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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Ryan May Have to Fight to Keep Speaker Job; Breaking News: Bridgegate Verdicts, Guilty on All Counts; Officials Monitoring Election Terror Threats; Republicans Hold Slight Edge in Florida Early Voting. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired November 4, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:39] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Does Paul Ryan have the Clash rocking in his ear buds right now? I'm talking about this.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Rock the Casbah is --
BOLDUAN: That's why I didn't go there.
Paul Ryan says he will be running for House speaker once again, assuming Republicans hold control of the House of Representatives, but some members of the GOP conference may have other ideas.
BERMAN: Let's bring in CNN senior political reporter, Manu Raju.
Singing not required, Manu.
BOLDUAN: But encouraged.
BERMAN: Encouraged, not required.
What's going on with this, Manu?
RAJU: Well, it really depends whether or not Paul Ryan has a fight on his hands, if the Republicans keep the House and if they have a narrow majority which is what we are expecting. We are expecting Republicans to lose maybe 10, 15, 20 seats right now. Probably a lot of moderate members but keep the House majority. That's means the conservative bloc will get more influential, particularly the House Freedom Caucus, a group of outside agitators, people who have been a thorn in the side of the Republican party leadership. The leadership of the House Freedom Caucus right now is not saying whether or not they will support Paul Ryan. We reached out to virtually all the members of that 40 member caucus. A lot of them just not saying one way or another what they will do, including Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is the chairman of that committee; Mark Meadows of North Carolina, senior leader Raul Labrador of Idaho, all saying they don't know what they will do after Tuesday. Now, there's a lot of speculation about what Paul Ryan will do. Something that why does he even want this job, maybe he will quit and focus on 2020. His office says that is nonsense. Of course, he's running for re-election to speaker, even though the vote may likely be close.
He's also campaigning with some members of the Freedom Caucus itself including Rob Blum (ph) of Iowa, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, both of whom indicated support for Paul Ryan.
The larger picture here is that Paul Ryan will need all the support he can get on the floor there is a narrow majority and if some members decide to vote against him on the floor, it could be very hard to get that 218 vote threshold to be re-elected speaker. One thing he has going for him, who will run, who will become speaker if he's not? No obvious alternative at this point.
BERMAN: All right. Manu Raju, drama on Capitol Hill. They are not even on Capitol Hill right now.
Thanks so much, Manu. Appreciate it.
Let's bring in Mary Katharine Ham, CNN political commentator and senior writer for "The Federalist"; and Margaret Hoover, CNN political commentator and veteran of two presidential Republican campaigns.
Margaret, when it comes to the Republican post-election, what do you think is the most likely scenario for Paul Ryan?
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's highly likely Paul Ryan returns to the House as Manu said with a narrowed majority but still a majority, and he's elected speaker.
Can I just give you context on this? I talked to a Freedom Caucus member this morning to figure out the story behind the story. Actually, what this posturing is about, they are saying we're not talking about it until the election. This is actually about rules changes in the House of Representatives, that the speaker and leadership want to pass rules changes the Freedom Caucus doesn't like. What they have as leverage is simply their caucus vote of 40 to say if he passes these rules changes, we aren't going to vote for him. They are negotiating and doing fancy footwork now in order to prevent rule changes like vacate the chair motion, which was the motion that led to Speaker Boehner's downfall.
BERMAN: Sounds like the type of thing we have heard before.
BOLDUAN: Posturing? What?
BERMAN: I call it harrumphing, you call it posturing.
Mary Katharine, let me ask you this. There is this question about whose party is it after this election. The question is being asked right now and it will really be asked after this election, look, if Donald Trump wins there's a clear winner, a clear answer to whose party it is. If he loses, what's the answer?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I think the fight is raging as Margaret points out, that's going on behind the scenes right now.
A little more context, one of the happiest men in America is John Boehner, who kicked back with a Marlboro, a nine iron and a Bordeaux. There's that option.
There there's Paul Ryan. The whole time speaker, he's like the guy from --I wasn't even supposed to be here today. It's not the most fun job in the world. But I think he wants a seat at the table in figuring out what that party is going forward, which is why he will negotiate with these guys and will he likely run for this again. He didn't want to do this last time he got the call-up, which is another Clash reference -- you're welcome -- so here we are.
HOOVER: This is what she does. This is what's impressive.
[11:35:14] BOLDUAN: I know. She didn't read my intro. It's like, Mary Katharine, just blowing my mind.
Here's a tweet. Try this on for size, Margaret Hoover. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, you know this, writes this on the Twitters: "Trump may be a car wreck but at least his car is pointed in the right direction. Hillary is a drunk driver going the wrong way on the freeway."
This leads me to one of those classic questions. With Republican friends like these, what could possibly go wrong coming up? If Mike Huckabee thinks Donald Trump is a car wreck going into this election, what happens post-election here?
HOOVER: Look, Paul Ryan wants a seat at the table but it's more than that. He wants to set the direction. He wants his vision for what Republican Party it's going to be to be ascendant and succeed. Then there are the Mike Huckabees and Donald Trumps, the Freedom Caucus version, its version that wants less emphasis on trade and immigration, more emphasis maybe on white working class economic policies. Whatever it is they want. There is going to be an all-out fight for what the Republican Party is going to be.
