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Trump Responds to Judge's Decision on Stormy Daniels Lawsuit & Her Attorney Reacts; Warren Takes DNA as Trump Backtracks on Pledge; Democrats Say Latinos Need for Blue Wave in Midterms; Trumps Financial Dealings with Saudi Royal Family under Scrutiny after Journalist's Disappearance. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 16, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:39] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Moments ago, President Trump reacting to a judge's decision to throw out Stormy Daniels' defamation lawsuit. Daniels' attorney quick to respond to that tweet.

Let's get to Abby Phillip at the White House.

It is really getting personal at this point, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPNDENT: It really is, Erica. The president is essentially taking a victory lap after getting that legal victory yesterday in the Stormy Daniels case. And he's tweeting at her in language that, frankly I don't think we have ever heard a president use. He describes her as a "horse face" and says he is going to be able to go after, "her and her third-rate lawyer in the great state of Texas."

That lawyer he's referring to is Michael Avenatti, who has been representing Stormy Daniels in this case, and in the broader issue of whether or not she was paid hush money in order to not talk about an alleged affair that she says she had with President Trump back in 2006, when he was married and had a child on the way.

Now, this case is one that President Trump has not often talked about. He rarely mentions Stormy Daniels. But the defamation case is about a tweet in which President Trump called her a "con job." You'll notice in the tweet he sent today, he used that language again. He said, "She knows nothing about me" and, "She's a total con."

So President Trump here today, Erica, has nothing on his public schedule. He's in the White House. We don't know what he's up to. What we do know is that he's been tweeting all morning, and he has gone there with Stormy Daniels in a way he has not gone before.

Michael Avenatti, for his part, is responding by calling President Trump a, "disgusting misogynist and an embarrassment to the United States" -- Erica?

HILL: Abby Phillip, with the latest at the White House. Thank you.

Joining me now, Chis Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at- large, and Eliana Johnson, CNN political analyst and White House reporter for "Politico."

And, wow, some thoughtful language. I don't even know how to characterize this anymore.

But, Chris Cillizza, I mean, it's at the bottom of the barrel at this point with what we're seeing on Twitter, but here we are.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Outrageous but not shocking. Which is how I think you can describe a lot of things Donald Trump tweets.

Remember that during the 2016 campaign, he was quoted by "Rolling Stone" as saying, "Look at that face. Is America going to vote for that face? Talking about Carly Fiorina. He tried to say after the controversy that, blah blah blah, I was talking about her personality, not her looks, but clearly, he was. He called Miss America Ms. Piggy. Go watch the ad Hillary Clinton ran, type in "mirrors" into your Internet browser. Watch the ad. It features all of his comments made about women.

This is not new. Donald Trump sees women primarily through how they look. He has done it time and time again. He's done it as a candidate, as a private citizen, as a president, and now he's doing it again.

HILL: He also, Eliana, of course, went after one of his other favorite targets, Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, who we should point out is not exactly known for his moral high ground on Twitter.

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. I mean, playground insults are the way Donald Trump relates not just to women but to everybody. He mocked Rand Paul for his height. And I recall him saying, "He comes up to here on me." And this is the way Donald Trump relates to the world, through childish insults and through branding his opponents "Little Marco," Lyin' Ted," "Pocahontas," which he has revived in recent months. And it's extraordinarily effective. We see his opponents on defense. Elizabeth Warren, the latest, responding to these insults, which is perhaps the most shocking thing and a lesson that Donald Trump has taught the American body politic. These things are effective as childish as they seem.

[11:35:30] HILL: He's also, in many ways taught, both the public and politicians in this country that fighting back typically does not work.

And, Chris Cillizza, in the case of Elizabeth Warren -- Eliana, thank you for the perfect transition -- I mean, who is winning at this point? Did this DNA test backfire for her?

CILLIZZA: I mean, look, we're 24 hours out from it happening, so let's put that in as a caveat, but I would say looking at it today, yes. I don't think Trump's response is any big secret. I wrote a piece today in which I said, if it had come out that the DNA test showed she was half Native American, Donald Trump will still attack it as a phony DNA test. That's who he is and what he does. That said, I think what Elizabeth Warren was trying to do was reassure

Democrats, say, look, I know this is a thing that I didn't handle well in the 2012 Senate campaign. I'll going to put it to rights now. You don't need to worry about me. If I'm the nominee, he's not able to get me on this. I don't think that what we saw yesterday and the idea that she's between 1/64th and 1/1,024th native American, I don't think it does the trick. I think Chuck Coscon Jr (ph) is problematic for her, too, saying the test is bunk.

