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More Counting Hiccups as Florida Recount Deadlines Near; Mattis, Nielsen Visit Troops at U.S.-Mexico Border; Pelosi Faces Growing Threat in Bid to Become House Speaker; Sherrod Brown Considering a 2020 White House Run. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 14, 2018 - 12:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Scott, do you still contend that there's fraud going on in Florida with this recount?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, everyone, thank you very much.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Governor Scott on Capitol Hill for new member orientation. Hoping the recount back home will confirm he is, in fact, the next senator from Florida.

We're now 27 hours from a machine recount deadline. The state's largest county Miami-Dade is done counting. Broward and Palm Beach counties are not. Broward elections supervisor says, after a litany of problems and some rule breaking in her view, things are, quote, running very smoothly. And she says her county will be done on time.

In Palm Beach, get this, yes, welcome to Florida old and over, overheated machines forced a restart. A recount of 170,000 early votes already recounted. Early this morning, machines still not running.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is tracking all this. He's in Tallahassee. Ryan, A big court hearing about to take place. What's at stake here for the incumbent Democrat Senator Nelson?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I really think when you look at the path to victory for Bill Nelson, it includes winning at least one or all of these lawsuits that are before this federal court behind me. We're going to hear the first of many lawsuits heard in court today, and this one involves this signature match issue here in Florida. In other words, when you send in your mail-in ballot, you have to sign it and that has to match the original signature in your voter registration application.

Democratic lawyers believe that that law is too stringent and it allows for too many ballots to be tossed out. So they'd like those votes to be counted. Now the other lawsuits that are still pending is another one that would allow ballots that were postmarked by Election Day to be counted even though it they didn't get into the election board by 7 p.m. on Election Day as Florida law currently exists.

And they would also like to examine the voter intent laws here in Florida. This -- when we get to that hand recount, they're going to be examining some of these over votes and under votes to determine voter intent. They'd like those laws to be a little bit more liberal.

And John, there's no doubt that the goal of Democratic lawyers here is to at least just outright change Florida law or at least seriously change the implementation of Florida law with the hope that they can add more votes to the overall vote counting total. Because as it stands right now with that 12,000 vote margin, that's probably too much for Bill Nelson to overcome if we're just doing a simple recount.


KING: Probably too much. But when you emerge in that courtroom, Ryan, in a little bit, maybe we'll know some more. Appreciate the reporting on the ground in Florida, Ryan Nobles.

Up next for us here, the Justice Department issues a fierce defense of the president's controversial pick for acting attorney general.


[12:37:01] KING: Topping our political radar, sources say President Trump will announce this afternoon his support for a bipartisan prison reform bill engineered in large part by his son-in-law Jared Kushner. The first step back looks to overhaul the criminal justice system by boosting rehabilitation efforts and giving judges more sentencing discretion for non-violent offenses. It has the support of numerous law enforcement associations and the National District Attorneys Association.

Georgia governor's race between Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp still unsettled. This morning, a federal judge ordering one of the state's largest counties to review all provisional ballots that were previously rejected. Abrams has not yet conceded to Kemp arguing there are enough votes remaining to force the race into a runoff. Georgia's Democratic Party meanwhile is taking its appeal to the airways.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This election, was your voice heard? Too many were silent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Abrams campaign continue to push for all of the state ballots to be counted.


KING: The Justice Department offering several reasons why Matt Whitaker's appointment as acting attorney general is in its view, constitutional. This comes after the state of Maryland argues President Trump wrongfully bypassed the constitution by selecting Whitaker to replace Jeff Sessions. The state says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should have been Sessions' rightful successor.

But Whitaker, listen here, is in Iowa today. That's home, doesn't seem too worried about the controversy.


MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was asked, as often I am, by people that are not from Des Moines, what does Des Moines mean? Well, it's French. As you may have figured out, and it's French for Des Moines.

You never know what you can do when you're U.S. attorney for the University of Iowa.


