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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump Distances Himself From The Acting A.G. He Just Hired, WSJ: FBI Probing Company Where Whitaker Was On Advisory Board; WSJ Have Evidence Trump Involved In Hush Payments To Women; Trump Lashes Out at Michelle Obama After She Says She Will "Never Forgive" Him For His Birther Comments; Bitter Legal Battle in Florida Over Senate Race, Recount Likely. Aired 7-8pm ET

Aired November 9, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:04] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, the President's revisionist history. He says he doesn't know his new acting attorney general, but that's not what he said just a month ago.

Plus, Michelle Obama versus the President of the United States. Who wins this battle of the titans?

And a bitter fight in Florida coming to a head this hour. Things are getting ugly in the too close to call Senate race. Let's go out front.

Good evening, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, Trump's convenient memory lapse. The President now trying to distance himself from his new Acting Attorney General, Matt Whitaker, the man he picked to oversee the Russia investigation. That is convenient since the criticism of his pick is getting louder.

And we're also learning tonight from the Wall Street Journal that the FBI is investigating the controversial company where Whitaker was an advisory board member. Given all that, what does the President say about Whitaker? Well, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Matt Whitaker, I don't know Matt Whitaker. Matt Whitaker worked for Jeff Sessions. I didn't know Matt Whitaker. He worked for Attorney General Sessions.

I didn't speak to Matt Whitaker about it. I don't know Matt Whitaker. Now, in all fairness to Matt Whitaker, who, again, I didn't know, Matt Whitaker is a highly respected man but I didn't know Matt Whitaker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Do you get the sense he doesn't know the guy or at least he doesn't want to? There's only a slight problem there. He does know Matt Whitaker. He said so himself just last month.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: I can tell you, Matt Whitaker is a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So now that that is settled, there's also this. CNN and the New York Times reporting that Whitaker has served as the President's ears and eyes, eyes and ears inside the Justice Department since he took the job as Sessions' Chief of Staff. He is a loyalist. Does the President really think that people would believe that he didn't know Whitaker? I don't have the answer to that. But we have seen and heard this before when controversy surrounds someone close to the President.

Take, for instance, his former fixer, Michael Cohen, his long-time personal attorney, a man who had been by the President's side for more than a decade. Here's the President after Cohen found himself under federal investigation involving payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: Let me just tell you that Michael is, in business, he's really a businessman, a fairly big business as I understand it. I don't know his business. But this doesn't have to do with me. Michael is a businessman. He's got a business. He also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business.

STEVE DOOCY, HOST, FOX NEWS: Mr. President, how much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?

TRUMP: Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Tiny, tiny little fraction, I barely knew anything about his business. Or how about this? Take another example. George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser. Trump knew him until he didn't.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: George Papadopoulos, he's an oil and energy consultant, excellent guy.

I don't know Papadopoulos. I don't know him. I saw him sitting in one picture at a table with me. That's the only thing I know about him. I don't know him.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That "I don't know him" didn't turn out so well for Papadopoulos, as you well know. Makes me wonder what Matt Whitaker might be thinking tonight.

Pamela Brown is out front live at the White House for us. Pamela, what is the President trying to do here with Whitaker? PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you see the President, Kate, distancing himself from Matt Whitaker amid this criticism about his past comments on the Russia probe as well as his qualifications to be the acting attorney general. And as you laid out there, this is a familiar pattern with the President when it comes to his associates who are under scrutiny and it also, as you pointed out, does not bode well for Whitaker in terms of him becoming the permanent pick to run the Justice Department. But we can tell you that the relationship between President Trump and Matt Whitaker has been forged over the last several months as the President's relationship with Jeff Sessions deteriorated.

As one official I spoke to today said, Whitaker was seen in the west wing frequently. He was in dozens of meetings with the President in the Oval Office. The two spoke on the phone on several occasions. Now it is true, according to our reporting, that he was initially put on the President's radar by former White House Counsel Don McGahn as well as the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo. So, their relationship is fairly new, but the idea that the President didn't know him just simply isn't accurate. And as one former White House official told me today, Kate, it doesn't make sense for the President to appoint someone to run the Justice Department who he doesn't know.

BOLDUAN: Yes. That's a good way of putting it, Pam. That's for sure. Great to see you. Thanks so much.

The President's acting attorney general is not just under scrutiny for speaking out against the Mueller investigation. He is also raising eyebrows over statements regarding judges and his link to an alleged scam company. Jessica Schneider is out front.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[19:05:07] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matt Whitaker was well known as a reliable conservative when officials at the White House hand picked him to work under Jeff Sessions in late 2017. Sources say former White House Counsel Don McGahn was behind Whitaker's hiring as Sessions' Chief of Staff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's the first week going Acting Attorney General?

