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State of the Union

Interview With Congressman-Elect Dan Crenshaw; Interview With Congresswoman-Elect Deb Haaland; Interview With Congresswoman-Elect Chrissy Houlahan; Interview With Stacey Abrams; Interview With Arizona Senator Jeff Flake; Trump To Campaign In Mississippi Ahead of Senate Runoff; Amazon's HQ2 Winners In This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired November 18, 2018 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Under pressure. President Trump denies reports of administration chaos.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very happy with the White House.

TAPPER: And says he's preparing to turn in his answers to the special counsel's questions.

TRUMP: I have answered them very easily. Very easily.

TAPPER: Is the investigation almost over? Republican Senator Jeff Flake is here.

And speaker showdown. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi faces a potential challenge to be the next speaker.

REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D), OHIO: Sometimes, you just need a different voice.

TAPPER: Will President Trump give Pelosi the boost she needs?

TRUMP: I will give her the votes to put her over the top.

TAPPER: We will discuss with three incoming members of Congress.

Progressive power? Democratic star Stacey Abrams loses her bid for Georgia governor.


TAPPER: But she vows to fight on. What might her loss mean for the progressive movement in 2020? Stacey Abrams will be here for her first national interview since the election.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is thinking about and praying for California.

President Trump is back in Washington after touring the utter devastation from the most destructive fires in the history of California. According to officials, there are at least now 79 people who have been killed and nearly 1,300 who are missing.

The president said the disaster does not change, however, his view of climate change. And he reputed a disputed claim, blaming forest management for the crisis.


TRUMP: I was with the president of Finland, and he said: We have a much different -- we're a forest nation. He called it a forest nation.

And they spend a lot of breaking and cleaning and doing things, and they don't have any problem.


TAPPER: The disaster in California is unfolding as the president faces mounting pressures back in Washington, including renewed attention on the special counsel's Russia investigation.

President Trump says he has now written down answers to some of Robert Mueller's questions and will submit them this week.

And new reports that the CIA has assessed that Saudi Arabia's crown prince likely ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The president says there will be a full report issued on Tuesday.

I want to go straight to Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona now. He's a member of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

And, in response to the news of the crown prince's likely involvement, as determined by the CIA, President Trump said Saudi Arabia was a -- quote -- "truly spectacular ally" when it comes to economic ties with the U.S., and he said that he has to -- quote -- "take a lot of things into consideration" before making a decision to hold the crown prince responsible.

Do you think economic interests of the nation with Saudi Arabia are more important, supersede holding the crown prince accountable for the murder?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: You know, values have to undergird our foreign policy everywhere.

And you cannot dismiss -- obviously, we recognize there's realpolitik, and you take the world as it is, rather than as you want it to be. But that would dictate that you have to deal with the truth here. And it looks more and more like the truth is that the crown prince was involved, that he likely ordered it.

So, to just deflect and say it's a spectacular ally, when, in fact, some of the bloom has been coming off that rose for a while, particularly given the war in Yemen. So, there are things that we're going to have to confront here soon. And I hope we do it based on the truth, not in something that we simply want to see because we have a lot invested in the relationship with the crown prince now.

TAPPER: What do you think the U.S. should do? Should the U.S. sanction MBS? Should the U.S. suspend relations with Saudi Arabia until somebody else takes over?

FLAKE: We have a report coming out on Tuesday. So, I don't want to prejudge that. I hope that we can get to the bottom of it by then.

Certainly, we ought to do what has been outlined in some legislation that's just been introduced, bipartisan legislation, that involves Bob Corker and others. It ought to involve what we do in Yemen. It's a horrible situation there. And the Saudis have not been making it better.

In fact, they have not done some of the commitments that they have said that they would do already. So, I think it would start with our involvement with them. We have agreed not to do any more refueling. But there are other things that the Saudis need to do immediately.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the Mueller investigation. You're saying that you will not vote for any further judicial nominations to go forward in committee or on the floor of the Senate until the legislation you co-sponsored to protect the special counsel gets a vote on the floor.

And, obviously, it was reported out of committee, passed the committee.

FLAKE: Right.


TAPPER: As of now, however, not one of your Republican colleagues, not Corker, Sasse, Collins, none of them, have joined you. Are you disappointed in them?

