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Florida Recount Deadline Approaches; Trump Lashes Out; Democrats Against Pelosi as Speaker; Trump Questions Arizona Race; Trump Floats More Conspiracies; Kasich Visits New Hampshire; Judge Delays CNN Ruling; Flake on Protecting Mueller; Schumer Ran Interference for FaceBook. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 15, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: This time tomorrow. Have a great afternoon.

Brianna Keilar starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, it all comes down to this, the deadline in the Florida recount just a short time from now as the fates of two key races hang in the balance.

Want to buy some Froot Loops? ID, please. Want to vote illegally? Just change your hat. The latest conspiracies from the Oval Office.

Plus, a possible sign something is about to drop, as the president suddenly ramps up his rhetoric against Robert Mueller.

And the Saudis want to execute five agents from the kill team behind the murder of a journalist, but is this narrative all for show?

But first, it is deadline day for the Florida recount. Counties have until 3:00 p.m. Eastern, less than two hours from now, to submit their results. But it looks like Palm Beach County will not be done by then. And the legal back and forth over the lection continues.

Correspondent Ed Lavandera joining us now from Tallahassee.

Tell us what is happening and when we should know the results.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the federal judge here in downtown Tallahassee that is overseeing a number of the lawsuits that have been brought since Election Day, nearly a dozen in all, is about to go into the courtroom here in Tallahassee and begin hearings on three of those cases. There's also a hearing this morning about pushing back the deadline for the recount. A verdict on that or a ruling on that has not been issued yet. So there's still a number of questions that are still outstanding.

The one ruling that has been handed down is that there are about -- issues about the validity of signatures on some nearly 5,000 mail-in ballots. And the judge in the case here has pushed back a deadline until Saturday afternoon to verify those mail-in ballots and verify the signature on that. So notices are going out to all of those people across the state that that affects.

But that's important to remember here that that's nearly 5,000 votes in a race where Bill Nelson is trailing by a little more than 12,000 votes. So even if all of those votes were to go towards Bill Nelson, which is highly unlikely of course, that wouldn't make enough of a difference at this point.

But really right now, Brianna, people pointing toward this deadline here of the recount deadline coming up in just a couple of hours and we'll get official word on just how many -- how the counties have complied with that deadline here in the next couple of hours.

KEILAR: All right, we'll be watching. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.

Sullen, bitter, and, quote, pissed at damn near everyone. That is how a White House official is describing President Trump's mood right now. According to friends, he's angry and he's bitter over the midterm elections and he's troubled by Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. On top of that, he was said to be caught off guard by the first lady's public statement calling for a top national security aide to be fired.

White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is here with more on all of this West Wing drama.

What is the president most upset about, to you think, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty much everything at this point. White House aides are describing a president in a mood that they have not seen since those first beginning few weeks of the administration when it was just essentially one big period of turmoil and they have not seen President Trump act the way that he's acting now since those days. And that's concerning to them because, of course, that was such a period of chaos for them that it seems to be reminiscent of that.

Now, he's been like this since he returned from Paris, and that itself was a big PR crisis since he canceled that trip to the military cemetery and he got all of these negative headlines after that. And he was lashing out at aides.

But it's not just that. It's also the midterms as he's watching these recounts play out on TV. You can see he's frustrated about that. And he's alleging voter fraud without presenting any kind of evidence.

But today he's really zeroing in on the Mueller investigation. Now, that's likely because he met with his legal team on Monday. They discussed those written answers that he's going to send into them. And also his former attorney, Michael Cohen, was spotted in this pretty high profile appearance at the special counsel's office on Monday. So we're really seeing the president lash out at anyone and everyone around him.

KEILAR: And when he's in a place like this, we sometimes see heads roll. So I know that must be affecting a lot of the staffers over there who are not feeling particularly secure in their employment.

COLLINS: Right. And it's not just the typical people either. Not just the chief of staff, John Kelly. Not just the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. It's a lot of people who don't seem to feel they have good job security right now, because, as I said, he's going back to that period when he was asking other people, should I trust this person, should I trust this person. That is making them concerned. People who have even been there for the two years that President Trump has been in office. And we're seeing the way that this is going down with people like John Kelly, as President Trump is weighing people like Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff. There are people who are actively trying to convince the president not to pick him, and saying that they'll likely leave the administration if he does. So it's an entire swarm of issue that the West Wing is facing right now.

[13:05:14] KEILAR: Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much for that report.

She will not back down. Democrat Nancy Pelosi says she intends to win the speakership in the House with Democratic votes. Her commends coming after 17 members of her party signed a letter pledging to vote against her.

Congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill for us.

