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Russia Jokes About Election Interference; Roger Stone Declines To Testify; Buttigieg, Biden, Warren, In Top Tier Of New Iowa Poll; Supreme Court Justices Struggling With DACA After Hearing Arguments Today; Supreme Court Allows Sandy Hook Families To Sue Gun Maker. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 12, 2019 - 16:30   ET




SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was redacted because Stone's case was ongoing.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Stone bragged about his contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation. But there's no telling what the October surprise may be.

MURRAY: He later walked those claims back and said he never communicated directly with Assange. When he testified before the House Intelligence Committee, he claimed he used intermediaries.

In January, Stone was arrested in a pre-dawn raid at his Florida home. He was charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee, obstructing those proceedings and witness tampering.

He pleaded not guilty to all seven charges he faces.


MURRAY: Now, Roger Stone will not be testifying in his own defense. Instead, his legal team have played some audio today, nearly an hour of Roger Stone, when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee that he's accused of lying to.

In that testimony before lawmakers, he insisted he never colluded with any Russians. And this could move speedily from here, Jake. We're expecting closing arguments from both sides tomorrow.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Oh, wow. That was quick.

Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams joins me now. And, Elliot, it does seem like the prosecution is focusing as much, if not more, on Donald Trump, President Trump's connection to WikiLeaks, as much as Roger Stone's.


And it's remarkable when you think about -- remember the Paul Manafort trial a couple months ago, where Donald Trump wasn't even a factor there. We never heard anything about Donald Trump. He was sort of the elephant in the room.

Here, it's as if Donald Trump is one of the parties to this trial. And so, to some extent, the prosecutors really are bringing up information about Donald Trump to sort of make clear what Stone's connection to him might have been.

TAPPER: But is that, do you think, in a way -- in an effort to kind of poison the mind of a Washington, D.C., jury, the idea being they probably don't like Donald Trump, given that this is a very Democratic -- capital D -- city, and they read the papers and maybe they see this as a way to get him if?

WILLIAMS: I were one for conspiracy theories, I'd say yes, Jake.

But, no, I think, look, Paul Manafort trial was about his lobbying contacts. This is much more about stemming from the 2016 campaign and what Stone's relationship with WikiLeaks was there.

So I would stick to that. And I think that's probably much more likely here.

TAPPER: So Trump wrote in his written testimony to Mueller, because, remember, he wouldn't sit down with Mueller.

He wrote in his written testimony he did not recall any conversations about WikiLeaks. Now, Gates testified today that he did have conversations with Trump about it.

"I do not recall" is a pretty big umbrella.


Look, it's -- at a minimum, you have a conflict in the evidence here. At a maximum, you have the president of the United States lying.

Now, what's perplexing is that we know this would have been available to Robert Mueller at the time that he was preparing his report. So, number one, why didn't they attempt harder to get -- to secure the president's testimony, his live testimony?

If you remember, there was a year of trying to negotiate over the president's testimony. Then they ended up accepting these written answers that were sort of wishy-washy and heavily lawyered up.

So, unfortunately, that's what we're stuck with. And you know what? Maybe the president is lying. TAPPER: And let me ask you.

Stone's not testifying in his defense. Smart move?

WILLIAMS: Well, here's the thing. Every time you do a criminal trial, Jake, people come to you -- the jurors will even come to you afterwards and say, why didn't the defendant testify? If I were on trial for something, I would have testified to sort of clear my name.

It's his right as a defendant to not testify and we should support that. Now, look, he's Roger Stone. He's prone to puffery and big statements. So I don't think he would have done himself any favors if he did testify.

So let's support the fact that he didn't and move on.

TAPPER: A generous assessment of what Roger Stone does when he speaks publicly.

Elliot Williams, thanks so much.

Coming up: no laughing matter -- a top Russian official joking about his country meddling in the upcoming 2020 presidential election and laughing about a controversial Trump move.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: The world lead.

Russian leaders take so seriously the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Putin ordered election interference in 2016, it's now a common Kremlin punchline.

Today, in Paris, a reporter asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about next year's U.S. elections and -- well, take a listen.


QUESTION: The presidential elections are coming up in 2020. So how is Russia getting ready for that?

SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We will resolve the problem. Don't worry.



TAPPER: Hah, hah, hah, hah, hah.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow.

And, Fred, this is hardly the first time a top Russian official has joked about this.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you're absolutely right, Jake.

In fact, Vladimir Putin himself joked about this matter just a couple of weeks ago, when he said on a panel that, yes, of course, he would meddle once again in the 2020 election.

Sergei Lavrov there on that panel, he did obviously get a couple of laughs, as we heard. But, of course, this is an extremely serious matter, with U.S. intelligence officials and also social media companies saying that the Russians very much are at it again, that, for instance, the troll factory that was responsible for so much of the disinformation in 2016 has fired up that machine once again, and indeed has started a campaign once again.

And one of the things, Jake, that we're seeing that really seems to be emboldened in the Russians is the fact that President Trump has been very soft on them recently, in fact, handing the Kremlin one foreign policy victory after the next, nowhere more so than in Syria.

