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At Least 63 People Dead, 600-Plus Missing in Camp Fire; Florida Senate Race Heads to a Manual Recount; Rick Scott Leads Bill Nelson By 12,000-Plus Votes in Florida Senate Race; Pelosi Faces Growing Opposition to House Speaker Bid. Aired 9-9:30

Aired November 16, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] CAMEROTA: -- across the country when at 5 years old the Make A Wish Foundation made his dream of becoming a superhero come true. They allowed him to fight crime in San Francisco. So miles is now 10 and he just clinched a huge victory. We are happy to report that Miles just passed the five-year mark of being cancer free.

BERMAN: I didn't know that. That's great news. Thank you. That is great news. What a great way to kick off the weekend.

Thanks so much for joining us. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto starts now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And we have made it to Friday. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Somehow we made it to Friday.

HARLOW: Somehow.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto. With some friendly advice this morning for prosecutors, if you're going to copy and paste the wrong name in a court filing, make sure it's not an internationally famous or notorious one.


SCIUTTO: Julian Assange, for instance. Case in point, a routine motion from August pertaining to federal charges against someone entirely other than the WikiLeaks founder. The case appears to have nothing to do with WikiLeaks or Assange and yet the motion to seal the charges argues, and we quote here, "No other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged."

HARLOW: So the feds say that's a mistake, but it matters because of WikiLeaks' role in publicizing all of those hacked Democratic e-mails of course in the 2016 election. And that matters a lot to who? To Special Counsel Bob Mueller, who's due to receive President Trump's written answers to two dozen questions on collusion any time now, maybe even today.

So let's go to an expert on this, our Shimon Prokupecz who joins us from Washington.

Good morning to you. Bottom line here, is Assange finally facing charges?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. Certainly it would seem that he is. And with this filing of these charges, now allows basically for an arrest warrant to arrest, to take Julian Assange should he be released from this embassy. Should he go free, essentially authorities in the UK now have the authority to arrest him.

These documents obviously causing a lot of concern now within the Department of Justice, within the intelligence community and law enforcement. This quite clearly should not have been made public because this could hurt our chances, certainly the government's chances, the U.S. government's chances in trying to get Julian Assange to finally face these charges.

So these documents that were filed had nothing to do with Julian Assange. They popped up last night on Twitter. And here's what some of them said, just to give you an idea of some of the other information that was contained in these documents. It says that the complaint supporting affidavit and arrest warrant, as well as the motion and the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint.

And of course that goes to the fact that the U.S. government does not want to hurt its chances to try and take Julian Assange into custody. Obviously Julian Assange -- his attorney reacting to this news saying that the news that criminal charges have been apparently filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed. The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for democracy to take.

And of course, Jim, this has been a concern for many who have filed this case including people inside the government under the Obama administration. People at the Department of Justice at that time, were hesitant to bring charges against Julian Assange for this very reason, his attorney here says. But it seems at least that this Department of Justice, it seems, has finally brought charges against Julian Assange.

SCIUTTO: Of course that hesitation before, the extent of the interference in 2016 elections.

Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.

Let's discuss now with Paul Callan. He's CNN legal analyst.

And Paul, if I can ask because Shimon raises an important point there, exposing what was meant to be a sealed and, therefore, secret indictment, how would this damage the chances of prosecuting these charges, you know, successfully, particularly with extradition involved?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In the American court system it would have no effect. He could still be picked up and he could be charged. But I think in terms of the effect it would have, for instance, on the British if we sought to extradite him to the United States based on these charges, I think the British might start looking at this and saying, well, it looks more like a journalist being prosecuted for publishing truthful information.

And this essentially has been Assange's defense as expressed by Barry Pollack, his attorney. And you have to wonder if there might be a certain sensitivity and receptivity by the British to that defense that in essence Assange is a political prisoner and he's being prosecuted in the United States for a political crime.

SCIUTTO: Subject-wise, what we don't know here is whether they're charging him related specifically to the interference in the 2016 election or to prior releases and revelations, for instance, going back to Chelsea Manning, et cetera.

