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Trump Disputes His Own Administration's Climate Change Report; DHS: 69 Arrested After as Many as 1K Migrants Rushed Border. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired November 26, 2018 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Three hundred scientists and experts warn that we're in for a climate catastrophe, but, this afternoon, President Trump says he's not buying it.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump moments ago saying he does not believe a scientific report about the disastrous consequences of climate change. And this isn't the only thing he's doubting, deflecting, and ignoring from experts with potentially life-or-death consequences.

The crisis of his choosing. President Trump today capitalizing and making new threats after tear gas rains on migrants and their children rushing the border.

Plus, Mississippi voting. The state prepares to pick a senator, as the incumbent stumbles over her state's ugly past and fastens herself to President Trump, who heads there right now to pull her across the finish line.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with our politics lead and the president of the United States publicly dismissing the expert findings of his own administration. This afternoon, the president said he did not believe the national climate assessment mandated by Congress and quietly released by the Trump administration in a post-Thanksgiving news dump.

The report outlines the potentially devastating economic and environmental impact of climate change and states unequivocally that climate change is -- quote -- "primarily as a result of human activities" -- unquote.

The report was led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration working with a team of more than 300 scientists and other experts, with findings based on an assessment of the peer- reviewed scientific literature.

But moments ago, President Trump glibly dismissed the report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have seen it. I have read some of it, and it's fine.

QUESTION: They say the economic impact will be devastating.

TRUMP: Yes, I don't believe it.

QUESTION: You don't believe it?

TRUMP: No, no, I don't believe it.


TAPPER: All part of a pattern that you're familiar with, I'm sure, where the president disregards facts in favor of whatever reality he finds most politically or personally expedient at the moment.

Vaccines cause autism. That's false, but he believes it. He saw multiple New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11 on television. That's false, but he believes it. The list goes on and on.

But now the consequences are literally life and death. And the president is ignoring the conclusions of the experts who work in his administration, such as the CIA's assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi or the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

CNN's Pamela Brown is at the White House.

And, Pamela, the White House rebuttal follows this pattern of not hewing to facts. The White House said the report was the worst-case scenario, but that's not true. It's not just the worst-case scenario. It offers a lot of different scenarios.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. In fact, one of the study's authors said the report considers all scenarios and that what the White House is saying is flat-out false.

But this is a president who has a history of dismissing findings from his own administration when he finds the facts politically inconvenient. And in this latest case, as just heard there, he is flat out saying he doesn't believe this devastating climate change report compiled by his own administration.


BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump looking toward the U.S.- Mexico border.

TRUMP: They're not coming into the United States. They will not be coming into our country.

BROWN: Threatening on Twitter to shut down the border permanently and threatening a government shutdown over the issue.

TRUMP: When you look at the people coming in, this would be a very good time to do a shutdown.

BROWN: It comes after weeks of the president stoking fears and demonizing the migrant caravan.

TRUMP: They're bad people. We're not letting criminals into our country. The people from Tijuana are saying, wow, these are tough people. They're fighting us. They're in fist fights all over the place. These are tough people that are coming in.

BROWN: The president turning a blind eye to the women and children among the crowd of migrants tear gassed over the weekend after Border Patrol agents said some threw projectiles at them while rushing the border.

While he plays up the border issue, President Trump is playing down the CIA's assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

TRUMP: They did not make that assessment. The CIA has looked at it, they have studied it a lot. They have nothing definitive. I will say this. I don't know. I don't know. But whether he did or whether he didn't, he denies it vehemently.

BROWN: After several days of staying quiet, Trump now talking about his own government's report released Friday which warns climate change could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars and kill thousands of people before the end of the century.

TRUMP: I have seen it. I have read some of it. And it's fine.


QUESTION: They say the economic impact will be devastating.

TRUMP: Yes, I don't believe it.

BROWN: A report the White House is now downplaying by claiming it's -- quote -- "largely based on the most extreme scenario," which one of the authors disputes on Twitter, calling the White House's statement -- quote -- "demonstrably false" just days after the president saw firsthand the devastating effects of California's worst wildfire in history.

TRUMP: I want great climate.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: What about the argument it's climate change, that it's dryer, it's hotter, and that that's contributing to it?

TRUMP: Maybe it contributes some of it. The big problem we have is management.

BROWN: Last week, President Trump cited the recent cold snaps to mock climate change, tweeting: "Brutal and extended cold blast could shatter all records. Whatever happened to global warming?" But the president failed to acknowledge the difference between short- term weather patterns and long-term climate trends.


BROWN: And it bears repeating that this climate change study that the president is dismissing involved 13 federal agencies and more than 300 climate scientists.

