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Hundreds Of Thousands Of People Around Los Angeles Have Evacuated; Voting Recount Continues in Florida; Republican senate candidate Rick Scott, the current governor, filing three lawsuits in state court today. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 11, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Homes either burned to the ground or seriously damaged. Hundreds of thousands of people around Los Angeles have evacuated. It's just not safe to stay there.

The most destructive is in northern California. That's where about 6500 family homes have burned down. And some towns north of Sacramento have been completely destroyed entire town.

And there's something else. Officials fear the death toll may still go up. More than 100 people who live in fire zones are not accounted for. Their families don't know at this hour if they are safe or not.

CNN's Dan Simon is in Paradise, California. Scott McLean is in Malibu.

Dan, we are told that nearly everything in that town was destroyed. How much warning did people have to get out?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have very little warning, Ana. And the main road that leads in and out of town is called sky way. They call it sky way to Paradise. And on Thursday morning it was filled with cars bumper to bumper with people frantically trying to leave town.

Now, two of the people on the road were Susan Miller and her daughter, Amber. Now Susan, she works at the local hospital and when the flames got dangerously close, she was told to leave. So she grabbed her daughter, collected a few belongings and she hit the road. Now, the video that they shot shows just how dangerous the conditions were.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMBER TONEY, EVACUATED PARADISE, CALIFORNIA: It's OK ma.

SUSAN MILLER, EVACUATED PARADISE, CALIFORNIA: Oh God.

TONEY: It's OK ma. Please drive. Please drive.

MILLER: I'm trying.

TONEY: Please. Let us get out safe. TONEY: I thought the windows were going to shatter because it was

just so hot. I mean everybody's trying to get out as fast as they can. But trying not to get in accidents.

MILLER: We had the air-conditioner on high and it was still hot.

TONEY: Circulating.

MILLER: And you were praying the car in front of you wouldn't stop. It was -- I'll have nightmares for the rest of my life. This was a bucket list I never wanted.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: Well, right now like thousands of others they are staying at a hotel just trying to figure out what is next. With them is Susan's father. He is an 82-year-old Korean War vet. He is in fragile health. He needs oxygen to really function. And he is frightened. This is the first time in his life he says that he has been homeless.

But Ana, just the bottom line is, wow, that video just really shows you the terrifying conditions that people face as they were trying to get to safety.

CABRERA: No doubt about it. That video just chilling.

Dan Simon, thank you.

Again, at least two people have died in the Malibu area near Los Angeles. They were overcome by that fast moving wildfire separate from the fire scorching parts of northern California.

And CNN's Scott McLean is there in Malibu for us tonight.

Scott, what kind of problem are firefighters making against the fires there?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, good news is it seems like firefighters are doing a reasonably good job of holding the fire where it is right now. They are attacking it from the air using plane, dropping water and (INAUDIBLE) and helicopters as well.

And it seems like it's not getting out of control as was feared. Because yesterday it seemed to be reprieve for firefighters where the wind was minimal. Today they have picked up a little bit. There are gusts potentially, 40 to 50 miles an hour. Though right now, at least where we are, we haven't felt anything near that strong.

We know that right now in the west hills area or certainly this morning in the west hills area firefighters were doing that. They were attacking this fire from the air and from the ground trying to hold it where it is because that's really the edge of the Los Angeles area neighborhood. And they obviously want to keep it away from those homes.

Here in Malibu, it seems the risk has sort of come and gone. Though, they are certainly not out of the woods just yet. You can see what's left of this home. You can imagine how quickly and hot if fire would have come through here. You can see what's left of what seems to be a washer and dryer there. And the chimney and then out in front I assume that's an oven but it's really impossible to tell at this point.

And then, Ana, if you look through here, that canyon, sort of goes down to the bottom and the fire race back up to the top. And it sort of scorched near a lot of those homes. A couple lost but there's a condo building just out of sight there that is completely still intact. Obviously, people there are hoping that some of the smoldering areas don't return.

