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Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Removed As House Speaker In Historic Vote; House Paralyzed As Chamber Faces Votes For New Speaker; Ouster Of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Throws House Into Chaos; Judge Issues Gag Order After Trump Attacks Clerk During Trial; House GOP Members Enter Talks On Next Speaker With McCarthy Out. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 03, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If anyone violates this, it will be serious.
That was his word, serious sanctions. He didn't describe what that would be, but first step is usually financial. It would be a big leap for him to jail him, particularly given his position.
But this also is not an uncommon terrain for the former president. He has had other judges warned him about his rhetoric and warned him about statements that he's making about people in the case. Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Kara Scannell outside the courthouse, I appreciate it.
Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett pick up coverage next in the Situation Room.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington along with Erin Burnett in New York.
We're following major breaking news on the vote a short while ago to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House of Representatives. It's the first in the history of the U.S. Congress.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: An incredible day, Wolf. McCarthy's ouster led by the congressman, Matt Gaetz, joined by other GOP hardliners, and it was sealed, Wolf, of course, by Democrats who could have stepped up to save McCarthy, and they just refused to do it.
BLITZER: Extremely historic and dramatic, indeed. And now, House business, for all practical purposes, is paralyzed as the chamber faces the very difficult and divisive challenge of choosing a new speaker of the House. We're standing by for a meeting of House Republicans this hour.
This is a special edition of The Situation Room.
BURNETT: And we begin tonight on Capitol Hill, where our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is covering it all, speaking to everyone in the center of this chaos and dissent and anger. Manu, what is the very latest that you are learning now ahead of what I know is going to be a crucial and pivotal meeting this hour among the GOP?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this moment, Kevin McCarthy, the former speaker of the House, is in the speaker's office meeting with his top allies, including Patrick McHenry, who was named as the interim speaker, someone who is simply there to run the chamber. But they cannot legislate until they elect a new speaker.
This historic vote sending this chamber into a state of paralysis, unable to legislate and raising major questions for the Republican Party and the House about what is next.
At this meeting at 6:30, we expect Republicans to talk about their plans. Will Kevin McCarthy run for speaker? That is the urgent question at the moment. If he decides to run for speaker again, that could lead to a prolonged race on the House floor. Because at the moment, he does not have the majority vote necessary to become elected speaker.
Is there another candidate, a consensus candidate? At the moment, no. This party is badly divided as they broke out all day going back and forth between McCarthy allies and people who sided with Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, who led this effort to push McCarthy out of the speakership.
Now, there were eight Republicans in total who voted to oust McCarthy, along with all Democrats, enough, and that raises the majority to eject McCarthy from the powerful position. One of them I caught up with was Congresswoman Nancy Mace, who said that she voted to kick McCarthy out because she says he broke his promises.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I made deals with Kevin McCarthy, with the speaker, that he has not kept to help women in this country, and we have done nothing for them.
Or as a survivor for rape, and I worked all year on a rape kit bill that hasn't seen the time of day, I cannot tell you how frustrating that is as a woman in this conference, in this Capitol, to have that happen. Like if you make a promise, you should keep it. And if you promise women you're going to help them, then you damn well better do it. So, as a fiscal conservative, I'm angry. As a woman, I am deeply frustrated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And the members who voted to oust McCarthy have various reasons for doing so. Some of them said that he should not have cut a deal with Democrats or allowed Democrats to vote to keep the government open, instead should have pushed for a Republican-only plan, even though he did that and couldn't get the support those same conservatives who ultimately ousted him for the position.
But, nevertheless, the questions is what is next for the House GOP, and that is unanswered at this moment, as Kevin McCarthy huddled with his top advisers, deciding what to do as this bitterly House GOP conference meets in just a matter of moments to pick up the pieces and try to put it back together somehow.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much.
Wolf, it is just so incredible, though, when you think about it. Deeply divided indeed, but yet 8 against 210 for, right? It's a lopsided divided, right? It's almost all. And then these eight that continue to cause such chaos.
BLITZER: But it was enough to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House of Representatives.
Right now, I want to get reaction from a Republican who voted against McCarthy's removal.
Representative Kelly Armstrong is joining us now. Representative, thank you so much for joining us.
As I said, you voted against removing McCarthy from the speakership. What's your reaction to his ouster?
REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): I've got to congratulate my eight Republican colleagues. They gave Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden unified control of government in D.C., at least temporarily. I don't see how that helps the conservative movement and I don't see how that helps the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
BLITZER: Do you think McCarthy should continue to seek the speakership even though he doesn't have the support of 218 members of your conference?
