Return to Transcripts main page


Florida's Recount Is Now Over; Northern California City Of Chico, Many Evacuees Are Camped Out In Parking Lots And So-Called Like Pop-Up Cities; President Said He Has No Plans To Respond To Questions About Obstruction Of Justice In Writing Or In Person; President Trump Said The U.S. Has The Tape That Captured Part Of The Murder Of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi; Former President Barack Obama Surprised His Wife On Stage With Flowers; Abrams Continued To Alleged Kemp Block Eligible Voters From Voter Roles. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired November 18, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:15] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. And thank you very much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

This breaking news into CNN. Florida's recount is now over with Governor Rick Scott still leading incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Nelson by a little more than 10,000 votes.

And don't forget about the governor's race in Florida. Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum conceding yesterday to Republican Ron Desantis.

Our Ryan Nobles is in Tallahassee.

Ryan, bring us up to date and what would happen next.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And the secretary of state's office here behind me, Fredricka, they have officially posted those numbers from the manual recount which started on Thursday. And it does looks as though Bill Nelson, the incumbent senator gained about 2,000 votes during that process, but it's not nearly enough. And it seems pretty sure here that Rick Scott will become the next U.S. senator from Florida.

Now, there is still a process in place here. The election canvassing committee will meet on Tuesday to certify these results. But that's really just a formality. It seems pretty clear here that Scott as won.

What we are waiting for, Fred, is a statement from Bill Nelson. He is expected to release a video statement in about an hour, about 3:00 eastern, in which we expect he will concede. We don't know that definitively, but that seems to be the most logical conclusion to draw about the statement that Bill Nelson is going to make here in the next hour.

What we learned today is really not that much of a surprise as we saw this process play out over the past five days. We had people in different canvassing spots around Florida. And it just didn't appear that there were enough votes available for Nelson to make up that gap that Scott had built on election night.

This was obviously a long drawn out process. Many, many lawsuits filed in the fight over this Florida recount. But at the end of the day, the election results that we saw at least in the governor and U.S. Senate race that we saw on election night have held and it looks as though Ron Desantis, the Republican, will be the next governor and Rick Scott, the current governor will be the next U.S. senator - Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then, Ryan, what about the variety of lawsuits that you have mentioned? Did they go away or there are some that would remain?

NOBLES: Right. That's a great question, Fred. And we should point out that for the most part, and there somewhere in the range of nine lawsuits that were filed on different - on various levels on the state and federal level, most of them were not completely settled. They were denied preliminary injunctions with the option of the case going forward. In some cases they have the potential to be appealed to the next level of the federal court system.

But we should point out that the Democrats had a very poor record in this process. They lost or the cases that they did win were very narrow rulings that didn't really change the scope of the election at all.

Now, there is still remains the possibility that these lawsuits play out. That could have some impact on Florida election law going forward. But Fred, in terms of this race at this time it's basically over.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much in Tallahassee.

All right. Our other big story we are following out of California with the calamity of those fires is growing. The numbers are simply staggering. Across the state, 79 people are dead, 1300 remain missing. The so-called camp fire in Northern California now the deadliest and most destructive in state history. Search and rescue teams painstakingly combing through the ashes as those forced out of their homes wonder what comes next for them.


ROBERT GOODMA, ESCAPED WOOLSEY FIRE: My house burned down. Lost everything. It's the picture like on your kids, you know, growing up. The report card, the first, you know, pictures they draw and all that. That you can't replace.


WHITFIELD: President Trump witnessed the devastation firsthand when he visited the towns of Paradise and Malibu on Saturday with the state's governor and governor-elect.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see what's happened here. Nobody would have ever thought this could have happened. So the federal government is behind you. We are all behind each other. As far as the lives are concerned, nobody knows quite yet. They are up to a certain number, but a lot of people are unaccounted for. And this is the kind of destruction - in fact, they are telling me this is even not as bad as some areas. Some areas are even beyond this. They are just charred.


WHITFIELD: It's a tough day today for survivors. And in fact, the camp fire has left hundreds homeless. And in the northern California city of Chico, many evacuees are camped out in parking lots and so- called like pop-up cities right now.

The camp fire has scorched more than 149,000 acres and it is only 60 percent contained.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Chico.

