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Trump to Visit California As Wildfire Death Toll Hits 58; Kasich in New Hampshire Hints at Possible Trump Challenge; Fires; Interview With Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro; Mueller Indictments Nearing?; Florida Recounts Hit Deadline. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 15, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Throwing stones. As Mueller may be closing in, Trump ally Roger Stone releases texts he exchanged with his alleged back channel to WikiLeaks. Do the messages offer any evidence of collusion?
Within the margin. After a machine recount, the Florida Senate race is too close to call, so now the ballots will be counted again by hand. We're following all the breaking news on the election cliffhangers in the Sunshine State.
And searching for the loss. As the death toll soars in California's wildfire disaster, we're learning new details about the painful and painstaking efforts to find and identify victims.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight. We're getting a new read from the president's lawyer on Robert Mueller's questions about collusion and Mr. Trump's efforts to answer them.
"The Washington Post" reporting that Rudy Giuliani is warning of -- quote -- "possible traps" for the president. After Mr. Trump huddled with his attorneys for days, his responses to Mueller could be turned over to the special counsel as soon as tomorrow.
This hour, I will speak with the House Intelligence Committee member Joaquin Castro. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Pamela, tell us more about "The Washington Post" report and your own new reporting on the president's review of Mueller's written questions to the president.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight, the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, revealing in a "Washington Post" interview that some of the questions Robert Mueller's team gave to the president to answer could create legal issues for them.
He also said he believes some of the questions are traps. This comes after the president has been reviewing these questions with his lawyers the past three days before launching a Twitter tirade against Mueller and his team this morning.
BROWN (voice-over): President Trump staying on message in front of the cameras today, working to quell criticism after skipping Veterans Day events in Paris and at home over the long holiday weekend.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's my honor to be with you, and God bless America. Keep up the great work.
BROWN: But lashing out off-camera. Trump spent his morning tweeting, calling the Russia investigation -- quote -- "a disgrace to our nation," and once again claiming "It's a total witch-hunt like no other in American history," saying "These are angry people, including the highly conflicted Bob Mueller, who worked for Obama for eight years."
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's my honor to nominate Robert S. Mueller of California to become the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
BROWN: Trump, however, failing to mention that special counsel Mueller was first appointed by President George W. Bush as FBI director and then continued serving under President Obama. He is also a registered Republican.
This follows three days of going over the special counsel's questions with his legal team. And according to "The Washington Post," there are at least two dozen questions. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani telling "The Post" -- quote -- "There are some that create more issues for us legally than others. Some were unnecessary. Some were possible traps, and we might consider some as irrelevant."
The president's attacks on the Mueller investigation today come during a week of White House dysfunction. After losing power in the House of Representatives, the first lady forced the president's hand in reassigning the deputy national security adviser, with more potential firings on the horizon.
Still, the president defended his administration, tweeting today: "The White House is running very smoothly," and instead called the Mueller investigation a total mess, tweeting: "They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answer they want."
But sources say it is the president that is growing more furious by the day. A White House official telling CNN -- quote -- "Yes, he is pissed at damn near everyone." Already, nine Cabinet officials have left the Trump administration. Tensions continue to rise with his chief of staff, John Kelly, and the fate of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is still uncertain, a day after Trump said he would be making a decision on her post shortly.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is one person some lawmakers are trying to protect from being fired.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The president now has this investigation in his sights, and we all know it.
BROWN: But despite efforts by retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake to force a Senate vote on a bill to protect the investigation, other Republicans say that's not necessary, despite the president's attacks.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: If you did do that bill, all you would do is get into a big hassle.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A hassle with the president?
HATCH: With him and with a lot of others.
BROWN: And the president's attorney Rudy Giuliani also saying to "The Washington Post" tonight that Robert Mueller has not imposed a firm deadline in terms of when the answers should be submitted, but Giuliani is saying they could be submitted as soon as tomorrow.
That is significant, Wolf, because sources close to the president say they believe the president's answers to these questions could be one of the few remaining pieces of the puzzle before Mueller issues his final report -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Pamela, thank you very much, Pamela Brown at the White House.
Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell. She's part of our team covering the Russia investigation.
Kara, Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, said some of the questions submitted by Mueller create more issues for us legally than others.
