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Joe Biden Holds Campaign Rally in Madison, Wisconsin; Voters Hit the Polls One Week for Midterm Elections; Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired October 30, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:07] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. It is 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 a.m. out on the West Coast, and today, a community pays tribute as the first funeral services are held for victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.
And the president will pay a visit today to the rattled city. He along with the first lady as well as Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner will arrive in just a few hours. The president is expected to meet with injured officers and also victims of the synagogue shooting, but this morning, we are learning that state, local, and national leaders have declined, declined the White House invitation to appear with the president today. That includes Pittsburgh's mayor and the county executive.
SCIUTTO: And not just Democrats, congressional leaders, Democratic and Republicans, turning down an invitation from the White House to visit Pittsburgh with the president. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, they all declined those invitations.
Last night, the mayor of Pittsburgh said that he tried to tell the White House that the city's priority right now are the families, the funerals. The first is today, not a visit from the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL PEDUTO (D), PITTSBURGH COUNTY: Our focus is the city, will be on the families, and the outreach that they need this week and the support that they'll need to get through it. Once we get past that, then I think there is the opportunity for presidential visits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So all of this is happening one week before you voters head to the polls for the midterms. And the president's aides, some of them tell "The Washington Post" in their new reporting today, they're struggling to balance their blistering campaign strategy with these calls for national unity.
What will the president say today? How will he walk that line? Let's start with the funerals. Jean Casarez joins us on the ground in
Pittsburgh. And this is all politics aside, honoring those 11 lives lost. And I believe the first funerals begin in just about an hour.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Poppy. So, so true. This is such a serious day. It's so solemn here. And we're here at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
I want to show you the memorial that is growing and growing. Look at all the people that have just come here. They have just come here to look and to watch and to pay honor to the victims whose names are on the various Star of Davids at that insignia.
The first funeral does start in about an hour. Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz will be interred at 11:00 this morning. A devoted family doctor, so many say that he just lit up a room when he would enter. Always wearing a bowtie. Giving his cell phone numbers to people, always that family doctor that anyone could call on. And then at noon today, the funeral of brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal.
Now the funerals are not being held at all at the synagogue behind me because, in fact, the synagogue is a crime scene. And I saw the FBI arrive this morning. And they are continuing to process this crime scene. But as the investigation continues, as the defendant remains in federal custody, today is the day, the solemn day that the funerals begin in this community that continues to grieve -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Jean Casarez, thank you for being there.
SCIUTTO: With several local leaders and state leaders declining to join President Trump in Pittsburgh today, what kind of reception will he get when he arrives there in just a few hours?
CNN's Kaitlan Collins, she's in Pittsburgh now in advance of the president's arrival.
Kaitlan, quite a list here, and not just Democrats. Republican leaders on the Hill as well, declining this invitation from the White House. Remarkable. Is there a reaction from the White House to this?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So far no reaction from the White House yet. We've reached out to them about comment about how they invited these leaders, not just local leaders but also those national figures as well that you just cited to come with President Trump on this visit today, and they haven't responded, but we do know that the vice president, Mike Pence, is going to be doing an interview here in the next half hour or so, and he may address this then, even though he is not one of those officials that is expected to come with President Trump here to Pittsburgh today.
We know that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are going to join the president as well as the first lady, Melania Trump. But last night, we were talking to officials about what this trip is going to look like. They said it was going to be an understated visit. And we now know that the Pittsburgh mayor's office, which they said the president should not come, he should delay his visit until these funerals are over and let the community mourn in the period between now and then.
Not just because of questions about the president's rhetoric but about logistical issues as well, as whether or not there are enough officers to not only handle the president's visit but also to be able to guard these funerals as well. Those are the questions the White House is facing. And now we are seeing that the Pittsburgh mayor's office is saying they did not know that the president was going to be coming here officially until Sarah Sanders announced it at that press briefing yesterday that they were going to come.
[10:05:04] They knew they had considered it, they knew they talked about it, they advised him to stay away for at least a week or so until everything calmed down here, but of course, the president is going to come here anyway.
Now it does seem that he's facing some criticism from local leaders on that, but Jim and Poppy, the White House's view on all of this from what several officials I have spoken with have said, they feel that they waited too long, they would be criticized for not coming sooner, and of course tomorrow, President Trump is kicking off his 11 campaign rally week ahead of the midterms next Tuesday that he's got going on so he'd have to reschedule a rally if he did delay this trip until later in the week. So we're waiting to find out more details on what the president's visit is even going to look like today, though.
SCIUTTO: So, wait, Kaitlan, are you saying the White House said to you that one reason they're coming today is that they did not want to reschedule campaign rallies later in the week?
