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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Threatens General Motors; Mississippi Senate Election. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 27, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:32:44]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we're back with our politics lead.

Right now, the very last race of this midterm cycle in the U.S. is being decided. Mississippi voters are choosing their next senator in a race that's been marred by allegations of racism, throwing back to the state's ugly Confederate past.

Republicans hoping voters will look past the controversy and keep the state red.

CNN's Jessica Dean is live for us in Mississippi. She's in Byram, just southwest of Jackson.

Jessica, turnout is very crucial for the Democrats if they have any hopes of flipping this seat.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right, Jake.

And the Democrats need African-Americans to turn out in historic numbers to get this done for their candidate, Mike Espy. But even Mike Espy understands that one historic thing happening isn't going to be enough to get him across the finish line.

Listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE ESPY (D), MISSISSIPPI SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: If only African- Americans come out for me and even if they come out in record numbers, I won't win. I know that. And I have known that all the time. And I have known that throughout my career. So we have to have a good number of crossovers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: Yes, they're really going to have -- Espy's really going to have to have everything break his way to flip this seat here in Mississippi.

In the meantime, Cindy Hyde-Smith maintains her confidence. President Trump was with her at two rallies, not one, but two rallies here in Mississippi last night. Here's how she's feeling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: We're here today to make sure everybody gets out to vote. We're encouraging everybody to go to the polls and cast their vote. It's going to be a historic day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: Well, here, where we are, we have seen a steady stream all day. Really, we have been here since early this morning and it has been a steady stream, lines at times. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out, Jake.

Polls here close in just a few hours. We will see how it goes.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Dean, thanks so much.

That's the Senate side. On the House side, Democrats are picking up their 39th congressional seat today, as New Mexico officially certified the results for Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in its 2nd Congressional District.

Her victory means all three New Mexico House seats will be controlled by Democrats next year. So, here's where we stand right now. With one outstanding race in California, where Democrats are currently leading, the net pickup for Democrats in the House could soon be 40 seats -- 40 seats, in itself, a massive accomplishment for Democrats, the biggest turnout -- biggest swing, rather, since Watergate.

[16:35:18]

But there's something to be said for turning out voters. And take a look at this. CNN tallied every single vote cast in the House races this year and found this stunning disparity. Nearly nine million more votes were cast for Democrats than Republicans, nine million.

That's the largest margin of victory for either party in the history of the midterms.

Let's talk about this with our experts.

This certainly, at least in the House, appears to be a pretty solid blue wave.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it was a wave. You know, we were on air on Tuesday night during the midterms. It didn't look as massive a blue wave then. But as votes started to be tallied, California, some big news out of there with Orange County essentially flipping totally blue at this point.

And real interesting pickups. You think about in South Carolina, flipping that Sanford seat. A race in Georgia with Lucy McBath flipping that seat that the Democrats tried to flip before, but, so, yes, Democrats ran very solid races, picked the right candidates for the right districts.

So they should feel good about this 40-seat -- what could be a 40-seat pickup at this point. And now the question of who is going to lead those folks in the House. Is it going to be Nancy Pelosi? We will see. There's going to be a vote soon on that. But , yes, Democrats should feel good.

But at the same time, just because you do well in the midterms, it doesn't necessarily mean anything for 2020, right? And it also means, you know, if you're looking at the Senate, obviously, if you're a Republican, you feel good because you have extended your majority there and that means something for Supreme Court seats, as well as justices all up and down the ballot.

TAPPER: Exactly. I remember when I was covering you when you were at the Obama White House, 2010, horrible midterms for you guys. And yet President Obama went on to be reelected handedly two years later. It doesn't necessarily mean trouble for two more years down the road.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's true, it doesn't. And, in fact, if you look historically, even more elections before that, the midterms are often won by the opposing party. And the president can still win reelection, and often has.

However, in this case, I think Democrats needed to get their groove back a bit. There was a lack of confidence in our message, in the kind of candidates and our ability to actually win. And this certainly did that. So this reenergized the party. A lot of the special elections have certainly done that.

It also shows that there are states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania that Democrats can win in. They are not states that are fully Trump or fully Republican states. But it is going to be dependent on who we nominate in 2020, and that is the biggest question as to whether we will win, not the determination of the midterm elections.

