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CNN Source: Trump Satisfied NFL Feud "Really Caught On"; Alabama Vote Underway Pitting Trump Against Own Base; New Details in Russian Meddling in Election. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 26, 2017 - 11:30   ET

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


(CROSSTALK)

[11:30:00] JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Scott, I got to respond --

(CROSSTALK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's one thing that Hines said. That the president took it personal and that's where the problem lies.

A SCOTT BOULDEN, FORMER D.C. DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: Highly inappropriate. Highly.

MILLER: I have to disagree with Scott's logic. I think its flawed logic here. I don't see how protesting against social injustice, by disrespecting the national anthem and the flag, is going to go in and bring about social change.

(CROSSTALK)

BOULDEN: Who are you to say that's disrespecting the flag?

BOLDUAN: They say they're not disrespecting the flag. That's their point.

BOULDEN: That's your opinion.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Kneeling during the national anthem? Of course, that's being very disrespectful.

BOULDEN: Kate, let me say this.

No, no, no. It's not disrespectful.

MILLER: It's absolutely disrespectful.

BOULDEN: Let me say this. Protesting --

BOLDUAN: That's your view. A lot of the players saying they're not trying to disrespect the flag.

BOULDEN: Exactly. BOLDUAN: They're trying to draw attention to social injustice. Two views, but the point of this conversation.

BOULDEN: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: The president has picked a side on it.

Chris, you always say that Trump on Twitter is the real Trump. The fact that he continues with this focus today on Twitter it then tells you what?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, I mean look, Jason is right, the president believes strongly in this. And look, we know the president likes a fight. Build you take his version which he likes to be a counterpuncher or other versions he likes to be the puncher, he likes to be involved and thinks that this is a fight that plays I think to his political base. Jason is not wrong, frankly. There are millions of people who agree with Donald Trump. There's no question. The issue I would say is, when you highlight something like this and you call names, say this is unpatriotic, say this is disrespectful, sort of blanket it and not go into the nuance of why the protests are happening, why they chose this setting, which is when a pro athlete the most high-profile time you have, in front of the camera, when you do those things I do think you tend to focus and harbor on to the divisions in the country rather than saying -- look, I go Vernon Davis, washington Redskins tight end, said I would go to the White House if President Trump invited me because I want to talk about my experience and how that was different from his. That, to me, is the right answer both politically and as a country, as opposed to saying I'm on this side you're on that side and anyone not with me is bad.

MILLER: And, you know --

(CROSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

Jason, go ahead quick.

And then to you, Scott.

MILLER: Real quick, the NFL has to come up with a policy. It's an absolute joke they don't have a blanket policy that says you can't kneel and disrespect the national anthem. I think General Kelly had it exactly right, said regardless of the frustrations you have with social injustice or broader political issues, you can stand for three minutes to honor our national anthem. And owner, Jerry Jones, probably got it right last night when he said, look, we can kneel beforehand, but during the national anthem, itself, we need to be standing and united. He probably got it closest to the pin.

BOLDUAN: Scott, respond, finally. But also with this, here's one thing. If anything, there's now a brighter spotlight applied to the issue that these players, these very few players, and now a lot of players, have been wanting to highlight. MILLER: And coaches.

BOLDUAN: And coaches, the racial injustice. You might not like that all what the president said, but do you see this as an opportunity?

BOULDEN: Of course, it's an opportunity. But worth messenger on any of this is Donald Trump with his rhetoric. Up to 2009, the players never were on the field when the national anthem was played. It was post-9/11, if you will. Again, you can't pick and choose when you want protests. Protest is never comfortable. Change is never comfortable. So when I hear my colleagues on this panel say, you got to respect the flag and so forth and so on, well, you can't define when I'm going to exercise my First Amendment.

Now, can something positive come from this? Sure, it can. Because now we've got the spotlight on racial injustice, police brutality, and what have you. What has this president said or done since getting in office, on a prior basis, when you ask black America or African- Americans what do you have to lose? We have a lot to lose because he hasn't focused on the underlying basis for the protests. He could do better in that regard and lead that effort, but we won't because his core base isn't with him on that.

