Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Debate Fallout; Trump-Ryan Split; Clinton Camp: WikiLeaks Hack is Attempt to Back Trump. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired October 10, 2016 - 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: I need to issue a parental advisory. I'm going to be discussing the presidential race on the show today, so you might want to have your children go outside and play.
THE LEAD starts right now.
In an ugly business, we may have just witnessed the ugliest presidential debate yet, Hillary Clinton not taking the bait, however, and today polls say she might have won the debate.
Scorched earth. Donald Trump coming out firing, even threatening to jail his political opponent, but did his performance last night save a campaign that was already torpedoed by a tape?
Plus, this breaking news in the politics lead. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking elected Republican official, basically just telling everyone in his party, ditch Donald Trump if you need to. So why won't he?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're in uncharted waters these days, the Republican speaker of the House today telling his fellow Republicans that he would no longer defend his party's presidential nominee, and instead will entirely focus on trying to save the Republican majority in the U.S. House, Paul Ryan giving every Republican member of Congress permission to unendorse Trump if need be.
Since Friday, Republican officials have been fleeing from Donald Trump after that leak of that videotape from 2005 in which the billionaire boasted of being able to approach women he finds attractive and kiss them or -- quote -- "grab them by the pussy" -- unquote -- because -- quote -- "When you're a star, you can do anything."
Trump last night dismissed that as locker room talk. A poll taken since the tape's release shows Trump down to 35 percent support among likely voters nationally, trailing Hillary Clinton by 11 percentage points in a four-way matchup.
CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju has been working his sources on Capitol Hill.
Manu, Speaker Ryan clearly making this calculation that the leaked tape, in which the nominee was talking about sexually assaulting women, it's just too toxic for Trump to survive.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Enough was enough for Paul Ryan, who, of course, as you know, Jake, full well has really struggled with this Donald Trump endorsement.
But he actually in the last few weeks had really gotten behind Donald Trump, dismissing controversies such as whether or not he's paid taxes for the last 18 years. And also I had asked him a couple weeks ago about his feud with the Latino beauty queen Alicia Machado, and he even downplayed that as well, even praising Donald Trump's rocky first debate performance, but not anymore.
On this conference call with House Republicans today, he said -- quote -- he said, "You all need to do what's best for your district." He said the only thing he's going to be worrying about for the next 29 days is saving the congressional majority for the Republicans.
He said no longer is he going to defend Donald Trump. Instead, he's just going to focus on raising money and campaigning for his own colleagues down ballot. That actually did not go over well with a lot of conservative Republicans who pushed back very hard and said we need to actually be united and this is actually going to foster division.
But one thing, Jake, Paul Ryan said he would still endorse Donald Trump and probably still vote for him at this time, but just not defend him on a lot of controversial issues that keep coming up, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thank you so much.
Over the weekend, Trump's running mate, Governor Mike Pence, attended a fund-raiser at the Rhode Island mansion built for a man who went down on the Titanic, perhaps a fitting metaphor, considering how many Republicans seemed to be jumping ship from the S.S. Trump.
The campaign had hoped Mr. Trump's debate performance would halt that trend. But Speaker Ryan seemed to have scuttled those hopes.
CNN politics reporter Sara Murray is in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, which is outside Pittsburgh following the Trump campaign.
Sara, the Trump camp has always had a rocky relationship with Speaker Ryan. And Mr. Trump's reacted to this development on Twitter. He doesn't seem particularly happy.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.
As you might imagine, Donald Trump is not exactly taking this graciously, and he took to Twitter to say: "Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration, and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee."
Here in Pennsylvania, you can see Donald Trump has already started behind me, and he's going on offense, already talking about crooked Hillary, already bringing up her e-mails as he tries to put the pressure on her and draw attention away from his own campaign stumbling.
MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump made this much clear on the debate stage. He's willing to try anything to pull his campaign out of a tailspin.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bill Clinton was abusive to women. Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously, four of them here tonight.
MURRAY: Sunday night, he went there, urging voters to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for allegations of sexual harassment and assault against her husband.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He gets to run his campaign any way he chooses. When I hear something like that, I am reminded of what my friend Michelle Obama, advised us all: When they go low, you go high.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MURRAY: All as Trump aims to take the focus off the videotape where he spoke approvingly of sexual assault.
TRUMP: I apologize to my family. I apologize to the American people. Certainly, I'm not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.