And then if you look over here, you know, there's a really block of houses in this area. You can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean down there. And so, lot of people that we talked to said we didn't expect the fire to reach this close to the ocean. It seems like people up in the hills were more prone to fire but certainly this area not so much.

The issue here, Ana, is that the winds, they are expected to continue. There's a red flag warning meaning conditions are really ideal for fire to spread all the way up until Tuesday evening. And so, this area is under a mandatory evacuation order. It's unlikely to change anytime soon until firefighters have a better picture of what exactly they are dealing with and what the risk is. Again, this fire is still only 10 percent contained, Ana.

[18:05:27] CABRERA: So Scott, officials there are worried about the weather it sounds like. That the conditions are not going to be helpful in the coming days. You mention this red flag warning that remains in effect for the next few days. What's the plan?

MCLEAN: Yes. They have over 3,000 firefighters working on this fire. In fact, they are just up the hill just beyond those trees. There was some sort of a smoldering area earlier today. And we saw a hand crew coming in. That is firefighters not with water but literally with tools trying to move the earth around to try to build a line and try to put out the smoldering areas. And so, that's what they are doing.

Yesterday, we are in another part of Malibu where what seemed like a guest house in the back of the property continued to ignite. Firefighters were there. Three different times. Sometimes it's not always the flame that's the risk, Ana. It's those embers that can carry from house to house. And in this area that's certainly true because it seems like Mother Nature randomly chose houses. You will see two or three that are completely destroyed and another block that is entirely intact. And so, that is the big risk there of having these open fires that those embers would spread. Not necessarily that flames would spread -- Ana.

CABRERA: Scott McLean on Malibu, California for us. Thank you.

These fires have been spreading so rapidly that people have had very little time to get out. You saw what Dan Simon showed us. But, I mean, they are having to drive through the fire just to get to safety. The Allen family of Paradise, California is another family that

recorded their own escape as the flames threatened their neighborhood. Joe Allen and his wife, Whitney, had to grab their two young children. 3-year-old Olivia and 8-month-old Jordan and leave quickly. Whitney grabbed the baby. They took off in one car. Joe followed behind in another car with their daughter Olivia. Now watch and listen as Joe comforts his nervous daughter as they are driving through the flames.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE ALLEN, EVACUATED FIRE WITH DAUGHTER: Guess what. We are not going to catch on fire OK. We are going to stay away from it. We'll be just fine. OK.

OLIVIA ALLEN, JOE ALLEN'S DAUGHTER: OK.

ALLEN: We are doing all right. Baby it'll be all right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Thankfully, the Allen family made it out safely.

And I had chance to check in with them last night. Here is Joe and Olivia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Joe and his beautiful daughter Olivia are joining us now from Chico, California where his family - their family is staying with relatives right now.

Wow, Joe, I'm like sweating right now. My heart is pumping after watching that video. As a parent, I'm wondering how did you stay so calm and find the words to say to Olivia and even started singing?

J. ALLEN: Well, you know, it's kind of our thing to just have conversations every morning when we go to preschool. And of course, she loves her baby shark song.

CABRERA: I know that one. I have an almost 3-year-old as well.

J. ALLEN: Yes. And so, you know, we just kind of found a happy spot and had a normal conversation what about was going on and just kept moving forward.

CABRERA: Did you ever have any doubts about whether you would make it?

J. ALLEN: Actually, yes. There was -- hold on. There was a moment when the ambulance towards the end of the video where -- baby girl. Thank you. Toward the end of the video where they made a U-turn and decided not to go up the hill. And I thought, you know, this is the last moment where they were going to, you know, just, a tree had fallen. Baby girl, thank you.

And I thought a tree had fallen and they were going to make us go back up the other way, you know. We were going down wrong way of traffic. And the other side is completely stopped like there was nowhere to go. And it was extremely hot. I had my air-conditioner going full blast and I just still had the radiating heat coming from the one side of my car. In that moment, absolutely.

CABRERA: Amazing that you could feel the heat. And I mean, you could see the flames, the smoke, hard to see it looked like. Obviously, everybody made it out safely. Thank goodness. And you all celebrated Olivia's third birthday with a candle and a cake. It looks like you guys are doing all right. Tell me what the situation is for your family now.

