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Source Close to White House: Bolton Thinks Trump "Caves" Too Much in Dealings with Dictators; Interview with Former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice; Vote Count Underway In Pivotal North Carolina Special Election; New CNN Poll Shows 60 Percent Believe President Trump Does Not Deserve Second Term; Approval Rating At 39 Percent; Malcolm Gladwell On His New Book, Spies And Trusting Strangers. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 10, 2019 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Polls are closed, and the vote count is under way in North Carolina, where the final race of the 2018 congressional midterms is finally being decided and could have a lot to say about 2020. We're going to bring you the latest on that as we learn more, as the votes are being counted, along with new CNN polling on whether voters think that President Trump deserves to be re-elected. New numbers out tonight.

We begin, though, keeping them honest, with the forced departure of the president's third national security adviser, John Bolton, from a White House that a source close to the administration calls, quote, a real snake pit. The source, who spoke to "THE LEAD's" Jake Tapper, goes on to say it is run by, quote, an erratic president who is hard to manage and who brings out the worst sensibilities in people, unquote. We also might add who fires people on Twitter.

I'm quoting now: I informed John Bolton his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the administration, and -- administration and therefore I asked John for his administration which was given to me this morning.

Which, by the way, Ambassador Bolton disputes that account. He says he offered his resignation last night, and the president told him, quote, let's talk about it tomorrow.

In any case, it seems no one told the White House press office, which had just announced Bolton's presence at a joint press conference this afternoon. An hour later, he was gone. Again, he is the third national security adviser to be shown the door.

As you well know, the first was Michael Flynn. He's now a convicted felon who is back in the headlines today. A judge setting his sentencing date for the 18th of December.

As for the second, H.R. McMaster, the president is said to be in touch with him, even reportedly telling McMaster that he misses him.

As for Bolton, well, the president once had plenty of praise for him, his intelligence, and perhaps most important to this president, his tough guy image.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he's, you know, a tough cookie. He knows what he's talking about.

John is a terrific guy. We had some really good meetings with him. Knows a lot. Has a good number of ideas that I must tell you I agree very much with.

I think he's going to be a fantastic representative of our team. He's highly respected by everybody in this room.

Great John Bolton. They think he's so nasty and so tough, that I have to hold him back, OK? That's pretty great. And he's doing a great job.

He has strong views on things, but that's OK. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing, isn't it?

I have different sides. I mean I have John Bolton, and I have other people that are a little more dovish than him, and ultimately I make the decision. I get -- I like John.


COOPER: Well, those feelings have apparently been cooling all year with the two clashing over Iran, North Korea, Russia, and more recently, the president's plan to invite the Taliban to Camp David.

So, was he fired for that, for daring to speak out against the idea of bringing the Taliban to Camp David on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11? We don't know for sure because we've yet to hear from Bolton aside from one tweet saying he offered to resign.

As much as policy differences may have factored into this, the mode, the manner, the apparent chaos surrounding it, the sudden nature of it, all of it speaks to something else about the way this White House in particular operates.

It underscores new reporting on what Jake Tapper's source said, an administration with dysfunctional processes and bureaucracy, one that attracts people who are willing to make the big compromise to work for Trump, so they're especially cutthroat. It's a real snake pit.

On the national security side, that includes people who have come and gone, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, also fired by tweet. Defense Secretary James Mattis who quit over the president's snap decision to pull out of Syria. Kirstjen Nielsen and John Kelly at DHS. DNI Dan Coats, NSA Director Mike Rogers, U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley. Not all directly clashed with the president before leaving or being

shown the door, but whatever the motivation was, the amount of turnover in what used to be seen as critical positions is unprecedented. When many of them leave, they're being replaced essentially by temps. These are the acting members of his cabinet now, including Charles Kupperman, the new acting national security adviser.

The president has said in his words, I like acting, because he said it gives him more flexibility, and we might add it cuts down on dissenting points of view, which might be fine for a president who considers himself his own best press secretary, his own best intelligence analyst, even his own best hurricane forecaster, which he himself said yesterday when asked when he called for and canceled the Taliban meetings, I took my own advice.

More now on all of this. Our Jim Acosta is at the White House. He has some new reporting on it.