And Paul, we understand the people in these kind of pop-up cities, you know, in the tents, there is a deadline in which many of us have to leave?

[14:05:08] PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. It's an extremely fluid situation though. And I think that we are going to see that they will be allowed to stay in the grassy area away from this Wal-Mart parking lot and many of the people here on the ground say that's exactly what they want to do.

They created, as you said, this makeshift city. They are cooking food here. There is even a medical team here. And so, what the idea is, is they are trying to get these people to a shelter in nearby Gridley. Buses are showing and this area is thinning out, but to suggest that all of them will suddenly be gone is wrong, because if you look at the higher wide shot that we have here of this village, those are the tents of the people they have been staying in. Many of them telling us we are not going anywhere. We don't have anywhere to go but on the horizon.

The weather is going to change and that is the flood flame. And so, they want to get these people out of here before it possibly rains on Wednesday.

We should also note that really quickly, Fred, that there is a story of these individuals, 22 children, two teachers and a bus driver who made a harrowing escape from the school. Up on the hill that is in Paradise. We are going to hear a lot of their stories throughout the day. And I can tell you, they went through a five-hour odyssey that was just miraculously. (INAUDIBLE) - Fred.


MARY LUDWIG, SURVIVOR: It was very scary. It was like -- it felt like Armageddon. I don't know another word to say.

CHARLOTTE MERZ, SURVIVOR: I was seeing like smoke everywhere. I couldn't see hardly anything. I saw like houses burning and animals and cars wining. And I love animals and it was so crazy. And there were like fires left and right. Everywhere you look, there was smoke everywhere. And people trying to get out. And it was like really hard.


VERCAMMEN: We look forward to tell you more about that miracle OF BUS 933. That's later on. Back to you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Look forward to that.

Paul Vercammen, thank you so much.

So while touring the California wildfire devastation, President Trump said the U.S. needs to follow the lead of other countries when managing forests.


TRUMP: You look at other countries where they do it differently. And it's a whole different story. I was with the President of Finland and he said we have a much different -- we are a forest nation. He called it a forest nation. And they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don't have any problem. And what it is, it's a very small problem. So I know everybody is looking at that, to that end.


WHITFIELD: So at the time yesterday, you saw standing with the President, there was the governor, California governor and the governor-elect. Well, today, California governor, Jerry Brown responded, saying a lot of the land is run by the federal government. And he also says part of the problem is climate change, but mostly avoided the topic during the President's visit as you saw there. Why? Today the explanation is pretty simple -- money.


GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: Where Paradise is, of course, is surrounded by federally managed land. These are national forests. They are not state parks and they are not private property by Californians. So it is the federal government. And the fact is that managing the forests is part of it. They are a lot denser than they were 200 years ago. But on top of this, we have this five-year drought. We have a reduced rainfall. We have the dryness that turns vegetation and bushes and houses and trees into literally timber. So it's ready to explode.

So there is an atmospheric element which is part of the natural cycle. And then there is an increasing effect of climate change. In fact, I have read specifically pure reviewed scientific articles that say that the amount of land burnt in California over the last 15 years has doubled because of climate change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you make that case to President Trump?

BROWN: I certainly raised it, but I didn't feel that was where we need to go. We need the money.


WHITFIELD: I am joined now on the phone by Cal-Fire director Ken Pimlott who was also with the President yesterday during the visit.

So director Pimlott, you know, give me your point of view. What kind of dialogue did you have with the President yesterday and when you heard the President still blame in part, you know, forest management, what were your thoughts yesterday at the time and your thoughts today?

[14:10:01] KEN PIMLOTT, DIRECTOR, CAL FIRE (on the phone): Good afternoon, Fredricka. I think in all honesty, the dialogue was good and did mostly focus on the need at hand which was to take care of the citizens of Butte County in this tragedy.

But you know, the forest management discussion, it is important. Forest management, however, is one component of the overall problem. And Governor Brown really brought the point home there. It's not just about forests. The fire in southern California, the Woolsey, that's not a chaparral brush fire. There is no forest involved there. And what is the common factor of all of this are the extreme weather patterns, the wind. These fires throughout the state were burning where there was 40 or 50 or more mile per hour. Our vegetation is critically dry. But we do need to engage in active forest management. And as the governor said, a good portion of our forest lands are federally owned. This is a partnership. And it is all lands and all hands. They are all engaged in all levels of government and nongovernment organizations, the environmental community, you know, working hand in hand. And they all have to increase the amount of work that they are doing.

