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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday political realignment, Democrats take back the house.

REP. ELECT SHARICE DAVIDS:

Taking our voice to Washington.

CHUCK TODD:

Republicans hold the Senate.

SEN TED CRUZ:

Tonight is a victory for the people of Texas.

CHUCK TODD:

And President Trump gloats about Republicans who shunned his support and lost.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Mia Love gave me no love. And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats grab the suburbs, Republicans tighten their hold on rural counties. What this realignment could mean for 2020. Plus President Trump feeling emboldened and rattled lashes out, claiming with no evidence election fraud.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

All of a sudden they're finding votes out of nowhere.

CHUCK TODD:

Firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and choosing an acting AG who is described how a Sessions replacement could kill the Mueller investigation.

MATT WHITAKER:

He just reduces his budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.

CHUCK TODD:

Already Democrats are calling for Matt Whitaker to recuse himself. Joining me this morning, the head of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee.

Also a woman's place is in the House. A record 100 plus elected, most of them Democrats. Two are with us today.

Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Lauren Underwood of Illinois. And some two dozen people have now died in those California wildfires. We'll have an update. Joining me for insight and analysis are Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon, former Maryland Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards, New York Times columnist David Brooks and Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER: From NBC News in Washington, the longest running show in television history, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning on this Veteran's Day. One hundred years to the day that mark the end of World War I. In the first few hours of election night it looked as if 2016 was repeating itself. Democratic House victories were a mere trickle in the first couple of hours. Republicans were winning big marquee races.

And we wondered whether Democrats would have to wave their wave goodbye. But five days later the election looks a lot like what we expected. Nationally Democrats won 52% of the House vote to 46% for Republicans. And that 46% exactly matches President Trump's popular vote total in 2016. And, by the way, the president's job approval rating in our final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on Sunday, 46% which is likely to be it looks like the number in the exit poll itself. Kudos to our pollsters. As of this hour NBC News projects that Democrats will win 231 seats in the House, plus or minus five. That means Democrats should end up netting somewhere between 35 and 40 seats when all the votes are counted. We have about ten or 11 races still uncalled.

In the Senate Republicans so have netted two seats. But Arizona and Florida are too close to call with Florida headed for a recount and, of course, there's that Mississippi runoff later this month. President Trump reacted with a combination of concern and confidence. Concern that House Democrats can now block his agenda, use their newfound subpoena power to investigate Russian election interference and perhaps look to see if he's profiting off the presidency.

And then confidence that a Republican Senate will now have his back on those issues and approve his judicial appointments. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump's signaled that he has no intention of slowing his assault on the Mueller investigation. Sacking immediately his Attorney General Jeff Sessions within hours after the polls closing and choosing as his acting AG Matt Whitaker who will oversee an investigation he's openly attacked. But it was the growing realization that Democrats had won a sizeable victory on Tuesday that seemed to have the president rattled.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Whether they get a couple more House seats doesn't matter. It doesn't matter.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump acting emboldened but newly vulnerable is attacking the institutions which could hold him in check, claiming election fraud in Florida without any evidence.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

And all of a sudden they're finding votes out of nowhere. Although I hear-- I don't know you tell me.

CHUCK TODD:

Accusing Arizona of electoral corruption and even asking whether it is time to call for a new election. Mr. Trump banned a CNN correspondent from the White House while threatening to pull access from other reporters.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

It could be others also. When you're in the White House this is a very sacred place to me.

CHUCK TODD:

He also threatened House Democrats who made their biggest gain since the post-Watergate elections of 1974. And will now wield subpoena power in investigations into his personal finances and contacts with Russia.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

They can play that game but we can play it better because we have a thing called the United States Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

And he mocked Republicans who refused to embrace him.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Carlos Cubela (SIC), Mike Kaufman, too bad, Mike. Mia Love gave me no love. And she lost.

CHUCK TODD:

Most consequentially, less than 24 hours after polls closed Mr. Trump fired his attorney general, replacing Jeff Sessions with loyalist Matt Whitaker. Lashing out at reporters who asked if he wants his new acting attorney general to rein in Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question.

CHUCK TODD:

The president denied his relationship with Whitaker on Friday.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I don't know Matt Whitaker.

CHUCK TODD:

But just a month ago--

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Matt Whitaker's a great guy. I know Matt Whitaker.

CHUCK TODD:

--as a political pundit on TV Whitaker has said Mr. Mueller's investigation could be turning into a witch-hunt and floated ways to weaken it.

MATT WHITAKER:

I see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.

REP. JERRY NADLER

Well, Mr. Whitaker crosses the line the moment he accepts the job and doesn't recuse himself. We know he's not going to recuse himself because the only reason he was appointed was to sabotage the investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump has continued to mold the Republican Party in his own image and earn the gratitude of newly elected Republican senators who ran like Trump.

SEN. ELECT MARSHA BLACKBURN:

I want to say a special thank you to the president.

SEN. ELECT KEVIN CRAMER:

A special tribute to our president.

SEN. ELECT JOSH HAWLEY:

Thank you, Mr. President.

