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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sources: Pentagon Rejects Requests for Troops to do "Crowd Control" at Border; President Targets Red-State Dems in Final Midterms Push; Vulnerable Red-State Dems Embracing Trumpian Positions; President Targets Red-State Dems In Final Midterms Push; New CNN Special Report Examines Battle Over Voting Rights. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 2, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00] NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: And it used to be, that is a group that used to be very Republican.

(CROSSTALK)

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Solid Republican.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can we just interpret voter suppression? Every time people on the left use the term voter suppression, here's what they're talking about. Voter ID is off (ph), which by the way -- that's what they're talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In Georgia, I don't want to get -- I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of voter suppression or voter ID laws. This is about the exact match law and the question of whether Stacey Abrams' group is being unfairly targeted by Brian Kemp, who's the secretary of state.

TANDEN: And Brian Kemp has been thrown out of the courts. The courts just threw it out.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- they changed the law.

TAPPER: There is something interesting that Obama said that was really interesting, because the president is obviously very convinced that the caravan is going to help get his voters out. President Obama is now using Trump using the caravan to try to get his voters out, or voters for Stacey Abrams or Andrew Gillum. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Now in 2018, they're telling you the extensional threat to America is a bunch of poor refugees miles away. They're even taking our brave troops away from their families for a political stunt at the border. And the men and women of our military deserve better than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANTORUM: This is from a man who said the extensional threat to America is global warming. Let's put it in contrast, who decided to defund our military, who decided to destroy our economy, because he was concerned about global climate change. So you can take it for what you want, whether he's a credible voice, as to what the great threat for America is.

TANDEN: Ninety percent of the globe, actually, thinks of climate change as an extensional threat.

SANTORUM: But they're not worried about it any more, are they?

TANDEN: No, they are.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: they're not. They're backing away.

TANDEN: Let me just say this. What's fascinating about this last week -- we have seen a surge. There's indications of a surge of Latino voting. And I think that it might be a counter reaction to the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump over the last week.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Republicans doing an enormous --

TAPPER: We'll see on Tuesday. Kevin, I want to show you the latest poll in Florida shows Andrew Gillum ahead of Republican Ron DeSantis there, but only by a point. He used to have a much bigger lead. You see Gillum up by one point, within the margin of error. It's basically neck and neck.

In Georgia, Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp are in a dead heat, according to the latest polls, 47 percent, 47 percent. These trips, Trump, Obama, Pence, Oprah, they actually could be the difference for any of the four candidates.

MADDEN: They do. And I think, you know, that's what it's all about right now in these last 48, 72 hours. It's all going to be about turnout.

Right now, this weekend, I think Obama's trip is particularly well- timed in places like Georgia and Florida. They have the souls to the polls. A lot of these traditional African-American churches are actually making their big push in the final weekend.

And for the president -- I think the message was a little bit undisciplined today. But just his presence --

TAPPER: Really?

MADDEN: Yes, absolutely. He was all over the place.

TAPPER: President Obama or president Trump?

MADDEN: President Obama. Yes.

TAPPER: You thought he was -- oh, OK. How was his message -- I thought you were joking.

MADDEN: I know. I thought he was going all the way across. He seemed like he was all the way across the whole spectrum.

TAPPER: What should he have done?

MADDEN: Here's the thing. I'm going to give him credit anyway. His presence alone back on the campaign trail. And the energy that he brought in his appearances today is going to matter in this 48 hours.

SANTORUM: Never worked in the past.

TAPPER: Well, we'll see. We will definitely see.

I want to bring breaking news right now. The Pentagon rejecting a Department of Homeland Security request for U.S. troops to perform emergency law enforcement functions on the border.

CNN's Ryan Browne joins me now live from the Pentagon. He's breaking the story.

Ryan, what are you hearing from your sources?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, officials are saying that the Department of Defense turned down a Department of Homeland Security request for active duty troops to kind of serve as a reserve force that would protect customs and border patrol officials while they perform their duties, that could provide riot control, traffic control, those kinds of functions.

