Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Stokes Fear Over Immigrants to Drive Voters to Polls; Congressman Curbelo Slams Trump, Says Birthright Citizenship is Protected By Constitution; Investigators Recover Lion Air Plane's Flight Data Recorder; Synagogue Shooting Suspect in Court After 44- Count Indictment; Trump Stokes Fear Over Immigrants Ahead of Election; Trump Planning to Send 15,000 Troops to U.S.-Mexico Border; Apple and Starbucks Release Quarterly Earnings. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 1, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That is for sure. It is not just a classic read on American politics.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Fear and loathing is also seemingly the president's strategy here. President Trump peddling fear as he launches an 11-city, 11th hour campaign blitz to boost Republican candidates in some key races.

In Florida he fired up his base with a warning about the migrant caravan from Central America, still many weeks away. Keep in mind, it is both dwindling in size and very far from the U.S.-Mexico border. The president now says that threat of violence be it real or imagined warrants sending as many as 15,000 U.S. troops to the border.

Consider this, that would nearly equal the number of U.S. troops now fighting terror groups, ISIS, the Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan.

HARLOW: For a group of migrants seeking asylum.

All right. So it is an ad that the president tweeted out this morning to his 55 million followers that is being called by many the most racist political ad in decades. The ad argues Democrats want to flood the nation with Central American cop killers. Here's some.



GRAPHICS: Democrats let him into our country.

BRACAMONTES: The only thing that I (EXPLETIVE DELETED) regret is that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) just killed two. I wish I had (EXPLETIVE DELETED) killed more of those (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

GRAPHICS: Democrats let him stay.


HARLOW: All right. So the strategy is pretty clear here.

Our Abby Phillip joins us at the White House this morning.

Good morning, Abby. You know, word from inside the White House is they think this is working so they are clearly doubling down, right?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Clearly they are, Poppy. It's an ad that's designed to shock. It's also designed to get attention and potentially change the subject. But the question now is, is it racist? President Trump facing the question about his rhetoric around immigration, about this ad. In an interview with CBN News, he defends himself saying that he's not racist. He's just winning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the word racist is used about every Republican that's winning. Any time a Republican is leading, they take out the R word, the racist word. And I'm not anti-immigrant at all.


PHILLIP: So that's the president's take on this, but I have to tell you, Poppy, we spoke to a source close to the White House here at CNN telling us that this ad is part of a strategy to change the subject from family reunification at the border to this issue of crime and fear. And President Trump this afternoon is heading back on the campaign trail, heading to Missouri where immigration at his rallies has been such a central topic.

I imagine it will be as well. But it's clear these last -- next few days, this issue is really ramping up, the rhetoric is ramping up and this ad going into the history books is one of the most divisive we've seen in recent history -- Poppy and Jim.


SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip, it's also false because that criminal, horrible, was deported, we should note that.

HARLOW: Twice, right?


HARLOW: Twice. All right. Abby, thanks.

Joining us now A.B. Stoddard, associated editor for RealClearPolitics, Patrick Healy, CNN political analyst and political editor for the "Times."

So, A.B., to you first. I mean, it's so -- it's so blatant. It's so out there. And if you remember, you know, the Willie Horton ad in 1988 and you'll remember how the Bush campaign tried to distance itself from that. Yet this is one tweeted out directly by the president. Your thoughts.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATED EDITOR, FOR REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, Poppy, what's amazing is not only that it's so unabashed and so unsubtle his -- you know, his pitch in these final days, but that they're getting ramped up every 24 hours. So, you know, it started with just a few weeks to talking about the caravan. Then we went to, you know, troops on the border. Then we went to birthright citizenship being revoked by a made-up executive order.

HARLOW: Right.

STODDARD: And there was a made-up tax cut along the way, of course. And then we're looking at 15,000 troops on the border in this ad. It is hard to -- you know, to think about where we'll be on Tuesday morning.

But President Trump has made it clear all along he speaks to one set of people in this country, and that set only. He has no intention of winning over the middle. He believes a majority is not made by independent voters who have turned against him, combined with his base. Plus his base only. That he can pull this off next week. He certainly has run up the numbers in the Senate races and the rallies he's been doing in those states where he won.

The problem will be, of course, on the House side and, you know, it could have obviously -- this could be energizing Democrats in those Senate races to vote as well. But he intends to triple down and I think it's intensifying with each six hours, actually.

SCIUTTO: Patrick Healy, I mean, the thing about the Willie Horton comparison is that you can argue that the Willie Horton ad, as racist as it apparently was, worked. It helped damage Michael Dukakis who had a big lead and not the only thing but had a big lead, it was part of a strategy that seemed to work there.

[09:05:04] What is the evidence with this strategy that the president is following here? Just working in deep red states and perhaps alienating in purple and blue, or is it not so clear?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I think that's exactly right, Jim. I mean, take a look at Florida where President Trump was last night. You know, Florida is -- has been voting Republican in recent elections. They have a congressman who -- a former congressman, Ron DeSantis, who's the Republican nominee for governor of Florida. He is as close a proxy for President Trump as possible.

President Trump has expended an unusual amount of political capital on getting Ron DeSantis elected. And yet Ron DeSantis is running behind Andrew Gillum in Florida. So what does President Trump do? You know, he's not going out and talking about the tax cut as the Republicans were kind of hoping early on. He is going right to emotion and cultural division.

He's going right to fear, and he's doing it in these sort of red and purple states, basically to really focus on trying to win those in the Senate races, in the governor races, and being willing to, you know, alienate a good number of Republicans who live in House districts that have, you know, some racial diversity, that have Republicans who were, you know, inclined to vote for the party on its pro-business policies, who've been traditional parts of the Republican coalition, but who are now frankly really turned off by this sort of nationalistic and divisive rhetoric.

So, Jim, I mean, what he's doing is trying to go all in on this kind of fear-based strategy for certain races and frankly being willing to gamble on some of those other House races that will turn people off.


All right. To both of you, stay with us.

SCIUTTO: Stay with us. Two states that President Trump is notably not visiting on his campaign blitz, Nevada and Arizona. Both have tight races, according to the polls. But CNN has learned that Republican campaigns in both border states have asked the president to stay away.

Let's bring in CNN senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten now.

Harry, on those races there, Arizona, tight race between Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally. Also Nevada. Why are they telling the president to stay away?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: If you look at the numbers, right, and you look, generally speaking at the campaign states he is actually visiting, they're overwhelmingly red. Right? There are a few that are swing states. But if you look at the president's approval rating in those states, it's underwater. It's below his disapproval rating.

So essentially these campaigns are saying, you know what, we don't want you here because we think you'll be more hurtful than helpful. Yes, you could in fact bring out some Republican voters. But there's a lot of early voting on both of those states and they're fearful that they'll drive up Democratic turnout.

HARLOW: What's interesting to me is that in both of those states, in Arizona and Nevada, Republican voters in those states say that immigration is their top issue and the president has made that his top issue, the ad explicitly shows that. So why do they still think that his message won't work there?

ENTEN: Well, remember, there's this whole center of the electorate, right? Donald Trump is all about that base baby. But the fact is --

HARLOW: Base baby. I like that, Harry.

ENTEN: Base baby. But there are still voters in the middle of the electorate who do not like Donald Trump. And going after your base works in a state like Tennessee, it works in a state like Indiana, states that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump but look at Nevada where the president lost by a little over two. Look at Arizona, where although the president won, he won by a significantly smaller margin than Mitt Romney did four years earlier, the president is worse than the generic Republican in those states, so the president would be more harmful than helpful.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk about bellwether races here, because a lot of folks looking to them. And you tweeted about a race, a U.S. House race in the north Atlanta suburbs, deep red state, remarkably tight, despite being a deep red state. What does that tell you about the larger picture on the House race?

ENTEN: Yes. So I believe I was tweeting about the Georgia 6th District, which I think we all remember.

HARLOW: We all remember.

ENTEN: We spent hours and hours, days, you know, so on and so forth, that special election back in 2017. Look, this is a district where Donald Trump won by just a few percentage points. Mitt Romney won by over 20 percentage points. I think we all thought that that district was gone. That Karen Handel who won that special election that Republicans was easily going to win, but the race is tight enough now that "The New York Times" is actually going to poll that race. And they really only poll toss-up districts.

If the Democrats can win there, if losing -- the fact the Democratic candidate can win there or even make it a point or two race, it's going to be a very, very bad night for Republicans.

HARLOW: When it comes overall to the state of the race and the immigration push here from the White House, one White House source tells CNN this push is, quote, "clearly working." We're talking about it and not health care. The Democratic Party chair Tom Perez called it out, calls it a dog whistle. But does the White House have a point here that at this point five days out it's sort of about this distraction?

ENTEN: I mean, yes. I mean, look, I think that the idea that this blue wave, I don't understand where this is exactly coming from.

[09:10:01] HARLOW: That he said the blue wave is dead.

ENTEN: Yes, I don't really get that. I mean, I'm looking at the same numbers that everyone else is looking at. I'm looking at these congressional district numbers. I'm looking at the national numbers. Yes, perhaps it's not going to be a tsunami. Maybe Democrats won't pick or win 45 seats, 50 seats. But you only need a net gain of 23 --

HARLOW: But he is coming from a different place. The president is coming from a place where the map didn't work for him. Where there was no path. So he looks at these numbers and maybe he doesn't need to see fact-based evidence for his argument on this.

ENTEN: I mean, with all due respect to the president, an article I wrote before the 2016 final days of that campaign said that Trump was just a normal polling error away from winning. Yes, there can in fact be a normal polling error, but if you look at where the swing districts are, right, you see a number of them in the northeast, you see a number of them in the Midwest, you see a number of them in the west, you see a number of them in the south. If you go back to 2016, they're pretty much all centered in the Midwest. So all he needed was a Midwestern polling error and he won.

Here if you just get a Midwestern polling error, maybe the polls around the rest of where Republicans are there, they could still -- Democrats could still win because then they would still be doing well in the west, northeast and south.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you just a quick question so we're going to go back to the panel. The divisive rhetoric of the last couple of weeks, how the president has handled the violence of the mail bombs, the shooting in Pittsburgh, are there any polls that give you an indication as to whether the American public approves of his response, or is that just an unknowable at this point?

ENTEN: I -- there are some initial polls that suggest that splitting along partisan lines. And if --


ENTEN: Right. And if you look at the horse race polls that have been coming up, they really have been shifting tremendously so it does seem like it's having an impact on the midterms, at least. Obviously, there are policy implications otherwise.

HARLOW: OK. Harry, thanks.

Let's bring back the panel. A.B. and Patrick are with us.

So, I mean, fascinating when you think about what the numbers show us and especially what Harry just said about all of that reaction that was so controversial and the president not really changing the numbers at all.

What do you make, A.B., of what we're seeing in Arizona and Nevada, that these races have gotten tighter and that they don't want the president there?

STODDARD: Well, there are just places where Republicans have a really good shot of winning and they need to run up their vote. And the president is going to go to those places. And I think that the McSally campaign and the Heller campaigns realized that this was likely to have a boomerang effect in the urban areas of their states. And that it's too close to make a mistake and that they should finish out the campaign without the Trump effect.

And that's probably in those two states the right call. They could lose those races. And -- you know, like Montana, Jon Tester is ahead. But it only helps his opponent if Trump comes there, right? In West Virginia, Manchin is ahead. He's very well likely to win. He's been ahead by double digits for a long time. But the president can only help his challenger if he goes there. So I think if he was invited to Arizona and Nevada, he would certainly be there. He wants to say on the other side that he did all he can. We've not

seen a president charging around in a midterm campaign like this. This is really something he's taken on. Of course, if people lose on the House side, he's going to say that's their fault that 40 members retired, creating open seats and creating the blue wave. But that's for next.

