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INSIDE POLITICS

Dems will Investigate Khashoggi Murder; Trump Assails Courts; Effect on Black Friday Sales; Climate Change Report; Stone Associate in Negotiations with Mueller. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 23, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Local media reporting that one person was inside the house at the time of the blast and has been rushed to the hospital. Fire officials are searching for the cause.

Thanks for joining me. INSIDE POLITICS with Nia-Malika Henderson starts now.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a special holiday edition of Inside Politics. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson, in for John King. Thanks for being with us.

The president threatens another government shutdown. Can he get anything on his wish list before Democrats take control of the House?

Plus, President Trump is apparently accepting resumes and conducting interviews for open staff positions. Could a hot shot from the vice president's office be changing desks soon?

And, the president's warm relationship with the Saudi government could mean more scrutiny or even an investigation on the horizon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Senator, is the president lying?

SEN. JACK REED (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Yes. The CIA concluded that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was directly involved in the assassination of Khashoggi. They did it, as has been reported in the press, with high confidence, which is the highest level of accuracy that they will vouch for. It's based on facts. It's based on analysis. The notion that they didn't reach a conclusion is just unsubstantiated that the CIA has made that clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: We start today with a presidential plea on immigration. This morning on Twitter the president called for a bipartisan action on border security and to make a big down payment on the border wall. The president still very much fixated on immigration a day after his Thanksgiving screed that veered wildly from grievance to grievance to grievance. President Trump displayed visible frustrations with the legal blow to his immigration actions and with his own cabinet's failure to follow-through on big border promises. In between warnings about shuttering the border, trade complaints and

self-congratulations, the president contradicted the conclusion of his intelligence agencies. Feelings is how the president described the CIA's assessment that the Saudi crown prince ordered the execution of U.S. resident and "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Nobody's concluded, the president insisted.

And, today, the soon to be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says Democrats will use their new power to see if the president is telling the truth and suggests that the new Congress will closely scrutinize the president's finances for Saudi connections.

We've got CNN's Jeff Zeleny, who's near Mar-a-Lago.

Jeff, add a Khashoggi investigation to the growing list of the pressures that the White House will face in the New Year.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Nia, it certainly seems that way with Adam Schiff saying he does want to investigate the White House's role in the death of the "Washington Post" columnist and how it relates to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and what the president has said about that.

But, Nia, this is just one of many sign that the president is about to enter a new political order in Washington. And it's unclear if he is prepared for that or how that will go with this White House. There is no longer an absence of checks and balances on this White House come the New Year. So this is one more thing that the White House is going to have to endure.

And on this case there could be some bipartisan challenges on the White House as well. We've heard so many Republicans, from Senator Lindsey Graham to others, saying that this, you know, was wrong for the president to essentially side with Saudi Arabia over his own intelligence community. So we will see what type of investigation this brings.

I think more interestingly is what sanctions Congress might impose on this. In terms of investigating, you know, the CIA and the intelligence community, the president, I guess, is technically right, say they've not concluded. But they say there's strong evidence to believe that the Saudi crown prince and his leadership knew about that murder.

So, Nia, again, it will be interesting and the president will be contending with this for some time to come.

Nia.

HENDERSON: Jeff, you're going to stay with us.

Also joining our conversation to share their reporting and their insights, we've got Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast," Matt Viser with "The Washington Fost -- Post," sorry about that, and David Drucker with "The Washington Examiner." Of course it's "The Washington Post," not "The Washington Fost." I'm going to start with you, Jackie, on this.

Adam Schiff, who, of course, the president has a different nickname for, here's what he had to say in "The Washington Post" today about possible investigations. Certainly we will be delving further into the murder of Khashoggi and I want to make sure that the committee is fully debriefed on it. We will certainly want to examine what the intelligence community knows about the murder before an investment in the Trump businesses is guiding U.S. policy in a way that's antithetical to the country's interests. We need to find out about it.

[12:05:13] The last part particularly could be trouble for this White House.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, right. And he's not the only member of Congress who wants to take a look at where investments are, not only within the Trump organization, but with the president himself. We never saw his tax returns.

HENDERSON: Right.

