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Major Developments In Battle For Power In Congress; Poland Says, Deadly Blast Likely Caused By Ukrainian Air Defense Missile; CNN Projection Shows Republicans Win U.S. House Of Representatives; Key 1/6 Witness Cassidy Hutchinson To Appear Before GA Grand Jury; Officials Warn Domestic Extremis Poses Major Threat To U.S. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 16, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, major developments up on Capitol Hill right now with Republicans just one seat away from winning the House. Over in the Senate, Mitch McConnell is on the way to another term after minority leader after very tense party infighting. We're also tracking reaction to former President Trump's White House bid, which is drawing mixed reaction right now from top Republicans.
Also tonight, that deadly blast in Poland now believed to be the result of Ukrainian air defense missiles. The Pentagon ultimately, though, blaming Russia for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and firmly supporting Ukraine's right to defend themselves.
And we're also following a very disturbing mystery in Idaho right now where four college students are dead. A manhunt for their killer is underway as we await an official update from police this hour.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin our coverage this hour with an update on the battle of the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the very bitter Republican infighting over party leadership now spilling into the public eye.
CNN's Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny has our report.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): -- control of the House and changing the balance of power in Washington. But far less change than they envisioned, with turmoil inside the GOP, dampening the party's mood and complicating its future.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I'm not going anywhere.
ZELENY: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surviving a threat from Florida Senator Rick Scott, with 37 Republicans voting to keep McConnell at the helm and 10 voting for Scott, amid deep infighting over the GOP's failure to win a Senate majority.
At the center of broader recriminations among Republicans is former President Donald Trump --
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Much criticism is being placed on the fact that the Republican Party should have done better, and, frankly, much of this blame is correct.
ZELENY: -- who took no responsibility for midterm election losses, as he pulled a trigger on another bid for the White House.
TRUMP: I have no doubt that by 2024, it will sadly be much worse and they will see much more clearly what happened and what is happening to our country, and the voting will be much different.
ZELENY: His Mar-a-Lago announcement is being met by a collective groan from a broad swath of the Republican Party, including many who served in his administration. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is considering a presidential run of his own, saying, we need more seriousness in, less noise, and leaders who are looking forward, not staring in the rearview mirror claiming victimhood. Those stinging comments a clear reference to this moment Tuesday night.
TRUMP: We must conduct a top-to-bottom overhaul for clean out the festering rot and corruption of Washington, D.C. And I'm a victim, I will tell you, I'm a victim.
ZELENY: While Trump enters the race as a clear frontrunner, beloved by a loyal base of supporters, he is unlikely to have the field to himself. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who swept reelection by nearly 20 points, drew applause today saying the 2024 campaign can wait.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We just finished this election, okay? People just need to chill out a little bit on some of this stuff. I mean, seriously, we just ran an election.
ZELENY: Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who served under Trump, told CNN the party should look forward.
MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: A new generation of Republican leaders, who may be more in line with what I consider myself, a Reagan Republican, who can do so without the baggage and the personal attacks and the self-centeredness of Donald Trump. ZELENY: And Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is also weighing a presidential run, said the country should not turn back to Trump.
MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think we'll have better choices in the future.
ZELENY: Tonight, McConnell said Republican candidates turned off moderates and independent voters in the last election. For the next one, he said Trump will have company in the Republican race.
MCCONNELL: The way I'm going to go into this presidential primary season is to stay out of it. I don't have a dog in that fight.
ZELENY (on camera): And on the other side of the Capitol, Kevin McCarthy, of course, who wants to become House speaker in just about seven weeks, he told CNN today that he thought that the former president gave a good speech but he declined to say whether he intends to support him or not.
Now, as for Leader McConnell, it's the first time he's been challenged in 15 years. Next year, he becomes the longer-serving Senate party leader, but the Republican Party has changed dramatically during that time.
BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, stand by, we're going to get back to you shortly. But I want to take a closer look right now at the battle for control of the House of Representatives.
CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is joining us from Capitol Hill right now. Manu, with House Republicans just one seat away right now from clinching a majority in the House, what is Kevin McCarthy doing behind the scenes just ahead of the expected win?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is not wasting any time, Wolf. He has been spending the past week trying to lock down enough support to become the next speaker of the House. Yes, he did get the support of 188 Republicans yesterday to get the nomination to become speaker of the House, but that is not enough. He needs 218 votes in the full House in January in order to secure the speakership, meaning the 31 or so Republicans who voted against him, he needs to get most of them back, because they supported a Republican challenger instead.
This is why the margin is so significant. We do expect Republicans to take back the House, but the margin is going to be much narrower than they had hoped. McCarthy and his team had put a lot of money to try to get what they called a governing majority, a comfortable majority, but it will be a razor thin. And, Wolf, at the same time, they are preparing for investigations. Tomorrow, two committee chairmen, Jim Jordan and James Comer, who are expected to lead two key committees, plan to announce what they had plan to do next Congress, which is to investigate Joe Biden and his family's overseas business dealings. BLITZER: Very significant. In other news up on Capitol Hill today, Manu, the Senate took a keep step to protect same-sex marriage. What happened? What is the latest?
