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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

McConnell Blocks Bipartisan Bid to Protect Mueller; Deputy National Security Adviser Forced Out After Melania Trump Called for Her Firing; Michael Avenatti Arrested for Domestic Violence; Florida Scrambles Hours Away from Recount Deadline; Judge to Issue Ruling Tomorrow in CNN's Lawsuits Against Trump. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 14, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, President Trump's Deputy National Security Adviser fired, but she's still in the administration after the first lady called for her to go.

This is CNN learning the President is, "pissed at damn near everyone." Plus a Republican senator warning tonight that after Jeff Sessions, Bob Mueller may be next. So why did Mitch McConnell just block a bipartisan bill to protect him?

And breaking news, Michael Avenatti arrested for domestic violence that is held ahead. Let's go out-front.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight bitter, furious, and unwell. That's how people close to the President are describing him tonight. They say he's, "pissed at damn near everyone," embittered about election losses, some of his long-time confidants also saying he looks unwell and is gaining weight.

Trump also furious after being blindsided by Melania Trump's extraordinary public statement calling for the firing of National Security Adviser, Mira Ricardel, the President's dysfunctional conversations with his wife now in the public eye for everyone to see.

And tonight, more than 24 hours after Melania Trump called for Ricardel's firing, we are learning that Ricardel is, "transitioning to a new role within the administration." The words used, not fired.

These unsettling developments coming as friends of the President describe him as bitter over election losses and Democrats tonight in fact picking up yet another seat, this one in California. So far, Democrats have picked up a net gain of 31 seats and are leading in 6 of the 9 remaining races being counted.

The President, frankly, from CNN reporting, feels backed into a corner, sources say, and when he feels that way, he often, well, he makes things up. And today, he did an interview in the Oval Office with the "Daily Caller" in which he said, "The Republicans don't win and that's because of potentially illegal votes. When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again."

He continued to say, "If you buy a box of cereal, you have a voter I.D." as part of his argument for more voter I.D.

Now, just to be clear, you don't need I.D. to buy cereal in case anyone was not clear about that. Although the President has made this absurd claim before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need I.D.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: No. It does not matter how many times he says it, it still is not true and he did really say that about the cereal.

Now, as for the reasons Republicans lost being illegal voting because of people using disguises, specifically changing hats and shirts, going back to their cars and coming back in, if that has ever happened, if, because it's a pretty absurd thing to say happened, it sure does not add up. To the 12 million more votes cast for Democrats than Republicans nationwide, 12 million votes. Just moments ago, here's how the President handled being called out for that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you just said that people use disguises to cast illegal votes. Do you have any evidence of voter fraud like that? Do you have any evidence?

TRUMP: Thank you, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why make that false claim without evidence?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: There is no answer to that, because at this point, he doesn't have any evidence. Never mind, you know, 12 million examples of it.

Why make a false claim without any evidence, right? Because by the way, I say 12 million in the Senate because he is saying that Republicans would have won if not for illegal voting. So even if not all of it was these hats and whatever disguises, it still would be more than 12 million cases of voter fraud. OK, these kind of absurd claims are certainly nothing new. Just take, for example, what he said about Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Could be Russia, but it could also be China. Could also be lots of people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK? (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT live at the White House. And Kaitlan, look this is all pretty incredible. Let's start with your breaking news about Mira Ricardel.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. She's been forced out of her job but maybe not the administration tonight, Erin. Sarah Sanders after a whirlwind 24 hours about speculation about what Mira Ricardel was going to do has issued a statement saying that she is going to continue to support the President but as she departs the White House to transition with a new role in the administration.

Now, Erin, there's been no word on what exactly that new role is going to be, likely not the Department of Defense, because one reason she was under fire was because she's been privately making disparaging remarks about the Defense Secretary, James Mattis, but tonight, the White House isn't saying where it is she's going, but they aren't saying that she's fired either.

Now, of course, Erin, this comes as her boss, John Bolton, the National Security Adviser, is still 10,000 miles away in Singapore with the Vice President, Mike Pence, and we were told by sources that initially, when all this went down, he tried to scramble to save her job while he was away but in the end, clearly, Erin, we see that it is the first lady who exerted her influence over this and won the situation here.

[19:05:14] BURNETT: Now, the President -- I mean, obviously that whole dysfunction now thrust into the public eye be the President also, I mean, you know, you were among on the reporting team here, Kaitlan, with all these incredible details, furious, embittered, incredibly angry tonight?

COLLINS: Yes, that quote, pissed at damn near everyone really sums it up, Erin, because it's not just John Kelly and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, who are fearing for their jobs and may not have much job security in this administration.

There are several other staffers that the President is mad at as well, some for what he says is the bad PR coming out of that Paris trip where he cancelled that visit to the cemetery and wasn't prepared for the negative coverage that he received for that. Some is that political aides who he is blaming for losing that winning narrative that he felt he had in the immediate aftermath of the midterm elections and some is at his legal team for what he believes are investigation troubles that are still following him in regards to the special counsel's probe.

