tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN November 13, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
michael cohen, meets with mueller's team. so what does mueller want to know from the president? . on the outs, mr. trump is weighing a white house shakeup, possibly replacing multiple officials and in a truly extraordinary move the first lady, melania trump, publicly call for one senior official to be fired. unconstitutional. tonight president trump is facing multiple lawsuits including one from cnn over the decision barring our chief white house correspondent and others challenging the president's controversial appointment of matthew whitaker as the acting attorney general. line of fire, historic and deadly infernos raging out of control in california fanned by hurricane-force winds. tonight the death toll continues to climb in the state's worst fire disaster on record. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world many i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
♪ this is "cnn breaking news". >> we're following multiple breaking stories swirling around the white house tonight, including president trump and his lawyers reviewing written questions from the special counsel, robert mueller, about possible collusion. at the same time the president is said to be weighing replacing some top officials, and in a stunning move the first lady, melania trump, has publicly called for one of them to be fired. tonight, the president and five top officials are facing a lawsuit brought by cnn over the decision to suspend the press pass of our chief white house correspondent, jim acosta. i will talk about all of that and more with senator ed markey of the foreign relations committee. our correspondents, analysts and specialists are also standing by. cnn's brian stelter has details of the lawsuit. we will have much more on that in a moment. first, let's go to our senior white house correspondent pamela brown. a truly remarkable move by the
first lady of the united states. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. an extraordinary statement from the first lady about a top national security aide, mira ricardel, saying she no longer deserves to serve the white house. and around the same time the statement came out, ricardel was seen as a ceremony with president trump. >> the united states has deep ties -- >> reporter: late today mira ricardel was seen with the president at his only public event at the white house. tonight she was ousted from the west wing, fired from her role as deputy national security adviser after drawing the ire not of the president but of the first lady. in a rare rebuke tonight, the first lady demanded ricardel, john bolton's deputy, be fired, saying in a statement she no longer deserves the honor of serving this white house. ricardel recently feuded with the first lady over her trip to africa, arguing over seating on the plane and national security council resources, once source tells cnn. the sources say the president is considering potential
replacements for other senior positions, both inside the cabinet and the white house. >> we are looking at a lot of different things, including cabinet. >> reporter: the potential shakeup could include chief of staff john kelly and secretary of homeland security kearse sten nielsen. at the white house today, the president ignored questions about staffing changes. >> thank you very much, everybody. >> reporter: are you planning to make staff changes at that level? >> reporter: the president is said to be unhappy with secretary nielsen's handling of immigration and border security and could ask for her resignation in the coming days, multiple officials familiar with the matter tell cnn. the president's angst today was not just reserved for his own team. trump trolling one-time close ally french president emmanuel ma crone, launching a barrage of incendiary tweets, stating that the french will starting to learn germans before the u.s.
came along, pay for nato or not, and threatening to impose new tariffs on french wine. it charges big tariffs whereas the u.s. makes it easy for french wines and charges very small tariffs. not fair. must change. mr. trump's frustration with friends and allies come as he continues to be dogged by the special counsel's russia probe. cnn has learned that the president met with his legal team over the veterans day holiday to go over questions from mueller's team. the questions focus on colluding with russia but not obstruction of justice, part of an agreement with mueller's team to move forward according to a source. the president is once again meeting with his legal team to go over the questions from robert mueller's team, and a source familiar says the plan is to give those answers to those questions back to mueller's team within the coming days. now, as for ricardel, cnn has reached out to her for comment and has not heard back, and there's still confusion here at
