tv CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto CNN November 14, 2018 7:00am-8:00am PST
>> 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 top national
security aid is only the latest indication of a white house in flux. sarah westwood is there at the white house. what is the status of the homeland security secretary whose firing is believed by some to be a done deal? >> reporter: there is potentially some significant west wing upheaval on the horizon starting with the deputy adviser. senior officials say she was in her office into the night. after the stunning statement from the first lady's office calling for her removal her exit from the national security council is seen as likely. as with everything in this white house, nothing is ever certain until it is in writing with the president. looming over that change is the potential departure of chief of staff john kelly. the president has considered several contenders to replace kelly should he go, one of them
being the chief of staff to vice president mike pence and a number of others inside and outside the administration. kelly's fate is seen as closely tied to that of another senior administration official, homeland security secretary neilsen. neilsen is a close ally of kelly's. we learned that the president has grown to view nielsen as ineffective on his key issues of immigration and border security. nielsen has told people she expects she could be fired any day now. the president is said to have made up his mind about that. any departures could come at any time or not at all. there is no way to know with this president. >> you mentioned mira ricardel. it's the first lady melania trump who went so public about ricardel ricardel.
>> reporter: people have been struggling to recall an incident where a first lady waited in. ricardel is said to have clashed with staff now for months. there are tensioned simmered below the surface. the first lady making a statement yesterday. it took a lot of people by the white house by surprise. she was in her office late into the night. she is not yet out at the white house. her fate is still unclear. >> thanks very much. let's go to phil mattingly on capitol hill where lawmakers are talking leadership and taking photos. tell us what you are seeing and hearing and the status of the leadership races. >> reporter: the photo ops are what everybody sees. it is what is behind the scenes that matters. the house democrats caucus is meeting for the first time behind closed doors since the
election. i am told that one member in the room is nancy pelosi, she received a standing ovation from the caucus members. does that mean she has the speakership locked up? not at all. it is the angling and everybody is paying close attention to how members react on the house and senate side. senate republicans and senate democrats having leadership elections behind closed doors. in a few hours house republicans are expected to elevate kevin mcrm mccarthy to be the minority leader. it is mostly in the house with democrats, how does nancy pelosi wrap up the votes she is expected to get and does the small group of house democrats who claim they can stop her from getting that position end up having the position to do that and having an alternative? there was one photo opthat i think drew particular attention. governor rick scott from florida who is still in an undecided
election showed up to hang out with the new republican members of the senate with mitch mcconnell. take a watch and listen to what happened. >> governor scott, do you contend there is fraud going on in florida? >> thank you very much. thank you. >> and that was my colleague who was asking the question. he often doesn't answer questions in cases like that. rick scott is here participating in orientation and membership and leadership elections as if he is the new senator. that is not finalized yet. his team and mitch mcconnell believe it is only a matter of time. we have to wait and see on that front. >> thanks very much. i am joined by molly ball and
mary katherine. it's not unusual for a president post mid terms to make some changes in his cabinet, in the white house. this one particularly broad, is it not? and as always it seems with this white house a little unpredictable. >> none of these changes have happened yet. it is hard to comment on the potential breadth of them. we know this president is moody and impulsive and there has been a high wait of churn in the white house. it has been a revolving door. i think one of the fears out there is that people could get fired and then nobody would take their place and that impedes the functioning of the government, not just the white house. we already have a white house that is quite dysfunctional in the way it operates. it could become more so as more positions get shuffled. >> folks have often talked about
moderating voices around this president. and that list of names is dwindling. nikki haley was one of them. she is going. the relationship with jim mattis in the defense department is souring. folks like neilsen, kelly, others, who will be the moderating voices if they do depart? >> i think if there is anything we have learned in the last couple of years, the moderating voices it is not a silver bullet here. i think that will remain the truth. the other part is that those who are in there doing that part of the job and trying to serve the problem and their morales are in an unorthodox situation and dysfunctional management situation. how long can you last there? it's a fair question. when it comes to the most latest really bonkers move by the first lady to sort of publicly
denounce somebody who has not lost the job -- it's hard to tell at any moment what is going to happen. i wonder if post mid terms he is feeling a little bit more in a corner and that is some of the reason for this. >> molly, how is mira ricardel the deputy national security adviser, the public statement from the first lady calling for her departure, how is she still in that position? >> she hasn't left. it is amazing to have this level of public acrimoin between the first lady staff and a national security official. that is not something you see at all. i think it raises serious questions about why the first lady is involved in this type of decision, what exactly her interest is in this beyond a personality conflict. we are told this is someone she clashed with over flights and so on.
