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Trump Hits Campaign Trail in Mississippi Ahead of Runoff; Democrats Want to Tie Mueller Protection to Funding Bill; Trump: "Certainly Could" Be Government Shutdown over Border Wall; Russia Reopens Strait after Firing on 3 Ukrainian Navy Ships; Soon NASA Hopes to Land "Insight" Space Probe on Mars. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 26, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let me play it for our viewers as a reminder.


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

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you clarify and articulate --


HYDE-SMITH: If I hurt anybody's feelings -- if I hurt anybody's feelings -- you know, we're just staying on the issues that are on peoples' minds, that is lower taxes, less regulations, Second Amendment, all those things. Any time I've said anything and somebody got offended I want to apologize.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you acknowledge what offended people, can you acknowledge by a statement?

HYDE-SMITH: Would you have to -- yes.


HYDE-SMITH: I apologize for anything that I could have possibly said.


BOLDUAN: I apologize for anything I ever did that ever did anything to offend anyone. That's how she's answering it now.

Scott, how damaging is this to Hyde-Smith?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not going to go into the finer-moments politics hall of fame. But I doubt it will be enough to sink her in a red state like Mississippi. This state is much redder than the average state. My presumption is, based on the general election results, this ought to be a race where Cindy Hyde- Smith gets between 55 percent and 60 percent, which tells me she could drop a little bit and still win the race. I don't doubt she's taken on a little bit of water but it would have to be a lot of water to sink a boat in Mississippi.

Regarding Alabama, these comparisons are out of whack. We've had no scandal anywhere near the order of magnitude as Alabama.

BOLDUAN: I do hear you. I was trying to say that without being too wordy at the top, Scott. I hear your point.

Joe, let's talk about something else, though. Congress, they're heading back to work, facing potential of a government shutdown over keeping the government funded. They're facing a deadline of next week to get a deal done. Democrats are now pushing to basically tie a measure, tie a bill to protect the Mueller investigation with any funding bill. Is that a good idea for Democrats?

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think you're going to see -- I think there's bipartisanship around protecting the Mueller investigation, whether it's six, seven or eight votes on the Republican side. But I think it will be bipartisan. If that's the case, it actually puts it -- the president would have to veto the funding bill to stop the protection of the Mueller investigation. I don't think that's a bad place to put the president, particularly, given his interests in trying to shut down the Mueller investigation.

BOLDUAN: Still, we're talking about moving to shut the government down.

Scott, the president has no problem shutting the government down. He has threatened that. Maybe we would be good for a shutdown. Maybe it would help us. He has long threatened that a shutdown could happen over funding the border wall. Is a threat like that -- let's separate the two. It might be good for the president. Is it good for Republicans?

JENNINGS: Yes, I don't think it's good for anybody, either party or the president to shut down the government. I think moments like this create opportunity for big deals. While I know some Democrats might want to force a democrat shutdown showdown over Mueller, I would rather see the two parties come together and say to the president, look, we'll give you your money for the border wall, fix DACA, and do a bigger immigration deal as we push all of this out at the end of the year. I would rather see the parties put their energy into an issue that Americans want solved and that's immigration. Also, I know Senator McConnell last week met with President Trump and felt confident they had a plan to avoid a shutdown. It's in everyone's best interest to solve a big problem, immigration, not shut the government down, get to Christmas, and get on to governing for January.

BOLDUAN: Wow. You are optimistic, Scott.


BOLDUAN: You might need to come back to Washington. Okie-dokie, Scott. I like this Scott. But we'll see.

But real quick, Joe, final question, if Hyde-Smith pulls out a win is it because President Trump went down there and headlined two campaign rallies for her today?

TRIPPI Anybody who tells you how this is going to turn out is just like -- I want their crystal ball. This is going to be all turnout. It's hard to predict what's going to happen after the Thanksgiving holiday. Both campaigns had a big turnout operation going and then had to go to all stop Thanksgiving Day and then getting up Friday and moving to now. Look, if you win, look, this is a rock-bed red state. Scott is right. Should be 55 to 60 percent for her if you look back through history here. Hasn't been competitive since 1980s. It is competitive. That tells you that there's a problem down here for Cindy Hyde-Smith and the Republicans. That's why Trump is coming down. We'll see what happens on Tuesday, tomorrow.

[11:34:32] BOLDUAN: That's right. Let's see what happens tomorrow, boys.

Great to see you. Thank you.

Coming up next, a dire warning about climate change, including devastating effects on the U.S. economy and thousands of lives potentially at risk. Did the Trump administration try to bury that report though?

