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Trump on upcoming Democratic Probes, Two Can Play at That Game; Trump Shames Republicans Who Lost After Not Embracing Him; CNN Calls Trump's Attacks on The Press Disturbingly Un-American; Trump's Behavior Toward Black Reporters Not Seen Before in The White House; CNN Projects Democrat Jon Tester Wins Montana Senate Race. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired November 7, 2018 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Stage directions aloud so we all know what's in his mind. That's not allowed. Even if it's an empty threat, even if he has no intention and he has guardrails around him in and John Kelly and Jeff Sessions for the time being that will prevent him from doing that, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, people who don't point this out, that that's not how Presidents are supposed to behave, like I don't know what kind of world you're preparing. This doesn't end with him. Then a Democratic President threatens to do it to a Republican Congress. It's not allowed. It's not acceptable.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: But it also gave away what he really knows happened yesterday.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL REPORTER: Exactly.

KING: He is backed into a corner and he knows it. For all this I won, this is a great day, that was a squirrel cornered in the back of the room feeling threatened.

TAPPER: His response is to threaten everybody.

KING: What you just saw from Nancy Pelosi, that is now the most important relationship in Washington. Assuming she wins the speakership, we'll see, but assuming she does and her relationship with President Trump, he comes out with bombast and threats and intimidations, she's very cautious, we won't have scattershot investigations. We will do it right. Everybody, slow down. We are going to form our committees. They will build their case. If they have a reason to have an investigation they will come, they will approve it. President says I don't like you, I'm going to get you. This is going to be fascinating to let this play out. She has a tough management job, too, within her group. She's clearly convinced everything to don't take the bait. Don't threaten back.

TAPPER: I would love you to weigh in on this. There are a lot of people who are members of the resistance, liberals on Twitter, who are finding speaker Pelosi's tone wanting, it's not enough, it's wrong for the moment. This is not going to be -- she's not going to be a match for President Trump. LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's fair criticism

because her tone does not all resonate with those who are wanting people to punch back towards the President, not simply because they have an aversion to his policies, but because sometimes the idea of meeting fire with fire actually makes the American electorate feel as though there is a champion for them. I think many people feel as though in 2020 while there may be candidates, there may not be contenders. That's the real core issue for many Democrats.

I also look at the issue as the President projecting his own impotence on Nancy Pelosi. He knows full well that the power of Congress right now and the power of a majority of Democrats in the House of representatives has subpoena power and he cannot shield or not get himself behind say Devin Nunez, who may run back and tell a number of things. He knows full well that is his Achilles heel. It's apparent to everyone watching it. One reason you can applaud her, though her tone is lacking in perhaps the equal combativeness, is that she's aware she may not flex if her muscles are already apparent.

She can look at this issue and say that's well and great but there are 50 subpoenas waiting from Elijah Cummings that have been waiting from not just last night on the issues of waste and fraud and tax abuse and collusion. They've been waiting for you. While she was tempered, it may not appeal to the emotional interest of people in voting, but her appeal doesn't have to be. At this point in time it can be actually I already have your number, it's the number 50 and it comes with a subpoena at the end of it.

DAVID GREGORY. CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And also, she knows, your point, Jake, about Republican leaders who have a duty to point out that that's not right, that there is oversight and we should try and do it in a way that's collegial instead of McConnell saying it's akin to harassment. She said you don't always take the bait. That's what she would tell her members out there. You don't fight the fight he wants you to fight, we're going to fight on a different ground. I'll tell you something, the problem that Democrats have is they think beyond the moment of today to 20 is that as offended as they may be by him, not only does he have a reservoir of support for that loaded language, that's his life blood where she could have something potentially up her sleeve that could be more effective.

BASH: I remember when we were covering the Bush administration and the Democrats took over in 2006, she had so much pressure on her to start articles of impeachment against President Bush for the Iraq War. Real pressure. We maybe don't remember it now, but it was not a joke from the liberals. She shut it down and got a lot of flak for it.

KING: The e-mail you just read from Lindsey Graham criticizing the White House is interesting. Mitch McConnell does not want his committee chairman doing what just happened in the House in the rearview mirror, like Devon Nunez. Like the Freedom Caucus calling up Rod Rosenstein and trying to run up the flagpole. Mitch McConnell has no interest in that. The question is can he pressure him to do it.