CHUCK TODD:

On Friday Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell made it clear he has no plans to bring a bill to protect Robert Mueller to the floor.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

It's not necessary. The Mueller investigation's not under threat.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California who will be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when the new Congress is sworn in January. Before we get to the political news, we want to note the three terrible wildfires that are taking place in your home state, Congressman. Last night the death toll rose to 25. Twenty-three of those deaths are in the Camp Fire, that's in Northern California, north of Sacramento. Two more fires are burning north of Los Angeles. Neither of the fires is now under control. Congressman Schiff, I know this is not -- it's next to your congressional district, but you and I were just talking, you said there's now some fires actually in your congressional district. What's the latest?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, obviously they're doing their best to try to control these fires. But this late in the fire season, to have this kind of devastation, it just takes your breath away. People are losing their lives, losing loved ones, losing their homes. And, you know, our thoughts are with them as well as these incredibly brave responders.

CHUCK TODD:

The president tweeted the following yesterday, "There's no reason for these massive deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year with so many lives lost all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now or no more fed payments." Is that what this fire's about? Is it mismanagement of the forests in California?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

No, it's not. I mean, there are a lot of root causes about why the fire season has become so much worse over the years. But you know, for the president, at a time when people are facing utter disaster, to be making a statement like this, making a threat like this, this just goes to show how little he understands the job he has. That he would be punitive at a time like this, rather than coming to the defense of people facing the worst disaster of their lives. He's out there making these broad and false statements and threatening to remove funding from a state that's devastated right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think it's a political thing because California's so blue?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I do. I do. This is a president who, more than any other, is punitive and I think we saw that in the tax cut by taking away state and local tax deductions. That was aimed at the blue states. Basically, he is only the president, I think in his view, of those who voted for him, the rest, he could care less.

CHUCK TODD: I want to ask you about a letter that you guys are releasing this morning. And I say you guys meaning the leadership of the House, the Senate, key committee chairs, you're a signer of this letter, asking the Justice Department's ethics office to carefully review the current Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker's statements and comments and essentially trying to see if they are advising him to recuse and if so, are they going to inform Congress of that. What more can you tell me about this letter?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, it's signed by all of our leadership, House and Senate, myself included, to demand that we find out did they give an ethics opinion. Has one been sought on recusal? It seems to me the facts for recusal are very strong here. This is someone who's made repeated and prejudicial comments against the investigation. Someone who has made false statements about it, claiming that the Russians really had no impact on our election. It's someone who has a relationship with one of the important witnesses in the investigation. And I want to say this, if Mr. Whitaker does not recuse himself --

CHUCK TODD: He's not legally required to even if the ethics office says he should, correct?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: I don't know whether he's legally required to. But here's the thing, we have every right to expect all of the employees of the Justice Department to follow the ethics rules and that means especially the attorney general. But, you know, I want to make this very clear, if he doesn't recuse himself, if he has any involvement whatsoever in this Russia probe we are going to find out whether he made commitments to the president about the probe, whether he is serving as a back channel to the president or his lawyers about the probe, whether he's doing anything to interfere with the probe. Mr. Whitaker needs to understand that he will be called to answer. And any role that he plays will be exposed to the public. We don't want there to be any ambiguity about that.

CHUCK TODD: Are you convinced that he's constitutionally eligible to hold the position?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: I'm not convinced at all. There are serious constitutional arguments that as a principal officer he cannot be appointed to this position. I think that's certainly the right policy answer. Also may be the answer demanded by the constitution.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm curious what you thought of voter reaction to the Mueller probe. Our exit poll, we asked about their feelings in the Mueller investigation, 46% disapprove. That is a very familiar number to our viewers right now, 46% is the president's job rating, the number of the Republican vote. So I think we know what that core vote is. But only 41% approved of the Mueller investigation. Does political opinion -- how much should it impact what you do in the Democratic Congress these days?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, you know, political -- public opinion always affects us in one degree or another. But I will say this, having watched Mueller's ratings over time, the one thing that we see is around the time he produces indictments, around the time that he produces convictions the support for his investigation goes up. The longer the lapse between indictments the more his ratings go down. So what we're seeing now, I think, is merely the lull because in the period leading up to the midterms he properly took no action. But I think when he issues his report or if there are further indictments you will see public confidence in his work once again rise.

CHUCK TODD: There is -- I know you probably want to get the House intelligence committee's investigation back on track after you’re -- after the uneasy relationship between you and the -- who will be now the ranking member Devin Nunes. But I've heard a lot of investigations that Democrats want to do. You talked about in another interview that's going to air tonight about investigating the president's -- what was he doing with Amazon and the postal service. The incoming House judiciary committee chairman was caught on the Acela talking about how to investigate the Kavanaugh issue. Obviously the Mueller probe is going to be a part of this. How do you prioritize what to investigate? And, and at what point do you too much investigating?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, this is going to be very important, not just in terms of which investigations ought to go forward, which ought to go forward first, but also our strongest purpose here is to put forward a positive agenda and we don't want that lost in a flurry of investigations --

CHUCK TODD: You are worried that there's so much talk about investigations that actually the idea of dealing with pre-existing conditions is getting lost?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, we have to make sure it doesn't get lost. You know, that's really the first priority for us, it’s the reason people voted to put us in the majority -- is to put forward a positive agenda. And, you know, let's face it, the investigations are sexy. They're interesting. You bring witnesses before the Klieg lights, people tune in. The legislative process is less so. It's much less dramatic. But nonetheless in terms of importance to the American people making sure that they can provide for their families, that they can get health care, they can keep their health care, that has to be priority number one. But we are going to need to ruthlessly prioritize on the intel committee which investigative threads we go down, but among the committees also, and we've already started that process.

