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GOP Defections Complicate McCarthy's Path To Speakership; Risk Of A Rail Strike In Two Weeks Looms Over U.S.; Pompeo: Teachers Union Head "Most Dangerous Person In The World". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired November 22, 2022 - 21:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A quick programming note, before we go.

This Sunday night, 360's friend, Lisa Ling, is back with a new season, of "THIS IS LIFE," right here, on CNN. Once again, she'll take viewers on a journey, around the country, exploring communities that are often unknown or misunderstood. Don't miss the debut of the final season of "THIS IS LIFE," Sunday, at 10 PM.

The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Kasie Hunt and CNN TONIGHT.


KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: John, thank you so much.

I am Kasie Hunt. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

The Supreme Court has once again ruled, against Donald Trump, clearing the way for a House panel, to finally get ahold of his tax returns, after years of battling for them. We're going to dig into what that could mean, for the former President, tonight.

Democrats will have just six weeks left to dig into any documents they receive before Republicans take control of the House.

But the specter of Trump is still going to hang over the GOP. There's his presidential campaign, the investigations into his conduct, and the behavior of his allies, on Capitol Hill.

GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is acting like the Speaker-in-Waiting. But now, there is another "Hard no" declaration, against him.

Congressman Ralph Norman, of South Carolina, is the latest Republican, who is threatening to vote, against McCarthy, for Speaker, on the House floor, in January. That brings the number of possible "No" votes up to five. He joins Matt Gaetz, Matt Rosendale, Andy Biggs, and Bob Good, who've all signaled they'll oppose McCarthy.

If current margins hold, in the House races that are not yet called, McCarthy will only be able to afford to lose four votes. This presents quite a math problem, and could lead to some serious drama, on the House floor, on January 3. McCarthy was at the Mexican border, today, to make more promises, and acting like he's a sure thing.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): In 42 days, the United Republican House takes control.

We will use the power of the purse, and the power of the subpoena.

If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate every order, every action and every failure.

We will do whatever it takes.


HUNT: Becoming Speaker traditionally takes 218 votes. Technically though, what you need is a majority of the lawmakers, who are present, on the House floor. If no candidate has a majority, on the initial vote, the House goes to a second ballot, and so on and so on. The last time a Speaker election went to multiple ballots was way back in 1923.

Nancy Pelosi won reelection last year, as Speaker, with 216 votes. It took John Boehner, back in 2015, 216 votes. That was also what Newt Gingrich received, in 1997.

McCarthy's road, though, potentially quite a bit rockier. He's been preparing for this moment, for years, carefully courting the Freedom Caucus group that made Boehner's life so difficult that Boehner up and resigned. And, in recent weeks, McCarthy has courted conspiracy theorists, like Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Remember what Greene told The New York Times, last month, about McCarthy? Quote, "I think that to be the best Speaker of the House, and to please the base, he's going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway. And if he doesn't, they're going to be very unhappy about it."

Greene added that wasn't a threat, but the reality that she and others like her are emboldened, by the leverage that the narrow margin gives them, over McCarthy.

But, but, but, but you cannot beat someone with no one. And right now, there doesn't seem to be an obvious alternative to McCarthy, or is there?

Let's put that to our first guest, Congressman David Joyce, of Ohio, Chair of the Republican Governance Committee. He just won reelection, to a sixth House term.

Congressman, congratulations on your recent win. Welcome to the show. Thank you for being here.

REP. DAVID JOYCE (R-OH): Thank you. And thank you very much for having me, Kasie. HUNT: So, let's start off. Does McCarthy - does Kevin McCarthy have the votes, to become Speaker, in January?

JOYCE: Kevin certainly deserves the opportunity to be the next Speaker. And he was just recently elected, as well as all of our leadership was, by wide margins of folks, throughout the Conference.

Right now, there's a few people holding out, and they think there's some power in holding out, or saying that they're going to hold out.

But Kevin deserves the opportunity to lead. He has done a great job of bringing us together, of having a uniform message, in which we could all run, of wanting to bring back the economy, to bring back accountability to our government, to make our community safe and secure, and to take care of the fentanyl and those problems at the border.

HUNT: Sure.

JOYCE: And he's down there, announcing that today.

HUNT: So, if not McCarthy, like these people on the far-right of your Conference are saying then who?

JOYCE: Well, they don't have a candidate, and they just make a noise. And I can appreciate that. Because in a majority - a slim majority like we've got now? Let's face it. Everybody can do the same thing.


But what are they trying to hold out for? Ralph Norman, I heard him, the other day, ask Kevin about, "Well, would you support the RSC budget?" Well, RSC is a small makeup of the whole Conference. Why would Kevin ever commit to something like that? And Kevin's not going to commit just to the HFC, because he's also got the Republican Governance Group. He's got the Problem Solvers.

HUNT: Yes.

JOYCE: He's got Main Street. He's got the Republican Study Coalition.

HUNT: And what do you want from him?

JOYCE: He's got a bunch of - and a Hispanic Caucus.

