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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Bill Clinton Offers Harsh Critique of Obamacare; Vice Presidential Candidates to Face Off Tonight in Virginia; Scathing Indictment of the Scandal-Plagued VA hospital in Phoenix. Aired 4:30- 5p ET.

Aired October 4, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As you mentioned, a lot of new polls out in the last couple of days, three in Nevada showing it's Hillary Clinton who is ahead out in Nevada, Colorado, 11-point lead for Clinton in two polls, Florida, a narrow Clinton lead in the new polling, several of them.

North Carolina, a couple of new polls, Clinton is leading there. Now, this doesn't mean she is going to win them. Doesn't mean the momentum can't swing back, but look, Jake, at Donald Trump's challenge.

Now you are looking at a map that looks very much like the Obama/Romney map. Donald Trump lost the momentum. He needs very much Mike Pence to do him a favor tonight and then Donald Trump on Sunday night to grab the momentum and pull it back,because it gets hard when you get inside the last 30 days to change one state.

If Donald Trump -- Donald Trump, excuse me, has to change three or four states, it gets very difficult.

TAPPER: Even with a bad week for Trump, though, John, there are states where he is still holding onto a lead, battleground states.

KING: Right.

If you are Trump, you're studying this one, because Ohio has stayed consistently for Trump, even as Hillary Clinton has made gains in other places. So, if you're Donald Trump, you are looking at this state and thinking, why is it? It's demographics. It's his trade message. It's older white voters.

If you're Donald Trump and you're saying, OK, we're falling in Colorado, we're falling in Virginia, we're struggling in Florida, I think you will see the Trump campaign look back to the Rust Belt again, because that's where they're doing the best. Now, Pennsylvania has moved Clinton's way. Michigan has moved a little bit back more in Clinton's favor.

But if you're Trump and you look at the most recent data, Jake, this is still your area of strength. The problem is, Ohio is not enough, though. He has to flip some others.

TAPPER: All right, John King, thank you so much.

Joining me now, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, Robby Mook.

Robby, thanks so much for joining us.

I assume Senator Kaine has an answer if the moderator or Governor Pence raises the fact that former President Bill Clinton just offered a harsh critique of Obamacare. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have got this crazy system where, all of a sudden, 25 million more people have health care and then the people are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It's the craziest thing in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Robby, Obamacare is the craziest thing in the world?

ROBBY MOOK, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think that's taking a little bit out of context.

First and foremost, over 20 million people now have health insurance today in our country because of Obamacare. We have got to improve it, but we have got to protect it. Donald Trump wants to completely rip it up, take away health insurance from those 20 million people, from the young people under 26 who get it through their parents, take away, you know, basic care, preventative care for every single American.

So, we have got to protect Obamacare. But what he was touching on, to your question, was that premiums are going up too high in some places, and we need to do more to help small businesses in particular afford health insurance.

And that's why Hillary wants to create better tax incentives and tax credits for small businesses, so that they can afford the health care, and create pools, so that they have better bargaining power with the insurance companies.

TAPPER: Now, just to note, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, today said -- quote -- "It's not exactly clear what argument Bill Clinton was making." And, of course, he wishes Bill Clinton used different language.

MOOK: Well, again, I think that what Bill Clinton was trying to hit on is that a lot of small businesses are struggling to afford health insurance. They can't form big enough bargaining pools.

That's why we have got to get them better tax credits, allow them to pool together. Look, we also -- one thing he didn't mention is the cost of prescription drugs, which is also going up too high. We have got to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs and make sure that we're doing more to lower the out-of-pocket expenses for everyday Americans. So, there's a lot of work to do here. I just rattled off a lot of

specific ideas that Hillary Clinton has. Donald Trump hasn't named a specific idea on health care, except that he wants to repeal Obamacare altogether. And everybody agrees that would be a disaster.

TAPPER: I would just point out, I wasn't quoting Donald Trump. I was quoting former President Bill Clinton.

