Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Proposes to Stop Granting Citizenship to People Born on US Soil; Pittsburgh Protests Trump Visit. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 30, 2018 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: As President Trump floated an executive order defying the provision in the U.S. Constitution granting citizenship to children born in the U.S., seemingly designed to gin up his base, regardless of its constitutionality or frankly its basis in reality, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was one of the first to publicly support the idea.

Tweeting in part -- quote -- "Finally, a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship."

Now, this is a topic that the South Carolina senator pushed years ago. But the lightning speed of Graham's tweet adds to the growing list of issues where Graham has been quick to portray himself as the president's number one supporter in the U.S. Senate, after trashing Donald Trump in the past.

Let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju.

Manu, just to be completely candid, how much of this new posture by Graham is because he's up for reelection in 2020, and his home state, South Carolina, is a Trump-loving state?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I asked Graham directly if his new alliance had anything to do with his own reelection prospects in 2020. He told me that he actually wants voters to show that he's -- quote -- "mature" and he can accept losing to Trump in the 2016 presidential primary.

And he says he's come to like the president and can help shape his views by staying close to him.


RAJU (voice-over): Something unusual is happening in the Republican Party. Lindsey Graham, once reviled by the conservative base, now welcomed like a hero.



RAJU: Graham's march from Trump detractor to Trump defender has been months in the making, earning the president's trust as a close confidante and golf buddy, and he now has conservatives gushing about this performance last month.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is the most unethical sham since I have been in politics.

RAJU: Stumping in North Charleston, the crowd erupted as Graham relived the moment he defended Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from sexual misconduct allegations.

GRAHAM: Kavanaugh, I was really pissed. I wanted them to know not how I felt, but how you felt.


RAJU: He's suddenly a top GOP surrogate, taking his Kavanaugh message to 12 states with key races.


GRAHAM: The reception out there today was about Kavanaugh.

RAJU: Graham's shift also reflects the makeover of the Republican Party in the age of Trump. Nearly nine of 10 GOP voters support the president, a clear sign why Republicans running in swing states are attaching themselves closely to Trump.

(on camera): Is there room in this party right now to be an outspoken critic of this president?

GRAHAM: I don't think there's any room in the party for wanting him to fail. If they see your criticism as designed to want him to fail, or not support him, then you're in trouble.

RAJU (voice-over): In that same room was Republican House candidate Katie Arrington, who pulled off a major primary upset by defeating Trump critic and incumbent Mark Sanford.

Arrington delivering a Trumpian stump speech and suggesting her opponents are evil.

ARRINGTON: It is good and evil.

RAJU: After the event, she refused to answer questions.

(on camera): You have been a sharp Trump critic in the primary. I'm wondering if you think there is any room in the...

(voice-over): Graham's critics say, by not standing up to Trump, he's abandoned the moral high ground often taken by his close friend the late Senator John McCain.

GRAHAM: John was tough, but he was forgiving. I'm going to do what I have always done.

RAJU: But it's not what he's always done with Trump. In 2015, when the two were campaign rivals, Trump gave out Graham's phone number at a rally. Now Graham says:

GRAHAM: Mr. President, if you get mad at me, call me.


RAJU: Now, a recent CNN poll showed Graham with high marks from 59 percent of GOP voters, compared to Trump critic Jeff Flake, who gets just 22 percent support.

Graham is trying to use that new popularity to help Republican candidates like Katie Arrington in that House district in the Charleston area, even as national Republicans are now nervous about that seat, Jake, dumping in late money to fortify her position in a district Trump easily won.

TAPPER: Manu Raju, thanks so much.

So this has been an interesting evolution, especially for some of us who have known Lindsey Graham for 20 years. I first met him on the Straight Talk Express in 1999. He was one of the few House members who endorsed Senator John McCain.