[14:05:00] Can he now Trumpify the Republican Senate because he's lost that in the House. It's going to be interesting to watch what does Lindsey do? What do these newly elected Republicans do? Will the Cuck Grassley's of the world? And we saw this during the intelligence committee. Now there's going to be pressure from the President on this growing Republican Senate, which he just helped grow, he's going to say help me. Now their DNA is we don't do that stuff, but we shall see if this yet another barrier of Trump America falls.

TAPPER: This is a Trumpier Senate and Trumpier House conference. The moderates and critics have been weaned out by the most part by the voters.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Because this is a Republican party modeled on Donald Trump.

BASH: And they're going to owe him.

CHALIAN: It is the complete takeover of Donald Trump's version of politics. That is the Republican party now. There is no establishment versus grass roots. That is gone. Paul Ryan has retired. Those moderates in the suburbs have left. This is Donald Trump's Republican party through and through.

COATES: On the issue of bait, though, it has to be said because I know the media was attacked. You touched on this issue as well. The issue of not taking the bait and projecting, there has to be kudos extended to everyone who did not take the bait of trying to deflect and reject and be defensive and becoming Trump's Republican party and the media responding tit for tat. The media certainly showed that today from the microphone being grabbed by Jim Acosta.

BLITZER: The President opened up that hour and a half appearance before the news media in the east room of the White House, attacking the news media, continued throughout the questioning, and he ended it with the same we've been hearing a lot of it, the news media is the enemy of the American people. He had this, change with our own chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know what --

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Honestly, I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN. And if you did it well, your ratings will be much better.

ACOSTA: Mr. President, if I may ask one other question.

TRUMP: That's enough. That's enough.

ACOSTA: The other folks had -- pardon me, ma'am.

TRUMP: Excuse me, that's enough. Beto, let's go.

ACOSTA: On the Russia investigation, are you concerned that you may have --

TRUMP: I'm not concerned about anything, what you may have an investigation because it's a hoax. That's enough. Put down the mic.

ACOSTA: Are you worried about indictments coming down in this investigation? Mr. President --

TRUMP: I tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn't be working --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Let me bring in Jim Acosta now if I can. I believe he's at the White House. Jim, that must have been a surreal experience. Obviously, you were being very aggressive, as is the job of a White House correspondent. David Gregory and I are sitting here talking about our experiences pissing off everybody in that room, pissing off President Obama and President Bush and asking questions that made them mad but President Trump did something that I have never seen an American president do which is gone a personal rant against you for the questions you were attempting to ask.

ACOSTA: Well, when they go low, we keep doing our jobs, just the way I look at it. I had a question to ask and if we had played the tape a little bit before that exchange would've seen the question that I was asking which was essentially about this lie he told before the midterm elections about this caravan of immigrants moving to the U.S. border was somehow an invasion when it's not, they are still hundreds of miles away and they pose nothing of a threat to the United States, but the President used that language, obviously as we've talked about so many times, to galvanize his base. He didn't like hearing that question, didn't like being challenged on that point and he certainly doesn't like being called out for his falsehoods. As you mentioned, that's our job, that's what wolf did here as a White House correspondent as well. I was struck by the fact that the President we thought was going to come in and do this victory lap, it sounded very much like a pity party. He was talking about lawmakers that wouldn't stand by him on the GOP side and various House races. He seems to be unaware of the fact that his immigration rhetoric and rhetoric on many levels was turning off a lot of suburban swing district voters. He doesn't understand that.

[14:10:17] I think the other point that needs to be made is during this press conference, the President time and again seemed to be attacking journalists of color. He was attacking my friend April Ryan, telling her to sit down. At one point he went after Yamiche Alcindor from PBS, saying she had a racist question because she asked about this concern out there that when he says he is a nationalist, that is a dog whistle to white nationalists all over the country.

It was a very fair question. I asked it in the White House oval office a couple of weeks ago and he answered the question in there. Despite the fact that they were framing this as a victory lap and he was tweeting up a storm like he was all fired up for 20, he sounded, I thought, very depressed, very despondent, almost defeated in the way he was talking about these election results. I think that's probably why you saw things spiral out of control. We're not used to -- the President is not used to seeing himself lose and he lost big. He lost the House of Representatives. While people are spinning there

was a red wave in the Senate and so on, what we saw in the east room I thought was really an acknowledgement on the President's part that he does somewhat feel like he lost something yesterday and that he understands that the job moving forward is going to get a whole lot tougher in this town because he does have the House of representatives now falling into the Democratic hands. But as for being called the enemy of the people and so on, Jake, Wolf, all of our folks on the set there with you, I think the American people know we're friends of the American people, we're going to defend the American people and we're going to stand up for our rights to seek the truth in this country, and the President can call us all the names in the world but we're going to keep doing our jobs.