But let me move on. The RNC has launched a new digital ad called "America Deserves Better" criticizing Senator Tim Kaine's record when it comes to the death penalty because of his work not only as a defense attorney, but also his work as governor. Here is a little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Richard Lee Whitley sexually assaulted and murdered his elderly neighbor. Tim Kaine defended him. Outside Whitley's execution, Tim Kaine said, "Something personal in me will die with Whitley."

Percy Walton brutally murdered three people. As governor, Tim Kaine commuted his sentence, citing concerns disproved by the courts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's a tough Web ad, Robby. Your response?

MOOK: You know, Donald Trump's campaign has had a very hard week. They are desperate to try to change the narrative here. And they have said themselves they're going to go on the attack, they're going to throw a bunch of mud around.

The attacks that are in that ad have been launched at Senator Kaine for some time now, when he ran for governor, when he ran for Senate. They have been answered.

[16:35:00]

What we want to talk about in this debate are the issues, about how we help people afford health care, afford college, how we create more jobs, how we get wages rising. So, that's what Senate Kaine is going to be focused on in this debate.

We hope that Governor Pence wants to engage on those issues as well.

TAPPER: Robby, just a quick question. Do you think it's Senator Kaine's job tonight more to attack Donald Trump and Mike Pence or to vouch and build up Hillary Clinton? And please don't say both.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOK: No, actually, Jake, I think the work that both Secretary Clinton and Senator Kaine want to do in their respective debates is make sure that people understand the real plans and proposals they have that are going to make a difference in their life, how they're going to create jobs, how they're going to get wages rising.

That's what we'd like to focus on. That's when our campaign has always done best, is when they have the opportunity to talk about those proposals.

I think what is going to be tricky in this debate for Governor Pence is, how is he going to answer all these questions about whether he will stand with Donald Trump? Is he going to back him up when he says that he may not have paid taxes for two decades? Is he going to back up his attacks on the former Miss Universe? Is he going to back up his attacks on a Gold Star family?

This is a very tricky situation for him. And we will just have to see how he navigates that.

TAPPER: All right, Robby Mook, campaign manager for the Hillary Clinton campaign, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MOOK: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, Hillary Clinton expected to take questions from reporters at a rally.

And we're also standing by for Donald Trump in Arizona. He is expected to speak to supporters just hours ahead of tonight's V.P. debate.

Plus, the hospital at the center of the VA scandal, how is it possible that conditions for veterans there are getting even worse? We will have a report. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:01]

TAPPER: Welcome back to a very special debate day edition of THE LEAD.

Breaking news on a story that we have been following, a new report out moments ago with a rather scathing indictment of the scandal-plagued VA hospital in Phoenix, this coming two years after a massive overhaul.

Our nation's veterans and the care they receive after serving our country is a big issue in this campaign, certainly to be a topic this evening.

Our Drew Griffin is live in Atlanta for us.

Drew, we have seen other reports about the VA. Tell us about this one.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, after all this, the report issued just this afternoon by the inspector general shows very little improvement, if at all, in the wait times at the Phoenix VA. In fact, as of this past July, Phoenix VA had 38,000 open consults. Those are appointments waiting. It's a high number. And the report cites a list of reasons, including lost lab results, staff scheduling problems.

As a result, patients attempting to get care, the report says, continue to encounter delays. Get this, Jake. One patient, a vascular patient, actually waited more than 300 days to get treatment. And what's possibly even worse at the Phoenix VA, patients are still getting their appointments inappropriately canceled.

This was the heart of the scandal. The inspector general took a sample of appointments and found 24 percent of them were just canceled by staff members. The results? The vets are just not getting the treatment they're asking for, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Drew, did any of these patients die waiting for that care?

GRIFFIN: You have to be careful in the wording here, Jake; 215 patients died waiting for care last year. But the inspector general was only able to find one of those patients who may have died because of the delay in that care.

