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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
North Korea Nuclear Crisis; Republican Civil War; Trump Confirms JFK Files Will Be Released Tomorrow; Trump Lawyer Back on Capitol Hill After Contentious Hearing; Source: Clinton Camp & DNC Helped to Fund Trump Dossier. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired October 25, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump today blaming the press for making him look uncivil, presumably because we quote him and air video of him talking.
THE LEAD starts right now.
President Trump taking what looks like a victory lap, calling the Russia dossier fake and accusing the Obama administration of a Watergate-like scandal.
The president's personal lawyer back on the Hill right now after sources say things got contentious between him and lawmakers. What are things getting contentious about specifically?
Plus, the strongest threat about the deadliest bomb. North Korea telling CNN to take its latest threat to detonate an H-bomb above ground literally.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Well, we're going to start with the politics lead today.
Any moment now, we're expecting President Trump to arrive in Dallas, Texas, after getting a lot off his chest before he departed Washington. He address the remarkable one-two punch yesterday of two Republican senators who expressed grave concerns about the president's fitness for office.
Today, the president said there is in fact a great Republican unity. He blamed the media for complaints about him, saying that the press had made him out to look uncivil. He suggested the script has been flipped on the Russia dossier, noting new revelations that Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for that research.
The president claimed he was extremely nice to the widow of a soldier killed in Niger, seemingly disputing her own feelings when he said the president made her cry and disrespected her and that he could not remember her husband's name.
That, in turn, by the way, led the president today to call his memory -- quote -- "one of the great memories of all time."
He also said he was really smart and he reminded people that he went to an Ivy League school. It was essentially open mike night.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins me now live at the White House.
Jeff, for a man who was harshly criticized by two senators from his own party, President Trump seemed to be in a pretty good mood today.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He did, Jake. Open mike night or open mike afternoon with the Marine One in the backdrop there.
And this, of course, is one of the reasons the president was in a good mood. He believes he's been somewhat vindicated, particularly by this Russian dossier, and he was speaking out against the Republicans who spoke out against him yesterday. The question in all of this, though, does it matter to his agenda, which is still stalled in Congress?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have actually great unity in the Republican Party.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump insisting today the Republican Party is still one big tent, neither burdened nor broken by dissent. One day after receiving a bruising rebuke from two Republican senators, the president used those two words again and again, denying any divisions in the GOP ranks.
TRUMP: There's great unity in the Republican Party.
ZELENY: But that's not how all Republicans see it, After Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake delivered an extraordinary scolding of Mr. Trump.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I hope that we have reached a tipping point of some type, where we don't continue to normalize by being silent the kind of behavior that we have seen.
Mr. President, I rise today to say, enough.
ZELENY: After taking to the Senate floor to denounce the president's behavior as reckless, outrageous and undignified, Flake said it was time for Republicans to stand up to the White House.
FLAKE: We have challenges in this country that we have got to face, and unless the president is able to work with Congress on these things, then people aren't going to stand and say, you know, we're going to give you more time. At some point, there is a tipping point where we have to move on.
ZELENY: Yet there were a few signs today of a tipping point. Most rank-and-file Republicans and party leaders steered clear of joining Flake and Corker's bandwagon, even as the president piled on. "The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the race is very simple.
They had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt and wounded," the president tweeted.
Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN's Manu Raju that wasn't true.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: My numbers in the state were very, very strong. And so that's just not true. But look, you know, please. I don't really care what comes out of the White House.
ZELENY: Leaving the White House for a fund-raising trip today in Dallas, the president said Senate Republicans rallied around his tax plan while visiting their weekly lunch Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
TRUMP: It was almost a lovefest. Maybe it was a lovefest. But we had standing ovations. There is great unity.
ZELENY: All presidents, of course, get standing ovations, yet Trump touted his and took no responsibility for a lack of civility.
