Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Authorities Investigate Texas Church Massacre; Election Day. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tell us about that.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Incredibly tense.

We know that, as we have reported, the gunman arrived here on the church grounds, started shooting from the outside, walked along the side of the sanctuary, shooting -- as one witness described it, essentially just shooting straight down the pews.

But then he went inside for several minutes.

One of those survivors is now describing what it was like inside that church when the gunman entered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSANNE SOLIS, SURVIVOR: Everybody is going to die (EXPLETIVE DELETED). That's what he said.

The bullets hitting, passing me like that. And I could see it on the carpet. I said, if I don't move from here, I'm going to die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: You can imagine the horrifying scene there.

Videotape images of that, we have been told by investigators, has been captured. Remember that these Sunday services were often recorded and then shared online. There was a video and tech team that kind of was responsible for handling all of that. And that is video investigators have to pore through. You can imagine how difficult and what a difficult of a task that must be, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.

We have some breaking news in the politics lead. Another Republican lawmaker says he is tired of the polarization. He's calling it quits, this as we gauge how much of today's local elections could be a direct reflection of President Trump.

We will tell you who that lawmaker is and discuss next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:35:29]

TAPPER: We're back with some breaking news.

Another Republican congressman has announced his retirement. New Jersey Congressman Frank LoBiondo some South Jersey says he won't seek reelection. He is blaming political polarization.

He says in a statement -- quote -- "People before politics has always been my philosophy and my motivation. Regrettably, our nation is now consumed by increasing political polarization. There is no longer middle ground to honestly debate issues and put forward solutions" -- unquote.

That makes 23 Republicans in the House and 10 Democrats leaving Congress. This comes as voters in his state of New Jersey and across the U.S. head to the polls today.

One race we're watching closely is in Virginia for the governor's race there. The polls close in just three hours. Republican Ed Gillespie, who used for the Bush White House, has given an unexpectedly tough challenge to Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam in a race notable for its nastiness and low blows.

My panel is back with me.

And, Robby Mook, what are you looking for in Virginia today? This wasn't competitive about two months ago, and, boy, Ed Gillespie has closed strong.

ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this was always going to be competitive.

When we did Terry McAuliffe's race, he won by two-and-a-half points. I think, if he wins by two points, that is a very solid win.

We're looking for a few things. Turnout is a big disadvantage for Democrats in this race. Our base constituencies, young people, people of color, tend to turn out at lower rates.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: In off-years.

MOOK: They're disproportionately less of the electorate in those off- year.

So, as Democrats, we're going to have to make that up somewhere else. We're going to need to do a little bit better in Northern Virginia with college-educated voters and do better in Southwest Virginia as well. We have continued to see our numbers decline there.

That is the trend that will have to be reversed tonight. We're not talking about big numbers, maybe going from 17 percent up to 25 percent or 23 percent in some areas, but we need to see those two things. And then, with our base, we can't lose too many people. They can't shrink to be too small a portion of electorate.

TAPPER: And, David, what are you looking for?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I agree exactly -- the exact opposite of what Robby is looking for. Shocking, right?

Arlington County, 77 percent of the voters turned there turned out for Secretary Clinton. Big numbers in Northern Virginia. It's a purple state, getting more purple every year.

But for Ed Gillespie being a great candidate, I think this would be a blowout. I think that he's a phenomenal candidate. And the demographics are pushing against us. And I think that if he wins, it's more to do with Ed Gillespie than anything else.

TAPPER: Ana, what do you think of the campaign that Ed Gillespie has run? He's talked a lot about issues that are sensitive social issues in terms of Confederate monuments, in terms of -- he's called Ralph Northam weak on crime, sanctuary cities. Talked about the gang MS-13.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been on issue, frankly, on both sides of this campaign.

I have seen ads in support of Ed Gillespie that really harped on the immigration issue. I have seen ads in support of Northam that I thought went too far, the one where you had a truck chasing the children. It got really dirty. It got really ugly.

