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Trump Meets with Lawyers; Trump Eyeing Replacements; GOP's Election Performance; Cause of Polio-Like Illness; Broward Elections Chief May Step Down; Man Looks for Missing Mother; Wildfires in California; Maryland Challenges Whitaker Appointment. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 13, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna Keilar starts right now.


I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

And underway right now, homeland finale. Why more administration members appear close to the exit.

And the red flags raised for the right with new signs the president's midterm night was worse than originally thought.

A Boeing jet falls from the sky and now a new report suggests Boeing withheld key information from pilots.

And prison breaks. A golden AK-47 and one of the world's most notorious criminals. The epic trial of El Chapo begins.

But we start with some news that is just into CNN on Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. And President Trump speaking face-to-face with his attorneys.

Here with me now in this news is CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.

So what more do we know about the meeting and the questions at issue here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that President Trump spent at least part of his day, according to a source familiar, yesterday going over these questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has given him with his lawyers and trying to come up with their responses. Now, this is a process the president started before the midterm elections. But they want to move the ball forward on this. And so, you know, according to this source, they struck an agreement with the special counsel's team. They are going to answer questions about Russian collusion, but not about obstruction of justice. And they're aiming to get these questions back in the special counsel within the next couple of days.

Now, of course, Bri, we've seen this timeline shift on a number of different occasions, but, you know, we know the special counsel is sort of winding down his probe and so it makes sense that you would want to try to get the ball rolling on responses from the president himself.

KEILAR: So these were the questions that they expected on Russian collusion?

MURRAY: Yes. And I think, you know, if Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team had his way, they would ask him all kinds of questions --


MURRAY: And have him in for an in-person interview. But the president and his lawyers have been very reluctant to agree to something like that.

You know, it's also worth noting that the special counsel has a lot of loose ends to tie up. We also know that Michael Cohen, the president's long time personal attorney, former personal attorney, also met with the special counsel's team yesterday according to sources. Now he's met with them before, and so it raises the question what they're still doing with him after he's met with investigators in New York, he's met with their team again. So it seems like the special counsel is trying to tie up these loose ends and hopefully they want to wrap up their investigation rather soon.

KEILAR: To be a fly on the wall. The next best thing is a report from you, Sara Murray. Thank you so much.

President Trump getting ready for a possible shake-up in the West Wing and beyond. Officials say the president is considering replacements for several senior positions, including White House chief of staff. In fact, other than his family members, officials say there are few aides who feel security in their positions.

I want to bring in CNN's senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, tell us about this potential shake-up.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, it's no surprise that the president is often not pleased by several people who work for him. That is something that people here have been dealing with since the very first day of this Trump administration. But we do believe that we are getting closer to a bigger staff shake-up, particularly in some of the cabinet agencies.

First and foremost, the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielson. The president has made no bones about the fact that he is not pleased with her performance. She, of course, and her allies argue that she is trying to explain the law to him, that she alone can't stop border crossings and other things like that, but he says he wants her gone. The timing is still unclear.

But that sets into motion a potential set of dominos that also includes the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. He is one of her biggest defenders here in the West Wing here in the White House. Just a couple weeks ago, in fact, there was a shouting match between John Kelly and John Bolton, the national security adviser, all over the performance of the Homeland Security secretary. So it clearly is a sense here that there may be movement at some point.

Again, not completely unplanned or out of the ordinary at halftime of a first term of an administration. But, Brianna, there's a sense there could be a lot of people moving out those resolving doors.

KEILAR: All right, Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you.

And we could soon start getting some results from the election recount that's underway right now in Florida. We have some live pictures there for you. This is from Lauderhill, Florida, in Broward County. The recount there was triggered by Florida law because of extremely close races for governor and for U.S. Senate.

And in the Senate race, Republican Governor Rick Scott is leading Democratic Senator, the incumbent, Bill Nelson, by about 12,500 votes. In the governor's race, Republican Ron DeSantis is ahead of Democrat Andrew Gillum by more than 33,600 votes.

And in the undecided Georgia governor's race, a judge has ordered officials to review thousands of provisional ballots. The ballots were cast on Election Day but rejected because the voter's names were not found on the registration list. The judge ordered officials to use all available documentation to verify the identities and other -- another federal judge has ordered an Atlanta area county to count all absentee ballots that were rejected because of birthdate discrepancies.