ARMSTRONG: Yes, I mean, he's got the vast -- the support of the vast majority of our conference. He's got eight people who voted against him and I will back whatever play Kevin does. I don't think anybody could have done this job better than him. We have opened the House back up, we have regular order, open amendments. I said all those things in my speech today. But I think even going back, nobody has done more to help us get and maintain this majority than Kevin McCarthy, and I don't see anybody else who could do that job, nor am not I sure anybody else wants that job right now.
BLITZER: Well, if not McCarthy, Congressman, who do you want or think will ultimately become the next speaker of the House?
ARMSTRONG: I have no idea at this point in time. I think Kevin McCarthy is the best person in our conference to lead it. We're going to have a conference at 6:30 tonight. I'm assuming there's going to be a lot of discussions going forward. But I think, essentially, until you change the rules and figure this out, we are held hostage by a very, very, very small minority of our conference that their incentive structure is just quite different than actually reasonable, responsible government. BLITZER: Republican Congressman Don Bacon, a man you know, says he'd like to see Matt Gaetz expelled from the GOP conference. Do you agree?
ARMSTRONG: I think there's a real conversation to have about that at this point in time. I've been here for five years, and I have seen that Matt spends a lot more time fighting with other Republicans than he does fighting with Democrats. But I have no doubt that's going to come up in the future. And to be honest, Wolf, I don't know what the rule process is for that. I'm more interested in fighting for conservative principles and fighting --
BLITZER: Are you open to seeing him expelled from the Republican conference?
ARMSTRONG: I think that -- whether I'm open to it or not, the conversation is probably going to occur in the near future. There are a lot of people that are really frustrated and angry right now. I try not to get frustrated and angry. I try to figure out a way to move forward. So, that's what I'm going to concentrate on.
BLITZER: Why should voters, Congressman, trust Republicans with control of Congress given the chaos that we are all seeing right now? Are you concerned this move potentially endangers your House majority?
ARMSTRONG: Well, those are two different questions. So, yes, I think this move does endanger our majority. I think the coverage alone and the chaos exists. But here's why voters should trust Republicans, because we're not passing 2,000-page bills out of the speaker's office at midnight and forcing people to vote on them on the floor.
Every member of Congress under Speaker McCarthy's leadership has had the ability to amend the bill, has the ability to advocate for their position, and that hasn't happened in this town for over two decades. So, we have brought a lot of things back. Institutional Washington does not like that. But it's also important why we continue down that path and why I think it's so important for Speaker McCarthy to maintain speakership, because why would the next speaker ever keep the House as open as it's been over the last nine months?
BLITZER: When do you expect we will have a new speaker of the House of Representatives and could this process, Congressman, potentially drag out like the 15 votes we saw back in January?
ARMSTRONG: Well, it will be a little different because we have a rules package and we have a speaker pro tempore. But, yes, I think there are a lot of people dug in and a lot of different factions. There are people like me who are going to support Kevin whatever he does. There are other groups. And there is going to be a group of Republicans that have been around a long time and are not interested in allowing this small group of people to take us out because they're worried about regardless of what happens next. We're going to be held over a barrel by a small group of our conference either way.
BLITZER: Representative Kelly Armstrong, thanks so much for spending a few moments with us. We appreciate it.
ARMSTRONG: Thank you.
BLITZER: I want to break down all these historic developments with our political experts who are here with me right now in The Situation Room. And, David Chalian, you're a political director. Give us a sense. What does this say about the state of the Republican Party in the House right now?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Nothing very good. I mean, because it is clearly in chaos at the moment. And it is because of this small faction. I think that is so important to keep reminding people, as the Congressman did. The vast majority of House Republicans supported Kevin McCarthy here. We're talking about a very small faction.
Now, that is because Kevin McCarthy gave them the power to do so in order to obtain the speaker's gavel. That is because they ran candidates that did not give them as robust a majority as they hoped they were going to get last fall, and so he's dealing with very narrow math.
But think about where we are for a moment on this historic day and how we got here in recent weeks. Kevin McCarthy worked out a deal with President Biden to avoid the first ever default on our debt.
He then worked out a deal with Democrats this past weekend to keep the government open and functioning. And what he got in return for those two responsible governing positions was to be fired from his job.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, that was his crime, his crime was to work with Democrats and keep the government open. And for these nihilists who were holding the Republicans hostage in the House, that was a terrible thing that shouldn't have happened.
And I was texting with one Republican today and I said, well, does this leave Matt Gaetz as a kingmaker? Because the question is, will they go into this conference and does he have a veto? And the answer was, no, he's still a leper. And that's the way they regard him.