HUNT: What do you as the--

JOYCE: There's other caucuses.

HUNT: The Republican Governance Conference, what do you want from him?

JOYCE: Well, good governance. That's what we want. And that's what we were elected for. We didn't come here, to make a point. We came here to make a difference. We were duly elected, by the people, in our communities, to go back there, and fix the problems that exist. They're sick of a dysfunction that has continued on time and time again.

Each year, we've been - for the sixth - now being in my sixth year, I'm coming back, I'm not getting things done. We have to go back and fix the problems that are directly affecting the American people, on a daily basis.

HUNT: Yes. So speaking of that, I'm glad you raised it, because I can actually fill up the screen, with the investigations that members of your party have announced.

And I think we have a graphic that we can show everyone. I mean, these are all the topics that some of your colleagues have come out and said, "Hey, we want to look into this. We want this to be our focus." There has not been a, or at least we have not seen as yet, a concerted effort, around an agenda, for House Republicans.

And the reality is government is divided. I mean, how do you expect to accomplish any of those things? I mean, what are you going to be able to run on, in two years, in your own election, when you've got other members of your party, focused on what we were just showing everyone?

JOYCE: And that's a great point, Kasie. But the thing is that we have to have a government that's transparent. And we have to have a government that's accountable. And some of these things deserve the Oversight Committee. It's our duty to do perform the oversight, on these things.

But what the overwhelming majority of Americans, and look at the places these votes came from, New York, Florida, California, not necessarily areas that are considered widely red or widely blue, but areas where the people want to get things done.

They're being affected, directly, in their - every time, they go to the pump, they put their trust in us, and they deserve to have their trust honored, by making sure we deliver for them, and laying out an agenda that fixes the problems that are there or we won't hold this majority.

HUNT: Do you think any of those investigations we just showed are a waste of time? Let's start with the Hunter Biden investigation. Is that a worthwhile use of Republicans' time and energy when you take back the House?

JOYCE: Again, there should be certain things to be looked at. I don't - I have not (ph) looked at Hunter Biden's laptop. As you know, I was a prosecutor for 25 years, before I got here. And certainly, it would sound like there's some merit to looking into it.

But I do think that we should spend - and there's committees of Oversight and Judiciary, that should take some time, looking at those things, and looking at whether or not there's an issue with the border and who's doing what.

But the fact of the economy is we have to rein in the spending, the government spending, claw-back the money that's out there, and put it towards more beneficial uses that drive down the cost of living, for Americans that take care of making us energy-independent, again, bringing down the cost of gas, at the pump, and doing the things that are necessary, to make our community safe and whole. And if we don't provide that we won't hold this majority.

HUNT: Yes. No, I mean, it's certainly, I think, we've seen examples of what you're talking about, in the past.

I guess my question is how do you implement what you are talking about? How do you push your party, to do those things, when the Freedom Caucus or - I mean, I'm not even sure if that's the right name anymore.

The people with the biggest megaphones, on the right, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world, seem to be able to exert the most control, over the direction of the Conference, as a whole by, honestly, you could argue, they're holding it hostage.

JOYCE: Well, you can argue that. But I think we have to get, and I've told this to Kevin, on many occasions, and I've brought it up in front of our Conference, last week. They could talk about all these things, and they want to do a budget, and they want to create the appropriations bills.

We'll deliver appropriations bills. That's not a problem. Will we have the 218 votes to take them forward? And so, it's time we started looking at what we can do, and whether people are willing to do those things that are necessary, to actually be effective and govern.

HUNT: Yes.

JOYCE: And that's something that we've heard a lot of noise about. But if we like committees actually do their work, let the Chairman of committees, and Democrats and Republicans have their amendments. Let those come from committees, the floor.

HUNT: Yes.

JOYCE: And then, again, have amendments that are germane to the bill, and pass--

HUNT: All due respect, sir. I have heard - I hear that argument. We have heard that argument quite a bit. It is just simply not how Congress has been operating, lately. Perhaps we'll see a change, but.

JOYCE: Absolutely.

HUNT: Let me - let me close--

JOYCE: It's been dysfunctioning. There's no doubt about it, Kasie. You covered us. You know there's dysfunction. We have to try to cure it.

HUNT: So, speaking of this, I just want to ask you one quick question, before I let you go. And this is about Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Because, a just over a year ago, seven of your members of the council, the Republican Governance Group that you're a part of, voted to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene, of her committee assignments. Now it seems like she's going to get them back.


How do you feel about her saying that there's a lot of power, and a lot of leeway? And how do you feel about your leadership threatening to strip Democrats off the committee, for far less than calling for essentially violence, against their colleagues?

JOYCE: I spoke up at the Conference, when they wanted to strip Liz, initially, when they wanted to strip Liz Cheney, from the Conference Chair, for some of her comments. And then, they also wanted to take the committees away.

Look, I didn't know Mrs. Greene, at that time, from anyone else, in the community. But I did say that, where are the standards that we hold these people accountable? I didn't see any list of standards, when I came here, saying that if you say these things, or you do these things, then we're going to strip you of your rights and the duties of your office.

