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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Fraud Claims, No Evidence; Interview with Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida; GOP Candidate Concedes in Arizona Senate Race; Interview with Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired November 12, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight keeping them honest over claims about the Florida election, the election that's not quite over yet and the push by some of the candidates and the president to wrap things up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[20:00:08] GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: What I'm focused on now is we have gone through an election. Let's get this election finished. That's what I'm focused on now. Let's get this election finished.

(EN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's Florida Governor Rick Scott who as you know is running for the Senate and also happens to be narrowly leading in the vote count. He's also saying and I'm quoting the governor here, quote, there may be rampant fraud in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. He's been busy in court suing to get ballots and voting machines in Broward and Palm Beach Counties impounded. We'll have more on that shortly.

His opponent, the incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, is also going to court on Wednesday and several Democratic groups also filed suit today to make absentee ballots postmarked but not received on Election Day eligible to be counted. And late today, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause Florida and a Florida voter filed suit to bar Scott from any role in the ballot count.

Now, clearly, each side is doing what it can to improve its chances and, of course, there's also a risk that any democratic process that drags out too long will erode trust in the outcome or the process.

But keeping them honest, that's not exactly what's happening here. What's happening is politicians using allegations of frauds and misconduct to try to move the finish line up. Governor Scott is doing it, so is President Trump, who tweeted this morning and I quote: The Florida election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Rick DeSantis, and that large number of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible. Ballots massively infected, must go with election night.

So, he says we must go with election night. So, that tweet was at 8:45 a.m. this morning, which is interesting because just two hours later at 10:45 a.m., the Republican National Committee sent out a fund raising e-mail under the president's name and it reads in part, please make an immediate triple match contribution to fully fund our Florida grassroots recount fund. So, the RNC is saying send money for the recount that the president says he wants to end right now.

In any case, that's not how things work in Florida. On election night, none of the overseas ballots, many from service members had been counted. The deadline for them is this Friday. On election night, no one but TV pundits called races, let alone Scott and Nelson. State officials do not certify election results for weeks or sometimes for months.

In 2014, in 2016, the vote counting alone, that went on for days, which is not stopping the president or Governor Scott for alleging wrongdoing. What they are not doing is backing up their claims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Governor, do you have any hard evidence that there was fraud or is fraud going on? And if so by whom?

SCOTT: Sure. So, Chris, we have specific election laws to try to prevent fraud. We had to go to court to force the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County and Broward County to comply with the law which is law is there to prevent fraud. They were not letting party officials review when they were reviewing ballots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, you heard the focus on heavily Democratic Broward County. Now, keeping them honest, today, the county's chief judge turned down the governor's request to impound insecure voting machines. He also said and I'm quoting here, I'm urging because of the highly public nature of this case race to ramp down the rhetoric. If someone in this lawsuit or someone in his county has evidence of voter fraud or irregularities, they should report it to local law enforcement.

State officials, by the way, have repeatedly denied there's evidence of fraud in Broward County or elsewhere in the state. As for any complaints the president may have, it may be worth looking back at how he viewed the process when he was a candidate, just to get a better picture of where he truly stands on matters of fairness and democratic process. Here he is just a few weeks before the 2016 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election if I win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, let's get the latest now from the White House and Jeff Zeleny is there for us tonight. So, to be clear, has the White House provided any evidence to back up the president's claims of criminal activity or voter fraud?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESOPNDENT: Anderson, not surprisingly, there's been zero evidence. There's been nothing beyond what the president has been sending out in bits and spurts. He started the morning doing that. Zero evidence from here at the White House, zero evidence from the Republican National Committee which also was responsible for sending out that fund raising solicitation with the subject line saying stolen, that is simply, no evidence of that.

And what is happening in Florida, we should point out, is something that always happens in a tight election. It's actually because of the 2000 recount, there are laws, that there's a mandatory recount happening.

[20:05:02] So, this is, you know, certainly sloppy and messy but it's what the state law requires. The president making all these assertions, saying that the honest vote count can't be found. There are few Republicans who are joining him in that argument. So, as of now, as of tonight, zero evidence of any of that, Anderson.

COOPER: And, obviously, this is not the first time the president has cried voter fraud with no evidence whatsoever to back it up. I mean, he had the whole commission which then was disbanded without presenting anything.

ZELENY: He did. I mean, you'll remember, shortly after he was elected he said he would have won the popular vote which he lost by nearly three million votes. He would have won the popular vote, he said, if there haven't been rampant voter fraud in California. Again, no evidence of that at all.