it's a weird situation. it actually reminds me of the situation that jeff sessions was in for nearly two years where the president was publically taking shots at him and not getting rid of him. he was kind of dangling. the president had him on a limb dangling. it seemed like he was torturing him. >> a lot of folks have survived for months and months, years in sessions' case despite talk of their imminent demise. the president said we have a tremendous victory. since then the numbers have not looked as promising for republicans as he imagined. is it dawning on the president that it wasn't the victory he imagined or claimed and he is entering a different period now? >> he pitched a red wick. it obviously was not that. i think there was plenty that he could have talked about for
republican gains. i think the house many had acknowledged was probably gone. some of the senate gains are good and are worth talking about. this is a perfect example of what republicans are up against messagewise for the next two years. he stepped on any of the good news out of the election the next day by firing sessions that afternoon. there was very little to talk about even if there were victories. i think that is something that will stymie republicans for the next two years. >> thanks very much, as always. still to come, the appointment of acting attorney general is getting a boost from the justice department. we will have new details. all eyes on recount 2.0. election officials in florida say they will meet tomorrow's deadline. this as democrats head back to court in hopes of a delay. he was about to escape the wildfires when a nurse turned his truck around and drove back into the flames to help others.
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freshen up, don't cover up. febreze. we are learning new information just into cnn. president trump's appointment of matthew whittaker is constitutional despite allegations from some critics both republican and democrat according to justice department. he will be speaking shortly in iowa. laura, tell us what this legal counsel opinion says. how does it justify his appointment at acting attorney general? >> for days constitutional lawyers, professors, former
justice officials have been weighing in on the question of whether whittaker's appointment was constitutional mainly because he hasn't been confirmed by the senate. because the attorney general is a principle officer he would require senate confirmation. the justice department in a 20-page memo to the white house today says this is constitutional. this is valid. and they offer a variety of different justifications for it. stick with me because this is something of a legal rabbit hole. they say there is a statute called vacancy act which says if you are a senior enough official, you are at a certain senior level you can stay as the temporary appointment for 210 days. they say because whittaker was high enough here at doj his appointment is valid. they also say he is only serving
as the temporary in the acting capacity as attorney general. he doesn't have to go through senate confirmation. they go through a variety of different circumstances to support that. it's interesting, a senior d.o.j. official tells us that the president, i should say the white house actually asked for oral advice before sessions was ousted about whether this was okay. this had been in the works for sometime. the d.o.j. official declined to provide specifics about the details of the conversations and whether the white house was specifically contemplating whittaker or somebody else. they provided oral advice and this is consistent with that advi advice. whittaker is in iowa. he is there for an elder fraud conference today. acting attorney general fulfilling the duties. we haven't seen evidence that he will step aside.
there have been a lot of questions about whether he would step aside from overseeing the mueller investigation which is the main investigation on everybody's mind. >> we are seeing matthew whittaker taking the podium there at that event. is the office of legal counsel nonpartisan? >> it is full of career officials. the main person at the helm is a political appointee appointed by the president. it is full of many lawyers who had been there for years and years. it is viewed as an office that is supposed to be impartial. obviously, it is the chief legal interpreter for federal agencies for the trump administration. it is providing legal advice. their advice was going to be consistent with what the president did last week. we didn't think we would see an opinion saying this was unconstitutional. the office is posed to provide its best legal advice based on the law.