So, there really isn't anyone in this administration who feels pretty confident in their jobs right now except for just a few people, and Erin, that's raising questions about what's going to happen going forward but what we are seeing is that the President is in a very furious mood and he seems to be growing more isolated by the day.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan Collins with that reporting.

And now, let's go to Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst, Frank Bruni, "New York Times" Columnist and Eliana Johnson, the White House Correspondent for Politico.

Thanks to all. Frank, you're next to me. President Trump, as we began the show, some of these words here from some of his closest confidants, from his friends, some people in the White House, bitter, furious, and unwell.

FRANK BRUNI, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I mean, think about his last couple of weeks, Erin. The last two weeks before the midterms, he was doing the thing he loves best, he was out at rallies looking at crowds, you know, who were looking at him with adoring faces but that's when he's in his element, affirmation, affirmation, affirmation.

Election night does not go as they want it to, and as the days go on, the returns get worse and worse. Then he goes abroad, horrible reviews for that trip. He's come down from this enormous sugar high, and he's facing an entirely new reality, Democrats control Congress, he's waiting to see what they're going to do in terms of investigations, whether they're going to launch a kind of subpoena- palooza and his whole world has shifted since the days before the midterm and I think we're seeing that reflected in his mood and in the chaos in the White House.

BURNETT: No, I mean, Gloria, you were part of the reporting team on this as well and you know, the words here also included these, right? Frayed and fraught relationships laid bare for all to see.

Melania Trump just one of those, right? John Kelly. I mean, to make the point, it's the personal one and it's obviously some of the most important political staffers that he has as well. You have been reporting, we have heard about chaos and frustration from this President before, but this seemed to be deeper, more significant than what we've heard before.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it may be. I mean, I think of the White House now as kind of a hyperventilation chamber where everybody is worried about their job, about the President, about what will occur next given the fact that the Democrats control the Congress.

You know, and as frank was just saying, the President has just finished a month of complete adulation, being out there on the campaign trail, which is where he gets his energy. He comes back, things didn't go as he wished, and this is a President who never blames himself for anything. So, he's upset. He wants to change his White House chief of staff. He's clearly going to change some other cabinet positions, Kirstjen Nielsen, for example, at the Department of Homeland Security. He's already fired his attorney general.

And you know, I was told by somebody who speaks with him regularly that on the one hand, he's looking forward to fighting the Democrats because he feels that gives him an enemy and he believes that he's a very good counter-puncher and he wants that, but on the other hand, he's also quite unsettled about the fact that the Mueller investigation is kind of going to wind down. He's been spending a lot of time with his attorneys, going over his written answers to questions, and so, he's not quite sure what's going to happen on that end. He sees that Michael Cohen is testifying before the special counsel.

BURNETT: Right.

BORGER: So, you know, there is a lot of churning going on, and at this White House, nothing is behind closed doors.

BURNETT: No, I mean, Eliana look, to that front, some things that should be behind closed doors include conversations between the first lady and the President. It took more than 24 hours for the President and the White House to, "transition Mira Ricardel to a new job," the national security adviser, right?

The first lady had been campaigning, directly asking for this for quite some time. He refused to do this, she put this unprecedented letter out, which really put the dysfunction between the President and first lady, embarrassingly in public her statement calling for the firing and he is now dealing with that embarrassment as well.

[19:10:03] ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: This was an unprecedented statement by the first lady's office, intervening in a personnel matter on the national security council, but it isn't the first time we've seen these disagreements between the President and the first lady come into public view.

I think the last time was when the first lady made a visit to the border during the controversy over child separation, making clear her disagreement with the administration's policy, but I have to agree with what Frank and Gloria said, which is that campaigning for the President, which is much more enjoyable than the difficult work of governing, and after the midterms, he's turned back again, staring down the barrel of the Mueller probe.

He has very dim prospects of passing legislation. I think that's why you saw him endorse criminal justice reform today. That's one of the things Republicans and Democrats have a chance to agree on. And limited prospects of achieving something big on foreign policy with North Korea talks seemingly having ground to a halt.

BURNETT: Yes.

JOHNSON: And of all his frustration with cabinet members, he can't fire anything and I think that's really the final frustration for him.

BURNETT: And Frank, you have him talking about on election night, he's sitting around with his billionaire friends eating tiny hot dogs, which I would call pigs in a blanket, I'm assuming, unless there's some middle thing, like a hot dog equivalent of a slider.

But, you know, seeing all excited, and then all a sudden things turn south, he leaves early John Kelly's huddled in the corner, leaves, the President is talking to someone who might even replace John Kelly, you see that playing here and now we hear his friends now saying -- describing him as unwell and gaining weight, which is also a whole new level of sort of, I don't know, selling him out personally on some level by those close to him.