BOLDUAN: Scott, Chris, Jason, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

BOULDEN: Thank you.

[11:34:25] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, right now, voters in Alabama are hitting a poll in the race putting the president's base, I don't know, in an awkward position, but in a funny position. President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, campaigning against Trump's pick to fill the Senate seat of Jeff Sessions. This is one of the races you need a flow chart, but it's exciting. We will go live to Alabama and I will explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Alabama, you are on the clock. Voters heading to the polls right now in a special primary election that sure is getting special attention. Republican Luther Strange versus Republican Roy Moore. President Trump has thrown his support behind the incumbent, Senator Strange. Recall, he stumped for Strange last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That is why I'm here tonight, to ask the good people of Alabama to send Luther Strange to the United States Senate so he can defend your interests, fight for your values, and always put America first. Go out and get out the vote.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Strange also has the backing of Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, the one person who has become a persona non grada in this race.

But challenger, Roy Moore, has something of Republican star power behind him as well. The president's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, stumping for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, EDITOR, BREITBART & FORMER TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: When you walk in that voting booth tomorrow, a vote for Judge Roy Moore is a vote for Donald J. Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:08] BOLDUAN: Wrap your mind around that one. Pause for dramatic effect.

Let's go live to Kaitlan Collins, in Birmingham, Alabama, for the latest.

So, Kaitlan, is this Luther Strange versus Roy Moore, or is it now more like Donald Trump versus Donald Trump's base?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it's really not Steve Bannon versus the president, but Steve Bannon and these populist conservatives against the more establishment Republicans. That's really what's the larger issue that's playing out here, which is a fight for the Republican Party. It almost mirrors the 2016 presidential election where this insurgent candidate is giving the establishment candidate a run for their money, but this time President Trump is on the establishment side. As you said he's backing Luther Strange in this race as is Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. A super PAC aligned with him has poured millions of dollars into ads for him.

The president is encouraging the people of Alabama to get out and vote for Luther Strange. He was tweeting just this morning saying, "Alabama get out and vote for Luther Strange. He has proven to me he will never let you down."

The president said that Luther has been loyal to him and that's why he has endorsed him. But we have Steve Bannon backing Roy Moore, this contentious figure kicked off the state bench here twice in Alabama that's also running. But the larger issue that people like Mitch McConnell are worried about is if Roy Moore wins tonight it will create problems for Republicans in 2018 -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. The cascade of primary challengers that would come, that's the fear.

Kaitlan, great to see you. And thank you so much.

Voters at the polls right now. While they're voting, let's do some more talking.

Joining me right now Scott Jennings, a CNN political commentator, former special assistant to George W. Bush and former campaign adviser to Mitch McConnell. And David Mowery, a political consultant to Republicans and Democrats in the state of Alabama, and chairman of the Mowery Consulting Group.

Great to see both of you.

David, you worked on Republican and Democratic campaigns in the state. What does the special election come down to, other than don't give me the turnout, I know it's always turnout, but what does the special election come down to?

DAVID MOWERY, POLITICAL CONSULTANT & CHAIRMAN, MOWERY CONSULTING GROUP: You nailed me, but that's the cliche. What that really -- but what drives that is, don't ever underestimate the fact that Alabamians don't like to be told what to do. We got an appointed Senator, and we got, you know, the president saying, OK, you have to vote for him, and so that is where some of the backlash comes from. And it comes down to have they -- it comes down to money versus that backlash.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Scott, you've advised Mitch McConnell's campaigns in the past. He's become like a boogie man in the race. Does that surprise you?

