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Trump Kicks Off Campaign Blitz Across States Near Midterms; Trump Makes Solemn Visit to Pittsburgh Amid Protest; GOP Campaign Chief Blasts Steve King Over White Supremacy and Hate; Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Releases Gruesome Details of Jamal Khashoggi's Death; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 31, 2018 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:01] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we want to hear from you as well, and you can participate. Just post a video to Instagram using the hashtag #whyivoteCNN.

Very good Wednesday morning to you. It's Halloween. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Happy Halloween to all of you. We have a lot of news this hour.

The first of three funerals will be held this morning in Pittsburgh for the victims of the synagogue massacre. Of course funerals started yesterday. Three more today. This is one day after the president paid a somber visit along with the first lady and Ivanka and Jared Kushner to the grieving city.

SCIUTTO: Already today on Twitter, and elsewhere a very different tone from the commander in chief. And hours from now he'll be kicking off an intense few days of campaigning. For the next six days he will hold 11 rallies in eight states. His strategy it appears, drive up Republican turnout with hard line rhetoric on immigration while warning about the danger of a Democratic takeover.

Joining us now is CNN White House correspondent Abby Philip. Quite a turn from that somber moment in Pittsburgh yesterday to the kind of rallies we're going to see in the coming days.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. The president is really off to the races here before the midterm elections heading out this afternoon for Florida, the first of 11 rallies he'll hold before next Tuesday.

Now, the president, if you look at that map that you just showed a few minutes ago, he is going all over the country, but mostly to these deep red states where there are competitive Senate races, competitive gubernatorial races. And that's led some people to wonder has the president stepped back from trying to fight for the House of Representatives? Is he even needed in those places? We asked Sarah Sanders to explain why he is going where he is going and here is what she had to say.

SCIUTTO: Abby Phillips, thanks very much.

PHILLIP: So just a sound --

HARLOW: Yes. Sorry, Abby. Go ahead. I don't think we have that sound there.

PHILLIP: That's OK. Sarah made it clear that the president was heading out to the trail to go to places where he was beloved, where he did extremely well in the last election. That is really critically important because that tells us a lot about what we are hearing from him in terms of his rhetoric. As you pointed out this campaign has become in the last several weeks about one issue and one issue alone for the president and that's immigration.

He is stoking fears about this migrant caravan coming up from Central America. He is talking about sending the military to the border. He's even talking about trying to revoke part of the Constitution, the 14th Amendment, granting birthright citizenship to people born on U.S. soil. So all of this seems to fit into a broader pattern for the president, get the base activated on this issue that's really important to them and it's all about immigration -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And birthright, appears he's claiming a right he doesn't have.

Abby Philip at the White House.

HARLOW: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now to discuss this CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich and Washington bureau chief -- who's also Washington bureau chief of the "Daily Beast," and CNN political analyst, Karoun Demerjian, she's congressional reporter for the "Washington Post."

So, Jackie, as you look at this, I mean, again, this is not accidental. Right? I mean, this is clearly part of a coordinated strategy by this president to focus on those wedge issues primarily immigration. Stoke fear. And what's interesting is, also mobilize arms of the government, the Pentagon specifically here to help with that message by deploying forces to the border.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president is very aware of optics. And the pictures of the troops going to the border are something that he and his supporters want to see. It makes him look tough in his eyes and in their eyes. And that he's doing what he can to dissuade or protect against this caravan which is maybe two months away. But that aside, I mean, they're also not talking about how much this is costing.

That said, in some places this is going to work, places like Tennessee. "Daily Beast's" Andrew Desiderio was there just last week and people were talking about the caravan. And they were expressing concern about immigrants coming across the border. Perhaps in some of these other places that he is not going, places like, I don't know, Virginia, he is not going there because he is not welcome because it is not going to work.

This is about the Senate. It's not about these House seats where the immigration issue actually might turn people off. This is about making sure the Senate stays in Republican hands for the president.

HARLOW: So, Karoun, we've seen quite a transition from a few weeks ago, it was, oh by the way, I'm going to cut taxes for the middle class by 10 percent and now it's the dangerous caravan and then it's the -- you know, thousands of troops to the border. And now it's sort of this unjustified legal argument that you can just, you know, wipe away part of the 14th Amendment with an executive order. After, you know, Tuesday, Wednesday next week, are we going to hear about any of this from the president?

KAROUN DEMERJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That really is such a pivotal question because right now it's coming so fast and so furious, all of these promises that are either basically constitutionally impossible or, as Jackie was saying, we haven't even been talking about cost, we haven't been talking time.

[10:05:11] And if he wins, if the Republicans retain control over both Houses of Congress especially, what is the point of actually following through on all of this? It may not be that there's actually enough will to do that with his congressional allies to actually get that across the finish line. But right now this is a question of turning out the base. And you've got less than a week left to turn out the base.

And if these are the issues that Trump thinks will turn out the people who are loyal to him, to actually get up off the couch and let's vote for the people down the ballot who Trump says he needs in Washington to support him, then why not just try throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks?

I think that no matter how you end up after the midterm elections, the majorities in Congress are going to be -- I mean, unless you really see a huge blue wave, it's going to be very close majorities in Congress, which means you won't have the ability to get most of these proposals that he is putting through especially when you're talking about taxes which has to go through Congress, or the end of birthright citizenship, which has to be a constitutional amendment, there's just not going to be the will for that by the numbers no matter what happens next Tuesday.

SCIUTTO: Jackie, I wonder if you see in the president's strategy here, spending time in red states, seemingly focusing on Senate races and going after issues that may even hurt him in some of those toss-up congressional races, do you see in that the president seeing numbers on the House knowing perhaps he's going to lose there, so grabbing what possible victories he can get on the Senate side?

KUCINICH: That definitely has to be a part of it. But what does he -- he can't go to the places where the -- he is helping by not going to some of these marginal districts. Had he gone there it wouldn't have helped him. These are -- some of these districts, 23 of them Hillary Clinton won so -- in the last election. So by staying away he's actually doing them a favor.

Now with his rhetoric he is hurting them. He is -- a lot of these Republicans, they don't want to be talking about immigration. They want to be talking about the economy. They want to be talking about their respective voting records if they are incumbents. So it's also -- but, you know, let's talk about what has worked for the president. He basically won in a large part to the immigration issue. It's worked for him and he's hoping now it will work for those closest to him.

HARLOW: I don't get it, Karoun. I mean, the unemployment rate is at a 69-year low. Wages went up, you know, almost 3.5 percent last quarter. This economy could not be better for this president and he barely talks about it. Why?

DEMERJIAN: Well, look, it would be a standard issue for a standard president to point at really good numbers like this in the economy. And expect that those are going to translate. But this isn't how Trump works. Trump works in the terms of appealing to people's emotions. And he's a very polarizing figure. There's a lot of people who don't like him and will go out and vote for congressional Democrats in order to spite him.

He needs to get the same or more of a groundswell from the other side, from the people who are loyal to him in order to counteract that, and probably, you know, dry numbers talk, as good as the numbers are, are not necessarily going to drive out the base. They may appeal to the middle, they may appeal to an electorate that's paying a lot of attention, but then that's the problem with the midterms, right? Is that you have fewer people that are actually saying oh, I'm going to vote because it's an election year and I really want to.

You have to drive people to actually go to the polls. And right now it seems like the president is very much betting on just getting the numbers out of people who like him anyway and will thus go to protect him by voting for the congressional seat that he says he needs.

HARLOW: OK.

SCIUTTO: Jackie and Karoun, thanks very much.

KUCINICH: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. So an update for you. We have just learned that a 55-year-old police officer wounded in that synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh has this morning just been released from the hospital. That is very good news. Another police officer injured is that shooting is in stable condition now but still in the hospital. Two Tree of Life congregants also remain hospitalized, one still in critical condition. And this comes as the funeral for another victim is underway right now.

Service for Joyce Fienberg is being held at Beth Shalom Synagogue. Hers is one of three funerals today. Irving Younger and Melvin Wax will also be laid to rest today. Funerals were held yesterday for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz and the brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal. While mourners were gathered for those services, the president was

paying his respects along with the first lady there at the synagogue. They also visited survivors and wounded police officers at the hospital. And they went there despite calls from some in leadership in Pittsburgh to postpone the trip.

Around 2,000 protesters marched through the streets saying the president needs to do more to denounce anti-Semitism and white nationalism.

SCIUTTO: Despite the politics, despite the controversy, our next guest says that those patients and their families were grateful for the president's visit.

Dr. Donald Yealy joins us now. He is the chair of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Doctor, thank you for taking the time. I know you and your staff have gone through so much these last few days.