TRUMP: You know, people don't understand, I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I'm a very intelligent person. You know, the fact is, I think -- I really believe -- I think the press creates a different image of Donald Trump than the real person.
ZELENY: The president also blasting the Clinton campaign for paying for a now famous dossier, looking into any ties between his campaign and the Russian government.
TRUMP: The whole Russian thing is what it's turned out to be. This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election.
ZELENY: So, once again, the president trying to dismiss the entire Russia investigation and that dossier as a hoax.
But, Jake, as you know, months ago, CNN and others have confirmed that major parts of that dossier were, in fact, accurate. So the reality here, once again, the president trying to have his own reality, trying to suggest that this entire investigation on Capitol Hill and the special prosecutor simply are a hoax.
We know those investigations are going forward. The president arriving in Dallas today for a fund-raiser, Jake, but he's not selling his tax plan, once again almost going through the entire month of October only making one public appearance to sell that tax plan earlier this month, not doing it today. He's at a fund-raiser -- Jake.
TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us, thanks so much.
Let's digest this all with my political panel.
The president today saying that there is great unity in the Republican Party. You know, the fact remains that his former chief strategist Steve Bannon had declared war on Republican incumbents and is getting primary challengers to them.
The president, of course, had trouble getting his agenda passed, and even if a majority of Republicans have passed -- have been in favor of his legislation, it hasn't been enough. It does seem that it's not -- it might not be destroyed, but it does seem like there are some big divisions.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Republican voters are actually fairly unified. There are divisions within the party over certain issues like immigration, but on something like taxes, most Republican voters are pretty united.
On something like the president, most Republican voters like him. They think he's doing a pretty good job. So the party's voters are actually fairly unified. It's what we see here in Washington where a lot of Republican leaders are at odds with the White House over how you execute on this agenda and things like temperament, things like tone.
It seems the party leadership in Washington, of course, you're not imagining that, there is a lot of division and acrimony here, but among voters, most Republican voters like the president and want to see him do what it is he wants to do, even if the leaders on Capitol Hill are unclear what that is.
TAPPER: Is that really the division, Paris? The voters are where a they are, but it's actually just some of the Republican leaders, the Flakes and Corkers and the McCains of the world, that that's where this division is?
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, we have seen this division, what -- I would call it more of a disconnect all the way going back to the campaign.
But President Trump has always connected with the people. The one thing he knows about his base and the Republican voters is that he knows what they want to hear and what he needs to deliver. That is tax reform. That's infrastructure. That is doing positive things for the middle class in that tax reform bill.
So the division that you might see is a disconnect between what the people in the Beltway want, the establishment GOP in some instances, or some of the people who are not on team Trump, but at the end of the day, the American people that are the Republican voters, like you said, are with him and they support him and his agenda.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There is only so much good will that Republican voters will continue to put into the bank of Donald Trump. They would like to see substantive legislative wins. And this White House and this Congress has yet to identify substantive legislative wins. The House and now the Senate, it's on the line for the GOP, and because they have yet to get anything done, yes, Republican voters are feeling really nice and fuzzy about the president right now. But we're coming up soon on a year of him being in office, a year of Donald Trump in that White House with no legislative wins, no delivered promises to that really great Republican base that's got his back.
That spells trouble for GOP in the Senate and in the House and Donald Trump.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: The one thing that I think really perplexes me is the way that Democrats have responded to something like, say, Jeff Flake's speech yesterday in the Senate. It's a moment where you do have a Republican very prominently breaking with the White House.
And it certainly is not the majority of the party, but a very small piece of the Republican Party that looks at the president, is disappointed in him, is wondering is this a party where I have a home? That's a phrase Jeff Flake used.
And instead the DNC puts out a press release that basically slams Jeff Flake for having been too close to Trump.
SANDERS: And they should have.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: But I think that would have been an amazing opportunity for Democrats to go, you know what, Republicans, if you don't like what's going on in your party right now, why don't you come check us out? Why don't you come take a look?