COLLINS: They did not say that explicitly. We should make that clear. The president did say he wanted to come, he wanted to be with these victims, he wanted to meet with the first responders, but they did point to the fact that starting tomorrow, the president will be doing multiple rallies a day.
I believe he's starting in Florida tomorrow, he's going to go to Indiana, Missouri, several other states. Something that the president had wanted to put the focus back on this week after he thought that the pipe bomb controversy last week had kind of detracted from that Republican momentum ahead of the midterms and now they do have this going on today.
HARLOW: Right. Right, which he said himself explicitly in a tweet last week, right, about the Republican momentum getting lost in all this.
HARLOW: Kaitlan, thank you very much.
Let's bring in former Pennsylvania congressman and now CNN commentator, Charlie Dent, former Pennsylvania senator, CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum.
Gentlemen, good morning to both of you.
And Congressman Dent, let me pose this to you first. You've got the president going to Pittsburgh today. The mayor of Pittsburgh says don't come yet, wait. The rabbi of the synagogue where this massacre took place says, look, he's my president, he's America's president. He's welcome any time, and then Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, often a harsh critic of the president, just told me, look, the president can go wherever he wants, but I hope he brings a message of unity.
Should the president be going right now?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I do think the president should go to Pittsburgh. I'm not clear that this is the best time because I'm not sure what kind of a venue he's going to be speaking at today. But I do think it's appropriate that he go. But I also think it's difficult for the president in times like this, in his role as consoler-in-chief, and he's also -- I think Jake Tapper used some terms yesterday that the president said. You know, I bring out rage. He makes those kinds of comments. And so I don't know how he reconciles this, but he should go to Pittsburgh. I hope the venue is appropriate, though.
SCIUTTO: I suppose the question then, and Senator Santorum, we should acknowledge that this is your state. There's a personal -- I'm sure you feel particularly personal sorrow over what happened there on Saturday. But let me ask you this. And it's quite unusual because these are also Republican leaders on the Hill who are declining the White House invitation to join the president today.
If the message to the White House is, listen, you know, you're welcome to come, just not today. It's the first funeral. We're concerned about the political environment. Should the president hear that and let the community make that decision?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks, Jim. Yes, it is personal to me. I mean I grew up outside of Pittsburgh and lived in the Pittsburgh area most of my life. And while I don't know personally any of the people who died, I met a couple of the brothers I met. They were sort of icons in the community and I had an opportunity to meet them in the past. But the -- but look, this is a horrific and horrible time. And I think it's a moment for the president, you know, I think he said some really terrific words.
And I think going there and visiting the officers, visiting the people who have been shot, and who are still in the hospital, providing that kind of support, and having frankly Jared and Ivanka there also, his Jewish -- you know, his Jewish daughter and son-in-law, I think is a very important statement for the president.
Look, I know the mayor. The mayor and I don't get along. The mayor is very -- let's say, a unique individual. And so I'm not surprised that he would say what he said. But I think most of the people in Pittsburgh and in that community are going to -- you know, if the president does, as Charlie says, does appropriately, I think it's a good thing for him to do. SCIUTTO: To be clear, it's not just the Democratic mayor there. It
is the House majority leader Paul Ryan, the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell --
SANTORUM: But that --
SCIUTTO: The White House information --
SANTORUM: Yes, they're not saying he shouldn't go.
SCIUTTO: White House invitation --
SANTORUM: But they're not saying he shouldn't go.
SCIUTTO: Then why -- why don't they want to stand on the podium with him?
SANTORUM: Because it's a week before the election. And you know, these are folks who have lots of things on their schedule. And again, it's not -- you know, it's not their home community. It's not their state. I mean, look. To suggest that somehow that's a signal, I mean, they get invited to a lot of things they don't go to. And I don't see --
SCIUTTO: Eleven people were shot and killed.
SANTORUM: I understand that.
SCIUTTO: It's not your typical invitation.
[10:10:03] SANTORUM: I understand that, but again, you know, there's obviously controversy around the president right now, and I'm not too sure that they want to be associated with him at this point.
SCIUTTO: I see.
HARLOW: Congressman Dent, to you. Words matter, right? They matter a lot. And I think that has been explicitly clear in the last week and a half, for what has happened throughout this country, whether it be in Kentucky or here in New York or what happened in Pittsburgh.
If you were the president, what would you say today? What words would you use?
DENT: As president, I would say that we need to bring this country together. We have to talk about what unites us as Americans. He, of course, must reach out to the families and express the horror and the grief that he feels and the country feels in the aftermath of this horrific shooting. But he really needs to try to help turn the temperature down. And this is something that just does not come naturally to this president.
As I said earlier, he engages in incendiary and inflammatory comments all the time. And so he has a difficult time reconciling -- HARLOW: But we know he can do it. Right? We know --
DENT: He's on the teleprompter, when he's scripted, I think he'll do a good job when he's scripted. But he would say the things that most people would want to say. I mean, you're speaking almost as if you're a minister, a member of the clergy in a case like this. But he's got to speak to the better nature of our -- the better nature of our angels and he's got to do that.