[10:10:05] I want to ask you this because reading the account of Dr. Cohen who helped treat some of these victims, Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, he describes the alleged killer coming into the hospital wounded, shouting, I want to kill all the Jews. And yet the staff there who you supervised, they treated him through tears at times. They did their duty as doctors.

And I just want to ask you how they managed that, and what you witnessed on that day.

DR. DONALD YEALY, PROFESSOR AND CHAIR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, UPMC: Thank you very much for the invitation today and focusing things on the victims and the families. First off, the perpetrator was actually taken to a different facility. And so the staff at UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Mercy did not care for both victims and the perpetrator together. We took care of all the victims.

I think your question remains valid in that people have a lot of ambivalence. They have the desire to help those in need right away and the adrenaline and the expertise to serve quickly, but then realize that these people and their friends and their co-workers and their family, and that creates, you know, a difficult conflict, it puts a personal nature on a very difficult job.

HARLOW: You know, it is in these moments of national tragedy when we see the most miraculous and beautiful things at the same time. And I'm just wondering if you could share with us a little bit of what you've seen in the last few days from the staff at your hospital and the families of the victims and the victims themselves.

YEALY: Well, I have seen not only amongst our workers in the hospital and the professionals, but amongst the family members a real focus on the positive aspects, in other words, how do we get past how this came to be, and how do we not only help those who were injured today but learn from this from a medical sense, from perhaps a societal sense. And so there really has been a lot of focus on the positivity and not so much on the negative side of the event.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: You said, as we noted in the introduction to you, that you and many of the people you work with welcomed the president's visit there, though many politicians, Republican and Democrat, did not appear with the president yesterday, and there was a protest, we should note, yesterday as well of folks who didn't want him to come at least now. Tell us why, tell us why from your point of view, it was the right thing to do.

YEALY: So I think from my view as a physician and from most of my partners' views, things that help the victims and their families realize the outpouring of support, those are positive things, those are things that help them work through not only their injuries, but the recovery from all of that. And it's hard to find a negative in that. And we support anything that would help them deal with it.

HARLOW: You met with the president. Can you share with us a little bit of what he said to you, what you said to him?

YEALY: He was very grateful for the expertise and dedication of my partners in providing the care. He spoke to the physicians, the nurses, some of the other workers. He noted how difficult the job was and reinforced his support about this and appreciated that we were prepared and ready for this unspeakable tragedy. He was really very kind and gracious.

HARLOW: Dr. Donald Yealy, thank you for this but really for all that you and your team have done.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

Republican Congressman Steve King is not just battling his Democratic opponent ahead of the midterms. His own party has now confronted much of his rhetoric calling him out for, quote, "white supremacy" and hate. That's from his own party.

Plus lawsuits against the state of North Dakota over a voter I.D. law that allegedly discriminates against Native Americans. We are on top of that story. It's an important one.

And a CNN KFile analysis shows thousands of tweets sent from the pipe bomb suspect were filled with conspiracy theories, false news articles, and graphic memes. Now finally Twitter is responding.

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[10:18:34] SCIUTTO: Sitting Republican Congressman Steve King is facing a stinging backlash from his own party. This after he defended Austria's Freedom Party which we should note was founded by Nazis, saying that its members would be Republicans if they were in America.

Now, just days before the midterms in which he is still running, by the way, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee is calling King's comments, his actions and retweets completely inappropriate saying, quote, "We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms and I strongly condemn his behavior." That's from a Republican.

HARLOW: Right. We should also note that King is no stranger to sharp rhetoric and inflammatory and insulting rhetoric about race and immigration in this country. Also on top of that, just this year he endorsed Faith Goldy, a nationalist, many describe as a white nationalist, running for mayor of Toronto. In June he re-tweeted Nazi sympathizer Mark Collette. In March he wrote, quote, "We can't restore civilization with somebody else's babies," and last year he wrote, "Diversity is not our strength," and he quoted Hungary's prime minister saying, "Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one."

Joining us now is the communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Matt Gorman.

Matt, thank you for being here. And of course it is the head of the NRCC that called out King on all of this. The backlash is now, but as we just ticked through, the history is there with Steve King.

[10:20:04] I mean, this is to be expected. So why now? Why call him out now?

MATT GORMAN, NRCC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Sure.

GORMAN: I think the NRCC and Jim Stivers hasn't been shy to show moral leadership when the time calls for it. As we said yesterday, his words and actions are completely inappropriate. We strongly condemn them. We will not play in his race. And this isn't the first time we have done this.

Chairman Stivers is the first NRCC chair ever to withdraw support from another candidate. This one in New Jersey earlier this year. Seth Grossman, when his race and bigoted views came to light, he withdrew all support. And this is a Republican issue, it's not a Democratic issue. So we need to confront.

HARLOW: But why King now? I guess, Matt, what I'm asking is, you know, King has said these inflammatory things, these insulting things. He's made racist statements before, why only now is the NRCC calling him out saying we won't play in his race?

GORMAN: Again, I think Chairman Stivers does this in a thoughtful way. And I think in recent days he was very troubled, as you mentioned, by that recent incident as really I think they took it and aggregate this. He said, you know, we need to stand up. We need to call this out. And again, this isn't a Republican Party problem, not a Democrat Party problem. There are Democrats in Pennsylvania and Virginia who have espoused anti-Semitic views. They need to be called out as well. We need to return to civility in this country on both sides. SCIUTTO: You talk about a return to civility. The president's

strategy in these final days before the election is transparently to focus on the wedge issue of immigration. And there are Republicans and Democrats who believe there should be stronger security at the borders. There should be an immigration plan, et cetera. But the president's tact is to focus, for instance, on the migrant caravan, to speak without offering any proof of there being terrorists among them, to deploy thousands of troops to the border where there are already 17,000 Customs and Border Patrol agents. Are you concerned that the president's rhetoric as we get to election day does not heal those divisions, is not civil but worsens them, and deepens the divide?

GORMAN: Well, this isn't a new thing when it comes to border security being an issue in this election. We have run ads for the last several months focusing on border security. And we've run ads because this is an issue, sanctuary cities, border security, abolishing ICE, in states that aren't even close to the southern border because it resonates with voters there. States like Minnesota, Pennsylvania, even Orange County, California.

These are districts Hillary Clinton won. Democrats have done nothing to solve this problem and that's a legitimate issue.

SCIUTTO: I know. But I'm not talking -- to be clear, Matt.

GORMAN: That's legitimate issue, though.

HARLOW: Yes. But --

SCIUTTO: Absolutely, no question. As I prefaced the question with. But I'm talking about border security. I'm talking about the demonization here. And this is a president here who again in the face of Republic opposition is now claiming a right to change the Constitution to take away birthright citizenship.

I'm just asking you, you talk about we all need civility, and you are, we're giving you credit here for calling out one of your own for being a bigot. Right? And that deserves credit. I'm just saying, are you concerned that the president's rhetoric and his tack here doesn't help, but hurt -- but increases those divisions?

GORMAN: Well, I think look, Chairman Stivers hasn't been shy to call out the president when the time calls for it. I know coming off the top of my head, he did it over Charlottesville, did it over the family separation policy as well as the Muslim. So this isn't something that he selectively chooses when it comes to Chairman Stivers.

I think politicians in both parties, as Chairman Stivers believes, need to debate these issues civilly. Violence is not the answer. And I think no matter where we fall on this I think immigration is an important issue and there's a clear contrast there. I think there's a difference between being uncivil and also pointing out contrasts between both parties. That's what politics and elections are all about. That's a very big difference in being, you know, racist or bigoted views.

SCIUTTO: Matt Gorman, we appreciate you taking the time, taking the hard questions.

HARLOW: Come back.

SCIUTTO: Please come back.

GORMAN: Thank you, guys. Thank you.

HARLOW: So ahead for us, the president's former chief strategist Steve Bannon has met once again with the special counsel Bob Mueller's team. This would make at least three times. So what's the significance of this one? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:28:45] SCIUTTO: The breaking news just in to CNN and it is disturbing news. More information on the death, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Jomana Karadsheh is standing by in Istanbul with more. Jomana, what are we learning?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, these details coming to us in the first official statement we're hearing from the Istanbul chief prosecutor who has been leading the investigation into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. And this comes after two days of meeting with the chief Saudi prosecutor.

And officially for the first time Turkey saying that Jamal Khashoggi was killed straight after entering the consulate, that he was choked, that he -- was then his body was dismembered after that. So initially he walked in, he was choked to death immediately after that. And following that his body was dismembered and destroyed following that.

So of course, Jim, this is the first time that we're hearing the official version of events. There have been so many different leaks over the past few weeks of what may have happened to Jamal Khashoggi nearly a month ago after he entered the consulate. And we have had different versions we've heard from Saudi Arabia, too. And this is the first time we are getting this on the record officially from the Turkish side from their investigators of what happened on that day.