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11 Dead, 6 Wounded in Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting; Trump Suggest Arming Synagogues Expanding Death Penalty; Florida Man Arrested for Sending Mail Bombs to Political Figures; Trump: Media Are Trying to Score Political Points Against Me; New Race Rankings Released; Midterm Countdown. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired October 28, 2018 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:45] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John king. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

Hate and horror in Pittsburgh. A gunman with a history of anti- Semitic rants burst into a synagogue on Sabbath, killing 11, wounding six.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most horrific crime scene I've seen in 22 years with the federal bureau of investigation. Members conducting a peaceful service in their place of worship were brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith.


KING: Plus, the manhunt is over. An angry Trump supporter now charged with mailing explosives to former presidents, senators and other prominent presidential critics.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY: We not tolerate such lawlessness, especially not political violence.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: IEDs were sent to various individuals across the country. These are not hoax devices.


KING: And President Trump in the spotlight. Strong condemnation of anti-Semitism after the Pittsburgh massacre, but in the case of the political violence, his tweets and unscripted moments veer into conspiracy theory and blame.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have seen an effort by the media in recent hours to use the sinister actions of one individual to score political points against me and the Republican Party. The media has tried to attack the incredible Americans who support our movement to give power back to the people.


KING: We begin this Sunday once again in a place people, politicians around the states coping with what we used to call the unthinkable. Eleven people killed inside a Pittsburg synagogue. It's believed to be the deadliest attack on the U.S. Jewish community. The suspect, a 46-year-old man with a history of anti-Semitic posting on social media. Police say that after his arrest, he told a SWAT officer he wanted all Jews to die.

In the wake of the killings, President Trump ordered flags flown at half-staff to honor the victims of this massacre. Last night, mourners turned out for candlelight vigils across Pittsburgh despite the raw weather.

Also a moment of violence before Saturday's hockey game for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team was playing away from home in Canada.

People also took to social media to suggest changing the logo of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, adding a Star of David and the words "stronger than hate".

Political leaders thrust into the role of mourners and comforters.

Here's Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Wolf speaking of his grief.


GOV. TOM WOLFE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: My heart breaks for the members of the Jewish community. Today, all of Pennsylvania mourns with you. Anti-Semitism has absolutely no place in our commonwealth. Any attack on one community of faith in Pennsylvania is an attack against every community of faith in Pennsylvania.


KING: On several occasions yesterday, including a rally last night in Illinois, President Trump calling on the nation to come together.


TRUMP: This evil anti-Semitic attack is an assault on all of us. It's an assault on humanity. It will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism from our world. We must draw a line in the sand and say very strongly never again.


KING: Let's go live to CNN correspondent Jessica Dean. She is on the scene at Pittsburgh.

Jessica, you're at one of the vigils last night. Now we're waiting for authorities to hold a news conference. What are we expecting to hear from them this morning? JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning to you, John.

Yes, the news conference will happen in about an hour. We are expected to learn the identities of the 11 victims we now know from the criminal complaint that eight of them were male, three of them female. We should learn more about them today.

This as there are now formal charges that have been filed against the suspect in this case, 29 federal charges, including hate crimes in this case that has really rocked Pittsburgh and just broken its collective heart.

[08:05:00] We were at that vigil as you mentioned last night right there in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. We were just down the way from where that shooting happened yesterday morning.

And what we saw was a community that came together so often in tragedy and when people are grieving and mourning. They simply want to be together and share in that. That was certainly the case last night. We were at the sixth Presbyterian Church where they gathered. And listen, it was overflow before the event even started, people pouring out on to the sidewalks. They then had a candlelight vigil. You heard some of the singing that they were doing last night.

And I talked to a lot of people, many of whom who lived in the squirrel hill neighborhood all of their life. A lot of people grow up here and raise their own families here. This is a place where people know each other and their children. They go to school together.

It's a diverse community in terms of religion and also race. We saw that last night, John, again as we learn the identities of the victims today, this community bracing for more mourning and more grief.

KING: Jessica Dean on the scene for us. Appreciate that reporting. We'll keep in touch throughout the day. Thank you.

The gunman not only attacked people at the synagogue, he got into a shootout with the police team that responded, the SWAT team. The tense moments captured here on this recording of the radio dispatch calls.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contact, contact. Shots fired, shots fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a guy barricaded, actively shooting at SWAT officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Operator shot! I've got one operator shot at this time!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evacing one right now. Still alive. We have at least four down in the atrium, DOA at this time, working the problem.


