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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Midterm Election Outlook; Interview With Former General Stanley McChrystal>. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 31, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (RET.), FORMER U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: And I think that people will respond to be -- to asking what it is they are supposed to do for others, Americans, and, frankly, for the world.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you see anyone doing that?

MCCHRYSTAL: I'm hoping. I'm looking around, and there are some great talents, and I'm really hopeful that that's the conversation in the next two years.

TAPPER: The book is "Leaders: Myth and Reality," the author, retired General Stanley McChrystal.

Thank you for so much your time. And, as always, sir, thank you so much for your service.

MCCHRYSTAL: Jake.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

MCCHRYSTAL: Thank you.

What do Land O'Lakes, Purina dog food, and the National Republican Congressional Committee all have in common? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Support for a controversial Republican Congressman Steve King, Republican of Iowa, is dropping left and right.

King has lost the financial support of Land O'Lakes -- that's a big deal in Iowa -- and Purina and the backing of the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman.

CNN's Manu Raju joins me now.

And, Manu, to be honest, King has been saying offensive things and flirting with white nationalists for years. Why are Republicans only condemning him now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake.

Steve King has a long history of taking a very hard line against immigration. His recent comments, the support of white nationalists, have gotten more scrutiny since the Pittsburgh shooting on Saturday.

[16:35:05]

And last year, for instance, he backed his -- he tweeted his backing of a far-right Dutch politician who rails against Islam, tweeting, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's baby."

Then in June, King retweeted a message from a British activist and Nazi sympathizer. At the time, King told me that he didn't know the activist, but he was sympathetic to the tweet. He refused to delete that tweet, because he agreed with the anti-immigration message in there.

And then this month, he noted his support for Faith Goldy, who was running for Toronto mayor, and who herself was fired from a far-right Web site for appearing on a neo-Nazi podcast. At the same time, Jake, it was revealed this month when he traveled to Europe recently, he had met with members of an Austrian party that had longtime ties to Nazis.

TAPPER: Yes, that's all horrible. But how is Congressman King responding to the fact that the chairman of the NRCC, the congressional arm of the Republicans, attacked him?

RAJU: Well, he's denying being anti-Semitic. He says that he supports Israel very strongly. And he tweeted this.

He said: "These attacks are orchestrated by the nasty, desperate and dishonest fake news. Their ultimate goal is to flip the House and impeach Donald Trump. Establishment never-Trumpers are complicit."

Of course, Jake, we are a few days away from the election. Democrats are hoping all this controversy and the Republican leadership distancing themselves from him will hurt his campaign and bolster the Democratic candidate, J.D. Scholten, who is outraising King and winning more newspaper endorsements.

But at the moment, Jake, CNN is rating this race as a likely Republican victory -- Jake.

TAPPER: Just as a note, Manu, before you go, and you know this better than I do. Congressman Steve Stivers, Republican of Ohio, the chairman of the NRCC, is not a never-Trump Republican.

He's certainly not a liberal. He's not a member of the media. And that's the reason we're covering this.

Manu Raju, thank you so much.

Let's look at the House race in general. Democrats sound increasingly confident they're going to win the House. That would take a net of 23 seats. Take a listen to Nancy Pelosi, now the minority leader, on "The Colbert Report" last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT")

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Let me say this. Up until today, I would have said, if the election were held today, we would win.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": What happened today that changed that?

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: What now I'm saying is, we will win.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Please don't say that. Do you want to say that on Hillary's fireworks barge that she canceled? Please, please, please don't say that.

PELOSI: We will win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I mean, Colbert has a point.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Yes, yes. People were pretty certain two years ago. None of us have forgotten that.

It's a very dangerous time to be making predictions because very soon you may be shown to be wrong. But the fact is Democrats are optimistic and Republicans are pessimistic. The two parties are in agreement that Democrats are very likely to win control of the House.

Both sides may be wrong. But they're in accord.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Susan is right.

Just structurally, right, if you look at this, Pennsylvania's redistricting, the Supreme Court just said those are all staying put. Retirements Frank Lobiondo, there are seats Republicans are never getting back. If you look at structurally between Pennsylvania and California, there's almost enough seats right there to flip the House.

