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INSIDE POLITICS

Stunning Result In Alabama Worries GOP About 2018; Haley: "Fight Against Iranian Aggression Is The World's Fight"; Farenthold Won't Seek Re-Election Amid Harassment Claims; Omarosa: I Saw Things In W.H. That Made Me "Uncomfortable". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 14, 2017 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:02] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans are suffering in the suburbs. Take a look at these numbers. And this one explains the Republican panic heading into 2018.

The President's approval ratings especially in the first midterm election often drive things. Thirty-two percent approve, 56 percent disapprove of the President in a new Monmouth Poll. That is a recipe for an anti-Trump wave.

And, who would you vote for, for Congress if the election were today. Look at this Monmouth Poll. A 15-point gap, 15-point gap. Fifty-one percent say they'll vote for the Democrat, 31 -- 36 percent, excuse me, say the Republicans.

Bringing the table -- conversation back to table. Lauren Fox is back with us. Most Republicans say if you have a 10-point generic ballot, that question there, where it risk of losing the House 15 points. Speaker Ryan is handing the gavel to Nancy Pelosi.

How do you fix that? How do you change that?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: I don't know but it probably has to do with -- it has to come from the top. This is all about Trump. And I was just talking to a Democratic strategist who worked on the Alabama race, and what they were saying is, that Trump is sort of a double threat here.

On the one hand, he is motivating the Democratic base like never before, particularly in a midterm. On the other hand, he's depressing Republican enthusiasm because so many Republicans have soured on him. That's absolutely what you saw in Alabama.

And the point that this Democrat was making to me was, the political climate is only likely to get worse for Republicans. So unless Trump finds a way to turn around the way he is perceived, that is really what is driving all of this and it's hard for the Republicans in the House and Senate to do anything absence of that.

KING: Yes. You were on the ground in Alabama. We know the President just can't process that. It's about Roy Moore, it's about this, it's about that, it's about anything but him.

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: So I went to Shelby County. I'll tell you about this. It's white, upper income suburb and I expect at the time voters who liked Trump but did not like Moore. What I found was voters who hated Moore but hated Trump just as much. They complained about him a lot. And that was part of it.

And you saw at least in the polls too where Alabama was won by Trump a lot, but in the exit polls as the people who turned out on Tuesday about 48 percent, this woo (ph) of Trump as well. So they didn't -- this is a much more, you know, electoralism doesn't like Trump which suggests next year, the turn out may be full of -- as Molly said, Democrats, Republicans who don't like Trump while Republicans who do like Trump stay home (INAUDIBLE).

I thought Shelby kind of told me, this is not just about Moore, but maybe about Trump in Alabama.

KING: That's a critical piece of the puzzle because you're talking -- just about a midterm map. It's not presidential election turnout. It's all about your base turning out.

Democrats are coming out and we saw that in Virginia, we saw that in New Jersey stunningly and largely African-American turnout in Alabama. But the other part of the calculation has to be the suburban flight. Leaving Trump's Republican Party to support Democrats, and then if you add in that third element, part of the Republican base stays home. Then you're looking at a race like 2006 or like the Obama midterms in 2010, where you're handing the speaker's gavel over.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, and let's not forge that Congress is not popular either. So Republicans who control both the House and the Senate are having to prove that they need to do something. And I think that's what this tax bill is obviously about. But they didn't deliver on Obamacare and I think that that is continuing to be a factor, compound that with the fact that a lot of Republican moderates don't care for President Trump and it becomes a very serious problem for Republicans.

KING: And you have a great piece in the paper -- in the Wall Street Journal about how, you know -- so a lot of people -- lot of Republicans are hoping people get the message. If Steve Bannon calls you and says run, please say no. You know, think about a establishment candidates, think about people who can win statewide. Don't make the Roy Moore mistake again.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes.

KING: But you and your piece, you quote, the type of allegations levied are not a common thing said Danny Tarkanian. A GOP challenger to Senator Dean Heller of Nevada. It has nothing to do with my race or move on to Mississippi. I think conservatism is alive and well and the grassroots are still expecting Washington to change. Chris McDaniel said in an interview, they are still demanding Washington to be changed.