RAJU: Yes, that's right, a bipartisan support to advance a significant bill that would essentially protect same-sex marriages across the country with four states to recognize another state's legal marriage. This comes in the aftermath of concerns that the conservative Supreme Court may ultimately overturn same-sex marriage in the aftermath of the Roe versus Wade decision, scrapping that law after 50 years of precedent.
But we saw support from both sides of the aisle. 62-37 was the first procedural vote today to advance this measure. It had some support of some moderates, like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, middle of the road Republican like Mitt Romney, some conservative senators as well. This is, Wolf, expected to become law before the end of the year, a significant development here in the final days of this Congress. Wolf?
BLITZER: Very significant indeed. Manu Raju, thank you very, very much.
Let's discuss all of this and more with CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel, CNN Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson and Jeff Zeleny is back as well.
Jamie, let's start with the battle for control of the House of Representatives. Republicans, they appear very, very close to winning at least a very slim majority in the House. How is this going to impact Kevin McCarthy assuming he becomes speaker with the far-right wing of his party?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think what we have heard over the last couple days, the word, miserable, ugly. As Nia- Malika said yesterday, they are also sometimes known as the raucous caucus. They will throw bombs and blow things up just because they can, and that's what Kevin McCarthy is facing here.
It's interesting to me that he has not said anything about Donald Trump right now while a lot of Republicans are saying they're happy to move on, because Kevin McCarthy probably needs Donald Trump right now, because he needs him to call the raucous caucus and say, come on, get on board.
BLITZER: Let's see what happens on that front. On the Senate side, Nia, Mitch McConnell says he's proud of, what, the 37-10 victory to remain as party's leader in the Senate, but he's facing significant pushback right now. How is this working out for him?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, listen, he is only going to be the Senate minority leader, which he faced this challenge, and in some ways it's about the split in the Republican Party, right? It's about but what direction should it go in. Should it kind of still cling to Donald Trump or should it go in a different direction? Mitch McConnell wants the old days back when the Republican Party was like the Republican Party we all grew up with, and it's strayed very far from that. So, I think it we are going to see a dynamic that makes it very difficult, maybe not as difficult and miserable as the time Kevin McCarthy will have, but still there are going to be voices in that party who want to amplify sort of Trumpism, amplify Donald Trump. And then with Trump on the scene again, I think that's going to make things pretty difficult.
BLITZER: Speaking of Trump now officially running for president of the United States once again, he's doing so without the support of some key Republicans right now, including some presumed presidential hopefuls, Pence, Pompeo, DeSantis.
Even Kevin McCarthy, as we just heard, would not say he is endorsing Trump when asked earlier today. What impact does all this have?
JEFF: I think not much because he still has the loyal support of his base. He still has the loyal support of, you know, of probably at least 30 percent. It may even be more than that. The question is, is he able to sort of keep others from running? It's a double-edged sword from him. He's trying to keep people out, but it's actually helpful to Donald Trump if more Republicans get in because that's what we saw. We all remember 2015. We all remember how he sort of moved through Iowa and New Hampshire. He benefited from this massive field. So, that is the central question.
But he doesn't necessarily need his old supporters. He didn't have the establishment at the very beginning. He needs his base, but he needs donors. And donors are really questioning all of this. So, it's a different moment for him, but he's not fazed by the fact these party establishment people are not supporting him.
GANGEL: And, Wolf, just to underscore what Jeff just said, there is a problem with donors. The word, abandon, comes to mind today. We have heard major GOP donors, people like Steve Schwarzman say they are moving on. We've seen the Murdoch newspapers absolutely troll him, devastate him.
There's one thing Donald Trump wants, and that is his name, if it -- there you go -- Florida man makes announcement. So, there's only one thing worse in Donald Trump's mind --
BLITZER: That was the bottom of the front page of the New York Post, and then you see the story on page 26.
GANGEL: They didn't use his name. That alone would make him absolutely crazy.
And there's something else that's going on here. Ivanka Trump did not go to her father's announcement. Don Jr. did not go. And then she came out with a statement saying she's out of politics. There are a lot of people he's used to having at his beck and call who aren't there anymore. HENDERSON: I think the question is, do they come around eventually? Because we saw this dynamic in 2016, as the establishment didn't like him, moderates didn't like him. The true sort of Republican Party didn't like him, and then as he racked up, after victory after victory, they eventually came around.
But what was so interesting about his speech last night is it was so low energy, right? I mean, I think there was a tweet that said Donald Trump himself seems tired of Donald Trump. I mean, that was sort of the delivery. And what is his message, right? He likes to talk about there's a doom and gloom in America that Americans haven't quite realized quite yet, but they will realize it at some point. What is going to be his message? Is he going to be able to have a vision that is going to still be able to connect those voters?
ZELENY: I think the low energy, no doubt, it was there. But it was also a sign of discipline. You could tell he was trying to, at least for the moment, stay on message. But, look, for all the talk of the Murdoch newspapers, yes, they have turned against him, he was still on Fox last night. So, unless the voices of Fox sort of changes, you know, he is likely to have that support.