Republican officials, election officials state by state by state were saying there's no evidence of that. He also, you know, was saying at the time that Massachusetts voters were going up into New Hampshire voting. There are no evidence of that either, at least in a widespread nature.

So, it has become a conspiracy theory, no question. He also was talking about that Arizona Senate race. He said it was rigged and bad things were happening there. The Republican governor in that state said, no, no, that did not happen.

So, tonight, we're seeing the outcome of that race. So, as of now, Anderson, the president fixated on this, but there's been zero evidence presented by him or anyone here of anything wrong happening in those states.

COOPER: Again, no evidence. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

ZELENY: Sure.

COOPER: More now on exactly how the state of Florida will get from where we are today, right now, to where they hope to be in January with the swearing in of a governor and senator. Not all the swearing at and swearing over that we're seeing right now.

Our Ryan Nobles joins us from where some of the ballots are being recounted.

So, I just want to start by asking you the same thing that I asked Jeff Zeleny. You're in Florida. So far, has there been any evidence of fraud that's been claimed?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, Anderson. There's no direct evidence of fraud at this point. But Republicans are pointing to a series of events that took place where they say that could open the door to fraud taking place. For instance, they filed a lawsuit against the election supervisors in both Broward and Palm Beach County.

And they won those lawsuits. They were declared to be unconstitutional because they weren't necessarily transparent enough with the amount of votes that were in house in both of those places before they filed their returns on Saturday. They are also pointing to fact there was a small number of ballots in Broward County that were counted after the noon deadline on Saturday.

So, there are examples of the election commissioners and the supervisors in some of these counties not exactly adhering to the law in its full capacity, but most of this right now being adjudicated in a court of law that will ultimately decide how this impacts the overall vote. And that is not the bridge you would get to if you want to accuse something of frauds or criminal activity, because we need to be very clear that there had been the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the secretary of state who is a Republican appointed by Governor Rick Scott who have said explicitly they found no evidence of criminal activity.

COOPER: And this new lawsuit asking Governor Scott to recuse himself from the recount process, that's just one of many lawsuits filed over this.

NOBLES: Yes. That's right, Anderson. That lawsuit could be important. It could have implications beyond 2018, because right now, it's the governor who is responsible for the administration of elections through the secretary of state that he appoints. Also, the big lawsuit is the one that's scheduled to be heard on Wednesday here in Tallahassee.

And that's a lawsuit filed by the Nelson campaign against the secretary of state that really gets into the adjudication of these mail in ballots. These ballots that are tossed out because they have some sort of problem and don't directly adhere to Florida law.

Now, Marc Elias, who's the lead lawyer on the Democratic side, believes that the Florida laws violate the U.S. Constitution. And so, he believes that many of these ballots should be brought back into the counting process. That could be Bill Nelson's last hope, because, Anderson, he need to make it clear if he were able to overcome Rick Scott in this recount, it could be unprecedented in American history. There's never been a vote total of this margin more than 12,000 votes that's been successful in a recount. But if, for some reason, this batch of ballots that will be discussed in this court hearing are brought into the vote total, that could change the conversation quite a bit.

Anderson, we should point out, we don't know how many ballots could be at stake here. It could be 20,000 and 100,000. We should get those answers Wednesday during that court hearing.

COOPER: But you raise an important point. Traditionally in recounts, you're talking about, you know, there's a couple hundred vote difference which is obviously not the case here. You're talking about thousands of votes difference.

So, the likelihood is, unless there's a massive -- some sort of massive mistake or massive number of ballots that haven't been properly counted, that it won't change the outcome given the margin right now.

NOBLES: Yes, that's exactly right, Anderson. Honestly, when you talk to Republicans and Democrats privately, they are very clear eyed about that prospect.

[20:10:04] That there still needs to be some sort of massive issue with this vote counting process that we have yet to uncover, now there is that possibility in Broward County where there was a certain number of undervotes and overvotes that were not necessarily attributed to the Nelson Senate race that were to Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis' governor race, and somewhat of an anomaly there.

Perhaps that will be uncovered in the recount process. But at this point, we need to make it clear if this thing changes, it would be something that has never happened in American history.

COOPER: And just quickly, the deadlines for these recounts are when?

NOBLES: So, Thursday will be the machine recount deadline, and that -- all the votes have to be. And at that point, then they'll take a second look at the numbers. If it's within a quarter of a percentage point, that's when they begin a hand recount of those over votes and under votes.

