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Texas Senate Race; Trump Throws More Insults at Stormy Daniels. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 16, 2018 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: After a judge dismissed her defamation lawsuit against the president, the president of the United States this afternoon called her -- quote -- "horseface."

The porn star responded with a tweet insult that was quite literally below the belt.

Yes, this is the news.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the White House.

And, Jeff, is the White House spinning in any way that the president of the United States attacking a porn star, calling her a horseface, a woman with whom he allegedly slept right after first lady Melania Trump gave birth to their son, are they try to spin this as some sort of brilliant, shrewd politics?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the White House isn't trying to spin it at all or even about it.

Many aides I talked to today simply did not want to address the question of horseface. Perhaps that's because it's three weeks to the day before the midterm elections. One of the central challenges for Republicans, women voters in the suburbs. That's the key to holding on to the House of Representatives.

Now, all of this is coming as the president had no events on his public schedule today, leaving him plenty of time to tweet, vulgarities and all.


ZELENY (voice-over): Famous for his insulting nicknames, President Trump coined a new one today after a defamation suit filed against him by porn star Stormy Daniels was dismissed.

"Now I can go after horseface and her third-rate lawyer," the president said on Twitter. "She knows nothing about me. A total con."

Never mind the president's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to tax fraud and violating campaign finance laws for arranging a six-figure settlement to keep her and another woman quiet during the final days of the 2016 campaign.


ZELENY: Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford and says she had an affair with the president, fired back.

"In addition to his, um, shortcomings, he has demonstrated his incompetencies, hatred of women and lack of self-control on Twitter again," she tweeted. She went on to call him tiny.

Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti added, "You're a disgusting misogynist and an embarrassment to the United States."


ZELENY: It's only the latest example of the president aggressively and personally attacking women. Today's list once again includes Senator Elizabeth Warren.

"Pocahontas, the bad version, sometimes referred to as Elizabeth Warren, is getting slammed," the president wrote today, in the first of three tweets at the Massachusetts Democrat, who hopes to unseat him in 2020.

The president belittling Warren's video that she released Monday, trying to prove her Native American heritage.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They will call us every ugly name in the book.

ZELENY: After making a pledge earlier this year...

TRUMP: I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you're an Indian.

ZELENY: ... the president now saying he won't contribute a dime.

TRUMP: I was going to have her tested. I will only do it if I can test her personally. OK? That will not be something I enjoy doing either.

ZELENY: That drawing a sharp response from Warren, calling his comment "a creepy physical threat." She added: "He's trying to do what he always does to women who scare him, call us names, attack us personally, shrink us down to feel better about himself. It may suit his ego, but it won't work."


ZELENY: Now, Jake, frankly, that is an open question if it's going to work or not. The president of course was elected after a long string of similar comments during his presidential campaign and indeed his life before he became a politician running for office.

So for all of the vulgarities here that we have seen on Twitter, unclear if it will work or not. But there is a sense of unease. They wish the president would stick to issues, other things, again, three weeks today before the midterm elections.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us, thanks so much.

And as Jeff just alluded, there is a long history President Trump has of going after women for their appearance. Let's just take a little sampler. Just a teeny little sampler of some of these remarks.


QUESTION: You have called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account...

TRUMP: Only Rosie O'Donnell.

You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.

TAPPER: In an interview last week in "Rolling Stone" magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you -- quote -- "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that the face of our next president?"

TRUMP: When you're a star, you can do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

She would not be my first choice. That, I can tell you. Man.



TAPPER: Those, of course, are just the public comments that we know of.

Mark Preston, there is an electoral part of this, which is, yes, he said those things and he got elected, even though he lost the popular vote by three million votes. Women are important voters, especially Republican women, this election, and to call Stormy Daniels horseface, that reminds women of this.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, can you imagine being a Republican woman candidate right now at an event and being asked by the local reporter what they think of President Trump's comments about Stormy Daniels, specifically reciting that to her?


