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Trump Seeks 4th National Security Adviser After Bolton's Exit; Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) Discusses Bolton Exit, Impeachment, Remembering 9/11; Multiple People Wounded in Stabbing in Tallahassee, Florida; GOP's Dan Bishop Wins Congressional Seat in Bellwether N.C. Special Election; Democratic Party Chair Wayne Goodwin Discusses Special Election Outcome. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2019 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Baldwin. Thank you so much for joining me.

President Trump is making some kind of history yet again. As another "help wanted" sign hangs outside the White House, the president is now searching for his fourth national security adviser in three years.

This morning, the president and John Bolton, they are still sparring basically not over policy but rather whether this was a firing or a resignation.

And we are learning new details of what it really was that forced that relationship to go south and to reach that breaking point. Sources tell CNN, the two men got into a heated argument Monday night over the president's decision to host Taliban leaders at Camp David.

After that, reports that President Trump was increasingly frustrated with Bolton's combative style within the West Wing while Bolton was increasingly concerned the president was caving too often when dealing with dictators like North Korea's Kim Jong-Un.

The question now about one of the most critical hires inside the White House is, who is the president going to choose. CNN has learned at least 10 names are being discussed.

CNN's White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, has the latest.

Boris, what are you hearing about this?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. Sources are indicating that, right now, there isn't a short list but there's a pool of about 10 names being circulated that President Trump may ultimately pick from.

Take a look at some of those candidates. One is Brian Hook (ph). He's someone Rex Tillerson brought into the State Department. He is currently leading the administration's push on Iran through the State Department right now.

Another name is Rick Waddell. He's a major general in the U.S. Army Reserve. He served for years as Trump's deputy national security adviser before leaving the administration last year.

A third intriguing name is Rob Blair. He's the national security adviser to the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. Some people believe Mulvaney's influence may help him get that job.

Also several ambassadors on that list. Rick Ranel (ph), the ambassador to Germany. Pete Hoekstra (ph), the ambassador to the Netherlands.

Notably, we should point out the current acting national security adviser, Charles Kupperman, a close ally to John Bolton, is not on that list. A source telling me he likely will not be on the job very long.

We should point out President Trump frequently makes unorthodox picks for these kinds of positions, so it could be that he ultimately taps someone that source never thought of, they have not brought up to us. The president, of course, often unpredictable -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Boris, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Joining me for more on this is Michael Allen, who served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.

Michael, good to see you again. Thanks for being here.


BOLDUAN: What do you think of the departure, first and foremost?

ALLEN: I think two factors were at play here. First, John Bolton is famously abrasive. I think that style grated on the president and Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Esper. Also, I think Bolton found he could not shape the president's views like he wanted to on North Korea, Iran, perhaps, and you know maybe a retaliation to the shootdown of our drone, I am told, was a big point of contention.

But, look, the national security adviser is supposed to be an honest broker who can reconcile the differing views of the national security agencies and bring them to bear on hard problems. Either Bolton didn't want to do that or felt like he couldn't because the president's style is more improvisational than conventional.

BOLDUAN: The thing about it is that President Trump knew what he was getting when it comes to Bolton. There aren't a lot of surprises. Bolton is who Bolton is. Back in May of last year, President Trump said as much. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John is a -- he has strong views on things, but that's OK. I actually tempered John, which is pretty amazing, isn't it?


TRUMP: Nobody thought that was going to -- I'm the one who tempers him. That's OK. I have different sides. I have John Bolton and I have other people that are a little more dovish than him and ultimately I make the decision.


BOLDUAN: And that's the thing. He always says, as ever a president does, they are the final decider in this. What do you think then changed?

ALLEN: I think that John Bolton's career has been dedicated to really doing hard sanctions and hard U.S. policy toured rogue regimes. I just don't think the president is there.


The president has wanted to meet with the North Korean leader on numerous occasions. Now he's open to meeting with the leader of Iran at the U.N. General Assembly in a couple of weeks. That's not where Bolton has dedicated his career.

I think these two were on diametrically opposed grounds on policy and in style.

BOLDUAN: Then what do you think of the content that, you know, is Trump tired of Bolton offering a differing opinion or tired of him being skeptical of kind of where the president is -- you know, naturally in terms of foreign policy and national security, that now he's more likely to surround himself with completely with people who then agree with him? What do you think of that concept just in terms of the role of the national security adviser?

