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NATO: Deadly Missile Strike In Poland Likely Not A Russian Attack; McConnell Wins Senate GOP Leadership Vote Amid Infighting; High-Profile GOP Say Time To Move On After Trump Launches 2024 Bid. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 16, 2022 - 14:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, I'm Alisyn Camerata. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to have you.

We begin with the Russia-Ukraine war spilling into NATO territory killing two people in Poland. Now, the investigation into the missile strike continues today. Poland's president says while it appears the missile was clearly Russian-made, the strike was likely an accident caused by Ukrainian air defenses, and adds there are no indications it was an intentional attack.

CAMEROTA: But Ukraine's president says he has no doubt the missile was not Ukrainian. Last hour, the U.S. Secretary of Defense said the Pentagon has no reason to doubt Poland's preliminary investigation.


LLYOD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're still gathering information, but we have seen nothing that contradicts President Duda's preliminary assessment that this explosion was most likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile that unfortunately landed in Poland. And whatever the final conclusions may be, the world knows that Russia bears ultimate responsibility for this incident.


BLACKWELL: CNN's senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is live in Ukraine there and CNN Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann is live at the Pentagon. Sam, let's start with you. Poland and NATO appear to be on the same page about what they believe happened yesterday based on preliminary reports, but President Zelenskyy is not. What does he's saying?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's saying essentially that the information he was given by his chief of staff, the head of the armed forces was different. And he insists that he's always been accurate in the past and he had no reason to doubt that information. Now, the information he's referring to was perhaps his initial statement yesterday when he said that two Russian missiles had penetrated Polish airspace and caused this tragedy.

Now, it may be the case that he is going to have to revise his analysis based on what the Poles and what the United States, and others are saying. I mean, this ultimately is a Polish decision with the help of their NATO allies to work out who fired the missile that landed and killed two of their citizens.

The poles, the Americans, NATO are all saying in one voice, that it is Russia that bears ultimate responsibility for this. And I think this just may be a case of the tail catching up with the head in terms of the information cycle with President Zelenskyy perhaps trying to justify having been somewhat embarrassed earlier on. They -- there are no indications from any of his other officials that they're out of step really, with the Polish findings.

All of them pointing again, saying look, we've got old fashioned Soviet era kit here and inevitably, these kinds of tragedies are likely to happen if Russia flies cruise missiles so close to our borders with neighboring countries. And that is exactly what seems to have happened. Fred and Alisyn -- I mean, Victor and Alisyn. I'm sorry.

CAMEROTA: Yes, no problem. Oren, how long until the Pentagon thinks they'll know something definitively?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just heard from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as you pointed out, and General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And it was Milley who said, look, we've got guys on this. There's a team they're helping the Poles investigate, and they're looking at all that available information, not only radars and systems on the ground but also AWACS, airborne detection systems. So, he didn't make it sound like they'll come to a conclusion here fairly quickly.

What does that mean is that days, is that weeks, they left that open- ended. They are being very careful here. It wasn't just the Austin comment at the opening that you played where he said we have no information to contradict the Polish president's statement that this looks like he was a Ukrainian air defense missile. Shortly after that, in the first question, no surprise, that immediately came up and he again said our information supports the Polish conclusion or at least the Polish preliminary conclusion that it was a Ukrainian air defense missile.

So, although it does look like there appears to be some daylight here between the U.S. and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, it was Austin and both and Milley, who quickly pivoted and said, look, this is Russia's fault, it was Russia that was carrying out an attack, and Ukraine has every right to defend itself. This wouldn't have been needed if there wasn't a Russian barrage going out through the sky. Now, one of the things they did talk about was the immediate communication in the wake of the attack.


Milley spoke with his Polish counterpart, his Ukrainian counterpart multiple times, he said and other counterparts, one person he did not speak to despite trying, was his Russian counterpart. Here's what he had to say.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Some attempts were made, no success with the Russian counterpart. An investigation is ongoing. There's professionals there to do the forensics, you know, all the debris that's in and around the impact site and so on and so forth. And very shortly, we'll know all the facts and we just don't know them right the second.