It's like only the commissioner race and the Senate race will meet that standard when the recount is completed on Thursday.

COOPER: All right. Ryan Nobles, thanks very much.

Joining us now is Florida Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch.

Congressman, thanks for being with us. Do you expect the counties that you represent which is Broward and Palm Beach County to make Thursday's deadlines, to complete their recounts?

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Well, I know that there are -- thanks, Anderson. I know that they're working literally around the clock in order to do that, but it's just really important as you've been discussing this, to point out there is voting -- there are vote calculations being done all around the country. And in every other location they're being carried out pursuant to law without the interference from the candidates.

In this case, our governor who happens to be a candidate, which is an enormous problem, has gone out of his way to raise the specter of fraud that doesn't exist rather than making sure that every valid vote counts. Today, he got a stinging rebuke in court when the judge said, no, you can't use your state police to seize these voting machines in the middle of the recount process. We've got to let this play out. There's a statute that requires it. That's what we're going through.

And the efforts by whether it's the president or the governor, Senator Rubio or others to question this, really undermine people's belief, their confidence in our democracy. That has long-term damaging implications. And they're doing it because they're worried, frankly, the governor's worried he might loss because he's seen his lead shrink by close to 80 percent.

COOPER: But, you know, Broward County does seem to have problems other counties in Florida don't have traditionally. Why is that?

DEUTCH: Well, I will tell you, in fact, the problem that exists in Broward County in the spring with the destruction of some ballots after the election, long after the election, prompted the governor to send inspectors down here. He vowed at the time to do it.

There are monitors who have been monitoring what's happening in Broward County throughout this election and the days after. They've seen no evidence of fraud. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has seen no evidence of fraud. There is absolutely nothing to these assertions other than the conspiracy theories that the president -- particularly when it comes to elections, that the president likes to spin.

Anderson, think about this in the broader perspective. Vladimir Putin and the Russians, when they interfere in our elections, when they interfere in other elections, they do it to try to cause unrest, to try to make people uncomfortable with the democratic process. That's the result that we're seeing here because of these outrageous assertions by the president of the United States and the governor of the state of Florida.

COOPER: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who actually appointed the Florida governor supervisor elections in 2003 tweeted today, that she, quote, failed to comply on multiple accounts and called her removal from office after the recount. Should she be removed? Do you agree with the governor?

DEUTCH: Well, I think the governor, our current governor has had that opportunity. He was concerned in the spring which is why he appointed these monitors to come down and to monitor this election. It's interesting that this is a Jeb-appointed supervisor of elections. Our governor, throughout has gone out of his way to try to suppress the vote, to pass laws that reduce the early voting sites, that reduce the ability for people to vote early, make it harder to register voters, and he tried to purge 200,000 voters from the rolls. That's what the governor has done here. He's had every opportunity to

look at the supervisors, but he's been focused on trying to make it harder for people to vote, in this case, you need to let the voters vote and count all the valid votes.

[20:15:02] I'm sorry?

COOPER: Do you have confidence, though, in this supervisor?

DEUTCH: Oh, listen, I want to get through this election. There'll be an opportunity to talk about what went right and what went wrong, but what I refuse to do is to allow the governor and the president to use what's happening now, which is a recount pursuant to Florida law and to suggest that there's fraud that simply does not exist. There have been challenges in this office, but we have to focus on doing this recount and then living -- we can live with whoever wins the election. What we're really uncomfortable with is the effort that the governor and the president and Senator Rubio and others have gone through to try to stand in the way of counting every vote.

COOPER: All right. Congressman Deutch, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

We began the night with Florida. Right now, a major development in another big outstanding contest, the Arizona Senate race between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally.

Moments ago, Congresswoman McSally conceded.

Kyung Lah joins us now with the very latest.

So, what did McSally say?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: McSally basically tweeted out congratulations to Kirsten Sinema. This is a long, hard fought campaign by both of these woman. McSally ahead on election night and tonight admitting that she had lost. Here's what she tweeted out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: Everybody, I just called Kyrsten Sinema and congratulated her on becoming Arizona's first female senator after a hard fought battle. I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate.

And I also want to say thank you to everybody who supported me in this campaign, my staff and volunteers and everybody who voted for me. I'm so grateful for you. My wingman and my wingman in this journey, we sure wish it came out with a different result, and I'm so thankful for you.