[13:05:17] The Democrat in the race, Stacey Abrams, is refusing to concede the race to Republican Brian Kemp. Kemp is ahead of Abrams by more than 57,800 votes.

The day after the midterm elections, President Trump bragged about how much he helped Republican candidates. But it turns out the GOP's election performance was not as successful as the president claimed.

And we have CNN political director David Chalian here to explain that.

This is something that must be a red flag for some Republicans.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, when you look now that Arizona has gone blue, the Senate race called for Kyrsten Sinema there, the Democratic candidate, that means Democrats have picked up two Senate races, Republicans picked up three. That's a net gain of one for Republicans. If Rick Scott hangs on, that would be another one. But that's now their max, Brianna. Republicans will max out at two pickups.

It was an extraordinarily advantageous map for Republicans. So keeping their net gains to two would be quite a good thing for the Democrats. It could have been a lot worse. And in fact as you said a week ago, the president was acting as if the Republican majority got much huger in the Senate. KEILAR: And it's a big deal. You can't really overstate what a big

deal it is for there to be Senator Sinema instead of Congresswoman Sinema now in Arizona, a Democrat there.

CHALIAN: The first time a Democrat's elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona in 30 years. 1988 was the last time.

It's also significant though when you look at how she won. You see some warning signs for Donald Trump in 2020. She actually really narrowed the lead that Trump had two years ago among male voters. She actually won, Sinema did, the Democrat, 11 percent of voters in Arizona who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. McSally only won about 2 percent of Clinton voters. So Sinema was able to dig into some of the Trump coalition, including among college graduates. She won them by 10 points. Donald Trump won them by 10 points just two years ago. They swung 20 points to the Democrat.

KEILAR: We're following this congressman, Jason Lewis, who lost his seat in Arizona and he blamed the late Senator John McCain for it. What's stunning to me is that this wasn't -- it wasn't something he said flippantly. This was an op-ed.

CHALIAN: Yes. This was something he wrote, published in "The Wall Street Journal" to blame John McCain, I should note, on Veterans Day of all days is when this was published, for the loss. He blames him because of John McCain's no vote on the repeal and replace effort that Republicans had in health care. You know Donald Trump has used McCain's thumbs down moment time and again in his speeches and Jason Lewis, this defeated Republican from Minnesota, came in and said, it is because of that no vote that we did not succeed in one of our biggest priorities and therefore we -- we're not able to explain health care in this election.

KEILAR: We just heard Jeff Zeleny say the Homeland Security secretary is in danger. What's going on?

CHALIAN: Well, I think, as Jeff was just noting, it's the domino effect also, beyond just Nielson. Her relationship with John Kelly. If this is some indication that John Kelly, the chief of staff, is also soon headed for the exits, which has been rumored before so we'll see where the president lands, that means that Donald Trump is creating an entirely not just new team but a new structure, a new energy inside the West Wing of how this presidency is going to operate in the second half of his first term.

KEILAR: David Chalian, thanks for breaking it all down for us.

CHALIAN: Sure. Thank you.

KEILAR: We appreciate it.

Let's talk about the wildfires that we're seeing in California. One of them is now the deadliest in the state's history. And I'll be speaking with one man who's going shelter to shelter looking for his 75-year- old mother.

And this just in, doctors are closing in on what's causing the polio- like illness that is paralyzing children.

Plus, pilots reportedly kept in the dark. A shocking update on the deadly Lion Air plane crash. Stay with us.


[13:13:26] KEILAR: Welcome back.

Just in, the Centers for Disease Control has just released new information on the possible cause of a rare and horrifying polio-like illness that is paralyzing children across the U.S.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now to talk about this.

This disease is truly terrifying to parents. Is there anything that you can tell us to allay some of their fears?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's important to remember, Brianna, that this is a rare illness. And so let me go over some of the numbers that the CDC just gave the press in the past hour.

They're saying that now there are 90 confirmed cases in the United States, in 27 states, 162 possible cases. And what we know is that this is -- they're -- what they're looking at is a virus. The experts that we've talked to, these are the CDC's own advisers, they say they think that it's an interro virus. Interro viruses are everywhere, causing millions of infections a year, but for some reason when these children get an interro virus, instead of just getting a cough or a cold or a fever like other children do or other people do, they later become paralyzed. They're sick and about three to 10 days later they become paralyzed. It's not known why it affects this relatively small number of children in this specific way.