MATT WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you. Doing well.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): And White House officials believed Whitaker's loyalties would lie at the White House and not with Sessions, who had fallen out of favor with Trump. Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo confirmed to CNN that he too recommended Whitaker since Jeff Sessions needed a reliable conservative, a strong manager, and someone who had credibility who had previously served the department. One source says it was a way to keep things on the rails at the Justice Department and to keep Sessions focused.

Whitaker was even encouraged by people close to Trump to appear on TV to get the attention of the President. In 2014, Whitaker told an Iowa blog that he thought the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Marbury v. Madison from 1803 that established the judiciary's ability to strike down laws that violate the U.S. Constitution was one of the worst decisions in the Supreme Court's history. He said, "There are so many bad rulings. I would start with the idea of Marbury v. Madison. The courts are supposed to be the inferior branch of our three branches of government. We have unfortunately off loaded many of our tough public policy issues on to the court and they've decided them. Unelected judges are deciding many of the issues of the day."

Whitaker also said judges should adhere to the Bible in making decisions and implied any judge who didn't hold Christian beliefs wouldn't be a good judge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITAKER: Are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice, which I think is very important, because we all know that our government --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Levitical or New Testament?

WHITAKER: I'm a New Testament. And what I know is as long as they have that world view, that they'll be a good judge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): And now, the Wall Street Journal reports the FBI's investigating a now shutdown Florida company that Whitaker was an adviser for beginning in 2014. Whitaker was a paid member of the advisory board and he was hands-on, seen here explaining a proposed product for a hot tub.

WHITAKER: It's a unique design.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): World patent marketing billed itself as helping inventors secure patents but the Federal Trade Commission won a judgment against the company for bilking thousands of customers out of millions of dollars. Now with the FBI reportedly investigating the company, it could pose another conflict of interest since as Acting Attorney General, Whitaker oversees the FBI.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And tonight, the Justice Department and the FBI, they're both declining to comment on this reported investigation that Whitaker will technically oversee. And in the meantime, Kate, given Whitaker's past comment about the Russia investigation, the questions do linger, since Whitaker likely won't recuse himself, how will he handle what comes next in the Russia probe and will he essentially try to shut it down. You know, Whitaker ignored questions to that effect when our CNN producer David Shortell caught up with him earlier today. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much. Really appreciate, Jessica.

Out front with me now, Ken Cuccinelli, former Attorney General of Virginia and Renato Mariotti, former Federal Prosecutor. It's great to see you guys. So, Ken, the President, he just put Whitaker in place. Is he distancing himself from Whitaker now only because of the issues in his past that, let's be honest, could have been discovered with a simple Google search?

KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, and I imagine somebody in the White House had already done that Google search and they decided that it wasn't big enough deal to worry about it. You'd hope. But look, you don't appoint someone even as an acting attorney general that you don't have some passing familiarity with. He was in the White House quite a bit.

The President does have a passing familiarity with him and his work and he has at least enough confidence to have him there on a temporary basis. I mean, nothing Whitaker does as Acting Attorney General will, by itself, be permanent, but he's still the Attorney General for some duration of time and another one is going to have to get through the Senate, which is no easy task.

BOLDUAN: And depending on who you believe, he could be there for some seven months, these 200-plus days that a lot of people are talking about. Renato, we know -- there's a lot of relationship issues currently going on right now in Washington. The relationship between Matt Whitaker and the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, we know that it has been complicated for some time. Despite that, Rosenstein said this today to CNN. Let me play it for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think he's a superb choice for Attorney General. He certainly understands the work, he understands the priorities in terms of his department. And I think he's going to do a superb job as Attorney General.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Superb job, he said. Considering their tricky dynamic, are you surprised that Rosenstein spoke out at all? Did he need to today?

[19:10:02] RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I'm not surprised. Rosenstein, first of all, you're -- he was asked a question about his current boss and of course he's not going to criticize his current boss publicly. It would have looked weird if he said nothing. You know, James Comey famously, I think, referred to Rod Rosenstein as a survivor and I don't think he meant it as a compliment. I think Rosenstein was doing what he need to do to keep his job in that situation and to please his boss.

BOLDUAN: Well, and then there comes the Wall Street Journal, Ken. Reporting that the FBI is now investigating this company as Jessica laid out, that Matt Whitaker is linked to. For this time period that Matt Whitaker served as a paid advisory board member to this company, how is that not a problem for -- I forget the Acting Attorney General, for any top senior official of the Justice Department?