TAPPER: Kristen, take a listen to President Trump yesterday talking about the results of the midterm elections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we had a fantastic evening and day very recently, the midterms. We got very little credit from the fake news media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I mean, he lost the House. I don't know what's so fantastic about it.

But there is -- there is some comfort for Republicans in at least the Senate.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure, and I think that's why the president came out and made that statement where he sounded almost defiant, very positive about the election results.

And, of course, at that point, a lot of votes had still yet to be tallied. And part of why there was hesitation to call it a blue wave at that point is a lot of sort of big-name races where I think Democrats were very emotionally invested in getting some victories.

Places like Beto O'Rourke didn't happen to break their way. It was maybe the expectations were too high, and so the president could say, hey, well, at least we kept the Senate and that's all I really wanted.

But I think the other reason he's so adamant about saying that this was a win for Republicans, even when I think the data suggests that especially in the House, it was not, is his brand is built on winning. If President Trump is at all viewed as a guy who can't win, that's a huge knock against his brand, hurts him with people in his own party.

And so I think that's why he's been so focused on saying, look, the people who lost, they're the ones who weren't my fans. Look, that's the Mia Love comments, right?

(CROSSTALK)

SOLTIS ANDERSON: The people who lost were the ones that weren't with me, because he knows that, politically, for himself, he's got to stay a winner in order to keep the party behind him.

TAPPER: And yet, Kaitlan, a deficit of almost nine million votes between people who voted for Democrats in the House and people who voted for Republicans in the House, and the president, currently, his unfavorability rating in the Gallup daily tracking is 60 percent.

So, there it is right there in all its glory, 60 percent disapprove, his approval rating. So the president might be on brand when he talks about how he's winning. He's not. He's not winning and the last few weeks have been pretty bad for him.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, and I think he's well aware of that.

So, that's why I think he's making remarks like that in public, but behind closed doors, he is still really irritated about losing the House. And that's why you see him slip up and make comments like he did in Tupelo last night. Well, I lost the House, but I just can't go everywhere. It's not my fault that I couldn't go and campaign everywhere.

[16:40:01]

But I do think it's been a bad few weeks for President Trump. And the question about 2020 is going to be so much more than just what the midterms were. But, also, if you look at what happened with GM yesterday, that is going to have some devastating effects, if we continue to see something like that happen.

And if something happens with the economy before 2020, that is what the White House is going to be more worried about than what a few Democrats were saying after the midterms.

TAPPER: And, Jen, just as somebody who has been through this, give a little warning to your friends at the White House right now about what having a House in opposition hands with subpoena power, what that exactly means for the administration.

PSAKI: Well, it means that, whether it's right or wrong, that they will make it their job to hold everybody accountable who has done anything they don't like over the last two years.

So, in this case, where we have focused a lot on Russia and what they're going to do in the Oversight Committee, Intelligence Committee, but it's going to be much more than that. They will be investigating using subpoena power for HHS. They will be using it for EPA. They will be using it on every issue they possibly can.

TAPPER: Child separations at the border.

PSAKI: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Puerto Rico deaths.

PSAKI: Absolutely. It will be all-consuming for the White House. And I think, if they thought the last two years were hard, they have not seen anything yet.

COLLINS: And they have not fully grasped that yet. A lot of people who came with President Trump to Washington were people who weren't in Washington before that. So I do not think that there's a serious understanding in the West Wing of what January is going to look like.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

We have a lot more to talk about.

Coming up, General Motors has decided to close factories and fire thousands of people. And now General Motors is facing a serious threat from President Trump. But is he just bluffing?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our "MONEY LEAD" now. This afternoon President Trump threatened to cut off all federal subsidies to General Motors because the auto companies announcement it would slash more than 14,000 jobs at five plants throughout North America so as to invest in more future-forward technology. The President wrote in a tweet, "very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO Mary Barra for closing plants in Ohio Michigan and Maryland and nothing being closed in Mexico and China. The U.S. saved General Motors and this is the thanks we get. We are now looking at cutting all G.M. subsidies.

