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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Presidential Candidate Evan McMullin; What Does Putin Want?; Trump's Final Sprint; Can GOP Hold Senate?. Aired 16- 16:15p ET

Aired October 21, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:10]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you think you have seen a lot of Donald Trump so far, well, just you wait.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Donald Trump is now planning an all-out final sprint to the finish line, rally after rally after rally, but will he stay on message or stub his toe?

Trumped-up, trickle down. With his campaign causing pain for many Republicans on the ballot, the GOP is now making new moves to try to save the Senate.

Plus, he's allegedly invaded private political e-mail servers as if they were a tiny European country, but what does Vladimir Putin really want? One of his most outspoken Russian critics will weigh in.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking into the future and closer and closer we come to Election Day. we're already seeing returns from the early vote. And experts say they point to some positive signs for Hillary Clinton.

And so with only 18 days left to go, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are starting to roll out their final pitches to voters. We will hear from both of them this hour in battleground states.

CNN political reporter Sara Murray is currently in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Trump is speaking right now.

Sara, Donald Trump has repeatedly requested Hillary Clinton's stamina and her light campaign schedule, so he made sure to note that he is going to pack his coming schedule with multiple rallies.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He does have a busy schedule today, Jake.

He is in midst behind me of his second stop of three today. You get the sense of how sort of disappointed, almost baffled he is by the way his poll numbers showing hi behind when you see events like this where he does draw thousands of loud supporters. And he has already said as he came out at this event that if he can't come to victory on November 8, it's all been a waste of time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a bunch of babies running our country, folks. We have a bunch of losers. They're losers. They're babies.

MURRAY (voice-over): A sharp elbow. Trump is shrugging aside his sagging poll numbers today and vowing to hustle through the final stretch.

TRUMP: Win, lose, or draw, and I'm almost sure, if the people come out, we're going to win, but I will be happy with myself because I always say I don't want to think back, if only I did one more rally, I would have won North Carolina.

MURRAY: After spending more than a week claiming the election is rigged, Trump's complaints became mere fodder for laugh lines for Hillary Clinton Thursday evening.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's amazing I'm up here after Donald. I didn't think he would be OK with a peaceful transition of power.

(LAUGHTER)

MURRAY: That's as the two traded barbs at the annual Al Smith Dinner to benefit Catholic Charities.

TRUMP: The media is even more biased this year than ever before, ever. You want the proof. Michelle Obama gives a speech, and everyone loves it. It was fantastic. They think she's absolutely great. My wife, Melania, gives the exact same speech, and people get on her case.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MURRAY: The political rivals meeting again face to face less than 24 hours after their contentious final debate, seeming to tolerate each other long enough to dine at the same table.

But at times, Trump's jokes were perhaps too pointed, even drawing boos from the crowd.

TRUMP: Hillary believes that it is vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: That's OK. I don't know who they are angry at, Hillary, you or I.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: For example, here she is tonight in public pretending not to hate Catholics.

(BOOING)

MURRAY: With the major political moments, the conventions, the debates behind them, the campaigns are turning to the nuts and bolts. Clinton releasing an ad today featuring a Gold Star father who Trump has criticized, recounting the act of valor in Iraq that cost his son his life.

KHIZR KHAN, FATHER OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: My son was Captain Humayun Khan. He was 27 years old and he was a Muslim-American. I want to ask Mr. Trump, would my son have a place in your America?

MURRAY: The ad coming as Clinton relishes a fund-raising advantage over Trump, raising nearly $73 million in September, compared to Trump's $53 million.

[16:05:07]

In yet another sign of good news for the former secretary of state, early voting tallies show Democrats with an edge in North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, and even Utah compared to 2012.

But there are silver linings for Trump too. In Iowa and Ohio, some of the strongest battlegrounds for the billionaire businessman, the Democrats' early voting advantage is narrower than it was in 2012.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, if Donald Trump does lose on November 8, there's still questions about whether he will go quietly. At this event, he's still claiming that everything is rigged -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, thank you so much.

Republicans fear that Donald Trump has put some pivotal Senate and House races in play for the Democrats. You know how I know that? Because President Obama in Miami yesterday spent almost more time bashing Senator Marco Rubio, who is up for reelection, for standing for Trump than he did attacking Trump.

CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju is tracking the Trump effect on these down-ballot races.

Manu, there are about nine competitive Senate races. Democrats would need four of them to flip, assuming Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine take the White House, and Kaine would be a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Is that possible? Can they flip four?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jake.