As I traveled around this state, I was so inspired by the many people that I met, and I am convinced Arizona is the best state in the country and our best days are still yet to come, and I'm going to continue to pray for our success. Thank you so much. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: And lighthearted touch there with her dog Boomer next to her. She's traveled with that dog and voted on the same day with her dog.

But certainly, Anderson, this is lighthearted end to what has certainly been a very ugly race in Arizona.

COOPER: This is a state president Trump won by 3 1/2 points. How did Sinema pull it off?

LAH: Very simply she made sure she sold a message of moderation. Now, Martha McSally tried to paint her as being someone too progressive for Arizona. But what she did was Sinema ran a disciplined campaign focusing on health care, focusing on a message for Arizona, trying not to sling any mud. McSally ran to Trump, and in effect that's what did not work here.

In suburban Phoenix, we talked to many women who said that they simply did not like the rhetoric coming from the White House and they wanted to punish the Republicans by voting against McSally. I spoke with a lifelong Republican, Denise Gianatti (ph), and she told me, Anderson, that she simply was turned off by Trump.

She didn't care that McSally was a woman. She didn't care that McSally could make history here. She wanted McSally to pay for Trump's sins.

COOPER: Kyung Lah, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, breaking news in the Russia investigation. A conversation with one congressman whom certainly would be out in front of many investigates in the months ahead.

And later, we'll take you to the California fire lines, talk to a firefighter who's reacting what the president has been tweeting over the weekend, including a threat to cut off federal money. This entire neighborhoods have burned to the ground and casualties grow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:22:43] COOPER: More breaking news tonight that could take on significance now that Robert Mueller's so-called pre-election quiet period is over. Author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi says he expects to be indicted within the next few days. His lawyer declined comment. So do spokesman for the special counsel.

Of course, his role apparently centers on the possibility that he served as an intermediary between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks. Of course, he also appears to be fundraising off this latest news as he believes that he will be indicted for in his words, quote, some form or other of giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand jury or however they want to do the indictment.

Joining us now, someone who may be investigating all of this further when the new Congress comes in, New York Congressman Jerry Nadler, who's widely expected to be the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Thanks so much for being with us.

The fact that Roger Stone hasn't been contacted by Mueller's team, does that tell you something?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, people know more than I do about this thing. Former prosecutors say it, indicates that he may be a target.

COOPER: Right.

NADLER: That if they don't call you, and you're someone who was expected to be called, it may be because you're a target and they expect perhaps to indict you. But I don't know that.

COOPER: And we're told, they've certainly have been asking a lot of questions about Roger Stone and his associates. I want to read you something that Acting Attorney General Whitaker, Matt Whitaker said. He said he's fully committed to following all appropriate processes and procedures of the Department of Justice, including consulting with senior ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters that may warrant recusals.

He says he will accept any recommendations from ethics officials. It doesn't say -- it says that he'll consult with them. It doesn't say he will accept their recommendations.

NADLER: Well, look, he's obviously not going to recuse himself. He should recuse himself because he's prejudged the issue. He said there's no Russian interference in 2016 election. He said that the investigation by special counsel is a witch hunt. He said it should be stifled by a lack of funding.

All of these things he's said. So, he's hardly the appropriate person to supervise a fair investigation. And he's clearly, remember, the president's beef with Attorney General Sessions was not on any policy matter. It's he recused himself upon advice of the ethics people of the Justice Department.

COOPER: Because in terms of policy, Sessions probably executed the president more than any members of his cabinet.

[20:25:03] NADLER: Absolutely. The two saw eye to eye on policy except he did the right thing. He recused himself and the president wouldn't forgive him for that, and said so repeatedly. The president was not going to appoint someone he thought would recuse himself.

COOPER: Right.

NADLER: So, I assume he got some indication that Whitaker would not recuse himself. Whittaker is unfit to supervise this since he did prejudge the outcome and since he's so clearly a partisan on this.

COOPER: It's also odd because the president at one point months ago said on FOX News that he knows Matt Whitaker and Matt Whitaker is very, you know, a great guy. Then just a couple of days ago he said repeatedly that he doesn't know Matt Whitaker.

NADLER: Well, that shouldn't be surprising. The president lies all the time. We know that. And he has a pattern of distancing himself from people whether it's Michael Cohen or other people he's been close to. Paul Manafort by saying I wasn't close to them when he was.

COOPER: There has been a lot of talk from incoming chairs about various ways they hope to investigate President Trump. Is there a danger in focusing too much on that? Are you concerned that Democrats are going to over step and over --

NADLER: No, I think Democrats are going to be very disciplined. We have priorities. The first priority is to protect the investigation because the investigation is necessary to protect the integrity of our elections to find out what happened.