FLAKE: Well, this legislation was passed back in April. And it was on a bipartisan basis, which we don't often get out of the Judiciary Committee. It passed 14 to 7, including our chairman voting for it.

Since that time, we have processed 50, 50 judges. And then we need to do judges. We have done that on the floor of the House.

What I'm saying -- I'm sorry -- the floor of the Senate.

What I'm saying is, this has to be a priority now. We have a situation where the president has fired the attorney general and has installed and has given responsibility for the Mueller investigation to somebody who has not been confirmed by the Senate and somebody who has expressed hostility to the Mueller investigation. How in the world my colleagues don't see this as priority now, I just

don't understand. So it does need to come to the Senate floor. And I think it's worth using a little leverage here.

TAPPER: You're pushing hard for a vote on the Mueller protection bill.

Democrats, Chuck Schumer in the Senate, Jerry Nadler in the House, they're saying the best way to get a vote is to attach it to the year- end spending bill, which could force decision-makers to make a choice between allowing a vote or shutting down the government.

Are you in favor of that plan? Will you vote against the spending bill if it does not include protections for Mueller?

FLAKE: I would sure like it -- like to see it as part of the spending plan, because that will make it law. So, I hope that they continue to push for that.

But the first step has to be having this bill that has already passed the Judiciary Committee and is awaiting action on the floor of the Senate, to have that pass. And it will pass with a pretty big majority. If we can do that first, there's a far greater likelihood that it will be attached as part of the spending bill.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the recent election in Arizona, your home state. Earlier this week, Democrats picked up a Senate seat. You're going to be replaced by a Democrat, senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema...

FLAKE: Right.

TAPPER: ... for the first time in 30 years.

If you look at the exit polls, Republicans in Arizona lost ground among Latinos, among male voters, among college graduates, and among suburban voters, compared to President Trump's 2016 performance.

Do you think Arizona is winnable for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020?

FLAKE: Oh, it certainly is. I think we will see the same trends that we have seen elsewhere.

Arizona is still nominally a Republican state. We have a voter registration advantage of, I believe, still about 200,000 statewide. But you cannot run as someone who is just tied at the hip with the president and win statewide. Voters in Arizona are rejecting that.

And I think that we're seeing that elsewhere in the country as well. We're losing the suburbs. If we had a mass movement from the suburbs for people to move back to rural areas, then perhaps our Republican Party would have more of a future, but not the way that we're going now.

So I'm very concerned about where -- where we are in Arizona and elsewhere in the country. TAPPER: Let's talk about the Republican Party's future.

I have to ask because you made a joke at a -- at a dinner here in Washington earlier this week about -- about a future election in New Hampshire and yourself. I don't want to go into the joke, but you alluded yourself to potentially you running for president. And you have made no secret that you're considering running against President Trump.

When are you going to decide? When are you going to tell us in the media and the world what you're going to do?

FLAKE: Well, I have said all along that somebody needs to run on the Republican side, if nothing else, to remind Republicans what it means to be conservative, what being a conservative really means, and what it means to be decent as well.

I think that the future of the party is with people with an optimistic vision moving ahead. I don't think that will be me. I think there are better candidates out there. But somebody needs to run.

TAPPER: Who would you like to see run? Ben Sasse?

FLAKE: Well, there are names out there. I would love to see Ben Sasse. I'm not speaking for him. Obviously, I would love to see Ben run. John Kasich has put some things in motion.

I think there will be somebody. There needs to be somebody. And I have been to New Hampshire a few times. It's a great place to be in the fall. Not sure about the wintertime, but, anyway, somebody needs to run. Somebody needs to run.

TAPPER: It's cold in the wintertime. I will tell you that, as somebody who went to college there.


FLAKE: Yes, it is.

TAPPER: Jeff Flake, senator of Arizona, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.

FLAKE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Stacey Abrams says democracy failed in Georgia. What does she plan to do about it? She's here for her first national interview next.

And Congress is going to look a lot different in January. Three new members of the freshman class will join me live.

Stay with us.


[09:13:40] TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Two of the most closely watched and hotly contested midterm races are now over.