WHITFIELD: What are you hoping will come from the President's visit, you know, seeing, you know, firsthand, the devastation, having the kind of dialogue that you had with him with the governor-elect had with him. Do you hope that there is greater clarity and that it will, you know, open the door to federal possibilities -- what?

PIMLOTT: Absolutely. I think in the very short-term it's the task at hand and that's taking care of the people and that is getting the sheltering and taking care of this community until ultimately things can be rebuilt and supported. That will take a number of years. The dialogue about engaging -- this is a challenge. We are seeing fires unlike we have ever seen before.

Communities are being destroyed completely. All the tools in the tool box approach. Not only do we need to treat the vegetation, but the communities. We need to ensure we have evacuation route. We need to ensure that our infrastructure is hardened that they resists these types of intense fires. So it's going to be working together across the aisles and certainly working in all levels of government. And we made already a great start here in California. We have been investing hundreds of millions of dollars and fire prevention and (INAUDIBLE). And over the next five years, we will utilizing almost a billion- dollars in cap and trade funding for forest health and fire prevention work. And that's (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: You know, on that issue of evacuation, I spoke with the Paradise mayor yesterday, Jodi Jones. And you know, she wanted to challenge the issue of evacuations and it really isn't not that simplistic. She has received a lot of criticism that people did not get notified soon enough in order to get out. But when you look at where that city is, you know, there are very limited routes in which to get in and to get out.

What is the answer on improving evacuations when you have areas such as that city which are perched, you know, in the foothills and by design, there are few roads to get in and get out.

PIMLOTT: This was a community that for several years now has recognized that it is in a fire-prone area. There are fire community because of the work they have been doing to address that. They actually added an additional evacuation route, highway that was used significantly during this fire to evacuate people. They have divided the city into zones so that when the evacuation orders come in, you know which zone you are in.

They treatment vegetation as a matter of fact (INAUDIBLE) around the water supply, the water treatment facility and actually saved it. So they actually have a water supply now. But we need to do more. The fire occurred so quickly, within an hour it was already spotted into the city. So it was very difficult. These fires are spreading so quickly, notification is a challenge for a population, you know, 6:30 in the morning when they move so quickly.

So we need to look at all of that and ensuring that roads of widen and infrastructure is harden. And rebuild the community, we need to ensure that the infrastructure and buildings are built to be fire resistant to the current building standards to help and prevent that or mitigate the impact.

WHITFIELD: All right. Cal-Fire director Ken Pimlott, no easy answers here. And thank you so much. Appreciate it.

PIMLOTT: You are welcome.

All right. This breaking news in right now to CNN. Florida senator Bill Nelson has called Florida governor Rick Scott to concede the race for U.S. Senate. Scott releasing a statement moments ago in saying that Nelson was gracious in his concession. Scott also saying that he thanked Nelson for his years of public service, U.S. senator since 2000 for Bill Nelson.

All right. Still ahead, President Trump leaves the door open on whether he might do a one-on-one interview with the special counsel on possible collusion with Russian in the 2016 election.


[14:15:18] CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Is that your final position that there is going to be no sit down interview and nothing written or in person on obstruction?

TRUMP: I would say probably. Probably. I mean, I can change my mind, but probably.

WALLACE: No ending?

TRUMP: I think we have wasted enough time on this witch hunt.


WHITFIELD: All right. This as Trump said the fate of the Mueller probe will be left up to his new acting attorney general.


[14:19:54] WHITFIELD: All right. New today, President Trump now says he probably won't sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. This after telling reporters yesterday that he had finished writing answers to Mueller's question about possible collusion and saying his answers would be submitted this week in time before thanksgiving.

But in a new interview that aired on FOX News today, the President said he has no plans to respond to questions about obstruction of justice in writing or in person.


WALLACE: You are submitting written answers to the special counsel about the issue of collusion, but not on obstruction of justice.

TRUMP: There was no obstruction of justice.

WALLACE: Let me, if I may, sir --.

TRUMP: I think they probably agree with me. And all you have to do is look at all --.

WALLACE: Is that your final position that there is going to be no sit down interview and nothing written or in person on obstruction?