WHITAKER: You're going to go places, I know that.


WHITAKER: Especially with that beard.



KING: And right now, the Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visiting troops at the U.S.-Mexico border. President Trump sent thousands of soldiers to that region ahead of the midterms, according to administration to protect the border from a caravan of asylum seekers making their way through Mexico.

Secretary Mattis said a short time ago, he does not foresee those troops having any contact with the migrants and he made sure the men and women serving could ask some questions.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Adequate (INAUDIBLE) young guys, I don't get to see you all. I have kind of grown remote from you. And the secretary and I are out of Washington, D.C. and we stand before you with mixed emotions. She and I are so happy, we could cry right now.


KING: Interesting optics there.

Number one, good for them, good for them. Whether you agree or disagree with the deployment, the troops are there, we're approaching Thanksgiving, they're not at their home base, for the defense secretary, former general himself and Secretary Nielsen to go there is a good thing. Both of them also said today as we discussed earlier in the program to maybe be heading to the off-ramps. What do you make of that?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think it's really important that they were there because as everyone knows, sending troops to the border means that they don't get to be elsewhere, they don't get to be with their families. They are living as if they are in a war zone even though they are not really in any kind of combat mission.

[12:40:05] But at the same time just the fact that they have been trying -- Mattis and Nielsen really have been trying to execute what the president wants without creating bigger problems is one of the reasons that President Trump wants them out of their jobs. Because there are people in the White House who were saying these are people always trying to hold you back from your priorities, Mr. President.

And I think that's one of the reasons why they're in the hot water that they're in, but a lot of people would look at this situation and say this is actually a case in which there should not be 15,000 troops at the border because there is really not anything for them to do. At least not for a while now.

KING: Is this good leadership or is it a case of Jim Mattis saying I'm with her at this delicate moment? I'm not sure. We shall see.

Up next, a handful of Nancy Pelosi detractors say they can deny her the speaker's gavel. Nancy Pelosi says good luck with that.


[12:45:09] KING: Welcome back.

Either somebody can't count or somebody's bluffing. House Democrats who want Nancy Pelosi to step aside as leader say they are 100 percent certain they have the votes to block her bid to become speaker. These just days after Pelosi told CNN she is 100 percent certain she'll be the one holding the gavel when all the dust settles.

CNN counts 23 new or incumbent House Democrats on the record, they're saying they will not back Pelosi for speaker. But the Democrats don't vote for two weeks. Pelosi thinks she can get enough of her colleagues on board by then. Until then, she is busy laying out her case for the new Democratic majority.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: We're going to be visionary. We're going to be unifying. We're going to be healing. Were going to be transparent in how we do this. And we're going to try to find our common ground where we can.

We have responsibility to do that. But where we can't, stand our ground like a rock.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Which is it? Somebody not count or is somebody bluffing?

This is a question that we'll see, right? I mean, we haven't actually had the full list of names of people who are opposing Pelosi released. I mean, the people who are opposing are saying they're still building up support, so why would they, you know, show their hand yet?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: But there have been challenges to Nancy Pelosi before. She has withstood these challenges. She's an expert dealmaker. She can quell uprising like nobody else can.

The problem this time is that a lot of the Democrats who won bringing the Democrats the majority they will now have next year promised not to vote for her on the floor. So can they make a sort of arrangement where they can go with a Pelosi accolade or can she basically beat the others into submission enough, that it doesn't matter if those people want to vote now on the floor, she can still maintain the majority or the amount of votes she needs to remain speaker?

KING: Let's listen, let's listen. There'll be a lot of new faces in Washington and you're going to meet them, and we should listen to them. They just won this election, a big midterm year.

As Karoun just noted, many of them said no way, know how, never, will I vote for Nancy Pelosi. Now they're here for freshman orientation, that's usually a happy time. Here you get -- you talk about committees, you find where your office is going to be, you'll learn you're way around the capitol, and you deal with questions, what about that campaign promise?