KEILAR: And hand washing, is that really the way -- just the normal treatment of trying to prevent viruses?

COHEN: Right. I mean that's -- all you can do to prevent getting this is the same thing you would do to prevent getting any virus, which is, you know, good hand washing hygiene, you know, staying away from people who are sick.

But I will tell you that I've now spoken with, you know, many, many parents whose children contracted this disease and they did do good hand washing. And when one child got sick, they did put them in a separate room so the other children wouldn't get sick. And still their child got this disease.

[13:15:07] So it's -- you know, this part of it is still a mystery, why do some kids get so sick apparently from this virus?

KEILAR: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for your report.

Now, we are getting some news in the Florida recount involving the embattled Broward County elections chief. I want to go to correspondent Rosa Flores.

What are you hearing about this, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was during a press conference that Dr. Snipes -- and she is the supervisor of elections here in Broward County. And we asked her several questions. There were reporters there. And one of the things that she mentioned was that maybe her job is done here.

Now, all of this started with a question about a tweet. A tweet that Jeb Bush tweeted out saying that she should step down. And so Dr. Snipes responded by saying that, you know, maybe her job is done.

Here's a quote from this exchange. She said, I think that I have served the purpose that I came here for, which was to provide a credible election product for our voters.

Now, she did say that she would have to talk to her family about this and that she is not making any decisions just yet.

Now, she did add that she is confident that the recount will be done on time.

KEILAR: All of it so dramatic.

Rosa Flores, thank you so much, from Lauderhill, Florida.

The death toll in the California wildfire rising now to 44. This is now the worst wildfire in the state's history. And, sadly, that number is expected to rise.

In southern California, forecasters say hurricane-force gusts are going to fuel the Woolsey Fire, hitting canyons and ridge tops. And then in the north, the Camp Fire is still raging out of control. As you can see, there are towns, like Paradise, California, that have just been wiped off the map.

There are many people who are missing following the wildfires and family members are desperate to find them. They're checking with authorities. They're looking at hospitals, at shelters.

My next guest, Sol Bechtold, is searching for his 75-year-old mother who lived in the town of Magalia.

Sol, tell us the last time that you heard from your mom.

SOL BECHTOLD, MOTHER MISSING AMID WILDFIRE: The last time I talked to her was a week ago Sunday. We talk every weekend.

KEILAR: And why do you think that she may be having a hard time getting in touch with you, that you think that you may be able to find her?

BECHTOLD: You know, she is 75 years old. She lives at home by herself. She doesn't have a car. You know, and so I'm very worried that she may not have gotten out.

She has neighbors that take care of her. I've talked to all of the neighbors and they were all, you know, either at work or off at an appointment or something like that and not around.

She does have some memory loss, perhaps some early onset dementia, but she's a smart woman and I'm confident that she's figured out how to get out.

KEILAR: But you think she might be having a hard time contacting you is your concern, right?

BECHTOLD: Yes, that is my concern. I-- you know, I'm not sure that she would remember my cell phone number, but she'd certainly remember who I was and, you know, I know she'd be asking.

KEILAR: And I know as you're struggling to find out what's going on here, have you been able to get some help from authorities? Have there been places for you to turn to try to get answers?

BECHTOLD: Yes, the Butte County sheriff has been really good. They've got a hotline set up where you can call in and ask for help. We did a well check when this all started last Thursday and they went up and, you know, checked on her house. And, unfortunately, we did learn that the house had been destroyed. They've also got a missing persons line. We've actually got an investigator assigned to help us search for her. So the Butte County sheriff has been fantastic. All the Red Cross shelters have been helpful, too.

KEILAR: So you have an individual dedicated to this case, which is -- which is great. And I'm struck, Sol, by the fact that there are so many people who are in the same position as you. There are a lot of people unaccounted for here. There are a lot of people looking for loved ones. How are you holding up through this?

BECHTOLD: You know, as long as I'm staying busy and keeping her story out there and, you know, making it visible that people know she's out there and that we're looking for her, I'm doing fine. But, you know, in the evening hours, my wife and I are kind of winding down at the end of the day, sitting around, it hits you. It's hard. You know it's -- my mother 's been, you know, there for me every step of the way in everything I've done and it's -- the fact that I don't know where she's at and I don't know what's going on with her is -- it's hard.

KEILAR: Well, Sol, we hope that you get some answers. We hope that this can help you get some answers. And we certainly appreciate you talking to us today.

