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Reports: 2 Dead After Missiles Hit NATO Member Poland; State Department: U.S. Can't Confirm Reports Of Missiles Hitting Poland; Reports: 2 Dead After Missiles Hit NATO Member Poland; Election Deniers Lose Key Races In Battleground States; Trump Expected To Announce 2024 Bid After Disappointing Midterms. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 15, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Let's start with potentially earth-shattering development in Putin's brutal war on Ukraine. Reports of missile strikes inside neighboring Poland this afternoon, killing two people.

The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blames Russia. U.S. officials say they are still sifting through intelligence. Polish leaders have not yet publicly confirmed a strike. Russia is denying it, although of course Russia also denied that that country was going to invade Ukraine.

If this attack by Russia did happen, it could have significant consequences. Remember, Poland is a NATO country, unlike Ukraine. A NATO country that President Biden has repeatedly and definitively pledged to defend. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO territory, every single inch. So, Mr. Putin, don't misunderstand what I'm saying. Every inch.


TAPPER: The reported missiles hit a farm in a small eastern Polish town just over the Ukrainian border. They killed at least two people, to Polish government officials tell me this afternoon that an emergency national security meeting was called in Poland tonight. It is a third Polish official, a, quote, crisis situation.

Listen to how Ukrainian President Zelenskyy put it just moments ago.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): How many times has Ukraine said that the terrorist state will not limit itself to our country? Poland and the Baltics is just a matter of time. The terrorist has to be put in its place. The longer Russia feels impunity, and more threats that will be for everyone who can be reached by Russian missiles. It is a Russian attack on collective security. It is a very

significant escalation. We have to act now.


TAPPER: An attack by Russia on Poland, if that is in fact what happened, would not only be significant because it would mark in escalation of Putin's war, intentionally or not, but because Poland is a member of NATO, as we said. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an alliance set up after World War II, as a deterrence against Soviet now Russian militarism. We are seeing four shots from the site of the attack just now on your TV.

The United States is, of course, also a member of NATO. The cornerstone of the NATO alliance is in Article Five of the NATO treaty, that, quote, an armed attack against one or more of NATO countries shall be considered an attack against them all. It goes on to say that all members will take the actions they deem necessary to assist the ally attack. Article Five has only been invoked once in the history of NATO. That was after the United States was attacked on 9/11.

So, the big questions facing us right now, will in attack on Poland, which became a member state in 1999, will that result in similar action? What if the attack was not intentional? Does that matter given Russia's aggression? What might any of this mean for U.S. service members for the principle of deterrence for world stability in general?

This all occurs while leaders from across the world were gathered in Bali, Indonesia, right now at the G20 summit.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in Przewodow, Poland, the site of the attack which is right over Ukraine's eastern border, just north of the Ukrainian town of Lviv.

Matthew, tell us what you are seeing.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Jake, well this is just a one street town, very close to the Polish border with Ukraine. You can see it is very late at night here, it is pitch black, it is freezing cold. The police have sealed off the road which leads to that location. An apparent rocket strike took place. We are not being permitted to go any closer. There is a few local media that have arrived here so far. It is such a remote place that the main media organizations are destined to be covering this, they have not yet arrived.

I've managed to speak to a few of the local residents, there is a school just 200 yards or so away from where the strike took place. The caretaker of that school told me, it took place around 3:00 in the afternoon, local time. It is more like 10:00 at night here now.


She said she felt this enormous explosion, the windows rattled in the school building. That is, of course, as a result of the big explosion that took place. Local saying that two farm workers were killed in that -- in that explosion. It hasn't been determined yet of course that these were Russian rockets. The Russians have denied it. They said this is a provocation, the suggestion that they would have attacked a Polish territory.

But you have to remember that these rockets, for these explosions took place at a time when Ukraine, just across the border, for five miles away, was being showered with more than 80 rockets from Russia into various locations. So, it is easy to imagine how some of those rockets, a couple of them could've strayed just across the border, Jake.

TAPPER: That's right. Matthew Chance, at the site of the missile strike in Poland, thank you so much.

We turn now for a reaction, CNN's Sam Kiley is in central Ukraine for us.

