Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Expected to Make Announcement on Future Career Plans; Former Vice President Mike Pence Interviewed on His New Book, Relationship with Former President Trump, January 6th Insurrection, and Possible Future Presidential Bid. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 17, 2022 - 08:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is about to reveal her political future. She is expected to make an announcement today on the House floor. There's speculation about Pelosi's future. It has intensified in the aftermath of the midterm elections. Some insiders believe that she may step aside for a new generation of leadership. Let's go to CNN's Jessica Dean for CNN THIS MORNING live on Capitol Hill for us. Good morning, Jessica. What are your sources saying about Pelosi's plans now?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Don. This has been a lot of the buzz here it on Capitol Hill, and it reached a fever pitch last night. We know from a spokesperson that she is going to announce her plans in a floor speech later today. What we don't know is exactly what she's going to say, what her decision will be. A source telling us that she took two versions of a speech home last night. So really, the big question is what exactly are her plans. We do expect to hear from her later today, but we're not quite certain what it will be. But certainly everyone's eyes turned to her. She's made a lot of history, and a lot of people, of course, too, Don, plotting what their moves will be once they know what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be doing.

LEMON: Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill, thank you very much, appreciate that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mike Pence revealing at a CNN town hall what it was like behind the scenes on January 6th saying that the final days of Trump administration were, quote, the most difficult of my public life. Probably a sentiment many of those who worked with him would agree with. Despite how rioters that day delayed the certification of the 2020 election, some of them even chanted in support of hanging him, Pence still supported and campaigned for election deniers in the Midterm Elections. CNN's Jake Tapper pressed him on why, why campaign for election deniers like New Hampshire's Senate candidate Don Bolduc, or Blake Masters in Arizona, both of whom, I should note, lost?


MIKE PENCE, (R) FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I went out and traveled to 35 states over the last year-and-a-half to see if we could elect a Republican majority in the House and Senate, elect Republican governors all across the country. It doesn't mean as it hasn't meant in the past that I agree with every statement or every position of candidates that I'm supporting in the Republican Party have taken, but I was pleased to do it. Governor Kemp won a decisive victory in the spring, and then he defeated perhaps the most formidable candidate for governor in the country with his reelection.

And I think that election particularly proves the point that for the Republican Party to achieve its potential, for us to earn back the right to lead America, the Republican Party should be the part of the future.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now is Jake Tapper who conducted that town hall last night. He is host of STATE OF THE UNION and THE LEAD, and CNN's chief Washington correspondent.

LEMON: Wait, I have a couple more titles.


LEMON: Thanks for joining us. That's all we have time for.

HARLOW: We have to run the credits at the end.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I won't demand all those, just so you. That's all right.

HARLOW: Yes, he does.

LEMON: Good morning, Jake.

TAPPER: Good morning, guys. It's good to see you. Congratulations on the new show. It's great, and very exciting to watch. I like that little coffee bar over there.

COLLINS: We can make you, what you do what?

TAPPER: Espresso, please.

COLLINS: You stayed up late last night talking to Pence at his town hall. What did you think about his answer? Did you buy that? What did you think of it?

TAPPER: I think so much of his career and his answers last night were about walking a line. And I'm not sure that it is a viable line. I guess we'll see. Adam Kinzinger, the Congressman from Illinois, the Republican on the January 6th Committee basically said to Pence on Twitter last night, you have to pick a side here. You can't walk this line. I don't know that that's true, but you did see evidence of this. First of all, his whole pitch seemed to be, even though he didn't announce his presidential campaign, his whole pitch seemed to be you can get all the Trump policies without the divisive Trump, and that's me. That was his suggestion. And I don't know if that's real either. LEMON: And also a pitch, buy my book, right?

TAPPER: Lots of buy my book. I have friends who were doing a drinking game, every time he mentioned his book, they took a shot. They didn't make it to the end.


TAPPER: The publisher, I'm sure, is happy.

