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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Skeptical Of Human Intelligence Sources?; Trump Job Approval At 39 Percent; CNN: CIA Spy Extracted From Russia Had Access To Putin, Could Photograph Russian Government Documents; Heated NC Congressional Race Tests Trump's 2020 Chances; New iPhone Features Multiple Cameras For Wider Shots. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 10, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The fact he's -- he really does push this issue, he's really pushing money toward the wall, I wonder how that is going to work out for him as we get closer to Election Day, because he's so unpopular.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And how do you see the poll fitting into the strategy of the Trump reelection campaign, which in any way seems to be -- to double down on the base and drive out turnout even higher in those counties where he won, where typically, like, a Republican might win 55-45, but he won like 60-40 or 70-30?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, I think , so far, what we've seen is that the Trump administration wants to stick with what it's done in the past, what it did in 2018, what it did in 2016, which is very much focus on immigration, focus on the wall, despite the fact that he hasn't been able to build the wall or get Mexico to pay for it, and very much focus on racial identity and politics.

They're testing that message right now today in a special election in North Carolina. And they're going to see whether or not it works there. So it is something that they're sticking with. A number that stuck out to me was the fact that 71 percent of those polled don't believe the things that are coming out of the White House.

So that matches with what we have heard, a lot of the contradictions around Bolton, as simple as that, that voters don't seem to trust what they hear from the White House.

TAPPER: David, you're a 2020 adviser.

Sixty percent of those polled say that President Trump does not deserve reelection. What is your response? How do you turn that around?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I'm not super concerned.

I don't put, as you know, a great deal of credibility in polls. It's a snapshot in time. As you know, in the last election when the president ran, he was at 39 percent in Pennsylvania when he got elected. This is a snapshot in time. National polls generally aren't -- don't really predict how things are going to go.

I like these numbers David points out there at the end. Statistical dead heat with Obama and Clinton. There is a 3 percent margin of error, so 39 and 42 and 43. So, he's kind of in that same shot group.

I would be more interested to see what the numbers look like. What are the numbers in Macomb County, Michigan, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania?

Those are the places that are going to swing this election and are really going to tell the tale. We're going to lose -- this campaign is going to lose terribly in California and New York. Right? That is no surprise.

How are we going to do in those bubble places that are really going to predict the election? That is what I would like to see.

TAPPER: What do you think, Paul?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What won the election -- well, he lost the election, but what got him installed in the White House were two...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: He won the electoral vote.

BEGALA: He lost the vote, the popular vote, and we should never forget that.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: That's not how we do it in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I understand. It's also we don't have the FBI intervene in this country, and they did, not that I'm better.

TAPPER: Moving forward...

BEGALA: The issues on which he retreats to get that base are immigration and trade.

And he's desperately underwater on both. It's really interesting to me. He's at -- only 37 percent of Americans believe or approve of what he's doing on immigration.

And that's what he talked about last night in North Carolina, as you pointed out. That's what he closed the 2018 midterms with. It's not working, trade the same way. A lot of Democrats voted for Trump because they liked his position on trade. They wanted a more hawkish position on trade. It's not working right now.

The number -- all these numbers are terrible for Trump, but the most important number is good for him. And that is 420. That's how many days until Donald Trump faces the electorate.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: How many -- 42 Scaramuccis?

TAPPER: Yes.

BEGALA: I mean, come on. He's got all the time in the world.

URBAN: And one billion dollars. Let's not forget one billion.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: One billion to spend on an election.

BEGALA: Right.

TAPPER: And, Jackie, when it comes to President Trump's campaign promises, 43 percent say they think he's doing a good job keeping them.

That's down from 50 percent in April of this year, and that's down from 52 percent in October of last year. Even in polls where people didn't approve of President Trump, people were giving him credit for keeping his promises.

But now we have it down to 43 percent.

KUCINICH: Well, that's precisely why you see him trying to get out of foreign wars right now, why he's pushing all of this money and draining military projects to build the wall.

The promises made, promises kept is a great slogan. But as an incumbent president, you do sort of have to have receipts.

TAPPER: And as you note, 71 percent of the individuals in this poll say they don't trust what they hear from the White House.

And that's understandable, given the fact that the president says a lot of things that are not true, but that is a shocking number. That means that some of the people who think he's doing a good job and some of the people who want him reelected don't necessarily trust what they hear out of the White House.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right.

And so I guess that what that tells me is that, yes, they may not trust what he says out of the White House, but, as Paul, you mentioned, I mean, his base is very much with him, which is another number that this poll shows, which is 88 percent of Republicans support him.

And so that's why if he plays to that base, and is able to drive up turnout, it really is -- it always is -- is a game of margins in states like Nevada and states like Wisconsin, and whether or not Democrats can boost black voter turnout, which went down in states like that last election cycle.

TAPPER: And how big of a problem is that, if at all, do you think, the 71 percent who don't believe what's coming out of the White House?

URBAN: Look, I think it's all -- generally, polls will tell you time and time again people don't trust politicians in general, right? So I don't read too much into that, right?

