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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump's Shifting Post-Election Moods & Messages; Showdown Looms Over Pelosi's Bid for Speaker; 2018 Midterm Elections; Trump Finished Written Answers to Mueller. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired November 18, 2018 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:22] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Angry and sullen behind the scenes, but the president insists all is fine.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very happy with almost all of my cabinet. Changes are made because they're always made.

KING: Plus, new attacks on the special counsel but also some long- awaited answers.

TRUMP: They didn't take long to do them and they were my answers. I don't need lawyers to do that.

KING: And who will lead House Democrats?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I happen to think that at this point, I'm the most qualified person to do that.

REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D), OHIO: This is the most diverse Congress we've ever had and our leadership should be diverse as well.

KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. To our viewers around the United States and the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

The president is mad at the election results, mad that special counsel's pointed questions, mad at some members of his cabinet and staff, but he stays a story detailing his doubts about the vice president is off base.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No, I don't question his loyalty at all. He is 100 percent loyal. It was a phony story. I doubt they had any sources, a typical "New York Times" phony story. Mike Pence is 100 percent, not even a doubt about it in my mind. He has been a trouper.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, Democrats keep adding to their new majority in the House. Yet despite winning have a spirited debate over who should lead them. Nancy Pelosi says her critics ignore her role in that big win and the value of her experience across the table from the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: I have a broad base of support in the country, financially, politically and otherwise, which is valuable to our caucus. None of us is indispensable, but some of us are just better at our jobs than others. I want women to see that you do not get pushed around and you don't run away from the fight.

(END VIDEO LCLIP)

KING: And Mueller time, as the investigations gear up after the election season lull, Trump allies believe there's bad news coming and the president's public comments are at odds with the deep, private concerns about the specificity of the special counsel's questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I write answers. My lawyers don't write answers, I write answers. I was asked a series of questions. I answered them very easily. Very easily.

I'm sure they're tricked up because, you know, they like to catch people, gee, 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 perjured himself, OK?

So, yes, you have to always 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. OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfield Davis with "The New York Times", Michael Shear at "The New York Times", "Bloomberg's" Sahil Kapur, and CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

We begin with the president and his shifting post-election moods and messages. In California yesterday, an up-close look at the unthinkable, including a town literally scorched off the map by one of that state's devastating wildfires. The state's Democratic governor and governor-elect at the president's side, politics forgotten for a day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Jerry and I have speaking and Gavin and I have now gotten to know each other. And we're all going to work together and we'll do a real job. This is very sad to see.

It's going to work out -- it's going to work out well. But right now, we want to take care of the people that are so badly hurt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president also took time to meet privately with those affected by the recent nightclub massacre in Thousand Oaks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This has been a tough day when you look at all the death from one place to the next. And then we leave from here. That was a tragic event that took place.

I want to thank you. You stayed with us. This is a long day for you also. I just felt this is something we had to do and I'm very glad we did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A reassuring tone and message to close a week in which angry and restless were the words most often used to describe a president said to be stewing about election results, special counsel and several members of his own team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

I'm very happy. I'm very happy with the White House. I'm extremely happy with our country. We're doing better when the economy -- maybe it's the best economy we've ever had.

I'm very happy with almost all of my cabinet. And, you know, changes are made because they're always made, especially after midterms.

[08:05:02] But it's all fake news. It's -- it is -- I'm thrilled with the way the country is going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: My big question, if you watched the president yesterday, was that a one-off, if you will? A kindler, gentler tone, understanding he's there for tragedy, Democratic governor, governor-elect also decided not to push too hard on their differences or is, as time passes and he not just stews about the election results, processes them, is he going to try to change his tone? Is that asking too much?

JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I think you can never tell with this president whether he is going to -- whether something is going to be a consistent theme that he's picking up, or whether this is a one-off. I mean, what we've seen in the past is that he has maybe a moment or two of, you know, putting things aside and then he always comes back to this real sense of grievance and that it's him against everyone else, and particularly in a situation like the one in California where there's this massive devastation and there's been all this death. Hundreds of people are still missing. I think he got that he had to put on a more unified face for the

country when he went and did that visit. But that said, he did make those comments about forest management, raking the forest floor and sort of tiptoeing back toward that theme that he brought up last week of, you know, that these fires are really the results of mismanagement by the state of California, which you might imagine that's something that he said, because that is a state that is primarily and now almost entirely led by Democrats.

