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Democrats Sweep Orange County as Pelosi Faces Speakership Opposition; White House Threatens to Revoke Jim Acosta's Press Pass Again; Trump Won't Listen to Khashoggi Audio Tape Because It's "Very violent and Very Vicious". Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 19, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:33:27] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: History being made in southern California after Democrats sweep all seven House districts in Orange County, which was traditionally Reagan Republican county. The first time in decades all seven seats have been held by Democrats, flipping four in this midterm to help Democrats win back the majority.

If you need a color chart to show you, look at your TV right now, which has of course -- which, of course, has all eyes once again on another California Democrat. The Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, and her fight to become House speaker once again. She said she's confident. She's still running unopposed, but she still is facing opposition from within her own caucus. What is going to happen?

Joining me, Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator, former communications director for Ted Cruz. She's here. And Joe Lockhart is a CNN political commentator, who was press secretary for Bill Clinton.

Great to see you guys.

Alice, let's start in Orange County first. Is that former Republican stronghold gone forever?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look at that map, Kate, and it's pretty safe to say there was definitely a blue wave in Orange County. And you know, to be honest, look, Democrats can claim a huge victory. That's the birthplace of modern conservative movement and Reagan conservatives. They took it over, but the reality is this has been in the works for quite some time. There's been a loss of GOP fundraising, and the grassroots has really dwindled. And certainly, President Trump really helped expedite the process of voting in Democrats in an area. If you look at the big picture, what we saw from the election, the Democratic Party has shifted. It's more urban, Latino, and coastal. That hurts the Democrats in places like Missouri, but as we see, it's very helpful in a state like California. Specifically there in Orange County.

[11:35:09] BOLDUAN: Joe, if this is a wake-up call for Republicans, what message does it send for Democrats if they don't want this to be a one-time thing? JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's a

movement. Orange County used to be Reagan Democrats. Then it moved to Schwarzenegger Republicans. I don't know that anyone in Orange County has moved. It's the Republican Party that's moved. It is now bicoastal, and although they're spreading. Democrats need to do what they did in the midterm elections, focus on issues people care about. That's why they took over there.

BOLDUAN: That's what's interesting about what happened in Orange County.

Alice, it wasn't just an anti-Trump vote against Trump in terms of style and tone. In California, especially there, it was also about policy. The Democrats here, they ran against the Republican tax cut because obviously, it hit people in California pretty hard. Is that easier or harder to overcome than it is running away from an unpopular President Trump?

STEWART: You have to look at all of these congressional races, independent races are not a one size fits all. The people that ran in this county wisely would have looked at the policies that are important to people in that district. And unfortunately, a lot of the Republicans, like it or not, they were coordinated and looped in as Trump candidates, whether they tried to or not. And the more they embraced the Trump policies, as we can see, the more it hurt them. And in this area, and largely throughout California, the surge of immigrants has really impacted the voting patterns. As we see more Hispanics and Latinos come, those votes generally go more Democrat. It's incumbent upon Republicans in California and across the country in these Congressional districts to realize it's about policies and curtailing your campaign message to exactly what the voters in your area want.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask about the fight for the speaker's gavel, Joe. There are now 18 Democrats who have said they will oppose Nancy Pelosi for speaker. But every day that goes by without an actual challenger against Nancy Pelosi for the speaker's gavel, does this -- is this anything more than a statement of protest then? If there's no one to challenge her --

LOCKHART: It's not a serious challenge, like an election where you can choose between one candidate and another. They're trying to work, I think, use the leverage of the speaker's election to change some of the rules, to gain more influence. On one level, this makes a lot of sense. The Democratic leadership has to get younger and more diverse. But what the Democrats need most now is a steady hand to make sure that the next two years go well. And that's why there isn't someone stepping out. You know, I just -- I also think if you look at this election and you look at over 100 women getting elected, for a bunch of kind of back-bench male Democrats to come out and criticize Nancy Pelosi while not being willing to step out themselves --


BOLDUAN: Step up and run. LOCKHART: -- it's a little ridiculous. They're also putting a lot of

these swing state Congressional district incoming freshman in a tough spot. The first two years --


BOLDUAN: Yes, I keep inviting them on to ask that question.

LOCKHART: You know, at the end of the day, there's a solution, which is she only has to get a majority of the people voting yea or nay.


LOCKHART: You can stay true to the fact I'm not supporting her by voting present. I think that's what's going to happen. I also think it's a disease in Washington that the people want people to pay attention to them. That's what some of these guys are doing.

BOLDUAN: You know who want to be paid attention to when it comes to the speaker's gavel? Donald Trump, Alice. He wants to help Nancy Pelosi. He likes her and he wants to whip votes for her. Does he really think Nancy Pelosi is that great of a foil for the next election?

STEWART: She has been a tremendous foil for Republicans. You go across this country, and many Republicans say, I'm going to vote against anyone who supports Pelosi's policies. But as powerful as President Trump is, I don't think he has the power to sway Republicans to support her because they know that would be the ticket to defeat in their re-election campaign.

BOLDUAN: It might not help. I'm just saying. It might not help. I might not be so smart in the world of politics, but it might be tough for a Republican to do that.

Great to see you guys. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Kate.

[11:39:27] BOLDUAN: Coming us for us, CNN requests an emergency hearing after the White House threatens to revoke Correspondent Jim Acosta's press pass again. Details on that ahead.