I mean, I would like to see the sampling. Not to be too geeky, but the crosstabs here, where people were sampled, what the sample size looks like, how many Democrats, Republicans, where it's taken from.

[16:35:10]

But, no, it's obviously -- look, you want to be believed. You want to be likable. Everybody -- that's what you want your candidate to be. You want to position them as credible and likable. Right?

And so, to the extent polls say that that's not the case, that's a problem.

TAPPER: Paul, what would you tell the president if he had hired you, and you all of a sudden became a Republican overnight? Would you tell him talk more about the economy, tell the truth more?

I mean, what is the advice...

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Wait, hold on. That sounds like me.

TAPPER: These are things that David says.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Talk more about the economy, but I wouldn't scapegoat the Fed. Nobody knows what the Fed is.

I would really focus on China. They're an external threat. If you want to -- don't demagogue Mexico. Don't demagogue the French. Really focus on China. You could really rally a lot of people.

But he's hemorrhaging with independents. He's right where he needs to be with his party, as Laura points out, but he's lost one out of four independents, who we got in 2016. He beat Hillary Clinton among independents last time.

He's down. One out of four independents who voted for him has now quit on him. He has got to get them.

The way to do that is to go back to the position he had, for example, on gun control, minimum wage, infrastructure. There are all of these Democratic ideas that he claimed to have supported last time he ran.

I think that's why...

URBAN: These numbers will all change when there's somebody across the aisle, right, when there's another candidate.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: When there's an actual rival.

URBAN: Right? These numbers are going to change dramatically. So let's wait for that.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

For years, top-secret intelligence from a man close to Vladimir Putin. Up next, new exclusive CNN reporting on why President Trump was skeptical about all of it.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:55]

TAPPER: Our world lead now.

CNN has learned that President Trump has privately expressed opposition to the use of foreign spies who provide information to U.S. government intelligence agencies, arguing that those spies can damage his relationships with the leaders of those countries.

I want to bring in CNN Anchor and Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto, who broke the story today.

Jim, what are your sources telling you?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, multiple senior officials who served, I should note, under this president tell me that Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources, including overseas spies who provide the U.S. government with crucial information about countries hostile to the U.S.

In private, the president has said that foreign spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his own personal relationships with their leaders, the sources said.

The president -- quote -- "believes we shouldn't be doing that to each other," one former Trump administration official told CNN.

Now, in addition to his fear that such foreign intelligence sources will damage his own relationship with foreign leaders, Trump has expressed doubts about the credibility of the information they provide. Another former senior intelligence official told CNN that Trump -- quote -- "believes they are people who are selling out their country."

Now, remember, even in public, Trump has looked down on these crucial foreign assets, as they are known in the intelligence community. You may remember responding to reports that the CIA recruited Kim Jong- un's brother as an informant, this is what the president said at the time:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half-brother.

And I would tell him that would not happen under my -- under my auspices. That's for sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Remarkable for a U.S. president say the U.S. will not spy on its adversaries.

His skeptical view on foreign informants, it undermines one of the most essential ways that U.S. intelligence agencies gather information about U.S. adversaries, including analysis of their capabilities and their intentions.

Intelligence assessments of national security threats all typically depend on depend on a combination of both HUMINT intelligence, as these sources are called, but also signals intelligence. That would be intercepted communications, et cetera.

And, Jake, just imagine all the threats that depend on that kind of information, North Korean missiles and nuclear program, al Qaeda and ISIS threats, as well as things like, for instance, Russia's interference in the U.S. election.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

And joining me now is retired CIA and FBI Intelligence Analyst, Phil Mudd.

Phil, thanks for being here.

The president said that these foreign assets, as intelligence agencies call them, could jeopardize his relationships with world leaders. What do you make of that?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, let me get this straight.

The first thing you learn when you go to the FBI is, this city, that is, Washington, is swimming with Chinese and Russian agents spying on us every day. The president deals all the time with President Xi of China. He has a great bromance going with the Russian leadership.

If that's the issue, that is, that people spying on an adversary is an issue in the personal relationship, why is it that everybody spies on us and the president can go to Moscow and talk to the Russians and say the relationship is perfectly OK?

One quick final comment. If you're President Vladimir Putin and the president of the United States says, we won't spy on you, is that a sign of strength from the Americans or weakness? Remember, Putin's a KGB guy. I think he's looking at this and laughing.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you, practically speaking, how important are these sources of HUMINT intelligence, human intelligence, or HUMINT, as opposed to signals intelligence, which is phone calls that are overheard or e-mails that are intercepted?

MUDD: It's really hard -- let me make this basic -- to figure out what somebody thinks.

If I want to know what you think about CNN, I intercept your financial transactions, your e-mail, your texts. I still may not get information that says this is what Jake, thanks. I need somebody next to you who can get into conversations that you might have with that person that you would never put in a financial transaction or an e- mail.

Getting to what somebody thinks, you need humans for that.

