And we saw a lot of the women getting involved and forming new groups, Moms Demand and New Chapters and things like that. And we saw what they did in Virginia. We were on the leading edge of this transition in our races last year where we elected 11 new women to the House of delegates. This year, all three of the new members of Congress are women. And it's fantastic.

[11:34:59] Congresswoman-Elect Slotkin, what do you want the message to be from your win?

SLOTKIN: Yes, well, to be honest with you, I'm interested in more midwestern Democrats coming to the fore in the party. I think that we are practical, reasonable, willing to work across the aisle, and extremely focused on this very, very basic idea that every hard- working American deserves a fair share, no more and no less. I think sometimes those issues, particularly related to jobs and wages and the economy, get lost in the shuffle. So I think we could do with a few more midwestern leaders. I'm happy to be a part of that class. And I think, for me, that's really the proof in the pudding when we got elected that you can run that way and still really win. And we need the Midwest. I hope to bring some of that leadership.

BOLDUAN: We'll see you both in Washington.

Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

WEXTON: Thanks.

SLOTKIN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Trump taking a familiar posture. When faced with tough questions from reporters, he ramps up his war on the free press. Now suggesting a new crackdown. That's next.


[11:40:40] BOLDUAN: New attack on journalists today, leveling a new threat today, to revoke White House credentials from reporters. This comes after the White House pulled the press pass of my colleague, CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, after the back and forth he had with the president during the bonkers press conference that was Wednesday.

Here's what the president said this morning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as I'm concerned, I haven't made that decision, but it could be others also. When you're in the White House, this is a very sacred place to me. This is a very special place. You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect.


BOLDUAN: CNN's chief media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, is here with me now.

I don't know, what do you make of what he said today?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": This was never about Jim Acosta. I think the president's comments this morning now make that really clear. This was never about Acosta. Acosta happens to be the first reporter who has been targeted by this administration and had his press pass taken away. The question now is, who is next? Who else is the White House going to target? The president is making that clear in these comments. He's saying he may strip other reporters of their credentials.

I've tried to go back through history, Kate, and find examples of this in other governments, other administrations. There aren't any. The closest parallels are to the Nixon administration. But simply put, this doesn't happen in America. Press passes are not taken away by White Houses. And, yet, here we are. We're now at that point where it's happening.

And by the way, notice what the president did in that comment. He brought up April Ryan, unprompted. He suggested she might be the next person to be targeted this way. So this is a serious challenge for the White House Correspondents Association. That's the group that represents the White House press corps. They have to decide what are they going to do, what are other White House reporters going to do to take a stand against this un-American action.

BOLDUAN: It's really important. This isn't about someone's style or someone speaking out of turn. This is -- this comes down to the access that the American people, through the press, has to the president to ask tough questions. That is very simply what this is about. No one should support tough questions not being able to be asked anymore.

STELTER: You can hate Jim Acosta -- you can love Jim Acosta or you can hate Jim Acosta, but you have to respect his ability to be there.


STELTER: The point here is that it's not about Acosta. It's about the White House trying to choose who gets to cover the Trump administration. And that's not going to fly.

Look, Jim's still doing reporting, still doing the work. You don't have to be at the White House to do parts of the job, but you do have to be there to ask the president questions.


STELTER: The president is trying to pick his questioners.

BOLDUAN: I think, even before this, but especially now at this point, what the president, how the president reacted to Abby Phillip's very fair question, calling it a stupid question, really personally attacking her. No question. Look at the tape, what he was doing.


BOLDUAN: It cannot go unnoticed, the reporters that he's attacking. There's a pattern here. We're talking about Abby Phillip, we're talking about April Ryan, as you mentioned, we're also talking about the PBS reporter who asked a fair, tough question in the press conference as well, you're talking about African-American women.