MILLEY: Right. My staff was unsuccessful in getting me linked up with General Gerasimov. That's correct.


LIEBERMANN: Austin spoke with his Polish counterpart, but there has been no indication he spoke with his Russian counterpart. The U.S. tried to keep very close to Poland, Ukraine, and its allies here.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sam Kiley, Oren Liebermann, thank you very much for all the reporting. Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen. He's live in Moscow for us. So, Fred, that's interesting to hear that the Russians wouldn't take the U.S. call. What's the Kremlin saying about all this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly -- first of all, it is certainly very interesting that the Russians wouldn't take the call from the U.S. because one of the things that the Kremlin actually said today is they praise President Biden and all that, saying that President Biden had shown restraint when speaking about that incident that happened there in Poland, not jumping to conclusions.

And it really seems as though the right -- Russians are sort of trying to drive a wedge there between the U.S. and some of its key allies, especially between the U.S. and the Poles because one of the things that we've been hearing throughout this evening and throughout the better part of the day, Alisyn and Victor, is that Russia is really leaning into the Polish government.

They actually summoned to the Polish ambassador here to Moscow. He was only in the Russian Foreign Ministry for about 20 minutes but the Russians accusing the Poles of what they call hysteria, jumping to conclusions. And the spokesman for the Kremlin also saying that he believed that the Poles should have come out immediately and said that it was, in fact, a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile that landed there in that Polish village and obviously killing those people. However, of course, as the U.S. has said, as the U.S.'s allies are saying they believe that Russia is ultimately responsible.

Of course, one of the things that we do see, pretty much all the time from the Russians is they're also laying into the Ukrainians as well, essentially, trying to accuse the Ukrainians of starting a provocation and trying to drag NATO into some sort of open conflict with the Russians, which obviously, potentially would be an extremely dangerous situation. So, you certainly have some pretty strong words coming from the Kremlin and coming from the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian military as well, guys.

BLACKWELL: All right, Fred Pleitgen for us there in Moscow, thank you, Fred.

CAMEROTA: OK, so back here, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will continue to lead the party in the Senate. He won a secret ballot election today after an hours-long meeting.

BLACKWELL: He defeated Florida Senator Rick Scott, his first challenger in 15 years as the GOP Senate chief. CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean is following this. Hours long, why did it take so long?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It did take a long time, Victor and Alisyn, several hours, in fact, because first, they had to vote on whether or not they were going to delay these elections. There had been some calls, especially from people who supported Rick Scott to delay the vote on this. That did not pass so then they have to get up, they have to do the nominating speeches, they have to go through all of that. The ultimate result is that Mitch McConnell won this secret ballot 37 to 10 to one, and he said that he was very pleased to get those 37 votes. And he talked a little bit about it. I'll let you listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY): I don't own this job. Anybody who wants to run for it can feel free to do so. And so I'm not in any way offended by having an opponent or having a few votes in opposition. As everyone has said, we had a good opportunity to discuss the various differences.


DEAN: He went on to say he's not going anywhere. And look, this is just underscoring the division within the Senate GOP, within the wider Republican Party, but certainly, in the Senate, you see him just getting a challenger for the first time -- a real challenger for the first time. He's the longest-sitting leader. So, that is significant in and of itself, Victor and Alisyn, even if this was always a long shot by Scott and there were some senators like Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, who said and confirmed that they voted for Scott, they wanted a new pathway forward.

That's certainly not what ultimately ended up happening. But this is just all spilling out into public view as they assess where they wanted to be, where they thought they'd be, after the midterms in 2022, which was they thought they take back the Senate and where they are, which is they are once again in the minority.

CAMEROTA: And, Jessica, meanwhile, they do have work to do.

DEAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: The Senate will hold this procedural vote on a bipartisan legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriage. So, what's the latest on that?

DEAN: Right. So, that vote is scheduled for later this afternoon. The bipartisan group that's been working on this for several months now says that they've got the 10 Republican votes that they need to get to 60.


