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U.S. Troops Stuck at Border Due to Trump Stunt?; White House Chaos?; Florida Recount. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 14, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Ladies, good to you have both on.

And, Gloria, starting with you and your new reporting on the president's mood. Do tell.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's -- Brooke, there's a ton of us who have done a lot of reporting today about the president's mood.

And I think we can all agree that it's foul. He spent a month receiving nothing but adulation out on the campaign trail. Came election night, he thought he was going to do better than he did. I'm told that he told a friend of his, look, this could be good for me, because I can fight these Democrats.

You know, the president likes to punch back and he finally has an enemy in the House Democrats, and he thinks that's going to work for him. On the other hand, he's upset about what happened in Paris, and he understands that the Mueller investigation is about to come to an end.

And one of his friends said to me he finds it a bit unsettling. He just spent hours for his attorneys going over written answers to questions. And he's also trying to clean house, as Kaitlan knows -- and you just mentioned a few of those heads that are on the chopping block.

And that's going to happen pretty quickly. So there's a lot going on. And the public dissing and shaming of Ms. Ricardel by the first lady didn't life any easier for the president, although I'm told he was kind of fine with it.

BALDWIN: Huh.

What is the status, Kaitlan, of Mira Ricardel? Is she still sitting at her desk?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: She's here today, Brooke, which is something that seemingly wouldn't be anything of note, but after the first lady issues a statement calling for you directly to be fired, it does seem to be quite a big deal that she actually showed up to work today. Now, President Trump wasn't expecting that statement. He was

blindsided by that statement from the first lady's office yesterday. And he seems to be in a position that President Trump doesn't like to be in, and that's backed into a corner with the Mira Ricardel situation.

So she's still here. Her boss, John Bolton, the national security adviser, is 10,000 miles away from Washington in Singapore with the vice president, Mike Pence, and he's scrambling to try to save her job from far away, as are aides who are her allies here in Washington.

But, Brooke, what we're essentially setting the stage up for with her showing up to work today is a clash between John Bolton, the national security adviser, and Melania Trump, the first lady.

It's going to be a question of who does the president value their influence more? Is it going to be John Bolton or is it going to be Melania Trump?

BALDWIN: Here's a quote I read. It was in "The Washington Post" this morning. They were quoting presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

This is what he said, just to put all of the sort of Trump's mood into context. "Trump needs adulation. So heading into the midterm, holding all these rallies, he was cheered and it became narcissistic fuel to his engine. After the midterm, it's the sober dawn of the morning."

And, Gloria, he's right. And in this sober dawn of the morning might be the time when the White House staff, aides fear of the most.

BORGER: Right.

Look, a lot of them are going to be up on Capitol Hill testifying and a lot of them are going to leave. And some of them are going to be fired.

And, as for himself, the president is sort of like, OK, I can deal with this. I know how to run this place.

He knows he needs a new chief of staff. But, actually, I was told by somebody who speaks with him that what he believes the chief of staff's job ought to be is paper pusher, and that he now has mastered running the White House. He does miss the adulation of the campaign trail. He certainly doesn't get that in Washington.

And I think that all of this coming together at the same time is a lot. And don't forget, it's not as if there's nothing going on in the world. It's not as if he doesn't have trade policy to deal with. It's not as if he doesn't have Saudi Arabia to deal with, and on top of that, a Democratic Congress.

So he has a lot he wants to fight, but it's not going to be easy for him.

BALDWIN: You mentioned Congress. Let's throw the pictures up on the screen, guys. We have these new fresh freshman class photos. You have the new Republican senators with Mitch McConnell on top there, and that the freshman congressman and congresswomen.

And, Kaitlan, it's really the bottom of the screen, and a lot of -- a lot more ladies in that photo on the House side. And it's like, finally, some of these -- some of these folks who are representing America actually look more reflective of Americans.

COLLINS: Yes, and it's setting a lot of questions up for this White House. Looking at those pictures right there, at all of these new faces who are coming into Washington, a lot of those faces who won because of President Trump in a large part of that.

A lot of them ran as a referendum essentially on President Trump and some of them won, especially obviously on the Democratic side. So the question is going to be, what is Washington going to be like for President Trump?

Now, what I have been told by some people who are experts in Washington and have lived here for dozens of years have said they do not believe that aides in this White House who haven't lived in Washington before working for this president are prepared for what is going to happen and what the level of scrutiny is going to be on this White House with this oversight from a Democratic House.

