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AT THIS HOUR

Hand Count Under Way after Florida Counties Miss Deadline; George Conway Opens Up on Trump Criticism, Marriage; Sonia Sotomayor Talks Polarized Country; Judge Sides with CNN, Saying White House Wrong to Revoke Acosta's Press Pass; North Korea Tests "High-Tech" Weapons as U.S. Drops Key Demand. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 16, 2018 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:31:07] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A state-wide hand recount, that's what's going on right now in Florida. This, after the key deadline yesterday with all eyes on really two counties. That deadline was missed. One county missed the deadline, blaming overheating machines. Another county missed the deadline by two minutes. Seriously, two minutes. A third county also missed the deadline because of power outages.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Tallahassee, Florida.

Ed, it's been nothing short of a chaotic 24 hours across the state, for the Senate race, the governor's race, even the A.G. commissioner. When are people likely to know the winner?

ED LAVANDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All of these votes have to be officially certified by next Tuesday, November 20th. The manual recount deadline is by this Sunday afternoon. So this is the scene that is playing out in counties, the 67 counties across the state. Tables like this where they're manually going through each of the ballots here, Kate, and trying to figure out which ones need to be counted. A lot of questions about when people write in votes or if there's double markings on the ballots. Those are the kind of things. These are observers here, election officials on the other side of the rope line. This scene is playing out across the state.

But having said this, as we have been reporting throughout the week, the difference in this manual recount taking place in the Senate race, the margin of votes that Rick Scott is leading Democrat Bill Nelson by, the incumbent, seems very unlikely to be overcome by this manual recount. Democrats here in the state continuing pushing for all of these votes to continue to be counted up until the very end.

There's also one other deadline in the slew of lawsuits that have been filed throughout the week about signatures not matching on the mail-in ballots. That deadline is set for Saturday afternoon.

So all of this work continues to play out, and it really is fascinating, Kate, to watch this process. It is kind of a window sometimes into the more absurd side of politics, as we witnessed here people going over the ballots. We have seen ballots in the Florida Senate race cast for Joey Justice, Homer Simpson, Snoopy, and Elmer Fudd -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Democracy, it's a wonderful thing.

Great to see you, Ed. Thank you so much.

LAVANDERA: It is.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the husband of White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, sounds off on the Trump administration again. His words, "dumpster fire." Why is George Conway speaking out so publicly? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:38:12] BOLDUAN: This morning, we're hearing from one of the president's most fierce critics who happens to be married to one of the president's most senior advisers. George Conway, the husband of White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, tells Yahoo! News he would move to Australia rather than vote for Donald Trump a second time. George Conway, who often uses his Twitter feed to ridicule and mock President Trump, he really for the first time in this podcast interview opens up about what his outspokenness against the president has meant for his marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY & HUSBAND OF WHITE HOUSE COUNSELLOR KELLYANNE CONWAY (voice-over): I don't think she likes it, but you know, I told her I don't like, you know, the administration. So it's even. It's one of these things. If I had a nickel for everybody in Washington who disagreed with their spouse on something that happens in this town, I wouldn't be on this podcast. I'd probably be on a beach somewhere. And the fact of the matter is when it comes down to things we disagree about, I mean, we agree on most policy things. Virtually all, ever. It's just, OK, this is the one thing we really disagree on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And really disagree about it.

I want to bring in David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama, also the host of CNN's "AXE FILES" podcast.

Great to see you, David.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE AXE FILES": Good to see you. Man, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall in that household?

BOLDUAN: No. Absolutely not.

AXELROD: I can't imagine those conversations.

BOLDUAN: I don't need to see that. George is right that political couples don't agree all the time.

You've been a senior advisor to a president. The fact, though, that the Conways disagreement is so constant and so public, how do you make sense of it?

[11:39:54] DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE AXE FILES": I think they're developing a screen play for some new sitcom on television. I don't know. It's a peculiar thing because he made it sound like we have this one thing we disagree about. This one thing happens to be the president of the United States who his wife advises. And you know, what's curious to me is the president is not very tolerant of criticism. And yet, he must be well aware of what George Conway is saying and he's kept his silence. I wonder what he says to Kellyanne about it. Maybe he says, well, husbands and wives disagree, but that would be a little unlike him. So it's got to be uncomfortable for her.

And now, you know, he did this podcast. He was very tough on the president. Here, he also wrote a pretty well-quoted op-ed about the constitutionality of Matt Whitaker's appointment as acting attorney general. So he's cutting pretty close to the bone here.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, Trump was asked actually in walking to Marine One once about that exact issue, I believe. He said you, should ask Kellyanne what she thinks about it. A total dodge when asked about that.