DENT: And so I hope he can do it. But often when he does this unscripted, he has challenges. When he's better focused and I think he's better prepared by his staff, then I think he's more capable.
SCIUTTO: The president repeated last night on FOX this characterization of the caravan as an invasion of our country. The president's words there. Of course, the shooter called them invaders, too. And this has become something of a trope on right-wing Web sites, et cetera. You know, the invaders, invasion. I mean, things about disease that they're bringing in. Unfounded claims about terrorists being, you know, in that group there.
And by doing this, Senator, I'm not blaming the president for this shooting. I'm just asking you the question, does that confluence, that overlap of the language there, does that help? Does that make the danger of hate crimes -- does it lessen the danger of hate crimes for the president to be sharing that kind of characterization?
SANTORUM: Yes. See I think, Jim, I think where you're going is a really dangerous place to go because what's going on here is -- you know, is a conflation between what happened in Pittsburgh and sort of a sense that, you know, there's grievances out there and there's people.
Look, what we're talking about in Pittsburgh is anti-Semitism in its purest, rawest, most hateful form. And it's a different type -- this is a trope that has been around for millennia, and is something to me that is unique and to say that it's just another, you know, we can tie it into a caravan or tie it into other things, I think is wrong. And I think it's dangerous.
SCIUTTO: Wait, wait. Senator, be fair. I didn't ask you -- I didn't make an equivalency between this. And as I said, I did not blame the president for this attack. I asked you the simple question, if the president is using similar descriptions about the caravan as others who are propagating in hate crime, is that helpful? It's a simple question. Is that helpful to the environment?
SANTORUM: Well, first, I think it's irrelevant to the environment because this man hated Jews.
HARLOW: So let me ask -- Senator Santorum, hold on.
SANTORUM: Whether he talked about the caravan or not is irrelevant. This man hated Jews. HARLOW: Senator, let's lay out -- let's lay out the facts for our
viewers because you just said that Jim is making a dangerous assertion. And he's not. Let me read you what the shooter posted on Gab.com six days before this shooting. Quote, "I have noticed a change in people saying illegals. They now say invaders. I like this."
OK. And we know that he believed and wrote about the fact that he thought that Jewish people were coming, invading this country with the caravan. So simply, we're asking if the president repeating on Twitter yesterday morning or last night in the FOX News interview the word invaders, when he watches cable news he knows that all day yesterday the media was talking about the use of that word in particular.
Jim is just asking, is that helpful right now to the country?
SANTORUM: Again, I think it's -- in my mind it's -- you have a sick man who is an anti-Semite and that's the focus of what he did. The fact that he has other kind of conspiracy theories or other types of things that are tied to, frankly, is not something the president should concern himself with when trying to describe a political situation.
We have -- to me, they are two completely different things. And I think as someone who has worked along and hard in fighting anti- Semitism and worked very, very closely with the Jewish community in the state of Israel and making sure that -- you know, that we do fight specifically the scourge, I think trying to conflate it is not a good thing.
[10:15:13] SCIUTTO: Again, I'm not trying to conflate it, but Charlie Dent, your thoughts before we go. Do you think it's helpful?
DENT: Look, the president today is trying to console the nation about what happened in Pittsburgh. And then earlier today, I saw that he's talking about birthright citizenship. You know, and I think he's done that simply to inflame the issue. It would require a constitutional amendment. We all know that, but so he's -- on one hand, he wants to console the nation, unify the nation, on the other hand, he's on this issue of the migrants, the caravan. He's trying to, you know, incite things.
So I mean, this is the ultimate conundrum that we're faced with. The president, you know, needs to decide what type of a president he wants to be. Does he want to be a unifier or does he want to be a divider who's inciting this type of rhetoric. So this is what we're dealing with.
HARLOW: Congressman Dent, Senator Santorum, thank you both for being here.
SCIUTTO: Thanks both of you.
HARLOW: A very important conversation. We'll have you back soon. Still to come for us this hour, President Trump ramping up his attacks
one week from midterm day. Calling Democrats candidate for governor in Florida a thief without any proof.
SCIUTTO: Plus, investigators are now trying to piece together what brought down a brand-new Boeing jet. An aviation mystery under way after a commercial plane crash in Indonesia and it claimed the lives of 189 people.
[10:20:46] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. We are moments away from former Vice President Joe Biden taking the stage at one of many upcoming campaign stops. Not for himself. This is not about 2020 yet. This is about the midterms. Right now, he's in Wisconsin this morning. He will be making his way to Iowa later today. Biden is crisscrossing the country, one week to go until the midterms.
