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Florida Braces for Recounts in Senate, Governor's Race; Some House Dems Trying to Complicate Pelosi's Speaker Bid; WSJ: Sessions Confident Mueller Probe Will Be Handled Appropriately. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 9, 2018 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:37] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Today, a case of national deja vu. Recount madness in the state of Florida now stirring down three recounts including two with national implications. And automatic re- run of that state's governor's race. That's it right here you see.

And a potential week long manual recount of the race for Senate. Broward County, Broward County, Broward County, once again the source of a national headache. The county is still counting ballots and its election supervisors unable to say how many more are out there.

Today, the Nelson campaign filing a lawsuit to move a Saturday deadline for each county to upload the final vote tallies. It wants for time. Right now, here's where the numbers stand. This is statewide in the Senate race. Rick Scott is 50.1, Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent 49.9. Just by that, that's within the recount standard, right?

Fifteen thousand vote lead for Rick Scott. You watch him play out and at issue, Broward County.

Let me move this aside for a minute and just look at the county vote totals first. Look at Broward County, it's a Democratic county. This is why Bill Nelson wants every vote counted here and he wants to double check and triple check. Fine.

Here's one of the issues in the recount. In Broward County, there are 26,000 people who voted for governor but not for Senate. The Nelson campaign says that's suspicious. They want to know if there were votes that weren't counted or it was just a problem with the ballot. That is one of the many issues.

And as we go through this process as the lawyers rush into Florida, the governor, Rick Scott, remember, he's been governor for eight years. If you had a problem with how the state elections are run, he said, eight years as governor to deal with it. He says, hanky-panky.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency, and the supervisors are failing to give it to us. Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. We've all seen the incompetence and irregulars in vote tabulations 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 state of Florida.


KING: There's no question we have these problems a lot in Florida, and these questions a lot in Florida. Why did he sit idly by for eight years as governor and not demand Broward County, well, all right, move?

So here we go. Here we go and all the lawyers have gone in and you have Governor Scott there and the president of the United States saying the Democrats are cooking the books. The Broward County people do raise legitimate questions about their confidence. Is there any evidence they're cheating?



Not yet. I mean, look -- I mean, part of the reason that you do these recounts is to make sure there isn't -- aren't strange things going on, that there aren't, you know, ballots that have been either misplaced or purpose -- something purposely done with them. That's what you do in a recount, that's what you do in an audit.

There's no evidence of that yet. And, you know, part of what the president has always done is failed to provide the kind of back up to -- and confidence in our electoral system both, you know, during and after his own presidential campaign and here. And what -- and, you know, most -- what most presidents would do is try to go the other direction to sort of, you know, express a level of confidence in the system so what whatever the result, whether it ends up being for Nelson and for Scott or the other candidates, that whatever the result, people have confidence in it. Because otherwise the system falls apart.

KING: You raised an important point, the president also said these things always go to the Democrats. George W. Bush begs to disagree. We had a recount in Florida -- Al Gore begs to disagree. And that's the point I was getting to.

Al Gore begs to disagree. There were still people in camp Gore, you can believe this or not who think they got screwed in that process. That it wasn't handled well in the ground of Florida and then they lose in the courts. What did Al Gore do when the Supreme Court rules?

He respected it because he respected the process and with dignity said congratulations to George W. Bush. That's very different than the tone to your point about respecting institutions, asking people to be calm, let the process play out. This is the current president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at Broward County, they have had a horrible history. And if you look at the person, in this case a woman involved, she has had a horrible history and all of a sudden they are finding votes out of nowhere.

You notice the votes never go the other way? They hire lawyers and the votes don't ever seem to go the Republican way.

[12:35:04] Although I hear -- well, I don't know, you tell me. It's always the Democrats, it's always GPS Fusion, it's always crooked stuff.

You have this guy Elias who represented Hillary Clinton and a lot of very shady things. I think what you ought to do is get smart.


KING: Now, for those of you who've been strapped in for the entire Trump administration, GPS Fusion, a firm involved in the dossier, Mark Elias is a lawyer for Bill Nelson's Senate campaign in the state of Florida, he did represent Hillary Clinton, he is the one. The dossier work is already being done by GPS Fusion and Mark Elias adopted that work first started by a Republican organization but he did mark ups.

So part of the problem here is even as we try to say, Mr. President, why are you saying it this way? Is these characters do keep -- they somehow emerge in every one of the stories somehow. But again, what you would look for there -- and as this plays out -- I'm sorry to grumble on a little bit. But as this plays out, the 2000 experience was terrible.