Jim, what have you learned from sources?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we know that one of the reasons why the president decided to fire the national security adviser, John Bolton, was because both he and the vice president were upset with this idea that John Bolton and some on his team were spreading this story around that the vice president was joining up with John Bolton in opposing this idea of peace talks at Camp David with the Taliban.


But just this evening, Anderson, I talked to a source close to the White House who said that the president has been complaining about John Bolton wanting to, quote, start a war since the beginning of his tenure as national security adviser. The source also close to the White House shed some light on Bolton's thinking in all of this, saying that Bolton is very concerned about the president's desire to have a meeting with the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.

According to this source close to the White House, John Bolton is worried that the president, quote, caves too much in his meetings with these dictators like Kim Jong-un, the dictator of North Korea, and others that the president has met with over the last three years of this administration.

COOPER: Bolton's exit -- I mean we talked about how sudden it seemed, that he was scheduled to be part of a White House press room briefing --

ACOSTA: Right.

COOPER: -- with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, until the president's tweet caught apparently even the White House press office by surprise.

ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. I talked to a secret administration official earlier today who said they were essentially running around trying to figure out what was going on after the president's tweet about John Bolton.

But you're right. I mean, in addition to John Bolton being listed as participating in this briefing with reporters earlier today, he was spotted outside the West Wing talking on the phone, seemingly unaware of what was about to happen, that he wasn't going to be involved with this administration any longer.

But at that briefing with the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, I asked the treasury secretary whether or not this national security team is basically a mess right now in light of all of these departures and all this turnover you just laid out a few moments ago, and here's what he had to say.


REPORTER: Is this national security team a mess?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Absolutely not. That's the most ridiculous question I've ever heard of.

Let me just say the national security team, which is what you asked, consists of the national security adviser, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, myself, the chief of staff, and many others.


ACOSTA: Now, Anderson, I went on to ask the treasury secretary whether or not it is hazardous to your future in the administration to disagree with the president. He said that's not true.

But perhaps the most telling thing we saw during that briefing earlier today, Anderson, was not something that was said. It was the smiles on the faces of the secretary of state and the treasury secretary. Typically, when somebody like a national security adviser leaves an administration, not only are they not taking questions from reporters about all of this, they're certainly not smiling about it.

But in the words of one administration official I spoke with earlier today about all of this, John Bolton did not have a lot of defenders left in this administration -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Now, an exclusive conversation with Susan Rice. She served first as U.N. ambassador and later as national security adviser for more than three years in the Obama administration. And she's author of a new book out next month called "Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For."

I spoke to her just before air time.


COOPER: Ambassador Rice, when you heard the news about John Bolton's departure, were you surprised at all given the turnover and the turmoil in the White House?

SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: I was surprised by the timing of it because it came with little notice. But I wasn't surprised that we might come to this point because it seemed quite clear that in many respects, John Bolton and his policy interests and his policy positions deviated quite dramatically from President Trump's.

And there have been a number of stories recently about how Bolton had been excluded or attempted to have been excluded from very important meetings where any national security adviser would rightly be present. So, the fact that the rift came to the fore and resulted in his departure itself was not such a surprise. I think the timing was.

And recall we're not only just days after the Afghan debacle, but we're on the eve now of the United Nations General Assembly, where foreign policy will again come to the fore. So, it's an awkward time to have no national security adviser or a brand-new national security adviser.

COOPER: As you know, CNN's reporting is that the schedule then canceled -- I guess I don't know if it's a summit or a meeting with the Taliban at Camp David was the final straw between the president and Bolton, combined with Bolton criticizing the whole thing to journalists in the past few days. If -- I mean, do you agree with Bolton on the substance of that opposing that meeting? What do you make of the idea of the meeting?

Because it also gets to the point you made earlier, which is, it shouldn't be surprising given that Bolton's, you know, well-known positions from being on Fox News, if nothing else, should have been known to the president before he was hired or would have been known to the president before he was hired.


RICE: Well, Anderson, you know, should have been known, absolutely. Whether they were known or whether the president cared at the time or only cared when it seemed to thwart his agenda is hard to judge.

But, clearly, John Bolton had some very strong views on a number of issues, most of which I disagree with him on. For example, Venezuela, his approach to Iran.

But on Afghanistan, I think he had a very valid point. It was an appalling judgment to invite the Taliban, responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans, to Camp David when they hadn't agreed to end the conflict with the Afghan government, much less talk to the Afghan government.