the white house, wolf, in terms of what her future is, a source telling my colleague jeff zeleny that president trump has made the decision to fire her. other official says there are no personnel changes to announce and she is still in the office. we will have to see how it transpires. >> thanks very much. let's get more on cnn's lawsuit against president trump and other top white house aides for suspending our correspondent, jim acosta's pass. a hearing has been set for tomorrow before a judge. brian stelter is joining us. what is the latest? >> reporter: the judge in this case, timothy j. kelly, was assigned earlier today. he has given an 11:00 a.m. deadline to file any response they might have to cnn's lawsuit. then there will be a 3:30 p.m. hearing in the u.s. district court in washington. so we are seeing this kind of epic battle for press freedom shaping up because both cnn and
acosta have sued alleging first and fifth amendment violations. the first amendment violations involve freedom of the press, the idea that according to cnn acosta is being discriminated against based on his content, based on his reporting, based on his work at the white house. the fifth amendment violations that are alleged here involve due process because there are rules and regulations for how the secret service hands out and then revokes press passes, and those regulations were not followed in this case. so both a first amendment and a fifth amendment argument, and those arguments will begin in court tomorrow afternoon. >> brian, how is the white house preparing to fight this lawsuit? >> reporter: we've heard from sarah sanders today, one of the six defendants, she says cnn is just grandstanding by suing and she says the white house will vigorously defend this case. here is a portion of her statement where she talks about how acosta was asking too many questions and being too aggressive at last week's press conference. she says the white house cannot run an orderly and fair press
conference when a reporter acts this way. if there's no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the president, the white house staff and members of the media to conduct business. that's the new words from sarah sanders, but the explanation or the rational for revoking acosta's credential has shifted over the past week. initially last wednesday night the claim was that acosta had placed his hands-on a white house intern. you will remember the intern came over, tried to take the microphone away and acosta kept asking questions. well, obviously acosta did not mistreat the intern. everybody saw the video, we know what happened, but sanders posted a distorted video apparently taken from info wars in order to argue acosta acted inappropriately. she is not claiming that anymore. you will notice in today's statement she is not saying acosta placed his hands-on anybody, instead she is just saying that he tried to hog the mike and wouldn't let other reporters ask questions. as you know from your time at the white house, lots of reporters ask lots of follow-ups. it is normal at the white house.
>> that's what reporters do. thank you very much, brian stelter, working his sources on all of this as well. let's get more on the president and his lawyers reviewing robert mueller's questions about possible collusion. our political correspondent sara murray is here with us. sara, mr. trump's responses to mueller could be submitted in the coming days. what comes next after that, an actual sitdown q & a between the president and his team? >> certainly i think mueller and his team would love to have a sitdown q & a but it probably is not in the cards. it depends how soon they hand the questions over and how mueller's team feels the answers compare to the interviews they have done. the president is saying he would love to sit down with the special counsel, he would be fine with that. the reality is that he and his legal team seem to be doing everything possible to avoid putting president trump in a room with robert mueller or his investigators. >> we know that the president's long-time fixer and lawyer, spent a decade working with then-private citizen donald
trump, michael cohen, he spent hours with mueller's team yesterday, a federal holiday, going over who knows what. but i assume the white house is concerned about this? >> well, i mean who knows what? like you said, we know michael cohen has obviously been cooperating with investigators, not only investigators in new york but also the special counsel's office. the big concern i think for the white house has to be what else does he still have to offer information on, is there another shoe to drop. obviously what we saw when michael cohen was in court in new york about the campaign finance violations was a very big shoe, wolf. >> interesting development today. jerome coursey, long-time associate of roger stone and a trump adviser over many years, he said yesterday he expected to be indicted by mueller. he said he would have much more to say today on his internet radio or youtube program. he didn't show up to host the show today. what are you learning? >> reporter: well, this i think the dance you do when you are expecting to be indicted. we saw him go out and say he is expecting an indictment.