But, as they went through the recount, your lawyer is there. Your lawyer is there, other supervisors. The parties get to have representatives, the campaign gets to have representatives, they go through this, there's a process. When they argue, they go to a judge, a judge rules, you go back to the process. You don't have people putting their hands on the scale during the count.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: All right, this is what's unusual with President Trump as well as Governor Scott and also the junior senator from Florida, Marco Rubio are planting the seeds of doubt that, if this ends up going the other way and goes to Bill Nelson, that they're arguing essentially that the election was stolen. And Governor Scott using the words, rampant fraud. It sounds a little bit Trumpian. That's the kind of thing that he's been saying without evidence for a long time --

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: One that erodes public confidence in election if that's the end result and that -- that's very dangerous.

KING: It erodes public confidence in institutions and elections. Real quick, a historical footnote here. All this talk of recounts reminds me the day when I hard color in my hair back in 2000 and I still had a thing called, a pager.


KING: Let me read you a statement just sent to me, and excuse me for being awkward, I need to look down to read this on my pager. This statement from William Daley, the Gore campaign chairman. He says, quote, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are now reviewing the decision issued tonight by the United States Supreme Court. The decision is both complex and lengthy. It will take time to completely analyze this opinion.



[12:41:45] KING: Topping our political radar today, President Trump slamming a federal judge's decision that halts construction at the Keystone XL Pipeline. The president calls it a disgrace. That ruling found the federal government did not carry out adequate analysis to the pipeline's potential impact on the environment.

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand keeping the door open for a 2020 bid for president. During an appearance on the "Late Show with Stephen Colbert", Gillibrand was pressed on whether she plans to run.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I believe right now that every one of us should figure out how we can do whatever we can with our time, with our talents to restore that moral decency, that moral compass and the truth of who we are as Americans. So I will promise you, I will give it a long hard thought of consideration. I will do that.


KING: There you go. Gillibrand on the 2020 watch list was just re- elected to the Senate on Tuesday.

And a small group of Democrats want to make it hard for Nancy Pelosi to reclaim the speaker's gavel. CNN obtaining a letter signed by nine House members that seeks to change the rules, the caucus rules for electing speaker nominees. That letter now on the agenda for a Democratic meeting next week. Asked last night here on CNN, Pelosi says she has no doubts.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What is your level of confidence that you'll be the speaker of the House?


CUOMO: Hundred percent?

PELOSI: Hundred percent, yes. I feel confident about what I am and feel very encouraged by the overwhelming support in my caucus that will go to the floor. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Does the public confidence support the private math or it's supported by the private math?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I would never challenge Nancy Pelosi on her ability to count votes internally particularly in her caucus. And if she says she feels confident, it is really hard for me to imagine that she will not be the next speaker. Really hard. She knows what she's doing when it comes to that.

I've watched her count votes for 15 years on Capitol Hill. And I never seen her miss one.

KING: There is a smaller group, just a small group, let's be fair to Nancy Pelosi, but it's a group that says, no way, no how. But do they have an alternative? That's the issue.

KAPUR: Here's the only number that matters. The number of Democrats who are going to vote against her on the floor of the full House. There's no doubt that she's going to get the majority of her caucus to be the nominee for speaker of her party.

Roll Call has looked at these only three Democrats incoming or returning have committed to voting no on the floor. So, yes, there'll be some Democrats who, you know, voiced opposition generally to her can vote against her in caucus, maybe vote differently. There are other Democrats who've said we want new leadership, not committing the certain kind of vote.

So at the end of the day, if there's no alternative in the Democratic caucus for Pelosi as it doesn't look like there will be a legitimate one, she's very likely to get confirmed. So far by the way, Democrats have 225 members. That could go up because there are 13 races left to be called. So she'll have a little bit of a cushion.

BALL: Right, that's the thing. We don't actually even know all of the Democrats who are going to be in the House yet. Because at least a few these races haven't been called yet are likely to go to the Democrats creating new Democratic members of Congress and that's new potential votes for or against Nancy Pelosi.

Look, she is trying to create an era of inevitability which you do in this situation. She has previously expressed confidence about things that did not come to pass. So -- like previous elections that the Democrats have not won.

[12:45:00] I think the wind at her back is number one, you can't beat something with nothing. And the opponents of Pelosi -- you know, some of the opposition to Pelosi is sincere, some of it is just members who felt it was necessary politically for them in their districts to express opposition to Pelosi because she's such a polarizing figure.

And so, you know, these members who -- there are some who've committed to vote no on the floor. There are a lot who haven't committed either way. So she's got a win over her caucus, she's good at that. And the other -- and a win on her back is that she just won a big election. Her strategy was completely vindicated by the scale of the Democrat's win.

