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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Stokes Immigration Fears; Trump Accused of Tweeting Racist Ad. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 1, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:08]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news in the politics lead and a closing argument from President Trump, one that is inflammatory and divisive and based in fear. And that's according to Republicans.

Quote: "Let's face it. We all know what's happening." That's what Republican Senator Bob Corker told the "Tennessean" newspaper about President Trump's mid-term election focus on undocumented immigrants coming into the U.S.

Corker adding -- quote -- "It's all about revving up the base, using fear to stimulate people to come out at the polls."

Now, we're five days out from the midterm elections, President Trump clearly feeling the pressure to keep Republican control of the House and Senate, and he's returning to familiar, divisive territory.

In minutes, the president is expected to speak from the White House about undocumented immigrants. We're going to bring that to you live. We're likely going to see then what we have been seeing escalate over the last few days and weeks, President Trump using the very kind of inflammatory rhetoric that he used to launch his presidential campaign back in 2015, demonizing undocumented immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They are rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: This time, this election, President Trump launched most recently an ad. It's pinned to the top of his Twitter account right now. It's an ad that even some conservative commentators have called racist.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake said of the ad -- quote -- "This is just a new low in campaigning. It's sickening." The ad features a Mexican man who was convicted in the killing of two California sheriff's deputies, contrasting the words and actions of that murderer, who has been sentenced to death, incidentally, with footage of the caravan, of migrants who are currently attempting to reach the United States to seek asylum, the clear implication being that this caravan, these people fleeing their home countries, are all criminals and they are all seeking to commit horrific crimes.

The president continuing to push this campaign of fear comes literally within days of that horrific murder at the Pittsburgh synagogue, where an anti-Semite slaughtered 11 Jews because he believed the right-wing propaganda he had been hearing, such as the lies that this caravan of migrants poses an existential threat to the United States and is being funded by Jews such as George Soros.

It's a claim, by the way, that the president continues to lend credence to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

QUESTION: George Soros?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: "A lot of people say yes," that Soros is behind the caravan.

And while only the gunman is responsible for his actions, and we should point out the gunman was not a fan of the president. He thought Trump was too controlled by Jews. The gunman was clearly motivated by this false propaganda, this idea that this caravan of migrants seeking asylum poses this existential crisis and this national security threat to the U.S., which it does not, according to national security experts.

Now, is illegal immigration a problem that our leaders need to solve? Absolutely. But what it is not is an invasion. And those who have reported on the caravan from Central America, they say it consists overwhelmingly of people who are fleeing violence, not criminals seeking to inflict it here in the U.S., which is clearly the picture that the president paints.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They got a lot of rough people in those caravans. They are not angels.

They can't invade our country. You look at that and it almost looks like an invasion. It really does look like an invasion. That's called an invasion of our country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's not called an invasion of our country.

It is remarkable that with bodies still being buried in Pittsburgh because of this bigotry, this propaganda and these lies, that the president and his campaign would take actions not to heal the nation, not to bridge divisions, but to fuel the fire.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins me now live from the White House.

And, Kaitlan, the president is making his closing argument, and he clearly believes undocumented immigrants, stopping them from entering the U.S., even stopping those who are legally seeking asylum in the U.S., that's one of the most important issues for his base. What are we expecting to hear from him in just minutes?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we're expecting to hear him change essentially or propose changing how we do asylum in the United States, not just how you apply for asylum, but whether or not you can apply.

We are told by sources that the president wants to deny asylum to people who try to cross the border illegally and not at a port of entry. Right now, if you're caught crossing the border illegally, you can still apply for asylum, and President Trump wants to bring that to an end.

[16:05:00]

But, Jake, we're going to learn more about what this proposal is here in a few minutes, but what this is, is just another addition to the president's already long list of changes he wants to make and changes he's proposing because he wants immigration to be front and center in the midterm elections on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump preparing to make his final pitch to voters from the White House today, pushing immigration and playing up fear just five days before voters go to the polls.

Sources tell CNN Trump will propose new changes for asylum-seekers coming to the United States, adding one more thing to the list he's used to whip up his Republican base before Tuesday.

In the final weeks, the president has not only claimed he will end birthright citizenship, but also promised to deploy up to 15,000 troops to the southern border to stop a caravan weeks away, build tent cities for those seeking asylum, and even tweeted a campaign ad showing an undocumented immigrant bragging about killing police officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will break out soon and I will kill more.

COLLINS: That tweet is considered an official White House statement. TRUMP: But we're getting prepared for the caravan, folks. You don't

have to worry about that.

COLLINS: The president back in campaign mode this week, delivering a scorching message last night in Florida, hoping to amplify voters' fears about immigration.

TRUMP: And they have got a lot of rough people in those caravans. They are not angels. They are not.

COLLINS: Trump trying to make a caravan of Central American migrants the central issue in the midterms.

TRUMP: A Democrat victory on Election Day would be a bright flashing invitation to traffickers, smugglers, drug dealers and gang members all over the world, come on in.

COLLINS: In an interview that same night, Trump claiming to ABC News that the caravan is bigger than people think and mostly made up of young men.

TRUMP: They can't invade our country.

COLLINS: But the president provided zero evidence to back up his claims, which he made despite reports showing the caravan has dwindled in size from 7,000 to 3,500.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Help us and not be against us," she says.

COLLINS: And includes men, women and children fleeing violence and poverty. Trump, who said this on the campaign trail in 2016:

TRUMP: I will never lie to you.

COLLINS: Was asked if he's kept that promise.

TRUMP: I do try, and I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth. Sometimes, it is turns out where something happens, it's different or there's a change, but I always like to be truthful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: He said he tries to tell the truth when he can, Jake.

President Trump is taking this message on the road tonight. He's got a rally in Missouri, and then he has got nine more stops to deliver that same fiery rhetoric before voters go to the polls on Tuesday -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

And, obviously, when President Trump comes out and delivers his address, we will bring that to you live.

But, until then, let's talk about the president's closing argument with our panel. Let's just go around the table.

What do you make of it? Could it work?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it stinks of desperation, but it could work. That is what should scare the country.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: How could it work? Do you think he could win -- keep the House and Senate?

PSAKI: I don't think he can keep the House. I think -- obviously we need people to get out and vote, but I think that's going to be hard for Republicans.

But he's trying to keep the Senate. He's trying to suppress voters. That's clear. He's closing with a very cynical argument, saying to people if you elect Democrats, then there are going to be Latino rapists and murderers who come across the border.

And he's trying to scare not people on the border, but white America who are in the middle of the country who, are -- you know, some may be more susceptible to some of these fear tactics.

TAPPER: What do you think?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm more hung up on his actions than his argument.

He's talking about sending up to 15,000 troops to the border based on a threat that is false, 15,000 troops to stop a caravan that's mostly harmless, as far as we know. That's a concern, and I have a real problem with that.

We have been fighting wars with these troops. If you're a military family, do you want your mother or brother or father to be away based on a false threat? I mean, this to me is just a massive hoax.

But now there's troops behind it. And I am fearful of what happens if something goes wrong. What happens if someone in Mexico thinks those troops are going to start shooting guns? They are not there yet, but what other signal is he sending? This is very dangerous.

TAPPER: What do you make of this?

Why not close an argument with how great the economy is doing? That's...

(CROSSTALK)

ADOLFO FRANCO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the economy is doing great. There's no question about that.

TAPPER: Yes.

FRANCO: I guess we're all on different planets.

I view the president's actions as being quite consistent. This was the president's message since 2015, when he was a candidate. Immigration was at his core concern. That's first. Secondly, by the way, the troops are backing up the Border Patrol and so forth.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Sure, at this moment, but what do you need 15,000 for? Are they playing games, or are we serious?

[16:10:02]

FRANCO: Well, as Secretary Mattis says, we don't play games.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: I hope not.

FRANCO: But let me go quickly to, if you will, the message here is, I see it very differently.

I think those images of thousands of people that are potentially going to come across the border is frightening to a lot of Americans. They are to me. I'm Latino, and I believe for this reason.

I believe this is a country of immigration, but not illegal immigration; 75 percent of those individuals, according to the deputy director of the Border Patrol, are men. We have gang problems in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Are you literally suggesting because they are men they cannot be honestly seeking asylum?

This is dangerous territory.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: And you made the point, just because you're a Latino does not -- is not a qualifying factor for this message is not racist or rooted in white supremacy.

FRANCO: There was comments earlier it was appealing to white America and so forth.

SANDERS: It does.

FRANCO: But it appeals I think to all Americans the message, which is, this is a country of laws, this is a country of respect for sovereignty of the border.

The fact of the matter is, we don't know who all these people are, and even if there are five or 10 or 100, why would we want those... (CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: We have to sneak in a break.

We're not -- this is not the last that we are going to have this conversation. I will come to you next.

We're just moments away from President Trump speaking live about immigration. Don't go anywhere. We are going to bring that to you live, and then we will have lots of conversation. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:28] TAPPER: Any minute, we're expecting President Trump to come to the Roosevelt Room to talk about immigration. He's expected to announce he wants to limit where migrants can seek asylum. He wants to limit it to only certain ports of entry.

This, of course, comes 24 hours after the president released a racially charged web ad suggesting -- I think it's obvious that he's suggesting that the caravan, the migrants heading to the U.S. have the potential to be criminals and cop killers.

Let's continue to talk about this.

Symone, I cut you off so rudely before. Your take on the president's closing argument and on this ad.