BLITZER: Let me read a statement that CNN has released following your exchange with the President at this news conference and other journalists' exchange. "This President's ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far. They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American. While President Trump made it clear he does not respect a free press, he has sworn obligation to protect it. A free press is vital to democracy and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere." That statement from the CNN communication department, I'm not going back to Jim Acosta, I know he has a lot going on back there. That's a very strong statement from CNN.

TAPPER: President Trump attacked NBC, PBS, people from conservative news outlets, he attacked the press. If you just read the transcript of what Acosta was asking the President and what President Trump's response was, Acosta was asking about the ads and the Mueller investigation. Those are all legitimate lines of inquiry. That is our job to ask these questions. Maybe some people don't like how one or another reporter asks a question. It doesn't really matter. The point is the questions, we're supposed to bring them to the President. The President's response was to personally, personally attack Jim Acosta. This is the President of the United States, all right. We're not on equal footing. The President is way up here. Individual reporters are way down here. We are supposed to ask them questions and, yes, they always think we're rude, impertinent. Obama thought it, Bush thought it, Clinton thought it. It goes on and on and on. So, the idea that CNN is putting out a statement like that is great and what I like about it the most is they're not just standing up for Acosta, they're talking about everybody in that room.

BASH: We mentioned it earlier but it bears repeating the President said three times said an African-American reporter's question about his use of the word nationalism, his embracing of that concept that questioning that is racist, I don't even know where to start with that. It makes no sense at all. The term nationalism, anybody who has studied it for more than five minutes has an understanding that of course there are racial not just tinges to it, there's a racial bent to it. It has been used in a very racial way. Whether he knew it or not, he should have known it. And then by making it worse by calling an African-American reporter basically racist, saying her question was racist but it's not that different --

KING: But that's how he plays. That's how he plays. BASH: It doesn't make sense.

BLITZER: The first time he said, "I'm a nationalist," he opened it by saying "I know I'm not supposed to say this."

[14:15:00] KING: He knows that word has baggage and he knew in the last weeks of the campaign where he escalated a legitimate debate about border security, a legitimate debate about illegal immigration into race baiting and fear mongering and now he thinks it works when he looks at the Senate map. Now that is his due fault to go to confrontation with the press. The African-American woman journalist asking the question, I was trying to make the point earlier about Nancy Pelosi. In addition to the default to race and fear, this President does not like being challenged by women. So, I am just fascinated by the coming relationship, if Nancy Pelosi assumes the speakership and Donald Trump is the President for all this talking infrastructure week and cutting a deal on immigration, Nancy Pelosi in her own way, Trump does it with bombast. She does it with a smirk. I am a negotiator. She wants to be in that room.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me just say today, this extraordinary spectacle we saw was full of threats and shaming of his own Republican members of Congress and journalists and, you know, it was full of grievance. Here's a man who came out and tried to make the case this was a great success for me. This is great, we kept the Senate, look at what I did, I was so important in winning the Senate. And then he devolves into I into invective and grievance. Listening to him today, anything that went wrong was about other people, people who didn't hug him, it was about the media and Nancy Pelosi. He let us now how he really felt.

CHALIAN: We may see, to your point about the relationship, this new world order in Washington, I think there are going to be pretty epic battles over the institutions and the President's attempted destruction of those institutions. Nancy Pelosi has made that a running argument of her entire fall campaign. She's not going to impeachment, she's not caught up much about tax returns initially right now, but she does day after day on the campaign trail and in the last 24 hours make this argument about institutions under attack and the article I role in the constitution and the first amendment role of the free press, and this President has been on a strategic mission from the day he got in office to chip away at these institutions. I think we are going to see now that Democrats have some leg of a stool here of power, I do think we're going to see again and again they're going to knock heads over this very notion of whether or not our institutions are going to continue to be knocked down or actually built back up.

