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Trump's Self-Made Man Myth; Midterm Election Battle. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 3, 2018 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so against Mattis and another official at the Pentagon and against President Trump.

Do we know anything about motive?


We know that the person is being questioned by law enforcement as we speak. They make the distinction that they don't use the word arrest as a technical legal term, because he has not yet been charged.

But they are questioning him. They are gathering additional information, again, in order to get to that motive. One thing that is interesting is that we're told that the residence where they're located was actually the address listed on the envelope.

So he wasn't hiding. But, nevertheless, when you're sending this type of potentially, you know, toxic material, to federal officials, it's something that's going to get the attention of the FBI.

TAPPER: All right, Josh Campbell. Thank you so much.

Let's turn now to the politics lead. Democrats on Capitol Hill demanding to see President Trump's tax returns after the bombshell "New York Times" report that he made millions helping his family dodge taxes.

Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, now renewing a call for Republicans to allow the committee to review decades of the president's tax returns.

CNN's Tom Foreman filed this report.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I started with a million-dollar loan. I built a company that's worth more than $10 billion. OK?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A self-built billionaire? Not according to "The New York Times," which says a steady and secret flow of cash from Fred Trump started very early. By age 3, "The Times" says, Donald Trump was earning $200,000 a year from his father's real estate empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. After college, he was receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father and more than five million annually in his 40s and 50s.

In all, "The Times" calculates Trump's father gave him over 400 million in 2018 dollars. The White House?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president brought his father into a lot of deals. They made a lot of money together.

The allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false.

FOREMAN: The president? "That's just a very old, boring and often- told hit piece on me."

TRUMP: Money, that's my business, right? I take. I keep taking, taking, taking.

FOREMAN: But how could such a thing be done?

"The Times" provides detailed accounts of an alleged family conspiracy to use shady business practices to transfer a vast fortune while putting one over on tax officials.

For example, "The Times" says the kids set up a shell company to purchase items for their father's buildings, but when it bought something like a $300 air conditioner, and the bill went to dad:

SUSANNE CRAIG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": They would charge 100 bucks more, and they would pocket that.

FOREMAN: This would have allowed the father to give his children countless secret cash gifts disguised as business expenses.

CRAIG: The scope of it is hundreds of millions of dollars.

TRUMP: Come to the Castle in Atlantic City. It's more than a hotel. It's a four-star resort.

FOREMAN: When Donald Trump's casino business began falling apart, "The Times" says his father sent an emissary who bought $3.35 million worth of casino chips and left without placing a bet, another hidden infusion of money.

Through it all, "The Times" claims the family generated a paper trail that steadily hid the money, at one point claiming some properties were worth just over $41 million, then selling them over the next decade for 16 times that amount.

A statement from the family said all appropriate gift and estate tax returns were filed and the required taxes were paid.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN: Despite that, according to "The Times," all of this helped

Donald Trump and his siblings dodge hundreds of millions of dollars in tax bills.

Again, Trump's camp says it's just not true. But critics have long insisted there is a reason Donald Trump is the only modern president who to this day has refused to releases his taxes -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

Let's talk about it with the experts.

Kaitlan, this is how Sarah Sanders reacted to "The New York Times"' report today.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: It's a totally false attack based on an old recycled news story. I'm not going to sit and go through every single line of a very boring, 14,000-word story.


TAPPER: All right, first of all, that sounds like a Trump tweet, not an official White House statement.

Second of all, you're going to have to do better than that if you want to convince me that there are falsehoods in this story.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it sounds a lot like the same they put out last night, which read like it was dictated word for word by the president, calling it boring, old, something they have said before.


TAPPER: Where are the factual errors?

COLLINS: But here's the thing. They have not listed one specific thing.

And Sarah Sanders, that response was, name one thing that is wrong, one specific line in the story that is wrong, and she said, well, Charles Harder already did that.

He actually didn't. He just gave this broad denial anger, saying there was no tax evasion. He actually didn't do that. But the question was, well, is the president still under audit? And she said, to her knowledge, she believed some of his taxes were still under audit.

