tv CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto CNN November 14, 2018 6:00am-7:00am PST
very good wednesday morning to you. i'm jim sciutto. poppy is off today. the president is on edge. the west wing on egg shells. the east wing on the attack. welcome to wednesday in the post mid-term trump white house. so far the deputy national security adviser who the first lady demanded be fired is still on the payroll at this hour, as is the homeland security secretary, whose firing is said to be imminent as well. in fact, kearseston. cnn joe johns is watching. joe, tell us about the fate as best we know it now of kooeirs
niels nielsen. >> reporter: this white house has been in continual, if you will, upheaval over staff almost from day one. the kirstjen nielsen unknown. the president has been known to change his mind. now, there is also certainly some question right now about the situation with the white house chief of staff john kelly. up teenth time perhaps that we have heard about the possibility of john kelly departing the white house. there has been some suggestion
that the president has been eyeing the chief of staff for the vice president strimike pen. it has been said that he was planning on keeping john kelly around here at the white house until at least 2020, the end of the president's first term. so a lot of balls in the air. and we're waiting to find out what the president says next. >> yeah. i suppose one lesson of the trump white house is that folks can be on the plank for months and months. jeff sessions was until he did finally go. what about the deputy national security adviser? this one particularly unusual because of the clash here between her and the first lady. >> absolutely right. she is somewhat a personality here in the white house. we got this extraordinary
statement coming out of the first lady's office yesterday, suggesting that ricardel no longer deserves to serve in the white house. we have gotten some background on why that extraordinary statement came out. apparently the first lady reached out to the president five or six times to express her displeasure before going public with that statement. back to you. >> thanks very much. joining me now kate bennett. so this feud between the first lady and ricardel, how did we get here? >> reporter: it appears to have started in the trip to africa. she was not able to go on the trip. there was not room for her.
and then withholding of resources for the trip. there have been stories about ricardel planting or leaking stories about mrs. trump's staff members and mrs. trump herself. what was a dispute over logistics and operations became it sounds like quite personal. that's when the first lady felt she needed to get involved. certainly there have been other stories about mrs. ricardel. it seems as though she has sharp elbows in a sense. when it comes to her staff, the first lady's office is relatively tiny compared to other modern first ladies, melania trump gets very defensive of them. this is something she flagged to her husband, the president, a number of times. she may have mentioned it to
john kelly that this is someone she wasn't approving of and there was bad stuff going on behind the scenes perhaps that he needed to be aware of. although, she works for john bolton, so this was something that the president had to consider with mr. bolton. and, therefore, melania trump took this rather surprising step. >> yeah. rare public statement, too, with the national security official. with me now former white house press secretary for bill capitol hill ton and former white house spokesman under president george w. bush. first, alalex, if i could begin with you, there have been powerful first ladies in the past. hillary clinton, nancy reagan. how unusual is it for a first lady to so publically go after but the deputy national security adviser, very powerful position in any administration? >> i think it is unprecedented.
i can't think of any other first lady that has publically attacked the president's staff in the way that mrs. trump did yesterday. certainly in george w. bush's white house, i can't imagine laura bush attacking one of my former colleagues in the bush white house. so what's amazing to me, too, is that the staffer is still in the white house. how do you show up at work the next day if the first lady of the united states issues a statement saying that you don't deserve to work in the white house? clearly, this has to be dealt with asap. i would be shocked if this hasn't been resolved in the next few hours. >> i wonder, as you are watching this, and again after mid-term elections there is often a shake up. people come. they go. this is a president's right. what's unusual about what the president seems to be vowing here? is it just the scale of the potential shake up? >> i think shake ups,
reshuffling at the end of the midterms are not only hard but they're good. these are grueling jobs and periodically bringing in fresh blood makes enormous sense. but this is unlike anyone has ever seen. it is just nuts that the president's wife, who does not have a foreign policy portfolio is demanding that someone get fired publicly after apparently saying to him privately five times and then turning up the public pressure. i think it is also dangerous. i don't know the inner workings of this nsc. but the deputy national security adviser is like the glue that keeps the apparatus together. let's assume for a moment that this woman is doing a good job of doing that. she's not going to lose her job because the first lady is mad at her about how many seats were on a plane or something like that. that's dangerous when you start subordinating the national
security adviser of this county to these petty fights. and to do it in public is unseemly. >> i wonder who the moderating voices are likely to survive in this administration. you would often say, well, there is nikki haley. she's on her way out. jim mattis seems to be a souring of the relationship there between the president and his defense neck sar. ke kirstjen nielsen. >> in fairness, there is hundreds, if not thousands of people that work directly for the president. and the vast majority of them are very, very good at their jobs. i'm friends with dozens, if not hundreds of them myself. many of them have worked for other republican administrations or republican members of among and are much more traditional
