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Death Toll Rises as Wildfires Rage On; Florida Recount Underway; Mississippi Senator Criticized for Remark; Trump Skipped Veterans Event; North Korea Expanding Missile Sites; Wildfires Rage in California. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 12, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Smooth launch.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I don't think you got the memo, John, but thank you so much.

KING: Take it away.

KEILAR: And underway right now.

Here we go again, the rhetoric gets hotter, the conspiracies get louder, as a recount gets ready to decide key races in Florida.

Hell in Paradise. Hundreds are missing right now as California's worst wildfires ever continue to spread.

A trip of tension as an ally calls out the president and backlash erupts after he skips an event honoring fallen American soldiers.

And the man critical of Robert Mueller is now in charge of Robert Mueller, but for how long?

But first, everyone's worst fears are being realized in California as deadly wildfires tear through both northern and southern parts of the state. This fast moving series of flame obliterating everything in its path, homes, businesses, and also lives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A whole town was wiped off the face of the earth in a matter of eight hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think words can really express the feelings that you have of loss and pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is nothing left. All my neighbors except one are gone. I think I'm the last house up there. Everything is gone.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Still? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still. It's our home. So we'll make it that.


KEILAR: Our Dan Simon is there in Paradise, California, which really resembles a personal hell there, Dan. We can see behind you so many people have lost loved ones. What is left there?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not a whole lot, Brianna. And I have to tell you, it's just surreal to be in a city that's been entirely obliterated by fire. You can see what's behind you. This is one neighborhood that's been levelled. And it looks like this all throughout Paradise. The city is 31 square miles and every inch has been impacted. And we're -- it's not just homes, it's businesses, it's schools, it's churches, it's retirement centers, you name it.

This is a city that is entirely paralyzed. We're talking about 26,000 people. The good news is the containment number has gone up and the winds have died down. But the bad news is, things remain dry and so the threat remains. And who knows when people are going to be coming back here. It's going to be several weeks. And that's just to come by and sort of pick through the rubble and see if you can salvage anything. We don't know when people will actually be living here again. Keep in mind, the infrastructure has also been destroyed.


KEILAR: But home to people. You heard that man say, it's still Paradise, still home to him.

Dan Simon, thank you so much, in Paradise, California. We will be coming back to this.

But right now to the ballot over -- the battle over ballots, I should say, that's playing out right now in Florida. A mandatory recount is underway in three razor thin races. This includes the race for governor and the race for U.S. Senate.

In the Senate contest, Republican Governor Rick Scott accuses incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of fraud without providing any evidence. Democrats compare Scott to a dictator trying to undermine democracy.

We have CNN correspondent Jessica Dean. She's there in Lauderhill, Florida, which is in Broward County.

This legal and PR fight is really heating up. Give us the latest, Jessica.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna, that's right, this has continued to just amp up as we've worked our way through the weekend and now to Monday. We are currently outside the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office where they are going through the process behind us. To give you the big picture, the deadline that we are looking at is Thursday. That's when all the counties should have their new numbers or their recount numbers back in to the secretary of the state's office.

Now, Broward County is working through that process as we stand here right now. In Palm Beach, they're a little more concerned they're not going to be able to make the deadline. They think they can get through the Senate race, but they don't know that they can get through the governor's race and two other races because their machines are older and can only take one race at a time. So they're working through that as they continue to work around the clock here at Broward County.

There are also a flurry of lawsuits from all sides that are being filed right now having to do with a variety of issues surrounding this election. But in a courtroom today, one judge talking to lawyers from both sides really stressed that they have got to be careful about their words and their rhetoric. It is important to remember that while there have been a lot of accusations about incompetence and questions about that, there have been a lot of allegations about fraud as well. But there have been no indications that there is any fraud here or any criminal activity. That is coming from the secretary of state's office. And also, Brianna, the department of law enforcement here again saying everything right now is OK. So we're going to let this process play out.

KEILAR: That's a very important reality check. Jessica Dean, thank you so much.

It's a monumental task that is going on, recounting 8.5 million votes. The initial recount triggered by Florida law is being done by machine. But that could lead to a manual hand count of some votes.