We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: It may be the most-dire government report you have not heard about, 1300 federal agencies, more than 300 scientists, more than 1600 pages all warning that, gone unchecked, climate change will be disastrous by the end of the century, causing thousands of premature deaths, costing hundreds of billions of dollars. This, from the Trump administration but those findings contradicting President Trump's repeated and unfounded claim that climate change is a hoax. So, does that explain why the government released the report the day after Thanksgiving, when many Americans aren't tracking the headlines, to say the least?

Joining me for a reality check, CNN's senior political analyst, John Avlon.

What are you finding, John?

[11:40:01] JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Kate, look, let's start with the truth here, Tryptophan? That's a hell of a drug. While you were working off that food coma, and gearing up to rush to stores, folks might have missed this little bit of information. The climate is galloping towards catastrophe. The Friday afternoon of Black Friday, the Trump administration released a 1600-page report, produced by a dozen federal departments and hundreds of scientists. It wasn't supposed to come out until December. That's know as a classic Friday news dump, when information gets released that powerful people don't want you to see.

What's surreal about this massive congressionally mandated report is it completely contradicts the science-challenged beliefs of our commander-in-chief.

Here's a quick refresher on that. Trump has called climate change a hoax, a canard created by the Chinese, and based on faulty science and manipulated data. Just last Wednesday, he repeated one of his favorite riffs, confusing climate with weather while looking at record cold temperatures across the U.S, tweeting, "Whatever happened to global warming?"

But Trump's own agencies and scientists disagreed completely with him. Some of the worst effects of climate change are already here in the form of sharply rising sea levels, destructive heatwaves and wildfires. This is the new normal. With, quote, "Growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life and the rate of economic growth."

It's that last bit that might just get Trump's attention -- money. The report said the cost of climate change could hit hundreds of billions annually by the end of the century. The worst effects will be seen in lost labor, extreme temperatures, crumbling infrastructure. Worst case -- climate change could strip away 10 percent of the nation's GDP over the next 80 years. That's a powerful message for a president obsessed with economic growth. And there's more, from floods in the southeast, threatened crops in the Midwest, rising ozone layers in the upper plains. Some of the areas that could be hardest hit are in the heart of Trump's red-state base. Can't spin your way out of science, folks. That's a reality check -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Fascinating when you look where that map lays in terms of Trump country.

Great to see you, John.

AVLON: Thank you.

John will stick around with us, actually.

Because up next, we'll talk about this. If the president isn't listening to his administration when it comes to the climate, and he doesn't trust his Intelligence Community when it comes to the murder of a journalist or the 2016 election, who does he trust? And why does this matter so much?

We'll be right back.


[11:46:42] BOLDUAN: This hour, the U.N. Security Council has an emergency meeting about the latest confrontation between Russia and the Ukraine. Tensions between the two escalated dramatically over the weekend with Ukraine's military saying that Russia forces attacked three of its ships and injured several of its sailors. We saw they ran into each other at one point. It happened in a narrow stretch of water off Crimea that's economically strategic for both countries. The Kremlin claims the Ukraine warships were in Russian waters illegally.

John Avlon is back to discuss. But also with me now, global affairs analyst, Kim Dozier.

Kim, I want to ask you about this. This is a major escalation between Ukraine and Russia. How dangerous is this moment, though? Where could it go from here?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's an escalation that's been building because the Sea of Azov, supposedly Russia and Ukraine have an agreement from 2003 to have shared use of this area. But after Russia seized Crimea, it's built a bridge across that strait and it has made it tough for Ukrainian ships to pass through to reach Ukrainian ports. So, Russians are blaming the Ukrainians for this provocation, and the Ukrainians vice versa. The problem is that Ukrainian President Poroshenko has asked his parliament to impose martial law. That's something he didn't do in previous bouts of fighting. So that's led Moscow to say this is just about domestic politics, because it will delay the Ukrainian election, which it didn't look like Poroshenko was going to be able to win.

BOLDUAN: We've seen no response, official response yet from President Trump on this. He has, though, I remember, over and over again -- John, we talked about this. Often -- how often he criticized President Obama for not doing enough early on when it came to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Crimea in 2014.

So, Kim, what role does the U.S. have now? What can President Trump do?

DOZIER: The U.S. has taken the step of sending or at least agreeing to send arms to Ukrainian fighters to push back against Russia. But we haven't seen that produce much change on the ground. You have the G-20 coming up. You've got the U.N. meeting about this and also NATO meeting about this. Beyond doing further sanctions, I don't see much that's going to change Russia's course of action.

BOLDUAN: I want to add this together, John. You've got pressure on President Trump to respond to this. He is going to be meeting with Putin at the G-20 coming up.

At the very same time, President Trump facing pressure on how he will respond to another international crisis, the conflicting, if that's how we say it, on the CIA's assessment of the murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA says it was ordered by the crown prince of Saudi. President Trump says that -- essentially President Trump has said in his response that he doesn't believe that. So he doesn't believe the intelligence there. He doesn't believe the intelligence assessment with the 2016 election. And ss you just laid out, he was in direct conflict with his own administration on the climate change report. What does this do? The president doesn't trust his own government.

