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Eric Trump Lashes Out at George Conway; Suspicious Ballots Lead to Election Board Investigation in N.C.; Neil Bush Pays Respects to Father at Capitol Rotunda; Biden Contemplates Presidential Run. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 4, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:31:32] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A politically charged game of family feud is playing out at the White House. And you guessed it, it's also playing out on Twitter. Eric Trump lashing out on Twitter at the husband of White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway with this: "With all of the ugliness in politics, the utter disrespect George Conway shows toward his wife, her career, place of work, and everything she fought so hard to achieve might top them all. Kellyanne Conway is a great person and, frankly, his actions are horrible."

What is this about? George Conway this week raised the possibility of witness tampering when President Trump tweeted about Roger Stone, which we talked about in the last segment. That is just the latest in a string of critiques and insults that George Conway has thrown at his wife's boss.

Here's what Conway said about the time he decided not to pursue a job within the Trump Justice Department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY (voice-over): I was filling out the answer forms. It's like -- I forget what part time of year it was, like late April. Man, I'm thinking, I'm watching this thing, and you know, it's like the administration is like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) show in a dumpster fire, and I'm like, I don't want to do that. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Great to see you, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You, too.

BOLDUAN: When this topic came up very famously in a conversation that you had with Kellyanne, and back then, it was just retweets that a lot of folks were responding to from her husband. Since then, we were talking about op-eds he's written against the president. Put together an entire organization against Trump.

BASH: Yes.

BOLDUAN: And doing these interviews, calling the Trump administration a dumpster fire. It's so much worse since you had that conversation with Kellyanne. What does Eric Trump add to this now?

BASH: A defense of Kellyanne Conway. I mean, end of story. Look, when I interviewed her on "STATE OF THE UNION" back in March, I believe it was, so many months ago, George Conway had just done a couple retweets, and frankly, I was asking at the end of the interview, attempted to do it in a lighthearted way, thinking we could kind of -- you know, she would brush it aside and we would move on. Didn't happen. But now, it's maybe more obvious why it didn't happen. It is because George Conway has gone to lengths that people, not just around Kellyanne Conway, but frankly, people who have spouses or significant others around the city and around the country are going, are you kidding me?

BOLDUAN: No kidding.

BASH: You and I were talking about this. It's maybe equivalent to your husband starting an anti-CNN group. It doesn't make any sense. Especially since George Conway didn't start out as a James Carville or Marry Matlin situation where they had completely different points of view. They didn't, and it's just a slow roll, now it's very fast. Against the very administration that his wife is not only a part of but helped create in the campaign.

The thing is, I just want to say it's unfortunate. They have four children who are school aged. They are very literate in the ways of social media, and it's too bad. And the Eric Trump tweet was clearly very much a way to defend her on a personal level much more than on a professional one.

[11:35:01] BOLDUAN: Well, and you profiled Kellyanne back in the fall of 2016. You went to their house in New Jersey. There's video of it. Did you get a sense of this back then?

BASH: No, in fact, he was there that day. It was during the campaign. We had a nice afternoon at her House on a Sunday. He was there. He wanted no part of anything on camera. He made clear he wanted to keep his profile low. That's what I felt at the time. And that's what he made clear. And it's changed.

Look, I mean, people have differences of opinion all the time. But what is so head scratching to so many is that he is doing it in such a public way that is, from the perspective of Eric Trump, said it on Twitter. It's disrespectful to his wife and, again, to his kids.

Look, it's an unfortunate situation that has gotten really, really blown up because the spotlight is so hot on her, so hot on anybody who is in the administration, particularly her. And you know, it's a very, very odd situation that they're in. I'm leave it at that. And it's unfortunate. BOLDUAN: Odd and unfortunate, absolutely. And to put a fine point on

it, not like Eric Trump coming out to defend Kellyanne Conway is changing the dynamic.

George Conway is already slapping back this morning --

BASH: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- in a string of tweets. It doesn't seem like this is ending anytime soon.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Yes. And one thing I want to add is that the fact that Eric Trump has come out, because in the beginning, there were whispers, is Kellyanne going to get in trouble in the White House, the fact Eric Trump is coming out and supporting her. And remember, not that long ago, President Trump came out and was asked about it. He called George Conway "Mr. Kellyanne Conway." That was a way to say I've got her back. I think he was trying to say, George Conway, you know, should be glad and lucky he's married to Kellyanne Conway. That shows what's going on internally, that people are more upset with George Conway than they are with Kellyanne, obviously.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Dana. Thank you so much.

