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House Dems Sign Letter Opposing Pelosi as Speaker; New Vote Tally Shows Mia Love Closing In on McAdams; Theresa May Takes Brexit Deal to Parliament; Flake Will Block Judicial Nominees if Mueller Isn't Protected. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 15, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: They don't want their first vote to be something that is going to come back to haunt them. And there's more complication actually, John than the 17 people because there's a whole separate group that want changes in the House rules that she's having to negotiate with who said they won't vote unless they get the rules they want.

I think that a few more things have to happen here. She'll be confident right up to the end and keep saying that she's going to win. But I still think there's going to be some other moves to assure people that a transition which she, herself said is in place and that they can be confident about it.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And to that point about it's mostly men. This is part of the Pelosi campaign. It's men and women can feel the Democratic gains. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, two of the men pushing for this.

She's also making the -- the Pelosi team also makes the case, these men are to the right of here. The progressives were mostly the fuel. You can dispute this in some races but the progressives were the main energy in the Democratic gains. Why would we go to people who are less liberal than us?

One of those men I just mentioned, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, says this is not about man versus woman. This is about generational change.


REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Now the American people sent a very strong message in the election last week that we want new approaches to politics and new leaders in Washington. Just look at the incredible number of women, of veterans, of people of color who were elected. And if our party responds by reinstalling the same status quo leadership we had since 2006, then we're failing the American people and we're letting down the Democratic Party.


KING: Can they win? TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Well -- and he was very involved in recruiting some of those candidates who are veterans which gives him some influence with them. It's not clear yet whether they can win. The sort of the counter argument to him is this thing that all these women fuelled this and you're really going to throw out the top woman.

Then the push back is, well, people voted for change. One thing that may be helping is there is the problem of this insurgency had no one that they were pushing to be speaker. Now the name Marcia Fudge is coming up, she's even talking about it saying, wow, the support I've seen from my colleagues in recent hours has been amazing. She's a woman.

KING: She's a woman, she's an African-American woman.


KING: Another name that either Tim Ryan or Seth Moulton floated was Karen Bass, another member of the black caucus from California. She has just tweeted out, "Nancy Pelosi has my vote for speaker."

So, if nothing else, this is forcing people to make their choices public. But you do have the challenge now. Tim Ryan has been a Pelosi critic for sometime. Seth Moulton has joined that cause after Tim Ryan. Is can they find someone who's willing to take the risk to step forward because it's hard to beat Nancy Pelosi (INAUDIBLE) on the track?

Who will step forward and have the courage to do that?

PERRY BACON, SENIOR WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I'm not sure I agree, John. I think part of this is got to be like the most viable candidates are not going to run against Nancy Pelosi if she might win. I think that (INAUDIBLE) might be to make it clear that block her so she can't win and then maybe the Adam Schiffs or the Steny Hoyers or people who I think actually might be more viable actual speakers. I don't think we are getting the real list of potential speakers because those people are might kind of (INAUDIBLE).

KING: But don't you also, don't you also think to that point the people who've been waiting for years thinking they were next like Steny Hoyer or more recent, Adam Schiff? If Nancy Pelosi can't do this, what is the likelihood it goes to a white man after what we just saw in the election?

BACON: Maybe an older white. I guess the question is not about age, gender, or race. You know, these are all like, you know, lumped in together. (INAUDIBLE) a question.

KING: Not where Carl's money would go. Carl's pretty good at the table so you can follow that one.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: This is really a -- I'm going to say it really underscores the identity crisis more broadly in the Democratic Party going into 2020. KING: Not a doubt.

LUCEY: The race really sort of brought all these different things.

KING: Lot of is generational. There's a lot of it.

Up next for us, Congresswoman Mia Love gets some love after all from the voters.


[12:38:21] KING: Topping our political radar today, China making an opening bid to the United States in hopes of re-starting stalled trade talks. The proposal hanged up after a phone call between the Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and the Chinese vice premier. But, sources do say the offer falls short of many of the demands made by the White House. President Trump and the Chinese President Xi Jinping expected to meet at the G20 later this month.

Stormy Daniels's attorney Michael Avenatti was arrested on suspension of felony domestic assault last night. He's now free on $50,000 bail. In a statement, Avenatti calls these allegations, quote, completely bogus. He also tweeted that he, quote, did not commit domestic violence and did not strike any woman ever.

The United States now sanctioning 17 Saudis over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia says it will seek the death penalty for five people it alleges were involved in the murder. The Saudis also released some gruesome details of the crime. They say Khashoggi was killed after a fight in a quarrel at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul then tied up, injected with an overdose of a sedative to kill him and his body then dismembered. A total of 11 people have been charged by the Saudis.

Democrats picked up two more House seats in California and New Jersey bringing their total so far in the midterm elections to 227. At least the Republicans at the moment with 200. Still eight races, House races undecided. That gives Democrats so far a total of 32 net pickups in the House. They're still counting the other eight.

One of them is Utah. Representative Mia Love's race getting closer. She now trails Democrat Ben McAdams by only 873 votes as the counting continues. That was 1,200 just the other day and the counting continuing but remember, last week, the president had already ripped her off.


