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Funerals Begin for Synagogue Shooting Victims; Growing List of Elected Officials Decline Invitation to Join Trump in Pittsburgh; Rabbi to U.S. Leaders: "Tone Down the Hate"; Forecast on Midterm Elections. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 30, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] JIM SCUITTO, CNN ANCHOR: "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

This hour, the heart-wrenching task of saying good-bye. The first funeral services are beginning as we speak for three of the victims of the deadliest attack against Jews in American history. Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, a beloved family physician, who cared for his community for decades, he'll be laid to rest today. And next hour, the brothers, David and Cecil Rosenthal, they will also be remembered. You can see we're going to show you -- you can see right there, a line forming outside the visitation for their friends and family to pay their respects. Devastating. Lives shattered.

Later today, President Trump will be visiting Pittsburgh as a community really divided wrestles with whether he should visit now or at all.


BILL PEDUTO, (D), PITTSBURGH MAYOR: I do believe that it would be best to put the attention on the families this week. And if he were to visit, choose a different time to be able to do it. Our focus is the city. We'll be on the families and the outreach that they'll need this week and the support that they'll need to get through it. Once we get past that, then I think there's the opportunity for presidential visits.


BOLDUAN: Also this morning, word of a growing list of elected officials who have now declined the White House's invitation to join the president in his visit today.

But to be clear, that one issue is the farthest thing from the minds of those who matter most right now, the families laying their loved ones to rest.

Let's go to the ground right now. CNN's Jean Casarez is outside the Tree of Life Synagogue. She's joining me now.

Jean, this is yet another horrible, tough day for the community. What are you hearing there today?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extremely solemn. This community is so together. I just see it as I go into a coffee shop, the locals are just together and speaking. We are here where it all happened, at the Tree of Life Synagogue. The funerals are not here. But there's a very large police presence to insure everything is safe. I want to show you the memorial. There's a truck right now in the way, so we can't see it. We'll go back in a minute because people from the community are coming and laying flowers, and it is just growing so much.

The first funeral, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, is starting right now at this very minute. It's at another location. He was the doctor that we have heard so much about, the family physician that everyone went to, that everyone adored, who would give his cell phone number in case anyone had a medical question or issue. Wearing a bowtie, always friendly, would light up a room.

And in the next hour, the two brothers that we have also heard so much about, that you just mentioned that people are already lining the streets for their visitation, Cecil and David Rosenthal. Warmth is what everyone says about those two brothers. That they were always here at the temple welcoming everyone. And now everyone is paying their respects to them at the synagogue.

Now, I also want to tell you that while the mourning is taking place, the work is still continuing because right here, I saw FBI agents arrive this morning. This is a crime scene. This is where they're doing the crime scene work because of the mass murder that happened here, the massacre. And also, there's now a defendant because of this massacre, and he sits in the jail. He's in the custody of federal agents. His next court hearing is set for Thursday -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Jean, thank you so much. I appreciate it so much.

So when President Trump lands in Pittsburgh this afternoon, he'll be accompanied by the first lady, along with his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is in Pittsburgh ahead of the president's visit and joins me now.

Kaitlan, the mayor had asked the president not to come, at least not come right now, but he is. What are you learning about who the president is visiting with and what he wants to do?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPNDENT: Well, it's not just the mayor, Kate. It's pretty much a big question mark who exactly the president is going to be meeting with today because the only thing we have heard from President Trump himself is that he wants to meet with some of the first responders who have been involved with this. But pretty much that's all we know about the president's schedule. He is slated to be on the ground here for about three hours. As you said, the first lady, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump will be traveling with him, along with a small group of aides. That's pretty much all we know right now. The White House has been scrambling to put this trip together, as we are hearing a growing chorus of local officials say that they do not think this is the right time for President Trump to come. Not just because of the optics, the politics, but also because of logistics, Kate. That's what we heard from the mayor of Pittsburgh, saying there aren't enough officers to not only handle the president's trip but also to handle those funerals starting today, to guard those where they're going to have multiple, starting today, as you heard from Jean.