SANDERS: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Instead, they just slam Jeff Flake, even though he's standing up and he's saying, look, I'm surrendering. This is no longer the party...
SANDERS: Jeff Flake is all talk and no action.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Opportunity to bring people over. They alienated...
SANDERS: First of all, I don't think Jeff Flake was jumping ship to the Democratic Party any time soon, first of all.
Secondly, Jeff Flake has voted lock and step with this White House. What has been is very vocal, but he hasn't put any action.
There is no -- I'm not patting anyone on the back and giving them cookies and cupcakes for quitting.
TAPPER: Hold on. Just let her finish.
SANDERS: So, Democrats are not -- Democrats did the right thing yesterday. The DNC came out on the right side of this issue. So did the DSCC and the DCCC, came out and said, look, I think it's nice Republicans are now saying what we have all known for months, but we need to put action behind these words.
TAPPER: I want to ask about something that President Trump said earlier today. He blamed the press for making him seem uncivil, saying that we're painting a picture of him that doesn't exist.
We put together a little montage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Would I approve water-boarding? You bet your ass I would approve it. You bet your ass.
But it's political bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Do you understand?
I would bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them.
They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.
Here is this guy, lying Ted Cruz. We don't want him. I mean, nobody likes him. I have never seen anything like that.
TRUMP: There is a guy, totally disruptive throwing punches. We're not allowed to punch back anymore. I would like to punch him in the face, I will tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Is it possible that he's responsible for some of the impression that he's uncivil, Paris?
DENNARD: Well, I think in fairness, the most -- majority, if not all of those, were taken from the campaign trail.
And I think that when you look at him as president, I don't think he has been uncivil. I think, in fairness, again, to the president and to the White House, those were clips. If you paint things in context, which you don't really have time to do, you get a different picture about it.
So I think that he is sort of right to say that there is a picture or a narrative that is played about him that I don't think is entirely fair. TAPPER: I mean, it's true that most of those clips were from the
campaign, but if I had done a montage like that of his tweets as president, I could have done a similar thing. He's done some nasty tweets.
SANDERS: He's done some very nasty tweets and he's attacked folks from his own party, not to mention Democrats, on Twitter.
And so Donald Trump has brought these things upon himself. A lot of his issues are self-inflicted wounds here. And he cannot continue to deflect and blame everyone else. At some point in time, he has to take responsibility.
And the American people are not stupid. They see the tweets. They see what he says. These are words coming out of Donald Trump's mouth, coming from his Twitter fingers. Stop tweeting if you don't want us talking about it.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: I don't think perception that he is uncivil is hurting him with his own base. For them, this is a feature, not a bug. They like that he punches back. They like that he doesn't sound like a normal politician.
If you're someone that listens to the rhetoric of the founding fathers and is very dismayed that you hear that sort of talk coming out of the White House, this isn't a very happy moment for you.
On the other hand, a lot of voters gravitated to him because he seems uncivil. You know, he's welcome to say, oh, the media's making me look worse than I am, and, frankly, a lot of people, I think, especially Trump supporters, would say that's fair, but they also know that he's not a nice, cuddly guy and that's part of why they like him.
TAPPER: They might like that video. They might like that montage.
Everyone, stick around. We have lots more to talk about, including a Trump associate on Capitol Hill now just a day after reportedly intense and contentious meetings with House Intelligence investigators involved in the Russia investigation.
And that story's next.
[16:16:35] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A live look at President Trump arriving at Dallas Love Field Airport where he is attending a private closed-door Republican fund-raiser. As he arrived, President Trump tweeted about the JFK files being released tomorrow -- kind of an auspicious moment to do it as he arrived in Dallas -- saying, quote, the long anticipated release of the JFK files will take place tomorrow.
So, interesting, the president authorized the release of the government files earlier this month, as was prescribed by previous legislation. But the president still has not made clear if he'll allow the full release or block from the public some of the files for national security reasons.