COOPER: How can you do that? Because I mean, there's not a lot of appetite on the Republican side. It's certainly an incentive.

NADLER: Well, we can protect it. The first thing we're going to do in January is call Mr. Whittaker as a witness. There are a lot of ways we can protect. We have asked -- we have sent letters asking for document retention that all relevant documents be retained. It will be a criminal matter to destroy them now and we'll see how else that goes.

But the first priority is to protect the Mueller investigation. Then we'll see what their conclusions are. But we have a lot of other priorities too. We have to enact legislation to deal with voter suppression. We have to deal with the Dreamers. We have to have an investigation into how it came about that the United States could tear mothers -- tear children out of arms of their mothers at the border and still have several hundred kids who have not been reunited. We have to do something about gun control.

You know, we have massacre, mass shooting every two weeks in this country. We're told by the NRA and others it's a mental health problem. But if you look at Europe or Japan, nobody has more than 150, 170 deaths by guns a year. We have 33,000. We're not 10,000 times as mentally ill as the people in Japan or Europe. That's a slander on the American people.

COOPER: So, you're saying first priority is getting Matt Whitaker under oath in front of the committee?

NADLER: Yes.

COOPER: And then, do you -- what about impeachment proceedings? There's certainly a lot of Democrats who would like to see that.

NADLER: Yes, but that's far down the road if it happens at all. We can't make judgments on that until you see what the Mueller investigation comes up with, what other investigations come up with. If there's grounds to do that, most of us think that Trump is about as horrible a president as he can imagine, but that doesn't mean he should be impeached. To be impeached, you have to meet really three tests.

One, you have to show that impeachable offenses have been committed, which does not necessarily mean crimes, as a separate issues. Two, you have to show they rose to the gravity where it threatens the integrity of Republican and Democratic institutions, where it threatens the safety of a democratic society. And three, because you don't want a situation where you tear up the country for the next 30 years. With 30 years, people are saying -- half the country is saying we won the election, you stole it.

You have to believe at the beginning of the procedure that the evidence is so stark of misdeeds so huge that when all of this is laid out publicly and appreciable fraction of the people who voted for Trump will say, will admit, OK, you had to do this. Those are the tests as far as I'm concerned. And I think, historically, those were the tests and we're far from that right now.

COOPER: Congressman Nadler, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

NADLER: You're welcome.

COOPER: The latest on the deadly in California coming up. About a hundred people unaccounted for right now. Millions at risk. We have the latest update from Malibu.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:33:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: President of the United States weighed in on the deadly destructive California wildfires. Over the weekend his initial response was about assigning blame and threatening to takeaway thorough funding. We'll have more on that in a moment, but first the latest on the ground.

The fires have left at least 31 people dead, 29 of them in what they're calling the Camp Fire in Northern California. About 100 people are missing or unaccounted for according to Cal Fire, and 13 million people are potentially in danger in Southern California. It includes risk to cities like Los Angeles, Anaheim, Glendale.

Just moments ago the President tweeted, "I just approved an expedited request for major disaster declaration for the State of California." President continued, "Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on. I'm with you all the way. God bless all the victims and families affected."

CNN's Bill Weir is in Malibu. He joins us now. Bill, you've been witnessing all this stuff first hand. What have you been seeing there?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we came looking for, you know, hot spots, firefighters battling those flames, a lot of these fire here, the Woolsey Fire, has been knocked down. They say it's about 20 percent contained, but this is what we're finding. I've -- the sun went down. We can show you some tape we shot just within the last hour here before sunset in the pacific. The model of Malibu is 21 miles of Paradise, but the surfers and the celebrities that have long live here know that the price of Paradise, two things, mudslides and wildfires, and this one is as bad as anybody can remember.

They say officially about 340 structures were completely lost, but that number could certainly climb. Two fatalities in this one and a fire that was 21 miles long, about 15 miles wide and it was indiscriminate because as both -- as these Santa Ana winds come howling up these canyons, these brush field dried, just tender dry canyons sort of turning them into terrestrial blow torches and you can see as bicycles melt into the earth or the only thing standing in a million dollar home is the washer and dryer just how hot that must have been.

[20:35:04] And then you see this telltale pool -- puddles of water which shows there were firefighters up here in that hellish inferno trying to save what they could. There are 3,200 firefighters now. You can imagine how exhausted folks from Ventura and L.A. County must be after that weekend fighting these blazes.