And the question is, what will his influence be on choosing the next speaker? Could it be, you know, Kevin McCarthy? We don't know the answer to that. But he's drawn the party along with a few of his comrades into complete and utter chaos for really no particular reason. They say they didn't trust him and all the rest of it, but neither did the Democrats, and that's why they voted against him.
But, you know, it's kind of remarkable that that small group had this much of a sway over the future of the Republican conference.
BLITZER: Audie, it's really amazing. This is a remarkable fall for Kevin McCarthy, now the former speaker, now just Representative McCarthy. How do you see this playing out?
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the immediate future, I expect there to be a brutally uncomfortable meeting in the House right now between a lot of Republicans who will, number one, airing grievances, number two be asking your question, is this guy in charge now? Is he a kingmaker? Is this what it means to have power, just being able to cause this level of dysfunction? And, lastly, I think this question about who's next is fascinating because it's not like we didn't see this coming. As soon as you had to do 15 rounds, someone must have thought, you know, maybe on my next vote, I would have done X.
So, I do wonder whether this could move quicker than we think. A lot of it has to do with the people who are the options. Will they look around say, this is a thankless job, no, thanks, based on what I'm seeing the last couple of times, or, yes, this is my time and the first test will be the next question about the government shutdown?
BORGER: And will they have to cut deals, just like McCarthy had to cut deals? Do they get it for free? I don't think so.
BLITZER: Let me bring Jeff into this conversation. Republican critics of Matt Gaetz says he has now handed over a major gift to President Biden and the Democrats. What do you think?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we heard the congressman say it actually on the House floor during the arguments, Congressman Mike Garcia of California said, we need to be the no-drama party. I fear this drama will make us lose our majority. So, that is the sentiment.
And, look, I mean, if the degree to which voters are looking for a responsible, reasonable party that can govern, this certainly is a vote against Republicans. So, in the short-term, without question, it makes the very reasonable things David was mentioning there, saving the country from defaulting on our debt and keeping the government open, funding the troops, et cetera, those are basic functions of governing. And this is something the Republicans can't do here. So, yes, I think it is a good gift for the president.
But what I'm struck by, 269 days. That is speaker McCarthy's tenure, the shortest speaker ever in our history. In some respects, though, it's amazing it lasted that long because we all thought every deal kind of along the way, he would lose. So, he went from winter to spring to summer, the beginning of fall, and he's out.
What is happening in the meeting now, I was talking to one Republican on the Hill who actually was suggesting something Audie just said, this could go shorter. Because what Matt Gaetz wanted was a scalp. So, they got their scalp. And now, do they want to move a little forward? But there's no consensus or plan B that we know of. But things change in the dynamic of the meeting here.
I would be very surprised, though, if Kevin McCarthy would go through -- I mean, I think he's willing to go through anything to be speaker again, if that was an outcome. I do not expect him to emerge successful in that. So, I don't think they'll try that. I would be surprised by that tonight.
BORGER: I also was texting someone who said, shorter rather than longer because they realize they have a problem, that this looks ridiculous and insane to the American public, and that if they have to prove they can get their act together, they better do it pretty quick.
CORNISH: And you can't blame Democrats, right?
CORNISH: You can't say, like if only they had cooperated, the thing that is basically considered heresy to do.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by, we have a lot more to discuss, as divided, and they are very divided right now, as divided Republicans are heading into talks aimed at settling on a new speaker after ousting Kevin McCarthy.
Our live coverage, special live coverage right here in The Situation Room, will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Division and dysfunction in Congress at a new level tonight with the unprecedented vote to remove Kevin McCarthy as the speaker of the House of Representatives. We're staying on this major historic breaking story as GOP lawmakers begin trying to wrangle over who should be their next leader.
Melanie Zanona is joining us live from Capitol Hill right now. Melanie, Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry, a top McCarthy ally, has just been named interim speaker. Tell us what happens from here.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. Well, no one really knows the answer to that question, Wolf, right now. There's just so much uncertainty in Washington. But what I can tell you is that McCarthy is currently huddle with the -- former speaker, I should say -- in his office. The House Republican Conference will meet as a group around 6:45 P.M.
But the big question right now is, what does Kevin McCarthy do?
Does he continue running and putting himself in this, through this, and try to still become the speaker, or does he step aside and let someone else step up to the plate? If he were to step aside, that would set off a scramble for the leadership. And even if he doesn't, we could see some other names try to put themselves forward during this conference meeting.