The people in your district elected you. And if they think you're not doing the job, then they can take it away from you, every two years.

HUNT: So, do you think that--

JOYCE: That's exactly why I think Kevin deserves the job for the two years. If you don't like the job he's doing then--

HUNT: Should McCarthy then not move to strip these Democrats of their committee assignments, Swalwell, Schiff and Ilhan Omar?

JOYCE: Well, Kevin, as a leader, can take those positions, and I think he's got some avenues - or some details, on why they make a good case, on why perhaps Swalwell, and Schiff deserve to come off. But I'm not party to that discussion. So, I can tell you that, as far as I'm concerned that we should give everybody an opportunity until they prove otherwise.

HUNT: All right, Congressman David Joyce, thank you very much, for joining us, tonight. I really appreciate your time, sir.

JOYCE: Thanks for having me, Kasie.

HUNT: All right, we've got much more ahead, on the Supreme Court's new ruling, to allow Congress to see Donald Trump's tax returns. Will Democrats, on the Ways and Means Committee, get ahold of them, before Republicans take hold of the House? That's next.



HUNT: You just heard from one Republican congressman, who says he's supporting Kevin McCarthy, for House speaker.

But the Republican leader still has a fight, on his hands. There are currently five members of his party, who say that they will oppose him, at this juncture, anyway. That of course, if they're willing to stick to their guns, could make or break his chances of getting his dream job.

Can he win them over? Or, shall we say, can he put so much pressure on the system that everybody caves and gives him what he wants?

Let's bring in CNN Political Commentator, and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala; CNN Political Analyst, and Axios Managing Editor for Politics, Margaret Talev; and former RNC Communications Director, Doug Heye.

Thank you guys all for being here. We were watching that interview, with Congressman Joyce, with some interest. And Doug, I have to say it. It sort of gave me some flashbacks to, you worked for Eric Cantor, who, of course, was--


HUNT: --one of the first kind of signs that this is the way, his loss, which obviously took so many of us by surprise.

HEYE: Yes, thanks for the reminder, yes.

HUNT: I know that you don't like to be reminded. So, I'm sorry.


HUNT: I apologize! But it really was, in some ways, the canary in the coal mine, for kind of the situation that we now find ourselves in. So, I'm just kind of curious, like, what did you make of what he had to say? And what's next for McCarthy?

HEYE: Well, I think he highlighted where Republicans want to go, or at least the big large majority of Republicans want to go. But you can't get there, if you can't get to 218. And that's always been the challenge.

You and Margaret, both, would, chase Eric Cantor, and John Boehner, and other members, down the corridors in Congress, when we couldn't get to 218. Or you would ask us, "Are you going to be able to get to 218?" We'd be very confident that we would, and then privately, "Uh, we don't know."

And so, this is the job that Kevin has now. And he's dressing for the role by being at the border.


HEYE: He's talking the right way about it, right now. But he has to get to 218, and go back into his role, not as being a leader, but as being a whip. He's got to not just count the votes. He's got to find them and get them.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: But the conversation that you come back to again and again is what's the alternative? And if you are the right flank of the Republican Party, like who's the alternative to Kevin McCarthy? Maybe Steve Scalise, but that's basically Kevin McCarthy. Maybe someone in the right flank.

But look at David Joyce and the other half a dozen or so the newly- elected incoming Republicans, in Biden-plus districts, they aren't going to embrace someone, on the right flank.

Someone has to be in charge of the House of Representatives. Are Democrats going to start trying to grab back moderate Republicans, and flip them? I mean, someone will have to be the House Speaker. And so, the odds are still on McCarthy. And the question is, at what point does he stop being led, and just try to assert his leadership?

HUNT: Yes. Well, I mean, that's the part. And I don't know, Paul, how well, you've gotten to know McCarthy, in your years, in this town. I mean, we used to have a lot more kind of crossover among the parties.

BEGALA: Not as well. Like, I knew Gingrich much better.

HUNT: Yes.

BEGALA: And he hated me!

HUNT: McCarthy has never been - I mean, he is, in my experience, somebody who, when you're in a private room with him, will tell you what he thinks you want to hear. He's very good at that. It's part of why he's very good at raising money. But he's not necessarily someone, who sticks where you expect him, or where he says he'll stick. I mean, look what happened after January 6!

BEGALA: Right. He's - the reason he's on the border, I think, braying about investigating Alejandro Mayorkas--

TALEV: Yes, right.

BEGALA: --which I'll pause, while everybody says, "Who?" and reaches for their Google machine! They're going to have to focus on investigation for two reasons.


HUNT: Yes.

BEGALA: It's the only thing that unites that fractious caucus.


BEGALA: Conference. And second, you have to do investigation, when you can't do legislation.

Nancy Pelosi had about a five seat margin. She passed the Recovery Act, a gun control bill, the infrastructure bill, the PACT Act, expanding healthcare for veterans, the CHIPS Act, expanding technology, the most consequential set of legislation, probably in a quarter century, with five-seat margin.

