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President Trump Trying to Stir Base Using Immigration Fears?; Early Voting Begins in Several States. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 22, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Are we expecting more of that, a little bit more heated today?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Expecting very much of that, especially since we're in the third day of early vote here in the state of Nevada.

Democrats see the Nevada Senate seat as critical in trying to capture control of the U.S. Senate. So, we're expecting some very strong words from the former president.

The way this crowd is viewing it, it is as if they are bringing in the heavy. They need to boost Democratic enthusiasm here where I am standing, in Las Vegas, in the heart of Clark County. It is simple math. Democrats need to bring out their base here in Clark County. Without it, they will lose.

And so what we saw over the weekend, as early vote started, was the former Vice President Joe Biden, as you mentioned, as well as President Trump. He was in a rural section of Nevada, trying to frame this as, they need to bring out the rural vote, that that is where Republicans see as their path in trying to keep Congressman -- Senator Dean Heller in office.

So, we -- it is very, very early so far, Erica. But what we can tell you is after just three days of early vote, the Democrats here in Clark County are feeling very good. They are having very strong turnout, a very different picture from what they saw in the last midterm, when enthusiasm was low and the Democrats did not turn out in Clark County.

But, again, Erica, it is very early. We anticipate the president, the former president, will begin to speak in just about one hour.

HILL: All right, Kyung Lah with the latest for us there from Las Vegas, Kyung, thank you.

One senator who's been very busy campaigning for fellow Democrats also likely testing the waters for a 2020 bid. Kamala Harris, today, she's in the all-important primary state of Iowa. Impossible to miss that significance.

CNN political reporter Maeve Reston is just north of Des Moines and joins us now -- Maeve.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Erica.

So Kamala Harris was here today, talking to young voters and really voters of all ages on a community college campus. Early voting, as Kyung mentioned, is also under way here in Iowa. Right behind me, there's a very slow trickle of people headed in there.

But that's why, ostensibly, Kamala Harris was here today, to really generate the vote, generate the enthusiasm, get people out to vote. She was asked about her 2020 ambitions and said that the only message she had on that was that there's 15 days left, people have got to get out to vote, and it's the most important election of their lifetime.

She also did weigh in on a couple of hot-button issues in the news right now. And let's take a listen to that sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Is there a political upshot to the Trump administration's tone on the caravan coming from...

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Absolutely not. And, listen, we are a country that our strength has always been that we are a tolerant country, that we are welcoming in particular of those who have fled harm.

And the idea that we're vilifying any one group and the fear- mongering, that's not in the best interest of our country. What our people want and the people of our country want is they want leaders who are focused on these challenges they face every day, like, can they put food on the table and pay the bills by the end of the month consistently every month of the year?

That's what people want us to be talking about and thinking about. Those are the priorities they want us to have, not vilifying some group for the sake of fear-mongering and politics.

QUESTION: What about Saudi Arabia?

HARRIS: Saudi Arabia, listen, by all accounts, that man was murdered. And he was a journalist, and we cannot support any system that would allow a journalist to be killed because you don't like what he says.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RESTON: So that was Kamala Harris talking about Saudi Arabia, of course, and the caravan issue, not really taking on Trump in an aggressive way yet, but headed in that direction, talking about how she feels that we are -- as a nation, this is not who we want to be. That's what she said today, as she was speaking to college students, really encouraging them to get out and vote to make sure that they're better represented in Washington, Erica.

HILL: Maeve Reston live for us in Iowa this hour, Maeve, thank you. Early voting kicks off today in Texas. And the White House, of

course, paying very close attention to one of the country's most contentious Senate races. President Trump hosting a rally for one of those candidates, his former rival Senator Ted Cruz.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Texas, where there has been some pretty remarkable early voter turnout, as I understand it, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erica.

Well, you know, across the state, you could probably do well by sending bottles of Pepto-Bismol to political consultants all across the state as they're trying to figure out what exactly all of this means. We're at one polling location here in the city of Dallas, where people here I have been speaking to for the last few minutes tell me that they have voted here for many, many years and they have never seen lines like this, even in presidential election years, at the beginning of early voting.