[13:05:07] I want to get more on how this arduous process is playing out. We have CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston to tell us all about that.

So officials, Mark, are scrambling to try and get this done. Tell us about what's happening right now. When's the deadline for finishing this?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you're absolutely right. You're looking at more than eight million votes that have to be counted by 67 counties, and it has to be done by Thursday. That's what we're told by state law. State law is requiring that the deadline is 3 p.m. on Thursday.

Now, we do know that one of the counties, Palm Beach County, says that they're not going to be able to make that deadline. So will we see a lawsuit to try to extend the count? Very likely.

But let's move on. So when -- what happens then? As you say, it's at 3 p.m. if we see a margin of less than 0.25 percent, we are going to then see a hand recount. Now, of course, we're looking at three individual races, the Senate, the governor, and the agricultural commissioner. So as we go through this, what happens? A hand recount is ordered if a margin, of course, is equal to less than 0.25 percent. A hand count is only for the undervotes and the overvotes.

So what's an undervote? Well, it's a voter who didn't pick someone for every race? And what's an overvote? Is a voter who can choose more than one candidate.

We should not too now, that is a lawsuit that is going to be heard Wednesday in federal court is Tallahassee. That is going to adjudicate what happens to the provisional ballots. In addition to that, on Friday, we're going to see overseas ballots and military ballots are going to be counted.

Now, we should note as well that the president of the United States, President Trump, just this morning suggested that the election should be over. Kind of interesting given the fact that there's still a lot of votes to be counted.


KEILAR: Yes, and casting some doubt also about the votes, which was interesting, and we haven't seen any proof of that.

Mark Preston, thank you so much.

The recount clash in Florida is topping our look at today's political hot topics. And we have CNN political director David Chalian here with the headlines.

This is a mess. What is your take on it?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's just Florida. I don't know that it's a --

KEILAR: Florida.

CHALIAN: I don't know -- but we should note here, this is the law in Florida. This is not some abnormal thing. This is triggered because it is the law in Florida that if two candidates are within a half percent of each other, this gets automatically triggered.

What we may see after the machine recount happens, we've seen that the Scott/Nelson Senate race is so close, it may go to the hand recount. And at that point they'll just be counting overvotes and undervotes, where people didn't cast a choice in every race.

So, yes, it is unwieldy, but it's actually happening as the Florida law dictates it to happen.

KEILAR: That is important to point out.

Now, if we go across the country, we look at Arizona. It's different, I think, what we're hearing Republicans say there, but what's your take on this race?

CHALIAN: Yes, well, you -- this race in Arizona, you know, when the votes were first coming in, we saw Martha McSally, the Republican ahead in the last couple days, Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat has taken the lead. She's now some 30,000 plus votes higher than McSally. That's a significant margin. But there are still 162,000 votes outstanding, well more than the margin between the candidates. So we have to wait. We've been getting these daily vote dumps as they count. So much of

Arizona is by mail, Brianna, as it comes in. We have to wait and see what each of these daily totals are and then we'll know whether or not this race will go to Sinema, who is now the current leader, or not.

KEILAR: And then take us to Mississippi. This is different. This is about what the current senator who was a replacement senator, Senator Hyde-Smith, said when she was at a campaign event. And it's getting a lot of outrage. Let's listen.


SENATOR CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: (INAUDIBLE) If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row.

MIKE ESPY (D), MISSISSIPPI SENATE CANDIDATE: These are all things that we're trying to move away from as a state. Pointing out the old harbingers of the past that have really continued to haunt us and cost us jobs and it's already a campaign issue. It's a statement she made and it's just -- it's awful.


KEILAR: That's what she said to the person who had invited her to the event. If he invited me to a public hang, I would be in the front row.

What do you -- what do you think about this? How damaging will this be?

CHALIAN: Clearly unwise words to use ever. And certainly in the context with history in Mississippi and you're running against an African-American candidate. This is a race that's going to a November 27th runoff. So they've got some time here.

I doubt this one choice of words is going to be the issue that defines the race. But what we've seen before is that when words like this, like Ron DeSantis got in trouble right after the Florida Republican primary, can Espy use this in a way that really rallies his base of support in Mississippi? Sure. This is still a race that leans Republican.