Will Kevin be able to pass - Mr. McCarthy, anything? Well, of course, not. In fact, here's pro tip. Don't sit with him, at Thanksgiving, because he won't be able to pass the gravy, without Marjorie Taylor Greene coming in and doing it for him.

HUNT: Margaret, I mean, what's your assessment?

TALEV: Yes, I got nothing!

HUNT: What?


TALEV: What will I add to that? Come on! That's like a "Drop the mic" moment!

HEYE: There's a name that we haven't mentioned in all this, and that's Donald Trump. And obviously, if he decides to weigh in on this, he's going to have enormous influence. And those "Hard nos" may not be "Hard nos"--



HEYE: --if Donald Trump, or Trump-world and the Trump orbit, is going into Kevin's office, every day. I mean, you see Capitol Hill reporters, tweeting who just walked in, who just walked out.

HUNT: Right.

HEYE: That can have a real role.

HUNT: Well, and it seems like Marjorie Taylor Greene sort of got that message too, because she has been saying out there, publicly, like - or she was urging people, to back McCarthy, in the course of the leadership election.

Speaking of Trump, can we talk about this tax return situation for a second? Margaret, I'm curious what you think. This has been a years' long fight.

Finally, a court that was stacked by Donald Trump-appointed justices has - actually this is not the first time that they have rejected one of his appeals, in a situation, where he clearly was making a political appeal to them, whether it was around the raid, down at Mar- a-Lago, or around this.

Do you think this is ultimately going to have an impact? Are we actually going to see the tax returns? I mean, how many times - we've talked so many times about, "Oh, yes, this time, we're finally going to get to see Donald Trump's tax returns."


HUNT: And here we are, in 2022. We've never seen them.

TALEV: I mean, so you're asking all the right questions. This is the end of the road, legally. The Democrats in Congress are now going to get these tax returns. They've got 41 days to do something with them. They've also had six years to plan for this moment. So like, it's tiny violins, they should know what to do with it.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: The question is - there are two questions. Number one, are they going to be released publicly? And number two, will there be any findings, in those records that we have never heard of before? So much of this got leaked in bits and pieces.


TALEV: I don't know what the impact is going to be. But I think, as a matter, of course, as a matter of precedent, it is important that these courts are upholding the law. And the law is so clear.

This is happening, at a time, mind you, when now that the Republicans are about to assume the majority in the House, they're about to get a taste of the medicine that Democrats have lived with.

We have a story out tonight, talking with lawyers, who represent private sector clients, who go before Congress, for investigations. Those lawyers telling us "Get ready." We are seeing record numbers of clients, who want to fight back, at a minimum, to negotiate subpoenas, and request to appear--

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: --but at a maximum, who were just going to say, "No."

HEYE: He issued all the Republican potential investigations.

HUNT: Yes.

HEYE: The only reason we're talking about this issue is because parties don't investigate themselves. We know about these tax returns. We may see them, because Democrats, in the House majority, investigated Donald Trump. This is part of the proper oversight.

One other thing on the Speaker's vote. There will be drama that morning, on January 2 or January 3.

HUNT: Yes.

HEYE: When you have that vote, and every member stands up one by one. They can vote for Paul Begala, if they want to. They can vote for Kasie Hunt or Margaret Talev. They can--

HUNT: Would you like to be Speaker of the House, sir?

HEYE: They can--

BEGALA: Never.


HEYE: They can vote for - they can vote for Kanye, if they wanted. Lord, don't! But there will be drama, including members who when their name is called suddenly aren't seen on the House chamber. It's happened before.


HEYE: It will certainly happen this time.

BEGALA: Can I suggest one other piece of drama? Who believes Trump's going to obey the Supreme Court? I don't. He'll just run out the clock. And then, we'll start all over again.

HUNT: Well isn't it up to the Treasury Department?

BEGALA: Well--

HUNT: I mean, they have his tax returns.

BEGALA: Oh, I suppose that's right, because he doesn't have them. It's not for him.

HUNT: Yes.

BEGALA: But this is a little counterintuitive, to come from a Democrat. The law doesn't say the American people have a right to see them. I wish we had a law that said that. We should. But we don't. And so, the Congress has a right to seeing. Frankly, I don't.

TALEV: But Congress has a right--

BEGALA: So, I don't think they should release them to the public, because they're private documents that the Congress has a right to see. But you and I don't. I want a law that requires everybody to release the way Obama and Reagan and Clinton, and everybody did. But there's no such law, right now.

TALEV: But I think Congress can.

HUNT: Last word.

TALEV: And this ruling says that Congress can. Whether they choose to or not, it's a different matter. But part of the reason that there's so much drama, about this, is because it has long been precedent, in the modern presidency--

BEGALA: Right.

HUNT: Right.

TALEV: --for presidents to show the public transparency around this issue.