KING: The governor and governor-elect think he's uninformed or misinformed when it comes to the fires. They decided not to poke that yesterday. In addition to the forest management questions and the raking, if you will, which they say not just what's happened out there, not even close is what they say.

The president was asked -- Governor Brown has been very clear. He believes the hotter, drier conditions, or at least in part, are because of climate change and the fires were devastating because of climate change. The president was asked about this. He's talked about the differences with Governor Brown's and his own approach. This is Trump, I guess, if you will, trademark.

Maybe not as different as people think. Is it happening? Things are changing. And I think most importantly, we're doing things about it. We're going to make it better. We're going to make it a lot better and it's going to happen as quickly as it can possibly happen. And I think, you know, one thing that all of us noticed today and I see how great our first responders and our law enforcement, FEMA, FEMA, FEMA.

So, he says not as different as people. Actually, he is A and Jerry Brown is Z when it comes to position on climate change. We're doing a lot about it. Most people would look at EPA and other regulations and say, sorry, sir, you're not. Then he pivots immediately. Let's talk about something else.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's classic Trump. He is toeing the line there because we know that he disagrees with Jerry Brown on this, tweets at him often being highly critical. When he's there in person and in the face of this devastation, he doesn't want to get into an argument in person, face-to-face. That is classic Trump.

So, there he toes the line to where he doesn't change his position on climate change and he doesn't answer the question, yes or no. He says things are happening. That's very classic Trump in the face of that.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. And the thing that we've learned about this president is that he gets triggered by things, right? So, there weren't a lot of triggers while he's on the road in California that are going to set him off. But the problem is, when he gets back to Washington, you know, he's facing the Mueller questions, which they're still working on.

They'll have to turn back in this week and then there's going to be the kind of repercussions of that. He's facing the staff shake-ups, congressional lame duck session where he is going to deal with the budget and the wall funding and the possible shutdown, and all of this triggers his outbursts and his moods. That's, I think, why you saw kind of a different president for a moment yesterday and in all likelihood we won't see that again.

KING: To that point, you always ask the question after a midterm drubbing, does the president change his way? Does he double down? Is it full combat? Does he go for conciliatory language?

Listen to yesterday, you mentioned the lame duck Congress. The president has said in the past, I'll shut down the government if I don't get my wall funding. I agreed to not do it last night, this is my last chance this year, here's his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're talking about the border wall. We're talking about quite a big sum of money, about $5 million. And I think probably if I was ever going to do a shut down over border security, when you look at the caravan, when you look at the mess, when you look at the people coming in, this would be a very good time to do a shutdown. I don't think it's going to be necessary because I think the Democrats will come to their senses. And if they don't come to their senses, we will continue to win elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I'm not sure who the "we" is there. The Republicans just got drubbed in the midterms. Maybe he's thinking ahead to 2020. But good time for government shutdown?

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Well, he said very similar things in the past and he always gets pulled back from the brink, you know, at the end of the day by his party leaders who just say there's no way forward here. This is his last chance to do it before Democrats take the House and they're going to demand a much higher prices if that is the case.

So, it's unclear to me whether President Trump has a negotiating tactic from A to Z here, if he is willing to give up something that he believes that, you know, House Democrats will accept for it, they will give him his wall.

[08:10:01] The question is what they get in return.

With regard to the wildfire, I just want to say briefly, there is a pattern with President Trump that he offers very simple answers to complicated problems. You know, economic prospects are slipping, don't blame wage stagnation and the complexities of globalization, blamed the lousy politicians who cut bad trade deals, you see crime happening, blame immigration.

In this case, he's saying, wildfires -- you know, sorry, I want to say democracy as well. You see democracy slipping away, blame Democrats and illegal voting.

So, in this case, he's saying wildfires, don't blame climate change, don't blame the systematic climate shift that we are exacerbating and not really doing anything about. It's a simple answer. It's an answer, and it works. And, you know, people hear it.

KING: And he doesn't like to be pushed. We know that. One of the global challenges he faced is how to respond to the Jamal Khashoggi murder by the Saudis. The president got his briefing on a way out to the wildfires, he's got a briefing from the CIA. The reporting is the CIA has concluded the crown prince knew, the crown prince ordered. The State Department, the Department of State, and yesterday saying there's no final conclusion, meaning that government-wide, there's no final conclusion.