[18:10:07] J. ALLEN: Right now we are pretty fortunate enough to have some family in what we could consider southern California. More like San Diego area. And they have offered up a travel trailer for us to kind of find refuge, our parents. We were lucky enough to have our own travel trailer at my sister's house in (INAUDIBLE). And so, tight now, we are just kind of figuring out where we are going to put it and what we are going to do and just kind of move on from there. It's day by day, really.

CABRERA: Yes, one day at a time.

Do you know the status of your home?

J. ALLEN: Actually, we found out about three hours ago, we had some friends. It's kind of the way it goes. A friend of a friend of a friend was able to go down our street and it's interesting to say that he can't say that our house gone. He can say all the houses are gone. And you know, there's no placards with address numbers. It's just absolutely desolate.

CABRERA: I'm so sorry to hear that. I have covered on the ground many a wildfire having come from Colorado. Also worked in Washington for a while. And I can, you know, maybe offer a glimmer of hope that every now and then you see these wildfires jumping and some houses still standing amid the rubble in many other houses. I pray that your house is one of those still standing.

But Joe, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. So great to see both you and Olivia safe and sound with family. And we wish you all the very best.

J. ALLEN: Absolutely. Thank you.

CABRERA: For ways you can help those affected by the California wildfires, go to CNN.com/impact.

Showdown in the sunshine state this evening. Lawsuits and unfounded accusations are flying as a recount is under way for two key races. But one county supervisor says it can't meet the deadline for that recount.

Plus, Nancy Pelosi says she's 100 percent sure she will be the speaker of the House. But some members of her own party says not so fast. I will ask the head of the DNC whether giving Pelosi the gobble is the best move for the party. That's next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:16:20] CABRERA: Florida's Democratic candidate for governor, Andrew Gillum speaking live right now in Fort Lauderdale at an event to count every vote. And while the recount in his race against Republican Ron Desantis is under way. Let's listen in.

MAYOR ANDREW GILLUM (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: And we are right now in court fighting to have those votes counted. Voter disenfranchisement doesn't just show up when you have a man or a woman blocking the entrance to a polling place or a dog or water hose. That's not voter disenfranchisement by itself.

Voter disenfranchisement isn't even whether somebody has the right form of id or not when they show up at the polling place. Voter disenfranchisement also includes when man or a woman who gets up every day to go out there and work on somebody else's job in order to keep a roof over their head and clothes on their back and food on their table either by choice or by necessity choose to cast an absentee ballot. And they do the work, the diligent work, of going down that ballot and assessing which candidate they want to choose in any of those races and going further down the ballot to see what constitutional amendment they may or may not be for. What judges they want retained. And then they (INAUDIBLE) re-stuff that absentee ballot back in the envelope.

And they do as the instructions say and they sign that thing and they put it in the mailbox believing that when they put that ballot in the mailbox that it will make its way to its intended destination. The supervisor of elections office. And that when it get to the supervisor of election office, that good will be assigned to them that they followed the rules. That they followed the regulation regulations. That ballot will be opened and that it will be assessed to count the intent of that voter.

And I want you to know right now in this state of ours because the W in their signature may look different today than the W in their signature yesterday, that a volunteer may have the option of looking at that ballot and deciding that vote is now null and void.

That is also voter disenfranchisement. That is also voter disenfranchisement. And we believe that those ballots too ought to be counted here in the state of Florida. We believe those ballots ought to be counted.

But voter disenfranchisement goes a little bit deeper than that, you know. Voter disenfranchisement includes the young voter, the first time voter who was so eager, so excited, so disenfranchised before the point because they didn't believe that politics matter to them. That repeatedly, they have seen candidates and campaigns come and go and never before had they felt motivated enough to take that next step.

Maybe you are not a first time voter. Maybe you are one of those voters who have watched elected officials come in and out. Come to churches and make promises. Come to synagogues and make promises. Come to your doorstep and host rallies and give you free food but when it comes to delivering on the promises, those promises seem to never be kept. And so, time and over time and over time, you get to place where you wonder whether or not your vote matters.