SANDERS: So, one, I think it's racist. I think it's rooted in the idea of white supremacist ideology that America should be -- that these immigrants are destroying our culture and if that is your take, my opinion is, well, what do you mean by culture? That's white supremacist ideology territory.

But secondly, I think this is just -- he is endangering very, very vulnerable Republicans who are already in hot water but folks that want the closing argument to in fact be about the economy, even though I don't think the argument Republicans have on the economy is very strong. I fully believe that as long as voter turnout is high and the Democratic base turns up and turns out, which I think they will, the Democrats will take the House. I think that will send a resounding message not only to Washington but to folks across the country that if you don't like what this president is doing, if you don't like the Republicans in Congress that have gone along with them, or the governors or state legislatures, you can vote them out.

So, vote out white supremacy and racist ideology --

TAPPER: You wanted to comment, I'll bring you in. But let me just let Jen in for a second.

PSAKI: Look, I think this is also based on the premise that we have an immigration crisis right now, that's not factual. It's inaccurate.

TAPPER: Would you say it's a problem? Would you agree it's a problem? PSAKI: I think we've been dealing with an issue of how do we have

comprehensive immigration reform and how do we have legal immigration for decades through Democratic and Republican leadership, but there's not currently a new crisis. And if there was a new crisis, Republicans are in charge of everything. They should have solved it over the last two years. So it's not like this is going to be a debate that's done on the level because we're five days before an election.

And when I say it could work, what I mean it suppressing the vote in certain states, especially for governors races which I would argue are even more important than the House and Senate, is something that could be effective, and if people are watching this who are kind of minority voters, they may be concerned about this and it may turn out the conservative wing of the base. So I agree with Symone. Ultimately, I think the Democratic side is very excited. When I've talked to Democrats on the Hill recently, they are more calmed down than a week ago when the caravan was all over the place because they think Trump has overshot with all this immigration stuff, but I'm still -- I'm still alarmed.

TAPPER: So, can I ask you a question? I want clarification. I know you agree with the president on immigration reform and think he's being consistent. Do you have any issues with how he's presenting this issue, not the policy points with which you agree but the ad and the language he's using? Does that concern you at all?

ADOLFO FRANCO, FORMER ADVISER, JOHN MCCAIN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, it really doesn't. I think it's vintage President Trump, and in that regard I -- it doesn't trouble me in any sense what the message is. I think the message -- I think quite frankly I think his words are being parsed. He's never said everybody is a criminal that's coming through. The he said --

SANDERS: He said many people.

FRANCO: Well, if I could finish. He says he doesn't know how many, but the fact of the matter is he is in favor of immigration, and immigration from around the world. This isn't a racial issue. This is a question of sovereignty and control of the border.

It's just that simple, and I think communicating with people the way he has done in a way they can comprehend it has been effective. I don't think he's stirring anything up.

TAPPER: Here comes President Trump. Sorry to interrupt. Let's listen in on the 45th president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everyone. Appreciate it. And good afternoon.

I'd like to provide an update to the American people regarding the crisis on our southern border and crisis it is. Illegal immigration affects the lives of all Americans. Illegal immigration hurts American workers, burdens American taxpayers and undermines public safety and places enormous strain on our local schools, hospitals and communities in general, taking precious resources away from the poorest Americans who need them most. Illegal immigration costs our country billions and billions of dollars each year.

[16:20:01] America is a welcoming country, and under my leadership it's a welcoming country. We lead world in humanitarian protection and assistance by far. There's nobody even close. We have the largest and most expansive immigration programs anywhere on the planet. We've issued 40 million green cards since 1970 which means the permanent residency and a path to citizenship for many, many people.

But we will not allow our generosity to be abused by those who would break our laws, defy our rules, violate our borders, break into our country illegally. We won't allow it. Mass, uncontrolled immigration is especially unfair to the many wonderful law-abiding immigrants already living here who followed the rules and waited their turn.

Some have been waiting for many years. Some have been waiting a long time. They have done everything perfectly, and they are going to come in. At some point they are going to come in. Many cases very soon.

We need them to come in because we have companies coming into our country. They need workers, but they have to come in on a merit basis, and they will come in on a merit basis. The communities are often left to bear the cost and the influx of people that come in illegally. We can't allow that.

There's a limit to how many people a nation can responsibly absorb into their societies. Every day, above and beyond our existing lawful admission programs, roughly 1,500 to 2,000 people try crossing our borders illegally. We do a very good job considering that the laws are so bad.

They are not archaic, they are incompetent. It's not that they're old. They are just bad, and we can't get any Democrat votes to change them. It's only the Republicans that are in unison they want to change them. They want to make strong borders. They want to get rid of any crime because of the borders of which there's a lot, and we've done a great job with the laws that we have.

We're moving in tremendous numbers of people to get out the MS-13 gangs and other gangs that illegally come into our country, and we're getting them out by the thousands, but this is a perilous situation, and it threatens to become even more hazardous as our economy gets better and better.

A lot of the cause of this problem is the fact that we right now have the hottest economy anywhere in the world. It's doing better than any economy in the world. Jobs, unemployment, you look at any number.

Right now, we have more workers than any time in the history of our country. We have more people working which is a tremendous statement. More people working than at any time in the history of our country, and people want to come in, and in some cases they want to take advantage of that.

And that's okay, and we want them to come in, but they have to come in through merit. They have to come in legally.

At this very moment, large, well-organized caravans of migrants are marching towards our southern border. Some people call it an invasion. It's like an invasion.

They have violently overrun the Mexican border. These are tough people in many cases. A lot of young men, strong men and a lot of men that maybe we don't want in our country, but, again, we'll find that out through the legal process.

But they have overrun the Mexican police, and they have overrun and hurt badly Mexican soldiers. So this isn't an innocent group of people. It's a large number of people that are tough. They have injured, they have attacked and the Mexican police and military has actually suffered, and I appreciate what Mexico is trying to do.

So let me begin by stating that these illegal caravans will not be allowed into the United States, and they should turn back now because they are wasting their time. They should apply to come into our country. We want them to come into our country very much.

We need people to help us with all of these companies that are coming in. We've never had anything like this. We have car companies coming in.

We have Foxconn so involved with the manufacturing of Apple products coming in in Wisconsin. We have a lot of companies coming in, they have to apply and they have to be wonderful people that are going to love our country and work hard.

And we've already dispatched for the border the United States military, and they will do the job.

[16:25:04] They are setting up right now, and they are preparing. We hope nothing happens, but if it does, we are totally prepared. The greatest military anywhere in the world, and it's going to be and is now in great shape. No longer depleted like it was when I took over as the president of the United States.

The government of Mexico has generously offered asylum, jobs, education and medical care for people within the caravan, but many members of the caravan have refused these offers which demonstrate that these migrants are not legitimate asylum seekers. They are not looking for protection because if they were, they would be able to get it from Mexico. Mexico has agreed to take them in and encouraged them to stay, but they don't want to stay. They want to come into the United States. So this is no longer safety, and asylum is about safety.

Asylum is not a program for those living in poverty. There are billions of people in the world living at the poverty level. The United States cannot possibly absorb them all. Asylum is a very special protection for those fleeing government persecution based on race, religion and other protected status.

These caravans and illegal migrants are drawn to our country by Democrat-backed laws and left wing judicial rulings. We are getting rules that are so ridiculous, so bad, they are writing the laws. Can't do that. Collectively known as -- as an example, catch and release.

It's a disgrace that we have to put up with it. These policies lead to the release of illegal aliens into our communities after they have been apprehended, but we're not releasing anymore. Big change, as of a couple of days ago.

We're going to no longer release. We're going to catch. We're not going to release. They are going to stay with us until the deportation hearing or the asylum hearing takes place, so we're not releasing them into the community.

We have millions of people that over the years have been released into the community. They never show up for the trials. They never come back. They are never seen again, and those people, they know who they are, and we know a lot of where they are, who they are, and those people will be deported, directly deported.

The biggest loophole drawing illegal aliens to our borders is the use of fraudulent or meritless asylum claims to gain entry into our great country. An alien simply crosses the border illegally, finds a border patrol agent and using well-coached language by lawyers and others that stand there and trying to get fees or whatever they can get, they are given a phrase to read.

They never heard of the phrase before. They don't believe in the phrase, but they are given a little legal statement to read, and they read it, and now, all of a sudden they are supposed to qualify, but that's not the reason they are here. This merely asserts the need for asylum, and then often released into the United States and they await a lengthy court process. The court process will take years sometimes for them to attend.

Well, we're not releasing them into our country any longer. They will wait for long periods of time. We're putting up massive cities of tents. The military is helping us incredibly well with.

I want to thank the army corps of engineers. They have been so efficient, so good, so talented. We have thousands of tents. We have a lot of tents. We have a lot of everything. We're going to hold them right there.

We're not letting them into our country, and then they never show up. Almost, like a level of 3 percent. They never show up for the trial, so by the time their trial comes, they are gone. Nobody knows where they are, but we know where a lot of them are, and they are going to be deported.

There are now nearly 700,000 aliens inside the United States awaiting adjudication of their claims. Most of these people we have no idea how they got there, why they got there, and the number is actually going to be a much larger number as we look at all of the data.

So, if you look at just at a minimal number, it's size of Vermont or bigger, and the overall number could be 10 million people. Could be 12 million people. Could be 20 million people. The record-keeping from past administrations has not exactly been very good.