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CNN NEWSROOM

Deja Vu Vote Recounts Likely in Florida; Three Major California Fires Force Evacuations, Destroy Thousands of Structures; Democrats Plot Plans to Address Sessions' Firing and to Protect Mueller; There's Been Growing Concern in the White House Over Acting Attorney General's Backlash; Trump Threatens to Investigate Democrats if They Investigate Him; Florida Braces for Recounts in Governor and Senate Races; Investigators Search for Motive in Thousand Oaks Bar Shooting; Video Captures Horror Inside California Bar Under Attack; California Gunman Posted Message About Shooting on Facebook. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 9, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:06] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

Poppy, can you believe it's Friday?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I can't. I'm wishing you a good weekend already, but I think a lot is going to happen in the next few hours.

I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. I'm so glad you're with us on this Friday.

What a week it has been. The president swamped with turmoil back at home for a spot on the global stage in Paris. He and the first lady are set to leave the White House in moments. Will the president stop to talk to reporters on the way to Marine One? Of course we'll be watching.

SCIUTTO: Also this morning, brace yourselves for this. Chilling new cell phone video from inside the California bar at the moment the gunman opened fire. A warning, take this seriously, this video can be disturbing.

We're getting new details about the victims and the shooter, including a disturbing Facebook message that he posted moments before the massacre.

HARLOW: Also, to Florida we go. Is this the 2000 election all over again, folks? The state of Florida bracing for a recount. The Senate race and the gubernatorial race both too close to call. Broward County, Palm Beach County, again at the center of the drama. That is where we find our Ryan Nobles. He joins us this morning actually from Tallahassee.

Good morning to you. Wow. I mean, do you remember 2000? So where are we this morning?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. No doubt a lot of people here in Florida are getting a sense of deja vu as to what's happening here with these two big races. Actually there's a number of races in Florida that could be in a recount situation, including another statewide race for agriculture commissioner. But we're keeping a close eye on that governor's race and the Florida Senate race.

The margin continues to shrink from what we saw on election night, and that's because the vote count in Broward and Palm Beach County continues to trickle in. And that has Republicans and Democrats concerned. Their concerns are different, though. Democrats just want to see every vote counted. Republicans want an explanation as to why it's taking so long and why they are not getting answers.

And Florida Governor Rick Scott who's the candidate for U.S. Senate, who has the lead in that race right now, held a hastily announced press conference last night to make some pretty serious accusations. Listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.

(END VIDEO CLIP) \ NOBLES: Now it's important to keep in mind that Governor Scott didn't provide any evidence of this fraud, but he has asked the Florida Bureau of Law Enforcement to look into it. He's also filed two lawsuits against the supervisors of elections in both of those counties demanding answers and wanting transparency.

And I should say, it is important to point out that Democrats are also very frustrated that it's taking so long for Broward and Palm Beach County to collect these ballots. The question here today is, are they doing something criminal or nefarious, or is it just incompetence?

Regardless it's leaving the entire state in a degree of limbo here because at this state, Poppy and Jim, they do not know who their next governor or U.S. senator is going to be. And those are two pretty important jobs -- Jim.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Time warp to 18 years ago year 2000.

Ryan Nobles, thanks very much.

Joining us now CNN senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten and CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel.

Harry, let me begin with you. The president is alleging here very publicly via Twitter of criminal activity regarding this recount. Is there any evidence of fraud in those counties as they begin a recount?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: No. There is no evidence. And obviously for the president to say things about voter fraud before and didn't actually have the receipts to back it up.

I mean, I should say Brenda Snipes who runs the election board down there in Broward County has had problems in the past and, in fact, she destroyed ballots after she said that basically she was told not to destroy them. She said, "I made copies of them," and then she got rid of them. But there was no sign that she never not counted those ballots or made up votes. But there's just a lot of what I would call incompetence going on down there. I should point out that she now claims most of those votes in Broward have in fact come in. So it's going to be interesting to see where exactly Bill Nelson does make up that still 15,000, 16,000 vote deficit that he has.

HARLOW: All right, to Jamie, I mean, few points here. This is personal to the president because, obviously, he's a vested interest in this. He has a home in Palm Beach County. But what is so different this time than 2000 is the rhetoric and the baseless claims. We never heard in Bush and Gore this is fraud, this is corruption, this is that. I mean, and Rick Scott had taken a page right out of the president's playbook, it seems.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. The rhetoric is starting hot very, very quickly.