he said he would continue to host his web cast all week long. he also has been trying to do a number of interviews throughout the day today, but his lawyer is trying to put the kibosh on all of these things. his lawyer wants his client to be quiet, which is what any lawyer would want their client to do in a situation where they're awaiting a pending indictment from the special counsel. today when it comes to the web cast, it seems his lawyer may have won. we will see what tomorrow brings. >> every day is dramatic. democratic senator ed markey of massachusetts is joining us. he is a member of the foreign relations committee. thank you for joining us. what do these developments tell you right now about where robert mueller's investigation stands? >> well, it is clear that the white house is stonewalling on the one hand. they don't want to answer questions. in order to make sure that that is successful, they're trying to have whitaker take over at the justice department, and consistent with his promises in
the past, his prejudicial comments in the past to defund the investigation, to severely limit the scope of the investigation, all towards the goal of making sure that the american people never get the answers to what happened in 2016 in any potential collusion between the russian government and the trump campaign. >> you're clearly very concerned about the new acting attorney general of the united states, matthew whitaker. he has already taken over for jeff sessions, who is out of there. what can you do realistically about that? >> well, there is going to be a bipartisan effort to attach a bill to must-pass legislation so that mueller cannot be, in fact, fired without cause, that he would have an ability to have judicial review of whether or not that had happened, and that all of the documents are actually preserved so that the house and senate judiciary
committees would have access to them. so that effort will be made over the next couple of weeks on the floor of the united states senate, and so we intend on doing everything we can to make sure that whitaker is not brought in as a political hatchet man to destroy the mueller investigation before the american people get the answers that they have been waiting for. >> but do you think your republican colleagues would vote for such legislation protecting the special counsel? >> well, over the past year they have said that they want to maintain the integrity of the mueller investigation. they have said that they respect mueller, so this will be the mome moment, where obviously trump does not want that but yet, again, the integrity of the united states senate is on the line. will republicans stand up with democrats to ensure that this investigation is not short circuited for political reasons, because that's why whitaker has been given this job. >> let me give you a reaction,
senator, to the very strong and public statement from the first lady calling for the departure of the deputy national security adviser to the president. have you ever seen anything like this, a public rebuke of such a senior official by a first lady? >> this is unprecedented, wolf. this just shows how dysfunctional this white house has become, where the first lady is publicly tweeting that she wants someone on the national security team to be fired. there's a way of handling this, but that's not the way to do it. we have far many more important things that we should be talking about today, the north korea nuclear crisis, the russian/american nuclear crisis, what is happening to the rohingya in burma and bangladesh. instead, this is what we're he a talking about, just another dysfunction in the white house. >> our correspondent, jeff
zeleny, has reported she has been told for all practical purposes she is fired but they're letting her clean out her desk before she is escorted out of the white house. we expect the president to ask kirstjen nielsen for her resignation and others could be forced out in the weeks to come. how concerned are you about the stability in the white house administration? >> it is the prerogative of the president to appoint cabinet members, but we have to step back and see it is being done in the context of this dysfunctional atmosphere that has been constructed. so i'm afraid that what this president is now doing is going in and just taking out people that may have had slight disagreements with him, and doing it in a way which is unpresidential on the one hand but on the other hand just sending the wrong signal to the rest of the world about the stability of our federal
government. >> senator markey, i know you are on the foreign relations committee. i want to ask you about north korea right now, these reports that it is operating more than a dozen undeclared military bases. the president responded by saying and i'm quoting the president now, we fully know about the sites being discussed, nothing new and nothing happening out of the norm. he went on to say, i will be the first to let you know if things go bad. you say the president is getting played by kim jong-un. what do you see happening? what do you want to see happen? >> well, "the new york times" report is definitive. it is using the csis investigation. the north koreans are still manufacturing new fissile material, nuclear material. they're still manufacturing new nuclear weapons, they're still building new ballistic missiles and the capacity to deliver those weapons potentially to the united states, but for sure to that entire pacific region. so the president is just being
taken for a ride by the north korean government. the new normal for north korea is they just continue to build nuclear weapons and missiles, they enhance their trade with china and with russia, which reduces the economic pressure on them, and then they smile as the president of the united states contends we have won a negotiation in that there's no reason to be concerned about the north korean nuclear threat, which is absolutely the opposite of what is happening. >> senator markey, thanks so much for joining us. >> glad to be here. thank you. all right. the breaking news continues. a high-level white house official being forced out in a truly stunning way. the first lady, melania trump, called for her to be fired. what is behind this remarkable move? [man 2] proof of less joint pain... [woman 3] ...and clearer skin. [man 3] proof that i can fight psoriatic arthritis... [woman 4] ...with humira. [woman 5] humira targets and blocks a specific source of inflammation
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♪ breaking news tonight as president trump weighs a white house shakeup, the first lady, melania trump, took the truly extraordinary step of publicly calling for the firing of the deputy national security adviser to the president, mira ricardel. gloria, let me read the statement from the first lady's press secretary. it is the position of the office of the first lady that she no longer -- referring to the deputy national security adviser -- she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this white house. have you ever seen anything like that from a first lady of the united states? >> no, not publicly like this. i mean there should be a new tv show called "1600" or something.
