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Trump Spreads Lies and Stokes Fears Ahead of Midterm Elections; Trump Declares Himself A Nationalist; Cruz Says Afraid That Ugliness on The Left Will Lead to Violence; GOP In Dark After Trump Floats A Phantom Tax Cut. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 23, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Erica Hill in today for Brooke Baldwin. There are exactly two weeks left until election day and a clear campaign strategy from the President, fear and falsehoods. Is the President lying? In some cases, yes, making sweeping allegations at rallies or just making things up. Promises middle class tax cuts that can't happen while Congress is not in session. Implying terrorists are part of a US bound migrant caravan without citing any proof. But the real question today is do voters care? A former top White House aide says exposing Trump's false claims will not change any minds.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: When you guys are upset about it and you're listing all the lies and trying to explain you can't get a tax cut done in ten days, people are almost happy about the fact that he is a wrecking ball inside of Washington and smashing into the establishment. If you want to beat the President, exposing his lies or explaining them to people, that's probably not going to beat the President. There's symbolism here. You can call out the lying but it's light Teflon in a frying pan.


HILL: Just a reminder, in case you weren't with us yesterday, we spoke to the man who fact checks everything that comes out of the President's mouth who told us there are some people he speaks to who actually like it when the President lies.


DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "TORONTO STAR": I wouldn't say that they believe every single lie that the President makes. Many of them I talk to know that he exaggerates, that his misleads and that he makes things up. But they provide various justifications. They say he's not the most honest guy but he's getting things done, cutting taxes, putting judges on the bench. I know people who said they like when he lies because it messes with the minds of people like me. I think people have provided various justifications for supporting a man who lies this much.

(END VIDEO CLIP) Let's bring in Chris Cillizza. At the end of the day, there's also the fact that President Trump is a politician and America does expect politicians to lie, perhaps not to this degree. Should we be surprised that lies are not an issue when it comes to Donald Trump?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: No, we shouldn't be surprised, Erica. This is not someone who told the truth since he was a candidate. This has been true not only in his political life but his entire life. One thing I take an issue with, that Anthony Scaramucci clip, it's not us versus him. We are trying to provide the fullest picture possible to potential voters in two weeks of what he says, what the established facts are and the delta in between that. So, to your exact question, there's a quantity and a quality difference here between what politicians usually do in terms of stretching the truth and what Donald Trump is doing. "The Washington Post" fact check, over 5,000 falsehoods or mistruths in his first 601 days in off. 8 1/2 a day. What he chooses to lie and mislead about, things that are provably false. I want to play an exchange about Donald Trump and Kaitlan Collins, yesterday before he flew to Texas to rally for Cruz.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you regret implying that Ted Cruz's dad killed JFK?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't regret anything, honestly. It all worked out very nicely.


[14:05:00] CILLIZZA: OK. So, for people unfamiliar, Donald Trump suggested a grainy photo of Lee Harvey Oswald in Cuba, there was a man behind that looked vaguely like Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz's father. Listen to the words Trump used -- "I don't regret anything ever." Who says that, number one. And then "it all worked out," which means I won. If the end is him winning, getting what he wants, the means to which he gets there, including lying to the public, misleading, sometimes unknowingly, doesn't matter. Stop to think about if that is the sort of thing that we want to institutionalize in our political process. Because we're pretty darn close right now and that's a dangerous thing.

And there are plenty of facts the President could run on, the economy, but he's choosing a different path. The President did make a personal revelation about himself at a rally in Texas. Take a look.


TRUMP: 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. They have a word. It sort of became old fashioned. It's called a nationalist. I say really, we're not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I'm a nationalist, OK. I'm a nationalist. I said of course I'm unpopular with foreign facts because we're not letting them rip us off anymore, folks. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Joining us now, CNN political analyst Joshua Green. He wrote "Devil's Bargain." Also, with us, Leah Wright Rigueur, assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He wrote "The Loneliness of The Black Republican."

Great to have both of you with us. Josh, you're really the expert on Steve Bannon, President Trump's former chief strategist. Was it Steve Bannon who put this idea of nationalism in Trump's head?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that Bannon was the one who distilled a set of policies into this idea of nationalism that Trump took up during the 2016 campaign. It obviously proved very effective for him. Although Bannon has left the White House and is no longer as close to Trump as he once was, if you look at the idea that Trump is talking about in the stretch run of the campaign, they're being tough on China, being aggressive on trade and opposing tariffs and most prominently of all, demonizing immigrants like the caravan coming up through central America and using that as a motivator to inspire fear and terror and anger in a lot of voters. That's a recipe that worked well for Trump in 2016 and I think it's one he's trying to replicate ahead of the November 6th elections.