CUCCINELLI: Well, obviously, he's going to have to recuse himself from anything associated with that, and that's to be expected. But, you know, it's one of those things, they obviously decided that they were comfortable enough with Whitaker to absorb the negatives that come along with him. He does have the experience, Rosenstein's not wrong, that he is qualified to do this. And he's plenty familiar with the complicated relationships over there at the moment because he was the Chief of Staff for Jeff Sessions. I mean, he was sitting aside Jeff Sessions for that entire time -- well, not the whole two years, but you understand what I mean.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

CUCCINELLI: And so I think he's plenty prepared for that, and he and Rosenstein already have a working relationship and there's never been any suggestions that that hasn't be a constructive relationship. So, I don't foresee any incoming problems. We'll see what kind of decisions he makes and I think that's what people really are most interested in, myself included, and that's where the rubber meets the road. And I have confidence that he's going to make solid decisions, including with respect to the Mueller probe, which, frankly, is near the end and hopefully everybody will just cooperate and get it to the end.

BOLDUAN: Renato, about this FBI investigation that we're learning about tonight into this company he was linked to, is an investigation disqualifying in and of itself, do you think, for an acting A.G.?

MARIOTTI: It certainly suggests to me that it would be somebody I wouldn't pick if I was -- had the choice of who I was picking as attorney general. I mean, here you have a man who is at the very least a witness, potentially, in a federal investigation and he now heads up, essentially, the FBI. It's just something that you wouldn't want there to be any question about in an attorney general or attorney general pick, but it's not -- I mean, technically, it's not disqualifying, but I think it certainly raises questions. As Ken said, I do agree with him that he certainly would have to recuse himself, no question about that, but I also think it's something we shouldn't want in our attorney general, someone who's part of an ongoing investigation.

BOLDUAN: Things to strive for, not being under investigation when you become attorney general. Got it. I will remember this. Guys, thank you very much. Appreciate it. It's funny, but it's true.

Out front next, the Wall Street Journal reporting tonight that federal prosecutors have evidence that President Trump played a key role in paying off a porn star and a playboy model. Did he violate campaign finance law, though?

Plus, former First Lady Michelle Obama, she gets personal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: We work on our marriage, and we get help with our marriage when we need it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And breaking news, we have a key race alert coming in, new numbers just coming in for a crucial Senate race that's been too close to call.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:25] BOLDUAN: New tonight, the Wall Street Journal reporting federal prosecutors have evidence that Donald Trump played a central role in paying off women during the 2016 campaign who claimed they had affairs with him. The paper reporting Trump was briefed on nearly every step of the deals involving former playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels. This, despite Trump's repeated denials that we all know that he had any advance knowledge of the payoffs.

CNN National Political Correspondent MJ Lee is out front.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, new details implicating the President in two infamous hush payments. The Wall Street Journal reporting that during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump closely coordinated with American Media Inc. Chairman David Pecker to silence two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. Federal prosecutors, according to the Journal, had enough evidence to outline Trump's role without naming him in an 80-page draft indictment of Michael Cohen. Trump reportedly asked Pecker to kill a story involving playboy model Karen McDougal. She claims to have had a long-running affair with Trump.

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY MODEL: Maybe if he weren't married, I wouldn't have any regrets because he treated me very kind. He was very respectful as I told. It was a good relationship while it happened. Now had I known at the time there were supposedly all these other women, no, I wouldn't have been in the relationship.

LEE (voice-over): Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements, according to the Journal. He directed deals and phone calls and meetings with a self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others.

MICHAEL COHEN; PERSONAL LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'm obviously very loyal and very dedicated to Mr. Trump.

LEE (voice-over): Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts in August, including two counts of campaign finance violations. Cohen told the court that it was at Trump's direction that he facilitated the secret payments. Prosecutors said Cohen coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, and there's this secret recording obtained by CNN in July.

COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken --

TRUMP: Give it to me.

COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

TRUMP: So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?

COHEN: -- funding. Yes. And it's all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yes, I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff. Because -- here, you never know where that company -- you never know what he's --

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: Wait a sec, what financing?

COHEN: Well, I'll have to pay him something.

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) pay with cash.

COHEN: No, no, no, no, no.

LEE (voice-over): Showing Cohen and Trump discussing a payment to McDougal.

[19:20:02] CNN has reported that Trump was also personally involved in silencing Daniels, who also claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump.

STORMY DANIELS, PORN STAR: My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened and I give my word that we will not rest until that happens.

LEE (voice-over): The new details of Trump's intimate involvement, clashing with previous denials from the President and the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to the allegations?

TRUMP: Well you have to ask Michael Cohen.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President has denied these allegations and I don't have anything else further to add on that front.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: Now, a source close to Michael Cohen tells CNN that he was just trying to do his job, just wanted to protect his client, that being donald Trump, of course, but here's an important reminder on what's happening right now. Michael Cohen has been busy talking to investigators, investigators from FCNY, the New York A.G.'s office and of course Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office as well. And his big motivation right now is that his sentencing is coming up in December and he wants to get as lenient of a sentencing as possible. He wants to protect his family.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. MJ, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Thanks for bringing that to us.