But now, let's got on to the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election. President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen met with the House Intelligence Committee again today. That follows a six-hour hearing yesterday which members described to CNN as very contentious. This all comes after the Senate Intelligence Committee delayed a highly public appearance by Mr. Cohen because Cohen ignored its request and issued a statement before the hearing.
CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us.
Manu, what are you hearing about those hearings which were behind closed doors?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, some members not getting as much information as they want. Yesterday's hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Cohen's lawyer objected to some lines of questioning that he believed were outside the scope of that investigation. And some members left feeling frustrated, not getting enough information. Others said that it was OK. It went fine. It went as expected.
Today, this happened as a staff committee meeting on the Senate side meeting with Michael Cohen, Michael Cohen's lawyers. I did speak to Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, who is not ruling out putting him before a public session in the coming days, Jake.
TAPPER: And where is the investigation headed now? The committee also met with President Trump's former campaign digital director Brad Parscale. And they're going to have meetings with executives of companies like Facebook and Twitter.
RAJU: Yes, that's right. And those Facebook and Twitter hearings are going to occur on November 1st. It's going to be very highly anticipated -- a new area of focus for this investigation. But Brad Parscale, the campaign's digital director, Jake, actually said behind closed doors he had no knowledge of the Russian efforts on those social media platforms and he denied having any collusions with the Russians as well, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju, thank you so much.
Now to more on that dossier of allegations made by Russians about alleged compromising information that they claimed to have on the president, a dossier that the president today called fake. A source tells CNN that research for the dossier was paid for in part by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee.
CNN's Pamela Brown joins me now to go over this story.
Pamela, when CNN first broke the story in January, the fact that the dossier, the contents of it had been briefed by intelligence chiefs to President Obama and President-elect Trump at the time, we reported, quote, that the memos originated as opposition research first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans and later by Democrats. Now we know who the Democrats were, the Clinton campaign significant specifically.
Tell us why that's significant.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's significant because it's the first time that we're learning about this direct connection between the Hillary Clinton campaign and the dossier with the revelation now that Marc Elias, the attorney for the Hillary Clinton campaign, as well as the DNC, paid Fusion GPS for oppo research on Donald Trump last spring which then later became the dossier.
And you already see Republicans, including President Trump, pouncing on this, saying that the dossier is incredible. This is just another reason why, because it was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
[16:20:01] As you noted, an anti-Trump Republican initially paid Fusion GPS, but it wasn't until after the Democrats started paying Fusion GPS that it hired Christopher Steele, that British intelligence officer, to begin collecting oppo research on Donald Trump which became the dossier that the lawyer says he never received a full version of the of the dossier during the election, never shopped it around to reporters.
TAPPER: The president today called the allegations in the dossier fake and certainly some of the more lurid charges in that dossier remained uncorroborated. But some of the details have been proven accurate.
BROWN: That's right. It has not been fully discredited as the president has said. In fact, intelligence officials have corroborated some of what has been in the dossier, some of the communications in the dossier, some of the Russian meddling that's mentioned, including the DNC hacks. And as we know, we -- they found it important enough to brief the president about it back in January.
That said, some of the more salacious allegations have not been corroborated to our knowledge. And we should point out that the dossier fuelled the investigations on the FBI side as well as on the Hill and Robert Mueller of the special counsel sent investigators over the summer to speak with Christopher Steele. Clearly, it's something that he was interested in.
TAPPER: Right. And Steele talked to him, although he wouldn't talk to Senate and House Intelligence Committee investigators.
BROWN: That is correct, yes.
TAPPER: Tell us about Cambridge Analytica. That's this data company that the Trump campaign used. You have some new reporting on that.
BROWN: That's right. Sources tell my colleague Dana Bash, that the head of Cambridge Analytica, this data firm working for the Trump campaign, actually reached out to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks during the campaign, asking him about the 33,000 e-mails that Hillary Clinton had deleted. He sent this e-mail to others, telling him he had reached out to Assange.