Sam, what are you hearing from Ukrainian officials about this shocking missile strike just over the border in Poland?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in Kryvyi Rih, you can probably hear the air raid sirens going on once again at the end of the day. As Matthew was said, saw Ukraine being showered with cruise missiles, other missiles, right across the country. Seven million people in this country being left without power. President Zelenskyy calling this an example of, a continued example of Russian terror, saying outright that he believed that two Russian rockets had hit Poland and that was part of the inevitable side effect or consequences of Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

He also observed, of course, that Moldova was suffering power outages as a consequence of a natural disconnection between the services of Moldova and Ukraine. But things have been pretty devastating here across this country with these attacks on critical national infrastructure, electrical supplies, residential buildings in Kyiv with two Ukrainians at least killed there. Very significant level of airstrikes, all coming just a few days effectively after the Russians lost Kherson and after the G20 where the Russians were told in no uncertain terms that the terms of engagement that the Ukrainians will be prepared to engage in -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sam Kiley in Ukraine, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN's Phil Mattingly who's at the high stakes G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Phil, what are you hearing from the U.S. and other world leaders there after these reports of missile strikes within Poland, both Poland's borders, the Ukrainians blaming Russia?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it is a little bit after 5:00 a.m. here right now. World leaders went to bed, including President Joe Biden, very aware and keeping a very close eye on, according to one U.S. official, the dozens of missile strikes that have been taking place across Ukraine. U.S. officials have also been aware of the reports of a potential strike or some kind of strike in Poland for the last several hours.

Now, at this point, White House officials are saying they have no confirmation as to the origin of that strike or the exact details. However, they are in conversations with the Polish government as you noted. They have been in the midst of a emergency meeting, U.S. intelligence is also engaged on this as well, trying to figure out exactly what happened before wearing in both on the presidents response and the next steps for the U.S.

One thing to keep in mind here, at this G20 summit, the war in Ukraine, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has a backdrop of almost everything that world leaders have been discussing, including an effort -- a furious effort diplomatically by U.S. officials to rally as many countries as possible to sign on to a declaration condemning the war in Ukraine.

Whether it was about food shortage, electricity, this is been at the center of all of the discussions here in Bali. One other thing to note, that Vladimir Putin did not come to Bali, he did send his foreign secretary, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov was in the room giving his own speech which reflected many present Putin's largely false the course of the day yesterday, but he has since departed according to U.S. officials. There is still a Russian delegation here on the ground.

One thing as you noted to keep in mind, President Biden has been unequivocal about the commitment to Article Five. President Biden visited Poland in March, he visited U.S. troops, they are on the frontlines defending a NATO country. What happens next is extremely critical, extremely high stakes. U.S. officials are making it clear that they want to know everything about what happened before they take any next steps, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, traveling with President Biden to the G20 Summit. Thank you so much.

Let's bring in chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser, and the former NATO supreme allied commander, General Philip Breedlove.

Jim, let me start with you. U.S. officials have not yet determined whose missile this was, if it was intentional, if it was in fact a Russian attack. What are your sources telling you?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I've spoken with the U.S. military official with a senior NATO official, as well as with a member of the intelligence committee. All of them are urging caution at this point because they don't have a final answer. It is significant, any strike, particularly one that is deadly on the territory of a NATO member. But they don't know the circumstances of the strike.

The possibilities include a Russian missile, either deliberate or potentially off target. The possibility of a Russian missile that was struck by Ukrainian air defense, or even the possibility that this was a Ukrainian air defense missile fired at a Russian's. The timing of this is key, of course, it took place during a large Russian missile strike across the Ukrainian territory, including on the western part of the country, just across the border from Poland.

But at this point, the fact is they just don't know, and until they know those details, they will not then decide how they respond. I will say this, I've spoken to a U.S. lawmaker said to me that he is surprised that this hasn't happened yet given the number of missiles that Russia has fired at Ukrainian territory. Since the start of its invasion in February, given, as I've been caution many times, Jake, the fashion -- the fact that Russian aim is not particularly great all the time.

TAPPER: And, General Breedlove, I guess that's the question. Assuming this was in fact a Russian rocket, the best kindest interpretation is that this was a Russian rocket headed for Ukraine that was either shot down or misfired and hit Poland instead.