TAPPER: You think Democrats are going to take the House?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. But, again, I'm not necessarily sure I want to see my leader on television saying that.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: She may not be the leader.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: She's the leader of the Democratic Party.

TAPPER: There's time for that.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But what's happening is really interesting.

The Republicans are having a civil war between their base and the swing voters that they need. Right? So the president is screaming about apparently, you know, the caravan and all this.

Meanwhile, the more -- folks who want moderate votes are criticizing Steve King, and so, by the way, the Democrats now, their base and their swing voters are completely united, because the Democrats have found web issues, not wedge issues, that unite the Bernie Sanders wing with the more moderate wing.

That's prescription drug coverage, preexisting conditions. So, right now, if you just look at it that way, the issue terrain, the Democrats are doing a better job. Rarely have the Democrats been more organized and unified. But they are now.

TAPPER: Well, they have outraised the Republicans in a lot of instances.

SEUNG MIN KIM, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And I can't underscore the major implications for the Trump administration if Democrats win back the House.

I know there is a lot of chatter about impeachment. Leadership isn't all too eager to talk about impeachment just yet.

But just by the virtue of getting the majority, they get committee gavels and they get subpoena power.

TAPPER: Oversight.

KIM: Oversight.

TAPPER: Yes.

KIM: And I checked in all the committees recently about their plans for investigating the Trump administration should they take power. And trust me, they have a long list.

TAPPER: I want to turn to the Senate for one second, because it looks really tough for some Democrats running for reelection, McCaskill in Missouri and Donnelly in Indiana and Heitkamp in North Dakota.

But we have some new polling from Arizona and Nevada. And it looks as though Democrats right now have edges, within the margin of error, so who knows what's going to happen. But Democrats have edges.

[16:40:00]

David, I wanted to ask you that, because Republican officials tell Jeff Zeleny of CNN that President Trump's not going to either of those states because Republicans there asked him not to go and his push for immigration, which you were just pleading with him to stop, is part of the reason in Nevada and Arizona, because that is hurting Republicans with their voters.

URBAN: But, look, it's amazing.

Paul and I talked about this earlier. These races were nowhere in sight, right? Dean Heller was never supposed to even be this close .We're within the margin of error. Same with -- and I'm quite amazed that Martha McSally is not just running away with it in Arizona.

But you're right. These issues are pretty tough in those kind of swing states, big immigrant populations in both Nevada and Arizona. So, much, much more difficult.

BEGALA: What's interesting to me in the polls is in both of those states, you ask what is the most important issue? It's the thing I keep talking about today, the issue terrain.

And they say health care by five or six points over immigration. Immigration, the president has put it on the agenda, but by five or six points. But then when you drill down and ask women, it goes to 10. You ask moderates, it goes to 8 or 10.

So, among the voters who are going to decide these elections, they are still very much health care voters more than immigration.

URBAN: But I still like our still chances in both those states.

BEGALA: Oh, absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: It's a tossup. Just they have slight edges.

And, Seung, one of the things that's interesting also is Martha McSally told Hannity that the health care issue, I think she said it's kicking her butt. I don't have the quote in front of me right this second. But she said that the health care -- and the issue is specifically, as we were talking about, preexisting conditions.

Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat, a very flawed candidate with a very questionable comments in her past and the like, but she's been on message. And she's been -- I don't think I have seen a politician as on message as Kyrsten Sinema this year.

KIM: And that's why Democratic candidates in both chambers have drilled away on that health care issue.

When the birthright citizenship issue arose yesterday, take a look at Nancy Pelosi's statement. She quickly denounced it and then she just quickly pivoted back to, and this is the president trying to distract away from the preexisting conditions.

PAGE: This is such a sweet moment for Democrats, who paid dearly for passing the Affordable Care Act in the last two midterm elections.

BEGALA: That's a good point.

PAGE: It cost them a lot.

And now it is a big advantage, because the fact is, as the White House argued then, it is very hard to protect preexisting conditions unless you have some kind of mandate that forces everyone to buy insurance.

