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Trump Threatens to Permanently Close Southern Border; Mia Love Concedes Utah Race to McAdams; Trump to Hold Rallies for GOP Senator in Mississippi; WaPo: Sen. Kamala Harris Could Lose Judiciary Committee Seat. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 26, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Five billion dollars for the border wall, the Senate has agreed to $1.6 billion. They have to bridge that divide somehow.

Will the Democrats demand something in exchange such as dealing with something with the Dreamers, something that the president himself has tried to do this past Congress where he discussed as a possibility but faced a revolt from the right? So this is -- we get back to the same tricky immigration politics going forward which is why the shutdown seems very much like a possibility that the president digs in and his critics don't get.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And you talked about the calculations. These are votes they're going to have to cast in the next 10 days or so. I was you to listen to Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, a state where the immigration issue has been a big issue for many years. She's on the ballot in 2020. She wants to be for more border security. She also just watched the Democrats pick up a couple of House seats in her state. And she's on the ballot in two years so you're trying to figure out what do I do today, how this affect her in 2020?

Joni Ernst tries to strike a balance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: Well, we would prefer that we keep it open so let's work really hard to make sure we're addressing the asylum seekers before they actually come over the border. I think that's the intent of the president is to divert any issues before they actually happened. So, of course we don't want to see the border close but you know what,

safety of our nation comes first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Safety first as the group approaching. (INAUDIBLE) but this is a much tougher issue and how much do you give the president? Do you agree with the administration which wants to severely restrict if not stop asylum, period.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And to Senator Ernst's point, we reported over the weekend that the Trump administration and the incoming New Mexico government has tentatively agreed to some sort of outline of a deal on asylum seekers that they would actually remain in Mexico while they process visa or while their claims are going through the process. Now that's going to come under a lot of resistance from the human rights groups, from Democrats, and we'll see how that plan works out if that all.

But going -- also going back to Manu's point that, look, when Republicans were solidly in control of the Congress even back then, the president did not get the full border wall funding that he demanded. And with Democrats emboldened now particularly in the House and (INAUDIBLE) won control of the chamber, they're not going to be in any sort of negotiating mood to give the president the wall that he wanted.

KING: Unless he is willing to give a lot. We'll see. You don't see the giving part (INAUDIBLE). We'll see as the negotiations play forward.

Up next for us, the president's reaction to the journalist murder by Saudi Arabia is not sitting well with a growing list of Republicans who want him to call out the Saudi crown prince.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:36:49] KING: Topping our political radar today, CNN now calling the race for Utah's fourth congressional district. Republican Congresswoman Mia Love now conceding to Democrat Ben McAdams who appears have won by about 700 votes. Democrats now have a net gain of 38 seats in the House. Only one race still undecided, that's New Mexico's second congressional district.

The U.N. Security Council holding an emergency meeting today over alleged Russia aggression near Crimea. Ukraine's military accuses Russia of firing on and seizing three Ukrainian ships on Sunday and even ramming a vessel as we can see in this video released by Ukraine. Its government says six sailors were injured. The U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley condemning Russia's actions today at the Security Council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We strongly support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders extending to its territorial waters. We express our deep concern over the incident which represents a dangerous escalation and violation of international law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now Russia says those ships have crossed into Russian waters.

Senator Susan Collins is joining a growing list of Republicans promising to confront President Trump over Saudi Arabia. She tweets, "It's a grave mistake for the president to ignore the CIA's assessment that the Saudi prince personally ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi." Her tweet coming after similar calls from other Republicans. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: I disagree with the president's assessment. It's inconsistent with the intelligence have seen.

ERNST: I do think we need to look into this further. If there are indicators that the prince was involved in this murder, then we need to absolutely consider further action.

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: MBS murdered -- contributed to murdering somebody abroad and it is not strength to sort of mumble past that. Strength is telling the truth even when it's hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Come back to that in a second. Let's start with Mia Love who was a rising star in the Republican Party, now she will be former congresswoman in a few weeks and all the more notable because of the president mocking her essentially the day after the election saying he got no love for Mia Love.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: That was kicking someone in their toes. I mean, yes, I got no love for Mia Love. She had tried to put some distance herself from the president when she was running. It was a tricky district. He's not as popular in Utah as other places.