Out front for us now to talk more about this is former General Counsel to the Federal Election Commission, Larry Noble, and also former L.A. Bureau Chief for the National Enquirer, Jerry George. Thanks guys for being here. Larry, it's been something like a year of denials from President Trump about this. Does this new reporting in the Wall Street Journal, if true, does it lay out that the President committed a crime?

LARRY NOBLE, FMR. GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Yes, if true, it makes a very strong case that he committed a crime, because first, it says he was involved. He knew about it every step of the way, despite his denials previously. So, he knew that they were trying to pay off two people who were going to talk about an alleged affair and it was -- and it looked like it was related to the campaign. They were concerned it would hurt the campaign.

So, he knew about this. He can't say he did not know about it if these things are true. Once he knew about it, the question then becomes, was it campaign related? It looks like it was campaign related. And the third question for knowing and willful violation, for a criminal prosecution, is did he know that this was illegal? He didn't have to know the specific law but did he know that this was illegal and the fact that they're talking about ways to do this that will hide it is often evidence that he knew it was illegal.

And also, the Wall Street Journal reports that David Pecker was told by his lawyer to be careful about how he does it because there are campaign finance problems here. So I think this really does add a lot to the story, connects a lot of the dots and it causes real problems for Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Well, let's talk -- I'm curious about the problem. Because if the dots are all connected, if he would be found guilty of election violation, what could he be facing? We are talking about the President of the United States now.

NOBLE: Right. Well, obviously, there's this question of whether you can indict a sitting President or whether the Department of Justice would indict a sitting President. Putting that aside, if he was not a President or if they decide to indict him, if it's a criminal violation, if he -- he could be subject to up to five years in jail and $250,000 penalties for criminal violation for each count, so it is a very serious violation. Now, even if it wasn't handled criminally, it could be handled civilly by the FEC and we'll put aside the question of whether the Federal Election Commission is functioning but there could be several penalties involved. But the most serious part of it is there are criminal penalties. Somebody can be criminally prosecuted. They can go to jail and have hefty fines. Whether this would happen to a president is a different question. BOLDUAN: And an important one. Jerry, according to the Journal, Trump approached David Pecker in a Trump Tower meeting in August of 2015 and he asked him, what can you do to help my campaign? Pecker in return said, according to the Journal, that he would use the Enquirer to silence any women who wanted to go public with allegations of sexual encounters. You've known David Pecker for years. You worked for David Pecker for years. Does this fit in with the man that you knew?

JERRY GEORGE, FORMER L.A. BUREAU CHIEF, NATIONAL ENQUIRER: It certainly does, Kate. I mean, it was clear that David Pecker was intoxicated with admiration for President Trump. Going back to the late '90s. There was nothing he wouldn't do to please him.

BOLDUAN: Why do you think that was?

GEORGE: Well, I think that you know, in David Pecker, Donald Trump found a -- an amoral ally who saw the turf the same way as he did. And the results were phenomenal for the President at first.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Many people, Jerry, remember that President Trump over the years -- you're talking about the admiration David Pecker had for the President, now President, but Trump, for years, talked glowingly about the National Enquirer. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[19:25:09] TRUMP: The National Enquirer did a story. They actually have a very good record of being right.

I've always said, why didn't the National Enquirer get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards and O.J. Simpson and all of these things.

I mean, you can't knock the National Enquirer. It's brought many things to light, not all of them pleasant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So then you fast forward to today and Pecker has talked to prosecutors and has been given an immunity deal. I mean, would you be surprised if Pecker had turned on Trump? Any chance do you think his loyalty to Trump extends all the way to the southern district?

GEORGE: No, certainly not. I think the old gang of Michael Cohen, David Pecker, and President Trump are now all estranged. No one's talking to anyone and I think everyone's out to save their own skin.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Maybe. Larry, long-term, if this reporting is true, do you think that President Trump has more to be worried about with the southern district of New York or with the Mueller investigation?

NOBLE: You know, that's a really interesting question. Personally, I think the Mueller investigation, if they come up with solid evidence that President Trump was involved with coordinating or colluding with Russia about the election, I think that's a real bombshell and I think that is the most serious allegation. But short of that, I think the campaign finance allegations in the southern district of New York are very serious. And southern district of New York seems to be going its own way and is really investigating these things so I think he has to be worried about both.

The other thing about the southern district of New York is they also seem to be the one that's looking at his family's finances --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

NOBLE: -- and business deals. And what you have there is, you know, is the classic case of the prosecutor looking at what is basically a business empire and seeing how it was created, and what it did over the years and, you know, President Trump may have -- and his family may have a lot to worry about that.