The Department of Defense turning that request down, we're being told, because they did not feel that active duty troops, that's title 10 forces, that are going down in the border, have the inherent authority to perform law enforcement functions on U.S. soil. So, they asked the Department of Homeland Security to go back to the White House to see if they really needed this to work with the White House, to grant U.S. military, grant the department of defense, additional authorities to perform law enforcement on U.S. soil. Now, this is, of course, a long standing legal issue, posse comitatus, whether or not U.S. forces can perform these functions even in extreme situation.

So, this is why the request was turned down. It's not clear whether or not the White House is considering granting those additional authorities. But again, over 8,000 U.S. troops staging, getting ready to deploy to the border. Some of these forces DHS wanted to perform this law enforcement function. That request for now turned down by the Pentagon.

[16:35:02] TAPPER: All right. Ryan Browne, thanks for bringing us that breaking news. We appreciate it.

Quickly, just a comment from each one of you. You were shaking your head. You think that was the right move from the Pentagon? SANTORUM: Yes, I think it's the right move. They have to push back.

I mean, this is a legal issue. Not a political issue. And the defense department is doing the right thing pushing back.

TANDEN: Yes, I think the Department of Defense has an analysis that this is not an extensional threat to the country. And I'm glad they held to that analysis.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, can vulnerable red state Democrats out-Trump Trump in order to hold on to their Senate seat? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Now, we're back with our politics lead.

President Trump sending a message to red state Democrats: You can't out-Trump Trump. Right now, he's rallying in West Virginia to try to unseat Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. And tonight, he'll campaign in Indiana with vice president and former Indiana governor, Mike Pence.

There the latest polls show Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly essentially tied with his Republican challenger, Mike Brown.

As Jessica Dean reports, if you look at where president Trump is holding the bulk of his rallies, it's clear, he's focused on unseating Democratic senators in red Trump states.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the final days before the election, President Trump and his supporters have zeroed in on red state Senate Democrats with one message. They're not conservative enough.

In West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin has been a prime target.

DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: He's a liberal and he's Chuck Schumer's little pet.

DEAN: Manchin has tried walking the line of a Democrat in Trump country, voting with ht president more than any Senate Democrat, including to confirm Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

Trump won West Virginia by more than 40 points in 2016, but Manchin remains a slight favorite against Republican Patrick Morrisey.

In Indiana, a state the president carried by nearly 20 points, Senator Joe Donnelly cut an ad proudly touting his independence.

SEN. JOE DONNELLY (D), INDIANA: I split with my own party to support funding for Trump's border wall.

DEAN: But during a recent debate, he also left the door open for Trump's controversial proposal to end birthright citizenship. DONNELLY: I would want to see that legislation, make sure it was

constitutional, and review it first.

DEAN: Tonight, Trump will be in Indiana, rallying supporters, trying to convince them.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no such thing as a blue dog Democrat. A red state Democrat. Or a conservative Democrat. Because they are all Pelosi Democrats.

DEAN: A similar message to the one the president delivered Thursday night in Missouri.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Claire McCaskill promised to represent the people of Missouri, but she broke that promise and joined radical Democrats in Washington.

DEAN: Like other red state Democrats, McCaskill is stressing her independence, even calling some members of her own party crazy.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: There may be people in this room that think I am not liberal enough to carry the banner of this party.

DEAN: She's also using issues like border security to demonstrate how she supported the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We endorsed President Trump and Claire McCaskill because of their records on border security.

DEAN: For Trump, that's not conservative enough.

TRUMP: The people of Missouri are going to retire far left Democrat Claire McCaskill, who has been saying such nice things about me. But you know what? She'll never vote with me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: There are two states with tight Senate races the president won't be traveling to before Election Day, that would be Arizona and Nevada. Recent CNN polls showed the Democratic candidates with a slight edge in both of those races -- Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks so much, Jessica Dean, appreciate it.

So, first of all, we should note that Republicans told Jeff Zeleny at the White House that the Republicans in Nevada and Arizona said to President Trump, don't come. Go to other places. His immigration closing argument would hurt them in those states.