We looked into this, it's important to note that the biggest federal subsidy for electric cars made by GM is about to go away on its own anyway once a sales milestone is hit. Let's talk about this with our experts. And let me ask you because President Obama led the auto bailout under -- JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And Trump gave him credit for

that today.

TAPPER: Well --

PSAKI: I guess we should -- we should applaud that.

TAPPER: Is that the first time he's given Obama credit for all his --

PSAKI: Probably not.

TAPPER: I don't know. I mean, maybe he maybe he's criticized in the past, maybe he hasn't. But do you share the outrage? I mean the U.S. taxpayer and the Obama administration you know, really did a lot to keep G.M. alive.

PSAKI: That's true. And look, I think the CEO is currently trying to keep G.M. alive. So I'm not -- I think what she's doing in the state is very politically treacherous for G.M. and politically treacherous for the people who are defending G.M., but she was hired five years ago, she has cut a lot of cars from production that were popular. She has -- says tried to slim G.M. So it's very unpopular but I don't know that she's going to change her ways about it. I'm not -- I'm not sure I'm outraged for G.M. She's trying to keep the company alive.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And part of the problem is the cars that they are selling are unpopular. I mean, you can't force Americans to buy as the Chevrolet Cruze which is an electric a vehicle which is a lot of the subsidies are going to bind these electric vehicles sort of cut those subsidies. It just means that people probably are going to buy those cars anyway.

I mean, it's interesting to hear a Republican president talk about subsidies. Remember Obama was slammed all the time for this idea of picking winners and losers.

TAPPER: Winners and losers. Yes.

HENDERSON: And it seems like in some ways he's kind of doing that as well. But this is really you know, treacherous territory for this --

PSAKI: The biggest problem --

HENDERSON: He went to those states and said all of these jobs are coming back, you don't have to move. I'm going to revive these companies.

TAPPER: In fact, take a listen to Trump just last night after this announcement had already been made.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The previous administration, they said manufacturing's never coming back. It's gone. You need a magic wand. Well, we found the magic wand and that's actually -- that's actually going to be increasing by a lot in the next short while because you have a lot of companies moving in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: He says 14,000 jobs. Now the economy we should note, obviously, we've covered this plenty of times before the economy's doing very well, unemployment is very low. But this goes right at the Trump brand, taking away American jobs in the heartland.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: 100 percent. Remember that Mitt Romney got in trouble because he had written an op- ed that got titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." And that was a huge sort of challenge for him politically.

TAPPER: You remember that, Jen.

ANDERSON: And so Trump found that you know, his political success has been built on like kind of being a different kind of Republican in that regard. This happening not just -- not just in terms of losing manufacturing jobs but Ohio. A state that voted for Trump by the same margins that Texas did. I mean, Ohio in the -- at the presidential level was not a swing state this last time. And so for it to be the place where this is happening I think really strikes at the heart of the President's political base.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And beyond it just being a political issue, first, I want to say this is devastating for these families and I feel for each and every one of them that is about to lose their jobs in a place where maybe they are not going to be able to get another job that pays as well as this or has as good as benefits. So this is just devastating on a human level. It's also politically going to be a setback for president Trump not only because this isn't all his fault. Gas prices are down so people aren't buying these kinds of cars. That's one issue.

But also President Trump did make this a problem for himself because he went there, he promised that these jobs are going to come back, manufacturing jobs. He promised that they should not sell their house. You shouldn't say things like that and then -- because you're not going to back it up. He did it again yesterday when he was leaving the White House. He essentially said that he told the woman that they're going to have to put something else in there.

[16:50:17] TAPPER: Mary Barra of G.M.

COLLINS: Mary Barra has said something instead of the Chevy Cruze. Well, just because they pick a new car doesn't mean it's going to sell. American cars are on the decline. So those are bigger issues and that just goes back to President Trump's shouldn't make promises that he can't keep because then when something like this happens, people hold President Trump accountable.

PSAKI: And this is why his reelection -- why running for re-election can be harder than running for election the first time because people hold you accountable for what you promised and President Trump went out there as you said and you said and he promised not just in the auto industry, he promised he would bring back manufacturing jobs across the country. The policies is put in place have not been policies that have done that.