CHUCK TODD:

Two quick questions, first of all, the Khashoggi tape that Erdogan has said, the Turkish president said that the United States now has a copy of it. You are part of that gang of eight. Is that true? And if so, have you heard it?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

We're going to get a briefing -- I'm going to get a briefing this week. So I fully expect to find out. I did have a briefing up until -- and got information up until recently. But I don't know the answer to that and I'm not sure if I did whether, I'd be able to share it with you anyway.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. And I want to share with you, final number from our exit poll was the favorable rating of Nancy Pelosi: 31% favorable, 56% unfavorable. It looks like she has the votes for Speaker of the House. I know you are very supportive of her becoming Speaker of the House. What do you say to the new members, two of whom I'm going to have on here, who campaigned on new leadership, campaigned on a new generation of leadership, if the Democrats end up reelecting Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn as the face of the House Democratic leadership?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Look, we're going to have a lot of new people in the leadership. They may not be in the very top position or top positions, but we're going to have new leadership in the caucus. We've got a great breadth of talent that's coming up through the ranks. But I will say this, we're going into a fight likely with the president. I certainly hope that this president decides that it's in his naked, personal self-interest because that's the only thing that motivates him to work with Democrats on an infrastructure bill, on bringing down prescription drug prices. But if he decides it isn't, if he continues along this path where the only thing he wants to do is rile his base and --

CHUCK TODD:

Run against Nancy Pelosi.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

-- and run against Nancy Pelosi, we need the strongest general that we have. We need the best tactician, we need the best organizer.

CHUCK TODD:

And you believe that's her?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

And that's her. There's no one else honestly that comes close.

CHUCK TODD:

Adam Schiff, who will be the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, thanks for coming on, sharing your views. Good to see you, sir.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Good to see you.

CHUCK TODD:And joining me now from the other side of the aisle is Senator Cory Gardner. He is the man who is in charge or, I guess, still in charge of trying to get Republicans elected to the Senate. And I say still in charge because we have some outcomes that we don't know. Welcome to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Hey, thanks for having me, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:Let me just start quickly with the, the president's comments about the wildfires. Number one, I was curious of what you made of the appropriateness of the president threatening to deny federal help to California in the moment that people were fighting for their life.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, first of all, I think the Colorado thoughts and prayers of our state go out to California. We've been through this, certainly the catastrophes that we face each and every day we have a forest fire, what they're going through, it's just, it’s tragic and terrible. And I don't think it's appropriate to threaten funding. That's not going to happen. Funding will be available. It always is available to our people wherever they are, whatever disaster they are facing. I do think, though, this year we came up with a strong bipartisan success in fixing the wildfire funding issue that had kind of paralyzed our ability to go out and fight fires and suppress fires and mitigate next year's forest fires. So one of the great bipartisan accomplishments of this past Congress was actually in the area of forest fires and finding a solution for funding.

CHUCK TODD:Let me move to your job these days, which is at the NRSC. The Florida recounts. I want to play something that Governor Scott said on Thursday night when it was clear that we were headed into some form of a recount down in Florida. Here it is.

[BEGIN TAPE]

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT:Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. We've all seen the incompetence and the irregularities in vote tabulations in Broward and Palm Beach for years. Well, here we go again. I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD: Do you have any evidence that fraud was committed? That somehow unethical liberals are down there are trying to change the vote in Broward County? Was that rhetoric -- was that an appropriate timing for that rhetoric? SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well, we have evidence that the state constitution of Florida was violated. A court in Florida has said that. We have evidence that people were going into unwitnessed areas filling out ballots, duplicating ballots, which is allowed under the law but only if you have witnesses on the canvassing board. We have, we have officials -- elections officials who are disobeying court orders, or at least were disobeying court orders. So I understand Governor Scott's frustration, that there are people who are breaking the law, violating the constitution in Florida in Broward County, in Palm. And so I think he's right to be upset. Now what we have to do though is make sure that we are protecting the integrity of this, of this election. That we count every vote, that we count every ballot, that we make sure the integrity of this election is as strong as it can be. And that we keep out those attempts by some to violate the constitution.

CHUCK TODD:Do you believe --

SEN. CORY GARDNER:And where we have those--

CHUCK TODD:Yeah.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:

Go ahead, Chuck, I’m sorry. ((OVERTALK))

CHUCK TODD:Do you believe Democrats, do you believe Democrats are actually trying to steal the election in Florida? Cause that's what the president has implied--

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I believe --

CHUCK TODD:-- in his tweets. And that seemed to be the implication of Governor Scott.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, let's look at the courts in Florida. You have a court in Florida that has said the, the constitution of Florida has been violated. You have several cases --

CHUCK TODD:I understand that, but that, but that --

SEN. CORY GARDNER:-- in Florida that are now going around that I feel strong about that.

