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House Democrats Ready to Hire Layers to Investigate Trump; North Carolina Election Board Dissolves Before Certifying House Race; Black Man Calls Double Tree Hotel Racist; Deadly Storm Kills 3, Heads to East Coast. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 28, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Of course, we don't know everything so there may be areas we've heard nothing about. We're waiting for the wrap-up of the Roger Stone side of things. There's been litigation with some of his associates over their testimony. We're waiting to see what happens with that. Then there's the secret subpoena that's being litigated currently in Washington, D.C. We don't know what that's about. Those are two areas where we know there are things going on that have not been resolved. And then there are the great unknowns that we know nothing about because the Mueller team has been so quiet.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Many lawyers say that Mueller probably is doing way more than what we know about and what's been revealed publicly.

Paul, the Russia investigation took a bit of a strange turn. A court filing by a Russian troll farm creating fake personas to sow division in the U.S. The indictment of the Russian company includes that among the vast terabytes of data collected by the Mueller team is a, quote, "nude selfie." We don't know who this is. May not want to know who it's of. This farm claims the Mueller team is unlawfully blocking access to these materials. Does this mean anything?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's so completely bizarre. Who knows? God knows and god knows who the nude selfie is of. A lot of this is classified material and Mueller is trying to block that from the public because it is classified. It's a demonstration that we know where some of the new information will come in the coming years. For instance, the New York attorney general's office is investigating possible fraud by the Trump Foundation, the Trump charitable organization. There could be criminal allegations that arise out of that. I think that's the wild card investigation that may dominate the news in the year to come.

NOBLES: Paul, Jennifer, we'll leave it there. Thank you both so much for joining us. Have a happy New Year.

CALLAN: Happy New Year.

NOBLES: Next, a major development in the unsettled congressional race in North Carolina that's been plagued with allegations of absentee voter fraud. A judge's order now creating further uncertainty over who and when this election will ultimately be decided. The heads of the Democratic and Republican parties of North Carolina will join me next. Stay here.


[14:36:13] NOBLES: Major developments today in North Carolina that could impact the future of a congressional seat there. A three-judge panel denied a request by the State Board of Elections to continue in their current form so they can complete their investigation into allegations of election fraud in the state's ninth district. The board refused to certify the results that showed Republican Mark Harris defeated Dan McCready by 905 votes. At issue, accusations that a political consultant working for Harris was illegally harvesting absentee ballots to aid the Harris campaign.

The board was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the matter on January 11th but now that hearing is in doubt. As of noon today, there's no one sitting on the State Board of Elections in North Carolina. As a result Republicans are preparing to go to court to get Mark Harris seating before Congress reconvenes.

Joining me to discuss this is Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

Dallas, just three weeks ago, I was in North Carolina reporting the story. You told me if early vote totals were leaked and you thought they were a new election should take place. Today you're saying the results should be certified. Why the change of heart?

DALLAS WOODHOUSE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, simply being that we've had three weeks and the State Board of Election has not put forward evidence of these things. These were rumor, innuendo. There were stories about thousands of ballots being destroyed. That didn't happen. And now the North Carolina State Board of Elections that became defunct at noon today failed in their duty which was required under the law of the constitution and morally to certify Mark Harris the winner because he got more legal votes. They have not put forward evidence to show he didn't. It was clear that the three-judge panel, made up of two Democrats and one Republican, was concerned that the board of elections led by Governor Cooper's appointee, Joshua Malcolm, was going to just continue a never-ending fishing expedition. The evidence did not exist to justify denying Mr. Harris but to keep this going to try not to seat Mr. Harris, to sully his name and reputation and see if they could somehow figure a way to take away an election victory earned by Mr. Harris and Republicans at the ballot box.


WOODHOUSE: Mr. Harris got more legal votes. He should be certified and he should go to Congress.

NOBLES: But, Dallas, in response to the point that the Harris campaign made about the State Board of Elections not concluding their investigation in a timely fashion, they respond that Harris did not supply them with some 140,000 documents to cooperate with their investigation. WOODHOUSE: This is outrageous. I have never been so angry about

anything. The Democrat head of the State Board of Elections who has been disgraced by the three-judge panel, he put out that statement, not the other board members. He is trying to sully again Mr. Harris's name --


NOBLES: Has he submitted these 140,000 documents?

WOODHOUSE: Hold on a minute. He's not required to send to a Democrat every piece of paper a campaign ever put forward. By the way, it is irrelevant. The board of elections needed to establish that these things happened, that they happened at all. Mr. Harris only ever touched his ballot. His. He doesn't have anything to add. This was an absolutely atrocious smear by a disgraced Democrat elections chair, the former chair now on the way out. It is unconscionable.