Same question. Will he release his tax returns? And she said, as of her awareness at that briefing, there's still no plan to release his tax returns. So if his taxes are still under audit, I think they have a lot more to look at now with this exhaustive piece coming out.


But, yes, this is something that really gets at the core of President Trump, because this is essentially a big part of what helped him win. He fashioned himself, though he was wealthy and though he was from those higher social circles, the elite that he says he's not part of, he says he was self-made.

He took a small million-dollar loan from his father, he paid it back with interest. But what we saw is that President Trump actually didn't today. He took a lot more than that. He didn't pay it back. And that goes against a lot of what he inspired a lot of his supporters to believe that he was, that they could do something like that, he was one of them.

This flies right in the face of all of that.

TAPPER: Do you agree?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I never bought the myth.

So, I knew that.


HAM: A guy whose dad was this connected and had this much money undoubtedly built part of his career based on that. He ended up a better much better promotional guy than his father was.

I would also say, ideologically and morally, just put down a marker, if you wish to give your money to your children that you earned over your lifetime, you should do it, absolutely, in the most tax- advantageous way possible, and not be dishonest or fraudulent about it.

And that's the line that we have to determine here, right?


TAPPER: Well, buying $3.5 million worth of chips and then walking out of a casino.

HAM: I'm just saying you should do that.


HAM: You should do...


TAPPER: Legally, yes.

HAM: It's not wrong to minimize your tax liability.

The line here is whether they were fraudulent and dishonest about it and whether it's actionable. (CROSSTALK)

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There are two very specific, systematic, extended episodes, strategies describing this story that clearly, you know, raise questions of fraud.

One is the one that Tom talked about, which was creating a sham company to kind of conflate billing.

But the other, even more direct, was the valuation of the real estate properties so far below what was selling comparably nearby, credible reporting by "The New York Times," almost kind of forensic accounting, to recreate what comparable properties were being sold for, and then the Trump accountants, you know, put a fraction of that, allowing them to massively reduce their taxes.

I mean, this is -- you know, this is the kind of thing -- and it's interesting. Probably all the voters who have turned away from Donald Trump because they think he's personally odious have done so, but this is the kind of thing -- one of the things that Democrats are running on this fall is that the tax bill is this great windfall for rich people that ultimately is going to fire up above Republicans to come after your Social Security and Medicare.

And I have got to imagine that this is going right into the stump speech, just like Donald Trump himself, you know, took advantage of the tax code. That's what Republicans are trying to do to you now. I don't think it is -- it is a completely politically insignificant event, even if it doesn't necessarily affect the judgments of him now.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, the Democrats want another reason to talk about whining Donald Trump's taxes for the reason you said, but also because, substantively, they always have felt it's about following the money as it relates to the Russia investigation, where his vulnerabilities are, what his weaknesses are, that there's got to be something in there.

We don't know if there would be. And then, politically, the truth is, most Democrats, moderates do not want to actually repeal the tax bill, because that would be terrible politics for them. But they do need something to give to progressives.

And getting Donald Trump's taxes and being able to fight on that would be a good thing for them to have and to be able to fight over next year.

COLLINS: But the thing is, Trump is always able to spin things in his favor, so it will not be surprising if he does the same with this.

He did it the entire time on the campaign trail. And even once Hillary Clinton said -- accused him of not paying his taxes properly, he said, well, if I did, it would be smart.

So it's that argument that he is going to make, and people will buy that.


TAPPER: Our Manu Raju just caught up with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who is on the Judiciary Committee.

When asked if the president should release his tax returns, he said -- quote -- "He may have to. He may have to give up those returns."

So maybe he will be forced to. I mean, maybe it does matter.

COLLINS: It depends if enough Republicans call on him to do so, but...

BROWNSTEIN: I think it going to take a Democratic House.

HAM: I don't know if there's ever enough clamor for him to do this publicly.

I think perhaps there are weird machinations by which you could make him do it in some sort of investigation, but I don't know if there's a public...