CHUCK TODD:That doesn't answer the question whether you think--

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, Chuck, you know there --

CHUCK TODD:-- Democrats are trying to steal this.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I think it, I think it answers it very much. Is this a Democrat that's doing this, that violated the constitution? Is this a Republican that's doing this that violated the constitution? I'm going to leave it to the courts to decide how we best protect the integrity of this election. But I think every person in Florida and around this country has a, has an interest and a right to a secure, integrity-filled election. And that if somebody is violating the constitution, that's got to stop. And that's what we're trying to do. Let's get the results the Florida people actually went to the ballot on. Let's make sure counties across Florida --

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:

-- have the same standards, that a vote in Miami is treated the same as a vote in Pensacola. And if they're not, something is wrong with that process. So let's get this fixed, let's make sure this is right.

CHUCK TODD: Yep.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:

And let's make sure we are proud of the results going forward in Florida.

CHUCK TODD:If a recount shows anything other than a Rick Scott victory, but there’s no, you can't find any evidence of fraud or anything else, but the recount happens to show Bill Nelson winning, and it's done on the up and up, are you going to accept those results?

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, look, this is going to be done on the up and up because we're ensuring that. We've gone to court. We've won those court cases. We've proven that the violation, we've proven the violation of the Florida constitution. And I think that has shown the courts have worked. So I believe this will be a election that we can be proud of, an election that we were able to protect the voters in.

CHUCK TODD:I want to ask you about the Arizona Senate race. That count is still coming in. The president has tweeted about it, sort of implying that somehow fraud could still be going on. Arizona obviously has a lot of, history of taking a while to count. And I want to ask you about this, “Top officials at the White House and the Republican National Committee,” this is in Politico, “who have been prodding the McSally campaign to amp up its efforts have expressed frustration that the Arizona congresswoman hasn't tried to drive a message that there's something amiss with the vote count.” Do you believe there's something amiss with the vote count in Arizona or not?

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Yeah, we're still looking at hundreds of thousands of votes to be counted in Arizona. It's a little bit different than what we've seen in Florida whether it's incompetence or corruption, they're kind of the same side of the ledger. What we've seen in Arizona is a concern that every ballot, every county be treated equally in how they deal with elections and signatures. And I believe we've come to an agreement in Arizona where however they're treating a ballot in Maricopa of signature verification or otherwise is going to be the same way they're treating in Yuma or wherever else in Arizona. And that's important. Look, you can't have two different standards on determining what is a valid or legal vote. You can't do that. Because that's not fair. So I think we're on the right track in Arizona. We need to make sure that we do this. But there is no way, there is no way that an election official in Arizona should be allowed to treat their votes differently, more specially than any other area of the state.

CHUCK TODD:There was a, a staffer of yours at the NRSC who was quoted as saying that an official in Maricopa County was, quote, unquote, "trying to cook the books." It inspired this tweet from Mark Salter, the long-time chief of staff for the late Arizona Senator John McCain, nd he tweets this: "Stop doing this, NRSC. McSally is losing fair and square and she's underperforming in more than Maricopa. The race is almost certainly lost and nothing will change that. All this does is poison our politics more. Despicable." What do you say to Mr. Salter?

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I think we do have a chance to win in Florida, in Arizona. I do think there is a path. We've seen it in the numbers. But I do think it's important that we protect the people of Arizona. We can't sit by and allow votes to be counted in Maricopa that would not be counted somewhere --

CHUCK TODD:I understand that.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:-- else.

CHUCK TODD:But did you approve of--

SEN. CORY GARDNER:That's not fair.

CHUCK TODD:-- did you approve of your staffer saying things like cook the books? I mean it does, by throwing that language in there, as you know, it automatically polarizes the two sides. This minute language like that gets used.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Look, there's a lot of releases that are going to go out that I don't see or -- and I'm not familiar with this one. But what I do think is important and it's not the first time that somebody's been accused of cooking the books or rigging the outcome of an election. I think that's the last two years have been about by Democrats trying to go after President Trump on that as well. So what I think we have to do and what we've proven in the court in Arizona, or excuse me the agreements that we've come to in Arizona, is a way to treat voters equally across the state. We - look, this is about making sure that the votes are counted and the votes are counted fairly. And that's what I think we're getting to in Arizona finally.

CHUCK TODD:Finally, last question, very quickly. The Mueller probe. Jeff Flake and Chris Coons said when they come back for the lame duck he's going to ask for unanimous consent to get this bill voted on. Do you think it's necessary? Do you think Mueller needs protection? Mitch McConnell does not. What say you, Cory Gardner?

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I support the Mueller investigation. I know I've heard Senator McConnell say he supports the Mueller investigation. It's important for the American people. It's important that we have this for transparency. And I think it's important for the president to have this information out there fully, transparently, and accurately. The president has said he wants to keep this investigation moving forward and I believe that's the way--

CHUCK TODD:Does it need protection legislatively, though? Do you need to do that in the Senate?

SEN. CORY GARDNER:This election, this, Mueller is not going to be stopped. It's going to continue and it should continue.

CHUCK TODD:All right, but you didn't say whether it was necessary in the Senate.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Well, I think it's going to continue. If it continues --

CHUCK TODD:You don't need--SEN. CORY GARDNER:-- why protect something that's actually continuing?

CHUCK TODD:Okay, I will leave it there. Senator Cory Gardner, Republican--

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:-- from Colorado, thanks for coming on, sharing your views.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:Thanks for having me. Thanks.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, is President Trump trying to derail the Mueller investigation by naming Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general? The panel is next.

CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. Panel is here, Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon, former Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, Eliana Johnson national political reporter for Politico, and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Welcome. Happy Sunday after the midterms. David, I want to ask this, did the midterms change anything? Let me put up these numbers here. 46% was the president's popular vote total in 2016. 46% was the House vote for the Republicans in 2018. And 45% and then perhaps gets reweighted to 46% will be the president's job rating. I think I sense a pattern here. But I guess did the midterms change anything?

DAVID BROOKS: I think they entrenched things. We've got like a big wall, a big barricade around that 46%. And that's Trump's base and they come out for him. And I don't see anybody leaving that wall or going into the wall. And so we're sort of stuck with the wall. This election, to me, was not a realigning election. It was just an entrenching election.

CHUCK TODD: Interesting.

DAVID BROOKS: But the things that leapt out at me is his people did show up. The surge in Republican turnout was not automatic and that tells me the working class is still hurting in this country despite the economy. And then the second thing I think you saw is I think the new Democrats, there's also a spin debate among the Democratic Party, was it the progressives who did really well or the new Democrats, the more moderates? And the more moderate ones have a very good story to tell this year that they flipped 23 red seats with sort of the people who were embraced by the moderate Democrats. So there is some moderation still in America. It's a lot of Republicans who used to be orthodox Republicans who are now moderate Democrats.

CHUCK TODD: I want to put up something that Rich Lowry wrote. He wrote this, "Midterm loss is typically humble as sitting president of the United States but Donald Trump is beyond humbling. It will be a high-stakes combat of the sort he thrives on, the more intense, perilous and dramatic the better because he will be at the center of it," Eliana.

ELIANA JOHNSON: You know I think we've we've seen from the president over the past two years, there were questions about whether he would become presidential in the job. And I think we've seen is he's a skilled communicator but he doesn't have a lot of range or ability to switch gears. So what we get from him is a number of meditations on American carnage, whether it's on immigration or post-midterms, Democrats stealing the vote in places where he lost. And that's what we're going to get for the two years from here until 2020. And as David mentioned, that does get the president's base out. But it doesn't expand the electorate. And now the question for Democrats is can they put up a candidate going forward that expands theirs and eats into some of the Obama/Trump voters who would turn out for the president and are proving extremely loyal to him and who he's very skilled at communicating with.

CHUCK TODD: Donna, was this a referendum on the president?

DONNA EDWARDS: Well, I think it was a rebuke of the president. And I think we began the week on election night with a modest but significant victory for Democrats. By the end of the week it had really crusted into a blue wave. And where I look at promises for the Democrats going forward is in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that were really significant victories in Southern Virginia. And that, to me, says where the Democrats need to place their eggs in the 2020 basket.

CHUCK TODD: Matthew, what'd you make of the president? It did seem as if he moved faster on Jeff Sessions than even Jeff Sessions was prepared for to the point of Sessions made it clear, "I was asked for this resignation," which is Washington speak for, "You need to call it a firing."

MATTHEW CONTINETTI: Well, we've seen this with Donald Trump since he descended down that escalator three years ago. When he's hit with a setback he immediately pivots and creates a new controversy where he may have a more solid ground. So have things changed? Of course they've changed. The Democrats are going to be in charge of the United States House of Representatives. That is a big deal. And so we've already seen with Chairman Schiff -- Chairman-designate Schiff that there will be investigations. The chance for conservative legislation, not that there was much passed this year anyway, but the chance going forward is greatly diminished. Was it a referendum on Trump? Yes. What we've seen again and again I think really since 1994 is that these midterm elections are referendums- referenda on the president. And typically the voters don't like what's happening. Whether that president's a Democrat or a Republican.

CHUCK TODD: Matt Whitaker, David Brooks, what do we make of him? The arguments that he’s even constitutionally- it's even a constitutional appointment.

DAVID BROOKS: You know I think one of the- I went to 23 states this election and heard the word unraveling over and over again, that the country is unraveling. Are we racially together? Are we economically together? Are we morally together? And are our institutions together? And one of the things Donald Trump, the way he threatens our institutions, is he personalizes power. Where you don't serve the constitution, you serve Donald Trump. And so he wants people who will serve him. And that is not how the attorney general's office is supposed to act. It's supposed to serve the constitutions. So to me this is another threat to one of our institutions. And another one is the way we barked at the refs on the elections. And when you accuse somebody of corruption without any evidence you're destroying the social fabric to some degree. And we've seen a lot of that this week. So we're seeing institutional decay.

CHUCK TODD: What do you make of that?

DONNA EDWARDS: Yeah I mean you know- I agree with David. I mean I think that you know the president has gone after one institution after the other. And you see that in this call of corruption in these elections. Not to allow an election to be settled. And what I see is a president who really does feel that he's under threat. And so if you look at his response by both firing Sessions, appointing Whitaker who has you know made himself known to the president so that he could take advantage of that. And then you look at Democrat's response, I think it's going to be important to be really judicious about how they proceed.

ELIANA JOHNSON: You know the Whitaker appointment to me was reminiscent of the administration's policy on child separation where it was something that the president thought about and wanted to do, put in an acting attorney general who could sit there for 210 days and who was skeptical of the Mueller probe. And yet you see the president skeptical of it and backing away because he didn't anticipate the blowback that he would get from Democrats and Republicans alike. And it really I think revealed how even the best laid plans of this administration aren't so well-thought through. And that I think his statements hadn't been reviewed by the White House and tend to backfire. And then you have a president who abandons them very quickly.