TRUMP: I would say probably. Probably. I mean, I can change my mind, but probably.


TRUMP: I think we have wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably -- we are finished.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's bring in White House correspondent Boris Sanchez.

So Boris, what else did the President say about the Mueller probe?


Yes, this was a really wide ranging interview by President Trump on FOX News with Chris Wallace speaking specifically about the Russia probe in some detail. The President, as you heard there, suggesting it is not likely he will sit down and testify in person with Robert Mueller. Even though just a few months ago, he suggested that he was very interested in doing that, looking forward to it, instead the president suggesting he is going to hand in his written responses to questions from a special counsel within the next week.

The President also spoke openly about his acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker. And as you know, Fred, in the past, Whitaker has made statements very critical of the special counsel, even suggesting that the investigation could be stifled from within the DOJ by limiting funding for the probe.

The President was asked about some of his comments. He said he didn't know that Whitaker made those statements. That he held these strong positions against the special counsel before he named him as the acting attorney general to hold the report for outgoing attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Listen to some of what he told Chris Wallace on FOX News.


TRUMP: I did not know that. I did not know he took views on the Mueller investigation as such.

WALLACE: And when you found that out?

TRUMP: I don't think it had any effect. If you look at those statements, those statements can - they really can be viewed either way. But I don't think --.

WALLACE: He said no collusion as you says. He said you can starve the investigation.

TRUMP: What do you do when a person is right? There is no collusion. He happened to be right. I mean, he said it. So if he said there is no collusion, I am supposed to be taken somebody that says there is because then I wouldn't take him? For two reason, but the number one reason is the fact that he would have been wrong. If he said that there is no collusion, he is right.

WALLACE: If Whitaker decides to limit or curtail the Mueller investigation, are you OK with that?

TRUMP: Look, it's going to be up to him. I think he is very well aware politically. I think he astute politically. He is a very smart person, a very respected person. He is going do what's right. I really believe he is going to do what is right.

WALLACE: But you won't overrule him if he decides to curtail?

TRUMP: I would not get involved.


SANCHEZ: Two quick notes here, Fred. If you listen closely, President Trump did not answer when he found out that Whitaker held these views. He told Wallace in response to that question quote "I don't think it had any effect."

The second point I wanted to make, the President was asked a very similar line of questions just a few days ago by our colleague, Abby Phillip. At the time the President didn't take a liking to her questions, calling them stupid - Fred.

WHITFIELD: Who can forget?

All right. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

All right. With me now is Michael Zeldin, former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the department of justice and a former federal prosecutor and Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator and senior columnist for the "Daily Beast."

Good to see you both.

All right. So Michael, you first. You know, the President said he probably won't answer questions about possible obstruction of justice in writing or in a sitting interview. So, would or could Mueller subpoena him?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, he could. Whether he would, remains to be seen. However, of course, when Mueller or if Mueller seeks a subpoena, he has to get Matt Whitaker if Matt Whitaker has really replaced Rosenstein. He has to get Matt Whitaker's approval, hence, the problem with the pre-determined position that Whitaker has coming into this acting job.

WHITFIELD: And Matt, the President, you know, to that question of Whitaker knowing about how he felt about this whole investigation, the President said he didn't know, you know, anything about it. He is essentially saying he doesn't even watch television, which we know he does because Whitaker was on the air quite a bit saying he didn't believe this probe needed to carry on.

So now what? I mean, when the President said he is hoping that the acting attorney general wouldn't curtail the probe but he also said it will be up to him.

[14:25:00] MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think the thing that is holding this together is really politics, you know.

Because here's the thing. Most Presidents, I think would have exercised forbearance. They wouldn't have done - they wouldn't put Whitaker in this situation to begin with, you know. It would have been perceived we can't do this. You know, we have to make Rosenstein the acting attorney general. We have to nominate somebody and get Senate confirmation.

Once you decide to violate political norms and these norms are held together not by statute, but because they are norms that have been observed by Presidents in the past. Donald Trump is basically breaking that apart. And really, the only thing holding this together is because the Senate is not apparently going to do anything about it is public opinion and elections. What will the public tolerate? I think that's really where we are at right now, which, you know, it depends if you are optimistic or pessimistic about the American public.