How do you read into that, because it seems to be suggesting maybe the president may be in some legal jeopardy?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that's a fair way to interpret this, because we don't often we hear from Giuliani, but he is sort of acknowledging in this that they have some issues that are problematic for them legally. And so what this is telling us is that -- he also according to "The
Washington Post" mentioned there were two dozen questions among these that had to do with issues before the election. And that could be this area where they're potentially more problematic.
BLITZER: Because he also says, Giuliani, in this "Washington Post" interview, he says some of Mueller's questions were possible traps, his words, possible traps.
Do you think that potentially is what has motived the president to go on this rampage today, attacking Mueller and his entire team?
SCANNELL: We have seen this pattern before where the president starts tweeting and gets aggressive about Robert Mueller's team when he's learning new information about the investigation
It's quite possible these questions triggered that. And Giuliani has been out there saying that they're trying to catch the president in a perjury trap. So perhaps some of these questions are issues where exactly how the president answers this could very well turn on his fate or those of others that it impacts.
BLITZER: Giuliani says the answers that may be submitted to Mueller as early as tomorrow. We will watch that closely.
Amidst all of this, there is new indications from longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. He appears to be clearly in Robert Mueller's crosshairs. You have some text messages that he released, Roger Stone, discussing WikiLeaks, the plans to release the hacked e-mails from the DNC and from John Podesta. Tell us about what these e-mails show.
SCANNELL: These were released by Roger Stone. He is clearly trying to support and bolster his claim that, you know, his back channel to any information about WikiLeaks was coming from this New York radio personality Randy Credico.
And so we have some e-mails starting back from August of 2016. And in one of those e-mails, this is a text message sent from Randy Credico to Stone just days after Credico had interviewed Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, in which Credico tells Stone: "Julian Assange has Kryptonite on Hillary."
And he repeatedly is telling Stone, please don't out me as your source. There's another text message from September 18 in which Credico says to Stone, "Just remember, do not name me as your connection to Assange."
And then on October 1, which is six days before WikiLeaks does the dump of John Podesta's e-mails, where Credico is saying to Stone: "Big news Wednesday. Now pretend you don't know me." Stone replies: "You died five years ago." And Credico responds in the text: "Great. Hillary's campaign will die this week."
This is Roger Stone trying to get ahead of this and saying look, my source in this, my back channel, and here is the sources to prove it, is Randy Credico. He is claiming that he had no knowledge of any of the hacked e-mails in advance, and he was making these Twitter previews that he said during the campaign as something that he was picking up from Credico and that he learned publicly.
And we heard from Roger Stone again this week on the point where he basically is saying he did not do anything wrong in this.
BLITZER: Let's not forget the U.S. intelligence community, including during the Trump administration, concluded that Russian intelligence, Russian military intelligence did all the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta and Hillary Clinton's e-mails and all of that.
They then gave to it WikiLeaks to submit, to make public all those damaging e-mails. All right, Kara Scannell reporting for us, thank you very much.
We're also following breaking news on the Florida election recount. Round one now over. And now the razor-close U.S. Senate races is heading for a second recount, this time by hand.
Let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles. He is in Tallahassee, the Florida capital, for us.
Ryan, what more are you learning about this next phase of the recount?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the secretary of state, whose office right here behind me, Wolf, officially put out the word that there would be a manual recount of the overvotes and undervotes in the U.S. Senate race between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott.
But what we are just learning in the last few minutes is there were at least three counties who did not finish the machinery count, the first stage of recount, on time, including two big Democratic strongholds, Palm Beach County, which we knew was having problems from the very beginning, and Broward County, which actually submitted their results two minutes late.
As a result, the secretary of state reverted back to the numbers from other three counties, Hillsborough being the other one, that were posted on Saturday. Regardless, Wolf, it doesn't really mean all that much in the grand scheme of things because the margins in this Senate race did not change all that much. In fact, Rick Scott did gain votes over this process, but it remains less than a quarter of a percent difference between these two candidates.
And according to Florida law, that automatically triggers the hand recount of the overvotes and undervotes in this contest -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ryan, what will the officials be looking for during the hand recount?
NOBLES: Yes, great question, Wolf, because everyone probably wonders what an overvote or an undervote is.