STELTER: Yes. The president has a problem here. I know that his supporters like to say he's an equal-opportunity insulter, an equal- opportunity offender, but that's not the case. He has a problem with women, and he has a problem with people of color. And unfortunately, there are not many African-American women covering this White House, but time and time again, it's those reporters that the president goes after. Calling April Ryan "nasty" this morning. Saying that Abby asks a lot of stupid questions.

And it's not just me saying this. Here's what Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee has just said on Twitter. She weighed in on this and pointed to all three of them, and tried to draw the connection that's very clear. She said -- this is the congresswoman saying, "Dismissing them or their questions as dumb, racist or stupid, says more about Trump and his dog-whistle racism than it does about these fine women."

Again, I know Trump's defenders will say he attacks everyone, he insults everyone. But there's a pattern of him insulting women and minorities more often when he's in these exchanges with the press.

BOLDUAN: Remember how he attacked Cecelia Vega? Remember during that press conference?


BOLDUAN: Same darn thing --


STELTER: -- ask the question, yes.

BOLDUAN: The same darn thing. The way he reacts to a woman asking a tough question, an African-American woman asking a tough question, it is -- you can see a different reaction in how the president reacts. STELTER: And if the president's supporters can take off their

partisan glasses for a moment, this is not a red-or-blue issue at all.

[11:45:04] BOLDUAN: Yes.

Great to see you, Brian. Thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, the president slamming former first lady, Michelle Obama, after she says Trump put her family in danger when he was peddling the Birther conspiracy. That's next.


BOLDUAN: Former first lady, Michelle Obama, like you never heard from her. For the first time, revealing to ABC News deeply private details about her struggle to have children, and challenges in her marriage. Listen to this.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Young people out there, who think that marriage is supposed to be easy, and marriage counseling for us was one of those ways where we learned how to talk out our differences.

I know too many young couples who struggle and think that somehow there's something wrong with them. I want them to know that Michelle and Barack Obama, who have a phenomenal marriage and who love each other, we work on our marriage. We get help with our marriage when we need it.


BOLDUAN: This all comes from her memoir set to release next week. Obama also writes in her memoirs that she -- and these are her words -- can "never forgive" President Trump for amplifying the Birther conspiracy.

The president, in maybe the most unsurprising move this morning, responded to her.


[11:49:57] TRUMP: I guess she wrote a book. She got paid a lot of money to write a book. And they always insist that you come up with controversial. I'll give you a little controversy back. I'll never forgive him for what he did to our United States military. By not funding it properly, it was depleted. Everything was old and tired. And I came in and I had to fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, CNN contributor, Kate Anderson Brower. She's written three books about the White House, including, "First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies." And CNN editor-at-large and politics reporter, Chris Cillizza.

Kate, I find it fascinating that Michelle Obama opens up in the way she did about her marriage. As the "Washington Post" put it today, "The first lady memoire is a rite of passage, but Obama's is different by virtue of her identity."

How is it likely to compare to other first ladies' memoires?

KATE ANDERSON BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: She's in a unique position. I've written about this before. She doesn't relate to a lot of other first ladies who lived in the White House because she is the first African-American first lady and so she has that unique role. She has relatives who were enslaved. She comes from a different perspective.

But the candor here is wonderful. We have been missing this from this first lady in this White House. Someone able to talk about being a working mother. There is a story where she was talking about sneaking out to lunch when her daughter was young and sitting in the car and listening to the radio. I think there's something very relatable about her that people gravitate towards. And the infertility struggles is another sign of that. And I think it's wonderful.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I want to get to that.

Chris, from the early parts of the reveal -- "Washington Post" got an early copy -- she does not hold back when it comes to politics, especially with the current president. The "Washington Post" quoting this from the book, "The whole Birther thing was crazy and mean spirited. Of course, it's underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed but it was also dangerous, deliberately to stir up the wing nuts and kooks," she writes. "But if someone with an unstable mind with a loaded a gun and drove to Washington, what if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump and his loud and reckless inuendo was putting our families' safety at risk and, for this, I'd never forgive him."