And one of the other things that the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, took a swipe at was America's policy in Syria.


Have a listen to what he said to that.


LAVROV: They tried to negotiate with Turkey. And then they said, OK, we cannot reach the deal. So, Kurds, you're on your own. We are leaving.

Then, after they left the Kurds and left Syria, they said, OK, we don't have any more -- any more obligations in front of the Kurds. But we are coming back for oil, not for the Kurds.

It's an interesting zigzagging, you know?


PLEITGEN: So, you have Sergei Lavrov clearly rejoicing in some of the foreign policy confusion there on the part of the Trump administration.

One of the interesting things, though, that we keep seeing here from Russia -- we can't say this often enough -- is that they very often criticize the U.S., in fact, rip into the U.S., very seldom criticize President Trump himself -- Jake.

TAPPER: Interesting.

Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in Phil Mudd. He is a former CIA and FBI official. Phil, first of all, your reaction to Sergei Lavrov kind of laughing the idea of Russian election interference and mocking Trump's foreign policy in Northern Syria?


Look, he's almost 70 years old, Lavrov, one of the best diplomats around the planet. He saw the decline of the Soviet Union decades ago. He was humiliated as the Russian U.N. rep when we said, forget about Russia in the invasion to Iraq. We're going in anyway.

And now Russian foreign policy once smelled like dog manure. It smells like roses now. Syria, they look good. Crimea, fine. Ukraine, fine. Russian interference the American election, the president says, I don't care.

NATO, which is the bulwark, the Western bulwark after World War II against Russia, the president says, not interested.

So if I were Sergei Lavrov, nearly 70, I'd say things are smelling like roses for me.

TAPPER: I want to ask you, because testimony from the impeachment inquiry came out this week showing that President Trump apparently saw a report on CNN about the U.S. Navy taking on aggression from Russia.

Here's a bit of CNN's reporting from that time:


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And another American Navy ship is about to steam into the Black Sea off Ukraine.

MICHAEL CARPENTER, FORMER NSC OFFICIAL: The U.S. is sailing in the Black Sea to demonstrate that this is not Putin's lake, that he does not own the waters of the Black Sea.


TAPPER: So Trump administration official Christopher Anderson testified that he had heard from the national security adviser, John Bolton, that President Trump was upset that the U.S. Navy operation was pushing back on Russia, so upset, he called National Security Adviser John Bolton at home.

Anderson said -- quote -- "There was a news report on CNN. And then the White House asked the Navy to cancel that."

What's your reaction?

MUDD: Well, I can't figure this one out. I mean, this has transitioned from a little bit unusual to really odd.

This is like writing a $20 check. It's not a big deal. The U.S. forever -- and look at what the U.S. has done recently against the Chinese in the South China Sea. The U.S. forever has ensured freedom of navigation.

That is, in various parts of world, like parts of the ocean that the Russians operate in, parts that the Chinese operate in, the U.S. Navy says we're going to make sure that we can keep operating.

The president I think in most cases would simply say either, big deal, go ahead and do a $20 check, or doesn't even know about it, and sees about it -- sees it on CNN. So the point is, why the heck does he cancel a $20 check? I don't really understand. This is not a big deal for the U.S. to do this.

TAPPER: There's another example that came out. Another witness testified that the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, put a hold on those Javelin missiles headed from the U.S. to Ukraine, thinking -- quote -- "Russia would react negatively."

Note the coincidence -- coincidences. What's with all this trying to assuage Russia?

MUDD: Well, you're going to cancel me because I have a theory on this. It's pretty straightforward.

Look, I think -- and people like the secretary of state, the former spokesperson Sarah Sanders had said this. They have talked about almost that they think the president was divinely ordained to rule, that this is his moment in time.

I think the president, if you look at his ego, thinks it's his time as well. So what's wrong with the Russians interfering in helping to ensure that the president continues in office? Why alienate them when they help you at the polls?

I think it's as simple as that. They play to the president's ego, and he says, thanks. I'm not going to interfere in your turf.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mudd, thank you. I'm not going to cancel you.


MUDD: Thank you.

TAPPER: Phil Mudd, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up: the new numbers out of Iowa that are a surprise both for Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with the "2020 LEAD." And the youngest candidate in the presidential race is surely smiling today as he reads a brand-new poll from the crucial early state of Iowa. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 22 percent, former Vice President Joe Biden at 19 percent, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 18 percent, all within the margin of error for the top spot.

Senator Bernie Sanders at 13 percent, Amy Klobuchar at five percent, the only other candidates polling at or above five percent. And as Biden loses his once solid front-runner status, he is sharpening attacks against Elizabeth Warren saying this during a CNN town hall.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What specifically is elitist about how she's pursuing Medicare for all?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That attitude that we know better than ordinary people what's in their interest. I know more than you. Let me tell you what to do. And it wasn't she is elitist, the attitude is elitist.