And we actually have some examples for you. And it's essentially when someone is filling in those little dots to indicate which person they want to vote for, if they put a marking in both of the ovals and the optical scan machine picks that up, they register that as an overvote. They kick that ballot out and put it off to the side.
Or if they choose not to vote for either candidate, so there is nothing registered in either particular oval, they pull that out, and that's considered an undervote. Now this is very important for one specific reason, Wolf.
In Palm Beach -- or -- I'm sorry -- in Broward County in particular, there appears to be at least 25,000 more votes that were cast in the race for governor than there were in the race for Senate. So is that a problem with the machine? Did they not pick up the Senate race for some reason?
That is something that will be discovered in this meticulous hand recount that will take place. Wolf, they have a short timeline, though. They have to have that done by the 18th of November.
BLITZER: All right. I want to show our viewers once again that overvote, thanks courtesy of Spectrum Bay News 9. They showed us how that overvote looks.
And we're going to watch that closely as this hand recount is about to begin. Ryan Nobles, once again, thank you very much.
We're going to have much more on the Florida recount. That's coming up.
But, right now, I want to turn back to the breaking news on the Russia investigation and the Trump team's assessment of Robert Mueller's questions for the president.
Joining us now, Congressman Joaquin Castro. He is a Democrat. He serves on the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
As you know by now, the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has told "The Washington Post" just a little while ago that some of Robert Mueller's questions create more legal issues for the president than others. Is that an acknowledgment that the president may be personally implicated in the Mueller investigation?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: It certainly could be. It's hard to know that right now.
But I guess, to be honest, it's hard for me to understand that response by Rudy Giuliani, because, as far as I know, this is the first time that President Trump will be swearing answers to these questions. So it's not like -- so in other words, he should be able to just tell the truth and not worry about having contradicted himself under oath before.
So as long as he tells the truth, I don't see how there is a problem, and I don't see how any particular question is a trap. BLITZER: But in the interview that Giuliani gave "The Washington
Post," and I'm reading it right now, he says some of the questions were -- quote -- "possible traps and others we might consider as irrelevant."
Those are the words that Giuliani used.
CASTRO: Yes. I guess the special counsel gets to determine the relevancy of the questions. And, also, President Trump and his legal team may not fully understand why those questions are being asked, but I doubt they're being asked for a frivolous purpose. There is a reason behind that.
And, again, on the trap issue, as long as the president is willing to tell the truth, he shouldn't have any problem.
BLITZER: Do you think the process of preparing these answers in writing to Mueller's written questions led the president to unleash this furious attack on the entire Russia investigation this morning?
CASTRO: Yes, I think it's probably a combination of things.
I think it's probably the bad election results, and almost certainly it has to do with the fact that he is being made to sit down and give answers to these questions. But, remember, Wolf, this by itself is a kind of courtesy and an olive branch extended by the special counsel because he hasn't brought the president in, as they brought a lot of other witnesses in to give testimony on this stuff.
BLITZER: He also in this interview with The Daily Caller, he called the entire investigation, he said it was an illegal investigation, even though it's a Justice Department investigation. He says it was illegal.
Let's move on and get your thoughts on these text messages showing longtime Trump ally Roger Stone anticipating the WikiLeaks increase -- WikiLeaks release of hacked Democratic e-mails. Do you view those texts as evidence of collusion?
CASTRO: Well, what's interesting about Roger Stone, in his testimony, he basically lied to Congress. We asked him the question. Multiple people in the room asked him the question about whether he had advanced knowledge of these e-mail dumps that were coming.
And at one point he said no. And then I asked him later in the interview, and he said yes. He admitted that he did. So I think that's a pretty clear case of perjury on the part of Roger Stone. So I think that he's probably -- at some point, I would expect that he will face a perjury charge.
BLITZER: In one of his tweets today, the president also claimed that Robert Mueller is -- quote -- "protecting Hillary Clinton."
The acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, has previously argued that Clinton should be investigated. What concerns does that raise in your mind?
CASTRO: Well, over the last week, there has been great reporting that gives a lot of people deep concerns about Matthew Whitaker, his background, his career and his fitness to be serving as acting attorney general.
