Return to Transcripts main page
Democrats Sweep Races One Year After Trump's Win; Trump to North Korea: Do Not Underestimate Us, Do Not Try Us. CIA Director Met with DNC Hack Conspiracy Theorist at Trump's Urging. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired November 8, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Our Ryan Nobles is in Richmond, Virginia, with more. It was not only at the top, it was all the way on down to Virginia.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Poppy. And think of this. Ed Gillespie last night collected more votes than Bob McDonnell, the last Republican to win here statewide in Virginia back in 2009. He won more votes than Ken Cuccinelli did back in 2013 in a race that Cuccinelli narrowly lost. But despite getting more votes in both of those candidates, he lost by an enormous margin to Ralph Northam, the lieutenant governor. And the reason for that is that Democratic turnout was in such big numbers, something that doesn't traditionally happen in an off-year election. And the reason being that many Republicans are pointing to this morning is Donald Trump's impact on this race.
Ed Gillespie attempting to walk on a tight wire, not embracing Trump, necessarily, as a man, but embracing many of the policies that he's championed and the culture war that he has been a part of. And it's not just Republicans in Virginia that are pointing to Donald Trump as being the reason that there were such wide electoral gains for Democrats. It's also the DNC chairman. This is what Tom Perez said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: You have sent a message across the globe to South Korea! Donald Trump, you don't stand for our values! The America that Donald Trump comes back to in a few days is far different than the America he left!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: And former President Barack Obama, also weighing in on the results this morning on Twitter. He campaigned with both Paul -- Phil Murphy, I should say, from New Jersey, and Ralph Northam here in Virginia. And he said, quote, "This is what happens when the people vote. Congrats to Ralph Northam and Phil Murphy. And congratulations to all the victors in the state legislature, county and mayor's races. Every office in a democracy counts!" NOBLES: And when you talk about those down-ballot races, that's where you really see the impact of Donald Trump and his presidency. Here in Virginia, the House of Delegates could flip from Democrat to Republican for the first time in almost 20 years. There are a couple of races that still have yet to be decided and could go to recounts. But I could tell you, John and Poppy, I covered Virginia politics for close to 10 years. No one ever even discussed the possibility of Republicans losing the House of Delegates.
That, perhaps, was the biggest surprise. So many of these legislative losses that happened during the Obama administration in the process of being flipped over after this race this morning and that has to make a lot of Republicans nervous, as you look ahead to these 2018 midterms. How do they respond now after this resounding electoral defeat last night? John and Poppy?
BERMAN: I've been hearing, you know, from nervous Republicans all morning. Ryan Nobles, our thanks to you and for your, you know, volunteer state, or your Virginia, Cavalier state, expertise there. So what issues mattered most to the voters and how much of a role did the president play? One man knows the answer, CNN political director, with David Chalian. David?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: John, the first question we wanted to sort of look at when we ask voters as they were leaving polls in Virginia yesterday is sort of, what do you think of President Trump and what kind of factor was he in your vote choice? Take a look at Donald Trump's approval rating in Virginia yesterday, among voters who showed up to vote in Virginia. 40 percent say they approve of the job Donald Trump is doing. 57 percent disapprove, underwater by 17 points. That was a tough spot for Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate.
What about as a factor in people's vote. And take a look at this, because by two to one, if Donald Trump was a factor, 34 percent say it was a factor negatively. They went to go vote in opposition of Trump. Only 17 percent said that they went to vote in support of Trump, and nearly half the electorate, 47 percent, said Trump was not a factor at all. But if it was a factor, it was a factor in the opposition direction to Donald Trump.
HARLOW: What about the issues. Beyond the president and your like or dislike for him, the main issues that they came out to vote for?
CHALIAN: I think this was one of the most surprising results in the exit polls last night, Poppy. Health care was dominant. I thought health care was certainly an important issue. It's been a dominant part of the political conversation. But look at how it stacks up against all of the rest of the issues. 39 percent of Virginia voters in these exit polls said health care was the issue that mattered most in their vote.
Nothing else even comes close. Gun policy is next at 17 percent, taxes down at 15 percent. And of course, up those voters who say health care was most important, which, as you see, is 4 in 10, overwhelmingly. They voted for Ralph Northam. So this was a vote about health care in the direction of wanting better health care and not necessarily stripping away Obamacare and the protections that had been put in place.
