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Nancy Pelosi: I Will Not Seek Re-Election To Democratic Leadership; New GOP-Controlled House Promises To Investigate Biden & Family; Autopsies Complete In Killings Of 4 University Of Idaho Students. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 17, 2022 - 14:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hey there, I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

We begin with the end of an era on Capitol Hill. A short time ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is stepping down from leadership now that Republicans have won control of the House.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Never would have thought that someday I would go from homemaker to house speaker. In fact, I never -- and with great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. For me, the hours come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.


CAMEROTA: This closes an important chapter in Pelosi's trailblazing congressional career. She is the first and only woman to be House speaker and she's represented her California district for 35 years.

BLACKWELL: She has been second in line to the presidency during four presidents here. You see them here just over the shoulders during the states of the Union addresses. Now guiding major legislation in the House that impacts every American from the Affordable Care Act to Inflation Reduction Act, all while being a target of conservatives and right-wing media.


PELOSI: When I came to Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now, they're over 90 and we want more.


BLACKWELL: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also announced that he will not run for an elected leadership position in the next Congress.

CAMEROTA: CNN's Manu Raju joins us now. So, Manu, who will be the Democrats' next leader? And just tell us what the mood and the reaction have been on Capitol Hill.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do expect to see change in the Democratic leadership after Nancy Pelosi for two decades, the most dominant figure in our party ushering through major legislation, someone who has been able to keep her caucus together in very difficult times that has a profound legacy, Republicans, of course, criticize that legacy Democrats herald that legacy, but one whose impact will be lasting, stepping aside and will pave the way for a new leadership team.

We do expect Hakeem Jeffries, the New York Democrat, someone who's been in Democratic leadership for some time as a 52-year-old Democrat expected to be the next Democratic leader. He, at the moment, is expected to be the lone Democrat running for that position is called party leader. He has not yet formally announced his run, but it is widely expected that he will do so. And we do expect two other Democrats from his generation also to consider running for this number two and number three spot. That's Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California for the number two and number three position. This after not only Pelosi announced she was stepping aside with Steny Hoyer as well.

In addition, Jim Clyburn, who is the South Carolina Democrat, who was the number three in the inner part -- of his party leadership right now also indicated that he would support those three younger Democrats just take their place. This indicates that potentially this could be a smooth transition if no other potential candidates emerge. It's uncertain that what will happen if the no-leadership elections are on November 30 but the caucus had been -- there had been a faction within the Democratic caucus, who had been pushing for this generational change for some time. Pelosi recognizing that kind of deal several years ago, saying that 2022 will be her last time as Democratic leader, the end of this year. She didn't firmly shut the door, which led to some drama ahead of today but by making this announcement, now Democrats are preparing for the next act, guys.

BLACKWELL: Manu, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy was not there when Speaker Pelosi made this announcement. Do we know where he was or why he was not there?

RAJU: They haven't quite said yet but they have had a very contentious relationship, the two of them over the years. He wasn't there. There were -- there were some Republicans in the chamber, but it was mostly dominated by Democrats who applauded a number of things that she said as she went through her rise from being a daughter of a Baltimore Mayor through her time through state politics and ascending to the speakership something that she said she never dreamed that she would do. And also discussing her time serving under three presidents. That's what she mentioned.



PELOSI: I have enjoyed working with three presidents, achieving historic investments in clean energy with President George Bush, transformative health care reform with President Barack Obama, and forging the future from infrastructure to health care to climate action with President Joe Biden.


RAJU: So, one president she did not mention, Donald Trump. She has served with four presidents as Speaker of the House but did not mention him. Of course, that will be a key part of her legacy too. She led the impeachment proceedings making Donald Trump the only president in history to be impeached twice, including, of course after January 6 when those rioters stormed her office and targeted her, guys.

BLACKWELL: The distinction was clear that she enjoyed working with three presidents, although she worked with more.

CAMEROTA: Right. The math added up at some point.



BLACKWELL: Manu Raju, thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, today, Republican leaders soon to be in control of the House are previewing what the next two years will look like. They're vowing to investigate President Biden, his family, the Justice Department, and more.

BLACKWELL: The White House has been preparing for just that for more than four months now. CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond is here. So, this is going to be a big change for the president. How's the White House preparing?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it, Victor. This is a major inflection point for Joe Biden's presidency. And months before we learned that Republicans would take back the House, this is a White House that has also been gearing up for that very scenario. It is by far among the earliest and most comprehensive preparations by any White House before a midterm election to prepare for the onslaught of investigations by the opposing party.