And the news also speaks to I think the difficulty the president had since the election. This bunch of steady drip, drip, drip of Democratic gains in the House.

KING: It speaks to the scope of those Democrats too. The Democrats picking up a seat in Oklahoma City, a seat outside of Salt Lake.

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's the suburbs, right? I mean, this is the suburbs shifting away as the rural districts have shifted toward the Republican Party. I think this is something -- again, Mia Love ran for the district in 2012, lost at narrowly -- it's for Utah, it's a Democratic district relatively speaking.

She won it again in 2016, but I think this is a huge problem. Orange County all went blue after being the center of sort of the Republican Party. It's -- so it's a new Republican Party, one that's not so reliant on the suburbs, but it's not a party that can win national elections. I think that's something Republicans haven't been able to grapple with.

RAJU: You know, it'd be interesting to see the new candidate coming in. Ben McAdams, a Democrat, he's conservative, have to worry about 2020, a difficult race himself.

[12:40:08] He'll be a top target, he signed that letter saying he will not support Nancy Pelosi for the leadership. Will he stick to that as well? That will be a one key vote coming forward. So he'll be a person to watch -- the both sides will be watching pretty closely. KING: Heading into a very interesting period for both parties after this election. We'll see if the president actually studies the results and learns a lesson himself. We'll see.

Up next, President Trump heads south to try to help an embattled Republican keep her Senate seat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: President Trump back on the 2018 campaign trail today on this eve of the final midterm contest. He'll appear at two Mississippi rallies for Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. She's the Republican struggling to hold on to her Senate seat, a runoff tomorrow against the Democrat, Mike Espy. Both parties agree Hyde-Smith is leading, but Democrats are hoping her words and actions on some race-related issues will drive high African-American turnout and will propel Espy to what would be a giant upset.

[12:45:09] CNN's Martin Savidge live in Richfield, Mississippi. Martin, the final day of the final campaign. Tell us what's happening.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the temperature has taken a nosedive. And then really does play in the things because it go to the holiday (INAUDIBLE) which I'm going to get to in just a minute. You talked about the president is coming in for Cindy Hyde-Smith. Mike Espy is taking more of a personal approach. He's going to show up here at this upscale mall on the outskirts of Jackson at a lunch spa to shake hands and talk to voters here.

This is more like Cindy Hyde territory here. And it only goes to show that he knows -- the campaign knows that in order to win in this state he cannot rely on just solely a heavily energized Democratic turnout. He's going to need some, perhaps Republican crossover votes or hope that some of the comments from the Republican candidate has made has turned off some Republican voters here.

It is the public hanging comment that Cindy Hyde-Smith made that has energized so many Democrats. And remember, African-American voters here make up about 33 to 36 percent of voter registration in the state. So, a significant number. And then of course you may have also turned up some Republican support.

And then you had the holiday. The Thanksgiving holiday will be five days since when people go to the polls. The campaign shutdown completely. I can't remember an election cycle where you had such a significant vote taking place after such a major holiday.

Those was no doorbell ringing, there was no sort of campaigning on any part. Yes, the commercials ran, so they're starting from scratch. Turnout is key as you know, John

KING: It'll be a fascinating day. Martin Savidge, appreciate you being on the ground for us as we head into this final campaign of the midterm. The president going twice to Republican areas. It's a Republican state but he's going to Republican base areas of the state. Am I wrong? The president wants to make this a referendum on him not on her.

RAJU: Yes, a 100 percent because they'll probably win if it's about him and it's not about her. This has been a fascinating race to watch because you've seen her struggle increasingly as these questions about her, her views on racial issues, on confederacy has started to come to light and she has not really provided any clear answers about any of these.

Democrats have been hesitant to play here too because they know it's such a hard state to win. So you've seen the outside money being spent. Really the Republicans has spent about four million compared to maybe about one million or so for the Democrats showing that Democrats think maybe they can pull off an upset but they know it's very, very unlikely. So if that were to happen, that would be huge.

