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INSIDE POLITICS

Melania Trump Speaks Out on Trump's Alleged Infidelities; Some Dems Under Fire for Inflammatory Rhetoric; Voter Registration Uproar Surfaces in Georgia. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 12, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: And this is a cloud that is going to continue to hang over the president until you get some real answers.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And the question is, when those answers come, right? I mean, we talk about -- is this a sign that it's wrapping up, is it sort of the next step to it wrapping up and maybe there's more questions or maybe the president at some point sits down to something happen after the midterms. That's also a sense that that might happen?

But all along the way, all we have is sort of speculation. I mean, he's kept such a closed shop, Mueller has. All we can do is sort of sit back and wait to see when this happens. It is interesting that this kind of strategy that they had before publicly with Rudy Giuliani. I feel like he was on T.V. every single day of the last many months through the summer.

Once he joined the campaign, he has -- you know, he's a big source of yours. I haven't seen him in a while. I don't know if he's on vacation (INAUDIBLE). I don't know if he's on vacation or what.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, it seems this is kind of 101. When things go quiet, generally, I mean, stuffs happening.

All right, everybody stand by. Up next, Melania Trump is speaking out about her husband's alleged infidelities. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:35:36] BASH: Topping our political radar, the DOW is back in positive territory today after losing more than 1,300 points in the past two days. Stocks are higher following news that President Trump will meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the G20 summit next month. Now it's easing some investors' fears of further escalation of a trade war.

Recent polls show Senator Ted Cruz with a healthy lead over challenger Beto O'Rourke. Today though, 38 million reasons for O'Rourke to be happy. The Texas Democrat reported a record setting third quarter fundraising haul more than $38 million. That's three times the amount Cruz raised over the same period and it's the most for a Senate candidate in a single quarter in history. And just for perspective here, more than Jeb Bush raised, and he raised a lot, over the course of his entire 2016 presidential campaign.

And the White House is scrambling to find a new U.N. ambassador to replace Nikki Haley. We have some names for the possible short list. You see there, Nikki -- Nancy Brinker rather, founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft, the former New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte, the U.N. ambassador -- excuse me, the NATO ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison. As for Dina Powell, the former deputy national security adviser, she told the president she is taking herself out of the running.

And a new CNN poll is out showing first lady Melania Trump's favorability has gone tick up. It's gone from 51 percent in June to 54 percent in October. Meanwhile, the first lady is also speaking out on allegations of her husband's infidelity in an interview with ABC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not the first lady to have to deal with her husband's alleged infidelities. Has this put a stain on your marriage?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It is not a concern and focus of mine. I am a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do. I know people like to speculate and media likes to speculate about our marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, to be fair, this isn't just about her marriage, this is about a legal case that has to do with hush money and how it was paid forward. Who did it? To stop an alleged mistress from talking right before the election.

RASCOE: And these -- there were these payments and then also you have a White House that has made public statements about the payments, about the president's knowledge of the payments and those were later contradicted. So the public does have a right to ask questions about what the president knew and when he knew it.

BASH: All right. You want to add to that?

HENDERSON: Yes. No, I think that's right. I think that's right.

What's interesting is her approval ratings. She's at 54 percent. That's actually pretty low for a Republican first lady. Republican first ladies, if you look at Laura Bush, she was in the 80s that time. Michelle Obama was mid 60s.

One theory is that Melania Trump just isn't out there enough. She hasn't really formed an identity, her platform is still a little -- I guess be best, I'm not sure most people could explain what that is. I don't know if she could really explain what that is. We haven't really seen much of it. So it's interesting to watch if her approval ratings start to rise.

BASH: That's an interesting theory and this is one of the first if not the first lengthy interview that she has given.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BASH: So, maybe that's going to change.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: She's been under the radar for a while here. Her role in the White House, she's not a senior adviser, she's not in the room all the time, but she has been a person for the president to bounce off ideas. She has, you know, kind of called balls and strikes for the president. And early on -- about midway through the administration, she was kind of a go around for John Kelly.

If you wanted to get to Trump for a lot of people, you know that Melania would help him get the phone calls that we're getting stuck (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: All of you who covered the White House and those of us who covered the campaign know that anybody who knows their relationship but more importantly knows her knows that she is a very astute political adviser that President Trump trusts and apparently she's got really good political instincts privately. We'll see what happens publicly if that changes.

Up next, Michelle Obama, speaking of first ladies, former first lady in this case, she's scolding Democrats who say kick them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:44:00] HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for and what you care about.

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: But Michelle says that, you know, when they go low, we go high. No, no. When they go low, we kick them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Democrats are taking some heat for those words, especially from Eric Holder there as the party tries to figure out whether or how to modulate in the age of Donald Trump. In the new op-ed, the House majority whip Steve Scalise who was shot and seriously wounded last year says the following. "As a survivor of a politically motivated attack, it is tragic to think this is an acceptable state of political discourse in our country." And of course it's not just Republicans pushing back, former first lady Michelle Obama also reminded her party leaders, there is a better way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE United States: Fear is not a -- it's not a proper motivator. Hope wins out. [12:45:01] And if you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about their life and opportunities. Do you want them afraid of their neighbors, do you want them angry, do you want them vengeful? You can't model something different if we want them to be better than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: To me, this is one of the most fascinating and frankly important debates within the Democratic Party. How do you approach somebody who is so unique and, you know, so willing to say whatever as Donald Trump?

Now, I do want to talk about the Steve Scalise thing because of course he has a point, but the pot is on both their houses when you -- we kind of go back to 2016. And the violence that was incited at Trump rallies by the candidate himself. But let's just put that aside for a second and focus on the reality that Donald Trump is the Republican and how Democrats are going to deal with that. But there really is a split, understandably so.

I want you to listen to Cory Booker, potentially a 2020 candidate, about how he said people should behave.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I will never let him pull me so low as to hate him. I'm going to be -- I'll continue to be a voice in this country for love, for bringing us -- the nation together and not driving the nation apart, of trying to create a more courageous empathy in this country where Republican and Democrat, wherever our diversity is (INAUDIBLE), we need to work together. Because that's what America does best. Not only we have leaders who attack or demean other Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And then you have somebody like Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts who has been very outspoken in hitting back against Donald Trump who has been really aggressive and personal against her. She says, "There are some men who can only hear blah blah blah whenever a woman is talking, but there is nothing impolite about people's right to speak out and hold their government accountable and sometimes people are right to be angry."

HENDERSON: Yes. And I actually saw Elizabeth Warren a couple of days ago down in Georgia and she talks about this on the stump. And it was a pretty good stump speech and she talks about righteous anger, she talks about fighting. And you can tell that's sort of the wing of the party that she's going to represent. Sort of this anger, the kind of populism as well.

And then as you said, you have people who are more in the Obama mold. Cory Booker there sounding very empathetic and you wonder where the party actually is, right. The party, if you talk to grassroots folks, if you look on social media, they're angry. And where does that go? And who is the best vessel for something like that?

Is it Warren who is clearly articulate in her anger or is it somebody who's like Booker?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: You also have to say the party can have this debate within itself, they also have to read the tea leaves of where the country is right now. And you're not talking about a country right now that's actually -- it's pretty divided. People are pretty upset and sticking to their sides about things and fighting over issues that we thought we'd settled during the Obama years to some extent too.

So, it's -- you can have Democrats coming and say, let's all get along, but if everybody is not getting along, that's not going to resonate with anybody. You have to kind of read your audience and if the recipe is, everybody who gets fired up from anger which is a good motivator and drive the base, that's kind of what you have to do this time and then maybe talk about being nice to each other down the line.

Right. I mean, but -- right, OK, so you have that very real dynamic that you have to give the people what they want and on the Democratic side, that is, you know, to channel their anger. But on the flip side, you have a lot of people in the middle, and they do exists still, they're aren't as many but they do exists, we're like, where are the grown ups? What about appealing to those people?

RASCOE: I think that that's a big question now is being angry and being fired up. Is that going to turn off the people in the middle or turn off people on the center? Will that make them go to Republicans? It seems like Republicans are making a bet that's why they keep talking about the angry mob. That's going -- that by characterizing the Democrats that way that they will turn off kind of those centrist voters.

BASH: Exactly right.

RASCOE: But, there's the also the question of will anger win out the day and the anger of the Democrats, will that overcome that? And it will probably be different in different races.

BENDER: I think the one thing we could say for sure is that there's not going to be a race to the middle -- these midterms or the next election. But I think there is some overlap here, right. I mean, Democrats were angry and fired up in 2008 with Obama -- the sort of overlap between Obama and Trump was change, right. And Obama took that anger and his fired up base and had a hopeful message that he was very -- that it was very authentic and -- for Barack Obama.

Trump took it and turned it into a much angrier message and a much more grievance-based message that was authentic for Trump. I think where Democrats are going to get themselves in trouble if they sit back in a table like this and try to decide should I be angry or should I be hopeful. And that kind of in often (INAUDIBLE) just going to be very clear to voters.

BASH: You just hit the nail on the head. It is all about authenticity. No matter who you are, no matter who they put up there, and that is so key.

[12:50:05] OK, everybody stand by because -- before we go to break, we love flash backs here at INSIDE POLITICS in our way back machine. This time, it's going to take us back 45 years, October 12, 1973. Vice President Spiro Agnew has just resigned after pleading guilty to tax evasion and money laundering charges. President Nixon makes this big announcement of nominating Agnew's successor with a little bit of irony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is a man with the responsibilities of the great office that I hold should fall upon him as has been the case with eight vice presidents in our history. We can all say that the leadership of America is in good hands.

Congressman Gerald Ford of Michigan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:55:43] BASH: It's 25 days now before the election and in Georgia, there is a heavily watched governor's race and it's in a statistical dead heat. A new poll shows that the secretary of state in Georgia, Brian Kemp who is also the Republican candidate at 48 percent and his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams at 46 percent.

Also today, the Abrams campaign is calling for Kemp to resign his role as secretary of state after a report that allegedly his office is using a new law to suppress minority voters. Under the so-called exact match law, even a minor -- excuse me, even a minor discrepancy on a voter registration application like a typo or missing letter can be flagged if it doesn't match the voter's id.

Now an AP report says that Kemp's office held up more than 53,000 voter applications because they failed that exact match standard. Nearly seven in 10 of those were from African-American voters. Kemp's office calls this a false attack, insisting it's been focused on ensuring secure accessible and fair elections for all voters and pointing out that new voter registrations are at record levels.

And Nia, you got back this week from doing a story on this race, covering this intense race in Georgia. What did you find?

HENDERSON: Fascinating race. I mean, you have something that Democrats have never done before and that is put a black woman at the top of the ticket. And if you look at these polls, what's fascinating is that she is close and one of the reasons she's close is because she is doing very well with upper income voters, she's doing relatively well with white voters as well.

I was at a rally in Clayton County which is right outside of Atlanta, that's one of the areas she's going to have swallow the white vote there, the black vote there as well. And it was a pretty big crowd, it was a diverse crowd. This is where also I saw Elizabeth Warren and she had Ayanna Pressley who is running for Congress in Massachusetts.

So, we'll see what happens. I think if you're a Democrat, you're very happy that it's this close with 25 days. Typically you see some of these races kind of -- you know, once they get closer to election day, there's kind of a reversion to form and the form here obviously is this is a very red state. They are hoping and made that hoping for years that they can turn it purple or blue maybe. And we'll see if they can do it.

You know, it seems like if they can, she might be the perfect one to do it because she's African-American, she's got ties to an HBCU there, Spelman. There are like 11 HBCUs there and she's been campaigning there as well as in some rural areas trying to get rural African- American voters as well as rural white voters.

BASH: And obviously, as you mentioned, it would be historic, a historic win, it would be -- she would be the first African-American woman governor anywhere. And yet some of what we're seeing in terms of her political arguments and arguments against her are along the lines of what we're seeing elsewhere are the more traditional message points.

Listen to her on MSNBC yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: We are going after every single voter because what we learned from past elections is that we can't cherry pick our voters. Our voters pick us. And so I'm talking about the issues that matter. I'm talking about healthcare, I'm talking about creating good jobs everywhere. And I'm talking about education.

But we are not trying to find one single group of voters. What we are trying to do is activate voters who normally don't think their voices matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And watch how the Republican Governors Association is trying to defeat her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meet Stacey Abrams, most radical liberal to ever run for governor. A career politician funded by Nancy Pelosi's California friends. Abrams wants you to pay more in taxes to fund her liberal big government ideas. Stacey Abrams funded by Pelosi's friends, loved by Hillary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That could have been run against anybody.

RASCOE: Yes. Basically yes. I mean, that's the message there. They're too radical and she's too far out there. But as you see, it's interesting to see Democrats in these local races where you're focusing on the state of Georgia. She's talking about healthcare, she's talking about jobs, she's not talking about, you know, Donald Trump or anything like that.

BASH: Yes. And that is what they're trying to focus on especially in these tough races where you do need the middle.

HENDERSON: Yes, you do.

BASH: It does exist even though they're not getting out there that much.

Thank you so much everybody for joining me. Thank you for watching INSIDE POLITICS today. Wold Blitzer picks up right now.