This vote is procedural. It will allow this to move forward so they can take a final vote in the coming days. What it would do is not set a national standard or requirement for states to recognize same-sex marriage. Instead, it would require every state to recognize other states' same-sex marriage so if people travel or go into different states, that's what it is set to do. And again, that committee saying they do -- or that working committee saying they do have those 10 votes. That's what we're keeping our eye on. Victor and Alisyn, they had hoped to have this vote before the midterms. They just couldn't get to the 60. They think they've got it now.

BLACKWELL: All right, Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill, thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, Republicans are now just one seat away from the 218 they need to claim a majority in the House. 11 races still to be called.

BLACKWELL: CNN Anchor John Berman is at the magic wall. All right, 11 races to be called, Republicans need just one. Which races are you watching to get to that?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Any one of them -- any one of them, Victor.


BERMAN: Let me put them over the top. There are 217 right now, as you said. These are the 11 races left. The Republicans lead in four of them. Again, if they win any one of those four races, they have the majority, three of them are in California, including right here. I want to start by looking at all I miss. California got very small congressional districts if you have fat fingers. This is California's 27th district here. Mike Garcia, the incumbent leads Christy Smith by a sizable amount at this point, 13,000 votes, nearly eight percentage points 72 percent in. We're watching this closely as more votes come in.

It's also up here California's Third Congressional District. This is actually Republican-leaning, R plus one. Kevin Kiley leads. He's got 10,000 -- 10,000 vote Lead, 56 percent in, either of these districts if they go in the next day or so, it would give Republicans the House.

Also, I'll keep pointing out, Lauren Boebert's race here. This is a heavily Republican district, R plus eight at this point. She's 1000 votes in the lead. If we get the absentees and overseas ballots, this state could put her over the top.

I do want to point out that if things were to finish where they are right now, you take everywhere where Republicans are ahead and everyone where Democrats are ahead. It will give Republicans 221 seats. How does that compare historically? It's tight. We haven't seen it much tighter than this. This last Congress was 222 D, 213 R.

You can see from 1999 to 2003, it was pretty close. But this is tight. This is a very tight margin for the Republicans. It could change either way.

And one other thing if you're wondering how does this last race compare for the Democrats, for Joe Biden in terms of his first midterm? On average, the president's party loses 31 seats in their first midterm, 31. If the Democrats go down to 214 that would be a loss of just eight seats, which you can see isn't bad. It's bad enough to lose control of the House, which is significant, but it's still a much smaller loss than usual, guys.

CAMEROTA: That is such helpful context. John Berman, stand by and let us know when anything changes.


BLACKWELL: Thank you, John.

CAMEROTA: OK, thanks. All right, meanwhile, former President Trump is now the first candidate to announce a 2024 White House bid. His speech featured many of the old hits and plenty of the old lies. So, we have new reactions today.

BLACKWELL: And the man charged in the fatal shooting at the University of Virginia just made his first court appearance, what one eyewitness says about that shooting? That's ahead.



BLACKWELL: Big-name Republicans are speaking out against Donald Trump for running again for president in 2024. Now, potential presidential opponents Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, they called for more seriousness and new leadership. Major Republican donor and Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman said that he will not back Trump this time.

CAMEROTA: Senator Mitt Romney was even more blunt, telling CNN "President Trump has lost three in a row. And if we want to start winning, we need a new leader." We assume he means either the popular vote or three election cycles. Trump declared his latest run from Mar- a-Lago last night. His speech was filled with familiar themes, and plenty of falsehoods.

CNN's Daniel Dale is here to fact-check. So, Daniel, let's just dive in. There was so much. I guess we should start with what Donald Trump thinks about climate change and sea levels.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The green new deal and the environment which they say may affect us in 300 years is all that is talked about. And yet nuclear weapons which would destroy the world immediately are never even discussed as a major threat. Can you imagine? They say the ocean will rise one-eighth of an inch over the next 200 to 300 years.