HUNT: Normally, we don't have to do this. Because they--

BEGALA: Right. We should have a law.

HEYE: Donald Trump doesn't follow precedent!

HUNT: Because people do the right thing.

HEYE: What a shocker!

HUNT: Yes.

BEGALA: But there ought to be a binding law for everybody.

HUNT: Other people do the right thing.

TALEV: There could be - there could be a law. There is the lame-duck session. Maybe there's not enough time for everything. But this could be actually.

HUNT: There is not enough time, for everything, in the lame-duck, nor is there enough time for more of this in this segment. So, you guys stick around, because we'll be coming back to you.

Coming up, ahead, developments, on the mass shooting, at an all - at an LGBTQ nightclub, in Colorado Springs. More information is emerging, about the suspected shooter, as new questions emerge, over why previous charges against that person, were dropped. Next.



HUNT: New details, tonight, in the Colorado Springs club shooting massacre.

Attorneys for the accused Club Q shooter say, in a new court filing that the suspect identifies as non-binary, and uses they/them pronouns. The Public Defender's Office has declined all requests for comment on their representation of the suspect. That suspect will appear in court for the first time, tomorrow, after being released from the hospital, and into sheriff's custody.

This afternoon, mourners gathered around a shrine, outside of Club Q, to remember the five people, who were killed.

The El Paso County District Attorney told CNN tonight that hate crime charges are still being considered, in the attack, at the LGBTQ club. But he likely won't have a final decision, this week. Police still aren't giving any new details, about a motive.

Joining me now is someone, who knows Colorado Springs, well, City Councilmember and longtime resident, Nancy Henjum.

Nancy, thank you so much for being with us tonight. NANCY HENJUM, COLORADO SPRINGS COUNCILMEMBER: You're welcome. I'm happy to be here. Thank you.

HUNT: I just wanted to start, Councilwoman, by saying that, we are so sorry about this tragedy that has befallen your community. How is the community holding up? And what have you heard from your neighbors and friends?

HENJUM: Well, it's everything you can imagine. Fear and concern and anger and worry, as well as, really, honestly, I think what I want you to know is the tremendous outpouring of love and support and action.

There's been tremendous action, from our Business leaders, from the Police and Fire, from the Mayor, non-profits, Faith leaders. There has just been a tremendous outpouring of support. And it's so much greater than the act of violence that was committed, this heinous act of violence that was committed, by this one person.

HUNT: So, the police are of course looking into what motivated this attack, although it sounds like it's going to be some time, before we learn whether they will charge this as a hate crime. What do you think motivated it?


HENJUM: I have no way of knowing. I just know that it caused tremendous loss, and continued fear, among people, who are LGBTQ, in our community and, really, quite frankly, anywhere people go in the country. So, it's created fear. And I have no way of knowing what this person's motivations were. I want them to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, however.

HUNT: Of course.

So, Colorado Springs is a mostly conservative city, or a largely conservative city, with a history, in some corners, of LGBTQ - anti- LGBTQ activism. It's home, for example, to the Family Research Institute that has been designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

What is - what are you and other leaders doing to try and reassure members of the Colorado Springs community that they're safe there?

HENJUM: Well, we're taking action. We are showing our support, not just through, making comments of love, and support, and prayers. But we're taking action.

So, for example, we received - we were - there was an outreach to us by the head of the Sea-to-Sea flag project, the Sacred Flag project. And they offered in solidarity and support to our community, this very precious flag that has flown at the Pulse Nightclub, it's flown at the White House, it's flown at the Supreme Court.

And this very precious flag has been offered to our city. And I'm really very proud to say, that tomorrow morning, at 10 o'clock on our City Hall we will be raising that flag, on our building. And we will be demonstrating. We will have Police representation, Fire representation. The Mayor will be present. City elected officials, the LGBTQ community, and its allies, and people will be speaking. And we will be showing our commitment and our support.

And what I can tell you that I heard this morning, at City Hall, and City Council meeting is people will not be moved that we - nobody is going back in any closets. And we are moving forward. And we will continue to be a city of love. And the history that you mentioned is getting smaller and smaller, and in our rearview mirror. And we are moving forward.

HUNT: All right. We certainly will be watching that tomorrow.

Let me ask you about the gun piece of this question. The suspect was arrested, back in June of 2021, for threatening to cause harm with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition. But ultimately, the charges were dropped, and this person was able to buy a gun.

Do the red flag laws in Colorado go far enough? Are they effective, if people like this can slip through the cracks? And should law enforcement officials, who were dealing with this, the first time, they could have taken further steps, including the El Paso County Sheriff, could have taken more steps, once the family decided to drop charges here? I mean, should that have happened?

HENJUM: Look, if the red flag laws were to work, as they're supposed to, they clearly haven't. And so, we need to do more with that. And I understand that Governor Polis is looking into that. So, if they were supposed to work the way they were supposed to, it didn't happen. But Governor Polis, I'm sure, will be working on that. And more needs to be done there.