[11:49:53] AVLON: That's true. This is a president who is at war with the truth. This is a president who is at war with science. This is a president who refuses to listen to intelligence. That does not send a great sign of a global leadership for the rest of the government. One of the great ironies is that the rest of the government seems to play a game of contain the president. The president will tweet his own party line and the rest will clean up the mess to create some kind of geopolitical continuity.

But take this incidence in Ukraine. The president has repeated the talking points about Ukraine, fixating on the fact that they speak Russian there, on Crimea, in particular, tried to blame it on Obama. Why is there not an official statement? The president slammed our E.U. allies this morning but didn't take a stand on this. It isn't hard: We support the Ukraine sovereignty, we believe the election should go forward. Some cleanup will presumably be done by Nikki Haley and folks at the U.N. But this is something where the presidential leadership matters. But instead, he is weak and timid when it comes to confronting Putin, clearly, and refuses to take the word of his own intelligence community again and again and again. It's a no-nothing administration in that regard.

BOLDUAN: It's fascinating the silence that ticks on. But it's very quick to fire off a tweet on many other topics.


BOLDUAN: Always the lag in time when it comes to confronting Russia on something that he likely should.

AVLON: Total coincidence.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys.

Total coincidence. It's always a coincidence.

Great to see you, Kim.

Thank you so much, John.

Coming up for us, seven minutes of terror. That's not seven minutes before our show every day. That's how they are describing NASA's latest mission to Mars. Up next, NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly joins us live to discuss this challenging expedition and the excitement surrounding it, coming up.


[11:55:55] BOLDUAN: We are just hours away from a nerve-racking end to a six-month mission to Mars. The NASA "Insight" will attempt to enter the red planet's atmosphere at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. "Insight" will initially travel at over 12,000 miles per hour as it attempts to land safely on Martian soil. NASA scientists describe that entry as seven minutes of terror, hoping that their years of work doesn't burn up in the blink of an eye upon entry.

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly is no stranger to space himself having spent a record-breaking year away from earth. And he has a new book out of photographs documenting his time in space. It's called "Infinite Wonder." Captain Kelly is joining me now.

It's good to see you. Thanks for joining me.

SCOTT KELLY, NASA ASTRONAUT: Thanks for having me, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Talk to me about Mars and what is going on in that NASA Control Room, the feeling and thinking and everything leading up to this crucial seven minutes where they hope they can land safely on Mars.

KELLY: Historically, Mars has been very hard. It's been complicated getting a spacecraft to the planet and the landing phase. We haven't always been successful. Hopefully, we will be today. Like you said, it's seven minutes of terror. Having on four occasions reentered the earth's atmosphere and landed safely, it's a dynamic event. But hopefully it will turn out well today.

BOLDUAN: Dynamic. I feel like that's the nice way to say absolute terror for regular human beings like myself. The mission of the "Insight" is different than the mission we have seen, the Curiosity Probe. I'm showing the moment of jubilation when they landed in 2012 in spectacular fashion. "Insight" won't be moving around. It's looking at the interior of Mars. Why is that important?

KELLY: We never studied the interior of Mars like this before with a seismic thermometer that will measure the seismic activity of the planet, also a temperature probe that measures the temperature as well as some other scientific experiments. Where we studied the planet in the past and the atmosphere and the composition of the atmosphere and the soil, we never tried to look deep down into the planet like this like "Insight" will be able to do for us on this mission.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

Mentioned you have a new book out. It's all about the wonder of the earth. The perspective that you had looking at the earth. I was just talking about this new climate report that was put out by the Trump administration. You have such a unique perspective looking at the earth from where you have been. From what you have seen, what do you think people, including the president, need to know about climate change?

KELLY: I'm not a climate-change expert or scientist. I do have a unique perspective of looking at the earth from space and taking photographs of it. What you see is that the earth is incredibly beautiful but the atmosphere, it looks incredibly small and fragile. When we look up in the sky, it looks infinitely large, but when you are in space looking down, it looks like a thin film over the surface, almost like a contact lens over somebody's eye. You realize that is everything that protects us from space. We need, absolutely need to take care of it.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Looking at the mission to Mars, I think Elon Musk said he's 70 percent confident he will make it to Mars. How confident are you that we will land a person on Mars? KELLY: I'm pretty confident that we'll do it someday. I don't know

when. We have incredible capacity to do amazing things if we work together and put our minds to it. But the question of going to Mars is more of a political question versus a technological one. I hope we see it in my life. I hope Elon makes it. I wish him all the best.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Captain. Thanks so much.

KELLY: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much for joining --