[18:20:29] CABRERA: That is Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic candidate for governor currently trailing in the vote count, 33,693 voted down in the governor's race after the initial vote count. But that is within the 0.5 percent or less that triggers an automatic recount. And so, that is under way right now as he speaks.

As one key officials now says she is running out of time to recount all the vote. The Palm Beach County supervisor of elections says it's impossible to meet the Thursday recount deadline.

Another big development this hour, Republican senate candidate Rick Scott, the current governor, filing three lawsuits in state court today. This coming hours after Scott upped the ante accusing his Democratic opponent Bill Nelson of fraud.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Senator Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try to win this election. That's all this is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are accusing Bill Nelson of trying to commit fraud?

SCOTT: His lawyer said that a non-citizen should vote. That's one. Number two, he has gone to trial and said that fraudulent ballots should be counted. Ballots have already been thrown out because they were not done properly. He said those should be counted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you think that is the senator himself is committing fraud?

SCOTT: Well, it's his team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Nelson firing back saying quote "if Rick Scott wanted to make sure every legal ballot is counted, he would not be suing to try to stop voters from having their legal ballot counted as intended."

Let's get right to CNN Ryan Nobles on the ground the Florida's capital of Tallahassee.

Ryan, if Palm Beach County runs out of time, it doesn't finish the recount by Thursday, explain what happens.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we should point out, first of all, Ana, that the situation of Palm Beach County is unique. Each one of these counties operate their voting procedures differently. That's their right under Florida law. So Palm Beach County machines are not exactly the same way as they are in Miami Dade or Hillsboro or some of these other counties. And we are told in Palm Beach County in order for them to do this recount accurately, they need to run the tabulations three different times for the three different statewide recounts, agricultural commission senate and governor. And that's one of the reasons they don't think that they can get it done in time.

So what we are being told is if they get one of these races done, they will certify those results. Send them to the secretary of state and that will be part of the recount. But of any of those other results are not done in time, if they don't get it done by Thursday, it will revert back to the original count on Election Day. And that's very important. I should say, when the count was finished on Saturday.

And that could be bad news for Democrats, Ana, because of course, Palm Beach County was one of their strongholds. It is where all three of their statewide candidates dis very well. If there was an opportunity for them to pick up votes in those recounts, Palm Beach County would be one of the places where they would expect to see that happen.

Now we should point out that it's very likely and all the sources that I talked to tonight believe it's almost inevitable that this will lead to some sort of legal action by the Democrats. They have not filed anything yet but this certainly opens the door to at least ask for some sort of emergency injunction to extend the allotted time for the situation in Palm Beach. So major development here, Ana, as this recount is just under way here in Florida.

CABRERA: So Palm Beach under fire. Also Broward County is part of this new round of lawsuits filed by Rick Scott. Briefly if you will, quickly go through what he is alleging?

NOBLES: Right. Well, the big lawsuit that' I think is important of these three lawsuits that were filed today is that Rick Scott's campaign is accusing Brenda Snipes, the supervisor of elections there of counting some ballots after the noon deadline on Saturday. They are asking that those ballots be pulled out of the overall account so that could impact the number overall.

The other two lawsuits are about impounding and taking care of the ballots by the sheriff's department when they are not counting. They are asking for the sheriff's department to do that. We will have to see how a judge rules in both of those cases.

CABRERA: Ryan Nobles in Tallahassee for us, thank you.

Joining us now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez.

And chairman, good to have you with us tonight. I don't have to ask you if you oppose Governor Scott's lawsuits. I'm, sure you do. But can you understand why there are so much frustration over Broward County in particular and its election supervisor Brenda Snipes when time and again this Democratic strongholds has become embroiled in election controversy.