[15:05:11]

Most people here have been telling me that they have been waiting 30 to 45 minutes in line to cast their ballot here in the initial hours of the early voting period.

And we're seeing this play out, Erica, across the state, not just here in Dallas, but also in Houston as well, where Donald Trump is scheduled to speak with Ted Cruz tonight. And that is where the Democratic Senate challenger, Beto O'Rourke, has been campaigning in the same city throughout the day, crisscrossing the city, trying to get people out to vote.

But voters here tell me there's a great deal of enthusiasm and interest in this election. Of course, we don't know exactly what it all means at this point, and that's what everyone here across the state will be trying to figure out throughout the rest of the next three weeks.

Early voting starts today across the state and all of this pushing toward Election Day. In this state, Erica, the majority of people have voted early before Election Day. So that's also something that these candidates across the state are keeping in mind as well -- Erica.

HILL: Yes, a 15-day supply of that Pepto-Bismol, I think. Ed, thank you.

More now on that ringing in-person endorsement today from the president today for Senator Ted Cruz, who apparently is putting moments like this behind him:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: L-Y-I-N apostrophe, Lyin' Ted.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist.

TRUMP: He's a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.

CRUZ: Donald does one of four things. He yells, he screams, he curses or he insults.

TRUMP: I think he's crazy. Honestly, I think he's crazy.

CRUZ: Donald, you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Just, you know, a little trip down memory lane for you.

So when we watch these two share a stage tonight at a campaign event, what will happen?

CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta certainly saw his fair share of that rivalry during the 2016 campaign.

Number one, nice to see you in person.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Great to see you in person, yes.

HILL: Number one, we look at this, there's a lot of back and forth, oh, we can't forget Lyin' Ted, and Ted Cruz push back.

At the end of the day, though, this is politics and these are two men who want to get things done. Should we be that surprised?

ACOSTA: It's politics.

Yes, apparently, just a few moments ago, the president, when he was on his way out to this rally in Houston, he was asked about Lyin' Ted, and now he says Ted Cruz is beautiful Ted, in his words, according to the pool reports that are coming out from the White House press corps who were there staged for this departure.

Listen, this is all politics, of course. I remember during the campaign when Ted Cruz was at the Republican National Convention, almost trying to slam the brakes on a Donald Trump nomination.

But, you know, what Donald Trump has found is that he's got a front in Ted Cruz when it comes to keeping the Senate in the Republican column. We have seen this over the last several weeks. I have been to a number of these rallies all over the country.

The president and his people are deeply worried about the Senate flipping blue, going Democrat, because then potentially you would have a House and a Senate that could not only logjam his agenda. They can, you know, hold hearings into all sorts of things that are going on inside the White House. They can subpoena top members of his administration. They can launch investigations and, potentially, they could try to

impeach him and remove him from office, not that any of those things are going to happen, but those are scenarios that have been cycling through the minds of various Trump advisers for the last several weeks. We know we have talked to them.

I will tell you, though, Erica, having talked to a Trump supporter and a source close to the White House earlier this morning, they are confident this caravan issue and the Brett Kavanaugh issue have both supercharged their voters and may actually eke out a victory in the House, if you believe it.

That's what they're thinking inside the White House right now.

HILL: So I'm glad you brought that up, because you segue beautifully into our next point.

When we look at the caravan, the president is putting out some factually challenged, as we know, comments about this caravan. This has become a major talking point. The president selling it as if there are thousands of migrants knocking on the door of the United States, which we know is not the case.

They are still just above the border between Mexico and Guatemala. But it's working. Is it working at these rallies in addition to -- you say they really feel like this is going to turn people out.

ACOSTA: They do.

First of all, we should point out, when President Trump sees Hispanics, he sees panic, and that's essentially what he's trying to sow at these rallies. He's trying to make the case that if these migrants somehow get into the country, they're going to be -- and the president just said this a few moments ago to reporters.

He said that if these migrants make it into the country, you are going to find that many of them are with MS-13, the violent gang that we hear about so much. He said -- he even said again a few moments ago -- quote, unquote -- "Middle Easterners" are among these migrants.

The White House has offered no proof of this. It apparently is tied to some segment he saw on FOX earlier this morning or something along those lines. It's the same thing that he tweeted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They have a lot of everybody in that group. It's a horrible thing. And it's a lot bigger than 5,000 people and we have got to stop them at the border.