CAMEROTA: Is that true?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: It's not true. It's actually false in a couple of big ways. First of all, sea levels are expected to rise way more than Trump said here. He said an eighth of an inch in 200 years. The U.S. government's National Ocean Service says on its website that the sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise on average about a foot, 10 to 12 inches in the next 30 years, which will be as much as the rise measured over the last 100 years. South Florida where Trump gave this speech, Mar-a-Lago could see an increase of multiple feet this century. Mar-a-Lago itself might well be significantly affected.

And second, Trump generally suggested that climate change may only affect us in like 300 years like, it's some distant far-off thing, that is grossly inaccurate. Is it -- it is affecting the U.S. today in a variety of ways including more frequent and more severe storms, wildfires, droughts, heat waves, floods, it is here. It's not 300 years away.


BLACKWELL: All right, so, he also said this about that border wall.


TRUMP: We are going to restore and secure America's borders just like we had them before best ever. We built a wall and now we will add to it. Now we built the wall, we completed the wall, and then we said let's do more and we did a lot more.



DALE: Yes, like that transparently makes no sense. I think this is Trump's attempt to make it sound like he fully succeeded in that signature campaign promise. In reality, he only partially fulfilled it. It's not even close to true that he completed the wall. And we have data according to an official border wall status report written by U.S. Customs and Border Protection two days after he left office, it was 458 miles of wall completed under Trump.

OK, some of that primary wall, some of that reinforcement wall, two existing barriers, but 280 additional miles that had been identified for wall construction had not been completed. You can just Google and find a bunch of articles about big gaps in the wall after Trump left office. And like obviously, it makes no sense when he says it was finished but they were still doing so-called additions. Like, come on.

CAMEROTA: Maybe he doesn't know the country is 3000 miles long, but anyway. He also tried to compare thousands of government documents that were found at his Florida home to other cases involving government files being moved.


TRUMP: The raid of Mar-a-Lago I think of it and I say why didn't you raid Bush's place? Why didn't you raid Clinton? 32,000 e-mails, why didn't you raid Clinton's place? Why didn't you do Obama who took a lot of things with him? We will dismantle the deep state and restore government by the people.


CAMEROTA: Well, what happened there?

DALE: This stuff I'm going to call a lie because Trump said it in August and months ago and it was debunked by the National Archives and Records Administration. Then he claimed in August that Obama had taken tens of millions of documents to Chicago.

And then NARA issued a statement explaining this was totally wrong, but it had itself, NARA itself had taken custody of Obama's record after -- records after Obama left office. And NARA itself took those records to a NARA-managed facility in the Chicago area. And NARA said that as per federal law, "former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the presidential records of his administration." So, Trump is trying to make it sound here like Obama did what Trump did, completely wrong.

CAMEROTA: I feel for Daniel Dale. I mean the amount of overtime that he has to do now.

DALE: I'm OK. I feel it here.


DALE: Kidding aside, people have harder jobs, but I appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: Well, I don't know about that, Daniel, and I'm going to send you some vitamins, some mega vitamins, it's incredible.

DALE: I think I want it.

BLACKWELL: Vitamins. OK, that's what it needs. Daniel Dale, thank you very much. All right, joining us now is Sarah Matthews, who served as White House Deputy Press Secretary in the Trump administration, and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh ran against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. Welcome to you both. Congressman, let me start with you. This speech last night was at Mar- a-Lago, in front of -- let me guess they were cheering but not the crowds we typically see Trump in front of. What do you think of the content and the setting that was chosen for this announcement?

JOE WALSH, FORMER U.S. REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE, ILLINOIS: Victor, I don't -- yes, it was a very boring speech. It was low energy. It was filled with thousands of lives because that's what Donald Trump does. But I don't think this speech at all matters.

Look, here's the deal. As we talked today, that guy, Donald Trump, is the clear favorite to be the Republican Party nominee in 2024. The speech doesn't matter and respectfully, it doesn't matter what Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy or Rupert Murdoch or Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity, or all the Republican donors in the world say. The only thing that matters is where Republican voters are. And generally, they're still strongly with him.