CHUCK TODD: What do you make of that?

MATTHEW CONTINETTI: I think almost any attorney general who succeeds Sessions is probably going to have a critical view of the Mueller probe just because most Republicans now have a critical view of the Mueller probe. There were two sets of criticisms of Whitaker. One is kind of the formal criticism, is the appointment even constitutional. Those I think are pretty at least disputed and probably even weak. The more substantive criticism is is he qualified for the job. And then you just look at the resume, he's one of our lesser qualified attorney generals, if I can be charitable. So that I think is a problem for the president in that he has to come up with someone to replace Whitaker and emphasize the temporary on the temporary appointment.

CHUCK TODD: It's very interesting. It seems like some of the candidates are pulling out because they'd like to wait to see what Mueller does. I don't think they want to be on the front lines. Chairman Schiff said, "You're coming in front of Congress with whatever action you do." Anyway, we'll take a pause here. Up next, 2018 was, indeed, turned out to be the year of the woman. And when we come back two Democrats who helped make that goal a reality.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Well, move over 1992, 2018 is the real year of the woman. More than 100 women including incumbents were elected to the House on Tuesday. In fact, Democrats got the 23 seats they needed to win back the House with just women candidates alone. The New Yorker is marking this revolution at the ballot box with a cover called Welcome to Congress. Women going through the door of the old boys' club there. Two of the women who toppled incumbent Republicans and helped power the Democrats to victory in the House are with me this morning. Lauren Underwood, whose Illinois District is just outside of Chicago and Elissa Slotkin, who will represent a Michigan district that stretches from suburban Detroit to the state's capital, Lansing. Welcome to Meet the Press to both of you.

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

Thank you so much.

CHUCK TODD:

Congresswoman Elect Slotkin, let me start with you. Would you call your victory a referendum on the president?

REP.-ELECT ELISSA SLOTKIN:

No. I, I think honestly we were able to amass support from Democrats, Republicans, Independents because the overall tenor and tone of politics, I think, is fundamentally unbecoming of the country. So the president, you know, leadership climate is set from the top so it's certainly a part of it. But it was an overall feeling like Washington was broken and that integrity had just been evaporated from the system. So it wasn't just the president. He was a part of it.

CHUCK TODD:

What about in your district? How much does the president matter in your district?

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

Well, the president is certainly a factor. But in the Illinois 14th district, we had not been well-represented. We had a congressman who was not carrying forward our voice, voted to take away health care, voted to raise our taxes, refused to act in the face of escalating gun violence in our country. And so in our district is very clearly about representation and did have what we deserved.

CHUCK TODD:

It's -- I'm sure hard to think about the fact that you have to immediately think about reelection. But let me ask you both this question, I'll start with you, Congresswoman Elect Underwood, what is the one accomplishment you have to have if you seek reelection two years from now?

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

We have to protect health care for people with pre-existing conditions. It is the most critical issue in this election --

CHUCK TODD:

That’s the chief promise you believe you made?

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you think that's going to get done?

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

Well, it's going to get done immediately because we can protect the Affordable Care Act and we can fix it. We can stabilize premium prices, we can lower drug prices. But this idea that somehow people with pre-existing conditions might be vulnerable is something that I would never support.

CHUCK TODD:

Other than health care -- I imagine preexisting conditions was huge in your district too. And frankly, it was sort of the number one advertised subject. Is there another accomplishment you have to have besides that you think in order to earn reelection?

REP.-ELECT ELISSA SLOTKIN:

Yeah. We have to move on infrastructure and not just talk about it but actually put money behind it. In Michigan we need once in a generation investment in our infrastructure. Our roads but our water. I live 15 minutes from Flint, Michigan. We have a water issue going on in our state. So, we’ve -- that's a place I think we have real bipartisan opportunity. People have talked the talk and now we need to walk the walk with real federal dollars.

CHUCK TODD:

You know what, neither one of you brought up investigations of the president. How are your constituents -- how do they view these potential wrongdoings by the president? How often did it come up? And how much do you think Congress should focus on this?

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

Well, protecting democracy is critically important. In article one of the constitution, the Congress is designed to a coequal branch of government. And so oversight is critically important. And in the 115th Congress, the Congressional Republicans essentially refused to do so. And so I think that there's certainly an interest to make sure that our critical pillars of democracy like free and fair elections can occur. But that it's not our primary and chief priority.

CHUCK TODD:

You heard Congressman Schiff. He admitted, yes, there's all these investigations and they can't cloud the big picture on substance. How concerned are you that it might?

REP.-ELECT ELISSA SLOTKIN:

I mean, we have to watch it. If we can't, as Democrats, as elected officials, provide for people and help their pocketbook or their kids, we do not deserve their vote. So we can walk and chew gum. Right? We can protect American values and hold accountability for the executive branch. But if we can't do things on health care and infrastructure, we just -- we're going to lose people. Especially in the Midwest.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me talk about the leadership of your party. The RNC had a snarky release and you're both in it in different categories. The RNC put you, Congresswoman Elect Slotkin in the I promise to oppose Pelosi and/or support someone new caucus, and Congressman Elect Underwood, you were put in their category called the I'm going to avoid the question because of how deeply unpopular Pelosi is in my district caucus. Like I said, being a little snarky. I want to start with you, Congressman Elect Slotkin, is there any way under any circumstance you can imagine supporting Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democratic Party?