BOLDUAN: Larry, Jerry, thank you both very much. I really appreciate it.

NOBLE: Thank you.

GEORGE: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Out front for us next, former First Lady Michelle Obama opening up about a struggle many women know all too well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I didn't know how common miscarriages were because we don't talk about them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That's coming up.

Plus, Trump lashes out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You talk about somebody that's a loser, you ask a lot of stupid questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:47] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, a remarkable battle between former first lady Michelle Obama and President Trump. Obama revealing in her new book that she, in her words, will never forgive the president for his role in the birther conspiracy. Now, the president is firing back, seemingly reveling in this fight.

Kate Bennett is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATE BENNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In her new book, "Becoming," out next week, former First Lady Michelle Obama lays bare some of her most personal, previously held secrets.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: It is candid. It's honest. It is totally and utterly me.

BENNETT: Her eight years as first lady, Obama seemed unfailingly accessible. From her appearances on talk shows.

MICHELLE OBAMA: Turn up for what.

BENNETT: To her use of social media.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: How are you?

BENNETT: And the casual openness with which she hosted White House events. But she was also fiercely private, revealing little about her daughters and certain parts of her relationship with Barack Obama. In this new book, Michelle is telling all, from her struggles to get pregnant, a miscarriage, and ultimately turning to IVF.

MICHELLE OBAMA: I felt like I failed because I didn't know how common miscarriages were, because we don't talk about them. We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we're broken.

BENNETT: To her marriage, which she says is, quote, phenomenal but has required bouts of counseling.

MICHELLE OBAMA: We work on our marriage, and we get help with our marriage when we need it. Marriage counseling, for us, was one of those ways where we learned how to talk out our differences.

BENNETT: And while gracious with the Trumps on inauguration morning, Michelle Obama is now done with niceties, revealing her husband's successor has made her, quote, body buzzed with fury.

In excerpts published by "The Washington Post," Obama says she will never forgive Trump for questioning whether her husband, the nation's first black president, was born in America.

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: I want him to show his birth certificate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?

TRUMP: There's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like.

BENNETT: Its underlying bigotry and xenophobia barely concealed but it was also dangerous, she writes. What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family's safety at risk.

The president responding from the South Lawn.

TRUMP: Look, she got paid a lot of money to write a book, and they always insist that you come up with controversial -- well, 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.

MICHELLE OBAMA: When they go low, we go high.

TRUMP: The former first lady has pushed back on Trump before but with her time in the White House behind her, it's clear Obama is now not holding back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BENNETT: Well, Hollywood still finds Michelle Obama pretty fascinating. She's taking a book tour, Kate. She's joining up with some celebrities to do so, people like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon. So, I'm sure we'll hear a lot more from Michelle Obama about "Becoming" in the days and weeks to come.

BOLDUAN: Yes, more to come.

Great to see you, Kate. Thank you.

OUTFRONT with me now, April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio networks and the author of "Under Fire: Reporting from the front lines of the Trump White House." Scott Jennings is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush. And Karine Jean-Pierre, she's a senior adviser and national spokesperson for MoveOn.org.

Karine, Michelle Obama says that she'll never forgive the president for what he put her family through. She knew that even just that one line was going to get a lot of attention. It was a choice, right, to talk about it, to go after a president -- the current president of the United States.

Why do you think she did?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISER & NATIONAL SPOKESWOMAN, MOVEON.ORG: I think, Kate, that she's sending a signal, a signal to the country that we can be better than this. She clearly waited until after the midterms. I mean, we are in a time where we're very polarized. It's very divisive.

And you have a president in -- at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who is really doubling down on that divisiveness, fear-mongering, being incredibly hateful, and I think she really wanted to take this moment. She is putting out this book, "Becoming".

[19:35:02] She's incredibly authentic and genuine, very popular, revered.

And I think she's using this moment to make that -- to make that signal and she's a remarkable messenger to really put that forward.

BOLDUAN: Scott, the president today, he was asked about it. It's not like he offered it up without being asked. But do you think that he should have responded in the way that he did?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, the president has never been one to demure. I mean, when people say things about him, he almost always mixes it up, no matter who it is, no matter what stature they carry. I would argue Michelle Obama is one of the leaders of the Democratic Party, one of the most famous people in the country of the Democratic persuasion. So I think it was a given the president would respond to that.

I would say that I'm not surprised that Michelle Obama's attacking the president, but I'm not surprised the president's attacking back, because it's learned behavior. I mean, the first couple of years of the Obama administration, they spent a fair amount of time savaging Bush 43, Ronald Reagan, and everyone else to blame for the condition of the country as they saw it, that they inherit it.

JEAN-PIERRE: That's not true.

