Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Asked Woodward About Actions He Should Take Against COVID; Trump: Chemistry With Kim Jong-Un Like That Of Meeting A Woman; WH Dismisses Russian Claim Ukraine Plans Dirty Bomb Attack. Aired 9- 10p ET
Aired October 24, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're getting new insight into former President Trump's thinking, and attitude, during his years, in the White House.
Breaking from 50 years of tradition, celebrated journalist, Bob Woodward, is releasing recordings, from his 20 different interviews, with Trump, and issuing a warning, about his subject. Woodward says, one of the most striking themes, is the former President's inability to reflect and take action, on the Coronavirus crisis that was enveloping the country.
Listen to one of Woodward's exchanges, with Trump, in the summer of 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "THE TRUMP TAPES": Was there a moment in all of this, last two months, where you said to yourself, "Ah, this is the leadership test of a lifetime?"
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining us now, journalist, and Author of "The Trump Tapes," Bob Woodward.
And Bob, you're doing something, that, you've never done before, releasing the tapes, of your interviews, with Trump. And you said, hearing the audio, is more telling, than just seeing the words, written on paper. You describe Trump pounding in your ears.
And that "No," in that last exchange that we just played, the former President is almost yelling, "No," what you like he's angry.
WOODWARD: Well, and he's dismissing any responsibility he has. And that "No" is like a thunderclap. "I'm walking away from this."
If there was ever the leadership test of a lifetime, for the President, it was this Pandemic. It was a health and political crisis, like we've not seen in this country. And he walked away from it.
And, as you listen to these tapes, particularly on the virus, but on any subject? He kind of goes, from denial, to concealment, to the crime. I call it a crime, not telling the people that he had been warned that by his national security advisers, in the most vivid way, which is outlined in these tapes.
The interviews with them, where they are telling him - I've done - I've known 16 national security advisers, going back to Kissinger, and never once heard one come and tell the President, "This will be the biggest national security threat to your presidency." And it wasn't about China or Russia or Iran. It was about a domestic health crisis that he was covering up.
TAPPER: Yes. And that he spent the next few weeks, and months, pulling publicly.
This striking chain of events, in your tapes we played that you were just referring to? We played earlier the sound of National Security Advisor, Robert O'Brien, and the former Deputy National Security Adviser, Matthew Pottinger, talking about how they warned Trump, January 28th, 2020 that Coronavirus would be the greatest national security threat to his presidency (ph).
Two months, after he was warned, he had this conversation, with his son, Barron. Barron, young boy, 12 or 13, he was scared of the Pandemic.
Here's portions from that conversation, you had with Trump, about his conversations, with Barron, in March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODWARD: I wanted to capture the moment when your son, Barron, asked you about this.
TRUMP: Well, he's just turning 14, so he was 13.
In the White House, upstairs. In his bedroom. He said, "Dad what's going on?"
I said, it came out of China, Barron. Pure and simple. It came out of China. And it should've been stopped. And to be honest with you, Barron, they should've let it be known it was a problem two months earlier, and we wouldn't - the world would not - we have 141 countries have it now. And I said, the world wouldn't have a problem. We could've stopped it easily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now look obviously, the Chinese government, there is a lot of blame, to put, and assign, to the Chinese government.
But here he is telling Barron that he wishes he had known about the threat to Coronavirus, two months earlier. But Trump had been told about it literally two months earlier, in January! [21:20:00]
WOODWARD: Stunning! Absolutely. I mean, we, who are parents, know about that moment, when you go to the bedside, of a child, and there is that human interaction that should be built on proof.
But Trump is saying, "Oh, China, they could have stopped this two months ago." Trump could have stopped it two months ago!
When I'm doing this interview, with Trump, on March 19th? I had no idea. It took me about six weeks, to find out about the warning. And I found out from O'Brien and Pottinger, on May 1st. And when I heard that from them, I was as stunned as I've ever been, as a reporter. Because I go back and listen to this? And my God! Trump is coming, not just me, but his son.
WOODWARD: And he is laying out "Oh, this could have been fixed. The Chinese could have done something about it."
Donald Trump could have done something about it, by being honest, and warning the public that he, as president, has a constitutional and moral responsibility to do.
TAPPER: And then, there's this moment in April. April 5th, 2020. Trump asks you, what actions he should be taking to combat COVID. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Give me the list of the things you said. Did you write them down, or not?
WOODWARD: Yes, I wrote them all down.
TRUMP: Read 'em out. Go ahead, read 'em.