The map is actually incredibly favorable for Democrats right now, who are only really worried about defending one seat. And that is in Nevada. The rest are seats held by Republicans who are right now neck in neck in the polls right now. But Democrats have been bolstered by this, Donald Trump's sinking poll numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU (voice-over): GOP officials now fear that if Donald Trump loses by a landslide, he could take down the congressional majorities with him.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Not only am I concerned about the presidential race. I'm concerned about what the impact on down-ballot races, including the Senate.

RAJU: In New Hampshire, Republicans sound like they're treating a Trump defeat as a foregone conclusion with an ad that attacks Democrat Maggie Hassan by saying voters need a Senate GOP majority to keep a Clinton White House in check.

If Clinton wins, Democrats need four seats to take back the Senate majority. Republican seats in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire are in danger of flipping. Democrats now have a serious shot at winning in red states like Indiana, North Carolina and Missouri. And the battle for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's seat Nevada is a true toss- up.

Reid trying to tie Republican Joe Heck to Donald Trump.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: This man we have running for the Senate here in Nevada who is a mini-Trump, Joe Heck.

RAJU: Heck revoking his endorsement of Trump after the GOP nominee's vulgar words about women were caught on a hot mike.

JOE HECK (R), NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I cannot in good conscience continue to support Donald Trump.

RAJU: Democratic opponent Catherine Cortez Masto is not letting up.

CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D), NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: After nine months of being his biggest supporter and realizing now that Donald Trump's ship is sinking and now he's trying to scurry off it to save his own political career? No, you don't get credit for that.

RAJU: But Heck in a private fund-raiser admitting that Trump could cause him problems.

HECK: I did support our nominee. And I want to support our nominee, but he's had a pattern of behavior that is -- he's going to hand the White House to Hillary Clinton.

RAJU: And in the House, Trump becoming so toxic, that Speaker Paul Ryan is scrambled to prevent Democrats from picking up the 30 seats they need to win back the majority. But the speaker's refusal to defend Trump is causing some conservatives to threaten Ryan's hold on his job.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: A lot of the people who believe so desperately that we need to put Donald Trump in the White House, they question the loyalty of the speaker. I do think that there will be real discussions after November 8 on who our leadership will be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Now, Paul Ryan really in a precarious spot, Jake, because he's battling to hang on to the House majority.

But even if he does, it will be a slimmer majority and conservatives will be emboldened. And that's probably one reason why, Jake, that Paul Ryan has really not spoken out against Donald Trump. He doesn't want to anger the same conservatives who he needs to vote for him to be reelected speaker next year.

TAPPER: Too late. They're already angry.

Manu Raju, thanks so much.

Ambivalence about Donald Trump among Republicans is turning reliably red Utah into a battleground state. Utah has not backed a Democratic candidate since 1964. But polls shows a relatively close race there now between Trump, Clinton and my next guest, the man chosen by the never Trump movement, independent candidate Evan McMullin. He's a Utah native who is on the ballot in 11 states.

Evan, thanks so much for joining me.

EVAN MCMULLIN (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be with you, Jake.

We're on the ballot in 11 states, but we're registered as a write-in in a number of others. The total will be 40 to 45 states where we have ballot access on ballot day.

TAPPER: All right, good to know.

[16:10:00]

TAPPER: If the election goes the way polls are showing right now, and Republicans suffer a defeat, what message should the party take from that? Is it about Donald Trump or is it about something bigger?

MCMULLIN: Well, it is about Donald Trump, but it's also about something bigger.

But these are lessons that the party should have learned after 2012. And, in fact, these are lessons that the party did learn after 2012, that it needed to appeal to millennials and women and minorities much more than it id in that past presidential election.

The challenge is, is the party wasn't able to implement changes that it knew it needed to make. And after this election, with Donald Trump supporters so much more empowered than they ever have been before within the party, I find it hard to believe -- and my running mate, Mindy Finn, agrees that the Republican Party is likely to be able to make the reforms it needs to make to be viable in this country politically again, at least any time soon.

So, we're building a new conservative movement that will welcome minorities, welcome women, people with disabilities, all kinds of people to our cause. And the question will be, is it necessary to start a new party or is a movement enough?

TAPPER: It's interesting you say that the message was received, but not implemented, because it seems to me like Republican leaders -- I have never seen this kind of level of opposition to a party's own candidate.

Mitch McConnell is -- he is basically missing in action. Speaker Ryan sending out press releases as if there's not a presidential race going on. There's not a lot of support. No living former Republican president supporting the nominee.

