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President Trump Waves New York Goodbye; Trump to Read Ukraine Transcript to American People?. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 1, 2019 - 16:00   ET



BOB KEISER, FOUNDER, APK CHARITIES: We have folks all over the world, you know, serving our nation. So...

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: And we were -- we were reminded that, of course, again this week with what we learned of -- with the killing of al-Baghdadi.

Bob Keiser, Captain Reese, appreciate you both taking the time to join us and appreciate everything that you are doing. Thank you.

KEISER: Well, thank you.

HILL: "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It could be the first fireside chat where someone says out loud, "dot, dot, dot."

THE LEAD starts right now.

Story time with Trump. President Trump saying the whole impeachment push will backfire on Democrats, as he plans to take the fight right to the people and read the Ukraine call on live TV.

Plus, Mayor Pete's moment. An unknown until a few months ago, now in a tie for first in a brand-new Iowa poll and tonight what could be a make-or-break moment.

And he's here, there and everywhere. Vladimir Putin's growing influence around the globe, including on a possible collision course with the U.S. troops that Trump left in Syria.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake today.

And we begin with the politics lead. President Trump making a pitch to defend against impeachment and make the case for his reelection in 2020. President Trump seemingly arguing that not only did he do the -- do nothing wrong when it comes to the Ukraine scandal, but that it is just part of his unconventional style as a tough leader who gets things done.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, the president is now even suggesting that he may read the transcript of his infamous call with Ukraine's leader in a -- quote -- "fireside chat" on live television.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Those in favor, please say aye.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the heels of a House vote that could lead to his impeachment, President Trump is taking the defense strategy into his own hands.


COLLINS: Telling "The Washington Examiner" he's considering reading the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president as a fireside chat on live television.

His own aides have testified that they were alarmed by that call. Asked if he was being serious, Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham declined to offer any specifics.

GRISHAM: Sure. Absolutely.


GRISHAM: I don't have any timing.

COLLINS: Trump believes reading the call aloud will show people he acted appropriately. And as Democrats move to the next phase of impeachment, his campaign is fund-raising off it, bringing in $3 million online as the House of Representatives voted Thursday.

Trump says he believes this will backfire on Democrats. But a new poll from ABC and "The Washington Post" reveals Americans are sharply divided; 49 percent say he should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent say he shouldn't.

Despite those numbers, the White House says impeachment appears inevitable.

GRISHAM: We are prepared for an impeachment to happen, yes.

COLLINS: Exasperating his Republican allies, the president says his one-man war room doesn't need any help, telling "The Examiner": "I already have good people."

He's hired no new communications aides since Democrats launched their probe. And it's been 235 days since the last press briefing.

GRISHAM: Whenever it's time. I think, right now, we're doing just fine.

COLLINS: The stall in strategy is coming as House Democrats are preparing to take their investigation public, and Speaker Pelosi is defending her decision to move forward. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have no choice. We took an oath to

protect and defend our democracy. And that is what he has made an assault on. And if the Republicans have a higher loyalty to the president than they do to their oath of office, that's their problem.


COLLINS: Now, Brianna, in that interview, Pelosi emphasized that she doesn't think Democrats have made a decision yet about whether or not they're actually going to impeach the president.

That is something that seems to be a foregone conclusion back here at the White House. And all of this comes as the president is getting ready today for his first rally since the vote on the impeachment inquiry. That will happen in Mississippi tonight.

KEILAR: All right, we will be watching. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much at the White House for us.

And this new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll finds that the country is divided, it's pretty evenly, on whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 49 percent saying yes, 47 percent saying no.

So let's discuss this.

Jen Psaki, to you first.

How much work do Democrats have to do to convince Americans here?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, from where Democrats are sitting, 50 percent of the public or almost 50 percent of the public thinks the president of the United States should be impeached and removed from office.

Sometimes, we lose perspective, but that is a huge number. I think the question for them is, what is their ceiling? How high can they grow approval for impeachment and removal to be?

And Donald Trump certainly still has his loyal supporters, a percentage of the public. They're betting on the public hearings being an opportunity for the public to understand and learn and get to know what this is all about and for those numbers to rise.


But if it rises five points, five to 10 points, I mean, that's a huge number for the Democrats. It certainly wasn't where it was under Clinton impeachment, even though it's a different time.


The one thing I would say is, I think that the Clinton impeachment, while it's not apples to apples, because that was Ken Starr primarily driving the investigating, as opposed to the House. It showed that an investigation that began with the continuation of the Whitewater investigation -- that's why Ken Starr was named independent counsel and went through Vince Foster and eventually wound up at Monica Lewinsky.

If you focus on trying to focus on too many things at once, you can lose the public.


PSAKI: And that's a good lesson.