CAMEROTA: That's such an interesting perspective, Congressman, and we'll get back to more of that in a minute. But, Sarah, because, you know President Trump and worked with President Trump, I do want to get your impressions of his speech last night. What do you think?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I mean, it definitely was a boring speech. We've heard that from a lot of folks. It was uninspiring, you know. I worked for him. I've seen him give plenty of speeches during that time. And it was by far, one of his most low energy.

I mean, he himself seemed bored with it. And I think if 2016 Trump saw, 2022 Trump give that speech, he would have called it low energy. I think for a presidential announcement, you want your speech to be something that is, you know, uplifting, inspiring hope, and forward- looking. And this just kind of turned into a rambling, incoherent mess.

CAMEROTA: But, Sarah, one -- very quickly. What's that about? I mean, what we've heard from Maggie Haberman, her reporting is that he -- his heart's (INAUDIBLE). What's that about?


MATTHEWS: It does seem like he might be running because he thinks that it's going to shield him from you know these criminal investigations that are swarming around him. I don't think that's going to make a difference but I do think that in his eyes, he thinks that he can message that to his supporters and to the American people as hey, they're coming after me because I'm running for president, and they don't want to see me get elected again. And so, that seems to be part of his strategy.

BLACKWELL: Congressman, to your point, the former president dominating the field for the 2024 nomination for Republicans. Let's put up the poll. This is from New York Times Siena College, 49 percent support former President Trump, Governor Ron DeSantis at 26, no one else is in double digits in this poll. Just to support what you just said there. But also, I want you to listen to what Senator Josh Hawley says. And this is the carryover from the speech from the former president to what we saw today with a vote for Mitch McConnell to lead Republicans in the Senate.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY, (R-MO): I think Senator McConnell's view is that Trump is largely to blame that Republicans have an image problem because of Trump's upside. I don't agree with that.


BLACKWELL: What do you make of what you're hearing generally there, the theory from Josh Hawley, and what is Josh Hawley doing? He said the Republican Party is dead. That is not the Trump image problem. What do you see and hear in that soundbite?

WALSH: I think, Victor, that Hawley and Cruz said a lot of this as well. They want this Republican Party, my former political party, to even be stronger down this road of kind of a nationalistic build-a- wall around America, go after CNN, and go after the Liberals, make America a Christian theocracy. The movement conservatives now in the party, like Hawley, they want the Republican Party to push this stuff a lot more. But again, that just -- that just helps Trump because that's the kind of crap that Donald Trump espouses.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, one more follow-up about Kari Lake. She lost her race in Arizona. The Wall Street Journal editorial board says if Kari Lake couldn't win on Stop the Steal in 2022, it's hard to see how anyone else can pull it off. Maybe, at last, the 2020 election is over. You see something different and you predict something different for her future.

WALSH: Oh, yes. I -- look, I -- to make Kari Lake a star. And, Alisyn, I won't bet anybody on this but I wouldn't at all be surprised if Trump, in three months, announces Kari Lake as his vice presidential pick, super, super early. He loves her. She epitomizes his message, his election-denying attack on democracy. She's still saying the 2020 election was stolen. And she's very good and very smooth and very polished as to how she leads with this election denialism stuff. Look, don't write Trump's obituary yet, Alisyn. And I don't think -- I don't think we should write the -- election denialism is still a huge part of this Republican Party.

BLACKWELL: Quickly before we go, Sarah, do you think former President Trump can handle that much star power at number two on a ticket with him?

MATTHEWS: I do think that he would be worried about Kari Lake showing him up. I mean, given her background as a former journalist, you know, she's very good on TV. But I also don't know if I see him picking her as a potential running mate because has she won her race, maybe it would have been different, but she's a loser. And so I don't see him wanting to join forces with someone like that.

CAMEROTA: All right. Well, we shall see. Sarah Matthews, Joe Walsh, great to get your perspectives. Thank you both very much.

And don't miss a "CNN SPECIAL TOWN HALL" tonight. Former Vice President Mike Pence will join Jake Tapper live and take lots of hard questions. Tune in at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: Concerns over safety now growing inside a community in Idaho after the brutal killings of four university students. We will speak to a student reporter covering this story at the University of Idaho next.