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Secret Service Intervened in Kelly/Lewandowski Fight Followed by Kelly/Bolton Shouting Match; Poll: Democrats Have Small Lead in Battleground States; Poll: Voters Sharply Divided on Sexual Assault Issues; Trump: "You Know What, I'm a Nationalist"; Tariffs Test Farmers' Loyalty to Trump. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 23, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up for us, the White House fight that required Secret Service intervention. Chief of Staff John Kelly getting into a heated argument with a former top Trump aide and grabbing him by the collar. Details ahead.


[11:34:48] BOLDUAN: Another day, another report of drama inside the White House. Two sources confirm to CNN that in a heated argument last February, Chief of Staff John Kelly grabbed former senior campaign official, Corey Lewandowski, by the collar. This was first reported by the "New York Times." It got so physical and heated, according to "The Times," the Secret Service had to intervene. This comes a week after sources also described a yelling match between Kelly and national security advisor, John Bolton, playing out outside the White House.

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House with much more on this.

Abby, what is going on here? This is not a normal workplace environment. Are people talking about Kelly's temper today?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what, Kate, it actually probably is that Kelly's temper is in the news, as you just pointed out. John Bolton, that heated argument they had in the West Wing has seemingly prompted some of Kelly's critics to come forward with some more information about his alleged temper. This incident, as you pointed out, happened outside of the Oval Office back in February. Now, these two men are no friends of each other. They often have disagreements. John Kelly was apparently upset about some criticism Corey Lewandowski was making very publicly on television about him at the time. So they got into it. And Kelly was trying to kick Lewandowski out of the West Wing, physically. Grabbed him by the collar, prompting Secret Service to intervene.

Now, we're talking about this in part because there's always in this White House this constant back and forth about who's up and who's down, who has more power and who does not. Now, John Kelly has already said he's going to be there through 2020, but there are clearly people in this building, outside of this building, eager to air out some of this dirty laundry. And even as we speak about this, John Kelly is the chief of staff, but

we have been reporting for months that some of his influence has been waning here in the West Wing. This could be yet another example of how people are feeling pretty emboldened to raise some of these issues. But also raising a real concern about people being physical in the West Wing.

I should also add, you know, Corey Lewandowski has his own history with being physical with folks. He was arrested back in the campaign for an alleged assault against a reporter. So both of these men have their history with perhaps anger issues, violence, you name it -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: You name it.

Abby, great to see you. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, exactly two weeks from Election Day, and in the districts that will decide the balance of power in Congress, Democrats still have a lead. According to a new poll, it is a small one. We're going to get you to the new numbers and what they mean ahead.


[11:42:08] BOLDUAN: Early voting is under way in several states. We're now two weeks away from Election Day, and a new poll is showing that Democrats have a narrow lead over Republicans in the fight for the House in key battleground districts, but so narrow that the poll says the lead is now statistically insignificant. A new "Washington post" poll shows 50 percent of likely voters polled in the key districts prefer the Democrat in the district, 47 percent would vote for the Republican. Again, that is within the margin of error. So what does this mean? Who should be more worried right now since we're talking about fear and paranoia so much?

Joining me now, CNN political commentators, Angela Rye and Alice Stewart.

Angela, these are districts that Democrats need to flip to win. What is going on?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there are a number of things going on. One is issues specific to certain communities. They get tied to their members of Congress. They get tied to the ways in which people represent them, how they think they're representing them. And it can be tougher. I think Democrats have a slight advantage right now because, in every midterm election, presidents and their majorities are at risk. We saw that with Barack Obama.

BOLDUAN: Where is this Democratic enthusiasm?

RYE: I think it's here. But we also have to start acknowledging as time goes on, people don't find themselves confined in boxes like they used to. You could say Millennials are to blame for that or to thank for that. There are a number of people who some may be pro-choice, but they may be wanting gun reform. Some may see issues around wages and say, you know, I think people should get paid more, but they also see benefits in tax cuts. I think it just kind of depends. It really is on the candidate. You shouldn't just say, I'm a Democrat or I'm a Republican and, therefore, I expect to get your vote. It comes down to what is behind that platform.

BOLDUAN: But, Alice, do you think Donald Trump deserves credit for tightening up the numbers?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. And Angela is 100 percent right when it comes to each district is different. We're going to have these House races, which as she says, these are individual and specific. What works in Manhattan is not going to work in ruby red Montana. A lot of these congressional candidates are going to distance themselves from President Trump, despite his surge in popularity and how the economy is doing and with regard to the Supreme Court. They will distance themselves from him because they're concerned more about issues such as pro-choice and other issues with regard to immigration and climate change and issues that are specific to that district. So you will see them probably distance themselves from this president.

But in the Senate, it's a completely different story. A lot of these Senate races are in these ruby red states where the president is doing well. He's got 10 more rallies between now and the midterm elections. And he's going to go out there and push his message and his record of accomplishments and that will, in my view, help in these areas where the president is very popular.

[11:45:04] BOLDUAN: And I don't know yet how big of an issue this is in the election. And maybe that makes me even additionally sad. But this poll also looked at the issue of sexual assault and views around it.