HUNT: All right. Councilmember Nancy Henjum, thank you very much, for your time, tonight. I really appreciate it.

HENJUM: Thank you, Kasie. I appreciate you giving time to Colorado Springs.

HUNT: Of course.

And another blow to the American economy could be just weeks away, the threat of a freight rail strike, is back, and with it, the possibility of new price hikes and more supply shortages.

A key player in this drama joins us with where things stand, after a critical meeting today, and why the issue isn't actually about paychecks. That's next.



HUNT: An economically crippling rail strike could hit the U.S., just two weeks from now, of course, right in the middle, at the height of the holiday season. Leaders of four railroad unions, and the major freight lines, sat down for a new round of negotiations, today. And there's been a lot of scary talk about what will happen, if we see the first major rail strike, in this country, in 30 years. Some estimates say it could mean a $2 billion per day hit to the economy.

But what would it mean to most of us? Even, higher prices on groceries, at a time, when food prices are already up, almost 11 percent, over the last year. And holiday travel likely to become a mess, given that nearly all of Amtrak's long-distance trains use freight tracks.

And all those presents that you're ordering online or trying to find in stores? Probably delayed, since no option exists that can handle the 30 percent of goods that are shipped on trains, nationwide.

Legally, President Biden is out of options to force a deal. But Congress could force the trains to keep moving, even if the terms are worse than what the unions have turned down already.

Jeremy Ferguson is the President of one of the four key unions, who is involved in the talks.

Sir, thank you so much for joining us tonight.


HUNT: So yesterday, your 20,000 workers rejected this deal that had been announced, earlier in the year. How did today's talks go?

FERGUSON: Well, I think, we were off to a decent start. We had a lot of issues we had to put on the table, to begin the discussions. So, we will follow up, again tomorrow, and see where that leads us.

HUNT: So, how likely do you think it is that your members are going to strike, even if it's only for a short time?

FERGUSON: Well, I think it's about a 50-50 right now. We're going to continue working as hard as we can to get them the right agreement that would ratify. They have a lot of issues. They have spoken. And I've got to do my due diligence, and get in there, and keep these negotiations moving.


HUNT: So, that tentative deal was brokered, back in September. And the sticking points of sick time, and quality of life, were key issues, back then, but seemed to have been resolved, once the Biden administration got involved. I mean what changed between then and now?

FERGUSON: Well, we made a lot of inroads on those attendance policy issues. That was a big hang-up.

And then, we have basically a two-step process, in this tentative agreement, meaning there's a second round of negotiations that would take place, on the property, of each individual railroad, to get into effect, the rest days, to give those people the adequate time off that they need.

Now, there's a number of other issues. But talking to the membership, this wasn't necessarily just a referendum vote on the agreement. But it was also a referendum vote against their employers.

It's been a long haul. It's been three and a half years, without a wage increase, working through the pandemic, being essential employees, keeping America moving. And they are just tired. They're overworked. The railroads have cut to the bone. And they wanted to just have their voice heard that they're fed up.

HUNT: And do you think--

FERGUSON: So that's where we're at right now.

HUNT: I mean, look, I'm glad you underscored that they were essential workers, through the pandemic, because all of us that, continued to buy groceries, through a very difficult time, owe them as much as we do, the grocery workers that we actually saw every day, for that ability. So, our thanks do go out to them.

In terms of expressing that anger, I mean, it sounds to me, do you think that they feel like they have to go as far as actually striking, to demonstrate the level of the anchor that they have?

FERGUSON: Well, I would, I feel their pain. And yes, they do feel that they have to go that far. It's nothing against the American people, or the economy, the supply chain, or anything like that. It is just mainly voicing their frustrations, with their employers.

HUNT: OK. You've said that you do expect Congress to intervene, though. I mean, how worried are you that the deal that Congress may insist on, will actually end up being worse, for these workers, than what was agreed to in September?

FERGUSON: Well, that is always a big fear of ours that we could wind up in a worse position. But Congress has consistently intervened in the past. It's been a long time for our union at the national freight level. But historically, they have to keep the commerce moving.

But we will see where this takes us. And we will do our best to make sure if Congress is going to intervene that they give us the best deal possible and not harm the employees.

HUNT: In terms of timing, I mean, how concerned are, you with - I mean, it sounds like this would happen imminently. So, Democrats would still be in control of the House. Is there any world where you're concerned that it turns over to Republicans, and quite frankly, you get a worse deal?

FERGUSON: We've played out every scenario, and every one of those gives us great concern. So yes, I would like to get a deal done here, before we get to the end of the cooling-off period, so we don't have to worry about it. But it's going to be a tough haul. So, we're just going to have to stay at it, and do our best, here. HUNT: Yes. You said on CNN this morning, just one final question for you, that there have been, quote, "Limited - very limited" discussions with the Biden administration. But the White House is out there, saying that the President is quote, "Directly involved" in negotiations. I mean, have you heard from the President himself?

FERGUSON: I have not heard from the President himself. I've been in this a very short duration, obviously, just about 36 hours, and when we went back to the table, this afternoon.