And yet I think there's a huge chasm -- and I'm interested in knowing, in hearing what you think -- between party leaders and party members, Republican voters. Republican voters picked Donald Trump. It wasn't really even close.

MCMULLIN: Well, 47 percent of Republican voters selected Donald Trump in the primary; 53 percent selected someone else.

But really most Republican leaders in Congress have not disavowed their support for Donald Trump. And even those who have, have done so in a way that either stopped short of withdrawing their endorsement or, if they have withdrawn their endorsement, they haven't been able to say they say what they're for.

They say what they're against, but not what they're for. And that's part of the problem. The problem is, these leaders have failed to lead after 2012 and now. It's not enough to say what you're against. You actually have to say what you're for as a leader, and then fight for that thing.

And if they're not willing to do that, and if that thing is the basic truth that all men and women are created equal, and then our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, if they're not willing to stand for those principles, what business do they have to leading the country?

And I think that's the question that Americans are asking now as they witness the Republican support for Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Do you think you can win Utah? And if so, what effect might that have on the overall Election Day numbers?

MCMULLIN: Well, we're very encouraged by what we're seeing here in the polls. We're either neck in neck or we're leading. So, we're very encouraged.

Can we win? I believe we can prevail. There's still of course 2.5 weeks to go. So, we have got to work hard. We see this enthusiasm spilling over in Idaho, in Wyoming, and elsewhere in the Mountain West. But what message it will send, I think, is simply that there has to be

another way forward, and that is, I believe, a new conservative movement that will bring in more people into the fold, not by changing what we stand for, but rather simply recommitting ourselves to the fundamental, timeless truths that have made this country the most powerful and prosperous on earth.

So we're going to try to use this movement to influence the Republican Party to do the right thing. But neither Mindy nor I are optimistic that that will be successful. And so we're looking at the possibility of going in our own direction and building something entirely new.

TAPPER: All right, Evan McMullin, thank you. Good luck out there.

MCMULLIN: Thank you very much. Take care, Jake.

TAPPER: He's gone from World Series hero to that guy who lost his last big over social media posts.

Now the legendary Curt Schilling is considering riding a Trumpian wave to the Senate in Red Sox nation. I will ask him how he plans to do that in one of the bluest states in the nation.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:12] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

You're looking at live pictures out of Cleveland, Ohio, where Hillary Clinton is scheduled to speak at any moment in that key battleground state. This will be Hillary Clinton's first campaign event in a week. She had been doing debate prep.

Let's bring in our political panel. We have with us today, "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers and "Washington Post" correspondent Anne Gearan.

Anne, thanks so much for joining us. Kirsten, you as well.

Let me start with you, Anne.

The Chamber of Commerce is running these ads that are kind of reminiscent of the ones that they ran and Republicans ran in 1996 when it looked like Bill Clinton was definitely going to win -- vote for the Republican senator or Senate candidate as a check. Are we going to see more of these ads?

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I think New Hampshire is just the first state where they're likely to air those. And I actually anticipate that others will follow suit. I mean, it's a fairly obvious and simple argument to make. It's a way sort of giving amnesty to not vote for Trump or just to be allowed to say that Trump is likely to lose. But shouldn't stop Republicans from going to the polls and trying to save the Senate, is the basic message of that ad and they'll keep saying it.

TAPPER: Yes, do you think it might work? I mean, is that an effective speech?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it might have been an effective speech a little earlier. The problem is that it's just a little late. I mean, Kellyanne Ayotte I think is down about 8 points or so.

So, this is very -- it's going to be very hard to turn this around so quickly. As you know, she's trying to kind of play this middle ground of like, I don't like Trump but I'm endorsing him, but I won't unendorse him, and this game that she's playing. If she would have been at the beginning of this, it would have been the tack of saying, we're going to be a check, it probably would have worked. I'd be surprised if they could turn it around that fast.

TAPPER: One other question I have about this is back in 1996, Bob Dole, who is a war hero and as a gentlemen, he basically gave permission for the Republicans to do this because he loved the Senate and he loved the Republican Party and he wanted them to keep control.

[16:20:02] Donald Trump is not Bob Dole, for better or for worse, he might lash out, is all I'm saying.

GEARAN: Absolutely. And that actually might be part of the explanation that this is coming late. I mean there's a certain fear within Republican Party and it's supporters that they're going to have, in addition to the obvious fault lines that Trump has created, that they're going to have a real problem as they get closer to election day with Trump openly attacking the party and individual candidates.

TAPPER: And not to mention the fact that he's saying that the election is rigged, that might suppress his own vote, Kirsten.

