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New Details Emerge on DOJ & FBI Officials Trying to Rein in Trump after Firing Comey; Trump Makes Major Announcements on Cabinet; Trump Plans to Downgrade U.S. Ambassador to U.N. Position; Mueller Will Reveal More on Cohen & Manafort in Sentencing Documents; Election Fraud Investigation in N.C. Congressional Race. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 7, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: -- the Flynn memo about the substantial assistance that he has given the government in, by the way, a criminal investigation that is not being done by Robert Mueller and being done by others at the Justice Department. Significant assistance means he's provided -- Flynn in this case, provided information about others who can be targeted and indicted. So do we see that same language in the Cohen memo? You know, we learned last week the rather significant disclosure that Cohen had been in negotiation with an emissary from the Kremlin about building a Trump tower during the presidential campaign. Is that going to lead to further prosecutions by Robert Mueller? We may get an important clue on that by seeing how this memo is worded and whether it uses those critical -- that critical phrase, "significant assistance to the government."

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Elie, we don't have much time, but you wrote an article earlier this week and you said Manafort is the main event.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think so. We're going to learn about who is Manafort trying to protect. Usually when cooperators go bad, it's because they're lying to protect somebody else. I want to know who he was holding back information on and why.

CABRERA: All right, thank you both. Elie Honig, Michael Isikoff, good to see you.

Coming up, new details on the president's new shakeup at the White House, including early plans to downgrade the position of ambassador of the United Nations -- of the U.S. to the United Nations. That's next.

Plus, the Wall Street roller coaster continues today. Let's look at the big board. The Dow down nearly 400 points after a new jobs report misses expectations.

Stay with us.


[11:36:16] CABRERA: President Trump making some major cabinet moves this morning. He announced he will nominate William Barr to be the next attorney general. Barr served in the same capacity under president George H.W. Bush. CNN has also learned prominent Republicans urged Barr to accept the job for the good of the Justice Department.

Mr. Trump also announcing State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, is his nominee to replace Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert is a former TV host with little experience in international diplomacy.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks. He's of New York. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, good to have you with us.

First, your reaction to Trump naming his nominees for the U.N. ambassador and attorney general. We also have the news that John Kelly will resign in coming days as chief of staff. What do you make of the timing and ultimately, are these good or bad moves?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS, (D), NEW YORK: I'm really concerned about what's taking place in our country right now. The fact that if you look at the proposed appointment at the U.N., someone who is basically a TV personality who has no experience as a diplomat or in foreign affairs at all. To talk about she wants to downgrade that position at a time when the world is smaller than ever and closer than ever. We need more diplomacy and an individual who clearly does not have the ability in my estimation or at least the chops, the background chops to do that job, I'm very, very concerned about that.

In regard to Mr. Barr, to be the attorney general, I think we need somebody at the helm, but I do believe that he should recuse himself from the Mueller investigation also.


MEEKS: Because here is a president who clearly is under investigation. I'm a former prosecutor. You do not allow someone that is under investigation to name the person that will head the prosecution. That just does not make sense. If you look briefly, for example, just for a brief conversation that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had with Bill Clinton, she had to recuse herself. President Obama did not appoint another person to take over. That's how someone within the chain of command took over to finish the investigation because that's so we have integrity in the investigation. Not allowing someone who is being investigated to put the prosecutor in place, that strikes me as the strong possibility of trying to obstruct justice.

CABRERA: You mentioned that you don't believe Nauert is in a position in which she's ready to be the U.N. ambassador, but a lot of people said that about Nikki Haley, that she didn't have the right experience. Even critics have said, since, she held her own.

MEEKS: Nikki Haley was not a TV personality. She was an individual who was a governor of the state of South Carolina and had many chops before her. She clearly, you know, knew foreign affairs. This individual, if you just look at her entire career, it's basically not even been a TV personality dealing with foreign policy at all. She's not an individual that has shown anywhere in her resume that she's equipped for this job. I would hope in such a serious time as we're currently in, with all that's going on in the world, with all that is taking place at the U.N. Right now, that the Senate, who will look at this, will see that she's not qualified. I think that's the reason why you see Mr. Bolton and others want to downgrade the position so that they will not have to go through Senate confirmation and have to investigate the facts of what one's background is.