COOPER: So what happens now? I mean, the president is obviously fine with having people fill jobs in an acting capacity. He's fine not having a press secretary doing, you know, daily briefings with the press corps. He's happy just kind of handling it himself on the way to and from the helicopter. It seems like he's happy not necessarily having a lot of close

advisers. He seems to feel he can negotiate with Kim Jong-un on his own and Vladimir Putin on his own. So what happens next? I mean how does the next national security adviser do his or her job?

RICE: These are two different things.

So the broader problem we have is that the national security process has completely broken down. John Bolton did not convene the national security principals. The cabinet-level officials, who are supposed to weigh in and collectively make recommendations to the president on anything like a regular basis. He arrogated so much authority to himself to the exclusion of his counterparts, and decisions were not worked through with the rigor and the care that they normally are and that they need to be.

Add to that, that we have a president who could careless, it seems about history, about analysis, about the rigor of going through various options and weighing their prospective risks and benefits. He's making policy on the fly, often changing his mind in midstream. It's an extremely dangerous situation.

COOPER: So, you're saying the system has really broken down?

RICE: It's proving -- it has broken down, and what President Trump is proving is that even if we had a system that was performing as it should, he could care less, and he would throw the results out the window.

So, we've got two problems. We've got a dysfunctional national security process and a president who himself, by virtue of the way he governs and plays his role as commander in chief, is putting our interests at grave risk in many different contexts.

COOPER: Just lastly, I want to get your reaction to today's new CNN reporting that President Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources overseas, according to multiple senior officials who served under the president. He reportedly fears those assets, those covert assets will damage his relationships with foreign leaders, and essentially he doesn't trust the intelligence.

I mean, that's -- it is -- assuming that is true, that seems to be a remarkable breach from -- I mean, that's what -- you know, that's what overseas operatives for the CIA do.

RICE: It's crazy. Anderson, call it what it is. It's crazy.



Our adversaries are using espionage, including human intelligence assets against us every day. For the United States to unilaterally disarm and say we're going to renounce one of the most useful forms of intelligence collection against our most committed adversaries is foolish to put it mildly.

And so, you know, for the president to put his own self-interest, it seems, above the national interest of the United States, above the national security of the United States, which in so many instances, this just being the latest, seems to be his pattern is extraordinarily dangerous and detrimental to our security, to our standing in the world, and to our ability to protect ourselves, which is what intelligence is about. Intelligence is about protecting the American people from our adversaries.

COOPER: Yes, Ambassador Rice, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

RICE: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, tonight, coming up, two more takes on this and the breaking news. Max Boot and Fareed Zakaria join us for that.

And later, the numbers and expert insight as results are just now starting to come in from North Carolina's ninth where the president was campaigning just yesterday.



COOPER: Before the break, you heard former National Security Adviser Susan Rice's take on John Bolton's firing, essentially that it reflects the dysfunction, the functionality of what is supposed to be a carefully structured system for ensuring that a president, any president, gets the best possible advice, especially when getting good advice is a matter of life and death.

Now, the national security process, she says, has completely broken down in this White House. There's also the question of policy differences, including Jim Acosta's reporting that Ambassador Bolton, according to a source close to the White House, had been concerned the president is too generous with dictators. In the words of this source, Trump caves. He gives them way too much.

I want to talk about it. Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS", Sundays on CNN, and CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot.

How big, Fareed, how big of a deal is Bolton's departure?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, it's a big deal because it's systematic really of a breakdown in a policy process.

See, sometimes you do have situations where presidents come into office. They often haven't thought a lot about foreign policy. They develop a foreign policy view as they go through crises, and then they notice that some of their advisers are actually not in sync with them. That's a normal process. Ronald Reagan went through six national security advisers.


Here, it's puzzling because Trump's views on foreign policy are well- known. I mean, he basically wants to end those wars. He wants to negotiate.

Bolton's views are very well known. Trump must have had the -- you know, the recorder on mute during the Fox News broadcast that John Bolton was on because Bolton is a super hawk, very aggressive, wants to bomb every country, doesn't want to do any of the peace deals. What was Trump thinking when he hired him?

So, you know, it's the dysfunction at the heart of the Trump White House, which is why are these people being hired? They don't seem to agree with the president. He doesn't seem to respect them. Really there is the kind of weird what is going on here?