BECHTOLD: It's my pleasure. Thank you for the time.

KEILAR: All right, we'll be thinking of you and your family.

[13:20:00] And I do want to check in now with our Bill Weir. He's in Malibu Springs. There are firefighters who are trying to beat back the flames there.

Bill, tell us what you're seeing from your very windy vantage point.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is very windy and very rocky and a high, perfect, sort of front row seat to what is a war zone really. We showed up here about an hour ago and to give your some perspective, the fire line was maybe a half a mile back in that canyon. And it has advanced. And we've been watching this steady flight line of helicopters coming in, dropping fire retardant.

If you've ever flown in a bumpy airline ride across the country, you know how turbulence feels. Imagine being in one of these machines bouncing in these 40, 50 mile an hour gusts as they drop into these canyons and try to hit these hot spots. And then they're flying back.

Just to give you some perspective, on the other side of that ridge is Hidden Hills, we're above West Lake Village, Sherwood Country Club. They are getting water out of the lakes nearby. Thousand Oaks, the scene of the shooting, the tragic shooting at the Borderline, just in the distance here.

But it's been fascinating to watch the coordination of these helicopters as they come in. There's one chopper who's sort of the air traffic controller who flies in a counterclockwise direction and then directs these big sequarskis (ph) with the big twin rotors that can suck up that retardant and then drop it in place.

They're using Black Hawk helicopters now, I was told by some firefighters from Orange County, because they're bigger and stronger. They're built for combat. They can carry a dozen men into areas like this, but also drop a lot of water or retardant. And the county has just ordered, I think he said a dozen more to deal with this new normal out here.

I met firefighters from Orange County, as I mentioned. Also some from Idaho. People have been coming in from Texas, as far away as Seattle, to try to give some relief to the 3,200 firefighters. But you -- just when you think it's knocked down, Brianna, one ember can do this again. So we'll keep tabs on this and let you know how it goes. Right now, though, it seems to be contained, much to the relief of the folks living down in that valley.

KEILAR: And that wind is such an enemy for those firefighters. We can see it in your live shot there, Bill.

Bill Weir for us in Malibu Springs. Thank you so much.

Today, the state of Maryland is fighting back, arguing that Rod Rosenstein should be the man in charge of the Mueller probe, not Matthew Whitaker. I'm going to speak with a member of the House Oversight Committee, next.

Plus, a pitch to the growing ranks of women in Congress. Nancy Pelosi warns her fellow Democrats of ousting her as speaker on the heels of a pink wave election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:27:30] KEILAR: In federal court today, the State of Maryland is challenging President Trump's appointment of Matt Whitaker to be the acting attorney general. Whitaker took over when Jeff Sessions was shown the door. And, of course, normally the deputy would take over. In this case, Rod Rosenstein, who, as you know, is not exactly Donald Trump's best friend.

Maryland officials also think it should be Rosenstein and they're hoping that a federal judge agrees.

Here with me now is Washington, D.C., Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. She's a Democrat and she's also very importantly on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is about to go toe to toe with the Trump administration in January.

So you have Matt Whitaker, who actually is going to talk to Justice Department ethics officials. He's going to be talking about this amid these calls that he should recuse himself. What are your hopes and your expectations of what that will bring?

REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: It's very important that he's going to talk with ethics officials first because that may keep us from even getting to the court case. Seems to me he's out on ethics grounds alone. You can't have an official who has opined on matters of utmost importance to the United States as an ethical matter and put him in charge of those matters.

But if you want to get to the court case, without getting into the technicalities and (INAUDIBLE) constitutional lawyers, just consider this. This appointee has oversight over presidentially appointed people. He is not presidentially appointed. I knock him out on those grounds alone.

KEILAR: He was not confirmed. Rosenstein was confirmed. That's the point that Maryland is making here.

If Whitaker does stay, though, if he stays in this position, do you think that Democrats, with the new oversight power they will have come January, should investigate?

NORTON: We would -- we would be forced to investigate. We'd be forced to call him. In fact, he's going to be called by several different committees. He would be questioned on his views, his views, for example, that the courts should not even have the ability to find statutes unconstitutional. His views on this administration specifically, on matters that would be before him, before he had any evidence in his official role. All of that is going to be grist for the mill for least two or three oversight committees, and especially my committee, oversight and government reform.