What do you think John McCain would make of this, may he rest in peace?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I think he would be very depressed to see Lindsey Graham going down this path. If anything -- if there's anything John McCain stood for, one of the many very important things he stood for, it was a sense that one has to rise above partisanship in key moments, one has to try damp down angers of the citizenry when they are expressing themselves in violence and in bigotry.

He spent a lot of time doing that, famously with President Obama in 2008 in the campaign, but all together for the last 20 years or so of his political career. And to see Lindsey Graham, whatever the merits, and I don't think they're very great, of the legislation, just playing into it, what is he really doing?

There's not going to be legislation. There's probably not going to be executive order. It's all nonsense. What he's doing is fanning the flames. He's legitimizing it in a sense, it's reasonable to be so concerned about people who are being born here becoming citizens or about the caravan, that it's reasonable to be hyping alarm about it.

It should be the opposite message at this time. John McCain would have given the opposite message.


ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is something that Lindsey, though, has been very consistent on for a long time.

TAPPER: Birthright citizenship.

NAVARRO: Birthright citizenship is something he has been banging the drums about for eight years or so.

You know, on the John McCain issue, look, I traveled a lot with John and with Lindsey. Those guys loved each other. They were good friends. And Lindsey is right. John McCain was tough.

But he was forgiving. And I think they had a true friendship that transcended some political differences. I think they would have had words. I remember them being in disagreement, for example, over the Sonia Sotomayor vote, which was a big issue back in the day.

TAPPER: Oh, Lindsey Graham voted for her. Yes.

NAVARRO: And John McCain voted against her.

TAPPER: Right.

NAVARRO: So, you know, I don't know what John would be doing. And, you know, Lindsey, look, this was a tough one for me, because I love the guy. And I have known him for so long. And it's almost like he's become -- he and Trump have become Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. They're on again, they're off again. They break up, they make up. They break up, they're in love again.

Last time we saw Lindsey...


TAPPER: Which one is Elizabeth Taylor?


KRISTOL: I don't want to really go there, you know?

NAVARRO: Well...

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I see them more as Dorothy and her little dog, Toto.

Graham has debased himself. Famously, the president said that -- Mr. Trump at the time said President Obama didn't have a birth certificate, wasn't born in America. It was racist and it was awful and it was a lie.

I want to posit that Lindsey Graham doesn't have a spine. I want him to produce an MRI of his back, because I think you could go at that thing with an electron microscope and you wouldn't find the slightest bit of solid material.


NAVARRO: This is a guy who served his country.



TAPPER: A leading supporter to end birthright citizenship is Congressman Steve King...

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, yes, a known white supremacist.

TAPPER: ... of Iowa.

O'Lakes has just withdrawn its support of King because there's a new renewed focus on comments he's made criticizing diversity in the United States, immigration, George Soros. He's given interviews to some very questionable cats.

King also recently endorsed a candidate for office in Canada who has been called a white supremacist, and he's retweeted Nazi sympathizers, et cetera.

Today, it got so bad that Congressman Steve Stivers, who is the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, he tweeted: "Steve King's recent comments, actions and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms and I strongly condemn this behavior."

That's a week before the midterms and the latest poll had Steve King in a competitive race.

SANDERS: Yes. Yes, oh, my goodness. Steve King has been in Congress for 15 years. But he gets in one close race and all of a sudden white supremacy is too much for us, the National Republican Congressional Committee.

TAPPER: You don't give them credit for that?

SANDERS: Look, I'm happy that a week out from the election, when the polls are really close and after all of the debauchery that Steve King has said and engaged in, that finally the NRCC has grown a spine to abandon Steve King a week out, when the polls are close.

Please. I don't believe it. Steve King is a known -- he hasn't just aligned himself with white supremacists, like I would say the president has. Steve King is a supporter and an espouser of white supremacist ideology.

He believes this crap. So, look, I'm not giving the NRCC any cupcakes, candies or pats on the back for doing just the bare minimum.

TAPPER: OK, no cupcakes or candies or pats on the back.

We're going to take -- President Trump just arrived at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. There he is.