REP.-ELECT HALEY STEVENS (D), MICHIGAN: 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. I'm not making any voting commitments at this time. I'm looking form a new generation of leadership.

REP.-ELECT JEFF VAN DREW (D), NEW JERSEY: We have to see how this all develops, obviously. But it does mean that I wouldn't be voting for her either on the floor or in caucus.

REP.-ELECT MIKIE SHERRILL (D), NEW JERSEY: I have made a commitment to my district that I would not be supporting Nancy Pelosi. So --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then what would you do if there's not another candidate?

SHERRILL: Look, then we just -- like I said, that's why, you know, we'll have to see how we move forward.


KING: That is a part of the challenge. You need another candidate. You can't just say I'm not for her. At some point if you're going to be against her, you need somebody to run against her.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's true, but it's also an -- a very early test about whether this sort of idealism that all of these new faces, these new kind of folks coming in, whether they have to, whether they feel like they have to stick a hundred percent to their guns, that what they said was a hundred percent true, they will never support Pelosi. Or can they do a kind of typical Washington thing, where they vote against her in caucus, right?

She'll still win, she'll still win the support of caucus. There's not enough Democrats at this point to deny her that. But then go ahead and either vote for her or vote present on the floor. And is that -- does that satisfy their -- the promise that they made to their constituents or is that too Washington for, you know, these folks who came in, you know, promising something different?

KING: And the drama here. Maybe those of you around the country, you know, you don't know what to make of this but this is fascinating, Pelosi was the first woman ever to be speaker of the House then the Republicans took back the majority. She has been at this for years, do not underestimate her, do not doubt her math.

But, the people making (INAUDIBLE) of her know how tough she is. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts is among them, a Democratic congressman. She told Bloomberg, I will be speaker of the House no matter what Seth Moulton says? He re-tweeted that and then added, "I am not the only one saying it."

So again, my thing, these opponents. If she wins, Seth Moulton is going to get a basement office with no windows, and he's going to be on the committee on widgets. Right?

DEMIRJIAN: I mean, yes. But he made this bet when he came to Congress, right? I mean, he was not a silent person who just kind of fell in line behind Pelosi when he got here. And so he's got to double and triple down on this because he -- Pelosi does not forget anything. And so, he may have been destined for the basement office in and of (INAUDIBLE).

PHILLIP: And also watch for this. I mean, the smart thing for Nancy Pelosi to do is to make your enemy your friend. And to bring them into the fold. How will -- that might be --

KING: He already beat a very good of hers in the primary.

PHILLIP: How might she bring some of these people who are rabble rousing around here into the folds so that they have no choice but to work with her?

[12:50:05] I think that's definitely a possibility especially if it looks like it's unlikely that someone else will mount a real challenge to her.

KING: Now this matter, as you jump in, does this matter, we took a poll after the election, went back to see, OK, the election happens, here it is. So this is overall, all Americans, should Nancy Pelosi be the Democrats? Three in 10 Americans want Nancy Pelosi, six in 10 say they want someone else.

Now the question is really Democratic question so we went back and asked just the Democrats. So even divide, 44 percent of Democrats say Nancy Pelosi deserves to be speaker, 46 percent say let's find another Democrat. Does that matter?

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: I don't think so because I think what they're looking at a lot is the base. And the base was obviously not the base (INAUDIBLE) about Chuck Schumer getting back in his leadership post, mostly angry about the way he sort of set the stage -- kind of late stage for confirmation of a bunch of judge nominees.

The base does not have the same level of anger at Nancy Pelosi. Also, let's not forget, she can count votes, OK? I haven't seen anybody who's better than she's at counting votes. It's possible that there's a glide path here where x number of people who really promised that they're not going to support her and for whom it actually matters in their district rather than just some sort of, you know, some sort of posturing.

It's possible she cobbles together solution that left those folks vote against her without affecting the final hour.