Our political reporter Arlette Saenz is in Madison, Wisconsin.
So Biden not slowing down. This is the homestretch. What will we hear?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Poppy, in the next three days, he's going to have eight events in six different states. His team is eyeing about two cities a day for over the weekend, as he heads into that final stretch. But he's starting his morning here in Madison, Wisconsin. One of those states that got away from Democrats back in 2016. When President Obama had previously won the state and then President Trump picked that up in the last election.
And former Vice President Joe Biden will be here campaigning with Senator Tammy Baldwin, as well as the Democratic candidate for governor, Tony Evers, here in Madison, and also in Milwaukee later this afternoon. But then all eyes are going to turn to Iowa as the former vice president makes his first visit to the state since he left the White House and as he himself is considering a 2020 bid.
Aides had previously said that he was going to steer clear of states like Iowa and New Hampshire to try to avoid drawing attention away from the races there to his potential presidential ambitions. But this trip is going to do just that.
The former vice president will be in the Cedar Rapids area campaigning for the Democratic candidate for governor, Fred Hubble, as well as the Democrat running in the First Congressional District, Abbey Finkenauer. She is a former volunteer coordinator back for Vice President Biden's campaign back in 2008 when he was running for president.
Now this is going to be a very, very quick trip. Aides that I spoke to said he has no other stop, no other events in Cedar Rapids besides that rally. And he's even spending the night in that state. They're really trying to avoid speculation about 2020, although that's pretty unavoidable.
HARLOW: They cannot avoid it, as much as they wish.
Thank you. Great reporting. Welcome to CNN. We'll see you soon.
SAENZ: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Let's get right to CNN political director David Chalian.
So a lot of key races to talk about. Certainly the Florida one.
SCIUTTO: And, you know, President Trump calling Georgia's Democratic governor candidate, current Tallahassee Mayor Andrew -- Gillum, rather, a stone cold thief. Have a listen to those words. They bear repeating, last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ron DeSantis, who is a Harvard Yale guy. He's had a really terrific -- you know, he's a very good person. He's going to be a very good to a great governor. This other guy is a stone cold -- in my opinion, he's a thief. How can you have a guy like this? And you just look at his record. Also, look at the job he's done as the mayor of Tallahassee. He's a total disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: We should be clear, Tallahassee's city government under federal investigation. Gillum has not been charged with anything. He's repeatedly said the FBI has told him he's not a focus of the investigation.
That aside, David Chalian, we'll often talk about whether the president's words like this when he leans forward, you might say, whether that's just Trump being Trump. Maybe Trump going further than he meant to, or it's part of politics here that he wants to color him in a certain way.
I mean, you have been in politics a long time. What do you hear here? What's the intention?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, as far as I know, thief is not something you can have an opinion on. He said in my opinion, he's a thief. Either someone is a thief or they aren't.
HARLOW: Fair. Right.
CHALIAN: So it's not really something you can have an opinion on. And there are no facts here that suggest, that we know of, as you noted, he's not been charged with anything, so we have no fact pattern to say that he is a thief. So the president may have his own opinions but to me, he's just expressing a caricature that he wants to draw to create a culture of fear around the person who is seeking to become Florida's first African-American governor.
I mean, this isn't very difficult. The president is not some complex person that it's difficult to understand what he's doing. He reveals himself to us constantly, and he is here clearly trying an approach to make a fear campaign around the person that is seeking to become the first black governor of the state.
[10:25:12] HARLOW: So, David, I'm interested in how you think that will translate in Georgia. Because in Georgia you have the potential for the first African-American female governor in the country. If Stacey Abrams wins in Georgia. The president is going to Georgia, and he will stump for her opponent, Brian Kemp. Former President Obama will go to do the same for Stacey Abrams. What will the president's tactic being there, do you think, and I guess whose star power will help more here?
CHALIAN: That is a great question, Poppy, because you wouldn't see both the president and the former president, the two biggest stars for each of their parties, go there unless those campaigns and candidates thought it would do them more good than harm.
CHALIAN: And they're probably right about that. Both President Obama and President Trump probably can do good for their candidates in that state.
CHALIAN: As you know, Georgia's politics, it is clearly still a red state, but one that Democrats have been targeting in cycle after cycle to see if they can alter the makeup of the electorate, drive up Democratic base voters such as African-Americans. Stacey Abrams has been committed to that kind of a strategy. Obama goes in to help her out. Trump goes in to help Kemp, keep the natural DNA of the state what it has been.
SCIUTTO: David Chalian, thank you as always.
HARLOW: One week to go.
SCIUTTO: Growing calls for unity as the nation faces a wave of violent hate crimes. But how do we turn those calls into action? What will really make a difference?
We're going to be talking about that in the next block with someone who has some advice.