TAPPER: But if the Democrats take the House, they can force him?

BROWNSTEIN: Sure. And it will be on that long list of things that they are likely to do.

By the way, if last night, as some people think, he launched a new culture war fight over the role of women and MeToo...

TAPPER: I think that.


BROWNSTEIN: I think that, and others.

If he launched that fight in order to detract attention, distract attention from this airtight case the he misused the tax code to benefit the super rich, namely himself, that would be his entire presidency -- that would be his presidency in like moment.


HAM: You give him too much credit.

BROWNSTEIN: That is the argument, that essentially that they provoke -- they provoke these culture wars, but the agenda itself is kind of a very conventional top-down Republican economics.

And there it was altogether in one night in Mississippi.

TAPPER: Interesting.

Trump II, Donald Trump Jr., campaigning for a man he and his father once called a liar, as talk of Donald Trump Jr. running for office picks up steam.

Stay with us.




TRUMP: I'm not on the ticket, but I am on the ticket, because this is also a referendum about me.

Get out and vote. I want you to vote. Pretend I'm on the ballot. And don't worry. We will be on the ballot in two years. And we will do a landslide like you haven't -- like you wouldn't believe.



TAPPER: President Trump there last night in Mississippi putting the midterm elections in rather personal terms.

Let's talk about it.

Is that going to work, President Trump saying, pretend I'm on the ballot, getting his voters out?

HAM: I think that does matter to the base. And if it's a base- pumping election, as many midterms are, then that they matter.

It may also matter after the fact if perhaps there isn't a red wave, and then he has to answer for the fact that he was indeed on the ballot, by his own reasoning.

Look, I think -- I hate to be queen of conventional wisdom, but I do think the House is probably going blue. The Senate could be a very different story. It exists in a different universe. The map was so advantageous to Republicans that basically this is just a blown opportunity to pick up a bunch of seats, but they may keep it.

But, yes, saying this is personally about him makes his supporters excited.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, whether he says it or not, it's true.

I mean, since the -- over the last 25 years, the midterm elections really have become referenda on the president's routine now for 85 percent of the voters who disapprove of the President to vote for the other party and roughly 85 percent of the people who prove the president vote for the president's party.

He is having a positive effect on increasing Republican engagement in the election. I mean, we are seeing that in a number of polls out this week, the Kavanaugh fight and Trump beating the drums on that. But the tip-off of the effect of Mary Katharine's point, look at where he's going. Do you see him in any of these suburban -- did you see him outside of Philadelphia? Do you see him in Orange County California? He won't be in the Minneapolis suburbs when he goes to Minnesota. He will be -- he will be you know, further up in you know kind of more rural of the state. And that gives you a tip-off to where we're headed.

The Republican base has not collapsed. It is still very strong particularly among blue-collar whites, evangelical whites, rural whites, all the groups that flock to Trump. But they are suffering unprecedented erosion among white-collar suburban whites especially women and that is what likely what you're going to see in this election. It's not a wave, it's going to be more like a river. You're going to see all of these metro areas, all of these inner suburban Republicans who have been hanging out for years like Kevin Yoder in Kansas City or the Orange County Republicans or in Philadelphia, you're going to see a lot of them losing.

But Democrats has got a hard time extending beyond that and you're going to the divide between kind of metro and non-metro America, white collar and blue collar America is going to look even deeper after this election if it comes out the way it kind of appears right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So you think -- you think Democrats are going to take the House but it's not going to be an overwhelming, shellacking what's happened the other in 2010 with the Republicans?