BOLDUAN: Back to court. Following the judge's initial ruling on Friday in the case of CNN's lawsuit against the Trump White House, the White House issued a new warning to CNN's Jim Acosta saying his press credentials be revoked again at the end of the month. Now, the two sides could be headed back to the courtroom.

Here with me now is CNN senior media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, for more on this.

The judge made a ruling. The White House offers up a new threat, if you will. What is happening? What is going on? BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE

SOURCES": Essentially, the judge on Friday said you, the administration, did not provide due process to Jim Acosta. You just took his pass away with no warning. So what's the White House doing? They're giving a warning. They're giving what they would consider to be due process. Now, to me, it kind of looks like retroactive due process. They're saying, hey, you did something wrong a couple weeks ago so now we're going to apply that in the future. Anyway, that's what the court is now going to argue about. Is the White House providing the accurate due process or are Acosta's Fifth Amendment rights still violated? The judge hasn't ruled at all on the First Amendment rights. There's still a lot at stake. What we know for sure is the clock is ticking. Acosta's temporary restraining order provided in court on Friday is only valid for 14 days. CNN says time is of the essence and they're asking for a new hearing this time next week, after all, Thanksgiving is coming up a week from now. CNN is hoping for another hearing where the company can get a preliminary injunction. That would have a lot more power and be in effect for a longer period of time than the temporary restraining order.

[11:45:42] BOLDUAN: Again, this all doesn't get to the broader question that the judge is still facing?

STELTER: He's going to have to rule on that and more, apparently, in the coming weeks.


STELTER: Here's CNN's latest statement about this. The company saying, "The White House is continuing to violate the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. These actions threaten all journalists and news organizations. Jim Acosta and CNN will continue to report the news about the White House and the president."

Look, I think this is very much a slippery slope situation. Because obviously, right now, the administration is targeting Acosta. They say he behaved badly so he's got to go. But you have to wonder if they succeed with Acosta, if somehow the court does side with the White House and not Jim Acosta and CNN, which reporters will be next, which networks will be next. And as we talked about, that's dozens of news outlets are supporting CNN in this.

Bottom line, CNN's lawyers say they don't want to be in court. They were hoping to resolve this privately and move on, but CNN says they will continue to fight this in court if they have to.

BOLDUAN: The president was given the opportunity in his interview with Chris Wallace to talk about what the rules of decorum would be at the White House, and he says he didn't have details on that.

STELTER: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Brian. Thank you so much. Much more to come on that, you can be sure.

Coming up for us next, President Trump says he will not listen to the audiotape of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder because, in his words, "It's very vicious." But he still calls Saudi Arabia a spectacular ally. The very latest on this next.


[11:51:33] BOLDUAN: "Very violent and very vicious." The president said he has no plans to listen to the audio recording of the "Washington Post" columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, being murdered. Here's what he told FOX News over the weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape. But I've been --


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS: 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's no reason for me to hear it. In fact, I said to the people, should I, and they said, you really shouldn't, there's no reason. I know exactly -- I know everything that went on in the tape.

WALLACE: And what happened?

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


BOLDUAN: Remember, Jamal Khashoggi is a U.S. resident and was a "Washington Post" columnist. He walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2nd and he was never seen again. After weeks of changing its story, Saudi officials finally admitted he was murdered by a group of almost 20 men, but despite their close ties to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Saudi officials maintain the crown prince knew nothing of the plan.

Joining me now, CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd. She was a senior adviser to the National Security Council under President Obama.

Great to see you, Sam.

When you hear the president, what he told Chris Wallace, he said his reasoning for not listening to the tape, that his people told him he shouldn't.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That are doesn't hold water to me. My entire career in government, I never heard an intelligence analyst or a policy expert tell the president not to listen to a piece of intelligence. This intelligence is a key piece of the puzzle so the president can make a fully informed decision. This is the president deciding to put on ear muffs and not listen to the full range of intelligence available to him and that's important so he can make a fully informed decision.

BOLDUAN: Do you think the president can reach a fully informed decision from what sources say the CIA, their assessment already, that bin Salman ordered it? Do you think he can reach that conclusion without listening to the tape?

VINOGRAD: He can read the summary, the CIA summary, various intelligence that's been analyzed in the past, but it appears the president is trying to pursue a policy of "ignorance is bliss" in saying he doesn't have a full picture of what happened, probably to avoid --


BOLDUAN: Why is less information more?

VINOGRAD: He can say he doesn't know what really happened and avoid making a tough decision and let the process continue rather than saying, OK, we know that Mohammad bin Salman was responsible, let me, as commander-in-chief, make a tough decision that will have repercussions, but that's necessary to stop the president from letting someone with close economic relationships with the United States get away with murder.

BOLDUAN: The president said that the CIA report will be on his desk tomorrow. What all should be going on behind the scenes in order then to help the president decide the options of how to respond?

VINOGRAD: That's such a good question because the intelligence report is just an input to the policy process. The real question is, has Ambassador Bolton scheduled a National Security Council meeting? Intelligence doesn't make policy. Typically, in a National Security Council meeting -- I have been in several -- the president gets briefed and the full cabinet hears that intelligence and then everybody lays out the policy options for the president representing their different equities.


VINOGRAD: He understands a full range of options and makes a decision.

BOLDUAN: There's no word that anything close to that happened.

It's great to see you, Sam.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

[11:55:02] BOLDUAN: Thank you very, very much. We will see what happens next. Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, President Trump's about-face on talking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Now the president said he probably won't sit down for an interview. What changed here when he said he would love nothing more than that? That's next.