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Showdown Looms Over Pelosi's Speakership Bid; Conway's Husband Calls Trump Admin "A Dumpster Fire"; Democrats Pick Up A Net Gain of 34 House Seats So Far; Trump Speaks with Reporters in Oval Office. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 16, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean, if you talk to members who have been there for a whole, she's legendary for things like that. She knows this caucus.

So, if someone does mount, I think it's going to be hard for anyone to really challenge her. They can just -- someone can play spoiler but no one has the support to overtake her.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And that so makes it fascinating though because all her attributes, her experience she says who do you want sitting across the table from President Trump, somebody (INAUDIBLE). Her fundraising, her history, and yet today, she doesn't have the votes, clearly. You wouldn't be publicly campaigning so much if you had the votes locked up.

So my question is, what's happening in private including in this conversation and Congresswoman Fudge, call in, if you want. To the point that, you know, is there a deal to be had?

Right now, the Democratic leadership team is Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn. If we see her publicly campaigning, but is she privately trying to figure out, I want to stay for two years. I understand your concerns, let's switch the rest of the team up so that you're ready when they go.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's no question that she is one of the savviest people in that building. And she's a survivor and a fighter. And she has every reason to take this fight on.

If I was a Steny Hoyer or probably Congressman Clyburn as well, I would be nervous at this point. Because I think that she is not -- this is not a package deal that those three will remain at the leadership here. She wants to remain and we'll see what happens. What actually came off that meeting if she offers Marcia Fudge something.

The reason Speaker Pelosi has held on so long is because of two things overall. I mean, her money and her member services. Also, she's from the California delegation, huge, even bigger now. And the CBC has always supported her.

So until there's a, you know, a split on that, she will survive. But it's extraordinary she still doesn't have exactly the vote.

KING: And the CBC -- I just want to put the numbers on the table, the CBC has 46 current members, they can go as high as 54 with these new members coming in. So it's a significant piece if one potential Republican, if Mia Love win her seat. She has been a member of the black caucus in the past, the Democrats will be 50 plus now.

And so they think the question for the CBC is, we want more seats at the table. And so do you broker a deal with Pelosi, you have two members of the caucus running for number four position against each other night now. Clyburn is the number three position. What kind of deal can you broker to say, hey, we deserve seats at this table?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right. For the CBC, it's a question of is having Clyburn in leadership enough or do you want somebody else in the mix? And I think it is really difficult if you look at the Democrats who have won seats that helping the Democrats get back into the majority. It is really almost impossible to imagine the Democratic leadership will remain exactly as it is because that caucus is now younger, it is more diverse. There are more women in the field.

Pelosi has a strong argument for herself. But if you are Hoyer I think in particular, what is your argument. What do you say to this younger more diverse caucus that you should be number two right now. And that's where you can see Pelosi I think probably trying to shuffle the cards the most.

KING: And speaking behind the scenes (INAUDIBLE) would love to hear about that meeting.

Up next, some honorees at the White House today include Babe Ruth and Elvis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:37:19] KING: Topping our political radar today, Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley being honored at the White House next hour. President Trump awarding them the Medal of Freedom along with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Among the living being honored today, Miriam Adelson. She's described by the White House as a philanthropist and humanitarian. She's also the wife of GOP mega donor, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Also on the list, Utah's long time Republican senator, Orrin Hatch.

Georgia could certify the Republican Brian Kemp the winner of the state's highly contested governor's race later this evening. But Democrat Stacey Abrams might fight on in court. Her campaign says they're preparing another legal challenge although nothing has been filed as of this hour. The latest tally shows Abrams trailing by about 55,000 votes. That's well short of the number needed to trigger a recount or a runoff. Kemp's campaign says it's time for Abrams to concede.

And it's Conway versus Conway. Yes, we're talking about White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and her husband, George. Mr. Conway gave an interview to Yahoo News podcast and he was blunt in describing the administration, and remember, his wife is a presidential counselor.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GEORGE CONWAY: I don't think she likes it. But, you know, I don't -- I've told her, I don't like, you know, the administration so it's even, you know, it's one of these things. I mean, if I had a nickel for everybody in Washington who disagreed with their spouse about something that happens in this town, I wouldn't be on this podcast, I'd probably be on a beach somewhere.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: And this footnote, Kellyanne Conway today changing her Twitter bio to say, "The Kellyanne Conway in Kellyanne Conway's husband." George Conway admits he calls himself Mr. Kellyanne Conway.

So, why are we talking about this you could say. It's interesting to me they're -- this is clearly she gets irritated at him sometimes, he gets irritated at her sometimes. But forgive me, it strikes me as they -- at some point she's going to leave the White House and maybe we should get a reality T.V. show.

No?

KUCINICH: I mean, I'll watch.

