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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump :There's No Proof of Anything"; Are President Trump's Misstatements Helping GOP at Polls? Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired October 23, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Late today, the president of the United States spoke to reporters. He made a string of false and unsupported claims, the kind that stoke fear in many Americans just 14 days before elections. He trotted out Vice President Pence to back up some of those claims which the vice president, as you'll see, wasn't really able to do.
Then after doubling and tripling down on his still unsupported claims, he said this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no proof of anything. There's no proof of anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He was talking there about his claims that the caravan of Central American migrants walking north through Mexico is infiltrated by Middle Easterners suggesting even at times ISIS terrorists. And finally admitting however there's no proof of anything, ask yourself, did the president in those few words also reveal something beyond that specific question? About how he views proof and facts and everything else central to public debate in a functioning democracy?
We'll ask that question tonight because we're at a time wherever you stand on the partisan spectrum where these things matter most. And keeping them honest, at just this critical moment, President Trump appears to be amplifying his disregard for the facts.
So again tonight, let's start with some facts. This is from the State Department's July 2017 country reports on terrorism. And I'm quoting now. There are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico. No evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexican territory, and no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.
Now, you might be saying, OK, that's a report from July of last year about conditions back in 2016. What about now? Maybe it's changed.
Well, here's what a senior administration counterterrorism official told CNN yesterday about current conditions, and I'm quoting, while we acknowledge there are vulnerabilities at both our northern and southern border, we do not see any evidence that ISIS or any Sunni terrorist groups are trying to infiltrate the southern border. Now, those are the facts not just as we know them but as knowledgeable people in the president's own administration do.
And again, this isn't about the merits of the immigration policy. Only about making arguments based on facts, not fears, which is also why again tonight we're not showing wall to wall video of the caravan itself because whatever you think about the people in it, there's no evidence they are as the administration is suggesting, some kind of invading army infiltrated potentially by terrorists looming on the U.S. border.
There are 1,100 miles away from the nearest border crossing. They come mainly from Honduras where they're fleeing a variety of problems including, according to multiple reporters who have interviewed them, gang violence, repressive government and poverty. And there are very real disagreements about how to deal with them, legitimate disagreements.
But again, that's not the argument the president is making or the one at least parts of his administration have been scrambling to defend with very little success, just a whole lot of misleading language. Just to recap, here's what the president tweeted yesterday.
Quote, sadly, it looks like Mexico's police are unable to stop the caravan. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. He's also at other times said that ISIS members could be in the caravan. Also, that it's being funded by Democrats. He's offered no evidence for any of it.
And that's where things stood as he spoke with reporters this afternoon in the Oval Office and CNN's Jim Acosta pressed him for proof.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPNDEN: You had said there were Middle Easterners in the caravan. Can you explain that? Are you saying there are terrorists?
TRUMP: There could very well be. If you look at --
ACOSTA: How do you know for sure?
TRUMP: I have very good information. I have very good information. And if you look at what's happened with Honduras and statements made about Honduras and even a phone call that our vice president had today, which I think he can maybe reveal. You want to mention that, Mike? Is that OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, this was sort of a suspensable moment, because it felt like the vice president was about to make some grand reveal because he said he had very good information, some new evidence about Middle Eastern terror, something he just got from the call, but that didn't happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At the president's direction, I spoke to President Hernandez of Honduras. He told me the caravan is now making its way through Mexico, headed for the southern border, was organized by leftist organizations and financed by Venezuela. And we, as we have said --
TRUMP: And the Democrats maybe? And the Democrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So that's the vice president of the United States there, not saying a single word about Middle Eastern terrorists in the caravan, which apparently left the president wanting more, as the follow-up question came.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Where is the proof that Democrats are paying for this caravan? Why would they pay for a caravan?
TRUMP: You're going to find out and we're going to see.
[20:05:01] Well, maybe they made a bad mistake too. We're going to find out about that. What else do they say, Mike, about ISIS?
PENCE: Well, just that it's been organized by leftist groups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right. So, on the Democrats, we're going to find out. We're going to see. That's something the president tends to say a lot when he doesn't actually have an answer, and then he asks the vice president, what about ISIS. And the answer from the vice president who's never been shy about backing up the boss says it's leftist groups. Then the president said this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Let me just tell you something. I spoke with border patrol this morning. And I spoke to them last evening. And I spoke to them the day before, speak to them all the time.
And they say, and you know this as well as anybody, over the course of the year, over the course of a number of years, they've intercepted many people from the Middle East. They have intercepted ISIS. They have intercepted all sorts of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right. So keeping him honest again, nothing in what the president said there actually supports his own repeated claims that there unknown Middle Easterners, perhaps ISIS terrorists in that caravan heading for this country. He only says he's been told over the years authorities have stopped people somewhere from the Middle East and ISIS from entering the country.