MURRAY: A news "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll taken conducted after the crass comments were revealed, but before the debate, shows Clinton leading by 11 points, with 46 percent of the vote to Trump's 35 percent.
TRUMP: You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
MURRAY: As he tried to inflict maximum damage on his political opponent Sunday night, Trump threatened to throw her in jail over her e-mail scandal if he's elected.
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'd be in jail.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MURRAY: And even referred to her as the devil.
TRUMP: I was so surprised to see him sign on with the devil.
MURRAY: While some of the debate left a sour taste for those already disappointed by the tone of the race, Trump's ability to pivot to red meat for Republicans by bringing up Benghazi...
TRUMP: Take a look at Benghazi. She said who is going to answer the call at 3:00 the morning? Guess what? She didn't answer it.
MURRAY: And Clinton's e-mails?
TRUMP: You delete 33,000 e-mails.
MURRAY: May have calmed jitters from GOP backers, at least beyond House Speaker Paul Ryan.
It's already reassuring Trump's running mate, who insists he never considered dropping off the ticket.
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's absolutely false to suggest that at any point in time we considered dropping off this ticket. It's the greatest honor of my life to have been nominated by my party to be the next vice president of the United States of America.
MURRAY: But last night's vicious battle exposed policy differences within the Trump-Pence ticket. Though Pence advocated for a muscular approach with Russia if it continues to aid Syria with airstrikes amid a humanitarian crisis, Trump says he will do no such thing.
TRUMP: He and I haven't spoken, and I disagree.
MURRAY: Now, plenty of Republicans are still grappling with how they are going to navigate Donald Trump for the next 30 days.
I spoke to one Republican leader, the Ohio Republican chairman, Matt Borges, earlier. And he was arguing, you need to give these candidates some space. He actually spoke to Donald Trump today and said you can't go on the attack against candidates who are trying to distance themselves from your comments. They were your comments and you have got to own them -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray in Pennsylvania, thanks so much.
Let's bring in our panel to discuss this all, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, CNN political commentator David Axelrod, and longtime White House correspondent for ABC News, my former colleague, my dear friend Ann Compton.
Thanks so much, all of you, for being here.
Axe, let me start with you. As you heard Sara report in her piece, NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal" released the first post-Trump tape poll of likely voters, Hillary Clinton 46 percent, Donald Trump 35 percent, Johnson 9 percent, Stein 2. Do you know believe this poll to be an accurate reflection of how badly this tape has hurt Donald Trump?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, it's certainly at the trough of that controversy, but even if he improves, no one has ever recovered that I can think of from an 11-point deficit clearly 29 days before an election. And just to put this in perspective, no one has won by double digits, I think, since Ronald Reagan in 1984. This is in a four-way that she's up by 11. In the two-way, she's up by 14 in this poll.
What's alarming to congressional Republicans is that the preference for Democrats on the congressional vote jumped from 3 percent to 7 percent, which is a really, really concerning number for them. That's why you saw Paul Ryan stepping out as he did today, basically saying to his caucus every man and woman for themselves here.
TAPPER: Ann, the poll shows Trump dragging down Republicans across the country, 49 percent of likely voters saying they now want Democrats in power on Capitol Hill.
The top strategist for Governor John Kasich fears this scenario. John Weaver tweeted: "Thanks to Trump and his fellow travelers, Hillary Clinton will win in a landslide with both Houses controlled by Dems. Congratulations, Steve, Kellyanne, Jason miller."
By do you think that Republicans are actually going to lose the House and Senate because of Donald Trump? Is that a truly possible scenario here?
ANN COMPTON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: This year, is anything absolutely impossible?
And imagine what does Donald Trump do from this day forward? He's still got another debate next week. And you have seen him before. When he is attacked, he attacks back even harder.
Even that line last night about Mrs. Clinton you would be in jail, that's a strong echo from his convention where the shouts of lock her up ringed, just resonated through the convention hall. He's still got some fight left in him. But I don't think he's looking at down the ticket either.
TAPPER: David, a moment from last night getting a lot of attention, as Ann just referenced, Trump promising to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Hillary Clinton. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I didn't think I would say this, but I'm going to say it, and I hate to say it. But if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we're going to have a special prosecutor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: David, I don't need to remind you, when Richard Nixon tried to commandeer the Justice Department by forcing his attorney general to fire a special prosecutor, two individuals resigned. The conventional wisdom says that Trump saying this out loud is
unconscionable. But Frank Luntz's focus group last night thought that it was the best moment of Trump's debate -- for Trump in the debate.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And it worked well in the independent voters with CNN as well.
