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GM Cutting 15 Percent of Salaried Staff, Closing 5 Plants in North America; Voters Head to Polls for Mississippi Senate Runoff Election; Democrats Pick Up a Net Gain of 38 House Seats; Democrats Pick Up Another House Seat as Mia Love Concedes in Utah; Trump Campaigns in Mississippi in Fight to Keep Senate Seat Red; Russia and Ukraine Trade Blame After Naval Incident; Dow to Open Lower as Trump Dims Hope of China Trade Deal. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 27, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:21] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Three full weeks after the midterms, it is election day again in Mississippi.

In the final Senate race of 2018 voters are choosing between a Republican who's been dogged by racial controversy but strongly backed by the president, and a Democrat who would be Mississippi's first African-American senator since Reconstruction.

HARLOW: We are also following a stunning legal turn for the president's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, in a court filing that could lead to life in prison. The special counsel says Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying to the FBI and to prosecutors, quote, "on a variety of subject matter," lying to them after he agreed to cooperate with them.

It is remarkable. So that's where we begin. Our Shimon Prokupecz is in Washington.

Shimon, where did this come from? And what does it mean for both Manafort, but also for the Mueller probe?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. And those are the things right now that we're all kind of focused on. What does this mean for the Manafort probe? What does it mean for the overall Russia investigation?

You know, Paul Manafort was made out to be almost like the star witness that the government had wanted for so long to cooperate. They wanted his information. They finally got him to cooperate. And now it appears according to these filings that he repeatedly, they say, lied to them during meetings with the FBI, during meetings with the U.S. attorney.

You know, these are meetings that went on for quite some time. At least 10 meetings, perhaps, with the special counsel. So clearly they have done a lot of work here. It also tells us that maybe perhaps that in all this they don't need Paul Manafort as much as we thought they do because if they're willing to sort of throw out his cooperation, it seems as though that his lies are so much that they cannot overcome the issues surrounding it. Perhaps maybe they can't rehabilitate him.

What this means for the president not entirely clear as well because obviously he's part of this investigation. And now really what will the judge do? This will go before a judge, and he will have to ultimately decide what kind of sentencing Paul Manafort is going to face. This could potentially hurt him in his Virginia case as well. The sentencing there could be much more substantial now that the government is trying to prove that Paul Manafort continuously lied.

And then the other thing that's important here is what these documents don't yet tell us. And that is exactly what the lies were. Where did he lie? What does the government exactly know in terms of these lies? And also the biggest thing here is that this tells us that the special counsel has so much information that we don't know about that they have been able to work through to try and see where he's lying, where he's telling the truth.

It's really a stunning turn in this entire investigation now.

SCIUTTO: A lot of lying going around.

Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Paul Callan.

So, Paul, Shimon raises an interesting point there that if the special counsel is willing to in effect jettison Manafort here because of repeated lying, if they know he's lying that means they know from other sources things that went on that he's not being truthful about. What does that tell you about how far Mueller has gotten along in this investigation.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's an absolutely fascinating question because what this suggests is that Mueller has to go into court now and prove that Manafort is lying. So he's got to do that by countering the lies, right, with the truth.

HARLOW: With facts.

CALLAN: So it's going to reveal a lot of Mueller's investigation that's been held secret so far.

HARLOW: But is this also a blow to the Mueller team here and his group of prosecutors because they have likely now lost their star witness? And if so, is this good news for the president?

CALLAN: I don't think it's a major problem for the Mueller team. And I say that because, remember, they had already convicted Mueller in Virginia on substantial accounts.

SCIUTTO: Manafort. CALLAN: Manafort, I'm sorry.

HARLOW: Manafort, yes.

CALLAN: On substantial accounts. He was probably facing conviction in D.C. on other counts as well. And through the years, Manafort's information was supposedly only relevant to older contacts with foreign agents, not stuff that happened during the Trump campaign. So I don't think that he's a fundamental important witness for the Mueller investigation ultimately.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. So you have clients before who probably made deals with prosecutors. He made this deal and then he reneges on the deal spectacularly by lying repeatedly to the special counsel. What compels a witness to do that? There's been the prospect of a presidential pardon here. The president tweets a lot about pardons, you wonder if that's a message to folks here. Is it possibly that Manafort expects this?