LEMON: Speak of, then, because straddling the line, so to speak, and I call it when people say there were irregularities, or whatever, that is election denialism light. This is what he said about irregularities, and then we'll talk about it.


MIKE PENCE, (R) FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: There was never evidence of widespread fraud. I don't believe fraud changed the outcome of the election. But the president and the campaign had every right to have those examined in court. But I told the president that once those legal challenges played out he should simply accept the outcome of the election and move on. But he was hearing different voices. And, frankly, there were some legal experts that were allowed on the White House grounds that should have never been let through the gate.


LEMON: So some believe that him giving -- allowing that to happen and people sort of questioned that to go to the floor, what have you, that it sort of gave license to people to deny the election and vote against the election and sort of ushered in even more of the election denialism in the country.


TAPPER: Yes, so reading his book was interesting because he seems to think that nothing really went wrong until January 6th. That's really his approach. That's not how, for instance, Liz Cheney sees it. Liz Cheney would say this was a months' long campaign and it was all -- wholistically it was a whole. Trump tried to overturn the election this way, then he tried to overturn the election that way, this, that, the other. And then it ended with Mike Pence and Trump's pressure campaign on Pence to overturn the election, and that was just the last chance.

That's not how Pence sees it. And I'm not saying I agree with it, but this is his point of view is that everything was generally fine until that last day.

LEMON: To stick to your point when you said he seems to think that it happened on January 6th, but listen, probably before he even picked Pence as a running mate, Donald Trump he was saying the election was rigged. So Mike Pence knew who Donald Trump was from the very beginning, and he went along with it. TAPPER: Well, even before that, in 2012 he said that if Mitt Romney

loses, the elections are rigged. There's a whole history of this guy, of Donald Trump saying things that are not true, dating back to the lawsuit against him and his father for discrimination in housing. But that said, if you're just looking at this piece of the puzzle, that's the line Pence tries to walk. I don't think it's necessarily borne out by the facts, but that's his pitch.

HARLOW: He also doesn't think Congress has a right to hear from him, the January 6th committee. And I wonder what you thought of that and how significant that was. They put out that statement right after the town hall. How does he explain that?

TAPPER: Again, here's two things. One is his claim of executive privilege, which I think there is a legal groundwork to make that claim. I'm the Vice President. The president has a right to my unfettered advice without having to worry that I'm going to testify. And I certainly think that legally and politically and even morally you can make that argument.

What I think the January 6th committee was objecting to, based on their statement, is, one, why are you willing to give all these details in a book that you're selling? And the book is very detailed. Pence took notes, or at least his staff took notes. Names, dates, quotes, it's very detailed. So why are you willing to do it that way and not help us get to the bottom?

And then there is this revisionism by Pence. And it's not just Pence, to be fair, it's almost all of the Republican Party about what the January 6th committee is and why it exists the way it is. And we have to remind people that, first, Democrats wanted there to be an independent commission like the 9/11 commission, and McCarthy killed that. And then Nancy Pelosi objected to two of the people that he named to the committee because they were too close to Trump, and so McCarthy just took all of his people off the committee. And then she appointed two Republicans on her own.

COLLINS: Which Trump was furious about.

TAPPER: Which Trump was furious. But it wasn't a partisan committee. There were two Republicans on it. And almost everybody that we heard from was not just a Republican but a Trump-supporting Republican. So what Pence is saying here is what Republicans say in general, which is not true, not accurate, and not fair.

COLLINS: The main question everyone has from Pence doing a town hall, though, is if he's going to run in 2024. What's your sense?

TAPPER: I sense that he wants to. I sense that he probably will. I sense that -- I know from covering these things, a lot of it is not just about whether or not you think you'd be a good president. It's whether or not you think you can win, whether or not there is a viable path. I think this book release is kind of testing the waters, seeing what the response is going to be, seeing if there is any fever out there for Pence for president campaign. If I had to guess, I'd say yes, I think he's probably going to run. LEMON: Does he have a lane, though?