But one thing that I've done just talking to voters all year, you get the sense from voters that you can still like Donald Trump but not want him to run for president again. So, that is the challenge he actually faces here, I think. But, look, someone has to beat him, so we do not know who that person will be.
BLITZER: We'll find out at some point. Guys, stay with us.
Very important note to our viewers right now, tune in later tonight at 9:00 P.M. Eastern for a special CNN town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence.
Just ahead, Mike Pence Says he's closing the door on testifying before the House January 6th select committee. We'll discuss that and more with one of only two Republicans on the panel. Congressman Adam Kinzinger is standing by live. We will discuss when we come back.
Plus, the war in Ukraine spilling over into Poland. We have new information tonight about the blast that killed two people in Poland.
BLITZER: CNN has a projection to make. Moderate Democrat Jared Golden has held on to win reelection in the state of Maine. He's one of the few Democrats representing a Trump-won district and has challenged his party on economic policy issues. Jared Golden wins reelection in Maine.
Also new tonight, former Vice President Mike Pence saying he's, quote, closing the door on testifying before the House selection committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. Joining us now to discuss that and more, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, he's one of only two Republicans, by the way, on the select committee. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
We have a lot to discuss. But, first, listen to what the former vice president, Mike Pence, just said about your committee. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: Congress has no right to my testimony. We have a separation of powers under the Constitution of the United States. And I believe it would establish terrible precedent for the Congress to summon a vice president of the United States to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're closing the door on that entirely?
PENCE: I'm closing the door on that. But I must say, again, the partisan nature of the January 6th committee has been a disappointment to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let me get -- Congressman Kinzinger, let me get your reaction to what we just heard. Go ahead.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Well, this is -- so Pence today now is trying to re-win over the Trump people and then he'll say something that like makes the Trump people mad then he wins them back over. Look, two things, first up, we do have a right to your testimony if we need it. Secondly, you violated the separation of powers when your boss sent rampaging group of people to destroy the Capitol. So, let's just stop that.
So, we're probably not going to talk to him, that's fine, but to say we don't have a right is completely unacceptable. And he's going to be out there trying to both-sides everything.
And I'm looking forward to seeing him try to skate through that, some of that tonight.
BLITZER: We'll see how that unfolds.
Let's talk about the Republicans who are on the verge right now potentially of securing a very narrow majority in the House of Representatives. Kevin McCarthy is already facing some stiff opposition from fellow Republicans over his speakership ambitions. You are retiring from Congress, but in your view, does McCarthy have what it takes to become the next speaker of the House?
KINZINGER: Well, he probably does because he's completely shameless. And so he'll be able cut as many deals with as many people. Really, the question is, and this should be asked of the moderate-ish Republicans that are going to be sticking around next year is if he goes too far to the freedom club of things, are you willing to vote against him, because he's gone too far.
Typically, moderates, by their nature, they like to kind of get along. They like to work together. So, I don't think that's going to happen. So, I do think he has probably what it takes to win, depending, of course, how close this majority is. He is going to be one of the most miserable people in that job that has ever existed because he is going to be led around on a leash. He won't have the freedom to actually exercise any kind of strength. And I highly doubt he will last very long in that position.
BLITZER: What's very interesting today, McCarthy refused to say whether he actually supports former President Trump's just launched 2024 presidential run. Could Trump tank McCarthy's request to become the House speaker if he doesn't get an endorsement?
KINZINGER: Certainly. And this is where -- if you noticed Elise Stefanik, one of the very first thing she did on election night, I think, is announced that she or after actually she found out Trump was running, announced that she is supporting Donald Trump. She wants to wait in the wings for if McCarthy goes down or to be Trump's vice president, even though she used to be one of the most kind of reasonable members of Congress. So, yes, I think if Trump actually called Kevin and said, endorse me or else, certainly, Kevin would endorse him because he's Kevin. But, secondarily, he could have enough members to withhold their votes from him.
BLITZER: I know you're calling on Republicans to walk away from Trump. Do you think that's going to happen?
KINZINGER: I don't know. I mean, we've been in this position so many times that my knee-jerk reaction is to say no. This feels somewhat different, sadly, because you lose power not necessarily because of an attack on the Capitol.
I guess Donald Trump is going to have a much harder time probably than he imagined, but it depends who runs, it depends who has the courage to not just speak out but just to actually tell the truth, which is that Donald Trump is bad, he's dangerous and he's a stain on our country, but I think it remains to be seen.
BLITZER: We shall see. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
KINZINGER: You bet, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, we'll go live to Ukraine for the latest blast that killed two people in neighboring Poland. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're following the investigation right now into the deadly blast in Poland, spillover from Russia's invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
CNN Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is on the ground for us tonight with new information.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Death in Poland. Two farmers killed in a missile strike, a spillover from war in Ukraine, but Ukraine's president insisting that his country wasn't responsible.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I don't even doubt that report that I have received, that (INAUDIBLE) received from the air defense command. I don't doubt that it wasn't our missile. I don't have a reason to doubt them. I'm going through this war with them.
