Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump Lashes Out at Kavanaugh Accusers; Bolton Threatens Iran. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired September 25, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: We believe survivors! We believe survivors!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: "We believe survivors," they're chanting.
That was Senator Ted Cruz and his wife, Heidi, being forced out of a Washington restaurant by left-wing activists. I guess they're talking about the sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The Texas senator endorsed Kavanaugh for the highest court back in July.
Let's talk about this with our experts.
I mean, this is now -- this now happens. We have seen it with the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. There have been other incidents with Sarah Sanders, Stephen Miller, et cetera.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think most people look at that and say, that's awful.
I mean, you look at the polls going into the midterms and you kind of wonder how Republicans are doing so well in spite of everything. It's stuff like that. The protests that have been happening in Capitol Hill, how many people have been arrested in the last six months? Hundreds and hundreds.
Most reasonable people, even if you don't like Republicans right now, are not down with those kind of tactics. And so if Democrats want to do well going ahead, you have got to find a way to draw a line, because reasonable people will never get on board with a movement that does things like that.
TAPPER: What do you think? I mean, there are a lot of -- I can't speak for these activists, but I think a lot of them would say what the Trump administration is doing, what Republicans are doing is intolerable, and this is civil disobedience.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right.
Well, I think there is a difference between just protesting and then this kind of stuff. And so I would just ask them, what do they hope to accomplish with this? OK, if they feel that way, that's legitimate. And they want to do something to change things.
I don't see how this helps them change anything. I think it actually makes somebody who almost never seems sympathetic, Ted Cruz, seem sympathetic, because it just isn't...
TAPPER: Ted Cruz.
POWERS: And it's also you have to think about the other people. This is a fancy restaurant where they're trying to have a meal and you're disrupting people.
So I think, I don't know, you could protest him as he leaves. Right? There are other things you can do.
A. SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER D.C. DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: But there are many levels of the movement.
I certainly wouldn't do that. I don't support Ted Cruz. But when I see my far-left Democratic brothers and sisters engaged, that's their choice of engagement.
And as a moderate Democrat, as a business Democrat, I feel the way they feel. We just express it differently. And so while I don't condone it, per se, this leadership in the White House, the GOP, and all the changes going on in this country merit protest.
And how they protest, who they protest is up to them, because they got a First Amendment right to do it, like all of us in this country.
TAPPER: I want to bring in a quote from Brian Fallon, the Democratic activist who is running the campaign against Judge Kavanaugh, because you alluded to it earlier. It was in "The New York Times."
And he says -- quote -- "Democrats would have the leverage after the midterms to force Trump to choose a moderate caretaker-style nominee or else could keep the seat open entirely for two more years."
The strategy being delay this vote until the midterms, hopefully Democrats retake the House and Senate, in his view, and then we can either get, you know, a less conservative nominee or maybe even just keep the seat open. You reacted to that on Twitter.
I wanted to give you a chance here to do it as well.
JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. No, this is where the conservative base is absolutely apoplectic. And
it's not just Brian Fallon. We have had Senator Hirono on your program and others discuss a very similar strategy, which basically, it all comes back to retribution for what they see as a poor handling of Merrick Garland, right?
BOLDEN: Can you say that again? Merrick Garland.
HOLMES: Merrick Garland. Yes, exactly
The fact that you're bringing it up I think underscores the point. Right? We have now accused -- as a Judiciary Committee, is going to be dealing with the accusation of sexual assault against a nominee, which is a very extremely serious thing to have at this level in politics.
And to just sort of brush it aside as, well, Merrick Garland.
POWERS: That's not what he was doing.
POWERS: I think, you know I think it's a fair thing to complain about that story, and I don't think that was helpful. I don't know quite why Brian Fallon did that, because it sounded like -- I know this is not what Brian meant. But it sounded like, oh, we found some people, and they made this accusation, and we're now going to -- now we're going to -- we have this big plot we're carrying out, when, in fact, it's more what he was saying they're is, taking advantage of an opportunity, which is now it looks like Kavanaugh's seat could be in jeopardy.
And, of course, you know, they're trying to figure out how they can try to get the seat back they feel was stolen from them.
TAPPER: And, Scott, let me show you some numbers, because I want you to take a look at this Gallup poll; 45 percent of Americans say they have a favorable view of the Republican Party, Democrats at 44 percent. That's the highest favorable view for the Republican Party since 2011.
President Trump's poll numbers have been underwater, to say it nicely. What do you see going on here? Do you think this is a reaction to the protesters? A reaction to Democratic strategy? What do you think it is?
BOLDEN: No, I think that's a snapshot in time. The Democrats have stayed at 44 percent. Republicans in that poll have gone up by 9 percent. When the poll was taken, you have got the Kavanaugh nomination, which is very, very important to the GOP.
The GOP, surprisingly, 81 percent support this president. But the Kavanaugh nomination will give them control of the Supreme Court for a generation, and that's hugely important, not just to the evangelicals, but to several Republicans. I think that poll reflects that.