JENNINGS: So, I don't love this war of words between the president and the former first lady, because I'd like to think that our former presidents and our former first families are there to help the next administration no matter what party, but that's obviously a broken relationship.

I also would just say, politically speaking, I think Michelle Obama may be sending the signal that she's not done with the national stage.

BOLDUAN: Karine, go ahead. You worked there.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I worked in the administration, I was there the first two years and there was no savaging the presidents before.

JENNINGS: Karine, please don't, please don't rewrite history. Please don't.

JEAN-PIERRE: Let me finish -- I'm not rewriting history. I'm telling the truth. People are saying this is the first time they've seen past presidents really double down on the current president. This is all new because we're not living in normal times.

Let's be clear here. What President Donald Trump did in 2011 as a citizen really pushing forth birtherism, which is inherently racist. I think Michelle Obama actually is being really kind. I think she has every right to talk about it and say she can't forgive him. They were raising two little girls in the White House and this is what he does?

He racially smears the first black president where the first black president had to put forth his long form birth certificate? No other president ever had to do that. And so, I think that is problematic and I think Michelle Obama has every right, every right to say something about that.

BOLDUAN: Scott?

JENNINGS: Yes, look, I agree with you on birtherism. I have always been clear about, I thought it was stupid, it was weak-minded, it was a dumb fringe conspiracy theory, and it was wrong.

But it is absolutely true that the Obamas were hard on Bush 43 during their campaign and then after they took the White House. That's absolutely true.

So I'm not surprised we're having this mix-up. But, look, Karine, I agree with you. I think this birtherism stuff was a bad look on the Republican Party. It's always going to be a stain on the Republican Party and the president, then candidate Trump, did the right thing by recanting but he never should have engaged in it in the first place. It was ridiculous.

BOLDUAN: Kinda, sorta. April, I'm sorry. Get it on this. I want to get your take but also the fact that even when the president hit back today, I did find it fascinating, he didn't go after Michelle Obama, necessarily, directly. He pivoted quickly to attack Barack Obama.

Do you think that he views Michelle Obama as, I don't know, off limits or something?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Oh, yes. Michelle Obama is off limits from the way I understand it. And from what I've been told for many, many months, maybe even over a year, that Michelle Obama is the one that's off limits.

But at the same time, I want to go back a little bit to when Barack Obama was president, towards the end, towards the very end, the day after the election or a couple days after the election when President- elect Donald Trump came to the White House and Barack Obama hosted him. They talked. It was very surprising. I remember being in the Oval Office, I was a pool that day, when Donald Trump was in the Oval Office with Barack Obama, and it was very cordial.

Donald Trump was very thankful -- I mean, they stayed -- they overstayed the visit and everything was fine, even Michelle Obama and Melania Trump were together for longer periods of time. There was a congeniality. There was a friendship, we thought, that was building because we thought that everything was finished with on the campaign trail.

And then, what happened, the turn happened, and you can see it through the videotapes, the day of inauguration when Donald J. Trump was being sworn in, he kept talking about the carnage and you remember seeing Michelle Obama's face. You know, I believe at that moment, when they came into the Oval Office and when they came to the White House, there was a -- a leveling, a clearing out, if you will, of the old and trying to start something new.

But it changed. The terse words came back. And, you know, Michelle Obama's book basically is telling her truth. That's what people are telling me. They said, you can't -- who are close to her. You cannot write a book without telling the truth.

[19:40:02] And she's opening up and to have this smacked back into her face about her personal life and the realness of people thinking that, you know, whatever they were thinking from the man who was running for president, that's not a good thing. Yes, the onus -- he did take responsibility, saying, yes, it wasn't true or what have you that, you know, he was born in Kenya, or this birther thing. But it's still continuing. And you have to say, when is when? And whose fault is it now? So,

it's the chicken or the egg. It's got to stop.

BOLDUAN: Maybe that's the point. It's just got to -- someone's got to -- it's almost just got to be above it.

April, I do want to ask you, so Trump talked about Michelle Obama today. I want to play something else that happened today when the president spoke to reporters. He talked about you out of nowhere.

RYAN: Out of nowhere.

BOLDUAN: And he also had some choice words for my colleague, Abby Phillip. Please watch.

RYAN: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Same thing with April Ryan. I watch her get up, I mean, you talk about somebody that's a loser, she doesn't know what the hell she's doing. She gets publicity and then she gets a pay raise or she gets a contract with, I think, CNN. But she's very nasty. And she shouldn't be.

REPORTER: Do you want him to rein in Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot, you ask a lot of stupid questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That last, though, was directly to Abby Phillip.

What's your reaction, April, to this? Is this just the president, you know, day 750 of him taking on the media?

