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U.S. Navy Sails 2 Ships Through Taiwan Strait; Trump Campaigning for Ted Cruz After Calling Insults During Presidential Race; Florida Governor Candidates Trade Barbs in Fiery Debate; Bolton Kicks Off Tense Talks with Russia over Nuclear Treaty; Washington Post: Mueller Looking in Stone/WikiLeaks Ties. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 22, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:35] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: This just in, CNN has learned the U.S. Navy has sailed two warships through the Taiwan Strait when tensions with China were already rising.

CNN's Ryan Browne is at the Pentagon with more details.

Ryan, what more do we know?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Erica, the U.S. Navy today sailing these two warships, a cruiser and a destroyer, through the strategic Taiwan Strait. This is a 110-mile-wide body of water. It's international waters but an area that China is particularly sensitive about because they see Taiwan as part of China. And they want the ability to kind of operate in those waters. In fact, multiple Chinese warship tailed the U.S. vessels as they were conducting this transit. This is the second transit this year. The U.S. did a similar type of operation in July.

But this, as you said, comes amid mounting tensions between the U.S. and China on a wide range of issues. On trade, on U.S. accusations that China is attempting to manipulate the midterm elections. So many issues here at stake. This, another sign the U.S., a show of force it's not going anywhere.

HILL: Ryan Browne with the latest on that. Ryan, thank you.

BROWN: You bet.

HILL: Right now, more than 7,000 migrants are making their way through Mexico with the goal of reaching the southern border of the United States. Telling CNN they're fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. And that their long journey is just beginning.

This gives you a sense of the map, where they have come from and how far they still have to go. From Tapachula, a town on the border of Mexico and Guatemala, they will have to travel more than 2,000 miles before they reach the U.S. border.

That significant road ahead of them is not stopping President Trump from sounding the alarm. Just this morning, the president tweeting, "This is a national emergency," in his words. And claiming without any evidence that criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed into the crowd of migrants. He has also said he's alerted the Border Patrol and the military. A spokesman at the Pentagon, however, telling CNN the military has not been asked to provide any support at the southern border.

For more, we turn to CNN's Patrick Oppmann, who is traveling with the caravan.

Patrick, what are you seeing there on the ground?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just to correct the president's statement, we have been traveling with this group since they crossed the border from Guatemala into Mexico. And the vast majority, literally everyone we have spoken to, is actually Honduran, maybe a handful of Salvadorans, but I have not come across anyone who is Middle Eastern.

Let me show you what is going on right now in Tapachula. People here are getting ready to go about 20 miles to the north, to the next town. That will take them most of the day. Most of the people we have seen traveling in this caravan have been walking. They hitch rides where they can, they pile on the trucks, but the vast majority have to go by foot. That takes them a very, very long time. Yesterday, it was an exhausting trip for so many of these migrants when they reached this park last night, many were limping. Many said they had blisters. They were very, very thirsty. The shelters in this town in Mexico were full. Most of the people slept here last night at a public park. And there are several thousand people in the park and there are not the bathrooms or infrastructure to accommodate this many people.

They say they will continue on, they don't want to be sent back by the Mexican government. They have no opportunities remaining for them at home back in Honduras where many of these people are from, and they'll continue this long journey north until they get to the United States, but that's going to take weeks -- Erica?

HILL: Patrick Oppmann, with the latest for us there. Again, traveling with the caravan. You spent so much time speaking to people there. Patrick, thank you.

[11:35:10] Coming up, not long ago, President Trump called him a baby, a liar, insulted the physical appearance of his wife. Now the president is heading to Texas to campaign for Senator Ted Cruz. Details ahead.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is lying ted. I came up with the idea. But you have to spell it right. It's L-Y-I-N- '. Lyin' Ted. The Bible held guy. He puts it down and then he lies.

Now I have met much tougher people than Ted Cruz. He's like a baby compared to some of the people I have to deal with. He's like a little baby. Soft, weak, little baby.

I don't want his endorsement. What difference does it make? I don't want his endorsement. I have such great -- I don't want his endorsement. Jut, Ted, stay home, relax, enjoy yourself.


HILL: That was, of course, then-Candidate Trump going after Senator Ted Cruz. Fast forward to tonight, where President Trump will be stumping for the Senator in Houston. Despite their history, Trump went after Cruz in a series of personal attacks. He also questioned his loyalty. He insulted Cruz's wife. Even seemed to imply that Ted Cruz's father was somehow involved in President Kennedy's assassination.