I can't imagine that any Republican woman is going to say, you know what, I think that he's right.

I mean, this is the kind of thing that has caused an incredible amount of heartache and heartburn amongst Republicans, because they see this as an opportunity they could have used the last two years to build upon the successes they have had, except the president, as you said, have said in the past certainly, the president sometimes just can't get out of his own way.

He's unable to take a win and to move forward. The last couple of years, if he had played this right, Republicans would have been in a lot better electoral positioning than they are right now.

TAPPER: The judge handed him a victory with Stormy Daniels.

MONA CHAREN, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: That is the most amazing thing. He could have said, story over, this lowlife should -- no, I'm getting to sound like...


CHAREN: This person sued me, it's been thrown out, there was nothing to it, we're moving on. And everybody would have applauded, all of his supporters. And even his opponents would have thought, fair enough. And that would have been the end of the story.

He completely reversed it, and now it's a problem for him.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The style and substance, it is consistent. Right?

Everything that Trump does is about feeding the sense of grievance among his base and creating an endless succession of cultural conflicts that he manufactures to kind of keep them stoked.

It is wrong to say there is no cost to that. Democrats are on track to win 60 percent or more of college-educated white women, which would be the most they have ever won in a midterm election. Their performance even among blue-collar white women is subpar, relative to what it has been, although the change isn't as big.

So there is some cost. But it's also true that there are a lot -- there have been a lot of women who are uneasy, for example, about changing gender roles and that they are, you know, many of them are Trump supporters.

So this is consistent with his vision, and certainly the Republican vision of the midterm, which is that we're going to polarize, we're going to turn out our base and in the process we're going to take some of these red-leaning areas and make it tougher for Democrats.

The flip side of that is very real, though, Jake, which is that these white-collar suburban areas, when you're looking at votes among college women, it's tougher than ever, and this makes it even harder.

TAPPER: And the thing is, even though you have people who have worked for President Trump, women, Kellyanne Conway, Nikki Haley, Dina Powell, etc, talking about how great a boss he is, how supportive he is of women in the workplace, there is also this part of him that talks about women as if they are chattel, as if they are property.

We only know Stormy Daniels because he allegedly slept with her, by the way, right after Melania had their son together. So I don't understand the thinking, if there is any, about even bringing this up. KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's -- I actually

think it's exactly what Ron just said.

TAPPER: It's purposeful.


POWERS: I think it's purposeful for his base.

Look, there are a lot of women, a lot of Republican women, frankly, even educated Republican women in this city who cheered him attacking Christine Blasey Ford, who, you know -- and, at a minimum, if they weren't cheering it, were actually saying, I'm OK with it. I think it's fine.

So I think that there is a different dynamic there. But I think with his particular base, I just don't think the name-calling thing is an issue, whether he's doing it against women or somebody else. If it was, he wouldn't be president.

CHAREN: I think most conservative -- no conservative -- self- respecting conservative can look at this and say, it's great that our president slept with a porn star and is engaging in an insult contest with her.

But what they do think is, well, we're getting Supreme Court appointments, we're getting wins, we're going to ignore this.


CHAREN: They don't like it.

PRESTON: That's exactly what it is. It's the end justifies the means. And the one means in this is abortion and the Supreme Court. That is it.

And they have sold -- they have sold everything else. The Christian conservatives, the evangelicals, they have talked about this high moral ground for so many years. They have sold themselves for that.

BROWNSTEIN: I disagree a little, guys.

That is it. The transactional nature is it for the conservative elite and leadership in the Senate and so forth. That's not only what's it for part of his base. The fight is the point, the idea that President Trump is standing up for all of them against all of the institutions that they think look down on them.

CHAREN: Like those porn stars.

BROWNSTEIN: Like those porn stars. But it's the big media elite or the big, you know, coastal elites. And what he basically does is -- I mean, you know, you talked about the -- Christine Blasey Ford. He constantly shatters these norms.

The norm shattering is the point. It basically says to them he is willing to do things that no one has been willing to do on their behalf.