COOPER: Max, you wrote a piece today basically saying that John Bolton -- I want to get the headline right. John Bolton was bad. His departure may be worse?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. I'm no fan of John Bolton, and I think he did a lot of bad things especially in destroying the NSC, destroying the interagency process, not being a good steward of the process and representing different viewpoints.

But I do think he was in some ways a useful check on Trump. You might actually say they were a useful check on each other because they're both men with very peculiar ideas but kind of contrasting peculiar ideas because, you know, Trump basically wants to make deals with everybody, and he doesn't really care about the content of the deal. He really just wants a Nobel Peace Prize, whereas Bolton wants to go out and bomb all these countries, Iran and North Korea and others.

So, Trump served as a check on Bolton, preventing him from actually starting wars with Iran and North Korea. But Bolton also served as a check on Trump, preventing him from giving away the house to North Korea or the Taliban, and making these horrible concessions that would have resulted in very bad deals.

So, I mean, I think overall, boat Bolton's legacy is not a good one. He didn't achieve a lot. But there was a kind of a silver lining to the dark cloud.

COOPER: Fareed, how difficult is it going to be for this White House to actually find another national security adviser who is, you know, somebody of weight?

ZAKARIA: You've already been through more turnover in these 2 1/2 years in this White House than any -- this is history-making in terms of the number of people who have left. They also are dismissed in an incredibly curt, you know, dismissive fashion. If you just look at the way Trump gets rid of people, he never gives them any dignity. He never allows them to say that they resigned. And then you have the puzzle of his views, which change all the time.

So the people who are left, I think, are for the most part second tier people who could never have gotten these jobs, who will contort themselves ideologically to accept whatever, you know, whatever his position of the week is, and that's not a very good, you know, mechanism to ensure that you have the best and the brightest people. There are a few exceptions to that.

But by and large, what you see are people who are essentially willing to do anything to hold those jobs. And these are the most important jobs in the country. Surely, that's not how we want to fill the administration.

BOOT: In terms of what they actually have to do, Anderson, you know, Trump expects everybody to basically be a yes man or woman, but that's very hard because his views change all the time.

I mean, you saw that just in the last week where he suddenly got a brain storm. Let's invites the Taliban to Camp David. And then he decided, let's not invite Taliban to Camp David. Then he was sore with Bolton for disagreeing with him about inviting the Taliban, even though he ultimately decided that was not a good idea. So he basically wants somebody like Mike Pence who will agree with him if he invites the Taliban and agree with him if he disinvites the Taliban.

So, you have to be prepared to stay in Trump's good graces. You have to basically be able to take both sides of any position at any time.

COOPER: Which Pompeo certainly seems -- I mean, he seems to be willing to go along with whatever the president wants.

ZAKARIA: I think Pompeo is playing a very -- his own longer-term game. It seems that he has political ambitions of his own. He understands this is an extraordinary platform, and he understands that the way you keep your good graces with Donald Trump is you constantly praise Donald Trump. All the reporting about the internal meetings between Pompeo and Trump are, you know, Pompeo is almost slavish in his praise of Trump.

I think max is exactly right. You just have to make sure that you never disagree so sharply that you couldn't be caught on the wrong side because you really have an extraordinary situation where -- think about this. John Bolton has been fired because he wanted -- he didn't want to make a deal with the Taliban, the position that Donald Trump now holds.

COOPER: Right.

ZAKARIA: So, he was fired for taking the position that Trump eventually came to.

COOPER: Fareed Zakaria, thank you. Max Boot as well.

Still ahead tonight, as votes are counted in that special congressional election in North Carolina, there's a new CNN poll out showing the latest on President Trump's approval rating. For the president, the news is not good.

All the details on that poll, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:28:46] COOPER: As we mentioned at the top of the program, returns are being counted in an important special election tonight in North Carolina's ninth district. Both Democrats and Republicans are watching closely to see what if anything it might say about 2020.

Let's go to John King who has been looking at the numbers -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At the moment, Anderson, the early numbers quite interesting.

The Democrat Dan McCready winning the race so far. About 22 percent of the vote counted. That's a pretty healthy lead for a Democrat in a district the Republicans have held since 1963, in a district the president in 2016 carried by 12 points. So this is a big deal.