SANTORUM: Happens all of the time. President Obama was told not to come to many states.

TAPPER: No, of course, of course.

SANTORUM: That's not a surprise. TAPPER: So President Obama not going, for example, to Missouri, where

let's look at the latest poll -- 43 percent for Claire McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat, 43 percent for Josh Hawley, the state attorney general. It's a straight tossup.

Trump won the state by 19 points. So you have to wonder if McCaskill's strategy of painting herself as a moderate, you know, distancing herself from what she calls crazy Democrats, which I assume is you and Neera, is working.

POWERS: Proud crazy Democrats.

TAPPER: It might be working.

POWERS: Well, yes. I mean, she knows what she's doing, the fact that it's as close as it is in such a conservative state. I mean, it's a state that Trump won. It's also just a fundamentally conservative state.

She's not a liberal. She's a relatively moderate Democrat. And the crazy Democrats comment was actually talking about people going in and interrupting and yelling at people in restaurants, which even I have said, you know, goes too far. So I think that that was the context and everybody is willing to sort of let her do what she needs to do in order to win.

But it's a tough state. You remember the last time around, it helped her win, the fact that her opponent referred to legitimate rape. So it's a very hard state to win.

TAPPER: Yes.

TANDEN: Some may say this race there is late-breaking news about Josh Hawley, how he has misused campaign fund, having consulted -- having outside consultants direct state business. And I think a big issue has been how he has moved from the A.G. race saying he would serve his four years.

So it's a very tough race. She did, you know -- she did pull it out a couple of years ago. But also I think the fact that this is a state that Trump won by 19 points, and he's going in to campaign shows that there is a -- you know, there is an opposition. There are people who voted for Donald Trump who want a check on Donald Trump.

[16:45:08] SANTORUM: You have an incumbent of 43 percent. I wouldn't want to be an incumbent in last few days at 43 percent.

TANDEN: If that's true, the Democrats are going to in 50 House seats.

SANTORUM: Well, that may be the case. That may be the case, OK. I'm not I'm not saying we're going to hold on to the House but I think in the Senate, you got a lot of Democratic under 50 percent and I'd feel really good if I was challenger even if I was a couple of points behind. Look Claire McCaskill -- if Claire McCaskill is a moderate there are -- then there is no such thing as a moderate --

TANDEN: She voted for Neil Gorsuch.

SANTORUM: There is no such thing. Yes, after he had the votes of Republicans to be confirmed just like Joe Manchin did. He waited until they had the Republican votes then they cast the votes so they could go back and say they voted for them.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes.

SANTORUM: The reality is she -- of ten years ago she would be considered left -- hard left of the Democratic Party. Now she's not.

TAPPER: Well, the party has moved to the left and the Republican party has moved to the right.

SANTORUM: It certainly has moved to the left.

TAPPER: Kevin, let me ask you, speaking of Joe Manchin, the Senate leadership fund according to the Washington Post, that's a Republican Super PAC run by Mitch McConnell the Senate Majority Leader, they're no longer airing ads in West Virginia because they do not think that they can beat Joe Manchin. I mean, that's one of the signs that you usually see in the last few days of people reallocating resources. That's not a good --

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Resources has become scarce and reversers have to be prioritized to other races. I think the thing about Joe Manchin is he's been well funded to campaign on his own. He's always been very good about tailoring his message directly to his state, fighting with Washington Democrats when he needs to in order to draw the right kind of contrast. He's a very good politician and he knows his state pretty well. So I think it is a tougher race for Republicans there.

Patrick Morrissey is a very good candidate. He's made it a very good effort there but I think it's you know, he's in a tougher spot these -- and going into these last 72 hours and some other candidates.

TAPPER: And Neera, one of the things that we're hearing from some of these red-state Democrats is an argument of look I know you might not always agree with me but you know I always stand up for what I think is right. It's a character argument. Take a listen to a snippets from a couple ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't always agree with Claire McCaskill but she works hard fighting against those tariffs, doing all those town halls, and Claire is not afraid to stand up against her own party.