[09:05:06] From reading the documents, reading the tea leaves in effect here, does this give you any indication as to what path they're taking?

CALLAN: Well, you know, there's been talk among lawyers for years who have been following this case closely. And people have to remember, by the way, that Assange and WikiLeaks, you know, was responsible for leaking a tremendous number of hacked e-mails, which subsequently the president relied on in his campaign to attack Hillary Clinton. And when people were looking at this or initially the talk was that it was possible to indict him for conspiracy, for theft of government property, possibly even for a violation of the Espionage Act for publishing classified material.

These are all extremely serious charges. The one defense, though, that stands out for Assange is the fact that if he is legitimately a journalist of some sort, you have to think about the Pentagon papers. Now the Pentagon papers during the time of the Vietnam War were stolen, classified documents. They were published by the "Washington Post" and "The New York Times." And there was talk at that time that both newspapers could be indicted.

However, the Justice Department backed off and kind of set a precedent that when the press is publishing truthful information, even if it was stolen, the feds kind of back off on that, worried about First Amendment problems. And that's where Assange will go eventually with his defense.

SCIUTTO: The difference here of course is that a foreign power stole the documents and then handed them. At least that's what the position of the U.S. intelligence committee. That's the wild card on how this is handled going forward.

Paul Callan, thanks very much.

HARLOW: OK. Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to four U.S. presidents, a little bit of experience there, David Gergen. Also with us, we're so glad to have from Washington, Sabrina Siddiqui, politics reporter for "The Guardian." Good to have you both here. Sabrina, to you first as this pertains to

what could or could not come from Mueller. I mean, Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, told the "Washington Post," some of those answers could be submitted today to Mueller's team pertaining to collusion. So how does this news about Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and this disclosure tied to the Mueller probe?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICS REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, Julian Assange has been, you know, being investigated by this U.S. government dating back to 2010 when U.S. intelligence cables were published on WikiLeaks and he was granted asylum by the Ecuadoran government. He's essentially been holed up for years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. But patience there has been waning thin particularly as Assange has become a focus of the Mueller investigation because of course WikiLeaks was where the thousands of Democratic Party e-mails that were hacked by the Russians were made public.

He also had reportedly been in contact with Roger Stone, who is a longtime political adviser to the president. And we know it's not entirely clear what other context may have existed between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign. We don't, of course, know what possible criminal charges against Assange look like at this moment. But it's very clear that prosecutors are moving closer to perhaps charging Assange once and for all.

HARLOW: And, David Gergen, what does it say to you that the Obama administration, which did, you know, bring an unprecedented number of leaked cases against individuals did not prosecute or go after Julian Assange?


HARLOW: But a change in tone from this administration.


HARLOW: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last year called, you know, WikiLeaks a hostile intelligence service. He said that Assange was making common cause with dictators.


HARLOW: Significant change here.

GERGEN: Yes. It's been a mystery because, in effect, Assange caused more damage to the Democrats by getting Hillary's e-mails and putting them all out there. The Democrats are the ones who really ought to be outraged. But yet it is the Republicans. And I don't know. I think there is some connections behind the scenes that we're not aware of that probably connect him to the Mueller team and it may relate to the question of collusion. That would be the most obvious.


SCIUTTO: OK. So a big change has happened regarding the Mueller investigation. Now you have the president's chosen new acting attorney general with oversight of the Mueller probe and the ability to be updated on the status of the probe and then apparently, you know, conceivably share that information with the president.

How concerned are you about Matthew Whitaker now being in that position after Jeff Sessions was forced out because the president explicitly said many times over the course of many months because he didn't like the way he was handling the probe?

GERGEN: I'm very concerned about the fact that there has been such foot dragging on Capitol Hill about protecting Mueller. You know, people have said well, we don't need to do that. It's not going to happen. Well, we don't know that now. It could happen on the whim of President Trump. And we know he has many whims.