Does that matter when invoking Article Five of NATO's treaty? Does it matter if it was intentional on Poland or not?

GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, first, I would offer that Article Five is not the logical or normally the next step. The next step would be Article Four. This is in the hands of Poland now to bring this in an order for meeting to decide how to proceed.

It is very rare that we would jump straight to an Article Five, and Article Four would involve this conversation like we've just been having with your other guest. Do we believe it was deliberate? Was it a misfire?

And I would offer that as many missiles have been fired at Ukraine in just the last half a day, this may have been a part of that. It may have been a misfire.

But in any case, it is clear, and I think we will find out, that a Russian missile went into Poland and killed some people. Now, NATO will begin its deliberations.

TAPPER: And, Susan, how do you see this playing out? Let's assume once again that this was not an intentional attack on Poland, given the fact that there are no, as far as I know, and according to a Ukrainian official that I was talking to, no military or strategic targets in this part of Poland, this rural part of eastern Poland. What happens now do you think?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Jake, at a minimum it underscores, I think it will reinforce the desire of Ukraine supporters in NATO and the United States, which there are many, to keep up the pressure to supply more air defense to Ukraine and to bolster their fight against Russia even more. It certainly has and alienating quality, if nothing else.

I also think it reinforces the extreme high risk of the risk in the situation. In many ways, it is a surprise that it happened sooner. To the point of what is a target, remember this barrage today, the largest yet according to Ukrainian officials by Russia against Ukraine, these are civilian targets they're hitting. This is a civilian population, it is not like they were looking for a military target and just missed.

This is a campaign of terror by the Russian military against Ukraine people. This happened and it appears that some Polish people also caught up in it.

TAPPER: And, General Breedlove, there are currently can thousand U.S. members in Poland, as part of a NATO coalition according to the State Department. Take us inside these ranks right now as a former NATO commander. What preparations if any could be happening?

BREEDLOVE: Well, we -- those forward base forces are already at an increased posture to be ready and to defend and to think about their own defense, but this cause us to step up that level of self- preparedness inside of Poland. And my guess is that we will see some increased asked for NATO air defenses along Polish border, Romanian border, others that are a part or close to these barrages that we're just mentioned.


Let me just joined those remarks. This is a campaign against the people of Ukraine. It has very little military utility.

BURNETT: And, Jim, weigh in there, if you would. Because I know that you know a lot about this conflict.

SCIUTTO: Listen, you and I have spent time in Ukraine since the start of this invasion. We've covered it closely since then. As Susan and General Breedlove say, the fact that Russia has hit civilian targets across Ukraine repeatedly through the months is deliberate. It is a campaign against the people, against civilian infrastructure, trying to bleed the country -- bleed the country dry, really, raise the pain threshold so that they somehow give in which, of course, they've shown no sign of doing.

So, the idea that potentially blood into Polish territory is certainly not farfetched and as I said, given the volume of ordnance that Russia has said Ukraine's waste and start of this war, folks, I've talked to our surprise it didn't happen earlier.

TAPPER: And, Susan, Putin has been notoriously unpredictable thus far. You see him acting out of desperation, do you not?

GLASSER: You know, Jake, what Putin's is an escalator. Again, and again, and again, even when suffering versus on the battlefield, he's turned to escalation. I think it's not an accident that we are seeing this terrible barrage across Ukraine against civilians and things like civilian infrastructure just days after those scenes of jubilation in the liberation of Kherson.

You know, Russia suffered a very embarrassing defeat -- to withdraw its forces across the Dnipro River and leave Kherson. I think that Putin's response here is escalation. And again and again, this is him saying, you know, I'm going to change the subject, I'm not backing away, and I will meet defeat with further risky behavior.

TAPPER: General Breedlove, do you agree?

BREEDLOVE: I do and I would also like to pile on something that was said just a few minutes earlier. We know that Russia is dipping now into less capable munitions because they fired most of their most accurate and capable of munitions earlier in this war. And so, as a part of this big barrage that was unleashed today, it would not surprise me if we have an errant missile.

But clearly, I completely agree with this is an attempt to change the narrative. Russia is losing in the south and they don't want that to be the story, especially as their own people are beginning to hear the stories.

TAPPER: Yeah, General Philip Breedlove, Jim Sciutto, Susan Glasser, thanks to one and all of you. I appreciate.