But I was talking to some of his allies, Kevin McCarthy's allies, on Capitol Hill. And they said, while they would love for him to be able to become speaker once again, they said they don't know if it's the wisest decision to keep nominating him if he does not have a path to get the votes he needs. In fact, Steve Womack, a longtime ally of Kevin McCarthy, told me, then you're testing everyone's limits, and at some point in time, if you can't -- that is, if you can't get McCarthy elected -- it will dawn on people that maybe it's not in the cards for Kevin McCarthy.
So, that is a pretty striking admission from one of his top allies on Capitol Hill. But, again, it's unclear what is going to happen at this point. The House cannot conduct any other business until they elect a new speaker.
But in the meantime, we're already seeing some of the fallout and fury from this historic vote to remove the speaker. I'm told that some Republican members of the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus are now considering quitting the group en masse, in retribution for their Democratic colleagues in that group for voting to remove Kevin McCarthy. There's a lot of angst about the decision to do that.
We're also seeing some now calls in the Republican Party to remove Matt Gaetz from the House Republican conference. That's something that Don Bacon told my colleague, Annie Grayer. And then you heard early Kelly Armstrong also told you he was considering that or thought it would be at least a topic of conversation as well, Wolf.
But, really, they cannot do anything, like I said, until they elect a new speaker. We are not expecting to be election votes tonight. They have a lot of things they need to sort through. So, we'll learn more at this 6:45 P.M. meeting. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Melanie, thank you very much. And Melanie's words to our panel here, what she said, there's people considering quitting the problem solvers conference. There's nothing like taking your ball and going home when you're in the problem solvers conference.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure what kind of threat that may be.
BURNETT: Maybe some sort of -- I don't know -- something that says everything we need to know right now.
Congressman Walsh, so you've obviously been in Washington. This is your party. It's in chaos. This is a disaster. They've got this meeting coming up, Melanie says in these next 15, 20 minutes. What's going to go on in that room?
FMR. REP. JOE WALSH (R-IL): They need to pick a speaker in five minutes. Erin, this is a political disaster for the Republicans. I know a lot of prognosticators. They're going to lose the house because of this. This is the kind of thing that matters. This is utter incompetence. And I agree with some of the prior speakers, they can't dilly dally around long. They've got to pick somebody pretty quickly.
BURNETT: Okay. Abby, the odds of a speaker being picked in five minutes, I mean, just to put the math out there, right, you have 210 vote for McCarthy, right? That's a unified conference. Then you've got these eight. I mean, intransigence doesn't even begin to describe it.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, look, I've said before, this is up to McCarthy. He has to be the one to decide. Does he step to the side and let the process move forward or does he not?
I mean, the thing about McCarthy is that he has been incredibly stubborn. And that's been kind of the frame that he's led in the House all the way through this process, from his 15-vote speakership race to now. So, we'll see what he ends up doing. If he moves aside, yes, you could see a much quicker process.
But I also think the other thing that Melanie talked about and that Kelly Armstrong told Wolf earlier, what happens to Matt Gaetz? There are a lot of moderate Republicans who are sick of this. And they're going to need some concessions too. What does that look like? And will they demand that Matt Gaetz or others are punished for pulling a move like this that many of them are worried could jeopardize their seats, jeopardize their majority in the House?
BURNETT: I mean, you know, it's interesting, Basil. One congressperson was saying, it was a mistake for McCarthy ever to empower a single person to call for a vote for his ouster, right, one of the many things he gave up that had never been given up before in order to get the gavel in the first place, the comment being, we all told him not to do that.
BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's a heck of a time to say, I told you so. You know, and if you remember that day, you would say to yourself, there's no way that his speakership is really going to mean anything at the end of the day when they could be so easily given up. And that's why I've said before that he really wasn't speaker. It wasn't his to actually have and maintain. It belonged to this very small group of Republicans who are really in control of this.
And so even if he decides to stay on and try to fight it, for what purpose, because the government got shut down regardless. The government wound up getting shut down because of this particular incident. So, all they tried to avoid before, they got exactly what they wanted at the end of the day.
And I think to your point, the American people are going to see that. I hope Democrats message it well. But the Democrats -- the American public is going to say, over and over again, they've seen the Republican Party as a party of chaos, as the party of no, of the party of not being able to get things done. And it just continues to feed into what Joe Biden and the Democrats have said all along.
BURNETT: And so, Harry, you've got this meeting starting in just a few minutes. Okay, Tim Burchett, Republican, who had -- he was against McCarthy.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes.
BURNETT: I think the American people understand what we're doing, I think they fully support it. Is the Great Eight right about that?