Angela, what the poll found is Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say that they're concerned than men are unfairly accused. Democrats flip. The Democrats are far more likely to say women won't be believed when they come forward. Essentially, what this poll says, it confirmed the two political camps we saw, the two political arguments during the Brett Kavanaugh/Christine Blasey Ford mess that played out. If this is now so politicized, how do you un-politicize it?

RYE: And, Kate, I think that is the age-old question. Whether we're talking about whether or not folks can make ends meet going from job to job, whether or not kids have the resources they need in school. None of these issues should be political, whether or not health care is a right. I sat in on a debate on Sunday for the Florida governor's race where they debated whether or not health care is a right. I don't understand how any of this became partisan. I can't wait until it's not.

But to the point sexual assault, everybody has a woman in their family, either they came from one or they have a daughter or they have a sister. You know, they have an aunt, like somebody in your life -- and to be fair, I know not all victims of sexual assault are not women -- but you have someone around you who has experienced this, and these are not partisan issues. It's really sad.

BOLDUAN: Alice, President Trump said a lot of things last night in the rally. Among them this. I want to get your take. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can't have that. You know, they have a word. It sort of became old fashioned. It's called a nationalist. And I say, really? We're not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I'm a nationalist. OK?


TRUMP: I'm a nationalist.


BOLDUAN: When you hear that, Alice, what do you make of it?

STEWART: I make of it the way that I think a lot of people in that room heard that statement. And we have to keep that into consideration. When he's talking to these groups, die-hard Trump fans, his hardcore base, they view nationalist as someone who looks at America First, as the president ran on, America First. It doesn't mean America alone, but America First. They look at nationalism in the same light as they do patriotism, and God bless America, and America is the greatest, strongest nation that we have. That's the lens that these people are looking at the term nationalist through. We have to understand that. He knows that, and he will continue, I guarantee, in the next 10 rallies he has between now and election when he's talking to those people in that crowd, that's exactly how they hear what he is saying. It's certainly perceived much differently by others --


STEWART: -- who look at the nationalist globalist lens.


BOLDUAN: I want to get Angela in on this.

RYE: Plain and simply, when Donald Trump says he's a nationalist, that is not a dog whistle. It's a fog horn to his base.

Alice, we know he's trafficking in fear. I am devastated to hear you defend that nonsense.

There's an analogy that my pastor used to use all the time about, when you dump a frog in a boiling pot of hot water, he'll immediately jump out, but if you put that frog in a cold pot of water and slowly turn the heat up, he will cook to death. I would hope we don't allow this country to cook to death behind this kind of nonsense. It's dangerous, it's toxic, and it needs to be stopped.


STEWART: I'm telling you what people across America are hearing what he's saying.

RYE: Maybe we need to talk to them differently. It's devastating to hear you defend that.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys. I really appreciate you coming on.

RYE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.


[11:53:13] BOLDUAN: Some of the President Trump's most loyal supporters come from America's heartland. That loyalty is being tested after trade battles with China and Mexico and Canada. Tariffs are eating into the bottom line of farmers across the country.

CNN politics reporter, Dan Merica, spent about a month talking to the farmers and getting the stories. His fascinating look is up right now on And he is here with me now.

Good to see you again.


BOLDUAN: You talked to about 50 farmers and producers in five states. What did they tell you? Farmers are not a monolith. What did they tell you?

MERICA: The majority of them voted for President Trump and they backed him because they thought he was tough. They see what they do as a sign of toughness. And what this trade war is now doing is becoming a referendum on that toughness. Many will stick with the president. If the election was tomorrow, they would vote for him again. Some questioned the vote and questioned whether it was worth taking out their feelings about Trump and the trade war on Republicans who are running in the midterms. That's important because so many of these races are being run in red America, in rural America, especially when you look at the Senate.

I want you to take a listen to what Dave Struthers, a pork producer in Iowa, had to say about his view on this trade war.


DAVE STRUTHERS, PRESIDENT & DIRECTOR, STRUTHERS FARMS: It's an awful shame. Nobody wins a trade war. They don't. It's just a tactic that people use to try to get some kind of solution to some other issue. We need a solution.

We want trade. We don't want government aid. What I worked for 33 years, my 33 years of farming, can all be shot in

a year. But it is what it is.


MERICA: So the question that everyone has is, why are these people sticking with Trump. Why are these farmers sticking with Trump when it's impacting their bottom line? There's a number of answers. It's not one answer. Some of it is cultural. But some of it they don't see Democrats reaching out to them. They don't see Democrats --

[11:55:12] BOLDUAN: Democratic.

MERICA: -- Democrats as a party that wants their support or represents them. That's a key question not only in 2018 but also in 2020, too.

BOLDUAN: And farmers that I've talked to, they are being hurt. They've wanted to give the president time and space to fix it. The lingering question is, how long does that patience endure and when does it run out? But we'll see.

Great. This is an awesome look.

MERICA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Glad you --


MERICA: Appreciate it. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: From farmers to fears. President Trump is stoking fear and spreading lies ahead of the election. Is it helping Republicans in the midterms? Factually, maybe not. Politically, maybe so. More on that, still ahead.