But I am sure he is working on things behind-the-scenes, possibly talking to the railroads. The negotiators for the railroads, they have not voiced that to me. But I'm sure this is going to pick up a lot of speed, here, in the next few days. So, I'm sure we'll be - we'll all be conversing on this.

HUNT: Well, it sounds like you've got a pretty stressful Thanksgiving holiday, ahead of you. So, we will let you go, with our thanks, Jeremy Ferguson, for being with us, tonight.

FERGUSON: Well, thank you, Kasie, and have a good evening.

HUNT: Thank you, you as well.

Question for all of you out there. Who is the most dangerous person, in the world? Whatever your answer, I want you to see, which name comes to mind, for a prominent Republican, who might run for president. The answer could leave you wondering if there's really no limit to the culture wars, when CNN TONIGHT returns.



HUNT: So, former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was asked, who's the most dangerous person in the world? Remember, used to be Secretary of State, headed the CIA.

Who do you think he named? Let's take a guess. Was it North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who once threatened to attack Guam, and tests missiles a lot? Or was it China's Communist leader, Xi Jinping, whose country is accused of cyber-attacks, on the United States? What about Russia's Vladimir Putin, who recently invaded Ukraine? Or Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran?

Give up? Well, here's his actual answer. The most dangerous person in the world, according to Mike Pompeo, is Randi Weingarten. "It's not a close call," he says. "It would be the teachers' unions and the filth that they're teaching our kids."

OK. Randi Weingarten, she is, of course, the President of the American Federation of Teachers.

Weingarten fired back with this tweet. Quote, "I know that Mike Pompeo is running for president, and frankly I don't know whether to characterize his characterization of me... as ridiculous or dangerous."

Let's discuss. Back with me now, Paul Begala, Margaret Talev, and Doug Heye.

Doug, you're a Republican.

HEYE: Yes.

HUNT: This does seem like - look, I get it. He is - this is an issue with the Republican base. Randi Weingarten has become the villain, over COVID, and many other things, in our kids' schools.


But it does seem a bit of a bridge, for somebody, who like actually knows things, about Kim Jong-un, and the things he's trying to do the United States that like none of us - if we all knew at this table, we'd probably be like awake, all night.

HEYE: So, let me tell you how Republican Communications 101 goes now. It's not how it used to be.

HUNT: Right.

HEYE: Is you find an easy target. Randi Weingarten is a very easy topic for a lot of the reasons you mentioned, although I would say, in fairness to her, nobody did more to elect Glenn Youngkin, in Virginia, than Randi Weingarten. So, we'll have that political point.

But you find an easy target. You make an intentionally over-the-top attack, and then you sit back, and just watch the left, spin itself up, and spin itself up. And that is exactly what Pompeo did, and he knew what he was doing.

And so many of these candidates, who might run, or might not run, depending on how Trump does in the polls, they're trying to emulate Donald Trump. Donald Trump created the right enemies better than anybody we've seen in American politics, in a generation, if not longer. And that's what Mike Pompeo did.

HUNT: And it's so interesting.

HEYE: And if it works, is it really cynical?

BEGALA: Well, yes. And what else it is, is stupid. Mike Pompeo was first in his class at West Point, one of the great universities of the world, BS in Mechanical Engineering, Bachelor of Science. He's a brilliant man. Why would he say something so stupid? It's, yes, I guess he wants to own the libs. I don't think that's it.

I know, every time he says that he's telling his voters, Republican primary voters that he thinks they're dumb, that they'll fall for this nonsense, because they're stupid. I don't think they are. But Mike Pompeo, genius, believes his voters are so stupid--

HUNT: Well-- HEYE: But--

BEGALA: --that they think this nice lady, who spent her career, trying to teach kids--

HEYE: The nice lady, who said--


BEGALA: --is somehow more dangerous than the Ayatollah.

HEYE: --first in line for every vaccination possible.

BEGALA: Oh, please.

HEYE: But you can't open up the schools--

BEGALA: Please!

HEYE: --even though they have acceded to every demand.

BEGALA: Oh, come on!

HEYE: Again, there's a reason Glenn Youngkin won, Paul.

BEGALA: He's just - he is betting on the stupidity of Republican primary voters.

HEYE: No single person--

BEGALA: That's what he's presuming. He's presuming that they're dumb.

HEYE: --did more for Glenn Youngkin, except for Glenn Youngkin--


HEYE: --than Randi Weingarten.

TALEV: Can we just--

HEYE: The whole school revolution, Randi Weingarten.

TALEV: Can we just do a reality check, just for a second--

HUNT: Please, let's do it.

TALEV: --and try to humanize this person. You can be against teachers' unions, or you can think that they took too far towards thinking about social issues, and not enough towards math and science or whatever it is.

This is a 64-year-old woman, a Jewish woman, from New York. Her father was an engineer. Her mother was a teacher. She was a teacher, for a while. She was a lawyer. She became active in labor unions. She believes in the cause. If you met her, you would not think that she was a terrorist, or a dictator, or had a favor on the button (ph). HUNT: I mean, I think we have her picture. We can probably put up, yes.