WHITFIELD: So Michael, it seems as though the President is, you know, allowing for some wiggle room, you know, while, you know, says he wouldn't get involved and at the same time he says, you know, it will be up to Whitaker, you know, on whether to curtail the probe or not. What do you buy?

ZELDIN: So I think it's correct for the President not to intervene in this case now that Whitaker is there as it was not correct for the President to try to intervene when Rosenstein was there. The President should step back from this and let the process play out as it will play out.

If, however, Matt Whitaker determine that is a subpoena will not be issued if Mueller ask for it, then that denial to Mueller has to go to the Senate and House judiciary and intelligence for their review. So if Whitaker does that, he may be actually extending the life of this investigation in ways that Matt spoke about in terms of politics and norms that will be much more detrimental to the President's political interests than if he just let it be and see how the courts resolve the question of subpoena or no subpoena.

WHITFIELD: It ultimately gives the Mueller probe more time and more material in which to delve into.

ZELDIN: Exactly. And that is really not in the President's best interest. I think it is the best interest of the President to try to wrap this up as soon as they can, to not interfere with it as a matter of budget or process that Mueller wants to proceed. And if he is correct that there was no collusion nor was there obstruction, then Mueller has the, you know, sort of intestinal fortitude to say that.

WHITFIELD: And outgoing Republican senator Jeff Flake is concerned, obviously, because he is actually threatened to vote against more than 30 federal judicial nominees if the Senate does not hold a vote on that bipartisan, you know, protection bill. Take a listen to what he said.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: This has to be priority now. We have a situation where the President has fired the attorney general and has installed and has given responsibility for the Mueller investigation to somebody who has not been confirmed by the Senate and somebody who expressed hostility to the Mueller investigation. How in the world my colleagues don't see this as priority, I just don't understand. So it does need to come to the Senate floor and I think it's worth using a little leverage here.


WHITFIELD: And so, Matt, does he have leverage? He is outgoing, is there anybody else, you know, who want to follow suit with that sentiment?

LEWIS: You know, I think the problem is there are sort of never Trump conservatives who don't even believe in what Jeff Flake wants to do because they think it's actually unconstitutional. So there is Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham. There is a few people who want to do this on the Republican side. But you know, Mitch McConnell ultimately will decide. And I don't think he wants to set a precedent for letting people like Jeff Flake use their leverage to tell him what to do.

WHITFIELD: All right. Didn't it seem earlier in the year McConnell was all for it as part, you know, is part of that chorus and now deafening silence.

All right. Matt Lewis and Michael Zeldin, thanks so much. Good to see you both.

LEWIS: Thank you all.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, President Trump said the U.S. has the tape that captured part of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but the President is not going to listen to it. We will tell you why.


[14:33:55] WHITFIELD: President Trump said he declined to listen to a recording that capture part of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was kill and his body dismembered by a Saudi hit squad after he entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month.


TRUMP: We have the tape. I don't want to hear the tape. No reason to hear the tape.

WALLACE: Why don't you want to hear it, sir?

TRUMP: Because it's a suffering tape. It's a terrible tape. I have been fully briefed on it. There is no reason for me to hear it. Like I said to the people, should I? They said you shouldn't. There is no reason. I know exactly - I know everything that went on the tape.

WALLACE: And what happened?

TRUMP: It was very violent, very vicious and terrible.


WHITFIELD: The U.S. state department has issued a statement saying there is no final conclusion yet on who is responsible for Khashoggi's murder. This follows CNN's reporting that the CIA has assessed the Saudi crowned prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing. President Trump says, he will have a full report from the CIA on Tuesday.

Aaron David Miller is joining me right now. He was a senior adviser at the state department for more than 20 years. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So in that wide ranging interview, the President said he doesn't need to, you know, see or listen to the tape. I mean, you know, is the President reluctant to use, you know, any CIA findings to shape his approach with Saudi Arabia?

MILLER: Well, a pattern of the President's reaction with the CIA has been clear. It seems to me he accepts the intelligence when it's convenient and rejects it when it's not. I think look, the decision no to the listen to that tape I think frankly creates the worst of both worlds for the President.

