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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

President Trump: "When I Can, I Tell the Truth"; President Trump Again Claims Migrant Caravan an "Invasion"; President Trump Suggest Migrants Could Be Shot for Throwing Rocks. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired November 1, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

President Trump addressed the country today from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. This is where President Kennedy briefed the nation in a key moment during the Cuban missile crisis, and at any time the president goes on national television, from any room in the White House, the assumption is it's important and urgent and divorced from mere partisan politics. In 1962, remember, there really were Soviet missiles in Cuba. They really did carry nuclear warheads. They really were pointed at this country. It was a dire threat and an urgent one.

The question tonight is, does what the president talked about today, the caravan in Mexico and the asylum process, rise to the level of a crisis that requires thousands of American troops to rush to the border? Or does a fast-approaching election have more to do with what he said today than slow walking asylum seekers? How you answer that question may depend how you view the president's truthfulness, which is why we want to start very quickly with how the president himself views it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Have you always been truthful?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do try. I do try, too. You say things about me that are necessarily correct. I do try, and I always want to tell the truth when I can. I tell the truth. I mean, sometimes it turns out to be, where something happens, it's different or there's a change, but I always like to be truthful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That is the president of the United States telling ABC News' Jonathan Karl that he tells the truth when he can, which raises the obvious question, when can he not tell the truth? For most presidents, the answer is very, very rarely, usually safeguard some greater secret which might compromise national security if it got out.

For this president, what day is it? Here's the president yesterday winking at a conspiracy theory, insinuating it's true when, in fact, there's no evidence that it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you think anybody is paying for the caravan?

TRUMP: I wouldn't be surprised. Yes. I wouldn't be surprised.

REPORTER: George Soros?

TRUMP: I wouldn't -- I don't know who. I wouldn't be surprised. A lot of people say yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A lot of people say yes. That is one of the president's favorite stock phrases if you haven't noticed. The other form of it is, a lot of people are talking about it.

Just to be clear, the people who say yes are pushing a conspiracy theory, and just to be clear, this is the very conspiracy theory that an anti-Semitic gunman latched onto before murdering 11 people in Pittsburgh, a gunman obsessed about the idea of people invading this country. And just to be clear: this is a president who the "Washington Post" fact-checker said today is now averaging 8.3 false or misleading claims a day, more than 5,000 so far. So, consider that as you consider this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Some people call it an invasion. It's like an invasion. They have violently overrun the Mexican border. You saw that two days ago.

These are tough people in many cases. A lot of young men. Strong men. A lot of men that maybe we don't want in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's part of the president's address today, at which we were told to expect new policy on asylum seekers. Instead, the president merely promised to issue an executive order sometime next week, and when pressed for what it would contain, he said, and I'm quoting here, it's going to be talking about everything, which is kind of what the president did today.

Here he is talking about the number of undocumented immigrants in this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And the overall number could be 10 million people, could be 12 million people, could be 20 million people. The recordkeeping from past administrations has not exactly been very good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, the record keepers at his own administration put the number at approximately 12 million. Then again, maybe the president knows something that his own Department of Homeland Security does not. After all, here's what he told Jonathan Karl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You have caravans coming up that look a lot larger than is being reported actually. I'm pretty good at estimating crowd size and they look a lot bigger than people would think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He's pretty good at estimating crowd size. Of all the claims for this president to make, do we need to get into the whole crowd size thing with this president? I mean, do we?

You know what, just Google Trump inauguration crowd size and let's just leave it there, because honestly, we only have so much time and there's a lot more to get to from what he said today, like his claim that only 3 percent of asylum seekers show up for their court hearings. According to the Justice Department, the most recent number is 75 percent and experts have said on this program that electronic monitoring and other forms of monitoring could largely eliminate the no-show problem.

So, claiming only 3 percent show up is just completely not true. I mean, it could be funny if it was just some pundit on a Fox morning show making stuff up, but this is the president making stuff up.

The president also said that construction of his new border wall is under way, as we have shown you time and time again with our reporters on the border, it is not. They're repairing existing fencing.

He said his policy of separating parents and children was a continuation of the Obama administration policy.

[20:05:04] That is misleading. It was done on rare occasions during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, absolutely. The Trump administration made it widespread and claimed months in advance that it would be a deterrent, which it has not been.

Clearly, in short, the president as he often does, uttered a string of untruths today from the White House.

Now, some you might consider minor or some of you might see is what the president once called truthful hyperbole, but remember, he's talking about sending as many as 15,000 active duty troops to the border and he's now even talking about permitting them to use deadly force if someone throws a rock at them, to shoot them if they throw a rock or a stone. I haven't heard any military commander or anyone with actual military experience back up the notion that someone throwing a rock at our incredibly well-trained and well-disciplined troops should be shot. To believe that is a good strategy and a necessary one is probably to believe the president when he calls this an invasion. It's probably to believe it's the president when he says that unknown Middle Easterners are part of the caravan or suggest ICE members are.