CALLAN: Well, it certainly looks like a play for a pardon. And up until his first trial, everyone really thought that Manafort was just sitting back and waiting for the pardon.

[09:05:02] Now remember, he's 69 years old. The minimum he's facing on what's up now.


CALLAN: Another 10 years, which puts him at age 79 when he's out of prison. But it's a total of 80 years if you put them all together and he wants a retrial in Virginia and D.C. Yes.

HARLOW: Let me see if you agree with this analysis from "The Times" this morning, the "New York Times" quoting a law professor, ex-federal prosecutor who wonders this. Quote, "What was he," Manafort, "hiding that was worse than going to jail for the rest of your life? It would not have been a minor detail, it would have had be to material and significant and intentional."

CALLAN: It certainly sounds that way. And one of the things it could have been is something to do with his finances. Remember he's been crippled financially I think by his legal bills in two big trials and the collapse of his financial empire. So it may be that Manafort had some money that he thought was safe that his family could live on, and by stating in detail where that money was, it could have caused problems for his family.

I mean, we're speculating here, but this is so unusual for somebody to make a deal with a federal prosecutor and then walk away from the deal at the risk of spending the rest of his life in prison. It's got to be a really big, important fact that Manafort is hiding.

HARLOW: Yes. It's remarkable. Paul, thank you very much.

Joining us now to talk more about this, Democratic Congressman Denny Heck. He sits on the House Intel Committee. Good morning to you. Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: Stunning news this morning that I want to present to you. You just heard it. Manafort accused of lying. He was supposed to be a key witness here for Mueller's team of prosecutors What does it tell you, Congressman, about the Mueller probe itself?

HECK: Well, I don't think it's going to have a material impact on it at all, Poppy, because if you remember how the process works in this regard, the plea deal was entered into after Mr. Manafort offered up certain information which Director Mueller then was able to corroborate. That was the basis for the plea deal. We have to assume that there is some lying going on about some other kinds of things. And that's what the speculation in your conversation was about.

One of the speculated concepts here was that maybe that there is pardon in the making. We should remember that by all accounts the Joint Defense Agreement with the Trump team is still in place. But it might be something even darker than that, Poppy. It might be that he's afraid of ending up like Whitey Bulger because of something he may reveal about the bad actors in eastern Europe with whom he is associated.

HARLOW: So it sounds like you don't see this as a blow to the Mueller team. Even though this all but undoes the cooperation of a star, potentially star witness. Your read, it seems to be, Congressman, look, they got the information they need. They fact-checked him. They found out when he was lying and now they don't need him anymore. Is that right?

HECK: Yes.


HECK: And the fact of the matter is Mr. Manafort now has two choices. He can either renege on the renege or he can go to jail for a much longer period of time than he was originally facing.

HARLOW: "Politico" makes an interesting point this morning about whether a government shutdown could at least temporarily sideline Mueller and his team. Let me read this to you this morning. "Of the seven appropriations bills that need to get passed in the next 10 days is the Commerce Justice Science bill which has some funding for Mueller's probe of the White House. If there is a shut down, it will be up to President Donald Trump whether to make Mueller essential or keep him sidelined until Congress finds a funding solution."

That's fascinating. Are you concerned about that?

HECK: Well, first of all, I don't know two members of Congress that actually want a shut down. In fact the only one I ever hear talking about being a desirable outcome for the current disagreement of opinion is the president. But secondly, even if there is, history shows us it's temporary. That most this is going to be a minor interruption in Director Mueller's work. It's not again going to materially affect it over the long term whatsoever.

HARLOW: Some of your Democratic colleagues have already -- on the Intel Committee and on the Oversight Committee have already individually requested over 60 subpoenas on various investigations tied to President Trump come January. Have you requested any? And if so, on what?

HECK: No, I have not. I am working as hard as I can to be as collaborative as I can with my fellow members on the Intelligence Committee and to work with the incoming chairman Adam Schiff. I support fully his chairmanship of this committee and his indication that what he would like to pursue is some of the financial entanglements that then Mr. Trump may have had with Russian actors and others.