[09:10:02] He has one a day at least, you know. And so I think that they've left the Mueller investigation exposed and vulnerable to Whitaker. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

SCIUTTO: So, Sabrina, is there any substance, is there any teeth behind this effort now by Jeff Flake, this threat in effect to stand in the way of judge -- votes on new judge nominations by this president? I mean, he would need other senators to come on board. I understand Senator Lisa Murkowski has at least reached out to discuss more.

What are you hearing from the Hill as to whether there were enough Republican votes to give that threat teeth in effect?

SIDDIQUI: Well, there certainly is bipartisan support for legislation to protect Robert Mueller. The question is how many Republicans are willing to go as far as Senator Jeff Flake and actually threaten to withhold their votes on these judicial nominations, which would be more of a dramatic escalation in taking on the president directly.

Now Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has maintained that he does not believe that legislation is in fact warranted to protect Mueller, even though it is true that with Matt Whitaker now at the helm of the Justice Department it's not entirely clear whether he will try and reign in the special counsel and its work. He has been outwardly critical of Mueller and the investigation, and he's someone who hasn't been confirmed by the Senate.

So a lot of it really just depends on how many more Republicans Jeff Flake can convince to try and really force this issue on the floor. But we have seen time and again that Republicans in Congress have been very reticent to pick a fight with the president.

HARLOW: Right.


HARLOW: Increasingly so, it becomes the party of Trump, many would say.

Let me get, David Gergen, and Sabrina, chime in here, too, after on this new reporting from Jake Tapper that really is telling. A senior administration official this morning tells our colleague Jake Tapper, quote, "In this administration there are arsonists and there are firefighters. The president is looking to get rid of the firefighters. The more he does, the faster his administration is going to burn down."

David, that is from the senior administration official.


HARLOW: Quite a metaphor.

GERGEN: Mr. Anonymous or Miss Anonymous?

HARLOW: I have no idea who this is.


GERGEN: Yes. We have -- typically after midterms presidents often get a little depressed because the vote usually goes against them. And you put all this time and effort and then there is a sense of rejection, and you've got this long road out ahead of you still for the next two years. But -- and so it's understandable he's cranky. But what is emerging now is a picture of someone who is like King Leer raging against the night. I mean, there is this -- it's an overwhelming Shakespearean quality about a man who on every front feels like he's either unhappy or disconnected. He's retreating from.

But, you know, going from midterms, that story soured on him since the voting. And, you know, as CNN pointed out with a big special this week on politics. But then he went overseas and he was clearly the most isolated we have ever seen any president. Most unhappy we've seen any president. Comes back home and he's got a fight over his wife and with his staff which has sort of bubbled out of the -- into the ether.

And it's also true, you know, his big claim right now, what his presidency rests on primarily is the strength of the economy. And there are growing fears about the world economic views. The U.S. situation is still strong. But in Europe and China and elsewhere, there are signs of economic slowdown. And that must concern him.

And then you've got Mueller time and not knowing where that's going. Now, you know, a lot of -- there is a lot of speculation he knows something we don't know, that there is something communicated through his lawyers about the status of the investigation. I think we just have to be patient on that. We don't know for sure.

HARLOW: OK. David Gergen, thank you. Sabrina, we're out of time, I'm told. But to you first next time. Thanks for being with us.

Ahead, Florida's tight Senate race heads to -- races head for manual recount. The latest battle on that ahead.

And does she or doesn't she? Nancy Pelosi says she has the votes to be speaker. But does the math actually add up in her favor? The latest on that one in the showdown.

SCIUTTO: Plus, now listen to this figure. More than 600 people remain missing in the deadly California wildfires. We're going to go there for an update, next.