HILL: There's the fear that President Trump is using and then there's the fear that the word nationalism brings up in a lot of other people. Leah, it is a loaded word to put it mildly for a number of Americans. Put that into context for us. Why is it so loaded for so many people?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Nationalism is essentially a megaphone to Donald Trump to say not on this is the culture I want to cultivate, these are the people of want to include, but it's also a way of saying to other people you are excluded, you're not part of the message. And also instilling kind of other ideas that josh brought up about Steve Bannon on ideas of ethnicity and race that came up in the 2015 pathway to the Presidential campaign as well. So, what we're seeing here is Donald Trump reviving this culture and the culture wars that has been really aimed at his base and reassuring his supporters and his followers that he has them in mind and that everybody else is an enemy and is not part of who he envisions as American.

HILL: Josh, there is, though, the actual embrace of the world, of the title, if you will, at this point. Yes, we are two weeks out from the election. Is that all there is to rea into it or do you see something more in terms of timing?

[14:10:00] GREEN: I agree that he's trying to spark a culture war basically and that by saying you're a nationalist, he's trying to differentiate his self and his supporters. A lot of Trump supporters would say what he's really pushing is white nationalism. That's debatable. And that by saying you're a nationalist, he's trying to differentiate his self and his supporters. A lot of Trump supporters would say what he's really pushing is white nationalism. That's debatable. He's trying to drive a wedge between the country, motivate the people who voted for him who as for six weeks or so ago polls showed weren't really planning on showing up. Most persons including Democrats and independents thought the economy was going well yet Republicans weren't motivated to go out and vote. I think Trump has decided it's on his shoulders to stoke the kind of anger that will energize s base, galvanize them and get them to come out for Republicans in November. If they don't, there's a real threat to Trump's agenda and this pursuit of nationalism. If, for example, Republicans win back the house and suddenly he finds himself under a flurry of subpoenas and investigations. This is an effort to rekindle the Trump coalition in 2016 that surprised so many people and giving Republicans both houses of Congress.

HILL: I do want your take from both of you. This is what Republican Senator Ted Cruz had to say. Take a listen.


TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: There is an ugliness that's really scary and I'm concerned it's going to descend into violence, that the rhetoric they're using is right on the edge of violence and that's the next step. The problem is the left/right now are so filled with rage that facts doesn't matter, they just want to burn it all down and that's not good for our country.


HILL: Also, what's not good for our country is cherry picking your facts. We haven't heard much on this front from Ted Cruz until just now. Certainly not in the last 18 to 4 month 24 months has he been all that outspoken here.

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: Ted Cruz is in a contested race with Beto O'Rourke. So, he's going down into the gutter and pulling out all of the last- minute punches. That includes trying to find any way to motivate people to come out. One of the ways you can try to motivate people to come out is stoking again this idea of a culture war and a culture of fear. So, while we haven't heard anything from Ted Cruz about violence on the right or the alt-right in general or Neo-Nazis marching and things like that, what we're hearing now is this idea there's going to be an overwhelming wave of violence and we should really be afraid if Democrats are in power. That's part of a long history and trajectory of stoking anxieties as a way of motivating people to get out and vote.

HILL: Appreciate you both joining us today. Thank you.

President Trump has said repeatedly his west wing is not chaotic. New word, though, that his chief of staff and former adviser got into a physical altercation into the White House. Plus, as his own administration contradicts the President saying not to expect a middle-class tax cut any time soon, one analyst says the first tax cut didn't even work. We'll discuss.

And a passenger is charged with groping a woman on a plane. His defense? President said it's OK. Details ahead.

[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HILL: We're getting a better picture of the drama inside the White House. Sources telling CNN chief of staff John Kelly got physical with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. It happened back in February. Kelly confronting Corey Lewandowski about making too much money from the president's reelection PAC. Kelly calling for Lewandowski to be removed which prompted an argument and then things escalated. Kelly grabbed Corey Lewandowski by the collar, shoved him against the

wall and the Secret Service then intervened. Why the focus on this instance? It's not the first time Kelly's temper has gotten the best of him. Just last week you may recall reports of shouting match with national security advisor John Bolton over border crossings. In last fall Kelly was in a scuffle with a Chinese official in Beijing over the nuclear football.

