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Mississippi Senate Battle; The Republican Party's Women Problem; Trump Administration Releases Report on Climate Change; Roger Stone Associates in Plea Talks With Mueller. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 23, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:01:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Here's the breaking news in this whole Russia investigation. An associate of the president's friend and longtime adviser Roger Stone is now in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert Mueller.

His name is Jerome Corsi. He also knows President Trump. And we know that he wouldn't comment further to CNN about these talks. But Corsi's role in this investigation largely revolves around the possibility that he may have been an intermediary between Stone and WikiLeaks, specifically in those days ahead of the 2016 presidential election, when WikiLeaks published e-mails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

We should also point out, of course, he is a well-known conspiracy theorist. But if a deal comes through, it would actually indicate that he was speaking the truth a couple of days ago when he predicted an indictment from the Mueller team was coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEROME CORSI, AUTHOR, "THE OBAMA NATION": The entire negotiations and discussions have just blown up. And now I fully anticipate that, in the next few days, I will be indicted by Mueller for some form or other of giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other -- grand jury or however they want to do the indictment, but I'm going to be criminally charged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's go to CNN senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt.

And, Alex, explain how Corsi is involved in all of this. And is it possible Corsi may be a witness against Roger Stone?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Right.

So, Brooke Jerome Corsi isn't necessarily a household name in all of this. He's not a name that many people might be aware of, but he's certainly someone who the Mueller investigators have been interested in.

And he could end up providing a really critical missing link between the Russian hackers and WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign. So that's what they're looking into. Corsi does tell my colleague Sara Murray that he is in talks the Mueller team now about striking a plea deal for more lenient terms.

This comes after, as you mentioned and we heard there, that he was expecting to be indicted by Robert Mueller's team. The special counsel is going to have lots of questions about his relationship with Roger Stone, specifically with regards to any possible coordination with WikiLeaks and the release of those hacked Democratic e-mails right before the election.

Corsi he claims he was not in direct contact with WikiLeaks. He says he doesn't have a source inside the group. His defense is that he simply developed what he called a theory or a prediction that the e- mails of the Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, had been obtained by WikiLeaks and that they would then be released in October right before the election.

Corsi says he shared that prediction with Roger Stone, who then tweeted something similar. Corsi he said that it was based on open information and the fact that WikiLeaks had already released those DNC e-mails. Of course, Brooke, that prediction then turned out to be true.

So even though Corsi and the special counsel's office are in talks about a plea deal, there's no guarantee that will happen. And we should note that, in just the past few hours, Stone has responded to this news, saying, in part: "My friend, Dr. Corsi has been under tremendous amount of pressure and is beginning -- it is beginning to affect him profoundly. He has stated publicly that he is being asked over and over to say things he simply does not believe occurred" -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Alex, thank you.

Let's get some legal analysis on all of what Alex just laid out.

With me now, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.

And so, Elie, if Corsi does flip, that could be bad news for Roger Stone. Tell me what he could reveal and how that may play into this bigger picture of collusion.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Brooke, you're right. If he does flip, it's a big deal. It's a big problem for Roger Stone. And it's also a big deal for the sort of no collusion crowd.

Let's look at what we already know about this case. We already know for sure that the Russian state hacked into Hillary Clinton and the DNC's e-mails. We already know for sure that those e-mails were put out into the public by WikiLeaks. And we know that the intent was to help the Trump 2016 campaign. [15:05:05]

What's missing is that link. Was their coordination, was their communication between WikiLeaks and the campaign? And now, as you see Mueller circling Stone, they're going to be the fulcrum. They're going to be the key point there that connects the WikiLeaks dump to the campaign.

BALDWIN: Which is huge, if that in fact is the role he plays.

Let me ask you. I know, in the legal world, you use the word proffer. But here let me ask it this way. If he is in plea negotiations, does that mean that he is giving up the goods, or does it mean that he is willing to give up the goods if he gets a good deal?

HONIG: Yes, Mueller wouldn't sign him up as a cooperator unless he knew what the guy had.

Typically, the way this works -- and Mueller seems to have hewed to this -- is you, sit down with the guy, you proffer them, you get all the information the person has. You, as the prosecutor, then judge, is this credible, do I believe this, can I back it up?