Now, on Twitter today, Assange acknowledged this, said it was true and said that he had rejected that request.
So, this is really the first -- this is the closest connection that we can make between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. As you know, WikiLeaks released the DNC-hacked e-mails, John Podesta's e-mails, but it's unclear if anyone ever got ahold of those 33,000 missing e-mails.
TAPPER: And people in the U.S. intelligence community, although Assange denies it, say that Assange has worked -- and WikiLeaks have worked with the Russian government.
BROWN: With the Russians. Yes, they believe they're a propaganda arm of the Russian government.
TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much.
TAPPER: We have lots more to talk about, including one Republican senator who says his peers need to, quote, shut up and do their job. That story next.
[16:26:40] TAPPER: Welcome back.
You see President Trump there greeting the crowd at Dallas Love Field. Adoring throngs as the 45th president of the United States checks in on his way to a fund-raiser this evening.
We're back with our politics lead and my panel.
We just told you about reporting from "The Washington Post" that confirmed by CNN and other outlets that it turns out that the Clinton campaign and the DNC were -- they helped hire and pay for the Russian dossier.
So, I wonder if you think that this is damning. It does seem like now we have the Clinton campaign and the DNC also paying for dirt on Donald Trump, just as we know that Donald Trump Jr. was willing to meet with a Russian lawyer that he was told had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, but I think this is a little bit different. So, opposition research is a part of a campaign. This is what happens. But opposition research is not going to a foreign entity, i.e. meeting with the Russians as Donald Trump Jr. did and trying to get information about their opponent.
So this is normal in a campaign, but we should not be concerned of who paid for this research or -- the real question is, is it true? And there are still real questions surrounding the Trump campaign's involvement in all of this. If they were, in fact, connected to the Russians, what the Russians actually did to meddle in our democratic process. And that's what we should be concerned with here.
I understand folks who don't understand how campaigns work and they think opposition research is damning when that's part of the game.
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think this is one of the unfortunate things about politics, is that we have -- they're forced to do things like this. But what it shows that there are a lot of questions. Why did we find out about this information through the media and not the Justice Department or through the FBI? Why are we just now finding out there was a Clinton connection to it, or that they paid for it?
So, if we want to move forward, we need just to be honest and be transparent. This is what you're going to do in politics. To be honest about it.
And at the end of the day, when you're looking at Russia -- look, we know the Clinton campaign has put out this narrative that they were running the perfect campaign and they did not do anything in terms of opposition research and negative things and doing all -- look, it turns out to be true. So, it goes back to the initial problem that people have with Secretary Clinton and it's about honesty, it's about being trustworthy say and, say they didn't do something it turns out they did.
It kind of comes back to President Trump saying, you know what, he was saying all along they had something to do with this and now turns out to be true.
SANDERS: I just like to note, I worked for Bernie Sanders. I don't think they ran a clean campaign.
SANDERS: I just want to be clear.
TAPPER: Do you think voters care about this issue, about the Russian interference in the election, about the dossier, about who paid for the dossier? Is that something -- does any of it matter to the American public?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think the day-to-day does not. I think the broader issue of did a foreign country try to meddle in our elections? Did a foreign country try to influence decision makers in the United States? Is a hostile foreign country trying to create chaos in America?
I think that does matter to people. I think it's very upsetting to people. I think particularly for Democrats, but now you've had a lot of folks on the right talking about this Uranium One story. Did Hillary Clinton get influenced by the Russians? It's become a bipartisan thing to talk about Putin's influence in America. So, I think broadly the idea that a hostile foreign country is trying
to meddle in the United States is unsettling to people, but I think the day-to-day, here is a new story about who paid for what memo and here's a new telltale that came out, I think a lot of that is kind of lost on most people who are worried about, how am I going to pay my bills? What's my tax bill is going to look like?