KING: But let's look at those numbers. This is just since the November 6th, the regular election and then you go to the runoff. You're right, 1.2 million spent by the Democrats, about four million spent by Republicans. And here's a sampling of the ads here.

Mike Espy tryign to say, you know, think about everything she has said and the Republicans going after Mike Espy saying no way, too liberal for Mississippi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We worked hard to overcome the stereotypes that hurt our economy and cost us jobs. Her words should not reflect Mississippi's values either. Cindy Hyde-Smith is so embarrassing she'd be a disaster for Mississippi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Washington liberals have their candidate, Mike Espy funneling tens of thousands into his campaign because Espy gives them one more vote to stop President Trump's agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now Republicans think they should win this one but two words haunt them. Doug Jones. Meaning they lost the Alabama Senate seat.

KIM: And it's been fascinating to watch how Mike Espy has framed the whole issue around her controversial comments and the way -- and you saw that in the ad how it says it could devastate us economically because it -- the message being there it could drive away businesses from the state especially -- and with the stereotypes that the state has worked hard to overcome. And it's an argument that's resonated in other conservative areas when these culture issues have come up.

Clearly, we talked -- we just mentioned the Alabama Senate race, but even back to a few years ago when the state of Arizona had the big controversy over (INAUDIBLE) 1062 which was that law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate or would refuse service on the basis of the religious police. And we saw the corporate backlash, the business backlash on that state. The law was eventually vetoed but you see how that message can resonate in these red states.

LUCEY: What we're going to hear from Trump today at his rallies is, how this affects his agenda and his plans for the next two years. You're going to hear a repeat of the message from the midterms, from the rallies he did for senators. That if you like what I'm doing on judges, if you like what I'm doing on taxes, if you like what I'm doing on any of these things, we cannot afford to lose.

KING: He want that border wall. I need your vote.

LUCEY: He need the wall. Exactly. That is really pitch -- he will say some things about her, I mean -- he usually say something about the candidate but largely it'd be about his agenda, his message, and how do we keep this going.

WARREN: Two problems for Democrats. One, they're so disorganized so they don't have much an organization in Mississippi. Maybe the most -- the worst thing for Democrats in the country, maybe Oklahoma. And the second is Trump's visit here. I mean, it's a off cycle runoff election, anything could happen but you need that organization to get out the African-America votes which is basically the bulk of the Democratic Party.

[12:50:02] And you can't have the most popular guy in the party coming to the state at the last minute. It's an off cycle run off election. Anything can happen. You need them to get out the vote and that's the bulk of the party. You can't have the most popular guy in the party coming to the state at the last minute. That's going to be a big turnout for Republicans. I just don't see how Espy pulls it of.

KING: And if you count -- when we count the votes tomorrow, it'd be interesting to Martin Savidge's point, Espy in the suburban areas just outside of Jackson. We talked about how big the suburbs where moderate Republicans defecting to the Democrats.

Jonathan Martin writing today in the New York Times another interesting point the Democrats was the trade off. We paid for that. "The campaign of Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Andrew Gillum in Florida, Beto O'Rourke in Texas may have electrified black and progressive white voters just as Miss Hyde-Smith's comments may energize Mississippians to support Mr. Espu but they had an equal and opposite effect as well in rural county after rural county, this trio of next- generation Democrats performed worse than President Obama in 2012".

So something else to watch as we count the votes tomorrow in Mississippi.

RAJU: In fact one reason why that Barack Obama is not be going down to Mississippi because white it could drive up the black vote, it could turn off rural voters, it could turn off those voters who Espy will need to cross over which is why it's going to be so hard for him to win tomorrow night.

KING: All right, we'll see. It's the last race of 2018. Will it affect the balance of power in the Senate? The Republicans pick up two, they just picked up one. Tomorrow night, we'll be counting the votes. Hope you'll be here with us.

Up next, the rising star for 2020 could lose one of her big platforms.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:55:46] SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, what I believe sitting here today is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to.