[15:10:01]

And, unfortunately, you look at the countries, they have not done their job. Unfortunately, they have not done their job.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) TRUMP: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, they're paid a lot of money

every year. We give them foreign aid. And they did nothing for us. Nothing. They did nothing for us.

So we give them tremendous amounts of money. You know what it is. You cover it all the time. Hundreds of millions of dollars. They, like a lot of others, do nothing for our country.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I have. I spoke to the crown prince. We have people over in Saudi Arabia now. We have top intelligence people in Turkey.

We're going to see what we have. I will know a lot tomorrow. They will be coming back either tonight or tomorrow morning. But we have people in Saudi Arabia and people in Turkey.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I think that's a long time. You said -- you said they want a month? That's a long time. There's no reason for that much.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: We're looking at it. We have a lot of different concepts right now. They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now. You know that as well as I do. And we're looking at it very seriously.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I'm protecting everybody. You know what I'm doing? I'm protecting everybody.

I want to protect our country.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Oh, I think he has. I think it's going to be. I think they wanted to see that I'm on his side, and I am 100 percent. We have -- I mean, you people have been reporting over 100,000 people. They lined up two days ago and it's very exciting.

QUESTION: Why does Ted Cruz need your help?

TRUMP: Oh, I think Ted will be a big factor tonight. He's going to get up. He's going to make a great speech. I'm going to get up. I'm going to make a great speech. I hope -- are most of you going? You're not going. I can't believe it. You're not going to be there tonight. That's terrible.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I think Beto O'Rourke is highly overrated. When I heard about him, I figured he must be something a little special. He's not. I thought he gotten beaten badly in the debates. I think he's a highly overrated guy.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: Have you buried the hatchet with Senator Cruz?

TRUMP: Oh, I have, Yes. Ted and I got along very well very late into the campaign. And I said, don't worry about it. It's only a question of time, and then it became very nasty, and then it was over.

And when it was over, we have gotten along great. No, I like Ted. If you remember, he was the last one that we really had -- I mean, I went very late into the campaign. We actually held a rally together late into the campaign. I said, it will end. And it did. And then it got back.

No, we're very close. We have done great on tax cuts. We have done great on regulation cuts. No, he's been really terrific. And if you look at what's happening in Germany with respect to the pipeline, they want to now start buying our natural gas. It just came out. So, take a look at that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... no longer Lyin' Ted?

TRUMP: He's not Lyin' Ted anymore. He's beautiful Ted.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I call him Texas Ted, OK?

Ted Cruz and I had a very, very nasty and tough campaign. It was a very competitive, it was a very tough campaign. Once it ended and we got together -- and, by the way, very late into the campaign (OFF- MIKE) people were shocked. I said, don't worry. It's only a question of time.

And then, ultimately, what happened? We fought it out. The outcome was obvious. And we have worked together very closely. I like him a lot. I actually like him a lot.

And he's a very smart guy. He loves the people of Texas, which I do. And, in fact, right now, I guess they said they have never seen it. It's like a big tailgate. It goes on for miles. It's over 100,000 people.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I think Nellie Ohr is a disgrace. And I think her husband is not much better. Maybe he's worse. I think Nellie Ohr is a disgrace, taking martial protection, so she doesn't have to talk about corruption.

I think she's a disgrace.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Look, I can't tell you. I can only tell you this. We give them hundreds of millions of dollars. They do nothing for us.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: You know what? Maybe it will, and maybe it won't. But it certainly has been effective.

They can do a lot better job. If you look at the three countries in particular -- and I don't know what's going on with Mexico. I guess it looks like the people are walking right through the middle of Mexico, so I'm not exactly thrilled there either.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

[15:15:08]

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE)

A great group of people in Turkey right now and a great group of people in Saudi Arabia. We will know very soon.

We have tremendously talented people that do this stuff very well. They're coming back tonight and tomorrow, and I will know very soon. And I am not satisfied with what I have heard.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE) I agree with Rand on a lot of things. I don't want to lose all of that investment that is being made in our country.