TAPPER: All right, I want to go back to Jim Sciutto just to talk about that Russian spy that was extracted in 2017.

[16:45:00]

Jim, you have some new information?

SCIUTTO: That's right. Just about how high-level this spy was It was someone who had been providing information to the U.S. from more than a decade -- imagine that -- and who had reached the highest levels of Russia's own national security infrastructure which mirrors in some respects the U.S. national security council.

And this person had access to the Russian President himself including, Jake, note this, the remarkable ability I am told to take photographs of presidential documents. That information crucial to the Intel Community's assessment on Russian interference in the 2016 election including the Intel agencies finding that it was Vladimir Putin who directed that interference and that he did so to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks so much. Phil, let me ask you. How would the CIA even go about cultivating a spy who had such close access to Putin?

MUDD: I don't think you would cultivate someone with that access. You got to grow him. That is get somebody to junior level, you need a couple of aspects. You need motivation, somebody who wants to give up their country.

Remember, this person is going to be considered to be a traitor. You need also access to the individual. Do they travel overseas? Trying to meet him clandestinely in Moscow is going to be really difficult. So how can you talk to him to cultivate them over time if they're not traveling overseas?

And then the patience over years to watch somebody grow even if they're not in significant positions before so that they're at the place -- the place now where you can get access to Putin. That's incredible in the Intel world.

TAPPER: Phil Mudd, thanks so much. President Trump is about to face a big test in a traditionally red state. What it could mean for his chances in 2020, stay with us.

[16:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our "POLITICS LEAD" now, tonight, we could get a glimpse into the President's reelection chances. Voting is already underway in a race that's testing his strength. President Trump made a massive push in the historically Republican stronghold of North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District.

That seat has been held by Republicans since 1963. Trump won the district by 12 points in 2016. CNN's Ryan Nobles is in Charlotte, North Carolina, however. And Ryan, polls show the races remarkably close.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. We don't have a ton of public polling available on this race but both Democrat and Republican operatives concede that it is within the margin of error. And depending on the results tonight, this race which has already made history could make even more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: It's the last race of the 2018 election but it could also be the beginning of the story of the 2020 campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To stop the far left, you must vote in tomorrow's special elections.

NOBLES: The North Carolina Board of Elections forced to do over in the state's Ninth Congressional District because of a fraud investigation into an absentee ballot operation run by a GOP operative. That operative is now facing criminal charges. The candidate he was working for Mark Harris chose not to run again.

In his place, Republicans picked Dan Bishop, a conservative state senator perhaps best known for his lead role in passing the state's so-called bathroom bill that prevented transgender people from using the restroom of their choice.

Bishop is running in a ruby-red GOP district held by Republicans since the '60s and easily won by President Trump in 2016. And Trump is all in this time around.

TRUMP: You have a Democrat named Dan McCready and he wants open borders, he wants sanctuary cities.

NOBLES: The president rallied support for Bishop Monday night. Republicans also deploying the President's eldest son and Vice President Pence to drum up the vote. But Democrats see an opportunity. Dan McCready has been running non-stop for the seat for two years.

DAN MCCREADY (D-NC), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The easy thing to do when we saw that would have been to throw in the towel. I chose to fight.

NOBLES: He is a Marine Corps veteran promising a moderate agenda while keeping national Democrats at an arm's length.

MCCREADY: Democrat is not even supposed to be competitive in this district.

NOBLES: But that's not stopping the bishop campaign and Republican outside groups which have poured more than $6 million into the race from painting McCready as a Liberal.

TRUMP: Dan McCready was an ultra-liberal --

NOBLES: But McCready has plenty of financial support too. His campaign has raised nearly $5 million this year in an attempt to turn the seat blue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: And here in North Carolina, the polling locations have not necessarily been that busy but that might not mean that voter participation is low. That's because North Carolina has early voting and many voters here take full advantage of that opportunity.

Jake, the polls close here tonight at 7:30 and it could be a nail- biter. It might be a while before we know the results.

TAPPER: Ryan, I've seen both Republicans and Democrats kind of lowering the expectations game, but tell me why would Republicans downplay the significance of the race and its potential implications?

NOBLES: Well, first of all, Jake, there's so much more for them to lose here, right? This is a race that they're supposed to win. It's a district that Donald Trump won by 12 points, but also the dynamics are so different. You have the backdrop of this historic fraud investigation.

They don't want us to draw too many conclusions about what this could mean for 2020 especially if they end up on the losing end. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Nobles in the great state of North Carolina, thank you. Apple cooking up a new iPhone with new features that selfie-takers will love. That's next.

[16:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our "TECH LEAD" today, you can mark it like clockwork, three, two, one and there it is, your iPhone battery dying way too quickly which could only mean one thing, Apple has a new phone to sell you, the iPhone 11. The big feature, two cameras so you can take wider shots.

But if two is just not enough, Apple unveils the iPhone 11 Pro with three lenses which Twitter has decided to focus on, pun intended, comparing it to a stove top of the coconut and even a three-eyed raven. Both iPhones will be released on September 20th.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.