BROWNSTEIN: I think there are enough suburban. It's interesting there's a list of suburban seats the white-collar suburban seats they're at risk is growing whereas some of the blue-collar opportunities and rural opportunities saw earlier are kind of shutting down. So the total number may get you know, you had to say their favorite now but there is a geographic limit on their reach by the demography. The Republicans are still up 25 points in two polls among blue collar whites.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, which is -- which is how things have changed since 2006 when Democrats won the House. The gerrymandering was not quite as bad then, the districts were a little friendlier to Democrats. But friends of mine who are running different party committee apparatus will say that one of the challenges they have now is that there are so many competitive races, that they have to figure out where to put money and resources, and what often happens at this time in the process is some of the candidates that we've been talking about for a year-and-a-half who are definitely going to win may not win. And they have to make decisions about kind of the next tier and they have to make the right decisions in order to win.

TAPPER: Kaitlan, tonight President Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. is going to be campaigning for Senator Ted Cruz in Texas, the man Don Jr. once called on Twitter Lying Ted and a rascal and tweeting one time amazing and true Carly Fiorina calling Ted Cruz will say whatever just to get elected. Still, do you think it could work?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to remind people that politicians are not the people you think they are. They're not these people that are tethered to some kind of moral compass and they will flip if they need political help and that's what we're seeing Ted Cruz do. He's going out there and he's campaigning with Donald Trump Jr. Mike Pence who -- Mike Pence let's leave him out of this. He wasn't anyone who was critical of Ted Cruz his wife, and then the president, of course, is coming.

It'll be interesting with Donald Trump Jr. because he has been one when the president was restrained about Brett Kavanaugh's accuser Christine Blasey Ford, Donald Trump Jr. was the one on Twitter going after her immediately within days of those accusations coming out. And now we're seeing that Kavanaugh could help Republicans in these midterm elections and in these races and we'll have to see if maybe he's going to use that as a defense and try to help Ted Cruz that way tonight.

TAPPER: And there's talk that Donald Trump Jr. is eyeing a political career potentially for himself. He might run for governor. What do you think?

HAM: Well, if you -- look --

TAPPER: You're not supposed to laugh.

HAM: I'm sure he is. If you put -- look, here's -- this is what I was -- I was noting that the come down from this. If you look back at the RNC in Cleveland as I'm loathed to do, but if you look back at that in the speech that Donald Trump Jr. gave, it was a very conventional Republican speech. Actually, it's sort of a nice pitch in tone, had some interesting forward-looking idea. Like you know, it was it was like oh this is sort of what we kind of do.

TAPPER: Standard -- yes.

HAM: And now he is the attack dog on Twitter. And that is sort of a symbol for what happens with the Trump administration.

TAPPER: Still Beto O'Rourke can't be happy that President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are coming to Texas because they can help with --

PSAKI: And Pence.

TAPPER: And Pence. Don't forget Pence. What about --

PSAKI: They certainly can. But I think Beto has to be pretty happy given how he's doing in the race in a state that he never should have had a chance in competing in. He also is going to help some of the congressional candidates. So this may help him raise money too though, because people are going to watch that Trump Jr. is coming and they're going to give more money to him so there are also benefits to him.

TAPPER: We'll see. Thanks one and all for being here. How are a distinguished Yale alum and a fraternity connected to a cartoon about President Trump? We'll tell you after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:50:00] TAPPER: those biting criticism of President Trump has come from satirists. And in his new book Doonesbury creator, Garry Trudeau tackles the Trump presidency from the Russia investigation, to John Kelly, to press briefings, and even, of course, that hairdo. Trudeau also has an interesting perspective on Brett Kavanaugh as a fellow alum of Yale. The book is #Sad: Doonesbury in the time of Trump.


TAPPER: And Gary Trudeau joins us now. You -- we've talked about this last time. You've been satirizing Donald Trump literally for decades, for decades.

GARY TRUDEAU, AUTHOR, #SAD: Yes, thirty years.

TAPPER: Trying to warn America about this man in your -- in your view. Let's put up this cartoon you did. This is -- this is Donald Trump's hair. It's Mark Slackmeyer the character, and here are examples of a president Trump's boasts, and you go through all these boasts of his while you're kind of looking at his interesting vortexes of hair. How do you satirize what is already so incredibly -- what's the word I'm looking for -- superlative.