Number one, he should immediately recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation. That's the first thing. But even the ability to serve for 210 days as acting attorney general, when he basically made statements that Jews and Muslims and other non-Christians were not fit to serve as judges in the United States of America, which was recently reported, that by itself should be disqualifying.
BLITZER: There is other news we're following right now. I want to pick your brain while I have you.
There is a new report in "The New York Times" and it reveals that Facebook saw evidence of Russian hacking in the presidential election as early as the spring of 2016, and the company continuously downplayed Russia's use of Facebook for its cyber-warfare campaign.
Is that something your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, would pursue when your party assumes control, the majority, after January 3?
CASTRO: That news was stunning and very troubling, and that will definitely be something that we're going to investigate further in the new term, in the new Congress.
BLITZER: I suspect there is going to be a lot you're going to be investigating once you're in the majority in the House of Representatives, specifically the Intelligence Committee.
Are you 100 percent, Congressman, behind Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House, or would you potentially consider a challenger?
CASTRO: I'm supporting Nancy Pelosi. I said yesterday in a statement that she's tough. She's smart. She is best prepared to work at creating opportunity for all Americans, but also best prepared to hold the White House accountable.
And I believe that in the end that she will prevail and be speaker of the House in January.
BLITZER: We will know soon enough.
All right, Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, thank you very much.
CASTRO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on the breaking news, the president's legal team raising red flags about the questions Robert Mueller wants answered by Mr. Trump.
Is the president in legal jeopardy tonight?
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news.
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani says some of Robert Mueller's questions for the president may be traps. "The Washington Post" quoting Giuliani after Mr. Trump spent three days huddling with his defense team, spending hours and hours and hours going over the special counsel's written questions about possible collusion with Russia.
Let's bring back our analysts.
And, Gloria, let's start with you.
Some of the questions, Giuliani says were unnecessary, some were irrelevant, some are possible traps. "There are some that creates more issues for us legally than others."
That sounds like they're worried that the president could be in some legal jeopardy.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I'm sorry Mr. Giuliani doesn't like the questions from the special counsel, that they're not to his liking.
It's amazing to me because, honestly, they have been working on these questions for weeks. They finally negotiated a way where the president didn't have to testify face-to-face on the issues of collusion, that he actually got a take-home open-book test which they are writing answers to.
And the fact that Rudy Giuliani is now complaining about the questions leads me to believe, first of all, they don't know what everybody else is testifying and they're a little worried about that, and maybe they're worried about their own client and whether their client is actually telling the truth.
Saying that this could be a perjury trap when you know the question, you have the lawyers with all the testimony in front of them that they know about, they can write these answers, and he still is worried about a perjury trap is sort of head-scratching to me, and I presume the other lawyers involved in this are not thrilled about Rudy Giuliani saying this publicly.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And you have seen Rudy Giuliani and the president's legal team delay and delay and delay answering these questions. First, the special counsel wanted to do it in person and they delayed that.
Now they have granted their request to do them as written questions, and this seems to be another delay tactic by Rudy Giuliani. If he really thinks the questions are a trap, I'm not really sure how that could be, because likely they already know the answers to the questions. They just want to have the president's questions and answers written down under oath, something that he is swearing this is the true.
I think that would be more likely the case. So, it does seem as maybe Rudy Giuliani is trying to move the goalposts here.
BLITZER: Let me get Jeffrey Toobin to weigh in.
How do you interpret those comments, Jeffrey, from Rudy Giuliani?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person, and I don't even know what a perjury trap is. I hear people talking about it all the time, and I have never understood what it means. Just tell the truth and there's no trap at all.
BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.
TOOBIN: And it's just mysterious to me.
Look, this is like the longest-running soap opera I have ever seen. This interview was originally schedule at Camp David in the middle of January, and it's snowing in New York and Washington in the next winter now, when this thing is finally being answered, and they're still not in.
I mean, look, they have never wanted to answer these questions. They have done everything they can to delay and put them off. I don't think the fact that they have objections to the questions means specifically that they're worried about criminal liability.
They have privileges to assert. They have relevancy to assert. But this is the easiest version -- as Gloria said, I wish I had thought of that -- is that this is like a take-home exam.
