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CNN NEWSROOM

White House Press Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 29, 2018 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00] SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Tomorrow, the president and first lady will travel to Pennsylvania to express the support of the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community.

And with that, I will take your questions.

(WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING FROM 14:30:07 TO 14:50:16)

[14:50:16] SANDERS: Thanks so much, guys. Have a nice day.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- no responsibility?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So let's begin about talking about Sarah Sanders off the top, not just the Sarah Sanders we just heard from, but the Sarah Sanders off the top. I'm going to say this. You know, she struck the right tone. She used the right words. She was appropriately emotional. But is this enough at this moment, when this nation is angry and upset and grieving?

Elie Honig, I wanted to go to you first, because two of your grandparents survived the Holocaust and they came to the U.S. as refuges. They were settled by HIAS, which we've talked about with regards to what happened over the weekend. But I wanted to hear to you first. Hearing from Sarah Sanders off the top, talking about those 11 lives lost, with so many false starts in this White House, what did you make of how she was today?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In the beginning, the scripted part, I think Sarah Sanders said exactly what needed to be said. The problem is, the message is already thoroughly mixed because of the president's own words. And if you need proof of that, just look at what the Pittsburgh shooter himself said on Twitter. It gave us an insight into his mind. He had two reasons for going into that synagogue that day. First of all, the caravan, right? And the language that the shooter used was "invasion," "hostile invaders," right? Where'd he get that from? That is plagiarized from the president, talking about the caravan as invaders. And then the shooter blames HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which is just so incredibly twisted. Because as you said, that organization embodies the spirit of compassion and charity that have sort of sustained the Jewish people and this country, including my own family. So nobody's saying the president is happy that person went in there and shot up the synagogue. I'm sure he's devastated like everybody else, but there needs to be some accountability for the impact of his rhetoric.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about accountability and impact.

Gloria Borger, I want to go to you in Washington, D.C.

Because when you hear Sarah Sanders and she says, "Trump has found moments where he has brought this country together." And those reporters brought up exactly the right counter to that, which is look at his tweets, you know, look at his tweets, blaming -- not looking within or looking at his own rhetoric, but blaming the media for the anger in the country, the media as the enemy.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Right. And she said 90 percent of the media. There's something very simple, honestly, the president could do about, for example, the bomber, the shooter, and say, if you think you're on my side and you think you're a supporter of mine, you are not. Because what you are doing is something I do not stand for and I abhor and I condemn. And I think you need to be punished. And if any supporters of mine feel that way, then you ought to understand how I feel.

Remember, I go back to David Duke during the campaign when he said, he really didn't know who he was and he was --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: I was thinking about the same thing.

BORGER: He didn't criticize.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: So the president is sort of only able to throw blame at others. And to say -- as Sarah Sanders did today. You know, Sarah Sanders said it was outrageous that CNN had said, you know, that the president's words have meaning and can inspire action. And the president, as you saw in his tweets today, was full of grievance. This is not a time for a president to be full of grievance. I don't care whether it's about us in the media or his next-door neighbor or his political opponent. This right now is not about grievance. It's about healing. And that's what this president can't seem to get his arms around and cannot do.

BALDWIN: It's what I was just talking to someone who studied hate crimes for 30 years. And he was saying, it's not an us/them mentality, it should be a we mentality.

BORGER: Yes.

BALDWIN: I'm going to come back to you.

Chris Cillizza, you listened to Sarah Sanders in all of that. And she said, she said that, you know, this president has denounced bigotry and hatred and racism. Has he?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think, on occasion, he's said the right things, when he's --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: On occasion?

CILLIZZA: Yes, in the immediate aftermath of events like these. But the problem is, is that that's not all he has to say. And I return, again, to Teleprompter Trump is not Trump. Twitter Trump is Trump. Non-Teleprompter Trump is Trump. Twitter Trump is someone who this morning sought to lay blame for incidents we've seen over the last week at the foot of the media.

BALDWIN: Yes.

[14:54:49] CILLIZZA: While also saying that the media is the enemy of the people in the same tweet. I mean, it's just very hard to reconcile that sentiment. Sarah Sanders repeatedly said today, Brooke, the first thing the media did is blame Donald Trump. That's -- it's just inaccurate. What the media did and will continue to do, is provide context, which is, this president has weaponized polarization for political opportunity in a way that we've not seen done before. Most past presidents saw polarization as a problem that they took it to address. It was a -- it was something that needed fixing. Donald Trump sees it as an opportunity that is able to be exploited for political gain. He just doesn't have that moral compass gene in him that the people -- that Republicans and Democrats, who have been president before, have possessed. We saw it in Charlottesville. We've seen it about Roy Moore. We've seen it about Rob Porter. We've seen it any number of times, in which he essentially throws his hands up and says both sides when it's something that he doesn't want to offer a thought on. And when it is something he wants to offer a thought on, he has hard and fast opinions about it. I mean, I don't -- it's nothing new. It's also incredibly difficult and frustrating to watch. Not just as a journalist, but as a citizen.

BALDWIN: As a human being, it's difficult. As a human being, just looking at what's happening in our country, over just the last week, it's difficult to understand why it's lacking so entirely deeply.

Josh Campbell, we were talking, you were listening. You were saying, a classic leadership flaw is lack of self-awareness.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It is. I mean, I think the White House has focused so much on the political issue here, they're not understanding that there's also a gigantic public safety issue here, when you talk about the tone set by the White House. Now, you know, what we saw, again, it's just a classic leadership flaw. This lack of emotional intelligence or self-awareness. Now, I suspect that Sarah Sanders knows that, you know, many of the attacks that she's parroting from the podium, it's nonsense. But if she doesn't, then that's almost worse than a case. If they actually believe that it's others and they don't -- and they bear no responsibility here. I mean, she mentioned that the president has, at times, brought people together and comforted people. But you're president 24/7. And the president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. His words matter. So if they don't see that, then, obviously, that's an issue. And don't confuse that as a criticism of Republicans. That's a criticism of people who happen to be Republicans that are running the government. They control the levers of power, and with that responsibility comes criticisms. When they misstep, they have to understand that this is a public safety issue here, it speaks volumes about how they see the world.

BALDWIN: Agree. Words matter.

Guys, thank you so much.

CAMPBELL: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

The suspect in that synagogue shooting appeared in court today. We'll have the latest there next, including an interview with someone who narrowly escaped that attack in a sanctuary. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:01] BALDWIN: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN's special coverage as a string of hate-fueled attacks has really rocked this country amid the devastation --