JENNINGS: It's not the first time we've seen congressional leaders used in a political campaign by an insurgent type candidacy. I think these boogiemen are overblown in their importance. What your other guest said is important. In the Republican Party, there is a general sense among voters they don't like to be told what to do, and endorsements aren't what they used to be in party politics. So I think the greater political implications for the Republican Party are, if Roy Moore beats Luther Strange, can he hold the seat against a Democrat. There's some polling indicating that he might be in trouble. And number two, does Roy Moore become something of a messaging lightning rod for the Senate Republicans if he gets to washington, a la, a Todd Akin a few years ago.

BOLDUAN: Yes. So if endorsements mean bunk, but does that then mean that a win for Roy Moore, David, is a loss for Donald Trump? I mean what does it mean?

MOWREY: You know, I don't think so. It's one of the things that people underestimated the dynamics on the ground. There are always -- there have been questions about the way that Senator Strange got the appointment. Right or wrong --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: From the embattled governor?

MOWREY: Yes. I think that's just kind of stuck in people's crawl and they're being told what to do there, told what to do by the Senate Leadership Fund. And it's just one of those things where a lot of voters just go, you know, look, it's not that I really like this other guy, it's just that I don't like what you guys are trying to tell me to do, so I will backlash and vote for the guy that -- for the lightning rod.

BOLDUAN: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But, Scott, is Trump going to be able to get away with that? If Roy Moore wins he can say that wasn't a loss for me even though that was my endorsement. I flew down there, held a rally for him, I've been tweeting up a storm for him, and the other guy wins?

JENNINGS: Well, you can certainly see the president is already trying to pre-message it. Even at the rally for Luther Strange he said maybe I made a mistake, which is a crazy thing to say at a campaign rally for somebody running for political office. And then he had Ben Carson, one of his cabinet secretaries, go out and endorse Roy Moore. I have no doubt that the president will want to pin the blame on Senator McConnell and others if Strange comes up short tonight. But it is true, he's invested a lot of time and political capital in this. And we'll see what happens. I do think that a lot of Republicans listen to what the president has to say. And as well, they ought to, because Luther Strange has been a consistent supporter of the president's agenda in the Senate, like on Obamacare. Roy Moore says he won't vote for repeal and Strange has been a supporter of repeal. That's just one issue where Luther Strange has hung in there with President Trump's agenda.

[11:45:34] BOLDUAN: Kind of to the point of the final pitch, David, Luther Strange made the final pitch this morning on FOX News and basically summed it up, which is, I'm no product of washington, don't put that on me. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LUTHER STRANGE, (R), ALABAMA: I can assure you, Steve, if I were part of the problem, the president wouldn't be down here campaigning so hard for me. Last night, we had the vice president here. I've been in Washington less time than the president has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I mean, Luther Strange is not wrong there. Why is he having this problem?

MOWERY: No. He's not wrong but he -- well, he's having a problem because he hasn't done anything to emotionally connect himself via advertising, surrogates, whatever to the president. It's, hey, this is the guy that I think that you should do. I get a mailer every day. And every day, it just says, you know, I like Luther, he'll build a wall. I don't think anybody believes Roy Moore will not build a war or just Roy Moore is just as conservative as Strange. And there's the problem because Roy Moore has the firebrand, you know, "setting the woods on fire" base that Alabamians have always responded to.

(CROSSTALK)

MOWERY: I'm not making a prediction. I think it's closer than people think.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

MOWERY: But I think that's -- there's your disconnect.

BOLDUAN: Scott, really quick, arriving to vote for yourself on a horse as Roy Moore is going to be doing today, does that increase your chance of success with -- would you advise Mitch McConnell to arrive via horse in his next Senate race?

JENNINGS: No. It will be dangerous to ride a horse on the streets of Louisville. So, no. I would not advise -- unless near Churchill Downs headed for the Kentucky Derby. Election Day doesn't match up with the first Saturday in May. No horses. No horses.

BOLDUAN: Well prepared for that one, Scott. That was good.

All right. Great to see you. Let's see what happens when the returns start coming in tonight, and what then all means.

Great to see you both.