BRUNI: Well, it's really catty because we know how vain he is about his appearance.

BURNETT: And these are supposed to be his friends.

BRUNI: Yes.

BURNETT: Who are saying this? There's nothing more about that.

BRUNI: All you have to do is look at that work of labor that is his hair to know how vain he is about his appearance and it does seems to be like people are trying to get under his skin when they're saying, he looks unwell, he's gaining weigh. He is going to hear that, he is not going to like. He is going to feel even more under siege.

I also want to say, this Melania Trump thing, this first lady thing, unprecedented is the word for it. We have had first ladies in the past, Nancy Reagan, memorably, Hillary Clinton, who sort of behaved as a co-President, who absolutely got involved in staffing, Travelgate was all about that.

BURNETT: Yes.

BRUNI: But when have we seen a first lady, when things weren't happening staffing-wise the way she wanted to, go around the President to the public and essentially sort of pressure him and mortify him that way. That has got to be freaking Donald Trump out.

BURNETT: And Gloria, the reporting right backing him into a corner, and he is livid about that.

BORGER: Yes, look, far be it from me to understand the relationship between Donald Trump and Melania Trump, but I would have to say that I've never seen a first lady behave this way, and as Frank says, go around her husband and issue a public firing, shaming of this deputy national security adviser, and let's not forget here, this isn't just some functionary job.

This is a very serious and important national security job while the national security adviser is 10,000 miles away in Singapore. And so, it was kind of stunning and shocking and the President, honestly, I think, the reporting is that they were blindsided by it, but he seemed to just kind of shrug and say, all right, sure. That's it.

BURNETT: Yes, although it took 24 hours to do that. I mean it was --

BORGER: Can't understand it.

BURNETT: I don't know if he was thinking of a way out of it. I mean, it's unbelievable. All right, thank you all so very much. And OUTFRONT next, we have the breaking news. The Senate Majority

Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked a bipartisan bill, and it was bipartisan to protect Special Counsel, Bob Mueller.

Republican Senator John Kennedy, who wants Mueller to finish his job is OUTFRONT.

Plus, First Lady Melania Trump clearly charting her own course, making the President Trump fume, saying it makes him look like a bossed around husband. Those are the words of how he feels tonight.

Plus, breaking news, Michael Avenatti just arrested for domestic violence. Shocking headline across and we are now learning details about claims of assault. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:48] BURNETT: Breaking news, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell tonight blocking a bipartisan push to protect the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. This comes just one week after Trump fired Jeff Sessions as attorney general. And as Republican Senator Jeff Flake warns that Bob Mueller may be next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: With the firing of the attorney general and in my view the improper installation of an acting attorney general who has not been subject to confirmation by this body, the President now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana who is on the Judiciary Committee and Senator Kennedy, good to have you back on the show. You've said Bob Mueller shouldn't be fired before he finishes his investigation. There was a bipartisan bill to protect him today. Senator McConnell is blocking it. Did he make a mistake?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No. In my opinion, anyway, Erin, for two reasons. Number one, I don't believe the bill is constitutional. I don't think the Congress can tell the executive branch who it can hire and fire any more than the executive branch can tell Congress. If the President thinks I'm doing a lousy job on the appropriations committee, constitutionally, he can't call the Senate and say, fire Kennedy.

BURNETT: So you think Mueller should be allowed to finish, you just don't think you can do anything about it.

KENNEDY: Well, the second reason I think that the -- I'm going to oppose the bill, if it does come to the floor, is I don't think it's necessary. I just listened to Senator Flake's comments. I love Jeff. He's one of my favorite people. But you know, I've been hearing for 16 months that the President's going to fire Mr. Mueller. He hasn't fired Mr. Mueller. I don't see any indication that he will fire Mr. Mueller. I don't think Mr. Mueller ought to be fired. I do think he ought to hurry up and finish his investigation.

But I don't think you ought to pass a bill just based on someone's opinion of what someone might do. And I just don't -- I know the President is fussed about Mr. Mueller, and he's not happy with the investigation. I guess I wouldn't be if I were in his shoes either, but I've seen no indication that he's going to fire Mueller.

[19:20:05] BURNETT: All right. I want to ask you about Matt Whitaker because obviously, you know, the point that Jeff Flake was making was Jeff Sessions was fired, you know, then you were going to see Mueller. Obviously, the acting replacement for Sessions is Matt Whitaker. Adam Schiff is the Democrat expected to lead the House Intelligence Committee. He was on the show last night and he told me about why he's worried about Whitaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It's entirely possible that Whitaker takes action to interfere with Mueller, to hobble the investigation, but also Whitaker could serve as a back channel to Trump and his lawyers in a way that no matter who fills that job later, you can't undo the damage that is done by compromising the investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, Whitaker could serve as acting attorney general, senator, for seven months.