RYAN: He's trying to show that he's strong against the press. We're the enemies. He wants to set an example with what he thinks or who he thinks are weak.

We are not weak. Abby Phillip is a highly educated, very intelligent, smart, great reporter who asks real questions and deserved a real answer. Yamiche Alcindor is a very smart journalist, highly educated journalist who deserved an answer.

April Ryan, I'm speaking of myself in third person, is a very highly educated, intelligent reporter who deserved an answer when she lobbed a question of the president who responded, she stood up.

And if that makes me a loser, I've been a loser for 21 years, and it's interesting, they must be going into my finances and looking at -- looking for things. I mean, that really -- the president should not be doing that and talking about my contracts or what have you. I just think that is just -- that's inappropriate for a president of the United States of America. But yes, I am employed by American Urban Radio Networks and have been

for years and now I'm also a contributor for the last two years of CNN and I enjoy my work and I've been doing it for 21 years, and if that makes me a loser, I have a big "L."

BOLDUAN: You've got a lot of losers around you, then.

RYAN: I know.

BOLDUAN: Scott, Abby was asking a fair question today. It was also one that I would argue the president should have been able to easily answer. Why not answer it? Why attack her?

JENNINGS: Well, I was puzzled by that because the president has routinely answered questions about the Mueller investigation. He's always said it's fake, it's a hoax, I didn't do anything, there's nothing there.

I mean, he's always had basically the same answer so I was a little surprised to see the way he handled it. What frankly is a pretty easily anticipated question. I mean, putting in a new A.G., you know somebody's going to ask you.

I see, frankly, a lot of animus towards CNN in that answer and his continuing war with our employer. But I'll be honest with you, Kate, while I agree and would defend the president in the way he wants to defend himself on the Mueller probe, I don't like the optics, nor the manners of speaking to a female that way. So I wish he would confine his answers on the Mueller probe and defend himself vigorously, but I don't agree with speaking to a woman that way.

RYAN: Thank you, Scott. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And none of us should hold our breath for that at this point, I think we can say.

I really appreciate it, guys. Thank you very much.

Karine, April -- you can be Abby too, because I love you all. And Scott. Thanks, guys.

OUTFRONT next, the legal, bitter battle in Florida as the Senate race tightens even more. Governor Rick Scott alleges voter fraud. What is his evidence, though? I'm going to ask his attorney. That's next.

Plus, we have breaking news, a key race alert coming in. New numbers right now on the Senate race in Arizona that has been too close to call.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:48:26] BOLDUAN: Tonight, the president is now waging a PR battle over the extremely tight Florida midterm rations, a source close to the president telling CNN the president is, quote, on a warpath. That was made clear in a series of tweets that he sent while aboard Air Force One on his way to France. In one tweet, he writes this: Rick Scott was up by 50,000 plus votes

on election day. Now they, quote/unquote, found many votes and he is up only 15,000 votes. The Broward effect. How come they never find Republican votes?

This as the governor of Florida sued election officials in two counties, alleging that they broke federal and state laws.

Right now, Rick Scott is ahead of his rival, Senator Bill Nelson, by just under 15,000 votes. That's where it stands at the moment.

Let's get the latest. OUTFRONT now with me is Bill Scherer. He's one of the attorneys representing Governor Scott.

Mr. Scherer, thanks for coming in.

WILLIAM SCHERER, ATTORNEY FOR GOV. RICK SCOTT: Good evening. Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Regarding the two lawsuits that you filed against the election supervisors, the judges ruled in your favor, and there was a 7:00 p.m. deadline tonight to get the records that you requested from Broward County. Did you get it all?

SCHERER: Well, I'm over here with you, so I'm hopeful that they got the records that were ordered when the judge found that the constitutional rights of my client had been violated by the secrecy and what was going on in the local Broward office of the supervisor of elections. So, you know, we'll see.

BOLDUAN: We'll see.

SCHERER: It's going to be nice to have some transparency.

BOLDUAN: Transparency is good. If you get the records with the information that you will have, is it then just a waiting game until the initial vote counts are finalized by noon tomorrow?

[19:50:09] SCHERER: Well, it would be a waiting game to see. There's going to be a recount for sure. And, yes, it's a waiting game. But I have been in the canvassing board all day watching ballots that are being brought out that we didn't have from before, or know about.

Last night when we left a 10:00, there were supposed -- we were supposed to have been finished and we weren't. And there's more ballots coming. And, you know, I'm sort of used to this. I did --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

SCHERER: -- represented the president in the recount back in 2000. And it's kind of the same thing.

I was across the table from Judge Rosenberg, the famous magnifying glass that you have on your website right now. I was on the other side of that table, when they brought in boxes of more ballots that were the hanging chad variety. It seems like it's deja vu all over again.