BASH: Thanks. Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Such a strange story.

I'm going to take you back to, I would say, the antithesis of what we're talking about and a beautiful scene on Capitol Hill right now, to honor and pay tribute to the life and legacy of President George H.W. Bush, lying in state in the capitol rotunda. Moments from now, his son, Neil Bush, is going to be paying his respects. That moment will happen. When it happens live, we'll bring you there.

We'll be right back.

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[11:42:11] BOLDUAN: Believe it or not, one House race from the midterm election, it seemed to be over, but now, not so much. In one tight race in North Carolina, a number of suspicious absentee ballots were found in one county, which led the State Board of Election to launch an investigation. And right now, Republican Mark Harris is leading the Democrat in the race, Dan McCready, by 905 votes in North Carolina's ninth congressional district. But what's being revealed now has a lot of folks questioning that.

CNN's senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, is on the ground in North Carolina, looking into this.

Drew, what are you hearing there? Is this election fraud?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I'm telling you, it really does look like it is election fraud, Kate. I was hesitant to say that until about a half hour ago when I met a woman named Emma Shipman, an elderly black woman, who did not apply for an absentee ballot. One just showed up at her door. Shortly thereafter, a white woman showed up at her door and this white woman told her she had an absentee ballot in her mail and then helped her fill it out. Emma Shipman has no idea who she even voted for. That ballot left her existence. She has no idea where it came up.

And 161 of these ballots now, absentee ballots, are under review, which is obviously less than the 905-point margin between the two candidates, but there's another 1500 or 1600 absentee ballots that have never been accounted for, and that's a very high number.

What you have here is a suspect "get out the vote" campaign run by a Republican operative with a history of voter fraud allegations in his past. He's running from us. We can't find him anywhere.

But yesterday, the head of the state Democratic Party said, look, this really does smell. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE GOODWIN, DIRECTOR, NORTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: This election has been tainted. And it is vital to our process of elections, to the candidates and most importantly to the voters, to find the truth. And I think it is, regardless of what the number may appear to be now, it is not clear that is the actual number.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: And the State Board of Election agrees with him. They have a big-time investigation going on. The ballots I spoke of have been taken up to Raleigh for review. The investigation goes on.

But it's these individual stories that keep coming out, Kate, about how people voted, had no idea who they were voting for. I talked to one guy yesterday who was helped to fill out his absentee ballot. He got a pack of cigarettes and a sandwich to do that. So things are really, really looking iffy here, I should say in Clayton County.

[11:44:55] BOLDUAN: Good news, they're launching an investigation and taking it seriously.

Drew, thank you so much.

And to put a fine point on it, it's important, we talk about voter fraud. This isn't people, it doesn't seem, intentionally trying to vote a couple times, more than once. This is what it could possibly be and what they're looking into, a campaign or someone linked to a campaign trying to coerce or get people to rig the game by doing these things you're talking about. This is an important thing that they're looking into.

Thank you, Drew. I really appreciate it.

I'm going to go -- sorry, to the Control Room talking to me. We're going to go from North Carolina back to the capitol rotunda. You see right there, George H.W. Bush's son, Neil Bush, paying tribute to his father. Let's just take a moment.

Neil Bush there putting his hand on the casket of his father. Being joined, though, we believe, by the Points of Life Foundation, as he's the chairman of the Points of Life Foundation.

Sunlen Serfaty is joining me to talk about this more --Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, a touching moment there when you saw Neil Bush, one of the sons of George H.W. Bush, lay his hand on that coffin. It reminds you this family has many, many painful good-byes over the course of this week, and the many memorials, fitting memorials to his legacy.

Neil Bush led this group here, a large group in the capitol rotunda, who are representatives from the Points of Life Foundation. This is a foundation that George Bush created to honor volunteer service hours, to honor volunteers in the United States and across the world, frankly. And it certainly will be one of his lasting legacies as he created with his wife, and it still endures to this day. Neil Bush is the chairman of the board and certainly why he came back to the capitol rotunda with this group this morning.