Meantime, the president will soon be stumping in Mississippi for Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith in the last Senate race. She had been under fire for racially offensive comments. The president today came out, defended her, saying she apologized, and suggested that that should suffice -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown, thanks so much.

And we will talk about the Mississippi Senate race in a moment.

But I want to get to this issue of the president dismissing experts within his own administration. Right now, Jackie, several Republicans are calling for a full briefing from the CIA, State Department, and Pentagon on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, "The Washington Post" journalist.

Among them is one of the president's fiercest defenders on Capitol Hill, Senator Lindsey Graham, who told CNN: "Don't think Congress is going to look away if he, MBS, is making the world a more dangerous place. We are not going to give an autocratic leader a pass."

And Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa said on "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday Congress must be prepared to act.

Do you think that there's actually going to be a showdown with Senate Republicans forcing the president to do more with Saudi Arabia?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know if there's going to be a showdown, but you have to imagine someone like Lindsey Graham is back channeling with the president or with the chief of staff, John Kelly, trying to, you know, get him to a better place in terms of Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia.

That said, again, he's invested so much, doubled, tripled down on this, it's hard to see whether he moves at all. What we have seen the Republican Congress at least on some foreign policy issues push the envelope, and at some point the president has to fold.

TAPPER: And Senator Mike Lee, a very conservative Republican from Utah, was on, I think it was "Meet the Press" yesterday, was asked about the president saying that it's not conclusive. There's -- we don't know that MBS is behind it.

And Mike Lee, who doesn't really go after Trump that much, said that's inconsistent with the intelligence I have seen, which suggests that MBS is behind it.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, "THE ATLANTIC": This is the core issue here, right?

The CIA has come to the conclusion that the prince asked for this to happen. And Trump will not have that. And something that he's argued is that it hurts the U.S. economically even to go against a partner like Saudi Arabia.

And even on the Hill, something else that we're going to see in the coming months is Representative Adam Schiff, who is the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He has said that his committee is going to delve into this further. So, all this is going to keep unfolding.

And, again, it's coming to that place where Trump can, you know, perhaps make that argument that he's either standing with Saudi Arabia or coming to the assessment that the CIA has.

TAPPER: Why does he not believe experts within his own administration?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think the president believes. I don't want to speak to the president here. I don't know what he believes and what he doesn't believe on the murder of the journalist here.

I do believe he's going to stand by the Saudis. He's not going to walk away from Saudi Arabia on this. I think that the Hill is going to push back hard, as Jackie said, push back very hard, especially on Yemen, right?

There's this incredible famine that's taking place in Yemen which is tearing at the heartstrings of lots and lots of people. There are really three issues that the Saudis face. Internally, they face human rights, some allegations of human rights being abused, prisoners, certain people being held prisoner.

You have the issue with Qatar and the GCC neighbors. And then you have this war in Yemen. And it's three giant issues on the plate they need to clean up. And I think they're going to be forced to do that by the Hill, if not the administration. I think the administration made a realpolitik decision that, look, this is how it's going to go.

You pointed this out, the American people are going to yawn and get tired of this at some point and it's going to move on. But the Hill is going to hold their feet to the fire.

TAPPER: Why do you think President Trump has an issue with believing experts, whether it's intelligence experts or scientists, in his own administration with the national climate assessment?


Part of it could be because the president thinks he knows best. But I think that's also inconsistent with things he said before, that he wants to surround himself with the best people and he will take advice from the experts. And the experts are literally telling him that the crown prince, the Saudi crown prince, is behind the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and the experts are also telling him that not only is climate change real, we have to do something about it right now.


So, I'm not really sure why he's coming down the way he is coming down on the very clear facts of the matter. He tends not to believe facts in some instances.

But I do think that that's why Congress is very important here. And so Congress is a co-equal branch of government. And I believe they're going to finally do something and holding the Saudis accountable.

Look, I would like to note that, again, it was not until the murder of Jamal Khashoggi that even I would say Main Street Democrats and Republicans were talking about the war in Yemen, what has been happening, what the Saudi crown prince and the Saudis have been complicit in from the beginning.

The things that David just named in terms of humanitarian issues, locking up folks, the Saudi crown prince rounded up a whole host of high elected officials in his country and locked them up in the Ritz- Carlton.


TAPPER: Not elected officials.

SANDERS: Pardon me, not elected officials, but high-level officials and locked them up in the Ritz-Carlton.

This is nothing new. And I wonder if this is where the rubber meets the road on this and finally the Saudis will be held accountable.

KUCINICH: The thing that will be interesting to see is the next Congress, because this Congress we have seen them push back. Republicans have pushed back.

URBAN: Two big votes.