CILLIZZA: It's not an 80/20 issue, 80 percent of public -- I would be stunned if it was -- but 80 percent of public wants impeachment.

It's 49-43, 49-47, 50-43, which means it can change. It's not overwhelming. So I think you saw Nancy Pelosi say that to Bloomberg today. She said there's a law of diminishing returns, which is, how long do you keep this going? And how many strands do you try to pull in?

Because you can lose the public on something like that.

KEILAR: Let's talk about this poll.

If we try to compare best we can apples to apples, it's never exactly apples to apples. But in this same poll taken in December 1998, only 33 percent said that Clinton should be impeached and removed.

So, Bill, this 49 percent number is pretty significant. And yet I wonder if -- what's the critical number? What's critical mass?


I mean, the thing is, it has grown over the last three, four months. We're so used to poll numbers not changing much. Trump's numbers have been so sticky. And on typical issues, gun control, taxes or whatever, people have been talking about them for 10, 20, 30 years. So, of course, they don't change their mind overnight on them.

Impeachment, the Ukraine story broke, what was it, mid-September, right? And in those seven, eight weeks, seven weeks, I guess, it's -- the public opinion has moved more than one would expect, more than we have seen on most issues. And why?

Because people -- Democrats have done OK, I think, in terms of their messaging, and I think Speaker Pelosi has managed it well, but mostly it's the facts. Mostly, people keep learning new things.

And it turns out, gee, it is kind of as bad as I thought. And, secondly, I think it's the witnesses. We haven't heard the witnesses publicly yet. But this is not like Clinton and Lewinsky, where it was kind of a sordid tale, and not to blame other everyone involved, but, I mean, no one really felt good hearing about more details about that. Here, you have Colonel Vindman testifying that he was doing his duty

as a military officer. You have Bill Taylor, a 72-year-old extremely respected diplomat, testifying that he was doing his duty as -- they were all appalled by what they were seeing.

These aren't flaky people, people with grudges, people with partisan inclinations. So, if the entire national security apparatus of the government, the Defense Department lawyers are saying, where's the aid, we need the aid, if everyone is concerned, it makes it at least something worth being concerned about.

Whether people ultimately get to impeachment and removal is another question.

KEILAR: Seung Min, what do you think?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that that was sort of the case that Democrats who had been for impeachment far before the Ukraine issue broke had been making, that the most Democrats explain what is happening to the public, they could actually turn public opinion to their side.

And, now, it took something like this Ukraine issue to persuade Nancy Pelosi and a critical mass of House Democrats to get on board with, first of all, an impeachment inquiry, and it looks like an inevitable impeach -- or perhaps an impeachment at this point.

But it's going to be really up to Democrats to just keep making that public case.

And, meanwhile, you're going to have President Trump out there making his political case with the unique megaphone that he has, starting at the rally tonight, and continuing with a series of rallies next week.

Now he's talking about a potential reading of this transcript in the fireside chat sorts, which is such an interesting thing, because we were -- I spoke...

KEILAR: Interesting is one way to...


CILLIZZA: Very political.


KRISTOL: It's not going to happen.

KIM: But the transcript is something that he is fixated on right now.

I talked to a lot of Republican senators who were at this lunch with the president yesterday at the White House. And one consistent message from the president that the senators relayed to us was that he was really proud his decision to release that transcript, because he believes it exonerates him.


KRISTOL: Except here's the kernel of truth in it.

CILLIZZA: I mean, I think that is -- Seung Min is exactly right. I think that is crazy.

If you look at it, the only thing I can see is ,it doesn't say, hey, man, this is a straight of a quid pro quo. Short of that...


KRISTOL: But the sophisticated defense of Trump is going to become, he shot his mouth off. He blustered.

CILLIZZA: He was just talking.


KRISTOL: He's just talking. You can't impeach the guy on an offhand comment. Some other president probably made a comment to a foreign president.

But that's an attempt to therefore obfuscate the fact that there were a lot of deeds, a lot of actions that happened before and after that phone call, right? He fired the ambassador. He delayed the military aid, contrary to the recommendations of all the departments.


KRISTOL: I think it's important that people keep their focus on the broad spectrum of what Trump did, as well as said.

PSAKI: And I think, as Trump just keeps driving the public narrative here and the communications strategy, Republicans are going to become more and more uncomfortable.

They do not want him to do a prime-time reading of the notes of the transcript. They are not willing to -- they may make exactly the case Bill made, but they're not going to stand by the substance of this.


This becomes more and more difficult for them.

KEILAR: Even if he is -- he is the one-man war room, but you can now also call President Trump Florida man.


KEILAR: The lifelong New Yorker says he's moving to the Sunshine State. Will Fifth Avenue ever be the same?

And then, is Vladimir Putin playing a game of Risk with real consequences? The move that he's making even on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.


