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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Interview with Congresswoman-elect Abigail Spanberger of Virginia; NYT: Trump Asking if Vice President Pence is Loyal; 66 People Dead, 600+ Reported Missing In California; Kim Jong-un Supervises Test Of New Ultramodern Weapon; Oscar-Winning Screenwriter William Goldman Dies. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 16, 2018 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The blue wave in the House of Representatives swept over even more territory today with another congressional district falling into Democratic control.

[16:30:02] Democrats now officially picked up a net gain of at least 34 seats and in the six races that remain uncalled, all were held by Republicans before Election Day. Democrats currently are ahead in five.

Joining me is one member of the new Democratic majority, Congresswoman-elect Abigail Spanberger, who will be representing Virginia 7th district, which is basically the Richmond suburbs.

So, I know this is the question everybody is asking you and I hate to be cliche, but your very first vote is going to be about who should be the speaker. You met with Nancy Pelosi today. And you told her that you were still going to vote against her as you told your constituents you would.

Why? What's wrong with Nancy Pelosi?

ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D), VIRGINIA CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: Nothing is wrong with Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi has done tremendous things for this country as speaker, as minority leader, and I have tremendous respect for her. Among the reasons that there are so many women entering Congress now is because she paved the way for us.

But one of the things I talked about frequently on the campaign trail was the need to have new voices in Congress. The need to turn a new page and the way we engage across the aisle and really to be able to work on the priorities that were most important to the people in my district.

TAPPER: But is anyone even challenging her? I mean, I don't even know -- is there a candidate running against her? I don't think so.

SPANBERGER: Currently, nobody declared. But so --

TAPPER: So no one is better than Nancy Pelosi? I don't understand.

SPANBERGER: Yes. So I will be voting for someone. When I was talking with my constituents, I said I wouldn't be voting for her, I would be voting for new leadership. And so, really my first vote is about making sure that I am from day one --

TAPPER: So whoever runs against her, you're going to vote for, Marcia Fudge, Seth Moulton, whoever.

SPANBERGER: It will depend wholly on who runs against her.

TAPPER: You've told CNN you have your eyes on lots of plum committee assignments, Ways and Means. I saw this list. I thought, to be a freshman again. Ways and Means, Intelligence, Education, Foreign Affairs, Veterans' Affairs -- those are all great committees.

Do you really think you can get your chosen -- desired committee assignments when going against Nancy Pelosi, who probably will be the next speaker of the house? I mean, you're crossing her.

SPANBERGER: Well, so I have additional committees on the list of committees I would like to be on, beyond even those.

You know, I don't -- I -- at the end of the day, I think she wants what's best for Congress and for the country. And I'm requesting the committees that I will be requesting, a couple of them, are, in fact, on that list once I pare it down for my final letter of request. Those are committees where I would be able to best serve the people of my districts, where I would be able to bring my skill set and my background of knowledge to Congress.

And so, I fully expect she's going to make the best choice for the members of Congress and for the country and put people on committees where they'll be able to bring other own background and perspectives in a viable, important way, and where they can best serve the districts that elected them, because I know at the end of the day, her priority and priority of I hope every person in the Democratic caucus, is to make sure we're doing a lot of good things that new members are able to deliver on the things they discuss with their constituents, so that we'll be there again in 2020.

TAPPER: So you represent the Richmond suburbs, has not been represented by Democrat in Congress since 1968. How are you planning on breaking from your party? What are some issues where you plan to be more moderate? It seems like the center of gravity for the Democratic Party will be to your left. What are some things you'll work on that might appeal to swing voters, independents, who voted for you this time?

SPANBERGER: So, I think across the board, the things important to people and voters in my district, whether they identify as Democrats or middle of the road independents or even Republicans who decided to cross party lines in this connection, number one issue is health care. Beyond that, the rural communities that are part of our district, as well. It's broadband Internet infrastructure. It's education and career and technical training. It's ensuring that the economy is working for everyone.

And so, you know, among those priorities, those are pretty broad brush priorities. They're important to people. TAPPER: They're kind of governance issues there, right? I mean,

they're not necessarily, you know, I supported this project of the president, which might be stereotypically considered to be conservative.

SPANBERGER: Exactly. So when we're looking at places where we can find some level of real positive forward movement, I think it's incumbent upon us as a broad Democratic Party to find places where we can create impactful legislation and where possible, work across party lines so that we're not volleying back and forth in this kind of division that we've seen so frequently in recent years.