SEN. JOE DONNELLY (D), INDIANA: I bet you never heard this in a political ad. I may not be the candidate for you. If you want someone to be with a political party 100 percent of the time, I'm not that guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TANDEN: I think that -- I think what they're basically getting to is there's a group of voters in those states who voted for Trump but who were also uncomfortable with sort of the ideological wedges of the Republican Party backing them 100 percent. And so there's a group of people who are open -- it's in some of these states 20 percent -- open to having someone who's moderate on a lot of issues, doesn't have to groove them all the time but will serve as a check against Trump which is an interesting phenomenon two years later in states that he won by 20 percent.

TAPPER: And I want to get your reaction to something that President Trump just said at his rally in West Virginia. You're talking about how you weren't sure that the Republicans were going to hold on to the House. President Trump at a rally just moments ago saying the closest he's ever said to of the acknowledgment publicly that Republicans might lose the House on Tuesday. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will be ridiculous, frankly. It'll be bad for our country, the Democrats, and it could happen, could happen. We're doing very well and we're doing really well in the Senate, but could happen. And you know what you do, my whole life, you know what I say, don't worry about it, I'll just figure it out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So it that --

TANDEN: That's so great for Republican incumbents.

TAPPER: I understand -- I understand. Usually this is done with a senior administration official whispering to a New York Times or watching a Post reporter like you know, we're -- our hopes are not -- we don't have our hopes up too you know, too much about -- usually a president doesn't go forward and say, I'll deal with it. It'll be fine. I'll work it out myself.

SANTORUM: Well, I'm not sure that's a great message. I think we need to continue to rally and try to fight to the very bitter end. And look, Republicans still have a chance to hold on. I mean, a lot of the races are in -- are --

TAPPER: Very close.

SANTORUM: -- very close and you know, if you look at traditional turnout models from past Midterms, under those models, Republicans have a chance of you know getting close or maybe holding on but we'll see how energized the Democratic Party is. If there is energized, everybody says, then Republicans are in for a long night now.

TAPPER: What do you think is going to happen Kirsten? What's your prediction for Tuesday?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, I'm not making any predictions.

TAPPER: You're not going to make any predictions?

POWERS: No, no, no. We learn from --

TAPPER: You don't want to jinx it, good for you. Very smart.

POWERS: I'm not jinxing, no. I don't want to -- I mean, I'm still scarred from 2016.

TANDEN: Me too.

TAPPER: So you're not going to do --

TANDEN: I'm not making predictions too. I do think it's -- I mean, I will just say as -- if I were a Republican House incumbent right now who's in an iffy race, I would be really surprised that the president who his vote -- his base really listens to --

TAPPER: Oh yes.

TANDEN: -- is basically saying, it may not happen. So it's just like a weird -- I mean, he --

[16:50:01] MADDEN: They are -- their capacity to be surprised anymore is -- they no longer surprised by anything in front of them.

TANDEN: They need -- they need people to knock on doors over the next three days.

TAPPER: Is that the moral lesson?

SANTORUM: I'm not sure too many people are listening to that particular comment.

TAPPER: Well, they will within the next 24 hours. Is that demoralizing?

MADDEN: I think -- I think if you are out there knocking on doors it's somewhat demoralizing, I agree the Senate though it's not going to have a huge impact.

TAPPER: You don't think so?

TANDEN: I totally --

MADDEN: You know why, because in the next 30 minutes you could come out, you can go back here, he could have said something totally different.

SANTORUM: Exactly.

MADDEN: He could guarantee --

TAPPER: That would never happen.

MADDEN: He could guarantee a red wave.

TAPPER: That would never happen.

MADDEN: Red wave is coming.

TAPPER: He would never-- all right, everyone stick around. One city with just one polling place, it's been moved outside the city limits and a mile from the closest public transportation. How are Kansans supposed to vote then? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In politics with just four days left until the Midterm Elections, crucial rulings are coming down in two key states. First, a victory for voting rights activists in Georgia. A federal judge they're ruling that more than 3,000 recently naturalized U.S. citizens will get to vote after all. Their registrations had been put on hold by the Georgia Secretary of State who also happens to be the Republican Candidate for Governor, Brian Kemp.

