Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Stokes Immigration Fears to Rile Up Base Voters; Virus Kills Six Children in New Jersey; Counting Up President Trump's Lies. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 23, 2018 - 15:00   ET



ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: And Chief Justice John Roberts, he released his own statement today. He called her a towering figure in the history of the United States and indeed the world -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Ariane de Vogue with the latest for us there.

Thanks for joining us at the top of the hour. I'm Erica Hill, in today for Brooke Baldwin.

Call it what you will, embellishment, misinformation, lies. The president isn't telling the truth on the campaign trail.

And with Election Day exactly two weeks away, he is waging arguably one of the most inflammatory and inaccurate closing arguments of any modern campaign.

Among the falsehood, the lies is this phantom middle-class tax cut plan, along with these mysterious Middle Easterners the president claims are hidden in a caravan that formed out of Central America.

We wanted to take a closer look at some of President Trump's lies over just the past 24-hour period. These are lies big and small.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They got so many people voting illegally in this country, it's a disgrace, OK? It's a disgrace.

Voter I.D., folks. Voter I.D.

On day one, I approve the Keystone and the Dakota Access Pipeline, 48,000 jobs, day one, day one.

And anybody want to leave now, go vote, come back. Get behind about 50,000 people outside, who we love, and we put big screens out for them. Let's wave to them.

We're going to be putting in a 10 percent tax cut for middle-income families. It's going to be put in next week, 10 percent tax cut. You know how the caravan started? Does everybody know what this

means? I think the Democrats had something to do with it. And now they're saying, I think we made a big mistake.

We now have a brand-new member of the United States Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This is such an honor, because you have had many presidents. They never get to put a justice on the Supreme Court.

Republicans passed the biggest tax cut and reform in history with massive tax cuts for the middle class.

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.


HILL: Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

What's fascinating here, John, is President Trump from the beginning has said, I'm not a politician. You can't really say that once you get elected president of the United States. That being said, if you look at what he is doing, especially over these last couple of days -- and we expect to see it continue over the next two weeks -- he is a masterful politician in this moment.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we are watching fear and loathing on the campaign trail, and there is no doubt that he is one of the most effective marketers that politics has ever seen.

He has successfully completed a hostile takeover of an entire political party. He has remained the political party in a conservative populist, now nationalist image, which is really a rebuke to past presidents, Reagan to Bush and on.

That takes real skill. His desire in the final innings, though,not to campaign on a record of economic success, but to try to play to the outer reaches of politics, to try to sort of give evidence of a play to the base panic of trying to stoke these fires through falsehoods, I'm not sure that's evidence of skill.

That's evidence maybe of instinct. And he talks about his instinct, but it's an instinct that doesn't reach for the better angels. It too often reaches for the lowest common denominator. Does he deserve success for what he's achieved politically? Yes.

How will look in the rear-view mirror in terms of the party and the legacy he leaves? Less good. This is not a president who is aiming for the best...


HILL: Although we should point out this is a president who has made the case on a number of occasions and long before he got to the White House, it's really not about what happens on the path to getting you there. What matters is the end result.

So for President Trump, this is what he wants. The other thing that's fascinating here in the -- if we're looking, oh, a, I don't know, pot calling the kettle black kind of moment, this president who seems to be increasing the number of lies that we're hearing every day, he's one of the first people to call out people that he doesn't like as liars.

AVLON: Yes, well, that's a fascinating behold the power of projection moment.

He's very quick, beginning with Ted Cruz. Now, of course, it's beautiful Ted. Previously, he was lying Ted. The president's very quick, for example, to call other people liars. He does that. It's a preemptive defense to sort of muddy the waters.

And he used it very effectively during the campaign. Look, he is a great brawler. He captures the imagination. But this is a -- this is presidential politics as an extension of WWE wrestling. And he likes to play those roles, and it can resonate with folks who maybe don't pay close attention.

But if it becomes untethered for the facts, that becomes a problem for government. At the end of the day, it's still an office with real responsibilities. It's not simply the circus comes to town.


But he is the most effective showman we have seen in politics in a long time. And he's certainly been able to inflame the base of the Republican Party and remake it in his own image. That takes skill.

HILL: All right, John, stay with us.