Late Saturday, Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, conceded the Florida governorship to Republican former Congressman Ron DeSantis.

And, Friday, Stacey Abrams acknowledged in a speech that Republican Brian Kemp will be the next governor of Georgia, saying that democracy failed her state.


STACEY ABRAMS (D), FORMER GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: This is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true, or proper.


TAPPER: Abrams is now planning to launch a federal lawsuit against the state for what she called gross mismanagement of the election.

And joining me now for her first national interview since ending the race is Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia Statehouse.

Leader Abrams, thanks so much for joining us.

You said that -- quote -- "Democracy failed in Georgia."

Obviously, you're referring to some of the messy process of democracy, as you -- as you called it, incompetence and mismanagement. But do you think that there was deliberate interference in the election?


And I believe it began eight years ago with the systematic disenfranchisement of more than a million voters. It continued with the underfunding and disinvestment in polling places, in training, and in the management of the county delivery of services. And I think it had its pinnacle in this race.


But, a few months before, in May of 2018, the Republican primary had to be called for a do-over because a number of voters did not receive accurate ballots.

We know that there has been a dramatic discrepancy in the way absentee ballots are both allocated and counted across the 159 counties. And so, yes, there was a deliberate and intentional disinvestment and I think destruction of the administration of elections in the state of Georgia. TAPPER: Well, let me ask you, because Kemp, when he was secretary of

state, did oversee a process in which 1.5 million voters were removed from the voting rolls.

Here in Washington, D.C., which is hardly a Republican stronghold, if you don't vote in the last four years, you're removed from the voting rolls, and I don't think anybody thinks that's disenfranchisement. That's just people being removed from the rolls because of inactivity.

What's the difference between what Kemp did -- and if you don't vote within three years in Georgia, you're removed from the rolls -- and what they do all over the country, including here in Washington?

ABRAMS: Maintaining clean voter rolls is absolutely appropriate, but the vigor with which he did so and the mismanagement with which he did so -- a perfect example is the 92-year-old civil rights activist who's lived in the West End of Atlanta for more than 40 years, has voted in every single election since 1968 in that neighborhood, and she was removed from the polls.

She went to vote, and her daughter had to take more than two hours to get her access to a provisional ballot. This is someone who has never failed to vote.

And so the problem we have is that it's death by 1,000 cuts. It's not sufficient to simply purge voters from the rolls for inactivity. He removed voters who were eligible. He also denied access to more than 3,000 new citizens who should have been added to the rolls, but he prevented them from being able to vote.

And the larger issue is this. Trust in our democracy relies on believing that there are good actors who are making this happen. And he was a horrible actor who benefited from his perfidy. That's problematic.

TAPPER: Take a listen to what Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said about your race just a few days ago.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: If Stacey Abrams doesn't win in Georgia, they stole it. It's clear. It's clear. Now, I would say -- I say that publicly.


TAPPER: So, Sherrod Brown says the election was stolen.

Do you agree that it was stolen? And do you think that Brian Kemp is not the legitimate governor-elect of Georgia?

ABRAMS: The law, as it stands, says that he received an adequate number of votes to become the governor of Georgia. And I acknowledge the law as it stands. I am a lawyer by training. And I am someone who's taken a constitutional oath to uphold the law. But we know, sometimes, the law does not do what it should and that

something being legal does not make it right. This is someone who has compromised our systems. He's compromised our democratic systems. And that is not appropriate.

And, therefore, my mission is going to be to make certain no one else has to face this conversation. Going forward, we are going to ensure that they are fair fights in the state of Georgia and that voter protection is more than a slogan, that it is actually a common cause that cuts across partisanship, because, as I said, there are Republicans who were harmed, Democrats who were harmed, independents who were harmed.

And that is wrong in one of the original 13 colonies, one of the founding blocks of our democracy. And I want Georgia to be better.

TAPPER: Is he the legitimate governor-elect of Georgia?

ABRAMS: He is the person who won an adequate number of votes to become the governor...


TAPPER: But that's not -- with all due respect -- and I respect where you're coming from, and I respect the issues that you're raising -- you're not answering the question.

Do you think...


ABRAMS: I am answering -- no, what I will not do...


TAPPER: You're not using the word legitimate. Is he the legitimate governor-elect of Georgia?