But the CIA told the president yesterday, we think the crown prince ordered this. Listen to the president, he's trying to, says, we'll be tough but --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Killing of a journalist, a very, very bad situation, Khashoggi, and somebody who was respected. It should never have happened. And we'll be having a very full report over the next two days. Probably Monday or Tuesday, we'll have --

REPORTER: The CIA has assessed that MBS was behind it?

TRUMP: They haven't assessed anything yet. That was a very premature report but that's possible. In the meantime, we're doing things to some people that we know for a fact were involved and we're being very tough on a lot of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's clear from other answers that he does not want to have to sanction the crown prince directly, that he does not want to have a big break in the relationship with the crown prince. He's trying to do other things, and correct me if I'm wrong, run out the clock a little bit here. Bob Corker, one of his fierce critics, about to leave the Senate, hoping the holidays pass and you come back and the temperature goes down on this.

COLLINS: Yes, the White House has wanted nothing more than to put this behind them. And we've known for weeks now that President Trump does not want to hold the crown prince directly responsible because he thinks the Saudi relationship with the U.S. is so valuable. Not only in regards to oil but also Iran.

But it's interesting to me that on Friday night, "The Washington Post" publishes that the CIA has assessed that that MBS not only knew about it, but ordered the killing of this reporter and President Trump is not getting briefed about it until he's on his flight to California on Saturday. The most obvious logical conclusion on Friday was that if the CIA has gotten this far to where the CIA is assessing this, President Trump knows about it, because he met with the CIA director upon her return from Turkey.

So, how come he didn't get brief by Pompeo and by Haspel until on Saturday when he's on his way to California? The president also kept saying that we've been told, MBS, the crown prince, did not play a role in this. They've assessed, according to what the CIA sources have said, that multiple outlets have confirmed that he was the one who ordered it.

So, the president seems to be trying to get around that. It's just what we continue to see more with this administration. They're trying to put this behind them. They do not want to hold the Saudi crown prince responsible personally and saying that these sanctions are enough.

KING: Sometimes you see in this national security thing, the leaks are often designed to nudge the leader along if the leader doesn't want to go where some other people think he should go. We'll keep an eye on that one. He says Monday or Tuesday. So, we'll have more on that the week ahead.

Up next, Nancy Pelosi takes on her critics and takes note of the fact that most of them are men.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:17:35] KING: Welcome back.

Nancy Pelosi is still short votes in her campaign to be the next speaker of the house but no thank you is the response to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will help Nancy Pelosi if she needs some votes. She may need some votes. I will perform a wonderful service for her. I like her. Can you believe it? I like Nancy Pelosi. I mean, she's tough and she's smart, but she deserves to be speaker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Those unwelcomed gifts in Washington here.

Pelosi met face-to-face with one potential challenger Friday, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge. She emerged to say she is willing to back Pelosi if Pelosi offers a specific timetable for a transition to a younger leadership.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FUDGE: What she asked me was basically how we could get to a point where I could be supportive. I think there is, yes, but it's going to take some.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Congresswoman Fudge is among the Democrats who have signed a letter demanding new leadership. Pelosi played hardball in her response to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PELOSI: You have to ask those people what their motivation is. I think of the 17, it's mostly like 14 men who are on that letter. If, in fact, there is any misogyny involved in it, it's their problem. Not mine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That last part and the pause between 14 -- men. Number one, she plays hardball, don't underestimate her. Number two, that she had to do that, though, that she feels she had to do that tells you she doesn't have the votes today.

DAVIS: Well, it does. If you take that group at their word, if you look at the list of members who are on that letter, it is obvious looking at the margins that if the vote were held today and all of those people did not say the name Pelosi, she would not be able to become speaker because she could not get to 218 votes.

But she clearly doesn't think that that's going to happen. And she's doing everything in her power right now to make sure that it doesn't. One of the things is to sort of call out, what she's calling sort of the sexism that's involved in here. She is the first woman ever to hold the post as speaker of the house. She wants to have that role again. She's really playing up the idea that this is, you know, the majority of the people that are out there saying she should not have the job are men.

