Return to Transcripts main page


Flake Says He'll Block Trump's Judicial Picks to Protect Mueller; Attorneys Form "Checks and Balances" to Prevent Presidential Power Grab; Soon: Judge Makes 1st Decision in CNN Case Against Trump White House; Kate Tells Seth Meyers about Family's Reaction to SNL Spoof; Dems Flip 2 More House Seats as Pelosi Fights for Speakership; Trump on Dems: Could Be a "Beautiful Bipartisan" Situation. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 15, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining me is one of those attorneys, Marisa Maleck. She's a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.

Thanks for coming in.

MARISA MALECK, ATTORNEY & MEMBER, CHECKS AND BALANCES: Thanks for having me. Good morning.

BOLDUAN: First, on the group coming together, conservative attorneys, what was the tipping point for you when it came to the president?

MALECK: I have been pretty opposed to a lot of the things the president has said from the very beginning. I was one of the signers of the Originalists Against Trump letter during the election process. I felt like he was kind of up to the same tactics he's doing now, lying, misrepresenting information, seeming to not really have a proper sense of the way a constitutional democracy is supposed to work. And recently, just right after the midterm elections, with asking Attorney General Sessions to resign, that was sort of the tipping point for me to really get involved.

BOLDUAN: What do you, then, think of what Jeff Flake is threatening, a vote to protect Mueller or no Trump judges, to sum up? What do you think of that?

MALECK: It's a little aggressive for my style. There are a lot of aspects of the Trump administration that I and other members of Checks and Balances like. One of them being judges. The president recently nominated Neomi Rao to the D.C. circuit. I think she's very well qualified. I would be excited to see her.

On the other hand, the Mueller investigation is incredibly important. That's a big reason why I wanted to be a part of a group like Checks and Balances because you have seen from the White House a dismantling or a disrespect for the unless of the criminal justice system. So it's a balance. I probably wouldn't have gone as aggressive as Senator Flake but it's his prerogative.

BOLDUAN: You might not like his methods but he's putting in place conservative judges. Is that trade not worth it?

MALECK: For me, it's not worth it. I think appointing judges is one of the most important obligations and responsibilities of a president. On this score, I think the president is doing an excellent job. However, I do think it's important to speak publicly about the importance of the independence of the Mueller investigation. I think a president signaling right after the midterm elections, asking Attorney General Sessions to resign, and then appointing or putting in place a representative who I believe is in an unconstitutional position. Attorney generals must be confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate. That's not what happened here. I think that's problematic. And the normalization that the president is doing is also problematic. Do we want to get rid of judges as a result and hold that up? I wouldn't go that far. But I think it's important to speak up against the importance of protecting the Mueller investigation.

BOLDUAN: Now, something that definitely can't go unnoticed is that the group, Checks and Balances, organized by George Conway, well known conservative voice, legal mind, yes, but also the husband of Kellyanne Conway, the counsellor to the president. The counsellor that defends the president and the policies that you all were speaking out about, and the moves the president has made that you were speaking out about. What do you -- I don't know, what do you think about that?

MALECK: I think it's interesting. And I do think it's important to clarify that Checks and Balances isn't reflectively an anti-Trump organization. It cares about the rule of law. It cares about, you know, a free independent judiciary as well as a criminal justice system. It cares about civil discourse, individual rights. And it will stand against any administration that abuses that, whether or not that's the president or another administration. So I think it's important to make clear that this really is about ideas. And it's ideas that we think no one has really been talking about. It happens to be -- obviously President Trump is what sort of is motivated our group to come together. But this really shouldn't be seen as an anti- Trump organization as much as an organization that is standing up for what it believes are important to make a robust and healthy democracy.

BOLDUAN: Important to have you as part of the conversation.

Marisa, thank you for coming in. I really appreciate it.

MALECK: Thank you so much for having me.

[11:34:08] BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, an important first step in court today in CNN's lawsuit against President Trump over Jim Acosta's press credentials. What will be decided and what does it mean? That's next.


BOLDUAN: Just a short time from now, a federal judge is expected to offer his first ruling on the case of CNN suing the Trump administration over pulling the press credential of chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. CNN is seeking a restraining order while the bigger arguments are being considered.

CNN's Brian Stelter is following all of this for us.

Brian, we're expecting a ruling from the judge today. What could happen?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": This is a 3:00 p.m. hearing by Judge Timothy J. Kelly in U.S. district court. This is essentially round one. He's going to rule on whether there's a temporary restraining order granted in this case. That TRO would then get Jim Acosta's press pass back in his hands for the next couple weeks. Then, at that point, there will be a longer-term hearing, a longer-term court case. Unless, at some point, the government decides to settle. So that is if he approves the temporary restraining order request. What that essentially means is the judge is saying, OK, we think on the merits you're likely to win a full case, so we're going to give you the restraining order for now. If CNN does not prevail, if the government prevails and the TRO is denied, again, this will go in a kind of a longer-term situation, round two, round three, round four. But it would be a setback because it would be a signal that the judge was not all that convinced by CNN's arguments yesterday.