KUCINICH: Obviously during the election. And I think there's a lot of curiosity and alarm among members of Congress. So they're going to be -- the White House knows it's going to be under assault by Congress and by the Democratic House in a lot of ways, but particularly the president himself. We'll have to see how he tries to avoid giving up this information, because you know they're going to fight it.

HENDERSON: Yes, and the president will likely be sort of under siege. And what will a White House with this president as the head of it, what will that White House look like? Sort of a White House under siege.

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think, you know, the House Democrats, being able to call hearings, being able to issue subpoenas and that changes the dynamics an awful lot in Washington and around this very issue where you can explore the president's own finances. And what is the underlying reason for him to so closely believe, you know, a foreign leader over the own -- his own CIA. And it goes back to the Putin and him discounting intelligence about Russia's role in our own election in 2016. So I think there's a lot of veins for Democrats to explore in that, and they have to sort of be careful about how deeply they go in not overreaching.

HENDERSON: Not overreach -- overreach, as Democrats have done in the past.

And, David, I'm going to you on this. One of the things you've seen is both conservatives and Democrats, Republicans, as well as progressives, criticize the president over this. I'm going to read this from the "Weekly Standard." This is what they had to say in terms of the president's reaction to the Khashoggi murder. Trump isn't embracing MBS and the Saudis because of some sophisticated understanding of the geopolitical risks of distancing the United States from a longtime ally. The fact that Khashoggi's death gave the president's critics reason to deride him was intolerable to a man who assesses every circumstance, great or small, by the degree to which it makes Donald J. Trump look bad.

So you're going to have some Republicans, David Drucker, as well criticizing this president, as we've already seen, people like Lindsey Graham.

DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Look, we've seen that. And I think the question going forward, in addition to, you know, how does the Democratic House handle the president on matters of foreign policy is, what happens in the Senate where the Republicans have a couple of more senators, but you're going to be missing some chief Trump critics, especially on foreign policy matters, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, and you're adding a couple of member that are going to feel more indebted to the president because the belief is that in Indiana, in North Dakota, states like that, he was an asset and helped them win elections. So what is that dynamic going to look at, especially in the Senate where there's just much more of an involvement in foreign policy in terms of how this works on Capitol Hill.

I think where the president has really missed the boat here is that I think it's a healthy and fine argument to make that we don't want to cut Saudi Arabia loose. That that alliance is just too valuable to us, even though they're not always perfect actors and possibly they should be reprimanded. Instead of, though, talking about in geopolitical terms as "The Weekly Standard" article discussed, the president talks about everything, including this, in terms of dollars and cents and domestic politics. It hurts American leverage abroad when we reduce ourselves to just another nation concerned about the bottom line. Nations like China and Russia and so on. And I think the president actually has hurt his position on this, even though you could make the argument that ultimately by not cutting Saudi Arabia loose, considering where we are visa-vis Iran, it's ultimately the right decision. But how he has arrived at that could end up hurting the U.S. in the region going forward.

HENDERSON: And we heard, Jeff, from the president yesterday, you're down there, and he was full of grievances. Here is one of the things he said yesterday about the border. And this seems to be maybe setting up for an ongoing fight that he's going to have over these next weeks about the border. Here he was yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will close the border and that means that Mexico's not going to be able to sell their cars into the United States until it's open. But we're going to either have a border or we're not. And when they lose control of the border on the Mexico side, we just close the border.

A judge that knows nothing about it decided to take law enforcement into his own hands and he gives a ridiculous ruling. So we'll appeal it. But it makes the job harder. We're still doing the job perfectly, but it makes the job harder and it makes the job more dangerous because a judge made a ruling that was shocking.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [12:10:05] HENDERSON: Talk, if you could, Jeff, about the president's mindset at this point. I mean he seem -- you know, it's obviously Thanksgiving weekend. A time for gratitude. He seems to be celebrating Festivus.

ZELENY: I mean the reality here is, if you're not with the president, in his view, you're against the president. And he throws everyone in that category. Federal judges, appeals court judges, perhaps even the chief justice of the Supreme Court. So the president there making the decision and the argument, opening an argument, I think, we're going to hear a lot more of, that the judiciary is responsible for endangering the lives of the military and law enforcement officials.

One thing we did not see from the president in the first two years of his time in office when he had a Republican House and Senate was trying to work to change the laws. Border laws. This was an executive order that he signed that the judge out in California put a temporary block on.