TALEV: It's silly, but it is strategic. And her own question about whether it was ridiculous - what does she say ridiculous or dangerous?

BEGALA: Right.

TALEV: That the problem is that in the moment we're in, it's kind of both, because you don't - if you're a leader, who's trying to motivate your base, and your base actually thinks that this is the most dangerous person, in the world?

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: This could jump from rhetoric to--


HEYE: I take the point.

HUNT: In the era of the attack against Paul Pelosi, I think, it's a good point.

HEYE: I take the point. But I think you also miss it. It's not about her. It's hers the foil, so they can watch the left go crazy.

TALEV: No, I get it. No, I totally get it. And I think that that's true.

HEYE: And you can raise money too!

TALEV: But everyone has a responsibility.

BEGALA: Right.

HEYE: Of course.

TALEV: This moment that we're in?

HEYE: Of course.

TALEV: We all like, whether you're a journalist, or a pundit, or a strategist, the way - January 6 was like a second ago.

BEGALA: Right.

TALEV: Like did we all learn nothing from this?

BEGALA: So, it's a character test, for Mr. Pompeo.

HUNT: It is not safe, though.

BEGALA: He's failed it. It's an IQ test, for Republican primary voters. I'm betting that they'll pass. HUNT: Well, look, Paul, I will - well, let me just push back on that for a second. Because I think one of the main criticisms of the teachers' unions, to go back to how it's viewed in a legitimate non- violent, like over-the-top rhetoric sort of way, is that these people treated them, at the time, like they were stupid, right?

And that the teachers were - their teachers' unions were telling them that they didn't have a right to ask that their kids be back in school. I mean, there's very real data out there that shows that damage was done, especially to the lowest-income neediest kids--

BEGALA: Right.

HUNT: --who weren't allowed to go back to their classrooms.

BEGALA: Right. And--

HUNT: I mean that's the argument.

BEGALA: There's - if you can have a good argument about teachers' union. I happen to love them. I love Randi Weingarten. She's a friend of mine.

But if you jump to the conclusion that she is the most dangerous person on earth? You're really stupid. I'm sorry. If you believe that? You're stupid. Mike Pompeo thinks you're stupid, Republican voters. I don't.

HEYE: I'd wager that Mike Pompeo does not actually believe that she's more dangerous than Vladimir Putin.

BEGALA: So, then he's a liar?

HEYE: I don't know why she went to Ukraine.

BEGALA: So, he's a liar?

HEYE: Well, I mean, if we want to go down that road, we can. There's a lot of exaggeration in politics. I've worked for people, who've done it. You've worked for people, who've done it. Yes, there have been some pretty crazy statements that have been made. And again, when I said Republican Communications 101?

BEGALA: Right.

HEYE: I wasn't praising it.


HEYE: I thought we used to do it a little bit smarter, a little more strategically.

HUNT: I mean, you're essentially saying that this is how we're going to see.

And we have - one of the other things that caught our eye today is this ad, Herschel Walker has out there, with a transgender swimmer or - excuse me, a woman who lost or tied with a transgender woman, who was swimming against her, with the idea that, you know, drawing the sort of trans argument into this culture war.

You're saying that like what we're going to see is sort of a bottom- line cynical attempt, to use these issues, to anger liberals--


HUNT: --in a way that will get Republicans excited about voting for them?


HEYE: In the primaries, yes. This is part of how they make - how they make noise and make news and raise money.

And I saw that ad, on Saturday. I was watching the North Carolina- Georgia Tech football game, so it came on TV.

And look, I'd rather that Herschel be talking about inflation, and the economy, and those things that he needs to do, to really win in Georgia. I don't think this is the argument that gets him there. But he's running from behind. And so, he's trying to use different tactics.

HUNT: Paul?

BEGALA: There are 580,000 college athletes, in America. 50 are trans. It's not a problem. By the way, Georgia has already banned them.

But what Walker's doing is revealing himself as a bully, the kind of bully, who has been accused of holding a gun to his wife's head, been accused of trying to coerce a woman that he got pregnant, or was not his wife, into having an abortion, accused of abandoning his children. He's a bully. And I don't think Georgians are going to fall for it.

I think Reverend Warnock showing a very different kind of leadership, servant leadership, out of the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church. My money is on Warnock.

HUNT: Well, it sounds like we are all in for a season of more nasty attacks. And we'll leave it - you know what? It's, we're heading into Thanksgiving week. I feel like we should just leave it there.

TALEV: Pick this up, in late November!

HUNT: Talk about it. Yes, exactly. We're not going to Iowa yet, people.

Paul Begala, Margaret Talev, Doug Heye, thank you very much, for being with us, tonight.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HUNT: Thanks so much, for watching. I'll be back here, tomorrow night. Hope you will be too.

Our coverage continues now, with Alisyn Camerota.

Hi, Alisyn?