[16:15:00] KEILAR: The born and raised New Yorker who has built his brand on being a Manhattan entrepreneur is switching his primary residence from his Trump Tower penthouse to his Florida resort. President Trump saying that the switch is for tax purposes to which New York Governor Andrew Cuomo responded, "It's not like Trump paid taxes here anyway, he's all yours Florida." And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also tweeting, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Let's talk about this because, you know, so far he's not spent much time in New York. He's been up there, what, 20 days since becoming president, 99 in Florida. Are we surprised that he's deciding to do this Seung Min?

KIM: No, and you're right. He doesn't go up to New York very often. A lot of that, I mean, think of just the logistical reasons or logistical issues involved with having a president in such a big city. He is going up there this weekend so that will be a rare visit and overnighting at his home up there.

But the comments from the New York governor and the New York City mayor are just -- are pretty funny and also a reminder of a lot of how his antagonist in Congress.

I've actually held from New York. If you look at some of the key House chairman, especially some of the ones who've been led these investigations. You know, Jerry Nadler is from New York, Eliot Engel who's one of the lead of the three committees investigating -- or leading the impeachment inquiry is from New York. Nita Lowey who oversees Appropriation, that wall of his that he wants so much, she's also from New York and Chuck Schumer is from New York.

So, New York, a lot -- many more antagonists for President Trump in more ways than one.

Can you imagine life if he -- for him, what would it be like if he was in New York after leaving the presidency in this extremely liberal town?

PSAKI: No. I mean in addition to the antagonist in Congress, there are millions of New Yorkers who don't like Donald Trump. The vast majority of New Yorkers do not like Donald Trump, that's not something he is comfortable with or has lived through and that sort of in your face way. So it's not a surprise, I think to me at all.

CILLIZZA: It's-- no, it's not. And the taxing look is why NBA players, why the Miami Heat are always in the mix for every NBA guy who is a free agent because of the lack of taxes, them in taxes.

But I just -- New York is so core to kind of how he defines himself, right. He's a -- I build the biggest buildings, you know, it's like the whole opening to "The Apprentice," you know, all the big buildings and the helicopters. And he prides in something, the brashness and the kind of like, this is how we do it here in the big city. That I do think -- I mean, I get why he would not go back. But it is kind of -- it's so central to his personality.

KEILAR: So assuming he minimizes his time in New York as he has in the presidency in a way it's almost like an exile in a way.

KRISTOL: Yes, maybe he intends not to run in 2020. I'm just thinking the bright side of this. And he wants to make sure he got his, you know, Mar-a-Lago -- his Florida --

PSAKI: I don't think he'd moved to Florida if you're not running in 2020, but.

KRISTOL: Yes. No, because on the contrary was then you like he may even have to pay taxes or something like that once he's out of office and deal with law enforcement. And he's better off being in Florida. That's my contrary interpretation.

KEILAR: All right.

KRISTOL: He knows he's going to be impeached and removed from office or he's going to choose not to run in 2020 and is, therefore, decided it's Florida. Retiring, Florida, retiring.

KEILAR: We'll see if that flies, all right. He is in a statistical tie for first in a key early state and his last name isn't Sanders, Warren or Biden.



KEILAR: Tonight, at the same event that rocketed Barack Obama into the national spotlight in 2007, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg will try to capture some of the same magic.

A new poll out of Iowa shows he has a good start. Buttigieg's polling at 18 percent, sharing the top tier with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and also former Vice President Joe Biden. But as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports from Des Moines, there's still plenty of work for Buttigieg to do.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Change that America can believe in them.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: At this point in that presidential campaign, this 46-year-old senator from Illinois was still an underdog. Well behind Hillary Clinton but slowly starting to catch fire. This year the youngest candidate in the race is also on the move.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you ready to leap behind the reality show in Washington and change the channel to something we can all be proud of?

ZELENY: It's too soon to know if Pete Buttigieg will follow the rise of Barack Obama, but he is turning some of the same heads in Iowa like Terri and John Hale.

So does he remind you of Senator Obama?

TERRI HALE, IOWA VOTER: Absolutely. It is the intelligence, it is that cool composure. It's the ability to be presidential.

JOHN HALE, IOWA VOTER: He is catching on. The more people see him, the more people that support him.

ZELENY: It was 12 years ago when Obama's long shot candidacy turned a corner here, dazzling thousands of Democrats at the state party fall gala. This time the Hales are among many Obama admirers now on the Buttigieg bandwagon.

J. HALE: Pete and Obama both have a certain amount of pragmatism to them.

ZELENY: At a recent rally, Terri Hale introduced the South Bend mayor.

T. HALE: Right now, more Pete Buttigieg.

ZELENY: And she said, she felt like she did in 2007.