But the president, yesterday, you know, really essentially doubling down and amplifying the argument he made during the midterms election campaign about the border, saying that there is a crisis, an impending crisis, trying to build a sense of urgency, if you will, and saying he'll close the border. It's more complicated than that, first of all. And he said it was closed temporarily.

What he was actually talking about, we found out from the Department of Homeland Security, they closed a couple lanes of one of the biggest ports of entry and then reopened them. So the president making clear he sees immigration as a central argument politically speaking as well, even though practically speaking unclear if any of this is going to actually solve what is a real problem of illegal immigration. Unlikely that there would be -- in fact, impossible to imagine that there would be any bipartisan work actually on that.

But this also is a prelude to an upcoming fight, which he tweeted about this morning about funding for the border wall. The president still has not been able to get full funding for his border wall, and that is all part of this argument, all part of his large argument, that people should be afraid, even if the situation may not be as urgent as he says.

HENDERSON: And we'll get into that a little later in the show.

Up next, shoppers turn out to try and score those Black Friday deals, but will the enthusiasm last and could there be signs of economic trouble ahead?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:24] HENDERSON: It's that time of year again when retailers hope the holiday season will keep their cash registers ringing. But this year, rising interest rates, market swings and trade tariffs with China could mean consumers may not be that quick to open their wallets and to spend. We've got CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik, who is in New Jersey where holiday shoppers are trying to score those Black Friday deals.

Alison, I've got to say, I've already done my Black shopping -- Black Friday shopping. I did it yesterday.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wow.

HENDERSON: But what are you seeing out there in the malls and stores?

KOSIK: Well, today I'm certainly seeing people buy and they seem to be buying a lot. And this is just obviously anecdotal. As I stand here all day and do these live shots, I've seen people wheel out three TVs at a time. One other gentleman went to his car to drop off a load of stuff he bought here and then he came back in to buy more things. So, you know, the selling here seems to be brisk. If you look down here, you see just how busy it is in here. It's been busy since they opened the doors at 8:00 a.m. More than 100 people waiting outside in 12 degree weather to get these deals, these door buster deals, meaning you're getting better deals here than you would necessarily get online. So I'm seeing brisk sales here, Nia.

HENDERSON: And earlier this week Larry Kudlow, the National Economic Council chief under President Trump, he said that recession is so far in the distance I can't see it.

How confident are economists that we'll actually avoid a recession in 2019?

KOSIK: Well, it's interesting. As we've seen the volatility increase in the stock market, I've heard from analysts and from traders, too, more concern early about possibly -- possibly a recession happening earlier than everybody's predicting. Now the prediction was a recession would come in 2020, but it seems to be -- there's a little more pessimism entering into the stratosphere a little earlier. And there's a few things that are concerning economists. And not just one thing. It's sort of this perfect storm of events that has concerned economists.

First of all, many economists are saying that they saw a spike in sales in the middle of the year because of President Trump's tax cuts. But the problem is, now they're seeing a reversal in those sales. That's causing a concern.

We're also seeing interest rates move higher. That means borrowing costs are going up for regular consumers, like you and me. If I'm going to go out and buy a car, or buy a house, those lending rates are going higher.

Also, those additional tariffs that we're expecting to happen, possibly as soon as January 1. We're hearing that President Trump may have a third -- may impose a third round of tariffs on those Chinese goods. And that would impacts consumer goods. So that means prices could rise and affect consumers as well. And that's not even including the rise in tariffs on other goods he wants to -- he wants to place from 10 percent to 25 percent. So that's effectively a tax on what you and I would buy, which means goods -- which means good would be more expensive. So all this is concerning the economists, Nia, because that could eventually, economists worry, eventually could slow down the economy.

Nia.

HENDERSON: All right. Thanks, Alison, for that report.

And right as people are heading off to do some Black Friday shopping this Thanksgiving holiday, the government is releasing a report on climate change. The report was not scheduled to be out until December, prompting speculation that it's being buried on a day when few people will be paying attention.

Joining me now, we've got CNN government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh.

Rene, what do you expect to hear this afternoon? What do you think is going to be in this report?