And today, perhaps under pressure from all the president's claims, the vice president, the Department of Homeland Security, and other have been offering variations on the same very nonspecific language. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: I mean, in the last fiscal year, we apprehended more than -- more than -- more than ten terrorists or suspected terrorists per day at our southern border. From countries that are referred to in the lexicon as other than Mexico. That means from the Middle East region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. His spokesperson later had to amend that, saying that figure was actually not about the southern border. What he said there about the southern border, it wasn't about the southern border but for all ports of entry. She also repeated the vice president's claim without offering evidence that it's inconceivable the caravan has not been infiltrated by individuals with ties to extremism.
And if you're at a loss of what to make of that and are ready to punt, apparently so are members of the president's team. One senior officials telling us, and I quote, I'm going to have to refer to the Mexican authorities on the current construction of the caravan -- which brings us back to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There's no proof of anything. There's no proof of anything. But they could very well be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: There could be flying monkeys somewhere in the planet, but there's just no proof of that. We don't see it.
With that, let's go to CNN's Jim Acosta who did much of the questioning you heard there.
Jim, the president very clearly and very directly there saying there is no proof of anything referring to the stuff he has been saying.
ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. We should point out of our viewers, and you know, this shouldn't be pointed out but it has to be pointed out, I suppose, there is proof for some things.
There is proof for lots of things, but the president in this post- truth world that he's trying to impose on the American people and much of the world, he's trying to say, well, I can just about say anything I want and get away with it, and it sounded as if today what happened in the Oval Office, Anderson, with the president and the vice president, I'm glad you showed that clip there because the president kept going to the vice president to bail him out, is that they're just telling tales and hoping that the facts will bail them out later. There's just been no evidence provided by the White House up until
this point, and keep in mind, Anderson, this is not the first time the president has been pressed on this claim about unknown Middle Easterners in the caravan. He's been offered this opportunity multiple times, and they're just not offering any proof.
COOPER: And shortly after the president said there's no proof, the Department of Homeland security put out a statement saying this is proof.
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: Is that right?
ACOSTA: That's right. Although, I mean, I'm not sure this was proof of anything. In terms of what the Department of Homeland Security put out, but they issued out some tweets, posted some tweets shortly after the president made these comments. We can put it up.
It says citizens of countries outside Central America, including countries in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere, are currently traveling through Mexico toward the U.S.
Anderson, this doesn't prove that there are Middle Easterners in there. It's just them saying that's the case. And this goes back to, I think, to another important point, Anderson. And that is just because the White House or the president or the vice president, they say that there are Middle Easterners traveling in the caravan, it doesn't necessarily mean there are terrorists traveling in the caravan.
So, there's just sort of a racially loaded comment that's being made in all of this by saying, well, there are Middle Easterners coming up in the caravan, suggesting that there are terrorists. I said that to the president and the vice president in the Oval Office, that they may be offending Middle Eastern Americans all over the country who are peace-loving people, and they sort of brushed off that question.
[20:10:08] They want to play the politics of fear in these last two weeks before the midterms, and the facts be damned.
COOPER: There certainly doesn't seem to be any indication that the president is going to stop peddling this narrative. I mean, you know, kind of shame might influence some people or a sense of decency, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.
ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. I think that's why this question about why the president keeps labeling himself a nationalist is so important. I pressed him on this in the Oval Office, asked him, are you trying to say you're a white nationalist? What about these concerns out there that you're dog whistling to your base, that you're sending coded messages to your base? He said, well, I haven't heard a theory about that.
Then he went on to say, well, you know, there are trade issues and so on, as to why he is attaching this label to himself. But, Anderson, when you're demonizing immigrants, migrants coming up
from Central America, trying to make their way to the United States and apply for asylum, when you're demonizing Middle Easterners and making the suggestion that they're terrorists and so on in that caravan without offering proof, and then calling yourself a nationalist in front of thousands and thousands of people, I don't think it's a stretch for a lot of Americans to wonder or not whether the president is secretly considering himself a white nationalist -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta from the White House -- thanks, Jim.
Univision anchor Jorge Ramos is with the caravan. I spoke to him before air time.
COOPER: Jorge, the president's claim, which he says he has no proof of, he admits he has no proof of, that there are people from the Middle East, unknown people from the Middle East, in this caravan, when he says that, it sounds like it's code word for terrorists.
Have you seen anything to back up those claims? Have you seen any Middle Easterners?
JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: Absolutely not, and I think President Trump has to tell the truth to the American people. He just wants to create fear. And that is not the truth.