T. HALE: The energy and the excitement, and the positivity, and the hope, that's what I feel at events for Pete and I have not felt that since Barack Obama.

ZELENY: Buttigieg was also watching that race closely, volunteering for Obama in the final days of the Iowa contest.

BUTTIGIEG: It's what's going on on the ground and what kind of relationships you're forming, that serve you well when the caucus day actually rolls around.

ZELENY: No two campaigns or candidates are the same, yet both men represent a fresh face and are calling for change.

BUTTIGIEG: I believe that we need a new generation of leadership to step forward.

OBAMA: Same old Washington textbook campaigns just won't do in this election.

ZELENY: The Buttigieg campaign is embracing the comparisons, trying to use the $23 million cash on hand and momentum in the polls to build a modern day Obama-like operation.

Tommy Vietor, part of the Obama's original Iowa team says the burden is now on Buttigieg to meet these expectations.

TOMMY VIETOR, IOWA PRESS SECRETARY, OBAMA 2008 CAMPAIGN: Barack Obama came up as a grassroots organizer. And I think that made the whole campaign sort of make sense and flow from him, like it still remains to be seen if that's going to deliver on caucus day.

ZELENY: And that, of course, is the challenge facing the Buttigieg campaign here, Brianna. You could see behind me a lot of supporters are gathering here. There's a band, there's a bus. They are gearing up for that dinner tonight.

I can tell you after covering the Obama campaign, the campaign seem similar, the energy and the crowd seems similar, the candidates, of course, very different and it is a very different time.

But, Brianna, there are so many Obama alumni working on the Buttigieg campaign, many of them hope the same out come in three months. Of course, the voters will decide that. Brianna.


KEILAR: The poll is very interesting. Jeff Zeleny in Des Moines thank you for that report.

Jen Psaki, you worked obviously for former President Obama, is this a fair comparison?

PSAKI: You know, I think democrats have historically have loved the kind of intellectual, smart, young charismatic figures. Barack Obama was one, you could argue Bill Clinton was one, and Pete Buttigieg certainly is one as well.

And I think what the similarity is, there are a couple of similarities but one of them I would point to is that, when people go see him and they learn more about him and they hear him speak and watch his interviews, a lot of Democrats like what they have to see. So for him, the encouraging number in some of the polls is that two-thirds of Democrats in the Iowa caucus poll are willing to look at other options.

He's already high in the polls but I think his hope is to do what Barack Obama did, do what John Kerry also did, which is to kind of make a move when there's an opening. And there always as an opening in the Iowa caucus in the final months.

KEILAR: Let's look at the poll, brand-new Iowa poll out, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg and Biden, all there. And, you know, Chris, it seems like you look at that and say, OK, Warren, Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg, this is the thing we're keeping our eye on.

CILLIZZA: The fact I keep coming back to in reminding people, is Joe Biden spent eight years as the vice president of United States, 30 plus years in the Senate, and has been the front-runner effectively since the day he got into the race. He has less $9 million in the bank.

Pete Buttigieg, who is the South Bend, Indiana mayor has $23 million in the bank. I mean that, in and of itself, that stat is mind- blowing. This poll, I think, I'm with Jen.

I think if you look at this, you're thrilled if you're Pete Buttigieg not because you're in that top tier, although that certainly helpful, but because if you're not already for, certainly, Sanders or Biden, these are known commodities.

I mean, Biden has been around forever, Sanders ran last time. If you're not for them now, what's the message that convinces you to be for them. Whereas with Buttigieg, if you look at that poll, Biden, Warren, Sanders, all very known by voters. Buttigieg, much less known. That's great for him.

He's got the money to spend, to sell what is a pretty compelling life story up to this point.

KEILAR: Why do you think he's doing so well, SEUNG MIN?

KIM: Well, I think there's a number of reasons but I keep coming back to how he's been able to kind of really contrast himself with the front-runners and kind of punch up in necessary without turning off a lot of the voters.

I mean, I keep thinking back to the moment where Julian Castro went after Biden and won the debate, with a pretty not so subtle dig at his age. And that really was a liability for him.

But, you know, Buttigieg has been able to focus a little bit more in policy. He really went after Warren hard. And I believe in the last debate over the Medicare issue which I know we'll talk about later.

And that actually, he was seen as doing very well in that debate. I think what he's trying to do now is kind of seize sort of the Biden lane in terms of ideology and policy but with the fresh face added. And we see with the former vice president's decline in the polls, I think that's a lane that if Buttigieg does well that he could really capture.

KEILAR: So we've seen one of his struggles though, Bill, is African- American voters. He does pretty dismally with them. So you're seeing him do well in Iowa, but in an October Monmouth University Poll he had 3 percent support in South Carolina where there are many African- American voters, and it's essential that he appeal to this voting block.