TRUDEAU: Well, it's baroque and -- but one of the reasons and I'm glad to see you animate the hair because I think it is a living breathing creation and it's a -- it's a work of art.

[16:55:06] TAPPER: Just like the Constitution.

TRUDEAU: Yes, just like the Constitution. Originally I drew him in kind of a straight-ahead fashion and there wasn't much of a caricature to it. But then as his own look evolved, I go back all the way to when he had brown hair and when he moved through other colors into the current kind of strawberry confection that he's got going now. And it just seemed like let's go along for the ride. Let's be part of this. Let's big part of it.

TAPPE: There's a cartoon you did of a Trump press conference. Here he is talking -- he's just insulting, berating the press people who want to read more of this is a good read the new book Sad -- #Sad by Gary Trudeau. He's going after the failing New York Times, the dishonest Washington Post, attacking members of the media, and then he calls on Breitbart in the back.


TAPPER: And then you see a hooded gentleman in the -- in the back. What concerns you most about the president's attacks on the press and his embrace of the more extreme members of the media?

TRUDEAU: Well, you know, it doesn't affect our profession that much. Satire is protected by the -- by the Supreme Court decision in the in a Larry Flynt case. I think the rest of the press has a lot to worry about, not that he's been able to take any concrete steps to curtail the press and what it does but in normalizing a view that the press is pushing its own views and not reporting the facts any longer. You know he has talked about putting limits on the press but that's

not going to happen. And even his partisan supporters don't want that to happen. You'll notice that on Fox News they don't really use the phrase enemy of the people as frequently as the President himself does. In fact, nobody does.

TAPPER: You brought up Fox News. There's a cartoon you have here were White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is calling the "Fox & Friends" control room, "Fox & Friends", of course, the morning shows the President Trump loves so much, asking them to help brief the President on his intelligence report because he doesn't pay close attention. He thinks "Fox & Friends" might help. Also, you're --

TRUDEAU: That's just a helpful suggestion by the way. I'm -- you know, I'm an American, I'm a patriot.

TAPPER: But one of the things you have a vapid television reporter character Roland Hedley Burton Jr., he's been around for decades. He is now a Fox reporter.


TAPPER: When you make fun of him, how much is the problem already that it's already so wild, the things that some people on that network say and do and tweet?

TRUDEAU: Hyperbole is just one tool in the toolkit. There are many, many ways to be subversive and my character role in tweets in -- as a partisan. And so for me, that's the daily challenge is I have to figure out well, if I were defending this latest outrage or this latest shenanigan, how would I do it? How would I do it with a straight face and I use I use Roland to do that?

TAPPER: Before you go I have to ask you, Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee is for anybody who has -- didn't know, he went to Yale, he busted his butt to work really hard. Now, you're famous Yale alumnus --

TRUDEAU: It wasn't a good week for Yale and I see no reason why the Yale admissions department should have had its reputation dragged through the muds like that repeatedly.

TAPPER: What do you make of the fact that drinking at Yale and the culture, and you were there a few years before him so I don't know how it similar the culture was. I imagine there were different substances --

TRUDEAU: Well, there were different camps at the time. And the camp that Brett belonged to was the deep camp which was our animal house. I'm sure every campus has one. And they were even at that time considered somewhat beyond the pale. And they -- when I was -- when I was a sophomore, one of my first gigs for the -- for the college newspaper was part of an expose of their initiation rites in which they branded their initiates with a red-hot iron with the delta on their buttocks. And when this story broke, and I did the illustrations, I did the cartoons, the media got real involved and New York Times sent a stringer and the president of (INAUDIBLE) at the time was George W. Bush.

TAPPER: Is that right?

TRUDEAU: And he was called upon to defend the practice and so he told the Times that it didn't amount to much, it was like a cigarette burn. So that always amused me that the first interview he gave to a national publication in his life was in defense of torture. I thought boy, that's not a good sign.

TAPPER: The book is #Sad: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump. Gary Trudeau, it's always a pleasure to be here. Thanks so much.

TRUDEAU: Thanks so much.

TAPPER: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.