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State of the Presidential Race; Russia's Motives for Hacking E- mails?; Local Iraqi Leader: ISIS Militants Fleeing To Syria; Comedian Adam Conover Debunks Popular Misconceptions. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 25, 2016 - 16:30   ET



MATT VISER, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": I think it helps Donald Trump in the near term, because it's terrible for Democrats and for President Obama with his iPhone metaphor.

I mean, it's as if they tripled the cost all of a sudden on that, in addition to sort of diminishing the service of it. So, I think that that's a problem for Democrats to have to explain a lot of that.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Katrina, let me play for you something that Donald Trump said on a radio show earlier this week. It was about his latest accuser of sexual assault, former adult film actress Jessica Drake.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They will grab them on the -- you know, as they say, on the arm. And one said, he grabbed me on the arm. And she's a porn star.

Now, you know, this one that came out recently, he grabbed me and he grabbed me on the arm. Now, I'm sure she's never been grabbed before.

And they make it so it is -- it's all lies. It's all lies.


TAPPER: So, Katrina, that line, "Oh, I'm sure she's never been grabbed before," I think that a lot of people say that that strikes them -- that rubs them the wrong way, because it's almost a suggestion that because she works in pornography, that you can do almost anything you want to her, because what hasn't been done to her?

KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Well, he is actually just defending himself.

And then we find out that this woman is actually promoting her adult film, I guess, industry, if you want to call it. And that's what we have seen. We have seen people come out against Donald Trump just to raise their profile, to sell books or whatever it is that they're selling. But this really has nothing to do with these premiums that are going

up. And I have to disagree with you. Mr. Trump has been talking about this. He has talked about it on his first day and his first 100 days that he wants to repeal and replace Obamacare.

TAPPER: No, I said he talked about it, just not with the same energy and enthusiasm with which he goes after, say, the media or his accusers.

But, Symone, I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to that.


And Donald -- this is -- again, we have talked about this. Sexual assault is serious business. And it is something that should be discussed with the seriousness of the -- of what's happening. I just don't understand how Donald Trump is not taking this seriously.

And to insinuate that because whatever choice this woman decides to make for her profession, whether it be a porn star or that she be a banker at Wells Fargo, she deserves the base amount of respect. And Donald Trump clearly doesn't think she deserves that and clearly is just dismissing these things. But I don't think he understands the gravity of what's going on.

TAPPER: I'm sorry. We have to stop right there. And, Katrina, Symone, Matt, David, thank you, one and all. Appreciate it.

Is the United States on a collision course with Russia? And is this exactly what Vladimir Putin wants? We will talk to the former head of the CIA next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our world lead now. Vladimir Putin appears to be getting Russia ready for some sort of major military confrontation. Russian TV aired images of nuclear survival drills held across the country this month. And a government spokesman said Russia is updating its bomb shelters.

This comes, of course, as the White House is blaming Moscow for major hacks into the DNC and U.S. voter registration systems, as well as the release, of course, of stolen Clinton campaign e-mails.

Joining me now to discuss this all is the former Director of the CIA and the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush retired Four-Star General Michael Hayden.

General Hayden, thanks so much for being here.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Thanks, Jake. TAPPER: Why do you think Russia is doing this? You used to be the

top spy for this nation. Take us inside Vladimir Putin's head. What is the endgame here? Does he want a war?

HAYDEN: No. Of course he does not want a war.

But he does want to beat his chest. There is a bit of geopolitical theater going on here. So, he sends what passes for an aircraft carrier in the Russian navy -- and I'm being generous calling it a carrier -- through the English Channel, because it just attracts all sorts of attention.

But there is not a whole lot of substance behind that movement. Now, there is substance with what he is doing in Syria. And there, with the modest application of military force and, frankly, the daring to use it, he has actually changed the balance of forces in that war.

TAPPER: So, the director of the national intelligence, retired General James Clapper, said just moments ago -- he was asked about a no-fly zone, which would be an area in Syria where people could go theoretically and be protected, because there wouldn't be bombardments, there wouldn't be bombings coming in.