ABRAMS: He is the legal governor of Georgia.

And here's the thing, Jake. I want to be very clear. Words have meaning. And I have spent my lifetime not only as an attorney, but as a writer. And I'm very careful with the words I choose.

And, yes, when he takes the oath of office, he will be the legal governor of the state of Georgia. He is the legal victor.

But what you are looking for me to say is that there was no compromise of our democracy, and that there should be some political compromise in the language I use. And that's not right.

What's not right is saying that something was done properly, when it was not. I will never deny the legal -- the legal imprimatur that says that he is in this position. And I pray for his success.

But will I say that this election was not tainted, was not a disinvestment and a disenfranchisement of thousands of voters? I will not say that.

TAPPER: Well, just -- just to be clear, I don't have an opinion on what you should say or should not say. I'm just trying to get -- I'm trying to understand where you're coming from.

ABRAMS: Oh, I understand.

TAPPER: Are you -- are you at all concerned that your words this morning and in your speech Friday will undermine faith in the democratic process?

ABRAMS: Not at all, because the words I use are very specific.


We have had systematic disenfranchisement of voters. We have seen gross mismanagement of our elections. And we have seen an erosion of faith in our democracy in our state. Those are all true facts.

But these are all solvable problems. And that's why I'm proud to be an American. That's why I'm proud to be a Georgian. And it's why I'm taking up Fair Fight Georgia, because faith is not enough. We have to have action married to that faith.

And I don't believe that you are trying to cast aspersions or cause me to say anything, but what I am being clear about is that I'm choosing my words very carefully because words have meaning.

And we have to have leaders who will actually speak truth and not engage in political compromise for ease. We have to have people who are going to fight to make sure our democracy works for everyone, because there are Republicans who are going to win elections because of what we do.

There are going to be independents who finally gain a foothold because of what we do. And that is what's right in a democracy.

TAPPER: I want to just give you an opportunity to answer this, because this is going to be the big question coming out of this interview.

President Trump, based on no evidence, cast all sorts of aspersions on the election in Florida, and what was going on with the recounts and what was going on with the counts. He alleged fraud. He alleged theft. And he was criticized widely by Democrats and Republicans for doing so.

How is what you're doing any different from what he did?

ABRAMS: My accusations are based entirely on evidence.

We had four different federal judges in the course of a week say that what we witnessed was wrong and forced better behavior.

And what I'm simply asking for is another court to force even stronger behaviors, legal reforms that will guarantee that no one has to question the legitimacy of our election.

Dan Gasaway is a Republican who lost a Republican primary because they failed to adequately provide ballots that were accurate. That was under Brian Kemp's watch.

And so this is not something that simply affected Democrats. This is not partisan. The head of the Tea Party in Georgia, Debbie Dooley, pointed out the gross mismanagement of how we administer absentee ballots.

So, I agree with the Tea Party. I agree with Republicans. We have to do better in Georgia. I'm simply using this moment to lift up this call to arms.

But I'm going to do so in a court of law, not in the court of public opinion, because I want people to understand what was flawed, but then what can be fixed. And, fundamentally, that's what I do, try to fix the problems I see.

TAPPER: And, lastly, Leader Abrams, this was the closest race for governor in Georgia since 1966.

A lot of people wondering, are you going to run for office in the future, perhaps for Senate in 2020?

ABRAMS: I'm going to spend the next year as a private citizen, but I do indeed intend to run for office again. I'm not sure for what, and I am not exactly certain when. I need to take a nap.

But, once I do, I'm planning to get back into the ring.

TAPPER: All right, Leader Abrams, have a good nap. And thank you so much for joining us this morning.


TAPPER: We appreciate it.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

TAPPER: And we do hope that governor-elect Kemp will accept one of our invitations for an interview at some point in the future.

Coming up: a former Air Force pilot, a retired Navy SEAL with excellent comedic timing, and one of the only two Native American women ever elected to Congress.

I'm going to talk to these three new members of the most diverse Congress in history next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper. When Congress comes back in session in January, there will be at least 86 new members of the House of Representatives, the most diverse group ever elected.