We have this, stunning new details on the investigation into Russian- sponsored campaign ads and fake news spread on Facebook. Black Lives Matter reportedly a target of Russian operatives in their bid to influence the U.S. election. There's new details coming in. Exactly what meddling really looked like in the election. We've got that for you coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:50:54] BOLDUAN: For the first time, we are getting a clear view of what exactly Russian meddling looked like. "Washington Post" is reporting that Russian operatives tried to, among other things, exploit hot button racial and religious issues to boost support for Donald Trump and suppress support for Hillary Clinton. Facebook is about to turn over 3,000 Russian-related ads to Congress. This is a big move.

Let's get more detail on this. CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is here. As well as CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," to break it down.

Manu, first to you.

What are you learning about the ads?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPODNENT: These ads, Kate, were aimed at amplifying the social and political divisions happening in this country and also to try to exacerbate the racial tensions by trying to promote groups like Black Lives Matter. These are some of the ads being turned over to Congress. We're told by Facebook sources that some of these ads, in particular, specifically referenced Black Lives Matters in an effort to try to amplify some of these divisive social and political messages. I just had the chance to talk to Mark Warner, who is the top Democrat

on the Senate Intelligence, about a key question: How do the Russian, who purchased these ads, know who to target as part of the ad campaign during the season. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: How do the Russians know who to target and how to target on Facebook these ads?

SEN. MARK WARNER, (D), VIRGINIA: That's the million-dollar question. Do they know this by following political news? Did they geo target both geography and demographics in ways that, at the first brush, appear sophisticated? These are the kind of questions we need to have answered and that's why we're having these hearings.

RAJU: Do you think Trump associates where involved in this?

WARNER: It's way too early to tell. This has been a question I've been asking for 10 months. I raised this last winter. At that point, Facebook was dismissive that there was anything there. We've seen there was a lot there in terms of paid advertising and fake accounts and pushing people towards rallies and trying to sow division and chaos. That's why I'm anxious to review the materials they are sending in to the committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Warner said some of those ads may have started to trickle in as soon as last night. He said he wants to go and review some of this information.

And, Kate, also Twitter in the committee's crosshairs, coming before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. A lot of questions about whether or not the efforts by Russians were used in tweets to promote the similar divisions. They don't have the answers quite yet, but Facebook giving that committee a lot of areas to investigate as part of this going forward-- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Manu. Important information coming out.

Great reporting. Thank you very much.

Brian, we have been hearing about Russian medaling for months. This is how this all started.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Yes.

BOLDUAN: It's taken a lot of twists and turns. What can it mean about the scope and scale?

STELTER: We are seeing what it looks like. Robert Mueller has the data from Facebook. And Congress is about to get the same information. They'll be able to see what a propaganda war looks like, and what it means to target ads on your Facebook page, and make you get angry about Hillary Clinton or get supportive of Donald Trump, even without mentioning the candidates' names. There is a lot we don't know about who was helping the Russia propagandists. But we know this ticked up in June of 2016. Everyone knows that's the same month of that meeting between Donald Trump Jr and Paul Manafort and the Russian woman who wanted to provide damaging information to Hillary Clinton. There is a lot on the timeline that links up, but, a lot we don't know. Facebook was vital in spreading this Russian propaganda, what we think of as fake news. In 2016, that term was not around yet. No one was thinking about this problem, including Facebook and the U.S. government. There's a lot of accountability to go around.

[11:55:24] BOLDUAN: A lot to go around. Also, huge implications of going forward, 2018, 2020.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: That's the scary part.

BOLDUAN: That's the scary part. I mean, take aside any connection to any campaign in the past, it's going forward, which is really one of the focuses that they care very much about. This is giving a little window into what it looks like.

STELTER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brian. Great to see you.

STELTER: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you so much.

Coming up, still ahead, moments from now, Senate Republicans are meeting behind closed doors on what to do with the last-ditch health care effort. Will they bring Graham-Cassidy to a vote? There are signals that might not happen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:05] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

President Trump promises to visit Puerto Rico next month. And he defends the federal response to Maria amid complaints the --