KENNEDY: Right.

BURNETT: We understand from sources Mueller's already started to write his report. So, it's possible, right, that Whitaker oversees the rest of the Mueller investigation. I mean, in that sense, that, you know, any short period of time that he's there could be incredibly significant and incredibly powerful when it comes to the Russia investigation.

KENNEDY: Right. And what I just heard Adam say in your clip there is that Whitaker might, and it may be that Whitaker will do something. Look, here's what I know about Whitaker. He served as a U.S. attorney.

BURNETT: Yes.

KENNEDY: He is a lawyer, of course. He has an MBA. He's made some comments about the judiciary in Marbury versus Madison that I don't agree with. But he was --

BURNETT: He's also made a lot of comments about the Russia investigation, that he thinks it's a joke and --

KENNEDY: That's true. That I don't agree with. But Presidents are entitled to surround themselves with advisers of their choice. It doesn't matter if it would be my choice or your choice or anybody's choice. What matters is what the President thinks.

Now, I know what Mr. Whitaker has said, but I also know that in Washington, D.C., people talk a lot. I've noticed that. They like to talk. You have to watch what they do.

BURNETT: You have faith that he won't follow through on that, he won't be a back channel to the White House on the Mueller investigation, the President won't end it even though he's gotten rid of Sessions. You just have faith.

KENNEDY: I have seen no indication whatsoever. I have only seen speculation that Mr. Whitaker might do something. I haven't seen any allegations that he's done something, and given the fact that he is the choice of the duly elected President of the United States, I think we ought to give the guy a chance and let him find the men's room before we start bashing him. It's not like the President appointed, I don't know, Michael Avenatti or Justin Bieber. I mean, the --

BURNETT: But by your logic, it is the same because he has the right to put whomever he wants to be around -- I mean, by the argument you just made, it's his choice.

KENNEDY: Well, you have to be a lawyer to be attorney general.

BURNETT: So, Michael Avenatti, I mean, obviously, who knows what he's going to happen with what happens Michael Avenatti would fit.

KENNEDY: You have to be a sane lawyer.

BURNETT: OK. Let me just ask you one other thing that's important because it's happening tonight, and that is the developments. Mira Ricardel, as you know, being transitioned, senator, is the word being used, out of the White House after the first lady's unprecedented comments that she made, that she had to go and obviously the President had not heeded her requests and then she put that letter out publicly.

He was blindsided by that, apparently. What do you make of that? Should the first lady have made such a statement, weighing in on a West Wing personnel issue via the media?

KENNEDY: I think that Mrs. Trump just chose to do publicly what many first ladies have done privately. Every first lady that I can remember has made her opinions or in one case, well, has made her opinions known to her husband. And she is entitled to.

BURNETT: Absolutely. What do you make, though, of the fact that she did and he did nothing and then she put this letter out? Does that dysfunction, which I guess is the word for it, is that problematic for you or not?

KENNEDY: No. I know Mrs. Trump, not well.

BURNETT: Yes.

KENNEDY: She's extraordinarily intelligent. She's observant. She has opinions. And she made her opinion known based on her experience with the staff member to the President. She has every right to do that. I think the only difference between what she's done and other first ladies have done is that she's decided to be transparent about it and say, hey, let me tell you what I just did and what I think.

BURNETT: Or she wouldn't take no for an answer.

KENNEDY: And from that perspective, you know, I kind of congratulate her. I don't think the President -- I was listening to what you said earlier. I don't know -- I mean, if the President shouldn't feel like he's bossed around.

[19:25:04] BURNETT: That's the reporting of how he feels, yeah.

KENNEDY: Well, I mean, you know, if he does feel that way, you know, don't worry about it, Mr. President. I feel bossed around sometimes and I love my wife to death, but in my marriage, I can be right or I can be happy. I can't be both. Doesn't bother me. I'm happy to have my spouse weigh in when she sees me doing something wrong, and I suspect the President feels the same way about Mrs. Trump. But all she did, Erin, in my opinion, she just did publicly what other first ladies have done privately.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Senator.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, more on the first lady, not shy about saying people in the White House need to go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has he had people that you didn't trust working for him?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you let him know?

M. TRUMP: I let him know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: His National Security Aide, Mira Ricardel, just the tip of the iceberg.

Plus Republican Rick Scott showing up in Washington even before the Florida Senate race has been called. An attorney for the Florida Democratic Party responds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, sources telling CNN the President was angry, thought he looked like a bossed around husband, these are the words, after the first lady's office issued the call to fire the Deputy National Security Adviser, Mira Ricardel. Now, moments ago, which is just to be clear, more than 24 hours after

the unprecedented letter from the first lady, finally, moments ago we learned the White House is reassigning Ricardel to a new role in the administration. Is this a sign Melania Trump's influence is growing or far from it? Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[19:30:02] TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sources tell CNN Melania Trump was furious with senior national security adviser Mira Ricardel for accusing the first lady's staff of inappropriate behavior during a recent trip to Africa, asking for an investigation, and even changing seat assignments on the plane. In short, a source says, Trump thought Ricardel a bully.