Joining us is Olivia Nuzzi who is Washington correspondent for "New York Magazine" and recently had a surreal encounter with both the president and John Kelly. And Maria Echaveste former White House deputy chief of staff for Bill Clinton. Maria, I want to start with you. How stressful is the job of chief of staff? Should John Kelly get a pass for some of these past actions?

MARIA ECHAVESTE, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR TO BILL CLINTON AND WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't know if he should get a pass. We expect professionalism at all levels, especially in the White House. But there is no question that the level of stress in that -- in the west wing, in the office of chief of staff, is unrelenting day after day, in part because the events of the world impact what your principal, the President, is involved in and you can't plan for that. I also think he's got to be very frustrated. He's a military man. There is discipline, there is order, there is chain of command.

[14:20:00] As we all know, this White House does not operate that way. So, I bet the frustration coupled with the stress may cause even someone as disciplined as Kelly to lose his temper.

HILL: And, Olivia, we have from the president there's nothing to see here. What's your take, though? You're there on a near daily basis. What is the sense like inside the west wing? Is it chaotic? Is it a lack of discipline?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT FOR "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": I think certainly, and we've heard about this repeatedly, not just in "the New York times" report but since the President entered office, we've heard reports of chaos, we've seen evidence of it repeatedly. I think it would be very difficult to believe what the President says and what John Kelly says about the fact that there is no chaos here when everything else seems to dispute that. It doesn't surprise me. I think -- especially this winter and earlier on in the administration, there are a lot of outside forces trying to influence the President and John Kelly's job was in part trying to block those people from getting close to him. So, a report like this about John Kelly and Corey Lewandowski, somebody who has been in the President's orbit, even though he is no longer officially part of the team, I think this is not surprising that he would get so frustrated dealing with somebody like that to the point where it escalated physically.

HILL: And that frustration on a fairly regular basis has led a number of people, Maria, to ask over a number of months, why doesn't he just leave?

ECHAVESTE: That's actually the real question. I think it's really important to understand why people like John Kelly, McMasters, Bolton, others who are seen to have real experience and respect government, if you will, is that they are willing to tolerate a President like President Trump who lies regularly, exaggerates facts. Why? Because they share an agenda. And one thing for example we know about John Kelly is he shares the President's views on immigration. And there must be other things that people are willing to tolerate. So, I think it's important not to be distracted by, yes, the temperament issue or when is he going to leave, but really ask yourself why do people serve this President? I will give them a benefit of the doubt that they in their view of the world believe they are serving our country by staying there, but let's not kid ourselves as we -- your prior story about the way President Trump and Ted Cruz and others are talking about violence happening after the midterms, I don't remember an election where that was actually ever spoken by people running for office. If that's not some sort of dog whistle, man, this is a very scary time.

NUZZI: And there's a saying that the fish rots from the head down. I think this would be a mistake to look at this as a John Kelly-specific problem. I think this is a problem inherent in this administration and whoever would have the job. Whether the conflicts would escalate physically, I'm not sure. But there will always be problems and if John Kelly were to leave and there have been multiple instances where there have been attempts to replace him, if he were to leave I imagine the same problems would assist.

HILL: Great to have you both here with your perspective.

Just ahead, the President floating the idea of middle-class tax cuts before the end of the year. The problem is Congress isn't in session until after the midterms. And wasn't there already a tax cut that was supposed to help the middle class?


HILL: The campaign trail is full of big promises, no matter the candidate. But one of the latest comes directly from the President himself.


TRUMP: We're going to be putting in a 10 percent tax cut for middle- income families. It going to be put in next year. 10 percent tax cut.


HILL: Which may sound great. It also may sound a bit familiar. Let's go back to 2017. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The heart of our bill is a tremendous amount of relief for the middle class.

The focus is on middle class tax relief. Th focus is for the people in the middle and people trying to get there.

Fulfill our main goal for tax return, putting more money out of Washington's pockets and putting more money into the pockets of the middle class.

We're going to have the most significant middle-class tax cut since Reagan.

This is going to be one of the great gifts to the middle-income people since Christmas.


[14:30:00] HILL: Now the President said a new cut is coming. First, he says November, now he says maybe next year. Larry Kudlow warning today that while middle class tax cuts are the President's goal, they may not surface for a while. Some had no idea what the President was talking about. President Trump can't pass a tax cut without congress and congress isn't in session at the moment. Speaker Paul Ryan's office referring questions about the tax cut back to the White House.