[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, this morning, what we know is that 66 people have died in the wildfires raging across California right now. Sixty three of those victims are from the Camp Fire; that is the fire in Northern California. The number of people missing, this number is just startling, 600. More than 600 people we've learned this morning are missing.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Yes, six times than what we heard last time. The wildfire is already the deadliest and most directive in state history. You look at that map there, just showing how wide the damage has ranged. Cnn's Scott McLean is in Paradise, California, he's been there for a number of days with the latest on the Camp Fire. Scott, do we know how that number was able to jump so markedly up to 600 now? How did they get to that figure?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's pretty striking, Jim. More than double the number that we were reporting yesterday, which was just 300. The sheriff says part of the reason is because they're going back now through their 911 call logs in the police reports that were filed in the frantic few hours when this fire first started and when it was coming through this town.

And it may have been set aside, and those people may not have been -- ended up or may not have ended up on that eventual list of missing. And so they wanted to include those. The good news is that many of those people are expected to be found safe and sound.

The reality is that a lot of these people who have been displaced, they simply don't have internet, they don't have TV, they're not following the news as closely as the rest of us might be. And so, they may not even know that they've been reported missing at all. Their main priority is simply finding a place to sleep.

[09:20:00] Hotel rooms, they're tough to find, shelters are jam- packed. In fact, four shelters are experiencing some pretty serious Norovirus outbreaks. And so, we found a lot of people had just set up camp outside of a Wal-Mart in Chico, California, just down the road from here.

They're sleeping in their cars or they're sleeping in tents. I met a mother who is sleeping with her seven-year-old daughter inside of a car. She said, hey, could get worse, you could be in a tent. Well, I also met a grandmother sleeping in her tent trying desperately to keep her nine-year-old grandson warm.

And he told me about what he missed most about his house, which has now been destroyed. Listen.


MCLEAN: You just miss your bed? It's warm.

KINGERY: Being under a ceiling and actually having a real bathroom. It's just hard.


MCLEAN: Pretty tough kid. And Jim and Poppy, of course President Trump will be here tomorrow, we found that out yesterday, it's not exactly clear where he'll go, but you can bet that he'll meet a lot of the people just like nine-year-old Eli and his grandmother who are really struggling at this point. You really do not have to look hard to find folks just like them.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I find it amazing that you don't have the National Guard, military, someone there to build housing for folks. People sleeping in tents, all these days later. Scott McLean, thanks very much.

Right now ballots in Florida are being hand-counted in the states still tight race. Republican Rick Scott leads incumbent Bill Nelson by more than 12,000 votes, quite a wide margin, but here is the catch. That 12,000 number does not include the recount of a heavily- Democratic county that missed yesterday's deadline by minutes.

HARLOW: Let's go to Jessica Dean, she joins us now in West Palm Beach. So give us an update and also talk about, you know, what current Senator Bill Nelson is facing because he and the Democrats in this have suffered two legal blows. What are they?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, so, OK, you guys, there is the legal side to this and then there is the recount that's happening right now. You asked some of the legal blows that the Nelson camp has seen. Well, a federal judge denied a motion to remove Rick Scott from the election process.

They said -- he said that he has to have a serious objective risk of bias, and he said that while he's been haphazard and reckless with his words, it did not cross that line. The other thing is that the same federal judge ruled that the guidelines looking at guidance for this hand-recount that's going to be going on in places like Palm Beach County right here behind me are constitutional.

So a lot of these kind of lawsuits that they've been filing to try to expand the process for the Democratic side are just getting shut down or at least they're not getting the width that they wanted in some of these. They were also asking for some -- they have a signature match program here in Florida.

They were asking for that to kind of be thrown out, and the judge really limiting that lawsuit. So they're just not getting the margins that they are wanting to see. But right now, the thing to focus on is the hand-recount. It's supposed to happen here in Palm Beach at 11:00 a.m., that's over and under ballots, Poppy. They'll be counting those by hand, we'll see how that goes.

HARLOW: Yes, no hanging chads this time, at least. Jessica Dean, thank you for the reporting. With us now, senior political reporter for "Politico" in Florida, Marc Caputo, nice to have you, Mark. So, look, you've got this razor-thin margin for Scott in the Senate race, 0.15 percent, 12,603 votes.