KEILAR: And what is Michelle Obama saying about Melania Trump that's so interesting?

CHALIAN: This was unbelievable. So you know Michelle Obama has her new book out, "Becoming," and she gives an interview and she's asked specifically about her relationship with Melania. And she says, you know, I told Melania Trump at the time of the inauguration she should call me any time. My phone is totally available to get called. And the interviewer, Robin Roberts of ABC said, so has she called? And Mrs. Obama made quite clear, no, she has not. Her phone - she has not gotten any call from Melania on any kid of advice or tips for the road of how to be first lady.

[13:10:12] KEILAR: Maybe more surprising than President Trump and President Obama not talking for sure. CHALIAN: Yes.

KEILAR: David Chalian, thank you so much.

Right now President Trump facing backlash after skipping an event honoring fallen soldiers due to bad weather as all his global counterparts stood in the rain.

Plus, with Trump seated before him, French President Emmanuel Macron warns of nationalism and the threat that it poses to the world.

And a nuclear discovery. A new report says satellite images show North Korea pushing forward with its missile program. I'm going to discuss all of this with former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, next.


[13:15:27] KEILAR: President Trump facing criticism right now over the decision to skip an event honoring American troops killed in France during World War I, calling off the trip because he could not chopper to it in the rain.

The White House chief of staff, General John Kelly, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, did make that 50-mile trip by car. And other world leaders gathered outside at similar events anyway, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the great war.

The White House says that they didn't want to disrupt traffic. Worth noting, this was a Saturday.

And here with me is former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the only Vietnam veteran and the first enlisted combat vet to serve in that role. He's also served 12 years as a Republican senator from Nebraska.

I wonder what you think when you see the president skipping a ceremony like this. What's -- what's your reaction about what he should have gone through to go?

CHUCK HAGEL, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, he should have gone through it to it. It was not that big a challenge or a problem. It was an embarrassment. And he let down, I think, our veterans. He let down our country. And I think he sent a very wrong message to the world. World War I was a horrific, terrible war that affected really everybody and certainly affected us. And not to make a little bit of an effort to get to a very important ceremony was wrong. And I'm disappointed and I'm sorry that he didn't do it.

KEILAR: This was a cemetery where almost 2,300 American troops were buried, we should note.

I want to ask you as well about the event that the president did go to the next day honoring the 100th anniversary of World War I and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, had a very pointed message when he spoke. Let's listen to that.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is betrayal. By saying our interests first, who cares about the others, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is the most important, it's moral values.


KEILAR: A takedown there of nationalism. Nationalism, obviously, has taken hold in Europe. President Trump espouses it with his America first view. What's your reaction to Macron saying that right in front of the president?

HAGEL: Well, I think Macron was correct. I think his analysis was right. The reasons he said it were right. It's very dangerous when you see a world that is starting to unravel in many ways politically focusing on nationalism, our way, the hell with the rest of the world. We can't live in that kind of a world.

This is a world of seven billion people. We're interconnected. It's a global community underpinned by a global economy. Security, stability in every corner of the world is important for all of us. And when they talk like this and they move toward -- the forces toward this nationalism, it's unraveling, a world order that we built -- America built with our allies after World War II that built coalitions of common interest to people -- to get people together to focus on their common interest. You can't fix everything. But if we don't find common interest to work through our problems, then there's only one recourse. And I think it's very dangerous, this nationalism, and this direction and this unraveling of an important world order that's provided a pretty secure and stable world the last 70 years, especially for the United States.

KEILAR: You say the president should have made that trip on Saturday to this American cemetery in France. It's worth noting that in his almost two years as president, he also has not gone to a war zone, which is customary for a president to do. Is this a misstep?

HAGEL: Well, I don't know if you would call it a misstep politically. I suspect it is. But more than that, to me it's a --

KEILAR: How about morally? How -- it a misstep morally?