[12:40:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You had some that decided to, let's stay away. Let's stay away. They did very poorly. I'm not sure that I should be happy or sad. But I feel just fine about it.

Mia Love gave me no love and she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.


KING: She's still down 873 votes. But the train line is, what happens if she wins and comes back to Washington?

HULSE: Pretty sweet victory for her I think if she can do that. I think whoever the speech writer was if it wasn't President Trump who thought that was so clever is probably regretting that now, you know.

KEITH: But -- and there's never been any love lost between the two of them. So, it's not like the relationship could get significantly worse.

LUCEY: Still be an awkward Christmas party though.

HULSE: You want to see the picture of all of the people he dissed in the Republican who obviously had to run that kind of race.


KING: If I had a -- like a maroon suit, I would say, stay classy, Mr. President, you know, whatever.

Up next, Brexit. Drama for the British prime minister.


[12:45:19] KING: The U.K. Prime Minister Teresa May dealing with a government that is splintering as she tries to win parliament approval of her controversial plan to execute Britain's break with the European Union. May defended the Brexit plan just moments ago.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This deal delivers what people voted for and it is in the national interest. And we can only secure it if we unite behind the agreement reached in cabinet yesterday. If we do not move forward with that agreement, nobody can know for sure the consequences that will follow. It would be to take a path of deep and grave uncertainty when the British people just want us to get on with it.


KING: Reminder if you're not familiar of the details of the Brexit plan, the U.K. would formally break away from the E.U. on March 29th next year. But the agreement keeps the U.K. in the E.U. trading block through 2020. And for now, there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland which is part of the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland which is an E.U. member.

It's a fascinating test. We don't pay enough attention to it because we're just consumed by domestic news here. But it's also just like the Trump election victory, Brexit is part of the globalization debate we see in politics around the world. The prime minister has been seriously weakened by this. How big of a deal? HULSE: I mean, I think it is a big deal. I always have thought that this thing with Ireland was going to be a problem. Having been there a few times, how do you rectify that? I think that there's also this sense in Europe that we're pulling so far out of this situation that there's people there who say well, you know, we still need to maintain our own ties. I think this was part of the argument you saw last weekend with the president over there.

So, you know, this has really big consequences, it has a lot of consequences for Trump and his trade agenda. And I think your main point is right as we need to pay more attention.

KING: A, the NATO alliance, b, the special relationship, c, May, the second female prime minister of the U.K. But then the global economic impact in the sense that even just today, a couple of ministers resigned from the government, people are saying, can she hold on, could she get this through. The pound comes down against the dollar over there for now. But this has the possibility -- remember when Brexit was playing out, the markets were doing a lot of this.

KEITH: And to have the Brexit minister leave too? This is messy. I think that when the Brexit campaign was happening, it -- the public was not totally clued in on how difficult it would be. It was sort of a, this will be easy. Kind of like we will build the wall and Mexico will pay for it.

There were lot of promises of how easy it would be. This type of thing was inevitably going to be very, very hard. And it's proving to be exactly that.

KING: And think about like, what would Ronald Reagan do if Margaret Thatcher was in a difficult moment. What would Bill Clinton do if Tony Blair were in a difficult moment? Right? You come to the aid of your friend and your ally and someone who's come to your aid and been your friend.

This from the Washington Post, they have a phone call the president had on his way to Paris over the weekend with Prime Minister Teresa May. "Trump berated May for Britain not doing enough in his assessment to contain Iran. He questioned her over Brexit and complained about the trade deals he sees as unfair with European countries. May has endured Trump's churlish temper before, but still her aides were shaken by his especially foul mood, according to U.S. and European officials briefed on the conversation."

So, everything the president's anger is extending everywhere right now. But again, it's the special relationship. You have an ally who's in the most difficult spot of her political career and you called her up to complain.

LUCEY: The president has not treated these relationships including the special one the same way his predecessors have. That's just true and we're seeing this again. And May made as we can all remember a lot of efforts to try and shore this up.

She came here early, they have tried to make inroads with the president and it's just not been terribly successful. And, I think also -- you might remember during the campaign, the president, I think he wants to see Brexit happens. He saw the Brexit vote as a key sort of like early sign that his movement would work. That his campaign would work.

And so I think -- yes, that this was a global moment.

KING: Right.

BACON: The Brexit happened -- like the election last week, the places that Trump tried to solidify went for him. So we still are sort of seeing these aftershocks of two years later, this kind of nationalist movement, you know, has been weakened some. It's still really strong. (INAUDIBLE) what's happening in Germany as well.

It is still strong, the sort of globalist versus nationalist fight. They're fighting these globalists and still really strong I would argue (INAUDIBLE).

KING: I think it's going to be with us to watch Brexit. We have our re-election campaign coming up here at home. You see pieces of it around Europe in recent weeks, Germany included. It's with us for a bit. Globalization causing that.