I spent the last two days with this caravan of people coming from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, about 5,000 of them. I have spoken honestly with hundreds of them, many of them children. I can tell you, I have not seen a single person from the Middle East. If he's suggesting that right here in this group there are terrorists, he's lying, because that is not the truth.
What I'm seeing is people fleeing violence, people fleeing extreme poverty, especially from Honduras. But I have not seen a single person from the Middle East. There's no proof. Why is he saying that? I don't know where he got that.
I know that also that he's been saying that -- Vice President Pence saying that all this was coordinated and paid by President Maduro from Venezuela. That is not true. The people here don't even have a dollar to pay for bottled water.
So, those are two lies that the White House is telling, maybe for political purposes, but that's not the reality here.
COOPER: The -- about that, has anyone you interviewed said anything about how the caravan was funded? Because as you said, the vice president is saying leftist groups in Central American countries are funding it, and they're being funded by Venezuela.
RAMOS: That's ludicrous. That's completely ludicrous. I -- again, I spent the last 48 hours with all of these immigrants.
And by the way, they are not criminals and they're not terrorists. They're not even immigrants. They're refugees.
And they don't have a single dollar, Anderson. They don't have a single dollar to buy a bottle of water. So, if it's been financed -- well, I'm not seeing it, because these people have absolutely nothing. They don't have nothing.
Now, obviously, the question is, how come all of them got together? It's really a large group. I have never seen a group this large.
And the answer is very simple. There is safety in numbers. People run high risk crossing Mexico and Central America. They think that together, they'll be safer, and also, it has to do with money. It's simply a matter of money. They don't have to pay $4,000, $5,000, $6,000 per person to coyotes or to the smugglers.
COOPER: I mean, is there a level of organization? I mean, how do people hear about the caravan? How do they know where to go to join it? And members of the caravan, they could be exposed to criminal elements, human smugglers, drug traffickers while they're on the journey, correct?
RAMOS: Yes, and the only ones complaining right now and I can tell you, because we just did a report on Univision, the only ones complaining right now are the coyotes because they're not getting $4,000, $5,000, $6,000, $8,000 per immigrant.
And I have been talking to many of the refugees here, and they heard it in the news, in Guatemala, and in Honduras. They heard it on TV. They heard it right here on cell phones. And they think this is the only opportunity they have.
In many cases, out of the 7,000 more or less that are here in southern Mexico, the Mexican government, the Mexican media has been reporting that about 2,000 of them are children.
[20:15:06] And they -- this is their only hope. They lost absolutely everything in their country said of origin, and they're risking everything.
So, this is how they learn about it. Again, no financing, no George Soros, no Democrats, no Nicolas Maduro. The explanation is quite simple -- violence in their home countries, and extreme poverty.
COOPER: Jorge Ramos, I appreciate it. Thank you very much, Jorge.
RAMOS: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Let's get perspective now from two other views.
Joining us now is the president's former director of legislative affairs, Marc Short. Also, former Senator Ted Cruz's communications director Amanda Carpenter, both are now CNN political commentators.
Amanda, the president is saying there's no proof of anything. That in and of itself is kind of a revealing statement, no?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, of course it is. But I think we all know pie now that the president is a very visual person. And so once those photos of the caravan hit the news wires, went on TV, he knew that was something that his voters would be extremely worried about.
I think anybody can look at those photos and see there's humanitarian crisis with certain economic, financial, possibly security and health implications. And so then it's away to the races for Trump because he fills in the gaps. We have seen him fill in the gaps with lots of questionable statements about who those people are and their motivations.
But to be honest, it's really not clear, and there's no alternative message from the Democrats other than kind of saying we don't want to talk about this. We're going to stay focused on health care for midterms and everything is fine.
Everything is not fine. There is a crisis unfolding before our eyes, and someone needs to explain that clearly to people what's going on and what America is going to do about it.
COOPER: Marc, it would be very easy for the president and legitimate for the president to discuss immigration policy, border security, to talk about what he believes should happen as opposed to what he says the Democrats want. Why need to kind of go the extra yard and make this allegation which he admits there's nee proof of, of unknown Middle Easterners, possibly is, in this caravan.
MARC SHORT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Anderson, he doesn't need to go the extra yard, but Amanda is 100 percent right. It's a visual that reminds Americans about our porous southern border and the problems we have. And it's a question to say, who do you trust more to secure the border, Donald Trump or Democrats in Congress?
COOPER: You're saying if he was lying, why would you trust him more if he's not telling the truth?
SHORT: Anderson, I'm saying who do you trust more to make sure that the southern border is secure?
COOPER: I trust somebody who is not lying. If he's lying about who's coming up, isn't that a problem?
SHORT: OK, let's talk about actually the facts at the border -- 94,000 Central Americans last year were detained at the border. Did you know 99 percent of them are still in this country because of laws passed by Democrat Congress that says via catch-and-release, they must stay in the country until adjudication?