WOODWARD: OK, the first is testing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And then you go through your list of what you suggest. This is more than two months, since that stark warning, about the Pandemic, from National Security Adviser, O'Brien. The President is turning to you on what actions he should be taking. I mean, that must have had you worried about the state of the country--
WOODWARD: Well, well, yes. But he--
TAPPER: --the state of the response?
WOODWARD: He's not turning to me, frankly. I called him up. And between the period he'd close the country down, because of the virus, and this April 5th, conversation, I talked to Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, the other experts on this, and they said, they're meeting with Trump, he will not listen. He's got all these virus-deniers, in the room.
And I said, "What won't he listen about?" So they lay out a series of co-ordinations, and setting up airline rules, and defining simple things, like what is an essential worker? So, I realize I've got this information. They're telling me, Trump will not listen.
I realize I can talk to Trump. So, I spend about 15 minutes going through these. And then, at the end, he said, "Well, did you write them down?" And I went through them again, thinking he's going to do something. You know what he did? Absolutely zero.
WOODWARD: It was so sickening, to see he was not doing these things. And he lost the avenue of communication with the experts. I asked him, at one point, said, "Have you ever sat down with Dr. Fauci? He's the expert." And Trump says, "Oh, no, this is a busy White House."
Busy White House! Didn't have time to sit down! I mean, it's like the President of the United States, not talking to his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or the Commander.
WOODWARD: I mean, it's almost a minute. It really should be unbelievable. The problem is, it's exactly what happened, out of Trump's mouth.
TAPPER: Yes, all too believable.
Bob Woodward, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about.
Coming up, even more tapes, to back up why Bob says that Donald Trump poses a serious threat to democracy, what Trump told him, about our nuclear arsenal, and what worried him most, about Donald Trump's understanding, or lack thereof, of foreign policy. That's all next. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Bob Woodward has written, for decades, about presidents and, for years, about Donald Trump's cavalier attitude, toward national security, from discussing on the golf course, a drone strike, on an Iranian general, to the idea of pulling out of a trade deal, with South Korea.
But there's something about actually hearing Donald Trump openly discussing nuclear weapons system, secret ones, like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have built a weapons system that nobody's ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven't even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Bob Woodward is out with "The Trump Tapes." And he's back with us.
Bob, you looked into it, after Trump told you that. One of your sources told you he was surprised that Trump had disclosed the existence of this weapons system to you.
WOODWARD: Yes, I finally heard from somebody what it was. And it's true. Xi and Putin would not know about it. But why is Trump bragging about it?
Again, it's just this. What's the job of the President? The job of the President is to figure out - I once said to Trump, because he was kind of asking, "What do you think the President's job is?"
And I said, "It is to ascertain the next stage of good, for a majority of people in the country, not one party, or a bunch of interest groups, and then develop a comprehensive plan, and execute it." And he said, "Oh, that's good. That's great." Never did he do this.
WOODWARD: And it, we have - you can tell, in the tone of my voice, and the over-persistence of what I'm saying, this is dangerous. This is something, needs to be addressed in the most serious way.
TAPPER: Yes. And his disclosing that to you certainly puts a new light, on him having all those classified documents, in Mar-a-Lago for years.
I also want to play this exchange. You had this odd exchange, you had with Donald Trump, about Kim Jong-un. Let's roll that tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODWARD: The CIA says about Kim Jong-un that he's "cunning, crafty but ultimately stupid."
TRUMP: I disagree. He's cunning. He's crafty. And he's very smart. You know.
WOODWARD: Why does the CIA say that?
TRUMP: Because they don't know. OK? Because they don't know. They have no idea. I'm the only one that knows. I'm the only one he deals with. He won't deal with anybody else.
The word chemistry. You meet somebody and you have a good chemistry. You meet a woman.
TRUMP: In one second you know whether or not it's all going to happen.
WOODWARD: And is this all designed to drive Kim to the negotiating table?
TRUMP: No. No. It was designed for whatever reason, it was designed. Who knows? Instinctively. Let's talk instinct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It's such a strange exchange. I'm trying to listen, with an open mind. Maybe he understands something the CIA doesn't. Certainly they get things wrong all the time. But he doesn't provide any information.
And then, you're trying to understand. So, you're saying this about Kim Jong-un, and you have this chemistry, and the purpose is what? And he says, "It was designed for whatever reason, it was designed. Who knows? Instinctively. Let's talk instinct." There's no substance there at all!