KUCINICH: On the Russia sanctions

TAPPER: Yes, Russia sanctions.


URBAN: Also on Saudi Arabia, there was two big votes Rand Paul had.

KUCINICH: Right. So they have pushed back.

Now you have an incoming Congress. The Republicans there are more amenable to the president. They're closer to the president because several of them feel as if the president helped push them over the line.

And you also have the incoming Foreign Relations chair, Jim Risch, which has not challenged the president in the same way. He's voted like a lot of the Republicans, but in terms of being more forceful like Bob Corker, he's not like that.

URBAN: But just real quickly, I know you got to close here, but, look, the war in Yemen is really a proxy war being fought by the Iranians against the rest of their neighbors in the Persian Gulf. Right?

Let's not confuse that this is an all-out attempt by the Iranians, the IRGC, to really have an influence in the region and they're shooting missiles at our embassy in Riyadh. We shouldn't sit back and think this is all bad on the Saudis. The Iranians have really bad actors here and they need to be spanked.

SANDERS: Right. But the Saudis have also been complicit in -- the Saudis have been complicit. And nowhere have we attempted to hold them accountable.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

While the president paints a dire picture of the migrants, calling some of them stone-cold criminals, we're going to go live on the border with a reality check of what's really happening on the ground there.

Plus, talk about no love for Mia Love. The Republican congresswoman is now calling out President Trump herself. And she will be here on THE LEAD coming up.

Stay with us.



[16:16:24] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've during certain times, as you know, closed the border. They're not coming into the United States. They will not be coming into our country.


TAPPER: Just minutes ago, President Trump continued to seize on the hectic and dramatic clash at the U.S.-Mexico border to push funding for his proposed border wall and to steer attention towards an issue that he thinks plays well with his base. The president tweeting today in part, quote, Mexico should move the flag-waving migrants, many of whom are stone-cold criminals back into their countries. They are not coming into the USA. We will close the border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the wall.

The incident happened at the San Ysidro port of entry between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says as many as 1,000 migrants tried to enter the United States, 69 were arrested on the U.S. side. Border patrol agents also used teargas. But some families and young children caught up in the confrontation. The border patrol said they were responding to projectiles thrown at them.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Tijuana, Mexico.

And, Leyla, this is not the first confrontation we've seen a confrontation like this at the border. There was one in 2013. There were others before then. How did this one start and what exactly happened?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. You know, as I've talked to people here, many of the people you actually see behind me, they were there at that clash that took place yesterday. And they're telling me it really has changed the mood of today.

So here is their take from this. They tell me that this was supposed to be a peaceful march, that they were heading to the border, some even hoping to engage the officials on the other side of the fence in some sort of dialogue, many supporters were marching with them toward the border.

But then at one point, and I haven't found one person who could sort of really give me the exact second, but the migrants all realized that teargas had been released, and they just started running. Some men, many women, many children, and as a result of that, things have really changed here today.

Even Mexico, Mexico actually taking part in deporting some people, saying we are not going to tolerate disorderly conduct. They've taken about 100 of the migrants into custody, and are planning to deport every single one of them. And that uncertainty here can also be seen as the federal police surrounded the shelter where I am, were about 5,000 migrants are right now, and we're seeing helicopters everywhere. Certainly, a wait-and-see-type attitude.

TAPPER: Leyla, people are still trying to get to the U.S. Can you describe them there? Are they mostly men? I know there are families, as well. But what's the make-up of the crowd? And are they still trying to get into the U.S.?

SANTIAGO: So, right here as of the latest numbers, there are about 5,000 people, migrants, including families, a good chunks of them are men. You know, I talked to one woman who said that she can't find a way to ask her daughter, her 7-year-old, to forgive her for putting her through what happened at the border. Many of them saying, look, we're going to stay here.

Mexico is providing buses for people who want to self-deport. Today, we saw 20 people get on that bus to self-deport. But that's 20 people out of about 5,000.

So, it seems like the majority of the people here are waiting to see how long this will last before they can get to the border to seek asylum. TAPPER: All right. Leyla Santiago, thank you so much. Appreciate


Let's talk about this with our experts. So what's your take? Obviously, I could see how people who are advocates for immigrants and migrants have looked at the caravan and said these are mostly women and children and young people seeking a better life, and then this incident happens which seems to fuel a lot of the anti-immigrant activists.

[16:20:12] ALVAREZ: So, we have to look at this by the numbers. So there are around 8,000 folks who are traveling with the migrant caravan, and that's what the official numbers are so far. About 7,000 are in Tijuana, Mexicali. And of those that were in what began as a peaceful march against the long asylum claims in the United States, some broke off and did rush the border.