Tell us where you are, what's going down, and what we're looking towards.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, certainly I remarkable moment earlier today with Nancy Pelosi. Very clear this rebellion in the ranks, so to speak, is getting under her skin. Earlier this morning she had somewhat of a remarkable moment where she walked into that press conference, clearly intending to project confidence about her potentially becoming the next speaker, but she then had to really bat down question after question about this rebellion that's brewing. And, quite frankly, she has not been able to quiet down just yet. Here's a little more from that press conference.


QUESTION: You have expressed total confidence that you have the votes.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: I have -- I do. Do. OK, next question.

QUESTION: How could you be so confident? How could you be so confident?

QUESTION: Madame Leader -- Madame Leader, is there anyone else --

QUESTION: If the election were held today on the House floor, do you have the votes to be elected speaker?



SERFATY: So one definitive word there from Nancy Pelosi. Yes. That's the important word coming from her camp this morning. And to your question, Brianna, we are here in a hallway outside of a closed door Democratic meeting. That's where they're huddling this morning. These huddles so important, especially taken the tone and temperature of new members. Some of whom pledged to not support Nancy Pelosi if they won. So big question remains, though, will anyone step up and challenge Nancy Pelosi? That's what her allies are arguing. If there's no one to run against her, you can't beat something with nothing.


KEILAR: Sunlen Serfaty from a very busy basement there in the Capitol. Thank you so much.

President Trump is questioning why a Republican congresswoman was so quick to concede the U.S. Senate race in Arizona. Martha McSally was praised for the gracious way that she conceded to her opponent, Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. But in a "Daily Caller" interview, the president suggested that McSally should have pushed harder.

CNN political director David Chalian is here.

What do you make of this?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I'm not quite sure what the president is thinking since I think he just wasn't following the election returns quite as closely. McSally was initially ahead. But once the bulk of the outstanding vote came into Arizona, Brianna, Kyrsten Sinema didn't just like edge ahead of McSally, she significantly edged ahead by tens of thousands of votes. It wasn't a close race -- I mean a close race, but it wasn't like a razor thin race at the end of the day. It was clear to McSally there was no chance -- any chance whatsoever that she was going to be the next senator from Arizona.

KEILAR: And it's not unusual that those ballots come in after and are counted.

CHALIAN: Especially in a state like Arizona --


CHALIAN: Where it's mostly mail ballot.

KEILAR: That's right.

OK, so in this interview with "The Daily Caller," the president also had some rather interesting comments about voter fraught. He talked about this, quote, sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It's really a disgrace what's going on. The disgrace is that voter ID -- the disgrace is that, voter ID. If you buy, you know, a box of cereal, if you do anything, you have a voter ID. What the heck is he talking about?

CHALIAN: I know it's funny, you know, sometimes we look at the president's words, it's like what is he, a box of cereal or a disguise. This is actually, I think, pretty darn serious. I think that he --

KEILAR: Incredibly.

CHALIAN: Is dismantling a fundamental pillar of our democracy, which is the sanctity of the vote. And he wants to discredit election result that he thinks aren't in his favor.

What is so confounding here is, the election results in Florida are going to be in his favor. It looks like Rick Scott is going to win. Ron DeSantis is going to win most likely. So why he's questioning a vote that he's going to win, A, but, B, this is all part what he does with the press, what he does with Congress, what he does with the courts. His dismantling of institutional pillars of our democracy. It's just so offensive to hear him talk this way about the vote.

KEILAR: It really is.

And then -- and talk to us about what we're seeing from John Kasich, Ohio governor, not in his state. Where was he?

CHALIAN: He was in New Hampshire.



Yes, the first in the nation primary state.

What is so intriguing, of course, is the timing of this visit to New Hampshire. We are a week after the midterms. We are in the presidential cycle now.

He's on his way out as Ohio governor. He's term limited. And he's making a trip to the state where he really staked his 2016 presidential run, if you'll recall. Obviously it didn't work out for him in 2016. He is openly considering making a run against the president for the Republican Party nomination.

Listen, one of his top advisers in New Hampshire said, he's not going to be coy about this visit. He's going to make clear that this is something he's considering. But I think we have to listen very carefully for where he sees a path to beat Donald Trump in a Republican Party where Donald Trump is still really popular.

[13:10:05] KEILAR: And we're have some Kasich sound just in, so let's take a listen to that.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I have no idea what I'm going to do in 2020. I'm trying to finish out 2018 and then I go into '19 with a whole new life, which I'm -- don't know exactly what I'm going to do, but it's going to be exciting.

And in terms of politics, I can't tell you because I don't know what the environment is. What I don't want to do is to try to go back into it again and then diminish my voice.


KEILAR: Oh, come on, he's not going to be coy? What was that? What was that, David?