>> the question would be when he has the ability to make a judgment regarding next steps. thanks for following this. now to florida's recount. the battle heads back to a courtroom. democrats are asking a judge to set aside some state laws so the currently uncounted ballots can be counted. this as the state's election official says she is 100% certain she will meet tomorrow's deadline. rosa, so that deadline looks like it is going to be reached? >> reporter: at least here in broward county. that's what we are hearing from the supervisor of elections. she is confident about that. she did insert controversy yesterday when responding to reporters about a question about a tweet from jeb bush asking for her removal. she said she might step down. she was contemplating a lot of
things and would have to talk to her family about it. this has been a roller coaster of a recount here in florida with lawsuits, barbs, jabs. broward county is just one piece of this puzzle. we also have palm beach county where yesterday because of old machines that overheated that were malfunctioning they had to recount the recount. they had 176,000 ballots that had been recounted. they lost those. they had to fly in technicians. staff there are working 24/7 to make sure that they can meet that deadline. from the get go, the supervisor of elections said there was no way that she could do three recounts based on how the machines work in that county. the hope there was just to finish at least the senate recount. it is unclear at this point how the malfunction of these machines is going to impact the recount there. and then you have lawsuits. there is a slew of lawsuits, at
least one that you should know about. parties are in court today. there is a hearing in tallahassee. this is a lawsuit filed by the democrats. it alleges that the state law that requires that the signature of mail in ballots match with the signature on record is unconstitutional. and that's important because if the judge rules in their favor, that would insert thousands of ballots into an already very narrow race. the question is will that flip any of these contested races? >> quite a wide margin in those races. thanks very much. we have this in to cnn, chuck schumer has been reelected minority leader by fellow democrats in a meeting behind closed doors on capitol hill. president trump is looking to replace key members of his administration. who could be next? is all this turmoil all that different from past white
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elected minority leader. president trump on his way to shaking up his white house staff and cabinet yet again. sources telling cnn the president is eyeing several potential replacements at senior level positions including mira ricardel, the first lady called for her to be fired yesterday via public statement. in an unprecedented rebuke melania trump saying ricardel no longer deserved to be serving. neilsen has caught the president's eye over disagreements on border security. her departure could mean chief of staff john kelly could be on his way out. we have talked about this a bit before. it's not the first time we have talked about upheaval in this
administration. administrations after mid term elections in particular make moves. the range of this if it pans out -- again, there is a big qualifier because often the president will make signs about removing someone and not remove them. the range of this would be unprecedented. >> it would be par for the course for this white house. that is the first thing to understand that turbulence in what appears to be often chaos in lurching from one direction to the next is more common in this white house than is the opposite. there are always a few days and a few weeks and sometimes a couple of months where the president appears to be governing in a more conventional style. i think this is where he is most comfortable. i will say a move to replace his chief of staff possibly with nick aires where the current chief of staff is not a political animal, would make a lot of sense, everything being left out of the equation.
i think that would be a smart move by the president to have a chief of staff who has a good understanding of both the political world and the insider world. i think that makes a lot of sense. everything else as you mentioned while very normal for this president and i think it is more normal than not, is clearly creating a lot of upheaval in washington and probably has a lot of people in the government wondering who is next and when. >> there is a lot of opposition, is there not, within the white house staff to nick airs. the president has been told that. >> he has a lot of friends and enemies. he is sort of a polarizing figure inside the administration. as david said, he is politically oriented. the chief of staff job is going to be difficult for whoever gets it just like it has been for john kelly because their mandate will be to try to manage a president who doesn't like to be managed. that is what the job entails.
it's also managing a president who doesn't like to internalize blame. whoever is closest to him or whoever is trying to direct him is going to get the brunt of his criticism for anything he perceives as bad news for the administration. the president is clearly in a bad mood. i think the double whammy of the mid terms and the mueller investigation seeming to rev back up have clearly gotten inside his head. the trip to europe probably didn't help any. you know, when he gets angry, he tends to lash out. that can fall on whoever is sort of within his radius. >> david mentions the questions. he spent more than ten hours answering written questions from the special counsel robert mueller. he claimed a tremendous victory in the mid term elections expanding since election night.
is the president coming to realize that the next two years will be different from the first two years in terms of investigations, not being able to push legislation through congress with republicans controlling both houses? is that the realization here? >> i think it is hard to tell because in one sense he seems to have embraced split power on capitol hill saying he thinks he can negotiate with democrats. having democrats in charge of the house is not a result he wanted or one that will necessarily help him does give him a foil and a possible angle to triangulate. i think the reason we are seeing so much of his aggressive personality is because he is now in cycle. presidents always do what they think works until it is proven it doesn't. even though it didn't work out so well for his party in congress in the mid term elections it still hasn't impacted him.