But it's fascinating to watch this fight because you have the gender divide. You also have the element of race here. Marcia Fudge is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

[08:20:00] They think that if there were a vacancy at the top, they should have one of the top two roles. There's also the politics of sort of LGBTQ rights. One of the knocks that opponents of Marcia Fudge have brought up in the wake of her name being put forward as a possible opponent to Nancy Pelosi is that they say that she's been insufficiently supportive of gay rights and she doesn't support a piece of legislation to include gay rights in overall civil rights protections.

So, it's just been fascinating to watch how these fissures have sort of divided the caucus. It's not clear what the path toward unity is. But it seems very clear that Nancy Pelosi is playing very hardball politics to figure out how to mend all those divisions.

KING: And one of the audit yens she's targeting is newly elected Democrats, and part of her argument is, this was a progressive year. My critics, Marcia Fudge included, are to my right. Why would you take the party right? Why would you let men, after this year of the woman, telling you what to do?

Listening to the freshmen, it's pretty interesting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY STEVENS (D), MICHIGAN CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: At this time, Nancy Pelosi does not have my support. We're waiting to see if somebody else is going to emerge a challenger. I'm not making any voting commitments at this time. I'm looking for a new generation of leadership.

JEFF VAN DREW (D), NEW JERSEY CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: We have to see how this all develops, obviously. But it does mean that I wouldn't be voting for her, either on the floor or in caucus.

MIKIE SHERILL (D), NEW JERSEY CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: I made a commitment to my district that I would not be supporting Nancy Pelosi.

REPORTER: What will you do if there's not another candidate?

SHERILL: Well, then, we just -- like I said, that's why, you know, we'll have to see how we move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Welcome to Washington.

COLLINS: Yes.

KAPUR: There are two buckets of opposition to Nancy Pelosi's -- you know, the issues she's dealing with here. Few enemies she has made over 15 years as Democratic leader. Someone like Seth Moulton would be the most prominent of them.

But the bigger problem she has is a bunch of Democrats who just won in this red and purple districts, Republican-leaning areas, where the chief attack on them, if not one of the main attacks on them was that if you elect this Democrat, then Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaker. A lot of them distanced themselves from her.

So, are they going to be able to stomach vote and are they going to be able to perhaps vote yes or vote no in the caucus vote, where she will easily get a majority and maybe vote a different way on the floor? Are they going to be able to slice that?

That's someone like Jason Crowe, Abigail Spanberger. They have not -- they're not outwardly trying to sink her, but they have said, they made a promise to their districts.

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: Well, I love the Democrats are the party of we want women in charge just not this woman in charge.

But back to President Trump, that was really fascinating watching him say he wants Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House, and I think it's because whoever is going to be the Democratic house speaker will be a counterpoint to President Trump. And he knows that, and he knows Nancy Pelosi, so he knows what he's dealing with, with her.

He doesn't want some younger figure to emerge that can really be a counterpoint to President Trump in Washington. So, that's why we see him pushing her. But saying he could get her Republican votes if she needs them is

laughable. And I'm sure Republicans watching that had their eyes bulging, because they just ran saying she is this horrible, scary, liberal figure and if they vote for her, they're almost certainly going to be primaried. So it's so fascinating to see President Trump say he would be able to get Republican votes for her.

KING: I think mischief. Put that one in the file of mischief.

SHEAR: It's also true that the divisions that Julie talked about within the Democratic caucus in the House are more broadly than divisions in the Democratic Party writ large. So, as the president faces the 2020 campaign, he wants to stoke those divisions.

COLLINS: Yes.

SHEAR: And make sure that those help to divide the Democratic Party.

KING: You have it in the Republican Party, on Democratic Party, especially after winning. That means more people at the table. Think about Thanksgiving. Gets interesting.

Up next, the final midterm verdicts still not in, but almost. Republicans take the governors' races in Florida and in Georgia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GOVERNOR NOMINEE: This is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. The title of governor isn't nearly as important as our shared title, voters. And that is why we fight on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:28:20] KING: Welcome back.

The midterm election counting and recounting continues today. But we are much closer now to understanding the final verdict. Florida has a deadline in its Senate race recount later today. Republican Rick Scott continues to lead there. Republican Brian Kemp is now certain to be Georgia's next governor. Democrat Stacey Abrams acknowledged that late Friday.