[09:05:04] But let's not discount how upset everyone was in 2000.

HARLOW: Sure.

GANGEL: That was -- but here we may not have hanging chads this time. We may not have a Supreme Court battle this time. But we do have lawsuits. We do have Palm Beach County and Broward County. And the other thing that I think is important is this could take a long time, which also happened in 2000. If there is a recount, it will not start until after all the ballots are counted the first time, which, as Harry said, it's taking a long time.

HARLOW: Right.

GANGEL: And then you have to remember that ballots from overseas in Florida have 10 days to come in.

HARLOW: OK.

GANGEL: So we're going to be potentially 10 days plus out of election day and then a possible recount.

HARLOW: But if it's about five weeks is what it took back in 2000, the decision was made by the Supreme Court in mid-December.

GANGEL: Right.

HARLOW: So we're looking at the matter of weeks here, not a matter of months, right?

GANGEL: Correct. The other thing, though, to keep in mind is this is not just about the midterm election.

HARLOW: Right, sure.

GANGEL: Florida is always about the presidential election, a bellwether.

HARLOW: Yes.

GANGEL: Will it -- will it hold and Trump wants Florida to hold.

HARLOW: Yes, yes.

SCIUTTO: Harry Enten, let me ask you this question. Of course in 2000 it went to the Supreme Court and in a very, you know, tight 5-4 decision and sadly someone along partisan lines decided to stop the recount. Here that can't really happen, can it? Right? Because Florida law requires a manual recount if the margin is below, is that right, 0.2 percent, right?

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: So there is going to be a manual recount in the Senate race at least regardless of what any court decides. Do I have that right?

ENTEN: Yes. I believe that's correct. And I should point out that the governor's race is below 0.5 percent, which is -- will get you a recount but won't get you that manual recount of those under votes and those over votes as in the case in the Senate race.

I should also note that back in 2000, the margin was considerably tighter in the presidential race than it is right now in the Senate race, so the margin was 0.03 percentage points back in 2000. It is about six times that right now in the Senate race, 0.18 percentage points, I believe. So Bill Nelson has a lot of votes to make up. So even if we go through this entire recount, I'm not probably expecting -- unless they can find votes, and Marc Elias who's Nelson's attorney, believes that those votes are out there, we'll see. But unless they can find votes we shouldn't obfuscate the fact that this is still a large margin to make up at this time. But of course we'll count the votes and we'll see what happens.

HARLOW: Jamie.

GANGEL: The other thing to keep in mind is this will not change the makeup of the Senate. Even if there are three races out there outstanding, even if they all went to Democrats, and that's unlikely, we would still be at 51-49. Obviously, the Republicans want to hold every seat they can in the Senate, but it won't change the people who control the Senate.

HARLOW: But, Jamie, can I just get you to weigh in as someone who had so much experience covering this back in 2000 and now the danger in the language? Right? When you have Rick Scott saying rampant fraud with no evidence provided and you have the president saying corruption scandal, election fraud. Even if there is no evidence of that, it plants the seed.

GANGEL: Absolutely. And no question, as you said, Rick Scott is taking a page out of Donald Trump's playbook. This is a new political atmosphere. Look, politics is always rough and gloves off.

HARLOW: Right.

GANGEL: But there is no question that this is the Trump playbook and they are going after it very, very hard.

SCIUTTO: Harry, before we go, quick question on the Arizona Senate race because that one appears as the numbers come in to be more solidly Democrat Sinema over McSally. Is that your read at this point with that 9,000 vote lead there with the ballots to be counted?

ENTEN: Yes, so it's really a matter of how many ballots you have of each type, when they came in. So the ones that came in last night were from early votes that were dropped off between the Friday and Monday before the election. Those lean more Democratic. There are still a lot of votes to be counted. Those that were dropped off at the ballot site that came in on the Tuesday, Election Day, those are likely to be more Republican. There are slightly more of those left than the Friday through Monday batch.

But my understanding is that you still have about 470,000 votes to be counted. A lot to be counted. So it is unclear which way that will go. But if Florida leans a little bit towards Rick Scott, the Republicans, the race in Arizona leans a little bit more towards Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat. But again a lot of votes to be counted so we'll just have to wait and see.