[12:20:02] RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: So, Nia, this government report will squarely focus on the human impact of climate change, on people right here in the United States. And we expect that they will use real life experience -- examples, I should say. Everything from health, the impact on climate change on health, economic costs, transportation infrastructure and many other topics.

But, as you mentioned, a bit of controversy brewing before the report is even released later today. Why? Because this critical government climate report was, as you mentioned, supposed to be released in December, but now it's scheduled for release on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. And scientists, people involved with the report and others, environmentalists, speculating that perhaps this is an effort to bury it on a day that few people are going to be paying attention. It's unclear why the release date was moved up, but I can say releasing it on the Friday after Thanksgiving holiday is widely seen as a way to cushion the impact of the critical news in the report.

Again, this report, we expect, will use real life experience to show the effects that people are experiencing, from climate change, and that it is something that is happening today and it's not an issue in the far near future. Everything from the wildfires to severe hurricanes, this report is expected to make the link to climate change, Nia.

HENDERSON: And we heard from President Trump, he tweeted about this cold front that we're seeing and basically saying that -- using that to question global warming. Does that show that he still doesn't quite understand how climate change works?

MARSH: In a word, if you look at the tweet on the screen, yes, it does seem as if he doesn't. This is the tweet. It says, the brutal and extended cold blast could shattered all records. Whatever happened to global warming?

But as we all know, climate change is best exemplified by the consistent rise in temperatures year after year, not simply looking at extreme weather over a one-day period or even a month or even a one- year period, Nia. So that tweet clearly off base there as it relates to how this whole issue of climate change works.

HENDERSON: All right, Rene Marsh, thank you.

And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:27:01] HENDERSON: Breaking news about Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. "The Washington Post" reports Jerome Corsi, a conservative writer, conspiracy theorist and associate of Roger Stone is in plea negotiations with the special counsel. Corsi had suggested in interviews that he expected the special counsel to indict him for lying to federal investigators. "The Washington Post's" Josh Dawsey joins me on the phone.

Josh, Corsi had suggested that he could be indicted to lying to investigators. What do your sources saying about why he's in negotiations for a deal?

JOSH DAWSEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST" (via telephone): I mean, so -- hi, Nia.

What we've reported is -- today is that he is in negotiations. He had come out publically and said he was going to be indicted after spending dozens of hours with Robert Mueller's team. They've been asking him detailed questions about his e-mails with Roger Stone, what he knew about the WikiLeaks disclosures, what role he had in basically disseminating or making sure that information was going to come out. And that has been of particular interest, though apropos, because he is someone who corresponded frequently with Roger Stone, who, as we know, has been a person of inquiry in this investigation. Mueller's team has interviewed dozens -- maybe not dozens but, you know, a dozen or so of his associates. Everybody's focused heavily on him. And, of course, he could be a big piece of figuring out what Roger Stone was doing and whether there was any criminal culpability there.

HENDERSON: And his potential cooperation, it's important to the special counsel for what reasons?

DAWSEY: Well, his potential cooperation is his extensive potential knowledge of the e-mails and how they would disclosed his correspondence with Roger Stone, his correspondence with other people in that world that were speaking so actively to find these e-mails and who were saying in advance that they knew these e-mails were going to come out. That's really at the heart of what the special counsel is looking at here is, you know, how do these people know these e-mails existed before they came out? Who were they talking to? Did they do anything to help disseminate the e-mails? Do they have any contacts with the campaign? Corsi is the one that the president has had a relationship with because he (INAUDIBLE) the Barack Obama birther conspiracy theory. He had promulgated that widely. That's obviously something President Trump shared for several years. And the president is very aware of Jerome Corsi and has spoken to him in the past.

HENDERSON: And, Josh, what has Roger Stone said publicly about Corsi? DAWSEY: Roger Stone has (INAUDIBLE) Corsi, has known him for many

years. We know there are lots of e-mails between them. We have not heard extensive conversations about Corsi, other from Roger Stone, other than to say his e-mail exchanges with him would not show any foreknowledge that would be criminal or any crime (INAUDIBLE) committed.

HENDERSON: All right, I'm going to go to Jeff Zeleny next.

Thanks, Josh, for that.

[12:30:00] And, Jeff, talk about what this means for this White House and the president.

ZELENY: Well, Nia, there's no question