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AT THIS HOUR

Voting machines Overheating in Palm Beach County; Rick Scott Goes to D.C. Declaring He's the FL Senator; Legal Battles Unfold as FL Races to Recount Deadline; DOJ Responds to CNN Lawsuit as Other Media Outlets Back Lawsuit, Jim Acosta; Democrats Pressured to Pick a Side on Pelosi as Speaker. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 14, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:30:59] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just over 24 hours from a recount deadline and there are new problems in Florida. A critical county, Palm Beach County, says machines are breaking and overheating. The election supervisor says 179,000 ballots will need to be recounted again.

Before the count is done Florida Governor Rick Scott is in Washington taking part in new member events as the Senator-elect. Scott, here's a photo op of him with Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican freshman Senators.

Joining me right now is discuss this is Charlie Spies, an election attorney who worked for Mitt Romney's 2008 election campaign, served as election counsel for the Republican National Committee.

Charlie, thanks for coming in.

CHARLIE SPIES, ELECTON LAW ATTORNEY, CLARK HILL LPC & FORMER ELECTION COUNSEL FOR RNC: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: First, what's happening in Florida, machines overheating, counts needing to be restarted again. Do you have confidence in the results of this recount?

SPIES: I do. The starting point, Kate, is that Senator-Elect Scott has won this election by over 12,000 votes. I have worked on a lot of recounts around the country, and in the history of modern recounts, that margin of votes had never been made up. Because votes tend to go to the winner and loser, the average amount of votes that is picked up over the last 16 years is about 300 votes. So the results here aren't going to change.

I think it's important to note that Miami-Dade County, the largest county in Florida, wrapped up its recount of over 800,000 votes yesterday. So they spent 74 hours straight working through the night and got their count done. Even Brenda Snipes, in Broward County, who has been otherwise incompetent, she prepared for this recount by ordering new voting machines in August. I believe has the equipment necessary to get this all processed before the 3:00 p.m. deadline tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: You've been --

SPIES: It appears right now that Palm Beach County is the only one who can't get its act together.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I guess we'll see. It seems to change minute by minute.

You have been involved in recounts before. Bill Nelson's attorney, Marc Elias, is in court today trying to get a judge to allow tens of thousands, folks believe, of votes that had been rejected to be allowed in the count. You may not agree those votes should be allowed. But I do wonder, as somebody who has been part of this process before, if you were representing Bill Nelson, or this was the Republican candidate who wanted to ask this, would you be doing anything different than what Marc Elias is doing?

SPIES: I think Marc's an excellent attorney. He's the best the Democrats have to throw at us. But he started out by coming to Florida saying he was going to do anything he could to ensure that Senator Nelson was able to overturn the results and win the election. This is not about counting every vote or fairness or transparency. For him, it is about finding some way to change the rules. They are fighting in three different fronts trying to change deadlines, the standards for what counts as voter intent with an under vote, and they are also trying to change the mismatched signature standard. This is all trying to change the rules after the fact. And it kind of goes back to the famous Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case where the key issue they were talking about was fairness across the board having pre-established rules that everybody follows. That is what Florida did. They passed new laws after the recount and put standards in place. Now Mr. Elias and his client, Senator Nelson, want to change the rules after the fact. I don't think they're going to get away with it. Kate, even if they do change the rules, even if they win in court, there's not enough votes to change the results.

(CROSSTALK)

[11:35:00] BOLDUAN: So let me -- on that exact point -- many people have said it is a big gap that they would need to overcome. Historically, it's a big hill to climb for the Nelson campaign. But you have Rick Scott and other Republicans, including the president of the United States, who are accusing the Nelson campaign of straight-up election fraud. I have heard it over and over again from folks. There has been no evidence of that. The secretary of state has said that. When you already think that they have the lead, Rick Scott does, do you think it is dangerous, wrong, misguided to go down the route of accusing the other side of fraud when you think, as you do, that they have it in the bag?

SPIES: I think the concern that people have expressed was especially in Broward and Palm Beach Counties where the officials running the election wouldn't allow observers and didn't follow the basic rules for transparency, and were supposed to be following Florida law, and every 45 minutes providing updates on the numbers. So when you don't have that basic information that allows monitors to see how many votes are out there, that's where the concern comes in.

BOLDUAN: Concern I hear you. But accusing them of straight up fraud and trying to steal the election is just a different level. Still, we will stand by and see where the counts land.