WOODWARD: And here, he's saying his decision is instinct. And I kind of don't - I mean, what a casual way, as I point out, in one of my comment, 200 commentaries, in the audiobook, this traumatized his national security team.
Kim Jong-un, the thuggish leader, of North Korea, had nuclear weapons. He had missiles that he got from China - missile-launchers, from China. And then, he concealed them, and he hid them, in a way that the CIA was, "My God! This guy! If we ever have to have a war, some sort of nuclear exchange with him, he's really advanced."
And the Defense Secretary Mattis used to sleep in his gym clothes, because he knew, if a missile was coming to the United States, he would be called to an emergency conference.
And he - I asked Trump about this. He - Trump had given the authority, to Mattis, to shoot down an incoming missile, like that. Mattis was going to the National Cathedral, to pray, to make peace with his God, that as Defense Secretary, he might have to use nuclear weapons, to defend our country.
And this - the President's presentation on this is, "Well, it's instinct. Well, who knows?" I mean, come on! I baffle - I am increasingly baffled, the more I hear the casual disconnect, the sense he has, of obligation to himself, I guess, I mean, about Kim Jong-un.
WOODWARD: "I'm the only one that knows." I mean, come on!
I mean, I never heard - I've interviewed lots of presidents, and people, who work with them, and got notes, and transcripts of meetings, in the White House. Never heard another president, say anything like that on the - lots of big egos in the presidency.
TAPPER: Right, for sure. WOODWARD: Never heard one say, "I'm the only one that knows."
TAPPER: Yes, and also just the relationship for - not for negotiating, just for whatever who knows.
Bob, stay with us. I want to talk to you more.
Someone else is about to join us, the other half, of the legendary Woodward-Bernstein duo. Carl Bernstein's take on "The Trump Tapes," Trump's legal peril, much more. That's all next. Stay with us.
TAPPER: You can't accuse Woodward, of waiting, until after the Trump presidency, to sound alarms. In his 2018 book, "Fear," he wrote about Trump's desire, to assassinate Syria's President, quoting, Trump is telling his Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, "Let's effing kill him [Assad]! Let's go in. Let's kill the effing lot of them," unquote.
Now, Woodward points out, in his new "Washington Post" Op-Ed, quote, "In 2020, I ended "Rage" with the following sentence: "When his performance as president is taken in its entirety, I can reach only one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job." Two years later, I realize I didn't go far enough. Trump is an unparalleled danger."
Bob Woodward is back with me.
We're also joined by his legendary partner, from their days, at the "Washington Post," Carl Bernstein.
Bob, this is something I've never heard you say, in decades, of reading and watching you that one individual should not be president, poses a threat to the presidency. Why is Donald Trump such a unique threat that he's causing you to issue this warning?
WOODWARD: Well, first of all, he doesn't understand democracy. The country we have, the United States, was one of the rare countries, formed on an idea. And that idea is democracy. He doesn't understand that the January 6th committee has proven that. He does not understand that he's got to take care of the people. He's got to give them advice, warning. And he didn't do this.
Carl and I've been talking about this for 50 years since the Nixon case.
TAPPER: Carl, what's your take on Bob's work here, obviously, and the warning he's issuing?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: This is a level of transgression, by a President of the United States that is unique in our history. And that the power of listening to Trump, be negligent, with Bob, on the phone, the level of transgression, in every regard? He has no concern that is expressed at any moment for the well-being of the United States, or democracy, or democratic principles.
We wrote, in the 50th anniversary edition of "All the President's Men," a good deal, about this characteristic of Trump. And we quoted George Washington, in his farewell address, saying, the one weak spot in American democracy was if unprincipled men, sought to use the presidency, for their own ends, such as Trump has done.
When you hear Trump, on those tapes, talk about the Pandemic, you are listening to the President of the United States, commit negligent homicide, of hundreds of thousands of people, innocent victims, of his cover-up. It's unthinkable. And it's tape after tape after tape.
The Nixon tapes, very, very powerful, the recordings of Richard Nixon and his criminality.
This is even more so. And every media person needs to listen to these, every reporter, who covers the White House, every member of Congress, with an open mind, listen to a president, who wants to be in office, again, and is totally unfit, unprepared, no knowledge, of what he needs to do, and serve the country.
TAPPER: Bob, you've interviewed, covered, written books, about presidents, since Nixon. How was covering Donald Trump different from other presidents?
WOODWARD: Well, this, when I did the book "Rage," there are literally 90 pages, where I quote these conversations. They were out there, including all of the ones that we have played.