COOPER: I'm not arguing immigration policy with you. I'm pointing out a lie, and you have yet to say it's not a lie.
SHORT: Anderson, what I am saying as well, though, is there are Democrats who have also demagogued this issue and are not being honest about what the solution is to get it done.
COOPER: OK. So, you agree he's lying?
SHORT: What I have said is he didn't need to go the extra yard and accuse and make accusations about Middle Easterners in there because as you said, he doesn't have proof of that.
COOPER: Amanda, I mean, the president does have a lot of accomplishments. The economy, Supreme Court justices, whether you agree with, you know, his picks or not, he could be -- there's a lot of things for him to tout for his supporters ahead of the midterms.
Does he feel, you think, it's not enough?
CARPENTER: Listen, one of the reasons he got elected was by campaigning on immigration. And there is easily as visually shown in immigration crisis unfolding at the border. Sure, they are a few thousand miles away, but this is something that keeps happening.
I think the Democrats could make a good case, why does this keep happening while you're president, Donald Trump? Why are border crossings up this year while you're president, Donald Trump? But they're not making that case.
And so, you're asking, Marc, well, why do voters still go along with him when he's clearly lying about things. Because there's nowhere else to go. And I think Republicans have a good case to make on this, and it sort of, you know, is frustrating for me to watch Mike Pence, you know, fudge the numbers about terrorists apprehended at the border because they have a good case to make and they have work to do.
And so, to me, these are just unforced errors while they should be doing the work.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, that's the other thing. You know, Customs and Border Protection, they have a good story to tell about apprehending, you know, ten suspected or possible terrorists every single day, trying to get into the United States.
It doesn't need to be fudged, Marc, about it's all on the southern border, people walking up through Mexico.
SHORT: Anderson, I'm agreeing with you on that point. I'm agreeing with you 100 percent on that point.
But at the same time, there are problems with the laws we have in this country that the president has said, help elect more Republicans and we can fix these laws, because right now, I need 60 votes in the United States Senate, and I can't win over any Democrat votes to actually fix the catch and release laws.
[20:20:12] COOPER: All right. Marc, stay with us. Amanda Carpenter as well.
We're going to come right back. I want to talk about the larger question in all of this and perhaps an ugly one. How effective has the president been on the campaign? Truth or untruth. And are the Democrats too optimistic about their chances coming up in this midterm election?
Later, breaking news. What the president just said about the murder of an American resident, allegedly by the Saudi government, Jamal Khashoggi, ahead.
[20:24:39] COOPER: Well, as you saw at the top, the president of the United States has not been shy about using fear to help his party win the midterms, or in many cases fear and falsehoods.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They want to open your borders. Let people in, illegally. And then they want to pay for those people, for health care, for education. They want to give them cars. They want to give them driver's licenses.
[20:25:03] I said last night -- we did a great, great rally in Arizona last night. And I said, I said last night, what kind of car will they supply them? Will it be a Rolls Royce?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Rolls Royces.
Now, it's also not true that California is rioting over sanctuary cities, divisive as that issue maybe, nor is this true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And I'll soon sign into law the largest legislative effort in history to address the opioid crisis. Rob and so many others helped. Very little Democrat support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the bill, in fact, passed with nearly unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats, so that's not true, nor is it true that the country is about to enact a new middle class tax cut, which can't happen until Congress is back in session, which it's not.
So, instead, today, the president scaled back his language only saying he would make a proposal shortly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So, this will be a 10 percent -- it's going to be a resolution, probably introduced this week, end of the week or early next week. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So these are just a few of the flurry of falsehoods that appear to be accelerating as midterms approach. The question is, will the president or Republicans pay the price, or is it effective?
For starters, the president's job approval rating has ticked up recently in new polling in a number of key battlegrounds such as this one in southern California shows once vulnerable Republicans are now hanging on.
We're back with Marc Short and Amanda Carpenter. And joining us is CNN political director David Chalian.
David, so we're two weeks out from the midterms. What is the status for House and Senate races at this point? Because -- I mean, is there evidence that these tactics from the president are working or that the Democrats are overconfident about some sort of a blue wave?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I think there's some evidence to suggest, not necessarily that these tactics in the last 48 hours are working, although I wouldn't be surprised if it does indeed keep the Republican base enthused, but I think post-Kavanaugh, getting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, and the continued good economic news, that has helped the numbers uptick for the president, Anderson.
We do see in that same NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll you were citing, Republicans getting almost to parity with Democrats in terms of interest in the election.
So, I think what we're seeing here now is an environment where the Republicans who had been sort of asleep at the switch for much of the last year and a half, are now getting in the game, and that is causing the battlefield to tighten a little bit.