I appreciate your time, Charlie. Thank you.

SPIES: Of course. My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, the Justice Department responding to CNN's lawsuit over Jim Acosta's press pass being revoked as FOX News and more than a dozen other media outlets come to CNN's defense. The news coming in next.

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[11:41:19] BOLDUAN: This just in. The Trump administration responding in court to CNN's lawsuit. CNN sued the Trump administration yesterday over its pulling the press credentials of chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Now the president is responding.

CNN's Brian Stelter is here with the latest.

What is the administration saying?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": The administration has filed a response in court ahead of the 3:30 p.m. hearing. CNN is asking the court for a temporary restraining order to get Acosta's press pass back right away. But the White House is saying that President Trump has, quote, "broad discretion" to decide who gets in and out of the White House. In other words, the president is saying he gets to choose and limit who is at the White House, which reporters are able to attend presidential events.

Here is a part of the statement, part of the response that we can share on screen to quote from the response. It is a lengthy brief filed. It says -- that the broad discretion is the key point, that the president has broad discretion here. That flies in the face -- and by the way, it says the White House, as well, has, "The same broad discretion to regulate access to the White House for journalists and other members of the public that other past administrations have."

That is the claim from the president's lawyers defending the move to revoke Acosta's press credentials.

The reason why this is interesting this afternoon is because Secret Service regulations, the code of regulations, says something different. The regulations are clear that unless you are a threat to the president's life, press passes are not revoked. This is the legal battle that unfolds here today.

BOLDUAN: And the evolving reason why his credential was pulled is a big question of what that means in the grand scheme of things.

STELTER: Right. In this new brief, there's no mention of that claim --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: -- that he had placed his hands on a White House intern. The White House is not making that claim anymore in their legal filing. It is only saying that Acosta wouldn't give up the microphone. Kate, lots of reporters try to ask follow-up questions. It's very common at the White House.

BOLDUAN: And also happening today, a bunch of media organizations are coming to CNN's defense.

STELTER: Yes. In the past few minutes, 13 different news outlets have issued a joint statement saying they are filing and joining friend-of-the-court briefs. You can see this statement: "Our news organization support the fundamental constitutional right to question the president or any president. Thus, we will be filing friend-of- the-court briefs to support CNN and Jim Acosta's lawsuit based on these principles."

Kate, this is the Associated Press, FOX News, "Bloomberg," NBC, the "New York Times," the "Washington Post." These are not outlets that usually agree on anything. They are agreeing on the basic First Amendment values. I think it is noteworthy that FOX News is represented in this group. A lot of commentators on FOX News, like Sean Hannity, have been criticizing Jim Acosta. Some have said his credentials should have been evoked. Yet, the news side of FOX News is saying they stand for First Amendment rights.

BOLDUAN: It speaks to this is greater than, this is bigger than Jim Acosta.

STELTER: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: That's what this speaks to --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Absolutely. Because today it is Acosta, but it might be a reporter at the "New York Times" or FOX News next week.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Brian. It's great to see you.

STELTER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much. Twenty-eight pages we'll be going through that now.

Coming up, new members of Congress posing for their freshman class photo. It's not all smiles. There's mounting pressure for many Democrats to pick a side when it comes to Nancy Pelosi.

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BOLDUAN: Incoming House members all together and all smiles. Just a short time ago, taking the traditional class photo outside the capitol. They are cold and smiles don't last. Already there's something of a family feud growing at least amongst Democrats. New and old House Democrats facing tough questions of whether Nancy Pelosi should be the next House speaker. As with everything on Capitol Hill, it all comes down to the votes. Where are they now?

Let's go to the Hill. CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is there.

Manu, what are House Democrats telling you right now with this?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's an effort afoot by a handful of detractors of Nancy Pelosi to try to get enough votes to deny her the majority on the House floor in order to be elected speaker. What they're doing is they are circulating a letter trying to get enough signatures about people who say they will vote against her on the floor. And they hope at that point the writing will be on the wall and Pelosi will make that decision and she will decide to step aside. There's one problem, they don't have enough signatures yet. Behind the scenes, they are reaching out to those particular incoming freshmen, including freshmen who said they would vote against her on the campaign trail. Whether they can do that in caucus is unclear. Whether they'll do that on the floor when that's a very significant vote.

