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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Paul Ryan, House GOP on Call to Discuss Dumping Trump; Clinton Fumbles Answer on Public/Private Positions on Issues; James Woolsey Discusses Trump/Pence Syria Position. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired October 10, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
Happening right now, Speaker Paul Ryan is holding a conference call with House Republicans which could determine if they stay or if they go when it comes to Donald Trump. Will more members of his party, including the speaker, maybe even himself, decide to drop Donald Trump?
It is amazing that this discussion is even happening 30 days out from this election. As you know, some two dozen Republicans have already pulled their support and several have now called on Donald Trump to drop out of the race. This followed the release of the 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape in which Donald Trump is heard bragging about groping women, language that he dismissed during last night's debate as locker room talk.
BERMAN: Let's go to our senior political reporter, Manu Raju, who covers Capitol Hill. He has been monitoring House Republicans all morning.
Manu, it's 11:00. Do you know where your House speaker is? What do you think is going to happen on this call that should be under way?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: They are probably just getting started right now. What we are hearing this morning in talking to Republican officials and sources, they are telling me they are expecting the Republican leadership to mostly stay behind -- stick behind Donald Trump. That means including Paul Ryan, the House speaker. I'm told by a Ryan official that there's been no change in Paul Ryan's position at this time. So what that means, Kate and John, is that he's still supporting Donald Trump. So of course, that's very significant after that very public rebuke on Saturday when Paul Ryan disinvited Donald Trump from coming to a unity rally in Wisconsin and after Donald Trump, of course, that videotape with very crude about him bragging about groping women, really putting his party on the defensive, and prompting a mass revolt among a lot of Republicans.
What has put the Republican leadership in a difficult spot, particularly on the House side, is a lot of these members are from districts with a lot of Trump supporters, so it's very difficult for the Republican leadership per se to completely abandon their nominee when their own conference, their members were running for re-election and need the Trump supporters in the fall.
So there's also, I'm told, Kate and John, some people are a little more relieved after last night's debate performance. They believe it shifted the narrative away from the videotape from over the weekend and perhaps rallied the base as well. That makes it much harder for Republican leaders to go against their base, especially if they are energized following Donald Trump's debate performance.
RAJU: But right now, Paul Ryan sticking with Donald Trump.
BERMAN: Manu, do you expect Paul Ryan to come out and say with actual out loud words at any point today that he is still planning to vote for Donald Trump?
RAJU: No guidance on that yet, John and Kate. What will be very interesting to see is the message that he delivers to his conference internally. We will be reporting on that throughout this hour. How much does he say, you know, we need to stick together or we need to get behind Donald Trump, or does he equivocate at all. For the last several weeks, he's talking about unified Republican government, pushing for party unification. Is that still his message? Or is it going to be an anti-Hillary Clinton message, saying we can't have Hillary Clinton as president, Donald Trump is our only choice. He had been saying that for weeks, too. He's saying this is a binary choice. Does he still say that? It will be interesting to hear him say that.
But for right now, I think there's a feeling that if there was a time to dump Donald Trump, that would have been Saturday in the aftermath of that videotape release and when all the other Republicans were jumping ship. Right now, the narrative seems to have shifted a little bit, putting the Republican leadership in a more difficult spot -- Kate and John?
BOLDUAN: Seems it shifts with every release of every little new tidbit. We'll see how it shifts again. Let's hear exactly what comes out of this conference call. As you said, it's just starting.
BERMAN: Keep us posted, by the way. Get to the iPhone and see what you can find out.
We know at least one Republican who is standing by Donald Trump right now. His running mate is standing by him. Mike Pence told CNN a short time ago that Trump expressed genuine remorse, he thought, for what Pence calls offensive language. Mike Pence also says it's absolutely false that he ever considered withdrawing from the ticket.
BOLDUAN: CNN's Phil Mattingly is live in Washington with much more on this. Phil, the fact that it is news that the running mate is sticking with
the presidential candidate, that's pretty amazing.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, if your baseline for victory after the debate is your running mate did not decide to jump off the ticket, last night was clearly a rousing success for the Trump campaign.
But seriously, if you look at kind of -- Manu was laying this out well, where Republicans are today compared to where they were 48 hours ago, 24 hours ago, there's a feeling certainly within the Trump campaign that they are in a much better place. And they believe the accusations, the allegations, the hot mic moment itself has been asked and answered and it's time to move on.