ENTEN: I mean, I don't know if Americans support the clown show that's going on currently in the House of Representatives. This feels like something more out of the West Wing than something that would be realistic. But I will note just 9 percent of Republicans approve of the job that Congress is doing. And, of course, Republicans run the House. This is not exemplary --
BURNETT: Like, it wasn't 9 percent of the American public, it was 9 percent of Republicans, approve of Republicans.
ENTEN: Republicans do not support what's going on currently in the U.S. Congress.
But the other thing that I will note, beyond just what the American public is feeling, is we've sort of been saying this, whether the panel here, the panel in D.C., is, you know, there are very few Republicans that were actually talking about in the U.S. House that voted, essentially, to make McCarthy go adios amigos, at least for now. And there are plenty of conservative Republicans who voted to keep McCarthy in power.
What we're really talking about is not really a left/right division in the Republican party, necessarily. It's a, do we want to govern part of the Republican Party, and basically let's light everything on fire and laugh around the fire.
BURNETT: Right, which is why I should make the point, plenty of conservative Republicans are in that 210, right?
BURNETT: This is a very small group.
PHILLIP: Yes, many very conservative Republicans.
PHILLIP: I mean, we're talking about very conservative Republicans as if they are moderates, which they are not. All they're saying is, let's try to do something.
One of the other things, though, I look back on the McCarthy tenure, and it really -- you really have to ask the question, what did he really accomplish in giving all of this power to such a small minority of his whole conference, what, an impeachment inquiry that -- a hearing that became a clown show, basically, for Republicans, their own witnesses telling them they don't have the evidence to impeach?
This is not really a story that looks well for McCarthy one way or another. He had an opportunity at several junctures to decide to govern. He is the speaker of the House, not the speaker of the Republican Party, the speaker of the House. And he chose not to do that, to try to curry favor with a group that was never, ever going to be on his side.
WALSH: And Erin (INAUDIBLE), but to Abby's point, he gave them the weapon. He gave Matt Gaetz the weapon. I know eight people voted to vacate him. None of them lead it except for Gaetz. If Gaetz -- BURNETT: Gaetz is the face of this.
WALSH: Completely. None of the other seven would have led this thing. McCarthy gave them the weapon.
And to Harry and Abby's point, the MAGA -- this is a MAGA conference. These eight are different. There's something else different going on here.
BURNETT: And one quick point here, the last meeting we heard about behind closed doors the other day, somebody called Matt Gaetz a scumbag, it just devolved. It was disgusting and unprofessional and inappropriate. Do we have any reason to believe that what's about to happen in half an hour will be any different?
BURNETT: Then they booed him on the floor today.
WALSH: They dislike him vehemently, and this is going to be much, much worse. You can't remove him for being a jerk but he'll pay some kind of price, for sure.
BURNETT: Well, it is going to be incredible, I mean, this moment that's about to happen, an unprecedented moment.
And, of course, Donald Trump is now reacting to the chaos on Capitol Hill in his own party. Will the former president and current Republican frontrunner weigh in on the scramble to replace Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a person he's supported, but of course, he also supports Gaetz?
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, former President Trump staying out of the fight, actively avoiding weighing in on today's historic decision to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Kristen Holmes is joining us from outside Trump Tower in New York City right now. Kristen, Trump's decision, at least so far, to remain uninvolved is a stark contrast from his earlier efforts to aid McCarthy, especially earlier this year.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, absolutely. If you remember, back to January, Trump stepping in the 11th hour was after McCarthy had more than a dozen failed votes for speaker, Trump essentially called for those GOP holdouts to stand down. He also made personal calls to some of those holdouts, including Matt Gaetz, on McCarthy's behalf.
Now, so far, he is not wading in here at all. Now, we're told by sources that he is uninterested in this moment, that he also hasn't been talking about it, he's been focused on this court case. We know he's been going down to trial every day here in New York, and that he hasn't been bringing it up on either side.
Now, we know that he spoke to representative Matt Gaetz, but we're told that that conversation was not him essentially picking sides. And we saw that today too on Truth Social when he posted, there's all this Republican infighting and everyone should be fighting Democrats instead, a very vague statement there, obviously not choosing sides.
Now, we have reached out to the campaign for any sort of statement on McCarthy's ouster. We have not heard if McCarthy has had a phone conversation with Donald Trump since this vote happened. We have not heard and we're waiting to hear back. But it does feel remarkably intentional. Trump weighs in on pretty much everything, and he's just not doing that here.
Now, one thing, a source that is close to Donald Trump told us is that he can't always be reaching out to save McCarthy, especially in fights like this on the Hill where he has allies on both sides of this fight.