We also want to check in. As President Trump is stumping for his candidates, Democrats hitting the campaign trail hard too, including some who may be looking beyond 2018 all the way to 2020.

California Senator Kamala Harris has yet to say if she plans to run for president. Where she has spent the last two days, however, certainly offers a bit of a clue.

She's in the ever crucial primary state of Iowa, which is also where we find CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston.

So, Maeve, what are we hearing today?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Erica, Kamala Harris is just one of the many potential 2020 contenders who's been here visiting the Hawkeye State in recent months.

But this is her first trip back to Iowa since 2008, when she campaigned for then candidate Barack Obama. And she's been having a great time really focusing on targeting those college campuses, trying to get younger voters out to the early voting stations in an effort to try to flip the House on behalf of the Democrats.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Years from now -- I have been saying this all over Iowa -- but years from now, the children that you are going to have, the grandchildren you are going to have, they're going to look in our eyes and they're going to ask us, where were you at that pivotal moment?

And the thing I know about you is, we're not going to just talk about how we felt. We're going to talk about what we did.


RESTON: Also clearly testing the waters here in Iowa, talking about her middle-class tax plan, the things that she doesn't like about President Trump's rhetoric thing, saying that this is a time when we are not showing the world the best of what America is.

And she's got a very well-honed stump speech. About 500 people turned out to see her last night in Des Moines. And there's just a lot of excitement and electricity around her, particularly after that prominent role that she took in the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, people crushing up against her, wanting to touch her, take selfies with her, give her a hug.

So, she's really got a lot of excitement here, but a long way to go. And I'm sure we will be seeing her back in Iowa a lot -- Erica.

HILL: All right, Maeve Reston with the latest for us there. Maeve, thank you.

John, I mean, it's tough to think of another reason why Kamala Harris would be in Iowa, unless she's testing the waters.

AVLON: There is a competitive governor's race in Iowa, lest we forget, Reynolds vs. Hubbell, fascinating to watch.

But, obviously, 'tis the season. The season moves up even faster. Presidential campaigns begin the day after midterms, and really the groundwork is laid well before. Kamala Harris has really distinguished yourself among this freshman class of senators in that top tier of potential candidates for 2020.

And I think, notably, as Maeve mentioned, one of the few senator -- Democratic senators who may have come out their reputation enhanced on the Judiciary Committee from the Kavanaugh hearings.

There was such blowback to the Democratic Party on the Senate races nationwide in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings, nothing they expected. They really thought it would be more effective to simply inflame their base.

HILL: Right.

AVLON: But the blowback has been at least as powerful, according to polls, in the Senate races.

But Kamala really did seem to distinguish yourself. And so she's got now a national reputation. And she's going to hit the hustings not only for other candidates, but building her own profile as well. So watch those key first three states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, who goes there in the fourth quarter of this year.

HILL: Oh it tells us so much, doesn't it?

AVLON: Oh, yes.

HILL: I also want to get your take on this.

In the state of Georgia, the Democrat running for governor, Stacey Abrams, this is getting a lot of attention today. She explained why she was that -- a picture surfaced. She was at a 1992 protest in which protesters burned the Georgia state flag.

So as you see the flag there, at the time, the Confederate Flag was part of the design of the state flag.

In a statement, she said what she did as a college freshman was -- quote -- "permitted peaceful protest against the Confederate emblem in the flag."

If she's elected, of course, she will be the nation's first African- American woman governor. There is a debate tonight with her opponent, Brian Kemp.

A, do you think this will come up? I don't see how it doesn't, personally? And, B, does this have a real impact over the next two weeks on voters in Georgia, you think?

AVLON: Sure. This is a late-inning oppo dump that shows her as a college freshman burning the Georgia state flag.

The phrase burning the flag itself is incendiary in politics, no pun intended. It is a third rail. But this is not burning the American flag. This is important burning the Georgia state flag at a time when two-thirds of that flag was the stars and bars the old Confederacy.

And just for folks who instinctively want to make the heritage, not hate, argument, recognize also that that flag design was put in place in 1956, not 1856, 1956. Why? Reaction to Brown vs. Board of Education, part of the massive resistance to desegregation that the South saw.


So this is a culture war issue and conversation which can get folks really heated. But it'll be interesting to see whether attitudes have changed and whether this is different.