ALLEN: Well, I think the role of the national security adviser, in addition to being an honest broker who serves policy options for the president, has to be a close adviser, has to be someone the president trusts, the person that's the last one in the room before a big decision is made.

And so, this is an important choice for the president. I think he's lurched back and forth as he looks for the right model that suits him. And it may just be that he tires of his advisers. He needs a different one every year or so.

But I think your reporting has alluded to this. Mike Pompeo is terrific in the president's eyes and I think that he will play an outsized role in all national security policy to come.

BOLDUAN: We'll see how that plays out, pretty quickly. It's not like problems when it comes to national security or the pause -- (CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: That's right.

BOLDUAN: -- when they have the national security adviser in the spot.

Good to see you, Michael. Thanks.

ALLEN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now as well, Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks, of New York. He's a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thank you for being here.

When President Trump announced Bolton's appointment, you called him one of the most unhinged warmongers in America. What do you -- what then do you think of Bolton's department? The last straw was when Bolton tried to stop Trump from meeting with the Taliban at Camp David?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): Well, I think it's good riddance of Bolton. He has been. I stand by the statement I made then.

I think that you just know in the Trump administration, you are just dealing with an administration that is constantly in crisis. That's why you do not keep anyone. How many secretaries of defense has he had? How many secretaries of defense has he had? How many positions that are opened in both the State Department, the intelligence, et cetera?

You know, it's an administration that is continually in crisis, where there's no logic, no thought, no system of working collectively with allies.

And Bolton, you know, he's one, I guess the president liked him, he was trying to go along, also at some point.

So, we got to -- and this president I don't think that he's capable of changing to have an administration that is able to put together individuals that he will listen to and -- he said it, himself, he is going to just do things on his own, he doesn't really need anybody. That's what he said.

BOLDUAN: One Republican told -- one Republican Senator told Lauren Fox, my colleague, yesterday, that lawmakers clung to Bolton because he was an experienced policy maker who the Hill at least could rely on. That's how one Republican Senator put it. Do you see a universe where you actually miss having John Bolton advising the president?

MEEKS: No, I don't see a universe where I miss John Bolton. I do see a universe, I will say this, where I miss General Mattis. I miss General Kelly and McMaster, who at least were able to articulate a plan, not a plan that I've always agreed with, but it had a plan with an objective that can be spelled out. So I can say that I do miss them as opposed to what we have now, no

question about that.

BOLDUAN: Onto some other news, there seems to be -- the way I would describe it is just continued confusion over what the House is doing when it comes to investigating President Trump. The House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, he says that they are now conducting an impeachment inquiry. Speaker Pelosi, though, very clearly not ready to use that language.

Let me play you then what Congressman Don Beyer told me yesterday.


BOLDUAN: From your perspective, are they watching -- is the House launching an impeachment inquiry?

REP. DON BEYER (D-VA): Yes, they are. I think there's a clear majority of the Democratic caucus that's come out for impeachment. I think Chairman Nadler is clearly moving forward.



BOLDUAN: It doesn't seem to be unclear to Don Beyer. You say what then?

MEEKS: I say that what we're doing is our oversight and investigative work the entire Congress. Which is what we should do.

You know, generally, I don't see how you can go to just a Judiciary Committee and say we want you to make an inquiry in regard to impeachment without having all of the evidence that you have need.

And so the Financial Services Committee is continuing to do an investigation. The Ways and Means Committees --


BOLDUAN: You don't think -- you don't think the House launching an inquiry? So you disagree with Nadler?

MEEKS: Yes. I think what the House is doing is completing its oversight investigation. Once that is completed, all of that work will then go to the Judiciary Committee and then, at that point, the Judiciary Committee can make a determination what it needs to do, where it's going --

BOLDUAN: Why does it seem that --

MEEKS: -- based on all of the evidence.

BOLDUAN: Why does it seem it's hard to get this straight? With something as consequential as an impeachment inquiry, it seems when it comes to the messaging of its happening, it's not, is not difficult to get right. It almost suggests folks are hiding from it.

MEEKS: No, I think that what's happening is, you know, a lot of individuals are frustrated because you can see with your own eyes the incompetence and what appears to be the illegalities that this president has done while in office.

And so there's, on behalf of some who are ready to move, they believe we have enough for indictment and they want to indict now, irrespective of getting a conviction. Whereas, there are others focused on an indictment are focused on not only an indictment and a conviction.