KILEY: In any case there's no blame on Kyiv from Poland.
ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLISH PRESIDENT: It probably was an accident. Russia attacked Ukraine and Ukraine air defense shot quite a few Russian missiles to neutralize the attack. There's a high chance that maybe one of the missiles just fell on our territory.
KILEY: And it could have been much worse, a tragedy turned into global catastrophe, because if Poland civilians had died in a deliberate Russian missile strike, Poland, a member of NATO, could have demanded all-out war against the Kremlin. Those fears are now over as it appears likely that the Ukrainian air defense weapon fired at a Russian missile hit this Polish farm six kilometers in from the border. The west is blaming Russia.
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Let me be clear. This is not Ukraine's fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.
KILEY: On Tuesday, Ukrainians endured close to 100 cruise missiles in a storm of attacks on cities and infrastructure. Many Russian missiles were shot down but Ukraine's electrical network was still hit with 7 million facing power shortages, the internet was cut by a third and two people killed in Kyiv. Russia denied that it had launched against targets close to Poland but the Ukrainian border town of Lviv, local officials say, had shot down 10 out of 30 Russian missiles on Tuesday.
YURIY SAK, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY ADVISER: We had been requesting to close our skies for a long time now, and we were talking to our international partners about this almost on a daily basis.
We believe and we are most confident that the air defense capabilities of Ukraine will continue to be a top priority both for us and for our international --
BLITZER: Much more of that coming up. But right now, we can make a major projection in the battle for control of Congress, with huge, huge consequences here in Washington and indeed across the nation.
CNN projects that Republicans will win control of the U.S. House of Representatives, re-claiming a majority for the first time in four years. This is a major blow to Democrats as Republicans gain new power to potentially limit President Biden's agenda and to make crucial decisions about House investigations.
Let's go to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. This is a major development right now, the Republicans take the majority in the House, Manu.
RAJU: Yes, and with that, the power of committees and power to set the agenda, which is why this is hugely significant. Even though it's not as big a majority, as Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, had wanted, they had hoped that they would be in the 230-seat range, maybe even 240-seat range. We don't know the final numbers here but we do know that they have at least 218 seats. That is the majority to take back the house. They may have up to 220.
We'll see ultimately how many they have, but significant. Because once you have the majority in the U.S. House, you have the chairmanships on each key committees. That means you have subpoena power. You can set schedules for hearings. You can call cabinet secretaries to come testify. You can do what your party wants to do on the floor of the House. The speaker of the House, the House majority leader gets to set the exact schedule, what they are going to bring to the floor, what they refuse to bring to the floor, and decide the priorities, which is why winning back one chamber of Congress will have significant ramifications for the next two years of the Biden administration.
Remember, Wolf, the Democrats had control of the House and Senate in the first two years under Joe Biden. They had the narrowest of majorities, 50/50 in the Senate, they had a handful of seats in the Democratic-led House. They were still ability to do a significant amount of legislation by passing bills, some significant bills, along straight party lines because they could do that under the budget process that allowed them to pass something like a nearly $2 trillion COVID relief bill, also that sweeping Inflation Reduction Act dealing with healthcare, climate change, taxes and other issues. They will no longer be able to do that, because in order to move through the budget process, you need to have support within essentially among your party, and Republicans and Democrats would not agree to move in such sweeping legislation like that.
So, what does this mean for the next two years, Wolf? It means that any legislation that will pass almost certainly will be incremental, it will have to -- it will require a significant amount of consensus on both sides of the aisle, it would still need to surpass a 60-vote threshold in the Senate, even as the Democrats are going to regain control of the Senate. They may have 51 seats but they will still need 60 to pass anything. So, what can actually get done next year is an open question.
But they will have major things do deal with next year, including raising the national debt ceiling to avoid a debt default next year, funding the government, always a tricky issue, something that could lead to a shutdown if there's not an agreement between the two sides, but at the moment, the big pressure point for the administration will be those investigations into the Biden family, the border, the origins of the coronavirus, among a whole wide range of issues as a new dynamic here is now Washington, Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu, I want you to stand by. Jeremy Diamond is over at the White House for us watching all of this unfold as well. A major development right now, CNN projecting that the Republicans will win the majority in the House of Representatives. Jeremy, I assume officials over where you were at the White House were bracing for this.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it, Wolf. This is a major inflection point in Joe Biden's presidency. For his first two years in office, he has enjoined control from a Democratic perspective of both the House and the Senate. And for the first time in his presidency, Joe Biden is now staring down the barrel of divided government, of power sharing with Republicans in a way that he has not yet had to experience as president of the United States.
And this is going to be a real test of one of the major things that he ran on during his 2020 campaign, which is this idea that he can perhaps be a bridge between the two parties. Right now, that appears to be the last thing that is going to happen. We know that Republicans are sharpening their investigative and oversight powers, that they are preparing to wield that subpoena power against the Biden administration on a number of fronts, investigations into everything, from the withdrawal of Afghanistan, to the Department of Homeland Security's handling of border secures. Impeachment threats have been made both at the secretary of homeland security as well as at the president himself.