Let's go quickly through this. The biggest county is Mecklenburg County over here. Let me bring it over here.

This is the Charlotte area here. Charlotte's not in the district, but the suburbs here, Dan McCready is ahead. Back in 2016, president Trump carried this part of the district. So, that's a big deal. This is about 30 percent of the vote.

You move over to Union County, another, the second biggest country in the district, Bishop is winning but not by the size of the margin President Trump did. You come to the other end of the district over here, in the Fayetteville suburbs, Cumberland County, McCready up again.

This is a test, Anderson. Remember, President Trump underperformed in the suburbs in 2016. Republicans got crushed in the suburbs in 2018. That's why Nancy Pelosi is speaker.

If this holds up -- and it's early, just 23 percent of the vote -- you'll see more Republican retirements and you'll have the Trump campaign saying, wow, we went there. The vice president went there. Why didn't our voters turn out?

[20:30:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: All right, 23 percent of the vote. John, we're going to check back with you very shortly. Obviously, we're watching that very closely.

There's also brand new polling. A CNN poll out tonight with results that are troubling for President Trump. According to the poll, 6 in 10 Americans do not believe President Trump deserves to be reelected. Only 36 percent of those who polled believe the President should deserve a second term.

As far as overall approval ratings, almost as bad, only 39 percent approved the way the President is handling the job, 55 percent do not. Interestingly, the poll also shows the President's approval rating on the economy has dipped below 50 percent for the first time since early this year. I want to talk about it with David Axelrod, who is obviously a key political adviser of President Obama and as a CNN Senior Political Commentator, and Kirsten Powers, a columnist for "USA Today" and a CNN Political Analyst.

David, I mean the economy is obviously been the President's biggest asset for reelection, for some people, his only asset. I'm wondering what you make of the new numbers.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, I mean there's plenty of bad news in this poll. There's very little good news in this poll for him. The economy is particularly important because this was going to be the bulwark. This was going to be the thing that was going to carry him to victory. And historically if you have a good economy, the incumbent President generally wins. And so he was counting on this.

The economy has been flagging lately, showing some signs of distress, and so are his numbers here. In April, he had a 15-point positive margin in his ratings, 56 percent on the economy. Now, he's down, I think, 48, 49, but he's significantly below where he was. This has to be concern, but there are all kinds of other numbers.

He carried independent voters by two points in 2016. Only 29 percent of independent voters say that he deserves reelection here. And you look throughout the numbers, only one number would give him some encouragement and that is voters who say they are most enthusiastic give him a slightly higher rating, but still underwater.

So, if you're sitting over there in Trump headquarters and you're looking at numbers like these, you realize you've got a very tough road to hoe ahead of you.

COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, voters don't know who the President is obviously going to be running against at this point. I'm wondering how, you know, meaningful a poll like this is at this stage.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, I think that's probably the most important point is that elections are -- it's a zero sum game. It's between two people. And so it's not just about how you feel about the incumbent, it's also about how you feel about the person who's running against him.

And so, it will depend a lot on who the Democrats choose. It will depend on how the Republicans define that person. If they are able to, for example, define that person as being a socialist, you know, how does that play with voters? And so, that changes the dynamic.

That said, you know, as David said, these are not numbers that the White House is excited about. There's no way they can be excited about this. This is -- if you look at this poll and Trump has done absolutely nothing to change the opinion of people in a positive direction from the day he came into office, the trajectory is not good.

And, you know, he has obviously doubled down on this base strategy, but independents matter. And if you look at this poll, you can see that he's not moving them into his camp.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, David, I'm wondering if on the Democratic side if they look at this poll and if that has any message for the Democratic Party about what sort of a candidate -- I mean, the fact that the number among independents is so low, do -- does that make Democrats start to think, you know, we need to pick somebody who is going to be able to pick up those independents?

AXELROD: You know, it's an interesting question. I don't know that voters make those kinds of strategic decisions. There is a focus on who can beat Trump. I don't know if they get drilled down into the numbers that way, but one thing is absolutely for certain, Kirsten touched on it, if you're in the Trump camp, you realize you have to annihilate the Democratic nominee in order to win this election.

You're not going to win this election -- most incumbents have to make it a comparative process. But in this case, you know, the notion that he is going to -- having languished in the near 40 percent level for his whole presidency, the only President in history to do that, his strategy is going to be to destroy the Democratic nominee.