[15:05:11]

They worry that they're not ready for that. So that also raises a lot of questions about the staffing here in the White House. Brooke, President Trump was allowed to push a lot of his staffing changes off until after the midterms. We saw that with the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

But then he was faced with this unexpected scrutiny on who he picked to replace Jeff Sessions even temporarily. And now he's going to face scrutiny like that as well when he replaces Kirstjen Nielsen at DHS, which is not a question of if, but when, and who he does replace John Kelly with if John Kelly either follows Kirstjen Nielsen or Kirstjen Nielsen follows him.

A lot of questions about who it is they're going to hire to work in this White House and who wants to come into a White House that is essentially in uncharted territory and going to be under siege with Democrats coming after their heels essentially every single day of the week?

BALDWIN: Sure. So you perfectly pointed out right, the what-ifs, how this will all work in the coming months.

But just going back to these photos and especially the photos of the incoming senators, there is a face there, Gloria. We're about to start to Ryan Nobles. He's been in the weeds in all this in Florida. And they're still counting and recounting and counting. And there's Rick Scott right there.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Well, he showed up, so 99 percent of is showing up, right?

So, he showed up, I'm a senator, and that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Out of defiance or...

BORGER: Yes, I actually -- I actually don't blame him for doing it. I think this is probably a good political move for him to say, I won, I'm acting like I won, and here I am with Marsha Blackburn. And I'm a new senator.

Meanwhile, the recount continues in Florida, and he is behaving as if he is a new senator. Look, it's politics 101. And he's decided -- he's decided to do it. Bill Nelson is also in Washington. And he's he's saying that he's a senator. So, that still has to be decided.

BALDWIN: What did my mom tell me? You dress for the job you want. And I suppose you show up for the job you want as well.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Kaitlan and Gloria, thank you both so much for that.

BORGER: Sure.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about the defense secretary, James Mattis. He says nearly 6,000 troops have been sent to the U.S.-Mexico border, that they are not armed.

Secretary Mattis today visiting with those troops deployed by President Trump ahead of the expected border arrival of these migrant caravans. Trump deployed these troops just days before the midterm elections.

Democrats and some Republicans labeling Trump's move a political stunt. This is what the defense secretary had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Our units are in a position to enable the Border Patrol's law enforcement operations. We determined that that mission was absolutely legal, and this was also reviewed by the Department of Justice lawyers.

It's, obviously, a moral and ethical mission to support our Border Patrol men.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: However, Secretary Mattis facing some criticism from a former senior Pentagon official

Kelly Magsamen writes: "If Defense Secretary Mattis believes the migrant caravan is not a threat requiring active troops deploying to the border, he should say and quit."

Kelly's with me now. She's now the vice president of national security, Center for American Progress.

So, Kelly, why do you say that?

KELLY MAGSAMEN, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR IRAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, I think it's really important that the secretary of defense explain to the American people and, frankly, to Congress why he thinks this is an appropriate use of active-duty troops, especially when National Guard troops, which are already deployed, have all the authorities and capabilities to actually perform these enabling functions that he was speaking about.

So the active-duty military is already very stretched, as we all know, after 17 years of war. And to deploy such a tremendously large amount of active-duty troops to the border for what is really not constituting a real threat to the United States leaves me with open questions. And I think the American public has them too.

BALDWIN: Well, I'm curious what you made of that scene today, A, and, B, we talked about the president hasn't tweeted about the invasion -- I put that in air quotes -- once since the midterm.

And if this emergency invasion with all these bad people was so -- such an emergency, wouldn't it be the president who would show up on the border, in addition to his secretary of defense?

MAGSAMEN: You would think so.

I mean, I'm very glad that Secretary Mattis taking the time to visit those troops, because, frankly, they're going to be missing Thanksgiving with their families for what is pretty much a political stunt. So I'm glad that he's taking the time to do that.

I suspect that it's helpful to their morale, which is probably pretty low at this point, not having a sense of mission. But I think that Secretary Mattis has a lot of questions to answer about this deployment.

I mean, Secretary Mattis very well known for having very strong views about improving the lethality of American forces, the focus of American forces and the readiness of American forces.

[15:10:03]

And he's a man who also just issued a defense strategy last year that talked about prioritizing threats from Russia and China. Nowhere in that defense strategy was there a discussion of threats from a bunch of migrants coming from Central America.

BALDWIN: Right. (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: He may been thrown a curveball from the commander in chief.

MAGSAMEN: Sure.

BALDWIN: And he is someone who is certainly very well respected all around the world.