And it began last spring with the hiring of several key officials including a veteran white-collar attorney Richard Sauber as the White House's Special Counsel handling the response to all of this. Ian Sams, the White House spokesman also hired Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to the president coming back into the fold. Key hires also made at the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

And over the summer, this team at the White House has been mapping out possible Republican investigations, paying very close attention to the hundreds of letters that Republican lawmakers have been sending to the White House and to agencies with requests for documents. They've been paying close attention to top Republican lawmakers' TV appearances, where they've really been telegraphing what they're going to do. And what they've also been doing is coordinating across the administration with key top lawyers at various agencies.

One of those meetings I'm told took place more than four months before the election in the Roosevelt Room of the White House with top lawyers from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security sitting down together to map out the potential Republican investigations and also decide how they're going to respond. So, one of the things Republicans have been threatening, which is to potentially impeach the Secretary of Homeland Security. And those meetings, I'm told have happened with other agencies as well.

Lastly, a lot of hires are still going to come. They have a team of about 10 lawyers at the White House handling oversight, more are expected to be hired in the next two months.

CAMEROTA: OK, thank you for the preview of all that, Jeremy Diamond at the White House for us.

With us now, we have CNN political analyst Natasha Alford, Vice President of digital content and senior correspondent at the Grieux, and CNN political commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin, former Trump White House Director of Communications. Ladies, great to have you.

Natasha, let me just read to you that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez just told CNN that the end of Nancy Pelosi's era as Speaker, she said it will be a sea change in American politics, it will have profound ramifications. Do you agree and what will those be?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, I do agree that it will be a sea change. We have to first take a moment to appreciate how historic Pelosi's time in office was. She's been in office since 1987. For context, I was probably you know, in preschool at that time.

But often she's been looked to as the adult in the room, right? She's somebody who was effective, she could get things done, she could rally the troops, so to speak, even in a really diverse Democratic caucus. So, that sense of stability and someone who's really a sort of guiding the ship, I think has been important for Democrats. And now those are some really big shoes to fill.

But, you know, Nancy Pelosi and her speech pointed to this as a moment for fresh ideas, a moment where you know, it's time to move. And I think a lot of people are ready for that. We know that there were some tensions between Pelosi, AOC, and the so-called squad, right? And I think that that represents that again, it is time to move forward and there are a lot of people who are actually looking forward to this change.

BLACKWELL: Alyssa, for decades, Republicans have used Nancy Pelosi to raise money to excite the Republican base.

[14:10:00] Even on the night of the election, McCarthy said we have taken back the House and put Nancy Pelosi into the minority. Not the Democrats but her specifically. How does this change shift the strategy politically for Republicans?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: Well, I just want to say first and foremost, love or hate Nancy Pelosi, you can't help but respect the hell out of her. So, congratulations on a historic run to the speaker on it. Listen, she has served as a boogeyman for the GOP. She does help them with fundraising. I remember as long ago as 2010 the RNC using fire Pelosi, you know, messaging.

But honestly, I think it's a moment for Republicans, for my party, to learn from. This -- it takes leadership to acknowledge when it's time to pass the baton. And Nancy Pelosi is reading into the midterms, saying that Gen Zers came out in droves and that that's the new base for Democrats. So, she's saying it's time for next-generation leadership.

My party could take a lesson from that. We shouldn't be running again the same candidate we've now run three times for president. We should think about new leadership in the House of Representatives, which, you know, is still an open question since Kevin McCarthy has to get 218 votes on the House floor in January.

CAMEROTA: We have this picture of Nancy Pelosi, Natasha, where, you know, all the men sitting around the table and this is the official White House photograph at the cabinet room table, then this was when they had visited the White House to talk to Trump about him pulling out -- pulling U.S. forces out of Northern Syria, a bipartisan group in the House had to oppose this or even Congress. And you know, she's standing there, commanding the room, she's pointing her finger at Trump, that's not the only time that she did that. And it just reminds you that she was fearless in this way.

You know, she -- there were always times that there -- I mean, there were -- there was always talk that there would be challenges to her leadership from within her party as you point out, there was tension with the squad. And she just never -- she just sort of slept it off.


CAMEROTA: She never seemed intimidated. I mean, I guess that by the time you're 80-something, you've seen it all.

BLACKWELL: And you've worked with several presidents before, yes.