[14:39:56] NOBLES: But, Dallas, originally, this board of elections unanimously voted not to certify the votes, there was a 7-2 vote to continue their investigation. Would it benefit the voters of the ninth district --


WOODHOUSE: Originally, Godzilla was a lizard. Originally, Godzilla was a lizard. How long are they going to wait? It is 54 days since the general election. They have put forward virtually no relevant evidence, a couple of affidavits that are filled with hearsay. They have put no concrete evidence. And it is their job to do that. It is not the job of Mark Harris to prove that he shouldn't be certified. He won the election. He should be certified. I believe a federal court will order the state of North Carolina to do so.

NOBLES: All right. So that seems to be the next stage of this for Republicans heading to federal court to see Mark Harris seated.

Dallas Woodhouse, we appreciate you bringing us your perspective.

Let's get the Democratic view on this. I want to bring in the chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Wayne Goodwin.

Mr. Chairman, you heard what Dallas Woodhouse had to say there. Would it be your preference that this current board or at least a board in some fashion, a board that Roy Cooper, the governor, would appoint, he said he's going to do that today, would be able to see this investigation through to the end?

WAYNE GOODWIN, CHAIRMAN, NORTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The short answer is yes. What is shocking and is unconscionable is that the North Carolina Republican Party has day in and day out changed its tune on this. It seems like their position has changed depending on the day of the week. In is purely obstruction of an ongoing investigation. Governor Cooper and the state of North Carolina and our voters have had to deal multiple times with the Republican-led legislate passing unconstitutional laws trying to destabilize and recreate the board of elections. Governor Cooper has done what he needed to do, and that is to appoint members of a board based upon the last constitutional law that created a State Board of Elections. This investigation needs to continue. And despite what you heard a moment ago, the board of elections has provided hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents for folks to know what is going on. Of course, during an investigation most documents can't be released until the investigation is complete. So it is shocking, it is unconscionable, but it because of what the Republican Party is doing. Mark Harris is trying to steal this election. It is obstruction of an investigation.

NOBLES: Mr. Chairman, to that point, why did the Democratic Party of North Carolina not appeal this decision by the three-judge panel to keep the board in its current composition to finish this investigation? Why did they allow it just to dissolve today at noon without any type of court challenge?

GOODWIN: Well, there's a very short window. Of course I'm not the attorney for Governor Cooper or for the state of North Carolina, but what I will tell you is this, that in order to keep an investigation on track for the January 11th hearing, it was vital that there be a board of elections constituted based on what the last constitutional law was for a board of elections. The Republican Party of North Carolina and the Republican legislative leaders have multiple times now distracted and delayed and done all they can to destabilize our State Board of Elections and the elections process. Why is it now they are saying they don't want this investigation to go through if this is obstruction? Governor Cooper is trying to do his best within the law so we can have a board established and it will be established under the last constitutional law to get the job done. There's ample evidence provided publicly and I'm confident there's more evidence that the Republicans apparently don't want us to see. This is obstruction of an investigation. The Republicans are trying to steal a Congressional election in the ninth Congressional district.

NOBLES: One last question for you, chairman. Governor Cooper has indicated he will attempt to seat a board to continue this investigation until a new board can be seated at the end of January. This is a little bit in the weeds for people who haven't been following the story chapter and verse. The Republicans said they are not going to submit two names. Theoretically, the governor could submit those three Democratic names, they could sit, there could be a quorum, they could continue this investigation, but it would be without any Republican support. It's likely this could go further down the road into a court battle. Would you be comfortable with the idea of a board of elections without any kind of Republican representation at all continuing on this investigation or would you worry it would be tainted and make this process even more complicated than it already is.

GOODWIN: It's been tainted by how the Republicans have treated this process here in North Carolina. As soon as I received the letter from Governor Cooper, which was received simultaneously by the Republican Party chair, Chairman --

(CROSSTALK) NOBLES: I don't mean to cut you off. I need to know this definitively. I understand you plan to sit those three Democrat members on that board and I understand that that is your position. But are you OK with the idea of there only be three Democrats on this board making this decision? I understand that the Republicans to a certain extent are obstructing this in their own way by not adding those Republicans. But wouldn't it make sense to have both Republicans and Democrats be a part of this investigation and see it through?

[14:45:09] GOODWIN: It would make most sense to have Republicans join us as Democrats in having this board do its business. They can't have unclean hand and claim this board as constituted can't do its job when they won't submit names themselves. The board will need to do what it needs do. If it means only the folks who show up to do their job, so be it. But it shameful and unconscionable the Republicans are trying to have it both ways when the voters are being denied their voice for the ninth congressional district. It is shocking and I'm ashamed to hear what is happening on the Republican side of the aisle about this.