CHALIAN: I guess a little bit. He was trying to be coy, Brianna. But he says he doesn't want to diminish his voice. He says he doesn't want to get beaten silly again, like he did last time, because he thinks that would diminish his stature.

Well, I don't know. Right now I don't see a ton of evidence inside the Republican Party that is really hungry, in a big way, for an alternative to Donald Trump to the Republican nomination.

KEILAR: That's very important.

David Chalian, thank you.


KEILAR: This just in. A hearing on CNN's lawsuit against the White House has been delayed.

CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter joining us now from New York with details on this.

So when is this going to happen if not this afternoon?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, it was scheduled for today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Judge Timothy J. Kelly was going to bring everybody back into court and announce his decision about a temporary restraining order in this case. Now Kelly has delayed that until Friday at 10:00 a.m. He's asking folks to reconvene Friday at 10:00 a.m., at which time we expect he will rule on the request for a temporary restraining order.

You know the whole idea here, Brianna, is that CNN filed an emergency call for Jim Acosta's press pass to be restored. It's been more than a week since his press pass was suspended by the White House. So CNN's argument is that time is of the essence and this needs to happen as soon as possible.

Kelly evidently wants a little bit more time. And if you're going to ask me what this means, does it means Kelly's weighing in one direction or another, frankly I have no idea. I wish I had an answer for you, but I think that's the great unknown right now. Both sides are wondering how Kelly will rule.

KEILAR: And we'll see hopefully tomorrow morning. STELTER: Yes.

KEILAR: Brian Stelter, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

KEILAR: So we now know exactly how journalist Jamal Khashoggi died. And now five people facing the death penalty. We'll have senator Rand Paul with us here to react.

Plus, a total mess. The president blasts the Russia investigation as Republican Jeff Flake issues a new threat vowing to protect Robert Mueller. And a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee will join me next.

And speaking of the Russia probe, new text messages surface between Roger Stone and his contact at WikiLeaks. Why the timing of them is everything.


[13:17:04] KEILAR: An act of defiance that may be getting under the president's skin. I'm talking about outgoing Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who now says he's not going to vote on any of the president's judicial nominations unless the Senate votes on a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring that bill to the floor.

President Trump went on a bit of a Twitter tirade today about the Mueller investigation, saying, quote, the inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. Also this, these are angry people, including the highly conflicted Bob Mueller, who worked for Obama for eight years.

We should point out, he actually worked for Obama for four and a half years and he was appointed by President Bush.

Joining me now to discuss more on all of this is Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono. He is a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Thank you so much for being with us.

You --

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Nice to see you and talk to you.

KEILAR: Very nice to see you.

And you support this effort to protect Robert Mueller --


KEILAR: But do you share concerns of many observers who think that Flake is going to end up capitulating to McConnell, that this might not even get to the point where it requires Vice President Pence to come in and tie break?

HIRONO: I think that Jeff Flake will vote no on all of these nominees, as he said he would. Unfortunately, unless we can get at least one other Republican to go along with him, then if there's a 50-50 tie, which would happen if Jeff votes no, then Vice President Pence will just come to the floor and break the tie. But I'm glad that he's making a statement and I expect him to stick with it.

At the same time, there's a huge danger to the Mueller investigation with the appointment of Whitaker, who has such a conflict of interest, not to mention that this appointment is probably unconstitutional and requires Senate confirmation.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about Roger Stone, because he has released some texts with Randy Credico, the man who is his alleged WikiLeaks back channel. He told Stone, Credico did, quote, Hillary's campaign will die this week. That was six days before WikiLeaks put out those hacked e-mails of John Podesta's, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.

So as Mueller looks at Stone's ties to WikiLeaks, if he communicated with Trump about these dumps of e-mails, his lawyers are actually saying that this vindicates Roger Stone. Do you think that's true?

HIRONO: I don't know how they can make that kind of argument. But what this says is that further disclosures about the connections between people very close to Trump and his team and the Russian efforts to interfere with our elections. So it, once again, points out how important it is for the Mueller investigation to continue and come to its conclusion.

KEILAR: "The New York Times" reporting that your leader in the Senate, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, essentially ran interference on behalf of FaceBook as the Senate investigated the social media giant for its role in propagating false information during the election -- during the presidential election. "The Times" reports that Schumer was actually encouraging other Senate Democrats not to vilify FaceBook.

[13:20:15] You were in that hearing. Were you encouraged to go easy on FaceBook?

HIRONO: No, not at all. So what these new revelations point out is that we, the Congress, should think about regulations of some sort because it's disturbing to know that FaceBook had information ahead of time.