My big question is going to be, if Ed Gillespie wins, which Ed Gillespie is showing up to be governor? Because the Ed Gillespie that some of us have seen in this campaign is very different than the Ed Gillespie we had known for years.

Remember, he is the epitome of Republican establishment. He is the epitome of a moderate Republican. I remember, when he was at the RNC, he did so much work and so much focus on trying to diversify the Republican Party. Make it a bigger tent. And so the question is, if he wins with this new tone that David now loves...

URBAN: Oh, no.

CABRERA: ... what does that mean? What does that mean for the -- what I'm seeing as the continued metamorphosis of the Republican Party?

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Jake, that's completely unfair, Ana.

CABRERA: Which part, that you like him?

URBAN: No, that's completely unfair.

I think Ed Gillespie. I think he is a great candidate. But I don't like that tone, and I think it's unfair for you to say that. CABRERA: No, no, no. I'm saying the Ed Gillespie that...

URBAN: I think Ed Gillespie is a great candidate.

MOOK: Well, I think what it will prove is that the Republican Party is winning through racism and bigotry.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to ask about that, because there was this ad that Ana was just referring to by -- it wasn't by the Northam campaign, but a group supporting Northam, that had a pickup truck with a Confederate Flag chasing down little children of color.

It was widely decried by newspapers, including newspapers that supported Ralph Northam and were opposed to Ed Gillespie. And I guess there is the argument can it backfire on Democrats if you basically suggest everybody that is thinking about supporting the Republican is a racist?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, one, I actually didn't care for the ad. Coming from South Carolina, where we have the Lee Atwater, where know about Willie Lynch and those type of ads. We have seen the campaign that Ed Gillespie has run, one that does prop of fear in white nationalism and some other things that have been relatively vile.

[16:40:04]

This ad fell into that same trap. However, I will say that I don't think that this ad will do damage to Ralph Northam.

One of the things that Robby didn't take credit for is, amazingly enough, in 2013, they actually got the same, if not slightly higher turnout from African-Americans that Barack Obama did in 2012. It was one of the first times that's ever happened.

Hopefully, we see that same type of turnout today. But one thing that is going to happen and one thing that we're seeing in the Democratic Party as we're having growing pains is that Ralph Northam has not run the best campaign. Leaving Justin Fairfax, the lone African-American, off the mail piece was not conducive to victory.

TAPPER: The lieutenant governor candidate.

SELLERS: The lieutenant governor candidate.

But I think that you're going to see African-Americans still come out in these large numbers, not to vote for Ralph Northam, per se.

CABRERA: But the point is just what is so important, because I have been amazed in these last few days to see the level of circular firing squad that's going on in the Democratic Party...

SELLERS: Oh, yes.

CABRERA: ... in the closing days of such an important campaign. You saw DAF going after Northam. You have seen a lot of debate.

TAPPER: You mean Democracy for America.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Democracy for America, a progressive group.

You have seen a lot of DNC debate-related activity within the Democratic Party. And I'm thinking to myself, my gosh, if one year of Donald Trump can't unify these folks, what can?

SELLERS: But do you know what cures it all? What cures it all is victory. Like, if you win, all of that doesn't matter.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let me bring it to Ryan.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The circling firing squad of the 2016 Democratic primary hasn't even finished. The shots haven't finished there. So, why would you be surprised that it's already started here?

CABRERA: Maybe because I'm tired.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOK: I think America is tired.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Virginia is the kind of state that really highlights the key problem for Democrats right now, which is that in order to bring out African-American voters, you might have to alienate some white voters.

And it's a purple state. It's a place where Democrats still have to appeal to some white voters. And so that balancing act is really difficult for them to strike right now.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

Coming up: He went to Russia. He interacted with top Russian officials. He even suggested that candidate Donald Trump might make a trip. Carter Page says he told all to the Trump campaign.