i mean it just seems like a soap opera over there. this isn't the first time a first lady would get involved in personnel moves. that's been happening for decades and decades. i mean nancy reagan comes to mind, of course. but usually these things are worked through the white house chief of staff, the president of the united states. it is announced by the white house. it is done professionally. this was done with all of the aplomb of, you know, bravo and "housewives." i just can't describe it. i think it is absurd it was announced by the first lady's office. this is a woman who works on the national security staff. she may not like her, she may not get along with her. the reporting that we have is that there was trouble on the africa trip. fine, but she works for john bolton. she doesn't work for melania trump. >> you know, it is also a public shaming of this deputy national
security adviser, such a public rebuke by the first lady. >> absolutely. completely unprofessional, unprecedented, as you said, wolf. i think it is important for us to consider why would the first lady take this step. why not just work this out in private with her husband, with john kelly, the chief of staff? ultimately, the assumption we have to make is that either her efforts in private failed or she wanted to make this very public power move. either way, it is not the sign of a white house that is, indeed, a well-oiled machine as the president would like us to believe. there is a great deal of drama happening behind the scenes and we are now seeing that unfold in public. >> and -- >> it could be both that it didn't work privately. >> correct. >> and she wanted to have a public undermining, because who does it really undermine? it undermines john kelly, chief of staff who is responsible for running the west wing in a smooth way, and it undermines her husband, of course. >> and the national security adviser. >> of course.
and she is not doing it without the knowledge of all of them. >> sabrina, we are showing video. just before the first lady issued that statement through her press secretary, this deputy national security adviser, you see her highlighted there. she was at a white house event with the president, and she is smiling over there. >> you know, one thing that's also notable is that john bolton is currently traveling with the vice president in asia. so, you know, news of her departure is coming when he isn't even here to weigh in. it is worth noting, you know, john bolton was arguably one of the only allies she had left in the administration. now, i know a lot of the attention is on the statement that we saw from melania trump simply because it is highly unusual and she is a fist lady who kept a low profile, so it is a remarkable statement for her to have made. one thing about the depp any national security adviser is she also butted heads with white house chief of staff john kelly. she also clashed with the defense secretary, jim mattis. there was some scepticism that
within she was perhaps responsible for leaking some of the damaging stories about this white house. i think in some ways, sort of like kirstjen nielsen, there was talk that this was coming and then the first lady pulled the trigger. >> the slap that john bolton, the national security adviser, who recruited this woman to be a top deputy. >> that's right. one thing people might be missing is that the deputy national security adviser is one of the most important national security positions in the entire u.s. government. this is somebody responsible for helping implement and shepherd cabinet-level policy. this is not something you would expect the first lady of the united states to be weighing in on at all or for any of these kinds of critical personnel position, to be made based on who gets along and who likes who. it is unprecedented and astounding. >> it comes at a time, gloria, when other shakeups are
anticipated, the secretary of security, it seems like a long time ago, but the attorney general was fired six days ago. >> was that six days ago? >> yeah. >> look, it is very common when you start -- after an election the president says, i'm going to change my cabinet, i want new blood. we knew this session was coming. i think what we're seeing is this kind of dangling of jobs and decapitation, public beheadings, which is a little unseemly to me. if you are going to fire kirstjen nielsen, okay, just do it. let's not talk about it for three days. the woman has worked hard. she and donald trump clearly disagree with each other. he hasn't liked her for a long time. john kelly is defending her. so all we're doing here is the white house is kind of stirring its own pot here with the deputy national security adviser, with kirstjen nielsen. we had jeff sessions. there will be more. will mattis leave? will kelly leave? it is a television production, and this is what the president does. >> this is his pattern, right?