BERMAN: Look, as many voters for Medicare expansion. All right, how about turnout, David Chalian? You know how did that play into the factor here?
CHALIAN: Take a look at Virginia by the counties. And you just heard Ryan Nobles talking about the importance of those.
[10:05:00] See that little bit of blue up there where it says Fairfax? All of those areas right there, that's the D.C. suburbs, guys. So much of what is going to be learned by the results last night is that the suburban vote became even more Democratic. This is the Democratic strong hold of the state, but in each one of those five counties surrounding Washington, D.C., Ralph Northam over performed what Hillary Clinton did a year ago and she won the state by five plus points.
So what that shows us is Democrats turned out. Republican turnout was a little down. Enthusiasm, energy is on the Democratic side right now. And we didn't just see it in Virginia. We saw it across the country in all of these races. And that's clearly a response to one year mark of Donald Trump's presidency.
HARLOW: David Chalian, thank you so much.
Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, CNN political commentator, Alice Stewart, who is also a Republican strategist, and Symone Sanders, who was Bernie Sanders's campaign press secretary in 2016. Thank you all for being here. David, the headline this morning on Axios called it a tsunami. This was a wave. Was it a tsunami?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it comes about as close as you get to a tsunami in politics. Yes, it was a wave and it overwhelmed everything else. And it has changed the story line already. I think it sends a clear message, a thunderous message, if you like, to the Republicans.
They need a serious course correction in Washington. That means the president's behavior, with a lot of things he says, the crazy things he says and that sort of thing. But they also need to revisit health care and get deeper into the numbers that David Chalian was pointing out. It was such an important issue, but which way does it cut? Do people want to keep Obamacare which I think I would probably say or not?
But I would tell you the Democrats shouldn't be too complacent. What we saw was a loss last night for Trumpism without Trump. Trumpism with Trump, when he's on the ticket, he's still dangerous to Democrats.
BERMAN: All right, so Alice Stewart, what about that point? Is the message that -- is it the one the president spent to Ed Gillespie last night that you should have campaigned more closely with me? Is this about being more Trumpy or less Trumpy?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's of course, we all knew that he would say. But the reality is, he lost Virginia by five points to Hillary Clinton. So anyone who would follow the Trump playbook in that state would be doing so at their own peril. And I think Ed Gillespie was wise in keeping the president at arm's length. I think he was wise to embrace the policies that were important to the people there in Virginia. But not bringing the president too close in the fold, and bringing others, like Tom Cotton and vice president in to compete with him.
But I think it's quite clear that the voters overwhelmingly in Virginia, not just in the governor's race, but in the lieutenant governor's race, the attorney general, and double digits in the House of Delegates overwhelmingly made it quite clear that they are not appreciative of the attitude here in Washington, but the level of accomplishment. And I think Republicans need to take this as a signal that it's time not just to tone down some of this rough rhetoric, but also to start checking off some legislative accomplishments. And, clearly, in Virginia, it would be a good idea to revisit health care. But certainly, as tax reform is one of the top three issues here in Virginia, is to tackle the tax reform. And that is a key goal for Republicans in Washington.
HARLOW: Symone, good morning to you. This is a big victory for Democrats. So you should be smiling more than you're smiling right now. There we go. -- But here's my question. Ralph Northam was not the progressive candidate, right? This is a guy who is a sort of very establishment, voted for president George W. Bush twice. Does this cool down your wing, the Bernie Sanders wing of the party at all?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know what, no, I don't think so. I think what we saw in Virginia was the quote/unquote Bernie Sanders wing or the really progressive wing of the party come in and they came together after the primary to do what we need to do to win. While Ralph Northam may not be the progressive beacon that everybody is thinking about, just in Fairfax, the lieutenant governor candidate absolutely was. Just in Fairfax is the first African-American to be elected statewide in Virginia.
The second me, pardon me, with since the civil war. That is a really big thing. And he ran on making the economy work for everybody. He ran a very progressive campaign. And I think not just in Virginia, but places all across the country, you can see that when Democrats run on the issues, not necessarily just against Donald Trump, but running on the issues, that is how they will be successful.
BERMAN: You know, David Gergen, you heard David Chalian talk about the suburbs. There were a lot of Republican congressmen who represent these suburbs right now, which spoke loudly yesterday. And even before the election, we had Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey retire. Do you think there will be more retirements? What do we look for going forward?