And if the answer to all that is yes, then you sign the guy up. And let me say, this guy Corsi is a tough cooperator. I have signed up -- I have used cooperators who are career criminals, who have committed murders. That's not as hard as someone like Corsi, who's a literal conspiracy theorist. And it's all about credibility.

And so if Mueller does sign this guy up as a cooperator, what I read into that is, he has -- Corsi has or Mueller has hard evidence to back up whatever Corsi tells him.

BALDWIN: Did you -- Alex alluded to it a second ago, but we got the statement from Roger Stone reacting to all of this. Do you think he's thinking pressure's on?

HONIG: Textbook 101 from anyone who's afraid of someone who's about to flip.

BALDWIN: Yes.

HONIG: Any time someone in Stone's position thinks they're in trouble, they say, my friend has gone off the rails. He's lying. He's being pressured.

Seen it a million times. It's exactly what you would expect out of someone who's scared.

BALDWIN: OK. Elie, stay with me. I want to ask you about something out. Here's the other breaking news.

President Trump is turning to the U.S. Supreme Court to take up his controversial bid to keep transgender people out of the U.S. military. This is the White House's latest attempt to bypass those lower courts, which have been blocked -- which have blocked the ban from being implemented.

CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood is with me now with more on this.

What exactly is this White House trying to do?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Brooke, the president is directing his solicitor general to ask the Supreme Court to lift injunctions on that attempted ban of transgender people from serving in the military.

That's a ban that the president attempted to implement via tweets in July 2017, and sent his Pentagon scrambling to find a way to make that policy a reality. But in the more than a year since that took place, Brooke, the lower courts have effectively blocked the president from doing so. And one of those courts is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They

have heard arguments in this case. The president has already been feuding with the Ninth Circuit over its decision recently in an unrelated case about asylum.

Take a listen to what the president had to say yesterday about the Ninth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know if we have ever had a victory in the Ninth Circuit. We have to appeal it, appeal it.

I guess a vast number of their decisions get overturned, generally speaking, and it's a shame. It's a shame. It's a disgrace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: And Noel Francisco -- that's the solicitor general -- wrote in his petition to the Supreme Court that the military has been essentially unable to implement a policy that the Pentagon views as necessary to maintain the lethality of the military.

Obviously, this comes as lower courts have ruled against a number of the president's attempted executive actions since the start of his administration. The president, Brooke, is perhaps looking to take advantage of that newly cemented conservative majority on the high court.

BALDWIN: Sarah Westwood thank you.

And, Elie Honig, do you think that the Supreme Court would even take this on?

HONIG: It's hard to say. You need four out of the nine justices to even take up a case, any case. The Supreme Court takes up a very small minority of cases.

I think the timing here is very strange. It's premature. And I think the timing is conspicuous and I think there's a bit of political theater at play here. As Sarah said, we have the president now targeting and singling out the Ninth Circuit. He clearly sees some political benefit to be gotten from doing that.

But it's very unusual to see the Supreme Court take a case or to see DOJ ask the Supreme Court to take the case before even a single federal appeals court has heard it. So the timing here is strange.

And I think that probably reduces somewhat the chance that the Supreme Court takes it.

BALDWIN: Got it.

Elie Honig, thank you. Happy belated Thanksgiving, by the way.

HONIG: Thanks. You, too.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Moments ago, the Trump administration released a major report on climate change, warning of dire consequences, ranging from wildfires to mosquito-borne diseases, also how it will shrink the U.S. economy if something isn't done soon.

Plus, the president is heading to Mississippi to help a Republican Senate candidate in a racially charged runoff. How will his presence impact that race?

And we are learning about a multi-vehicle crash this morning involving Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry.

[15:10:07]

You're watching CNN. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Just into CNN, basketball superstar Steph Curry was involved in a multi-vehicle crash this morning in Oakland. But we're told he is OK. The Golden State -- Golden State Warriors player was hit when apparently another driver lost control. Fortunately, no one in all three cars was injured in the accident.

Highway Patrol says it was rainy. So perhaps the weather played a role here. Everyone involved in the accident was wearing their seat belts.