I don't want to lose a million jobs. I don't want to lose $110 million (OFF-MIKE) but it's really $450 billion if you include other than military. So that's very important. But, anyway, we're going to get to the bottom of it.

QUESTION: The new Mexican president said he wants to work with you (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I'm really looking to make America great again. That's what I do. I'm making America great again. We have been giving so much money to so many different countries for so long, and it's not fair and it's not good. And then when we ask them to keep their people in their country, they're unable to do it.

It's called make America great again.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) You said you that wanted tax cuts by November 1. Congress isn't even in session.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, we're going to be passing -- no, no, we're putting in a resolution sometime in the next week or week-and-a-half or two weeks.

QUESTION: A resolution where? TRUMP: We're going to put in -- we're giving a middle-income tax

reduction of about 10 percent. We're doing it now for middle-income people. This is not for businesses. This is for middle. That's on top of the tax decrease that we have already given.

QUESTION: Are you signing an executive order for that?

TRUMP: No, no, no. I'm going through Congress. We will be submitting -- we won't have time to do the vote. We will do the vote later. We will do the vote after the election.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Say it?

QUESTION: What's your level of confidence about holding on to the House?

TRUMP: I think there's tremendous spirit, maybe like I have never seen, other than '16. You don't remember '16. You're too young.

I have never seen spirit like the spirit that we have right now, except the week before the race, the presidential race, two years ago. I think the Republicans are going to do very nicely. We're doing very well with the Senate.

And he was just asking about the race. Other than two years ago, the presidential race, I have never seen spirit like I see right now. I think the Republicans are going to do very well.

People are tired of high taxes. We gave the tax cuts. We've done so much. And they want a strong military, they want protection, they want safety, they want security. We give that. The Democrats do not give that.

The Democrats don't know what they're doing. They don't know what they're giving. I think we're going to do very, very well in the race.

Yes?

QUESTION: Do you regret (OFF-MIKE)?

TRUMP: I don't regret anything, honestly. It all worked out very nicely.

QUESTION: You said Californians were rioting over the sanctuary cities. Where?

TRUMP: You shouldn't have -- take a look. They want to get out of sanctuary cities. Many places in California want to get out of sanctuary cities.

QUESTION: But that's not rioting, sir, right?

TRUMP: Yes, it is rioting in some cases. QUESTION: Where are the riots, sir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Who's an activist now?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, I'm going to have to find out. We're going to find out a lot. We're going to find out. We're going to know a lot over the next two days about the Saudi situation.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE) going to the middle of the caravan. Take your cameras and search, OK?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Take your time. Take your camera. Go into the middle and search.

You're going to find MS-13. You're going to find Middle Eastern. You're going to find everything. And guess what? We're not allowing them in our country. (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you going to develop more nuclear weapons, sir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE)

The Republicans are going to do very well. I have never seen spirit...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I will tell you, I will tell you a big factor is what's happening on the border.

What's happening on the border was caused by the Democrats, because they won't let anybody change immigration laws that are horrible.

[15:20:03]

QUESTION: But Republicans have control, Mr. President.

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: We're going to see what happens. But I'm going to know a lot in two days. I will see you in Texas.

QUESTION: Mr. President, on the arms deal, sir, on the arms treaty, Mr. President, are you prepared to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal? You said you're going to pull out of the arms deal.

TRUMP: Until people come to their senses, we will build it up. Until people come to their senses. Russia has not adhered to the agreement.

This should have been done years ago. Until people come to their senses -- we have more money than anybody else by far. We will build it up, until they come to their senses. When they do, then we will all be smart and we will all stop.

And we will -- and, by the way, not only stop, we will reduce, which I would love to do. But, right now, they have not adhered to the agreement.

QUESTION: Is that a threat to Vladimir Putin?

TRUMP: It's a threat to whoever you want. And it includes China. And it includes Russia.

And it includes anybody else that wants to play that game. You can't do that. You can't play that game on me.

QUESTION: Are you actually going to withdraw or (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE) until they get smart. They have not adhered to the spirit of that agreement or to the agreement itself, Russia.

China's not included in the agreement. They should be included in the agreement. Until they get smart, there will be nobody that's going to be even close to us.

QUESTION: Did you talk to our allies?