The lawyers are going to scrutinize these answers so that they are legally bulletproof. This should not be a problem.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, you have spent a lot of time with Rudy Giuliani. You have done a lot of articles in "The New Yorker" magazine about Rudy Giuliani. So when he says some of these questions were unnecessary, we might consider some as irrelevant, some were possible traps, if you have done nothing wrong and you have got nothing to hide, why not simply answer the questions?
TOOBIN: Well, I think, to be fair to Rudy, you don't have to answer an irrelevant question if it's genuinely irrelevant.
And there are certain areas that a president doesn't have to answer questions about. But they have fought this issue for so long, in so many ways. You know, one approach to this might have been, of course we answered the questions. They were all easy, because all we had to do was tell the truth.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: That's a good point. TOOBIN: And, instead, this endless trashing of Mueller, endless
trashing of the process, when it's the easiest possible route to resolving this issue.
BLITZER: And clearly Mueller doesn't consider those questions irrelevant. Why should Rudy Giuliani even have the pleasure of saying they might be irrelevant?
Well, to my mind, when I hear Mayor Giuliani saying these things, back to what Gloria was saying, if in fact they have a take-home test that they have time to prepare for, lawyers answering the questions on behalf of the president, talking them over, it suggests to me that they're trying to loosen up the topsoil so that later on if it comes out that there is inconsistencies between what the president said and other witnesses have said, or they're just simply able to have a satisfactory answer to any of those questions, they can say, well, we said these were irrelevant.
We said these were perjury traps. We said this was problematic.
BORGER: They clearly combed the public record of what Donald Trump has said and what he hasn't said about lots of things that were asked about, I'm sure, that are being asked about in these questions, say, whether the president knew about the Don Jr. meeting at Trump tower, et cetera, et cetera.
And so I'm sure that they have to kind of square the circle. It's not an easy job for them, but what they consider irrelevant or traps is sort of irrelevant, to be honest. It's what the special counsel wants to ask them. And he that's one who gets to ask the questions. They get to answer them.
COLLINS: And it's interesting, because it does feel like we are back where we were this summer. Like, we took a time machine, and it broke down where we were this summer, where the president and Rudy Giuliani and his legal team were complaining about the questions that Robert Mueller wanted to ask back when we got -- there were dozens of questions.
We saw those 45 questions that they wanted to ask. The president is going after Robert Mueller on Twitter. But then it's the president and his legal team and members of this administration who are complaining on a regular basis that this investigation is going on for too long, it's taking up too much time, it's been way too delayed.
A big part of why it's been delayed is that the president and his legal team have gone back and forth and back and forth with the special counsel's team over this interview.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Well, no, and it's worth remembering, this is only a fight about matters that took place before he was president.
They have outright refused to answer questions on all of the obstruction of justice issues, as I understand it, relating to the firing of James Comey and the like. So that whole issue is unresolved, whether the president will answer any questions at all, whether he will answer questions in writing, whether Mueller will actually subpoena the president to get answers.
This tortuous process only relates to half the investigation. So this whole issue is far from resolved.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Kaitlan, and you cover the White House for us. It's clearly affecting the president, these three days of intense questions -- answers that he is trying to prepare for the special counsel.
And he tweeted this, this morning, and I will put it up on the screen. "The inner works of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our nation."
Now, this is a Justice Department investigation. The president is saying it's a disgrace to the nation. Sort of reminds me of what the president told Lesley Stahl early on, right after he was inaugurated, when he continued to go after the so-called fake news media.
Why do you do that?
And he suggested, well, in case there are some articles that are negative, I don't want my supporters to believe those articles.
And now it looks like Mueller's got stuff and he's smearing the special counsel, smearing the Justice Department investigation because he's afraid something will come up and he wants his supporters to not believe what Mueller comes up with.
COLLINS: Right, and he's not even using facts to do so because he's claiming that Robert Mueller is highly conflicted, saying that one time, that there were photos of he and the former FBI Director James Comey hugging and kissing ,which someone tried to find and they said they couldn't find those photos. But he also says there he was the FBI director -- he worked for Obama for eight years, which is not true.