Now, if you're Mitch McConnell, you are hoping that Mr. Tarkanian and Mr. McDaniel, said OK, for the good of the party, let's not have a bloody primary, I'm out of here. Not happening.

BENDER: No, that's definitely not happening. And it's definitely be the game plan from Washington Republicans to paint Bannon as a man alone here and this is his revolution and him as the problem. But the base is still there.

I mean, Rush Limbaugh was on the radio yesterday. He's not talking about the problem with Steve Bannon, he was talking about the problem with Mitch McConnell. And Bannon from his point of view, he's rallying the truth. I mean, he's a controversial figure, say what you want about him. But one thing that's undeniable is he is a very dynamic speaker, he motivates the troops kind of guy.

And that's exactly what he's doing right now. He's telling the folks that you just quoted in the story that to be ready. You know, that now like -- what the Moore race showed is that you have to be ready to beat the Democratic establishment and not the Republican establishment or play just as dirty as the Republicans or as the Democrats.

And he's telling all these guys too to -- that you have to be ready to face sexual stuff. You have to be ready to face these sexual questions. And, you know, you have to be ready and want to do this more than anything.

And we'll see if that kind of enthusiasm translates to the polls in some of these swing states, because I can say also that Republicans on the ground in Alabama -- the turnout surprised them as well.

[12:35:12] They were celebrating early. They had a number of vote count for Moore. Moore not only hit that, exceeded it. But then as we saw Tuesday night, the cities came in and took Moore's camp by quite a bit by surprise.

KING: Which is pretty much the same thing that happened in Virginia. If you look at the conservative places of Virginian, Ed Gillespie is like, OK, I'm doing OK. But then the urban areas and the suburbs came in and boom. And so, it's not just once which is why -- listen to Nancy Pelosi here.

If just one race, you say OK. But now, look, blue New Jersey, purple or leaning blue Virginia, ruby red Republican Alabama. Nancy Pelosi says, I can be a speaker again if, we Democrats, focus on the suburbs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: As you saw in Alabama, you saw in Virginia before that, suburban Republicans are in trouble, very serious trouble. If Republicans think they have a problem now, wait until they raise taxes on millions, millions of middle class families and hand a tax break to corporations to ship jobs overseas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: November 2018 is a long ways off, but the point she is making there is, if you're Barbara Comstock, just over the bridge here in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia or if you look at a map of the districts Hillary Clinton won that are held by Republicans, a lot of them are in suburban areas in the northeast and the midwest. They're targeting especially after these elections, says, what we thought was a long shot actually is, we have a chance.

BACON: I don't think it's about --

BENDER: Trump allies see that risk too, right. I mean, even Bannon who's putting up -- who's declared war on the Republican establishment is all focused on this now. He's not backing anyone in the House because he knows if his gamble doesn't pay off in the Senate and they lose the House, you know, the next question is going to be impeachment.

KING: All right, that's an excellent point if the House said our investigations and the like (INAUDIBLE).

BACON: I'm not sure like if the Senate candidates or that would matter. I mean, Moore was unusually bad obviously. But I think in general what we're seeing, Gillespie was establishment, he lost as well. So I think what's really going on is anti-Trump wave.

KING: right.

BACON: It may hit conservative Republican, a moderate Republican. Anyway, I think we're seeing a 2010, 2006 style wave at least where the issue -- people I talked are not talking about the tax bill or anything else. They're talking about, how much they do not like Trump. And these are moderate Republicans saying this.

KING: But is there anybody at the table who thinks the President will process that message and change his behavior in any way? You hear a lot of people, you know, complaining about the tweets, complaining about the tone. Just complaining about him.

I mean, Ross Douthat writing in the New York Times today, "No, there will be no course correction, only the Trump we've seen so far, the Trump who would rather have the GOP fall in ruins around him than give up on the feuds and insults and absurd behavior, the Trump who made Doug Jones our strange reality, and the Trump who is also responsible for the larger wave that's building for next fall."