[11:05:19] Now, in the White House's perspective, the president said on Saturday he was going to come and visit. They're insistent he still wants to come visit. But they do have a pretty busy schedule starting tomorrow with the president doing up to two or three rallies every day now until the midterm elections. So they debated a little bit over whether putting this off to Wednesday or Thursday, but then they thought the optics of the president appearing here in this very somber moment in this community and then going to a campaign rally, which is often charged with a lot of cheering, rallying and what not, they didn't think the optics would be good. And they thought the president could be criticized for waiting too long to come.

Kate, we're hearing from not only local officials but national officials that were invited to join the president, but they have declined to come. That's the House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer. It's an increasing number of officials who say they have been invited by the White House but they're not making the trip with the president today, even when it's unclear what he's going to be doing when he's on the ground here -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Kaitlan, you're there. We'll follow along with you. I appreciate it. Thank you, Kaitlan.

Joining me is Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at- large, and Eliana Johnson, CNN political analyst and White House reporter for "Politico."

Thank you for being here.

Chris, the president is heading there. Not everyone -- not everyone wants him there. But there's a difference of "wants him there at all" and "wants him there right now."


BOLDUAN: What can the president do while he is there?

CILLIZZA: Well, I mean, in truth, not all that much. And the truth of the matter is, Kate, honestly, most presidents in situations like this, you're there to grieve. You're there to empathize. You're there to shine a national spotlight and say we won't forget you. There's not -- if Barack Obama went, there's not a lot you can physically actually do and change. The issue is why at this moment? I think the answer, I mean, if I look at it and look at his schedule as it's been announced for the last week, remember, the 2018 midterms are seven days away. He is doing almost a dozen events across those days, and they start tonight, tomorrow. And you know, he wants to get those in. You saw Sarah Sanders say yesterday that he's going to continue to make the case. Despite all of what we have had in the last two weeks, he's going to continue to make the case why Republicans are the better choice in these closing days of the campaign. So my guess is some of it is logistical, which won't -- will not satisfy his critics, but my guess is that's why it's now as opposed to Friday or Saturday.

BOLDUAN: And, Eliana, the conversation since this horrible national tragedy, since it's happened, has shifted. The commentary from the president, though, has not. He's still campaigning. He campaigned on Saturday night. He's still maligning groups. He's still talking about an invasion at the southern border. He's still attacking journalists. Why does it feel like everything has changed but everything has stayed the same?

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's, in part, because Trump is not a unifier. His political DNA is to rally his base. He's never going to be somebody who in the wake of tragedy attempts to unify the country. He's somebody who when the chips are down, turns to his base. But what I think is so interesting about the way that the president has behaved and the way his critics have behaved in these tragedies is it's something to speak of it in terms of politics, has rallied both sides. You see Trump's critics inflamed by this, and they believe Trump's rhetoric has caused it. Then you see Trump allies absolutely livid at the fact that his critics are blaming him for this. I think it's something seven days out from the midterms that's likely to energize both sides in the end.

BOLDUAN: Chris, Tree of Life's rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, he had a very important message this morning, something that everyone needs to listen to, elected or not, but especially as he says that he himself welcomes the president -- will welcome the president when he visits. I want everyone to take a moment and listen to the rabbi.


JEFFREY MYERS, RABBI, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: I turn to all of our elected leaders, because hate doesn't know a political party. Hate is not blue, hate is not red, hate is not purple. Hate is in all. I turn to them to say tone down the hate. Speak words of love. Speak words of decency and of respect. When that message comes loud and clear, Americans will hear that, and we can begin to change the tenor of our country.


BOLDUAN: Everyone is searching for civil discourse, calling for it. Is that the road map we're seeing there?

[11:09:58] Yes, that's the road map, but I think that is a sentiment that lots and lots of people who disagree about politics could agree on, Kate. Here's the problem. Divisive speech, casting your opponents -- and I'm talking in a political context -- casting your opponents as evil, as the media as the enemy of the people. Eric Holder's comments about, when they're down, we kick them. All of that stuff -- this is to Eliana's earlier point -- it energizes the party base. Democrats want someone who is willing to say those things about Donald Trump. Donald Trump has clearly built his political successes on being a bully, on weaponizing the polarization that exists in this country. He's not going to stop because it works. And that's the problem. You need to get beyond, we can't reward as a citizenship and a body politic. If we reward that kind of behavior and that kind of rhetoric, guess what politicians are going to do? They're going to give us more of it.