But to be clear, this is a White House that has been preparing for all of that for months now and they are also looking at the fact that this is a House Republican majority that is going to be the narrowest majority in the House in decades.
And so while they will still have to face the subpoena power of this House Republican majority, as slim as it may be, that does not change. There is a certain sentiment here at the White House, I can tell you, in speaking with officials, Wolf, that they are giddy at the prospect of Kevin McCarthy having to wrangle this very narrow and oftentimes very rowdy Republican caucus to getting things done.
But a number of challenges beyond the investigation that this White House now faces in terms of funding, the government, addressing issues, like the debt ceiling, for example, these are all things that President Biden was warning about on the midterm campaign trail over the last several months, and now it is a reality that he will have to confront.
Lastly, Wolf, I would just add, President Biden, as much as he has experience with a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill, Kevin McCarthy is not one of them. And he is, of course, the most likely person to become the next speaker of the House, and he's someone who President Biden, while they spoke last week, they really have not had many dealings, Wolf, but you can be sure that they will have to speak much more going forward.
BLITZER: They certainly will. All right, Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thank you very much.
Jeff Zeleny, let's talk a little bit about this. The Democrats will be the majority in the new Senate, but the Republicans will be the majority in the new House. Talk a little bit about that.
ZELENY: And it is a sea change here in Washington. It's coming a week after the midterm elections. So, it sounds like it's not quite as dramatic but it actually will be in January when the Congress reconvenes, and the new Congress. And even though the majority is slim, the oversight power will sting just as much to this White House, in terms of really inspecting the spending that's been going on, on the COVID relief bills, really looking into where some of this infrastructure money is going, and calling in secretaries for the grilling that they will certainly give.
So, we're going to see a couple of different things play out. Yes, there's going to be drama among House Republicans, among themselves, but there's also going to be a sense of purpose about going after the Biden administration. Hunter Biden, the president's son, is already going to be front and center in some of these investigations. So, that is one of the things that is going to happen. So, even though it's a narrow majority, likely on the one hand of a finger, probably single digits, for sure, maybe five, maybe eight seats, that doesn't mean that these committees will have the investigative authority.
But interestingly also, I think the House and Senate, what can get done here? There was such a big message that was sent from voters to Washington that people want to get something done. So, we heard Senator McConnell say that earlier. He actually hopes that they can find agreement on some things in the middle of the road here. We'll see about that. But it is a huge sea change in the new Congress next year.
BLITZER: And, Nia, I think one of the first things the Republican majority in the House probably will do is eliminate the January 6th select committee.
HENDERSON: I think that's exactly right. I mean, it's as good as gone right now. And, listen, that's why you saw the Democrats when they were in control, do as much work as they did, and, my goodness, they interviewed hundreds of witnesses, and put on really compelling hearings. That is gone and we'll see the reverse of that, right? We'll see investigations into the Biden administration, investigations into the Afghanistan withdrawal, and it will be something that the Biden administration will have to deal with.
Democrats say, in some ways, maybe that won't be a terrible thing because it could show Republicans overreaching, right, focusing on issues that don't necessarily benefit average Americans as they grapple with inflation in a tough economy. And does that make Biden sort of look like he's above it all and focusing on the sort of bread- and-butter issues that voters care about?
GANGEL: One of the other things they may investigate is the January 6th committee. The Republicans have been complaining that they don't have access to all of these transcripts and interviews. I know one of the things the committee is dealing with right now, is what do they complete before they turn into a pumpkin and they're no longer in control.
I want to add one other word, and that is Donald Trump. Because of the chaos we've been talking about in the Republican conference, because of the Freedom Caucus members, people like Matt Gaetz, who will blow something up just to blow something up, Donald Trump is going to have more power with the Republican conference, because someone like Kevin McCarthy, as we were talking about earlier before, may need to reach out to him to say, help me get these guys in order.
BLITZER: He will do that?
GANGEL: We're going to see a lot of chaos.
ZELENY: Without a doubt. And it's already coming as the presidential campaign is already building. Usually, it starts in the next year. Obviously, the events of last night show that it's starting right now.
But I also think though it is still a moment for if there's a political middle, and the election does not lead much opportunity for that, but there is a demand in the country for both the House and Senate to do something, and we are seeing that much more on the Senate.
So, the synergies between both houses of Congress is going to be fascinating to watch, but the investigations -- some things that they'll be looking at, and we heard a lot of talk about is there going to be an impeachment inquiry of President Biden, I would be very surprised in this case because the majority is so, so narrow, it just does not seem that there's room for that. But there is substantive work, some very serious committee chairmen that really have some things to look into. So, that is the biggest thing for the White House.
But as Jeremy was saying earlier, the White House has been bracing for this. They have been hiring lawyers, advising agencies. So, this is just how it works, is what usually happens in the midterm elections. It's happening a week later but it's just as significant.