But George Conway also talked about why he decided not to join the administration himself. I want to play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY (voice-over): I fill out the financial forms and it's like -- I forget what time of the year, like late April. I'm thinking, I'm watching this thing, and you know, it's like the administration is like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) show in a dumpster fire. I'm like, I don't want to do that. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: How is he not criticizing his wife when he calls the entire administration a dumpster fire?

AXELROD: Or maybe he's empathizing with her. I don't know.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

AXELROD: But I tell you this. I do respect him as a conservative for taking the positions that he's taken. He's been faithful to his principles rather than a political patron. And under very difficult circumstances. And you have to give him credit for that.

BOLDUAN: Add this in --

AXELROD: I think he'll sleep better in years to come.

BOLDUAN: Add this in to the fascinating times. Fascinating times we live in.

I want to talk about this "AXE FILES". You had a fascinating conversation with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She weighed in on -- she could have been talking about this couple -- how polarized the country is right now. Let's play that for everybody.

AXELROD: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I'm a citizen. There are things that happen, whether it was the shooting, recent shooting in the synagogue or other things of that nature that have occurred, that strike my soul. That obviously make me very, very sad. If that's a reflection of the suspicion with which we're treating each other at times, it's a sad statement. We all have families we love. We all care about others. We care about our country. And we care when people are injured. And unfortunately, the current conversation often forgets that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I was watching that, I was wondering if that impacts the court. I mean, she's saying we're not immune to the news. We're not immune to what's going on in the world.

AXELROD: Absolutely. It was really interesting to watch her navigate all of this because she feels strongly that the court should be apart from partisan politics. And she said she recoils from this notion of conservatives and liberals and lining up with your appointed president by party. But clearly, clearly, she also believes that you bring your own life experience, values, and so on to the court. And that's reflected in her opinions. She's been very outspoken on things like the travel ban, on affirmative action, and she's brought her own feelings and her own experience to the fore. She acknowledged, I may be doing more of that in the future.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

Yet another good one. I was also -- just for everyone, another tease for you. She gave a very candid commentary or conversation with you about the newest justice, Justice Kavanaugh, that I think everyone should listen to.

Great to see you, David. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Good to see you. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

You can catch more of David Axelrod's interview with Sonia Sotomayor during "AXE FILES" tomorrow, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

[11:44:41] Coming up for us, North Korea says it's tested a new high- tech weapon, a test supervised by none other than Kim Jong-Un. So what does it mean then on -- what does it mean in terms of the nuclear negotiations that are -- well, we'll find out where they are, and how is the White House going to respond? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: More breaking news. As we have told you at the top of the hour, a judge just this morning ruled in favor of CNN in case of CNN v. The Trump White House and ordering them to reinstate the press pass of Jim Acosta.

We have more information coming out from the White House. The White House responding.

Brian Stelter is back here with me.

What is the White House saying, Brian?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": The White House is saying yes,, it will abide by the court's ruling. The temporary restraining order put in place an hour ago, Acosta's press pass will be reinstated temporarily, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Sanders is one of the six defendants in this case. It's Trump, Sanders, John Kelly and others.

[11:50:02] BOLDUAN: Right.

STELTER: All of them losing in court today in what was a narrow ruling by the judge. The judge was focused on the Fifth Amendment arguments about due process. He did not rule on the First Amendment. But he did say that CNN has a high likelihood of succeeding as the case goes on, goes on for months. Of course, if the White House doesn't settle, it will go on for months. And the judge believes CNN has a high likelihood of succeeding.

It's notable today in Sarah Sander's statement, she says, "Today the court made clear there was no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House." The court didn't make that clear today. I'll read the rest of the statement, "In response to the report, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter's hard pass. We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future." She says, "There must be decorum at the White House."

That has been the argument the last view days that Acosta was rude and aggressive and he broke decorum. That's been the White House's complaint but that's not a legal complaint. That's a complaint about style and --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: -- one of the initial reasons they revoked his pass, or at least, that's what he said.