HARRIS: Can you please answer the question? And my question is, have you had a conversation with anyone at that firm about that investigation. It's a really specific question.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: I would like to know the person you're thinking of because what if --

HARRIS: I think you're thinking of someone and you don't want to tell us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Just two examples there of how the most junior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee likes to stir things up. California's Kamala Harris though could get caught up in a numbers crunch. The Democrats lost Senate seats in the midterms and committee assignments need to change to make room to the new Republicans. The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim right here at the table detailing if seniority is the standard, that could cost Harris her coveted seat on that Judiciary Committee. The seat she views as a critical platform as she (INAUDIBLE) toward a possible 2020 presidential run.

Harris is a rising star to many progressives and former Hillary Clinton campaign aide Brian Fallon who now runs the liberal group Demand Justice has this warning for Democratic leaders. Quote, whatever options they need to consider, removing Harris should not be one of them. The backlash would be intense.

So, how do they save her seat or do other members of the committee who might want to run for president say like Cory Booker or Amy Klobuchar say yes. Yes. Let her out of here.

KIM: Well, they would have be all too disappointed, but I think the numbers problem is a real one for -- particularly for Chuck Schumer right now because he has said -- I mean, first of all, Senator Harris went to Schumer after the midterm elections probably anticipating that she could lose her seat on the panel and told him she wants to stay on that committee. And -- I mean, she's interested in this issue that it becomes such a major platform for her during these major -- during these big confirmation hearings. So there's a number of ways Democratic leaders could try to save her seat. One is just basically begging Mitch McConnell to add a new seat on the Republican side of the panel. That doesn't seem likely for now --

KING: He really wants to help them (INAUDIBLE).

KIM: That doesn't seem to be an option but we know Republicans or Democrats are crossing their fingers. Another option which maybe the more likely one would be to lure some of the senior members on that committee to another valuable committee such as the Senate Finance Committee which has at least two vacancies since Bill Nelson and Claire McCaskill bough lose their seats, both lose their re-election bids this year.

But, a lot of Democrats -- I mean, not just the 2020 candidates really like the work on the committee. So it's going to be hard for Chuck Schumer to convince one of them to leave.

RAJU: It would be interesting to watch as all these Democrats position themselves for 2020, how they position themselves against each other trying to one up each other in different ways, trying to promote themselves, do things on the floor, voting one way, and driving the rest of the conversation to the left. I mean, there are -- Democrat after Democrat was considering running for president and she is one of them. So her losing that spot as Seung Min points out could be important especially because there's another Supreme Court vacancy and a high profile opportunity for these guys --

KING: Criminal justice reform could come up as well. So that -- how does Schumer deal with this one, the base already is mad at him about (INAUDIBLE) but all these judges getting through.

LUCEY: This is a negotiation they're going to have to figure out. I mean, he is -- he's (INAUDIBLE) power but he -- look, he has -- the things he can handout to Seung Min's point so he can try and work on that. I would say that as well. You've seen with Harris and the other Democrats staying a lot of time outside of Washington trying to raise their profiles as well. That's another thing that we will continue to (INAUDIBLE) doing. She spends many time in Iowa, she's been campaigning there (INAUDIBLE) the midterms to do that. So there are opportunities off of Capitol Hill as well obviously.

KING: She was just helping other candidates in the midterms. She has no other reasons to go to Iowa or Mississippi or anything like that. Does she stay or does she go?

WARREN: I think she probably goes, but she's probably OK for the presidential run. You know, this is a small sort of speed bump but it is so much more important about all that work in Iowa, all the work in New Hampshire which is happening.

RAJU: She sure also stumbled a little bit on the Kavanaugh hearings too by making some questions about his contacts with the Mueller investigation didn't really quite come to light.

KING: But she got a lot of buzz from it.

This quick programming note before we go. We want to welcome a brand- new number to the INSIDE POLITICS family. Take a peek here. That's Blake Carroll Washington, the first child of one of our team members Shannon Carroll. Our congrats to Shannon and her husband Emmanuel (ph). Look at that baby.

Let me give Nancy Pelosi's some help on transition. When that kid's ready, I'll step side.

Brianna Keilar starts right now.