REP.-ELECT ELISSA SLOTKIN:

I just think -- I never want to be disrespectful for anyone who has served, especially a woman who's broken glass ceilings. We just -- in my district, you need to hear what people are telling you. And they want, on both sides of the aisle, a new generation of leadership. So that's what I've said. That's what I'm sticking by. We have a long time now until we have to make this decision in Washington, in Washington hours and days. And so I'm going to wait to see who else emerges and make my decision.

CHUCK TODD:

Congresswoman Elect Underwood, where are you on this?

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

Well, I believe that we have a real opportunity to support a speaker that's going to move forward an agenda, allow bills to come to the floor that would allow us to protect health care, to jumpstart our economy in Northern Illinois, to make sure that we can maintain some public schools, et cetera. I'm interested in supporting someone who is aligned on that type of an agenda. And I look forward to having conversations with whichever candidates end up running.

CHUCK TODD:

You're still open to supporting Nancy Pelosi as speaker, it sounds like.

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

Well, I'm looking forward to having a conversation with her and whoever else might end up being on the ballot for speaker.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you going to have -- how will you sell your constituents, Congresswoman Slotkin, if the top three, if it's Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn, if it's the same leadership as far as your constituents are concerned?

REP.-ELECT ELISSA SLOTKIN:

Well, we’re going to -- I'm going to work with whoever is speaker. I'm going to work whoever is there. I mean, I've got to do right by my constituents and so we're going to work together. Amazing as it sounds, Americans can disagree and still respect each other and go on and do good work. So that's what we're going to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Who is the leader of the Democratic Party? If someone asked you that question right now, Congressman Elect Underwood?

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

That's a good question. I, you know -- what's been really wonderful in this election is that each congressional candidate was able to set the tone and the agenda for their race. And so I don't know that we have a national leader. And I think that that's just fine.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you in the same --

REP.-ELECT ELISSA SLOTKIN:

I'm in the same boat. I mean, honestly, I think the lesson of this election was that you got to run your race for your district. There is no mega message that's going to win things across the board. We have new energy in our party which is great. But it's diverse.

CHUCK TODD:

Elissa Slotkin, Michigan eight, new Democrat from there. Lauren Underwood, Illinois 14, new Democrat from there. Congratulations. Welcome, in the case of both of you, welcome back to Washington.

REP.-ELECT LAUREN UNDERWOOD:

Thank you.

REP.-ELECT ELISSA SLOTKIN:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Coming on, we can debate whether or not Tuesday was a wave election. But there's no doubt there's been a national realignment. What that means for 2020 and beyond when we come back.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, data download time. Following Tuesday's elections I feel more certain than ever that we are undergoing a massive realignment in American politics. Trends that we've seen over the past decade in urban areas, Democratic gains in cities and suburbs are starting to move south. The sun belt is the new battle ground. Let's start in Fort Worth, Texas, Tarrant County where Ted Cruz won by 16 points back in 2012. In 2016 Hillary Clinton was able to cut that Republican margin in half. Donald Trump only won Tarrant by eight. And this year the move to the left continued. Beto O'Rourke won Tarrant County by one point. Now this trend was already underway before President Trump came on the scene. But there's evidence that his toxicity in the suburbs has helped accelerate the trend. Let's move to Gwinnett County, Georgia. The suburbs of Atlanta. Republican Governor Nathan Deal won the county by 12 points in 2014. Hillary Clinton swung the county Democratic in '16. She won it by six. And this year Democrat Stacey Abrams extended that advantage winning the county by a whopping 14 points. Double digits. That county is blue. Not purple anymore. And, by the way, this was one of the counties in the Atlanta suburbs that once helped Newt Gingrich remake the Republican majority back in the '80s and '90s. Wow is it looking blue today. And of course there's Florida. In his 2014 race for governor Rick Scott won Seminole County, the northern suburbs of Orlando by seven points. In 2016 Donald Trump lost a little ground there. He only won the county by two. And this year Andrew Gillum flipped the county blue when he narrowly won it by two points himself. So despite all of this the GOP did tighten its grip on rural white areas which led to big state-wide victories across the country. Think Ohio, for instance. The politics seems to be finally catching up with geography in the sun belt. It's possible Republicans hung on to some of these urban/suburban areas for longer than they should have because back in 2014 and '16 Democrats weren't fully engaged in the sun belt. These numbers combined with big Democratic wins in suburban House seats show the Democrats growing power in these areas. The question is, is this the peak or is there more to come? Do these blue dots become blobs that expand? Stay tuned in 2020. We'll be back in a moment with end game. What Animal House has to do with this year's midterm elections.

ANNOUNCER:

Coming up, end game brought to you by Boeing, continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore and inspire.

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End game brought to you by Boeing. Continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore and inspire.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with end game and time to channel some John Belushi from Animal House.

(Begin Tape)

JOHN BELUSHI:

Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is.