Coming up next, we will get reaction to the strike from the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Also had Republicans earth only three seats shy of winning control of the House of Representatives and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gets one step closer to becoming speaker.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Back now with more with our breaking news, reports of a missile strike in Poland today killing two people, a strike that the Ukrainian government is blaming on Vladimir Putin and Russia.

Let's bring in Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. He's the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr. Chairman, what are you hearing about this report that Russian missiles or rockets possibly have struck Poland and killed two individuals? Can you confirm that?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): Well, I know that we're trying to confirm everything. I've been on the phone with the White House, talking, trying to get confirmation, talking to NATO allies to try to make sure, because there's a lot to sink in. I've been listening to your reports as well as others and trying to call the Polish ambassador.

I've heard some on an international station having a Polish reporter on who said that he's interviewed some individuals that were hit and now the question is, who? Why? Was it an accident? Was it and in -- a lot of information to obtain because there are serious consequences to what did or did not take place, Jake. As you know, I've been to Poland post the illegal invasion that Russia

put into Ukraine. I know how serious that border is. I've been there three times and that has always been a concern. So, we've got to stand with our NATO allies, but we want to make sure that we have all of the facts.

TAPPER: Yeah, I've been to that Polish border on Ukraine's ball. Let me ask you, let's assume, just for the sake of discussion, that it was a Russian missile. What is the significance about whether it was an intentional strike, they were trying to hit this area of eastern Poland, or they were trying to hit civilians in Ukraine and either the Ukrainian air defenses or misfire ended up landing in Poland?

Doesn't the fact that they are behaving so irresponsibly and waging this aggressive war against Ukraine to play devils advocate, doesn't it make it irrelevant, given the fact that they're responsible either way?

MEEKS: Look, I think that that is going to all be taken into consideration. Of course, we all stand by Article Five, and that's why the conversation and the connection with our NATO allies. I think there will be a joint decision. It won't be anyone making a decision by themselves. We will stand together. But what I've seen coming from all of the foreign ministers, prime ministers from -- their allies is number one, we will protect every inch of NATO soil.

But having that dialogue and having that conversation, I would say to Russia, if in fact it was an accident, they better say it and say it quickly. But to say, as I've heard thus far saying that this was a provocation by the Polish government, Polish people, just is absolutely ridiculous to me.

And, you know, so I have concerns. And my concerns are based upon their prime acts. You know, first they said they were not going to invade Ukraine in the first place. Of course, they did. And we've seen them set up certain -- by utilizing various lies to give them the excuses to invade and do some other things that are clearly provocative.


So, look, I think that everything is going to take into consideration. But I do think that if it was an accident, Russia better speak up and say something very quickly.

TAPPER: If it was not an accident, does this action solicit U.S. response? And does it solicit U.S. response even if it was an accident? As you know, Poland is one of our NATO allies whom the United States and President Biden correctly have pledged to protect during Putin's war on Ukraine.

MEEKS: Article Five of Article Five is, you know, is applied. Then the United States will stand with our NATO allies. And we will do what we have to do to protect Poland and our allies there.

I think that every NATO country, you know, I've looked and listen to every response that's been made. They will be locked in. It will be a collective decision. We've been able to keep, one of the reasons why I think that Ukraine has been able to continue to do what it is going to defend itself, is the fact that we've been resolute in our unity.

And so, that will not be broken. That is why the White House is talking very closely right now with all of our NATO allies. And they will then come up with, after they have made clear what the facts are in this case, they will learn collectively come up with a decision and as I said, I think that it is very important because the consequences could be grave as to what did or did not take place.

TAPPER: All right. The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, thank you so much for your time, sir. Appreciate it.

MEEKS: Thank you for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: Mark Esper is also going to join me. He served as secretary of defense during the Trump administration. We'll get his reaction to the strike and the lies that we are hearing from Russia. That's next.



TAPPER: And we are back with our breaking news. Polish officials, confirming moments ago that two people are dead in eastern Poland following an explosion. This comes after reports that a possible Russian missile struck Poland just over the border of Ukraine. Details are coming in.

I would like to bring in the former secretary of defense, Mark Esper.

