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Trump Plays to Fears ahead of Midterms, Obama Campaigns for Dems; Iranians Defiant in Face of U.S. Pressure; Seven-Year-Old Girl Who Symbolized Yemen's Suffering Dies. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 3, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Trump versus Obama, the former U.S. president calls out the current one for lying and misleading Americans and Donald Trump hits back.

Plus defiance, anger and concern. A look at how people in Iran are reacting to the new U.S. sanctions.

And harrowing pictures from Yemen, where famine looms and children die of malnutrition. We speak to a photographer just back from the worst affected areas.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.


VANIER: U.S. president Donald Trump is saying something we haven't heard before. He concedes the Democrats could win a majority in the midterms on Tuesday. But he says that he wouldn't be to blame if that happened. He's stoking fears about immigrants as he makes a final push for his party's candidates ahead of the midterm elections.

He said Democrats want to invite migrants and crime into the country.


TRUMP: They want to turn America into a giant sanctuary for violent predators and MS-13 killers. A blue wave would equal a crime wave. Simple. A red wave equals jobs and security.


VANIER: President Trump is also defending a political ad demonizing migrants, saying he was, quote, "just telling the truth" when he posted it on Twitter. He's also backtracking on comments he made about how American soldiers could react to rock-throwing migrants. Our Jim Acosta reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Trump, it's an about face. One day after he all but gave the green light to U.S. troops to fire upon the caravan of migrants heading to the U.S. border, the president is backtracking, now saying those soldiers will be making arrests instead of shooting if they're hit with rocks.

TRUMP: They won't have to fire. What I don't want is I don't want these people throwing rocks. They do that with us, they're going to be arrested. There's going to be problems. I didn't say shoot. I didn't say shoot.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But hold on. Here's how the president ignited the controversy.

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

ACOSTA (voice-over): Critics pounced, calling that an abuse of the commander in chief's authority.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SURPEME ALLIED COMMANDER: You don't use maximum force. You use minimum force. And you don't attack. You defend. You restore order. So he has it all wrong.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president's incendiary rhetoric on immigration is throwing the GOP off its message on the economy. Mr. Trump tweeted about the latest unemployment numbers.

"Wow, the U.S. added 250,000 jobs in October. Unemployment at 3.7 percent. Wages up. These are incredible numbers. Keep it going. Vote Republican."

TRUMP: So the country is doing, I think, maybe you could say better than it's ever done.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president is riding immigration more than any other issue heading into next week's midterm elections with continued vows to end birthright citizenship, even though it's enshrined in the Constitution.

TRUMP: This crazy, lunatic policy that we can end, that we can end.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump hinted at why he's throwing so many punches before the midterms. As he told a rally in Missouri, he sensed Republican momentum stalling after a Trump supporter sent pipe bombs to Democratic politicians and CNN and when an anti-Semitic gunman committed mass murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

TRUMP: Now we did have two maniacs stop a momentum that was incredible because, for seven days, nobody talked about the elections. It stopped a tremendous momentum.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That sense of desperation may also explain this misleading Trump campaign web ad which falsely blamed Democrats for allowing cop killer Luis Bracamontes into the U.S.

"The Sacramento Bee" newspaper found Bracamontes had been deported under Democratic president Bill Clinton. After he snuck back into the U.S., he was arrested and released by Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Trump supporter, before he was deported again and reentered the country when Republican George W. Bush was in office.

Pressed on his rhetoric by reporters, the president accused the media of causing violence.

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.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Campaigning with Democrats in Florida, former president Barack Obama said voters have a clear choice next week.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. They'll get folks riled up just to protect their power and their privilege.


VANIER: President Trump spent time Friday accusing former president Barack Obama of broken promises during his presidency. Trump also said Obama was attracting a very small crowd on the campaign trail in the days leading up to the midterms.


TRUMP: I heard President Obama speak today. I had to listen. I was in the plane, I had nothing else to do, 28 times he said you can keep your doctor if you like your doctor. You can keep your plan if you like your plan. They were all lies. Lie after lie, broken promise after broken promise. That's what he did.


VANIER: Barack Obama, for his part, used the campaign events in Florida and Georgia to accuse Trump of lying and fearmongering. The former president also pushed Democrats to get out and vote in the midterms. Our Kaylee Hartung has more from Atlanta.


KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Former president Barack Obama received a rock star's welcome here in Atlanta. He came to campaign on behalf of Stacey Abrams. He headlined the event by saying this might be the most important election of his lifetime and issued a call for urgency to voters.

OBAMA: The consequences of any of us staying home really are more dangerous because America's at a crossroads. The health care of millions is on the ballot, making sure working families get a fair shake is on the ballot. But maybe most of all, the character of our country is on the ballot.

HARTUNG (voice-over): Obama spoke in familiar tones but he didn't mince words when he essentially called out President Trump and other Republicans for the rhetoric that we heard in the lead up to these midterms, rhetoric, he said, that is meant to divide us and make us angry and fearful.

President Obama just the latest in a string of big names who came into the state on behalf of each of these gubernatorial candidates in a deadlocked race. The next one who'll come to town, President Trump on Sunday on behalf of (INAUDIBLE) -- Kaylee Hartung, CNN, Atlanta.


VANIER: I'm joined by CNN Politics digital director Zach Wolf in Washington.

Zach, Trump could be making his closing argument all about the economy. He would have a lot to say. Unemployment is down and wages are up. Instead, listen to what he said about the economy on Friday.


TRUMP: They all say speak about the economy. Speak about the economy. Well, we have the greatest economy in the history of our country. But sometimes it's not as exciting to talk about the economy, right? Because we have a lot of other things to talk about.


VANIER: OK. Explain that to me. I cannot fathom, I cannot imagine another president with such a strong economic record who wouldn't run almost exclusively on that.

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL, MANAGING EDITOR: It's interesting; other presidents who have had really good economies seem to get a little bit more credit for it from voters while, you know, in recent polls, voters give Trump credit, it is -- his approval on the economy is not as high as you would expect it to be, considering unemployment.

Like you said, it is not just low, it is historically low. It is full. Everybody who wants to have a job has a job. The other thing I think to remember is Trump's base of support, those people in the Rust Belt states, while the national economy is doing well, some of those local economies, if you're in the coal industry, you may not feel quite as good about things.

VANIER: That's an interesting fact to consider. So instead of the economy, this is what Trump's closing argument sounds like. Listen to this.


TRUMP: At this very moment, large, well organized caravans of migrants are marching toward our southern border. Some people call it an invasion. It is like an invasion.


VANIER: OK. This is familiar from Trump. That was the president speaking from the White House on Thursday. His closing argument is all about identity. Democrats equals immigration, equals invasion and equals crime. We heard this before from him.

Can it win over voters?

Anybody who wasn't already going to vote for him.

WOLF: I don't think that's what he's trying to do, he's not trying to reach out an olive branch and get people to suddenly change their minds and vote for him. He's trying to --


WOLF: -- get people who are supporters of his, who were supporters in 2016, what is left of them, he's trying to get every single one of them to vote. If you try to get somebody to vote on the economy, things are going well, I may or may not show up. If I'm afraid of an invading force, a horde of immigrants, which is not happening, by the way, but if I'm afraid of that, I'll more likely show up at the polls potentially.

VANIER: So this topic, identity worked for Trump throughout the presidential campaign.

At the time it was a different voter mix, right?

He was talking to the whole country. Now if you look at the close races, especially for the House, many of them are in suburban areas, where this kind of talk, this kind of campaigning is not necessarily going to work well.

WOLF: That's right. What we're seeing and I think a lot of people wrote about this, it is a realignment almost of American politics. More educated white voters, women in particular, people in these suburban areas, at least according to the polls, look like they may be ready to switch camps and go towards the Democrats.

That could be a real change. Meanwhile, a lot of people who used to vote with Democrats, working class neighborhoods, working class white voters, these people are coalescing behind Trump.

The other thing to remember is that while there's the House races that will turn on the suburban areas, the Senate map that is happening this year, there's a third of the Senate seats up, a lot of those seats are in states that are very friendly to him, Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, places like Montana, places with large blocks of white voters that will probably respond to his message.

VANIER: It is interesting you should mention the Senate. Current polling, big picture, suggests Republicans will likely lose the House, likely retain the Senate and maybe even add some seats.

If that materializes, if that happens, what then changes for the country and for the Trump presidency?

WOLF: If Democrats get any control of anything, I think that will change a lot. That will give them a lot more power. Right now, they control absolutely nothing. They don't control the White House, the House or Senate or -- if you think objectively about it, the Supreme Court. So they have absolutely no power.