CAMEROTA: None of that really intimidates you. And that picture sort of captures it.

ALFORD: It's powerful, Alisyn and Victor. She mentioned in the speech today, you know, coming in there being just more than a dozen Democratic women, and now they're being 90, right? So, she's witnessed history while also making history in office. And she said that there should be more. So, she's pointing to the fact that you know, if we say we want America to truly be a democracy that means everyone needs to be part of this democracy. And to Farah's point, you don't want to think of one party as just being associated with one demographic. That is what makes America -- the promise of America so beautiful. And so Democrats definitely have captured that and she's calling on the next generation to continue that diversity.

BLACKWELL: Alyssa, after CNN has now projected that Republicans will control the House in the next Congress, the first news conference from House Republicans the next day is telegraphing their investigation of Hunter Biden. They ran on the trinity of the economy, border, crime, what happened to those? Why is this the first entry into what they will work on in the next Congress?

GRIFFIN: Well, listen, it's totally not meeting the moment. The voters were very clear. They want a government that works. That's why you know, we have a split government now. And they wanted the GOP -- the messages that resonated, of course, were those that you mentioned.

But listen, this is a lot about Kevin McCarthy getting his speakership in the House and the fact that he can't get 218 votes if he doesn't cater toward the 30 rightmost flanks of his base within the House Republican caucus. And those folks want to see this. They think that the top priorities are investigating Hunter Biden, which by the way, I would note he's already under investigation by the Department of Justice. So, the notion that that's what we should be using taxpayer resources to do is just absurd from a conservative standpoint. I think this is going to backfire and hurt them in 2024. They need to be focusing on kitchen table issues.

BLACKWELL: Alyssa Farah Griffin, Natasha Alford, thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, investigators say they still do not have a suspect in that murder of four University of Idaho students. And now there's new video that shows two of the victims on the night they were killed.

BLACKWELL: And Russia launches a fresh round of strikes on Ukraine as the U.S. runs low on some weapons to send to Ukraine. Details, ahead.



BLACKWELL: The autopsies have now been completed for the four college students who were stabbed to death in Moscow, Idaho.

CAMEROTA: They were found dead in their home early -- well, actually, Sunday afternoon. Police think they were killed early Sunday morning. And police are now warning the community to stay on high alert because the killer is "still out there." CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us now. So, Lucy, police initially said there was no threat to the community and now they say be on high alert. So, what changed?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to know, Alisyn. Moscow police initially described these killings as a targeted attack specifically focused on these four individuals, I suppose. And they said that there was no threat to the public, as you point out, but yesterday, in his first news conference on this case, the police chief backtracked. Even though they still consider this to be a targeted attack, the fact is somebody brutally murdered, four people, with a knife and that person has not been caught, which is why the chief acknowledged the threat is still out there urging folks to be vigilant to watch their surroundings.

And as we wait for those autopsy results that you mentioned, there are some new threads emerging in this investigation. Police now tell us two roommates who were apparently home at the time of the crime as well as when police responded to that 911 call on Sunday, CNN has learned that both had been fully cooperative.


And while Idaho police are currently not referring to the roommates, as suspects, police also tell us they are not ruling anyone out. Another new detail we learned two of the victims, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were at a party on campus before these murders took place while Madison Majan -- Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were at a downtown bar. All of them arrived home sometime after 1:45 a.m., police tell us.

But CNN has obtained new video of Madison and Kaylee in some of their last moments alive. They were captured on a live Twitch stream from a food truck at about 1:41 a.m. You see them there ordering, they wait about 10 minutes for their food. The video shows them chatting with one another and with folks standing by the truck.

Now, the manager of that truck told CNN that the two students did not seem to be in any distress or any danger. We did also hear from a close friend of Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle, who were very much struggling to process what happened, these surprising murders that caught everyone off guard. Here is this friend describing the death of two close friends. Take a listen.


MADISON FITZGERALD, FRIED OF IDAHO VICTIMS ETHAN CHAPIN AND XANA KERNODLE: It was a privilege to know such kindness. They were both amazing individuals. They had the most warmth, amazing hearts. They touched so many lives on campus because of how truly welcoming and kind they were to every person that they ever met. They're the type of kindness that you wake up and you remember, and they made you want to be better, kinder people every single day.


KAFANOV: And that was Ethan's friend. Ethan's dad issued a statement saying yesterday there's a lack of information from the university and the police which is fueling false rumors and innuendo in the press and social media. He said the silence further compounds our family's agony after our son's murder. For now, Victor, the agonizing wait for answers continues.