BOLDUAN: There's certainly a lot of deja vu going on. But you said that there's going to be a recount for sure. So, that you are accepting, that there's definitely going to be a recount at this point.

SCHERER: Well, yes, because the law says that when you get -- when it's this close, there's a machine recount and then if it gets closer still, there's going to be a hand recount --

BOLDUAN: Right.

SCHERER: -- that were overvoted and undervoted. So, yes, we're fully expecting it.

BOLDUAN: Let me play for you what the governor said last night about the vote count.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: We have all seen the incompetence and irregularities in Broward and Palm Beach for years. Well, here we go again. I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: A problem with incompetence maybe. But do you all have proof that liberals are trying to steal the election or there's rampant fraud as the governor has also said?

SCHERER: Well, let me state it this way, I have been sitting over there watching kind of like I did 18 years ago. I'm seeing that this county is the last county to report the results. They still haven't reported the results. They ignore the rules. They ignore law. They found to be unconstitutional today.

And you have to wonder why is what's happening? Why is the door remained open? Why haven't they counted them and told us what was going on?

So, the opportunity there is there. And I can tell you, we saw fraud in the last couple of days where people voted -- 30 people voted twice. Other people voted that they weren't registered. Some people voted other people's ballots. And so, those are fraudulent activities. And so, you wonder if Brenda Snipes --

BOLDUAN: But as you well know --

SCHERER: -- can even -- let me just finish this -- you wonder if she even capable of -- if the fraud we see right there -- I mean, how much more is there going on there and why do we not have transparency? Why is this all done in secrecy? So, you have incompetency and secrecy. And it makes everybody nervous, doesn't it? And it would make you nervous if you were representing a client and you had to explain to them, my goodness, yes, they -- I can't tell you what's going on because they are keeping it secret. And, yes, you won by 50,000 votes. So, that's, you know, the point.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Wonder maybe. Proof and evidence as the governor seemed to represent last night, that is something different. I really appreciate your time, though. Let's see --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHERER: Well. Now, listen, it isn't. There were -- there were double votes.

BOLDUAN: Then why didn't the Florida law enforcement office did they say -- hear from the secretary of state that they had nothing more -- that there was nothing to investigate in terms of a problem? So, there's clearly a difference of opinion on this tonight.

But we do need to leave it there. Thank you very much, Mr. Scherer. Appreciate your time. Let's see what happens next.

SCHERER: All right. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, we have breaking news. A key race alert out of Arizona, as President Trump is now floating the idea of a do-over. Is he serious?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:47] BOLDUAN: Now a key race alert. CNN is getting a new numbers in a still too close to call Arizona Senate race between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally. And President Trump is weighing in, albeit at Twitter, even suggesting now a whole new election should happen there.

Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT.

Phil, let's start with the numbers. What's going on with this race right now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just got the latest vote in from Maricopa County, which is the largest county in the entire state. And it's good news for Kyrsten Sinema. If you look at the top line numbers here, Kyrsten Sinema, Kate, he has now opened a 20,000-vote lead.

Remember on election night, she was trailing by 16,000, 17,000 votes, earlier today jumped into a 2,000-vote lead. That lead has now expanded in large part because of margins that she's rolling up in Maricopa County. Now, leading by one point, leading by 20,000 vote, when, Kate, there's about 360,000 votes out standing, the race is absolutely not over.

But there's an important point to make. About 260,000 of those votes remaining come from Maricopa County. And McSally campaign has said that they feel like a lot of the votes that are going to be coming in in the coming days will be positive for them, maybe allowing them to close the gap.

But here's the problem they have. Sixty thousand of those outstanding votes coming from Pima County. Look at the margin in Pima County, Kate. That's 13-point margin. That is Democrat country.

If you're Kyrsten Sineman's campaign right now, if you're Democrats right now, you're feeling very good. As I noted, the race isn't over. But right now, Democrats feeling good about where they stand as results continue to come in.

BOLDUAN: Phil, you saw the president's tweet, calling for a new election there. I mean, is that even remotely possible?

MATTINGLY: Yes, in a word, no. That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works.

Let's make this exceedingly clear, what's happening in Arizona right now is not a one county thing or a two county thing or Democrat county thing. This is an every county thing, still bringing in votes. It's in large part because the vote by mail in Arizona is as much as 70 percent of the vote, and this is something that happens every single election. It takes them days sometimes a week to actually get their results in.

But one legal issue that's been brought up by Republicans up to this point was how long officials in Maricopa and Pima Counties had to resolve outstanding issues with ballots. That was handled today in court. That was resolved. Everybody is happy and moving forward. There will be no new election. There will just be more counting over the course of the next week, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And so it is.

Great to see you, Phil. Thank you. Really appreciate it.

Thank you all so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.