republicans, as you would. so i'm not too worried about who is whispering with the president's ear or how the administration is being staffed. i do think it is curious that he fires people without a clear line of succession in place. why let nikki haley go and weeks later we don't know who the nominee will be to be the un ambassador. same at the justice department. i'm glad that he hasn't fired his chief of staff or the homeland security secretary yet in part because i assume that there is not somebody ready to go in those critically important jobs. so i think the president has every right to shake up his white house, especially given the midterm results, but i do think he should hit pause and knows what he's getting if he removes the people that are currently there. >> joe, it seems, and you hear this quite often, that the only two people whose jobs are secure, 100% secure, are ivanka
trump and jared kushner. this has become a reality in this administration, that he has two family members in that upper echelon of white house advisers. what does that mean for this country, that those family members, they're the ones with the job security, in effect, and they're the ones who arguably do have the president's ear to a degree that others do not? >> yeah. i think there is a reason that we have nepotism laws. there is a reason that traditional white houses going back to democrat and republican don't do that. i mean, i imagine that, you know, these good public servants that alex just referenced have to find it very difficult that they have to do the best public policy they can. but they have to understand at the end of the day it is what jared and ivanka want. two people that got no votes. it gums up the works when you
have multiple hierarchies of how decisions are made. there is a reason that family members should stay on the outside. they can still advise, but it does not help the running of the government to have two close family members with those portfolios wandering around the government imposing their will. >> thanks very much. >> thank you, jim. still to come this morning, a big day on capitol hill with big decisions that must be made about leadership positions for both parties. the real battle among house democrats with some saying that nancy pelosi does not have the votes yet to be speaker. plus, the president's legal team could submit his written answers to the special counsel's questions any day now. could a trump/mueller sitdown follow? stunning images out of california where the death toll continues to climb as firefighters battle a new threat. we're on top of that story.
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in florida the recount battle is underway and back in the courtroom today. democrats asking a federal judge to set aside some state laws that currently uncounted ballots can be counted. the recount deadline will be denied. joining me now is the tallahassee bureau chief. thanks for joining us again. just to be clear for folks at home who have been hearing about this every day and wondering what's happening here and can this change the result, what the democrats want are ballots postmarked before the polls close, ballots with mismatched signatures to be counted. are they likely to get all those demands approved by the judge? >> i'm skeptical, jim, but i
have covered this judge for a long, long time. and his name is mark walker. he's a barack obama appointee. he's known for strongly worded opinions. he two years ago said it was obscene that florida didn't in the -- in the donald trump election, that florida didn't have a system to fix their mismatched signatures. what he is asking that same judge today this afternoon is to basically count all those votes. we're talking thousands of ballots. my colleagues and i have started doing the math. doesn't seem like there is enough of those to swing the election in nelson's favor even if they all went for the democrats. >> i see. because the current margin is 13,000 votes. do any of those things potentially add up. if it's not just the mismatched signatures, but the ballots marked before the close of the
polls. if you put all those together, is there a chance that would shift the margin? >> it still feels like it is too short. we don't have a comprehensive 67 county spreadsheet of all these numbers. florida, like most states, highly desensitized. everything is done at the county level and certified by the state later. i think that nelson has a glimmer of hope with this issue of the voter intent standard for disputed undervotes and overvotes, which will begin to become a bigger issue in the next couple of days. that is canvassing boards looking at these defective ballots, trying to divine what the voter intended. you add up some of those votes, it could get nelson closer. >> would that be someone that didn't fill out the bubble
entirely? what is the voter intent question they would be facing? >> sure. hypothetical illustration is a voter initially votes for rick scott in the senate race. then strikes a horizontal line through rick scott's name and then instead of filling in the oval circle's nelson's name. the guide book in state administrative rules, the guide book says you count that as a vote for nelson. then you will be hearing about the magic words, which is the state rule requires voters for a disputed ballot to count, the voter writes on the ballot something like, i meant this one, or vote for this one, words to that effect. so this is going to get bogged down. this happened during the presidential recount where after about a week everything moves into courtrooms around the state. >> yeah. >> and we're starting to see that here right now. >> final question: how long can this drag out potentially before
there is a final decision? >> well, this election is supposed to be certified, done at 9:00 next tuesday morning in tallahassee. one of the things we're hearing is there is a possibility that nelson could prevail and get the deadlines extended. it seems unlikely, but anything is possible. palm beach county supervisor susan booker has had machine problems. she may get an extension. >> right. >> but if there is no extensions, you know, the final ball loss, the final vote tally has to be in tallahassee sunday afternoon. >> got it. >> and certified on tuesday. >> it wouldn't be election day in florida if there wasn't a little problem. >> a little? >> just a little. thanks. i know you will stay on top of it. now to georgia's race. a federal judge has blocked
georgia's secretary of state, brian kemp, from certifying results by friday so election officials can review thousands of ballots rejected because a voter's name was in and out found on the voter registration list. cnn has not yet projected a winner in the race. kemp is leading by significant margin there. abrams hopes that she can force a run off on december 4th. now we go to capitol hill because it is picture day on capitol hill. lawmakers from both parties are together for leadership talks and those class photos. while they will be all smiles for picture time, major questions hang for this congress. will nancy pelosi be speaker again? can this divided congress get anything done? let's go to phil mattingly. phil, what are you hearing from lawmakers as they get ready for