KING: With us now, CNN law enforcement analyst, retired FBI agent, James Gagliano, and CNN law enforcement analyst, Art Roderick, former assistant director of the U.S. Marshal's Office.

Art, let me start with you.


KING: Number one, just amen to the first responders once again. You hear people on the scene talking about the SWAT team running in, running in during an active shooting. We do not say enough thank you for the people who keep us safe.

From an investigative standpoint, what are the questions this morning? Obviously, they have a suspect in custody. According to police, he told the SWAT team he wanted all Jews dead. So, they believe they have their guy.

What are the questions this morning?

RODERICK: Well, I mean, the main question is, is there anybody that might have helped him out. You know, John, first of all, our thoughts and prayers go to the victims but also to the law enforcement officers, one of them is my understanding is critically wounded. You know, our thoughts and prayers are with them and his family.

But, you know, this particular psychotic individual, you know, they're going to peel back layers of this guy's life and figure out exactly how long he's been ranting and raving with these anti-Semitic, anti- immigrant type tones. You know, they'll check with the neighbors and family members. Apparently, he doesn't have a wife. He seemed to be quite a bit of a loner.

So they're going to look at his weapons purchase history. They're going to look at his digital footprint. Apparently, there's a lot of information out there on the digital footprint. So, they're going to put that all together and I think basically what we're going to look at here is more than likely a death penalty case eventually when it's all said and done.

KING: And, James, to the point Art makes, the digital footprint is rich. And we have this conversation too often. But you look and you see a man whose postings are full of hate, hate about Jews directly. Hate directed at the president of the United States. He doesn't expect much from President Trump because he's surrounded by and he uses a word that's derogatory word for Jews.

And so, people would ask, there it is, for all the world to see, back in the pre Internet days, you search somebody's house, you look for notebooks. You look for writings. You ask the neighbors. You ask family members.

Here it all is. Is there anything that law enforcement agencies can do in advance when this stuff is there but obviously, he doesn't say until just beforehand, he doesn't say I'm going in.

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: John, in hindsight it's always 20/20 for us. Let's make a distinction between the hate crime that the shooter was charged with. The hate crime is a crime that's motivated by prejudice, by bigotry, racism. You're attacking somebody because of their faith, because of their race or their ethnicity or sexual orientation. And there's attendant violence.

The difference between that and hate speech is this: a hate crime is illegal. Hate speech is not necessarily illegal. We enjoy First Amendment protections, right? 1791, it was ratified. It allows us to speak anyway we want to.

As long as you're not fomenting insurrection, or anarchy or riot, it's very difficult -- I looked this up and the American Bar Association states, it's very difficult to charge somebody with hate speech.

Now, to your point about the internet. The internet is ripe with dark corners, this gab site where people can express these hideous, vile bigoted racist ideologies there.

[08:10;03] If someone feels that they've been threatened and look, law enforcement has to do a triage here, they've got to determine what's the credible threat versus a non-credible threat. There's a fine line there. In hindsight, we can look back and go, how did you miss the signs.

But we don't have the resources every time somebody says something stupid, asinine or hateful on the internet to send police officers there. One thing the FBI does do is sometimes something called a knock and talk. Meaning, we hear something that could border or tinge on action, we go, we knock on the door, we present ourselves.

KING: Art, quickly as we close, three handguns, AR-15 apparently. Again, we had this conversation too often. Anything jump out to you or is that something we talk about too much?

RODERICK: I think we always end up talking about it. In this particular case, the initial indication is that more than likely those weapons were purchased legally. You know, this is all going to be part of the case that's put together.

ATF will track those weapons, the history of those weapons, find out when exactly he purchased them, how he purchased them and I'm sure we'll have a conversation here in the coming weeks about any type of loopholes or gun control. But, you know, that's going to be -- we'll see that in the future. But this is going to be part of a case that FBI puts together.

KING: All right. Art Roderick, James Gagliano, I appreciate your insights on this Sunday morning. Thank you.

And to echo what Art and James said, our thoughts and prayers with everybody involved -- the victims, law enforcement, the community.

With me in studio to share their reporting and insight this Sunday, Julie Pace of "The Associated Press", CNN's Manu Raju, Jana Johnson of "The Washington Post", and "Politico's" Eliana Johnson.