GERGEN: Yes. I think there will be more retirements and I think the Democrats are going to put more emphasis on a new generation of candidates. They're going to be scouting around. There are more women running, more veterans, there's a surge among veterans and women who want to run for Congress.
[10:10:06] And I think they're going to take encouragement from this. Donors are going to take encouragement from this on the Democratic side.
Let me be clear, though. When I say Trumpism with Trump, I mean, if he's on the ticket himself and the Democrats put up someone who's too far to the left. He's still a very strong force in American politics. I think what happened here is, the person who -- the Gillespie, you know, was sort of caught in between. He was -- it was hard to tell where he was.
HARLOW: If you watch the ads, you thought he was right there with Trump, but then he says he's not.
GERGEN: Yes, exactly, exactly. So you know I think the Democrats need to be thinking about this in terms of, OK, Trump is a -- can be a big asset for us, but we have to have ideas, we have to have new faces and fresh ideas.
HARLOW: So, Alice, to that point, if Democrats put up what David Gergen is saying they must put up to have these important victories, fresh faces, new ideas. How does that counter what Scott Taylor said at the beginning here, you heard him say that you know the Republican representative from Virginia, that this is a referendum on the administration. That the exit poll numbers show us, as David Chalian went through, twice as many people came out to vote in part in opposition to the president than came out to vote in support of the president.
STEWART: Too clearly, the Democrats, new faces are great, but new ideas or the ideas that voters are concerned with are the key issue. That's where they missed the boat in the presidential election. They need to focus on the economy and issues that is really core for voters across America, and especially in the rust belt states. I think they learned that lesson. Many of them did focus on the economy in order to win in these races.
With regard to Republicans, I think the 6th District in Georgia was a good example of a conservative who will stand for their principles, fight for the policies that Donald Trump stands for. But also promise their voters that they will go and not be a rubber stamp on Donald Trump and his policies, but rather, a check and balance. They want to say that they support Donald Trump, but not blindly.
That's what voters want. They want someone that will stand up for their conservative values, but they also want someone who will do so with a tone that they are encouraged by and one that will continue to encourage more Republicans to get into politics instead of getting out of it.
BERMAN: You know, Symone, Alice brought up Georgia Six, and the president brought up it overnight, also. Saying look, we won. The Republicans won four special elections in a row. Why should tonight matter more than those four other races? And keep in mind, the Democratic Party, you know just at 37 percent right now. Only 37 percent of the country has a favorable view of the Democratic Party right now, which is down from what it was just in March.
SANDERS: Yes, the party is not necessarily popular. But candidates who are running on the issues that the American people care about are. I think the special elections that happened since the election of President Trump and up until now, they were -- the landscape was just very different.
Yesterday was the test. Was the test to see where, where was the pulse in the country, if you will, when it comes to Democrats, when it comes to President Trump and the kinds of policies that Republicans are putting forth. Not just in Virginia, but in Georgia. They flipped two state House seats, two state House seats that were so Republican that they were not even contested in 2016. Those are now represented by Democratic representatives. There is a pathway -- a pathway, if you will. We're back to talking about a pathway, a year later. There is a pathway to win for Democrats in 2018.
HARLOW: Haven't we all learned, never say there is not a path. Never, ever, ever say that again. Symone, quickly, before we go, just to follow with you. I mean, there are poll, this is a new CNN poll John was citing shows the unfavorable rating for Democrats. So the party as a whole is at 54 percent. That's the highest it's been since 1992. You scared about that?
SANDERS: Look, I think that -- I've always said that I think we have a branding issue. Democrats, we have really great ideas, but for some reason, it's not translating to the people when we go out there and talking to them in the states. I think it's really important that Democrats are talking about what we are doing and can do for folks all across America, regardless if they're Democrat, Republicans, or independents. And brand ourselves in a way that notes that we are the party that's going to -- for lack of a better term -- get things done.
BERMAN: This is your day, that's for sure. See how long that day lasts. David, Alice, Symone, thank you all very, very much.
President Trump on the ground in Beijing hours after a speech where he talked about North Korea and Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I hope I speak not only for our countries, but for all civilized nations when I say to the North, do not underestimate us. And do not try us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: The response from North Korea was "We are done listening."