And this map, the House map is almost complete. This is where we are in terms of called races, 231 Democrats, 200 Republicans will be in the next Congress. If you look at 39 pickups, minus 3 there. So, Democrats right now, a net gain of 36 seats.

Let's look at races, though, that we haven't called yet. Juts a few left on the board. Let's take a look, leading only, four left. Let me take these here. See they're not called. So we make them ahead.

Four left. Two where Republicans are leading narrowly in Georgia and in Utah. Two were Democrats are leading in New Mexico and in California. It is a possibility if the Democrat holds this seat that Republicans get wiped out in Orange County. We know Republicans, when it comes to the House -- let me turn this off -- have already been wiped out in New England.

See this blue down here in South Florida, that was two Republican districts, now gone to the Democrats. So, Democrats on path to get close to 40 seats when this is said and done. Talk to the Democrats who won, some Republicans who lost, they say thank you, Mr. President.

(BEGINVIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Orange County is a new blue. Donald Trump has made everything about him these last two years. A large part of this election was a rebuke of the president.

REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), FLORIDA: The president has to sharpen his pencil and check his ego. The fact is that in many districts like mine, the president was not helpful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:29:56] KING: You've got to love that from Ted Lieu, orange is the new blue.

It is -- when you look at the map, and the President grumbled a little bit more yesterday about what about the Senate? And it's true, Republicans are going to pick up a couple of seats in the senate. They had a very favorable map.

Some Republican thought they could have done better than that. But it's true, they're going to pick up a couple in the Senate. That helps with judges. It helps with other issues.

But when you look at the House and the transformation, particularly in suburban America, do the Republicans understand, I guess, the depth of their problem? Are they just going to say this is just Trump or they understand we have a problem?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD-DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think Republicans understand the depth of the problem. I'm pretty sure the President does not. But I think a lot of Republicans, if you talk to them candidly, they understand that this phenomenon of having lost the suburbs and having lost particularly college-educated women in some of these areas of the country, it could be fatal to them if they don't figure out a way to bounce back from that, if they don't figure out a way to better appeal to those kinds of voting groups, which basically you cannot win elections without. At least in the house map.

I mean you could argue, looking at the results from these midterms, that you can still win Senate races in places -- in red states where there are large, rural communities that offset those losses. But as a strategy going forward, as a party, if they sentence themselves to only being able to win those places, they are not going to be able to be successful and I think that that has sunk in. KING: And you mentioned you don't know does the President get it. We

know he did something remarkable, which is he public scorned on Republican candidates who distanced themselves including Congressman Curbelo, we just showed you. He said he got no love from Mia Love. She's actually pulled ahead in her race. That one was not called when the President threw her under the bus and she may actually come back in the new congress. We'll watch. We're still counting the votes there.

But this just jumps out to you. Remember, the President lost the popularity vote to Hillary Clinton. You know, his explanation. Republicans took a drumming in the House, they lost six or seven governors' races, this is the President of the United States.

"The Republicans don't win, and that's because of potentially illegal votes. I've had friends talk about it when people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It's really a disgrace what's going on. The disgrace is that voter ID, if you buy, you know, a box of cereal, if you do anything, you have a voter ID."

Race your hand -- is there one clown car out there somewhere in America who has tried changing his clothes to go back and vote a few times.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Maybe.

KING: Are races being split because people are getting in line waiting 15, 20 minutes voting, getting in the car and changing, doing it again and again and again and again?

(CROSSTALK)

KAPUR: There's no evidence of any of that.

KING: Give me a break.

KAPUR: Races are being split because the suburbs abandoned Trump in a major way. I just -- in 2016, President Trump won white college graduates by three points. Republicans in the House won white college graduates by 10 points.

In 2018 Democrats won white college graduates by eight points. That's a massive shift and this is a bloc that Republicans have historically been able to rely on. And this is why we saw so many seats from Orange County California to the suburbs of Dallas and Houston flipped red to blue for the first time.

And do you know who definitely understands that? Republican politicians in the suburbs.

Now the flip side of that is that President Trump has been able to help Republicans run up the score in rural areas two to one, three to one which is why Ohio is now becoming a red state, which is why Ron DeSantis pulled out the governorship in Florida. Lots of rural areas there.