As he said, he has been briefed on the details, the horrible details of what happens to Jamal Khashoggi once he entered that consulate, and yet in not wanting to listen to it and fully embraces in a way he distances himself from it and somehow refuses to accept I think the responsibility for owning the fact that he has to find a way to hold Mohammed bin Salman accountable and his demonstrate a pattern of activity seems to mean which he wants to do precisely the opposite.

WHITFIELD: So you see a danger in not listening to it because it's kind of sanitized, you know, when you don't listen to it and perhaps if he did listen to it and heard how gruesome it would, that perhaps that might better influence his decisions about how to move forward with Saudi Arabia?

MILLER: Well, it is intriguing because he was moved personally back in April 2017 when he was briefed by the agency on the photographs of the impact of Syrian chemical weapons attacks on civilians. Apparently, he was moved emotionally.

WHITFIELD: Yes, at the time perhaps, you know, reportedly in his daughter is the one who, you know, said here's the picture. You have to do something about this.

MILLER: Right. So there is an emotional investment, I think. But I think the problem is broader than that. The U.S.-Saudi relationship is out of control. It's not just the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. It's the reckless and impulsive behavior on the part of the crowned prince over the last year-and-a-half which is I think undermined both U.S. interests and values.

We have a relationship with Saudi Arabia and it's important one. It needs to be maintained. But it's out of control and we need to re- inject a measure of balance and reciprocity into it.

WHITFIELD: And you know, yesterday, the President was asked about it before he, you know, went out to California and he essentially said, you know, we gain a lot out of Saudi Arabia. You know, jobs, you know, deals. You know, is the President struggling, you know, with the culpability of Khashoggi's murder and the value of Saudi Arabia's cooperation, you know, in so many things?

MILLER: Well, I think he is exaggerating what the Saudis can actually deliver. Job creation, modest. Arms sales frankly for this administration fairly modest. Role in containing Iran, very modest. And the Israeli-Palestinian peace process yet to be determined what Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudis can actually do.

The President, Fred, has invested heavily as has Jared Kushner personally in his relationship with Mohammed bin Salman. After all, where did the President go in his first foreign trip abroad, Saudi Arabia, which is frankly unprecedented. And I think he is looking for a way to maintain that relationship.

WHITFIELD: Aaron David Miller, always good to see you. Thank you very much.

MILLER: You too, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Next, an unexpected visitor crashes Michelle Obama's book tour. Well, now, we just told you who that is. But it's all in good fun mostly. Why the former first lady said she wishes President Obama would just speak up more.


[14:43:15] WHITFIELD: Well, it's the former first lady, Michelle Obama's book tour, but the crowd simply went wild as you saw right there in the D.C. area arena when former President Barack Obama surprised his wife on stage with flowers.

Michelle Obama's book, "Becoming,' is out and she is promoting it by dotting the map with these kinds of appearances.

Last night as she talked about how she and her husband are taking a moment to reflect on their time in the White House and how frustrated, you know, frankly she said she is with the current state of politics.

All right. Joining me right now is Desiree Barnes. She is a former aide for the Obama administration. Good to see you.

DESIREE BARNES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AIDE: Good to see you, too. Thanks for having me.

So Desiree, you know, this book and Michelle Obama's tour, you know, come at a really pivotal time. You know, the former first lady, you know, makes reference to so much discourse today and how important it is to be a class act. So what do you suppose it's like, you know, for audiences now to see her and to hear her messages like this and her book?

BARNES: Well, I think it's great that she is defining her own narrative. And I think she is just a testament that your political affiliation doesn't need to determine your decency towards others. And so, I think she is really leading by example and that's so important. WHITFIELD: CNN producer, you know, was in the audience and says, you

know, someone was yelling out, you know, we miss you. Former Obama, you know, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, you know, helped direct the interview. She was up on stage with Michelle Obama last night. And she has even reflected on how people in the administration really wanted to behave perfectly, how they wanted to, you know, have it perfect, you know. How did you see the Obamas kind of set the tone behavior for all of you who worked in the administration?

[14:45:00] BARNES: The wonderful part about working for the Obamas is that we didn't question their character or their judgment. And as a staffer, we could really just focus on doing the work to serve the American people. And so I think anyone who goes to work for the federal government knows how important it is to be above re-approach and really just focus on the work right in front of you and producing results.