COOPER: Marc, also, you had the president out at campaign rallies with big crowds. That's got to be very effective just in terms of, you know, it's local media attention, it's national media attention. It's getting Republicans excited, and it is a way for him to Trumpet the successes that he has had, as well as, you know, put forward some of the stuff we talked about earlier.
SHORT: I think that's true, Anderson. I think even take the Montana rally, I think a lot of the national media focused on his comments about Greg Gianforte. But if you look at both Montana newspapers the next day, it was headlines with pictures of Trump saying Trump helps Rosendale take on Tester.
So, the local coverage is different. I agree 100 percent with what David said. What we have seen is a giant increase on enthusiasm of Republican voters ever since the Kavanaugh hearings. The question is, can Republicans sustain it? I think the president talking about taxes and border security are issues that continue to keep that momentum and enthusiasm up among the base.
COOPER: Amanda, I don't know why sort of anyone believes the polls that we all focus on at times given what we have seen in the last couple years, particularly, you know, polls that say, oh, there's this huge blue wave coming and all the voter enthusiasm is among Democrats. Not among Republicans. I mean, I feel like I heard that story so many times in 2016. And yes, you know, in the popular vote, Hillary Clinton won, but it wasn't enough.
CARPENTER: I can tell you what I think is giving the Republicans confidence right now. They're realizing that they can confidently go forward, regardless of what Trump is doing. Everybody was hung on that for a long time, how will it impact my race? Maybe they're seeing that it's not.
I think the reason for that isn't so much Trump. I think it's because the Democrats haven't crafted a solid alternative agenda. I mean, think about what Newt Gingrich did back in the '90s with the Contract with America.
The Democrats still haven't found a way to have an alternative vision. They're essentially saying we're going to be anti-Trump, and something-something health care. And so, once you go back to the Republican voters and they see yes, they can get through this, and yes, President Trump is going to keep fighting and doing the rallies and press the gap, you're seeing people turn out in numbers and feel good about their prospects again.
COOPER: David -- sorry, go ahead. Go ahead, Marc.
CHALIAN: I was just going to say. One note on the immigration issue, though. I do think if you look at which Republicans are sort of parroting the president out on the campaign trail, they're Republicans in deep red states. You look at his numbers on immigration with independents. He's only at 38 percent approval on that issue with independents. He's only at 32 percent approval on that issue with women in our latest poll.
And so, you're not seeing the Republicans who are really where the battle for the House is in the suburbs, in some of the bigger metropolitan areas, I don't think you're seeing those Republican candidates parrot his talk on immigration.
That's why we're so sure, all of us I think sitting here, this is really a base strategy to make sure that the Republican base voters are enthused, but it's not necessarily what Republicans who are trying to hang on to the House need in most of those battlefield districts about the voters in the middle.
MARC SHORT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: At the same time, I would make the suggestion that it does help Republicans in North Dakota, in Indiana, and Missouri, the battleground states where the Senate is in play.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
COOPER: Amanda, it's so interesting to me the argument by the President that Democrats are behind this caravan. Just on a logical argument, it would seem to be the worst possible timing for Democrats to have a large caravan of thousands of people heading toward the border.
CARPENTER: Yes. But I feel like the Democrats allow Trump to have a free pass on this issue, because they haven't gone forward and said what their policy or vision for immigration is. Essentially, it's just resist, and we're always going to have amnesty before border security.
I mean, that proposition has been rejected by the country since we have been fighting about it since 2006. And so until the Democrats fill in those gaps, Donald Trump is going to keep saying whatever he wants, no matter how wrong or right it is.
COOPER: Amanda Carpenter, David Chalian, Marc Short, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
SHORT: Thanks Anderson.
COOPER: We have breaking news coming up. President Trump talking tonight about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi using the words total fiasco. You'll see who he's directing those words at. And I'll talk it over with retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal.
[20:35:17] COOPER: We have breaking news from the White House, President Trump meeting with senior military officials tonight and speaking out again about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Here's what he said about the Saudi involvement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say it was a total fiasco. From day one, from the thought, whoever put it in their minds, that was not a good thought. The process was no good. The execution was no good. And the cover-up, if you want to call it that, was certainly no good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the President also said he spoke with the Saudi crown prince tonight. He said Mohammed bin Salman told him he had nothing to do with the murder that it was at the "lower level."
Joining me now is retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, author of a fascinating new book called "Leaders: Myth and Reality" which I want to talk to you about in a second. Just on this story, do you believe that an operation like this could be carried out by rogue elements without the crown prince of Saudi Arabia having knowledge of it or approval of it?
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I think maybe in some states it could in Saudi Arabia. I don't find that credible.
COOPER: That's not how Saudi Arabia works?