I feel like no one learns this lesson. Marco Rubio, remember, those few days where he tried to get down in the gutter with him, talked about his hand size. You never win. When you go down in the slop with the pig, the pig enjoys it. Donald Trump masters that level of politics. You are not going to win a political knife fight with Donald Trump, yet time and time again, we see these people engaging in it.

HILL: Eliana, another interesting lesson -- and I take this from a tweet from Jim Messina, who was the campaign manager for Barack Obama in 2012. But in his reaction to this, he ends that tweet by saying, "Why can't Dems ever stay focused?" Pointing out, why did she need to do this 22 days before the midterms?

JOHNSON: Yes, it was very clear that in releasing the results of this DNA test, Elizabeth Warren was not thinking about November of 2018. She was thinking about November of 2020. And she made very clear that she has her eyes on that prize.

The other takeaway from this was that Elizabeth Warren, in thinking about 2020, takes very seriously Donald Trump's childish mockery of Pocahontas, and she sees that as a major vulnerability going forward.

So for people who simply dismiss Trump's playground insults, at least one Democrat is taking it very seriously.

HILL: Eliana Johnson, Chris Cillizza -


CILLIZZA: You can hate them, but they work. Eliana is right.

HILL: There we go. Last word for Chris Cillizza.

Thank you guys.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thanks.

HILL: Up next, more than 29 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the midterm elections. Who they are supporting may surprise you. We have new numbers from key races ahead.


[11:43:04] HILL: The midterm elections. We have been talking about them so much, analyzing, trying to predict for nearly two years. Now, they are three weeks out from today. And Democrats are working to make sure a crucial voting bloc could make or break their blue wave shows up on Election Day -- Latino voters.

As November 6th draws closer, however, some Democrats say it's just not enough.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you feel that the Democratic establishment is paying enough attention to the Latino vote?

LUIS HEINDA (ph), DNC COMMITTEE MEMBER: Not enough. But there are inroads. The numbers are alarming sometimes, but we have to dig a little deeper.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When you say alarming, what do you mean the numbers are alarming?

HEINDA (ph): They're not registering support or they're undecided or holding back on who they're choosing to vote for.


HILL: Joining me now, Raul Reyes, an immigration analyst, attorney and CNN Opinion writer. Also, CNN senior political writer and analyst, Harry Enten.

There's a lot of play. You don't need Latinos to show up. Democrats would like them to vote a certain way.

You spent a lot of time, Harry, looking at numbers in key districts. What are you finding?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER & ANALYST: Sure. There are currently five Republican seats in districts that are 50 percent Latino citizen voting-age population, three in Florida, one in Texas, and one in California. These were districts that back in 2016 Hillary Clinton did pretty well in. She won all but one of them. Florida 2015, the one she didn't win. Even there, it was a close race.

I have a forecast on right now, and we're forecasting the margin for them. When we compare the forecast margin in these districts in the 2018 House races compared to the Clinton margin two years ago, what we see in all of these districts is that the Republican candidates are outperforming how well Donald Trump did two years ago, and by an average of 14 percentage points.

HILL: That's a pretty high number, 14 percentage points.

When you look at that, what's your read on it? Is it that Dems are not doing the outreach they need to do, is it that Republicans are simply more effective?

[11:45:10] RAUL REYES, CNN OPINION WRITER: A little of both. Remember, the Democrats -- well both parties, they start off with what I would say is a structural disadvantage in the sense that 71 percent of the Latino population in the country is in six states. California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New York. Only one of those states is typically in play as a battleground state. What that means is these parties are not used to having to compete for Latino votes. So Florida, we do see high turnout for Latinos there because the Republican Party has been very engaged with the Cuban-American population there, and they are the highest among all Latino groups. They vote in the highest numbers.