But he did say this at the border just a short while ago. Roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTIS: But, in this case, we were asked by the secretary, due to the number of people coming this way, to back them up.

What does that mean? It means that her people do all the work, but we're standing behind them as a confidence-builder and that sort of thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: He said, you're the confidence-builders. Again, they're not going to be with their families for Thanksgiving. They weren't with their families around Veterans Day weekend.

Do you think that is how our men and women in the U.S. military would describe themselves, as confidence-builders?

MAGSAMEN: I think Secretary Mattis is putting a lot of lipstick on this pig, quite frankly. I think he's trying to do his best to apply a logical argument for what they're doing after the fact.

I think he knows very well that this is not an appropriate use of their time.

BALDWIN: And what -- because we can't talk to our troops -- obviously, they're active, they're not going to comment on politics. What do you think they're thinking about this?

MAGSAMEN: I think a lot of them are probably wondering what they're doing there, when they're going home, what the purpose of their mission is, and I think their minds are probably right now on those issues and their families at home.

BALDWIN: Kelly Magsamen, thank you.

MAGSAMEN: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: One supervisor of elections in Florida says she is in prayer mode to finish counting and recounting these ballots before the deadline.

A judge is about to decide whether thousands of ballots that have been tossed out can actually be included in this entire recount. So, we will take you live to Florida and get you caught up on what's happening there.

Also, her party won the House, but behind the scenes today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is facing serious pushback from a number of Democrats to become speaker again. We will tell you what happened there.

And it is only day two, but jurors in the trial of drug kingpin El Chapo say they are feeling a little anxiety. Details from inside the courtroom and the unprecedented security measures to get inside.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:16:51]

BALDWIN: Now to what could be a huge game-changer in Florida's midterm election.

We are expecting a federal judge to rule whether or not thousands of previously tossed-out ballots can be included in that state's recount. This is about ballots with signatures that don't match the signature on file.

But this suit is just one of several being litigated across the state in an already chaotic recount. One election supervisor told reporters that she's officially in prayer mode just to reach the recount deadline.

The contentious Senate race between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson has narrowed since election night and is now being recounted.

CNN has learned President Trump is making it known which Republican lawmakers he wants in key positions for the incoming 116th Congress. He has already checked one off, California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, who was just voted in as minority leader. He had been majority. Now he's the minority leader.

There are others.

Let's go to Phil Mattingly, our CNN congressional correspondent, and Manu Raju. Manu is on -- in Washington for us as well.

But, Phil, let me begin with you, because you have new reporting about who President Trump would like to see in House leadership roles. What do you have?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Yes, Brooke, it's an interesting element. You don't usually see presidents kind of weigh in, particularly when their party is in the minority, and not just about leadership roles, but also about top players on the committees.

And that's what's been happening. Sources say there's been conversations between the newly elected minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, or soon to be Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and the president about installing two very close Trump allies, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, as top Republicans on the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees.

Now, we don't exactly know how far along these conversations have gone. And it's worth noting that those lawmakers in their role in the very conservative House Freedom Caucus haven't exactly always gotten along with House Republican leadership. That includes Kevin McCarthy.

But the rationale is, as it's been explained to me and my colleague Liz Landers, is basically, these are two individuals who fight and fight hard for President Trump. And as such, and given that those committees, Oversight and Judiciary, are going to be kind of central to Democratic efforts to investigate this White House and investigate the president, he wants those two individuals potentially to be in that position.

Now, one wrinkle here that I think is important, the president and even the Republican leader don't necessarily get the be-all/end-all say in who gets those positions. Other Republicans on the steering committee will be able to vote on those and slot those positions out.

But the president weighing in on this certainly carries some weight. Obviously, Kevin McCarthy, the leader, is close to the president and certainly listens to what the president has to say. Whether or not that will come to fruition is an open question.

But certainly getting involved here, kind of setting himself up for what is supposed to be a pretty raucous 116th Congress, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Sure. Let me come back to you. But that's the Republican side.

Manu, to you on the Democratic side. And, of course, we know Nancy Pelosi was the first female House speaker. She wants her job back. She is facing, though, serious pushback from a lot of Democrats about becoming speaker. What's her status?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it still remains to be seen whether or not she ultimately gets the vote.

The betting on Capitol Hill is that she will ultimately get those 218 votes she needs in January to become speaker. But there is a movement afoot by a small group of Democrats to try to deny her those votes, led by members like Tim Ryan of Ohio, as well Congressman Fil Vela of Texas.