It is distressing. But, Jake, under the law, the president can request, but he cannot command the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor. That's an aftermath of the Nixon scandals. And the anchors had to be put around and heck had to be put around the president of the United States.
So, for him to go there, in and of himself, was thoughtless. He hadn't really prepared himself. He never spent a hour-an-half studying to figure out what the powers of the presidency are.
But beyond that, the very idea of going on a presidential debate and saying, if I were president, you would be in jail, I'm going to appoint a special prosecutor if I can, I think is so far beyond the bounds of American politics, traditional American politics.
It's way outside the mainstream. Really, that's the language of a tin-pot dictator. And it's trying to suppress the opposition. We see that in other countries, but we never imagined we would see it in the United States. And I think that's one of the reasons that so many people today are embarrassed about this debate, that it went so low.
And it just felt like so much mudslinging. I'm not sure Americans really want a third debate.
TAPPER: Axe, Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist, one of the top strategists for John McCain in 2008, said of the Republican Party -- quote -- "The Republican Party will look like Berlin circa 1945. The wreckage will take a substantial amount of time to pick up. There will be a restoration, but it's going to require a monumental feat of leadership by someone who has not yet revealed themselves to the American people."
Do you think that even if Trump loses, that it's really going to be that cataclysmic for the Republican Party?
AXELROD: Well, obviously, if these kind of numbers hold up, and they lose the Senate, I honestly think it's going to be hard for them to lose the House just because there aren't that many competitive races and Democrats need to pick up 30 seats.
Could happen, but more likely you will have a much narrower House and, ironically, a much more reactionary caucus, because the Republicans who are likely to lose are moderate Republicans who are in swing districts.
But I think the Republican Party has a tremendously different situation here because you have a conservative faction and a center- right faction, neither of whom claim Trump and are both going to blame each other for this. And then you have this rabid Trump faction. Anybody who thinks that Donald Trump is going to, on election night, read the results, bid farewell to the American public and go back to business and not enter in this debate any longer hasn't been studying the man. I think that the Republican Party is in for a rough road here.
TAPPER: Ann, Donald Trump last night said that every billionaire uses the same provision on the tax code that allows the super rich to avoid paying federal income taxes.
He mentioned Warren Buffett, who is a Clinton supporter. Warren Buffett today says Trump takes advantage of this and he does not. He writes -- quote -- "I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13, though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year. I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carry-forward."
I guess the big question, Ann, is does it even matter anymore? Donald Trump says whatever he wants to say. And Warren Buffett is disputing the facts. Does that matter?
COMPTON: Well, probably not those who are going to the polls.
There may be a lot of people on Wall Street or maybe even future presidential contenders who are now going to look back at their own returns. But there is no question that the Republican Party is already feeling crippled. And they are going to have to contend with millions of Americans who vote for Donald Trump, and where do they go after November?
[16:15:02] TAPPER: That's the big question, Ann, David and David, thank you so much -- all of you.
A CNN/ORC poll showing Hillary Clinton won the debate. It was a poll that had a leaning of Democratic viewers of the debate, but is it too late -- too soon, rather, for Hillary Clinton to take a victory lap? That story next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Let's continue with our politics lead and Hillary Clinton's attempt to flip the script on more e-mails put out by WikiLeaks. Today, her campaign called the hack disgraceful and said the Trump campaign is cheering on Russia as it tries to get Trump elected. This after Clinton's high road approach last's night, but now, today, Clinton is in battleground states, trying to keep up momentum.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins me now live from Columbus, Ohio, where Clinton is headed next.
Jeff, what tone is Clinton taking today. Is she keeping on this go high strategy?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, not surprisingly in this campaign, she is not keeping on the go high strategy, at least not entirely. She said that Donald Trump has spent more time attacking than apologizing.
[16:20:00] She went all through in what she talked about the debate last night. She's trying to fire up Democrats, of course, and also trying to reach out to Republicans. Jake, today, it seemed like she was taking a victory lap, but a cautious one.
Hillary Clinton back on the campaign trail tonight, trying to capitalize on her rise in political fortunes.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did anybody see that debate night?