TAPPER: Does he have a lane? There is a lane definitely for a non Donald Trump candidate, without question.


TAPPER: And that's the question is, are there going to be so many non-Trump candidates that once again Trump is able to get a plurality and win. There is a lane for a non-Trump candidate. And I don't know who it's going to be. Could Pence's pitch of all the Trump policies, none of the divisiveness, could that be a pitch? I could see that working for some people. He does have a much more civil tone. And you can see from Indianans, Hoosiers in the room, even some of the Democrats from Indiana, that they liked it, they liked him personally, even if they disagreed with his views.

LEMON: He'll have Donald Trump, and that's the albatross for him is that he still has Trump. Even though, he's trying to get away from Trump, Trump is --

TAPPER: He's trying to get away from some of Trump, not all of Trump, and that's difficult.


COLLINS: Taking about their last interactions was so fascinating to me.


He said he thought Trump actually seemed remorseful, and he said he was praying for him. And he was saying that Trump said never change when he said he was praying for him, but our reporting always was that Trump mocked how religious he was, actually. It seemed more like that to me in describing those last moments.

LEMON: And the other thing is, and maybe you can chalk this up to Christian charity, but the idea that Pence interpreted Donald Trump asking about his wife and Charlotte as that was essentially remorse, not explicitly expressed, I'm so sorry that I put your wife and your daughter's in harm's way, without saying that, that is, in my view, Mike Pence being charitable. I don't know, and I basically said this, I don't forgive people that haven't asked for my forgiveness. And it's very clear that at least explicitly he hasn't, Donald Trump has not asked for his forgiveness or apologized for putting his daughter and wife in harm's way, and he continues to put a target on Mike Pence's back by continuing to attack him.

COLLINS: He said he did the wrong thing.

TAPPER: Yes, and he still says that, I guarantee you that by the end of the week, we'll see something, somebody who is on Truth Social, somebody we pay at CNN to be on Truth Social to monitor these things.

COLLINS: You don't have a Truth Social account? TAPPER: I might.

COLLINS: If Twitter starts charging you?

TAPPER: No, I have a Truth Social --

LEMON: Twitter's enough, Jake. Don't you think that's enough?

TAPPER: I do have a foot in some of these horrible alternate social media sites, Parler and Gab, just so I can poke my head and say what they're saying. It usually, it makes Twitter seem like Eden. It makes Twitter seem like the wonderful land of Oz.

LEMON: Good luck with that, Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks, guys.

COLLINS: Great town hall. You can follow Jake Tapper, clearly, on many websites and all of his titles. You can go to also to see more of this town hall that Jake did last night.

LEMON: So a very important story. No end in sight to Iran's brutal crackdown on protesters. Our next guest knows what lengths Iran will go to to silence critics. Iranian operatives planned to kidnap her from her Brooklyn home just last summer. She is going to join us this morning.



LEMON (voiceover): I really want you to sit and watch this very important story that we're about to discuss here. Look at your screens, demonstrations in Iran enter their third month. Neither protesters nor the government show any signs of backing down as violence continues in dozens of cities. So, in this video that you're looking at, you can hear screams from panic commuters, as police attacked protesters waiting on a train platform. That is according to activist outlet, IranWire. Now, that same outlet releasing this video that appears to show Iranian security forces attacking a woman who told them that she was shopping. CNN cannot independently verify the woman -- if the woman was later released.

Protests against the regime erupted in September after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died at the hands of Iran's Mortality Police -- Morality Police, excuse me, police force, which is notorious for the brutal enforcement of the obligatory Hijab Law. Now, since then, Iranian girls and women have taken to the streets with the slogan, Women, Life, Liberty. They are burning headscarves; they are channeling armed -- challenging charm -- armed security forces and posting videos on social media. Now, according to human rights groups, Iranian security forces have killed at least 342 people, including 43 children, and 25 women. One of the most outspoken critics of the Islamic Republic is Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, who has been especially critical of the current Iranian regime. Last year, she was the alleged target of a kidnapping plot by Iranian operatives.