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: She's been in politics a long time before Donald Trump. She made a big name for herself as a very respected pollster. And some Republicans who are friendly with to her and support her wonder if this is a very public showing to show that, you know, after this administration that she is still around to do business. So just sort of trying to hedge their bets in things that she's not all in with Donald Trump necessarily. I'm not sure if I believe that, but it seems like kind of a shtick to me.

It's happening too many times.

KING: It's happen too many times for it to be --

PACE: Yes. Look, it does seem a bit purposeful at this point that he has built this following on Twitter, he's done op-eds and he just seems to actually grow his profile and pushes this even further as opposed to scaling it back. They did a joint interview together with the Washington Post where they let a reporter into their house.

[12:40:01] I mean, they are definitely buying into this narrative and as Jackie points out, I think there actually could be an audience.

(CROSSTALK)

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: This is where Kellyanne Conway with my colleague Ben Terris went on background to talk about their marriage. So, it'll be an interesting show if that happens. KUCINICH: But these are two politically savvy people. I mean -- and you cannot remove that.

KING: There's some -- you know, whether you agree or disagree on that, there's some calculation (INAUDIBLE), OK, you're right, it's entertaining.

Up next, Democrats already have more than 30, more than 30 House seat pickups but another one yet today. We'll show you where they're gaining ground.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

Another House race has just been called, and called in the Democrat's favor. California's 45th congressional district now going blue. That's a net gain for the Democrats of 34 seats and there are still six races yet to be called. Where the map is more blue is just as important as that strong Democratic math. Let's take a look.

[12:45:01] Here's the House overall, these are called races. The Democrats will have at least 229 seats, the Republicans 200. As we noted, still some outstanding races to call. Let me show you a couple of things here.

Number one, look at New England. Look at New England. Let me stretch it out for you. It's all blue when it comes to the House. The only Republican from New England in the Congress will be Senator Susan Collins of Maine. She's embattled, she's up in 2020.

But look at this, not one Republican House member Maine race yesterday flipped from red to blue from there. Now let's go west to California. We should you those numbers. Watch as these numbers play out.

As the Democrats pick up these seats, let's look at the top suburban districts across America. Then let's match that up with seats that have flipped. And look at what has happened here.

Right now, in called races, these are done, Democrats of the 34 they picked up, 21 from the suburbs. Republican seats in the suburbs that have flipped from red to blue. That's what we called.

And the uncalled races, there are three more of those. So the Democrats potentially could get close to 40 seats, say 38 or so with 24 of them coming from Republican suburban seats.

It is a giant problem for the party. You see a number of these seats are out here in California. The California Republican Party is simply disappearing. Well, a member of that delegation says, part of this is about what the House Republicans passed and a lot of it is about the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Orange County is a new blue. What we saw was a sweep of southern California districts in favor of Democrats. It turns out that the Republican strategy of raising taxes on millions of Californians and then trying to sabotage their healthcare was not a winning strategy for the GOP.

But in addition, Donald Trump has made everything about him these last two years. A large part of this election was a rebuke of the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is striking when you look at the map of the suburbs. Number one, 20 plus. Maybe two dozen of the 30 plus coming just from -- (INAUDIBLE), this is not just the California suburbs, not just LA, it's Orange County, it's Oklahoma City, it's Kansas City, Kansas. These are places that have been in Republican hands back when I colored my hair.

KIM: Well, it's just fascinating to see -- what's going to be really interesting to watch is the implications for the Democratic agenda once we finalize all the number of seats. Because, again, like you said, so many of these pickup seats come from these traditionally Republican strongholds whose constituents don't necessarily have the same views as New York or San Francisco or California.

And you're already seeing kind of these internal clashes already. You have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showing up on Nancy Pelosi's door participating in a climate change protest. Imagine when the party hammers that fair position on immigration. You know, there going to be a lot of progressives in the caucus were going to push for loosening immigration enforcement, potentially abolishing ICE.

And a lot of moderates aren't going to go with that. So that -- those kind of internal struggles will be a major story line in the months to come.

KING: And the Democrats have them and the Republicans have them as well trying to figure out where do we go from here? I should note, the president of the United States just took some questions from reporters at a bill signing at the White House. We're about a minute and a half away from bringing you that.

As we do, Democrats have to work out their issues. We won, that's great, but now what. How do you try to protect those seats in the suburbs to keep progressives happy. Listen to this, this is Kristin Olsen, the former minority leader in the California State Assembly, a Republican telling the AP.

"The California Republican Party isn't salvageable at this time. The grand old party is dead partly because it has failed to separate itself from today's toxic national brand of Republican politics."