I mean, look back when we were talking about the tax reform debate. A lot of companies went out and admitted that they would send jobs overseas, they would close plants. That's exactly what happened.

TAPPER: G.M. just got $150 million from that tax cut.

PSAKI: Exactly.

HENDERSON: And they're essentially saying that they're not reinvesting that necessarily back into research and development and adding exact more plant. So all of these policies if they said that we're going to juice jobs, rolling back regulations, at least in this case it hasn't happened.

TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all. I appreciate it. President Trump set to meet with Vladimir Putin as pressure mounts for the White House to react strongly to the Russian president's actions against Ukraine. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Our "WORLD LEAD" now. The sequel is shaping up to look a lot like the cringe-worthy original. We're just a few days away from another Trump Putin meeting at the G20 summit this time and again the President not personally singling out Russia for firing on Ukrainian ships or surrounding those ships and seizing their sailors. He only said he doesn't like what's happening either way.

So will President Trump finally confront Putin's act of aggression against Ukraine? CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins me now live from Kiev, Ukraine. And Nick, we just got some breaking news from the Ukrainian president. What is it?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, that phrase either way how Donald Trump describes how he feels about apportioning blame in this crisis has no truck really here in Ukraine itself. We've just heard from Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko. He is quite clear that he believes there is a risk of a full-scale military operation by Russia still in the air.

In fact, they're deeply concerned at what they see is a buildup of Russian forces on the border and also to how this incident occurred straight where Russian boats rammed Ukrainian boats on Sunday was the first time in which Russian military forces haven't bothered using a disguise or proxies to attack Ukraine as we've seen in the last four years. That were -- still been going on. People dying every week, Jake, but not really in the headlines, they did it openly quite blatantly.

And the real question I think people in Ukraine are asking here, as marshal law, you can hear the bells behind me. Martial law is due to begin here, really for the first time on this scale ever in about nine hours from now. Meaning, heightened air defenses, heightened cyber defenses, and possible limitations on Russians entering Ukraine itself legally. That is people are really asking exactly where is the international community right now and is this a case of the Kremlin trying to probe how far they can go. Jake?

TAPPER: Well, and there's this interesting dynamic. U.N. Ambassador from the United States Nikki Haley really laid into Russia over this act of aggression. The President Trump, of course, has yet to really point the finger at Putin as you -- as you noted. How does that square with everything going on on the ground?

WALSH: Strange, the phrase he used. I'm not happy, I want it straightened out. He used the phrase I am not happy either way, suggesting perhaps everyone somehow to blame. Almost like he was scolding an errant child, a very strange presidential turn of phrase frankly. One that seemed to be kind of backed up by John Bolton, his National Security Adviser today in the brief moment in which he spoke about Ukraine. I've got a bear in mind, Jake, this could really be a significant ground confrontation on the European mainland continent here. We have Russian troops aggressively moving around and Ukraine warning of a full-scale invasion.

This is not something a trifle about at all, it should have been the main topic frankly of much of that press conference. John Bolton simply referred everyone back to Nikki Haley's earlier comment saying that they had nothing more to say. It's noticeable really how this current White House seems to find any potential criticism of Russia sort of sticks in their throats to some degree, at least publicly on the White House podium. So a fascinating turn of developments there and frankly many in Ukraine think that plays right into Vladimir Putin's thinking. He wants to see really how far he can push Donald Trump.

He knows Europe is distracted with Brexit and its own internal troubles and he's really perhaps trying to see what he can get away with and what Ukraine defenseless as it is will let him do. Jake?

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh in Kiev, Ukraine, thank you so much. Today the deadliest attack against American troops in Afghanistan this year, three U.S. service members were killed with three others and an American contractor are wounded after an improvised explosive device or IED went off in the city of Ghazni, Afghanistan south of Kabul.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. This comes hours after Army Ranger Sergeant Leandro Jasso's remains were brought back to the United States last night. The Pentagon said Jasso was killed three days ago by friendly fire from an Afghan partner force. He was just 25 years old. He'd been in the Army since 2012. The deaths of these men, of course, a reminder of the price of the ongoing 17-year war Americans continue to fight.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.