Who knew what and when, as the Russia probe heats up on the Hill?

Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with the "POLITICS LEAD." Carter Page a former Trump Foreign Policy Adviser suggested that candidate Trump take a trip to Russia. It's just one of the new revelations from the interesting transcript of his marathon six-hour interview with the House Intelligence Committee that's now public. We're also learning who else Page told about his trip to Russia, even though on this very show just last Friday he would only name now Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is he the only one on the campaign that knew about the trip?

CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I mentioned it to a few people.

TAPPER: Who else?

PAGE: You know, it will come out --things keep leaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: All right. As CNN's Manu Raju reports today, that same committee questioned one of the President's closest confidants.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, the Congressional investigations into Russia meddling move closer to President Trump. His longtime body man Keith Schiller grilled today by House investigators about Trump's interactions with Russians before he became President as well as the President's firing of FBI Director James Comey. When it happened, CNN captured the moment. Schiller delivered the letter to the FBI. And the President's eldest son Donald Trump Jr. soon could have his turn to answer questions about his June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower where Russians promised dirt on the Clinton campaign. The Russian lawyer at the meeting suggested this week that Trump Jr. signaled his father was open to rethinking Russian sanctions if elected, something that has drawn attention on Capitol Hill.

What's your reaction to that?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, we've still got a couple of additional people to talk to and then we hope to talk to Mr. Donald Trump Jr.

RAJU: And when do you think that might happen?

WARNER: Soon.

PAGE: I'm particularly grateful --

RAJU: At the same time Carter Page, a former Trump campaign Foreign Policy Adviser, once again in the spotlight after the House Intelligence Committee released more than 200 pages of his testimony from last week. Many questions centered on a July 2016 trip he took to Moscow.

PAGE: It was terrific to have the opportunity to help clear the record.

RAJU: Page had repeatedly said that his trip to Moscow was not campaign-related and he didn't meet with any Russian officials. TAPPER: You say you only met with academics essentially when you were on your trip to Russia?

PAGE: And a few businesspeople I've known for over a decade, yes.

RAJU: But Page's testimony tells a different story saying, he interacted with the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich. And he wrote an e-mail to the Trump campaign last July that he gained some incredible insights in outreach from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the Presidential administration here. He even floated the idea that Trump travel to Russia. Plus, he acknowledged meeting with a top executive with the Russian energy giant Rosneft. This after he's denounced the dossier about Trump-Russia connections that said Page met with a different Rosneft executive on that trip in an effort to broker a deal to ease U.S. sanctions.

PAGE: Great to see you guys.

RAJU: Page, however, denies he was part of any quid pro quo with the company. Page also told senior campaign officials about his Moscow trip including Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks who was now the White House Communications Director and Jeff Sessions, now the Attorney General. Ask if he spoke with National Co-chairman Sam Clovis after his trip, Page said, I did.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:50:04] RAJU: And, Jake, no comment from Sam Clovis or the Attorney General Jeff Sessions and no response yet from Hope Hicks. The Communications Director is traveling overseas with the President as well as from Corey Lewandowski. But one member who did receive an e-mail from Carter Page is J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon Spokesman, who told me last night that he actually rejected the notion of Carter Page going to Moscow and said it was a bad idea. And what did Carter Page do according to J.D. Gordon? He went around him and got approval from senior campaign officials. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thank you so much. My panel is back with me. Abby, let me start with you. Carter Page originally made it sound like he was just kind of doing this on his own, it didn't have anything to do with the campaign. But when you read the testimony and you realize how many people on the Trump campaign he was talking to about this and how many of the conversations were about what he thought this meant for the campaign and whether President -- or then- candidate Trump should go over there. It's really hard to make the argument that he was just kind of freelancing on his own.

ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think there are a lot of new questions about this but also the broader umbrella that this falls under and in this is a campaign in which a lot of people didn't know what other people were doing. There was not a lot of control over how someone like Carter Page, who, frankly, you know, most campaigns would not be placed anywhere near their campaign because of lack of qualifications ended up in a position where he would end up talking to, you know, campaign managers, going around people like Sam Clovis to get permission to do -- to do essentially freelancing. Carter Page is now out there doing his media tour, as he has been for many, many months, but I think the most important thing is things like this testimony and what he'll say when he's interviewed under oath and the consequences of not telling the truth are going to jail.

TAPPER: And, Ryan, it's been pointed out that he's talked -- he talks a lot about that Steele Dossier full of information, a lot of it uncorroborated, some of it seems to have been debunked, other parts of it seem to have been corroborated. He calls it the dodgy dossier, that Page acknowledges that he had meeting with a Russian official and an official at Rosneft which is a Russian oil company. And that backs up that part of the dossier. So you have to wonder why does he keep calling it a dodgy dossier if some parts of it he himself has confirmed it?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Yes, that's one of the headlines that came out of that transcript that was released yesterday, is that there's some -- at least part of that dossier has been corroborated. I mean, I think if you take a step back, what we've learned in the last few weeks is that the Trump campaign was unique in Republican politics and that it had a view of America's relationship with Russia that was the opposite of where most Republicans were. It was run by someone who is now the -- I'm talking about Paul Manafort, who became the Campaign Chairman. It was run by someone who was --has now been charged with being an unregistered agent for a pro-Putin puppet, basically from Ukraine who is running a secret campaign to influence American politics.

At the Republican convention, people were active in the platform committee to adjust language in the party platform to be more pro- Russian. And there were several people in the campaign that Russians reached out to and who welcomed Russian cooperation or help. And then, of course, the Russians themselves stole and leaked documents that were helpful to Donald Trump, right? So that's the bigger picture of all of this. We have this story of the Russi2an government and the Trump campaign at least in sync ideologically and all of these links. I think what we don't have yet is, was there something that crossed the line into illegality on the Trump side?

TAPPER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't find Carter Page to be a very reliable narrator.

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: No, I'm serious. Like, I think we place a lot of emphasis on the things that he says and I don't think that he's a trustworthy person. I don't know if he's intentionally misleading or if he just accidentally contradicts himself all the time or accidentally tells you one thing and then tells another people -- someone else another thing. That doesn't mean he didn't do something that he shouldn't have done. I just think it's hard figuring out exactly what it was. And it's hard figuring out exactly what was going on with him in the campaign if he wasn't just this strange guy that was kind of around telling them stuff and they were half listening to him or that they actually were relying on him. I just don't think it's clear to us at this point what was going on.

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What he's done in his testimony and his series of, frankly, odd interviews with journalists, including you, Jake, is it set out a certain parameters. He said these meetings occurred. I told this person this about this meeting. These are things that investigators can go and look for and confirm or either corroborate or prove to be false in e-mails and other interviews with people in the Trump campaign. So what he's done is sort of pointed an arrow for where investigators need to look to corroborate that these meetings really did, in fact, take place. If they didn't, that seems to be exactly what Mueller's investigators and House investigators are doing.

[16:55:05] TAPPER: David, I'm sure you want to weigh in on this.

DAVID URBAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I don't even know where to begin. I associate myself with Kirsten's comments about it doesn't seem to be a very reliable source. Robbie will tell you and for those who worked on campaigns, plenty of freelancers, hangers-owners, people who are circulating the campaign trying to appear more important than they are. I agree, there is going to be plenty of investigation. Mueller will continue to dig and dig and scratch and if they're relying on Carter Page to sink this, I mean, good luck.

TAPPER: Robby, I promise -- we have to go -- I promise I'll have you back to talk about the Russia investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Campaign Manager was arrested. I just want to point that out.

TAPPER: That is -- that is accurate. My thanks to the panel. We're minutes away from the first exit poll results. Our first gauge of how the election day is going coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)