The problem for Democrats is that the outreach has not been done consistently in states like California and throughout the west. And their challenge is that it has to be done. It's not something that can be done at the last minute. Typically, what the parties do when they're trying to reach Hispanic voters is make a Spanish language video and have candidates visit a Latino neighborhood. That's not enough given the diversity of our communities, where you have Latino evangelicals in Texas, very progressive Millennials in California who would tend to vote Democratic but they're the age group that doesn't necessarily affiliate with either party. There are real problems for both parties, but I think in places like Florida, Republicans have the edge.

HILL: How much of an impact is President Trump having?

ENTEN: I think there are a few things going on here. Number one is if you look at different sort of metric that I did, which is basically you're taking into account all sorts of elections, not just the presidential, you see that the GOP is outperforming less so as compared to, say, all of these elections. A six-point doing better than compared to the 14-point President Trump. So it does seem that these Republican candidates are able to separate themselves out from the president and the president's own approval rating and own performance in 2016 is not driving voter attitudes in these districts as much as you might expect.

HILL: We definitely saw a focus, at least in the last few months, of candidates realizing they needed to go big on local politics and what matters as opposed to national.

REYES: Exactly.

HILL: It's the impact.


HILL: What's fascinating, too, is you're pointing out, you know, what Democrats, I think, were taking for granted, not the first time, they have been accused of this when it comes to Latino voters. When we look back to 2016, there was this thinking Latino voters would come out in huge numbers and vote against Donald Trump. Part of that being his immigration proposes. We know that's not true.

REYES: It didn't happen.

HILL: Yes. REYES: To me, the biggest takeaway with the Democrats for 2016 is just because there's so much -- there was so much dissatisfaction among Hispanics and Latino communities against the president, that does not necessarily mean people are motivated to vote against him in the ballot box. What we saw was one of the responses was a whole segment in the Latino population, their reaction was to sort of check out, to not vote for anyone at all, which really helped the Republicans.

The other structural thing that the Democratic Party has to confront is Latinos are a young population. And 44 percent of eligible Latino voters are Millennials. They overlap with another demographic group that does not -- is not typically motivated to vote. They have to figure out more sophisticated, more nuanced ways to motivate that group, that share of the electorate to vote.

HILL: I sense we may be looking at a lot of lessons in three weeks --


-- just as we were a couple years ago.

Raul Reyes, Harry Enten, thank you both.

REYES: Thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

HILL: Up next, as the Saudi government faces global scrutiny over the disappearance of a journalist, there are new questions this morning about President Trump's financial ties to the kingdom's royal family.


[11:53:14] HILL: President Trump's financial dealings with Saudi Arabia are under scrutiny because of his response to the investigation into Journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and apparent murder. This morning, he says he has no personal financial ties to the Saudis. Tweeting, "For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia or Russia, for that matter."

CNN business and politics correspondent, Cristina Alesci, had a look into this extensively over the last couple years.

You're joining us now.

It can be tough to figure out the ties are.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Trump makes it tough. He's not releasing his tax returns. The government does not require him to disclose his financial ties to foreign countries. And he doesn't do it on a voluntary basis. The American public has to wonder what's driving his policies. And, in this case, what's driving his lack of condemnation so far of this murder.

But what we do know is what he's told us. And he said he has ties to Saudi Arabia. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We get nothing. We get nothing. What do we get? We get nothing. Saudi Arabia -- and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.


ALESCI: According to public records and what we know so far, Trump's ties to Saudi go way back to 1991 when the Saudi prince bought one of his yachts. Ten years later, the Trump Organization sold the 45th floor of Trump World Tower in New York to the Saudi kingdom for $4.5 million. Then in 2016 and 2017, a bunch of Saudi companies showed up on his financial disclosures. Those were later dissolved. But it shows an intent or desire to do business there. And then more recently, in late October 2016, early 2017, Saudi lobbyists spent over $250,000 at his Trump Hotel in Washington D.C.

So these are all indications, even though we don't have exact visibility in, they're an indication that there were ties if there are no longer.

[11:55:23] HILL: So many questions. So twisted. It's tough to look at. But thank you for doing the digging on that.

Cristina, always good to see you.

Still ahead, more on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to Saudi Arabia. So how should the U.S. respond and will Congress act? More on that, next.