When I talked to some of my constituents, they say, well, why don't you impeach him now, not understanding, even if he was impeached today or yesterday, he would still be president of the United States.

So we got to make sure we indict and convict and/or un-elect him because the damage and danger to this country is him remaining as presidents of the United States.

BOLDUAN: It's no more clear to me at this moment.

But, though, it should not and never will be ignored. Today, does mark 18 years since the September 11th attacks. Congressman, I want your reflections on this day.

MEEKS: Yes, this is a tough day, a day that I this I that clearly, no matter whether you are a Democrat or Republican or Independent, that we all need to come together, liberal, conservative, come and be a New Yorker.

I will never, ever forget those men and women who lost their lives at the World Trade Center and then those heroes who came after the 9/11 to work, to try to clear the damage, and as a result are sick or have passed.

It's truly a day of national mourning, a day that we should never forget, and a day that should unify us and to make sure that we then come together as a country, to make sure that this never, ever happens again. And understand the true heroes that we have, men and women, who are members of the United States, citizens of the United States.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, Congressman Meeks, thank you for being here.

MEEKS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

We are following breaking news out of Tallahassee, Florida. Police there are responding to an incident with reports of multiple stabbing victims.

CNN's Nick Valencia has been following all of this.

I know there's a lot still coming in, Nick. Police are saying they have a suspect in custody. What's the very latest? NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They tell us that, Kate, that the

suspect is currently in custody. When I spoke earlier by phone to the Tallahassee Police Department, they said it happened at 8:37 this morning outside of the Dyke Industries, in between the Coca-Cola plant.

They tell me that several people were stabbed. I asked the extent of those injuries. They would not provide those details, only to say, as you mentioned, the suspect is in custody and there's no current threat to the public.

I asked the press information office with Tallahassee P.D. if this was a case of a disgruntled employee. That police officer declined to comment, confirmed or deny those details, only to tell us they are expecting to have a press conference later this afternoon. They did not give us a specific time, though, Kate.

To reiterate, multiple people stabbed. We don't know the extent of their injuries. This happened sometime this morning outside of Dyke Industries in between the Coca-Cola plant. We are working on getting more details.

BOLDUAN: The what, the why. What is going on?

Thank you, Nick. I appreciate it.

VALENCIA: You've got it, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Still coming up for us, Republicans passed the test in North Carolina avoid a memorializing special election defeat. Do Democrats still have reason to celebrate?


Plus, lawmakers are now calling on the FDA to take action against the vaping industry and do it now. This, after a sixth death is reported associated with vaping. What can be done?



BOLDUAN: The Republican Party breathing a sigh of relief this morning as Republican congressional candidate, Dan Bishop, defeated Democrat Dan McCready in a much-watched special election last night in North Carolina. That's the good news for Republicans.

The potential bad news is Bishop won by just two points in a district safely in Republican hands for decades and one Donald Trump won by 12 points in 2016.

This morning, Bishop gave President Trump quite a bit of credit for his win.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: How much of a difference did the president make?

DAN BISHOP, (R), CONGRESSMAN ELECTION, NORTH CAROLINA: It was a big deal. We were far behind. We were making progress. But the president and Vice President Pence coming in I think it put us over the top.


BOLDUAN: So what message does last night's result send to everyone then running in 2020?

I am joined once again by the chairman of North Carolina's Democratic Party, Wayne Goodwin

Wayne, what a difference a day makes. Yesterday you told me you expected Dan McCready to win. How big of a loss is this last night for you guys?

WAYNE GOODWIN, CHAIRMAN, NORTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, we always knew it was going to be a neck-and-neck race. While any loss is a letdown, as I said yesterday, as I'll say it again today, the fact that this ruby red district, a gerrymandered Republican-drawn district, won by Donald Trump by 12 points, was won by a Republican by only two points is a huge loss for Republicans.

And again, it is -- I believe foreshadows very bad news for Republicans heading into 2020. Again, any loss a letdown. The fact that we came so close is a very good sign for our Democratic candidates and our Democratic message about pocketbook issues and uniting people instead of Trump's divisive hateful tactics.

BOLDUAN: How big was President Trump in Bishop's win? Do you think he deserves the credit that Bishop is giving him?

GOODWIN: I don't know, any time any president visits a presidential or a congressional district or a state, there might be some small bump. But the very fact that this should have been a huge win for the Republicans turning into a very narrow win by two points I think is a loss for Republicans.