Inevitably, it used to be, and I'm one who said this in the past, let's wait. Let's not talk politics on this day or the next day. That doesn't happen in this world anymore, and understandably so.

The rabbi of this particular synagogue just days ago posted about the midterm elections and his call for gun control. The sad irony there that his synagogue -- listen to the president of the United States who, good for him, condemned anti-Semitism and was asked a question about guns.


TRUMP: If they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately. So this would be a case if there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him. Maybe nobody would have been killed except for him, frankly.

I think we should do is we should stiffen up our laws in terms of the death penalty. When people do this, they should get the death penalty.


KING: It is -- I don't mean this in a negative way. It is a predictable reaction in that gun rights proponents say arm the guards, at the school shootings, have armed personnel in the schools and those who argue, there are too many guns on the streets immediately say they want gun control. Is anything going to move in this debate or are we going to keep having it?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It's likely we'll keep having the debate. I mean, the reaction is predictable, and then the outcome seems to be predictable. Both sides go to their corners and then nothing happens legislatively.

And you wonder how long that can continue, because while that's happening, the other predictable thing is that the shootings keep happening. We continue to have mass shootings and these shootings where we say this is the most number of deaths, the most number of deaths against the Jewish community.

We keep setting these horrible records as nothing changes in the political space.

KING: We say never again far too often.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and what was interesting by the president's response is oftentimes you've heard after the mass shootings, particularly the opponents of gun control will say, it's, wait, too early right now to have a policy debate. Well, the president immediately after this horrific shooting opened up a policy debate about what exactly needs to be done and you've seen the White House react to some of the massacres by putting of that policy debate. They have that commission to study what should happen after that Parkland shooting. Nothing materialized from that. It's a difficult and divisive issue.

So, this is -- you saw the president last night, while condemning what happened, also making it very clear that there's a campaign season going on, going after Democrats as well. We appear to be in similar patterns that we've seen in the past shootings.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think particularly now, three weeks out from an election, nothing is likely to change and the president gave precisely the same response that gave to the Parkland shooting when he said we should consider arming teachers. He did say that the administration was going to look into a proposal for that.

KING: And, the Congress, they can debate and vote on things. They don't actually have real debates or votes about things. You can see where the chips fall. Maybe that's asking too much.

Up next, a vocal Trump supporter charged with mailing explosives to prominent Democrats. The president says it's wrong to blame his incendiary language.

[08:15:02] One of the targets clearly disagrees.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: I would like to think that everybody in America would think it's wrong to spend all your time from a position of power vilifying people, questioning their patriotism, calling them enemies of the people and then pretending that you're concerned about civility.



KING: Welcome back.

We too often get lost in the blur of the Trump age. The scope and audacity of the violence and hate before us in recent days should not be lost. Anti-Semitism just discussed and now, political hate.

A Florida man named Cesar Sayoc is accused of mailing a dozen crude explosive devices to politicians and public figures, including two presidents and first ladies, two senators, a congresswoman, former intelligence chiefs, big Democratic donors, all are critics of President Trump. Most also are repeat targets of the president's sharp tongue and his sharp tweets. A brazen plot as the goal was to assassinate or terrorize.


SESSIONS: Let this be a lesson to anyone, regardless of their political beliefs, that we will bring the full force of law against anyone who attempts to use threats, intimidation and outright violence to further an agenda.


[08:20:13] KING: Amen to that.

It is an unavoidable fact that this played out in the final days in the midterm campaign, it is a referendum on the president. And while Sayoc deserves his day in court, it's also an unavoidable fact that he's angry and president's grievances. The rage of his social media and his eager CNN bashing as part of the Trump rally course.

We look to a president at such anxious moments and there's no arguing with this.


TRUMP: We must never allow political violence to take root in America. Cannot let it happen. I'm committed to doing everything in my power as president to stop it and to stop it now. To stop it now.


KING: The problem is the president's unscripted thoughts and tweets undermine the calming words his aides feed into his teleprompter.

Not long before he read that unity script on Friday, a tweet with bombs in quotations channeling right wing conspiracy chatter about a liberal hoax. In that same tweet, other unscripted remarks, complaints that late campaign attention is being diverted from the migrant caravan. The facts are obvious here.

But the real plot in the president's thinking is somehow against him.