i think because he is running for reelection and because you have democratic chair men in the house hit his white house with subpoenas and requests and all sorts of demands, i think you will see him as aggressive as he was in the 2016 campaign. that will continue through the next election unless there is a change of course that he deems necessary because he sees data that he actually believes is telling him to change course. >> thanks very much. several democrats on capitol hill with a warning for nancy pelosi saying she will not have the votes to become the next house speaker. is that actually true? we will ask the lawmaker who plans not to support her. that's next. ♪
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we are await ag moment on capitol hill. the newest members of the house of both parties will gather for a class photo there on the steps. incoming freshman democrats have a high pressure task ahead. they will have to decide whether to support nancy pelosi for house speaker. ten new incoming members have said they will not vote for pelosi. two incumbent democrats say they are 100% confident that pelosi will not have the votes to be speaker. pelosi told dana bash she is certain she will win. >> i have a broad base of support in the country, financially, politically and otherwise which is valuable to our caucus.
none of us is indispensable. some of us are better at our jobs than others. >> one of the members of the house who says they will not vote for pelosi is the democratic congressman brian higgens from new york state. he joins me now. thanks for taking the time. >> glad to be with you. >> reporter: two years ago you saw 63 democrats challenge pelosi's leadership. in the end most of them did end up voting for her. why is this different in your view? >> i'm not a social member of congress. those that do say she is a good person and a person of integrity. the issue is after 16 years of the same leadership we need a new direction. that is what people voted for this november and what people are looking for in the new congress. >> as you know republicans tried
to make issues -- >> and democrats gained close to 40 seats. why do you think her leadership during this cycle was negative rather than positive? >> because congress is the most powerful branch of the federal government and the most powerful branch of that is the house. the house is under performing. we talked about lowering prescription drug prices for 20 years. prescription drug prices are at a 20 year high. you want to help people, let them by medicare at 50. you watch how quickly private insurance will change their behavior. it is just utilizing the power that you were elected to exercise. i don't want to defer to a leader. i want to get great to regular order. that is getting the power to the individual members in the traditional role. we have broad jurisdiction over
many issues that could change the direction of this country and the communities from which we come. >> let me ask you this because when you have a split house there will begin to be some talk of cooperation across the aisle. you know the state of the relationship between the two parties right now. are there areas of potential cooperation between the democrat controlled house, the senate and the president? >> i think lowering prescription drug prices, allowing people medicare at age 50 because medicare is always covered preexisting conditions. how about nation building here at home? we have spent over $200 billion in the last 20 years rebuilding the roads and bridges of iraq and afghanistan. let's invest a trillion dollars to create $11.5 million, 192 jobs a month to rebuild the infrastructure of america and put americans to work.
this, what is going on here is congress has been under performing. they had been marginalized. they have been marginalized by the white house. it is congress that has the constitutional power to make a bu budget and make laws. there is a reason congress was dealt with in the first article of the constitution. >> let me ask you this just from a political perspective realist ecally, can you see a large number of house members voting along with republicans for a bill supported by the president? is there political incentive for them to do that, do you think? >> last march i was with the president. we talked about infrastructure. he went on for a good 10, 15 minutes about how we should fund infrastructure in a more traditional way. he was probably told by the house speaker at the time that there withant the votes for it. he advanced a bill that wasn't a
bill as evidence by the fact that there was no house or senate bill to support it. i think the president wants to do a trillion dollar infrastructure bill that is financed in a traditional way. you will see great economic growth that can exceed four percent. last time we had four percent economic growth we had a surplus. >> congressman, thank you for taking the time this morning. >> thanks for having me. we do have a live picture of the new members of your house of representatives, republicans and democrats, dozens of them in this cycle. they will gather for their class photo before they get into the hard business of choosing leadership positions including the question of whether nancy pelosi will be speaker of the house. we will bring that to you live when it happens. i think it will fit. ♪
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these are live pictures from capitol hill there as the new members of both parties in the house of representatives taking their class photo as you look there. there are a lot of firsts in this incoming class. the first native american woman, first latina from the state of texas. it's a tradition every year they take the photo. very soon they will have to get to the hard work of choosing who their new speaker of the house is going to be as democrats take
control of the house. we will continue to follow the horse trading happening behind the scenes as they make that decision. in other news, the death pole is climbing to at least 50 people in the california wildfi wildfires. this morning, residents in the southern part of the state are facing a new wildfire, the so-called sierra fire started overnight east of los angeles. you can sigh firefighters using bull dozers trying to fight the flames and create barriers while thousands of other firefighters battle other wildfires across the state. those are the three big ones. those fires have destroyed more than 230,000 acres, thousands of homes like these. first responders are also dealing with more high winds, low humidity in the forecast. that means more fuel for the fires. most people were driving away
from the fires. an icu nurse in paradise, california was driving into the flames. allen pierce used his truck. his truck was briefly trapped by the flames but after he was freed pierce did not head for safety. he turned around and drove back to the hospital. you can see the scorch marks on his truck. allen pierce joins us on the telephone. thank you for joining us. what a remarkable act of bravery. what made you do it? >> i don't know how brave it is to get trapped in a fire. heading back to the hospital, that seemed like the safer thing to do at the time. when i got there, there were other team members trapped in the fire. we headed back to the hospital.