BLITZER: Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill. Manu, you've been watching, speaking to a lot of folks up there, and, yes, it will be a slim majority, but a majority is a majority, and the majority in the House will be able to do a lot of things that the Biden administration, the Democrats hate.
RAJU: Yes, no question about it. And, of course, the first challenge for Kevin McCarthy is getting the votes to become the next speaker of the House. That's going to still be a challenge for him because he will have a narrow majority, meaning a handful of defections could essentially undercut that effort, which is why he's working behind the scenes right now to lock down the votes. That vote will occur in early January.
But there is also going to be a big decision that could come as soon as this week, and that's what happens to the future of Nancy Pelosi, currently the House speaker. Of course, she will not be the speaker in a Republican-controlled Congress but does she stay on as Democratic leader? That is something that Democrats have been watching very closely, this decision I'm told from several Democrats. They expect this to come as soon as this week.
She has not tipped her hand one way or the other about what she may do. She did say that the attack against her husband, it will factor into her decision, but then suggest whether it could force her to step aside. She did suggest several years ago that this end of this Congress will be the last time leading House Democrats, but has never firmly shut the door. But now that the House is called, that, and we could see potential a decision coming in the next few days here. And that would have significant ramifications given the fact that she has been the most dominating within her caucus for the past two decades. And then it will prompt a leadership scramble to replace her.
Right now, the frontrunner to replace her, Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, someone who is right now currently in Democratic leadership. He is expected to be the frontrunner. But he could face a challenge. It's uncertain whether Pelosi's current number two, Steny Hoyer, will do. Will he challenge Hakeem Jeffries for that role?
We learned today that Adam Schiff, who is a member of -- the chairman right now of the House Intelligence Committee, he will not run for that top Democratic spot, even though he had put his foot in the water over this potential run for the last several months. There are others who are looking to fill out the rest of the leadership positions if Pelosi does decide to step aside.
So, it will prompt a significant scramble among House Democrats, because they believe, too, Wolf, because of the narrowness of this majority, they could certainly be back in the majority in 2024. They have a chance to do just that because of the fact the Republicans gained so few seats here, despite getting control of the House, they have a chance of getting back into power in the next election cycle.
BLITZER: Yes, good point, indeed. And the future of Nancy Pelosi, I suspect right now, pretty much up in the air.
ZELENY: Without question. As Manu was saying, I think some hints were out there on Sunday when she was on State of the Union talking to Dana Bash. She used the word, family, repeatedly. And, Jamie, you know from covering this with Paul Pelosi, the attack on her husband is something that shook her and her family to the core.
So, even without that, she was on the verge of really, you know, reassessing her time in the House. But I was talking to someone who is very close to her. They believe a decision will come tomorrow. They do not know what the decision is. She is keeping this very close to her vest. But one can draw the conclusion that she has reached time, and, again, family is something that is so key to this.
GANGEL: Well, whatever she decides, I think one of the things that's going to happen is she has had very tight control over her conference. Talk about someone who has been able to herd cats and wrangle and everything. So, if she leaves, she's leaving at a time when whoever takes her place, is really going to have a challenge ahead of them.
That said, just let's go back to this election. Voters really came down in the middle. They did not want election deniers. We all sat here. We talked about, it's the economy, stupid. In the end, people were worried about democracy. People did not want too much crazy.
I think that if the Republicans push too far, if the freedom caucus, the raucous caucus, or John Boehner used to call them something else, you know, if they try -- if they don't hold themselves together, they could find themselves losing the majority in two years.
HENDERSON: Yeah, listen, whoever fills Nancy Pelosi's high heels, should she decide to retire, and not become the leader, they will have a tough job. You have progressives who want the Democratic Party to be much more progressive, and you've got the moderates that really want to tack to the middle. Whoever it is will need to have some lessons, I think from Nancy Pelosi, exactly.
But I think on both sides we're seeing an ideological battle, a generational battle, too, I think particularly on the House side. There is this sort of younger restless crowd of people who really want power and really want to define what the party looks like.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It's a good point.
You know, Jeremy Diamond, you're over at the White House for us. It's one thing for the Democrats to have the speakership, for Nancy Pelosi to be the speaker. It's totally a very, very different thing for Nancy Pelosi to be the minority leader in the House of Representatives.
So how is the White House been preparing for this possibility?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've heard it from the president himself. He's really over the last week, particularly before he left for this foreign trip, he's been setting the table for the prospect of having Republicans in a majority in the House. You look back to last Thursday before the president jetted off to Asia for these international summits, and he held what was essentially what looked and felt like a victory rally, despite the fact that the White House Wall Street very much anticipating they would indeed lose the House.
It wasn't about basking in the fact that he defied history by losing fewer seats, but it's also about showing there is energy, enthusiasm behind the president, behind his agenda. Administration officials have been eager to point out that Democrats on the call pointed out they ran on his agenda. And so, this is a White House than been trying to set up their leverage for these coming negotiations with Republicans to come at this from a position of strength.