And joining me now, Democratic congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland of New Mexico, one of the two first Native American women ever elected to Congress, Republican congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a former lieutenant commander in the Navy SEALs, and Democratic congresswoman- elect Chrissy Houlahan, a former Air Force captain who flipped the seat in Pennsylvania.

Go, Eagles. Perhaps the good luck that you -- the good luck you had will come to them as well.


TAPPER: So, you have all seen congressman-elect Crenshaw get attacked on "SNL" and deal with that.

Obviously, your colleague, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the congresswoman-elect from New York, has also been attacked quite a bit in her first week on the job.

A lot of people talking about civility, but things here in Washington and in the nation really seem nastier than ever. And I'm wondering if you think your class will try to usher in an era of cooperation, bipartisanship and civility?

DEB HAALAND (D), NEW MEXICO-CONGRESSWOMAN ELECT: Well, first of all, I feel like some people's definition of attacked is different than ours and what we have seen.

This week, we have all worked together extremely hard. We have -- it's been a very fast-paced week, orientation, going from one orientation to the next at opposite ends of the Capitol.

And I feel like we have all been very cooperative and actually quite civil to each other.

TAPPER: What do you think? You have -- you have been in the barrel, as it were.

DAN CRENSHAW (R), TEXAS CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: I echo that sentiment of, what does it really mean to be attacked?

My whole message last week was, was I really attacked? Was I really offended? That doesn't mean what was said was not highly insulting and should be addressed, but I don't need to feel attacked.

And I think that was the message we're trying to send. And the other message we're trying to send also is, just don't insult people. We can attack each other's ideas, but not each other as people. That's -- that should be the goal moving forward.

TAPPER: What do you think?


I, frankly, would like to see our orientation be more bipartisan. I would like to see -- maybe that's some thing that we can do in the future, where we bring ourselves together more frequently in an orientation way.


But part of my campaign and my candidacy was absolutely about the issue of decency and civility. I think it really is important to pull people together.

My part of Pennsylvania, my part of Philadelphia is really purple. It's 40 percent Republican, 40 percent Democrat, and 20 percent independent. And, to a person, we just want to see civil discourse come back and to talk about ideas, and not harass people.

TAPPER: And two of you are veterans.


TAPPER: And you're the child of a veteran. You were just at Arlington visiting your father's grave.

HAALAND: I grew up in a military household.

TAPPER: And so President Trump has just said on a different network that he should have gone to Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, but he was busy making calls, doing things for the country.

What do you make of all this? What do you make of the debate about whether or not he should -- he should have done more on that -- on that day? And does it matter to you?

HAALAND: Well, I went to Arlington on Veterans Day and -- to visit my father's grave.

And while there, I spoke to a woman who brought her folding chair and sat in front of her son's grave, seemingly for hours.

I want -- I feel like Americans might -- they have sacrificed. And so showing that you care about that sacrifice, giving respect to our fallen soldiers, I think, is an easy thing to do, especially if you live in the same city as the cemetery.

TAPPER: What do you think?

HOULAHAN: So, I, in addition to being a veteran myself, am third- generation military, and my grandmother and grandfather are buried at Arlington.

And so I tend to share your belief with -- I think it's important that our commander in chief respect the veterans and the people who have served our country so fundamentally. I also have four-active duty cousins right now. And so this is personal to me. But it also is about our nation. TAPPER: You, sir?

CRENSHAW: Well, I have been to Arlington multiple times to bury my friends. I have had least two funerals there that I have attended and gone back occasionally.

I also know that the president on a very personal level has treated those Gold Star families very well, and he has embraced them, and he's been very good to them.

I would have liked to see him at Arlington. But, again, I'm not offended by the fact that he didn't go. I understand that he does have a lot of things to do. I would have liked to see him there.

But, as veterans, I don't think it necessarily affects us that -- where he shows up to in a ceremonial fashion. What affects us is, listen, are you giving us a clear mission? Are you giving us the equipment we need to do it? Are you raising pay for the military?

He's done all of these things. That's what matters to me as a veteran.

TAPPER: You're going to have a big choice to make coming up with Nancy Pelosi. You have not said how you're going to vote.

You are a yes on Pelosi, right?

You're a no, I'm assuming.


CRENSHAW: Good assumption. That's a good...