these big photos but also these big leadership battles. >> reporter: right now aids and lawmakers think it is likely, but they know for a fact she doesn't have the votes yet. that's a behind the scene list. we are going to get an answer to your second question, who is going to be the republican house leader. by all accounts it will be kevin mccarthy. he will be elevated based on a closed door vote today. your third question, is anything going to get done in the new congress? i'm not willing to make any predictions on that right now. still very up in the air. what's interesting about what's happening right now is whether you have a leader mccarthy, speaker pelosi. all of these things happening are really going to decide what happens in the next congress. something else to keep an eye on, senate majority leader mitch mcconnell will meet with his new members. included is expected to be florida governor rick scott. his election hasn't been
certified yet. but republicans say not only is rick scott in town, will be participating, but they are acting as if he is a newly elected member of their congress. when i asked why, they said they don't think there is an opportunity for bill nelson to win. we will have to wait and see on that. >> how can you do that if the election has not been certified because these are after all legally mandated recounts. sorry. as we're speaking, phil, this is the photo of those new gop senators. and, look, there is rick scott. rick scott not yet certified the winner of that senate seat, but he is right there on the left shoulder of the senate majority leader. so he, the senate majority leader, republicans believe he is the new senate from florida. let's have a listen. >> we welcome our six new republican senators that allowed us to continue our majority. and we'll be heading across the
way here shortly to elect the leadership team for the next two years. >> governor scott, do you still suspect fraud going on in florida with the recount? >> all right. thanks, everyone. thanks, folks. thank you, guys. >> there you go. you saw reporters asking questions of the current florida governor rick scott there. how he's standing there as the new gop senator of florida when that race is contested, no winner certified. notable in that group is mitt romn romney, new senator from the state of utah. phil, just we were talking about this just before the class photos started there. but how do republicans reconcile just the fact that rick scott has not yet been certified and there is a legally mandated recount underway? >> reporter: they say it is not
dictated by what's going on in florida right now. and mitch mcconnell has decided and made clear that he believes rick scott will be elected. eventually will be the next senator and as such sure participating. look, as you noel, anything can happen over the course of the next couple of days as this recount goes through. republicans do feel confident that rick scott will be the next senator. i also think there is a posture here that the majority leader wants to send across and that probably rick scott's campaign that he is the elected senator in their view and therefore he is going to take part in all of the activities that any newly elected senator would. right now that's the posture they have and that's where the leader certainly stands right now. >> phil mattingly on the hill, thanks very much sglrchlts still ahead, as president trump contemplating shaking up several senior positions in his administration, a report is giving new insight into his mood
and temper over the last several days. we will talk to the journalist behind that story. a quick check on the markets before the bell on wall street. futures are down. the dow closed down 101 points after another turbulent day. could be more losses today. stay with us on that as well. ♪ introducing e*trade personalized investments professionally managed portfolios customized to help meet your financial goals. you'll know what you're invested in and how it's performing. so you can spend more time floating about on your inflatable swan. [ding]
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president trump is moving toward a major shakeup in his cabinet and west wing and he is apparently not hiding his anger and frustration. the new washington post article saying there have been five days of fury. this is a week where things could get really dicey. imagine that. joining me now, one of the articles co-authors, also a cnn political analyst. fascinating piece. walk us through the list of things that is upsetting the president in these last several days. >> right. so the president when he left friday on the way to paris grew frustrated on the phone with theresa may who called him. he was brooding about the midterm elections, concerned about the iran nuclear deal, brought that up with several world leaders and saying they have not done enough with iran, reasoned about robert mueller
and essentially in a bad mood the entire time. what we saw was a pretty tense meeting with the french president, an out lash at his staff over the botched cemetery visit and that publicity he received. a tense call obviously with theresa may and now the chance of a staff shakeup. the president is still in the throws of figuring out what he wants to do. but this is upheaval in the west wing. >> the president has spent a number of hours with his lawyers answering robert mueller's questions. what portion of his frustration can be attributed to that? because our understanding is the president doesn't like to answer those questions and spend time with his lawyers doing that. >> well, he certainly tends to get angry when the mueller probe
comes up. he said repeatedly he thinks it is a witch hunt. he december likes how much it went into the white house and his private life and he prepped questions, four or five hours with his lawyers. this is entering a pretty pivotal stage and something that always tends to flare-up with the president, the frustrations with the mueller probe. >> what did officials mean saying things could get dicey in the coming week? is that speaking specifically to the number of white house officials, cabinet officials who might be on the way out? >> that's correct. there was a time last year, i don't know if you remember, there was a ten day stretch or so in july when reince priebus was out, sceveral people have likened it directly to this time. the president is itching to make changes. he sees the midterm as a natural point to rejigger his cabinet and west wing staff and is ready