For all that, the demand she be fired blasted into public like a bolt from the blue, or did it? Just last month, Melania Trump told ABC News, when she talks, the president listens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has he had people that you didn't trust working for him?

MELANIA TRUMP, U.S. FIRST LADY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you let him know?

MELANIA TRUMP: I let him know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did he do?

MELANIA TRUMP: Well, some people, they don't work there anymore.

FOREMAN: Still, for a president's wife to so openly weigh in on staffing is extremely unusual, as are some of her recent pointed comments about life in the White House.

MELANIA TRUMP: It's harder to govern, you know, you always need to watch your back.

FOREMAN: Still, Melania Trump's behavior has been a puzzle all along.

MELANIA TRUMP: He would be the best president.

FOREMAN: During the campaign, she would play cheerleader in chief for a while, only to vanish, giving the supporting role to her stepdaughter, Ivanka, 11 years her junior. When she speaks, the first lady praises her husband without fail.

MELANIA TRUMP: He's a great negotiator. He's telling the truth. He's a great leader.

FOREMAN: But she has also pushed his hand away in public. She made an infamous fashion choice on a trip to Texas during the immigrant family separation uproar, bringing sharp criticism on the president, and when she chose to highlight childhood bullying as a problem she wants to replace with -- MELANIA TRUMP: Kindness, mindfulness, integrity, and leadership,

which can only be taught by example.

FOREMAN: Critics howled. What about your husband, they said.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Simply put, at times, the first lady seems to be charting her own course and that doesn't exactly mesh with White House messaging. Indeed, one source says the president was reportedly very upset about this, saying indeed he does feel like a pushed around, bossed around husband and not the leader of the free world -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Tom.

Such a generationally dated way of phrasing things, but I suppose that's the generation he's in.

OUTFRONT now, Scott Jennings, former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Nina Turner, former Democratic Ohio state senator as well.

Nina, let me start with you.

OK. So, we know that she'd asked him to do this, he didn't do it, so finally, you know, Ricardel is next to the president at this ceremony and then the letter drops saying she should be fired. More than 24 hours later, she's out. But it's a transition to another role in the administration.

What does that tell you?

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, certainly, the first lady has influence. I mean, happy wife, happy life? We can distill it down to that. But in terms of, you know, the first lady making this move and doing it so publicly, I just think that it was foolhardy to do it this way. This White House is already riddled with a lot of uncertainty and dysfunction and the first lady making this known, this publicly, just adds to that.

BURNETT: Scott, what do you make of that? It certainly does, on a day when a lot of the other dysfunction is being bared more publicly, John Kelly and others, certainly, at least on a personally -- a personal level of embarrassment, doesn't help to have this rift with the first lady out there either.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, all first ladies have personnel influence, certainly, that was true in the White House that I worked in. What's unusual about this, of course, about this situation, of course, is the public nature of it.

But I think if we've learned anything today, it's that the eternal truth of, "if mama ain't happy, nobody's happy" applies in a lot of houses, including the White House. And it sounds like, based on the CNN reporting, there was good reason for Mrs. Trump to not be happy.

I worked in a White House, as you mentioned, and it's a high stress, high anxiety environment. One way you get through it all is to build camaraderie with your colleagues and you do that by treating other people with respect and you do it by being nice, and it sounds like, from some of the reporting, that this staffer was having trouble with those things.

So, I think Mrs. Trump felt like she had to get a message out because this staffer was creating quite a lot of discord in the White House.

BURNETT: Right, but, Scott, look, I understand but --

JENNINGS: I can understand why the president would not like all this dirty laundry to be out in public there.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: You're glossing over the point, which is that she did talk to him privately and he didn't do it. So then she drops this public thing to get him to kind of force her husband's hand. I mean, that -- that's not normal.

JENNINGS: Yes, and my point is -- and my point is, what must this person have done to cause the first lady of the United States of America to put out a press release calling attention to their behavior. I think there's a lot more to this story here that we don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

[19:35:00] BURNETT: Then, in which case -- in which case, are you saying that the president had bad judgment in not listening to her? You're saying it's so bad this woman had to go, but the president ignored her request for him to do so for quite some time, which would mean you're saying his judgment is bad.

JENNINGS: Well, there's one other issue, Erin. It's not just the president. Remember, there's somebody between the president and this staffer and that's the national security adviser, Mr. Bolton, and he's overseas right now. I wonder where he is in this situation because if you're the president, you're like, why is this being aired out publicly when there's somebody that should be managing this person if there's such a serious issue.