TRUMP: The media's constant unfair coverage, deep hostility and negative attacks, you know that, only serve to drive people apart and to undermine healthy debate. For example, we have seen an effort by the media in recent hours to use the sinister actions of one individual to score political points against me and the Republican Party.


KING: Why the difference? Pitch perfect about Pittsburgh. Here, some of his remarks pitch perfect but then is it because it is a prominent Trump supporter? That doesn't mean the president is responsible. But it is a prominent Trump supporter who is a suspect here.

Is it because he truly thinks this is a plot to hurt the Republicans. We cover the news. Mailing bombs to former presidents and senators and Congress people is a big deal.

E. JOHNSON: I think it's pretty obvious why the different response. Nobody was blaming the president for the Pittsburgh shooting whereas there was a loud chorus of Democrats immediately blaming the president for the other rash of domestic terrorist bombings against his political opponents. And when the president is hit, he hits back as he said many times. That's exactly what he did.

JENNA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I think quite often even when the president says the right thing, he reads the words on his teleprompter, when he issues a statement, sends the tweets with the right things in them, the things people expect to hear from a president during a moment of crisis or fear, so often they get quickly forgotten because he'll say what he really means, you know, at a rally speech or in a tweet.

And -- I mean, we've come to learn that this is not a comforter in chief. This is not a uniter in chief. Donald Trump never stops campaigning.

He's always looking for what the news of the day can do for him, what it can do for the midterms. He's always kind of looking ahead and viewing things very politically. Not through the view of what does this mean for all of us as Americans.

RAJU: Yes, in the Trump brand of politics, stoke division and anger. That's what drives his base and he believes can essentially help them win the presidency. You know, they think it can help them win in the midterms.

When he says to unify, we need to unify, it rings hollow, because afterwards he's stoking division and anger at these rallies. And one way to do that is to direct the anger towards what his opponent -- what his supporters believe is a common enemy, media and he uses the anger against the media.

When the president says he wants unity, really what he's saying, he wants everybody -- nobody to criticize him, because once they criticize him, then he goes back after that. He can't take -- as we've seen in (INAUDIBLE)

PACE: And, look, the president, like all politicians cannot be held responsible for the actions of every one of his supporters. That's just not realistic.

At the same time, we have to look at the fact that the suspect in these bombings was targeting people that the president has gone after aggressively. I think it is worth having a conversation about the impact of Trump's rhetoric, the impact of the president of the United States being so sharply critical and personally critical of people who are critical of him.

I think it's interesting that this president puts himself on par with his critics, which is something we don't see presidents do.

[08:25:05] Presidents often try to be above all of this because their position is so much greater than people in the media or even lawmakers in some cases and certainly average citizens who go after him. But he puts himself on par with all of his critics. They think it's worth having a conversation about what the impact of his personal attacks is.

KING: And you look at the scope of this attack, unsuccessful, thankfully. But the scope of the attack is mind blowing and the targets of the attacks are stunning and the audacity of it. And then you just consider the moment. Dan Balz, the great political writer for the "Washington Post" puts it like this: This is the time of politics for the apocalypse, an all-or- nothing view of the difference between winning and losing an election and holding power or not holding it. There is no middle ground on what winning or losing means. This created two Americas and turned those in one America against those in the other.

Making the argument, again, you're dead right. You cannot hold the president accountable for the actions of a supporter. But do you hold all politicians and particularly the president a little more so because he's a singular figure. He's the president of the United States for the idea that if you keep saying enemies of the state, evil, that somebody on the edge, you may nudge them over. That's part of the conversation.

Is that fair?

J. JOHNSON: Yes, it's totally fair. It's something people have been saying for the past three years. When Trump at rallies would encourage people in his crowds to beat up protesters.

I mean, when he would go after his opponent not just kinds of in the usual ways that politicians go after opponents, but to use graphic language in doing so. Sure, most of his supporters hear that, they laugh, they move on and joke about it, you know?

But those aren't the people you're worried about. It's the people on the fringe who, that could be the thing that ignites them. You know, we're at a moment where it kind of used to be that all Americans could kind of look at bombs being sent to fellow Americans as something we all agree is not good.

But when I'm out in the country talking with people, so often I find that people view this as very political. If you're a Republican, you raise questions about what these devices were and conspiracy theories about them and kind of take on the president's language about blaming the media for them.

You know, if you're a Democrat, you hold this up as the biggest example of everything wrong in the country. And we have two countries that are screaming past each other right now.

