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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Did Donald Trump Knowingly Mock A Reporter's Disability?; Trump Continues To Appeal To Base Of Right-Wing Voters; Protesters Threaten To Disrupt Black Friday Shopping In Chicago. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 26, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Other survivors gave similar accounts, saying after the gunmen came through the front entrance and shot people there --

ISOBEL BOWDERY, BATACLAN ATTACK SURVIVOR: They moved upstairs by the stage onto the first level, and that's when they shot at the crowd. Anyone who moved was shot.

TODD: CNN counter-terrorism analyst, Phil Mudd, says given the meticulous planning of the Paris attacks and the operational security of the ISIS cells, the nature of the Bataclan assault was surprising.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: The attackers with were overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment. They just went in and shot everything they could find. The indiscriminate nature of this, to me, was striking.

TODD: Members of Eagles of Death Metal say they eventually got off stage, ran upstairs to a dressing room, then got out a side exit door. Amateur video of those moments shows how frantic people were to make it to those exits. While some scrambled out, others hung from window sills.

As he reflected on those moments, the band's co-founder told Vice he wants to be the first play at the le Bataclan when it reopens, and he'll always feel a strong connection with the fans inside the concert hall.

JESSE HUGHES, CO-FOUNDER, EAGLES OF DEATH METAL: The kids that there, I feel like we are in it together, especially now. And I really am grateful for that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The band's musicians made it out alive, but their merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, was killed. One band member says after he was shot, Alexander stayed quiet, didn't call out for help, because he didn't want to draw the terrorists attention and get anyone else hurt.

Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST HOST: Unbelivable, Brian.

We also know now the terrorists actually had aspirations to attack this theater long before this assault, right?

TODD: That's right. A source close to the investigation tells CNN that Fabian Clain, a top French-speaking ISIS militant -- there is a picture of him -- believed to be a ringleader of the Paris plot -- was involved in the threat against the Bataclan in 2009.

Clain had aspirations to attack the theater, were told, because it had Jewish owners at the time, who were involved in fundraising for Israeli border guards. So at least one ringleader of the cell had designs on that theater as long as six years ago.

KEILAR: All right. Brian Todd, thanks for that story.

And coming up, here's a question. Did Donald Trump knowingly mock a reporter's disability? The Republican presidential front runner speaking out about his latest campaign controversy.

Plus protesters threatening to disrupt Black Friday shopping. Will be getting a live update from Chicago on the anger and outrage over the police shooting that has an officer charged with murder.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Welcome back to CNN. I'm Brianna Keilar.

Did Donald Trump mock a reporter's physical disability? In a statement put out just a little while ago, Trump says he would never, ever, do such a thing. But at a Myrtle Beach event, Trump gesticulated while talking about a reporter, Serge Kovaleski, who has a condition that limits the movement and his arms.

In the new statement, Trump says I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovaleski, is, what he looks like, or his level of intelligence. Despite having one of the all-time great memories, I certainly do not remember him.

CNN's Athena Jones is back here with me in Washington. I know there's another statement, but also, Athena, just to give some context to this, this is a reporter who covered Trump for some time, right?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESONDENT: He did. This reporter, Serge Kovaleski, covered Trump when he worked at the New York daily news some time ago, and for quite a while, and that is to is at the center of this latest controversy.

But in this new statement, yet another statement, Trump is now demanding an apology from the New York Times, and he's accusing this reporter of "using his disability to grandstand." That's a quote, "using his disability to grandstand." This is just the latest dustup for the GOP front-runner.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

JONES: Donald Trump, under fire again, this time for seeming to mock a reporter's disability. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The poor guy, you have to see this guy. Oh, I don't know what I said. Oh, I don't remember. He's going, like, I don't remember. Maybe that's what I said.

JONES: New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski has a condition that causes contortions in his limbs. Trump this week has been citing a story Kovaleski wrote for the Washington Post in 2001 that referred to people allegedly seen celebrating the 9/11 attacks.

TRUMP: What happened? What happened?

JONES: But Kovaleski said this week that he did not recall finding, anyone who said there were thousands, or even hundreds of people celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers, as Trump has claimed.

Trump denies mocking Kovaleski, saying in a statement, in part, "If Mr. Kovaleski is handicapped, I would not know, because I do not know what he looks like. If I did know, I would definitely not say anything about his appearance."

Kovaleski previously worked at the New York Daily News where he covered Trump.

It's the latest eyebrow-raising moment for the GOP frontrunner, who said recently he wishes the election were next week.

TRUMP: I wish we could move this election up. You know, in a lot of countries, you're allowed to pick your date for the election. I want to pick my date for the election. I want it like next Tuesday. I want it on Tuesday.

JONES: Right now, polls show Trump leading nationally, and in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. But there's still more than two months before republican voters start making their picks.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not even at halftime yet. We have -- we have a long way to go. In all the primaries past, there's always been a moment where candidates that ultimately are the winner begin to surge.