It's what you've heard from the president, he believes the message sent wasn't about wanting a divided government, but the fact that voters want Republicans to work with him, as much as they want the president to work with those Republicans. That's something we heard the president say a couple times last week. You can expect that that is going to be kind of the White House's mantra here, as they look at some of the negotiations over spending packages, over the basic functioning of government.
They are going to put in that expectation to say, look, we're not the on this ones here responsible, you are, too, and making sure to put the onus on them when they don't come to the table.
BLITZER: Good point.
Let's go back up to Capitol Hill. Manu Raju getting more information, more reaction to the major breaking news, CNN projects that the Republicans will win the majority in the House of Representatives, setting the stage for McCarthy to become the next speaker of the House.
So, what else is going on up there right now, Manu? This is a major, major moment.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And McCarthy is, of course, McCarthy is, of course, celebrating this, and trying to convince the Republicans that, even though the majority is not as big as they had hoped, that it is still a majority nonetheless. They will still have the power to wield the gavel, still have the power to subpoena and the rest. But they will have challenges going forward.
The House is an institution much different than the Senate because the House is essentially a majoritarian institution. They can pass legislation by a simple majority. The Senate requires a super majority, requires 60 votes to pass legislation through the Senate, which is why things are much often pass the House, they die in the Senate.
But the challenge for Kevin McCarthy now for the next two years is going to be because of the narrowness of the majority, even passing simple messaging bills will be difficult because he'll have to not only cater to folks on his right flank, often folks at odds with what the leadership wants or what other members in the conference wants, he have to cater to those 30 or so folks. But he also has now members from districts that Joe Biden won, some new members from New York, other parts in the country that they don't want to go nearly as far as some of the conservatives are going.
If Kevin McCarthy is trying to push forward, on issues from immigration to the IRS, things that will still have no chance in passing in the Senate, much less be signed into law, that will still be very complicated. That will still require a significant amount of negotiation behind the scenes, McCarthy trying to get both sides together, keep both sides happy.
So, even if he does get the speakership, which is his first task, trying to get to 218 votes to become speaker, getting the actual -- doing the art of legislating will be incredibly complicating on basic messaging issues, let alone the major issues like avoiding a debt default next year or funding the government, things that they absolutely have to do in which Democrats will be at odds, particularly if they try to do things with the debt limit that they don't like.
So we're looking at probably two years of legislative gridlock in a difficult time for the Republicans to negotiate here as they deal with a narrow majority here.
BLITZER: All right. Manu, stand by. I want to go back to Jeremy diamond at the White House. I understand you're getting a statement, Jeremy?
DIAMOND: Yeah, Wolf. We just got a statement from President Biden on this projection that Republicans will indeed control the House of Representatives next year. This is what the president says. He says, last week's elections demonstrated the strength and resilience of American democracy. He says that there was a strong rejection of election deniers, political violence, and intimidation. He says it was an emphatic statement that in America the will of the people prevails.
He goes on to congratulate leader McCarthy on Republicans winning the House majority and says that he's ready to work with house Republicans to deliver results for working families. And finally he says, quote, in this election, voters spoke clearly about their concerns, the need to lower costs, protect the right to choose, and preserve our democracy.
As I said last week, the future is too promising to be trapped in political warfare. The American people want us to get things done for them. They want us to focus on the issues that matter to them and on making their lives better. I will work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, willing to work with me, to deliver results for them.
And that last part, Wolf, exactly the point that I was making earlier, which is this idea that the president is going to go into this power- sharing divided government situation that he is now facing by focusing on the fact that he is ready, he is ready to negotiate, he is ready to deal with Americans, to address fundamental concerns. He is then going to put that onus on Republicans to then deal with him as well.
This is the president setting the table, of course. Now on what areas specifically President Biden is willing to compromise, he really hasn't laid those out. He has laid out red lines, though, on abortion, national abortion ban, and cuts to Social Security and Medicare where he said he would veto any of that legislation.
So, again, very serious negotiations are sure to be ahead, and very contentious ones as well.
BLITZER: Indeed. Jeff Zeleny, you're watching all of this unfold. Very important
dramatic developments unfolding. A very detailed statement released by the White House in the name of the president of the United States.
I assume they just assume that Kevin McCarthy will be the speaker.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They do assume it, but they don't know.
And President Biden, of course, has been in this town long enough. We should also point out Election Day was his 50th anniversary of being first elected to the senate. So he has seen divided government up close. Interestingly, last week, he said he didn't have much of a relationship with Kevin McCarthy. Of course, he came into power after Senator Biden, then Vice President Biden was largely out, but he's about to develop one.
And I am told that the White House is going to have meetings like we saw in the Obama era of the top four, they call it, the speaker, the ranking Democrat from the House and Senate. So we'll see this relationship build. If Kevin McCarthy is the speaker, or whoever is, that makes it difficult every time they go to the White House.
But we've seen it in years past that presidents can be elevated by divided government. Look at Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George w. Bush, to an extent. So it's a new moment in Washington. It's difficult in some respects for the White House with these investigations and these hearings.