(End Tape)

CHUCK TODD:

All right. There are some races we haven't decided are over. In the Senate, Florida remains too close to call and is headed for a recount, possibly a manual recount with Republican Governor Rick Scott holding a narrow lead over incumbent Bill Nelson. A Scott win would be a Republican pickup there. Arizona is also a nail biter. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema's lead over Martha McSally has grown to nearly 30,000 with roughly 300,000 votes yet to be counted. That could end up being a Democratic pickup. And governor's races we're headed for yet another Florida recount. Republican Ron Desantis has a narrow lead over Andrew Gillum. And yesterday Andrew Gillum rescinded his concession. It's gonna go to a machine recount for now. We'll see if it falls into the threshold for hand recount. And in Georgia Republican Brian Kemp has a narrow lead over Stacey Abrams. That could go to a recount to see if it needs to go to a runoff. Finally, in the House as of this morning 11 races have yet to be called. The Democrat leads in six of those contests. The Republican in five. That's why our projection is plus or minus five at 231. Okay, let me start with Florida and Rick Scott and Bill Nelson already with a war of words. Take a listen.

(Begin Tape)

RICK SCOTT:

It's clear. We've got some left-wing activists. We've got some Democrat D.C. lawyers. They're down here for one purpose: to steal this election.

BILL NELSON:

Clearly, Rick Scott is trying to stop all the votes from being counted. And he's impeding the Democratic process.

(End Tape)

CHUCK TODD:

Is this the end of 2018 Elissa (sic) or the beginning of 2020?

ELIANA JOHNSON:

You know, there are a couple of races that are genuinely close. The Florida Senate race is one of them. The Arizona Senate race is another. But I do think that the candidates – other candidates like in the Florida governor's race where Gillum retracted his concession, I'm not sure if that's happened before. And the Georgia governor –

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Al Gore famously did. But anyway, yes.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

--and in the Georgia governor's race there’s – these candidates are looking ahead and that they see digging in their heels in these races as a way to sort of amplify their celebrity. And popularize themselves with their base because I don't think the Democrats will be able to pull ahead. But they are ginning up enthusiasm with their base by refusing to concede.

CHUCK TODD:

Donna, how important is it that Democrats fight to the end on these?

DONNA EDWARDS:

I think it's really important. And let's look what Democrats are asking. They're asking for all the votes to be counted. Before you even get to a question of a recount or a runoff, count all the votes. And that's certainly the case in Georgia and definitely in Florida as well. And I look at these races are different because in Florida, I mean, in Georgia the question is can Stacey Abrams get to a point where there's a runoff then in the early December? That's a completely different question than what happens in recounts in Florida. This is really important because Democrats across the country want us to fight for every vote.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I want to do big picture here. We took the House vote. Let me show you the national House vote here, is 52-46. And we went ahead and extrapolated it out as if it were electoral map. And as you can see here's our “What If” map, David and Matthew here. And Democrats picked up four states if you believe the House vote there: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa. Florida, we put – if you give them to the Republicans Democrats would need a 284. What's interesting, David Brooks, is Democrats could get to 284 without both Florida and Ohio if those Midwestern states come back to them which the House vote indicated it might.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, and I talked about the entrenching. The Democratic entrenchment is just bigger now. And it seems to be permanently bigger. The question to me is do they have an agenda for the future? Running on pre-existing conditions, something that passed eight years ago, is not exactly a vision for the future. Do they have an affirmative vision for how a diverse country should work? How work should work? How moral integrity should be reintroduced? These are the big issues that are happening in countries all around the world. Democrats have been running on a very small set of issues, maybe excusable for the midterm, not going forward.

CHUCK TODD:

Has the battleground shrunk or expanded? I mean it feels like Colorado, Nevada feel bluer today than they did yesterday. Ohio feels a little redder today than it did yesterday.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:

And the election is two years away. I mean when you look back –

CHUCK TODD:

Two years.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:

– when you look back and you see are midterms dispositive for the subsequent presidential? The answer is no. Do Republicans have work to do? Yes, because the terrain in terms of people has shifted. Independents, they narrowly backed Trump two years ago. Now, they're for Democrats big time. You look at the suburbs, again, Republicans competitive there two years ago. They are going toward the Democrats big time. White women, narrowly backed Trump two years ago, going to the Democrats this time. If Trump and the Republicans want to have the successful re-election in 2020 they need to get those groups back.

CHUCK TODD:

Any evidence that he knows how to appeal to those groups though?

ELIANA JOHNSON:

I go back to my comment earlier which is that Trump has not shown that he has an ability to – he has no range as a politician or an ability to shift gears. And I think with him the single gear is what you get. And it may have worked in 2016. But I think it all depends on who the Democrats put up in 2020. Trump was very lucky in 2016. The Democrats put up a uniquely unlikable candidate. And 2016 was about who voters disliked more. We don't know if 2020 will be the same. It could. The Democratic primary will be very interesting. But if Trump will get lucky again, I'm not sure.

CHUCK TODD:

Donna, what did you take away from the fact that the moderate centrist Democrats lost by bigger margins in places like Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota but the progressive Democrats got awfully close in places like Texas, Georgia and, of course, there's Florida.

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, I mean they did. And I think what I take from that is that there is a strong Democratic message. I think we spend a lot of time around these tables in this last election saying Democrats didn't have a message. Turns out, they actually did, running in each one of these Congressional districts running to the districts. And I think that is going to – if Democrats do the right thing legislatively that is going to lead to success in 2020.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, thank you very much. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. Perhaps you're watching at the 11th hour of the 11th day of this 11th month. Enjoy your Veteran's Day weekend. Be sure to thank a veteran if you know one or love one. And of course we'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.