KEILAR: But what about Chuck Schumer -- but what about this report that Chuck Schumer instructed some Democrats, including Senator Warner, who's the top Democrat on intel, to take it easy? Is that appropriate?

HIRONO: Well, I don't know if Mark Warner did take it easy, but Chuck Schumer certainly didn't say anything to me about FaceBook.

And so what I'm focused on is going forward and what we can do to protect the privacy of people who use FaceBook and also to get to the bottom of whatever was happening with their having someone hiring somebody to go against the FaceBook critics. So that could be a potential campaign spending violation. And this is something that Amy Klobuchar mentioned, as she's been one of the leaders in reviewing what kind of regulations, if any, we should place on entities like FaceBook.

KEILAR: But if Schumer did what he is reported to have done, and this is good reporting, that is something that undercuts everything you just described, the Democrats, that the Senate, that Congress needs to be doing. Is it appropriate to take it easy on FaceBook?

HIRONO: Well, that -- not at all. And, you know, you're presuming that somehow whatever conversations he had to that -- to what you're saying, that it has some kind of an effect. And I don't know that it had because I was at the hearing when Zuckerberg came to testify and at that point it wasn't clear to me anyway that -- what kind of appropriate regulation there should be. And it was an open question. And now I think we need to revisit that issue.

KEILAR: So you're saying even if those conversations did go on, you don't think that FaceBook got an easy ride in the hearing basically?

HIRONO: Well, it didn't -- well, it certainly had no impact on where I was with regard to what might be appropriate regulation, because it's not that easy to figure out what kind of regulation should happen in this environment because we also want to make sure that people do have access to this kind of communication capacity, and at the same time you want to make sure that that privacy is protected. So it's a -- I think it's a little bit complicated and, therefore, you know, I'm -- I wasn't prepared at that point to say, well, we shouldn't do anything. What I was prepared to say was, we probably need to revisit this. We need to understand a lot more about how we can provide the kind of regulatory framework that will prevent abuse and that will protect the users.

KEILAR: I want to ask you another question about the committee. Your Republican chairman, Chuck Grassley, it actually thinking about stepping down. Lindsey Graham is thinking about replacing him. And he says he's immediately call for investigations of Hillary Clinton. What do you think he's trying to do there?

HIRONO: The fact that they continue to want to go after Hillary Clinton says to me that they're not paying attention to what's really going on in our country. And what's going on in our country is voter suppression is going on. And I would hope that Lindsey Graham, with whom I have worked on immigration reform and other matters, would look at making sure that we investigate voter suppression that took place in places like Georgia and North Dakota to make sure that everyone gets to vote and every vote is counted.

So this continuing witch hunt of Hillary Clinton, which, by the way, was raised by Judge Kavanaugh in his hearings where he dragged in, in his conspiracy theory claim against the Democrats on that committee, dragging in Hillary Clinton, says to me that they just keep beating what I would consider a dead horse, you know? I mean not to say she's a dead horse, but really why don't we get on to investigating those things that really raise huge issues about voter suppression, counting every vote, and making sure that our democracy is not interfered with by Russians.

KEILAR: Do you worry, I wonder, about the talk that you're seeing from President Trump on voter fraud, for instance? He's talking about how some people go back to their car, change hats, vote again. That you need an ID to do everything, including buy cereal. Do you worry about the effect that this kind of language has on people's faith in the system?

[13:25:02] HIRONO: The president is so discombobulated by the results of this election that he's just saying the most outrageous, silly kinds of things. And I hope that the vote -- the people in our country are finally getting tired of how he flails out. And, you know, the -- everything is about protecting himself. So he'll say anything. He does lie every single day.

So what I would hope the president would care more about is to make sure that our elections are not interfered with by foreign entities, like Russia, which he keeps denying even happened, but we all know it did, and to make sure that every vote counts. That is part of our democracy. And that we don't go after trying to suppress the votes of American Indians, for example, in North Dakota. I thought that was one of the most egregious voter suppression tactics that anybody could engage in because they are the original peoples. It's bad enough that we violated every single treaty that we have with the American Indians, but now we're going to keep them from voting? I think that's just totally egregious and unacceptable. So those are the things that we should be caring about. That's what I care about, Brianna.

KEILAR: It's very clearly what you care about.


KEILAR: And we appreciate you coming on to talk about it.


KEILAR: Senator Mazie Hirono, thank you.

HIRONO: Thank you.

KEILAR: Five people are now facing the death penalty for the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as we learn new details about his final moment alive. Up next, Senator Rand Paul, a vocal critic of the Saudis, is going to react.

And, complete devastation in California. The death toll now climbing to nearly 60 and more than 300 people are still unaccounted for. We are live from the ground.