KING: And you have a president who puts the word bombs in tweets. I get pushing back against people who blame him. But the idea that you would say bombs and channel right wing conspiracy lunacy, that's not what to do.

Up next for us, brand new CNN House rankings put the House within reach of the Democrats but the president thinks he has a plan or plans to stop the blue wave.


[08:32:05] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Some brand new CNN numbers that show yes, the House is clearly within reach of the Democrats as we enter the final ten days of the midterm campaign. The current state of play: the Republicans majority, 235; Democrats in the minority, 193 seats.

But look at these brand new race rankings releasing right now on CNN clearly showing the Democrats have control of the House within their grasp -- 187 solid, 5 likely, 14 leans. If the Democrats held all those, they're within a dozen of reclaiming the majority.

Republicans in a weaker position heading into the stretch -- 153 solid, 25 likely, 21 lean. So the key to control of the House, these down here, these 30 toss-up seats and what makes the Democrats poised to retake control? Look closely. Look more closely at these toss- ups. Of the 30, 29 currently held by Republicans -- only one Democratic seat in the toss-ups.

That is the basket from which if the Democrats are successful, they can retake control of the House -- 29 Republican seats among those 30 toss-ups.

We have moved since our last rankings a month ago, nine seats toward the Democrats; only two seats toward the Republican. That tells you about the momentum near the end.

And take a look at this compared to early in the year -- Democrats now in a stronger position if you look at the solids, the likelys and the leans. From the beginning of the year the Republican position has deteriorated since then.

So we head into the stretch, again these toss-ups are the key. Democrats have control of the House within their grasp. Can they win the bulk of these, generate a blue wave?

Well, listen to the President on the road. He's skeptical.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Early voting is now under way. So if anybody wants to leave, we'll save your place, you can come right back. Go out and vote.

All over the country, Republicans, we're hot. We're hot. We're hot. And I don't think they're going to cool us off, no matter what they want to do. They try. They try so hard. But I don't think that's going to happen.


KING: Optimism from the President there. But if you look at the rankings and you look at the numbers, perhaps not as great an environment as the Democrats thought they would have a couple of weeks or a couple of months ago but they will have no excuses or no good excuses if they don't retake the House.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It will be a monumental disaster for the Democrats if they don't take back the majority. And they have shown in the past that they -- when they've had opportunities, they have not seen them. It's possible that Republicans could hold on barely. But very

clearly, everything is pointing in the favor of Democrats to take back the House, to have a narrow majority maybe 10, 15 seats -- maybe even a little bit bigger depending on how some of those very close races turn either which way.

It looks like that that's going to be favorable for the Democrats, the House. But the Senate, more favorable for the Republicans at this point all signs pointing to the fact that they will -- there's a good chance they hold on to the Senate, maybe even pick up a seat or two.

But, again, these races so close. So it can turn either way in the following days..

[08:34:58] KING: And most Republicans say if the elections were today Democrats would pick up 30 to 35 House seats. They need 23 to get the majority. That's today. We have seven days, eight days, nine days to go depending on how you count. Campaigns now are dealing much more about turning out voters, identifying voters and the like.

Listen to the President, though. First he said we're going to cut your taxes to the middle class. Now though he's trying to gin up Republican turnout. He says Republicans are hot. His big issue -- immigration.


TRUMP: Republicans want strong borders, no crime and no caravans, right? We don't want caravans. We're not having caravans.

You're going to be so happy next week. You're going to see something happen next week. You're going to be very happy. You're going to be very happy and you know the military is going to the border.


KING: That something happening this week, some sort of executive order, travel ban-like, essentially saying those migrants cannot cross. Those migrants say they just want to apply for asylum under the law. But is this a, you know, bold policy stroke by the President or a pre-election gimmick to drive up Republican turnout?

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": There are two issues that got Donald Trump elected in 2016. They are the Supreme Court and immigration. And we've seen the President turn back to those issues in 2018 with the Kavanaugh fight and since Kavanaugh was confirmed, immigration.

And I think this forthcoming executive order we'll have to see precisely what it is. But it does seem more like a gimmick than a concrete thing. And that's sort of what we've seen from the President since he was elected.

But it is -- what it is, is it's also a concrete effort to gin up his base ahead of next Tuesday. KING: And he is the issue. Look at this NCR/Marist poll. Is the

President a factor in your vote? 67 percent -- two thirds of Americans say President Trump is. President Obama, half of Americans said that back in 2014.