[10:15:01] Let's go to our Jeff Zeleny. He is traveling with the president on this really big, important, critical trip across Asia. He's in China right now ahead of a big meeting with Xi Jinping, the leader there. We'll get to that in a moment. But just reaction to the speech and what we heard last night?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Good morning, John. President Trump is arriving here, as you said. He did arrive a few hours ago. And it is still his ask of President Xi Jinping to step up his efforts to squeeze the North Korean regime financially. That is going to be front and center in these talks here. But the speech that the president gave in Seoul, South Korea, just a day ago certainly is still hanging over all the talks here and in the air here. And the president made clear why he should be seen as a different American leader than all the ones who have gone before him who have dealt with North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The regime has interpreted America's past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation. This is a very different administration than the United States has had in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, certainly, it is a different administration, a different president in substance and style, but the issues and challenges remain the same. But speaking of other presidents, President Trump now is leaving the door open to putting North Korea back on the state list of sponsored terrorist organizations. You'll remember back at the end of President George W. Bush's term in October of 2008, he removed North Korea from the list after, you know, calling them part of the axis of evil just a few years prior. That was part of his efforts to bring North Korea into the negotiating table.
So President Trump, we're told, will be making that decision before the end of his visit here to Asia in the next week or so. But a big set of meetings on tap in a few hours today when President Trump is going to continue to be flattered and have the red carpet rolled out for him. But then he's moving into a series of substantive meetings with President Xi Jinping. Of course, the economy, trade issues, front and center on all of these conversations.
You know, during the presidential campaign, President Trump railed against China so often. His tone, now, of course, has changed. But he is trying to get more from China. And he's brought a series -- a long list of business leaders with him. He'll be announcing some business deals here, as well. So that's what's on the president's agenda for today in what is arguably the most sequential stop in his 12-day tour of Asia. John and Poppy?
HARLOW: Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.
It is so interesting, some of the CEOs traveling with the president, that have been critical of him, like Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs.
BERMAN: It's a business opportunity.
HARLOW: China is a business opportunity, indeed.
Ahead for us, voters in Virginia sending a message about the president's agenda. We're going to speak to a Republican Congressman from the great state -- commonwealth?
HARLOW: -- of Virginia, about where the party goes from here.
BERMAN: Plus, the CIA's chief meets with a conspiracy theorist. So why did he do it, because the president asked him to.
And investigators in the Texas church shooting have a roadblock in this case. How the gunman's phone is now a focal point.
[10:22:35] BERMAN: All right, a big day for Democrats across the country and in the commonwealth of Virginia. The Democratic candidate there, Ralph Northam, he will be the next governor. The question now is, what does it mean going forward for the rest of the country.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Dave Brat of Virginia. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. It wasn't just the governor's race, it was the lieutenant governor's race, it was the attorney general's race, it was all the races for the House of Delegates. This was a Democratic sweep, by and large, in your state. What happened?
REP. DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: So what's common to all of those is we failed to nationalize the election. The Democrat showed up, nationalized the election, and I think we were running too much on state issues. Even at the state level, Virginia only grew at 0.6 percent GDP growth rate last year. That's not good. And yet two-thirds of the people came out to the polls saying, the economy is doing fine.
And so, we failed to message on the economy. The Democrats put in a $10 trillion tax increase up in D.C. three weeks ago. We're putting in tax cuts. We didn't message on that. Obamacare premiums are going out with 40 percent increases across the state. The Democrats are running on health care, but they're not running on Obamacare failure.
And so we failed to message at the proper level, on the national level. And it turns out that's the key. It was health care last night. We haven't -- we failed, right? The Senate, Republicans failed to pass a repeal and to lower the price of health care. We've got to get that done. And then tax cuts, we've got to get it done, because it's a national referendum. And you're right it affected all the downhill races. And so we've got to get our act together up here in the swamp any day now.
HARLOW: We've got to get our act together, strong words. Would you agree with some other strong words from your fellow Republican, from Virginia, Scott Taylor, who just said this morning on this network, this is a referendum on this administration?
BRAT: It's a referendum -- the administration has the agenda of lowering taxes, repealing Obamacare, getting rid of regulations, et cetera. The Senate did the face-plant on the Obamacare repeal, right? So that's where the failure occurred. So I always like to tell it the way it is. The Senate failed on Obamacare repeal. Health care was the number one issue. And the economy is number two. And tax cuts are up right now. So we better get that one through.