Only in the next breath, he said he had no proof of that. To believe this idea is an immediate threat requiring three times the number of active duty troops as they're currently in Iraq is to believe some pretty big assertions from a president who routinely utters falsehoods, big and small.

But don't take my word for it, take it from him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Have you always been truthful?

TRUMP: I do try. I do try, too. You say things about me that are necessarily correct. I do try, and I always want to tell the truth when I can. I tell the truth. I mean, sometimes it turns out to be, where something happens, it's different or there's a change, but I always like to be truthful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joining us now, strategic analyst and author, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters.

Thanks so much for joining us.

There's a lot to talk to you about. I'm just wondering overall what went through your mind when you heard the president's remarks from the Roosevelt Room today?

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, it's really difficult for me, because I want to take the president of the United States seriously, but he manages to at once an embarrassing fool and an insidious menace. He's the antithesis of the America that I and my military comrades meant to defend, if necessary, with our lives. He's an un-American American president.

COOPER: An un-American American president?

PETERS: Yes, I think so, Anderson.

And -- it's -- what bothers me the most about president Trump, and there's much that bothers me, is his absolutely repulsive, repugnant attacks on America, and they are attacks on America, when he constantly criticizes our system of government, de facto criticizes the Constitution.

And when I hear, whether it's today in the Rose Garden, or at other times, I just want to stand up and say, no. No. We don't need you to make America great again. And to be fair, we didn't need Obama to apologize for America. This country is great right now. It's a miracle of a country. It's

imperfect because humans are imperfect.

But we live in a golden age. The average American has incredible privileges, and we've become an ungrateful nation, a nation pointing fingers at each other. A nation divided often over trivialities.

We're forgetting that we're all Americans. And so that divisiveness, and I'm all for a strong political argument, but that bothers me the most. Again, we live in a golden age that we cling to grievances, often petty grievances.

We have to remember how lucky we are to be here. Those people marching north from Central America, whatever you think of them, and there are many ways to look at that problem, they are not coming here or trying to come here because this is such an awful country. They're coming here because despite Trump, despite all, despite propaganda over the years, this country is still the dream, the global dream, and Trump as president abdicates responsibility to lead that dream, to lead the dreamers, small D dreamers.

COOPER: When he talks about -- I mean, you served in the military for a long time. When he talks about telling troops, you know, to shoot people who are throwing rocks at them -- I mean, just from a military strategy, I mean, I don't know of any military commander who would say that is what U.S. military policy is, that that's the code of conduct that the U.S. military conducts its with.

PETERS: No, it's too much for me --

COOPER: It also, you know, has ripple effects that you can't even -- you shoot into a crowd of people, things happen.

PETERS: Our active duty -- our troops aren't going to do that.

COOPER: Right.

PETERS: Commanders aren't going to order them to do that.

The president, who in my mind is a draft dodger, the president of the United States is a draft dodger, playing with our troops.

[20:10:04] This idea of sending 15,000 troops to the southern border right now, it's an election ploy.

COOPER: You have no doubt about that?

PETERS: No.

COOPER: Because they're not manning the border wall with guns. I mean, they will be in support positions, just as National Guard troops are in support positions.

PETERS: Right. We don't even have support positions for them. There's no plan to use 15,000 or 10,000 or even 5,000 troops. For purely partisan political purposes, Trump is ripping these

soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, navy corpsman, he's ripping them away from their training, which is vital, and also, by the way, to show you how much President Trump loves his troops, he's ripping them away from their families with the holiday season coming.

Soldiers are used to that. They understand their duty and they're glad to do their duty, and proud to do their duty. But when they are manipulated for partisan political purposes, it -- it literally is disgraceful.

COOPER: Especially soldiers who have served -- marines who served multiple tours of duty. The military --

PETERS: They've been away from home a lot.

COOPER: Yes, for the lifetime of many people in the military, this has been an extraordinary number of deployments.

PETERS: Yes, and the military can provide some assets to border security, can provide aerial reconnaissance, it can provide transportation, logistics, but we're already doing that. So this is a stunt.

COOPER: The other thing he said yesterday, which didn't get a lot of attention, but he said -- he was threatening cutting off aid to El Salvador, some of these countries where people are coming from. If you want to prevent -- I mean, look, international aid is a topic rife for discussion and criticism, but if you are trying to stop people from leaving these places, pretty much everybody I've talked to that actually works on this issue on the front lines says we actually need to be doing more to keep people in place, to make situations better and give more opportunities for people so they're not leaving Honduras or El Salvador. It's actually cheaper than waiting on this end.