[18:25:10] TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, the key point here, Ana, is that every vote should count. That's what it's about. And that is what the North Star should be. Every eligible voter who voted and followed the rule should count. Let me give you a very specific example that is very relevant to the

reporting you just did. Patrick Murphy ran for the United States Senate, lives in Palm Beach County. I think he is eligible to vote. He voted absentee. He followed the rules and then he got letter saying your signature doesn't match and now it's too late for him because he got the notice after the fact. It's too late for him to have his vote counted. That can't possibly be right. And that is one of so many examples that are out there.

CABRERA: Sure. But whose fault is that? Is that the fault of the election supervisor for how they have conducted these elections in those counties specifically? Should Brenda Snipes still be in her position?

PEREZ: No. I mean, the challenge here is that you have not given enough time for folks to get it right. Again, the North Star should always be to get it right and make sure that every eligible voter who cast their vote in accordance with the rules of engagement has their vote counted.

CABRERA: Sure, absolutely. Who wouldn't agree with that? But whose fault it is if they are counted? Is it state law that needs to change? Is that what you are saying?

PEREZ: They don't have enough time. We had record turnout in this primary. That's good news for both sides. And what record turnout does is it creates challenges. And on challenge you have that takes time to work out is when you have inexperienced -- and this is an issue that occurred in Tennessee, and issue occurred in Georgia. It's an issue that occurred in a number of places.

When you have - just to take the example of the signature match that is involving Patrick Murphy's case. Nobody is trained sufficiently in how to determine whether that person's signature from eight years ago is matching this person's signature from now.

Frankly, it has been a voter suppression tool that has been used in Colorado. It's been used in Tennessee. It's been used elsewhere to render eligible people ineligible. And so, that is -- that's the challenge here.

CABRERA: I hear your argument. But when we look at what's happening in Florida right now and I think everybody can agree with you, every vote should count. As long as people got their ballots and their votes in in time. But do you expect the recount to change the outcome?

PEREZ: Well, we don't know how many votes there are. And it could change the outcome because we don't know how many people are in Patrick Murphy's situation.

In Georgia, for instance, Mr. Kemp continued to say, well, the votes have been counted and then we learn yesterday that there was something like 5,000 votes in one county that actually hadn't been counted and now are counted and the overwhelming majority were for Stacey Abrams. CABRERA: But the deadline to finish that initial count in Florida has

passed. So at this point all the votes that could be counted, at least according to election officials who say there were no complaints of any election, criminal activity, according to the secretary of state office, that part has come and gone. Now they are in the recount stage. So they are counting from the pool that they have. We know they are more than 12,000 votes different in the senator race and then more than 33,000 votes different in the o governor's race. How likely is it that's going to change the outcome?

PEREZ: Well, again, the reason I can't answer that question is because we don't know how many people were in Patrick Murphy's vote. They followed the rules and they have been disqualified. That is why this is labor intensive. And that is why it is going to take time.

We also have military and overseas ballots that had to be postmarked by a certain day. But when they arrived can differ depending on the U.S. mail. And so, there's a lot of work that remains to be done in Florida and in Georgia and in other places like in Texas and congressional race.

And so, again, we just heard Rick Scott say that fraud was committed. That's ludicrous. And they throw that around. And you heard Donald Trump say that he won the popular vote. That's equally ridiculous. What we are trying to do is make sure that everybody who voted and played by the rules has their vote counted. And that is what we are trying to do.

CABRERA: OK. Let me move to the bigger picture for your party. Nancy Pelosi tells CNN she is 100 percent confident she will be the next speaker. Many incoming Democrats, however, have run and won by saying they would not support her. Do you think Pelosi should be the next majority leader next year as the Speaker of the House?

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, that will, obviously, be up to the new House Majority, and they will be deciding that soon. And one of the things they're going to look at is, what do we have to accomplish and who has the steadiest hand to do it?

I mean, one of the things I admire about leader Pelosi is that without her, we wouldn't have an Affordable Care Act. And without her, we wouldn't have been able to save things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

She is a seasoned pro in those areas, and those were areas that were at the top of people's minds when they voted.

So as Democrats vote in short order about who they want their next Speaker to be, I'm sure that will be one thing that weighs on their mind moving forward. Because these are treacherous time, and there's a lot of choppy waters out there.