TAPPER: I just want to get your response to this. I know you don't know details about it, but the House Ethics Committee just released the report sanctioning two of your male colleagues. An outgoing Democratic congressman, Rubin Kuhn, who made sexual advances towards women in his campaign; and current and the future Republican Mark Meadows who is accused of not firing his chief of staff after he was accused of sexually harassing his female co-workers. He instead made him a senior adviser.

I don't want to get into specifics of these charges. But more broadly, there are now more than 100 women in Congress. Having a woman in Congress doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to be more sensitive to these issues as we saw with a -- and now ex- Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut.

[16:35:07] But do you think more women in Congress will mean less of this kind of affair?

SPANBERGER: Well, I think there's probably a couple of different things that will mean less of this ideally in the future. One, you know, as a member-elect who sat through orientation this week, among the topics that we discussed at length was the responsibility that each member of Congress has to ensure that his or her office is a positive working environment and one where any allegations of any sort, be it sexual in nature or others, are taken incredibly seriously and moved on quickly.

With so many women coming into Congress, I do think that we will bring with us experiences and in some cases first-hand perspectives of what certain work environments are like. And I think many of us, and I can't speak for everyone, but I know myself, I'm going to do everything possible to ensure we have a positive working environment, that expectations of zero tolerance are well-known. And that we are able to focus again on the issues that my constituent sent me to Washington to focus on.

And those are policy-related issues, and those are about, you know, health care and education and infrastructure issues.

TAPPER: I'll just say, good luck to you and just a tip on the sexual harassment stuff, there are a lot of pigs on Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans. It's a bipartisan affliction. So I hope you guys -- you take care of that to a degree.

Thanks so much for being here --

SPANBERGER: Thank you.

TAPPER: -- and good luck to you.

Continuing in politics, it's hard to imagine anyone in the world really who could be more loyal to Trump than Vice President Pence.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our president is a man with wide shoulders and a big heart.

The President Donald Trump stands without apology as leader of the free world.

President Trump has been making history since the first day of this administration.

Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of leadership in the Congress of the United States, you're delivering on that middle class miracle.


TAPPER: In fact, in one cabinet meeting, Pence praised Trump once every 12 seconds for three straight minutes leading to tweet, there is a word for a person who would praise someone every 12 seconds and they posted a link to the definition of the word sycophant.

But despite all of that, "The New York Times" is reporting that the president has been asking aides and advisers if they think Vice President Pence is loyal.

Let's talk about it with the panel.

Bill, I can't think of anybody, including the first lady, who has been more loyal to President Trump than Vice President Pence.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I feel like I should praise him and talk about how I've been enjoying my off the record conversations with him. You know, talk about how I'm glad he'll be taking on more of the burden of governing and you know, just to cause even more uproar in the West Wing in case they're watching this show. It's a little insane, yes.

TAPPER: And what do you think about it?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that the president asked a lot of people if certain staffers are seen as loyal. So I don't think that's highly unusual for him to be asking if Mike Pence is loyal. And I think he's actually done that for a while now. He'll randomly say, well, what do you think about this person? What do you think about this person? Then when it comes out he's asking that, he's like, well, I'm right

behind this person. So I don't think that's that unusual. And you have to look back to that press conference last week when President Trump was asked, is Vice President Mike Pence going to be his running mate in 2020, and he had him stand up in front of everyone in the East Room, asked him to run with him again in 2020.

It was a very public show of what was seen as commitment at the time. So I don't think Mike Pence is being kicked off the 2020 ticket right now.

KRISTOL: You don't think that's the opposite? I think having the whole public show -- in Trump's head, it's not a strategy. In Trump's head, that's probably like what you do before you knife the guy.

COLLINS: Could also say it's not super unusual for a president to mull over what their ticket is going to look like when they run for re-election.

TAPPER: It is in a way if it ends up in the newspapers.

COLLINS: Yes, right, sure.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And this story comes at an interesting time, because remember where Vice President Pence is right now. He's in Asia, touring other countries, and this is the traditional Asia trip that U.S. presidents had done to critical forums in the region that every U.S. president has done since 2013. Barack Obama couldn't make it that year because there was a government shutdown at the time.

But Pence is taking on the role at least for now in that part of the world that the U.S. president is supposed to be doing.

KRISTOL: That's good. I'm going to tweet that and make a big deal. Pence doing great job -- job presidents usually do.


KIM: Just making an observation.

TAPPER: The White House has responded to this story, said, quote, the president absolutely supports the vice president and thinks he's doing an incredible job helping to carry out the mission and policies of this administration. Now, CNN is reporting that Trump is not openly suggesting -- he's not suggesting that he's going to replace Pence. But he is asking about his loyalty and he's asking about loyalties of other people, too, suggesting that maybe the president is just worried about overall who in the White House can he trust.