JONES: But just how much could the race change between now and February first?

Around this time in 2011 --

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER Governor of Massachusetts: We need you to get out there and vote.

JONES: Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were battling it out for the lead nationally.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I am front runner or tied for front-runner.

JONES: Romney, the eventual nominee, was out front in New Hampshire.But in Iowa, Gingrich had a double digit lead over him. RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really do believe we will win Iowa.

JONES: And the eventual winner of the caucuses there, Rick Santorum, was languishing at just 5 percent.

In 2007, Huckabee and Romney were tussling for the top spot in Iowa, while Romney led in New Hampshire.And Rudy Giuliani was on top nationally.

Not in the lead? The eventual nominee, John McCain.

JOHN MCCAIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR: We sure showed them what a comeback looks like.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

Now in 2008 and in 2012, the Iowa Caucuses were held in early January. This year there's an extra month before voters begin making their choice, so that's more time for events, like the CNN debate next month and another matchup scheduled for late January to potentially shake up the race.

Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, and certainly, will see a lot of money coming into the race, then, as well, they could change how this all shakes out.

Athena Jones, thanks so much for that report.

I want to get more now on all of this with CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer. She is a conservative commentator. And we have Democratic strategist Jennice Fuentes.

So, Jennice, to you first. If any other candidate said what Donald Trump said, what would have happened to them?

JENNICE FUENTES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, obviously, it would've been the normal reaction they usually people have, but let's -- please do not forget that he cannot say anything racist enough and still lose his base of support. I think he appeals to a certain group of people that find his divisiveness and find his bulliness attractive right now.

But as earlier segment did point out, we are still very far away. So it's still -- we still have to see if his ceiling is really his ceiling, which I think he has hit his ceiling. I think as he continues to see that -- if you look at how people in -- for example, and focus groups think of him, they do like that he's direct, but they had that he's a bully.

And you have to say that he's been more and more attacked. And the more attacks he gets, the more he will react. And I think that reaction will turn up a lot of the core of the 50 percent of GOP voters who have not yet decided how they're going to vote.

KEILAR: Tara, what do you think?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that this is typical Trump. He's uncouth, unapologetic and a obnoxious, and people like that. You know, Jennice is correct in that, that the people who like Trump like the fact that he says to hell with political correctness. I'm going to say what I want.

Fortunately, that has -- that has changed the bar, the level of decency. It's lowered its considerably. Because I think, you know, and going on in continuing these antics and making fun of people's looks, their handicaps, their weight, their face -- I mean, this is comedy routine and not very presidential. But at some point, I think, it will reach a point where people are going to have to decide when they pulled the lever is this someone we actually want to be President of the United States.

Now, we've seen Trump level off for a little bit, but recently, in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris, his numbers have started to go back up again. Because you had President Obama -- the juxtaposition between President Obama, who is so weak and so passive on things that Americans are looking at this going this guy is incompetent. What is going on?

And then you have Trump come in and say, well, we're going to win, and we're going to blast ISIS back to hell. So people look at him and they say, yes, yes, that's who we want, forgiving him for all of his other transgressions, which, I think, is not necessarily good.

KEILAR: Jennice, one of the really fascinating parts of Athen's report there was that she sort of lays out the state of the race here on Thanksgiving, keeping in mind that some of the dates for these early contests have changed since 2008 and 2012.

But 2012, Rudy Giuliani was leading nationwide. Mitt Romney was leading nationwide in 2012. Romney won the nomination. Giuliani completely, you know, cratered.

So the question, from your perspective, which one is Donald Trump?

FUENTES: I agree with Tara. He's unique in every way. But what you have to look at is why is he where he is. And it's -- if the percentage of the people who are xenophobic who feel that their ethnic and their identity is being threatened by ethnic and racial diversity -- if you look at who supports him, it's all the people who actually believe -- they actually support deporting 11 million documented immigrants. And it's the same people who do not support giving any relief to Syrian refugees.

Those people and offer more than 51 percent of the support of Trump. So this is the kind of mindset that regardless of how inevitable change is in the country and demographics and numbers show you that it is coming, they are not willing to accept it. And I do not think for a second that that reflects 100 percent of the GOP voter at all.

I agree also with a lot of what Ted Cruz is saying in terms of the tone matters, and he may be the remainder man here. He may be the man where everybody at the end of the day says this is the actual candidate that makes most sense because it represents me, he's not a bully, he's a little more classy, and he says things that actually represent what I believe in as a person, as a human and as a country.

KEILAR: And real quick. I do want to talk about maybe another alternative, which can be Marco Rubio, and specifically talking about same-sex marriage with you, Tara.

He said -- after the Supreme Court decision he said that, you know, basically, we must abide by the law and look ahead. But listen to what he told the Christian Broadcasting Network this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So it is incurrent law. It is not subtle law. No law is subtle.

So we are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God's rules. So when those two come in conflict, God's rules always win. If we're ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

KEILAR: So real quick, Tara, which is it? And might he in the general, if he gets that far, be accused of flip flopping?