HARLOW: Let me ask you specifically about your Democratic colleague Jerry Connelly who himself said yesterday that he has requested 60 plus subpoenas. He also went on to issue somewhat of a warning for fellow Democrats. And he said, quote, "Democrats don't want to be in the business of looking like some kind of witch hunt or be in the business of reeking vengeance."

Are you worried as he appears to be about the optics there?

HECK: So I think we have an Article 1 constitutional responsibility to provide a check and balance on the president.

[09:10:03] But again as I think I've said to you on this very program, Poppy, I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We also have a responsibility, for example, step up and begin to deal with the things like the massive layoffs at GM in Michigan and Ohio and other places.


HECK: Those are the kinds of things that I think Americans want us to focus on, the disappearance of a manufacturing base, despite the fact that the president was in Lordstown, Ohio, not too long ago right near one of these plants that is scheduled to be closed, bragging that manufacturing was back in America. Clearly we have more work to do, and I think that's what Congress ought to be spending its time on.

HARLOW: He was. He also said last night after GM announced the layoffs that his administration had the, quote, "magic wand" to bringing manufacturing back to the United States.

Let me just ask you finally on that point because we care deeply about it and deeply about what happens to these 15,000 GM workers and their families. You say Congress has a role. I mean, what can Congress do? The auto sector is changing and it's changing quickly.

HECK: Sure. Absolutely it is changing. And we need to be able to make sure that we respond to that. I'll tell you what we should not be doing is granting massive corporate tax cuts which are indicated they're going to be used for re-vitalization of our manufacturing base, but instead aren't used in that way whatsoever. HARLOW: But forgive for interrupting, I'd love to know what Congress

can do, though. You said Congress has a role here to help these GM workers. What should that role be? What do you want to do?

HECK: So clearly in a time and in an age when there is as much creative distraction and job disruption as there is in America, we need a new covenant with America's workers that they can have benefit portability, that they're going to be assured that if they lose their job, they're going to have robust unemployment benefits and the opportunity to provide themselves with the skills to be able to seek new employment that is as meaningful as the jobs they had.

One of the things we learned during the last huddle out of the manufacturing base is a lot of very good middle class jobs. You know, the kind of jobs where you could send your kids to college and buy your home, they were replaced by people having to work two jobs that pay much lower.

HARLOW: Two or three. That's right. I think the onus is on all of us to think of solutions for them.

Congressman, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.

HECK: You're welcome, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: This breaking news just in to CNN sadly. CNN has learned that three U.S. service members have been killed fighting in eastern Afghanistan. Just the latest deadliest attack against American troops in America's longest war. Four soldiers killed just in the last four days.

Joining me now CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, we're learning now that the Taliban is claiming responsibility for this attack, something that they often do, even without proof. But what do we know about the circumstances of how these soldiers died?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim. This is the single largest loss in ground combat for the U.S. military in three years, according to the Pentagon. Three U.S. service members killed, three U.S. service members wounded, a U.S. contractor wounded when their vehicle hit an IED in Ghazni. This is in eastern Afghanistan. The families are being notified. And then after that, we will learn the identities of the fallen.

Ghazni is an area that really encapsulates so much of what is going on in the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. had to send some troops there in recent days to help support Afghan forces that were trying to push back the Taliban that had resurged in that area. And just a few days ago, we in fact saw the top U.S. commander in that region in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller. He was in Ghazni and a photo emerged of him carrying this M-4 rifle.

And we learned it is because General Miller, when he goes into these less than secure areas, feels he wants to have his weapon, especially when his helicopter flies over them. In fact they gave us a statement from his chief spokesman saying, and I quote, "Any time we fly over hostile terrain, we carry carbines. We'd like to be prepared in case the helicopter has to set down."

That encapsulates what is going on in Afghanistan. U.S. forces not involved in domestic politics back here at home, not as worried about that as they are about the combat they face every day on the front line -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And Barbara, and Ghazni is something of a success story, not far from the capital Kabul in recent years and look how the violence has spread.

Barbara Starr, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right. Still to come for us, a key Senate seat in the deep red state. The Democrats have a chance to flip it. Right now voters heading to the polls in Mississippi.

SCIUTTO: Plus the secretary general of NATO says that Russia has no justification for detaining two dozen sailors and three ships amid a new standoff with Ukraine. Both sides are trading blame.