BOLDUAN: That's true.

But, Eliana, to that point, the president is staying true to form in at least one way, if not many ways. When he doesn't like the conversation or where the conversation is, he does anything -- he'll do anything to change it. You saw that in talking about sending the military to the border last week. Today, talking about ending birth- right citizenship through an executive order, which he cannot do. Does this tell you anything about how the president views Republicans' chances if this is where he wants the conversation to turn in the aftermath of this, a week out from the election?

JOHNSON: Yes, I think the criticism of the president in the wake of the massacre at the synagogue has been that he said the right thing on that specific instance, but on the broader issues, he reverted to this divisive rhetoric that won him the 2016 election. We see him turning back to those same issues, immigration and the Supreme Court. And now he doesn't have the Supreme Court anymore. He got Brett Kavanaugh confirmed but he's gone back to the same divisive rhetoric on immigration. The rhetoric in the vein of Mexican rapists and the Muslim ban. And you see him using that rhetoric at his rallies, which he's continuing to do as the nation grieves over this massacre. And the two -- the nation grieving and the president's rallies existing side by side make many people uncomfortable.

CILLIZZA: By the way, Kate, I'll add to Eliana's great point. In some ways, Donald Trump has subbed the Supreme Court for the media, right, in that closing message. The media is out to get me. They're the ones to blame for this. And also, immigration. Be afraid, this group of migrants is coming for you. Those are the two messages he's closing on. And honestly, it's not that different than the messages he closed on in 2016. And again, there's a reason for that. Because, at least as it relates to his base, it works.

BOLDUAN: Well, I'll close on this, to your point, Chris, if people tone down the rhetoric, will they be rewarded? If they act more civilly --

CILLIZZA: That's the problem.


BOLDUAN: -- will they be rewarded? That falls on everyone, to hold people accountable. But if we want to think about it in a different way, reward the people who are nice. Reward the people who can disagree but not be disagreeable. Let's see what happens on Tuesday.

Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.


JOHNSON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, racism and anti-Semitism are on the rise and surging on social media in the wake of the synagogue massacre. What is Silicon Valley doing to stop the hate? What is their role? We'll talk about that.

Plus, the midterm elections now seven days away. One week to go. A brand-new forecast is out on where things stand as a sprint to the finish is under way.

We'll be right back.


[11:18:15] BOLDUAN: One week and counting until the midterm elections. The president is planning the definition of a campaign blitz in these final days to try to help Republican candidates. So where do things stand right now, you ask. And Harry Enten delivers. CNN political senior writer and analyst is joining me now.

Harry, let's start where the big -- let's do it all. But let's start with the House. Where do things stand now in your forecast?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER & ANALYST: Sure. Let's look at the House forecast. Cute thing there. Right now, we have Democrats at 226, Republicans at 209. You need 218 for a majority. So right now, we think that the Democrats are going to have a net pickup of 31 seats, which is more than enough for them to gain control of the House of Representatives.

BOLDUAN: Are you seeing -- where is the shift, though? I mean, all along, you have said Democrats are likely to take back the House. Are you seeing a change in the final week?

ENTEN: We're not seeing too much of a change. One thing I would point out is really this national environment has been fairly stable over the last six months. So the generic congressional ballot, which does a good job of understanding where the national environment is --

BOLDUAN: Right. Right.

ENTEN: -- back on April 30th, Democrats were up by seven, and on October 30th, up by eight. Very little shift going on. Democrats have been favored for a while.

BOLDUAN: The thing I have heard you say before is the ceiling and the floor. You think Democrats, from what you're seeing in the numbers and the data, they have a higher ceiling. Can you explain that for us?

ENTEN: Sure. This is essentially what I mean. We have a margin of error that's associated with our forecasts. This is basically a worst case for the Democrats and a best case. The worst case is that they're 23 below where we currently forecast them, so the worst case is they get 203. That's very unlikely. Let's look at the best case. It's 263. That's considerably higher than 226. The difference between 263 and 226 is 37 seats.


ENTEN: So basically, you know, you think of a margin of error, you think plus or minus. That's not the case here. Their plus is much higher than their minus is low.

[11:20:05] BOLDUAN: OK. That's a good way of describing it, plus much higher than the margins below.