We're going to watch this as it happens, as it unfolds. Let's listen in.

That's the -- if anybody wondered, Ron Dermer. He's the Israeli ambassador to the United States. And that's Rabbi, I his name is Myers, Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue with President Trump. Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, and Ivanka Trump are there as well.

Jared is wearing a yarmulke. They're meeting there, as I said, with the rabbi of the synagogue, Jeffrey Myers and Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer.

Kaitlan Collins is on the scene.

And, Kaitlan, you have been there all day. It's very -- it's very sad to be there. Tell us what you're seeing.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. This has been a really sad scene all day. You can see to the left of where the president and them just got out of the Beast.

We have seen people here all day paying their respects, and now the president, the first lady, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are going into the Tree of Life Synagogue, Not all the way into the synagogue, I should note, because it is still an active crime scene. We saw FBI agents going in and out all day long.

But they're going to go into the entrance, they're going to meet with one of the rabbis. And we are told by the White House that they're going to light a candle for the victims that were shot here on Saturday inside of this synagogue.

Now, you did mention that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, is here. Another person we didn't know is going to be traveling is also here. That's the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin. He also traveled with the president and the first lady and their family members.

Now, they're going to go in here. As you see them going in now, they're greeting them. You can see Ivanka Trump and Jared there at the back. And then once they leave there, they're going to come out and they're going to lay some stones from the White House, as is their traditional custom, out over here where you can see to the left in front of the synagogue there are these white stars, one for every person who was killed on Saturday.

Tons of flowers and balloons in front of them. Each star has their name, a victim's name on it. And that is where we have seen people paying respects all day. So, Jake, they're going to come out, they're going to lay these stones, some white roses at these signs as well.

And then we are told by the White House that a rabbi is going to lead them in a prayer. So that will pretty much wrap up the president's first stop here as he's been on the ground in Pittsburgh.

And this is not a stop we knew that the president was going to make. Actually, we have been out here since about 9:00 a.m. this morning, and it didn't seem that officials around here knew that the president was coming here earlier.

But he is here now, and he is meeting with the rabbi just inside the entrance there of the Tree of Life Synagogue.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins on the scene. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we will tell

you more about the president's visit to the Tree of Life Synagogue. Stay with us.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And we're back with breaking news. President Trump just arriving at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh whereas you know 11 worshippers were murdered on Saturday in the worst anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States. CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Pittsburgh. And Miguel, you've been with protesters. Where are you in relation to the synagogue and what is the scene like there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're just a few blocks from the synagogue and I think we're all a little shocked at how big and how quickly and how big this protest got. I want to show you, sort of this is one protest that was coming up Forbes from this direction. There were maybe 2,000 people there by the end of it. And keep in mind it was about 24 hours ago they start -- started to organize this. Another protest group that was walking up the other direction on Forbes, met this group and then they all started marching and it looks like they are taking a right down here on Shady.

That way another long block and a half is where the synagogue is. That is where President Trump is now. It is unclear what is going to happen. Certain parts of this protest just wants to be heard. They want to know that they are concerned with the President's words. Others want to disrupt things more. We are going to follow it and see where it goes. Jake?

[16:50:32] TAPPER: All right, Miguel Marquez, thanks so much. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll have more of the President's visit to Pittsburgh. Stay with us.


TAPPER: And we're back with the breaking news. President Trump visiting the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh following the anti- Semitic massacre that took place there on Saturday, the worst incident of anti-Semitic violence in the history of the United States, eleven worshippers killed on Saturday. The President and First Lady Melania Trump we're told are going to light a candle with Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and other clergies from the synagogue as well as Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer who went with them.

You see also in the image right they are taking a few moments ago, the President's daughter Ivanka Trump who converted to Judaism, her husband Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to the President. Also there, were also told the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who's Jewish were there. We're also told they will come outside and lay stones from the White House.