TAPPER: Do you agree? You're a Republican, but you have had a lot of issues with President Trump.
CARPENTER: Yes. Well, I'm shocked Democrats aren't doing better. To me, I think they have a lot of enthusiasm. They have a lot of issues that I think would do well for them in the midterms. I mean, think about everything. Family detention issues, Black Lives Matter, Parkland.
And yet the national party hasn't been able to channel that or focus that in any way. And the Democratic Party writ large seems very reactionary, and I don't see any leaders popping forward with a positive, compelling alternative message. And that's I think why we're hung up.
BOLDEN: We're competing in Georgia and Florida. Those are deep red states. That's a manifest evidence that Democrats are coming together.
BOLDEN: You know, every race is different at the state level.
And so -- but when you get numbers like what we see, when you get numbers in Georgia and Florida, where you have a woman candidate, African-American male candidate, and they're competing and have a shot, that is important.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We have got more to talk about.
The president's tough talk on Iran just taken up a notch by his national security adviser. The direct threat that John Bolton just made. Is this the new fire and fury?
Stay with us.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Trump may not have gotten the reaction he expected today when he used a go-to campaign line on a roomful of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly. Instead of cheers, the crowd at the U.N. laughed at the president when he tried to brag in his distinct hyperbolic style about administration's accomplishments.
But the moment didn't stop the President from reinforcing his America first message and issuing a stark warning to leaders in Iran. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live outside the U.N. for us. And Jeff, last year the President threatened North Korea from that very same U.N. stage. This year he's saving his fire and fury for a different country.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, Jake. It was a year ago that he called him rocket man on a suicide mission, but this year President Trump referring to North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un as Chairman Kim using so much more respect and optimism. He saved his harsh language for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He said he's a corrupt dictator. A few hours later Rouhani said President Trump has a weakness of intellects.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: At the United Nations today, President Trump opened with the signature.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Line in less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.
ZELENY: But the booming applause that fills the air at his campaign rallies evoked a different response from world leaders and diplomats, laughter at the President's expense.
TRUMP: I didn't expect that reaction but that's OK.
ZELENY: In his second speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the President reaffirmed his rejection of globalism, translating his America first mantra to the world stage.
TRUMP: We will never surrender America sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy.
ZELENY: Today his sharpest message was aimed squarely at Iran. He touted the U.S. pull ahead of the Iran nuclear deal and accused the regime of financing terrorism in the Middle East.
TRUMP: Iran's leaders so chaos, death, and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors or borders or the sovereign rights of nations.
ZELENY: But it was at odds with the tweet he sent before the speech. "Despite requests I have no plans to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Maybe someday in the future I am sure he is an absolutely lovely man." Rouhani telling CNN's Christiane Amanpour he did not ask to sit down with Trump.
HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT, IRAN (through translator): We have never made such a request for a meeting with the President of the United States.
ZELENY: Some of the President's warmest words were not directed at long and loyal U.S. allies but at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and their new efforts toward diplomacy.
TRUMP: The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction.
ZELENY: A vastly different tone from a year ago when the president made this threat.
TRUMP: Rocketman is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
ZELENY: At a lunch with his fellow leaders, the President acknowledged the shift as he looks ahead to a second summit with Kim which CNN has learned the President hopes could be in the United States.
TRUMP: Tremendous progress has been made and I think you're going to see an outcome. As the expression goes who knows.
ZELENY: And this speed straight coming six weeks to the day before the critical midterm elections noticeably absent from any mention in this speech was Russia or Vladimir Putin. Clearly no message about Russian election meddling from the 2016 campaign and no warning about the midterm elections to come in November. One striking absence in this speech, Jake, which was entirely different than a year ago. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny with the President at the U.N. for us. I want you all to take a listen to what the National Security Adviser John Bolton just said while addressing Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: If you cross us, our allies or our partners, if you harm our citizens, if you continue to lie cheat and deceive, yes there will indeed be hell to pay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Hell to pay. Well, what do you make of that Phil?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well let me be clear. There will not be hell to pay. And by the way, when he talks about the Iranians cheating, I suppose the guy who has been involved in Intel to mean for decades hasn't read the Intel estimates on whether your Iranians were compliant with the nuclear deal. Look, there's a couple of deals --
TAPPER: You're saying they were they were compliant?
MUDD: They were according to the Intel estimates. There's a couple of deals here. Number one, hey John, we had a great success in Afghanistan. We've only been there for seventeen years and the Taliban is moving back through. Iraq has been a spectacular success after the surge and several thousand dead that partly was responsible for the rise of ISIS. We failed in Syria and said to our great Russian friends support bashful Assad who murdered people with chemical weapons and Libya was a brilliant success and he thinks he's going to go to the American people in a town hall and say why don't we give this one a try again.
The other thing I'd say from the other perspective, Iran had its revolution in 79. For decades there have been divides between people who say maybe we should talk the Americans, sort of Rouhani who you just saw is on that side, people who say don't ever do that again, you can't trust them. What do you think those people who want to talk to the Americans are supposed to say in Iran now? Why would you talk the Americans about a nuclear deal when you get that crap on the air from someone who will never back it up with action? It's never.