And anger is rising after General Motors says that it will close five plants, five, in North America and lay off thousands of workers. How bad could the fall-out be?



HARLOW: All right, polls now open in Mississippi. Voters deciding the final Senate race of 2018. Democrat Mike Espy; he's vying to become the state's first African-American senator since 1870. He is facing off with Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith today.

SCIUTTO: President Trump has gone all in on Hyde-Smith, headlining two rallies last night. That's right, two, after she became marred in several racially-charged controversies. Martin Savidge following the latest from Bryam, Mississippi. What are you finding there, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim, good morning Poppy. Well, when we showed up here at the polling place, the polls opened a little over an hour ago. The line had wrapped about two sides of the building here.

So it was very clear that there is a lot of energy and a lot of people interested in voting. The line since has been cut down some, but there's still a steady stream of people coming in the door and let's face it, you can vote pretty quick then there's only one issue on the ballot here.

[09:20:00] This should have been an easy race for Senator Cindy Hyde- Smith. This is a deeply red state and she is the Republican candidate. However, she ran into an unexpected opponent as you sort of outlined there, herself. It was her own words that of course have caused the controversy that have made this in the minds of many people a highly competitive race.

But turnout is going to be key here, and if both races turnout, in other words, if you get a very strong turnout from the Democratic as well as the Republican base, then in theory, the republican is going to win because that's just the way Mississippi happens to be.

However, if it turns out that the words of Cindy Hyde-Smith troubled so many Republicans that a number of them stay home and inspired enough Democrats, particularly African-Americans, and they show up in heavy force, well, that's the equation how Mike Espy wins. So we'll see how it goes.

HARLOW: We will see how it goes, Marty, thanks for being there. Joining us to talk about all of this, Sabrina Siddiqui; politics reporter for "The Guardian", Ayesha Rascoe; White House reporter for "Npr" and our own Chris Cillizza; Cnn politics reporter and editor-at- large. Good morning one and all, yes, hi, good morning.


HARLOW: You're so eager, OK, fine, you go first, Chris. You -- I need -- let me ask you this because I have been wanting your take on this. If Espy pulls it out and if Espy wins and the Dems take this Senate seat in Mississippi, that would mean that Republicans have lost a Senate seat in Alabama and Mississippi in the same year. If that happens, what does it say?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I mean, it's -- well, it says a few things. One, I mean, it's absolutely stunning because I do think that Cindy Hyde-Smith, despite --


CILLIZZA: Running what I would say is not a very good campaign on the merits and drawing lots and lots of negative national attention is still favored because as Martin pointed out, this is Mississippi. Now, that said, Doug Jones still win in Alabama. I think it would say something about how energetic Democratic Party is, particularly African-American community in both those states.

And I think it would also say something about bad candidates are less likely to win. Roy Moore was a disastrously bad candidate. I don't think Cindy Hyde-smith has reached that level.

I mean, that's sort in the pantheon of terrible candidates when you're talking about Roy Moore, but she has not been a good candidate. All that said, I still think she wins today.

SCIUTTO: Sabrina Siddiqui, to the broader House races because virtually every day, you have another Democratic gain in the House where there was a flip yesterday, a race that many had predicted was going to go Republican goes Democrat.

Now it looks like the number might approach a 40 pick-up for Dems, and we were doing some historical research here and confirmed that this is the biggest Democratic pick-up in the House since Watergate in 1974 -- you can throw that up on the screen, you can just compare it through the years.

Republicans have had bigger gains during those years in 2010 as you can see there in 1994, but for Democrats, you have to go all the way back to 1974. As you look at that, Sabrina, do Republicans look at that with concern?

SIDDIQUI: I think they do, especially as you look at the pick-ups Democrats have seen since the election night. You are seeing more of a blue wave take shape. And what we really learned from this election is, one, yes, that the Democratic base is especially energized, particularly in the age of Trump.

But also that Donald Trump doesn't necessarily have what you would call a coalition. And that is what is causing concern for some Republicans who viewed these midterms not just as a referendum on the president, but also as a test for how he operates as the figure head of the party.