[11:40:11] BOLDUAN: After today's decision, no matter what it is, what is next?

STELTER: This is on a micro level about Acosta, but on a macro level, it's about a lot of reporters and a lot of access issues at the White House and beyond. What CNN wants in the long term is a ruling from the judge that what the Trump administration did last week is unconstitutional. You can't go picking and choosing which reporters are kicked out because you don't like their questions. That could be determined in the weeks or months to come in some sort of hearing format or a trial. Look, CNN is asking for a jury trial. A lot of experts don't think it's going to get to that point. That's was what we'll start to find out today. Down the road, we're going to see if the Trump administration tries to do this with other reporters. Because if they field emboldened with Acosta, if they feel they can get away with it with Acosta, I think there's concern in a lot of newsrooms that this kind of pattern of behavior by the Trump administration might continue.

BOLDUAN: That's why you see other news organizations doing friends briefs.

STELTER: Exactly.


STELTER: Pretty much every news outlet is standing with CNN.

BOLDUAN: This was one of the topics that came up last night when I had the pleasure of joining Seth Meyers on "Late Night with Seth Meyers."

STELTER: Oh, I saw this, your late-night debut. BOLDUAN: My late-night debut. Also, we were fortunate to have a

little lot of bit of fun about my last appearance on NBC News. My last appearance on NBC News in the form of an "SNL" skit. Listen.


SETH MEYER, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS: How did you find out? Were you watching or did somebody text you?

BOLDUAN: It's the craziest thing. A friend of mine had tickets and was going. We had been out to drinks with him before and we went to a dinner. Can was like, oh, if we could just come with you. Think if I would have been able to be in the seat. I don't know if I would have been mortified.


Friends started texting me. They send these ominous text messages, did you watch "SNL" tonight? Oh, my god, no.



BOLDUAN: And then someone sent me the clip. It was like, oh. And also a realization. When my family finally started joining in on the fun, realizing it, it's like, what's tonight? Oh, you finally made it. You're on with Seth Meyers. You're on "SNL." You finally made it. I was like, guys, I have been to the White House. I interviewed the president. I've been doing this forever. Now you're proud of me?


MEYERS: I'm sure that's just the parent thing. I'm sure they have been proud the whole time.

BOLDUAN: Yes, they are.

MEYERS: They just say it the wrong way.


MEYERS: I will say, being here tonight, you have officially made it. Thank you.


People, Kate Bolduan, everybody.



STELTER: You made it.

BOLDUAN: He's a riot. STELTER: Were you nervous to be on late night?

BOLDUAN: Of course.

STELTER: It seems intimidating to me.

BOLDUAN: If you're not nervous, you don't have blood rushing through your veins. It's a live studio audience. I invited them all and no one showed up. That's what it says about my performance.

STELTER: Well, I'm here.

BOLDUAN: You're here. The crew is here. It was very fun. It's a real pleasure.

STELTER: Great. On Hulu, people can watch it.

BOLDUAN: I promised not to give them too much joke material from our show. We'll see if I can pull that off.

STELTER: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brian. Great to see you.

STELTER: All right. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Democrats picking up more seats in the House, but will Nancy Pelosi get the votes she needs to take back the speaker's gavel? I'll have the number-two Democrat in the House, Congressman Steny Hoyer, joining me next.


[11:47:45] BOLDUAN: United in the election, now divided in victory. House Democrats who are against making Nancy Pelosi the next House speaker are refusing to back down. In fact, their numbers are growing. In a new letter, 17 members now have pledged to vote against Nancy Pelosi on the House floor, leaving some to question whether she has enough votes to get the gavel.

Joining me right now, the number-two Democrat in the House right now, who also wants to be the next majority leader, Congressman Steny Hoyer.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. STENY HOYER, (D), MARYLAND: You bet, Kate. Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Let's start with you. Do you have the votes to be the next majority leader?

HOYER: I do.

BOLDUAN: Plain and simple?

HOYER: Plain and simple. We put a letter out the other day, about two-thirds of the caucus on it. And I have another good number, 20 or 30, who are also on but who didn't get on the letter. And some others will get on a later letter. But, yes, we have enough commitments to be assured of victory. I'm not taking it for granted. I have talked to every member and I have been pleased with their response.

BOLDUAN: There's good confidence there.

But then how about Nancy Pelosi? She said she is 100 percent confident she's going to be the next speaker. Are you 100 percent confident of that?