TAPPER: And, Kirsten, I have seen conservative men on Twitter.

And this not representative. This is just anecdotal. But basically like, I think it's awesome that President Trump sleeps with hot chicks. I'm paraphrasing. Look at Karen McDougal. Look at Stormy Daniels. That's awesome. That's righteous that he does that. And probably righteous isn't -- I'm dating myself a little with that term, but they're happy about it.



But I think the bigger issue is trying to understand the split with the women, because I just -- there is -- if you were to say the difference between liberal women and conservative women, they have a very different view of what's happening in this country.

And so, you know, even educated conservative women look at something like the Christine Blasey Ford situation and they see it totally differently, including very smart, nice people that I know.


So I think that there is -- you know, maybe they don't like the name- calling, but they don't really have a problem with him attacking women.

BROWNSTEIN: To your point, the polling is very clear that the women who voted for Trump have a much dimmer view the way gender relations are changing and the role of women in society is changing than women who voted for Clinton.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

Everyone, stick around.

Exactly three weeks away from Election Day, there's a brand-new poll out of Texas with one number that might worry Democrats nationwide. Stay with us.


TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead and a showdown tonight in the Lone Star State.

In just a few hours, Republican Senator Ted Cruz will debate his Democratic challenger, representative Beto O'Rourke, in what is easily one of the marquee midterm races in the country.

It comes on the heels of a brand-new CNN poll that shows Cruz has a seven-point lead over O'Rourke three years ahead of the election, despite O'Rourke breaking fund-raising records and bringing in more than triple what Cruz did in the third quarter.

Let's talk about it with the experts.

Are Republicans happy? Seven-point lead three weeks out, is that good enough?

MONA CHAREN, SENIOR FELLOW, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Yes, they're happy about that. They're also happy about the fact that the Democrats are spending apparently $38 million in a race that they're overwhelmingly likely to lose. And look, it isn't just the money that it's going to be the determining factor obviously if it were O'Rourke would win but to rely on -- they're relying on a new Texas that has you know a lot of minority voters who are going to turn out. They haven't yet in off-year elections. Minority voters just don't seem to get to the polls in off years so it doesn't look good for O'Rourke.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And there's another piece, right, which is that we talked about in the earlier segments that the core of the Republican vulnerability is the movement away from them in white-collar suburbs elsewhere in the country. The southern suburbs are just harder. They're different tech -- in Texas O'Rourke has stalled out. He's doing better than previous Democrats among college-educated white voters but he's stalled out at around 40 percent and in this poll he's only a 36 percent among them. Whereas in many of these northern suburbs you're seeing Democrats up into the mid-50s which is why there are so many Republicans at risk in the white collar House seats.

But in Texas in these southern suburbs -- I'll plug my piece and I talked about this -- it is tougher and you're going to see that in Georgia as well. It's still more conservative particularly on social issues and unless he can get that into the mid-40s even if he solves the minority turnout problem you still don't have quite enough critical mass.

TAPPER: Kirsten, I've seen Republican mischief makers on Twitter pushing Beto O'Rourke. Send your money to Beto O'Rourke, he needs your money so that they don't send their money to Missouri to Claire McCaskill or to Jackie Rosen in Nevada.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, look, I just think -- I think that Beto is an extremely talented politician. And if he doesn't win in Texas which is the general consensus that it's very unlikely, obviously, would be a huge upset. I still think he has done something good. I think that he you know, went into a situation where he wasn't expected to win but he is trying to make changes in Texas. I think he's energized a lot of people and I think he is a leader for the future and I think he is set up.

I know there's an idea that you can't lose and go and run for president or other things I disagree with that because he didn't lose in New Jersey. He lost in Texas which is a very different thing.

BROWNSTEIN: Hey, (INAUDIBLE) did it. One precedent is good one.