to make some moves. this president is uncomfortable with personal conflict. he's relegated firing to john kelly. it remains to be sceeen how quickly he will do this. there could be a lot of changes coming. >> final question. of course, the president claimed the morning after the tuesday midterm elections, a tremendous victory. since then, number of house seats more than appeared would be the case that night have gone the democrats way. not as bad a setback in the senate for them as well. i'm sure the president would never admit this. but is it your reporting in private he is realizing that was a setback for him, the midterms? >> it seems to be dawning on the president there is a new reality. it seems to be hard to get money for a border wall. they are trying to hire more lawyers were over sight.
that's been an uneven effort at best. there really is a new dawn there where a lot of these cabinet officials will be under scrutiny. i think the president realizes things may get difficult in the next few months for him. so there seems to be some realization of that. but even in private, the president has not conceded that it was a bad day for republicans. in fact, he's almost done the opposite. he said if it wasn't for me, it would have been worse. i kept the senate, these house seats. i did everything possible to keep them in play. this is not a president that says he takes blame. even in private he rarely takes blame for anything. >> yes. truer words never spoken. at least 50 people have died from wild fires burning now across california. just the images are incredible. you see them there. firefighters are now facing yet another threat. what makes this simple salad
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the death toll keeps rising in california. this morning, residents there are facing a new wild fire threat. sierra fire started just overnight, just east of los angeles. firefighters in bulldozers are trying to fight off the flames while other firefighters battle over deadly wild fires in the states. in malibu the fire is still fighting. what do we know about this fire? how big is it and what are the conditions today? >> reporter: jim, this fire is big enough to get its own name. it is called the sierra fire. at last word it was 147 acres and firefighters say they have a decent handle on it despite the fact these winds continue to be a problem. as for the woosley fire, well, it got a breath of fresh air
yesterday. literally winds kicking this fire up into high gear. we know from new pictures this morning there were flames and a whole heck of a lot of smoke in those hills. in fact, a lot of people have been allowed to go around their homes. well, they had to turn straight back around and get out of there when that new fire or the fire sparked up again. it has chewed through 97,000 acres already. it is 40% contained. here you can see it really doesn't get much worse for them. their houses have been absolutely levelled. some people are allowed to come back on the eastern edge of malibu. but where we are they are still under evacuation orders. i ran into a resident yesterday. he came back to survey the damage at his childhood home where his parents still lived. his parents are 97 and 95 years old. they had a lifetime of things
collected. thomas was looking for a sterling silverware set that he managed to find in just a big blob that had been melted, despite the destruction, despite his parents' age, he says they plan to rebuild. listen. >> we're survivors. we will come back and take whatever insurance money they had and clean it up and rebuild it, nicer than it was before. i told my dad this and he said, you can't make it nicer than it was. >> i'm sure a lot of people are feeling the same way. there are red flag conditions in effect for today. they're in effect until later this evening. >> so many lives to rebuild. scott, thanks very much for staying on top of it. president trump could soon be handing over his written answers to robert mueller's questions on russian collusion. will he sit down face to face
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president trump and his attorneys are expected to finalize his answers to the special counsel's written questions regarding russian collusion. the president and his team met monday to go over those written answers, the take-home test as we call it that could be sent to robert mueller in days. but will the president sit down in person for an interview with robert mueller and answer questions about a separate issue, possible obstruction of justice. first on this idea of a take-home test, in your time as
a prosecutor, did you ever submit written questions as part of an investigation? >> no. it is extremely rare to do it this way. i have dealt with hundreds of cases. i never once issued written questions. i never even thought about it, never heard about it. i think what mueller is doing is carefully choosing his battles. it is one thing for me to subnormal people, but this is the president of the united states. you have to be careful. he will be locked in in black and white. can't waffle about it. if he lies in those written answers it is perjury or obstruction of justice. but the big battle is where they will end up on the obstruction battle. >> that's key. these questions are confined to collusion. but that does not mean that the question of obstruction of justice is settled. that subject to written questions or face to face questions at a later date. >> that's going to be round two. the big question from mueller's perspective is will he issue a
subpoena to the president? now, that's complicated now by matt whitaker taking over because the regulations say it needs to be run through and approved by the attorney general. there has been reporting already that matt whitaker is hostile to the idea of a presidential subpoena. >> he could kill the mueller's subpoena to the president on questions regarding obstruction of justice? >> yes. if the ag finds that it's inappropriate or out of normal practice, if ag can overrule it. the ag has to log those and report to congress, which makes it all the more important that the democrats control the house. >> if he does that, is there any appeal to that process, or is his decision final? >> i don't believe there is a way mueller can say, you and i disagree. i'm taking it the chain. there is nowhere up the chain.