I think it deserves to be recognized as different than simply burning the flag, in the way it's seen as a pejorative when it involves the American flag. HILL: Also important to point out too that, when you actually read through the Articles of the Confederacy, things that many people would like to reject as being associated with it were in fact part of it, slavery being among them. So...


AVLON: Oh, sorry. Goes without saying.

HILL: Never let the facts get in the way, John Avlon. There we go.

Always good to see you, my friend. Thank you.

AVLON: Take care.

HILL: This just coming in now to CNN. Six children have died from the same virus at a pediatric health center in New Jersey and 12 more are infected. We're going to take a closer look at what is making them sick.

Plus, CNN is on the ground as 7,000 migrants make that grueling march toward the U.S. border, a trip that could last several more weeks. There's no guaranteed outcome for these folks. President Trump, of course, promising to block them from entering the United States.

Hear what they have to say about those threats and also why they're choosing to make the journey.

And, later, mavericks, needed, that is the message one nonprofit is rolling out ahead of the midterm in honor of the late Senator John McCain. Just ahead, we're joined by one of the organizers.



HILL: Just into CNN, six children have died because of a flu-like virus at a medical center in New Jersey, and 12 additional child patients, we're told, are infected. The outbreak is happening at a facility in Haskell, New Jersey.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is with us now.

So, Sanjay, what more do we do about this outbreak?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know, first of all, that the Department of Health is on site right now at this facility. So they're investigating this.

They were there over the weekend as well. This particular center takes care of longer-term patients, rehabilitation, as you mentioned, but also has a pediatric center. So it does both long-term care for elderly people, as well as a pediatric center.

And we know that 18 patients within that pediatric center tested positive for adenovirus. As you mentioned, this is -- it's a flu-like virus, but it's not the flu. It's a different virus. It's typically something that can occur year-round, and it can it can be very contagious.

So of the 18 patients who tested positive, as you mentioned, six have died. What we don't know yet, Erica, what we're trying to find out still, is, over what period of time did this occur? Was this over days and weeks or was this more over hours and days?

And also the children at this center are what are called medically fragile children, typically means that they have a significant dependency of some sort, sometimes, they're on ventilators. Did they stay in the center or, when they became ill, were they transferred to hospitals? We're still trying to get some of those details, Erica.

HILL: Yes. As you're working out those details, and the headline alone, though, is -- it really stops you in your tracks.

All right, Sanjay, appreciate it. We will check in with you again.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

HILL: Next, the migrant caravan, it's still thousands of miles away from the U.S. border. President Trump, though, amping up his rhetoric, saying there is evidence of -- quote -- "unknown Middle Easterners" in the caravan, providing no evidence.

We're going to take you there live.



HILL: Fourteen days now until the midterm election, and we're seeing more signs that President Trump is turning to the campaign strategy he found so successful in 2016, focusing on immigration to promote fear.

A prime example, the migrant caravan currently making its way from Honduras toward the U.S. Now, in the group, mostly Central Americans, is now some 7,000-strong.

In campaign stops and on Twitter, President Trump warning he will send troops to the border to stop the caravan, which he claims also contains Middle Easterners and criminals. So far, there's no proof those claims.

And we should also point out they're not exactly knocking on the door of the United States. They're very far south.

Earlier today, though, the vice president echoing President Trump and voicing his support for a hard line at the border.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to do everything in our power to prevent this caravan from coming north and violating our border. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: So keep in mind the caravan is still more than 1,000 miles from Brownsville, Texas, which would basically be the closest point where they could enter the United States.

That, to put it in perspective, is roughly the distance from Houston to Chicago. But it could be more than twice that distance if the caravan decides to take the safest route, because that route you see there is not the safest, and instead head to Tijuana.

CNN special correspondent Bill Weir is the caravan right now in Southern Mexico.

And, Bill, give us a sense. Who is there? Who is in this caravan that is traveling at, I guess, about 20 miles per day?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're cutting in a little bit, Erica. I'm sorry. I think you said, who is in the caravan?

Well, we're seeing mostly Hondurans, several Guatemalans, many Guatemalans joined them along the way. We're seeing folks from El Salvador and now the Mexican government is even confirming that an awful lot of folks from this country are sort of seizing on the strength in numbers idea that has fueled the growth of this.