BERMAN: Margaret Hoover, Mary Katharine Ham, thanks so much. Stand by.
Because we have breaking news for you on the --
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BERMAN: The breaking news is on the Bridgegate trial from New Jersey, big news.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
Deb Feyerick, with it.
Deb, what did they say?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The jury found the two defendants guilty on all charges. John and Kate, only in New Jersey can gridlock be considered a form of political retaliation. At least that's what federal prosecutors succeeded in showing during the course of this six-week trial against two of Governor Christie's really political operatives.
Now, both have been accused of conspiracy and fraud for allegedly manipulating lane traffic and creating four-day long gridlock at a very busy crossing, the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey into Manhattan. Federal prosecutors had said the two officials did it in order to punish a local mayor who essentially had refused to re-election campaign. Lawyers for the two defendants however had argued during this trial that in fact, this was simply part of the legitimate traffic study.
Now, the two who have been found guilty include Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, as well as the former deputy executive of the port authority, which handles the bridge. They are asking, their lawyers or a mist al because during the jury deliberations, the jury had asked did they have to find that there was a conspiracy or could they find a conspiracy if in fact there was no evidence that this was a form of punishment to this New Jersey mayor. The judge came back and said, yes, you can determine there was a conspiracy because what is at issue is did these to conspire to misuse government resources.
So now these two individuals, Bridget Kelly, Bill Barone, their lawyers have asked for a mistrial and it is likely the two of them will appeal.
Kind of a blow to Governor Chris Christie, who has denied any knowledge of this. But during this trial, at least five witnesses, some of them very loyal to the govern|, he was aware of these lane closures and that it was being done because of the actions of the mayor who refused to endorse him.
So this continues. Governor Christie leading up Donald Trump's transition campaign should he become president.
BERMAN: So, Deb, on that point, because this is what people are asking, these two defendants found guilty. Both defendants said actually, their defense put up that Chris Christie knew more about this than we have been led to believe. From a legal perspective, what does the fact the jury found them guilty portend for Chris Christie?
FEYERICK: Well, it's interesting. There have been three investigations. One of them, which was commissioned essentially by the governor, paid by taxpayers, one of which was commissioned by him didn't find that he knew about this. The state legislature looked at this as did federal prosecutors. The fact you have these two people so close to the governor knowing or at least being found guilty of conspiring to manipulate bridge traffic. That will not necessarily bode well for the governor.
There is a citizen who actually filed a complaint basically saying he should be held responsible, should be held accountable. It's certainly a thorn in his side, and it won't be going away any time soon.
BOLDUAN: A thorn in his side. Many say one of the reasons factored into why he was not chosen as V.P. is some of the story and public conversation when you look at presidential politics.
Thanks so much, Deb.
Deb has the breaking news. She will continue working on that.
Let's bring in Gloria Browne-Marshall, constitutional law professor.
Gloria, as you look at this, this has been -- this story has been around for a very long time. It was a very -- it is, continues to be, it's a big dead for Chris Christie. The governor of New Jersey. Deb gave us a little slice of it. From your opinion, you have this -- you have these two people found guilty. What do you think this means for Governor Christie?
[11:40:21] GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: I think this is going to be following him for a very long period of time. It's already followed him. It's going to follow him into the future because if there is a Donald Trump presidency, there's a hint around there's going to be a position there for Christie. So this could also tank his ability to ascend to that position.
BERMAN: What's interesting again, though, in this case to me, is that these defendants, part of their defense was, look, the governor knew more about this than he's letting on. His story is different they say, than has been out there in the public yet the jury, because they thought that would somehow help them in their case. I'm not quite sure I understand why. But the jury said no, you two are the guilty ones. Is it possible, I suppose this is more of a political question than a legal one, he could say all right, these two people were found guilty, it wasn't me, it was them, they have been convicted.
BROWNE-MARSHALL: Certainly. If they are not going to turn around and say I have got the evidence to prove he knew more and that I think is part of the problem. Where is the evidence that links this with him? Right now it's pretty much circumstantial.
BOLDUAN: One could argue that this ends it. Just like you're saying, they have been found guilty. This is where this ends. If they haven't produced evidence against him to this point, there's nothing there. Could this, the flipside of what I asked before, could this end a very difficult chapter for him?
BROWNE-MARSHALL: There is always the appellate process. This is America. People appeal. We don't know, it could go up on remand, come back down and there could be some evidence not allowed to be exposed to the jury, so therefore, they are saying the smoking gun was there but the judge didn't let it in. Who knows what it's going to be on appeal. But it's not going to end here. It's going to be ongoing. And it's going to be something I think for the most part that is legal and political. And where these things come together, that's where the tragedy is because, at the end of the day, that bridge was closed. We know that happened. And the different tentacles of the people involved, we may never know all the people that had roles in this.
BERMAN: At a minimum, we know there are convictions in the Bridgegate scandal. A jury has decided people broke the law here. That is significant.
Gloria, thanks so much for being with us.