BEGALA: Right. And can we raise one other Senate race? Texas, my beloved home state.

Don't give up. Don't quit on Beto O'Rourke. The Steve King issue can come up there.

URBAN: Come on.

BEGALA: No, you watch. Steve King was the co-chair of Ted Cruz's campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Why did Ted Cruz -- of all the people he could choose, why did he choose someone who is so happy to play footsies with neo-Nazis? I think that's an interesting question to ask.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: I'm going to go for my great friend John James of Michigan. John James has been closing the gap. Really here, nobody ever thought Deb Stabenow -- he's closely rapidly, raising thank.

The president, vice -- you have lots of tweeting and pushing for John James.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Susan and Seung will take odds at the commercial break on both those candidates.

But, at the end of the day, is your prediction that the Republicans keep the Senate? What do you think ultimately is going to happen? You don't have to go race for race.

KIM: I think, ultimately, Republicans have the better shot at retaining the Senate control, clearly riskier in the House.

TAPPER: What do you think about Florida? How do you see that Senate race playing out? Because Andrew Gillum has a lot of momentum, a lot more than his Democratic counterpart, the incumbent senator, Nelson. How do you see that going?

PAGE: Both those races are interesting, because in both cases, people thought perhaps the Democrats were not going to have a very good -- it was going to be tough for the Democrats. But they're both ahead narrowly in those two races.

And, you know, as you said, President Trump is helping the Democratic candidates, especially in the Senate race, with the issues he's focused on now.

TAPPER: Thanks, one and all, for being here.

They came for a visit, they went missing for months, and then they were found dead, bound together literally by duct tape on the banks of New York's Hudson River -- the bizarre details surrounding this horrific mystery next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our "WORLD LEAD" now. A deadly mystery on the Hudson after the bodies of two sisters from Saudi Arabia were found bound together on the banks of the New York City River. Adding to mystery -- adding to the mystery of this tragedy is the fact that according to the New York Times the Saudi embassy told these sisters' mother that the girls had recently asked for political asylum apparently, so they wouldn't have to go back to Saudi Arabia. CNN's Athena Jones has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A disturbing and bizarre mystery, how did to Saudi sisters who had been living 250 miles away in Fairfax, Virginia end up bound together with tape on the banks of the Hudson River in New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seems odd. It seems like an odd way. I'm stunned. I'm stunned.

JONES: New York Police detectives say they have made significant progress in investigating the deaths of 16-year-old Tala Farea and her 22-year-old sister Rotana Farea but so far won't say whether they are treating this as a homicide.

DERMOT SHEA, CHIEF OF DETECTIVES, NYPD: Detectives have been down in Virginia. They've conducted a number of interviews in Virginia including members of the immediate family as well as others. And those interviews are really unraveling in some way a piece of the puzzle of behind the scenes what was going on in the two young lady's lives.

JONES: The Saudi consulate in New York confirming Tuesday the sisters were Saudis citizens saying in a statement that the young women were students accompanying their brother in Washington. Tala Farea was reported missing from Fairfax just outside D.C. on August 24th, two full months before the sister bodies were found. And the New York Times citing police reports that the sisters' mother received a call from the Saudi embassy in Washington informing her that her daughters had applied for asylum.

This investigation comes just weeks after another Saudi citizen Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi who had also been living in Virginia and was a critic of the Saudi regime was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. (END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:50:03] JONES: Now the medical examiner is still working to determine the cause of death. Meanwhile, the Saudi consulate in New York says it has hired a lawyer to follow the case and the State Department and Saudi embassy in Washington are also following this investigation closely. Jake?

TAPPER: Athena Jones, thank you so much. Behind the scenes look at the upcoming film documenting one of the most tragic, dramatic, and teachable battles of the war in Afghanistan. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: New reminders today of the dangers that exist every day in America's longest and too forgotten war. More than 30 people have been killed in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours in an Afghan military chopper crash and a suicide bombing outside a Kabul prison that's reportedly teeming with Taliban prisoners. One of the most remarkable battles of this war happened about a decade ago, it's the story of resiliency, heroism, brotherhood, and overcoming the odds in a situation doomed from the start.