But it's also an opportunity for this president to try and work together with them. So, it's really a fascinating, new dynamic. So, it's kind of interesting it's coming at the end of the week here when everything seems, you know, familiar with President Trump back in the ring again, Mitch McConnell being elected. But this is a new era. We're on a new moment here. For the president, no one has more experience dealing with a divided Congress. So we will see how this works. But it's going to be a fascinating new Congress with the White House.
BLITZER: You know, Jamie, I was the White House correspondent during the Bill Clinton administration. And after that first midterm when the Democrats got crushed, he immediately began working very closely with the new House Speaker Newt Gingrich and they got a lot done, Democratic president and Newt Gingrich during that era.
GANGEL: To your point, to Jeff's point, yes, I think that's where you will see Joe Biden go.
But we, in 2022, are in very, very different waters. And while the Biden White House just released that statement, you might want to take a look at Kevin McCarthy's Twitter feed.
His penned tweet, this is the thing he wants everyone to say is not exactly the same message. President Biden is trying to divide and deflect at a time when America needs to unite because he can't talk about his policies that have driven up the cost of living. The American people aren't buying it.
So all I would say is not so fast.
ZELENY: Well, he's still running for a job. And that was from a week ago. But he still is very much in the fight of his life really for the speakership.
And we do not know what is going to happen. There's no projections that we can make about what's going to happen in that vote in January. We've seen many speakers after Newt Gingrich left, as you said, Wolf, we thought Bob Livingston would be the speaker, but that didn't happen.
GANGEL: Kevin McCarthy not so long ago --
ZELENY: He thought he would be the speaker and Paul Ryan was. That's why the next seven weeks through the holidays here, never mind the Georgia runoff, which is interesting, but the speakership is interesting.
HENDERSON: And, listen, whoever the speaker ends up being, I would imagine that Kevin McCarthy is the odds-on favorite. One of the tasks on their plate is to deny Joe Biden a second term. They have very little incentive to work with him to give him legislative wins beyond what sort of necessary to keep the credit running in good standing.
So, you know, he's going to be trying to make a Republican the next president to deny President Biden a second term should he even run. He's going to be helping Donald Trump in some ways, right, who will not want to see any legislative wins for Joe Biden.
So, listen, I think what Kevin McCarthy tweets there, they're going to be constantly poking President Biden. And I can't see much getting done.
GANGEL: It may be a week old. He may be running for speaker. But he's going to be running and running and running.
HENDERSON: No, I think that's right.
ZELENY: And as you said earlier Donald Trump will be at the center of all of this.
GANGEL: No question.
ZELENY: That is something that history does not offer us much of a guide for that because Donald Trump's a whole new animal in a whole new era.
BLITZER: Because Republicans in the House are pretty right now. There are moderate Republicans from states like New York, for example. And they have very different perspectives than some of the far-right Republicans who were re-elected or elected.
ZELENY: Without a question. But one thing that they all have in common, they want to get re-elected. So there is a sense perhaps I'm being too optimistic here, but there is a sense that they want to do some things on the margins, at least. But as you were saying earlier, I think the Democratic side of this equation really Democrats have been pretty united through this midterm election thing. All were basically running on the Biden agenda.
That can come to an end, particularly if speaker Pelosi is still here. But if she's not to sort of herd them all. So we're about to see some divisions exposed on the Democratic side as well that have been just kind of under the radar a touch, but still there brewing very --
BLITZER: So, you hear some Democrats say it's time for a younger leadership referring to Nancy Pelosi.
GANGEL: Correct. And to what Nia-Malika said and Jeff said, this is going to be a struggle to get these Democrats together. A Republican up on the Hill just texted me, basically, watch out for Matt Gaetz who has said there is no way he will vote for Kevin McCarthy.
If there are enough votes, he may not need Matt Gaetz, but there are 31 who did not vote for him in that conference. So he has a ways to go. There's one thing that Manu was talking about earlier that Kevin McCarthy gets to give out. And that's committee assignments and chairmanships. I think one of the things you're going to see him do is a lot of promises, promises to get these votes.
BLITZER: And he also can take away committee assignments. He said he's going to remove some Democrats from these committee assignments. So it's going to be a whole sea change.
That's why we saw so many retirements from House Democrats because they didn't want to work in the minority. They all remembered that. So we'll see if any more retirements happen. What's remarkable is that Democrats still control the Senate, which was not the expectation of Leader McCarthy.
HENDERSON: I think it's going to be hard to keep the job if he gets the job. We've seen that in the past with John Boehner not being able to control, you know, sort of the Tea Party caucus at that point, which is now a Freedom Caucus. So, listen, this is not going to be easy for McCarthy to get the job and then to keep the job.
BLTZER: Let's not forget the Republicans may be the majority in the house, but the Democrats will be the majority in the Senate.
GANGEL: No question. And that's going to help Joe Biden, especially if they get to 51 after Georgia.
BLITZER: Yeah, we'll see what happens on that front as well.
All right, guys, thanks very, very much.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.