In the Panhandle he was winning three to one in several, you know, important counties that are populous. So this is a bifurcation we see. Republicans are running up the score rural areas, Democrats are running up the score in metropolitan, blue, suburban areas.

Is that going to be enough for Republicans though in 2020?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But I think in response to President Trump's claims that there are people changing their clothes, CNN's (INAUDIBLE) had a remark on that. He said he saw three kids going to vote in wearing a trench coat, standing on top of one another.

But it is the President trying to sow doubt here. And he's walking a line with this. He's not saying people vote illegally, he said potentially illegal votes.

KING: Right.

COLLINS: So he's walking that line where he's not declaring outright that this happened as he did after 2016, when he said that there were three to five million votes cast illegally. But it is the President trying to sow doubt.

And I think this is a sign of what's to come when the President is up for reelection.

KING: Right.

COLLINS: We saw how he and his allies responded to this saying -- especially to the recounts in Florida which they were so critical of that in the end are turning out in their favor. And so I do think it's a sign of what's to come though.

KING: And the Democrats have a challenge, too. There are three big national icons in this campaign year, if you will. Beto O'Rourke, Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum lost.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": They all lost.

KING: They all lost. But they established themselves are rising stars in the party. The question is what next. But in the case of Georgia, you have, a, the President being suddenly really nice to them which is part of the interesting wrinkle to Stacey Abrams and to Andrew Gillum.

But listen in Georgia, the Democrats -- you talk to the President he said there was fraud in Florida. The President says people get in their cars and change and the like. Democrats are saying this election in Georgia was stolen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I know Stacey well. She was one of my really strong surrogates in the campaign. If she had a fair election, she already would have won.

SENATOR SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: If Stacey Abrams doesn't win in Georgia, they stole it. It's clear. It's clear.

[08:34:56] SENATOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I think that Stacey Abrams election is being stolen from her using what I think are insidious measures to disenfranchise certain groups of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, their argument is voting rights, suppression of votes, intimidation. But it's a difficult balance after an election. You know, the new governor is going to take office. He's a Republican. How do you handle this?

SHEAR: And look, part of it goes back to this bifurcation that Kahil was talking about. The country is being sort of sorted into, you know, much redder places, much bluer places. I grew up in -- I went to college in southern California. I spent a lot of time in Richmond, Virginia. two suburbs that are completely changing.

And so the benefit for Democrats is in places in the House, and in some places like Virginia, that may turn more blue in a presidential race but it means that the other parts of the country are getting redder. And that's where a candidate like Stacey Abrams has more trouble as a result.

And the Democrats, you know, can try the tactic of blaming voter suppression and some of these issues and no doubt some of that stuff is going on. But it's just much more difficult when they are running in these kinds of red places to kind of change the dynamic.

KING: I do think we will see in the House voting rights a big issue of the new Democratic majority; and number two, this issue has one more, Mississippi runoff. There's a Mississippi runoff still to come -- African-American Democratic candidate. We'll watch as that one plays out.

The President -- when we come back -- finishes his take home test from the special counsel. And something about it makes him very angry.

[08:36:26] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The President spent several hours this past week with his lawyers, answering the written questions of the special counsel Robert Mueller. The answers will be officially submitted this week, the President says, adding it was no big deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You have to always 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. Ok?

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: The mood behind the scenes, though, was anything but routine. The President tells allies he's convinced the special counsel is gunning for him and gunning for his son, Don Jr. His lawyers wrestled with the answers, I'm told, because of the specificity of some questions about then-candidate or President-Elect President Trump's calls and meetings.

And while the President's spoken words were fairly calm, his tweets made clear his anxiety. For example, he called Mueller's investigators, "thugs", that the inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. And absent any evidence, claimed the Mueller team is screaming at witnesses and threatening them.

But it's routine. All is calm.

COLLINS: And he's not agitated at all, despite saying in all caps that it's the worst witch hunt in American history. I think that's why we've seen the President's agitation resurface is primarily because he did have several hours of meetings with these lawyers, including on Monday when he got that criticism for not going out to Arlington Cemetery. He has been meeting with them.

So it's back on his mind and during -- ahead of the midterms, he was able to push it off until after the midterms because they didn't believe the special counsel was going to make any moves ahead of the election. And so President Trump really wasn't number one on his mind. But now it's back here.