But in Kansas, there's a new obstacle that could theoretically stop thousands of citizens from casting their ballots. A federal judge just denied a request to open a new polling site in Dodge City, Kansas. Why is that a big deal? Well, the polling place, the only one in this city of 27,000 people was moved to the outskirts of town, more than a mile away from the closest bus stop. The ACLU argues that this move will hit the large Latino community the hardest since they are most likely to lack the flexible work schedules that would let them travel so far to vote.

Joining me now is CNN's Kyung Lah. She's been taking a close look at these ballot access issues for us in a new CNN special reporting. Kyung, you talked to an expert who says moves like what we were seeing in Kansas, they're calculated.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Calculated as part of a tactic to get to a goal. And we're seeing this in Kansas, these issues coming up in Georgia. We spoke to Democrat Jason Kander. To be very clear, he is a politician, he has run for office, but he also runs a nonprofit called Let America Vote. And what he and other voting organizations groups across the country say that they are seeing those from state to state is that there is a playbook. It has been executed and it is growing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON KANDER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, MISSOURI: It became really clear to me that the voter suppression strategy I had seen the Republicans run at the state level in Missouri when I was the Secretary of State that that was about to be run on a national level. And the way that looks is basically, step one is they undermine faith in American democracy.

TRUMP: I'm afraid the election is going to be rigged. I have to be honest.

KANDER: Step two, they create obstacles to voting.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I strongly support voter ID laws.

KANDER: And then step three, they create obstacles to those obstacles.

TRUMP: They're voting like really early and we have to discuss that early thing, that's --

KANDER: I argue it is the number one strategy of the Trump reelection campaign.

LAH: How can you be so sure it's a strategy?

KANDER: I mean, I've had plenty of Republican elected officials speak with me privately and tell me that they're disgusted by what they hear in their -- in the Republican caucus meetings and that absolutely is a political strategy and they secretly tell me that they really appreciate what I'm doing.

Making it harder to vote, that is an un-American thing to do. There is a campaign against democracy doing on in this country right now and the Republican Party has just embraced it.

TRUMP: The time has come for voter I.D. like everything else, voter I.D.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: All of this comes down to, Jake, about power. That the political party in power tries to maintain that, put up all these obstacles, separate the voters from democracy which is in effect the exact opposite of democracy. Jake?

TAPPER: And Kyung, how far does Jason Kander's theory about voter suppression go?

LAH: Well, if you follow his entire trail, he says what that we're getting a window into a glimpse of is the Trump 2020 re-election strategy. His contention is that the reason why we're seeing all this heavy messaging to the base, that it isn't about widening the tent, it's about cutting people out of the tent. If you only engage your base and you make it harder for the other side to have access to the ballot box, then you only need to include your base. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Kyung Lah, thank you so much. And be sure to tune in tonight for Kyung's "SPECIAL REPORT" on CNN, Democracy In Peril, The War on Voting Rights. It's tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Sundown will mark the first Jewish Sabbath since 11 Jews were senselessly murdered inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last Saturday.

Today, an emotional farewell as the last funeral for the victims was held, for 97-year-old Rose Mallinger. She was laid to rest surrounded by family and friends and the community that adored her. Mallinger who was known as the matriarch of the temple leaves behind three children and five grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Today the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the hometown newspaper honored the victims by putting the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning on its cover. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims' families, of course, as we wish them a Shabbat Shalom. May their memories be a blessing.

Make sure you tune in this Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION" just two days before Election Day. My guests will be Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams plus we'll have the heads of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee. It all starts 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, dueling presidents. President Trump goes from rally to rally trying to drive his loyalist to the polls with racially charged rhetoric. He's now being answered by former President Obama who accuses him of lying while warning this election may be the most important of our lifetime.