So the President knows he is the issue in this campaign. That's why he's going to be everywhere in the final weeks.

The former president also out saying when it comes to immigration or the President's tax cuts, really?


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President said he's passed a middle class tax cut before the next election. Congress isn't even in session. He just makes it up.

He says I am going to protect your preexisting conditions while his Justice Department is in court right now trying to strike down those protections.

That is not spin. That's not exaggeration. That's not trying to put a positive glow on things. That's lying.


KING: On that one, President Obama is correct. They will not pass a tax cut before a week from Tuesday and the President's administration is trying to undermine the requirement about preexisting conditions.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "ASSOCIATED PRESS: That is all very true. Whether that matters or not to the voters that Trump is trying to get out I think is another question. Look, Trump is the centerpiece of this election and that plays both ways.

For Republicans to win, they are going to need Trump voters who may not want to show up in this midterm when he's not on the ballot to get out there anyways. And for Democrats, it's that anger at Trump, that frustration with Trump, the fact that they just really despise this president in a lot of ways that they're hoping will ramp up turnout.

So Trump, again really the centerpiece and both parties hope that they can use that to their advantage.

KING: Fascinating final poll week. We'll have that covered day to day as we go.

Next, more from the campaign trail race. A flash point in two big contests for governor and some Democrats scrambling trying to win reelection are running as fast as they can from the party label.


KING: Some flavor from the campaign trail now as we enter the final full week of a midterms elections full of close and consequential contests. Race now a big late issue in two close gubernatorial elections. In Florida Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says his opponent pro-Trump Congressman Ron DeSantis is too cozy with hate mongers.


MAYOR ANDREW GILLUM (D-FL), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: My grandmother used to say a hit dog will holler. And it hollered through this room.

Mr. DeSantis has spoken. First of all, he's got neo-Nazis helping him out in this state. He's spoken at racist conferences. Now, I'm not calling him a racist. I'm simply saying the racists believe he's a racist.


KING: In Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams is explaining why she once took part in the burning of the state flag. The Republican opponent Brian Kemp, now Georgia's top elected official under fire for what Democrats and voting rights organizations say are efforts to purge voting roles and other steps they say are designed to discourage African-Americans from casting ballots.


STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Twenty-six years ago as a college freshman, I along with many other Georgians including the governor of Georgia were deeply disturbed by the racial divisiveness that was embedded in the state's flag with that confederate symbol. I auto took an action of peaceful protest.

BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: This farce about voter suppression and people being held up from being on the rolls and being able to vote is absolutely not true.


KING: Race a big issue. These two contests -- two of the marquee governors' races -- we've spent a lot of time on the House and the Senate, the governor's races could be a giant story come Wednesday.

JENNA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Exactly. And in both of these races, you have candidates who kind of have become symbolic of the division that's going on in the country right now.

On the Republican side, candidates who have embraced the President, embraced the President's rhetoric, embraced the President's stances on immigration and things like that.

[08:45:02] Let's not forget Brian Kemp is the guy who ran the campaign ads saying that he would round up undocumented immigrants in his pickup truck. Even before this year, his office has been accused of suppressing minority voters.

And on the Democratic side, you have Kennedy's, you know, minority candidates who are voicing what a lot of people in these states have felt for a long time. Tapping into just frustration with how the state is run.

Let's remember, when people vote for their governor, this is one of those last political positions where people feel like that's a job that can actually maybe change their life directly. Maybe there's things that their governor has done that have impacted their lives directly. It feels more at home than sending someone to Washington.

KING: In the case of sending someone to Washington, I just want to go to Missouri. If Democrats have any prayer of retaking the Senate, it's a steep hill. Claire McCaskill has to hold her seat. She's a Democrat -- I can't get to that.

She runs an ad where she says that she's standing up -- she's not one of those crazy Democrats.

RAJU: We'll see how that works. I mean she needs her base to come out, too. And she's voted against some of the President's Supreme Court nominees as well as voting alongside other Democratic leaders. We'll see how voters in the state ultimately --

E. JOHNSON: It shows the attacks she's trying to fend off though.

KING: Right. She's trying to fend that off, that's right.

All right. Stay with us throughout the week, noon Eastern. We cover these issues, we'll get through all those.

Up next here, our reporters share from their notebooks including why non-voters might actually hold the key to many of these midterm elections.


KING: Let's head one last time around the INSIDE POLITICS table and ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks, help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.