As all of this went on, Cruz avoiding criticizing the president, though he's not exactly praising him either.


[11:40:00] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So friend? Is he your friend? Is he your foe? How do you describe the relationship?

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS: He's the president. He's the president. I work with the president in delivering on our promises.


HILL: Joining us now, CNN senior political reporter, Nia Malika Henderson, and CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza.

As we watch all of this play out, I feel like we need a hash tag of this is politics. Is anyone, Chris, really surprised Ted Cruz would be saying, yes, I welcome the support, I welcome the help here in Texas, 2016 was a very long time ago.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, it is politics. I mean, yes, this is the moment, but there's been lots of politicians who said nasty things about one another and because it was in their political interest to do so, figured out a way to get along, Democrats and Republicans. It's particularly pronounced in this case because it's Donald Trump, everything is particularly pronounced, L-Y-I-N-' Ted.


HILL: I'm glad you spelled it correctly.

CILLIZZA: I never get it wrong. That was driven into the memory banks. The floating idea that Raphael Cruz was involved in the assassination of JFK. The attacks on Ted Cruz's wife's looks. So it was both sort of more and more personal, again, both of these things we now know are traits that Donald Trump carries with him. And I think in some ways Donald Trump is loving the fact that Ted Cruz knows he needs Donald Trump. HILL: Sure.

CILLIZZA: He needs a very much fired-up Republican base. No one does that like Donald Trump. Ted Cruz is in a more competitive race than anyone thought he would be. Still favored, but more competitive against Beto O'Rourke, and Trump is in some ways riding to the rescue, when he would undoubtedly, maybe publicly, but definitely privately, remind him of.

HILL: Nia, when you look at this, the president, too, we should look at, is in many ways putting himself on the ballot national as we move into the final two weeks. Even though Cruz does hold a lead right now in Texas, is he still the best messenger on the part of Ted Cruz?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER: You know, I think the best messenger for Ted Cruz down in Texas is Greg Abbott. He's going to be on the stage with Ted Cruz, with Donald Trump tonight. He's a very, very popular governor. His approval ratings are something like 60 percent. He's going to be the one who is identifying the voters, running a massive re-election campaign. In Texas, it's basically straight party line voting. That's what people are going to see when they get into the voting booth. Basically being able to vote all the way down the ticket Republican. So that I think the sort of embrace from Greg Abbott, I think, is much more important to Ted Cruz in the state of Texas than Donald Trump because Greg Abbott is obviously on the ballot and he's much more popular than Ted Cruz, a little more popular than Donald Trump down there. He's all over the state over these next couple of weeks, encouraging people to get out and vote, encouraging those Republicans to stick with the party. I think that's much more important, a critical component for Ted Cruz down in Texas.

HILL: As we take a look, obviously, a lot of focus on Florida as well. Jake Tapper moderating the debate there last night. There was a very clear focus, as there should be, on local issues, things that directly impact Floridians. We also heard a couple clear campaign narratives emerging there. Let's take a quick listen.


SEN. RON DESANTIS, (R), FLORIDA: Andrew is a failed mayor. He presided over a crime-ridden city. He's involved in corruption. He's not the guy to lead our state.

ANDREW GILLUM, (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: He's a stooge. It's my job every single day to be in the interest and to do the bidding of the people of the state of Florida. Not to appease Donald Trump. Not to bend to his will.


HILL: Chris, did the debate move the needle for either of these gubernatorial candidates?

CILLIZZA: Probably not. I think it was relatively nasty, relatively contentious. That's sort of what things are this close to an election, whether you like it or not. I thought Gillum was a little more relaxed. I think we focus on policy, rightly so, but most people look at the TV and see, oh, this person looks calm or this person -- DeSantis looks nervous. He's a member of Congress. A big stage. I think Gillum is ahead. I don't think he's ahead hugely, but I think he's ahead. And when you're ahead, usually it's a win if it's fought to a draw. Now, the only thing I will say, in 2016, maybe Trump is totally anomalous, but in 2016, on any objective measure, Hillary Clinton won each of the three presidential debates. Yet Donald Trump is the president. Now, we typically say those presidential debates matter a lot. People are paying attention. Looking for clues as to who to vote for. So I don't know. I think a lot of it now is we're in such a partisan time that who you come in for is almost always who you leave for. That's sort of the lens by which you see these things. Marginally Gillum because he starts going into that debate ahead a little bit. I think he probably comes out the same way.

[11:44:59] HILL: In terms of how partisan things are across the country now, DeSantis seemed like he was trying to distance himself on the one hand, that he's not so close to President Trump, but pointing out that his relationship with the president could be beneficial to the people of Florida. Can he have it both ways?