If they can get the House, they would love to get the Senate. If they could get the House, that will give them ability to essentially squash any sort of legislative proposal that Trump has. He'll have to come to Democrats to get anything done.

On the other hand, it will give him a foil. He's attacked his own Republican Congress with Republicans in charge. You could bet if Democrats are in charge, he will unload on them. He would almost, I think, love to have somebody to attack.

VANIER: All right, Zach Wolf. We'll see how it turns out November 6th. CNN Politics digital director, Zach, thank you very much.

WOLF: Thank you.

VANIER: Just days away from the midterms, voter suppression tactics have become a flashpoint in the upcoming November election. Tune into our special report, "Democracy in Peril: The War on Voting Rights."

That is at 6:00 pm in Hong Kong, at 10:00 am in London.

The U.S. tries to cripple Iran's economy with a new round of sanctions. Iran responds with defiance and anger. The latest from Tehran when we come back.

Plus Yemen's long running war is devastating the country and the country's children. We talk to a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who captured the horror, don't miss it.





VANIER: The E.U., France, Germany and the U.K. strongly condemn the U.S. move to reimpose sanctions on Iran. The sanctions will go into effect on Monday and essentially order countries around the world to stop buying Iranian oil. They also take aim at financial transactions, port operators and ship builders. Despite this, however, Iran remains defiant. Senior international

correspondent Fred Pleitgen reports from the Iranian capital.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The usual chants against America more forceful than usual. During hardline Friday prayers in Tehran.

A Revolutionary Guard general ripping into the U.S.

"We're encountering a real fight with our main enemy, America," he says, "and they're using all the resources they have and organizing a battle against us."

As the U.S. is set to hit Iran with new crippling sanctions, defiance from religious conservatives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think these kind of sanctions make us more powerful about -- for the future. And I think this is an opportunity.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): So far, Iran's rulers not buckling under U.S. pressure.

PLEITGEN: If it was the Trump administration's intention to try and weaken the Iranian government, that certainly doesn't seem to be happening. In fact, it seems as though many Iranians are uniting behind the power structure of clergy, military and their government in anger over Washington's policies.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): President Trump has already hit Iran with a flurry of sanctions.

TRUMP: We're doing a big number on Iran.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Sending Iran's economy and its currency into a tailspin. Now the U.S. will target Iran's important oil and gas sector, potentially a crushing blow to Iran's finances, causing concerns in this moderate area.

"The economy has started getting worse and worse," this woman says, "and everyday items are three to four times more expensive than before."

And some even calling for talks with D.C.

"You need real negotiations that both governments would be committed to," this woman says, "and they shouldn't leave the table again."

Defiance, anger but also deep concern as Iran's people once again brace for more economic hardship -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.


VANIER: One of the world's worst humanitarian crises is currently unfolding in Yemen. Millions are suffering from cholera and starvation and many of those are children. One picture captures the suffering and it was published last month by "The New York Times."

Now I have to warn you, it is hard to look at. If you want to get the kids away from the TV, now is time to do it.

Here it is. Amal Hussein is a 7-year-old girl treated for malnutrition. Was a 7-year old girl. She did not survive. She died just a eek after her photo was published. You'll hear from the photographer who took that picture in a moment.

But first, I want to take you inside a Sanaa hospital. Nima Elbagir shows us the impact of the Yemen war on the most vulnerable. And you will see that Amal is no exception.

Again, I have to warn you, the images in this report are also disturbing.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yousef arrived at the hospital yesterday. At first, his family couldn't afford to take him to hospital. They had to wait until they could scrape together enough money for the journey.

They turn him over to examine his back but it's too painful. His malnutrition is so advanced that every breath is a wheeze of agony. At 13 years of age, he weighs as much as a 4-year old.

Here at this hospital in Sanaa, they've been inundated with starving children. Hamid is just 5 months old and is severely malnourished. Starving mothers giving birth to starving babies and the cycle continues.

LISE GRANDE, U.N. RESIDENT AND HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR FOR YEMEN: Every single day, more than 100 children are dying because of --


GRANDE: -- causes related to the conflict and to the crisis. There are 7 million people in Yemen who are malnourished and 3 million of whom are acutely malnourished. It is a devastating, heartbreaking, human, very human tragedy.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): For the last three years, Yemen has been in the grip of a civil war. Pitting the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Here in Yemen, even as criticism swirled over allegations of official Saudi involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the world ignored the Saudi crown prince's other undertaking, restoring the government of President Abdrabbuh Hadi at whatever cost. Now it may almost be too late.