He worked for George w. Bush eight years and then worked for Obama for several more, but he came in under a Republican president as the FBI director. So he's going after Bob Mueller personally, and I think you're making a great point. Hes trying to discredit whatever is going to come out in this report. But often, you get the best indication of what the president is thinking and what's enraging him just from looking at his Twitter feed. And that's what the people closest to the president will tell you, what's he's complain at night on the phone to his confidants and allies, he tweets about the next day. And we are seeing this resurface in the president's Twitter feed
when it's largely been devoid of these criticisms of the special counsel and the Russia investigation for the last several weeks when he's been focused on the caravan and the midterm elections. Now that that's behind him, and he's still frustrated that he's turning it back to this focus, because that's what he has been doing for the last few days (ph).
BLITZER: Let me ask Jeffrey Toobin, have you ever heard a president of the United States call a Justice Department investigation an illegal investigation, as he did in this interview with the Daily Caller?
TOOBIN: No. In fairness, Bill Clinton's team, and not the president personally, but Bill Clinton's team certainly said a lot of bad things about Ken Starr. I mean, there was no -- there was no hesitation about that. However, it is worth noting that the president -- anyway, never mind. That thought flew out of my head. It's not supposed to happen when you're on television, but it did. And I apologize.
BLITZER: It's all right.
SWERDLICK: I think one thing that's worth pointing out again, even though we've talked this lot, is that the special counsel is an office created by statute, by Congress. This isn't some made up office, some conspiracy cooked up in a back room going back to what Kaitlan was saying a minute ago, this is an office created when you have a situation where the justice department under the president might have a conflict of interest. In a case like this where you're investigating the president, if the president doesn't like it, calling it illegitimate is to say that the Congress created a bad law.
UNIDENTIFIED: Can I just say now, now the lawyers...
BLITZER: Hold on, Jeffrey. Let Gloria finish.
UNIDENTIFIED: Now his lawyers, his attorneys, the Raskins, who are doing the negotiating, have to deal with the special counsel on these questions, and we think they might be submitted very shortly. And they have to deal with the special counsel and the president has just called the investigation illegitimate, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
It doesn't make their jobs any easier, and Rudy Giuliani, who has not been writing the answers to these questions, I might add, and who has been sort of quiet has now stirred the pot again and made their lives, made the president's lawyers' lives that much more difficult because they're trying to get this part one done. As Jeff points out, there is a part two, and we're not sure how that's going to unfold. And this does not help their relationship with the special counsel.
TOOBIN: What I was just thinking about what Kaitlan was talking about how the president has been attacking Mueller, it's worked. Mueller was popular with Republicans as well as Democrats when this investigation started. Now the polls show that people feel about Mueller like they feel about every issue regarding Trump.
About 55 percent are against trump and about 40 percent are in favor of Trump. Any issue you ask, whether it's the people in cages at the border, the -- Charlottesville, everything regarding Trump is about 55-40 against, and now Mueller is a villain to Trump's base, and that's how he's conducted his presidency, and it's worked. BLITZER: It's a good point. He says -- the president today,
universities will someday study when highly conflicted and not Senate- approved Bob Mueller and his gang of Democrat thugs have done to destroy people.
Not Senate-approved. What about Whittaker?
BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There is much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with our analyst with the breaking news out of Florida right now. A manual recount has now been ordered in the still undecided U.S. Senate race between democrat Bill Nelsen and republican Rick Scott.
The contest still very close after an initial machine recount data (ph). It's sort of like (ph) -- it's heading towards this hand recount, what do you anticipate?
SWERDICK: I'm not sure if Nelsen is going to make up that ground but I do think that it is important at this point for Florida for all the states that -- where the race is still running to get this right. More important I think for either part than how many votes -- or excuse me, seats they pick up in Congress is that people have confidence in these elections.
BLITZER: Well, people aren't going to have confidence Glory, if the president keeps saying that there's a lot of illegal voting going on.
BORGER: Which he does. He says people go change their clothes, put on hats, go back and vote. I mean the president loves to talk about voter fraud. I mean he talked about it during the -- after he won the presidential election because he lost the popular vote by three million.
And he's talking about now. And what he's doing is political. He's protecting himself and republicans should they lose, should it not turn out in their favor then they could claim that it was fraudulent.
And that works for him. He's -- he's done it. He likes doing it. And he's going to continue to stir the pot.
COLLINS: But let's not forget that when the president was alleging that millions of people voted illegally in his election ...