HENDERSON: He's certainly going to try. He was making that argument a bunch last night. Essentially, he wouldn't really say whether or not Donald Trump was a role model. He kind of went off into a tangent about Israel. We'll see what happens here, but this is very much sort of a Trumpian like race. Gillum obviously the anti-Trumper, and you have DeSantis in one respect wanting those Trump voters but also trying to get the moderates as well.

CILLIZZA: Just to be clear, very quickly, Ron DeSantis can say what he wants in the general election. He is not the nominee without Donald Trump's strong endorsement. Adam Putnam, former member of Congress, had been running essentially for six years, he gets passed by DeSantis because DeSantis becomes Trump's guy. He can say what he wants, but he's not in the position he's in today without Donald Trump.

HILL: Chris Cillizza, Nia Malika Henderson, thank you both.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

HILL: Coming up, President Trump surprising Russia and the world by ending a decades-old nuclear arms treaty. National Security Advisor John Bolton in Russia now and will talk to officials there. Details ahead.


[11:50:42] HILL: Right now, White House national security adviser, John Bolton, is doing damage control in Moscow, meeting with his Russian counterpart days after President Trump's surprise announcement that he was ending a decades-old arms treaty between the two countries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many years and I don't know why President Obama didn't negotiate or pull out. We are not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we are not allowed to. We are the ones who stayed in the agreement and honored the agreement, but Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement so we are going to terminate the agreement and we're going to pull out.


HILL: The Russians deny any violation of the agreement.

For more on this, CNN's international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is in Moscow.

Fred, what are the Russians saying about this?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Russians are extremely angry about this. We have been getting the reaction over the better course of the day since they have been speaking about a new arms race and said the U.S. is trying to black mail Russia. They will meet the Russian foreign minister. He came out earlier and said if the U.S. is indeed pulling out of this treaty, the Russians will retaliate. He is taking about if the U.S. wanted to deploy nuclear weapons in Europe or anywhere else, the Russians will do the same thing. One of the things that is the Russians are talking about that could spark a dangerous nuclear arms race like we have seen in the Cold War.

But, Erica, the thing that the Russians are trying to find out from John Bolton is whether or not from what we heard from President Trump saying the U.S. will pull out of the treaty, whether or not that's a violation and whether or not there's wiggle room. They came out and said we can renegotiate this and address America's concerns. You mentioned the Russians didn't violate the treaty. Russians say they believe the U.S. violated the treaty in the past. There's a lot of back and forth going on. There's a lot of bad blood.

You're right, John Bolton on the ground trying to do damage control and maybe meeting Vladimir Putin to do more of that as well -- Erica?

HILL: It will be interesting to see what comes out of that.

Fred Pleitgen, thank you.

PLEITGEN: You bet.

HILL: Just what did Roger Stone know and when did he know it? The special counsel is taking a closer look at the long-time Trump adviser's conflicting accounts of his ties with WikiLeaks. Those details are next.


[11:58:00] HILL: New details on the special counsel's investigation this morning. The "Washington Post" reporting Robert Mueller wants to know more about Roger Stone's ties with WikiLeaks and whether Stone knew they would release hacked Democratic e-mails during the 2016 campaign.

CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is in Washington.

Shimon, what more do we know?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: This has been the big question here regarding Roger Stone, and exactly what is the Mueller team looking at as it relates to him. "the Washington post" reporting that they are looking at conflicting information and stories that Roger Stone had given to people close to him, public statements he made. Publicly he denied he had any knowledge WikiLeaks would be publishing the e-mails, but privately, as we have been reporting, Roger Stone has told, according to some people, that he did know about this in advance. That is what the Mueller team is looking at, whether or not Roger Stone had knowledge that these e-mails are going to come out.

The bigger question, Erica, is, was the campaign or President Trump's campaign aware of this and coordinating with Roger Stone for this information. That's where the collusion question could be answered. We really don't know. We know that people have appeared before the Mueller grand jury, and before grand juries, and people who have been close to Roger Stone at this time and people close to him now appeared before the grand jury.

Where all of this winds up and how all of this plays out, we don't know. The key thing is this is ongoing and the Mueller team is still working on this.

HILL: Shimon Prokupecz, with the latest for us. Thank you.

Thanks to all of you for joining us this hour.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts now.

[12:00:02] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Two weeks until the midterm elections and the president is off to Texas to help former 2016 rival, Ted Cruz.