But in the grand scheme, this is about 100 or so of the many that are there, and we're really seeking the peaceful march and really trying to seek asylum into the United States. Now, I was on a call with administration officials last week and they said they did identify around 500 criminals traveling with the migrant caravan, but they didn't provide details as to how they came to that figure.

So, there are some criminals that have been identified, according to the administration. But by and large we are seeing from reports that they are women and children that are traveling and trying to seek asylum here in the United States.

TAPPER: The president trying to use this to push for funding for the border wall and paint all of the migrants as dangerous.

KUCINICH: We should mention seeking asylum is not illegal immigration. I mean, that's -- the president seems to be conflating the two.

But that said, yes, he's using this as a way to try to pressure folks into supporting the border wall. Here's the thing -- some Republicans don't support the border wall. And those are the same Republicans, a lot of them lost, and the president decided to name-check them and insult them on their way out the door.

So, the idea that he's going to get these people on board, even with this -- this additional pressure, is hard to believe. And then, next year, it will be, you know, talking about how the Democrats won't do it over and over again. Part of me wonders if the president even wants the wall or he just wants the political issue.

TAPPER: Well, David, the president has been threatening that he's willing to even potentially shut down the government if he doesn't get funding for the border wall.

Take a listen to Senator Joni Ernst, Republican from Iowa, Dana Bash yesterday in the "STATE OF THE UNION" asked if he'd be right if he shut down the government if he didn't get funding for the border wall.


SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: I would rather that he didn't. Again, we as Congress need to work really hard, one, to make sure that we are funding our government. That is our job as Congress is to fund the government. But we also understand that our constituents have stated quite clearly that they want to see our border protected.


TAPPER: What's your take?

URBAN: Look, any time the government gets shut down, Republicans or anywhere near, they get blamed, right? Regardless of whether they're in charge or not, they get blamed for it.

I think it's a bad idea. I've expressed that to the president before. I think it's a bad idea for the government to shut down.

Look, I do think, you made the point earlier that this episode is -- you know, is great evidence for what they're going to go and stem the House well and the Senate floor and say, this is exactly why we need a border wall. No matter how many, you know, border checkpoints you have, folks are going to come rushing the wall and trying to get through. It is -- it's the best example of the worst case. That's what it's going to be used for.

Despite the thousands of peaceful folks that have been pointed out, the 100 or so, or 500 or so, whatever the bad numbers are, if you have folks who are rushing, going around the federal police in Mexico, throwing rocks at border patrol agents and really acting like thugs and criminals, really paints it as a bad picture.

ALVAREZ: And also just something that we're seeing here, too, is that they are trying to get to the ports of entry. So, even if you do build a border wall which is what Trump is advocating for, they're trying to get through the legal avenue --


SANDERS: To be frank, which is what the government shut down yesterday -- government shut down a port of entry. And so, to be frank, ou know, I --


URBAN: The folks weren't going to the port of entry yesterday --

SANDERS: OK, they were at the port of entry. The San Ysidro -- that is a port of entry. That is also a port --


URBAN: Not for the federal --

SANDERS: -- through and out every single day. So, I think, you know, for the government to claim that folks are trying to enter the country illegally when the legal way to claim asylum is to go to the port of entry, it's an issue. But I will say -- I will say, I want to note, that the use of teargas in this instance, which I do believe incited the run to the border -- it was peaceful protests up until I believe the teargas was deployed --

URBAN: That's not correct --

SANDERS: Teargas is not an agent -- teargas is not a chemical agent I believe that should be used on civilians, although it is for some crazy reason legal to do so.

URBAN: Use all the time --

SANDERS: Although you cannot use it in warfare. It is literally --


URBAN: You can't use it in warfare. I was in the military, teargas is used --

SANDERS: It is illegal to be used in warfare, David. Are you telling me that's incorrect? Is it legal to be used in warfare?


URBAN: Symone, I don't know what the agent exactly to be used. They use it in policing all the time.

SANDERS: What I'm saying is, it is illegal to use teargas in warfare. But, for some reason, the United States and many other countries it's okay to use it on civilian agents. It's been used at the border. It was used on Standing Rock in 2016. It was used in Ferguson in 2014.

[16:25:01] TAPPER: Very quickly --


URBAN: Let me say, I listened to the detailing reporting about how this went down. This -- it wasn't that these guys fired. They fired only after these 100 or so folks charged the border.

It wasn't that the border patrol fired into a peaceful crowd. They didn't do that. That's complete misrepresentation. Complete misrepresentation.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

President Trump is right now on his way to Mississippi hoping to save a Senate seat for Republicans. The new racially charged details that's turned tomorrow's runoff election from a gimme into a maybe.

Stay with us.