Here's what Mike Pence said in that interview with CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:05:08] MIKE PENCE, (R), INDIANA GOVERNOR & VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was offended by them. I said I couldn't defend them and encouraged Donald Trump to continue to express his genuine remorse. I think last night he showed his heart to the American people. He said he apologized to his family, apologized to the American people, that he was embarrassed by it, then he moved on to the real choice in this election which is really not just a choice between two candidates. It's a choice between two futures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Guys, that's the message you have been hearing from Trump surrogates repeatedly over the 12 hours. Donald Trump is the new Hillary Clinton is the old Donald Trump is the anti-establishment Clinton, is the establishment. It's a message they feel like can work.
Now, the big issue, though, and we have heard this a lot from Clinton advisers, in the wake of last night's debate, while they might have steadied Donald Trump within the party or at least staunched the flow of defections, did that actually win him any votes. Was it great for Republican primary voters? Was it great for riling up the base? No question about it. Is it great for the suburbs of Denver, for the suburbs of Columbus? Not so much. That's kind of how both campaigns are spinning this.
But, guys, I do think there's one really important point here. It's clear that Republicans are a little bit more comfortable after last night's debate. But if you think in talking to Clinton advisers that Team Clinton is going to let that hot mic moment off the shelf any time soon or if you think that they are not searching for more of these types of issues to come out in the days ahead, you are going to be sadly mistaken. I think that, even as people get a little more comfortable, is the underlying concern that sticks with every single Republican -- guys?
BERMAN: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks so much. Let's go to our panel to discuss. Joining us, CNN political director,
David Chalian; CNN senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson; and "Washington Post" reporter, David Fahrenthold, who broke the story of the "Access Hollywood" Trump tape.
That sort of changed things after Friday when that came out, David. But thanks for being with us.
David Chalian, let me start with you.
Mike Pence not leaving the ticket. Also a piano did not fall on Donald Trump's head during the debate yesterday in St. Louis.
Does that constitute the victory the Trump campaign says it does?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No. John, it really doesn't. Listen, if you are 29 days away from an election and talking about your running mate has announced he's staying with you and that you are stopping defections from you, that's not a place you want to be 29 days out from a campaign. You got to step back and remember, Donald Trump was already in a downward trajectory. He was behind in this race before the story broke on Friday that David broke, and then obviously that sent him into a tailspin. Last night, he chose a very clear strategy, scorch the earth, get all of his supporters riled up again, put that floor underneath him, so he doesn't go down any further. But he didn't do anything that I can see that is going to add voters to his coalition, which means he's still behind in this race. That's the tricky part, this day after the debate for the Trump campaign.
BOLDUAN: Nia, one of the things Donald Trump had to address last night was the tape, and when asked about it, this is how he addressed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I apologized to my family, I apologized to the American people. Certainly, I'm not proud of it. But that is locker room talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: This is locker room talk and that's how he explained it several times in talking about it. How is that playing?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, it's playing fine with his base and those voters that David talked about, who are already like him and are already going to vote for him, but it likely won't play well with a lot of Republican women, a lot of Republican-leaning Independents in those suburbs. Those are the people he needs. If you look at some of the reactions to the debate, it was women, right, who thought that Hillary Clinton won. It was women in some of the focus groups who still don't think that dismissive answer about those very troubling revelations on that tape with Donald Trump saying that his power gives him access to kiss and to grope them, that is going to be, I think, continuously damaging to the Trump campaign. It's not going to help him on his efforts to win voters in the swing states, in the suburban areas, college educated white women that we keep talking about. It's also college educated white men who are troubled by that. I was talking to someone earlier who was saying that he had to have discussions with his children about this. What does this mean about what Donald Trump is saying? And you know, a lot of embarrassment around Donald Trump's talk there, so dismissing it as locker room talk, I don't think Donald Trump has spent much time in locker rooms. You have athletes coming out and saying, don't malign us by suggesting that in locker rooms we are talking about sexual assault against women. It's not going to help him with this answer. And I think there's this continuing specter of more revelations and more tapes coming out involving Donald Trump saying things like this.
[11:10:96] BERMAN: So, David Fahrenthold, one way Donald Trump also was dealing with this is turning it on Bill Clinton. Last night, he did bring up Bill Clinton's past sexual indiscretions and those who accuse him of such things, and sat in the audience four people, including three women who have accused Bill Clinton of various things. Your paper reporting that the Trump campaign actually wanted to sit them up front in the VIP area. The debate commission would not let that happen.
But Mike Pence was talking about it today. This is now a thing. When even Mike Pence is bringing up Bill Clinton's past here, is this here to stay now until November?