Now, firefighters from Seattle, from Texas are joining in to try to add resources. The winds, Anderson, expected only to get stronger. Tomorrow, they're worried about this other fires moving south. There's one that popped up north of here near Simi Valley today but they jump on it. They were able to contain it now.

So right now it is sort of a game of fiery whack a mole, just stopping them as the embers spread and blow all over the place, but just utter, utter devastation. Still an evacuation zone, but your heartbreaks for folks who are worried about their homes, their pets, everything they have and what kind of destruction they may be coming home too, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. And it's incredible how far those embers can just be picked up and moved by the wind and deposited elsewhere miles away and starts another fire. But we appreciate your reporting as always.

Again, the President's tweet varied. His initial post in surprise many by not focusing on the victims or those risking their lives to fight fires. Two days ago he tweeted, "There is no reason for these massive, deadly, and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost all, because of gross mismanagement of the forest. Remedy now, or no more federal payments."

The president of California Professional Firefighters says the President is dangerously wrong and calling this attack shameful. He also said in a statement, "The President's message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are on the suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines."

Again, the President is followed up with other tweets talking about those fighting the fires today tweeting out of thank you to the firefighters, FEMA and the first responders. And, of course, his latest tweet tonight making major disaster declaration has echoed that tone.

Joining me now is California Professional Firefighter's President, Brian Rice. Brian, thanks for being with us. First of all, I guess when you first heard about the comments from the President about withholding funding, what went through your mind?

BRIAN RICE, PRESIDENT, CALIFORNIA PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS: Anderson, when I first heard about it, it was -- I think it was early Saturday. I've been up in Paradise and now down in Southern California. They didn't think a lot about it and then I started getting a lot of calls from the folks that I represent, "Are you going to do anything. Are you going to respond to this?"

Then I read it and really tried to digest it. And the first part of it without having it in front of me but essentially saying, you know, that there's no reason for these kind of deadly fires and to have these over an over and then blaming it on forest management that, you know, right off the back I can think of three reasons. One, we have incredible weather right now that is just prime for wildfire or fire anywhere. And then the second part of it was the withholding of federal relief.

And you know, being in the middle of the town of Paradise which is wiped out and, you know, we have a fatality list that -- I believe it's 31. There's still close to over 200 reported missing. This is going to a human tragedy. And so my reaction was very guttural. I was angry. I can still get worked up over it, but today is Monday. Things are beginning to change.

And it's still, for me, you know, the fire -- the Camp Fire started in federal land and its federal responsibility area, which means that the federal government has responsibility for the land. They, in a cooperative agreement, gave fire suppression responsibilities to Cal Fire, but they retained all vegetation management responsibilities. And where I'm going with this is timber harvesting, forest clearing.

The state of California and other states, we've -- they've been arguing over it at very high levels since the 1950s, whether it's logging, whether it's fire control. And rather send to tweet out to the entire nation, make this between the president and the governor --

COOPER: Right.

RICE: -- and attack the problem. Don't issue a statement that it has a direct effect on the moral of the men and women that are fighting the fires and it certainly does in the community too.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, there's a time and a place for debate and, you know, that this was the first, you know, statement the President had made about the fires before talking about, you know, the firefighters in the midst of, you know, the worst parts of the blaze.

As you know, he tweeted just a moment ago, "I just approved an expedited request for major disaster declaration of the State of California. Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on. I'm with you all the way. God bless all of the victims and families affected."

[20:40:10] Just, you know, before we go, just talk a little bit about how hard this has been for the men and women who are fighting these fires. I mean the kind of work, the kind of the winds that they're up against, the size, the fast moving flames. I mean, their work is just so extraordinary and I think for folks who haven't been on the front lines it's hard to imagine how tough it is.

RICE: Up in paradise, you know, as a 30-year firefighter, you see when people abandon their cars in the road to run for their lives. The firefighters, both at the Woolsey Fire and the Camp Fire, literally spent the first 40 plus hours saving people. And it was firefighters, neighbors helping neighbors that at least in the Camp Fire it literally was a run for your life in many instances. And they have only gotten onto, you know, the offensive in the last 24 hours so it was very unprecedented.

COOPER: Yes. Well, it's extraordinary the work that all of your -- the men and women out there are doing and continue to do and will, unfortunately, be forced to continue to do in the days ahead. Brian Rice, appreciate it. Our thoughts are with all your personnel. Thanks for being with us.