Never forgive him. I mean, it couldn't be more clear than that.

CILLIZZA: It's strong words, but it's an important point, too, which is Donald Trump either doesn't know or doesn't care -- it amounts to the same thing -- but what impact his words have on the people listening. While he, I believe in my heart of hearts, doesn't really hate the media in any way, shape or form, and he cares deeply about what the media thinks and how they cover him, he doesn't know how his attacks on the media -- and he did a lot of that in his press conference this morning -- have an impact. He doesn't know his attacks on other politicians have an impact on the people hearing it, Kate. Not just on him saying it. That, to me, is the concerning thing. There's reverberations and impacts that go well beyond what Donald Trump meant when he said it. I don't think he grasps -- he doesn't either grasp or doesn't care about it. But, either way, it leads to dangerous, at least potential, outcomes and that's not what we need from a president.

BOLDUAN: Kate, do first ladies ever talk about the current president like this in their books?

ANDERSON BROWER: No. Spoken from the heart, Laura Bush's memoir, is very honest about her personal life, and Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton had fascinating memoirs, but no word this charged. I think she is giving back some of what he has given to her.

But to Chris's point, listen to what he said about President Obama, if there's an unspoken code among former sitting presidents not to talk about each other like this. So he has changed the game. So, of course, she is coming out and being very honest in her book.

BOLDUAN: I hope we have time. I want to play what she did, talking about her struggles having a child. Listen to this.


OBAMA: I felt lost and alone and I felt like I failed. Because I didn't know how common miscarriages were. Because we don't talk about it. We sit in our own pain thinking that somehow we are broken. That's one of the reasons why it's important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen. The biological clock is real. We had to do IVF. The worst thing that we do as women is not share the truth about our bodies and how they work and how they don't work.


BOLDUAN: I think this is huge for women to hear, Kate?

ANDERSON BROWER: Yes. I think it's wonderful for her to come out and talk about this. We've heard a couple of other celebrities talk about miscarriage, but to have a former first lady talk about this is powerful. I think it is something so private for many women. It's important to hear from her.

It brings back so many memories of what she was like as a first lady. You would see her with young girls, and hugging them in the East Room, and talking about growing up in the southside of Chicago in an apartment and paying off student loans. I think there's a void in our culture right now, we don't have a consoler in chief and don't have a first lady who is relatable.

[11:55:10] BOLDUAN: Quickly, I want to correct myself on one thing. This isn't just important for women to hear.

Chris, it's important for men to hear you and I talk about our --

CILLIZZA: Yes. All the time.

BOLDUAN: our family struggles all the time. And I want to correct myself on that one.

I've got to go. CILLIZZA: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Guys, it's great to see you.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Coming up, the president attempting to distance himself from the man it seems that he appointed to be the acting attorney general. Stay with us.


BOLDUAN: Now, one of our top "CNN Heroes" this year, a woman on a mission to help victims of sex trafficking.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: Nobody wakes up and decides one day I'm going to sell my body and give the money away. Traffickers or pimps know exactly what they are doing. Much of it is on the Internet now. They are going on dating Web sites and gaming. They're looking for young, vulnerable women anywhere where young women might hang out.

My vision was to have a home where women could come and find safety and find themselves.


BOLDUAN: For more on her story, go to You can also vote for her for "Hero of the Year" or any of your favorites from the top-10 heroes.


[11:59:37] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITIC. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The Florida Senate race appears headed for a recount. And the Democrat opens a narrow lead in Arizona's Senate contest. The president, absent any evidence, suggests foul play.

Plus, Michelle Obama says in a new book that will never forgive Mr. Trump because his Birther conspiracy, she says, stirred anger and put her family at risk.

And as we learn more about the victims of the California nightclub massacre, this tribute from a survivor who says Cody Coffman was helping others escape when he was gunned down.