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It seems like it is. It seems like this is what they have settled on as both a reaction to that videotape and also as a strategy going forward, to focus the attention on these cases that involve Bill Clinton in three cases and a one case involving a legal case where Hillary Clinton served as -- she was appointed to be a lawyer for somebody accused of rape. They want those four cases to be front and center, literally front and center last night. I think they decided to make that case.
The interesting thing to me is I think a lot of Americans don't really know much about these cases, and the way the Trump people present them, assumes that they do. They don really even try to the back story for who these people are, which I think is maybe not the best way to even play that strategy.
BOLDUAN: But, David, once you have gone there, once you have gone there, bringing accusers to the debate, trying to get them in the family box, in the family VIP section, what else is there, where else can you go?
FAHRENTHOLD: Good question.
CHALIAN: Listen -- oh, sorry.
BOLDUAN: Oh, sorry. David Chalian.
Sorry, David. FAHRENTHOLD: Wrong David.
CHALIAN: Kate, I think it's pretty clear that -- it seemed to me Donald Trump kind of threw his hands up last night and said, I'm no longer playing to win, almost. By going down this strategy, I don't think it is going to be very easy to turn back here, as Phil Mattingly was saying, and all of a sudden make appeals to the suburbs of Denver and suburbs of Philadelphia. Once you go here, you are all in on the base. So then it's just a matter -- remember, in the Republican primaries the thing that voters loved the most about him, he tells it like it is, he takes the fight to Hillary Clinton. That is something that will animate the folks with him, so he's clearly heading down that path. I don't see how you turn back from that in a convincing way 29 days to go.
BERMAN: So, Nia, Hillary Clinton, a lot of people are saying she did not deliver a knockout blow. She had an opportunity to crush Trump last night. That didn't happen. Other people are saying there are issues where she actually maybe fumbled the answers a little bit. One of them had to do with the WikiLeaks and the suggestion that she said at one point that you need to have a public and a private position on some issues. In fact, when she was making that statement on WikiLeaks, she was talking about the movie "Lincoln." But this is how she explained it last night at the debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, DEBATE MODERATOR: Is it acceptable for a politician to have a private stance on issues?
Secretary Clinton, your two minutes.
CLINTON: Right. As I recall, that was something I said about Abraham Lincoln --
TRUMP: Now she's blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln. That's one that I haven't --
Honest Abe never lied. That's the good thing. That's the big difference between Abraham Lincoln and you. That's a big, big difference. We're talking about some difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, Nia, who won that moment? Is this something that Hillary Clinton needs to be careful with going forward?
HENDERSON: You know, I talked to somebody in the Clinton campaign about this. They feel like she was telling the truth in that answer. They also feel like, in terms of the WikiLeaks in her speeches, the worst out there. Because I asked, I was like, does this sort of put a burden on you to release more of this and to prove that she was talking about Abraham Lincoln, and they said they feel like the worst is out there.
It was a funny response. It was clearly enjoyed by the audience, Trump's a very quick rejoinder to that. You wonder if you will hear Hillary Clinton mention Abraham Lincoln again in this. The late great Abraham Lincoln, I should say.
BOLDUAN: Yeah. Let's see if that response happens again. That will be telling.
Great to see you, guys. Thank you so much.
One of the many astonishing moments from last night, Donald Trump very publicly disagreeing with his running mate on a critical national security issue, Syria. What the campaign is saying now about that.
[11:14:32] BERMAN: Plus, it was another one of the remarkable moments of the night. You can see here how "The New York Post" played it. Donald Trump threatening to throw Hillary Clinton behind bars if he wins the election. We'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN (voice-over): The fury in Missouri. Donald Trump went into full uncensored attack mode.
TRUMP: Look at Bill Clinton. Mine was words and his was action.
CLINTON: We have seen him insult women, embarrass women. This is who Donald Trump is.
TRUMP: There has never been so many lies, so much deception.
CLINTON: It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.
TRUMP: Because you would be in jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Name one positive thing that you respect in one another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Donald Trump debating Hillary Clinton last night, and Mike Pence, at least when it comes to policy in Syria. Donald Trump saying he and his running mate had not spoken about how to stop the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and that he disagrees with Mike Pence's idea about using military force.
But just a short time ago on CNN, Governor Pence said he had talked to Trump about their policy and he disputes how the moderator framed the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: The question I had, and you can check the transcript -- so can your viewers -- was about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and what we ought to do. Donald Trump's position, our position has been that we need to establish safe zones. And you need to be willing to use -- you need to be willing to use resources and including military power to secure those safe zones.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Joining us now to take a closer look at this is former CIA Director James Woolsey, a national security adviser to the Donald Trump campaign.
Director, it's great to have you on. Thank you so much.
JAMES WOOLSEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to be with you.