TAPPER: You think you can run for president if he doesn't win the Senate race? MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So a couple things. One is you know, we have them at seven points in our poll which is basically tracking with what we're seeing with other polls. I think by election day given the enthusiasm that they talking about a Democratic turnout you're going to see that shrink a little bit. This is actually right. I mean, the fact is it would be quite a win for Beto O'Rourke to take a red state blue so quickly.

Can he run for president afterwards? Absolutely. Look Donald Trump is the President of the United States. I mean, we could just stop right there.

TAPPER: He never ran for anything before.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I put one other number?

PRESTON: But just very, very important. What he could have done is Beto O'Rourke's candidacy even if he does lose, he could have accelerated Texas turning blue a little bit quicker than what the demographics we think is going to happen in the next decade or so.

CHAREN: And if he does score the upset, he's a certain candidate.

BROWNSTEIN: One number we're pointing out in this national resonance, in that poll essentially 90 percent of the people who approved of Trump said they were voting for Cruz and 90 percent of the people who disapproved of Trump said they were Beto O'Rourke, that's what we are seeing in national polling. It's at the high end of what we've ever seen nationally and it's why on the one hand you have this election moving in two different directions at once. Republicans looking stronger in those outer congressional districts and those red state Senate races but Democrats looking stronger in these kinds of inner suburbs, these White Collar suburbs.

The relationship that the extent to which this is a referendum on the president in a national parliamentary election in which the individuals are receding and the question of which party you want to reward is rising I think will reach an all-time peak this year.

TAPPER: And speaking of that, a new ABC News Washington Post poll highlights what's being called the tale of two Americas. On the one hand, Democrats have an 11-point advantage in the generic ballot for the House. But when you look the -- at the look at this, 53 percent to 42 percent, big momentum for Democrats, but when you isolate the 68 races that this poll identifies as toss-ups that lead evaporates. It becomes a one-point advantage for Republicans essentially a toss-up so the Republicans losing the House is not necessarily a done deal.

PRESTON: No, no, it's not a done deal and I think it certainly goes to what -- to what Ron wrote for The idea that every suburb of every metropolis is monolithic and is all going to come out for Democrats, that's not the case. The suburbs of Washington D.C. are going to be a lot different than the suburbs of Houston, are going be a lot different than the suburbs of say Santa Fe. So that is true. I think if you've got money and you got a piece of that, you're going place it on Democrats taking back the House. We just don't know what it's going to be though.

TAPPER: And of the 28 House races of CNN defines as toss-ups, Democratic candidates rates at least $70 million last quarter. That's more than triple the 21.4 million collected by the same Republicans in the same contest as a big financial advantage for Democrats.

[16:50:05] CHAREN: Well, there's no question that the Democrats are jazzed and they cannot wait to direct. They will -- you know, the old cliche, they'll drag themselves over cut-glass to vote this time. The question is whether the Republicans will be equally energized, whether there was a Kavanaugh bump for example which some people think is actually illusory. The Republicans turn up in Midterm Elections and so they're probably -- they were probably already going to and the question is Democratic enthusiasm.

TAPPER: And a reminder CNN's Dana Bash will moderate the Texas Senate Town Hall with Beta O'Rourke. That's Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. A similar invitation was made to Ted Cruz. New troubling fallout from President Trump's tax cuts, it looks like the tea party is over. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our "MONEY LEAD" today, the Republican Party touting a strong stock market, despite a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Dow this month. The Dow up 547 points today as stocks recover from last week. But Republican rallying cries against the deficit and the national debt that once brought the tea party to power seem to have been, shall we say, decaffeinated since Obama left office with fresh news from the treasury department that the annual deficit will be jumping up nearly 17 percent, just shy of $800 billion for this fiscal year, a level we haven't seen since 2012.

CNN's Alison Kosik is at the New York stock exchange. Alison, where are all the tea party protest now, the deficits skyrocketed?

[16:55:19] ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not seeing one protest around here about the ballooning budget deficit. I saw a lot of smiles today as the Dow jumped 548 points, it had its best point, and percentage day for one day since March 26th. Look, the economy is strong, it is growing, and usually, in boom times, you usually see deficits shrink, because the government takes in more money via taxpayers.