And that is the fear of Republicans. Whether they're in politics, whether they're conservative columnist and the like. Because if you look at these numbers, the one thing about 2016 was to defied all the rules. But 2017 seems to be going back to a more traditional politics where we have a first term incumbent president and you have these horrible poll numbers and the Republicans think there's a wave.

BALL: Well -- and there is one caveat I would put on all of these is that, if part of the reason Republicans, particularly based Republicans are staying home is because they feel like they're not getting what they wanted out of Congress. They share Trump's frustration with Congress's gridlock and ineffectiveness. Maybe that changes if Congress proves that they can actually do something.

I think that's the hope of Republicans on Capitol Hill about the tax bill as Lauren was saying. Is that at least they'll be able to say to their base, we've got something done for you. If the question remains, you know, if those Republicans who stayed at home rather than vote for Roy Moore, do they decide that they can bring themselves to vote for a less offensive Republican candidate in 2018 or are they still so discouraged by Trump that they just decided it's not worth it.

KING: It's a great point and we should just make a note now and take that generic ballot 15-point advantage for the Democrats right now. If they pass the tax cut bill, let's see what it looks like in March, in April of next year and see if they holds up. Somebody remind me to do that, OK?

Up next, sexually demeaning language in fits of rage. A former aide speaks out and reveals stunning new details about alleged behavior by Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:43:44] NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The evidence is undeniable. The weapons might as well have had made in Iran stickers all over it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The United Nations Ambassador, Nikki Haley, front and center as the United States now makes the case against Iran. Today, Ambassador Haley presenting declassified evidence, military hardware and debris, all sum up it there. She says Tehran is leaning a lethal hand to Yemen's Houthi rebels violating multiple U.S. Security Council resolutions in the process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY: The Iranian regime cannot be allowed to engage in its lawless behavior any longer. The fight against Iranian aggression is the world's fight. The United States is acting today in the spirit of transparency and international cooperation that is necessary to defeat this threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Ryan Brown joins us live from the Pentagon. Ryan, a very unusual briefing, why? Why is the administration thinks it's important to do this now?

RYAN BROWN, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, John, Ambassador Haley attempting to shift the tension away from the Iran nuclear deal and towards some of Iran's other activities in the region. Most specifically, they're arming of the Houthi rebel groups in Yemen and they're supplying them of missiles, drones, and other weapons that they're using against Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia's allies there.

Now, again, they presented an actual missile which officials told me yesterday was the remnants of a missile that have been -- two missiles that have been fired in the Saudi Arabia, one in July and one in November.

[12:45:11] They also provided evidence of a remote controlled boat that could kind of target ships. They say both of these had clear markings and indications that they came from Iran, including logos from companies and other evidence including photographs captured in some of the on board cameras, things that pointed directly at the Iranian regime. So this is all part of the administration strategy to ratchet up pressure on Iran for what it sees as its malign activities throughout the region countering them in places like Yemen and elsewhere kind of outside of the nuclear deal that has received so much attention.

Now, Haley calling specifically on the international community to present a united front as it confronts Iran and its activities with regards to missiles and other weapons in the region. John.

KING: Ryan Brown at the Pentagon, thanks. We'll keep an eye on things and statements. Seemingly, the administration kind of makes its case at the Security Council.

Let's move on our big important news here in Washington. Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold who faces allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse of the staff will not run for reelection, that's according to a Republican source. The announcement comes from the former aide to the Congressman reveals damning new details about his behavior to his own employees.