TAPPER: But why have you not come out in favor of her or against her one way or the other?

HOULAHAN: So, listen, I wanted to back all the way up and say, I have enormous respect for Leader Pelosi and for the work that she's done in leading our party today and in the past as well.

I wouldn't be standing here, sitting here, unless people like her did the work that they have done. I sit on -- stand on her shoulders.

I believe that women in the Democratic Caucus made the majority. There were so many of us who were elected out of the 60 or so who we're bringing to Congress. We could have made the majority just with women alone. And I'm deeply appreciative for her for that work.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Leader Pelosi. I think it was yesterday. The days are blurry. So, it may actually -- may have been Friday. And we had a terrific conversation.

And I am actually fundamentally leaning towards voting for her. But I take this responsibility very, very seriously. There are a lot of moving parts in leadership and many decisions that need to be made, not just her election, but the election of other people's as -- people as well.

And I'm a deliberative person. And so I'm working hard to understand what all of my options are, how I can best serve my constituency.

And the last thing that I would say is, during that conversation that I had with her, we had a conversation about the fact that I'm putting myself forward for something called the DPCC, which was -- is basically the portion of our leadership that allows us to communicate the messages and the messengers.

And so I'm going to be hopefully one of three people who will serve her and that committee and all of us in messaging what it is that we'd like to convey about the House in 2020. And so I would like to be part of the solution in bringing the voice of a young generation -- relatively young for me -- and a very large class to bear on what we have learned in purple places like mine.

TAPPER: We're running out of time, but I do want to ask each of you one question, which is, first of all, what does it mean to you to be one of the first two Native Americans elected to Congress?

HAALAND: Right. Right.

Well, of course I'm deeply humbled that I have this opportunity. I was, oh, kind of -- I will tell you that, the other day, when I was walking across the capital to actually go take our freshman photograph, two young Native girls from South Dakota came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder.

Their mother came over -- it looked like it was a school field trip -- crying. And we hugged and took pictures.


I feel like, for every Native American child who has never, ever seen themselves represented in this body of our government, it means a tremendous amount to them. I know it means a tremendous amount to tribal leaders across the country to feel like they have representation, where they haven't before.

So, my state, New Mexico, we have 23 tribes in our state. I have three tribes in my district. And so I feel very confident that my experience will give me an opportunity to be that voice at the table.

TAPPER: Quickly, if you can -- and I want to have you all back in the future.

Quickly, if you can, being a veteran -- you're not the first veteran in Congress, but you're one of the most visible right now.

CRENSHAW: So, what's that like?

Well, it affects me in two ways, right? One is policy. So, we have a more -- a deeper understanding of national security issues, foreign affairs issues. I worked a lot in the intelligence community as well. So I will be -- I will be a competent voice for those issues. And on

a -- but, on a deeper level, first of all, it means we understand what leadership is, which is taking care of your people. Above all else, it's taking care of your people. It's inspiring people to be better.

And, also, it's an understanding that, when we work with our fellow veterans, we know that we both started off this career just trying to serve our country, before we got into politics. And that's a way to bridge that gap between us.

TAPPER: All right, well, best of luck to all three of you. And I hope to see you again. Thank you so much for being here.


HOULAHAN: Thank you. Appreciate being here.

HAALAND: Thank you.

TAPPER: Could Democrats win a Senate seat in Mississippi? Why some big names on both sides are suddenly rushing to campaign there. Coming up next.




TRUMP: You look at other countries where they do it differently and it's a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland. They don't have any problem.

And what it is it's a very small problem. So I know everybody is looking at that, to that end.


TAPPER: President Trump referencing the forests of cold and rainy Finland while touring fire damage in California, again seeming to blame forest management for the deadly fires. Let's discuss with our panel.

Michael, I want to point out the president of California's Professional Firefighter Association called President Trump's original tweet blaming this on forest management -- quote -- "ill informed, ill timed, and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the frontlines." Your thoughts?

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: As far as I can tell these fires have been ravaging California for millions of years. Forest management is a rather new idea in comparison.

But I really -- I watched the president on the ground there. I watched the Governor Newsom, the three of them walking and talking together, working together. I think -- I hope that they work together to try to resolve some of these issues, maybe resolve forest management issues.