CABRERA: Do you disagree with the move to downgrade it?

[11:40:59] MEEKS: Oh, absolutely. It seems to me it's a ploy to get in someone that is incompetent and will not, you know, stand up for purely diplomatic purposes and working in a diplomatic way. It shows and sends a bad signal to the rest of the world. So to downgrade it at this time of our relationships that we have with the rest of the world, when there's a seriousness that we need to be talking about and having some command of what's going on in the world, in the U.N., is a serious mistake. And to take it out of the confirmation process, you know, we have some evidence, fortunately, even with we had the appointments of some federal judges where you have seen some people the president has tried to put in that have absolutely tried no cases. Had never been in a courtroom, and he was trying to make them a federal judge.


CABRERA: We'll see as the confirmation process plays out what her level of experience is and her preparation for the role.

But let me ask you about the Russia probe today, because we expect to learn a lot. And we have seen the president tweeting about this all day, attacking Robert Mueller, attacking his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, saying he is conflicted. What's your response?

MEEKS: My response is that the president is getting very nervous. The doors and the walls are closing in. And that's what happens. You're panicking and you know some things are about to come out. The revelation that you just made from former Secretary Tillerson saying the president was asking him to do certain things that were illegal, so if he was asking Tillerson, you can imagine what he was asking individuals like Cohen and others that were in his inner circle in that regards, telling them what he wanted to have happen. This is our country, history is -- we have a very critical stage right now. If this was taking place with Hungary or Kim Jong-Un and North Korea, we would be jumping, criticizing Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. This is a very critical time for our country. I would hope our institutions, particularly the Senate, who are going to have a lot to say in this, will now put country over party because history will record what we're doing and what happens right now for the sake of protecting our institutions and to make sure that one branch of government is just not overdoing another branch.

Could you imagine what Richard Nixon would have done if he had the opportunity to do what this president is doing? And where our country would be today? We have to keep that in mind. What we did with Richard Nixon, we came together to say we're not going to allow the executive branch to commit a criminal act and get away with it.

CABRERA: I hear you.

Congressman Gregory Meeks, thanks for coming on. Happy Friday.

MEEKS: Pleasure. Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, President Trump teasing even more shake-ups this weekend, saying he will make a major announcement involving the U.S. military at tomorrow's Army/Navy game. Details next.


[11:47:33] CABRERA: After making several high-level administration nominations this morning, President Trump will make another announcement, he says, concerning the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he attends the Army versus Navy game tomorrow, which is considered the greatest rivalry football game.

And CNN's Coy Wire is joining us from Philadelphia.

Coy, Trump will become the tenth sitting president to attend this rivalry. What makes it so special?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. It's a privilege to be here. Played since 1890, the pageantry and tradition that make it perhaps the greatest sporting spectacle in the world.

As you mentioned, President Donald Trump will be the tenth sitting U.S. president to attend the game. He attended the game in 2016 as then president-elect. And it's tradition for the commander-in-chief, Ana, to sit on one side for a half and then switch sides so as not to show any favorites.

Now, when we watch the Army/Navy game, it's like a grand tribute to those who serve our nation. These are folks who are dedicated to their studies. They're committed to service, and they're willing to sacrifice their lives for everyone watching. They're exactly the type of athletes we need to celebrate more.


UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMEMBER: I think the quote, "It's the only game where those who are playing are willing to die for those who are watching," that's so true. I had tears in my eyes when we came on the field last year.

UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMEMBER: It's been awesome to have success and play a game we love. But at the end of the day, it's about service to country and protecting American people and American way of life. The guys at Navy, the guys at Army, we're all willing to die for our nation. UNIDENTIFIED SERVICEMEMBER: Everybody else, they have a shot at the

NFL. They get to go do whatever they want after school, but these guys, Army and us, we both know that, yes, we're going to hate each other on the field, but at the end of it, we're fighting together.


WIRE: Now, you can see these future defenders of our nation. They embody the spirit of all that sport could and should be. Taking on your opponent with all their fight while respecting them with all your heart. It's what makes tomorrow's game, Ana, perhaps more must-see than ever before.