And, you know, Democrats need to think, at least those in sort of policymaking position, endorsing positions, are you going to choose a nominee who makes it easier for Trump to do that or not?

COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, Kirsten Powers, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, we're going to go back to John King with new developments in the North Carolina race. Stay tuned.


[20:38:32] COOPER: I want to go back to John King now, because the vote totals are growing in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District race. So what's the latest?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 24 percent, Anderson, up right now. The Democrat Dan McCready continues to lead by a pretty healthy margin over the Republican Dan Bishop. Again, this has been a Republic district since 1963.

It was a Republican district for President Trump by 12 points just three years ago. So everyone is watching this. The Trump campaign, the Democrats are watching this as well, in part to see if the suburban retreat, the suburban revote against President Trump continues.

Let's move over here. First in Mecklenburg County, I'll move this up a little bit, Charlotte is not in the district, but a good chunk of the Charlotte suburbs and exurbs are. You see this blue, that's for Dan McCready, 60 percent, 39 percent, that is a healthy lead. I just want to tell you why that's so important. Again, the suburbs have been moving away from the Republican Party during the Trump years. This is now tonight. Let's go back to the presidential race. President Trump, it was close, but President Trump carried this part of Mecklenburg County, the part of the county that is in the 9th district President Trump held on three years ago. As of tonight as we watch the votes, Dan McCready winning there by a pretty healthy margin at the moment. We're still counting at the margin.

We're going to move over here. Union County, the second biggest county in this district, Dan Bishop is winning in a district that Republican needs to carry. That's good news for him, right? That's about, what, 16 points. Well, it's good news for him, but go back to the presidential race, that's 30 points. President Trump won the second largest county in this district big-time, Dan Bishop fighting for it tonight, another warning sign for Republicans as we watch.

Let me come to the other end of the district. The third largest county in the district is here, Robeson County. You see President Trump won it by about four or five points when you go back to 2016.

[20:40:05] It's blue tonight for Dan McCready in the early returns, so that makes the Democrats happy. One more, this is the other book end. The Charlotte suburbs on the western end, the Fayetteville suburbs on the eastern end, Dan McCready with a pretty healthy lead right there on this end of the district.

Again, is the suburban revolt continuing? President Trump just barely, but he carried this part of the district three years ago. If you're a Democrat and you're looking at this map, you're starting to feel a little better, optimistic about tonight.

And if Dan McCready can hold on, Anderson, the Democrats will be much more optimistic looking forward into 2020, thinking what happened in 2018, the suburban revolt that made Nancy Pelosi speaker. The question is, is it growing? Is it continuing? If this goes blue tonight, the answer will be yes.

COOPER: Yes. We're going to check back in with you, John, because obviously we want to watch this very closely.

Here with me now, CNN Political Director David Chalian and CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.

Obviously, David, too early at this point, 24 percent, 25 percent of the vote in, but certainly Democrats are watching.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. No, there's no doubt about it. We should just start by saying Democrats should not be playing in this district. I mean, the reality is the DNA of this district that Donald Trump won by 12 points is that it is a reliably Republican district.

Now, there are two things that play, right? There are the demographic trends overall as John was just talking about. The suburbs had started trending Democratic to begin with, and Donald Trump is the other factor, which put that on a turbo charge because of the revolt that you just heard John talking about. They are watching closely. They do like some of the numbers combined with the early vote that they were really happy with before this election, but I will also just note one other thing as we look at this. Dan McCready is also a very specific kind of candidate for this district, a veteran, a moderate, not running against Donald Trump, running on health care and other issues.

So I do also wonder that if the Democrats win, not only will it say, hey, that 2018 Trump backlash continues, but in terms of impact on the 2020 presidential race, will Democrats start to have a conversation about, well, what is the kind of Democrat that can actually --


COOPER: Obviously, Dana, this has been going on for quite a while in the Democratic Party.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it has been. And you know, so far in the primaries or, you know, even just in -- just the discussions about the positions that a lot of the presidential candidates have, they're being fueled for the most part, not entirely, but for the most part by the progressive wing, saying we have to stand up for what we believe in.