The President is also getting a lot of criticism over his trip to France. He skipped a plan visit to honor fallen American soldiers at a cemetery outside Paris. The White House blames the weather. We'll talk about it with retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:45:16] COOPER: As the country observed this Veterans Day, holiday today, the President did not go to Arlington National Cemetery, did not give any public speeches to honor American veterans, didn't leave the White House, actually. He tweeted at 10:00 this morning the White House called a lid, meaning the President would have no events today.

Now, as a comparison, the Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton administrations, either the president or vice president spoke at Arlington on Veterans Day every year. Last year the President was with veterans in Vietnams. Vice President Mike Pence went to Arlington. Yesterday, the V.A. secretary went and this is why he's already been getting criticism for not going to an honor fallen American troops in France.

Mr. Trump was in France to commemorate the 100th year anniversary, the end of World War I, and attended a number of ceremonies with allies but decline to go to the cemetery where many American veterans are buried.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was there. The President did not -- was not. The White House blamed the rain saying the President didn't go because of "scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather." With me now is retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters. Colonel Peters, first of all, I'm just wondering what you made of the President cancelling that trip at the American cemetery in France. He did go to another cemetery, I should point out on Sunday, but not the one on Saturday.

LT. COL. RAPLH PETERS (RET), U.S. ARMY: Well, people have been agonizing about why didn't he go. Was it really about the weather? I think the short answer is he didn't feel like it. He wasn't in the mood. He didn't want to get his bouffant hairdo wet. You know, the soldiers and marines, a lot of marines buried in that cemetery at Bellaeu Wood, they endured some far worse weather than that.

They endured poison gas, (INAUDIBLE), bombardments, seeing their friends killed and mutilated before they were killed themselves. And our president couldn't get out of his hotel and take a 75 minute drive to honor those soldiers and marines. Tammy Duckworth put it perfectly, candidate -- Cadet Brownsburg.

COOPER: The -- it was interesting, and we're going to talk about this a bit later on in the broadcast, but the President of France to the President's face spoke out against nationalism and -- as a kind of an enemy of patriotism, and the difference between patriotism and nationalism. I'm wondering what you made overall of what you witnessed from the President's trip in France this time.

PETERS: Why did he use the taxpayers' money to go? Why did he bother? He clearly was disengaged. He wouldn't even walk up to (INAUDIBLE) with the other world leaders and the French had the security wrapped tight. I think he's a coward too. But above all, he's an embarrassment to our nation with every breath he takes.

Now, Macron misspoke slightly. He said that nationalism was the opposite of patriotism. No. Nationalism is the perversion of patriotism. But our President is not precise with his language either, so I would have to say that the European leaders have largely written Trump off. They don't expect him to improve anymore. They're trying to work around him.

But, you know, it's hard because we are the leaders of the free world. We are the backbone of western democracy and civilization for that matter. And when you have a president who has no shame, who has -- not even engaged and who is distinctly not a patriot, the world is being held together as scotch tape.

COOPER: It was particularly -- you know, it stood out to me in very stark relief given the entire -- the event to commemorate World War I, you know, and you saw this front of European leaders and the President of the United States. The idea is to present a united front and to remember the -- those who joined together to fight in World War I and yet there are now such -- it just stood in such stark relief to what the situation is right now. Essentially, there wasn't a show of unity that the entire event was supposed to represent.

PETERS: No, there wasn't. And it seemed that the person that Trump got along best with during their encounter at the lunch was surprise, surprise, Vladmir Putin. You know, Anderson, if I may, I want to give a brief shout out in Trump's honor to some World War I American veterans.

The 369th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army, the Harlem Hellfighters, all black in a segregated army, we sent them to shore up a French division. They took higher casualties in any U.S. Army Regiment in World War I. They were in the trenches longer than any USS -- U.S. Army Regiment in World War I.

[20:50:02] They won almost 200 Croix de Guerre, the French equivalent of medal of honor, and came home to a country that didn't care about them. On this Veterans Day, on this Armistice Day, the 100th anniversary, I would like Americans to honor all of our veterans but make a special place in your hearts for the Harlem Hellfighters who did their part for a country that failed to honor them.

COOPER: And can you imagine coming back to this country at that time having, you know, lost so many and sacrificed so much only to be treated as a, you know, a third-class citizen? Colonel Peters, I appreciate you being with us on this day. Thank you so much.