So, it doesn't look great, but at the end of the day, if you end up removing someone from the White House who's causing a lot of people a lot of problems, then maybe it's for the better.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Nina, the president's feelings, bossed around husband. That's the reporting. That's how he feels.

TURNER: I mean, you know, join the husbands of America, I'm sure there are points at times when a lot of husbands feel bossed around. The president is going to take this extremely personally, I guess he should, since it is his wife that brought this out, and you know, given what he has gone through over the last two weeks in terms of the midterm elections, you know, if you don't have your wife, who do you have, he might be feeling that way.

But the point of this is, this is not just any position here. This is not something that you just play games with and so, I do believe that the first lady could have handled this differently and it does reflect poorly on this White House, per usual, that this kind of dysfunction would rise to this level. We don't know what the deputy -- what the deputy national security adviser did, exactly. What was it about the trip in Africa that set the first lady off to this extent?

In some ways, I believe that it is her way or seems like it's a way for her to get back at her husband in public.

BURNETT: I mean, that's possible.

JENNINGS: I disagree with that, Erin. We do know things.

CNN's own reporting says General Mattis had issues. She wasn't treating the military aides very well. She wasn't treating her subordinates very well.

So it's more than just this Africa trip. Clearly, there was a dysfunction going on here that was affecting multiple parts of the White House. It's hard to have a national security apparatus when people are disrupting it with this kind of behavior.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: And yes, Scott, again, the president knew all that and didn't do anything about it. He didn't do anything about it until the first lady went public and that's the key thing. You're saying the outcome may be the right outcome. I'm saying how we got here is pretty bad.

TURNER: That's right. That's my point.

JENNINGS: If I were the president, I wouldn't be happy that dirty laundry was aired in public, that's absolutely true, and I would be having a conversation with my senior staffers about trying to keep this stuff under control before it reaches this level, because it doesn't reflect well.

But again, I'm into outcomes and if the outcome here is a more functional White House process, then that's a good day.

TURNER: Hardly. This one incident is not going to make for a more functioning White House, rest assured of that.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

And next, breaking news, Michael Avenatti arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Incredible development here. His ex-wife speaking to CNN and we're going to tell you exactly what we are learning at this hour.

Plus, breaking news, a federal judge says he'll rule tomorrow on whether he'll reinstate Jim Acosta's press pass. That was a development today, and we will be able to tell you what the judge will be considering tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:58] BURNETT: Breaking news, Michael Avenatti arrested. The lawyer for Stormy Daniels, the frequent critic of Donald Trump, the guy who went to Iowa, currently being booked on charges of felony domestic violence in Los Angeles.

This is a stunning development. I want to go straight to M.J. Lee.

It's literally breaking here, M.J., moments ago. I mean, what do you know?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, what we know right now is that Michael Avenatti has been arrested for domestic violence. He is under arrest for felony domestic violence and is currently being booked, according to the LAPD, the domestic violence report was taken yesterday in West Los Angeles and the arrest was made today.

Now, just to clarify something, and this is important, TMZ originally reported that this incident involved his estranged wife. He is currently in the process of getting divorced. TMZ then subsequently changed that story to say just a woman, not the wife.

And we actually spoke with Michael Avenatti's wife earlier this evening when this story was breaking. This is Lisa Storie-Avenatti and when I spoke with her on the phone, she said she actually hasn't seen Michael Avenatti in three months and she was not at his apartment and she also said that he is somebody who wouldn't ever hit anyone.

Now, his wife's lawyer actually proceeded to put out a statement as well to clarify that this article pertaining to their client is not true, that she was not subject to any incident on Tuesday night, and that she was never at Michael Avenatti's apartment.

Also, just a key sentence here from that statement: My client states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone.

But again the news is that Michael Avenatti has been arrested for domestic violence. We don't know right now the identity of the person involved.

This is obviously going to have big consequences for Michael Avenatti, particularly when it comes to any political aspirations that he might have. The Vermont Democratic Party was supposed to have events with him on Friday and Saturday. Those have been cancelled. They say that they cancelled those events as soon as the news broke. So, obviously, very serious allegations against Michael Avenatti. But we have not heard from him.

BURNETT: Yes, very serious allegations. Arrested and as you say, we don't know the identity of the woman involved with this, but obviously, in Los Angeles tonight.

All right. Thank you very much, M.J. Lee. As we get more, obviously going to update you on that.

Also tonight, the clock ticking on the Florida recount. The deadline is now less than 24 hours away. So, the legal battles raging at this hour as the Republican Governor Rick Scott already declares himself the winner, appearing on Capitol Hill today with the newly elected members to the Senate. It was like a formal thing for those who were newly elected. Obviously he has not been certified as the winner but he was there, even his race hasn't been called.

OUTFRONT now, Mitchell Berger, attorney for the Florida Democratic Party who was also an attorney for Al Gore during the 2000 Florida recount.

Good to have you with me.