GRANDE: You've asked us the important question about whether or not we can scale up to meet the increased needs across country. We estimate that 14 million people could be at the brink of famine.

We know that if we receive funding and receive it now, that we will be able to reach these people. It will, however, require that all of the parties to the conflict do everything that they can to facilitate and support our work.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Dalia is just over a year old. She has the telltale swollen stomach of malnutrition. Her shallow breaths, almost as much an agony for her mother as they are for her.

Her mother says she needed an operation to insert a feeding tube, their last hope. Now they wait.

Yousef's mother rubs his hands. She has already lost two children. She doesn't know whether Yousef will survive, whether he'll ever be the same again. Like so many mothers here, she can only hope and pray -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


VANIER: "New York Times" photographer Tyler Hicks is with me now. He took the photo of Amal. We're going to show it to you one more time. It is hard to look at but it is important to see.

The 7-year-old girl died of severe malnutrition in Yemen. Her photo is one of many that Tyler captured when he was recently in Yemen.

Tyler, tell us first about the moment around that picture.

How did you meet Amal and her family?

TYLER HICKS, PHOTOJOURNALIST: I'd been in Yemen, working over a period of months and at this stage of the trip, I traveled up north to where we'd heard a lot of malnutrition was affecting the children there.

And I've been to some clinics and hospitals around there. But when I walked into this particular one, it was clear that this area, which is close to Hudaydah, which is a front line area, is actually an area that is really affected. Children were just -- really skin and bones there. And specifically Amal was somebody who I really thought represented the crisis that is happening in Yemen now.

VANIER: What did the doctor tell you at the time?

And when you left the scene, did you think that Amal might survive?

HICKS: It is hard to say. Of course, Amal was responsive, she was -- she was -- but very calm. She had such little energy. And to me, it just didn't seem like she would survive. We heard after we left that in fact she had been discharged from the hospital.

However that was not because she was doing better but because her family didn't have any money to take her to a better clinic and were forced to take her back to her village because new cases were coming in and there's virtually no space for her.

VANIER: Frankly that was one of the parts of your story that shocked me the most, that she was actually discharged from the hospital, given the picture we saw. This picture got a huge reaction from readers of "The New York Times." What kind of questions were people asking you, what kind of things were you saying?

What response did you get?

HICKS: Overall the response was very positive. It got people to pay a lot more attention to the crisis happening in Yemen. The civilians who are suffering the most out of this conflict. And a lot of -- also what came up is, why did we choose to publish this photograph?


HICKS: Why did I send this photograph?

Why did "The New York Times" choose to publish it?

And those decisions are difficult but, also in this kind of situation, it is very important for these images to be seen, as difficult as they are to look at, especially a child, who is such a -- an innocent child and so close to death.

VANIER: It is also a conversation we have in this newsroom. We showed it for the same reason you showed it. We think it is news people need to see. It's something people need to know about.

Give me a sense of how widespread this is when you actually go to Yemen?

I know as a reporter, sometimes you seek out the problem areas on the front line. You want to amplify that.

When you get to Yemen, does it hit you that this is a very widespread problem in the countries, with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people affected?

HICKS: Absolutely. When you drive down any street in Yemen, whether it's a big city or out in the middle of nowhere in the countryside, you are absolutely -- that there are people coming up to the vehicle begging. People are absolutely desperate, they're laying in the street.

It's not just like a small amount of people. It is everywhere you look, the entire country is desperate, there's no jobs, no money. And that's leading to mass starvation.

VANIER: There's one more thing that is important, I think, for viewers to get out of this interview. This is not just an unfortunate side effect of the war, something you explained very well in the story. This has been a tool of war, which has been targeting the economy, which has made people poor.

HICKS: Absolutely. There's very little coming into Yemen that there's -- this is the problem. Also the NGOs, the people who normally flood into these zones, have been unable to work on the scale that they should be able to. So really, the people in Yemen are left on their own. There's very

little outside help for them. And that is largely due to the fact that there's so little help trickling in.

VANIER: All right, Tyler Hicks, photographer for "The New York Times," thank you so much for joining us today.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier and I've got the headlines in just a moment.