But I would like to see is the bipartisanship and working to help the people who have suffered through this. I think that's what we should all focus on.

TAPPER: What did you think?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISER, MOVEON.ORG: Yes. Look, I think it was great that there was bipartisanship. They rose above the partisanship to do this.

And that's what governors should be doing and you're going to need federal and state to really help the devastation and the people who got -- who got devastated and many who got killed and lost everything. But the president has access to the entire U.S. intelligence community and he chooses to watch FOX & friends and peddle conspiracy theories and fake news, which is just -- completely not helpful to the folks who are fighting the fires, to the folks who are helping people and to the folks who lost everything.

And denying just basic facts, denying just the science is actually dangerous. It's a deadly thing to do, because we are in a time where hurricanes are stronger and fires stronger.

TAPPER: Thoughts?

MAJOR RICHARD OJEDA (RET.) (D), WEST VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: I think that anyone who can read understands that global warming exists and I think the days of having our elected officials hand out sunscreen on the capital floor when we have two inches of snow overnight needs to stop. People need to realize what's going on here. We need to really address the issues.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say we don't have to resolve the cause of global warming to stop the fires in California. I don't like Trump's words in his tone but he's right, forest management should do more. There's been a long debate between the conservation community and environmentalists in how to stop this.

You can do things like prescribed burns and thinning the forest, and cleaning up the brush in residential areas. They should be focusing on that. And I do not think it's helpful when U.S. interior secretary Ryan Zinke blames this is all on environmental terrorists.

They have to do better. There are issues. They need to push it.

TAPPER: Let's move on to politics because believe it or not, the Senate races are not over. There will be a run-off in Mississippi.

Republican incumbent senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is embroiled in controversy right now over some of the things that she said. She said they were jokes. Critics say she's making light of lynching and praising voter suppression. She disagrees with that characterization.

Take a listen.


CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI SENATE CANDIDATE: If he invited me to a public hanging I'd be in the front row.

And then they remind me that there's a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don't want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. So I think that's a great idea.


TAPPER: Not great audio. But what she said was in one reference she was talking about someone -- a politician, she said, if he invited me to a public hanging I would be on the front row. In another instance she said, then they remind me that there's a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don't want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that's a great idea.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that her lead has narrowed significantly. She's running against a former member of the Clinton administration, Mike Espy. Do you think that the seat is legitimately in play?

JEAN-PIERRE: I think it is in play now. I mean, that was -- Mississippi was a seat along with Arizona and Montana that Republicans thought they were going to win on election night. And they didn't win the two, Montana or Arizona. And now they have a runoff in Mississippi.


It really feels very much like Alabama. Mississippi is 37 percent African-Americans. I think that if Epsy just doubles down and does what Doug Jones did, which is go after the African-American base and focus on black women, he could actually win this. And this is amazing to say about Mississippi.

I do want to say one quick thing, there is a dark history of lynching in Mississippi, and what she said is so horrific and just sick, just like the NAACP said. I think 600, more than 600 lynchings were recorded in Mississippi, the highest of any other state. It was done to terrorize black people and to hear someone who is running for such a high office to say this is really just horrific.

TAPPER: If Mike Espy came to you and said how do I appeal to voters beyond the 37 percent who are African-American and the more progressive voters in Mississippi, how do I appeal to working class voters, perhaps white working class voters, what would you tell him?

OJEDA: I would say you have to go and meet these people. You got to put boots on the ground. You now, I mean, her comments that she made, especially where she made them, is unacceptable. I mean, you're talking about a person who says -- is supposed to be a leader. And her comments are just sick.

TAPPER: One thing that I heard speculated is that she is right now trying to get the percentage of the vote that went to Chris McDaniel, who's a very conservative Republican. I think he got about 16, 17 percent in the election. That she's running in his direction and that's why those comments were made. That's not her explanation, obviously.

CARPENTER: Her -- there's no explanation for it. It's a racist thing to say. I'm not from the south but I'm pretty sure joking around about going to a public lynching is not something people say.

CAPUTO: She also didn't say that.

TAPPER: She said public hanging -- public hanging.