And he certainly still has support from the majority of the Republican base. But you saw that he doesn't necessarily have as much sway with independents as he did in 2016. Many independents of course broke for Democrats, the cycle, and of course you've seen the fallout amongst suburban voters, particularly suburban women manifest itself in this election cycle.

And that's a group that Republicans are certainly keeping an eye on moving forward as they look ahead at 2020 because that's especially where I think Democrats were able to seize on President Trump's unpopularity and pick up some of those competitive seats, flipping the long-held Republican seats into their calling.

HARLOW: Ayesha, when you look big picture at this, we just saw the Democrats picked up another House seat in Utah, the Republican Mia Love conceded. Chris Cillizza's fascinating column last night on this talked about not just a blue wave, but you know a massive historic one. What should this be telling all of us about 2020?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: It's telling us that Democrats definitely do have -- I hate to use the word, some momentum going forward. But I think presidential elections, they're always different.

[09:25:00] And even when you do have these big kind of takeovers by -- or big flips by another party such as what happened in 2010, you can have the president still go on and win even if his party is a lot of -- even if his party got a lot of power in one chamber.

I think that what should be concerning for President Trump is how does he get independents back? How does he get women and those suburban voters? And will his support kind of around the country in areas outside the cities, will that be enough to help him? You know, and he had some big losses even in Pennsylvania and other states for Republicans. States that he carried. So I think that that's going to be a big

issue going forward. And I think that this White House is going to have to figure out like what is their message going to be?

SCIUTTO: Chris Cillizza, as Poppy mentioned, you wrote a column about this, about this blue wave. The Senate, of course, different story, particularly this election, Democrats were defending 26 seats, Republicans nine, many of those Democratic seats in red states --


SCIUTTO: And the Democrats lost a couple of seats, and we're going to see, you know, how the math is after the Mississippi race. But really, the Senate race is almost more indicative of the presidential race in 2020, right? What did we learn from this election about -- and again, I know we're looking far ahead here --


SCIUTTO: But we'll do it anyway. What did we learn about the president's chances in re-election in 2020 based on what we saw here?

CILLIZZA: Well, Jim, I'll come to your defense, and we are looking far ahead, I get that, people say, oh, 2018 election just ended. But in the last week, we've had Cory Booker, Michael Bloomberg, Beto O'Rourke --


CILLIZZA: Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, all say effectively, I'm thinking about running for president on the Democratic side. So it's not too early for them. What did we learn? Red states got redder, I think it's important to note, Jim, when you did this, look, out of those 26 Democratic seats, 10 were in states that Trump carried, five in states he carried by double digits and the gains that Republicans made were in those five states.

They beat Democratic senators in states that were clearly Republican. Now, I think if you look at -- like across the board, we talk about governor races, Senate races, House races. If you look at Illinois, a Republican incumbent loses. If you look at Wisconsin, a Republican incumbent -- both these for governor loses.

A Democratic governor gets re-elected in Pennsylvania. In Michigan, the governorship flips from Republican to Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, a name we don't talk about much more, we probably should, wins. So you should mention this, a lot of the places where Donald Trump changed the map really is that Midwestern area there.

So, you know, Illinois is going to be a Democratic state, but Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania.

HARLOW: And guess --

CILLIZZA: We're going to talk about a lot of --

HARLOW: Yes --

CILLIZZA: Other states, but those are the ones I think that we need to focus on, and he has trouble there.

HARLOW: And guess how much more trouble he may have now, given these --


HARLOW: Auto layoffs, OK?


HARLOW: Those are four huge auto states --


HARLOW: So what's this going to be in 2020?

SCIUTTO: Swing state losses. Chris Cillizza, Sabrina Siddiqui, Ayesha Rascoe, thank you.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Ukraine's president is vowing to stand up to Russian aggression. So what's next after Russia seized three Ukrainian ships and 24 Ukrainian sailors who were on their way to a Ukrainian port.

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, the Dow looking like it might open a little bit lower there, looking at futures two minutes before the open. President Trump appears to close the door on a deal to pause the China tariff, this is days ahead of his meeting with President Xi Jinping at the G20.

He tells the "Wall Street Journal" in a new interview, if he and Xi fail to reach a deal, he will slap an additional $267 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods.