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STATE OF THE UNION

Saudi Tensions; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Interview With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Interview With Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams; Trump Versus Biden; Kushner Paid Almost No Federal Income Taxes For Years; Democrats Fall Behind In Recent Senate Polls; Trump Vows Severe Punishment If Saudis Murdered Journalist; Taylor Swift and Kanye West's Political And Musical Rivalry In This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 14, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:13]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Confronting crises. President Trump plans a visit to the hardest-hit areas after a monster hurricane leaves thousands without homes or power.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was devastating, but they will rebuild.

TAPPER: His administration also scrambling to deal with a brewing diplomatic dilemma over a missing Saudi journalist. Florida Senator Marco Rubio will join us to discuss next.

Plus: Suppressing the vote? A controversy over voter registration engulfs a tight race in Georgia. Now the Democrat is calling on her opponents to resign.

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: They cannot let him steal their votes. But Republican Brian Kemp says the charge is bogus.

Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams will be here to respond in minutes.

And full force. Potential Democratic 2020 contenders hit the campaign.

JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is America. So, get up. Take it back. It's time.

TAPPER: As the path for Democrats to take back the Senate seems to narrow. Will the political star power be enough? Senator Bernie Sanders will be here live.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is in crisis. It's just over three weeks until the midterm elections, and President

Trump is dealing with two major tests of his leadership, on the world stage,an unfolding and diplomatic crisis over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who should be celebrating his 60th birthday this weekend.

President Trump said Saturday he was planning to talk to the king of Saudi Arabia shortly, and in a new interview with "60 Minutes" is vowing to take action if the Saudis are proven to be to blame for the missing journalist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We would be very upset and angry if that were the case. As of this moment, they deny it, and deny it vehemently.

Could it be them? Yes. We're going to get to the bottom of it. And there will be severe punishment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump has not offered any indications on what that punishment could be.

This morning, Saudi Arabia fired back a warning shot, warning it will retaliate against any punitive action.

President Trump is also managing a major domestic disaster after Hurricane Michael, the worst storm to hit the U.S. in at least a quarter-century, left at least 18 people dead and thousands without power or resources. President Trump is planning a visit to the hardest-hit areas of Florida and Georgia in the coming days.

Joining me now is Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees.

Senator, I want to start with Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm to hit the United States in a quarter-century.

I know you have been down in the hardest-hit areas in Florida, including Panama City, where people are desperate for aid, waiting in long lines for food, for gasoline. When do you think all those who need help or supplies are going to be able to get them?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, I don't want to -- this is a disaster. This is what disasters look like.

That's why it's so difficult, and we always ask people to evacuate if they can and to have extra food.

I think everyone's doing the best they can. The state government is the lead response agency. They're the ones in charge of the response. The federal government steps in and provides them whatever help they need. And our job is to make sure the federal government is providing whatever the state is asking for. And it's going to be a while. Look, Panama City is -- looks like Homestead down here in South Florida after Andrew. What I saw there, I didn't see any electricity poles standing or any wires still up. So that's going to have to be totally rebuilt.

Telecommunications is still a challenge. Mexico Beach is wiped out, I mean literally flattened out. And then something I hope we don't lose focus on, there are a lot of inland counties, away from the coast, where there are a lot of older people, a lot of poor people, people that could not evacuate even if they wanted to, living miles apart from each other in rural areas who have been badly hit by this.

And, right now, many of them are even cut off. They don't have phone. The roads are blocked. They might even live off a dirt road. We got to get to them too. And I hope that -- that's going to be the one area I really, really focus on, because I think that's where the dire need is also there.

And they're going to be the hardest people to identify and find. We still don't have an accurate assessment of how many people we have cut off from everybody else.

TAPPER: Now, you say that it's your job to make sure that everything gets to the areas that need it.

Is there anything that you're trying to tell either Tallahassee or Washington that they need to act on that they are not acting on?

RUBIO: No.

So, the state government is in the lead. And what I said is, our job is to make sure, if the state is asking the federal government for something, that the federal government provides it. The state government is in charge of this response.

And, so far, I have not seen any state request that has not been met by FEMA and the federal government. There are additional federal assets out there could be used, like the Department of Defense. And I could very well come back tomorrow, when I go into some of those rural counties, and argue that there's more that needs to be done.

But I'm not prepared right now to tell you that there's a need that's not being met by the state government that the federal government can do that hasn't been asked for. And I usually try to stay out of the way of the experts who train for this.

[09:05:01]

But if I find something, I will jump all over it. And I believe the federal government is ready to provide any assistance that the state asks for.

TAPPER: Speaking of experts, we can't specifically say that Hurricane Michael was so strong, so devastating...

RUBIO: Yes. TAPPER: ... because of climate change, but there is scientific

consensus that warmer waters due to climate change are making storms such as Michael even more devastating.

A new report from the U.N. outlined a dire global forecast within the next 20 years. The Union of Concerned Scientists said Florida could lose more than one million homes by the end of the century due to rising sea levels because of climate change, which they say is manmade.

What do you say to constituents who say, well, who ask, why are you not one of the leaders in Congress on this issue?

RUBIO: Well, I would say that that's not true. We are.

We -- for example, we have funded this study in Congress that I have pushed for to better understand exactly what you have just said, primarily on the Atlantic side. Sea level rise and changes in the climate, those are measurable.

So I don't think there's a debate about whether that is happening, because you can measure that. The secondary aspect is, how much of that is due to human activity? And from a policy-maker, the question is, what policies can we change to deal with that human activity?

That's where the debate really has been. So I confront it two ways. The sea level rising. We know that. I mean, you can measure that. That's something anyone's debating. And that's why I have pushed for mitigation and mitigation standards and things that we need to be doing, primarily because the insurance marketplace is going to start market -- is going to start pricing this in.

So we better have answers on places like Miami Beach here in South Florida and the like. The second question about how much is human activity contributing towards that, what percentage of that is due to human activity, and the third question, what laws can we change, that's the more complicated one, especially the third one, because some of the things they're asking for is already happening.

If you look at U.S. today, we're cleaner than we used to be. Natural gas is a clean source. Nuclear energy is very clean. But you have to fight the same people to approve of that.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Do you believe it's manmade?

RUBIO: What's that?

TAPPER: Do you believe it's at least in part manmade?

RUBIO: Yes, look, scientists are saying that humanity and its behavior is contributing towards that.

I can't tell you what percentage of that is due to human activity. And I think many scientists would debate the percentage of what is attributable to man vs. normal fluctuations.

But that there's actually a rise in sea level, that temperatures are warmer in the water than they were 50, 80, 100-some years ago, that's a measurable. There's no -- I don't think there is a honest debate about that.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But in 20 years...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: The core response to me, though, is, what can we do about it?

TAPPER: Yes.

And, in 20 years, are you going to be able to say to your children and my children, these are the three or four things that I pushed for in Congress to help mitigate this factor?

RUBIO: Sure.

Well, certainly, mitigating sea level rise, because no matter what we do -- no matter what we do with laws -- if, tomorrow, we stopped all carbon -- let's say we went to all solar panels and did all that stuff, which is not realistic, there still would be -- this still -- this trend would still continue.

And so we're going to have to do something about the impact that it's having on low-level coastal areas. And that means mitigation, hardening, lifting -- how we manage water. We're all over that. We have been working on that very hard and continue to, strategies to mitigate against those factors that are going to be in place no matter what happens with our energy policy.

But I'm also not going to destroy our economy. There's a reality here and there's a balance on that end of it that we need to be focused on.

TAPPER: I want to turn to "The Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was allegedly killed inside the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Turkey just over a week ago.

President Trump sold "60 Minutes" that -- quote -- "There will be severe punishment" -- unquote -- if Saudi Arabia is found to have offered -- ordered, rather, the killing of Mr. Khashoggi.

But he's not offered any specifics on what that would look like.

What specifically should any punishment against Saudi Arabia look like?

RUBIO: Well, I'm glad he didn't offer any specifics. That is something should be thought through carefully.

But there needs to be a strong response if, in fact, this proves to be true. If they lured this man into that consulate, they went medieval on him, and he was killed and he was chopped up and they sent a death crew down there to kill him and do all this, that would be an outrage.

And just because they're an ally in an important mission, which is containing Iranian expansion in the region, cannot allow us to overlook or walk away from that. It undermines our ability to stand for -- for morality and human rights all over the world.

How can we criticize Putin for doing...

TAPPER: Right.

RUBIO: ... for killing journalists if we're prepared to allow an ally to do the same?

TAPPER: But what should be done?

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: ... the specifics of that?

TAPPER: Yes.

RUBIO: Well, we have already asked for a Magnitsky investigation, which means individuals responsible for that decision would be sanctioned.

Beyond that, there are other options that we can take. As I said, that's something that needs to be thought through carefully, because it -- but it needs to be strong, it needs to be reciprocal, and meaning it needs to actually live up to the level of the outrage then and the criminality, if, in fact, this is proven to be true.

And -- and, like I said -- so I'm glad the president didn't tie his hands in terms of exactly what we're going to do, but it needs to be very strong and meaningful. It can't be symbolic. It can't just be words.

TAPPER: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says he's still planning to go to that economic summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, next week. Do you think the Trump administration should participate?

And what do you think of the idea that President Trump says the incident will not derail any arms sales to Saudi Arabia?

RUBIO: Well, two separate topics.

[09:10:01]

I don't think we should continue as business as usual, until we know exactly what's happened here, because what we do know is this. He walked into that consulate, and he never came out.

So, the only two things that could have happened is, he's alive and somehow still in there, or he's dead and the Saudis are the ones who did it. There's no other explanation for it, because if there was video of him leaving, they would have shown it by now. As far as arm sales, I would not have said it the way the president said it. Arm sales are important, not because of the money, but because it also provides leverage over their future behavior. You know, they -- they will need our spare parts. They will need our training. And those are things we can use to influence their behavior.

But I would not take cutting that off, off the table. Every option needs to be there in a response, because, no matter what -- how important they might be to our Iranian strategy, our ability to be a voice for human rights and to go after regimes like Assad, like Putin, like what China does, like what Maduro does in Venezuela, all of that is undermined and compromised if we are not willing to confront something as atrocious as what allegedly happened here.

TAPPER: When you say it's not time for business as usual, I assume you're suggesting that Mnuchin should not go to the economic conference in Riyadh? Is that what that means?

RUBIO: I don't think he should go. I don't think any of our government officials should be going and pretending as it's business as usual, until we know exactly what's happened here.

TAPPER: And one last question.

Are you concerned that White House senior aide Jared Kushner, and, by extension, President Trump have too much invested in this personal relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, and, in fact, that the Trump administration may have been snookered by him, played by him?

RUBIO: I don't think they were played by him.

I think that they wanted to put together a Middle Eastern strategy in which a less-than-perfect government was a key component of constraining -- constraining Iranian ambition in the region.

I don't believe, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, that the amount of time and energy they have put into that relationship will necessarily make it impossible for the U.S. government to take strong action.

But here's the bottom line. I believe the Trump administration will do something. The president has said that. But, if he doesn't, Congress will. That, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty. With almost full unanimity, across the board, Republicans and Democrats, there will be a very strong congressional response if, in fact, the Saudis lured him into that consulate, murdered him, cut up his body, and disposed of it.

There is going to be a very strong congressional response.

TAPPER: Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, thank you so much for your time, sir, as always.

RUBIO: Thank you. TAPPER: What's the better strategy for Democratic candidates, take

the high road or kick them?

Senator Bernie Sanders will be here to weigh in next.

Plus, she's accusing her Republican opponent of trying to suppress tens of thousands of votes in Georgia. I will talk to Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:16:14]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

The Democratic Party is confronting questions this week about whether or not they should be using more aggressive tactics against their opponents.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton say yes, but former first lady Michelle Obama disagrees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Michelle says, you know, when they go low, we go high.

AUDIENCE: We go high.

HOLDER: No. No. When they go low, we kick them.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: Fear is not a -- it's not a proper motivator. Hope wins out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Joining me now is independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats.

Senator, you just heard those comments from Holder, Clinton and Michelle Obama.

What do you think? Do you think Democrats have been too weak responding to Republicans in the past? Or do you subscribe to Michelle Obama's mantra, when they go low, we go high?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: You know, Jake, I don't think it's a question of going high or going low. I think it's a question of telling the truth.

And the truth is that you have a president who lies all of the time, a pathological liar. I don't think that's what the American people want. You have a Republican leadership in the House and the Senate that tried, came within one vote of throwing 32 million people off of the health insurance they currently have.

You have leadership there in the House and the Senate that wants to do away with the preexisting protections that people have in this country, so they can get health insurance when you have cancer or heart disease.

You have leadership in the House and Senate, led by the president, that provided massive tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country. Over a 10-year period, 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent.

You have a president and Republican leadership who supported a budget, supported a budget which would have cut Medicaid by a trillion dollars, devastating for the elderly people, Medicare by $500 billion, Social Security trust -- disability trust fund by $72 billion.

You have an administration that doesn't even recognize the reality of climate change.

So, I think what we have to do is be aggressive in telling the truth that you have a Republican leadership that's working overtime to benefit the wealthy and the powerful, while ignoring the needs of working families.

TAPPER: But I guess the debate is -- I don't think there's any Democrat, Democratic official who would disagree with what you just said.

The debate is, how aggressive? Should -- should people who are Republican officials be disrupted when they're eating a meal at a restaurant? Is it appropriate for protesters to be banging on the doors of the Supreme Court? That's really what the debate is about.

SANDERS: Well, I'm -- I am very strongly in favor of mobilizing the American people to stand up and fight for economic justice and social justice and racial and environmental justice.

And I think we have to mobilize people. I am not a great fan of being rude or disrupting activities.

But this is what I will say. This entire 2000 -- election campaign is going to come down to two words, and that is voter turnout. And if you are out there, and you're sick and tired of what's gone on, of the very rich getting richer, while the middle class continues to struggle, then you're going to have to not only get out and vote, but you're going to have to get your friends and your families to vote.

Four years ago, when the Republicans did really, really well, we had the lowest voter turnout since World War II. And that's got to change.

So, my hope is that people stand up, fight back and get involved in this campaign. [09:20:04]

TAPPER: One of the big issues that you and many Democrats are talking about on the campaign trail has to do with Medicare for all.

President Trump is trying to rally supporters by criticizing that plan in the opinion pages of "USA Today." The piece is suffused with lies and factual errors. We have fact-checked some of them.

But let me ask you a question about the president's central argument, which is -- which is one that you even hear from some progressives, that Medicare for all could lead to worse coverage for many Americans who are happy with the health care coverage that they have right now with the private insurance plan.

How do you respond to that issue, without getting in -- we don't have -- we -- it's only an hour-long show. We can't get into every lie President Trump told in that op-ed. But if you could just talk about, why should somebody who's happy with their health insurance want Medicare for all?

SANDERS: I will tell you why.

Because right now, as a nation, as a nation, we are spending twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country, over $10,000 a year, a family of four, $28,000 a year.

That is unsustainable. And yet we end up having, Jake, 30 million people uninsured and even more who are underinsured. You're talking about people being happy. These are people who are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. These are people with deductibles that are so high that, in many cases, they can't walk in to the doctor's office.

These are people who, if they lose their job today, are not going to have any health coverage at all.

Look, here is the bottom line. As a nation, do we do what every other major country on Earth does? And that is to understand that health care is a right, not a privilege? Do we spend our money to provide health care for every man, woman or child, or to make the drug companies and the insurance companies phenomenally rich, while our health care outcomes are worse in many cases than many other countries?

So, in my view -- and the last poll that I saw on this, Jake, suggests that 70 percent of the American people understand that Medicare is a good program, and it should be expanded to all people.

Just one more point here. When Trump lied -- he lied about 19 different times in his op-ed attacking me. He said that we are going to weaken Medicare coverage for the elderly.

That is an outrageous lie. We expand coverage to include dental care, vision care...

TAPPER: And hearing aids.

SANDERS: ... and hearing aids.

TAPPER: Yes.

SANDERS: Right.

And this is really important to seniors.

TAPPER: OK.

I want to move on to Saudi Arabia. You made -- you made a major foreign policy speech this week mentioning reports that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Former CIA Director John Brennan wrote in "The Washington Post" that sanctions should be imposed on all Saudis involved, that the U.S. should freeze military sales and intelligence cooperation, and there should be a U.N. resolution condemning it.

How do you think President Trump should respond if it's proven that the Saudis were behind his disappearance, if not murder?

SANDERS: Well, I think the most important thing -- I think that they're -- it's clear we cannot have an ally who murders in cold blood, in their own consulate, a critic, a dissident. That is unacceptable.

As you may know, a number of months ago, along with the -- a conservative Republican, Mike Lee of Utah, I introduced a resolution, which got 44 votes, which said that the time is now for the United States to get out of the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which is causing a horrible humanitarian disaster there.

So I think one of the strong things that we could do is not only stop military sales, not only put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, but, most importantly, get out of this terrible, terrible war in Yemen, led by the Saudis.

TAPPER: Senator, I know you bristle when asked questions about polls or anything that you perceive to be about a horse race question, but people are wondering if you're going to run for president.

And there is a new CNN poll just released showing that former Vice President Joe Biden is far and away the leader for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. He's at 33 percent. You're in second place among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents at 13 percent, followed by Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

What do you say to Democrats who say Joe Biden is the best chance to win back the White House because of his appeal to working-class voters?

SANDERS: Well, I say that we have three weeks to go in the most important midterm election in the history of this country. And I think that that is what we focus on right now.

We have a presidential election coming in 2020. We will see what happens. But I think it is very wrong to deflect attention from the need to end one-party rule in Washington right now.

TAPPER: When are you going to make up your mind about running in 2020?

SANDERS: Well, you will be one of the first to know, Jake. How is that?

TAPPER: How about the first? How about -- the first would be -- that's what we would prefer on this show.

SANDERS: All right.

TAPPER: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, always good to see you, sir. Thank you so much for your time.

[09:25:05]

SANDERS: Thank you.

TAPPER: If elected, she would be the first African-American woman governor in this country's history.

We're going to talk to Stacey Abrams about her campaign for Georgia governor next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, joined other national lawmakers today in raising concerns that the state of Georgia is engaging in -- quote -- "blatant voter suppression."

Lewis joined Democratic governor -- candidate for governor Stacey Abrams, who's calling on her opponent, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, to resign after an Associated Press investigation found that Kemp stalled 53,000 voter registrations because the names don't exactly match other state I.D. forms, as they are required to under George's new exact match law.

Seventy percent of the voters given pending status are minorities, according to the AP.

Kemp declined our request for an interview, but his campaign called the story bogus and pointed out that the state just broke an all-time voter registration record.

[09:30:01] Joining me now is the Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia and the former statehouse minority leader, Stacey Abrams.

Leader Abrams, thanks so much for joining us.

Your opponent, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, says that those 53,000 voters can still vote on Election Day if they show an I.D. at the polls. Why is that not good enough?

ABRAMS: The problem is twofold.

One is that you have 53,000 who -- people who are being forced to go through unnecessary hurdles to prove their bona fides.

But the second is that you have 159 counties, thousands of volunteer and paid poll workers who are going to be asked to substantially verify that these I.D.s are sufficient. And the challenges there is, this is a subjective standard.

It would be much easier if he actually did his job and processed people in a proper fashion, and we did not have this flawed exact match system, that he knew was flawed because we sued him in 2016, and a federal judge forced him to restore 33,000 illegally canceled registrations.

This is simply a redux of a failed system that is designed to both scare people out of voting and make it harder for those who are willing to push through, make it harder for them to vote.

TAPPER: But, Leader Abrams, he argues that he's doing his job. The exact match the law was passed by the state legislature last April. He's the sitting secretary of state.

He says, why should I step down just to -- because I'm following the existing law on the books?

ABRAMS: I think the call for his resignation is larger than simply this last and latest example of incompetence.

This is a larger pattern of behavior. This is someone who sued a woman for helping her blind mother cast a ballot, who closed more than 200 polling places across the state, but who also fails to take responsibility for his actions.

When something goes well, he takes credit, but, when there's a problem, he blames everyone else. Voting should not be a question of trust on the part of voters, whether they can trust the system.

And, right now, he is eroding the public trust in the system because 53,000 people have been told, you may be able to vote, you may not, it's up to you to prove it.

TAPPER: But, Leader Abrams, are you suggesting -- you haven't said it on the show so far -- but the way that this is being depicted in Georgia media and across the country is that this is Brian Kemp being racially motivated. Are you saying that he is being racially motivated in who he is

targeting here?

ABRAMS: I would say that we have known since 2016 that the exact match system has a disproportionate effect on people of color and on women.

He was sued for this exact problem. He was forced to restore 33,000 illegally canceled registrations. And he turned around and got the state legislature to pass a law to allow him to make the same mistake again.

When you know that what you're doing is going to have a disproportionate effect on people of color and on women, and you do it anyway, that erodes the public trust in the system. And that's problematic.

TAPPER: Can you explain to voters who aren't familiar with this why you think the exact match system is disproportionately targeting women and people of color?

It -- just for people who don't know, it requires that there not be any discrepancy between somebody's I.D. and somebody's name and how they appear in the voter rolls.

ABRAMS: Exactly.

So, the professor who was covered by the AP story, this is a college professor who has a hyphen in her last name. Because the hyphen was left out either by someone typing in the information at the Department of Motor Vehicles or in the registrar's office, she was removed from the rolls, despite being someone who actively votes.

That type of minor error can turn into a major problem. Because she's a college professor, she knows the systems to go through to figure out the solution.

But what about those low-propensity voters in those tiny communities who are finally stepping up and saying, this is my turn to cast my ballot, only to find that they are disenfranchised? They don't know that they can go to the polls. They get a confusing letter saying there's something wrong with their registration. And more than likely they will sit out this election.

The miasma of fear that is created through voter suppression is as much about terrifying people about trying to vote as it is about actually blocking their ability to do so.

TAPPER: Leader Abrams, I want to ask you about the economy.

Georgia's unemployment rate fell below the national average for the first time in more than a decade in August. Georgia's GDP growth is better than the national average. Is it fair to say that the Trump economy has been good for Georgia?

ABRAMS: I would say that the Obama economy and that Nathan Deal, as governor, have both done a very good job of shepherding our society.

But the problem we have is that, while our unemployment rate has fallen, we still are a low-wage state, where you have a lot of folks who are working two or three of those jobs.

And I'm running for governor because you shouldn't have to work more than one job full-time to make a living. You shouldn't have to fight to get access to health care. We shouldn't have rural hospitals shutting down because of our refusal to expand Medicaid.

I'm running for governor because I want to be the governor for everyone, not just those who are succeeding in our current economy, but for everyone who needs good education, good jobs, and access to health care.

TAPPER: The former attorney general under Obama, Eric Holder, was rallying your supporters in Stockbridge, Georgia, last weekend.

[09:35:05]

I want you to take a listen to something that he told Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLDER: Michelle says, you know, when they go low, we go high.

AUDIENCE: We go high.

HOLDER: No. No. When they go low, we kick them. That's what this new Democratic Party's about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: "When they go low, we kick them." Holder says he means that figuratively, obviously, not literally.

But do you agree that that's the best approach for Democrats?

ABRAMS: I believe that the best approach for Democrats is to vote, to be engaged in our body politic, and to do the work to get people to turn out, and to recreate our electorate to truly reflect the diversity of our state.

And while I think, if you listen to the rest of the tape, you will hear that he goes on to explain what he meant, hyperbole in elections can be very difficult.

And that's why, if you look at my campaign, I have run a very consistent campaign from beginning to end. I didn't blow things up. I didn't point weapons at people. I didn't threaten to round people up in my truck.

I have talked consistently about creating jobs, getting good public education back to our students, and making sure that everyone has access to affordable health care by expanding Medicaid. I have been consistent from beginning. And I will continue to be this

way not only through this election, but as the next governor of Georgia.

TAPPER: Georgia has not elected a Democratic governor in two decades.

On a host of social and economic issues, you do seem to be more progressive than the average Georgian. Why are you the right person to be their governor?

ABRAMS: Because what I'm talking about is progress for all of us.

Making certain that your family income and your zip code doesn't determine your education shouldn't just be a progressive value. It's a smart value.

Believing that we should join 33 other states in drawing down billions of dollars for health care to protect preexisting conditions and those who are working hard that simply are too poor to afford insurance, that's not a progressive or liberal -- that's not a progressive or conservative value. It's a good economic decision.

That's why Democrats and Republicans have expanded Medicaid. And believing that we should create good jobs in all 159 counties should be something that every single governor wants to do.

And I am simply the only candidate who has the experience, the comprehensive plans, and the intention of serving all of Georgia.

Unfortunately, my opponent has demonstrated that he will cherry-pick not only his voters, but he's going to cherry-pick those he serves. And that's not right for Georgia.

TAPPER: And we should note that we did invite your opponent, Secretary of Skate Kemp, to be on the show, and he declined our invitation.

Leader Abrams, thank you so much for your time.

ABRAMS: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Next up, brand new exclusive CNN polling on the 2020 presidential race. Who do Democratic voters think should take on Trump? The answer may surprise you. Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:49]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You can either vote for Democrat mob rule or you can vote for a Republican Party that stands proudly for law order, fairness, freedom and justice.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our values are being shredded. Our democracy is under assault. A president has put his own interest before those of our ideals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden making their midterm pitches in the great Commonwealth of Kentucky. Could this be a preview of the 2020 campaign?

We have some brand new exclusive polling on the next presidential race. And there are some good news for President Trump. More and more Americans now think he will win a second term in office.

It's 47 percent think he's likely to lose, that's down from 54 percent this March. As to who could beat him? Democrat's top choice right now is former vice president Joe Biden. He is leading a crowded field including Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Scott, let's discuss Commonwealth of Kentucky, a fellow son I will give you the prerogative of answering, what do you make of these poll numbers? Should Democrats be worried that more and more Americans -- still not a majority but more and more Americans think that he will be re-elected?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, they should be worried because I think there's probably a greater than 50 percent chance that he will win re-election and it's largely on the strength of the economy. The job situation is good. Wages are going up, people feel good about their economic futures and that is a great thing for Trump and it's going to be a great thing for him to run on in 2020.

You're either going to go back to the way they were doing it or you're going to keep going. I mean, it's a very simple campaign for Trump to run. So I think as long as recession doesn't hit in the middle of a first term, he's in -- he's in pretty good shape right now.

TAPPER: Symone Sanders, no relation to Bernie Sanders, but you did work for him. And I'm wondering what -- Senator Sanders wouldn't answer my question but it is -- Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are two guys who couldn't go into Kentucky and talk about working class concerns. But I'm wondering whether you think Joe Biden might have an upper hand as the poll suggested in terms of who can beat Donald Trump.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think whoever can be first in order to beat Donald Trump you have to win a Democratic primary. And you cannot win a Democratic presidential primary in this country without black women.

Black women have and do pick the Democratic nominee. I know because I worked with the guy that didn't win the black women and we lost the Democratic primary.

So I think that we -- one, I also think it's too early to start talking about 2020. We -- November 6th are the midterm elections and I think what happens on November 6th will be a good indicator what kind of energy is coming out of -- Democratic voters will have going into a presidential primary.

TAPPER: There's an interesting story in the "New York Times" the scandals have not stopped even if president Trump's polls are ticking up higher than they been, but still historically low. "The New York Times" there are two exclusive reports in the past two weeks have focusing on President Trump and his family member and whether or not they pay taxes, a massive expose on his personal taxes last week and then just yesterday a report about president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that -- quote -- "over the past decade Jared Kushner's family company has spent billions of dollars buying real estate. His personal stock investments have soared. His net worth has quintupled to almost $324 million. And yet, for several running Mr. Kushner -- President Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser -- appears to have paid almost no federal income taxes."

[09:45:04]

Is this something that will hurt President Trump or is this just factored in and will have no impact at all?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not having impact now because he's not on the ballot. So we're three weeks before an election. Democrats are running their campaigns on health care. And you heard Stacey Abrams didn't talk about Trump taxes. She's not running against Donald Trump.

When the Democrats do run against Donald Trump they're going to go to a lot of those Trump voters who had been Obama voters and win them back. They should anyway with this argument that he lied to you. He actually cut taxes for Wall Street and raised taxes on you.

He cut taxes for himself and raised taxes on you. He wants to take away your Medicare. You heard Bernie Sanders talk about that. That argument, I think, it allows the Democrats to go back into some of those communities where we used to be dominant and now we got creamed and try to win them back.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I guess my question is, what are Democrats waiting for? Because you keep seeing these bombshell stories and yet no one can craft a narrative to critique Trump on it.

You presented a very good case --

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: -- Democrats doing that at this moment but you could still -- I mean, why wait?

SANDERS: We need to wait because we want to win the midterm election. We're not going to let people push us into a 2020 conversation.

CARPENTER: Yes. What --

(CROSSTALK) CARPENTER: -- the other side, just real quickly, the reason why Republicans could make the scandals that Hillary encountered mattered because there was a narrative. That she was dishonest, you can't trust her, she wanted to hide things and I just don't see that work being done by Democrats to Trump. That's all.

JENNINGS: Is it news to people that rich folks have lawyers and accountants? If you look at the "New York Times" story is says, Jared Kushner followed the law. This is perfectly legal.

Now you can be mad at tax code and you can be mad at real estate people, get special deals that other kinds of people don't get. But that's not a creation of the Trump family. That's just -- that's the way the tax code work.

BEGALA: Mr. President Trump used the phrase outright fraud with Mr. Kushner, you're right, they don't allege any criminal wrongdoing. Moral wrongdoing of the first order. I mean, the guy is a total dirt bag. He is worth $300 million, doesn't contribute to our national defense and to our kids education. But that's legal apparently.

What President Trump is accused of doing by the "New York Times" in an exhaustive piece is outright fraud and you will -- Symone is exactly right but Democrats, we need to stay on health care, jobs, exactly where Stacey Abrams was talking to Jake a minute ago and then in 25 days do the pivot.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: And yet the Democrats, it seems likely right now, according to polls to win the House. But the math is really tough for them in the Senate races.

I want to take a look at this graphic. Some really bad midterm polls. In Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke is down nine points to Ted Cruz. In Nevada Democrat Jacky Rosen is -- within the margin of error but still down two points to Dean Heller. In Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen down five points to Marsha Blackburn.

What's going on here? I mean, Nevada is a swing state.

BEGALA: Particularly Nevada. Democrats have to pick up that seat. And it's a dead heat race and the Democrats is going to have to do their work. I mean, that's a --

TAPPER: Why is it so close? Or why is -- why is Heller in the lead?

BEGALA: We're a very narrow divided country and it is a very narrow divided state. Nevada is trending blue. And Jacky Rosen I think she does her job particularly Democrats have got to focus on Latinos in Nevada. I'm seeing a lot of polling where Democrats are underperforming with Latinos right now.

And so fortunately they do have Democrats finally for once in their lives the resources and the money and the people. She's going to have to do her job and get those folks out. Now we haven't won a Senate race in Tennessee since a young man named Al Gore won there.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: I mean -- Phil Bredesen --

TAPPER: You lost it in 2000 in the presidential race.

BEGALA: And Phil Bredesen is as good a candidate as Democrats are going to get there. In Texas, of course, w haven't won anything in 24 years.

TAPPER: As a Texan --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let me ask you. He talked about money being raised. Beto O'Rourke raised $38 million in the third quarter alone. That's more than President Obama or Hillary Clinton raised for their presidential races back when we started covering those.

There are a lot of people out there who are saying, this is just a waste of money. What do you think?

SANDERS: I don't think it's a waste of money to actively compete. And that is what's happening in Texas, in Tennessee, in Nevada, in Arizona, frankly in Georgia, in Florida, all across this country.

And so I think in order for Democrats to win and I would like to start winning again. And we have been winning, I would like to note, every election since 2016 post that November. But I think in order for us to win, we have to spend money to compete.

And I think what you've seen folks like Beto O'Rourke do is they raise this money and they put it out there in the field. They're putting it on digital ads. They are not just on television. They are putting it to people and putting people on the ground in district -- in states -- in states all over. So we can win.

TAPPER: I want to ask our Republicans about a different map which is three states I'm keeping an eye on for 2020 have to do -- are Pennsylvania, my home state, Commonwealth, rather, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Yet look at the races there. Trump won all of them. In Wisconsin, Senate, likely Democratic governor, toss-up. Michigan Senate, likely Democratic, governor, lean Democratic. These are the "Cook Political Report" ratings. Pennsylvania Senate, likely Democratic, governor, likely Democratic

These are Trump states and Democratic look pretty well positioned to win.

[09:50:00]

JENNINGS: Yes, they were narrow Trump states. I mean, these races were pretty close. I mean, look Trump won the presidential election by 80,000 votes in three states. I mean, it was an extraordinarily close race and it's going to be a really close race in 2020. I think the question is the people who switched over from Obama to Trump in those states, are they going to ask themselves one question? Did he fulfill the promise of remembering me? Did he fulfill the promise of remembering the Midwest? Did he fulfill the promise of fixing the economy and the way he did?

And if you look at the economic situation how could you argue that he has not? It is absolutely one of the best job markets we've ever had in the last half century.

CARPENTER: I got to say I am worried about Wisconsin. This is a state that is a laboratory for Republican talent. Paul Ryan is retiring. Reince Priebus and Governor Scott Walker is in trouble.

The poll last week showed him down 10 points and I don't think Republicans are keyed into the fact that he may lose. I mean, he has long been a star of the party. He should be able to win on the economic message because he does it so with well, and he is probably going to lose.

TAPPER: Although call me skeptical and this poll that comes out of Wisconsin --

(LAUGHTER)

CARPENTER: Fair.

TAPPER: -- as I think we are all -- I do -- I do want to point -- I do want to look at Saudi Arabia for one second, because, you know, President Trump did talk to "60 Minutes" about whether or not the Saudis are definitively involved with the disappearance and murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Take a listen to President Trump on "60 Minutes."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And we would be very upset and angry if that were the case. As of this moment they deny it and denying it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes.

We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now I want -- and in a strongly worded op-ed published Sunday, the general manager of to Saudi owned Al Arabiya news channel warned (ph) that if the U.S. imposes sanctions on Saudi Arabia -- quote -- "It will stab its own economy to death." Oil prices will go up to $200 a barrel, Riyadh will permit a Russian military base in the country and will drive the Middle East into the arms of Iran.

That is from basically the Saudi-owned TV station there.

BEGALA: Well, and I was really struck by Senator Marco Rubio in his interview with you earlier in this morning where he was much stronger. When you are weaker than Marco Rubio, you are weak, man. And our president is not standing up for our values -- this is an American resident, not citizen, who has disappeared, presumed murder and the president -- like he does with Putin seems -- just accept and well, they did say. He said that we will look into it, and we had better, but I was struck that Trump's brand is strength, and yet with Putin and now apparently with the Saudis, who knows why, he seems weak.

JENNINGS: I want the president to have all the facts before he does whatever he's going to do. But if these people did this we cannot allow it. We have to stand up to these people. You just -- you can't allow it.

You can't allow economic interest to overcome human rights interests in this case. So -- but -- but the president should not do a thing until a all of the facts are known.

SANDERS: I will say that the president -- we had insight into his thoughts in Kentucky last night, and he noted that, look, I get a lot of -- they do a lot of business -- I do a lot of business with the Saudis. They're good people.

And so I am concerned that the president is allowing the economic interest, his personal economic interests to cloud his judgment on this issue, but luckily, Congress I think is going to be stronger just like they have been on Russia. And I think they're going to push Donald Trump into a place where he is going to have to --

CARPENTER: Yes, absolutely, Congress is going to have to lead on this, because President Trump has the wrong lens on this. He views Saudi Arabia as a customer and not somebody who should be pressure to be a strategic partner to advance our interests.

TAPPER: And --

BEGALA: And our best customer in the world is Canada and he is beating up on them all of the time. And they're a free democracy and a great ally. I do not -- Symone is on this. There is something compromised about our president with the Saudis and I want to know what it is.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and all. I appreciate it.

There is some about the bad blood between the Tay Tay and the Ye that has caught the attention of more than one president. That is the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:58:08]

TAPPER: Welcome back. It is the biggest political/musical rivalry since Hamilton and Burr. Taylor Swift known as Tay Tay and Kanye West also known as Ye began their feud on stage but could one of them end it on the Oval office? That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): It has been nine years since Ye and Tay Tay first faced off at the VMAs.

KANYE WEST, ARTIST: I'll let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.

TAPPER: It was an eruption that prompted some harsh presidential criticism.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The young lady seems like a perfectly nice person.

He's a jackass.

TAPPER: And with that path set this week Tay Tay and Ye faced off politically.

With the Senate race in her home state of Tennessee Taylor Swift broke her political silence on Instagram. Rallying Democrats to vote for former governor Bredesen right before Bredesen collapsed in the polls.

But once again, Swift was quickly upstaged by Kanye who gave a performance of sorts in the Oval office.

WEST: It was something about when I put this hat on it made me feel like Superman. That's my favorite super hero.

TAPPER: President Trump seemed to be loving that drive and energy and offering harsher words for Taylor Swift than he has have for Saudi Arabia or Putin.

TRUMP: Let's say that I like t Taylor's music about 25 percent less now.

TAPPER: It does seem possible this could just be setting the stage for a future electoral face off.

Candidates you now have five seconds to give your opening message.

WEST: I am god.

TAYLOR SWIFT, ARTIST (singing): Why can't you see you belong with me. You belong with me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[10:00:00]

TAPPER: Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.