TRUMP: No, I have not.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I don't have to (OFF-MIKE) I don't have to (OFF-MIKE) I'm terminating the agreement, because they violated the agreement. I'm terminating the agreement.

QUESTION: When?

QUESTION: You're going to build more nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: Thank you, everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: President Trump there covering a lot before boarding -- before making his way, of course, walking out there to Marine One, I would imagine, and then will make his way to Texas, where he, of course, is the going to be at this rally in support of Ted Cruz tonight.

Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is with us here in studio.

A couple things I just want to pick up on with you.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

HILL: So, he's continuing to drill down on his idea of what is happening, not only at the border, but far below the border, so the president saying it's much bigger than 5,000. He's right on that, because our most recent reporting is that we're now talking about a caravan of some 7,500 people.

But what he continued to drill down on is, he was saying, there's Middle Easterners in this caravan. And he said, if you go to the middle of the caravan and search, in five to 10 minutes, he would find them.

I should point out, our reporters have been there for days talking to folks and have yet to meet anybody from the Middle East. It's also not clear what he believes would happen were there a Middle Easterner among this caravan of folks that's still a far cry from the U.S. southern border.

ACOSTA: Yes, this is going to be -- and I talked to somebody this morning who said this caravan issue doesn't need any additional messaging. They don't need to go get their surrogates fired up this caravan, because they think it plays so strongly to the Trump base.

But, again, you have a situation where the president is playing fast and loose with the facts. The White House up until this point has put out no evidence, no proof that there are any Middle Easterners in that caravan.

And it just goes to the way he has been trying to demonize immigrants throughout this whole process. He's been doing this really since day one, since he ran for office. And, Erica, I think this is a big challenge for Ted Cruz.

Let's keep in mind, he is a Latino. And he is going to be standing with President Trump at this rally tonight, and here you have the president of the United States demonizing thousands of migrants coming towards this border.

They have effectively shut down the border to asylum seekers and refugees and so on, who many of these people would potentially qualify for that kind of status. And you have to wonder, what is going through Ted Cruz's mind, because he has, from time to time, said that some of this rhetoric is unacceptable, and I have to wonder in the waning days of this campaign, I have to think he's going to be asked this question.

How can you stand there with the president, being of Latino descent, while he is going off on these migrants and describing them as MS-13, unknown Middle Easterners, and so on? We have seen the pictures. There are pictures of babies and little kids holding their parents' arms.

HILL: And we have heard the reporting, right, from our colleagues who are there on the ground, who have spoken to these people.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

HILL: Patrick Oppmann, just last hour, saying, the majority of people I spoke with are Honduran, some folks from El Salvador, but majority are Honduran. You know, they are trying to find a better life.

ACOSTA: And the president trying to make the case they're violent people. They're escaping violence. That's why they're -- many of them are coming this way.

HILL: A lot more to unpack there, including the president bringing up this 10 percent tax reduction, he says, for middle-income earners. He says he's going to get it through Congress after the election.

So I guess that clears up one little tidbit.

ACOSTA: That's true.

And it's interesting. Just so people understand, there is sensitivity inside the White House that the tax cut package that they got through to Congress and that he signed into law was too heavily weighted towards the upper and billionaire classes of the country, and that it was not weighted enough towards middle-class people.

[15:25:02]

And that is part of the reason, I think, why the president is talking about this. He understands this is a liability, not perhaps right now, going into the midterms, but heading into 2020, and he's trying to address that liability.

Maybe some of that going on with his talk about the arms treaty with the Russians. They know that's a liability inside the White House, the way people perceive the president as being too weak when it comes to Russia. It sounds as though the president is trying to address some of these liabilities to lay the groundwork for the next couple of years to come.

HILL: Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, great to have you with us.

Talk about good timing.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

HILL: You were here when we needed you, as always.

ACOSTA: Any time.

HILL: Thank you.

ACOSTA: You got it. HILL: Just ahead, Fareed Zakaria is with us next, reacting to the

president's remarks on the Saudis, because President Trump also weighing in on that in just the last few moments.

Plus, this just in, National Security Adviser John Bolton telling the Russians in Moscow meddling didn't have any real effect. We will discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)