And to be clear, Mark, you know, we don't yet know for sure what happened here. That said, the Ukrainians are saying that this was Russia. We have reporting that defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, your successor, is expected to talk with his polish counterparts shortly. Tell us, in your view, given your experience, what might that conversation sound like? What would the Pentagon be doing right now?

MARK ESPER, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, thank you, Jake. I think first things first, if I were having that conversation with my counterpart, it would be able to understand what they know and what they don't know, whether they determine, for example, from the forensics on the ground, with regard to the component tree. Is it Russian or is it not Russian? Are there any targets nearby that might signal that it was an intentional attack?

Then we would compare, for example, notes based on what we understand from our radar tracks, trying to get to the bottom of it then trying to understand the polish perspective. What are they thinking? Not just in their defense ministry, but throughout the government. Where they think this may go.

So, sharing those ideas and of course, expressing solidarity with my counterpart would be very important. TAPPER: And I assume that the secretary of defense and those under

him would be gaming out responses based on what the facts on the ground ultimately prove. I mean, it could be a random explosion, I doubt that's what it is. But it could be that, it could be a Ukrainian air defense missile that accidentally hit in Poland. It could be any number of things. And of course, the worst possible idea would be that it was a deliberate Russian attack on Poland, which could theoretically cause the invocation of Article Five of NATO, an attack on one is an attack on all.

Is that what the Pentagon would be doing right now, preparing contingencies and choices based on any number of what possibilities there are?

ESPER: Well, the command, European Command, and SOCEUR in particular would have contingencies ready. But I think the first part that's important. You have to go through very deliberate process to find out what happened, was it intentional or not? I mean, my suspicion is this was accidental. It's based on either poor targeting by the Russians or a malfunction in the missile, whatever the case may be.

But the key thing is deliberately perceived -- get the facts, understand the facts, come to your conclusion, then figure out what you will do. Again, our suspicions hold true, then I think this would require a strong diplomatic response to the Russians, beginning with demands for a full explanation by Moscow as to what happened. And some commitment by them to take different measures to ensure it does not happen again.

TAPPER: And put this into context, if you would, about how this happens in the midst of this desperation by Russia. We know Putin is losing ground in Ukraine, we know that they've been launching missile attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets in the last day. Even if this is an accident, assuming that it's a Russian missile that hit Poland, not Ukrainian air defense, is this not a direct response in some ways to Putin losing on the ground?

ESPER: Oh, absolutely. I think it's a direct response to the recent withdrawal from Kherson. The only major city that the Russians had captured, going back to the early days of the war, followed by the announcement today by President Zelenskyy of his ten points, if you will, of how negotiations should look like.


So, I think this is all about the tactical failure on the ground and the broader strategic failure. But look, here's another thing to keep in mind. The Ukrainians have been under this aerial assault now for weeks, if not months. And today, dozens of missiles fired into Ukrainian cities all across the country, designed to knock out their energy infrastructure, has been as we head into winter.

I think the question we should be focusing on, not to take attention for the tragedy that happened today, but why did Ukraine not have all the air defense assets it needs to shoot down Russian planes and missiles and rockets? If this was an accidental Russian launch, think of all the territory the Ukrainians had to over fly before it hit into Poland.

So, we should be rushing air defense systems to Ukraine, to make sure we can cover that country, particularly the key cities of energy infrastructure. But we just don't seem to be moving quickly enough. And have not for sometime now, Jake.

TAPPER: I heard an expert on Russia talking the other day and he was saying that he thinks it's very important that NATO and the United States start seriously considering what Putin's off-ramp looks like in terms of writing some sort of face saving off-ramp, because otherwise, Putin could be killed by the Russians for losing this war. And if he really feels like his life is at risk, he could do something drastic like launch a nuclear weapon or use a tactical nuke.

Do you agree with that? What might a face saving off-ramp look like?

ESPER: I think we should be very careful and reluctant to start playing these games of getting into Putin's head, and trying to figure out if this happens, that happens, we do this, we do that.

Look, I think we should stay true to our principles. We should support the Ukrainians, give the full support of the material and weapons systems, and equipment they need to win the war. The way to beat Putin is to beat Putin. The Ukrainians are showing great courage and capability on the battlefield, and are doing so.