KING: Will vote president on the floor. Vote against her for caucus, vote president on the floor if she can --

KNOX: I won't vote for her --

KING: If the margin is big enough to lose some votes, she'll do that math (INAUDIBLE).

Up next, another question for Democrats, grow progressives or stick to the suburbs? How will the Democrats decide to try to take back the White House?


[12:56:13] KING: 2018 election is over, the 2020 campaign already under way. For Democrats, you hear the names, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren. How about Sherrod Brown?


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Donald Trump with his phony populism, he's tried to fool people into believing that he's on their side by attacking work, by attacking fellow Americans, by calling people names, by attacking immigrants. He purposely pits one group against another to distract from the fact that the White House looks like a retreat for Wall Street and oil company executives.


KING: Now a lot of Americans are saying, Sherrod who? He just won re-election in Ohio which kept its Republican governor. Republicans have done well at just about every other level. So there are Democrats and Sherrod Brown says he's thinking about it. Who say maybe we should think about this guy. Who has managed -- he's in good with the unions, goes to the small rural communities, blue collar workers, farmers. He doesn't do great among them but he competes among them.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes. I mean, pretty aggressive. I mean, he's the more left side of the party that's to the left. So, I mean, he's not -- he's never really been kind of -- one of those shining stars, faces that goes on T.V. all the time that everybody points to and says, oh, this is the dream.

But if you want to counter Trump with somebody who's also, you know, not very old or younger like now, he's not a bad choice. The question is, is that really what the party wants?

KING: That is the question. So if you're looking -- if you're just looking at the map and you're saying, OK, well, Trump was president because of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, but if you could take Ohio away, no Republican -- you're going to hear this a lot. Again, no Republicans even won the presidency without winning in the modern age, without winning Ohio. Here's Sherrod Brown among white non- college educated women in Ohio in this recent election, 52 percent. President Trump in Ohio in 2016, 56 percent.

This is where Sherrod Brown comes up short compared to Trump. White non-college educated men, 38 percent, the president got 71 percent. Union households, 62 percent, 54 percent. So there's -- the blue collar appeal is there. The Democrats are going to go through a field of about 40, maybe more.

What is there -- there are those who say, you know, just look at the suburbs. You know, if we just focus on what we did in the suburbs, college educated women, we'll be great. Sherrod Brown would say, well, wait a minute, you lose a lot of blue collar guys if you do that.

PHILLIP: Well, I also think that there are going to be people like Sherrod Brown who helps the Democrats shape the conversation in the primaries and in the sort of vetting process for nominees as we get toward 2020. There are going to be people who force Democrats to have a Sherrod Brown conversation, a Joe Biden conversation, in addition to that other conversation happening about the suburbs, about educated women, about educated men.

KING: About diversity.

PHILLIP: About diversity. And so -- so I think that there is an argument to be made that even if Sherrod Brown is not the guy, he might be the one that helps them stay on track, in the same way that maybe Bernie Sanders was but with a little less of the wildness of Bernie Sanders that some Democrats don't (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And you mentioned Joe Biden. Some of these lesser knowns are going to have to deal with the better knowns if you will. This is John Angelo in Democratic polls, "The problem for Sherrod Brown is that Joe Biden is considered the working class whisperer for Democrats nationally."

You can go on and read the rest of that quote. There is a sort of who's -- what's the space? What's the available space in a big field I guess?

KNOX: Well, in a class of 40, there's a lot of available space, right? That's an interesting question about Biden is whether he can sort of pull back that Obama coalition. You know, he didn't do that well as a solo candidate when he ran for president.

Right. Yes. And so I'm sort of wondering about that. The thing about this whole, these classic Democrats is you're seeing a really interesting tension between the people who were like, Trump had a point, and by the way, we've been telling you for years. Sherrod Brown has been talking about the damaging effects of international trade for years.

KING: So we'll see (INAUDIBLE).

All right, thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS today. A busy day, don't go anywhere though. Brianna Keilar starts right now.