KING: We will soon hear from one of those institutions he's also attacked, Robert Mueller.

COATES: It is completely noticeable. No one would be delusional enough to think every time you interrupt only the black female reporters, every time you patronize them because of their questioning that this goes unnoticed. It's proven by just last night's election results. The year of the woman became the day of the woman. More than 100 women for the first time will represent Congress. It's not just Nancy Pelosi. It's about the two native American women for the first time, all the women coming great strides. Having said, that the President's tactics in some way and the Republican party in terms of gerrymandering, in terms of voter suppression, those were successful in some areas. I think that notion by the President feeling emboldened by the aspect of if I can silence certain people votes, I can carry that with me going forward. That's one of the most concerning things for voters going forward, why you have a lawsuit in places like Georgia about having Brian Kemp overseeing the counting of the runoff, why you have people looking at these issues. People are noticing what happened today on a much grander scale and it will have consequences, if not today or yesterday, in 20 most assuredly.

[14:20:00] GREGORY: And the flip side of what David was saying in terms of the attempts to chip at the at the constitution of a free press, the reality is the opposite. The President as are in a golden time, being accountable, being annoying, what they are there to do. There's a lot of great journalism and there's also bad journalism. The media has been fractured in a way that really bothers political figures, some know how to deal with it, some don't. We're trying to figure it out. The reality is that the fundamentals of our job are really, really strong and they are revealing everything that the President is, his strengths, his weaknesses, his temperament, all of that is coming out because the President is doing its job.

BLITZER: April Ryan has been a long-time correspondent. She tried to get a question to the President. Let me play this clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Sit down, please. Sit down! I didn't call you. I didn't call you. I didn't call you. I'll give you voter suppression. Excuse me, I'm not responding to you. I'm talking to this gentleman. Will you please sit down? It's such a hostile media. It's so sad. You ask me about -- no, you rudely interrupted him. You rudely interrupted him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: April is joining us right now. She's over at the White House. So, April, tell us how that went.

APRIL RYAN, PBS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, you saw how it went, Wolf. Wolf, you know, like we have done for years, been here 21 years and this is not my first time at a press conference. There was an opening from one journalist to another, there was a space where I screamed out "Mr. President," and I'm sitting in the second row, "Mr. President, what about voter suppression?"

He heard me, he responded to me. I stood up thinking he was going to continue. Then he told me to sit down. You heard him respond about voter suppression. Then he talked about voter suppression with CNN poll numbers. I stood up because that comment was kind of trite. I said, Mr. President, what about North Dakota, what about Florida as well as Georgia because the NAACP is now dealing with some of these voter irregularity issues they've been hearing in the state of Georgia and Florida. It was a very serious question. So, he blew it off. Then another reporter, Ayesha Rascoe from NPR followed it up and he was flip as well. So, he does not take this issue seriously. We saw numbers, I saw video out of Atlanta, one video that came from the Morehouse polling district in a black community that had a very low number of polling machines and they had a long line wrapped around on the inside. They had to get people like Reverend Jesse Jackson and others to help solve the situation. It was a real question. I asked him. He responded. Then when he saw it was me, he told me to sit down.

BLITZER: He did call on the White House correspondent from PBS. I'm going to play that exchange he had with her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Hi, Mr. President. I'm with "PBS Newshour." you called yours a nationalist on the campaign trail. Some people --

TRUMP: That's such a racist question.

YAMICHE: Reporter: There are some saying the Republican party is seen as supporting the nationalists --

TRUMP: I don't believe that. Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African-Americans? Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African-Americans? That's such a racist question. Honestly, I mean, I know you have it written down and you're going to tell me. Let me tell you, that's a racist question. You know what the word is? I love our country. I do. You have nationalists, you have globalists. I also love the world. And I don't mind helping the world. But we have to straighten out our country first. We have a lot of problems. Excuse me. To say what you said to me is so insulting to me. It's a very terrible thing that you said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let me get April's reaction to that.

RYAN: Yes, I was in the room and I was taken aback to hear him say that was a racist statement or racist question. This President said that he's a nationalist. Define what a nationalist means? When he said he was a nationalist, there were people in the black community that were up in arms about it. When you say the word nationalist, they feel that you have to put white next to it and that's the white supremacist groups and white supremacy. And she asked a real question because there is a concern about saying he's a nationalist. He is a white man who is a nationalist. There are people who are concerned that that is code for white nationalist. What the President has to do now at this moment is to explain what his white nationalist -- what his nationalism means as there is a linkage of white nationalist, but he's a nationalist. It's confusing.