And let things play out. And look, if the Russian people want to take matters into their own hands with regard to Putin, that would be a good thing, right?

But I don't think we should start, you know, pushing Zelenskyy to negotiate or to compromise with the Russians. He needs to do what's best for his country, and look, they're fighting for their lives. I think we should fully support them in that endeavor.

TAPPER: All right. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, thank you so much. Good to see you again.

This just in, we are learning that President Biden has been briefed on the missile strike in Poland and will be speaking with the president of Poland shortly.

This is also, we might note, a busy day in the politics lead with a brand-new CNN projection to make right after this break.



TAPPER: And CNN cannot make two significant projections impacting the balance of power in the House of Representatives in California. Republican congresswoman, Michelle Steel, CNN projects, has won reelection to a second term. She is a Republican. She was one of the first Korean Americans are elected to Congress in.

In New Mexico, it's a pick up for the Democrats. Former Las Cruces City Councilman Gabrielle Vasquez has defeated incumbent, Yvette Herrell. This one helps keep Democrats' slim of retaining the House in place. The Republicans are still favored.

Let's take a look now at the new balance of power in the House of Representatives. Right now, of the 218 seats needed for House majority. The Democrats have 205 seats, Republicans have 216. They only need two more. There are 14 outstanding seats that have yet to be called.

One full week since Election Day, the message from Americans is becoming more clear. Election deniers in battleground states especially need not apply. CNN projects a Democrat, Katie Hobbs, will win the Arizona governor's race. She beats one of the most fervent election deniers in the United States, Republican Kari Lake.

Here's Hobbs just hours ago.


KATIE HOBBS (D), ARIZONA GOVERNOR-ELECT: For those of you who prefer to obstruct, spread misinformation, and continue to pursue an extreme agenda out of touch with this state, take note of the results of this election.



TAPPER: Governor-elect Katie Hobbs there speaking.

Her opponent, whom she defeated, Kari Lake, joins a list of high- profile election liars who lost the races in battleground states, including Blake Masters running for Senate in Arizona, Tudor Dixon running for governor of Michigan, Adam Laxalt, who ran for Senate in Nevada, Doug Mastriano, ran for governor in the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania, also lost.

This is just a snapshot of the most high-profile races. CNN projects in total, 29 election liars have lost races for secretary of state and governor and the U.S. Senate. Americans not only rejecting their election lies, but also their hostile and sometimes obnoxious campaign styles.


DOUG MASTRIANO (R), PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I've seen better elections in Afghanistan. Not hyperbole.

TUDOR DIXON (R), MICHIGAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: For someone so worried about being kidnapped, Gretchen Whitmer sure is good at taking business hostage and holding it for ransom.

KARI LAKE (R), ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Nancy Pelosi, well, she's got protection when she's in D.C. Apparently, her house doesn't have a lot of protection.


TAPPER: Apparently, the American people don't like jerks.

Last night, Kari Lake tweeted out, after it was projected that she would lose the election, quote, Arizonans know BS when they see it.

She's right there. She's right of Arizonians know BS when they see it and they rejected it in the form of candidates Kari Lake and Blake Masters.

What is also becoming clear today, Republicans are on the verge of controlling the House of Representatives. They need just two more seats to win the House majority. Winning the house would be a small victory for the party, after a disastrous election losses.


CNN projects that Democrats will hold the Senate majority. That has many Republicans questioning now whether Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is the right person to continue leading that faction of the party.

Listen to what Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, two election liars themselves, told CNN's Manu Raju today.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Clearly what we are doing is not working and has not been working for a long time. They didn't want to have an agenda.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, you don't think he could get you back to the majority?


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I believe we should have a leader that actually listens to the conference and that it is willing to stand and fight, does not roll over immediately.


TAPPER: We should note that Hawley and Cruz, both of them endorsed and supported strongly extremist Republicans that lost those races in Arizona and elsewhere, allowing the Democrats to keep control of the Senate. So, it's interesting that they're going after McConnell.

As Republicans inch closer to securing the house majority, Kevin McCarthy pulled off a win of his own. He secured his role once again as leader of the house Republican conference. Not the same thing as being elected speaker, of course.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill, where McCarthy successfully defeated challenge from Arizona Republican congressman, Andy Biggs, today.