MASIH ALINEJAD, IRANIAN JOURNALIST AND ACTIVIST: The FBI came to my house like eight months ago, and they were telling me that this house is not safe for you. And I was like, you must be kidding me because I receive daily death threats. What's new? I'm here in America, they cannot do anything. And then, when they showed me the photos of my private life with my husband, my stepchildren, my beautiful garden in Brooklyn, I was like, wow. So, the government are that close to me? And then, I took it serious as --


LEMON (on camera): Well, the New York Times is now reporting that the FBI is investigating a plot to kidnap her as well as other -- others across America. Law enforcement officials telling The Times that authoritarian governments are increasingly hiring private investigators under false pretenses to, quote, surveil, harass, threaten, and even repatriate dissidents living lawfully in the United States. So, joining us now is Iranian journalist and activist, Masih Alinejad. Thank you so much for joining us.

ALINEJAD: Thank you so much for hosting me. I'm not abandoning Iran.

LEMON: Yes, I really appreciate it. We're going to talk to you about a lot of things. But since the last thing I mentioned was the investigation, do you have an update on what's happening with the investigation of the FBI, and how you're dealing with it?

ALINEJAD: You know, they've been doing the investigation, but the man with loaded gun got arrested by the FBI just few months ago. It made my life upside down. I still live in safe house. But the word safe is to luxury for us, Iranians, who dare to criticize, you know, the Islamic Republic. As I said before, I don't want to talk about myself, I don't have any fear about my life, I'm ready to die. Because what is scary for me is, like, Iranian regime is killing teenagers, children right now in the street. And I really want to actually get the attention of the rest of the world about what's going on in Iran.

HARLOW: You talk about the attention of the rest of the world. Let's talk about, you know, the U.S. government, and what the U.S. government can be doing, and saying, and I'm reminded of President Obama. The decision within the Obama White House, not to come out publicly in support of the Green Movement for reasons they were concerned, it wouldn't help the movement. But I just --

ALINEJAD: It's a big mistake.

HARLOW: And I want you to respond to what he said now because he agrees with you. So, let's play what President Obama said just a few weeks ago, and then you'll hear Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State at the time, who was on the show with us, also talking about it. Here they are.

[08:20:10] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, when I think back to 2009, 2010, you guys will recall, there was a big debate inside the White House about whether I should publicly affirm what was going on with the Green Movement, because a lot of the activists were being accused of being tools to the west, and there was some thought that we were somehow going to be undermining their street cred in Iran if I supported what they were doing. And in retrospect, I think that was mistake.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have to do everything we can, overtly, to speak up, speak out, stand with the young women, and have the media continue to cover it.


HARLOW: She's saying that's the lesson learned from what they didn't do.

ALINEJAD: I hope so. I hope so, because it breaks my heart. You know, why? Because more than 100 people got killed during 2009 movement. And I remember that the Obama administration got the advice from some Iranian apologist on CNN, they were welcomed here, saying that don't touch the issue, don't support Iranian movement, because then the Islamic Republic will accuse them. That was the narrative of the Islamic Republic, you know? And I, myself, I came here to interview Barack Obama. I was invited by Obama's administration. And then, when I was here, the admin -- the State Department invited me and say that if we give you the interview, then we might send the wrong signal to Iranian regime. I was stuck here. I mean, I didn't get Obama. Instead, I got my husband.

LEMON: Got a husband, right? You mentioned --

ALINEJAD: Better deal out of it, you know? But I'm here. But I -- I'm -- I gave voice to Iranian protesters, like Neda Agha-Soltan, which Obama himself actually mentioned about him in 2009. His family is not happy, because it's too late to admit that, OK, now it's a mistake. But the U.S. government now I can take a lesson and do a lot. I want to tell you this as well. Obama means, he is with us, in Persian. O means he, ba means with, and ma means us. We were like hoping in the street, people chanting his name and saying that you are either with us or with the Islamic Republic. And who was trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran that time. Now, I want the U.S. administration, Biden administration, to recognize this revolution. This is a revolution against gender apartheid regime. Children, women, schoolgirls are getting killed. And they are actually asking Obama's administration to be her voice.