SETMAYER: Just really quick, I found it interesting that Jennice said that people who are supportive of Trump are xenophobes because of his tough stance on illegal immigration, but yet Ted Cruz is pretty tough on illegal immigration also. It's not about that. People are just sick and tired of the -- of illegal immigration being shoved down their throats.

It's not about being a xenophobe. It's about being -- we want to follow the law. We want to secure the southern border. We don't want to flow -- well, a massive flow of illegal immigrants coming here, taking jobs from Americans, getting down wages, and you know, the host of other things that go along with illegal immigration.

It's about sovereignty, and it's about rule of law. So I think that that's an interesting perspective.

But about Marco Rubio...

KEILAR: And really quick, Tara, because I have like minus 15 second here...

FUENTES: Listen. This is an issue that Marco Rubio has to have some clarity on. You have to consider the audience on this. He has said that he feels as though that he is -- that the ruling in June was -- we're in a republic and that we have to respect it, but that doesn't mean you have -- that you can't nominate judges that could potentially overturn it and you can't have an activist court. So he's going to have to answer for it. That's what, you know,

campaigns are about. So there needs to be some clarity on that, but I think...

SETMAYER: Yes.

FUENTES: ...he'll do just fine.

KEILAR: A majority of independents are in favor of same-sex marriage, so we'll see how he explains that moving forward if he -- if he gets that far.

Tara Setmayer, Jennice Fuentes, thanks to both of you. Have a wonderful holiday.

And up next, there's a new video of the scene of of a deadly shooting that has a white Chicago police officer charged with murdering an African-American teenager.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: This just in to CNN. After some tense moments at the White House earlier when a fence jumper got onto the President's front law while the first family was celebrating Thanksgiving inside the residence. Now relearning the Secret Service has given all clear. Things at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, back to normal at this point in time.

Protesters are threatening to disrupt what Friday shopping tomorrow in Chicago where a white police officer has been charged with murder for the shooting death of a black teens. Disturbing dash cam video has sparked two nights of demonstrations.

And CNN's Rosa Flores is in Chicago for us with the latest.

Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, you know, until now we've seen about 200 protesters protest at one time. Now, they tell us that tomorrow on Black Friday that that is going to be different. Now, as you know, and Chicago's Magnificent Mile, there will be hundreds of stores open, thousands of shoppers, and demonstrators say that they will have a bigger group of protesters.

Now, we should add that the McDonald family, the administration here in the city, and also religious leaders, they're asking for calm. They are asking for peaceful protests. For the most part, that's what we've seen so far, and that's what they're calling for tomorrow.

As for Van Dyke, is expected to face a judge for another hearing on Monday.

Brianna?

KEILAR: And so he is expected at this point point to face a judge for another hearing. Do we know anything else about what is facing, or the latest, or what is ahead for him?

FLORES: Well, he is facing first-degree murder charges in the killing of Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old that we see in that very graphic video.

Now, the judge, during his first bond hearing said that he was not going to allow him to be on bail. He was not going to allow him to post bail -- that he wanted to see the video. So on Monday, the judge is expected to review this video and then determine if he will allow him to post bond at that point in time. So for now, he is in custody, and is expected to face a judge on Monday.

KEILAR: All right. We'll be watching. We know we'll be covering that.

Rosa Flores, thank you so much for your report.

And for millions of people, Black Friday is starting now. We'll show you which major retailers are open and why they're open so early.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: It is Black Friday, but it's also Thursday, so what's up with this, right? Some of the largest U.S. retailers are opening their doors today on Thanksgiving. You're looking right now at live pictures, some large crowds already at the Macy's flagship store there in New York's Herald Square where doors open in about an hour.

And CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik has the retail rundown for us.

Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna.

Just because it's Thanksgiving doesn't mean holiday shoppers are going to be taking the day off. And between today and Sunday the National Retail Federation says 136 million people are expected to get out there and shop. And several big-box stores are even opening today on Thanksgiving, as they're looking to get an early jump on the holiday shopping season.

Happening this hour, The Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic are open to customers to go ahead and get in there and shop. Also opening within the next few hours, Best Buy, Sears, Kmart, Macy's, Target and Walmart.

Now, part of the reason you're seeing these stores open on Thanksgiving is that some of these retailers are actually struggling. They want the extra business. The other reason? Despite all the outrage from those saying it ruins the Thanksgiving holiday, there's a real demand by consumers to have the stores open their doors on the holiday.

Interestingly enough, consumers are saving more than their spending these days. The savings rate in October hit its highest level in three years, but there's still plenty of money being spent. Just people aren't buying the little stuff, and instead, they are making big purchases like cars, homes, and they're spending on home improvement projects. So consumers are still out there spending, they're just spending differently.

Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Alison Kosik for us.

And be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @bkeilercnn.

That is it for this hour of CNN Newroom. You can stick around for Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown.

I hope you have a wonderful evening and a very happy Thanksgiving.