Now, what we did hear from him as he was asked specifically about what he thought earlier in the week about Gaetz's efforts to oust McCarthy, and he said he didn't really know much about that. Then when he was pushed, he said that he liked both of them. So, again, this is a much different Donald Trump than we have seen even in January when he was really all-in and saved McCarthy's speakership.
BURNETT: All right, Kristen, thank you very much.
And I'm joined now by Congressman Jim Himes, Democrat from Connecticut. So, Congressman, thanks for being with me. We've talked many times. I never thought it would be a circumstance exactly like the one we're in now. We are about ten minutes away from what we are told is this meeting of the entire GOP conference. Are you hearing anything from any of your GOP colleagues, people that you talk to, about what the heck they expect to go on in that meeting?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): I'm not, Erin. And I'll tell you, in the moment on the floor, when it was all over, I mean, it was as though a bomb had gone off in the room. Nobody knew what was next. And I've seen a couple of my friends on the other side of the aisle since then in the gym and elsewhere, and they are just bewildered.
I mean, I think there's a realization dawning on my Republican colleagues that they may have an unmanageable conference. And if the management does what Speaker McCarthy -- ex-Speaker McCarthy tried to implement, which is to sort of give everything that is asked for to the MAGA extreme, it becomes untenable.
So, I think they've got some fundamental structural issues to work out, because I just don't think that group is governable right now.
BURNETT: It certainly doesn't seem that way, but it's interesting that you describe those that you've seen post the vote as bewildered. I think that's the feeling of many in the country. I mean, you can't have a functioning government without a speaker, right? You can't do anything, any business where you are. It comes to a complete standstill.
HIMES: Yes, I mean, that's exactly right. And as you probably know, there was a sort of a last-ditch effort last night to reach out to pragmatic Democrats to say, hey, stand for the institution. And we gathered in caucus this morning, because, look, we've shown that we're more than willing to bail McCarthy and the Republicans out of disaster. We did it Saturday when almost every single Democrat but one voted to not shut down the government. Only half the Republicans voted for it. We did it a couple of months ago when we prevented a default by voting for McCarthy's deal with the president.
But what you heard in the caucus this morning was, hey, look, we will not allow chaos to reign, but, sadly, Speaker McCarthy has brought absolutely no goodwill. Both times that I just mentioned when we waited in, in between, you know, he went after us brutally, blamed us for this and that. In the caucus this morning, people were telling the story, and it's still an open wound about him standing on the floor when we were attacked on January 6th and a week later, going to Mar-a- Lago, to bend a knee to the guy who catalyzed January 6th.
BURNETT: And that came up this morning in your meeting of pragmatic Democrats. That's still was a reason that people said they won't support him now?
HIMES: Well, so, that's probably the big, epic, tectonic reason. But as recently as the last couple of months, McCarthy and McConnell and Schumer made a deal with the president about spending numbers, and no sooner was the ink dry on that, then he's back here writing budget bills well below that number, by the way, which he can't even pass in his own conference.
So, my point is that, you know, somebody like me, I would love to reach out and yank us out of this chaos. But for that to happen, you know, we need to get some pretty substantial things in return. And the kind of extremism that we've been watching for these last nine months is not the kind of environment in which we step in to save him.
BURNETT: So -- all right, I understand what you're saying and I think the detail is appreciated by anybody watching. But as you say, you've been more than willing to bail McCarthy out. You talk about with the debt, you talk about with the shutdown. The reality of it is, of course, is that now you might get someone to the right of McCarthy, you might get someone more extreme than McCarthy himself. Are you worried that that might happen and that it may, in retrospect, have been a mistake for pragmatic Democrats like yourself not to bail him out this time?
HIMES: Well, I would say two things. Number one, we don't have any control over what happens inside the Republican conference. That's for them to figure out. But I can make two observations to answer your question directly. First of all, there are 18 Republicans in congressional districts that Joe Biden won. And if you think -- and, by the way, 18 is what, four times their current majority. If you think that those very vulnerable Republicans want to see more extremism, I think that's wrong.
And, secondly, the model is there, Erin. In the last Congress -- again, I mentioned the shutdown, which we averted, bipartisan. I mentioned the debt ceiling, which we averted, working in bipartisan. Look at the last Congress. We got a bipartisan infrastructure deal done. We got health care for our veterans exposed to burn pits. We got the CHIPS Act done. Nancy Pelosi's majority at the same time was exactly the same size. And we did that by not vilifying, by not bending to our extreme elements, although I don't think we have anybody quite like Matt Gaetz in the caucus, and reaching out.
If they can figure out how to do that, they will govern and they will be rewarded by the American people for being functional.