I was honored to be able to tell the story of Combat Outpost Keating and the brave men who served there in the book The Outpost. On Friday filming wrapped on the feature film based on the book. I recently visited the set of the film in Bulgaria and invited CNN's Nick Paton Walsh to join me. Walsh dodged bullets at the real COP Keating back in 2009.

[16:55:10] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Action!

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This battle may be a movie but the real fight it's about is still going on. Afghanistan, America's longest war ongoing but in Hollywood already a cinematic history lesson about its biggest mistake there. This is a recreation of remote Combat Outpost Keating. Here you U.S. overreach and mismanagement, the frankly insane idea of putting an outpost in a valley surrounded by steep Taliban infested Hills like this led to a Taliban siege. Eight American dead, two Medals of Honor, and now an epic lesson taught to young American cadets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We already have two KIAs, both our machineguns are down.

WALSH: Scott Eastwood plays one of Keating's heroes Clint Romesha who was awarded the Medal of Honor.

SCOTT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: It's a lot of responsibility. I think just try to make sure everything is right.

WALSH: On the real Keating, the huge Taliban assault they've been fearing for months came six days before the base was mentally dismantled. There haven't enough helicopters to get them out faster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're pinned down. WALSH: The movie is based on a book about the assault and the errors

before it by CNN's Jake Tapper.

TAPPER: This battle happened in October 2009. Sure the average American still has no idea how many troops we have in Afghanistan and why they're there, what they're accomplishing, what they're doing.

WALSH: I was the last journalists on Keating before the final attack and it is jarring nine years later. That fake Taliban firing fake guns of you when you've seen the real thing.

When we were here it was the Afghan army with NATO advisors who are doing a lot with the patrolling in the valley outside of the base and on that day they made the mistake of coming back the way they gone out and that led the Taliban to attack.

One moment it's an idyllic morning, the next it's --

There's a rush recover. You don't know where to run or which Hill these shots are coming from.

This base is now under persistent, heavy attack. It appears not to have been going on for about 30 minutes or so.

The movie will have to use CGI to recreate these hills and some of the eight who died fighting appeared in our report then like Andrew Bonderman who led the defense and survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the question, why I'm here. You don't ask that question, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joshua Hardt last seen on camera here. He died 52 days later in the attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Birchy, what's up, dude?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a damn thing.

WALSH: Unusually some survivors will appear in the movie. One Keating veteran Dan Rodriguez actually plays himself.

DAN RODRIGUEZ, COP KEATING VETERAN: You think of the Vietnam era films in the World War II era, films you do them after the war has already been done, but you know, we live in a generation of the here and now. Let's show the world how horrific it is, yet still leave our people over there at the same time.

WALSH: Ty Carter also awarded the Medal of Honor for selflessly running across Keating five times in the barrage of battle to help others is playing another soldier in the movie and Carter himself is played by Caleb Landry Jones in Hawaiian shirt here. After this emotional interview, we learned Landry Jones' his brother is a Marine veteran who lost both legs in Iraq. War that still shadows both their days it seems.

TY MICHAEL CARTER, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: I got so uncomfortable when I first came on the car on set and I think that's a good feeling. It's going to make me stronger eventually.

CALEB LANDRY JONES, ACTOR: We're halfway done. There's a lot more to do. It feels like we've shot a week even though it's really been four.

WALSH: Has it been hard for you, this role?

JONES: Well, I don't know. If I'll understand how to answer that question maybe two years from now or something like that.

WALSH: What drew you -- what drew you to the role initially?

JONES: Ty, my older brother. When I received the script, my older brother was visiting for Thanksgiving and I asked him to read it. He read it and he said you're doing this and I got to meet Ty. And now we're here but --

WALSH: It looks like this has been hard work, emotionally, as a well.

JONES: Yes, but we're not even -- we're halfway done.

WALSH: They aim to release the movie on the 10th anniversary of the battle next October. But one thing is certain. The real war will still be raging. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, near Sofia, Bulgaria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Our thanks to Nick Paton Walsh. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.