And he said one of the reasons why he didn't necessarily support a no- fly zone is because, if the U.S. had one in Syria, he wouldn't put it past Putin to not shoot down an American aircraft.

HAYDEN: Well, that's a great and serious concern. And I understand why Jim brought it up. And, frankly, it would have been a lot easier to do about 15 months ago, before the Russian air force arrived, which was a policy that had been suggested and rejected by the folks across the park.

But, Jake, let me turn that a little bit on its head. All right? So, are we now going to live in a world in which, in any circumstance in which the Russians are willing to risk a confrontation, we aren't and are willing to back down? Think of the implications of that.

And so I don't know that we should automatically reject something that may have real merit for us to do, even though it doesn't impose some risk.

TAPPER: Interesting.

I want to get reaction to Donald Trump's comments at the last debate about whether or not the Russians are hacking into Clinton campaign files and the DNC. Take a listen.


TRUMP: She has no idea whether it's Russia, China, or anybody else.



TRUMP: She has no idea.

CLINTON: I am quoting 17...

TRUMP: Hillary, you have no idea.

CLINTON: ... 17 intelligence -- do you doubt 17 military and civilian...

TRUMP: Our country has no idea.

CLINTON: ... agencies.

TRUMP: Yes, I doubt it. I doubt it.

CLINTON: Well, he'd rather believe...


TAPPER: Donald Trump says, we have no idea. Hillary Clinton says 17 intelligence agencies say that we do.


HAYDEN: And Jim Clapper says we have high confidence that this was done by the Russians, and we assess that it would not have been done without the approval at the highest levels of the Russian state.

So, what you have is a campaign and a candidate for president -- now, I understand this is a politically inconvenient reality for him because he wants to use the content of the e-mails in the campaign. And I totally understand that.

But he undercuts that argument because of the source. So, the right answer would have been, it doesn't matter where they came from. We need to focus on what they say.

But what he chose to say was he rejected the high-confidence judgment of the American intelligence community because it was politically inconvenient to him. That's scary.

TAPPER: Well, and it's not just Donald Trump. Take a listen to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani saying that he finds WikiLeaks very refreshing, and Republican Congressman Jeff Duncan of South Carolina tweeting -- quote -- "Let me be clear. Thank God for WikiLeaks doing the job that mainstream media won't."

What do you think when you hear Republicans saying nice things about WikiLeaks?

HAYDEN: Well, I see them abandoning conservative or national security credentials for the transient advantage of a political moment. It's a bit disappointing.

I think Marco Rubio actually has a better sight picture of this. Step back from this, folks. Look at exactly what's going on. Now, again, Jake, the contents reveal some things we ought to talk

about as a people, but that doesn't in any way give merit to Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, the Russian Federation or the Russian security services.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question.

Mike Morell, who was the acting deputy CIA director for a while and has endorsed Hillary Clinton, he wrote an op-ed in which he said he thought Donald Trump was basically an unwitting agent of the Russians.

Do you agree?

HAYDEN: No, I don't know that I would go that far, but I understand why Michael said it -- the phrase in Russian espionage lore about useful idiots, I mean, people who don't know what they're doing, that then do things that seem to fit what the Russians would like them to do.

Look, I don't know why Mr. Trump...

TAPPER: Are you calling Donald Trump a useful idiot?

HAYDEN: I did not. I did not. I simply referred to what the Russians have a reference to.

TAPPER: Seemed to be implying it.

HAYDEN: But he is doing things. He's refusing to criticize Putin. He doesn't talk about Putin in the Ukraine.

He -- let me get down to a really basic thing that had to contradict what he got in his intelligence briefings. He said the Russians are fighting ISIS.

No, they're not. The Russians are bucking up the Assad regime. They are not fighting ISIS. The only way you can get to his policy position is to deny the realities that the American intelligence community are saying exist in the Middle East today.

TAPPER: All right, General Hayden, it's always good to have you on the show. Thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, ISIS leaving behind a trail of toxic terror. CNN's Arwa Damon got a look inside the sulfur plant fire that's making dozens sick.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They placed explosives inside what was a massive mountain of sulfur.