HAGEL: It, to me, it's a recognition that when a country has men and women at war who are dying, like we do have people dying still in Afghanistan, and not recognize that by going and by looking and asking questions and being part of that personally rather than just getting reports in the morning or in the afternoon, that's a misstep. But I think it's bigger than just a misstep. I think it's a failure of an obligation -- of a basic obligation of a commander in chief. He's commander in chief of our forces and not to go to a war zone where we have men and women dying, that's just wrong.

[13:20:13] KEILAR: What does it do? What's the effect on people who are serving? HAGEL: Well, it has that -- it does have an effect because, as I said,

he is the commander in chief. And men and women who are serving, and it's the same people who serve all the time because of our volunteer service, they keep going back and keep going back, and not have your commander in chief, your president of the United States, make this a war, a high priority, sends a signal. And I don't think it's a good signal.

KEILAR: You were critical of the president ahead of the midterm elections, really going full bore when it came to this idea, unfounded, of an invasion of immigrants from a caravan of undocumented immigrants that was quite far from the border. Now the elections have passed. He's really not talking about it at all as he was before. What do you think about that? The deployment of troops to the border when now he's clearly dialed back the rhetoric after the election.

HAGEL: Well, I think it's obvious and it's very clear that it was a political stunt that he pulled. Abusing our troops. Having our troops down there still. And him continuing to say I may send more. Using our troops as political pawns for his political interest is just wrong. And I think it's pretty clear now that this election is over, we haven't heard much about it since then as to what it was all about.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about North Korea while I have you here because there's a new report that says satellite images show North Korea is moving right ahead with its nuclear program. That there are many hidden bases that it's operating at. Does this square with what the president has said about neutralizing the threat?

HAGEL: No, of course not. I mean this, again, is a fabrication of the president's conversations and whatever he says is reality. Well, it's not reality. Let's start with the beginning.

The North Koreans have just not signed any document working out, laying out what steps they're going to take to denuclearize in North Korea. There's been nothing stated, agreed to, framed, signed, except what President Trump says they've said. But now, if this information is accurate, which I assume it is, we have a whole different story. And it's reality. It's not fantasy.

KEILAR: And it's scary as well.

HAGEL: Yes, it is.

KEILAR: Secretary Hagel, thank you so much.

HAGEL: Thank you.

KEILAR: Really appreciate you being with us today.

HAGEL: Thank you.

KEILAR: The Dow is down nearly 500 points. We'll tell you what's behind the selloff, next.

And Malibu is just one of the towns devastated by the wildfires in California, as celebrities, including here, Gerard Butler, as you see, are returning to their homes, what is left of their homes.


[13:27:53] KEILAR: Out of control wildfires continue to scorch both ends of California and the number of people lost there is just staggering. At least 31 people have died and there are more than 200 others who are unaccounted for. These fires are burning in the north and the south of the state and they cover an area now that is bigger than the size of Chicago. In northern California, that's where the camp fire is. It's being called the most destructive fire in the state's history. Thousands of homes there have been reduced to ash and terrifying scenes of survival are still emerging.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never been this scared in my life.



KEILAR: Amazing that they got out to show us that video.

I do want to bring in Scott Austin. He's the president of the Pasadena Fire Fighter's Association.

First off, thank you so much for everything you are doing. I am a native Californian and this is unbelievable to watch. And I know that so many there are also grateful for what you're doing, all of this work, all of this sacrifice.

How many of your people are fighting the fires right now?


We have approximately 11 from our jurisdiction. We're a rather small jurisdiction. But there is approximately 3,000 plus firefighters from the greater southern California area. What they call the Woolsey fire and 4,000 plus fire fighters in northern California at that disastrous, tragic event.

KEILAR: Mr. Austin, I know you are aware that the president tweeted about the fires. He blamed it on poor forest management. Because you actually responded to that. You said, this has nothing to do with these fires that we're seeing. Explain that to us.

AUSTIN: Sure, Brianna. I saw the president's tweet on Saturday morning and I thought I would take the opportunity to invite some dialogue with the president and his administration about what really goes on for the majority of the firefighters in northern California and southern California.

[13:29:54] And those are called wildland urban interface fires. And briefly, they're fires that start in our wildland areas that are like foothills, the rolling hills, as you're familiar with, being a native Californian.