PETERS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: I want to check in with Chris Cuomo to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How you doing, Anderson? The players, we're working on the players. We got players on both sides of the lawsuits that are going on, specifically to do with the Nelson/Scott race in Florida, that Senate race. We're monitoring the governor's race as well, but it's time to get the players in there for them to make the case to our audience.

You know, what is the strongest case that Governor Scott has? We have a senior adviser on tonight to say what their biggest concern is and what they can prove. And then on the Democrats' side, how do they explain some of the counting problems they've had in Democrat-run counties down there? So, we got the players on there to talk about it.

And I have a special closing for Veterans Day where we, of course, thank those who served the country in our name, but a little bit more as well.

COOPER: I look forward to that, Chris, about 8.5 minutes from now. Chris is going to join us. Thanks very much, Chris.

Up next, more on the question of nationalism we spoke about with Ralph Peters a moment ago and how President Trump's nationalist vision is being celebrated now by white supremacists.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:55:56] COOPER: More now on President Trump's visit to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. During a speech in Paris on Sunday, the President of France took an implicit dig at President Trump who recently called themselves a nationalist.

President Emmanuel Macron rebuked nationalism calling it a betrayal of patriotism and warning against old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death. Here in the U.S., there are signs that President Trump's nationalist views, in fact, inspiring white supremacists and other fringe groups who spread hate.

More on that right now from CNN's Sara Sidner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was mean for the midterms on a website visited more than 2.5 million times a month. "Us if we lose," it read, depicting white men ready for war. Followed by, "them if we win," showing Jews being led to their death.

KEEGAN HANKES, SENIOR RESEARCH ANALYST, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: They're begging their followers to go out and find ways to get Republicans in office because they believe it will be easier for these policies to sail through.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a big day yesterday.

SIDNER: When President Trump celebrated the Senate victory, so did white supremacists. "This changed history," neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin said on his site, "The Daily Stormer," which is the most widely read neo-Nazi website in America. This is a race war, period."

They also reveled in the re-election of Congressman Steve King who has a history of making racist remarks. Like in this 2017 anti- immigration tweet saying, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," or his unsubstantiated claim about immigrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: They weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

SIDNER: "If last night was a referendum on Steve King's white nationalism, as the Democrats were trying to frame it, then white nationalism won," Anglin wrote on his site. Both King and President Trump vehemently deny they are racists or enable white supremacists.

Trump pushed back at a recent press conference when asked if the Republican Party was seen as supporting white nationalists because of his rhetoric.

TRUMP: I don't believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you make of that?

TRUMP: I don't believe it.

SIDNER: But purposefully or not, the President speaks a language racists and neo-Nazis embrace like his habit of linking immigrants to crime.

TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

SIDNER: The government accountability office says right-wing extremists are responsible for the vast majority of deadly terror attacks in the U.S. since 9/11.

TONY MCALEER, CO-FOUNDER, LIFEAFTERHATE.ORG: I was involved in the movement at the very dawn of the internet.

SIDNER: Tony McAleer is a former Skinhead. He says white supremacists look for any sign of approval from politicians in power.

MCALEER: The whole goal of people like me back in the day was to mainstream, mainstream the idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't take an overt slur for these individuals to basically become emboldened.

SIDNER: Take the President's threat to tell the military to consider rocks being thrown by migrants as guns being fired.

TRUMP: When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say, consider it a rifle.

SIDNER: Those comments cheered online by racist trolls. "Hopefully, they throw stones," they write. "The Daily Stormer's" webmaster, Andrew Auernheimer, is clear about their purpose.

ANDREW AUERNHEIMER, CO-RUNS THE WHITE SUPREMACIST WEBSITE, THE DAILY STORMER: We are trying to make a racist army.

SIDNER: White nationalists swooned of how the President described himself.

TRUMP: But I am a nationalist.

SIDNER: Translation, he's one of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't mean necessarily that he's saying that. It's just that he hasn't said anything to convince them that he disagrees with them.

SIDNER: Critics of Trump's rhetoric believe his reluctance to rein in the radical side of his base has only empowered them. Their hateful agenda gaining speed.

Sara Sidner, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, a sickening trend. We'll continue to follow, of course. Before we go, I just want to take a moment to remember the sacrifices those known and those not known made by the men and the women of the military who defended our country and protected our freedoms for generations.

Veterans, we honor you. To those who've made the ultimate sacrifice, we remember you. Thank you for your service. We are forever grateful. Never forget.

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: Beautifully said, Anderson. Thank you for that. I am Chris Cuomo, welcome to "Prime Time" everybody. Another key race was just called, not good news for Republicans.