CARPENTER: She said -- excuse me. What she needs to do is tour the new lynching museum that's down south where they show the horrific things that people went through in her backyard. As you mentioned, she's been around. She's been a U.S. senator for a long time, since she was appointed. And now this race will be a referendum on her comments.

You have 2020 hopefuls like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker going down there. Trump is going down there. And so we're going to have this rematch.

And as you pointed out earlier Republicans lost this before. If Republicans want to quit being accused of being racist, they have to stop saying racist things.

TAPPER: Do you think the seat is legitimately in play?

CAPUTO: I think so. Mike Espy by the way appeals very much to white voters. He is a very bright man with a lot of history of strong contributions in Washington.

But I'll tell you, her comments -- I mean, I go back to what Representative Crenshaw says about the outrage culture. We saw the same thing with DeSantis and Gillum. The first day out of --


CARPENTER: Why does this keep happening?

CAPUTO: I understand that this -- we have an outrage culture where you say something stupid, you're going to get grabbed (ph) for it. That's the way it's -- I think what we need to do is address the outrage culture but also at the same time Republicans have got to realize that there are cameras and recordings going on everywhere.

CARPENTER: It's wrong when someone says something so provocative that you blame the people who are offended.


TAPPER: What do you think?

OJEDA: I think that anyone who has that thought process, even has that in the back of their mind has problems.


OJEDA: We've got problems.

JEAN-PIERRE: It's racist.

OJEDA: That's right. That's exactly what it is.


TAPPER: We should mention you're running for president?

OJEDA: Yes, sir.

TAPPER: You ran for Congress. You came up short on election night but you're going to run for president.

Why? What do you have to offer the Democratic Party that they don't have right now?

OJEDA: Well, the Democratic Party is -- it's like -- it's like listening to Nancy Pelosi, were talking about someone that is the Goldman Sachs Democrat. I'm with working class. I support unions wholeheartedly.

I'm actually (INAUDIBLE) got there. When I retired from the military and came home, it was the things that I saw that told me I've got to get involved here. You know, when I have got kids in my backyard that have it worse than the children I saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, I cannot accept that. And, you know, I'm doing everything in my power to fight to make sure that we can have better. And I believe we can.

But let me tell you something, we're not going to do it by sending the same typical cookie cutter politician. We need somebody that's a working class Democrat not a Goldman Sachs Democrat.

TAPPER: Thanks one and all for being here. And I hope you'll come back and talk more with us about that.

Black Friday is just around the corner. But for Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, it's American taxpayers giving him the best deal. That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back. New York and North Virginia were the big winners of the Amazon's HQ2 hunger games or was the winner really Jeff Bezos?

That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER (voice-over): Amazonian king Jeff Bezos has decided where to expand his growing empire. How did he do it? Did he first ask Alexa?

Alexa, which politicians will demeans themselves the most by offering the most ridiculous incentives?

AMAZON ALEXA, VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: This isn't a conversation I'm capable of having.

TAPPER: Leaders across the land responded by promising billions of dollars of tax incentives and extraordinary benefits. New York governor Andrew Cuomo jokingly offered to change his first name to Amazon, Amazon Cuomo to please the king.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: This is a big money-maker for us. Costs us nothing.

TAPPER: New York can't even have a functioning subway but it offered a Bezos a magnificent helipad. Chicago made a special video for Bezos, a star trek fan narrated by William Shatner.

WILLIAM SHATNER, NARRATOR: Let's talk reinventions together Chicago.

TAPPER: The response set phasers on no, captain. Atlanta offered an extra train carriage on it's public transportation just for Amazon employees. Nope.

Columbus, Ohio said they would form a task force to prevent an unacceptable murder rate. Here is an idea. Why don't you do that anyway, Columbus?


Some cities such as Los Angeles were apparently so embarrassed they kept their offers to Amazon secret. Northern Virginia got the other Amazon site forming a whole new city called National Landing. I guess that's better than Upper Bezosia (ph). Wait until 2020 when President Trump sends the military there to stop the Amazon invasion, a clash of the titans that could reach Amazonian proportions.

JEFF BEZOS, AMAZON CEO: I'll keep my conversations with the president to myself.


TAPPER: Democrats made big gains on the state and federal levels in the midterm elections should the party tag left, right, center in 2020? That's next.