MCCHRYSTAL: No. I mean, the crown prince has an amazing amount of power, and he has been pulling power in for the last couple years. So the reality is I just not find -- don't find that convincing.
COOPER: When -- just in terms of what U.S. options are, I mean, this is obviously a delicate thing. You know, Saudi Arabia is an important relationship for the United States. From a leadership standpoint, how do you make this calculus?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I think there are two things to think about. First, we're going to have relations with Saudi Arabia next week, next year, and 10 years from now. And that matters. And they're going to be hopefully good relations. But this appears to be entirely unacceptable. What's more important now is our moral leadership in the world. Not just --
COOPER: You think that's more important than any leader -- than a relationship not necessarily with Saudi Arabia, but with Mohammed bin Salman, with one individual in Saudi Arabia.
MCCHRYSTAL: By a factor of 1,000. We have got to keep our moral credibility in the world and we've got to keep it with ourselves. We've got to be able to look at our kids and grandkids. We have got to have a moral compass that's legitimate in the world or we're going to pay a big price elsewhere.
COOPER: In your book, you are -- it's really fascinating because you're kind of looking at the leadership styles of a whole bunch of different -- completely different people, I mean from Martin Luther King Jr. to Coco Chanel. I'm not sure how much time you devoted in your life following Coco Chanel, but it's fascinating, you know, what you can learn from these different kinds of styles.
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, it's interesting. You'll be surprised. I didn't even know Coco Chanel was a person until we started this book. I thought it was just a brand name. And then when we studied her, she was fascinating.
But what we did is we went back to first principles because I think there's a crisis in leadership in America and probably more widely in the world. And I think one of the reasons is we don't even know what leadership is anymore. It's been polished. It's been homogenized. It's been media-ized.
And so we're confusing celebrity for leadership. We're sometimes confusing expedience for leadership. And so what I believe is go back and look at these flawed characters, every one flawed, even the ones we want to admire so much, Albert Einstein or Leonard Bernstein or Martin Luther King Jr., they're all very human.
MCCHRYSTAL: But at the end of the day, what we find is they aren't the iconic reason for everything happening. It's an interaction with us, the followers, and the context of the situation.
What that means for us is leaders are very important, but leadership isn't what we think it is and it never has been. We have agency. We have responsibility as followers that sometimes I think we abrogate. COOPER: I want to read something you said in the book. You said that -- about Margaret Thatcher. You said a leader's power derived from the system that promotes them and they get power only so long as they buy into the system and play by its rules. They can bend the rules but they do so at their own risk. The obvious question then is, how do you see the leadership of President Trump?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I think he's bending the rules, but what he really did was pointed out that the rules had already changed. We have someone who is a reality T.V. star who was masterful at the use of things that were already in existence, how to push information, how to go around traditional media, how essentially to marginalize Congress in many ways. And he pointed out to us that the levers of power are different now. So I think the rules are being reunderstood.
What I think we have to do is be careful, is decide what we want from leadership. I think it's time for America to have a conversation, not just about specific leaders but with itself. America needs to look in the mirror and decide what our values are.
[20:40:02] COOPER: One of the things that I talked about with General Michael Hayden, General Hayden has talked about the thin veneer of civilization. And it's a phrase I have sort of focused on a lot.
He points to Sarajevo, which I worked in, he worked in during the war in Bosnia and how that was a multicultural. You know, that was a real city that suddenly ripped apart at the seams and obviously we all saw what happened there.
It does seem as though the President, he's not just bending things, he's attacking the very kind of foundations upon which our civilization, our democracy has relied on. Does that worry you? Because do you believe those are so firmly rooted that they can survive that assault?
MCCHRYSTAL: What doesn't worry me is what the single man does. What worries me is what all that we do, what we do or what we don't do. If we follow along in things and we say, well, we don't really like the direction, but we like certain products of it, or if we accept values different from what we hold important. If someone -- if you're a banker or your real estate agent lied to you, would you do business with him next week?
MCCHRYSTAL: And yet, if we accept that from leaders, from political leaders, from any part of the spectrum, well, we expect less than the kind of interaction with us as followers that's necessary. I think we are the ones actually giving away our future.
COOPER: General McChrystal, the book is "Leaders: Myth and Reality." Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
MCCHRYSTAL: Thanks for having me, Anderson.
COOPER: As we mentioned, the midterm election is two weeks from today. There's a lot of attention focused on Florida, of course. President Trump is heading there this weekend. There's someone else there tonight.
Hillary Clinton is trying to raise -- help raise money at an event for Andrew Gillum, the Democratic running for governor against Republican Ron DeSantis. The question is, do Florida Democrats actually want Hillary Clinton back in the game? We'll talk about that ahead.