>> right, exactly. >> he did this with reince priebus. he called everyone around, who should be my chief of staff. this is how he likes to produce this reality show. >> and who watching this unfold would want to work in this white house? >> that's a great question. >> they're going to have to replace these people who are leaving or getting fired. who is going to want to work there? >> and to gloria's point, we have been talking about the prospect of kirstjen nielsen's departure being imminent for months now because it is clear that the president has soured on her and her work at dhs, but some of this is also her being a victim of unrealistic expectation. a great deal of the president's frustration with kirstjen nielsen has to do with what he believes is an insufficient job when it comes to enforcement at the u.s./mexico border. some of the expectations he has had that she could shut down, for example, the border or she can dramatically reduce the number of migrants who are showing up at the border to seek refuge, it is not within the control of any dhs secretary. so now i think the question is
who might she be replaced with and will that person perhaps, you know, amp up even more enforcement in the way that the president wants. but ultimately they're still going to face barriers because a lot of what he wants to do is simply not feasible and unconstitutional. >> take us inside the government right now. you worked at the national security agency. what is the impact of all of this, you know, tumultuous firing and these statements that are coming out? what's the impact inside the administration? >> yes, so this white house is exclusively oriented around personal relationships with the president. if the president likes you or not. if he doesn't like you, it is really hard to implement your policy. it is really hard to get anything done. president trump is a pretty fickle guy, so what we've seen as a result of that is this really unbelievable, remarkable degree of turnover in high-level staff turnover. that is really incredibly disruptive for the u.s. government. we focus a lot on kind of the palace intrigue elements of this, but these are people who hold important jobs, jobs that effect americans, jobs that affect our national security every single day, and every
single time we see this kind of churn, especially something that's unplanned, that's chaotic, that is not sort of a coordinated roll-out, it makes it that much harder for those individuals and everyone who works with them to do their jobs well. >> gloria, i know you have been doing a lot of reporting on this. how frustrated is the president right now, not only by the staff shakeups, but by what mueller is doing right now and the post midterm election? >> he is churning. >> he's accelerated his activity. >> he's churning. >> the president, the way he's been behaving since the midterm election, doesn't seem to be very happy. >> he doesn't, and as our colleague pamela brown was reporting today, his lawyers spent the day with him yesterday going over their written answers to questions about collusion that they received from the special counsel. so he has been -- he has been with his attorneys, which i'm sure doesn't make him thrilled because he has other things that he would like to do much more, but there is a lot, there is a
lot going on. and the distractions are distractions that he seems to cause, which i think is a problem for everybody inside the white house. it has taken a long time for his attorneys to even get to sit down with him, wolf, and we know that this is only about collusion. this is not about obstruction. we do not yet know whether the special counsel will require the president to actually meet with him face-to-face to answer questions about obstruction. they're allowing these written answers on collusion, but we don't know anything else that's going to transpire, and that clearly causes anxiety. you know how the president feels about bob mueller and you know that he appointed mr. whitaker, chris christie says, to put a button on the investigation. >> i can only handling inhow he feels about michael cohen, his long-time lawyer and fixer,
hours with mueller. >> probably nervous because he knows so much about him and his company and his campaign that he is possibly now likely sharing with mueller and his investigators. >> we will talk more about the mueller investigation. there are other new developments unfolding. let's take a quick break. we will be right back. hi, my name is sam davis and i'm going to tell you about exciting plans available to anyone with medicare. many plans provide broad coverage and still may save you money on monthly premiums and prescription drugs. these are affordable, all-in-one plans that help pay for doctor visits, hospital stays and emergency care. but they also include prescription drug coverage. in fact, last year humana medicare advantage prescription drug plan members