Last night, we talked to Gail Gitcho from Rick Scott's team and I'm glad to have you on, Mitchell, to give the Nelson side of things. Governor Scott told a judge this morning he recused himself from certifying the final election results obviously in his current as governor of the state.

[19:45:06] Democrats have been calling for this for a while.

Is it enough for you?

MITCHELL BERGER, ATTORNEY FOR THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, it's a good start. We have these nightmare experiences of Jeb Bush and Catherine Harris from 2000, and with the governor constantly accusing everyone of fraudulent activity, it would be inappropriate for him to be part of the certifying group. But it's a very good start.

BURNETT: But when you say a start, I mean, I just want people to understand, and Gail made this point last night. Sixty-seven counties in Florida, each of them have state officers, they are elected locally to oversee elections. I mean, in other words, Governor Scott is not deciding who's overseeing the elections. He doesn't actually have a role in overseeing the elections.

So what more could he do?

BERGER: Well, no, he -- well, amongst other things, he could stop accusing everyone of fraudulent activity in connection with the election, including the various supervisors of elections who are attempting right now, despite enormous pressures, constant lawsuits, to finish the job in order -- and if he won, in order to have him seated.

But he is constantly suing people, constantly dragging them into court. His lawyers are subpoenaing people to come to court when at the same time they're trying to do the recount work that's required by state law.

BURNETT: So there's the issue here --

BERGER: If he would stop doing that -- if he stopped doing that, maybe we could get the job done.

BURNETT: There's the issue of fraud. There's also the issues of whether there's a chance for Nelson to win. I want to talk about each of those.

First, the secretary of state in Florida has asked for a federal investigation into allegations that some voters were said -- were told, hey, you can mail your ballot in and you can -- as long as you do it by November 8th, which is three days later than the actual deadline, right? So they were given three extra days. The allegations are these are voters that were going to vote Democrat.

Did the Florida Democratic Party have anything to do with this?

BERGER: The Florida Democratic Party has been accused of doing something about -- with this, and it takes the accusation seriously, and we just -- we have found out about it today as well. And we're finding out if anyone had anything to do with it and we'll -- if that is the case, we're going to take appropriate action, but it is not something that anyone was certainly at the higher levels was aware was going on.

BURNETT: OK. And now to the issue of Nelson winning. Obviously, we want to make sure that this is -- the all is handled appropriately and that's important on principle and also important when a race is, indeed, so close that it could be changed by a recount.

But in this case, Bill Nelson is behind by 12,500 votes. You know, you look at the history of Florida, you know it better than anybody, 4,600 statewide general elections in 15 years, recount in less than 30 of them and only 3 recounts changed the end result.

How can you make the case that Nelson can win? Do you think, really, this could change by 12,500 votes?

BERGER: Yes. That's -- Erin, that's the right question. And the answer to that is, it really is going to depend upon what happens after the machine recount.

In Volusia County, there was an optical scanning problem in the 2000 election in one county and after the optical scans went through, several thousand votes were picked up for Al Gore. The same problem might exist for Bill Nelson in Broward County. There was a 26,000 undervote for the Senate race, less people voting for the Senate than the governor's race, so that naturally indicates that the machines might not have picked up that vote.

We're going to know a lot by the time the machine recount is done.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

BERGER: An awful lot.

BURNETT: But obviously, you're making the point you certainly -- theoretically, as you say, it could have more than 12,500 to shift. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

BERGER: There was 70,000 -- yes. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: And more breaking news coming in this hour. A federal judge says he will rule tomorrow on whether or not the White House needs to immediately restore CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta's press pass. It's a restraining order technically that they would do to give him back that pass while this is handled, litigated.

CNN lawyers arguing that time is of the essence because Acosta's First Amendment rights are being violated every day he does not have that pass.

OUTFRONT now, our chief media correspondent, "RELIABLE SOURCES" anchor Brian Stelter.

So, Brian, look, we expect the ruling tomorrow. I guess is that a normal time to expect? Is that -- we don't -- more quick than they thought it would go?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think there were some hopes that maybe the judge would rule right away, minutes later from the bench. Because in these kinds of situations where you're asking for an emergency hearing, judge knows that it is urgent.

But I think what he's doing is he's sleeping on it.

[19:50:01] He wants to write this ruling down. He wants to have a draft document so that as this goes through the courts, he has presented his opinion really clearly.

So, CNN's lawyers tonight thanked the judge for listening to intently, asking so many questions. Frankly, he was skeptical of CNN's stance, he was also skeptical of the government's stance. It sounds like this judge wants to get to the bottom of what's going on here.

And we're hearing from so many newsrooms, so many media companies supporting CNN's position right now, even Fox News. Everyone from the A.P. to Fox News standing with CNN in this case. Just now, the News Media Alliance, represents newspapers across the country, come out and say we commend CNN for not giving in to White House intimidation.