BURNETT: Well, we'll see. Obviously, there's nothing that would indicate that's the direction this is going to go, but they've got the meeting starting at about five minutes, theoretically, 218 of them, 8 against, 210 were for McCarthy. It is those eight, of course, as you pointed out, led by Matt Gaetz, that have put the country in the situation we're in, in this moment.
Thank you very much, Congressman Himes, I appreciate your time.
And coming up, the other breaking news we are following, the judge overseeing Donald Trump's civil fraud case has issued a gag order, that development today amidst all of this, the former president on thin ice in a New York courtroom, where he has now appeared for a second day and likely to come for a third.
BLITZER: There's other breaking news we're following tonight, including dramatic new developments in Donald Trump's civil fraud trial in New York City.
[18:45:06] The judge overseeing the case sharply rebuking the former president after Trump attacked a court clerk on social media.
Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell. She's outside the courthouse in New York for us.
Kara, the day ended with the judge issuing, effectively, a gag order for Donald Trump?
SCANNELL: That's right, Wolf. The judge issued a gag order after a 45- minute delay this afternoon in the court proceedings. He came on the bench and said he was warning both sides, all parties, they could not make any comments about any members of his court staff.
And this followed Trump's post on his social media platform today about the judge's clerk, because she's his right-hand person. And on that post, Trump had linked her, without any evidence, to Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer. The judge took the bench, he said that the post that Trump made was untrue and he said personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate, and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
The judge said he had warned the parties yesterday about this, and that was because Trump had made statements about the clerk in the hallway as he was entering the courtroom. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: And this rogue judge, a Trump hater, the only one that hates Trump more is his associate up there, his person that works with him, and she's screaming into his ear at almost every time we ask a question, a disgrace. You want to know the truth, it's a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCANNELL: The judge said if anyone violates this order, they will be facing some serious sanctions and those sanctions could be anything from financial penalties to potentially jail time -- Wolf.
And, Kara, what actually happened with the testimony in court today?
SCANNELL: So today on the stand was more direct testimony and the cross examination of Trump's longtime accountant, Donald bender. When he was asked questions on direct by the attorney general's office, he said that it was the Trump organization that gave him all the information that went into the financial statements that Mazars had compiled. And these statements are at the center of the case. They're the statements the judge has said are already fraudulent.
Now, he also testified when questioned by the attorney general's staff he later learned only two years ago that the Trump Organization had appraisals for some of these properties in some of these years that they did not share with Mazars, which could have potentially impacted the values put on these financial statements. And when asked by one of the state attorneys general whether that mattered, he said yes, they would not have issued the financial statements had they known that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kara Scannell in New York City for us -- Kara, thank you very, very much.
Erin, back to you.
BURNETT: All right, Wolf.
And joining us to talk about this new reporting, Ryan Goodman, the former special counsel at Department of Defense, and now with Just Security. And the legal reporter for "Bloomberg News," Erik Larson, who's been in the courtroom so far here day in, day out. I don't know how many days. It's going to be a long one for you.
Okay. So, you were there today. Obviously, Kara's going to do the reporting of the takeaways legally. What stood out to you?
ERIK LARSON, LEGAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, honestly, what we heard about the gag order. I think we were expecting a quiet day of testimony from Trump's former longtime accountants, which is important testimony for sure for a case like this. But we're expecting it to be a little dry. And then out of nowhere, we heard about this closed hearing where the public and press were not allowed in.
And that's where they were having these discussions about what turned into this gag order. I think that it's kind of a bad sign for Trump that this is just the second day of his first of six trials, and he's already sort of being threatened in this way. It's pretty serious conduct, as the judge said on the bench when he did let everyone back in. He said, this just cannot be tolerated.
BURNETT: And, Ryan, here's the thing, though. I understand the judge is saying it can't be tolerated, and yet it is tolerated, because he keeps doing it in case after case, and there's been narrow gag orders, now this one.
You heard Kara say that there could be -- penalties could include financial penalties or jail time. Will there really be penalties?
RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: I think so. I think if he crosses the line at this point, because apparently, the judge did warn his counsel yesterday in a closed manner. So it was off the record.
And so, then he violated it within 24 hours and the judge didn't just tell him that, this is your new set of rules. He said, take that down.
What did Trump do? He took it down. The post was eliminated.
BURNETT: By Trump, not by whatever, the social media site?
GOODMAN: Right. And so it's now laying down a ground rule. The judge has said, there will be stiff sanctions. I think Trump has to take it very seriously.
In a certain sense, he's met his match, and the match is the justice system. He's facing a similar kind of gag order that might be imposed in D.C.
BURNETT: Right, right, which I know you've talked a lot about. At this point narrowly targeted, but they can get wider and wider.