this is the attorney general. >> put on your legal prognosticator cap here. as you look at the activity here, including finalizing the answers or at least the president finalizing the answers to the questions, it is not your sense this is i think there is plenty more to go here. we know that manafort is cooperating. it is certainly something will come out of that. michael cohen seems to be on the brink. i think it is only a matter of time before he signs the paperwork and pleads as a cooperator. you have to turn all that into charges. i think we have a ways to go. >> i know you will help us stay on top of that. the nra is sparking controversy after telling doctors to stay in your lane
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doctors to stay in their lane. medical professionals immediately struck back with how results of gun violence effect them every day. joining me now is the emergency general surgery director at johns hopkins and a gunshot survivor. thanks very much for taking the time this morning. >> thank you very much for having me. >> you, your colleagues, you see the blood. you see the victims and the families of victims every day of gun violence. when you heard the nra attack you so personally -- i will repeat this language -- someone should tell self-important gun doctors to stay in their lane. how do you respond to hat? >> when you hear that type of communication it really tells me, the rest of the medical community and americans all across this country that they are not serious about moving the needle forward on this issue.
and day in and day out, we have patients that are coming into our trauma centers that are being injured and killed. and so that type of rhetoric is not helpful. anyone that understands how complex a problem this is will realize that this requires stakeholders from all walks of life to participate in order to move it forward. >> do you see in particular the effects in the e.r. of powerful weapons like the ar-15s or automatic high caliber handguns? i imagine you get a view of just how damaging those particularly powerful weapons are. >> you know in our trauma centers all across this country, we see the full spectrum of injuries, anything from handguns to the ar-15s to shotgun wounds. depending upon the type of weapon used, sometimes the
injury pattern can be different. i think something that is very important to kind of point out is the mass shootings get a lot of the highlight here. they are less than two percent of the problem. we have young black men that are being killed every day in cities like baltimore. so we have the possibility and the responsibility to ensure that their stories are heard and ensure that we implement common sense solutions to make communities safer all across this country. >> you call it as others have who study this issue, you call it a public health crisis and that we should as a country deal with it as a public health crisis. explain that. >> if you think about what a public health crisis is, it is complex health issue that occurs in different geographic areas throughout the country. when you look at what we have done in other similar problems like motor vehicle fatalities, for example, in the '60s and
'70s we didn't get rid of cars. we came up with seat belts and air bags and made roads safer. it is about time that we take this issue on and deal with it like the public health crisis that it is. >> as i mentioned in introducing you, you as a child were a victim of gun violence. you have a personal experience here that i imagine helps motivate you. >> well, correct. when i was 17 i was nearly killed after being shot in the throat. i think having that perspective as being a former patient and now a provider, it really kind of puts me in a unique situation where i can relate with a lot of my patients and my families. i will just tell you, there is nothing worse than having to go out to that waiting room and talk to the families of these loved ones and tell them that their family member is not
coming home again. >> i can't imagine in those moments the burden on you. thanks very much for what you do. >> thank you so much for having me. >> take care. top of the hour now. the story of the hour, comings and goings in washington. the winners of last week's mid term congressional races are meeting their colleagues and learning the way around the capital all while several house races and two senate races remain undecided. more elections loom. each party is choosing leaders in each chamber for the incoming congress. house republicans set to become the minority come january are choosing their leaders. house democrats who have to pick a speaker will keep us in response for two mo suspense. a breath taking call from the first lady's office for the firing of a