I think all these news outlines are lining up with CNN because they see the stakes of what's going on. The government lawyer in court today argued the White House has the ability, the right, the legal right, to kick out any reporter, any time, for any reason.

That is the government's position. That's a radical change from decades of precedent. And I think all newsrooms are concerned about that. BURNETT: Certainly wouldn't indicate a free press. Whoever's if

power to kick out people they don't like for whatever reason, that's what that would lead to. Pretty clearly, it would seems to me.

All right. Thank you very much, Brian.

I want to go to former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates, now.

Laura, what do you make of this? I mean, there'd been a hope perhaps there could be a decision at the hearing. The judge, as Brian said, wants to sleep on it, wants to think about it, decision could come tomorrow.

What do you make of that?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The judge is right to be contemplative about this issue. It's a little more nuanced than your average First Amendment case where the government cannot choose to restrict the free right or the free press in any way, shape, or form.

What you're seeing here, the argument made by CNN, is that this is clearly content, viewpoint discrimination. You don't like the fact that this person is not a loyalist in their questioning, that they're asking questions the American people have a right to know and you're trying to silence the ability to question. And that's why there was a bizarre withdrawal of the hard pass.

Now, the judge is looking at it from the different perspective as well, one argued by the White House to say, well, this is no different than me deciding who to call on at a presser or which interviews to actually give or grant. The nuance of it being a hard pass, Erin, I think what the judge is hung up.

The hard pass merely facilitates access to the White House grounds and they're arguing that Jim Acosta can still actually cover the White House. He has 50-plus other colleagues who can do the same. So, the judge is trying to think to himself, well, is this a matter of a true chilling effect on speech or is this an issue for a particular person who wants to have facilitated access?

That's where the hang-up is. The case law is very clear about the First Amendment protecting the free press and the right and you cannot decide to take somebody's rights away because you don't like the questions they're asking.

BURNETT: Laura, on a couple points you made, one of them you were saying they're making the case of, you know, they could kick out anyone they want. But then they call on Jim Acosta all the time.

COATES: They do.

BURNETT: If they had an issue with him, they wouldn't call on him. They did. It would seem there's a problem right there to make that case, isn't there?

COATES: Well, there are several problems. They talk out of both sides of their mouths. They say the first reason they revoked it is because a physical assault on an intern. There's an Info Wars doctored video. That all has spawned to the wayside and they're trying to grasp for straw that are far more credible.

And you're right, it belies the notion that they're saying, well, hold on a second, I have a problem with Jim Acosta. But it cuts both ways, Erin. If they're saying that this is a matter of they revoked it not based on content and viewpoint, they can say we routinely called upon the person even though he's never asked questions we deemed to be favorable. On the other hand, he's saying, you set it up and the president's own statements before that clearly show an animus toward me as a member of the press.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Laura Coates. And, obviously, also a big development coming on that tomorrow. One of importance to everyone.

And next, President Trump loves a presidential portrait. And you're going to see where this one popped up.

Jeanne Moos coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:42] BURNETT: President Trump on canvas in color, spotted. Look at that. That's not here. That's at the American ambassador's residence in Switzerland.

Here's Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: portrait of the president as he likes to see himself. These are few of President Trump's favorite paintings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a challenge to paint.

MOOS: But not for Michael Israel. He specializes in speed painting.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: He can knock out an upside down President Trump in about seven minutes.

It was one of Israel's paintings done at a charity auction that Trump bought with a $20,000 check from his own charitable foundation.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Took money from other people and bought a six-foot portrait of Donald. I mean, who does that?

MOOS: The guy who beat Hillary making his portraits presidential. This one hangs in the U.S. ambassador's residence in Switzerland. The artist, Steve Penley (ph), often shows up on Fox News with his patriotic paintings. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cliches actually are what works, that's why

they're cliches.

MOOS: If President Trump likes, if you can bet his detractors are going to mock it.

Critics suggested portraits like these replace the one at the ambassador's residence. At the other end of the artistic ideological spectrum, John McNauton's (ph) crossing the swamp. President Trump replaces George Washington crossing the Delaware.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, Trump endeavors to cross the swamp of Washington, D.C., as he carries the light of the truth, hope and prosperity.

MOOS: Some of the passengers, like Nikki Haley and Jeff Sessions, have jumped ship or been pushed. A critic added a roll of paper towels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let them eat paper towels.

MOOS: And then there's the Republican club hanging in the White House, spotted during a "60 Minutes" segment. All those Republican presidents looking so fit. Some have compared this to dogs playing poker, but artist Andy Thomas says President Trump called to say how much he liked it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always try to make the presidents look as nice as I can.

MOOS: But no matter how nice a president looks, the opposition still tears him to shreds.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MOOS: Pretty amazing to think of presidential picture like that on an ambassador's residence. Something you think would come from another type of country.

Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.