What about the Senate right now?

ENTEN: So, if the Democrats are favored in the House, they're definitely not favored in the Senate. Right now, Republicans have 51 seats. We think they'll get up to 52, and Democrats will drop down to 48. I wouldn't be shocked. We have a lot of limited polling in some of the key states like Missouri, for example, where the forecast actually has McCaskill winning the Democratic incumbent. But I think if I were betting against my forecast in one state, it would be there, I wouldn't be shocked if this ended up at 53 instead of 52.

BOLDUAN: Do you see a lot of shifting happening in the last week?

ENTEN: Not really. You know, I think that we're always trying to create a horse race out of everything going on, but for the most part, we really haven't seen it. I would say the one way things have shifted over the last month is that states that have been traditionally Republican are starting to go back to their roots and states that are traditionally Democratic are going back to their roots.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

Great to see you, Harry. Thank you so much.

ENTEN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: We want to talk about this more. I want to go to Capitol Hill where all of this will be playing out. Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is joining me now.

Manu, assume the forecast Larry -- Harry lays out is reality come November 7th, the day after the election. What does a Democratic House and a Republican Senate mean for the next Congress with a President Trump?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very little will happen legislatively. There's one issue that perhaps the two sides could agree on. This is the re-worked version of the NAFTA agreement that will be a top priority in the new Congress. Beyond that, very few items will probably get support from both sides. You have to immediately deal with issues such an averting a government shutdown in the lame-duck session immediately after the elections. Then they have to worry about other big fiscal issues in the new year, including things like raising the debt limit also continuing to fund the government, things that constantly lead to partisan bickering. But we'll see certainly on the House side, Democrats launching a slew of investigations, everything from what's happening with the Justice Department to the Russia investigation to immigration, things they believe have been ignored by the Republican majority. That's going to be a big focus for the Democrats in the investigative side -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: In this last week, I mean, the president is on an all-out blitz, 11 stops he's going to in the final week. What do you see when you see this map, the places he's going, the states he's hitting, really, where his priority is?

RAJU: The priority is the Senate right now, because of those numbers that you and Harry were just talking about. The House moving, almost looking very likely to flip. What the president and his team want to do right now is to ensure that the firewall is the Senate, that they will not lose the Senate, which would be a disaster for their party. Right now, there's no indication that that's likely scenario. Instead, they want to try to increase one seat, maybe two seats, pad that majority as they face a very likely prospect of a Democratic House next year -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Manu. Thanks so much.

RAJU: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Trump is heading to Pittsburgh just a short time from now. But a growing list of elected officials say they will not be joining him, including members of his own party. Republican congressman from Pennsylvania will be joining me next.


[11:28:03] BOLDUAN: This afternoon, President Trump will visit Pittsburgh where the first funerals are being held for victims of Saturday's synagogue massacre. Some there say now is not the time. Others say that he is welcome. And still others say he is not welcome until he comes down squarely against white nationalism, white nationalists. These two local officials say they will not be meeting with the president while he's in town, the mayor and Pittsburgh county executive, Rich Fitzgerald.

Also, the four top congressional leaders and the state's Republican Senator, they all declined the White House's invitation to make the trip to Pittsburgh with the president.

Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, Ryan Costello, is joining me now.

Congressman, thank you so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Good morning. Are you -- where are you on this? Are you happy to see that the

president is going to Pittsburgh today?

COSTELLO: I'll say a couple things. One, and I think that you and all of your viewers can agree that the real story is the loss of life and the fact that we mourn for them. And that our country right now has a lot of hate and very uncomfortable emotions that are stirred within so many people. And I really hesitate to get too involved in the story on whether the president should or shouldn't be there. My guess is that those congressional leaders that could not be there have a very, very full schedule with campaigning between now and next Tuesday. And that it's incumbent upon every elected official to help calm the waters and de-escalate what's going on in this country and not contribute to it.

BOLDUAN: Well, look, elected officials, you face uncomfortable situations all the time. But there are --


BOLDUAN: And I laid it out pretty clearly, there are some who say they welcome the president. Some who say not right now, we want to focus on the families, funerals today, at this hour, visitations happening, beginning next hour. And others saying still, they don't want the president to come at all in their time of grieving.

COSTELLO: So, yes.