He was at the ceremony yesterday here on Capitol Hill where we saw so many strains of career that George Bush had, not only his successes in the White House but certainly how he made people feel, how he was kind and humble and modest, and certainly the element of service that really ran through his whole life. That's something we'll hear a lot of, Kate, in the days to come, especially at that memorial service tomorrow at the National Cathedral.

Later today, here on Capitol Hill, we expect many, many groups to come through and pay their respects, really signifying how much George Bush touched people in his life, including many members of the Secret Service and many of his personal aides over the years -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Important moments we'll be bringing to everyone throughout the day.

Sunlen, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

George H.W. Bush and that beautiful shot from the capitol rotunda right there from the capitol rotunda dome as the Honor Guard stands watch and thousands come to pay tribute.

We'll be right back.

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[11:51:19] BOLDUAN: When this week's "CNN Hero" learned that kids in his close-knit community were sleeping on the floor, he went from business man to bed maker. Meet 2018 top-10 "CNN Hero," Luke Mickelson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LUKE MICKELSON, CNN HERO: Mattresses, sheets.

I'm just a farm kid from Idaho. I grew up here. What I didn't know is there's kids next door who are struggling and kids are sleeping on the floor.

I was making a six-figure salary, but I fell into this need that I discovered was not being fulfilled by anybody.

I quit my job because I wanted to do this full time. The need I have isn't financial. The need I have is seeing the joy on kids' faces knowing that I can make a difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I love each and every one of these. Luke's nonprofit, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, delivered more than 1500 beds to children across the country. Go to CNNheros.com to vote for Luke or any of the top-10 heroes this year.

We'll be right back.

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[11:56:56] BOLDUAN: OK, try this one on for size. "I think I'm the most qualified person in the country to be president." That is not someone says who is not running for president. That is what Joe Biden said last night. He said the decisions is coming in the next couple of months. Does he need that long?

CNN politics reporter, editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, is joining me now.

Your eyebrows tell the story.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes.

BOLDUAN: If he is the most qualified person, what is he sending, what's the message he is sending to the rest of the potential field?

CILLIZZA: He's running. I always say he's running, asterisk. In the time between now and when he is set to make a formal announcement in a few months, if something happens in that time, a catastrophic event, or a life effect, of course, it can change. The message he is sending is, come at me. I'm the front-runner. I have been there and done that. I have been the vice president and I have been in the Senate. I have been in this caldron for a very long time. I'm the guy that knows how to appeal to the mid-western white voters when we lost the presidency to Donald Trump.

So I think all of this is a marker down less than a maybe I'll run. This is more about what the run is going to look like rather than if he's running.

BOLDUAN: The president called Biden his dream opponent.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BOLDUAN: For someone not yet running, or however you put it, Biden seems to at least be working on a campaign message because he said this last night: "I am a gaff machine, but, my god, what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can't tell the truth."

CILLIZZA: Yes. The moderator of this thing at the University of Montana where that comment comes from, Kate, said, look, you have been in the Senate forever. You are prone to making mistakes. People call you a gaff machine. He embraces it. I think it's smart because Joe Biden does make some verbal mistakes on the campaign trail.

BOLDUAN: It's not going to change.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: We are who we are. That's not going to go away. I think it's smart to embrace it. Running for any office, it's as important to know your weaknesses and find ways to blunt the power of the weaknesses than to know your strengths and find ways to accentuate them. That's the benefit of someone who has been in office for long time.

But I'll remind you, he is a 76 -- as of right now, a 76-year-old white man, whose only job ever in life really has been as a politician. If you look at 2018, the results in Democratic primaries in general elections suggest that the party is looking for younger, nonwhite, female faces. And 2018 might not be predictive of 2020, but that, to me, is Joe Biden's real problem, not whether he said something that can be considered a gaff.

BOLDUAN: On the age issues, he said age is a legitimate issue. It's all legitimate issue to bring up.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Let's be honest, it will all be legitimate and it will all be brought up.

Great to see you, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Whether they are legitimate or not, we know with this president, they are going to be brought up.

Yes, always wonderful to see you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I guess that way, too. Perfect.

Thanks for joining me. Thanks for joining us.