The Trump administration just released a major climate change report two weeks earlier than planned, raising suspicion that it was purposely released here on Black Friday because fewer people are paying attention.

[15:15:03]

It is no secret that climate change is not exactly a top priority for this White House. President Trump has frequently doubted its existence and has referred to it as a hoax.

So, with me now, CNN's Rene Marsh.

And, Renee, this report offers this ominous outlook on what's to come. What are some of the highlights, or lowlights, as it were?

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, I can't stress this enough. If you weren't paying attention to this issue of climate change before, when you read the details of this report, it may really change that.

This is a congressionally mandated report. The Trump administration put it out just roughly an hour ago. And it is frightening, in that it screams that serious action needs to be taken as it relates to climate change and it needs to be taken soon.

So here's some of the highlights coming out of this report. Wildfire season, they say, is long right now, but it will get even longer, burning six times more forest area per year by the year 2050. More people will be exposed to ticks that carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes that transmit viruses like the Zika virus, West Nile, and dengue fever, and that's across the United States.

Allergy season will be more severe. Higher temperatures, plainly, they say, will kill more people. They specifically zero in on the Midwest, which is predicted to have the largest increase in extreme temperature alone. They say some 2,000 more people will die premature deaths by the year 2090 in the Midwest.

Now, the cost of climate change, it will be a blow to the economy, according to this report. It says that it could cost hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

And in the Southeast, they really zero in on specific regions throughout the United States. They stay the Southeast alone would probably lose over half-a-billion labor hours due to extreme heat.

I mean, really, as you read through all of this, it's hard to find any good news, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So, as this ominous report is out, congressionally mandated, it is the day after Thanksgiving. Why is it released today?

MARSH: That is the big question, because this report was not scheduled to come out until next month. So, it is coming out earlier.

And everyone notices that it's coming out on a day that is one day after a major holiday here in the United States, a day that people are spending time with their families, they're shopping, getting good deals at the department stores.

So people are, to put it -- to put it in a word, distracted. And the scientific community and many people observing this and looking at how this was kind of quietly put out on a Friday afternoon after a major holiday, just -- they're scratching their heads and they're wondering if this was an effort to lessen the blow, to kind of bury all of these very dire findings within this report, Brooke, because, like I said, I mean, there is no good news here.

And they truly do run counter to what we have seen from the Trump administration as far as their stance on climate change. We just saw a tweet yesterday from the president questioning whether global warming is really a thing because it was so cold outside for that one day yesterday.

So it's no secret the president has said climate change is a hoax, but this congressionally mandated report is on the total opposite spectrum of where the president stands on this issue.

BALDWIN: Yes, we cannot be distracted. We have to pay such close attention. And we talk about shrinking the economy 10 percent, not to mention the climate, the -- it's frightening.

Rene, thank you for that, as we will pay attention to that.

Coming up next: the Republican Party's problem with women -- why so few women in their ranks in Congress and how they can address it.

Plus, the number of undocumented immigrant children in government custody has now reached an all-time monthly high -- details on why it's up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:23:42]

BALDWIN: The 2018 midterm election deemed the year of the woman.

And while women certainly as a whole made historic progress in Congress, in governor's races, Republican women barely moved the needle.

West Virginia's Carol Miller will be the only Republican women entering the 435-member House as a newcomer. That is compared to 35 new Democratic women on the House side.

CNN congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is with me now.

And I address this in my series "American Woman," trying to get more Republican women running and winning. How does the Republican Party plan to fix the woman problem, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Brooke, that is absolutely the topic du jour, the very question on the minds of every Republican right now.

Those numbers that you laid out in the introduction were alarming to a lot of people in the aftermath of the midterm election. And I think you will probably remember this. A few days after the midterm election, the new Congress, they produced a one-sheet head shot list of all the incoming members.

And that was a real visual representation of the differences between the incoming House and Senate Democrats and the incoming House and Senate Republicans there, and certainly was alarming to a lot of people.

I think it shows how much work Republicans need to do, especially when they're looking forward and talking about recruitment efforts coming up to 2020.