TAPPER: But it's still shocking, the Phoenix VA still having delays in care, major delays, the staff still inappropriately just deleting appointments. When is this going to get better?

GRIFFIN: You know, you can sense the frustration in this actual government report. The VA's inspector general says, look, this is the sixth report it's issued about problems in care delivery in Phoenix. This is the conclusion: "Although the Veterans Health Administration has made efforts to improve care provided at Phoenix, these issues remain."

Jake, Phoenix is now on its sixth director since the firing of Sharon Helman three years ago, six directors. The management problems just persist. It's a real mess. And based on this report, it is the veterans who are continuing to pay the price.

TAPPER: All right, Drew Griffin with a disgraceful and upsetting report, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

My panel is back with me.

And, Gloria, speaking of veterans, Donald Trump made a comment at a veterans event that has been criticized for not being sensitive enough to the idea of those who suffer post-traumatic stress not being strong. Vice President Biden jumped in. Let's play some of that tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over, and you're strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can't handle it.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an ignorant man. How can he be so out of touch? He is not a bad guy. But how can he be so out of touch and ask to lead this country?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, we should point out, Gloria, the veteran who asked the question that prompted that response from Donald Trump, he said he was not offended at all from Trump's remarks. But a lot of veterans have been upset.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, have been offended.

And, look, I think it was inartfully stated. But I think that to say that Donald Trump was pointing out that people with PTS are weak, as opposed to other veterans, is unfair to Trump. I think he could have stated it in a better way.

I know that -- that Joe Biden spoke about it that way. Hillary Clinton will probably speak about it that way. I think that's all about scoring political points over an issue, as Drew Griffin is just saying, is so serious in this country, that people ought to be talking about how we take care of our veterans, instead of trying to score political points over -- over something like this.

[16:45:00] TAPPER: Yes, it would be nice to see a little bit of that outrage from the left about those comments.

BORGER: Right. Right.

TAPPER: About what Drew Griffin just reported about -

BORGER: Exactly. I agree with you.

TAPPER: -- the continued problems at the V.A. in Phoenix.

BORGER: Right. All of that. All of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which a question, Jake, would be, who's in charge? And the answer is the Obama administration.

TAPPER: The Obama administration. We just talked about this last week at a - at a - at a town hall with veterans and President Obama, he said things are getting better but still not where they need to be. Coming up next, my panel of experts weigh in on what to watch for during tonight's big debate, just hours from now on CNN. And will tonight's showdown generate any memorable moments such as this one?

LLOYD BENTSEN, FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

JAMES STOCKDALE, UNITED STATES NAVY VICE ADMIRAL: Who am I? Why am I here?

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Can I call you Joe?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:50:02] TAPPER: We're just hours away from the first and only Vice Presidential Debate. Historically, they've had their share of memorable moments. Here's Sunlen Serfaty.

[16:50:11] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now in the national spotlight, it's high stakes for the vice presidential contenders to soar or stumble.

JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey.

SERFATY: There have been the one-line zingers.

WALTER MONDALE, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: I think Senator Dole has richly earned his reputation as a hatchet man tonight.

SERFATY: Which go on to become the breakout moment of the debates.

BENTSEN: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

SERFATY: And miscalculations like Admiral Stockdale in 1992 trying to poke a little fun at his own experience.

STOCKDALE: Who am I? Why am I here? I'm not a politician.

SERFATY: That fell flat. And opened up their ticket to late-night jokes instead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who am I? Why am I here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you're the admiral, and you're taking a joyride.

SERFATY: In 2008, the relatively unknown first-term governor from Alaska was facing questions over her experience going up against a well-established U.S. senator, Joe Biden.

PALIN: Hey, can I call you Joe?

SERFATY: Those six words within the first few seconds of the debate created her big moment. Seen as a successful move to disarm her competitor.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Let me help you with the difference Ms. Ferraro between a run and the embassy in Lebanon.