[11:20:12] BOLDUAN: Thank you.
So as it stands, as the national security adviser to the Trump campaign, what is the Trump campaign's position on Syria, on stopping the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo?
WOOLSEY: I'm not the one to ask for policy decisions. That's the candidate.
But I do think that the safe zone approach, given the circumstances we're in now, is one of the only courses of action left to us. The problem really, I think, was generated by President Obama's decision to draw a red line and tell the Syrian government that they could not cross it, and what that meant was they couldn't use chemical weapons against their own people. They went right ahead and did it and the United States' shrugged and handed the problem over to Russia.
BERMAN: Director --
WOOLSEY: We, as a result, are not being considered seriously in that part of the world.
BERMAN: I'm a little perplexed by your statement here. Do you not know what the policy of the campaign when it comes to using force?
WOOLSEY: I'm going to let the candidates themselves communicate the policy to the public, not me.
BOLDUAN: Are you confused by the differences between the two?
You know what? Let's play it for our viewers so we can all discuss it.
Here is where the confusion lies. Mike Pence was asked about what to do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo during the V.P. debate. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: The provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. And if Russia chooses to be involved, and continue, I should say, to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime, to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Aleppo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And then Donald Trump was asked the exact same question in last night's debate. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: What would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? And I want to remind you what your running mate said. He said, "Provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved in air strikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime."
TRUMP: OK. He and I haven't spoken and I disagree. I disagree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Where is this disagreement?
WOOLSEY: That's for the candidates to sort out. I'm an adviser. I'm not going to sort out the politics and decision making for you.
WOOLSEY: I will be glad to tell you what I think the advantages and disadvantages are of various courses of action.
BERMAN: Do you agree with Mike Pence or Donald Trump on this, Director?
WOOLSEY: I'm not going to put a stake in the ground on behalf of one or the other or an intermediate position. I'm going to tell you what I think would be wise. I have been trying to do that for a couple minutes here but you seem to want to get me into politics, which is not my field.
BOLDUAN: Mr. Director, but you are James Woolsey, former CIA director, a national security adviser to the Donald Trump campaign. When it comes to a key policy position that you would assume would be a unified position of the campaign, I would also assume you would know what it is and be able to voice it.
WOOLSEY: I'm not telling you one way or the other. The candidates are the ones who are going to communicate the policy decisions to the public, not me.
BOLDUAN: Why does it make you uncomfortable?
WOOLSEY: It doesn't necessarily make me uncomfortable. I'm just refusing to do it. I think -- they're the ones who are running for office. They are the one who ought to create the doctrine and the policies and shape them the way they want, not an adviser.
BERMAN: One other question, Mr. Director, while we have you here. What was your reaction when you heard the "Access Hollywood" tape where Donald Trump was bragging about being able to grab women's genitalia and get away with it because he was famous?
WOOLSEY: Look, I work on national security matters. I have worked for four presidents, two Republicans, two Democrats, on national security matters of all kinds, counterterrorism, the size of the military, the Navy, arms control. That's what I do.
WOOLSEY: I don't assess what's going on politically in the campaign. That's not my position.
BERMAN: But I'm not sure that's a political question.
WOOLSEY: Yeah, it is.
WOOLSEY: As far as I'm concerned, it's very political. As far as I'm concerned, it's very political. I'm not going to get into politics. I'm going to talk about substance. If you don't want me to talk about substance, then don't invite me on your show.
BERMAN: Well, we did ask you about substance.
BOLDUAN: I was trying to ask you about substance on Syria and you did not want to articulate a position.
WOOLSEY: You want to talk politics.
BOLDUAN: No, I want to know --
WOOLSEY: You want to talk politics and judgments. That's not what I'm here to do.
BOLDUAN: My first question is, what is the campaign's plan on stopping the humanitarian crisis in Syria?
[11:25:13] WOOLSEY: I'm not going to take a position. I'm going to tell you, if you want me, too, what I think the pros and cons are of various courses of action with respect to Syria, Russia, and where the problem came from, and the substance, but I'm not going to talk the politics.
BERMAN: All right. Director, thanks for being with us.
BOLDUAN: Director, Woolsey, thank for coming on.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us --
BERMAN: So what could be more stunning than Donald Trump' pre-game photo with Bill Clinton's accusers? Well, if they were actually seated in the VIP box. Hear why the Trump campaign is livid this morning after apparently nearly making it happen.
BOLDUAN: Plus, he's refused to release them the entire election but did Donald Trump last night make a pretty big admission about his tax returns? What he said and whether it matters to voters listening in.
We'll be right back.