It's a tradition in Judaism instead of putting flowers on graves to put stones on gravestones. I believe it's because it's a symbol of modesty in death, the same way that Jews I believe don't have ornate graves, they have simple graves. They are going to put them on the stars that are serving as makeshift graves. There are 11 of them, 11 Stars of David. You see them right there for the victims. We're then told that the rabbi will accompany the first family and lead them in a prayer.

Let's talk about this. And I think there are a lot of people, Bill, out there especially a lot of supporters of the president who see that his daughter converted to Judaism, who see Jared Kushner his son-in- law obviously given a very prominent place in the position, they're both Orthodox and don't understand why it is that so many American Jews especially some of the ones we've heard from Pittsburgh are so angry at the President.

They say how can he be anti-Semitic, how can he have hostility towards Jews, his daughter is Jewish, his grandchildren are Jewish. Help explain it to it to people who don't understand.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I mean, I don't personally think he has a particular personal hostility to Jews or Gary Cohn or Steve Mnuchin. He's got them in his administration and so forth. But he certainly tolerates behavior among his followers that he shouldn't in my opinion, both Jews but I would again come back the refugees and more broad in minorities of all sorts. It's just a willingness to encourage kind of assaults on different groups and failures certainly to ever it seems to me to call for the opposite which is respect and tolerance that I think people not just Jews are offended by.

TAPPER: And Simone, the killer, the anti-Semite who went into that Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday. He stated a number of times that he didn't like President Trump because he thought he was too beholden to Jews. That's a nice way of putting what he said, that he was too beholding to Jews and he couldn't actually ever make America great again because the administration was so infested, his word, with Jews. But this caravan issue motivated the killer, and the caravan issue is one that President Trump and a lot of Republicans have been talking about painting the caravan as very dangerous, as financed -- and this is not true, there's no evidence for this -- financed by George Soros and other Jews. So that's also a reason why people are upset by his presence there today.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, I just -- he has not been sincere in every opportunity that he has had to demonstrate that he is not only willing to dial down the rhetoric but also you know, get us actually espoused and live the civility that we're -- you know, we all wish he and many folks across the country had. He doesn't take that opportunity. He again, he called the caravan and invasion. The caravan mind you, is over a month away. And so I hear -- and I hear and identify and I empathize, I'm with the folks in Pittsburgh today, in a community that just want someone to come and not just give them platitudes, not just use them as a photo- op, but they want the president United States to truly be there for them in this moment. They want the President United States to be an ally to stand in solidarity and he just frankly can't do that.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, as we end this program, I think it's important to think about some of the silver linings that have come out of this horrible, horrible tragic event in this week, and it's that we are talking about the 60 percent spike in anti-Semitism that has happened in the last couple of years, something that had not been spoken about to this level before, that we are seeing things like Muslims in Pittsburgh raising funds for the Tree of Life and for their Jewish brothers, that we are learning about the compassionate humanitarian work of Jewish organizations helping refugees.

You know, we are seeing a lot of good in humanity and a lot of Hope in humanity, and I also think that it's a lesson for all of us. I've heard a lot of what about-isms this week. What about Farrakhan, what about this, what about that, look, I think it's upon us, upon each and every one of us to call out and stamp out and condemn anti-Semitism wherever we see it, whether it's from Farrakhan or whether is from Donald Trump. Farrakhan is a flea on an elephant's butt, Donald Trump is the elephant, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't -- we don't have the same duty to call it all out.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And it's striking who's not there. Secretary Mnuchin is there who his most famous moment of his life would be when he stood mute of a plotted plan while our president said that neo-Nazis were very fine people after neo-Nazis have murdered a peaceful woman name Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, A disgusting moment in American history. Steve Mnuchin stood witness to that. Interesting that Paul Ryan Republican Speaker of the House, Mitch McConnell Republican Senate Majority, they're not there and I think perhaps they don't want to have Steve Mnuchin with them.

TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all for being here for this very difficult conversation. Our coverage on CNN continues right after this. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or @THELEAD. Thanks for watching.