[14:25:00] But there is a concern about it and the reporter is now -- she has the residue of hate, you know. He called her statement or question racist and he was insulted. It was not meant to be insulting. It was meant to get clarity on what he was saying, that's all.

BLITZER: You know, Jake, reporters as we keep pointing out, you were a White House correspondent, I was a White House correspondent, at a news conference like this in the east room of the White House, you stand up and ask your question, it can be a very tough question, the President might not like it, very often they don't but I've never heard a President respond the way this President did.

TAPPER: No. Look, if the President has an explanation for his use of the word nationalist, I don't mean it that way, I'm trying to reclaim it, I just mean it in terms of I am not a globalist, I am about the United States, then make that explanation. You know, that is a perfectly logical explanation. The word has baggage. A lot of people have not used the word. I had Senator Santorum on my show a few weeks ago when President Trump said this and he said he would not call himself that because of the historical bag and of the word. Rick Santorum is not exactly some shrinking violet. If he felt strongly, he would use it. But if you want to make the argument, make the argument. The idea that any reporter asking that question, in particular an African-American woman is asking a racist question just boggles the mind. It is a perfectly legitimate question and I'm sure there is a will the answer. I've had conversations with conservatives that the idea that this is a code word, a dog whistle is not fair. That's fine. Make the argument that the word is not racist, is not meant to be a dog whistle.

KING: But let's not be surprised.

TAPPER: But no one should be surprised because this is how the President does that. You challenge that, he attacks you harder and that's what this press conference was all about. I feel threatened, therefore I'm going to threaten everybody here.

KING: When former Democrat, then independent Donald Trump decided he was going to be a Republican, how did he make his entry? Barack Obama is not a legitimate President. This has been calling card since day one of Donald Trump, I'm a Republican. So, we should not be surprised.

GREGORY: And he said, "I'm a nationalist," he brought back the incredibly loaded term of America First, which is -- so to be a nationalist, it has racist overtones, it has anti-Semitic overtones in the way that nationalists around the world have used it in other errors. But the reporter is a model as well. She was unflappable. That is what we all are trying to do, which is to keep our head down, keep driving. Keep asking the question, ask the follow up and try not to pay attention to what the President is doing because it is exposing what the President is doing. Everybody can see what that is.

BLITZER: What is so sad and I think all of us will agree, that on this day after the midterm elections, where there were some significant Republican wins, significant Democratic wins, the President had an opportunity to come out and say the right thing and say you know what, the election is now behind us, it's time to work together, we've got a lot of important things to do, let's focus in on the positive, I want to work with Nancy Pelosi and we can make things happen. Instead he came out so combative. It was a very sad moment.

BORGER: Full of grievance. When he was reading his statements, he told us he went to 30 rallies and how much more he did than other Presidents had done and that's fair, that's legit. But then it devolves into all of this. I'm reminded having covered Trump as all of us have for a while, when he first started in public life, whether it was in "Apprentice" he started with tabloids. He always had great press. The Donald had great press all over New York. He posed for himself own P.R. person, he used to love playing with the press kind of. He was the tabloid king. So, he lived for years with all this great media about how he had, you know, taken his father's business and built it alone into something much bigger. We now know that is not the case. So, it really grates on him that he gets to Washington and he is not treated in the same way that he was like the New York press.

[14:30:00] BASH: You're right. And we shouldn't forget the contrast we've all seen this afternoon in the person who is going to be his most important foe, potential partner, all of the above, and that is Nancy Pelosi. Because, look, she acted like frankly many women do, which is ignore the noise and let's get down to business and that should not be overlooked in her approach.

TAPPER: Meanwhile, not every race is called. There are still outstanding Senate and House seats. I'm going to go to Mark Preston right now who has a key race alert.

MARK PRESTON, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Jake, it's been a tough 24 hours for Democrats but you know what? They're doing well right now in Montana. We can now predict that John tester will win reelection in Montana. This is a race we had to wait a little bit to call because of this factor right here. If you look right here, this is where the outstanding vote is, Jake, in Montana. There was just no way that his Republican opponent could make up that ground.