they set up the triage to take care of them. >> goodness. i'm sure there were easier things you could have done. when you got back to the hospital, how many people were you able to help? >> it was probably closer to 20 that showed up with fire. there was fire crews there, law enforcement, medics, nurses and hospital doctors that could make it out. we set up a small triage emergency hospital using the training that we have had for this and just a combination of preparedness and improvising, breaking into the hospital to get equipment, iv bags and equipment and medicine and be able to treat the patients that were coming through. >> we have been showing pictures that you took from inside. it just seems you are surrounded
by the flames. you recorded a good bye message to your family. you must have been frightened. >> i think the word is terrified. i stayed calm, but i was terrified. >> what did you tell them? >> you have seen the pictures. the fire was right there. i told them things like i'm trying my best to get out of here. if this doesn't workout, i love you all. i was just thinking of my family and friends. i knew my wife and children were safe. that took a lot of the fear out of me where i was able to keep my head about me. that made it easier when i was at the hospital helping people that i didn't have to worry about them. >> it had to be terrifying to leave a message like that. we have been showing pictures of your truck, the lights melted,
the sides burned, blackened. we understand toyota heard your story and will get you a new one. >> they are. i still have been driving that every day. that truck is still working just fine. the rear passenger door is welded shut. it mostly works. mechanically it is working just fine. >> it is a remarkable story. thank you for what you did there. not a lot of folks would have done that. >> i think anyone i work with would have. >> take care of yourself and we hope the community recovers quickly. >> thank you. coming up, secretary of defense james mattis is set to arrive in texas any moment now. more on his visit to the u.s./mexico border. that is next. for strength and energy! whoo-hoo! great-tasting ensure. with nine grams of protein and twenty-six vitamins and minerals. ensure. now up to 30 grams of protein for strength and energy!
this morning the u.s. defense secretary jim mattis expected to arrive in texas to visit troops stationed at the mexico border. president trump announced a plan to deploy as many as 15,000 troops to the border states of texas, arizona and california this in response to the migrant caravan. barbara starr is following the latest. how has the pentagon justified the thousands of troops along the border? >> reporter: what the pentagon is saying is they are doing this at the behest of the administration which wants the military support for border control authorities who are leading the mission to stop people from coming across the
border seeking asylum in crossing points that are not legal. that is the stated mission that the u.s. military is in support. they are trying to harden these points at which they think the migrants may try to cross. in texas where secretary mattis will be this morning and later today, there is a big question if any migrants are going to show up. right now we know that there are some migrants way to the west trying to cross near tijuana. in texas there is no indication of migrants headed that way. there are caravans deep in mexico. this is hundreds of miles away. so it's raising the key question. the barriers have been put up. what do all of these hundreds of troops in texas, what do they do now because they are only there for that mission and to support
border authorities. >> have you spoken to officials in the pentagon who fear that they were used here for a political stunt premid terms? >> i think there is no question that any military person -- some of them have said this very privately -- knows there were political overtones to this. there was the rush to get all of these troops. there are about 5,900 of them, nowhere near 15,000 before the mid terms. you heard president trump talking or tweeting about the threat of the caravans every day. that is all somehow just gone away. they used active duty troops because they have the authority to send them right away, not national guard. there is a political overtone to it. i think there is an acknowledgment of that. >> those guys are going to misthanksgiving with their
families. thanks to everyone out there for joining us. i'm jim sciutto. it's always good to have you with us. at this hour with kate bouldin starts right now. hello. this might be a little much for 11:00 a.m. do you know why it is called -- it happens on a pillow behind closed doors in private. do you know where that doesn't happen? in a press release directed from one spouse to another. that is exactly what is happening at the white house right now. the first lady of the united states through a spokes woman announcing to the world that one of the president's advisers should be fired. she says it is the position of the office of the first lady that mira ricardel no longer deserves the honor of