[16:40:03] JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know who raised this, a little bit earlier on, Omarosa. In her book, she had an entire chapter.

TAPPER: You read her book. SIMMONS: I actually do. I read her book and I interviewed her. But

she had an entire chapter in that book about Mike Pence and what said when she was around the Pence staff. I wonder -- I'm sure who else read it, Donald Trump.

TAPPER: What did it say?

SIMMONS: The book said that her staff -- his staff talked about -- they called him Mr. President in private. And they made other jokes about when he got -- when he was going to be running the White House. She talks about that pretty directly and talked about it on our interview on Hill TV.

TAPPER: And I've seen on And I've seen speculation that this is less about Mike Pence and more about his chief of staff Nick Ayers being bandied about as a possible replacement for the president's chief of staff John Kelly.

KRISTOL: And a lot of people who aren't so fond of him, I would say.


KRISTOL: He's kind of an operator, certain Washington type. Maybe a little bit on steroids in terms of not being entirely -- says one thing to one person, another thing to another person. Did very well in the private -- you know, as a consultant and people have looked at some of those campaigns and wondered about some of the ethical practices. So he fits right in, in the Trump White House.

No, I think he's been maneuvering to replace Kelly. You would know -- he's been maneuvering to replace John Kelly for quite a while.

COLLINS: Which wouldn't be entirely surprising that the vice president's chief of staff would like to be chief of staff in the West Wing. I do think there is an active effort under way in the West Wing to prevent Nick Ayers from becoming chief of staff.


COLLINS: There are multiple staffers who do not want him to become chief of staff. People who are loyal to General Kelly and believe he should still be the one running the White House or the they believe a lot of the criticism is that he is an operator. But so many people who work in a White House, work in Washington --

TAPPER: I don't understand that criticism at all.


COLLINS: So, that is an unusual criticism. And a lot of the people who were saying that, maybe they picture themselves as chief of staff one day. But there definitely is an effort under way to convince President Trump not to select Nick Ayers as his chief of staff.

SIMMONS: I've been around for a my presidencies. I've never seen the vice president's chief of staff become the president's -- KRISTOL: Me either. I know a little about that.

COLLINS: There are a lot of things in this administration that have happened.

TAPPER: The vice president's communications director -- or press secretary, Biden and Obama with Jay Carney.

Thank you so much, everyone.

Inside the gut-wrenching and frantic search for the missing in the California fires as the list surges to 600 people.

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our "NATIONAL LEAD," it's being called one of the largest body recovery missions in the United States since 9/11. The death toll in California is at 66 with an unbelievable 600 people unaccounted for or missing. And for some of those survivors who managed to make it out after losing their homes now, Norovirus is sweeping through shelters in Northern California with 140 people sick and the toxic smoke in the area is now crippling other parts of the state forcing dozens of schools to close. Health officials urging folks to stay indoors and one air quality monitoring network calling the air in the San Francisco Bay Area right now the worst in the world.

CNN's Scott McLean is in Paradise, California. Scott why is the number of missing shot up so quickly?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, it's because authorities have actually been going back through 911 call logs and police reports to make sure that anyone who was reported missing during those first few frenzied hours of this fire is still missing in that list or still reflected on that list. Meanwhile, search crews continued to go house to house searching through the ashes looking for human remains. It is a slow process that could take weeks.


MCLEAN: You guys both lost your houses?


MCLEAN: For those lucky enough to survive the deadliest wildfire in California history, the list of those who may not have made it is gut- wrenching.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. MCLEAN: The latest list of those possibly missing in just one county

is filled with more than 600 names of family members, friends, and neighbors. This in addition to the photos and pleas posted online and to local community boards like this one.

MARE REASONS, WORKED IN PARADISE, CALIFORNIA: My clients were wonderful people, very giving people.

MCLEAN: Mare Reasons is a caregiver and housekeeper of her 11 clients in Paradise, California. She's heard from all but one, an elderly woman with no local family.

REASONS: Because she didn't drive anymore and she had a farm -- big farm gate across her property. You know, you I got to get the key out, you know, and the farm gate was big and cumbersome.

MCLEAN: The woman's house now little more than ash.

How much hope do you have?

REASONS: Half-and-half.

MCLEAN: Officials warned that the number of missing is likely to change as the displaced reconnect and the long search for human remains continues.

KORY HONEA, SHERIFF, BUTTE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: This is a dynamic list right? Some days there might be more people, some days there might be less people.

MCLEAN: At the height of the danger, the fire tore through towns at a rate of one football field per second leaving little time for escape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God, these poor people.