[16:45:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Also in our "WORLD LEAD," the battle for Mosul in Iraq is intensifying, and the news around ISIS, we're told, is tightening. A local Iraqi leader tells CNN that hundreds of ISIS terrorists are attempting to escape Iraq and flee for Syria, and they're leaving death and destruction in their wake.

Let's bring in CNN's senior international correspondent Arwa Damon who's in Irbil, Iraq. Arwa, it appears that ISIS is turning to a new terror tactic, becoming even more violent and barbaric.

DAMON: They are, to a certain degree, yes, Jake. And we are hearing various reports of summary executions taking place. But also, as ISIS is withdrawing from some locations, they are leaving behind, as you say, their destruction. And in this one instance, they withdrew from a sulfur factory, a sulfur plant, but they ensured to cause maximum devastation to the plant, which in turn, resulted in large plumes of toxic, poisonous gas being released. Gas that ended up impacting hundreds of people who had to seek out medical assistance, and they had trouble breathing, they were choking. In fact, some hospitals ran out of oxygen. The images that were left behind, what we saw when we went to the sulfur factory, was quite surreal, because on the one hand, you have these massive rock-like yellow structures and this liquid that is almost shimmering underneath it. But that's a result of ISIS placing explosives inside what was a massive mountain of sulfur. And the expanse of the destruction just in this factory ranged about three miles. And that is really what caused so much of this poisonous gas to be released into the air. And depending on the wind in -- on some mornings, Jake, it was actually reaching U.S. troops and others that are based at the Qayyarah air base. And the question, of course, on everyone's mind is if ISIS is doing this on the outskirts of Mosul, what does it potentially have in store when it reaches the city itself with, of course, let's remember, a population about 1.2 million civilians still trapped inside there, Jake?

TAPPER: Awful. Arwa Damon, thanks so much, and please stay safe. Coming up, dropping a big old funny truth bomb on 2016, comedian Adam Conover is here with a sneak peek of his big premiere and to ruin the election for you, if it's not already ruined. That's next.



[16:50:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been dreaming about this day my whole life. My friends are here, my very traditional family is here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're making us proud, son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, we would have preferred a catholic priest, but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is tradition, Adam! The dress, the ceremony, the cake, it all symbolizes true love. ADAM CONOVER, TRUTV ADAM RUINS EVERYTHING HOST: Nope. Those traditions represent one thing, money. In fact, this entire ceremony has been hijacked by a greedy industry looking to make a buck.


TAPPER: We're back with our "POP CULTURE LEAD." That was Adam Conover, destroying the concept of true love and happiness on a wedding day. He's, of course, the host of truTV's Adam Ruins Everything, where the comedian debunks popular misconceptions, destroying all our favorite things from football to the Fourth of July. And now, Adam is taking his talents to Washington, ruining the Presidential Election, if it was not already ruined for you. His stand-up special premieres tonight on our sister channel truTV. And Adam Conover is here with me now. Adam, thanks so much for being here.

CONOVER: Hey, thank you so much for having me here.

TAPPER: It's an honor. So, you've covered topics like orange juice and pure bred dogs. What made you want to take on the Presidential Election?

[16:54:48] CONOVER: Well, it's an election year and there's a huge amount of attention around the election, obviously. And so, people are really interested in it. So, it's obviously -- you know, anytime that there is some -- as a comedian, anytime that everyone is watching and thinking about the same thing, that's really the ripe, you know, time that you want to go in and have something to say. But also, you know, our show is about responding to or addressing the, sort of, you know, large cultural ideas that people have in their heads, right, common misconceptions or traditions that we don't think about that much. And so, we thought it would be great chance to show about some of the big, sort of like, top line, like, memes that people have about the elections that are, like, not quite true or not as true as they -- as they thought they were. And especially the ones that cause a lot of anxiety in people, that they don't know, you know, the ones that upset them about the election, you know?

TAPPER: And you went out with a -- with a crew today in the streets of Washington D.C. to find out what some of these concerns are. Let's take a look.