RAJU (voice-over): House Republicans today nominated Kevin McCarthy to be the next speaker of the house.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Thank you all for being here.

RAJU: Winning 188 votes, well short of the 218 he will need in January to take the gavel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now is the time to get all the -- air all the grievances, and then that way, we're ready to go on day one.

REP. ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): Thank you all for being here today.

RAJU: Facing opposition from Arizona's Andy Biggs and hard right members who are trying to extract concessions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want leadership and I think Andy Biggs embodies the kind of leadership that we want.

RAJU: All coming as a GOP closes in on the House majority. Democrats, expecting two years of internal GOP sparring between their moderate and conservative wings.

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): I think that this version of the Republican caucus is going to have a very hard time governing in any way, shape, or form. And I think that we will see just how dysfunctional they are.

RAJU: But House Democrats preparing for their own leadership shakeup, once Nancy Pelosi decides whether to stay atop the caucus she has dominated for the past two decades.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, currently the number three Democrat, told CNN, he plans to stay in leadership but won't run for the top position, potentially paving the way for Hakeem Jeffries to lead the caucus if Pelosi steps aside.

Could it be the top leader position you're considering?

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): No, it won't be that.

RAJU: Yet, as Democrats defied the odds, they, too, confronting their own reality. After a moderate member Kurt Schrader, was defeated in his Oregon primary by a progressive, who in turn lost to a Republican in the fall.

REP. KURT SHRADER (D-OR): We are supposed to be a big tent party historically. We should get back to that.

RAJU: In the Senate, Democrats taking a victory lap after holding the Senate. But some Republicans, taking out there ire at Mitch McConnell.

Florida senator, Rick Scott, plans to run against him in Wednesday's leadership elections.

What's the problem of having McConnell as a leader for another two years?

HAWLEY: Well, if you like the election results, then I guess there is no problem. But if you want to be a majority problem -- majority party, clearly what we are doing is not working.

RAJU: So, you don't think he could get you back to the majority?


RAJU: McConnell, pushing back.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I think the outcome is pretty clear. I want to repeat it again. I have the votes, I will be elected. The only issue is whether we do it sooner or later.

RAJU: Then Republicans also uneasy about the reemergence of Donald Trump as a likely presidential candidate. What that means for their party.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): The world has changed considerably and just in recent weeks.


RAJU: Now, behind closed doors, Rick Scott, Mitch McConnell engaged intense back and forth, I'm told, about the future, about what happened in the midterms. And I just ask Mitch McConnell about the criticism that he did not support an election year agenda, which exposes the party to attacks. He said, instead the problem with some people in leadership roles in their party engaged into much negativity and chaos, did not single out a single person though, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju, thanks so much.

Coming up next, the loudest election liar of them all may be ready to make a big announcement about his future.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In just a few hours, we are expecting Donald J. Trump to announce his third presidential bid. This comes just a week after many of the candidates Trump backed failed spectacularly in the midterm elections.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Kristen, is Trump still the true front runner for Republicans, do you think?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, when he enters this race, which we are expecting to do in just a few hours, he will be the de facto front runner as the only candidate running so far in 2024.

But when it comes to whether or not he's the actual leader of the party, that remains increasingly unclear. It is undeniable that he still has a lot of influence within the party. But we have heard a number of Republicans, even those who are close to him, say it is time to move on from Donald Trump. Even some saying that Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, is the new leader of the Republican Party.

Now, we would point this out aides and advisers ahead of this announcement, they say that Trump points to 2015, 2016, saying that he runs best when he is the underdog, when he has to have the scrappy and fight for it.

But I have to tell. You have spoken to allies across the country who say, they're just not sure he has the same magnetism that he had back in 2015, 2016, to carry him to the White House, particularly amid so many federal investigations, as well as the fact that he will not stop when that election denialism, which as we know, fizzled out on Tuesday during the election.


TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes, thank you so much.

Former Vice President Mike Pence will join me tomorrow for a live CNN town hall. That's tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

CNN was the first crew in Poland near the border with Ukraine, where the explosion was reported and explosion that may have been caused by Russian missiles. We are going to go back there live next. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, new CNN projections just in putting Republicans even closer to securing control of the U.S. House of Representatives.