PETERS: Yes, what we're seeing in central America now, the violence is the long-term aftereffects of all the arms that have gone in there from both sides during the Cold War. It was a very violent place then and now. This subject of immigration, for me it's very fraught, because I truly believe that both sides are failing us, and failing the human becomes involved.

On the right, they will not -- the far right, the hard right, will not admit that we need immigrants, that we thrive on immigrants. We need them to pick crops and we need them to start tech companies. That's the life blood, the fresh blood that keeps the country going.

At the same time, those on the left need to accept the fact that we have a right to sovereign borders and we have a right to know who is coming here and we have a right to select who comes here. We should be generous in our selection. We should be open to legitimate asylum claims, but asylum claims should not become a scam.

I really feel if people on both parties, on both sides, wanted to solve this with intelligent, human compromises, we could do it. But I fear it's become such a powerful electoral issue for both parties, that we're not going to see movement. And meanwhile, real human beings, whether they're would be migrants or native born Americans, are caught in the middle of all this, and it is a national disgrace. That's something we can be ashamed of.

COOPER: And just the notion -- do you see the people coming as invaders? Is that a term that should be used?

PETERS: Well, if they come marching up with guns and tanks and airplanes, yes, that's invaders. We actually have been invaded, quite recently, by the Russians in the 2016 election. It's a new kind of invasion. I'd call what the Russians did an invasion. The president doesn't have a problem with that.

And, look, in those columns coming north, I'm sure there are people we don't want to have here, sure. But there are other people we may want here. And when you look at it theoretically, coldly, it looks one way.

But when you meet real human beings, the people who are coming to this country every day, from all parts, you just had a conversation with one before we went on the air today from Somalia. I mean, these are human beings, and let us do the American thing and judge them not as groups but as individuals. That's what our immigration system should do, look at them as individual human beings and not as either an invasion, nor can we open our borders completely. It's just logistically impossible to support it.

So, what I think both sides lack is the necessary integrity and commitment to make -- to solve this solvable problem.

[20:15:02] COOPER: It is incredible that we're at a time when what you're saying, which is a moderate, you know, balanced position, is a position that you don't hear very much being voiced by anybody in Washington. I mean, people have gone to their corners and are seeing things through a very particular lens.

PETERS: Well, I think, to be honest, and I've been around Washington awhile now, it has degenerated. It started with Newt Gingrich, and it's gone downhill from there, on both sides. You're not attracting -- with notable exceptions, we're not attracting the quality people into government we once did. So many people I meet, legislators on down, are inferior to those of previous generations.

Now, again, there are many exceptions. But look at the scandals. Look -- they cannot even speak in complete sentences. You know, thank God we have military veterans coming in, because they're adding a new dose of realism.

And, you know, when it comes to presidents, if we can be honest about it and nonpartisan, we haven't had a fully qualified statesman for over a quarter century. We're electing personalities.

I heard somebody just today say, we want to elect somebody we can have a beer with. No, that's the wrong criteria for a president. You want somebody who can be the leader of the free world and influence for the good and the entire world and who can save our country from foreign threats and domestic threats, for that matter.

And what are we getting? Mediocrity after mediocrity from both parties.

COOPER: Colonel Peters, appreciate you always. Thank you.

PETERS: A joyous message.

COOPER: Yes, well, it's a real message.

Coming up next, Univision's Jorge Ramos, as well our political and legal team on all sides on what this means.

Later, one of the president's staunchest supporters in what used to be one of the safest seats. What does it say that even Congressman Steve King is feeling electoral heat, and as you'll see, getting hot under the collar?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:20:53] COOPER: Well, the president painted the image of an invading army making its way towards the southern border. He's been doing it already on the campaign trail of course.

Today, using much the same language, he said it at the White House, and even suggested that troops, U.S. forces might be required to fire on people if they were throwing rocks or stones.

Times like this, we often turn to Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. He's been reporting as a CNN correspondent from the caravan. I spoke to him just before airtime.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jorge, the president continuing the narrative, painting the caravan as an invasion, people as invaders. The fact is, I mean, it's not an invasion, not even at the border. It's a thousand miles away from the border. Yet, the president keeps peddling this lie.

JORGE RAMOS, ANCHOR, UNIVISION: Yes, and it's simply a lie. It is not an invasion. I spent two days with the caravan last week, and I didn't see criminals or rapists or terrorists. What I saw, and I don't want to be overly dramatic, is that I saw this, I saw kids.

Like this one. Or even this one. I saw an 8-month-old girl, I saw a 4-month-old boy. And they are part of people who are fleeing extreme poverty, who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing gangs, and their only opportunity is the United States.

And I am concerned that we're going to have a stronger military presence with Mexico than in Iraq and Syria. And that the most powerful army in history is going to be used simply because of political purposes.

COOPER: I mean, certainly, any kind of thousand of people, there must be people with criminal records or who have committed crimes in the past.

RAMOS: Sure.

COOPER: And certainly, immigration is a legitimate issue, and a lot of voters say it is what they care about most. I guess the thing I don't understand is, why the president has to use misinformation to try to achieve some sort of immigration reform other than the fact that it's a political ploy and he's used this strategy before and, frankly, it's worked for him, and it's, you know, five days from the midterm.

RAMOS: And it is possible that we might find gang members among the 7,000 members of the caravan, it is possible. I don't know exactly who they are. But it is very simple. Most of these refugees, because they're not even immigrants, want to apply for political asylum right at the port of entry. And once they're there, we can check their backgrounds. That's very simple.

Now, also, I've heard the president saying there's a lot of money passing hands. I didn't see any of that. I didn't see any proof of financing by George Soros, or by the dictatorships in Nicaragua and Venezuela. As a matter of fact, what I saw is people who are so poor, they don't even have $1 to buy a bottle of water.

So, the image that the president is presenting to the American people is a complete lie. I didn't see any of that, Anderson. Absolutely any of that.

COOPER: Do you -- also, the president seems to be painting this image that U.S. troops are going to be manning the borders with, you know, with rifles and bayonets out and stopping people from crossing over. Every military expert I talked to points out that the U.S. military would only be used in support roles, just like the National Guard has been in the past. They're not actually supposed to have any interaction with anybody, with any migrant.

I'm wondering when you hear the president saying that if migrants throw rocks or stones at troops, that he's telling them they should shoot back. I mean, that's against every rule of engagement the U.S. military has. I don't know any commander that would order his troops to do that.

RAMOS: And it's a humanitarian crisis. Again, I want to emphasize the fact that what I saw were kids. I saw single mothers with children. I saw many families, and, of course, many young men and women who are escaping gangs. They don't want to be members of gangs.

And those are exactly the people that conform, not one, but at this point, three caravans. And we are really, that's a fact, we are really dealing with a humanitarian crisis.

[20:25:04] COOPER: The other thing the president has talked about is cutting off aid to El Salvador or countries where many of these people are coming from. That's in stark contrast to -- I mean, people I've talked to who work, you know, on the border, who work in, you know, who have dedicated their lives to this issue, working on the front lines. Many of whom say, what the U.S. should be doing is actually working in those forward positions, in those countries, trying to better conditions so that people aren't coming, that that's probably the most effective way long-term to stop thousands of people from coming.

RAMOS: Exactly. If you want to prevent more immigrants, more refugees coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, the worst you can do is cut foreign aid. So, what's going to happen? We're talking about people who make maybe $1 or $2 or $3 a day, Anderson. And so, the push factor that they have is incredibly strong, if you add the fact that there's a lot of violence, and in the case of Honduras, many people argued that is not even a democracy, because the president got re-elected against the Constitution. Then you have a case that the worst you can do is to cut that aid.

What they need is help from the United States. They don't need an army, and in the case of the caravans, we're talking about people who were so desperate that they lost everything, and that's why they're risking absolutely everything at this point.

COOPER: Jorge Ramos -- thank you very much, Jorge.

RAMOS: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Let's get some perspective on the politics of all of us, just days away from the midterms, as well as the legalities, what the president might be announcing later next week, if in fact he does something after the midterms.

Joining us for that, John King, Gloria Borger, Dana Bash, Kirsten Powers, Marc Short and Carrie Cordero.

I mean, Gloria, to hear the president, it sounded like there were going to be specifics, but it was just this very kind of rambling, all-inclusive --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It was. And, you know, you have to ask the question, why convene a policy address for a policy that hasn't changed? And for, you know, we all expected, and I think maybe there was a little trick played on us, because he got some live coverage --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You think?

BORGER: Yes. We thought there was going to be new policy here, and there really wasn't. It was an opportunity for the president to continue on prompter what he's been doing on the campaign trail, which is to rally the base. That's what it was.

COOPER: I mean, isn't that really the idea behind all of what we've been hearing lately from the president?

BASH: A hundred percent. That's what it is. He is following the instincts that he believes, and in many ways, rightly so, launched him, you know, almost three years ago, however long it was ago, he understands the base of his party instinctively, probably better than anyone.

But he's not a candidate anymore. He's the president of the United States. And yes, he's in complete campaign mode. We all understand that, because the election is only five days away.

But it's a completely different thing when you are on an escalator in Trump Tower or at a rally, frankly, paid for by your campaign, than in the Roosevelt room. Maybe he did have, and our understanding was the goal was to have some kind of policy announcement. It wasn't ready, for various reasons.

BORGER: So don't do it.

BASH: Marc, you've been in that situation I'm guessing one or 25 times.

MARC SHORT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He often uses executive orders to draw attention to an issue more than it is --

BORGER: But he didn't issue it.

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: -- is to change, is that the asylum laws right now, ten years ago, there was 5,000 asylum cases. This year, we're expecting over 100,000 asylum cases at the southern border.

The reality is that we have people, human traffickers who know and tell people, go across, get arrested by a CBP officer and claim asylum. What the administration is going to try to do is say, we'll continue to grant asylum if you come through the port of entry, but we're not going to put that border to CBP officers.

COOPER: But they're not actually saying that, because they've actually now changed the asylum requirements, if you are fleeing domestic violence, if you're fleeing gang violence, those are no longer criteria that are valid for receiving asylum, right?

SHORT: Yes, that is true, Anderson. But keeping that in mind, there will be people who will still be granted asylum if they come through a port of entry. They will not be provided by that --

COOPER: But they're only allowing 40 a day, according to Jorge Ramos. I mean, there's a huge backlog.

SHORT: No, actually, the number right now is 2,000 per week asylum that are being granted. And that basically, as they come into the United States, it is a multiple year process to get litigated. The administration has asked for more judges. And they have not been funded.

So, the president's going to continue to try to draw contrasts on the immigration issue, because he thinks --

BORGER: But he didn't have a plan. He didn't have a plan he announced today --

COOPER: Isn't that just a scam?

BORGER: Yes.

COOPER: If he doesn't have a plan and he's making this big thing, he's using the White House just for politics.

BORGER: You think?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's the way this thing, we call it democracy, the way it used to work. Used to work.

And President Obama used the executive powers to excess and the Republicans hated it. President Trump and businessman Donald Trump criticized it for years. Now, he says I'm going to do it, too.

This is where it is a sham in the sense, number one, he broke the fact-check machines today. He said so many things that just were not true and simply not true. Now if you're Trump supporter at home, do this work yourself because you don't trust us, because he beats us up, simply not true, easily proven to be exaggerations, falsehoods, and lies.

It's a shame a President feels he has to do that, because actually he's in a strong position of border security. People want border security. Democrats want border security. He could -- he had a deal a year or so ago with the Democrats that they would give him his wall if he would do DACA Dreamer deal.

But, he could make a case for border security. He could use his office for boarder security. Well, he can actually demand the Congress come back into session. He could demand the Congress or could have any time over the last two years or two years minus two months, vote.

He's the President. He controls this part, not even lost somebody's votes. Both -- the truth is, the Republicans don't want to take some of these things on. But the President could make it happen if he wanted to be president not to be (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: But, Marc, to John's point, the President, especially early on, had a really good story to tell about immigration. I mean, there was a tremendous drop on illegal apprehensions, which is how they measure the illegal immigration, largely based on the President using the power of the bully pulpit and yet they didn't do that.

MARC SHORT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they didn't, but also, Anderson, that has changed. The numbers have changed. And he's trying to draw a contrast because, you know, we do need 60 votes in the United States Senate to pass some of these laws. But I will go back in Johnson (ph) and I think it's very fair criticism.

We as conservatives hated Obama administration using executive order again and again and again as a way to go around with this process. And I think that that's a very fair criticism of where we are today.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I remember it being called the imperial presidency. I mean, this was all -- this is all Republicans talked about.

CARRIE CORDERO, CXNN LEGAL ANALYST: Here's what's happening on the executive orders. And so this is -- it's separate from just this current issue. This is actually a pattern throughout the administration, which is that he issues an executive order, and we'll see in this case if he does issue an executive order on this or on the birthright issue, on some immigration issue as he's been previewing the last few days.

They put out an executive order, first without it actually being determined to be legal, so they bypassed the Office of Legal Counsel and the Justice Department review. It doesn't go through the proper inner agency coordination, and a document gets issued.

And many legal scholars can say, Well, it will be overturned or it's invalid because he's trying to use an executive order to overturn an act of Congress. In the case of asylum, asylum is something granted by statue so he can't -- he can maybe chip away at it, but he can't actually get rid of the asylum provisions through an executive order.

But what that does if he does issue an order, it causes a whole lot of chaos in the meantime because it can take hours or days for the legal challenges to be launched. And during that time period when the legal challenge is taking place against this executive order that isn't lousily drafted and insufficient legally, people ties are actually affected.

COOPER: Yes. We got to take a break. I want to go to Kirsten right when we come back because I want to play something that the President said today and get her thoughts on it. Also John King is going to give us a detail look at the political map ahead. We'll continue obviously our conversation as the midterms close in. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:35:17] COOPER: As we noted, the President's asylum speech at the White House this afternoon, his upcoming campaign rallies in targeted states are all about one key campaign tactic, stoking up his base with concerns over immigration, the invasion, so-called, from the south border.

John King got up from the table, went over the map -- the wall to try to put the strategy in a different context. So there were complaints from some moderate House Republicans today about the President's immigration escalation, but I understand the White House believes it's certainly strategy that's working, at least for the Senate races. Are there numbers to back that up?

We don't have him on audio. I thought I just went deaf, but apparently just don't have audio, so we'll go back to John as soon as we restore that. I want to play something that the President said at the White House about the caravan. I want to ask Kirsten about it about how women in the United States are fearful about this, focusing on the -- basically the men in the caravan. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Women don't want them in our country. Women want security. Men don't want them in our country, but the women do not want them. Women want security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What do you make of that?

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, the first thing I thought of is him talking about Mexicans being rapists and it was sort of implicate -- that's the only thing I can think of because what would women be in particularly afraid of that men wouldn't necessarily be afraid of.

So it's just another one of his, you know, you can't even call them dog whistles because they're not dog whistles. It's so over the top of the claims that he's making in an attempt to do this racial demagoguery to gin up his base.

And I would just say if you're his base, you should actually be offended by this. If this is what he thinks it takes to get you to turn out to vote, these are kinds of things that he's saying about these people who are just trying to get to a better life and a better place versus invading the country when the President could be talking about the economy, for example. Why doesn't that turn out voters? Why is this what turns out his voters?

COOPER: I want to go back to John, because I think we've got his audio this time. And, John, what (INAUDIBLE), I'm not sure if you were able to hear me but, you know, some moderate House Republicans had complained about the President's immigration escalation, the White House certainly believes it's a strategy that working. Are there numbers that back that up?

KING: Yes. Now, a lot of those moderates live in places where there are a lot of Latino voters, a lot of suburban women. We don't like when the President talks like this, but he's focusing on red states, Trump states, Senate races, statewide.

Let's go through some of the number. Let's look at Arizona. Now, this is the entire electorate, 28 percent of the electorate says immigration is the most important issue. That's up a bit from just a few weeks ago. So the more the President talks about it, the more it comes up.

But look at it when you take a party breakdown. Democrats only think -- 13 percent of Democrats think immigration is a big issue. But look at this, 37 percent, nearly 4 in 10 Republicans. Again, this is rising in recent weeks as the President talks about it. He's motivating Republicans by talking about this issue.

Nevada, again, immigration, the entire electorate, 26 percent say it's most important. You see health care and the economy there, it's up. Just in September, it was 18, now it's 26. The President talks about it, it rises as an issue, again, especially among Republicans. Nearly 4 in 10 Republicans say immigration is issue number one. Democrats think its health care.

So Democrats using health care to motivate their voters. The President is driving up Republican's intensity with this. That was Nevada. You saw Arizona. Tennessee, immigration is only moved up a little bit from September to now, but it's jumped up among Republican to nearly 30 percent now, 3 in 10. Marsha Blackburn, the candidate there is using this election one more state.

Let's move to Florida. The President was just there last night. Immigration, again, this is two weeks ago. This is now. You might say 15 to 18, that's not a big deal. But, Anderson, among Republicans, 28 percent, a huge jump, a huge jump in just two weeks of Republicans saying immigration is issue number one, in a state where you have a contested Senate race, a contested governor's race, both very close. The President is being effective.

Only 8 percent of Democrats think immigration is a big deal, but it is now competing with the economy as issue number one for Republicans. So yes, cynical, fact free in many cases, but it works to motivate Republicans.

COOPER: Can you put the races into context of who controls the Senate after the midterms?

KING: Right. Think about the races I just talked about. Right now, we have Republicans favored in 49, Democrats in 45. So for Democrats to get up the steepest of steep hills this midterm election year, somehow not only take the House but also take the Senate.

If nothing else changed, if they held Montana, Republicans took away North Dakota, for example, the Republicans hold Texas, the Democrats would have to win Florida, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, and Arizona. They have to sweep the toss-up states. I just showed you in Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, and Nevada, immigration is helping to motivate Republicans, all of those are dead heat toss-ups.

[20:40:01] Does that mean Republicans will win them all? No, but they don't have to. They don't have to. If they can pick off Missouri and/or Indiana, if they hold Tennessee where they're ahead now by about five points, win something else, the Democrats cannot, cannot get to a majority. Immigration is helping the President in his immediate challenge right now, which is to keep the Senate red.

COOPER: All right. John, if you can have your team of producers carry you back as you like to travel around the office being carried with this. I don't know if the audience knew that. You're welcome back to table. I mean, Gloria, in -- I don't know why I said that. That makes no sense.

BORGER: I have to go get John.

COOPER: All right, it might be. But I mean, in poll after poll, voters do point to immigration as a priority.

BORGER: Sure. But there is a difference between Democrats and Republicans. 88 percent of Democrats overall believe that health care is the number one issue. Republicans believe not by quite that high a margin that immigration, you know, is a top issue.