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counsel robert mueller's russia investigation. susan, what do you anticipate happening now? because the midterm elections are over, mueller is moving supposedly quickly to try to wrap things up. he's going to be getting, presumably, the written answers to his questions on collusion. where do you see this moving? >> so, a little bit reading the tea leaves here, it would not be surprising if we saw a number of indictments, you know, coming from this point. there's also reports potentially mueller is sort of in the final sprint in terms of authoring this report and deciding whether or not it will be shared with congress. you know, the issue of the written questions does put trump in a difficult position because there are questions that have been reported that mueller is interested in in which the president actually, even though he can sort of be careful in the written terms, there's no good answer for him. either he has to admit to something that is legally problematic or he has to not tell the truth or he has to admit to something that is going to cause him political damage. so even whenever we're in this really careful space of only
having to require response to written questions, this still is a really perilous thing for the president. >> but his team of lawyers are drafting the written answers. >> sure. i think the issue is whether or not the facts are on their side or not. certainly those questions have been very, very carefully designed in order to elicit precisely the information mueller and his team are after. >> there could be indictments as early as this week. jerome coursey said of roger stone that he expects to be indicted in coming days. >> certainly, all things have pointed towards the investigation focusing on roger stone and his associates. we also talked about how michael cohen sat down with investigators, and although his cooperation may have more to do with the campaign finance violations with respect to hush money, he also has intimate knowledge of trump's dealings. it is a perfect storm for the president, and i think in some ways some of the changes we were talking about, this shakeup, that's his way of sort of lashing out. it is also why some people are
calling into question the appointment of matt whitaker because it is a critical period. as more indictment it come through, it has been someone who has been critical of the investigation, not confirmed by the u.s. senate, and he will have the potential to rein in if not shut down the russia probe. senator jeff flake, in fact, just said he is going to try to bring this legislation to the floor tomorrow that is designed to protect special counsel robert mueller. he said there may be objections, and he is essentially going to force his republican colleagues to come out and object. otherwise, they do hope they could have a vote on the floor. >> david, matthew whitaker, the acting attorney general of the united states, now the state of maryland has said they're filing a lawsuit saying his appointment was unconstitutional. another lawsuit in missouri right now. how tenuous is his position? >> well, he's clearly going to fight for it. i think that is pretty clear, and the president seems poised to elongate this battle. so i don't know how tenuous it is because that means getting inside donald trump's head, but it is clearly problematic. the democrats who are about to
take over the house majority have made crystal clear this is going to be issue number one for them. >> susan, you are a lawyer. how serious are these lawsuits? >> i think they are serious, and they're certainly open legal questions here about whether it is a violation of the appointments clause of the constitution. ultimately, even if the government prevails it is an enormous legal headache, an enormous distraction for them and it was entirely avoidable if the president had just slowed down, actually spoken to his lawyers, found a senate-confirmed individual to occupy this acting position, he could have avoided all of this trouble. instead, he was so eager to fire jeff sessions, couldn't wait even 24 hours after the mid terms, and now he's ended up with a real mess on his hands. >> yeah, but he didn't want to avoid this. i think one of the reasons he didn't want to avoid this is that if and when mueller issues a report, it will be mr. whitaker who decides if it is redacted, if it is public, do we get to see it, who does it go to in congress, and the president, of course, would like to have none of this go anywhere and would like to have the whole
thing be kept under the hood of the car, right? and it seems to me just reading -- and, again, we are readi reading tea leaves here, but if we know anything about whitaker, we know how he feels about this investigation, and it would seem to me this will be the next big fight if mueller issues a report and it is redacted or it is -- or they try to keep it secret. >> but there's going to be a democratic majority in the house, so they can -- they have subpoena power to get what they want. >> maybe. maybe. i mean i'm not the lawyer here and i don't know how this would -- i don't know how this would play out, but it seems to me it would be a big constitutional question here about whether the congress deserves the right to open this up to the american public or whether because of privilege issues -- for example, it should be kept secret. >> what do you think, rebecca? >> well, a congressional fight i think is where this could possibly go, wolf. on the house side, you can count on democrats fighting this to the very end. the senate is going to be a road block though at every turn. sabrina mentioned the bill that