SERFATY: Geraldine Ferraro calling George H.W. Bush out for that on stage.

GERALDINE FERRARO, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I almost resent Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.

SERFATY: The vice presidential debates provided key tests for the person who could be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Answering the question of voters' minds, "Are they capable to assume the job as president?"

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She doesn't have the stamina and I don't believe she does have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal -

SERFATY: Another key question that could factor in more this year, as issues of health and age for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton swirl.

TRUMP: The main quality that you want is somebody that can be a great president. If something happens to you, that's got to be - don't you think that's got to be number one?

SERFATY: A duty both candidates seem to be taking seriously.

CLINTON: I want to be sure that whoever I pick could be president immediately if something were to happen.

SEFATY: And going into tonight's debate, over a quarter of voters for both candidates said they had no opinion formed of either of them either way. And that's why tonight is such an opportunity for both Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. Not only to potentially create that lasting breakout moment that could potentially dictate the conversation for many days, but also to really have them define themselves in front of a lot of voters that still don't have an impression of them. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Sunlen, thank you so much. We're back with our panel. David, what are you looking for tonight?

[16:53:23] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I'm looking for a couple of things. One, with Mike Pence, I'm looking for how - and he's pretty skilled at this, but how he handles a campaign that right now is on defense, and how he tries to turn that to his advantage. From Tim Kaine, I'm looking to see if he injects Spanish in a significant way into this debate, because he's fluent in it, and I'd be curious to see that. I fear that we're not going to get any of those great moments that we just saw from either of these guys tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you never know.

TAPPER: Manu?

[16:53:47] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think what we're going to see from Tim Kaine is try to get Mike Pence to own all the controversial things that Donald Trump said. Robby Mook, when you just talked to him, really foreshadowed, this is the strategy going forward. The question will be, how does Mike Pence deal with it? In covering and watching Mike Pence over the years, watch for him to side-step this, try to get back on message, try to attack Hillary Clinton prosecuted the case in probably a more effective way than Donald Trump has done particularly during the last debate, but that's going to be the whole Clinton campaign - Tim Kaine strategy going forward.

TAPPER: Former radio broadcaster and a skilled politician on message, Angela.

[16:54:19] ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think one of the things that I'm hoping for is that the moderator will also call Mike Pence on his record. His record is not spotless, and it certainly is in more - in greater alignment with Donald Trump's that we've seen. He's been very anti-LGBT. From HIV/AIDS bills in the past to what he's done to LGBT communities in Indiana. So, it'll be interesting to see how he pivots from that, because he also has a record of, frankly, hatred.

[16:54:42] KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST, ABOVE THE LAW: But - oh, that's not - that's not true. He has an excellent record. And I think we're going to see Mike Pence elevate the dialogue of this campaign to a higher level. We've seen the Hillary Clinton campaign lobbed dirty attacks towards the Trump campaign has responded tonight. You're going to hear Mike Pence stand on that stage saying, "I lowered taxes, I lowered unemployment in Indiana. Here's how I'm going to do this for the nation with Trump by my side."

BORGER: No, the question is, "How does Mike Pence balance Donald Trump without contradicting Donald Trump?"

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

BORGER: He's been able to do that pretty well during the campaign, but Kaine is going to press him on it, because he's the proxy for Donald Trump. And you're going to see some proxy wars going on tonight. I think it may be more heated than a lot of people anticipate, because this is a point in the campaign where, you know, Trump has been having some problems, and Pence has to stop the bleeding here for him.

TAPPER: Alright. "The Thrilla' in Vanilla." Next, Hillary Clinton expected to take questions from reporters at any moment. We're also waiting Donald Trump live as we're counting down to the battle of the VP Candidates, right here on CNN. We'll be right back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:59:52] TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'll see you back later tonight for more of our special coverage of tonight's Vice Presidential Debate. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper, both of them in "THE SITUATION ROOM."