I think that, notably, within a few days of the midterm elections, and this storyline being part of the aftermath of the story, we did see two women -- women Republicans elevated to leadership posts. Liz Cheney in the House and Senator Joni Ernst in the Senate both took over leadership positions there, an important move that Republicans made there.

[15:25:17]

And, interesting, Joni Ernst, she was asked about kind of the work that they have to do. And she said, we could do a better job of clearly communicating that we do indeed support women.

BALDWIN: On the women note, the Women's March, Sunlen, it was obviously a huge catalyst for a lot of the women who decided to run this year. And there has been some division among leadership of the Women's March.

Teresa Shook, the founder of the march, released a statement. And some of her co-chairs were pictured with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. What is the future of leadership for the Women's March now?

SERFATY: I think it's a question, Brooke, right now.

This is definitely a growing rift at the moment within the Women's March. And I think we're not going to see the last of it today. I think this will -- needs to come to conclusion, but, as of now, a lot of fighting, infighting within the movement.

The co-founder -- excuse me -- the founder, as you said, calling for the chairs to step down because of ties and connection to Louis Farrakhan, the fact that at some point some of them did appear at an event with him.

Now, those co-chairs have come out with a statement in light of her statement, saying that they condemn anti-Semitism, condemn bigotry, and really call for unity. They say -- quote -- "We are imperfect. We don't know everything, and we have caused harm at times. We have responded with hurt, but we are committed to learning. We are grateful for people who have been with us over the last two years wrestling with the challenges and opportunities of what they are trying to build. Our ongoing work speaks for itself. That's our focus, not armchair critiques from those who want to take credit for our labor."

Interesting point there at the end. Now, the founder, Teresa Shook, she was on "NEW DAY" this morning and very clear she is not appeased by this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TERESA SHOOK, FOUNDER, WOMEN'S MARCH MOVEMENT: There's been apologies

made before, and they say they will make changes. But then the changes never really happened.

I still believe that we can come together. But we need to address the issues that have been festering and been sort of not dealt with. And we need to resolve it, because a lot of women in the community are hurt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: And this infighting, so to speak, is really playing out in a public way.

And keep in mind this is all playing out just a few months before they are making plans for that big march, the third march in January here in Washington, D.C., at the beginning of the new year. So it certainly threatens to cast a shadow over this movement, which has certainly made a lot of news in years past.

BALDWIN: Sunlen, thank you in Washington for me today.

One way Republicans are fighting to keep an incumbent woman in the Senate here -- this is Mississippi -- voters there head back to the polls on Tuesday for a runoff between Republicans Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy.

On Monday, President Trump will hold not just one, two rallies in support of Hyde-Smith. She is favored to win. But there's -- she's actually a lot closer than expected in this deep ruby-red state in the South, after she made a series of racially charged comments.

First, Hyde-Smith was caught on tape making comments that seemed to support voter suppression. And then there was this remark about a public hanging.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: If he invited me to a public hanging, I would be on the front row.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: In a contentious debate this week, she addressed the controversies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HYDE-SMITH: I certainly apologize. There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements.

I also recognize that this comment was twisted, and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me, a political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent. That's the type of politics Mississippians are sick and tired of. MIKE ESPY (D), MISSISSIPPI SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know what's

in your heart, but we all know what came out of your mouth. It's caused our state harm. It's given our state another black eye that we don't need. It's just rejuvenated old stereotypes that we don't need anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Larrison Campbell is with me. She's a politics reporter with "Mississippi Today."

And, Larrison, her gaffes have dredged up visceral emotion about the state's history of racial violence and oppression. I know that's at least been the focus from the national level.

You're there and Mississippi. How much has race played a role in this election?

LARRISON CAMPBELL, "MISSISSIPPI TODAY": I think it plays a very big role.

And I especially think that (AUDIO GAP). In Mississippi, race (AUDIO GAP) really far below the surface. But I think these comments have absolutely catapulted it to, like, one of the main issues in this race.

And I think that there was sort of this impression when she was appointed this spring that she might not be quite ready for prime time. And I think that -- she was the ag commissioner. It's kind of a down-ballot position.

And I think the fact that she is -- keeps making these gaffes and kind of stands behind them -- she seems genuinely surprised that people are offended.