[20:45:30] COOPER: As we pointed out earlier in the program, there is exactly two weeks to go until the midterm elections. President Trump announced this morning he's heading to Florida this weekend, campaigning in a state with two high profile races for both governor and Senate.
Not to be (INAUDIBLE), President Obama has been on the trail as well lately. He's been campaigning in Las Vegas on behalf of the Nevada Democrats. For her part, Hillary Clinton is in Florida tonight at a private fund-raiser for Democratic Andrew Gillum in his race gubernatorial race against Republican Ron DeSantis.
Now, President Trump continued to make Mrs. Clinton public enemy number one for the two years after beating her in the election, and some Democrats worry that her re-emergence will only embolden the President and his allies. Randi Kaye sat down with a group of Florida Democrats to get their take on the return of Hillary Clinton.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A show of hands, how many of you think overall Hillary Clinton is more of a liability than an asset to the Gillum campaign? Almost all of you.
ALEXANDRIA AYALA, FLORIDA VOTER: Hillary Clinton is seen as this kind of figure that the right rails against. They go to rallies and they say lock her up.
ROB LONG, FLORIDA VOTER: Hillary Clinton is a rallying point for the right. They use that messaging against Hillary Clinton to drive out their votes. So I think you could end up seeing a huge boost in their numbers because you have Hillary Clinton now on the other side being associated with Gillum so closely.
KAYE: What concerns you about the baggage and the scandals that she was associated with and how that might impact the Gillum campaign?
LONG: Her post-presidential sort of, you know, demeanor or platform has been very sort of self-indulgence and very much about relitigating what happened in 2016. In our generation, my generation doesn't really respond to, you know, this relitigation of 2016. And I want to call it whining, but like at this point, it's kind of what it feels like. AYALA: I am concerned. And as a young person, he nailed it. We're going forward, progressive movement, progressive policies. We're looking ahead, and I think she represents an old Democratic Party.
KAYE: Does anyone think that Hillary Clinton can be helpful to the Gillum campaign?
STEPHANIE REUBINS, FLORIDA VOTER: I do. I think she can be financially helpful because she has a history of fabulous fund- raising, and I think that's where she should stay.
MARC LAFALAISE, FLORIDA VOTER: As far as they know going out and making speeches for Mr. Gillum, I don't think so.
KAYE: What is it specifically you think that -- how might Hillary Clinton harm the Gillum campaign, do you think?
REUBINS: She's just got bad cred.
KAYE: Bad cred.
REUBINS: Bad cred. People don't trust her. No one trusts her. You know, I -- the reality is I voted for her. I supported her. But she does things that -- she trips over herself. And she makes big mistakes.
KAYE: Hillary Clinton did an interview recently and said that she was asked about the Lewinsky affair, and she said that it wasn't an abuse of power because Monica Lewinsky was an adult.
REUBINS: Horrifying. Horrifying.
KAYE: Is that something that Democrats want to hear right now leading up to the midterms?
AYALA: We're in 2018. Time's up Me Too. Harvey Weinstein unleashed, you know, generation long abuse of power and it's completely tone deaf to say that a female 21-year-old intern at the White House in the Oval Office with the President is not a victim. And is bringing her on going to be a trigger for some people saying -- if you hear what she just said a week ago.
FARZANA KHAN, FLORIDA VOTER: Her saying that, oh, she was an adult and you know, we didn't do nothing wrong can hurt him in a way saying, you know, she's supporting what they have done at that time.
KAYE: So the last thing you want is her down here in Florida.
AYALA: Just -- yes. I mean, it's just not -- let's get some fresh blood down here.
AYALA: Let's spice it up.
KHAN: Yes, absolutely.
REUBINS: I mean it's too important.
LONG: Why risk it? He's ahead right now.
COOPER: It's a pretty strong voter opinion in the piece. Here now to discuss is USA Today Columnist Kirsten Powers and Mr. Clinton's former campaign manager, Robby Mook.
Robby, I mean, you hear that the Florida Democrats basically saying thanks, but no thanks to Hillary Clinton support down there for Gillum. What do you make of that?
ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You know, honestly, it's -- the whole thing is really ironic to me, Anderson. Hillary Clinton is out helping raise money for an incredibly competitive race that I think many Democrats regard as a must-win, I certainly do, phenomenal candidate. And she can't even go fund raise, you know, without people accusing her of all kinds of things.
[20:50:00] I mean, look, every single Democrat should be out there right now doing everything they can to help these candidates. Hillary is there for Gillum. My understanding is she's fund raised now or done events with other 12 candidates, so he's certainly not the only one. She's been donating through her PAC as well. I think she's doing what every Democrat should do.
And, you know, the last thing I would just say is she got more votes when she ran for President than Barack Obama got in 2012, just think about that. She got the second highest vote total in the history of this country after Obama in 2008.