Earlier this year, I went back, with my wife, Elsa Walsh, and great assistant, Claire McMullen, and we listened to this, and we said, it's different. It thunders at you. And you see, in his tone, the continual effort, deny, conceal, to the point that I conclude, and I think, if the January 6th committee, was investigating the virus, and Trump, on some of these other issues, there would be other witnesses, who would tell us things that we don't know.
But what we know, in Trump's voice, and Carl said? I mean, it is, we'd spent all this time, and we spent 50 years, kind of redoing, learning new things, about Nixon, as tapes would come out, and there would be more histories. And that was criminal.
We'll never take Nixon off the hook. But Nixon never plotted against his own people. Yes, he did, in the crimes of Watergate, and the espionage, and sabotage campaign. But he - I've never heard anything, where he would say, "Oh, well, we're not going to worry about like the health of the people that he was president enough."
WOODWARD: And this is what Trump is doing.
TAPPER: And Carl, after years, and Bob's reporting, on the Trump presidency, watching the Capitol attack, and the hearings, from the January 6th committee, do you think the Justice Department will indict the former President, Carl?
BERNSTEIN: I have no crystal ball. But what's very clear is that the proof is there already, just in terms of what the January 6 committee has developed. And hopefully, we have an Attorney General and a system in place, in the Justice Department that will allow the indictment of a former President of the United States, for his crimes, against the United States.
No president has ever committed these kinds and level of crimes, against the United States. Let's just stop, and imagine, a president, who refuses to leave office, who finds the weak spot, a law that says--
BERNSTEIN: --you have to have the election of the president, on January 6th, and then sets up literally, a physical barrier, to prevent that from happening. And we watch, on real-time, recordings, the members of Congress running, hiding, seeking shelter, from the President of the United States, and his minions, determined to overturn the free electoral process.
BERNSTEIN: It's time, members of Congress, particularly, and people, in the Justice Department, look at this evidence, dispassionately. And then, there is only one conclusion about Donald Trump, being the President of the United States, what he has committed, and where he has promised to go again.
TAPPER: Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, thank you so much.
And Bob Woodward's audiobook "The Trump Tapes" will be available tomorrow.
WOODWARD: Thank you.
TAPPER: Be sure to listen. It is some shocking stuff.
Coming up, more dirty tricks, concerns that Putin is cooking up a false-flag operation, to escalate his war, against Ukraine. Would Moscow actually unleash a dirty bomb, and then blame Ukraine, for it?
Insight, ahead, from the ranking Republican, on the House Intelligence Committee, who just returned, from Ukraine, and met, with President Zelenskyy. That's next.
TAPPER: To Vladimir Putin's war, on Ukraine, now.
The White House and NATO are dismissing Russia's claim that Ukraine is planning on setting off a so-called "Dirty bomb," in its own territory, so they can blame it on Russia. A dirty bomb is a mix of explosives, such as dynamite, radioactive materials. NATO Secretary General rejected the Russian accusation, stressing that Russia must not use it as a pretext, for escalation.
On Friday, a bipartisan congressional delegation, traveled from the United States, to Ukraine, for a secret visit, with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. Among the Americans, the ranking Republican, on the House Intelligence Committee, Ohio congressman, Mike Turner.
Congressman Turner joins us now, live, here in studio.
Thanks for being here, Congressman. Appreciate it.
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Thanks.
TAPPER: So, what did you speak to Zelenskyy about? What's his main concern, right now, heading into the winter?
TURNER: Right. So, we're all members of the Intelligence Committee, so. And I'm a member of the Armed Services Committee. Our first task was to look at the coordination of the assistance that they're receiving, the weapon systems, coordination of Intelligence, and to get an update on the status of the conflict.
The reports are real, that they are making - Ukraine is making gains against Russia, in the east. And that the projections are, before the winter, they could take Russia back to its border, pre this incursion, and up to Crimea.
That has resulted, in addition to the Crimean Bridge, being attacked, with this new threat, of Russia, using missiles, trying to take out the infrastructure, in Ukraine, and the Iranian drones.
We stood next to the power plant, in Kyiv. There's only one that Russia has been attempting to hit, that would take out the electrical power, in Kyiv. And they've hit all the buildings around it, but not it. But they're continuing to try to target it.
What President Zelenskyy is asking for, and what we're trying and, I think, the United States is diligently trying, even with our NATO allies, to put together, is some sort of air defense that would allow them to respond to this new threat, of the Iranian drones, and these missiles, to try to preserve their infrastructure, as they go into the winter.