NOBLES: A very complicated story. Chairman Goodwin, we appreciate you being here trying to unpack it all. The bottom line on this is there's very good chance that the voters of the ninth congressional district in North Carolina will be without a representative of Congress when the new Congress convenes at the beginning of the year.

Chairman, thank you very much for being here.

GOODWIN: Thank you.

NOBLES: Still ahead, a hotel guest said he was thrown out of a Double Tree Hotel for making a call in the lobby all because he's black. What does the hotel have to say about the claim?

And just in, a new development involving actor, Kevin Spacey, facing sexual assault charges.

We're back in a moment.


[14:50:48] NOBLES: It's happened again. A black man says that hotel staff where he was a guest in Portland, Oregon, called the police on him for talking on the phone.


JERMAINE MASSEY, ACCUSES HOTEL OF RACISM: I've not moved. I've been sitting here the whole time and they're calling the police on me because I'm taking a phone call in the lobby. Did he ask any of those people who just walked by what room they were staying in? No.


NOBLES: Jermaine Massey said he was racially profiled. He said the security guard in the video called him a safety threat and asked him to leave or be arrested. Sound familiar? This is one in a series of living-while-black stories this year where police were urged to investigate black people just going about their business, like waiting for a friend at Starbucks, campaigning door to door, asking for directions, working as a firefighter, swimming in a pool, or driving with leaves on their car. This list is pretty long. It goes on and on and the problem persists. In most of these cases, the person dialing 911 was white.

Let's bring in CNN's Paul Vercammen.

Paul, from the start -- tell us the story from the beginning of the Portland hotel incident.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's pick it up, Ryan. He returns from a concert. Massey goes into the hotel lobby into a quiet space. He said he needed to call his mother for a family emergency and then he says, "The security guard starts harassing me."


MASSEY: Do you really want that P.R. issue, Earl? Do you?

UNIDENTIFIED SECURITY GUARD: The Portland police will be here in a minute.

MASSEY: Thank you. Call them. I'm waiting. They're coming why? Why are they coming?

UNIDENTIFIED SECURITY GUARD: To escort you off the property.

MASSEY: Because why, and I'm staying here.


MASSEY: OK. I'm staying here at the hotel. I didn't do anything to you. I'm sitting over here taking a phone call.


VERCAMMEN: And Massey goes on to say that he was told to produce evidence that he was staying in the hotel. He showed a card key envelope with the date on it as well as the room number. As you heard, he also pressed them and said other hotel guests have to provide this? They said no. Eventually police were called and Portland police said they got called for a trespassing call. They escort him to his room. He gets ejected.

What's next? We spoke to Massey's lawyers and here what's they said in terms of legal action. They said, "We have a litigation strategy and a political strategy. He's now trying it decide how public he wants to go with all of this. He is overwhelmed and determined he wants justice and he doesn't want this to happen to anybody else."

Also interesting, Massey has experience with the Justice Department in both human relations and specifically in discrimination. He now works for Amazon in human resources.

The hotel has offered an apology. Let's look at what they said, basically saying in so many words that they're sorry about all of this, "That this matter ended in a way that it didn't have to. We've reached out to the gentleman," et cetera. They still have not had a chance to talk to Massey.

We have reached out to both those employees involved in his being kicked out of the hotel. They have not responded -- Ryan?

[14:54:06] NOBLES: Paul Vercammen, live for us from Los Angeles. Paul, thank you.

Next, a severe storm that has already killed at least three people is now moving toward the east coast. We'll have a live report straight ahead.


NOBLES: The winter storm system that's moving east has now turned deadly. Officials confirm three people have died, one in a crash in Kansas, after a tree fell on her camper trailer in Louisiana. And another woman in Tennessee after walking through floodwaters. In the Midwest, whiteout conditions have made travel nearly impossible in some areas. In the south, millions remain under flood and flash watches. Overnight, 11 inches of rain fell in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins me now.

Allison, what can people expect in the coming hours? It certainly seems messy out there.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We still have rain from Florida all the way up to Maine right now and some snow in areas of New Hampshire and Maine as well. This is where you have some of the heaviest rains, cities like Charlotte, Washington, D.C., and New York at this particular time. We zoom in further to the north, any travel plans through places like Providence, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C., you are contending with that rain right now. We already have delays. This is likely to extend delays.

Further south, good news for Atlanta and Birmingham, you're starting to see an end to that rain. But other cities, Raleigh, Charlotte, Tallahassee, some of the heaviest rain has yet to come for those areas. A lot of locations. Alabama and Mississippi have picked up eight inches of rain and some have picked up a foot of rain. That's why you have a lot of flood and flash flood watches in effect.