But I just want to echo what David was saying. We've heard some spin from Republicans today, senior Republicans in Washington who, you know, run the House saying, well, this is a swing district. This is not a swing district. This should not --it should not be a competitive district at all.

The fact that the President of the United States went down there, that his campaign is pushing to win for a random Republican --

COOPER: Trump was there just yesterday.

BASH: Yesterday.

COOPER: And Vice President Pence also.

BASH: And the vice president and Donald Trump Jr. was there last week. This -- it's all about stopping the bleeding. If they win, it's for them a nothing burger. If they lose, it is a huge, huge problem.

COOPER: David, I mean, the President has tried to continue to paint Democrats obviously as socialists, communists, which might work for the base. But, I mean, clearly in -- among moderate voters in the suburbs, here that doesn't seem to be working.

CHALIAN: Well, especially against this candidate in particular, right? Whether or not that may work on a national level in the presidential race, we'll see. You just heard David Axelrod talking about the Trump campaign mission is going to have to be to annihilate the Democratic opponent in 2020, certainly the socialism piece will be a part of that. But you're right, Anderson, he was saying last night in North Carolina, this is the anti-American left. I just think what you see in our poll out today, what you see in some of these returns right now, and we'll see as the results continue to come in, independent voters, suburban voters, this is a group that the President has pushed away from the Republican Party and there is nothing in that argument yet that has brought them back into the fold.

BASH: And one other thing is we have been so focused on the suburban part of this district because it has been such a telltale of what happened in the House, and it was clearly a revolt against the President and independents is moving away as David was saying. But the other part that John was showing, the other part of the district is rural. So it's a bit of a mix.

Now, the Trump people will say, and they're not wrong, that if you're trying to get Republican rural voters out, not only when Donald Trump isn't on the ticket, but during a special election at a random time kind of at the end of the summer, beginning of, you know, of the fall of the school year, it's not the same.

But, it is going to be interesting to see if those rural voters are going to be animated by a President Trump visit, because that's the whole reason he went down there, to get those voters out just as much as he is trying to get them out in the suburbs.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, David, is it a sign of confidence that President Trump goes to North Carolina the day before or is it a sign of concern?

[20:45:05] CHALIAN: Well, it is a sign of concern. If it was a lost cause, they wouldn't put him there, right, because -- although the President would be champing at the bit to try to go because we know that he thinks he can actually deliver these results. But, Anderson, what is a more precious resource than the President's time? And so --

COOPER: Well -- really?

CHALIAN: OK, you know, fair point, executive time. The President and the vice president, though, both going down there on the eve of the election, that is not willy-nilly, that is because they want to put their chips in. They understand how important it is psychologically to the political environment to keep this in Republican hands.

BASH: And maybe a better way to say it is maybe -- not time, but capital, presidential capital.

COOPER: Right. Dana Bash, thank you very much. David Chalian, thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

COOPER: We're going to continue to watch this. We're going to get another quick update from John King, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:50:02] COOPER: Welcome back. We are watching numbers on what could be a leading indicator of the 2020 election race in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District. Things are shifting a bit. Again, let's go back to John King for another update. John?

KING: A little bit closer, Anderson. There were 28 percent reporting now in the 9th District of North Carolina. The Democrats still ahead, 2.5, 3 points there as we watch the votes come in. A lot of the early votes, we know Democrats have the advantage on early voting, so the early votes fair with the Democrat. Now as votes come in, the Republicans got a little bit closer.

But still, if you're the Democrats and you're watching the map right now, you're happy with what you see. Number one, move over to Mecklenburg County, let me move it up a little bit, about a third of the vote her, only 2 percent of the vote in, the Democrat is leading a by large margin. If that margin for Dan McCready holds up in Mecklenburg County, he's probably on his way to a victory, but we'll see as more votes coming. It's key or early in the night close race right now.

We move over here, Union County, county number two in terms of population in this district. The Republican is winning by nowhere near the margin. President Trump carried this county when he won it by 12 points in 2016.

Move over the other end of the district, here's where your population is, county number three in terms of population, the Democrat ahead by a pretty good margin. Just a little context here, President Trump won this in the presidential race. It was close in Robeson County, but Dan McCready at the moment putting up a pretty healthy lead, that's 20 points right there. Again, watch this as more of the vote comes in.