Julie Pace.

PACE: Just a few days after the midterms, President Trump is going to be heading overseas to Paris where dozens of world leaders will be gathered for a World War I anniversary. And already there's talk among foreign diplomats about what Trump's standing is going to be when he arrives in Paris.

Is he going to be weakened by Republican losses or is he going to be emboldened by the GOP keeping the House and potentially the Senate and avoiding those investigations that a Democratic House would launch.

This is really going to affect how foreign governments interact with Trump both in Paris and over the next two years. There's one foreign leader who you know is watching this particularly closely and that's Vladimir Putin, Russia's leader, who watches American politics incredibly carefully and is expected to meet with Trump on that trip.

KING: I might volunteer to go on that trip, carry somebody's bag.

PACE: That's a good one.

KING: Manu.

RAJU: John -- I spent some time last week in Kansas, second congressional district, part of the eastern Kansas and it really shows the extent of the Republican problems in trying to keep the House this year. This is a district that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. A Democrat has not occupied this seat for about a decade.

But now Democrats have a serious chance of picking up this seat. And one reason why, there's been an open seat because of a retirement.

The Republican candidate is a novice. He's made some mistakes. The Democratic candidate, Paul Davis is raising a lot of money and could very well win.

Now it also portends some problems also for Nancy Pelosi because Davis is one of those Democrats who say they will not support Nancy Pelosi no matter what. By our tally roughly 29 Democrats in these competitive races have said they will not support Nancy Pelosi.

So it all shows her margin is very tiny if they have a majority after the election. It will be hard for her potentially to get the votes, a bigger majority easier for her to get the votes.

Nevertheless, she's positioned well right now to become speaker. And if she does, it will be a very diverse majority potentially for people like moderates like this Paul Davis from (INAUDIBLE).

KING: A huge nine days ahead. But we're going to have dramatic stories, as you both know, after the election as well.


J. JOHNSON: Yes, I think one thing we need to keep in mind on election night is that this is an election that's going to be excited not just by who decides to go out and vote but who decides not to vote.

I mean every year a lot of Americans just choose not to vote in elections. In 2016, an election that captured so many people's attention in states like Tennessee, West Virginia, Texas -- only about half of the people who are old enough to vote actually did so. In Georgia, it was about 60 percent.

Democrats are hoping that's going to change next Tuesday. They're hoping that this wave of enthusiasm we've seen is going to change those numbers.

Republicans are hoping that their people are going to show up, even though this is a midterm, not a presidential election. But again, when I'm out there in the country looking for voters to talk to, I find people who are excited but I also find people who can't name their current representatives in Congress, who just are so tired of politics. They're tuning out. They don't want to be involved.

KING: Midterm turnout always pathetic whatever your politics. Give it a try this time. How about it?


E. JOHNSON: Changing the subject from the midterms, this week's -- yesterday's tragic shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue, I think gave us a revealing window into the President's world view. His response to it was a bit different from -- that we've seen from other tragedies.

He said violence is a permanent feature of humanity. It's been going on for hundreds of years. It's likely to continue to go on. I think it was a window into his sort of (INAUDIBLE) world view where he said people need to protect themselves against violence. The appropriate response is stricter death penalty laws.

And he seemed -- it's such a stark contrast from the previous presidents who said the arc of the world bends towards justice; even the previous Republican president whose goal was to stamp out tyranny in our time.

This president seems to believe that life is nasty and brutish and that these horrible things are destined to happen and the best we can do is try to protect ourselves from them.

KING: It's a great point. He has a darker -- a darker view on many things.

[08:55:01] I'll close with this. The domestic violence of recent days has largely pushed the murder of Jamal Khashoggi from the headlines. But the pressure on the Saudi regime will soon return and not just because of a post-election push in Congress for more answers and tough sanctions.

A major development now just days away in a lawsuit the families of the 9/11 victims are pressing against the Saudi regime. In a big move, the Justice Department two weeks ago committed to producing long-classified documents about the Saudi government's support for 9/11 hijackers.

Those documents will be produced in three ways -- the first coming next month. Now, we don't know the content of these classified FBI files but we do know this. The Saudi government fought fiercely, but unsuccessfully to keep the families from seeing them.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We're here at noon Eastern.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER". His guests include the mayor of Pittsburgh leading his city through grief right now.

Thanks for joining us. Have a good Sunday.