TAPPER: Let's chew over all this. You're the Democrat at the table, let me ask you, what do you make of Joe Biden attacking Elizabeth Warren's attitude, not her as elitist?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a little thin at times. But the point that he was making, I thought he did a better job last night in the town hall than he has previously. That is how a lot of people feel about health care. That is what they're very afraid of is the idea of you're going to tell me what my healthcare is going to be like, and I'm not going to have any choice. And you're going to take away what I have now, even if I don't love it, it was my choice.

So he's not completely wrong in what he's saying. It just hasn't always come out -- we've said this before. It doesn't always come out as eloquently as perhaps it should in terms of landing the hit.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But it's an attack that hasn't worked on Elizabeth Warren in the past. It's one that Scott Brown made. Actually, Biden was using similar words to what Scott Brown said in the senate race against Elizabeth Warren. And it failed that throughout her political career. But this has been something been a knock on her.

Whether it appeals to a broader electorate, that is something we haven't seen yet. But this has been tried and it's failed.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: It's also an attack that was used against Obama, not just in '08 but also in 2012.

TAPPER: Elitist, yes, sure.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Clinton used it against Obama repeatedly, you know, playing up the universities that he went to. So I just find it interesting that Biden has decided to latch on to this and use it against Warren. TAPPER: Congressman Dent, let me ask you because you're from a swing

area of Pennsylvania. Pete Buttigieg is showing a lot of strength in this new poll out of Iowa. Do you think he could play -- I'm sure you think Joe Biden could play because he's from Scranton, and he was like, basically the third senator from the state for years -- from the Commonwealth rather, do you think that Pete Buttigieg could play in Pennsylvania?

CHARLIE DENT, FORMER REPRESENTATIVE OF PENNSYLVANIA: I do. His tone and his temperament, he's trying to take that center-left lane so I think there's a lot there. And I think -- what's happening I think, in this whole Democratic primary is you know, Bloomberg, and Patrick -- they see him slipping.

And so -- and they see Buttigieg right now as the guy who's going to probably best move into that lane, and they're saying, hey, it should be me. And that's why I think they're jumping in because they all want to take -- they want to take shots at Elizabeth Warren who I think many of us would say would be a disaster for the Democrats if she were to be nominated. And she could make Trump's path to victory more likely.

BARRON-LOPEZ: I just going to say the big takeaway that I have from the Iowa poll is that three in ten caucus-goers say that they could change their minds. And that was the -- that's reflective of when I went to Iowa just last month, and there were voters who were at a Bernie rally, but said she was volunteering for Warren and said she may not make up her mind until the moment she walks into the room.

TAPPER: In February.


FINNEY: And that is actually what tends to happen as we know, in these caucus states, right. I mean, you sort of -- everybody goes to their corners, and then you start trying to convince the people in the other corner to come to your corner, and again, with it being so fluid. This is something we've seen over and over again, these polls. I suspect it's going to stay that way and people probably will just make up their minds at the last moment.

TAPPER: And it's -- and they say -- I want to bring you in here because it's not just about what poll numbers are, it's always about the trajectories, where are they going. And take a look at how things have changed in this Iowa poll in just the last few months. Buttigieg is now up 14 points, Sanders up five, Klobuchar up two. Warren down two, Biden down seven, Senator Kamala Harris down nine. So I mean --

BARRON-LOPEZ: Moving to Iowa isn't what it used to be.

TAPPER: Yes. So it's not just about where the numbers are, but where they're going.

KUCINICH: And where -- and how it matches up, I think with other states as well, kind of seeing the trajectory of each of the candidates. But Laura's absolutely right. Everyone is kind of trying on for size, these candidates, and you know, who -- and seeing if they fit, you know, their worldview and whether they can go up against President Trump.

But you mentioned Deval Patrick. I mean, nothing -- in my experience, nothing Democrat voters love more than private equity. So --

FINNEY: Yes, that's going to be real good, right? Let's talk about fame again.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, thanks once again. Why the Supreme Court's decision to not take up one case could be extremely damaging for gun makers. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" today, hundreds of activists and DREAMers chanted "home is here" as the Supreme Court heard arguments today that will ultimately determine if nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants could be deported. The so-called DREAMers were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents and given protections to remain in the U.S. under an Obama era program called DACA.

Eliana Fernandez walked 230 miles for nearly two weeks from New York to Washington to make her ploy.


ELIANA FERNANDEZ, PLAINTIFF IN DACA CASE: I hope that the justice is going to see our humanity, our worth, and now our contributions that we make to this country as the good Americans we are.


TAPPER: The key votes could be Chief Justice John Roberts and the Justice Brett Kavanaugh who today seems sympathetic to some of the Trump administration's arguments today. The case hinges on whether the Trump administration ended the DACA protections for valid reasons.

The Supreme Court issuing a major setback today for the gun industry announcing that it will not stop Sandy Hook families from suing Remington, the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15 style firearm used in the 2012 massacre. An attorney for the victim's family says Remington is trying to avoid accountability.

20 children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut in 2012. Because of current laws, many gun manufacturers are protected from wrongful death lawsuits. This case could allow victims' families to sue for damages. A spokesman from Remington could not be reached for comment.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I will see you tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.