HARLOW: Is that a yes or no, because you look at the exit poll numbers. Twice as many people in Virginia came out to vote in part to opposition of this president than in support of this president. So yes or no, say it like it is, referendum on this president or no?
[10:25:10] BRAT: It depends on what you mean on -- on the agenda, no. The agenda -- I always deal in policy, not on personality and all the drama.
HARLOW: On the man, on the man.
BRAT: I don't think it's ever a matter of personality. Last night, the evidence was health care and the economy growth. Economy in Virginia is failing right now. And government jobs are tied to that economy. And so it's staggering that northern Virginia can go along with such low economic growth.
BERMAN: Congressman, another way to ask that is, do you think the president helped or hurt Republicans in Virginia?
BRAT: We failed to -- what I'm saying is, we failed to nationalize it, right? It wasn't in play.
BERMAN: But the Democrats, to the extent that they nationalized it.
BERMAN: They nationalized it around the president of the United States. So we're asking you, it's not a trick question. It's a fairly simple one.
BERMAN: Did he help or hurt? Did he help or hurt Republicans in your state?
BRAT: I wish -- I wish the national would have come into play. We failed to capitalize on nationalizing the election. And that's why we lost. -
BERMAN: -- Ed Gillespie should have run closer to the president, you're saying?
BRAT: Yes, on health care, repeal of Obamacare, and on cutting taxes, which we're going to do for every American. Every average family in Virginia will get $1,200 back in their pockets. We didn't mention that. That's our plan, right? That's the Republican plan. It's the Republican platform.
If you don't mention that, it's not good. And so, we've got to do -- we're doing no oversight hearings. We're not messaging on foreign policy, et cetera. We have a messaging problem and we had an Obamacare face-plant in the Senate. We've got to correct that and move forward. And we failed to do that last night.
HARLOW: But Ed Gillespie did run on some of the issues, some of the cultural issues that have been most important and prominent to this president. Like immigration, like confederate statues, like you know the NFL, you know, kneeling or standing for the anthem. He did run on that stuff. I think what we're trying to understand is do you think that helped or hurt in Virginia for this race?
BRAT: Some of those issues, I think, helped Ed. And I mean the president narrative is that he ran hard on those issues. I don't think that's accurate. Ed ran a good state-level policy race, right? He had 20 rational policy planks at the state level, but that got dwarfed by all the nationalization of the issues, right?
And so, the state message didn't come through, at the end, he started pivoting toward MS-13, the gang activity in northern Virginia, the statues, Thomas Jefferson at UVA now has a shroud over his head, right? And so that -- those issues were two-thirds of Americans supported him on those issues, right? And then the press would come in and say, you all know what that means, right? Jefferson is you know somehow considered evil now.
BRAT: And two-thirds of Americans don't agree with that.
BERMAN: Congressman, given how tough of a day it was across the board in Virginia. Are you glad you weren't on the ballot yesterday?
BRAT: If I were on the ballot, I would have nationalized everything, right? And so I would have run 100 percent on the Democrats increasing taxes by $10 trillion in their budget this year. The swamp is the spending. We can't get any spending cuts up here at all. And that's why the middle class tax cut isn't bigger.
And so I would have run on those issues. I would have run on health care. Premiums are going up 40 percent. In our plan, I worked very hard with the Freedom Caucus to make sure prices would go down on health care. I voted no against our own team on that. And then I got to yes when the price finally started going down. So that's where I stand.
I want health care costs for the average family back home to go down. I would have run across the board on all of those federal issues that were one and two in the polls. And I think there's a win there, easy. I think it's an easy win. The Democrats don't have any policy solutions right now.
HARLOW: You're OK. You're OK that you had last night off? It's OK with you.
BRAT: I would rather not be running every two years, yes. Maybe, you know, the Senate looks like they have a cushy job, right? They go up every six years and get it wrong in between. So that's a nice slot if you can get it.
I'm sure they'll love hearing that. Congressman Brat, we appreciate it this morning.
BRAT: Thank you, guys. You bet. Thanks.
HARLOW: All right, coming up, a really important story. The CIA Director Mike Pompeo is really busy. So why did he sit down then, for an hour, with a well-known conspiracy theorist? Well, because the president asked him to, the details ahead.