And the play here, as John was saying, is for the Senate. I mean, this is what the President is doing, because it doesn't help moderate Republicans or Republicans running in suburban districts, to just go back to like your partying like it's 2016. It doesn't help them.

What they want to talk about is the stuff Marc Short worked on when he was at the White House. They want to talk about tax reform. They want to talk about the economy. They want to make people feel good about the way the country is going, and instead, they have the President catering to red state Republicans and they're going to lose their seats.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's also short term, at least looking at it in the short term, because the map is laid out the way it is right now by the Senate that there is so much of a focus. The turf is in red states.

It wasn't that long ago, it feels like 600 years ago, but it's only six years ago, you remember, that Republicans at the RNC after Mitt Romney did so poorly with Hispanic voters in 2012. Republicans had this autopsy and the whole mission of the Republican Party was to do better, to reach out to Hispanic voters.

COOPER: OK. No one has mentioned that autopsy in so long.

BASH: It was only six years ago. That's really not that long ago. The point is that the demographics of this country are changing. And so it certainly is helpful for the Republicans, politically short- term. But long-term --

COOPER: Ditch.

BASH: -- it's a ditch.

BORGER: Yes.

COOPER: It's a ditch.

KING: It's a ditch. Listen, you think of a tube of toothpaste, you know. The President squeezed an electoral victory, hats off to him. Most people didn't think it was possible. His own team don't think it was possible. On Election Day at 4:00, they told him he was going to lose. He managed to flip Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan.

He managed it squeezing a white coalition out of the toothpaste tube. He thinks he can do it in 2020, maybe. Go to census.gov, you don't need to be a rocket science, you don't to be political analyst, just do the math.

If you can't win the urban areas, if you can't win African-Americans, if you can't win Latinos, you're now losing suburban college educated women in the suburbs. There aren't enough white people. There just aren't enough white people to keep a national party alive.

Can he get through one more presidential election? If you tell them there's a crisis, if you tell them, you know, the next that knock at your door is Hillary Clinton to take your gun or some illegal immigrant to kill you, maybe, maybe. For two years, for two years to it, maybe, but just do the math. It's just -- it's going to be impossible.

[CROSSTALK]

BASH: You started a whole campaign to reach out to him.

SHORT: We did. We started an organization called "Believer Initiative" that focused on winning over Hispanic votes. But I do think that you're right as to what the demographics are changing, what Republicans need to do.

Also we found that in many polls of Hispanics, immigration is not their number one issue, its jobs. It's about educating your children. But what they feel is, is that if the Republicans are talking to them in a racist way that they not wanted and they turn them away.

KING: Like tweeting ad like last time?

SHORT: Well, John, I mean -- look, I think that the ad that there's legitimacy in that ad. I think that this is an issue that splits Republicans and Democrats apart. And I think the President is showing a contrast of that.

BORGER: I don't think it splits Republicans, doesn't it? The birthright citizenship, for example, splits Republicans. So the President is dividing his own party.

COOPER: All right, I got to jump in. I want to thank everybody. Good discussion. More on the midterms coming up, Republican Congressman Steve King is at intense re-election fight. Up next, the heated moment today when a man link King's anti-immigration rhetoric to the suspect in the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. We'll show you what happen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:47:38] COOPER: One of President Trump's supporters on Capitol Hill is in a close re-election fight. Republican Congressman Steve King took a question at a town hall in Iowa today and here's what happened next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a shooting at synagogue in Pittsburgh that tragically left 11 people dead. And the terrorist who did committed this crime, he was quoted as saying they bring invaders that kill our people. I can't sit back and watch our people get slaughtered. You, Steve King, have been quoted as saying we can't restore our civilization with other people. Steve, you and the shooter both share an ideology that is --

REP. STEVE KING, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: No, don't you do that. Do not associate me with that shooter. I knew you were an ambusher when you walked in the room, but there's no basis for that and you get no question and you get no answer. No, you're done. We don't play these games here in Iowa.

No, you're done. You crossed the line. It's not tolerable to accuse me to be associated with a guy that shot 11 people in Pittsburgh. I am a person who has stood with Israel from the beginning, and the length of that nation is the length of my life. And I've been with them all along and I will not answer you question. I'm not listening to another word from you. And this is all (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, as you just heard, King accused the man of being an ambusher. The man said he was not. What's not disputed is the congressman has a history of making some of the controversial remarks, you can say. The question now is will it actually hurt him with Iowa voters. More from our Sara Sidner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Iowa's fourth district filled with small towns and fields of corn, Congressman Steve King's words echoing far and wide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think he belongs in a white supremacist meeting. That's just, you know, hey, listen, that's wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's calling a spade a spade, which he has the guts to do.

SIDNER: The Sioux are self-described conservatives living on deep red tarp (ph). Donald Trump won the fourth district with 60 percent of the vote. King, now serving his eighth term in Congress, got 61 percent, following years of racially charged rhetoric about former President Barack Obama.

KING: This President would not be president today if any of the other races were so racially motivated in the ballots that they cast.

SIDNER: Comparing immigrants to dogs.

KING: You get to pick of a letter and you got yourself a pretty good bread dog. But we got to pick of every donor civilization on the planet.

[20:50:02] SIDNER: And making this unsubstantiated claim about immigrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border. KING: For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another hundred out there that they weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're holding 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

SIDNER: He said he unknowingly met with a member of a far right Austrian group with past ties to Nazis and retweeted a message from an avowed Nazi sympathizer saying it was unintentional.

But can Democrats capitalized on King's controversies? Enter Democratic challenge, J.D. Scholten, a former minor league baseball player turned first time political candidate. He's on his fourth trip across the district. We catch up with him in Pocahontas, Iowa.

(on camera) Is Pocahontas a Democratic district?

J.D. SCHOLTEN, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: No.

SIDNER (voice-over): Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats here by more than 2 to 1, but there are signs of enthusiasms for Scholten. This resident flagged him down on the road.

SCHOLTEN: Yes, I love it. I love it. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so excited.

SIDNER: Still, Scholten is under no illusions winning this district will be easy.

(on camera): He keeps getting re-elected. Doesn't that signify that's what people want?

SCHOLTEN: It's not necessarily that his opponent is calling him out on these things. People can see it on Facebook. People can see it on his Twitter. And I think that is what's catching up to him. And people are disgusted between that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time for Mr. King to be retired and sent back to the farm.

SIDNER (voice-over): Pierce street coffee works is split down the middle, Republicans on one side, Democrats on the other.

(on camera) What is it that you know about King that you like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honestly, I don't know enough a lot about King. I really don't, so I can't tell you. I couldn't be fair there.

SIDNER: Any thoughts on who you might vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm a very strong Republican right now. And to be fair, I just believe that we're going the right way.

SIDNER (voice-over): As for that conservative couple we first met, Scholten gave it his best shot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why should I vote for you?

SCHOLTEN: Why should you vote for me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SCHOLTEN: The biggest thing is for your health care costs are going out of control and we got to -- go out to get a grass on it somehow.

SIDNER: Then hopped back on the bus, headed for the next town.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Sioux City, Iowa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: One of many races we're going to be following closely on Tuesday. I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go deep on what the obvious last ditch effort is by the President of the United States. It's not about security, it's about fear and loathing. And we're going to talk about how it's working, why it will or won't work.

We have a prominent Republican on who may run against the President of the United States within his own party, which just take about why the party is so quiet about things that are so ugly. We also have a military expert, a veteran on to talk about the realities of what all those troops will mean, and what happens in terms of engagement.

COOPER: Yes, a lot different what the President is saying. Chris, that's seven minutes for now, see you then.

The finalists for CNN Hero of the Year are in the final of the 10 finalists. Just ahead, we'll tell you who they are and what they've done to be nominated and how can you can pick the Hero of the Year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:57:50] COOPER: Tonight, we have 10 trailblazers to tell you about. The top 10 CNN Heroes of 2018 have just been announced today. Here's a look at the finalists.

(BEGIN VIDEOC CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): From Lagos, Nigeria, programmer, Abisoye Ajayi- Akinfolarin, her coding program gives disadvantaged girls the skills and confidence to transform their lives.

In Washington, D.C., college student Maria Rose Belding created an online platform that prevents food waste and fights hunger.

From Basalt, Colorado, Amanda Boxtel, she was paralyzed in a skiing accident and technology helped her walk again. Today, she helps others follow in her footsteps.

Frustrated by the violent injuries he saw in the emergency room, Dr. Rob Gore now helps young people of Brooklyn stay safe and resolve conflict peacefully.

From Twin Falls, Idaho, Luke Mickelson helps kids in need rest easy by giving them free beds.

In San Diego, California, Susan Munsey, she survived sex trafficking, now she gives women housing and hope to start a new life.

87-year-old Florence Phillips was born to immigrant parents. Now, she provides free English language and citizenship classes in Carson City, Nevada.

From Lima, Peru, Ricardo Pun-Chong, this doctor provides free housing and support to seriously ill children and their families while they receive medical treatment.

High school English teacher, Ellen Stackable, helps incarcerated women in Oklahoma find their voices and heal from trauma.

And finally, from Kansas City, Missouri, Veteran Chris Stout, whose tiny homes help homeless veterans rebuild their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ten amazing people, go to cnnheroes.com to pick the one you think should be named the CNN Hero of the Year. Find out who won the title when I host the all-star tribute with Kelly Ripa, December 9th here on CNN.

Also a reminder, don't miss "Full Circle," our daily interactive newscast on Facebook every day at 6:25 p.m. Eastern.

The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: All right, my friend, I appreciate it. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time."