Up next, Jeff Flake's final act of defiance, plus a bit of reflection on how words and wisdom from his grandfather prepared him for those run-ins with a certain correspondent from CNN.


Up next, Jeff Flake's final act of defiance and words from his grandfather prepared him for runins with a certain correspondent from CNN.


[12:50:04] SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Here wrote in his journal, once again I must kiss the sod and face a cloudy future. That phrase sticks with me whenever I have my elevator moments. Or whenever Manu Raju jumps from behind the Russell trolley to pepper me with gotcha questions.



[12:55:00] KING: Welcome back.

One more win for the Democrats when it comes to their House margin after the midterm elections. Democratic challenger Jared Golden winning in Maine's second congressional district. Democrats now have a net gain of 33 seats. Seven races we're still counting. Seven races we're still counting. All of them currently held by Republicans so the math likely to get even more favorable for the Democrats.

Jeff Flake's last act includes at least one more big confrontation with President Trump. The Arizona Republican is leaving the Senate when the new Congress starts in January. Between now and then, in a lame duck year in sessions, the White House is hoping to win Senate approval of more of the president's picks for federal judgeships. But Flake now vowing to get in the way unless the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell changes his mind and allows action on legislation that would protect the special counsel Robert Mueller from White House interference.


FLAKE: And I have informed the majority leader that I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting conformation on the Senate floor until S.2644 is brought to the full Senate for a vote.


KING: Who's going to win this one?

HULSE: Well, he knows where to hurt him. Now this is the one thing that they really want to do and get done this year. He needs help. He needs one more person.

Susan Collins is a supporter of this bill once it brought up. I think Thom Tillis is a sponsor of the bill. We'll see if somebody else joins in.

KING: And so let's listen to Mitch McConnell. He's been asked this question repeatedly and he says, well, it's not necessary, at least not yet.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I talked to the president fairly often. No indication that the Mueller investigation will not be allowed to finish and it should be allowed to finish. We know how the president feels about the Mueller investigation but he's never said he wants to shut it down. I've never heard anybody down there say they want to shut it down. I think it's in no danger and so I don't think any legislation is necessary.


KING: At least he's honest. We do know how the president feels about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard him today.

KING: The new energy is the appointment of the acting attorney general who is on the record in saying he thinks Bob Mueller is way out of balance, he's gone beyond his mandate, and he's talked publicly about ways you can at least restrict by cutting off the budget. The question is, to Carl's point, can Jeff Flake get a few more friends?

KEITH: Jeff Flake is going to be looking for some friends. He is probably help -- this issue is not going to be forced this week because the Judiciary Committee has punted on considering a bunch of these nominees until next week.

On the Judiciary Committee, there's only a one-Republican majority and so Flake could make a difference. But then again, they can just skip the committee all together.

KING: Right. Bring it to the floor. And then the question for Jeff Flake who's been a torn in the president's side, didn't run for re- election in part because he knew the president is going to oppose him. Is this the end? Is this his final act or is this final act actually part of a new beginning?

In a speech last night, Jeff Flake alluding to the possibility of that.


FLAKE: It was in this small community that I was raised, on a ranch with 10 brothers and sisters and 69 first cousins on my father side alone. If you're wondering how a Flake can get elected, well, now you know. I just wish I had more cousins in New Hampshire.


KING: And?

LUCEY: Well, you know what they say about jokes. You know, there's a variety of people that sort of circling the idea of (INAUDIBLE) the president, but it's a heavy lift.

KING: One of them is in New Hampshire, John Kasich down in Ohio.

LUCEY: Yes. I mean, exactly. I think it's a tough thing.

KING: It is a top list. The question is, you have to know going in that you're overwhelmingly likely to lose to President Trump who has a lot of problems. The base is not one of them. The question is, do you think it's (INAUDIBLE).

BACON: Right. It would not be a campaign to win. I think it would be a campaign to restore John Kasich or Jeff Flake's view. The Republican Party (INAUDIBLE).

And I think they'll both keep flirting with this. And my guess is, if they ran a campaign, they get 30 percent. So it's not nothing, that's actually -- I mean, the Republican Party is more divided and I think our polls show often because it's Trump against no one. A real campaign via Kasich or Flake will get some support. It will not win, but it'll some get support.

KING: And if you ask George H.W. Bush, he would tell you, Pat Buchanan didn't beat him but he bruised him in New Hampshire. He got a surprisingly high number and Bush (INAUDIBLE) heading into the general election. So, will a Republican, Jeff Flake or someone else decide to take that? HULSE: Well, he, Jeff Flake, he's said this to me personally. He thinks that there should be some alternative to Trump to run to present what Perry is saying, you know, the conventional view of the party. And you can restore the dialogue to more a civil level.

Whether it's him, I think he would do it if there was no one else. Maybe he'll help somebody else. But I don't think we've heard the end of Jeff Flake at the end of this Congress.

KING: Ten siblings, 69 cousins. If they just keep getting in their car and keep changing and going back to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These guys, they need these guys.

KING: Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. We'll be back here this time tomorrow. Have a great afternoon. Brianna Keilar starts right now.