HARLOW: A waiting game. Wait and see and everyone wants to know right now.

Jamie Gangel, Harry Enten, great to have you both. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, listen, so many tight races.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: If you have any doubt that your vote matters --

HARLOW: Here you go.

[09:10:02] SCIUTTO: That should be erased now. Thanks to both of you.

Other big story we're following this morning, and I got to tell you, the pictures are just remarkable and frightening. Wildfires out of control burning across California. In the north, the so-called Camp Fire torching 80-football fields per minute. Per minute. More than 40,000 residents forced to leave their homes. And you see the sad end for some of those homes there. Some capturing their frightening escape on social media.

HARLOW: The Camp Fire just one of these three raging across the state. In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire is destroying buildings, threatening homes, forcing thousands to flee.

Let's go there. Our Scott McLean joins us now. Scott, gosh, it was just a few months ago when all of those fires just

ravaged California and now this.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now this. Now we've got 30,000 homes that are currently being threatened by this Woolsey Fire. This is a fire that didn't exist just 16 hours ago. It is that young, and it has moved that fast. You can see it is already claiming some homes. This is a home near the mountainside, but what's odd about this is that you see this home on fire and then you see the home next door over here on the right-hand side. It is completely OK.

But in a lot of these cases, Poppy and Jim, it's not the flames that are the risk for these homes, it is the embers flying in the air. You can see this hillside. It's completely torched over here. And it's these embers that will fly through the air and end up sparking some things.

Daybreak in California makes it a lot harder to see the flames, but a lot easier to see the smoke. And you can see just how much of it is on the horizon. You can also see there is a firefighter that's arrived to perhaps put this fire out. We're just going to get out of the way here, and we'll let them obviously do their work.

But, you know, we've talked to a lot of people who say, hey, there is a brush fire in my backyard. I told the fire department about it. They're not coming. The reality is that they are trying to do the most amount of good for the most amount of people. So they're not necessarily concerning themselves with brush fires in the backyard or grass fires in the backyard. They are concerning themselves with protecting homes, protecting properties and most importantly protecting people's lives.

Yes, people have been told to get out of this area. A lot of people, though, that we have talked to and seen, they are staying behind. A lot of people are putting out these fires in their backyard with a garden hose or really whatever they have. Obviously, the homes nearby this home, thankfully, they're going to get a little bit of an aid here, a little bit assistance from the fire department. But there is a lot more homes in danger -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: Wow. Scott, this is remarkable. I mean, for everyone watching, these are live pictures behind Scott. First responders, firefighters coming to put out yet another fire that has destroyed this family's home. Our huge thanks to all of them for what they're doing.

Scott, thank you for the reporting.

Also coming up for us in California, we do have new information this morning about that horrific mass shooting, what we have learned about the gunman and the heartbreaking stories of the victims. We're live there.

SCIUTTO: I mean, how many times have we seen those pictures, Poppy? People embracing, with candles. Other news, Democrats plotting to take on the firing of Jeff Sessions

and protect the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. We're on top of that story.

And Michelle Obama not pulling any punches. In her new book she says that President Trump jeopardized her family's safety by pushing the false birther conspiracy theory.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Welcome back. This morning, Democrats are plotting to protect the special counsel Robert Mueller and investigate the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the subsequent appointment of the acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. Whitaker has in public been very critical repeatedly of the Mueller investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This is a perilously constitutional moment. I don't say it's a constitutional crisis quite bet, but it's a perilous time, and where you will see tonight people in the streets because of this firing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: This as there is a growing sense of concern inside the White House as well over the negative reaction to Whitaker's appointment. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, he serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for taking the time this morning.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: Good morning.

SCIUTTO: First, let me ask you, you heard Nancy Pelosi there, the speaker there say that this is a perilous time. In your view, is with Whitaker as the Attorney General, is the special counsel investigation and is Robert Mueller's job in jeopardy?