These three counties, including the very blue Broward Counties, those recount votes not included in that number. Your fantastic code about this, it would be like pulling a rabbit out of a hat for Nelson to win, but there's not enough rabbit. Walk us through what we're looking at here.

MARC CAPUTO, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, we were just looking at a math problem for Bill Nelson. So there might be 55,000 ballots total under votes, that is where --

HARLOW: Yes --

CAPUTO: No one voted in a race or over votes where multiple votes somehow got registered and the ballot was mismarked. And it's difficult to see, unless so many of those votes are disproportionally concentrated and like Broward County, Dade County and Palm Beach County which is certainly plausible.

It's nevertheless difficult to see how those things could break so strongly towards Bill Nelson that he could make up the deficit. Just understand is that this margin is probably one of the largest margins you could get in a recount with -- in a manual recount, that is, and be able to flip it.

We've never seen a race nationwide flip with this size of a margin. Is it possible? Yes, but as mentioned earlier, what Bill Nelson wants to do is kind of expand the pool of countable ballots. And right now --

HARLOW: Right --

CAPUTO: That is not really happening. So there might be enough here, I'm a bit --

HARLOW: Yes --

CAPUTO: Skeptical. One of the hopes that the Nelson campaign has is that in Broward County, there could be 23,000 under votes in a heavily Democratic area and that these could disproportionally break towards Nelson.

[09:25:00] But even if they do, if you kind of apply the math, he'd probably need to win about 90 percent, maybe even more than 85 percent of those ballots in order just to tie. And that doesn't include kind of the rest --

HARLOW: Right --

CAPUTO: Of the state where votes are kind of breaking about 50-50 -- HARLOW: Yes --

CAPUTO: When they're added in --

HARLOW: Yes, you know, this is all -- they're sort of being muddied up by these unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in Florida all the way up to the president. and your response to that in your words are that you believe the president has watched, quote, "too many episodes of "Scooby-Doo". From all your reporting on the ground there, have you seen any of the fraud the president is laying out?

CAPUTO: Well, in fairness, you know, I did like "Scooby-Doo", and so I wasn't necessarily meaning it in a bad way. But you know, when the president says you can just kind of fool poll workers by changing --

HARLOW: Right --

CAPUTO: Your shirt and your glasses, and you can revoke, all that's absurd and it kind of sounds like a cartoon villain. But there does appear to be one fraudulent activity that is related to Democrats. It appears that someone associated with the Florida Democratic Party who had a Democratic Party e-mail had come up with an idea to dotter a form to allow people who had already cast absentee ballots, but they had been counted too late or received too late, to try to cure those ballots and change the date and trick people into doing it and therefore trick supervisors of elections into doing it.

Now, that's fraudulent to change a state form and try to get other people to lie, whether those other people knew that they were lying or not. However --

HARLOW: Yes --

CAPUTO: We don't know how many votes that is, if there were votes, these are people obviously had already cast ballots, and lastly, when the claims about fraud were being made by Governor Scott and then followed up with by President Trump, they were talking about the tens and tens of thousands of ballots that would be dumped into the system in Broward County overnight. And again no evidence for fraud for that and none whatsoever.

HARLOW: Got it.

CAPUTO: Where the best evidence is that Broward County was not following the rules and updating the website regularly, all of a sudden, they would just upload tens of thousands of ballots in a very Democratic county. And suddenly Governor Scott's margin shrunk, and he started to have heart palpitations.

HARLOW: All right, Marc Caputo, thank you very much. And Jim --

CAPUTO: Thank you --

HARLOW: The judge hearing all these cases I think put it well, said, "we've been the laughing stock of the world, the election after election, yet, no one chose to fix it." SCIUTTO: Yes --

HARLOW: Here we are again.

SCIUTTO: Well, they passed some laws, and some of which include --

HARLOW: Some changed --

SCIUTTO: The recounts which we're --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Following through on, but certainly doesn't clear up the confusion.


SCIUTTO: Nancy Pelosi confident that she will become house speaker, but her detractors are getting louder while a potential challenger now weighs entering that race.