COLLINS: Yes, it's been remarkable how differently they've responded. A lot of people who worked in the Biden ministration, especially the national security realm, worked in the Obama administration. So, you've seen a different approach there. But I want to go back to this New York Times story, because essentially, what it was saying is that authoritarian governments are hiring U.S. investigators basically to do their dirty work under this false pretense, they said with your case, they said they were looking for someone who was a debtor that they needed to track down. Actually, the government believes it was a plot to kidnap you to potentially kill you. And so, I wonder, you know, what you believe the United States seems to be doing, not just to uncover those, but help foil them because it's so difficult it seems like.

ALINEJAD: Yes, that's a very good question. First of all, I'm very thankful for the law enforcement, the FBI that did stop the kidnapping plot. But the thing is, that was a year ago, and I was like, OK, now everything is safe. I mean -- I mean, in America, I came here to be loud, to give voice to voice those people, I'm not a criminal. The criminals are there killing innocent people. So, I have to be safe and give voice to my people, no? But again, because the U.S. government didn't send any signal to Islamic Republic, they were trying to get a deal, they lift up some sanction, so there was no reason for Iranian government to stop killing people or to stop following me. So, that's why they hired -- they hired a person just three months ago, with an AK-47 to kill me.

But you know what, what breaks my heart that I'm not as scared of my life. I'm ready to die. But what I -- what is very scary that the whole world is watching that this is happening on U.S. soil. This is happening in Iran right now. Let me just give you one picture about Iran today. Three years ago, Iranian regime killed a 1500 people, 1500 people. There was no punishment for the Islamic Republic. So, you tell me, is there any reason for the Iranian regime to stop killing people when they're not being punished when it's still that the leaders of democratic countries trying to shake the hand with these murderers? So, that's very scary. Yesterday, just 10-year-old kid Keon (PH) got killed. He was only 10-year-old.


For me, this is the opportunity to ask the leaders of democratic country, we don't want you to save us. We want you to stop, save the Islamic Republic. Just cut your ties with these murders. And you recall your ambassadors and recognize the revolution.

COLLINS: Well, important to note that there are intense sanctions on Iran, and the U.S. has said now, they don't think they're anywhere close to getting a nuclear deal after thinking there initially were.

LEMON: Let me just say that you never know who you're going to reach and the power of CNN and what we do here, because we, obviously, we've been covering the story, and especially a lot in our international wing. So, we know that it is an important story. I was able to be a part of a roundtable conversation with Iranian women. And that conversation happened in large part because they saw Hillary Clinton on this program.


LEMON: And then invited Hillary Clinton to speak. And then after that, I came and had dinner with you guys and sat next to you. And then I said, I must have this woman on my program. We must continue to talk about these stories. Your struggle and your stories are very important, and we need to do something. We will continue to put this out there. You're welcome here anytime and give me stories.

ALINEJAD: To be honest, we really appreciate.

LEMON: Send us more stories from Iran and hold us accountable here at CNN.

ALINEJAD: That means a lot to me because, finally, we see that CNN is really supportive, and especially CNN was the one broke the news of Nika Shakarami, 16-year-old teenager.

LEMON: It is our job to put the story out there. And for -- the government will react however they will react, but it's our job to put the stories out there. And we thank you for doing it.

COLLINS: And we thank you putting faith on us.

ALINEJAD: Thank you and appreciate it.

LEMON: Appreciate it.

ALINEJAD: Next, I'm going to invite you to my beautiful country without forcing you to wear your beautiful hair.

LEMON: Thank you, Masih.

HARLOW: Thank you.

COLLINS: All right, the comedian Jay Leno still in the hospital recovering from serious burns after an accident in his garage. We'll get you an update on his condition from his own doctor, next.