CABRERA: Yes.

PEREZ: And so they're going to ask the question, who has that steady hand to navigate these choppy waters and make sure we protect pre- existing condition coverage for people, make sure we're fighting for Dreamers, make sure we're doing the relevant oversight that is necessary to ensure that there are checks and balances in our government?

CABRERA: Chairman Tom Perez, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate you joining us on this Veterans Day.

PEREZ: Pleasure to be with you.

CABRERA: In the wake of the midterms, Wall Street surged. But will that translate to more consumer spending going into the holiday season, or will things taper off? CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik has more.

Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Will the post- election euphoria cool off? The Dow Industrials surged 545 points on Wednesday following the midterm results. Wall Street is betting a divided Congress keeps tax cuts and deregulation intact.

Plus, split control of government has traditionally been good for stocks. The bulls are hoping the market keeps rising in the next few months, bouncing back from the brutal October sell-off.

Watch the retail sector this week. Walmart, Macy's, Home Depot, and Nordstrom all report quarterly earnings. Retail stocks have rallied recently as investors look ahead to a strong holiday season.

According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers plan to spend four percent more this year, thanks to strong consumer confidence, low unemployment, and raising wages.

In New York, I'm Alison Kosik.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:36:55] CABRERA: House Democrats who are about to be in power come January are now calling for newly-appointed Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to immediately recuse himself from the Special Counsel investigation.

They are concerned he is only there to sabotage Robert Mueller's investigation. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: First of all, I think that he should recuse himself for any review of the investigation because of statements he has made already in the public domain about the fact that this investigation should not proceed (ph).

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS HOST: You don't have confidence in him as America's top enforcement officer?

PELOSI: No, I don't. No, I don't.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: Our very first witness on -- after January 3rd, we will subpoena Mr. -- or we will summon -- if necessary, subpoena -- Mr. Whitaker.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: You know, I want to make this very clear. If he doesn't recuse himself, if he has any involvement whatsoever in this Russia probe, we are going to find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: At this point, Republicans haven't made any moves to protect Mueller in the wake of Jeff Sessions' firing and Whitaker's appointment. Even Senator Lindsey Graham who once said there will be, quote, hell to pay if Sessions were ever ousted is backing Whitaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think he was appropriately appointed legally. I don't think he has to recuse himself.

I am confident the Mueller investigation will be allowed to come to a good, solid conclusion, that there'll be no political influence put on Mr. Mueller by Mr. Whitaker to do anything other than Mr. Mueller's job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has more now on our nation's top law enforcement official, the newly appointed Acting Attorney General, and why Democrats are so concerned over his appointment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matthew Whitaker was well known as a reliable conservative when officials at the White House handpicked 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?

MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going well?

WHITAKER: Yes.

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 T.V. to get the attention of the President.

In 2014, Whitaker told an Iowa blog that he thought the landmark Supreme Court ruling Marbury versus 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 no many bad rulings. I would start with the idea of Marbury versus Madison. The courts are supposed to be the inferior branch of our three branches of government. We have, unfortunately, offloaded many of our tough public policy issues onto the court, and they've decided them. Unelected judges are deciding many of the issues of the day.

[18:40:10] 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.

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 --

ERICK ERICKSON, HOST, WSB RADIO: Levitical or New Testament?

WHITAKER: I'm a New Testament.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITAKER: And what I know is, as long as they have that worldview, that they'll be a good judge.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): And now, "The Wall Street Journal" reports the FBI is investigating a now-shut down 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 Whitaker also said in 2017 that he guessed any replacement for Jeff Sessions would cut Mueller's budget so the Russia investigation would eventually grind to halt.

We know Whitaker is not planning to recuse himself. So the question is, how will he handle what comes next in the Russia probe and will he essentially try to shut it down?

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

CABRERA: Thanks, Jessica.