But in this case, the government is spending more because of those tax -- the tax reform from President Trump, the government is spending more than it's taking in, and it's really racking up those bills and the government is actually running the largest budget deficit in six years. But that not rattling the markets today with the Dow ending higher by 548 points. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Alison Kosik at the stock exchange, thanks so much. When Republicans were selling the American people on the Trump tax cut bill which analyst are saying contributed to this massive deficit, they assured the American people the $1.5 trillion in cuts would pay for itself. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Yeah, I'm totally confident this is a revenue-neutral bill. I think it's something that's revenue producer. As we have said over and over and over again, the $1.5 trillion deficit only -- could be filled, only requires us to grow four-tenths of one percent over the next ten years. Goodness, gracious. That's very much achievable.


TAPPER: But this morning, a new tone from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


MCCONNELL: It's very disturbing, and it's driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. That's 70 percent of -- hopefully, at some point here we'll get serious about this. We haven't been yet.


TAPPER: This is what Democrats, Mark, said all along. They're going to pass this tax cut, which is going to set the deficit up to even higher levels, hundreds of billions of dollars more, trillions of dollars more in the long-term and then they're going to come for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, et cetera.

PRESTON: OK, so as you coming to me, I'm like writing this down. I have great respect for Mitch McConnell. I think that he will go down in history as a great legislator, whether you like his policies or not. But to go out and say that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are very popular programs, as it's a program that you kind of might want to opt into, these are programs that are required. They're required for the poor, they're required for the elderly, and quite frankly, we're all paying into it right now. Something has to be done to these entitlement programs. But when you're in power, when you're in power in Congress, and you have the power to do tax cuts and to do spending, you don't necessarily want to cut these entitlements.

BROWNSTEIN: I mean, look, it is -- I've got to think that sound bite is going to go almost directly into Democratic -- what are Democrats running on in this election? Two things, the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and in particular the pre-existing conditions and second, the argument that the Republican tax cut will eventually require them to go after Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

Now you have Mitch McConnell joining Paul Ryan and Larry Kudlow and basically saying, hey, you're right. This is what we do plan to do. It's a strange kind of moment of unforced error for the Senate Majority Leader this close to the election.

TAPPER: There is no indication that President Trump has any interest in signing any legislation that would reform these social safety net or entitlement programs. He told Paul Ryan years ago, it's horrible politics, why would you want to do it?

CHAREN: He ran on that and so he has a mandate not to touch these programs. Look, you know, this is one of the great betrayals of the ruling class, if you will, or the people in power, and also of the American people who just don't want to grapple with the fact that you cannot incessantly spend more than you take in. And we've told everybody this really adorable fib that you're only getting back from Social Security what you put in. That's a lie.

TAPPER: Or Medicare.

CHAREN: That's a total lie.

BROWNSTEIN: The only -- the only way to politically -- to do that, that's right, you add 40 million more seniors, ultimately you have to control the spending on entitlements. That's what we're doing in the next 30 years. But to then cut taxes enormously --

CHAREN: No, I agree. I agree. There should have been --

BROWNSTEIN: It makes all of that impossible to do.

CHAREN: They should have done both. They should have had spending cuts and tax cuts. But of course --


BROWNSTEIN: They're not going to do spending cuts and tax cuts. That is not a political --

TAPPER: I guess -- was talking about the tea party just a few days ago because I was saying I don't like when people call anyone a mob, whether it's tea party or liberal protesters, whatever. But where is the tea party? Where are they? Not like you're the spokesperson.

POWERS: Yes. But no, I think that this is what we see a lot, is that people get very fired up about issues when the person in power is somebody they don't like, and they're obsessed with it. And then when somebody who they like comes into power, they suddenly aren't interested. And what it shows you is that they're not -- they were really never serious about it.

TAPPER: Thanks one and all for being here. I really appreciate it. 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.