BLACKWELL: Yes, for not just the families but the entire community because they're getting now shifting guidance from local police. Lucy Kafanov for us, thank you.

Joining us now, is a criminologist and behavioral analyst, Casey Jordan. Good to see you again. Let's start here with law enforcement. The FBI and State Police are assisting in this investigation to try to find the suspect. But you say that the local police there are just in over their heads. Explain that.

CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Well, I think the fact that they came forth and said we are sure this is a targeted crime, nobody needs to be worried and then they walked it back, and it seems to indicate they may have jumped the gun. Come to that conclusion, probably because there is no sign of forced entry. But that doesn't mean that the kids locked the door when they came in at two o'clock in the morning.

They may be operating on a theory that the perpetrator is known to at least one person in the house, maybe somebody they -- who came home with them to party more after the night out they had, you know two of them at a party on campus, two of them at a downtown bar. But we have to realize that there have been very disturbing similar campus stabbings like this in our history. Ted Bundy and Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper, you know, these were randomized attacks by serial killers.

So, I think that now that they have the FBI and the state police involved to have a little bit more experienced -- global experience in these kinds of crimes, maybe they're realizing that they came to the wrong conclusion or at least that they should expand their options moving forward with this investigation.

CAMEROTA: I mean, yes, Casey, there have been stabbings on campus before but not four people. Do you know how hard it is for one suspect to kill four people with a knife? That's unheard of. I mean, that -- unless they were all asleep -- I mean it's hard -- it's hard to tie people up and kill people one by one if you're a soul -- a soul assailant.

JORDAN: Entirely possible, however, Alisyn, that they were all four asleep. Again, it is -- it is really rare, but not entirely unprecedented. Not for people all at once. But keep in mind, they were partying. I mean, there's a lot is being made about the fact that there were two other roommates in this big house, who I would -- I'm going to guess didn't hear a thing because they were asleep. And you know, remember when you guys were in college, you're partying on a Saturday night, you slept till noon on a Sunday? It's not entirely impossible that this was a person known to them, but they can't rule out that it's random also.

And I think that people are frustrated because they want to know is there somebody in our midst, who -- is this a stranger, is it random, and should other people be concerned, the police dialing that back and not really coming forth with a lot of information, has people concerned.


JORDAN: So, until they tell us more, I'm going to tell you that statistically, it is most likely to be a person known to them, somebody who came home with them, was partying with them, but we have seen plenty of crimes like this that are absolutely random. No one could have predicted it. Nobody saw it coming. And hopefully, we'll get more details from the police soon.


BLACKWELL: So, police say that -- as you said, Alisyn, that they were likely killed in the very early morning hours, but the 911 call came in the afternoon. They have not said who made that 911 call. But there is this detail that stood out that Chief Fry said that the call came in about an unconscious person. That was what the report was. However, the coroner said when they got there, there was blood all over the apartment, it was a gruesome scene. Is that something that comes in if you call 911 to say, there's someone here who's unconscious? It just doesn't seem like the report matches what was actually on scene when someone called.

JORDAN: Yes. Victor, I think this is kind of standard operating procedure of 911 operators. Technically, only a coroner or an MD can declare somebody dead. So, when somebody calls -- and especially I can try to envision, let's go with a theory that a roommate discovered them and made that 911 phone call, the hysteria of somebody who's discovered this bloodbath. All they can do is say, is the person breathing? You know, can you perform CPR? And getting no answer to that they're probably going to say an unconscious person and dispatch police to that.

I think they're just kind of soft selling it as the phone call came in, people were unconscious, you know, and we can't call them dead until the corner gets there. I wouldn't make too much of their choice of language. It just seems to me they're sugarcoating it. The corner is on record as saying it was the most disturbing, horrific, bloody crime scene they had ever seen in their lives.

And I think that we're talking about somebody who killed four people in a knife attack, that was a frenzy, which is the biggest indicator that is somebody known to them. So, again, we just need the police to ask the public for help with tips, and really keep us in the loop with possible motives or perpetrators because I think it's going to be tips on the public that leads them to the correct suspect.

CAMEROTA: Yes, such a great point, and people can just call 911. If you have any information, just call 911. Casey Jordan, thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: First on CNN, the January 6 committee interviews the lead Secret Service agent in then-President Trump's motorcade on the day of the insurrection.