Well, you never saw anything like that before.
ZELENY: A bitter and bruising debate with Donald Trump behind her, Clinton is all smiles, riding her new momentum to Michigan and Ohio.
CLINTON: Donald Trump spent his time attacking when he should have been apologizing.
ZELENY: Even as she fires Democrats, Clinton is turning her attention to the chaos tearing apart the GOP. In a series of new television ads tonight, she's featuring Republicans standing against Trump, offering a path for others mothers and fathers to join.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been Republican all my life. But I'm the father of three girls. I can't stand hearing Donald Trump call women pigs, dogs and bimbos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son Max can't live in Trump world, so I'm crossing party lines and voting for Hillary.
ZELENY: Clinton came to the campaign trail with a far brighter landscape. A new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll gives her an 11- point edge nationally over Trump in a four-way race. For the next 29days, she's pressing her case as she did Sunday in St. Louis, starting with Trump's temperament.
CLINTON: With prior Republican nominees for president, I disagreed with them on politics, policies, principles. But I never questioned their fitness to serve. Donald Trump is different.
ZELENY: A CNN/ORC poll of people who watched the debate found 57 percent say Clinton won, 34 percent say Trump did. But among women, a wide gap, Clinton with a 34-point advantage over Trump. Among men, an 11-point edge. The poll of debate watchers skews slightly more Democratic.
After WikiLeaks published hacked campaign e-mails, Clinton also confronted with her old words from paid speeches she gave, bluntly saying politicians often have a public and private position on one issue. She mounted the Abe Lincoln defense.
CLINTON: As I recall, that was something I said about Abraham Lincoln after having seen the wonderful Steven Spielberg movie called "Lincoln." It was a master class watching President Lincoln get the Congress to approve the 13th Amendment.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She lied. Now, she's blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln. That's one that I haven't heard.
ZELENY: Now, Jake, I talked to more than one Democrat today who was rolling their eyes at that Abe Lincoln defense. I'm not sure we'll ever hear that line from her again. What the Clinton campaign is doing now is looking at the potential for expanding their map, to see if there is an opportunity to capitalize on some of Donald Trump's shortcomings in states like Arizona or Georgia, but she's also focused on getting Democrats registered to vote.
It's why she's in Michigan today and coming here to Ohio. It is the second to last day to register. Tomorrow is the final one -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.
Trump may have stopped some of the bleeding with his debate performance last night, but did he improve his chances in the key battleground states at all? That story next.
Plus, the Internet star of last night's debate isn't Hillary Clinton. It isn't Donald Trump. It's Ken Bohn. Who is Ken Bohn? His take on his sudden rise to stardom, coming up.
[16:28:09] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Sticking with our politics lead, just 29 days until the election. Let's check in on CNN's map showing the path to 270 electoral votes. We're now only right now seeing four states that are leaning neither one way or the other -- Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio. All of them are up for grabs, every other state seeming to be a Trump state or a Clinton state.
Even if Trump, however, sweeps all of these four states that are up for grabs, sorry, that's not enough electoral votes.
Let's talk more about this with our political panel. We have with us, "Washington Post" reporter David Fahrenthold who obviously broke the story of the Trump "Access Hollywood" tape.
A lot of people not happy with you, David, because of all the bad language.
And senior writer at "The Federalist", Mary Katharine Ham. David, let me start with you. First of all, I have to ask, in terms of the scoop, are there more tapes coming? Do you know of women who are going to say that, yes, he actually did these things that he claims in the tape?
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, there's been women now in the record before this that have said in various stories that sort of thing had happened, and I think we're getting more reports that we're trying to run down of new people that said this happened to them in the past. So, it would not surprise me, for us, or other people to have found people who say that what Donald Trump said he had done he really did do.
TAPPER: So, let's talk about the electoral map, Mary Katharine. The Clinton campaign is now talking about trying to expand the map, trying to play in Georgia, in Arizona, in Missouri. In Missouri, Roy Blunt, the senator who was up for reelection didn't even go to the debate in his home state. Not a good sign.
Do you think it's possible? Could she actually win Missouri, Arizona and Georgia?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST: On depends on how much oppo I think comes out this month and how much of it is severely depressing to the Republican electorate and I think there will be more. They can expand the map. I think the Republican electorate and the Republican Party has been playing with fire with Donald Trump from the beginning.