MCLEAN: Many of the missing were last seen fleeing the flames by car. Teams now searching charred neighborhoods and evacuation centers for clues.

MATTHEW GATES, PARADISE POLICE OFFICER: She had burns on her arms and I know it was her.

MCLEAN: Officer Matthew Gates tears up speaking about the mother he found by chance at a recent evacuee dinner.

GATES: I want to give her a hug because I had been looking for her body.

MCLEAN: More than 60 people are confirmed dead and nearly 10,000 homes have burned to the ground. In the destroyed town of Paradise, California, more than half the police force is now homeless.

DAVID AKIN, PARADISE POLICE OFFICER: My three-year-old son keeps asking why can't we just go home and I don't know what to tell him.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCLEAN: And the gate that Mare Reasons' elderly client's home has been burned right open and so it is not clear whether she was able to get help getting off of that property in time. We also know that crews have yet to search her property, Jake. It could be some time before people here have answers.

[16:50:30] TAPPER: All right Scott McLean in Paradise, California thank you so much. In our "WORLD LEAD," for the first time since President Trump met face to face with Kim Jong-un, the leader personally supervising a "newly developed ultra-modern weapon test according to North Korean state media. This comes as Vice President Pence announced the U.S. is backing down from the key agreement from that June summit requiring North Korea to provide a list of missile and nuclear test sites. CNN's Barbara Starr has the story from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: North Korean state broadcasting announcing Kim Jong-un has personally supervised testing of what it is calling a new ultra-modern weapon. The only evidence so far, a photo of Kim with his commanders but no indication of when or where it was taken. South Korean sources say it may have been long- range artillery. The worry, not the weapons test itself, sources say it may not be that new, but why now for Kim?

REP. MIKE TURNER (R), OHIO: It certainly shows a return to the militaristic stance of North Korea. It's certainly in contrast to you know, his statements of seeking peace.

STARR: A sign of that peace process, South Korean guard posts blown up at the DMZ, a confidence-building measure. U.S. intelligence still believes Kim wants a nuclear deal with President Trump in exchange for sanctions being lifted, but Kim is under pressure from his own elite not to give away the store to the U.S.

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: He has to depend on the military, his security forces to stay in power. And those security forces and the military were never going to let him make a bad agreement.

STARR: Now, a possible concession from the White House trying to find a way to ensure there will be another Trump-Kim summit. Vice President Mike Pence telling NBC News that list of nuclear and missile sites must be discussed between the two leaders at the next meeting instead of insisting North Korea provide the information beforehand.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I think it will be absolutely imperative in this next summit that we come away with a plan for identifying all of the weapons in question, identifying all the development sites.

STARR: Talks have stalled. Discussions with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were canceled earlier this month. It's a stark difference from the image President Trump painted just after the Midterm Elections. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're very happy how

it's going with North Korea. We think it's going fine. We're in no rush.

STARR: North Korea also announced its deporting an American man who entered a restricted border area and claimed to be CIA. South Korea believes it's the same man who was caught in similar circumstances last year and deported according to the Associated Press.


And the U.S. very much taken it as a positive sign that the North Koreans are not holding on to this American. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Thank you so much. You might not know his name but he almost assuredly brought a smile to your face. A tribute to a great talent that we lost next.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: The "MONEY LEAD" and let's hope they shoot it in landscape mode. Apple is announcing it's now in the movie business. The company says it's partnered with the Oscar-Winning Studio A24 to produce feature-length films and a move that will no doubt aim to compete with other tech beasts such as Amazon or Netflix. Apple stock today finished in positive territory on the news after a rocky and costly past few weeks.

The "POP-CULTURE LEAD" now, the death of a storyteller. Today we lost the Oscar-Winning screenwriter and best-selling author William Goldman. Goldman may have been best known for writing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford which earned him the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh no, not yet, not to me and hardly get the rules straightened out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rules, in a knife fight, no rules.


TAPPER: You might not know William Goldman's name but he no doubt brought you joy and for another younger generation you might best know him for the Princess Bride.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody wants a peanut?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had a very good arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't fall? Inconceivable.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Maybe most relevant to the current era Goldman adapted Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men for the big screen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You tell me what you know and I'll confirm. I'll keep you in the right direction if I can but that's all. Just follow the money.


TAPPER: William Goldman, dead at 87 years old. May his memory be a blessing. Be sure to tune in this Sunday morning the State of the Union, my guess will be Arizona Senator Jeff Flake plus three incoming freshmen Dan Crenshaw, Chrissy Houlahan, and Deb Holland. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.