CABRERA: Got to love it.

Coy Wire, thanks so much, sir.

[11:49:39] Coming up, there's still one race undecided left from the midterms. And it's being rocked now by allegations of election fraud. New details on the controversial race for North Carolina's ninth district next.


CABRERA: For many, this time of year is about giving back. The "12th Annual CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute" salutes 10 people who put others first all year long. The star-studded event airs live this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: We are humans helping humans and they need our help.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: We are truly giving the gift of mobility.

ANNOUNCER: Through the best the world has to offer.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: We are building something that matters a lot more than we do.

ANNOUNCER: They're heroes today and every day.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: This teaches girls how to solve programs.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: We serve anybody who ever raised their hand to defend the Constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: My vision was to have a home where women can find safety and find themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: The first goal was to create this hospital- based intervention.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: I want each and every one of them to feel special.

ANNOUNCER: Join Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa alive as they name the "CNN Hero of the Year."

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Here we are once again celebrating the best of humanity.

KELLY RIPA, CNN HOST: Don't we need this tonight more than ever?


ANNOUNCER: "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute," Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.


CABRERA: You want to feel good, don't miss this. It's going to be a great show, again, here on CNN this Sunday.


[11:56:06] CABRERA: Welcome back. CNN discovered more voting irregularities in the contested House race in North Carolina, the state's ninth district race in the only undecided House race of the mid-terms as investigators look into election fraught allegations. Now Democrat Dan McCreedy has withdrawn his concession as a CNN review shows absentee ballots envelopes found irregularities in procedures and witness signatures.

Joining us now, Brian Murphy, the Washington correspondent for the "News and Observer" and "Charlotte Observer.

Brian, let's talk about the scale of the potential election fraud alleged. Not just what happened in this general election, but questions about the integrity of the primary election as well. What does it mean in terms of how this could get sorted out?

BRIAN MURPHY, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEWS AND OBSERVER & CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: The State Board of Elections is investigating and they can do a number of things. including ordering a new election. Congress is getting involved with several members of Democratic leadership saying they may refuse to seat Mark Harris if he tries to be seated in January. And they can order a new election. The scope is expanding. It's not only Bladen Country but neighboring Robson County is also being investigated as to what exactly happened with absentee ballots in that country.

CABRERA: Is there a timeline for this to get resolved?

MURPHY: The State Board of Elections has said they will hold a hearing on or before December 21st. If there were a new election, it may not take place until March. This could drag on for several months.

CABRERA: The Republican candidate, Mark Harris, has a 905-vote lead. Do we know how many votes are in question? MURPHY: We don't. If you look at the mail-in absentee ballots in

Bladen County alone, that would not be enough to overturn the result, but there were high unreturned rates for absentee in Robson County and a question as to what happened to the ballots. Did people turn them in and they never made it back to the election boards or did they decide they were not going to vote in the election? Until we get an answer, it's hard to know if the results can be overturned.

CABRERA: The man at the center of the allegations is McCray Dallas who is alleged to have been in charge of this absentee roundup effort. He has a history dating back several elections. Where was the accountability before now?

MURPHY: This is at least the fifth investigation that was taking place since 2010 into absentee ballots in Bladen County. McCray Dallas has been involved in almost all the investigations in some way, including ones in which he has accused others are doing what he is accused of doing. The 2010 case never brought charges, but there are at least three open cases about the 2016 election and several involving McCray Dallas that have yet to reach their conclusion and now you have an investigation from 2018. And you mention the primary. This may go back into the primary, into the general, and races in 2016 and before that.

CABRERA: I have 30 second left, but what about the Republican candidate? Is he calling for an investigation and do we know about his involvement?

MURPHY: Mark Harris paid a consulting firm called Red Dome Group which paid McCray Dallas. Mark Harris has not spoken about the controversy since it happened. He sent out a tweet calling for a full investigation, but that's all the comments he made so far.

CABRERA: Brian Murphy, the story has not ended just yet.

Thank you very much for filling us in.

And thank you all for being here with me on this Friday. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.