BURNETT: Eric, second day. Obviously Trump didn't need to come at all. He's here by choice. Everyone that was surprised he came.
So, he came on day one for the PR of it, the politics of it, but then he showed up in day two. Now, he's going to show up on day three, which I'll ask you about in a moment, but did you notice -- what's his demeanor like? How involved is he in what's going on in the room?
LARSON: His demeanor is very serious and stern. He's not cracking any smiles. He's not joking with anyone.
But while the trial is in session, he's frequently, like, leaning over, speaking with his lawyers on either side of him, staring intently at the monitor of evidence that's in front of him.
He's paying close attention. But he's often hunched over folding his arms looking kind of angry at different times, to be honest. But he's a defendant in a serious trial, so that's not too surprising. But he's taking it, you know, very seriously, and he does not seem very happy.
BURNETT: Ryan, what do you make of that? And, to point out, he did say I'll be back tomorrow. So, he's coming in every day. He's deeply involved, as Erik is saying. What's the implication of that?
GOODMAN: So, I think there are a couple implications. One is he seems to be trying to control the narrative but now he's kind of run into a wall with the judge. And he makes these statements outside of the courtroom.
Yesterday, he made a statement outside of the courtroom that, oh, look, the judge just overruled himself on the statute of limitations. Then this morning the judge says to the courtroom, I did no such thing.
So there's this weird debate going on with statements he makes out of the courtroom and then what the judge does to him inside the courtroom.
GOODMAN: So, that's I'm not sure he's going to be able to control that narrative much longer. That's one part. But the other part is he is conveying that he has a lot of visibility and attention to detail, and that's actually what the case is about, did you know all the details, because otherwise then it's on you.
BURNETT: And it seems very clear he did, he wants to be there calling every shot. I mean --
GOODMAN: Absolutely. And looking at all the exhibits and things like that.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much.
Of course, all this going on and it's crucial amidst what's going on, on Capitol Hill in the ouster of Speaker McCarthy. We have much more coming up on that breaking news, because 6:51 Eastern Time, Republicans have just started their crucial closed-door meeting after that historic and shocking vote to oust the speaker.
So, who will be the next speaker of the House? When will there be a next speaker of the House? We'll talk about it, after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news on the hunt for a new speaker of the House of Representatives after the very dramatic vote today to remove now Congressman Kevin McCarthy from the job, no longer the speaker.
House Republicans entering a closed-door meeting just a little while ago as they begin talks on trying to permanently fill the speaker's job, an absence of leadership not seen in the history of the U.S. Congress in this way.
Brian Todd is looking at potential candidates for the speakership.
Brian, who may be in the running to be the next speaker of the House?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as we wait to see what happens in this important House GOP conference meeting tonight, there is no one clear frontrunner for the job of House speaker. But there are four gentlemen who seem to rise to the top, rise above others in the considerations of this -- Congressman Patrick McHenry from North Carolina, Steve Scalise from Louisiana, Tom Emmer from Minnesota, and Tom Cole from Oklahoma.
Let's tick through their credentials quickly if we can here.
Representative Patrick McHenry, he has just been named as the interim speaker. But that's not the only reason that he's considered a top candidate for speaker. He is currently House Financial Services Committee chairman, which is enormously important. It deals with issues like international finance, housing, and banking.
His profile and influence grew earlier this year when McCarthy tapped him to negotiate with the White House to raise the debt ceiling. He's one of two top candidates who actually voted to certify Joe Biden's win in the 2020 presidential election.
Now, let's talk about Steve Scalise from Louisiana, currently the number two position in the House. He is the majority leader. He also has experience as the house Republican whip, that vote-counting and, you know, vote-generating experience really bolsters his credentials for House speaker.
He survived a mass shooting at a congressional baseball practice in 2017. He was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of blood cells, because of that cancer diagnoses, a lot of questions have emerged over whether Scalise has the energy, the stamina to really function as House Speaker, especially if there's going to be another shutdown, showdown next month. But Scalise says he feels very good and that his long-term prognosis is very good.
Congressman Tom Emmer from Minnesota, currently the House majority whip, a very important position, the number three position in the House leadership. He's a key ally of Kevin McCarthy's, but he's also seen as being very close to Congressman Matt Gaetz. He led the national Republican congressional committee in 2020 and 2022.
You've also got Tom Cole, the elder statesman who might be considered more of a caretaker for the job of House Speaker because he is 74 years old -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd reporting, thanks very much.
We are keeping a very, very close watch up on Capitol Hill right now as House Republicans are now confronting the historic decision to boot their speaker. More breaking news coming up right after this.