POWERS: Yes. Well, and also, they did for a while look like he might win. So, I think that that was also part of -- I mean, at least Republicans thought he might win at one point, and this was pre-the tape coming out and all the women coming forward.

TAPPER: Yes, before the first debate.

POWERS: Yes, so now they're now having to scramble before the first debate where things were turning for her even before the tapes. So they're trying to scramble to try to deal with this. And then they have the problem of, you know, after the election of trying to rebuild the GOP and making these people angry, right?

So, they're going to have to try to figure out how to move forward with a bunch of people who are already going to be angry and then the Republican Party has turned against Trump during the election are going to be even more angry.

TAPPER: It's going to be really tough, especially for somebody like Speaker Paul Ryan. You probably heard in the piece, there's a lot of talk on Capitol Hill right now about Republicans being mad that Ryan has not been more supportive of Trump and some are saying, and who knows how real it is, that his speakership is in jeopardy.

GEARAN: Yes, I mean, I think he'll probably be fine if they preserve a solid majority in the House and particularly if the Republicans retain the Senate. Victory even on those terms looks good enough probably that he could retain support of most of his colleagues. (INAUDIBLE) to have that he'll be fine. I think the Senate question is really up for grabs now and --

TAPPER: You think Democrats could maybe win four seats and take it back.

GEARAN: Yes. I mean, it's looking more likely, you know, this week than last. And there's still two and half weeks to go.

TAPPER: And I guess one of the questions about where does the Republican Party go from here, how does the Republican rebuild, assuming that the polls are all right and they're going to have a really bad November 8th.

POWERS: Well, I mean, that I think will be the big story for the next year at least probably. And you have different approaches, so after the 2012 election, they basically said we need to be more moderate. We need to reach out to a changing demographic. And then you have another camp that says, no, we have to have a conservative like Ted Cruz.

Well, Donald Trump is neither of those people. So, you have to sort of figure out, is there a third way that they're going to approach this or are they going to go back to the idea of, well, if we just got a real conservative, you know, and we ran a real conservative. So, I think that they're going to have -- they have a very hard road ahead of them because they're just not built for this electorate.

TAPPER: All right. Kirsten, Anne, thanks so much. Really appreciate it. Have a great weekend.

He was a hero on the mound helping the Red Sox win their first series in 86 years. Now, Curt Schilling wants to throw a brushback pitch to the establishment in D.C. But, first, he has some questions he might even ask me. That story next.

Then, it's not the Cold War, but U.S.-Russia relations maybe the worse they've been in decades. What this means for the next president of the United States?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:49] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Let's stick with politics. We may get a true test of how powerful

Donald Trump's brand is. In 2018 when another conservative, opinionated outsider with no political experience tries to unseat a sitting Democratic senator in one of the bluest states in the nation. That state or commonwealth, rather, is Massachusetts. And the would- be candidate is Curt Schilling.

Joining me now, former ESPN commentator, current radio host of "The Curt Schilling Show" on the Howie Carr Network, and Major League Baseball legend, Curt Schilling.

Sir, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

CURT SCHILLING: Thanks for -- thank you, Jake. Thanks.

TAPPER: So, you say you're going to run for Senate, try to unseat Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, as long as your wife Shonda signs off. Has she signed off?

CURT SCHILLING, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL LEGEND: Well, first off, I'm thinking about it. That was really -- as I look back, that was pretty much an unfair corner to put her into. This is -- if this is a decision I do decide to go forward with, it will be a complete family decision. When you look at, I think the state of media and politics now, conservative families are fair game. And I don't know that they want to be put through that and I don't know that I would want to put them through that. So, that discussion hasn't been finalized yet.

TAPPER: Are you leaning one way or the other?

SCHILLING: I think it's something I would like to do, yes, but again, I'm married. I've been married 24 years this November and I have four kids. If we're not all on board with doing it, I'm not going to do it because you can't -- I don't think as a person who is not a career politician you can't enter this arena tepid or timid or with reservations. You have to go, which is kind of how -- I'm either neutral or fifth gear. So, you know, that's going to have to be a family buy-in.

TAPPER: All right. Fair enough.

So, let me ask you, Massachusetts, obviously a very, very blue state. Hillary Clinton currently beating Donald Trump in the polls there by 25 points. You are a conservative. You have endorsed Donald Trump. In order to win, you're going to have to get Hillary Clinton voters to vote for you.

SCHILLING: Well, I'll tell you, Jake, honestly like in lot of places I don't think the politics much the populace in Massachusetts. I think in conversing and being involved in this state, being around, I think the state is much more moderate than politicians and media would have people believe.