jeff flake is hoping to bring to the floor. mitch mcconnell has said time and again he doesn't think the senate needs to do anything to protect mueller, to act on any of this. and so republicans are still going to be pushing back as democrats try to protect this investigation and try to bring this out into the public sphere. >> you know, david, we got a special coming up later tonight, a little bit more than an hour from now at 8:00 p.m. eastern until 11:00 p.m. eastern. we are looking at what happened a week ago in the election because there are still several contests, key contests that are still too close to call. we will update our viewers on all of that. but, certainly, a week later the results look different than they looked that night. >> no doubt about it. i know you thought you were done last tuesday, but you will be a busy man this evening. listen, it is an opportunity for us to take a look because votes have been coming in non- stop. last night we learned that the democrat, sinema, won the arizona senate election. what does that mean? that means at best if they get
the recount they want and rick scott hangs on in florida, if they hang on to the mississippi senate seat, republicans at best have a net pickup of two in the senate. democrats may win 37, 38 net gain house seats. they won seven governorships, they won 350 state legislative seats and about a third of what they lost in the eight years of obama they made up in this one election. when you see the total of all of that that was not available last tuesday night, when you look at that you see the blew wave that swept across the country last week. we still have a georgia race to go and florida governor and senate race hanging in the balance. >> we will have a lot of coverage on all of that later tonight. there's more breaking news we are following. the death toll from california's record-breaking fires is climbing tonight. there's new fear that fierce winds will make things even worse. your insurance rates skyrocket after a scratch so small
♪ there's more breaking news tonight. the wildfires devastating large regions of california. fierce winds fanning the flames continue, and the death toll has climbed into the 40s. cnn's nic palencia is in the northern california town of paradise. nick, the community there has been virtually wiped off the map. >> reporter: wolf, the mayor here in paradise estimates 90% of the town is gone. despite all of the devastating
images we see surrounding us, we are hearing incredible stories of survival. four days after the camp fire ripped through this area, we met a man who chose not to leave and fight the flames on his own and he lived to tell about it. >> everything around us was on fire and we knew it was time. >> reporter: while everyone else in paradise was fleeing the fire, brad weldon decided to stay put at home and fight it himself. >> for the first few hours -- >> reporter: you're using this garden hose? >> in garden house, one out there, one in the front, one on the roof and one by the shop. >> how much help did you have? >> me and my 26-year-old helper, my mom's caregiver. >> reporter: inside, his 89-year-old mother norma weldon. >> here we go, mama. >> reporter: who is blind. she didn't want to leave. so the two men went outside to fight the blaze as it closed in on them. >> there was times we were laying on the ground pouring water ourselves so we didn't burn. >> reporter: was there ever a point you thought you were going to die? >> oh, yeah. quite a few. quite a few. >> reporter: four hours into
battling the blaze the garden house runs out of water and they use the above-ground pool. >> it is time to start running with five-gallon buckets and that's intense. you're already tired. >> reporter: who are you? >> i'm just an old man. i'm just an old guy, man. >> reporter: just an old man that wanted to keep his home from burning up. >> yes. >> reporter: he recorded cellphone video as his home began to burn. >> feels good to have it. it feels so sad for everyone though. everybody i know lost everything, and it is sad. >> reporter: the camp fire tearing through northern california is now the most lethal fire in state history, responsible for more than 40 deaths and now 30% contained. the woolsey fire also remains active in southern california, destroying 93,000 acres so far. in butte county alone, more than 1,500 welfare checks have been called in to officials from residents who cannot find their loved ones. brad and his friend mick mccrary
consider themselves lucky. >> we got a few loaves of bread. >> reporter: five days after surviving the blaze, they say they have enough supplies to last a few days. police told them if they leave to get more they won't be allowed to return. >> i'm not asking anybody for a handout. to be able to take care of myself. if they'll let me do that, we can live here indefinitely. >> reporter: brad says that there is a lot to be discouraged about but he's focusing on the positives. he is determined to see paradise rebuild and it was just a short time ago that we learned that the secretary of the interior is going to come to california to meet with those impacted and affected. those fighting the fire on the front lines. weldon says he wants the president to come. he says he voted for president trump and he says this is too big of a disaster for the president not to show up. >> thank you, nick. just ahead, we're getting reports of new troubles for a high-profile critic of the russian president vladimir putin. er.