In CNN's exclusive, Farenthold former Communications Director tells our MJ Lee, the Congressman made sexually demeaning comments and regularly berated his staff. Just moments ago, the House Speaker Paul Ryan asked about whether Farenthold should resign rather than wait and finish out his term next year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I had a couple of conversations with Blake Farenthold yesterday, I think he's making the right decision to retire. There are new stories that are very disconcerting. Unacceptable behavior has been alleged in those stories. And I think he's made the right decision that's he's going to be leaving Congress and that reflects in the conversation we've had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's MJ Lee joins us now. MJ, just fascinating reporting. Share some -- family-friendly audience, share some of what you can about just these damning details.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, these are absolutely very disturbing details coming from a former aide to Congressman Farenthold. His name is Mike Rekola and he was Communications Direction for the Congressman in 2015. Two of the more egregious examples that I want to point out, in the summer of 2015 when Rekola was about to leave town to get married, he says that the Congressman using a crew terminology for performing oral sex said this, quote, better have your fiancee do that before she walks down the aisle. It will be the last time. He also made a comment about whether his fiancee at the time could wear white on her wedding day suggesting some things about whether she had had premarital sex.

Now the second example was a profanity that he used and I will use a short hand ftard because I don't want to say the full thing on air. This is what Farenthold or the -- actually the aide, excuse me, said about his behavior and how he regularly used the term ftard to his aides. And he said, every time he didn't like something, he would call me ftard or idiot. He would slammed his fist down in rage and explode in anger. He was flying off the handle on every little thing. I couldn't find a way to control it.

Now, of course, we did reach out to Farenthold office for comment and the Congressman denies making that comment about oral sex, but he did acknowledge that he did regularly referred to aides as ftards and he said it was in jest, not an anger. And in hindsight, I admit it was not appropriate.

KING: And the aide now cooperated with the Ethics investigation. Is that right?

LEE: That's right. Rekola said that he has reached out to the House Ethics Committee. As you know, this investigation has been ongoing and it relates to another former aide, Lauren Green, who has made sexual harassment allegations against Farenthold. So, of course, it's important context that now this other aide wants to cooperate with this ongoing investigation.

KING: MJ Lee sharing her exclusive reporting in Capitol. I suspect as more Republicans read that reporting, a pressure might grow on the Congressman to not wait until the end of next year. MJ, I appreciate your insights there.

Next up for us, Omarosa is out. Says she's got some stories you're going to want to hear.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:53:43] KING: Today's reality TV segment, Omarosa insists she was not fired again. But the "Apprentice" star turned senior White House aide is out and White House officials do tell CNN she was indeed shown the door. Omarosa Manigault-Newman is her full name.

She insists she resigned and is denying reports of the dramatic confrontation with the White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly. Was in here, in an interview with Good Morning America, she hinted she is in the hunt for a publisher or maybe a reality TV producer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, DIRECTOR OF WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS, OFFICE OF PUBLIC LIAISON: When I have a chance to tell my story, Michael, quite a story to tell. As the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the President, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me and had affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And you have a senior administration official leaving the White House and they say when I tell my story, I don't like that.

BALL: I think part of the reason -- you can tell here calculation here, right, and there's a reason she was a villain on the "Apprentice." She's very -- part of the reason she was able to stay there as long as she did despite all of the enemies that she had is because they knew she was dangerous the minute they made her leave.

KING: Right.

BALL: And so, she's making a very explicit threat to the White House here and I think she is absolutely prepared to make good on it.

[12:55:06] But I think also the bigger part of Omarosa leaving, you had this -- you've always had this bifurcation in the White House between the sort of rag tag beyond of misfits who are devoted to Trump specifically and many of them came to the campaign with him and then you have people like Kelly who want to run a more normal White House and need to get people like Omarosa out of the building to do that. If that tension continues, the more of the loyalists leave, the more Trump is surrounded by people who he doesn't feel fully loyal to him.

KING: And the Secret Service as you know tweeted out last night that they deactivated her past. They're not getting involved and it was their (INAUDIBLE) deactivated her pass. You want to hear her story?

BENDER: I definitely want to hear her story. Yes, yes.

FOX: We all did.

BENDER: I'm fascinated. I mean, I -- you know, at the White House almost every day, I don't see that much of Omarosa over there. I don't hear about her insolence over there. So the Omarosa world in the White House I think would be a revelation to a lot of people.

KING: Coming soon to a reality TV show near you or a book.

Thanks for joining us in on INSIDE POLITICS. Appreciate you staying with us. Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break. Have a good day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining --