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President Trump Hurls Blame at Media For Violence; Michael Cohen Details Alleged Racist Trump Statements; Trump's Racially- Charged Ad Makes False Claims; Obama Stumps for Candidates in Tight Florida, Georgia Governor Races. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 2, 2018 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You will never guess who President Trump blames for the violence erupting in the U.S.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: The man who may know more about President Trump than anyone else, his former fixer, Michael Cohen, this afternoon claiming that President Trump used awful racist language on a number of occasions. But can we believe Michael Cohen, with such an axe to grind?

President Trump with what seemed kind of like a walk-back now denying he ever said troops should shoot migrants at the border if they throw rocks at them. Of course, he did say it.

Plus, it's just wrong. literally wrong, wrong morally and wrong factually. And we're going to go into the details of that racially charged ad that President Trump puts at the top of his Twitter feed and how it solely blames the Democrats for the presence of a cop killer in the U.S. What are the facts?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we begin with breaking news in the politics lead. President Trump repeatedly said blatantly racist things, that's the claim the president's once longtime lawyer Michael Cohen is now making to "Vanity Fair" magazine.

Cohen revealing specific anecdotes from his time with Trump before Trump became president. CNN has confirmed from a source close to Cohen that the story and quotes are accurate, according to Cohen. The White House has not responded to our request for comment.

A momentary warning for the parents that the language and the sentiments Cohen claims the president used are offensive, if you want to hit mute for the next 30 or so seconds.

Cohen alleges that during the 2016 campaign, he watched a Trump rally and remarked to Trump later that the Trump crowd was largely white. Trump, according to Cohen, responded -- quote -- "That's because black people are too stupid to vote for me" -- unquote.

Cohen also says years earlier, after the funeral of Nelson Mandela, Donald Trump said -- quote -- "Name one country run by a black person that's not a shithole. Name one city."

That quote certainly echoes the now infamous remark the president is said to have made about people coming to the U.S. from shithole countries such as Haiti or countries in Africa.

Michael Cohen also recounting a conversation with Donald Trump in the late 2000s while the two were in Chicago. Cohen explaining -- quote -- "We were going from the airport to the hotel and we drove through what looked like a rougher neighborhood. Trump made a comment to me, saying that only the blacks could live like this."

Cohen, of course, is currently awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations. And there are a lot of accusations that he's not a credible individual. Cohen told "Vanity Fair" he's telling the truth, he's been reflecting, particularly in the wake of the president's inflammatory rhetoric ahead of the midterm elections.

Cohen claiming he wants to clear his conscience and warn voters ahead of the election. He is now a registered Democrat.

This story coming as President Trump is stoking fears about undocumented immigrants as his closing argument.

Moments ago, we saw something that was almost like a walk-back from President Trump on one of the more shocking claims he's made in the last 24 hours, this one regarding migrants attempting to make it to the U.S., after the president touted potentially having the U.S. military shoot migrants if they throw rocks.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is in West Virginia getting ready there for the president's rally.

And, Kaitlan, now President Trump says he never used the word shoot. And that's factually correct. He never used the word shoot. But that's not the point. The impression he clearly gave was that he was telling the military they should respond to migrants as if they were wielding firearms, not rocks, which means shoot.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. He largely left it open for interpretation.

And now he seems to be walking back what he had left open for interpretation yesterday, when he was talking about the troops that he's deployed to the border and whether or not migrants throw rocks at them.

After saying that saying, here's how he's wording it today:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They hit them with rocks. Some were very seriously injured. And they were throwing rocks in their face. They do that with us, they're going to be arrested. There is going to be problems. I didn't say shoot.


COLLINS: So he says, "I didn't say shoot."

But, Jake, these are the remarks he made yesterday, remarks that I should note are now being used by the Nigerian army to justify firing upon protesters, dozens of which they killed, and also remarks from Trump that are being widely criticized by former retired military generals.


TRUMP: We're going to consider it -- and I told them, consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks, like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say, consider it a rifle.



COLLINS: So the president there trying to walk back those comments on the South Lawn, Jake, while he was talking about immigration overall, something he has tried to put front and center at these campaign rallies, where he's on the way right now ahead of the midterm elections on Tuesday.

TAPPER: And, Kaitlan, last week, obviously, a Trump supporter mailed CNN and critics of the president pipe bombs. And six days ago, an anti-Semite radicalized by all these lies about the migrant caravan killed 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The president today was asked about a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll finding that 49 percent of the public believe that the president encourages politically motivated violence with the way he speaks. He was asked about that.

What was his response?

COLLINS: It was a pretty stunning response, Jake and one that's getting a lot of attention for the way he said it. The reporter asked him this question. The president turned, pointed his finger at her, and had this to say:


TRUMP: No, no. You know what? You're creating violence by your questions, you know? You are creating, you.

And also a lot of the reporters are creating violence by not writing the truth. The fake news is creating violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: Now, Jake, the president said it pretty clearly when he said that if the media would report accurately, in his opinion, there would be less violence in the country.

And, Jake, that comment comes after the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said last week that the president wasn't blaming the media or anyone, for that matter, for those events, those national tragedies that happened last week, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, in West Virginia, thanks so much.

And our experts are here with me.

And there's a lot to talk about.

And, Senator Santorum, I know you would like to be talking about the economy, but that's not what we're...

RICK SANTORUM, CNN COMMENTATOR: Great news today. Has anyone reported that?

TAPPER: Super economy, yes, absolutely. But now we have a lot of other things, thanks to President Trump.

Let's start with the "Vanity Fair" article. Obviously, Michael Cohen is not an impeccable character. Do you disbelieve what he says the president said? Do you believe it? What do you think?


But, you know, if you consider the fact that the president has made very outrageous comments earlier, using phrases like S-hole, it's not inconsistent with maybe some things that he may have said.

I think what's interesting about it is, very troubling charges, very explosive, you know, accusations. But I think the interesting thing is, will it matter? Like, will people even think that the president couldn't have said this? Or normally it would be a huge controversy and could potentially crater his support amongst even his most ardent defenders.

But I expect it probably won't have much of an impact.

TAPPER: Do you disagree, Neera?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: No. But that's an indictment of the whole situation, right? That just means that his supporters think he's racist and still support him, which is an indictment of those supporters who would believe it.

TAPPER: Maybe they don't believe it.

TANDEN: Yes. No, no.


TANDEN: Just to be clear, Kevin said that some people would believe it and still support him.


TANDEN: So I think that's an indictment.


TAPPER: You don't have any trouble believing it? You believe it?

TANDEN: I think I have had my ears open to this president for two years. But even in the last week, I think it seems pretty obvious that it's not even -- it's not shocking.

And what I find shocking in the article is the White House didn't even bother to deny it, because it's totally credible that this president would attack a group that he doesn't like. It's credible that he would attack Latinos.

It's credible that he would attack women. It's credible that he would African-Americans, because we have all seen him do it every single day. And it's pathetic that more people aren't outraged and nobody will say anything,.

TAPPER: Just to clarify, the White House hasn't responded to a request for comment. They haven't not denied it, per se. Maybe they will deny it.


TANDEN: They're pretty good at Twitter, and they could really respond quickly.


TAPPER: I'm just saying technically they haven't responded yet, is all I'm saying.

Senator, you do not believe Michael Cohen?

SANTORUM: I think, as a general rule, no.


TAPPER: Do you not believe these comments?

SANTORUM: He could have said them. He might not have said them. He might have said them differently. I don't know. I just don't think Michael Cohen is particularly credible.

And the fact he comes out five days before an election and decides he's going to throw this bomb out there to clear his conscience. All of a sudden, his conscience is bothering him at this particular time? That just doesn't sound quite right to me.

TAPPER: The timing isn't -- I mean, the timing is -- it leads to that sort of conclusion. Why would you do this five days before an election?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, I don't know what's going on with him emotionally or psychologically. So I can't say that. But I agree with Neera.

There is nothing about this that is shocking. It's shocking in itself that anyone would speak this way. It's not shocking that he would speak this way, because of all of the things he has already said. And I think the last week of what he's been doing with the caravan has just been out-and-out racial demagoguery.

And so this isn't surprising. This is a man who started his campaign talking about Mexican racists. So, now is talking about how...


TAPPER: Rapists.

TANDEN: Rapists.

TAPPER: Not racists.


POWERS: Oh, I said racists?


TAPPER: Yes. Mexican rapists is what you meant. I understand why the faux pas.


POWERS: Mexican rapists, and now is talking about how women are particularly scared of the Mexicans coming into the country, I guess because they're rapists.

TANDEN: Right.

I think the one thing just to -- who knows about Michael Cohen completely, and I agree, he's not the most credible witness.

But I would also say that perhaps the fact that we have this searing situation happening where 11 Jewish-Americans are killed, and the president's response to that, that could be a reason why some people who supported the president would say enough is enough, and I'm going to actually say what I know.

I'm not saying we do know, but I don't think it's so crazy that someone would have a moral conscience after this week and actually decide to speak up. And I think what's sad is not more Republicans are willing to condemn the president.

SANTORUM: What was the president's response that was so reprehensible? He went to Pittsburgh. He paid his respects. TANDEN: You know what? Seven hours later, tweeting about the

baseball game, after 11 Jewish-Americans were killed, or attacking the news for creating violence.



SANTORUM: ... for everything, breathing seven hours after.

The president is the president. He talks about a lot of different things. The reality is, the president did the proper thing. He went to Pittsburgh. He paid respects to the people there. He has stood fast, as he does stand fast, in support of -- in opposition to anti- Semitism, in support the nation -- the state of Israel, probably more than any other president in recent history.

TANDEN: Really?

So when people chant "Jews will not replace us," and he says they're very good people and those -- good people, you think that's standing steadfast against anti-Semitism? I think that's an outrageous statement to make.

SANTORUM: Again, I think you are conflating two different things. The fact that the president said there are good people on both sides is not confirming everything that those people said.


TANDEN: It's confirming some of what they said. When someone says, "Jews will not replace us," you should say that's wrong, it's outrageous, and they have no place. And you should not say, there's some good people here and then some good people. That was a mistake. Just say it was a mistake what he did last year.


SANTORUM: The president has condemned anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms.

TANDEN: No, he did not.

SANTORUM: He actually gave a terrific statement after that and condemned it completely.


POWERS: First of all, you are just making all sorts of excuses for him that you never made for Barack Obama.

What -- shocked about tweeting after this massacre, any time Barack Obama went golfing if anything was happening, the world was ending, according to the Republicans, and now it's totally different.

But I think it's interesting that the White House can't just respond and say this didn't happen, because, for most people, that would be the answer. If somebody like called your P.R. person and said, you just said a bunch of racist things, they would be like, that didn't happen.

SANTORUM: Would you believe him?


TAPPER: I want to bring in Kevin for one second, because, Kevin, I met you through the Romney campaign. You were a spokesman for Mitt Romney.

And one of the things I have been thinking about this week is how would the world react if Mitt Romney or John McCain had done A, B, C, or D? Because I feel like we're all just kind of getting used to things that we weren't normally used to.

Like if Mitt Romney -- the most offensive thing Mitt Romney did about immigration, other than his you know, offensive in quotes, was talk about self-deportation. What if he had released that Web video?


MADDEN: If I had gotten a call from a reporter about that, I would have said, don't write -- obviously, I don't want you to write the story yet, because I'm going to offer as, you know, harsh a denial on this, and offer every single evidence, piece of evidence I can to refute what your claim is.

So I would have a great deal of confidence in that. But I do think this goes back to my earlier point, which is that we would have normally been inside a huge meltdown phase inside of a campaign or inside a potential White House knowing that something like this happened, or even having a charge like this out in the public.

But, you know, that is -- that's the difference between the old politics of normal times and the politics that we have today.


Everyone, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about.

It's not only vile, it's also factually wrong. We fact-checked that racially charged ad that Trump tweeted this week. That's coming up next. Stay with us.


[16:17:35] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Trump might not have helped his case when he tweeted out that incendiary and racially charged web ad just two days ago, an ad that attempts to stoke fears about undocumented immigrants. It cites the case of a Mexican man who killed two California sheriff's deputies, flashing two images of the migrant caravan, while also showing images of the cop killer.

It turns out that potentially offensive exterior is the gift wrapping around claims inside the ad that are just false.

CNN's Tom Foreman dug into the argument under it all.

Tom, the ad suggests the Democrats are solely to blame for this cop- killer's presence in the U.S. Is that true?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it does just that, Jake. And it's true that the ad says that. And then it utterly fails to prove it.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Using an actual court appearance by convicted cop killer Luis Bracamontes, is the video gets this right. The Mexican man who entered the United States illegally did say he'd like to kill more police officers.

LUIS BRACAMONTES: I will break out soon and I will kill more.

FOREMAN: But then it goes factually off the rails with two big claims. Democrats let him in and Democrats let him stay. Both are misleading at best. At worst, flat-out false.

Here's why: records indicate he entered the U.S. illegally and was deported more than once before those murders. True, an immigrations and customs official told CNN it occurred under Democrat Bill Clinton in 1997. But it happened again in 2001 when George W. Bush, a Republican was in office.

"Sacramento Bee" newspaper also found records indicating Bracamontes was back in the U.S. again in the early 2000s, still under President Bush. Bracamontes was arrested at least three times in Maricopa County, Arizona, on drugs and weapons charges. That was the territory of then Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an outspoken supporter of President Trump. So much so, Arpaio was pardoned by the president when the sheriff's racial profiling of immigrants ran afoul of the courts.

"The Bee" and other sources found he was deported twice and once released in those cases.

Arpaio's assessment?

JOE ARPAIO, FORMER MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA SHERIFF: I don't know how many times he was arrested and slipped through the cracks. It's my gut feeling it wasn't just two times he's been deported.

FOREMAN: Still, the video goes further, suggesting scores of other immigrants could be just as threatening.

[16:20:02] Homeland security has even said the caravan approaching the border is harboring more than 200 folks with criminal histories, while offering precious little proof and few details.


FOREMAN: So the Trump administration through this video and statements is strongly suggesting this caravan is filled with young men just as dangerous as Bracamontes, gang members, killers, drug dealers, while denying the overwhelming evidence of how many men, women and children who come to the U.S. border seeking asylum are themselves fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

We have more breaking just news into CNN. We're learning that the Pentagon said no to one of the Trump administration's most unexpected requests for the troops being sent to the border.

Then, a tale of two presidents, both with very different messages and very different focuses in these final days before the midterms.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back.

Dueling presidents on the campaign trail today. President Trump in West Virginia and Indiana where he is stumping for Republican Senate candidates while former President Barack Obama is out for Democratic candidates in Florida and Georgia.

[16:25:08] In Florida, Andrew Gillum could become that state's first African-American governor. Stacey Abrams in Georgia could be the first ever female, African-American governor in history. Both races have been hotly contested, and they have turned increasingly nasty with various allegations of racism and ethics violations.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Atlanta where President Obama is expected to take the stage later tonight.

Kaylee, President Obama had some fierce words this afternoon in Miami.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did, Jake. President Obama saying this might be the most important election of our lifetimes. He said the stakes are just that high. And so, he's investing his time and his energy on the campaign trail here to try to help Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams write their own pages in the history books.

Earlier today in Miami, he issued this call to urgency as he tries to help Andrew Gillum build a coalition similar to the one that vaulted him into office. Enthusiasm among young voters and nonwhite voters. You heard from him in a very familiar tone.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: The character of our country is on the ballot. In the closing weeks of this election, we have seen repeated attempts to divide us with rhetoric designed to make us angry and make us fearful. In four days, you can choose a bigger, more prosperous, more generous vision of America -- an America where love and hope conquer hate. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARTUNG: Out here in Atlanta, you can see people lining the street. We're told 7,000 people are expected to fill the basketball arena at Morehouse College tonight as Barack Obama headlines an event for Stacey Abrams and three other women who were on the ballot here in Georgia.

Jake, there has been such a national spotlight on this race. Yesterday, you saw Oprah Winfrey come to stump for Stacey Abrams, Vice President Pence with Brian Kemp, and tonight, it's Barack Obama. Sunday, Brian Kemp will make his closing argument with President Trump.

TAPPER: All right. Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.

Let's talk about the midterms now with our panel.

Senator Santorum, let me ask you a question. Why is the Georgia governor's race competitive? It's a -- really, it's a red state. I saw a Georgia official not long ago, a Republican, he said -- and this is weeks ago. But he said, 55/45 Republican. That's just generally how the state goes.

Why is Stacey Abrams making this such a race against the secretary of that state, Brian Kemp?

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I mean, Kemp ran against the establishment, and as we have seen with -- sometimes when conservatives run against the establishment, look at Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia, for example. Had the establishment rallied behind Ken Cuccinelli, he would have won that race. But they didn't.

And that's what happens sometimes. When the conservative uprising happens and moderate Republicans tend to walk away.

And, look, I think Stacey Abrams is a good candidate. She has done a good job. She has run a good race. And if she can turn out the minority vote in Georgia, she has a good chance of winning.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's really aligned himself with Trump, though. So I don't understand.

TAPPER: Brian Kemp has.

POWERS: Isn't Trump supposed to be the big king-maker and he's so popular with everybody? So, I don't really -- it doesn't really make sense. He just cancelled a debate, in fact, a long-planned debate with Abrams to go and campaign with Trump.

So, he's all-in with Trump. So what does that tell us if she's -- and yes, she is an amazing candidate, there's no question, and she's organized really well. But like you said, this is really not a state that you would --

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The senator's point, though, was that there is probably some lingering pains, I think, inside the Republican Party where they're not as enthusiastic and coming out for Kemp. One of the other things, too, the changing nature of the demographics of the suburbs around Atlanta.


MADDEN: And they have become less -- less of a red state in those areas. And so you are seeing Democrats be more competitive historically there. They have tried and missed in the last couple cycles. This might be their cycle.

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I would say, she has put together a great coalition. She obviously is getting a lot of --

TAPPER: What is the coalition?

TANDEN: She is getting a lot of support from suburban women, white women, white college-educated women. And I think to your point, you have Republicans actually crossing over. And I hope it's because a lot of Republicans are sort of repulsed by Brian Kemp's efforts to suppress voters and the tactics he's used. And I'm actually impressed how much that has been part of the conversation.

But I would say I think the issue here is really, Donald Trump has -- when he was elected, to get more Republican support. I think Kirsten's point is, he got more Republican support than Brian Kemp has been able to get. And I think what's really happening is you have a lot of moderate Republicans who after two years of Donald Trump, who, you know, are actually now crossing over and want to check.

MADDEN: Suburban women with college degrees in the Atlanta area is going to a big --


TANDEN: And it used to be, that is a group that used to be very Republican.

MADDEN: Solid Republican.

SANTORUM: Can we just interpret voter suppression?