Last but not the least, the fourth largest county includes the Fayetteville suburbs, the Charlotte suburbs, the Fayetteville suburbs, if that stays blue, Democrats will be in good spirit to that. But, Anderson, we got some counting to do.

COOPER: Yes. All right, John, we'll keep watching. Thanks very much. I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: We'll be following the election because, look, it is our best look to date at the actual state of play heading in to the next set of elections. And they should win. Republicans should win in this district.

What we saw that makes it an interesting race is what happened in the midterms, that you saw this kind of 12-point margin that could be closed because of feelings about this President, that will play into our coverage of the new CNN poll that echoes the ABC poll that came out about this President having flagging support, especially surrounding concerns about the economy and his mouth.

We're going to go from that and to Alyssa Milano who is here tonight, fresh off of her meeting with Senator Ted Cruz, a meeting that I thought wouldn't happen, happened on Facebook live and we'll talk to her about what she thinks it did to advance the ball on access to weapons.

COOPER: All right. Chris, eight minutes from now, we'll see you then.

Spies are practiced in the art of deception, so how does anyone ever learn to trust them? Author Malcolm Gladwell talks about that in a CNN's exclusive story about a Russian spy extraction next in a clip from my upcoming interview with Malcolm about his latest book, "Talking to Strangers," out today.


[20:56:41] COOPER: We end tonight with a clip from a conversation I had earlier today with author Malcolm Gladwell, who's new book was just release today. The book is called "Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know."

If you've ever wonder why hardly anyone ever realize that Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme or why Italian police arrested (INAUDIBLE) seem though there was no real evidence against her, there are some intriguing answers in Malcolm's new book.

If you can think can -- if you think you can tell if someone is lying when you talk to them or you think you can judge a person based on a face-to-face encounter with them, how they act or speak in a conversation, you'll quickly learn that you can't.

According to Gladwell, we misunderstand people we interact with all the time and that has big ramifications for how we get along with people, as well as ramifications for judges and juries and police and world leaders who have to make important decisions base on false assumptions.

Gladwell also wrote about some fascinating real like spies stories in his book and how those spies were able to fool so many people for so long, especially trained people. I started by asking him about the story that CNN broke, the extraction of a top Russian intelligence asset back in 2017.


COOPER: You're a big spy fan. I don't know if you've been following the latest about this high-level Russian source who was exfiltrated.


COOPER: As a spy fan, I mean, that's gold.

GLADWELL: Yes. You know, it's the -- you know, all spy stories are alike. One -- many of them are alike in one significant way, which is that everyone is always in the dark about the spy, right, so this one is perfect. First of all, he's been there for years and the Russians --

COOPER: Yes, as much as 10 years or more.

GLADWELL: Yes, maybe 10 years. Russians haven't found him out yet or maybe they just did, but basically he went a decade without being detected. And then when we try to ex -- when we try to bring him out early, he doesn't want to go, and then we start to think, oh, he's a double agent. So, we're not even sure.

No one knows who the guy is. He is a complete mystery. It's extraordinary that, you know, I tell in my book two spy stories, but literally I pick them at random because I can say they all have this basic.

And the other thing that's best thing about it is that is in spy novels, spy novels are all about how brilliant the spy is, right? The spy is a mastermind, an evil genius, the master of skies, this or that, the other thing. It's the James Bond idea that the --

COOPER: And you read a lot of spy novels?

GLADWELL: All of them. If it has the word spy in it, I read it.

COOPER: All of them.

GLADWELL: But in real life, the spy is not -- the spy's success is not due to the spy's genius, it's due to everyone else's blindness. Like, the spy novels all have it backwards. So, most spies are actually really lame. The reason I tell this is because I'm really interested in this notion of why is it so easy for human beings to be deceived.

COOPER: As a reporter, you like to think when you're talking to somebody you can get a sense of, if they're honest or not, but -- I mean, I got to say after reading your book, I sort of feel like, do we really know who we're talking to?

GLADWELL: Yes. I don't think we do.


COOPER: It's a fascinating conversation. You can see the full one- hour interview with Malcolm Gladwell in the coming weeks. We'll bring that to you. The book, "Talking to Strangers," is out now.

The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time ". Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Anderson, it's an exciting night. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time."

Tonight matters my friends, we should get our best look yet at the state of play for the 2020 election by seeing what happens in North Carolina's special elections for Congress tonight.