What the president wants to do is try and help. And he's not going to be helpful because there are two in Arizona and Nevada. Because there's too many Democratic and purple areas there. Independents turning against him and I think those candidates were smart to not have him come back.

SCIUTTO: Patrick, quick thought. Some infighting on the Republican side. The president very publically slapping down, you might say.


SCIUTTO: The speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, on this question of birthright citizenship. Is that good for the Republican Party several days to an election?

HEALY: You know, I this it was probably a blip yesterday, Jim. But it just goes to show how much this election has become about Trump, both in a lot of these Republican states but also especially in the president's mind. He wants to be able to control the message entirely. And from his point of view, he can say whatever he wants about birthright citizenship and its right, and how dare the speaker of the House sort of cross him on that.

I mean, they have -- you know, they've had their bad blood in the past. But what Paul Ryan was saying was, he was talking about the facts. You know, God forbid that happens. But the reality is President Trump did not like being crossed. He had some Republican candidates who did that during the primaries. You know, Ron DeSantis talking a little about Puerto Rico in a way that Trump didn't like, and Trump comes down like a hammer on these folks if they create any daylight or make him look certainly like he doesn't know what he's talking about.

HARLOW: All right.

SCIUTTO: Don't let the facts get in the way of a good political argument.


HARLOW: Is that the state we're in? My goodness. All right. Thank you, everyone, very, very much.

Up next for us, Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, fighting to keep his job. Does he think the hardline rhetoric from the president is helping rev up his party five days out from the midterms? Also search crews find the flight data recorder from that crashed Indonesian plane --


[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Does he think the hard- line rhetoric from the president is helping rev up his party five days out from the midterms. Also, search crews find the flight data recorder from that crash, Indonesian plane and that brings investigators one step closer to finding out how 189 people died.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: And the man charged with shooting and killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh Synagogue appears in court just minutes from now. We're going to be live in Pittsburgh.


SCIUTTO: The president's clear strategy to motivate Republicans to the polls next week is to go hard on immigration. But not all Republicans are buying into his plan to nix birthright citizenship including my next guest. Joining me now is Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida, the Miami area. Congressman, thanks very much for taking the time this morning.

REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), FLORIDA: Jim, good morning, it's good to be with you, thank you.

[09:20:00] SCIUTTO: Let me start here, you, as a Republican, a rare voice, contradicting the president very directly on birthright citizenship. What is your message to the president on this?

CURBELO: My message to the president is the same message we had for the past president. You cannot change laws. You certainly cannot change the constitution by executive order. If the president wants to have a debate about this issue, if the president wants to point out some abuses in this area, that's OK, and that's something we can have a discussion about.

But the president alone cannot change this policy and it is law and it is protected in the constitution that those of us who are born in this country are citizens of this country, and that's it. There is nothing more to discuss for now.

SCIUTTO: Now, the president has claimed that his White House counsel has advised him that he does have the right to do this, not clear who is referring to since Don McGahn is already on his way out and has not been replaced by his replacement yet.

But do you suspect that this is just political performance art on the part of the president days to an election to raise this where even the president himself does not actually believe he has this capability?

CURBELO: It's possible, but here is what I have to say to Republicans. They would be wrong and hypocritical if they didn't call this president out on this issue the same way they used to criticize President Obama when he used to draft executive orders and sign them even though they contradicted existing laws.

We have to be consistent. We have to be honest, and I think that's the broader point about what we need in our politics today. Most Americans, believe it or not, are in middle of the road, you wouldn't believe it from watching some of these rallies on either side.

And most Americans want the country, the politicians to figure out issues like immigration and we know that if we are going to figure it out, we need to compromise. We need more border security, we also need a path to citizenship for dreamers, young immigrants brought to our country as children.

This is what most people in our country crave for and regrettably it's not what our political system is yielding. I think we need fewer rallies and more conversations, more dialogue in this country to tackle and address the big issues, the challenges that face us.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. You are aware of this ad that is now running, we are not going to play it again because we don't want to give it more oxygen than it deserves. And in fact, it's based in part on a falsehood because this immigrant criminal was actually deported.

But I want to ask you this. In your view is the ad itself, is it racist? Is it bigoted in the way that it appears intended to portray people of Latino origin?

CURBELO: I haven't seen the ad, but I can tell you that it's definitely part of a divide and conquer strategy that a lot of politicians including the president have used successfully in the past. I hope this doesn't work. I hope that type of strategy starts failing in our country, but that's up to the American people.

I think Americans have to go out and vote for the best candidate in every race for people who are going to bring this country together, help heal our politics. If we continue getting divided, if our politics continue growing more and more violent, our democracy is going to be at real risk.

And look, Jim, my parents came from a country where politics became violent, and they lost their democracy, they lost their country, and they haven't been able to go back to their country for 60 years.

Now, I'm not saying that we're at that level of risk here. But if we keep walking down this path where we portray everyone else in our country as a threat, as the enemy, whether it's members of the news media or people who disagree with us, I don't know who is going to win elections, but I know that eventually we will all lose.

SCIUTTO: Part of the president's broader fear strategy is mobilizing thousands of troops to go to the U.S.-Mexico border to respond to a caravan of migrants. And we've been following the math here. The president said 15,000 yesterday which will mean that not only will there be many times more U.S. troops at the border than there are in Iraq today to fight ISIS.

But even more than in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, to fight al- Qaeda. Do you believe that is a smart allocation of the precious resource of the U.S. military?

CURBELO: That's clearly an overreaction. And while I think, obviously, some on the far right and the president himself are trying to draw a lot of attention to this issue of this caravan, I think also reasonable people can say we should have a border that is protected, that is enforced.

The United States has the same right as any other country in the world to know who is coming in and who is leaving our country, and the demand that people who are coming here are doing so seal legally. So it's a shame --

SCIUTTO: But do you need -- do you need 15,000 U.S. military --

[09:25:00] CURBELO: No --

SCIUTTO: On the --


SCIUTTO: Border, plus 2,000 national guard, plus more than 15,000 Customs and Border Patrol agents?

CURBELO: I certainly don't think so. What we need is smart border security, and we need to invest more at the border with new technologies, observation towers, drones, some physical barriers for sure. And make that part of a compromise to provide a path to citizenship for dreamers in our country and do all sorts of other things that large majorities of Americans support.

And in my view, that's what the president -- not just the president, but everyone running for office these days should be doing, trying to show how we can actually make progress on some of these big issues that have been dividing our country for so long.

We're talking about immigration here. George W. Bush kicked off the modern day conversation about immigration reform 13 years ago.


CURBELO: And the political system has yielded nothing since. That's why people are so angry. That's why people are so frustrated, and those of us who want --


CURBELO: To lead have to start showing how we're actually going to make progress on these issues, rather than using these issues to divide the country for the benefit of politicians.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Curbelo, thanks for taking the time this morning.

CURBELO: Thank you, Jim, you all have a good day.

HARLOW: That was fascinating, fewer rallies, more dialogue. And I don't know who is going to win elections, but we all lose if we don't get to a better place.

SCIUTTO: Well, he said right as a Republican, he said he hopes that this strategy of fear fails, which is a --

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: Remarkable thing for someone to say.

HARLOW: In such a tight race for him, too.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Fascinating.

SCIUTTO: Well, we've got other news to cover today, we're staying on top of this one. Divers recover the flight data recorder from Lion Air flight 610. How long will it take for families to find out why this plane, a new one, crashed off the coast of Indonesia.

HARLOW: And we are also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Markets hoping to add on to those gains yesterday. Futures pointing higher. Ahead of the open, Apple and Starbucks in the spotlight today, both reporting their quarterly earnings after the closing bell this afternoon.