Kate, I caught up with some of these key incoming freshmen Democrats just moments ago asking if they would stick to that pledge and vote no on the floor, and some weren't clear about their intentions.

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[11:50:29] HALEY STEVENS, (D), CONGRESSWOMAN ELECT OF MICHIGAN: Not at this time, Nancy Pelosi does not have my support. We're waiting to see if somebody else is going to emerge to challenge her. And I'm focused on delivering for Michigan's 11th district.

RAJU: On the floor of the House, will you vote no?

STEVENS: I'm waiting to see who emerges at this time. I'm not making a voting commitment at this time. I'm looking for a new generation of leadership.

RAJU: Are you concerned about backlash if you vote against her and she becomes the speaker that this could hurt you in et going committee assignments and other things like that?

JEFF VAN DREW, (D), CONGRESSMAN ELECT OF NEW JERSEY: I guess, to be totally objective, I would have to say yes. However, I am always very hopeful we all rise above that. And this is America and we're allowed to have different viewpoints and still move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Jeff Van Drew was more firm about his no, intention to vote no on the House floor of Nancy Pelosi. He says he hopes to stand what he told voters he plans to do that and he would oppose Pelosi. But several other Democratic candidates, incoming freshmen, would not go that far, including Mikie Sherrill, from New Jersey, saying that she'll wait to see if another candidate emerges.

But right now, Kate, no candidate yet -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's right.

Great to see you, Manu. Thanks, so much.

Let me bring in chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, for more on this.

Dana, as Manu points out, Nancy Pelosi has faced the leadership challenge before, but the thing this time there are no Democrats that say she wants the job. She is currently running unopposed. What the reality you see here?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Just that. You can't replace someone with no one when you're talking about a constitutional post. The speaker of the House is second in line to the presidency. It's no small election.

Not just that. The reality also is that a lot of these freshmen members, incoming members, and some who have been there a while and have been outwardly talking about the need for change in the leadership, it's one thing to say that. It's one thing to campaign on it for these incoming members. It's another thing to look Nancy Pelosi in the eye and say, I'm not going to do this. Because, for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which is that she has proven that she can get things done legislatively. She's proven she can get things done politically. She's raised more money than anybody in history for her members. So those are no small things. Kate, you covered her. I covered her. We know when it comes to Pelosi, this may be the toughest fight she's had, but she shouldn't be under estimated.

BOLDUAN: She also knows how to count a vote. That's for sure.

BASH: Oh, yes.

BOLDUAN: You talked to her about this in your latest installment of your series about women of Washington. I want to play for everybody part of that interview.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I have a broad base of support in the country, financially, politically and otherwise, which is valuable to our caucus. None of us is indispensable. Some of us are just better at our jobs than others. BASH: For most women, frankly, myself included, it is hard to say

those words, I am uniquely qualified, I deserve this, I earned this, I can do the better than anyone else. But you can say that.

PELOSI: You know why I do it, Dana? I do it because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around and that you don't run away from the fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I thought that was really an interesting part of your interview. It made me kind of wonder, does this new wave of women joining the House of Representatives, most of them Democrats, does it have her looking at her as her role as a leader differently?

BASH: I think so, you know, for the reason that she just talked about. I mean, she probably has less of a responsibility to show women how it's done, because women are volunteering and raising their hands in bigger numbers than ever before. But that -- I just, you never hear her talk about her role as a woman, because are you so used to asking her newsy questions.

The other thing that was noteworthy that you have trouble wrapping your mind around, Kate, was when she ran for leadership in 2000, 18 years ago, she was told by the men in the Democratic Party, why do you want to run? Give us a list of the things that the women want in the party and we'll try to get that done. That was only 18 years ago. Things have changed dramatically. It's, in large part, because, you know, she's had a seat at the table and, you know, picture after picture, it's Nancy Pelosi with all men.

BOLDUAN: All men.

BASH: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Dana, great to see you. Thanks, for this.

BASH: Thank you.

[11:54:59] BOLDUAN: And a reminder for everybody, you can catch Dana's series, "Bad Ass Women in Washington." It's on CNN.com/badasswomen. New out today as part of her installment, she focuses on House Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the only congresswoman in history to give birth three times while serving.

Great to see you, Dana.

Coming up, a top national security aid still working at the White House after the first lady, in a stunning move, called for her to be fired. So will she keep her job? Details on that next.

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