[16:50:38] TAPPER: There is a real question about whether or not the United States would ever you know, commit to any sort of military force against Iran. I'm not saying they should but it does wonder especially you know, President Trump does not -- he didn't campaign as somebody who wanted to get into more Middle East conflagrations.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, this is just the type of stuff that John Bolton says. Anybody who's ever watched him, he loves to you know make these sort of hyperbolic statements. And to me, honestly, it sounds like they're just -- they always have to have an enemy, you know, and I think that -- so this becomes the enemy. Now, why Kim Jong-un gets a pass and isn't an enemy, I can't really say, but it just sounds like something that's very targeted at his base, that you know, that wants to be -- feel like you know, we're strong and macho and we're going to tell you how it is and you're not going to do this and you're not going to do that. And the fact that they're not really doing anything to make the situation better doesn't seem to matter to anybody.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I'm not even sure who the audience for that is except for maybe you know, Lindsey Graham (INAUDIBLE), he's had an extra coffee that morning, because there's no one advocating for more military intervention. You've raised the point. We've been in the Middle East for 17 years operating off an authorization for military force from 2001. Do we have to discuss him about that before John Bolton starts --
POWERS: I don't think -- I don't think there's an audience necessarily for military force. I do think there's an audience for this kind of macho talk.
TAPPER: The tough talk.
CARPENTER: Because I do think people know there needs to be repercussion. I mean Donald Trump sort of ran as an isolationist. And then he has this National Security Adviser pouring this out, I mean, there's a disconnect there.
JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He was very aggressive when it came to the Iran deal --
CARPENTER: Right, the deal.
MOOK: -- and his critiques --
TAPPER: Ending the deal, yes.
HOLMES: And his critiques are in it. And you know, in fairness, regardless of whether you see further engagement is a good thing or a bad thing, I mean, look Iran is not a good actor here. I mean, we're talking about a state that has funded terrorism forever, has killed a number of our allies and our own Americans and -- through Hamas and other -- TAPPER: In Iraq they killed them.
HOLMES: In the -- in the region. So look, I don't mind at all that John Bolton is being aggressive here. I think the question is I hope our foreign policy is a little bit more nuanced.
TAPPER: I want to get your reaction to what President Trump said when he was asked about the fact that people were laughing after his boast during his speech. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was great. That was meant to get some laughter but it was great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It was great, it was meant to get some laughter. It was great. It was obviously -- it was obviously not meant -- it was obviously not meant to get some laughter when he talked about how he had accomplished more than any other presidency in American history. It's interesting though, he's not used to speaking in front of a group that looks at him more skeptically.
CARPENTER: You know, I would take an America first speech even at the U.N. but this is a Trump first speech and it obviously backfired on that line.
TAPPER: Well, what do you think?
POWERS: Yes, it obviously was. I mean, he said this wasn't the reaction that I was expecting so it clearly was not --
TAPPER: Until a couple of hours later when he said it was exactly the reaction.
POWERS: I think you just went in like he's get gotten used to these, where he's normally speaking to people who are rah, rah, Trump people and suddenly you had people who don't really think that you're the most amazing person ever in the history of the world.
MUDD: They may actually consider a fact. Let's do the globe in 35 seconds. You looked at the G7, we humiliated them. He did. Frat boy foreign policy. We did the same thing with NATO. We call him Rocket Man, we go out to meet him. Can you tell me exactly what the North Koreans have done? He got out -- the President gets off the plane --
TAPPER: They stopped missile -- they stopped missile testing.
MUDD: Oh give me a break. I thought we're supposed to eliminate a missile -- a nuclear program. We haven't done anything. The second -- look at Russia. That's our great partner. They're about ready to close the deal with Bashar al-Assad so he stays in power. Our great friends in Turkey and Egypt, let's suppress every democratic opposition there is and our friends in NATO let's see including the Brits if we can humiliate them publicly. And you're at -- you're in that audience listening at the President saying, oh that's a pretty impressive record, actually it's laughable.
HOLMES: I'm sensing Mr. Mudd is not a huge fan of the President's foreign policy.
TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) So I put you down for one --
TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. Coming up next, a sight long time coming for Bill Cosby's accusers. The disgraced icon formerly known as America's dad in handcuffs. The sentence just in as a comedian faces judgment day. Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: Just a surreal sight. Formerly known as America's Dad, Bill Cosby taken out of court in handcuffs this afternoon after being branded a sexually violent predator. The judge sentencing Cosby to three to ten years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. His publicist claiming Cosby didn't get a fair trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW WYATT, PUBLICIST OF BILL COSBY: This has been the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Dred Scott might disagree. More than 50 women accused Cosby of sexual assault dating back decades, and Gloria Allred who represents some of those women pointed to how important today was for their journeys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA ALLRED, LAWYER: This is a very important day. Judgment day has come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Today, ten of those women were in the courtroom as the judge told Cosby he was not above the law. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Trump versus the accusers.