BLITZER: Three to five million. COLLINS: Three to five million, a very specific number, he did form this council that president -- Vice President Mike Pence was in charge of and potentially almost Kris Kobach who lost his race last week, but they just ...
BORGER: It went away.
COLLINS: Lost his race in Kansas but it goes to show that was formed. It did nothing. They disbanded quietly. The White House essentially put out a statement late one evening saying they were disbanding and it goes to show that's what happened with the president's claim.
There was nothing there behind it. Now the president is making similar claims here alleging that there are these election officials who are rigging the vote without presenting any evidence and as we heard from someone who is a top ally of the president's on Capitol Hill, Matt Gates of Florida, the congressman, he was saying that he believes this is essentially democrats setting them up.
And doing a trial run for what they're going to do in 2020. So that -- that is what the president is hearing from people in his corner and that is what he is pushing out to his millions of supporters across the country, which is concerning for critics because they think it's going to cast doubt over the future elections in the United States.
BLITZER: Yes, it's very concerning, Jeffery, and I'm anxious to get your thoughts, the president of the United States suggesting that there are millions of illegal voters here in the United States. There's no evidence of any of that.
TOOBIN: No, it's not that there's no evidence. That's a total. I mean it just -- it just is not true. And it is worth nothing that ever since the Supreme Court in 2013 essentially eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, what we have seen in state after state is republican officials, they have made it harder to vote.
They have, you know, eliminated -- cut back on early voting, cut back on absentee voting, added voter I.D. requirements all in the name of stopping voter fraud. There is no voter fraud problem in this country.
The problem is the democrats sometimes win elections and that's what republicans are trying to stop by making it harder for poor people, for black people, for people who speak a different language to vote because they're generally democrat.
BLITZER: He's going to be spending the weekend; I take it, at Mar-a- Lago down in Palm Beach. That's in Palm Beach County, which is one of the counties that came in late with the -- with the recount.
COLLINS: And he's scheduled to go there on Tuesday, which was when a lot of this is going to come to a head. So he's essentially going to have this ring side seat as all of this is going down.
And he's been paying such close attention to it that when he was in Paris marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, he was complaining to his aides that he felt like he was missing out on the action back here at home because that is when the recounts were getting started.
So that is just how closely President Trump has been paying attention to this and following this and he's going to continue it.
BORGER: If there's a manual recount, maybe he'd like to join in if he's going to be down there.
TOOBIN: Well, but if -- I mean if I could just add one point. You know the Florida recount in -- in 2000 was decided by a little more than 500 votes. That's what was at issue here.
The margin here is 12,000 votes. It is virtually impossible to make up 12,000 votes in a -- in a manual recount. So the president should relax, play golf, Nelsen is not going to win. Scott is going to be the next Florida Senator.
BLITZER: We're going to watch all of this very closely. I did, by the way, go buy some cereal this morning. I did not have to show any I.D. to buy that cereal. That's a relief.
Please stand by. There's more news we're following. Very, very serious news just ahead. As the death toll (inaudible) to the California wildfires, there's breaking news on how the president is now responding to the disaster.
[18:48:41] BLITZER: President Trump is now set to visit California on Saturday to meet with survivors of the state's deadliest wildfire disaster. This comes just days after he attempted to blame the crisis on mismanagement.
Tonight, the death toll has climbed again, now up to 58, and 300 people, mostly elderly are reported missing.
CNN's Nick Watt is joining us from Calabasas out in California.
Nick, we're learning more about what it's taking to find and identify victims.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Listen, Wolf, nearly quarter a million acres have now burned, 9,600 firefighters still on the ground. And up there in Butte County, 10 percent of the housing stock is just gone. So, 6,000 or 7,000 households now homeless. And as you mentioned, that death toll continues to rise.
WATT (voice-over): Every day, more bodies are found in the painstaking search of more than 10,000 structures destroyed by the devastating Camp Fire. Cadaver dogs, the National Guard, sheriff's deputies, even anthropologists are involved. SERGEANT STEVE COLLINS, BUTTE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Helping us
where we're trying to determine the difference between human remains and nonhuman remains, because it's extremely difficult in these fires to make that differentiation for those of us that are untrained.
[18:50:01] WATT: The latest list of the missing has hundreds of names on it. Many of them are elderly. And relatives of the missing being asked to provide DNA samples to help identification.