However I do think we're making some progress by having the President say that he has completed the answers to these questions, that they're submitting them in the coming days is what he said yesterday, speaking with reporters. And that's after a year of negotiations between the special counsel and the President's legal team, despite the changes in the legal team, over whether or not he's going to sit down, whether he's going to answer these questions.

But then the question after that is does he want to still do an interview in person after he gets these written answers and where we go from there?

KING: Right. And if you -- again, internally they think that, you know, they had a shut down 60 days around the election. It's not just Bob Mueller. There's the special -- southern district of New York, excuse me. Inside the White House they didn't think it was an accident that Michael Cohen, the President's long-time fixer was brought down to Washington for more conversations this week.

They delayed the hearing in the Manafort case. He's now cooperating. At White House they took that as a message the special counsel is saying let's have the answers.

HIRSCHFELD-DAVIS: Well, and if you listen to what the President said in the oval office, you know, he talked about weather. And like, if he got the weather wrong that will be a problem. And if you had bad intentions, you could, you know, you could accuse him of having lied about that. That's obviously not the risk here. The risk is, and he knows it and his lawyers certainly know it, that he is actually going to have answered erroneously or falsely on something much bigger, on you know, a phone call that he did or didn't have, who that phone call might have been with, a meeting that he might have been there for or been aware of or took or didn't take.

And so he knows that the stakes are much higher than just these little detailed things that he might get wrong. And that is what has him on edge. And as you point out, the fact that Mueller is kind of hanging back and holding a lot of cards, both in his own investigation and, of course, the southern district, as you say, continues to hangover this whole situation.

He doesn't know still all of what Mueller has, despite his comments earlier this week saying that, you know, inside the Mueller investigation he knows what's going on. He really doesn't and that is part of what has him so on edge.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That could be --

KAPUR: We're going to see a Democratic House that has subpoena power. So this has taken on a life of its own. And you know, if they see something fishy there, then they can follow up on it.

KING: Right. They can, the Democrats -- and technically Rudy Giuliani is still the President's lead lawyer. The ones who are doing the actual detailed work and the questions and answers, are I'm told kind of annoyed at Rudy Giuliani for being out publicly talking.

But he told the "Washington Post", quote, "There are some", meaning the questions for the President, "there are some that create more issues for us legally than others. Some were unnecessary. Some were possible traps."

[08:44:59] I keep going back to the point -- now Robert Mueller is not going to trap the President in was it raining that day or not -- the weather question. That's absurd.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: So if you're -- if there -- if you've got nothing to worry about, why is he taking so long? And what could possibly be a trap if you did nothing wrong?

SHEAR: Well, part of -- I mean Julie's right that the President and his lawyers don't have 100 percent visibility into this investigation but the questions themselves that would have come -- that came to the President are probably the best indication, or move that ball forward in the sense of communicating to Trump and his lawyers, you know, some of the detailed stuff that the special counsel has been assembling.

And that has got to be unnerving to them because when you all of a sudden are forced to answer not sort of generality questions about did you or didn't you? Is there or isn't there collusion? But rather specific questions about did you participate in this meeting at this specific time or on this call?

And it's clear, you know, by the question that they have detailed records that they've been -- you know, that the special counsel has been looking at. That's got to be what they're trying to be very careful about.

KING: And there's been some grumbling on Capitol Hill that we need to protect Bob Mueller because the new acting attorney general was on the record before he took the job as saying that there's any prospect that happens in the lame duck.

KAPUR: This is where we get back to the prospect of a shut down. Chuck Schumer in the Senate has demanded that if Matt Whitaker, the acting AG does not recuse himself, that there be a provision in the government funding bill ahead of the December 7th shut down deadline, you know, to force that to happen. To prevent him from interfering in any way.

It's possible. I wouldn't say it's likely. I don't think Democrats have a huge appetite for this, but I don't think this is a fight -- this is a fight that they're going to back down from.

KING: One of the fights we'll see in the days ahead.

Our reporter's share from their notebooks next, including a possible exception to the rule that being Donald Trump means never having to say you're sorry.

[08:46:42] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's head one more time around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our reporters to share a little something from their notebooks, help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.

Julie.