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tonight, there's word of new troubles for one of russian president vladimir putin's high-profile critics. let's go to brian todd, who's working his sources. tell us more, brian. >> reporter: vladimir putin's top political enemy claims that he's been harassed again by the kremlin. this comes as another putin critic has compared the russian president to a notorious drug lord. tonight it seems vladimir
putin's top critics seem more emboldened than they've been in a long time. he's been roughed up at protests, arrested, detained scores of times but vladimir putin and the kremlin. tonight, alexei, putin's most powerful and famous arch rival said he's been barred from exiting russia. the opposition leader posted a picture of himself on instagram awaiting screening to the border control. he was trying to get to a human rights court hearing in france. analysts say despite all the harassment and threats leveled at him over the years, there's a key reason alexey navalny is still alive. >> in previous instances where he has been persecuted or detained by russian officials, there's been such a blowback in russian public opinion and protests that putin has been apprehensive and nervous about going through with it. >> reporter: tonight, another well known putin critic has
leveled a stinging broadside at the russian president. asked by "vanity fair" magazine if he'd compare putin to joseph stalin, american born financier said, i see him as a modern day pablo escobar. putin has no modern day ideology whatsoever. all he wants is money and to hurt his monies. escobar, the late kingpin of the colombian drug cartel was notorious for his thirst for blood, once blamed for blowing up a passenger plane to strike at his enemies. browder believes putin wants to strike at him and spoke about it when we interviewed him in washington. what are the security threats you've received in >> the russian government has made numerous death threats against me. they want to kill me. they'd like to kidnap me. they'd like to have me arrested and sent back to russia. >> reporter: putin even brought up browder by name at the helsinki summit with president trump, saying he might make russians available for questioning in the mueller investigation if russian
officials could interrogate browder. trump didn't push back. putin has a seething hatred for browder because browder pushed for the passing of the magnitsky act. >> i have found his achilles heel. i've created a legal mechanism to seize that money and he feels personally aggrieved and he has a vendetta against me. >> reporter: even with his critics embolden pd, one analyst believes the only person who can toss vladimir putin from power is vladimir putin. >> i don't think that putin is vulnerable to an overthrow from the streets, and i don't think that putin is, for the moment, vulnerable to some sort of coupe detat. >> we asked russian officials
for a response. an official here at the russian embassy in washington referred us to a previous statement calling browder a businessman with a stained reputation who putin has accused of stealing $1.5 billion from russia when browder was a financier there. an accusation which bill browder vehemently denies. >> and browder has eluded several attempt business the russians to bring him back to moscow. >> reporter: that's right. he has dodged six warrants seeking his arrest. in one incident this year in spain, spanish police apprehended him but he was released an hour later. he believes if he's ever extradited back to russia, it's going to be a death sentence for him. finally tonight, we have some breaking baby news. cnn correspondent sara ganham has a new daughter. how adorable. leyna was born saturday, weighing 6 pounds and measuring 19.5 inches. congratulations to sara and the new dad, danny, our former legal analyst.
all of us here in "the situation room" send our best wishes. look at how cute she is. thanks very much for watching. stay with cnn later tonight for election night in america continued. that starts in one hour, 8:00 p.m. eastern. "erin burnett outfront" starts "erin burnett outfront" starts right now. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com "outfront" next, a top national security official headed for the door after the first lady, in a stunning move, publicly called for the firing. why did melania trump issue this extraordinary statement? plus a federal judge granting cnn a hearing after the network sued trump over revoking jim acosta's press kcredentials. and alexandria ocasio-cortez. good evening, i'm erin burnett. "outfront" tonight, fired cnn reporting. president trump has decided to fire deputy national security