CONOVER: If Hillary Clinton wins in November, do you think that she'll be the first American woman to be elected president of a country?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would be correct.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first American woman? Yes.


CONOVER: Wrong! She will not be. The first American woman elected president of a country was woman named Janet Jagan, who born in Chicago, moved to Guyana, and was elected president there in 1997. She's actually the first American woman to serve as head of state.

Do you think Hillary will be America's first presidentress?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never heard that term before but sure.

CONOVER: Again, wrong. Again, wrong, because that was the title given by the press to Edith Wilson, who is Woodrow Wilson's first lady. And what happened was in 1919 he suffered a stroke and she started ferrying all communications between him and his advisors, so she essentially ran the country. And the press called her America's first presidentress and acting first man.


CONOVER: Do you think -- do you think like the name calling is, like, way more than we've ever seen before?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I definitely don't remember it being this bad.

CONOVER: Yes, I do. The fact is that, like, through American history, like a lot of our most famous presidents have, like, called each other names to a crazy extent. Like Thomas Jefferson when he ran against John Adams in 1800, hired a newspaper editor named, James Calendar, to write horrible things about Adams in the press. He wrote that Adam was a hideous hermaphroditical character. Calendar had to do it with quill and ink, he didn't have Twitter or --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took longer then.

CONOVER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It took a lot longer to call people names.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly, exactly.


TAPPER: So, that was great.

CONOVER: Thank you.

TAPPER: So, you're definitely trying to debunk the idea that these things aren't new. But you don't think this election is somewhat?

CONOVER: It definitely is. I mean, every election is obviously very unique, you know? And this one has elements that we've never seen before. For instance, if Trump, you know, wins, he'll actually be the first president to have never held public office or a position in the military, so that's a way in which you could say just one small way in which is genuinely new. But all of these -- a lot of these little individual elements, and especially the ones that people say, "Oh, this is so transgressive, we've never seen anything like this before. There are -- we actually can't find historical analogues, and I find that if you learn about those, it helps you understand the election better, and it sort of -- you know, you realize, like, "Oh, yeah, we went through -- democracy has been through a lot of crazy things before, and it got through them. And, you know, maybe we have a better chance of pulling through this year.

TAPPER: So, what do you say when people say, "Oh, it's never been this polarized before?"

CONOVER: I actually do agree with that. And that's one of the big messages in our -- that's -- in our special way, we go through, "Hey, this isn't that different, that isn't that different." At the end, we say actually partisan polarization is really at record highs. And the last time it was this bad was in the late 1800s, if at all. And the degree to which Americans are of the two parties that team red and team blue, the degree to which they say that they're frightened of the other party or they'd be angry if their child married someone of the other party, those numbers have gone up, and that's very distressing. And that's sort of the (INAUDIBLE) action we do at the end of the special is about addressing that problem.

TAPPER: And, of course, it was so nasty when Andrew Jackson ran for president, attacked by John Quincy Adams, was it? That his -- Andrew Jackson's wife who was attacked for being a bigamous, which she was, died. She died. She was a bigamist.

CONOVER: Yeah. We just discussed this before. She was a bigamist because divorce wasn't legal. And so, she wasn't --

TAPPER: She had two husbands.

CONOVER: Yeah. Yeah, she had to two husbands, but --

TAPPER: That's a bigamous.

CONOVER: -- she would have -- yes, by legal definition, but it has a bit of a negative connotation. At the time, it was the best option that she had. But know that's true that they slandered her in the press, and she died and Jackson never forgave his political opponents, because he accused them of killing his wife.

TAPPER: So, just -- if you think this race is nasty, at least, it's not that.

CONOVER: Yeah. I mean, there are things going on now that approach or exceed that, but it's a good -- but reading that story, you know, is a long way from -- you know, we just look at the monuments, you don't realize that those were human people who had foibles and were, you know, really rude jerks to each other, too, you know?

TAPPER: Sure. Of course. Adam Conover, thank you so much. You can catch Adam Ruins Everything Election Special tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern on truTV. That's it for THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to WOLF BLITZER. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.