SHEAR: So I mean, I'm not a congressional reporter or White House reporter so I look to my colleagues to the answer to this question but the thing that I think about is, OK, if you assume that she does win and she is able to essentially put down any of these doubts that people have raised and people have -- and the members have raised them among their own constituency. So what does she do then when she is speaker? How does she help the members kind of address the real substantive thing they were talking about which is, you know, a different kind of leadership going forward --

KING: She started today with this diverse -- she wants to have a diversity counsel for all of Capitol Hill. So that they hire more diverse people for all jobs across Capitol. That's one way to do it. These younger members are coming in, they tend to be younger, there's a lot more women coming in, there much more diverse Democrats coming in.

They think --

SHEAR: But then those members think those are -- that's window dressing or are there substantive --

KAPUR: Probably she has set up a real transition.

BASH: She does.

KAPUR: She has to make way for new leadership --

BASH: I remember during the campaign, real quick, I talked to somebody who is now going to be a new member of Congress who promised his constituents that he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi. And then privately said I never met her but I understand how powerful she is and how hard it will be to keep her from being speaker.

BALL: Well, and here's the thing about Nancy Pelosi. She may be political poison in a lot of places, she is really, really good at her job. If you consider her job to be not politics but actually running the House of Representatives, she is really, really good at that. The Republicans who is came after here were not very good at that. She has managed a diverse and unruly and fractious caucus before and gotten a lot done.

And I think that's the final straw that gets people in her camp is that they -- there isn't anybody who's in the Democratic caucus who can negotiate with Republicans and count votes and know how to keep the caucus together the way that she can.

KING: Do you trust, do you -- who do you trust to sit across from President Trump? It's an incredibly important job. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:51:44] KING: Some breaking news from an interview published just moments ago on the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. That interview with the now former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Here is the lead paragraph. Jeff Sessions says he is, quote, confident that Robert Mueller's probe of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election will be handled, quote, appropriately and with justification. That's his only interview the story says since leaving the Justice Department.

Let's come into the room here. That's not the way the president sees it. And know the reason Jeff Sessions has been fired is because of that. He recused himself in the Mueller investigation. But for the outgoing attorney general, at a time his chief of staff is acting attorney general and everyone is wondering what happens to Robert Mueller, confident it will be handled, quote, appropriately and with justification.

That's, hello, Mr. President. Goodbye, Mr. President.

BALL: And it's not a particularly significant statement, right?

BASH: Exactly, yes.

BALL: It basically it tells you nothing. And he's expressing confidence because this is what he wants to happen and he of course actually has no idea because I hope you're (INAUDIBLE) for this one. He doesn't really talk to Trump very much anymore. They haven't really been on good terms for quite a while.

You know, I spent time with Jeff Sessions for a profile earlier this year and had many extensive conversations with him and he said basically the same thing. He said nobody is above the law and he said that he is confident. And he also said as he says in this interview that he does not regret his recusal, that he believes it was the right decision under the rules and regulations of the Justice Department.

KING: All right, no one is about supervision he says at that. The ethics advisor, you'd be best recused yourself and he said, OK.

BASH: It's legacy time for Jeff Sessions. I mean, it is. And maybe thinking about his future time for Jeff Sessions. You know, the United States Senate is a place that he likes and a place he might want to come back to, at least run again to be a part of. So, you know, it is not a surprise that he said that. It is also important to remember that the president doesn't care what he says and that's probably the understatement of the year.

KING: To the 2020 question he says, I want some family time to let my head clear.

BALL: Well, luckily, it's only 2018.

KAPUR: Another thing he says in that interview regarding the Mueller investigation is that the country is committed to this course. I'm quoting. "The country is committed to this course." You know, who he doesn't say is committed to this course? The president of the United States and the Justice Department leadership that is succeeding him. He's picking his words carefully and he's speaking very diplomatically about this because he knows I think on some level that the future is uncertain for this investigation.

SHEAR: Don't forget -- I mean, the president always uses the phrase common sense that he thinks people should use common sense. Think about why Jeff Sessions is gone. It's not because he didn't do his job or pursue the president's agenda. In fact he was probably the most effective cabinet number in pursuing all sorts of stuff that the president likes not least of which is the immigration agenda.

You know, it's not because there was a scandal and so many other cabinet members have had in the administration there was not. The only thing is the Russia investigation. That's why he's gone.

KING: We had a good run he says, it's been an adventure.

We'll be right back.


[12:59:19] KING: That's all the time we have today for INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you Sunday morning up bright and early, 8 a.m. here in the Easter. Back here on Monday as well.

Have a great weekend. Wolf starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington. Thanks very much for joining us.

Up first, firing fallout. The White House caught off guard by the backlash over President Trump's choice for acting attorney general. The president picked Matt Whitaker for the position after he fired Jeff Sessions. Whitaker has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent days for his comments criticizing the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation among other things.

And today the president defended Whitaker while also distancing himself from him.


TRUMP: I didn't know Matt Whitaker. He worked for Attorney General Sessions. He was very, very highly thought of and still is highly thought of.