WHITFIELD: And you know, Michelle Obama also said last night that, you know, she wishes her husband, you know, would speak out more on, you know, current political events and I'm quoting here now, you know, "there are so many times where I just want him like I know all of you to just curse them out and just say these things. And he is like well, that's not the point. You know the President is not the President for his own ego. The President is the President for the entire country. So we have to be very mindful of what we say and how we say it."

So, do you wish that the President would speak out or is this kind of exemplify the, you know, no drama Obama?

BARNES: Well, you know, I'm confident in the words that the former President put out there, but it remains to be said that over 22 Obama alumni have ran for office and won their elections. So it's not just about the voice of former President Barack Obama or Mrs. Obama, I think it is collectively, people using their voices and their own platforms to draw attention to the issues that matter.

WHITFIELD: And what did you personally lean, you know, about, you know, yourself, your responsibility, how to handle things by virtue of being part of that administration?

BARNES: I think work ethic was just a great learning lesson for me. It is just having consistent work ethic and being a team player. That was something that I personally learned. But I also have to say that, you know, there is young people out there who whether or not I choose to be a role model for them, but are seeking guidance. And so I tried to do my job as best as I could and pretty much just focused on the work in front of me. And that was the greatest lesson for me.

WHITFIELD: Desiree Barnes, good to see you. Thank you very much for being with us.

BARNES: Thank you very much for having me.

WHITFIELD: All right. Next, why the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor is stopping short of calling her Republican opponent's win legitimate.


[14:51:57] WHITFIELD: Former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is making it clear she is not going to walk away from what she calls an intentional destruction of the election process in her state. This weekend, she conceded the race to her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, who as Georgia's secretary of state oversaw the election in that position. He enforced some of the nation's most restrictive voting laws and was accused repeatedly before and during the campaign of seeking to suppress the minority vote.

Today on CNN, Abrams continued to alleged Kemp block eligible voters from voter rolls. And while she admitted he is the legal governor- elect, she declined to call him the legitimate winners.


STACEY ABRAMS (D), FORMER GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The law as it stands says that he received an adequate number of votes to become the governor of Georgia. And I acknowledged the law as it stands. I am a lawyer by training and I am someone who has taken a constitutional oath to uphold the law.

But we know sometimes the law does not do what it should. And that something being legal does not make it right. This is someone who has compromised our system. He has compromised our Democratic systems and that is not appropriate and therefore my admission is going to be to make certain no one else has to face this conversation.


WHITFIELD: Abrams plans to file a federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for quote "gross mismanagement of the gubernatorial election."

In Mississippi, a Senate race that was supposed to be an easy win for Republicans is now headed for a run off. Republican senator Cindy Hyde Smith raised controversy first by commenting that she would attend a public hanging if invited by a supporter. Then she had this to say on voter suppression.


SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: And then they remind me that there is a lot of liberal folks in those schools who that maybe we don't want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. So I think that's a great idea.


WHITFIELD: But she also has the President backing her, announcing that he will come to a rally next weekend. Hyde Smith is facing off against former Democratic congressman Mike Espy. And he is trying to become the state's first black senator since just after the civil war. That run off is set for November 27th.

All right. Much more ahead in the NEWSROOM. But first, here's this week's Staying Well.


COLLEEN BROUGH, DIRECTOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, RUNLAB: Without question, running is tough on the body. It is anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of all runners will get injured. Through running analysis, we are able to identify what part of the runner's form may be driving their injury.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have done some 10Ks, a few half marathons and the New York City marathon. I just go at my own pace so I know I'm not hurting myself or overdoing it. I was training and I started noticing knee pain and eventually it was happening within the first mile. I went to see a physical therapist. She did a gait analysis and she saw which areas of my form were weak.

[14:55:08] CARLY GRAHAM, PHYSICAL THERAPIST, FINISH LANE: What this opera can show is where your foot is hitting the ground, how much forces going through you.

Your forward lean, how much and loading the joints, a functional assessment on the ground and then looking at their postural alignment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I was leaning too far back when I was running, my hips were tilt incorrectly and then it was pulling my quad muscles which are pulling my knees and so she told me how to correct my form.

She has me doing a hip flexor stretch so that way it is opening up the front of my torso. She set me up with a bunch of exercises to do if I start to feel little pain. Usually if I make that adjustment, it goes away immediately. Hopefully my options are limitless.