HIRSCHFELD-DAVIS: Well, I'm looking forward to the lame duck Congress that we're going to see come back after the holiday and some of the lame duck Republicans who lost their races a couple of weeks ago and are going to be in a position to have to take their final votes when Congress reconvenes.

And it will be interesting to see, first of all, whether some of them show up at all. They've lost their races and some of them were dissed by name by the President of the United States in the East Room the day after they lost -- Barbara Comstock, Carlos Curbelo, Mike Kaufman of Colorado.

And what will be interesting to see is, you know, if they're in a position where Republicans have to take some tough votes, some issues where Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan need to hold the party together on things like President Trump's wall, will they be willing to go out on a limb and support those things now that they've been insulted by name by the President and they're on their way out the door? KING: Good luck.

Michael.

SHEAR: Thanksgiving is a time to be with our family but when President Trump does Thanksgiving, it's down in Mar-a-Lago and it's a time for a lot of executive time. So that means time to tweet, time to potentially stew about all of the things that he has to do.

You'll remember a lot of things happen when he goes down there. Back last year, it was in Mar-a-Lago when he tweeted about the former President Obama wiretapping him. So, we'll be looking for does he fire Kirstjen Nielsen or John Kelly? Does he tweet about Bob Mueller? Will he do something else that we just don't know about? Will he make a comment about a world leader. Will he issue new immigration proclamations?

He will be down there almost an entire week and that's plenty of time to cause some mischief.

KING: Some of those tweets I remember in the 5:00 a.m. hour.

SHEAR: They are.

KING: Get up early, folks.

Sahil.

KAPUR: John -- Democratic strategists are telling me that the biggest lesson 2018 taught them about how to take on President Trump is quite simple don't let him define the debate. Don't take the bait.

In 2016 they were happy to play on his turf when he wanted to argue about stopping refugees and immigration, about the Muslim ban, about his inflammatory rhetoric. They thought that would help them. It turns out there was a method to all of that. It helped President Trump and Democrats lost.

In 2018 they played it differently. They ignored his late warnings about the caravan and they decided to fight on economic issues like health care and taxes. And it worked. They beat him on those things.

And that's the lesson they're taking going forward. They think that's going to be especially critical to winning back the upper Midwestern states in the Rust Belt, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that will probably decide the next presidential election.

KING: We'll see if all their candidates follow that list or decide the way to get attention is to pick a fight with the President. We shall see.

Kaitlan.

COLLINS: I just wanted to take a moment to look back at something that President Trump did this week that we rarely, if ever, see him do. And that is admit a mistake. During this interview, President Trump said that he should have gone to Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day which he didn't because he had just returned to that trip to Paris marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I where he did visit a military cemetery and did make brief remarks.

But he had nothing on his schedule on Monday, which raised a lot of questions from critics asking why he didn't make the trip out to Arlington, which is a short drive from the White House.

And he says, quote, "In retrospect, I should have done that," and he says that going forward, he say virtually every year he will do it going forward.

But it is so rare to see the President admit that he did something or that should have done something differently. Because apologizing or admitting mistake is essentially the opposite of the Trump playbook, as you'll look back to Access Hollywood, when he apologized for that, he later told he regretted apologizing for that.

So it's really rare to see the President do something about it, especially something like this, that did cause some negative headlines but not an uproar as what we've seen with things he's done in the past. But he does say he wished he had done this differently.

KING: Kudos to Chris Wallace for pressing him on that.

I'll close with a little more on the lame duck calculations especially those of a powerful man you might call "Senator No". Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is his real title.

In the past week, he's told the President no, the Senate most likely will not vote on that criminal justice reform compromise brokered by the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

[08:55:01] McConnell also told the Chamber of Commerce no, when it pressed him for lame duck action on infrastructure and immigration reform. Leader McConnell says, there's little time and his priority is passing a government spending plan and confirming more judges, period.

But there more to the nos than a tight calendar. The leader knows he will be forced to compromise a lot more once the Democrats take the house in January. So, in his view, why ask Republicans to cast tough votes now and why give away big bargaining chips now when there are tougher days ahead?

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We're here at noon Eastern.

Up next, don't go anywhere. "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER". Among his guests -- Senator Jeff Flake and the former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

Have a great Sunday.

[08:55:45] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)