[15:20:15]

They are telling us and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, among others, they are telling us that they have enough votes deny Nancy Pelosi the speakership. They are circulating a letter trying to get people on the record on to sign and say explicitly that they will vote no vote or vote for another candidate on the floor of the House.

Now, it's still an open question about whether that is accurate or not. We have been talking to members, both incoming freshmen and incumbents, people who have voiced opposition to Pelosi in the past.

Right now, some of them are not saying what they will do on the House floor if Nancy Pelosi is the only Democratic candidate. Some are suggesting they may ultimately vote for her if she is the one Democratic candidate that they put, the caucus ultimately puts up.

So these discussions happening behind the scenes today. I can tell you at a closed-door meeting that the House Democratic Caucus just had moments ago, they didn't even broach this subject of Nancy Pelosi and the speakership.

They're waiting to have more of these discussions in the coming days and weeks. The first big vote will be late November, after Thanksgiving, when the Democratic Caucus formally nominates her candidate for speaker. Nancy Pelosi is all but sure to get that vote.

But the ultimate question, will she get that last vote on the House floor, when the majority of the House has to vote to elect her speaker? And that's where those members are all scrambling to get the votes one way or the other, depending on their point of view.

BALDWIN: Got it. Got it. Manu, thank you.

Phil, back over to you, because just turning to Georgia's race for governor -- Georgia race for governor, you have Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. He has very some strong feelings about Stacey Abrams, the Democratic contender in the gubernatorial race. What has he said?

MATTINGLY: Yes, look, Brooke, it's no secret that Democrats obviously aren't very happy with Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate, the secretary of state, who stepped down, and have made a lot of allegations.

But this was probably the most strongest and inflammatory. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: We have seen what -- if Stacey Abrams doesn't win in Georgia, they stole it. It's clear. It's clear.

Now, I would say -- I say that publicly. It's clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Not really -- not really hedging at all, and I think echoing, kind of putting a public face on the frustration you have heard from a lot of Democrats. Obviously, you have seen it down in the state.

There's a slew of legal challenges related to provisional ballots. There's been a lot of questions about what then Secretary of State Kemp did related to purging of voter rolls. But the fact a Democrat is going out and just outright saying that he believes the election was stolen is certainly taking it to a new level. Now, it's worth noting right now this race is still uncalled. CNN has not called this race. But as they go through the legal challenges, Stacey Abrams essentially needs more than 17,000 votes just to get this race into a runoff. Her campaign is still pushing forward, saying they think they can get there.

Republicans I'm talking to feel like this is a done deal. But you can see that the feelings on both sides right now are extremely raw in what has been a very, very tense battle over the course of the last couple months, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, Phil and Manu, thank you both for that. Appreciate both of you.

Coming up next here, it was the flight from hell. Remember this? New details are now finally emerging about the death of that passenger on a Southwest flight and how she was nearly sucked out of the plane -- what the NTSB is now revealing.

And the video is absolutely stunning in Los Angeles. This L.A. area woman trying to escape the fires in California jumps into her car to get away -- the dramatic moments all caught on camera.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:28:20]

BALDWIN: Right now, a judge is deciding whether thousands of previously tossed-out ballots will be included in Florida's recount.

This contentious Senate race between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson has narrowed since election night and is now being recounted.

Ryan Nobles has been inside that courtroom with this hearing that has been under way.

And what's the status, Ryan? What's going on?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, I think there were two really big pieces of information that came out of the hearing so far, and the hearing is still ongoing.

And remember that this is a conversation about Florida's signature match law. And the Nelson campaign challenging the way that this law is interpreted.

And the first big thing I would point out that is the judge specifically asked one of the witnesses was testifying from the secretary of state's office if these -- any of these ballots were tossed out or any of these ballots were attempted -- were voters attempting to vote fraudulently. And she said there was no reason for them to believe that.

So that's the first point I make. That is probably good for the Nelson campaign. But on the bad side for the Nelson campaign, there's been a question about how many of these ballots are available to be counted in the overall total. And they need a significant number of them.

And I'm actually show you an exhibit that was brought into the court here. You can't see this, but just to kind of illustrate exactly what we're talking about here. This is a spreadsheet of all 67 counties. And they have gone through and called every single county. They asked, how many of these ballots have been tossed out because of the signature match?

And they have talked to 46 of the counties. And so far, there's only 3,600 ballots that qualify under this statute. So, there would only be 3,600 ballots that you could add into the overall total.

Now, I should point out that Miami-Dade, which is the biggest county, has yet to report in. But Broward County has, and that's the second biggest county.