Yes, Dan Bishop won, but it was a neck-and-neck race, and it shouldn't have been.

Final note, I think President Trump's appearance may have been marginal and probably turned off some people.

BOLDUAN: Yesterday, you told me that was bellwether for the state and beyond. Yes, you came close in a red district, for sure. But a close second in 2020 will not get you more seats in Congress and a close second in 2020 will not get you to the White House. So what's your lesson then from yesterday?

GOODWIN: Our lesson is that, here we are in 2018 in North Carolina, we broke the Republican super majorities and won every statewide race defeating Republicans and here we had a race the only race on the ballot, the third congressional district and the ninth congressional district had races yesterday, special elections, without all of the infrastructure you normally have with a presidential, a gubernatorial and Senate and other marque key races.

We are a battleground state. We will keep fighting for the issues that matter. That is the pocketbook issues, making sure folks can have affordable drugs, affordable health care, and investment in public schools, and not dividing people along race and other lines.

So we're going to keep doing what we are doing, because it is a winning message. We narrowed the gap from 12 points to two points without the infrastructure we will have in 2020.

Imagine what we will do in 2020 with all the things at play and all the investments of people, time, talent, treasure and resources and passion in 2020. I'm very excited about it.

BOLDUAN: Wayne -- Wayne, thanks very much. Appreciate it very much. Thank you for your time.

Here with me right now in studio is CNN's political director, David Chalian.

You got to spin a day after the election. Everyone is spinning. And that is Wayne Goodwin's job today.

What did you -- what do you think of the argument that Wayne is making about how a loss is a win last night?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: A loss is not a win. Right. A loss is a loss. And Dan Bishop will be the congressman who is taking votes on the floor of the House of Representatives.

But he does have a point about a 12-point Trump district. There's no doubt that there are warning signs.

So the sigh of relief that Republicans can breathe today is short lived I think. Yes. They won the seat. That was important. That's why they went all in.

But, Kate, these warning signs of what's happening in the suburbs, that -- the suburban part of that district outside of Charlotte, when Donald Trump won the district by 12, he actually won that suburban part by a little bit. McCready, the Democrat, won it huge last fight. That is part of the backlash, the swing in the suburbs that we've seen in 207, '18, '19, that is defining American politics.

BOLDUAN: But, David -- but David, last night, when you were talking where the votes landed, it offers some -- do you think some warning signs for Democrats as well?


CHALIAN: I do. Not only Democrats but I think it paints the path the Trump campaign will pursue their re-election strategy. Because what Donald Trump was able to do, by going in at the end, so where he went to visit Cumberland County, that, in '18, in November when Dan McCready was on that ballot, he won that county four points or so.

Nope, last night, it flipped Republican. That's where Donald Trump went.

What Donald Trump can do is turbo charge and juice the Republican- based vote in rural and urban areas. If he can go in and do that and bring those people out in such large number, that's his path. That's why we're not seeing Donald Trump go --


BOLDUAN: This is not about --


BOLDUAN: This is not about persuadables.

CHALIAN: He's not -- he's not making that argument. This is about turbo charging the base. That's been the strategy of his entire presidency.

BOLDUAN: Bishop gives a lot of credit to the president for pulling this over the finish line. If he deserves it, what does it tell you about how this is -- is it all going to be like a Trump campaign for -- is that the path for all Republicans going in 2020 then?

CHALIAN: Well, but not all Republicans get to run if as Republican districts.

BOLDUAN: You are right, totally right.

CHALIAN: There are some 30 districts less Republican than this one that Republicans currently sit in. So I do think --

BOLDUAN: Back and forth.

CHALIAN: No. I think that -- if you are a Republican in a more marginal district than this one, I don't think it's still so easy to fully embrace the president. He does turn off some of the voters that you are going to need. That will be a tricky calculation for people below the ticket.

The other thing I look at, Kate, here is a red district. Donald Trump, for the election, has to repeat performance in bluish states, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. We know he can really perform in red places. Can he do that still in the purplish places, bluish places, without trying to appeal to the middle?

BOLDUAN: So a special election, it's always how much can you take from a special election? It's fascinating one though last night.


CHALIAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Coming up for us, new trouble for NFL star receiver, Antonio Brown,

just days after jumping teams. He is now accused of rape in a new lawsuit. That is next.