Multiple wildfires raging out of control across California this hour. At least 25 people are dead, and the dangerous winds fanning the flames aren't letting up. We have the latest forecast, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:29] CABRERA: Women around the country are constantly fighting for their rights, but they may have the upper hand when it comes to one issue at least -- child custody.

On tonight's episode of "THIS IS LIFE," Lisa Ling talks to fathers on the losing side of custody battles, fighting to play a more active role in their children's lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA LING, CNN HOST (voice-over): All the men here seem to agree. As much as they feel hard done by their ex-wives, they blame the court system more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court kind of creates the beginning of the hostility because you might have two good parents. Which one do we choose? And statistically, most of the time, it goes to the mother.

On paper, the court does give you the every other weekend and vacations. But ultimately, what happens is, if you go that weekend to pick up your child and that parent decides, no, you're not seeing them, you can call the police. You can get what they call a domestic incident report.

But now, you're back in court. Sometimes, it can be years that you don't see your children. That's just the reality of it.

LING (on camera): Well, what's it been like for you to be alienated from your kids?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a veteran and I'm a police officer, and there's nothing I've ever faced in life harder than this. And at the end of it, all I care to be is just a father, for my phone to ring and for me to know that my child still loves me. That's all I really care about. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Host of "THIS IS LIFE" Lisa Ling is joining us now.

Lisa, you talked to fathers facing a number of situations when it comes to custody of their children. Why is it so hard for them to maintain relationships with their kids?

LING: Well, Ana, as we all know, divorce is pretty rampant in this country. And very often, it can become extremely contentious. And when courts are involved and lawyers are involved, it can get incredibly messy.

And if a custodial parent is designated, very often -- or more often than not, the mother is designated that custodial parent. And it happens in about 80 percent of the cases. And what often happens with the fathers is they become alienated from their kids.

They see their kids every other weekend and one day a week, which really isn't enough time to be a father. And very often, the kids don't really know why dad is not around. And parental alienation is a very serious issue for people who don't have custody of their kids.

CABRERA: Lisa Ling, we look forward to your episode. It is eye- opening when you think about the situation, and you really explored it in depth.

I know you talked to the so-called deadbeat dads and explore, you know, how they can connect more with their families and how they can be held to the fire. But there's also those, of course, who want to be involved but can't financially support, so you get into the issues.

I wish we had more time to discuss right now. As always, Lisa, thank you very much for being with us.

And be sure to tune in tonight for an all-new episode of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING" after "PARTS UNKNOWN." Only on CNN.

We have this just in to CNN, Georgia's Democrat candidate for governor filing a lawsuit in federal court this hour, challenging the rejection of thousands of absentee ballots and other rejected votes. We'll have the details when we come back.

[18:49:45] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Welcome back. Tonight is a special night here on CNN. It is the final episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN: ANTHONY BOURDAIN." And he is taking us on a personal journey through New York's Lower East Side. Here's a preview.

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ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST: I remember Tompkins Square. After the police fenced it off, it was, in a lot of people's minds, the end of an era. CLAYTON PATTERSON, AUTHOR, "JEWS: A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE LOWER EAST

SIDE": And, yes, when they cleared off the drugs, a lot of people were saying, hey, great, we're now going to have a neighborhood and everything is going to be safe. And then came the gentrification.

And so the whole concept of America is being wiped out because you can't pull yourself up by the bootstraps anymore because you can't get in the game.

Gentrification has affected the whole city. You have to now make a huge amount of money to be here. You know, they got the skyscrapers in midtown that have sold millions of dollars apartments that nobody lives in.

BOURDAIN: You're right.

PATTERSON: And they're empty.

BOURDAIN: I live in one of those big, empty buildings that --

PATTERSON: Yes.

[18:55:00] BOURDAIN: -- with absentee owners. Is that all that's going to be left in New York?

PATTERSON: Yes. New York, there was always something that brought it back. But once you fill it with the corporate world, it's never going back. So we turned the corner that we will never go back again. And so it's over.

BOURDAIN: It's over?

PATTERSON: It's over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The final episode of "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN" airs tonight at 9:00 right here on CNN.

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[18:59:59] CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.