She's popular with a lot of people. She got a lot of votes and I don't think Democrats should be wringing their hands right now about Hillary Clinton when she's out there trying to help candidates. I think we should be focused on getting other Democrats out to vote.
COOPER: Kirsten, what do you make of this criticism?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, I mean, first of all, I'm going to assume that the campaigns that are inviting her to come probably know more about what's going on the ground than anybody else does. And if they think having her coming in to raise money is good for them, they obviously need the money and they wouldn't have her come if they thought it was going to be harmful. So -- and if she is raising a lot of money, then that shows there are a lot of people who feel very differently than the people that we just heard from.
That said, she is a controversial person, you know, fairly or unfairly. And I think there are a lot of complicated feelings around her and I think you saw a bit of a generational split in what we just watched. Clearly the younger generation people felt very strongly in a way that I felt the older person seemed a little more sympathetic to Hillary.
And the recent comments that she made about, you know, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky I think were a little tone deaf and a little out of touch. I know there's going to be people who are going to say it's not fair that she's being asked about it, but I think that, you know, if you're going to be a leader, you're going to get asked these questions, and so it's a mixed bag. But in the end, I don't think fund-raising is probably going to harm anybody.
COOPER: Robby, it's interesting, though, how, you know, local politicians running races might choose to use her for fund-raising at private events, not necessarily, you know, in front of large audiences of people that's going to get television coverage, because clearly she's a lightning rod for many Trump supporters and somebody that the President continues to, you know, rail against and get crowds to, you know, chant against.
COOPER: Well, every campaign goes through this with every surrogate, right? You have to make determinations about who's going to work best where. We obviously, you know, you don't see President Obama doing large rallies in North Dakota and some of these deeper red states.
I agree with everything that's been said so far. I think, you know, these campaigns aren't dumb, they're making a smart choice. Like I said, I just -- it's a little stunning to me when Hillary Clinton is out there trying to help other Democrats that we still can't let her just go do that.
And Al Gore got out and I remember during the midterms after his election. I know John Kerry has been out campaigning and sending e- mails for people. It's just for some reason with her, we just can't let a good deed go unpunished, but I'm glad she's out there and I'm glad she's helping people.
My understanding is she's helped raise $2 million for Andrew Gillum who's running against the self-funder whose pockets are as deep as they possibly can be, so I think it will do a lot of good.
COOPER: You know, Kirsten, we were just hearing from David Chalian before. Do you think Democrats have -- are overconfident about a blue wave coming in -- certainly for the House?
POWERS: I don't think it's -- I don't think it's overconfident to expect to win the House. I think if you think some sort of tsunami is coming, then maybe you're being overconfident. But I think that even people I've spoken to who are very sober-minded about it feel pretty confident that at a minimum that the Democrats would win back the House. But can I just say one other thing on the Hillary thing?
POWERS: I do think that -- what is troubling to me is that -- watching these Democratic voters who don't appreciate why these attacks happened on Hillary and why these attacks happened on Nancy Pelosi. And it's -- there's one thing that they have in common. And they're both women, they're both very strong leaders, and this is just an outright misogynist attack and the President knows exactly what he's doing. The Republicans know exactly what they're doing. And Democrats -- it just would be good if they didn't go along with it, but unfortunately a lot of people do go along with it.
COOPER: All right, Kirsten Power, Robby Mook, appreciate it. Thanks.
I want to check in with Chris, see what he is working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats keep spending their time defending Hillary Clinton, they're going to get run over by a caravan. That's what we're going deep on tonight, Anderson, which is this could be a game-changer issue for the President of the United States.
He knows how far away they are. He has the best intelligence telling him what the different parameters of risk really are. He's got a good man running the CBP, so he's got the intelligence that he needs on it, but he sees political advantage.
[20:55:00] And we're bringing on one of the young Democrats who may take Trump on in 2020 to see where are the Democrats on the caravan, what's their counter message, how do they preserve themselves for the midterms. And then Anthony Scaramucci is here to take the other side.
COOPER: All right. That's about five minutes from now to look forward to. Chris, thanks. We'll see you then.
Coming up next, could there be a second summit meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin? We have the very latest on a possible meeting.
COOPER: President Trump says he is likely going to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin perhaps as soon as next month in Paris. The President's most recent meeting with Putin, of course, was over the summer in Helsinki and question still linger over what precisely was discussed between the two leaders behind close doors, we really don't know.
National Security Adviser John Bolton, the President said he had been discussing a second summit during meetings in Moscow. Bolton said the Russian leader had expressed interest in the meeting that would take place during the 100th anniversary celebrations making the armistice that ended World War I in the French capital. The news continues right now. That's it for us. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?