COLLINS: Our mission is to try to find the victims from this fire, recover them and get them identified and notify the families to give them some answers.
WATT: In Southern California, yet another blaze, a brush fire erupting in a river bed to the northwest of the so-called Woolsey Fire. Helicopter water drops containing this latest outbreak.
The brush is dry, humidity's still low, even if those gusty winds have dropped. Also around midnight, a firefighter from Washington state hit by a car on the Pacific coast highway. He was air lifted for treatment. Injuries not life threatening.
Parts of the PCH, the main road in and out of Malibu, have been closed since the fire began. Now, partially opened for evacuees allowed back into areas now deemed safe. Some returning to good news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The house was clean. The house was, like, fresh.
WATT: Now, the blame game begins. A lawsuit filed on behalf of Camp Fire survivors alleges PG&E failed to form the necessary inspections, maintenance, repair and/or replacement of its electrical equipment. PG&E did report an outage on a line in Butte County just 15 minutes before the Camp Fire ignited but the actual cause of that fire is still under investigation. Some now saying warnings were also too little too late.
The death toll from these fast-moving fires will likely rise as this gruesome search continues.
WATT: Now, I want to talk about these houses behind us, Wolf, because this basically tells us why California is facing these problems. As the population of the state exploded from the 80s, 90s, more and more houses built right up against these combustible wild lands. And also, those winds we've been talking about all week.
See that ridge over there, apparently the fire took to get from that ridge to the back of these houses, took two minutes. And firefighters tell us that it was a firenado and judging by the needles and the leaves on those trees, that those winds were whipping at 80 to 100 miles an hour when they got there. The guy in this house said he had time to grab his passport, his laptop, his wife wanted to go upstairs and get more stuff, he said, if you go up, you're not coming down. By the time they got in their car, the house was on fire -- Wolf. BLITZER: So sad. Sad indeed.
All right. Nick Watt on the scene for us -- thank you very much.
Just ahead, there's more breaking news on the Russia investigation as the president may be just hours away from turning over his answers to Robert Mueller's questions.
And is a fellow Republican now preparing to challenge Mr. Trump in 2020? We have details.
[18:57:33] BLITZER: Tonight, there's new fuel for speculation that President Trump might face a challenge from a fellow Republican in 2020. His former GOP rival, John Kasich, is in the leadoff primary state of New Hampshire right now, and he's leaving the door wide open for a new run for the White House.
Let's go to our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johnson. He's joining us from Manchester right now.
Joe, you had a chance to speak with Governor Kasich about his 2020 options.
JOE JOHNSON, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I did, and I just got to tell you, people are filing in here for the last Kasich event of the day in Manchester, New Hampshire.
A lot of questions for Governor Kasich. The first question, of course, Wolf, is, are you in or out, governor? Are you going to run for president? Are you going to challenge the Republican president? Which would be extraordinary, but there are other questions as well. What about the midterms?
And he's also talked about the possibility of an independent coming straight down the middle and getting a lot of vote. So, I asked him about his calculations, and his math as he makes his decisions. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I don't do math calculations. That's not what I do.
JOHNS: Well, you said before that you talked about a third party run but that doesn't sound viable.
KASICH: Well, I don't know if that's true. I mean, all options are on the table. And the question is, ultimately, can I have a very positive impact on the country, and I've got lots of people here who were saying to me just -- I was here yesterday and this guy comes to me and says, I don't care what you do, but wherever you go, I want to be there. I want you to understand that.
And that's a really heartening thing. Terrific. JOHNS: So you don't do the math on whether --
KASICH: I'm not -- well, I mean, I have people that think about all these things, but that's not the way I've ever kind of decided what I was going to do in politics. I've run against the odds in virtually every election, whether it was for governor, whether it was for my state Senate race or whether it was for Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: One of the lines the governor repeated today in front of crowds and in front of cameras is that there is a vast ocean of voters in the middle, he says, after the midterms and he knows because they went to the polls and voted, not on the right, not on the left. That's why he thinks an independent run is possible.
The governor will appear here in a little while. Interestingly enough, it's a First Amendment event, Wolf.
Back to you.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens.
All right. Joe Johns in New Hampshire for us.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.