HOYER: Look, I'm 100 percent confident of -- I have worked with Nancy Pelosi for a very long time. And she's a very good counter of votes, and she's very focused. If she says she's got the votes, I wouldn't bet against her.

BOLDUAN: That's a strong statement.

Congressman, let me ask you this. Seth Moulton, one of your colleagues, he's one of the Democrats who wants someone else to be speaker. I want to play what he said to CNN last night about leadership.


REP. SETH MOULTON, (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It's time that our caucus leadership represent the American people. We have never had a leader of the House who is a woman of color, for example.

The American people have been very, very clear that it's time for new leadership, and we can't answer that call by reinstalling the same leadership we've had since 2006.


BOLDUAN: Does he have a point?

[11:50:51] HOYER: Look, I think what the American people voted for just last week was a change in policies, not so much personalities or people, but a change in policies. They wanted to make sure their health care protection was in place. And if they have a preexisting condition, they would be able to get insurance. They wanted to make sure their prescription drug prices did not go so high they couldn't afford something that gives them health and/or life. They wanted -- the middle-class working people wanted to make sure their Social Security and Medicare were assured, and they had a policy focused on them, jobs, education, retraining. When you look at it from a personality standpoint, I don't think that's how the American public look at it. They look at it, who is going to help me, who is going to build our economy, who is going to make my life more secure and my family's life better. That's the way they look at it. And that's what's important, that we pursue the policies we promised to pursue, which will give the working men and women of this country. And by the way, those who are not working, make sure they can get jobs. It seems to me that's what this election was about and that's what we ought to be about. BOLDUAN: For Democrats who would vote against Nancy Pelosi or vote

against you, if they would, what's the consequence if you then win these leadership positions? Should their committee assignments suffer if they don't believe in you and don't back you?

HOYER: We have a lot of people who voted against Leader Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi in the past and they've gotten good committee assignments. I'm not going to go through the log, but there are a number of them have done that. No, I don't think there will be retribution. People have to make a judgment. My own judgment is the party needs to be unified on behalf of the policies that we promoted and pledged to in the course of this campaign. They were pretty specific. In my opinion, that's why we won the election. Not based upon personalities. The Republican went after, as they have in the past over the last decade or two, Ms. Pelosi.


HOYER: But what people voted on was they believe the policies we were promoting and supporting were better for them. I think that's why we won. I think that's what we will promote. As majority leader, I will be in charge of the schedule and putting legislation on the floor. And I will put legislation on the floor which promotes the policies we said we would support, including making the Affordable Care Act stable and bring health care prices down. We will deal with the reform package at the beginning of the session, which will deal with redistricting reform and voting rights assurance so that everybody is assured --

BOLDUAN: Well --

HOYER: -- the right to vote, ethics reform and campaign finance reform.


BOLDUAN: I actually wanted to ask you about the next Congress and priorities there.


BOLDUAN: Because when it comes to -- look, now it's divided government again. You either can put a lot of stuff through the House, doesn't get to the Senate and the president. The president was asked about this the day after the election. He said a lot in that press conference, Congressman, but one of the things he said


BOLDUAN: One of the things he said during the press conference had to do with making deals with Democrats. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It really could be a beautiful bipartisan type of situation. This way, they will come to me, we will negotiate, and maybe we will

make a deal and maybe we won't. That's possible. But we have a lot of things in common on infrastructure. We want to do something on health care and they want to do something on health care. There are a lot of great things we can do together.


BOLDUAN: Do you believe at all there will be this beautiful bipartisanship.

HOYER: I don't know that there will be beautiful bipartisanship, but the president and we Democrats and the House of Representatives and the Senate have an obligation to the American people to try to reach consensus, particularly on issue that is the president mentioned. I agree with him. We are for infrastructure. We need to make substantial infrastructure investments so America will create jobs and remain competitive in the global community. We ought to try to work on that. I'm hopeful that we can and reach an agreement. I'm hopeful that we can reach an agreement, as the president references, on health care. We had very substantial differences. However, it is interesting that during the course of the campaign, the president said he wanted a health care insurance system that covered everybody in America at lower cost and higher quality. Kate, you probably heard me say it. As soon as he sends that down to the Congress of the United States, I'm voting for it. But he said, perhaps we can reach agreement. I'm hopeful that we can reach agreement. We think the Affordable Care Act was a great start. We added 20-plus million people under insurance. That was a great assurance for them. And it would help bring health care costs down for everybody. If we can do it, we have a responsibility to do it, and we are certainly going to try.

[11:55:12] BOLDUAN: I will see how hopeful and optimistic you still are as the next Congress begins.

Thank you very much, Congressman, for coming in.

HOYER: You're welcome, Kate. Thanks a lot.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, White Houses sources describe the president as bitter, furious, and even unwell. The fascinating new insight we are getting about the president's mind set and why he is apparently, quote, "pissed at damn near everyone."