QUIGLEY: Absolutely. I think there is a reason that the president of the United States waited until after the midterms to take this action. And I heard many of his -- my colleagues say, well, he shouldn't do anything until after the midterms. If it was wrong to do it before the midterms, it has to be wrong to do after the midterms. It is an area of great concern. The rule of law is a threat.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. You've heard some of Whitaker's public comments criticizing the Mueller investigation. He's also made other comments that are drawing some concern from Democrats and from some Republicans, frankly. I want to play one of those comments now for your reaction. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If that happens, then

we're going to do the same thing and government comes to a halt. They got nothing, zero. You know why? Because there is nothing. 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)

SCIUTTO: Sorry, that was not -- that was not the clip. Let me just --

QUIGLEY: Yes --

[09:20:00] SCIUTTO: Briefly, I do want to get your reaction to the president, but briefly summarize what he said. He said that judges -- and I'm paraphrasing some here, that judges need to have a biblical sense in terms of making their decisions.

What do you make of a comment like that? "I like to see things like their world view, what informs them, are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice?" Is that a problem for an acting Attorney General?

QUIGLEY: I think the acting Attorney General or any Attorney General should be mindful of the laws and the constitution of the United States of America. If we're going to start quoting the scripture before the judges on the Supreme Court as reasons to say should make a decision, it is obviously an area of great concern.

The president has -- if he's so enamored with the constitution, he should go back and peruse the First Amendment. So different interpretations, we're a country of different faiths, we're a country that recognizes that people have a right to be agnostic or atheist. So it's not a surprise as the president has moved in that direction, I am a person of who has a faith, but it is only one aspect of the type of person I am. But we are a nation of laws and I think the president forgets that.

SCIUTTO: Now to the president's comment there. Basically issuing a threat saying if you, as the Democrats take control of the House and investigate me, I will use the Senate to investigate the Democrats. What's your response to that threat?

QUIGLEY: Yes, again, it's not a surprise. I have served with Republicans on the House select Committee on Intelligence that were complicit. And the president's attacks on the independents and the ability of the Justice Department and the Intelligence community.

They were complicit in working with the president to obstruct this investigation. So to think that the United States Senate -- and I'd be curious to see how the Intel Chairman there used what the president said, that this is just a war on each other instead of the natural oversight of one branch of government over another.

SCIUTTO: Final question if I can ask you. We now have recounts in a number of places. Let's highlight in Florida and in Georgia. Georgia for the governor and Florida for both the governor and the Senate there. You have the president publicly tweeting that there may be criminal activity by Democrats there.

And yet in both those races you have Republican state officials overlooking in effect the recounts. Are you concerned that these recounts may not proceed fairly?

QUIGLEY: I think there is a great concern on how elections are handled at all times. I was a strong supporter for spending more money on election equipment to make sure we protect the integrity of our electoral process. I did this primarily because of the attack of the Russians first in my own state where we spent $380 million in 2018 to buy new election equipment, provide training, anti-hacking software.

But it wasn't since the Bush-Gore hanging Chad catastrophe where the integrity of our electoral process was challenged. We're facing that again internally. And the better our election equipment, the less likely that someone can commit fraud.

We have about 13 to 15 states that don't even have a paper record so that we can appropriately audit those states, including Georgia. So if we're serious about the electoral process having the integrity it needs, we need to spend the resources at the federal level to ensure that very integrity.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Mike Quigley, thank you for joining us this morning.

QUIGLEY: Thank you, any time.

POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Really interesting interview. All right, coming up or still to come, a look at the disturbing unreal Facebook posts from the California gunman. What was said just before he went on this killing rampage.

[09:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: This morning, we are learning more about the gunman who killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, including a very troubling Facebook posts that he and David Long(ph) made just around the time of the rampage.

HARLOW: A new horrifying video from inside of the bar as this tragedy was unfolding. Before we play this, we want to warn you it is very disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(GUNFIRE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Many of the patrons in that bar waited for pauses in the gunfire to try to escape. Let's go to our Nick Watt who joins us again this morning from Thousand Oaks, California. Look, we're seeing the images from the inside, we're learning more about the shooter. What can you tell us?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, of course, we know he's a 28-year-old former Marine and as Jim mentioned, we believe that he posted this rather chilling, very chilling message on Facebook not long before he went on his deadly rampage.

I'm going to read it to you now. He wrote, "I hope people call me and say, wouldn't that just be a big bowl of irony. Yes, I'm insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is hopes and prayers or keep you in my thoughts every time. And you wonder why these keep happening."

Now, we know that he was armed with a glock, 45 caliber handgun that was purchased legally, but it had an illegal extended magazine in there.