TAPPER: Is there a willingness to do that? Is there something the United States can provide? I know that there's - the Biden administration has been cautious, about what they give to Ukraine, because they don't want to escalate matters, further, with Russia. Is there a solution to this problem with the Iranian drones?
TURNER: I think there is, both with, some of our allies, some of our NATO partners. Obviously, there's some systems of the United States that are too exquisite, too elaborate, to be able to put in this situation. But, I think, there is an ability, to try to assist them. Trying to figure that out, I think, is right now, what our main task, for our Military leaders are.
TAPPER: What about this idea that Russia might explode a dirty bomb, in Ukraine, so as to blame, and then, and use it as a pretext, to attack Ukraine, even further, a false-flag operation?
TURNER: Sure. Well, Russia has a number, as you know, of tactical nuclear weapons. That would be much easier for them to use. It would be harder for them to configure a dirty bomb. But, at the same time, the same effect can be achieved with their targeting, the nuclear power plant, in Ukraine that they have shelled previously, they currently control.
TAPPER: Is that the one in Zaporizhzhia?
TURNER: Yes. They currently control.
TURNER: Anything catastrophic, there, would be devastating, both to Ukraine, and a lot of Europe.
TAPPER: So, as you note, Iran has been providing Russia with drones that they've been using largely against Ukrainian civilian population. President Zelenskyy suggested Russia could also be assisting Iran, with Iran's nuclear program, in return. Is there Intelligence at all that supports this idea that there's a quid pro quo going on here?
TURNER: There's certainly extensive cooperation that's going on. And you see it with Russia and in Syria and Iran. You see it now, with well actually direct aid between - and coordination between Russia and Iran, but then also now with Iran assisting Russia.
I think what's really important about this is it gives a real opportunity, for Israel, to change its position, where it has stayed out of this conflict, to say, "Wait a minute. We now have Iran that's engaging against allies that are Israeli allies, including United States."
They have certainly a long-term benefit of us all being able to defeat Iranian systems. So, I think this is a real opportunity, for them, to reevaluate the neutrality that they've had, and enter this conflict, defensibly, to help even in the air defense system that Zelenskyy is asking for.
TAPPER: Yes. Zelenskyy has been critical of Israel, for not doing more, to help.
Today, you suggested that Republicans, in the House, will resist a large Ukraine funding package, if Democrats include with it, a host of unrelated spending measures. McCarthy had said something similar, maybe not as nuanced as what you said.
But it does seem to put House Republicans, at odds, at least to a degree, with Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republicans, who said "The Biden Administration and our allies need to do more to supply the tools Ukraine needs to thwart Russian aggression. It is obvious this must include additional air defenses, long-range fires, and humanitarian and economic support to help this war-torn country endure" this "coming winter."
Do you disagree with Mitch McConnell?
TURNER: Well, I think, it's one of how much does it cost for us to get $1 to Ukraine. I actually had this conversation with President Zelenskyy. He raised the issue, "After the election, will there be a difference?"
He's very much aware that the last big bill that was passed in the House was $40 billion, to send $8 billion to Ukraine. We've also spent a tremendous amount of humanitarian aid that we sent to the United Nations, instead of sending it to Ukraine, at an unbelievable markup cost.
So, I think, what we need to do, especially since this appears, because Ukraine is being successful, because our weapons are allowing them to be successful, and this conflict is not likely to wane? And we really need to evaluate, how do we make the conduit, of getting $1 to President Zelenskyy, cheaper, and get that weapon, in his hands, quickly, and so it can be employed against Russians?
TAPPER: All right, the ranking Republican, on the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, thank you so much for being here.
TURNER: Thank you.
TAPPER: Really appreciate it, sir.
We'll be right back.
TAPPER: Thank you so much, for joining us, tonight. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the TikTok, @jaketapper.
Our coverage now continues, with the magnificent Laura Coates, and the splendid, splendid Alisyn Camerota.
Hey, Laura? Hey, Alisyn? How you guys doing?
LAURA COATES, CNN CO-HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Hello?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN CO-HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Hey, Jake?
COATES: You got two splendids!
COATES: I'm not taking it personally.
CAMEROTA: I did. That was splendid squared!
Jake, fascinating conversation, with Bob Woodward.
Isn't it fascinating, how Donald Trump keeps agreeing, to be interviewed, by Bob Woodward, but then is often annoyed at having been interviewed by Bob Woodward?