Now, to be fair to President Trump, the California Republican Party has been a mess for a long time, but like many of these conversations, he seems to accelerate a lot of these trends that are playing out. The Democrats were making gains in the suburbs, boom! The California Republican party was in trouble, boom! PACE: And that was to my colleague Mike Blood who's a long time California political reporter who has covered the evolution in Orange County. And, you know, yes, that is a state where the Republican Party has not been strong for some time but they had pockets of support. And they've had pockets of support in other places around the country. But those voters, they just do not want to be aligned with Donald Trump.

The question that the party has to ask themselves going into the next president election where you have, yes Trump at the top of the ticket, but also more competitive Senate races in territory that is not as friendly to Republicans as this Senate map was. How do those Republican candidates align themselves with the president when he is back on the ballot.

KING: And he is, and that's one of the challenges for the president as well. Let's go to the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you make comments on the CNN (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: No. Just people have to behave and they have to do -- we're writing up rules and regulations to make a position. I think you were treated very unfairly. Both of you, I think you were treated very unfairly because you have somebody interrupting you.

If they don't listen to the rules and regulations, we'll end up back in court and we'll win. But more importantly, we'll just leave and then you won't be very happy because we do get good ratings.

[12:50:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you talked about rules and regulations (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: Decorum. You can't take three questions or four questions and to stand up and not sit down. Decorum. You have to practice decorum. You were there and you understood and you understand we want total freedom of the press. That's very important. More important to me than anybody would believe.

But you have to act with respect, you're in the White House, and when I see the way some of my people get treated at press conferences, it's terrible. So, we're setting up a certain standard which is what the court is requesting, and always freedom of the press, always First Amendment but that's the way it is. And we always have the option of just leaving, you know. We feel that things aren't being treated properly, that people aren't being treated properly. We always have the right to leave and I think the other media, the other press in the room will not be very happy if that happens. But I have instructed my people when they're not treated properly, you have the right to just leave any time you want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You gave a response to the trade and other requests. Have you seen that response and are you pleased with it? TRUMP: Did you say China?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: China, yes.

TRUMP: Yes, go ahead. Tell me what their response was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They sent a response with a 142 items on trade.

TRUMP: Yes, that's good. No, China wants to make a deal. Yes. China as you know, Jeff, China wants to make a deal, they sent a list of things that they're willing to do which was a large list. And it's just not acceptable to me yet, but at some point, I think that we are doing extremely well with respect to China. I have a great respect for President Xi. I have a great respect with China but China is taking advantage of the United States for many, many years.

Ron Johnson knows that maybe better than anybody because Ron is a big believer in what I'm doing. And I think that they're going to come in and we're going to either open up China and make it because it's not fair right now. They do very little business with them and we do a lot of business. You know, it just can't be -- plus they have tremendous barriers, they have tremendous tariffs on us that we didn't have on them. But that's all changed now.

We put on tariffs on $250 billion worth of goods and we have another $267 billion to go if we want to. We may not have to do that. China would like to make a deal. Our country has done very well and China as you know has not done very well. They've been down 30 percent, 32 percent, and they've been down very substantially.

We have helped create China as we know it today by allowing money to be sucked out of our country by the billions, $500 billion a year in many cases over a long period of time. And we can't allow that to happen. And I think we will have a great relationship with China. Hopefully we'll make a deal. And if we don't, we're doing very well just the way it is right now. We have tariffs coming in on $250 billion worth of goods and these are -- we're talking about billions and billions of dollars a month will flow in to our country and is already started flowing in to our country. That comes from China.

So China has never been put in this position, and I don't want to put them in a bad position. I want to put them in a great position. But it's called reciprocal. We have to have reciprocal trade, we can't have trade that's meant for stupid people. And that's the way they took advantage of our country. And we don't have that anymore, and they understand that. And I think a deal will be made, we'll find out very soon.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) are the list that they submitted, do you think it goes far enough, are you happy with it --

TRUMP: It's a pretty complete list. It's a lot of the things we asked for. There are some things -- there are four or five big things left off. I think we'll probably get them, too. But as you know, it's a very complete list. I think it's 142 items and that's a lot of items. OK? Thank you very much, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Mr. President, you're on Twitter yesterday seems agitated about what you might have receiving with the Mueller investigation --

TRUMP: No, I'm not agitated. It's a hoax. The whole thing is a hoax. There was no collusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anything triggered that --

TRUMP: No, not at all. No. I'm very happy with the White House. I'm extremely happy with our country. We're doing better on the economy, maybe it's the best economy we've ever had. They maybe the best unemployment numbers and employment numbers that we've ever had. There are more people working in the United States right now at this moment that have ever worked in the United States by far, by far.

I'm extremely happy, I'm very happy with almost all of my cabinet. And, you know, changes are made because they're always made, especially after midterms. But it's all fake news. It is I'm thrilled with the way the country is going.