There's an interesting piece that CNN has yet to confirm in The Daily Beast today about how it may have started with an immigrant rights activist who wanted to gather a couple dozen folks who were thinking about making the move, and then on state-run television in Honduras, the word got out that foreign governments would be paying.

So even though he tried to knock down that rumor, the rumor was enough to fuel the first big group. And then it just grew and grew as we went. But you can see they have stopped in this town of Huixtla, not because of fear out of law enforcement or anything like that.

It's out of respect for one of their dead. Yesterday, a man fell to his death, a Honduran man, from an overcrowded truck on the highway between here and the last city. And so they're pausing to respect him and say they will hit the road again tomorrow.


And then as you say, for perspective, though, by the time American voters go to the polls in two weeks, this caravan will still be south of Mexico City, and from there a long way to Tijuana, which is the route that's longer, but safer, considered safer by these folks.

But just to get a little sense of what it's like to carry everything you own and your child on your back through searing heat, we spent yesterday with the caravan and found that people may have heard about the president's tweets, may know something about the politics of the U.S., but have no choice but to keep their head down and walk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WEIR (voice-over): Another day on the caravan road. Another 25 hard miles under a merciless Mexican sun. Another meal out of the back of a kind stranger's trunk. And for the lucky ones, another ride in a kind stranger's truck packed so tight the tires nearly pop.

On Monday, another man fell to his death on a ride like this, the second confirmed fatality. But, as pregnant women begin to wilt in the heat, many worry they won't be the last.

And yet, as thousands of families try to keep the faith while a full- blown humanitarian crisis moves north, there came another round of insults and threats from the President of the United States.

(on camera): President Trump thinks that you are an invading band of criminals, possibly terrorists...


WEIR: ... and is threatening to use soldiers to keep you out or separate families.

What would you say to him?

PALO (through translator): We are an honorable people. We are workers. Would he call a group of kids terrorists? A group of women who need help?

We're asking for his support but, of course, we know he has no conscience. He's crazy.

WEIR (voice-over): Palo is a volunteer with an organization called Pueblo Sin Fronteras or Towns Without Borders, formed to help protect migrants and now, a target of conspiracy theorists who refuse to believe that this caravan is fueled only by desperation.

(on camera): There are some who believe that you are being organized for political reasons or being paid to do this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There's a lot of people so there could be some with bad intentions. But if you look around, there are lots of mothers with young kids. Why would they want to come here if they weren't so desperate?

WEIR: President Trump also tweeted that the U.S. will now be cutting off or substantially reducing the foreign aid given to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Those three countries are scheduled to receive less than $200 million next year. And for comparison, a country like Egypt gets about six times that amount.

But, immigration reformers say every little bit helps for these really poor countries and cutting them off only makes this problem that much worse.

So how far will you go today?

(voice-over): Jose is a taxi driver from Honduras where things were so bad he couldn't afford gasoline to fill his cab. And he has heard of the president's tweets.

(on camera): He's using the pictures of the big caravan and saying it's a mob of criminals and there's even Middle Eastern, possible terrorists, in there.

JOSE, MIGRANT (through translator): I don't understand why he's saying that, he says. We're not terrorists. Our country is very violent but the people are poor people.

WEIR: Do you have children -- ninos?

JOSE (through translator): That's what hurts me the most is I have three kids and I had to leave them behind because there's no job.

WEIR: When do you think you'll see them again?

"I don't know," he says. "It's up to God."

WEIR: It's hard, yes.


WEIR: Jose, it's OK. Gracias, gracias.

(voice-over): And so, for a 12th day, they walk through jungles and towards deserts with little more than faith, and hope, and each other.


WEIR: Now, Vice President Pence, as you saw there, Erica, just said it's inconceivable that a crowd the size wouldn't have Middle Easterners. The implication is Muslims equals terrorism in some ways.

Haven't seen anything of that. But we have seen plenty of Christians.

Here's a little Bible. We watched a couple prayer meetings break out here; 99 percent of these people certainly are either Catholic or Protestant. So we will keep an eye on just in case any Middle Easterners pop up.

HILL: Bill Weir, excellent reporting, my friend, as always. Thank you.

Moments from now, two events that we are watching. The president set to face reporters during a bill signing.