BROWNE-MARSHALL: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Ahead for us, terror threats and the election. Law enforcement officials are monitoring concerns about terror threats around Election Day, including intercepting conversations among al Qaeda overseas about targeting three states in particular. Details on that coming in. We'll bring it to you.
[11:47:11] BERMAN: All right. Officials are now monitoring concerns about terror threats surrounding Election Day, including intercepted al Qaeda conversations overseas.
CNN justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has the details.
Pamela, what are you hearing?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: In those conversations intercepted by the intelligence community, there was al Qaeda adherents overseas talking about targeting three different states, John and Kate. Those states are New York, Texas and Virginia, according to officials we have been speaking with.
We want to emphasize officials say this was non-specific, that it could just be idle chatter. And this is not being treated in the intelligence and law enforcement communities as an imminent threat. But of course, it is something law enforcement is aware of.
New York law enforcement said in a statement they are aware of this intercepted chatter and that they are on heightened alert. We know New York already has heightened security, because the marathon this weekend, of course, draws big crowds, drawing big crowds voting on Tuesday, and the anticipation of the election night parties in the city. So with that in mind, of course, they are looking at this intercepted chatter as a potential threat but nothing to verify it as substantive or something imminent.
Texas also just released a statement saying it is unaware of this, nothing specific or credible regarding the election and threats surrounding it.
But I will tell you in talking to law enforcement officials, there is concern. This concern is compounded by the fact of how divisive this election season has been. And there is concern that perhaps people who are agitated by the toxic environment may want to act. So there are several security precautions in place not just in these three states but also across the country.
BOLDUAN: Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Pamela, great to see you. Thanks for bringing us up to date on that.
Coming up for us, very soon we will hear from both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, their closing arguments to voters in two crucial battleground states. We will bring you there live as soon as they take the stage.
[11:53:16] BOLDUAN: All eyes are on the great state of Florida, home to Disneyworld, key lime pie, and voters that can single-handedly decide the outcome of the election.
BERMAN: It happens from time to time.
BOLDUAN: It all came down to Florida in 2000. Today, both campaigns are pulling out all the stops to try to win the state this time around.
BERMAN: Adam Smith, political editor of the "Tampa Bay Times," joins us.
Adam, give us the state of play. Florida, a big early voting state and it is, oh, so close right now.
ADAM SMITH, POLITICAL EDITOR, TAMPA BAY TIMES: Yeah. It's Florida. So it's usually a toss-up at this point and that's what we have. We've had about five million votes cast already, more than half the votes cast. And I think looking at party breakdown of whose casted votes, a lot of reason for Republicans to feel optimistic, but it is really tight as it looks like.
BOLDUAN: When you look at kind of CNN's early voting estimates, Republicans have a lead in terms of the early vote, but it's tiny. I mean, it's small. Compare it to 2008, the last one, we're kind of comparing, Dems were up at this point by 70-plus thousand ballots in terms of early voting. So, I mean, when you look at that, should Dems be nervous?
SMITH: Yeah, you look at that, Dems absolutely should be nervous but it's hard to compare 2008 to this time, 2012, to this time, because there's been a lot more early voting. So we don't know how many of these Republicans would be voting already. The early votes are cast at a time many of them when Clinton was up ahead in the polls so presumably she banked more. Those NPAs, Independent voters, obviously, we don't know about. Both sides tend to think it's a pretty well even split. But it is tough and both sides can spin the early numbers to suggest they are better off than the others. But bottom line, Democrats were better positioned four years ago than they are today. [11:55:16] BERMAN: Democrats will tell you they're excited the
Latino vote has a proportion of the overall vote. Who knows at this point?
BERMAN: Adam Smith, thanks. Appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Adam.
The Cubs victory parade, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, all live this hour. We'll bring you all of these big-league events -- yep, I did that -- as they unfold.
We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: There's another vote under way right now for CNN's Hero of the Year.
Here's one of this year's top-10 heroes, Becca Stevens.
BECCA STEVENS, CNN HERO: All I wanted to do was open one house and invite five women to come in who all had been survivors of trafficking diction and prostitution and say, come stay for two years. No cost. No authority in the house. Just come be together.
So when a woman comes in, we give her a key. This is your beautiful home. This is your place to be. That's the mind-set. And the idea is that it can be lavish and economical. You can do all these and half this for half of what it costs to house in the prison for a year.
It started with residential communities. It moved into social enterprise because we understood that while women were doing amazing work, they were still dirt poor.
On average, the last 20 years the women we serve the first sexual assault is between the ages of 7 and 11 years old. The stories used to undo me they're so horrific. And the global issues of human trafficking are so big.
It doesn't have to be the ends of the story. It's a big part of the story but it's not the end. It's just a chapter in it.
BERMAN: Vote for any of your favorite top-10 heroes now at CNNheroes.com. BOLDUAN: thank you for joining us AT THIS HOUR.
BERMAN: "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John king. Thanks for sharing time with us.
Four days until we count the vote. Lots of questions. We do know this, whoever wins, will win ugly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary, therefore, committed perjury, absolutely, because of her statements, in addition to all of her other crimes. This is a person that's running for president?
HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has spent this entire campaign offering a dog --