[12:55:02] I think on foreign we're doing very well, we're making trade deals. We just made a deal with Mexico, we just made a deal with Canada, and we just made a deal with South Korea that are phenomenal deals, and they were horrible deals before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you seemed unhappy with the Mueller investigation particularly yesterday --

TRUMP: No, it's just a continuation. You can go. There should have never been any Mueller investigation because there was never anything done wrong. There was no collusion. That neither has been. You would have known about it a long time ago if there was.

There was nothing -- they shouldn't never had it. They've wasted millions and millions of dollars. There should have never been a so- called investigation which in theory it's not an investigation of me. But as far as I'm concerned, I like to take everything personally because you do better that way. The witch-hunt, as I call it, should never have taken place. It continues to go on. I imagine it's ending now. From what I hear, it's ending and I'm sure it'll be just fine.

And, you know why (INAUDIBLE), because there was no collusion. The fact is, I was a much better candidate than Hillary Clinton, I went to the right states, she went to the wrong states. She was not a good campaigner, obviously, I campaigned very well and I easily won the election and the Electoral College, 306. I guess it was 306-223. That's a big difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you provide answers?

TRUMP: About what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The special counsel.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yes, it's not -- my lawyers are working on that. I'm working with that. I write the answers. My lawyers are writing answers. I write answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

TRUMP: I was asked a series of questions, I've answered them very easily. Very easily. I'm sure they're tricked up because, you know, they like to catch people. You know, was the weather sunny or was it rainy. He said it may have been a good day, it was rainy therefore he told a lie, he perjures himself, OK. So, yes, you have to be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions.

But, no, it's -- the questions were very routinely answered by me, by me.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Through the special counsel -- yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you submitted the answers --

TRUMP: I haven't submitted them yet. We just -- I just (INAUDIBLE). As you know, I've been a little bit busy. We've been in Europe, we've been working on various deals, we just finish the USMCA. If you look at that deal which is one of the great, great deals as I see. You can see how happy are farmers are.

We've done a lot of work in the last period of times so we've been very busy. It's been very hard to find time. But it didn't take very long to (INAUDIBLE) and they were my answers. I don't need lawyers to do that. Now, you need lawyers for submittal, you need lawyers to go over some of the answers. But they're not very difficult questions, OK?

Thank you very much, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

KING: The president of the United States speaking there after a bill signing ceremony at the White House. Two big significant things out of that. Number one, he comments on the defeat in court today, CNN's lawsuit to get Jim Acosta's press pass restored. A temporary victory the president says they're going to write new rules at the White House. He says he wants decorum at the White House, and he says we'll go back to court and predicts he'll win.

Most significantly on the substance of the Mueller investigation at the end there, the president says he has finished his written answers to the special counsel Robert Mueller, his lawyers are looking over them, and we'll submit them soon. The president brushing back at any suggestion he needed a lawyer saying, I answered these questions, the lawyers are here to help me.

Matter of fact, they're talking about something that we know from sources behind the scenes, the president has actually been quite angry about.

ZELENY: No question. He confirmed right there what we've known all week long that he's been spending so much of his time this week behind the scenes, working on these questions. But again, he's going after the Mueller probe saying that these people have bad intentions.

I'm not sure what the answers to those questions so they haven't submitted them yet but he confirmed what we've heard all week long, this is what he's focused on.

PACE: The fact that they haven't submitted them of course leaves open the possibility that this is going to continue. This is a process that has not done. You know, to the president's point above, you know, all my lawyers are just here to help. No, your lawyers are there to make sure that as you answered these questions, you don't actually perjure yourself. You don't provide false information.

I mean, to have just the lawyers there as assistant is a little bit of undersell.

KING: And in some ways, contradicting Rudy Giuliani who told the Washington Post that there were some legal traps here, we're worried about some of these issues. It's a big deal the president kind of say, oh, it's routine.

KIM: Exactly. And I think -- I just think that like -- again, like as Julie said, we don't know what's going to happen until the questions are submitted.

KUCINICH: All we have -- we have the tweets to sort of help us.

KIM: Yes.

KUCINICH: We have a guide.

ZELENY: There's some (INAUDIBLE) all week long. And again, like he confirmed that. But again, as we end this week, he also talked about his cabinet. Standing right next to him, the Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, (INAUDIBLE) or maybe not. So again, he makes those decisions and he'll send it out on Twitter.

KING: Right. And back to other point, again, CNN's victory at least temporarily on round one for Jim Acosta. The president says we're going write some rules and then he values decorum at the White House and that reporters should follow decorum and his staff should leave if they think they're being subjected to hostile questions.

I value decorum, you could lead by example, sir.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS today. Hope to see you back here Sunday morning, 8 a.m. Eastern. Get up early for us. We're back Monday as well.

Don't go anywhere though, Brianna Keilar starts right now.