STELTER: They claimed a week ago that Acosta put his hands on a White House intern. In court today, the judge said that wasn't true. The judge acknowledged what we all saw in the video, which is Acosta was - you know, he said, pardon me, ma'am, and held on to the microphone. Sanders was contradicted by the judge. But she is saying that his press pass will be returned. And we've been told CNN plans to have Acosta back at work this afternoon. It was a strange moment, Kate, when we're talking about ourselves here. All the cameras at the White House that usually point towards the White House are pointed at the gate right now because all the networks want to see Acosta get there and get his pass and see him walk in. This is a moment that is bigger than Acosta. It's about the free access to the White House. It's about the right of networks like CNN to choose who covers the White House and not letting the president pick and choose by blacklisting certain reporters.

I think what Sanders was trying to do is try to resolve this. She says they'll come up with the rules and processes, but she is not vowing to fight this in the courts in the months to come. This may indicate the White House doesn't want to lose again and they will try to settle.

BOLDUAN: Yet, one more step in the process. A response from the White House. We will see what happens next.

STELTER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Brian. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

STELTER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And breaking news coming in. We have much more coming up. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:21] BOLDUAN: North Korea said it successfully tested a new weapon, an ultra-modern tactical weapon, as North Korea state media describes it, and they say Kim Jong-Un supervised the test. It comes at the same time as Vice President Mike Pence revealed the U.S. is dropping a key demand that North Korea provide a full list of its nuclear and missile test site before a second summit happens between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Now, demand no more, apparently.

Joining me is Republican Congressman Mike Turner, of Ohio. He sits on both House Armed Services and the Intelligence Committees.

Congressman, thank you for coming in.

REP. MIKE TURNER, (R), OHIO: Thank you, Kate. Appreciate your having me.

BOLDUAN: How do you take this announcement from North Korea of another test? Do you take it as a warning to the United States?

TURNER: I am a North Korea skeptic. We have gone through threw administrations as North Korea's nuclear arsenal has grown in size and capabilities in order to be able to threaten the continental United States. The announcement of this test may not necessarily be a huge development with respect to the capabilities of North Korea and also likely to be a weapon that was under development prior to the Kim Jong-Un and President Trump sitting down together. However, it shows a return to the militaristic stance of North Korea. It is in contrast to his statements of seeking peace.

You have to give this administration credit that this president has done something different. He rightly turned to China and said there would not be a nuclear North Korea without China and put pressure on them, put crippling sanctions on North Korea itself and undertook a military buildup around North Korea that brought them to the table. We are not seeing much of it, hence, even though North Korea made statements of commitment to denuclearization that appeared to be accepted by South Korea, that they've taken any steps in that director. That, of course, leaves the United States still at risk.

BOLDUAN: That's why I wonder if North Korea is doing this to get the United States' attention, to get the U.S. to give more, I do wonder why. There's not any evidence that North Korea has been forced to give up anything with regard to its nuclear program.

TURNER: Right. Although, Kim Jong-Un made statements of a commitment for denuclearization, we have not had any steps for that to occur. The United States is not taking their representation that they are undertaking the steps. It requires, as we have seen in other nations - and that's part of the issues that came to light in the Iran deal of verifications and inspections. The International Atomic Energy Agency needs to be on site. We need to have a clear understanding and accounting of what these sites are so inspections can occur, and an understanding of what is being dismantled and where are the assets going so we can ensure that North Korea would not be a nuclear state.

BOLDUAN: Very important questions. The clear accounting of what they have and where they are, where it is, that's square one almost to make any progress.

The vice president announced yesterday that the U.S. is backing away from this demand, a demand that North Korea provide a full list of nuclear and missile sites before the U.S. would agree to a second meeting. Now that's no longer a requirement. Do you think that's a smart move?

TURNER: The other thing this administration has done differently is direct negotiations between Kim Jong-Un and the president himself. The other two administrations that have been trying to deal with the issue, avoided any direct contact. As a precursor to additional talks considering the talks do appear to be stalled, no, I'll have to leave it to their assessment as to whether or not that would be successful.

But the real issue is we cannot go on with a lack of declaration by North Korea of these sites. This is unwise to proceed without this declaration.

BOLDUAN: Right. At some point, they need to acknowledge what they have got before you can trust anything. Right? TURNER: Right. This is a very closed country, North Korea. We do

not have access into the fidelity that we have in other nations and have suspicions as to where all of the sites might be located. They, among all of the nations, are the only one that would have the highest likelihood of being able to hide assets from our Intelligence Community and the world's Intelligence Community as to their activities.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Congressman, much more to discuss as the next Congress comes in. Appreciate your time. I'll talk to you soon.

TURNER: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

A lot coming in, a lot of breaking news coming in. I really appreciate you joining me today and all of this week.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.