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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Booker: I'm A Voice For Love And Bringing Nation Together; Police Investigators Have Recovered Limo's Black Box; Scientists Set 2030 Deadline To Stop Climate Disaster; Rod Rosenstein in No Danger?; 2020 Race Starting?. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 8, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: First, he's going to take one more victory lap when he swears him in during a ceremony here at the White House tonight.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Kaitlan Collins in the White House, thanks very much.

You heard the president say today that he has a very good relationship, in his terms, with the deputy attorney general.

Just a reminder of some of the things he's said in the past about the Justice Department under Rod Rosenstein's leadership.

Here's one: "The top leadership and investigators of the FBI and Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans, something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago."

Another one, the top leadership: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch-hunt." Of course, that a reference to the memo that Rosenstein wrote justifying the firing of James Comey at the time, before the president said it was all about the Russian investigation.

So, Jackie, is this sort of a kiss of death from the president to say we have a great relationship before the inevitable departure?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I can't tell, honestly, because maybe they do have a great relationship. Maybe they don't. I don't know.

But, seriously, you're right. Whenever he says they have a great relationship, that person is probably looking over their shoulder. But I think there is an assumption that, after the midterms, Jeff Sessions is gone, the attorney general. Will he clean house?

That's an open question. But certainly the Kavanaugh hearings and all that went into it bought Rosenstein some time.

SCIUTTO: Yes. David, especially this kind of thing happens when the president feels

that he has the political footing to do it, that he has the leeway to do it. Here's a president who is energized by Brett Kavanaugh, the economy, et cetera.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think Rosenstein is going anywhere. He wouldn't have invited him on the plane, wouldn't have taken the trip, wouldn't have said all those nice things.

But as you have seen before, you're good until you're not. Right? So I think that the notion he's going anywhere any time soon isn't realistic. I think the president realizes there is a long bench of people behind Rod Rosenstein. The solicitor general moves up. There's just -- there's lots more lawyers behind him.

So I think he's fine with keeping him. Rod Rosenstein simply at this point when the Mueller investigation wraps up, takes the report and probably is going to hand it off to Congress. And so there's not a lot of discretion there for him. And he's better the kind of devil you know with Rosenstein than the devil you don't.

SCIUTTO: Kristen, the president, when he was initially asked about Rod Rosenstein, listen to how he began his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I actually have a good relationship, other than there's been no collusion, folks. No collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: His mind immediately went to the focus, or one focus, I should say, of the Mueller investigation.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure.

I mean, that's his biggest complaint about the Justice Department, is, why this investigation still going on, when he believes or continues to say that there should be no reason for it to continue.

But I have always thought that "The New York Times" report that sort of kicked off this latest round of drama around Rosenstein about the did he say that we should invoked the, what was it, the 27th Amendment?

URBAN: The 25th.

(CROSSTALK)

SOLTIS ANDERSON: The 25th Amendment, sorry.

Should we -- does he wear a wire?

(CROSSTALK) SOLTIS ANDERSON: I always wondered, was there going to be a chance that the deputy attorney general could sit down with the president and go this is the failing "New York Times" coming after me, right?

This is two entities the president has had lots of Twitter anger for colliding with one another. And so I thought there was a decent chance that Rosenstein would come out on top in a feud against "The New York Times" with the president.

SCIUTTO: OK, fair enough.

But do you think the president -- that came on the heels of "The New York Times" op-ed, you know, anonymous op-ed. We know, based on reporting from inside the White House, that those two things got under the president's skin, right? Has he forgotten that? Can we believe that?

KUCINICH: I don't believe he's forgotten it, but I do think he tends to be pretty impulsive.

And the farther away you get from it and the more that perhaps maybe things are going his way when it comes to Rosenstein, maybe it lessons the danger for him.

I think in the moment, though, had perhaps the Kavanaugh hearings gone a little more smoothly, I don't know. We might be in a different place. But it's hard to say. You have can't try to predict with this president.

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: It's a losing battle.

SCIUTTO: Angela.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the thing that we have to pay attention to here is, well, you talked about the layers of lawyers.

There have to be some lawyer in the White House who told him not just optically, but also potentially criminally, this could create an issue for him with the Mueller investigation if he were to release Rod Rosenstein. It's not just the confirmation process. Right?

It looks like more potential obstruction coming out of the White House directly from the commander in chief. Somebody had to flag that for him. I have got to believe that was the thing.

SCIUTTO: Sure. But he's gotten that advice before and not necessarily followed it. Right?

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: The president has been very critical of both, you know, the attorney general and the deputy attorney general on Twitter. But if he wanted to, he could have pressed send on -- said you're fired and kind of sent him packing a long time ago. He doesn't done that.

Beats him up with a baton and lets him remain in place, but hasn't canned either. So...

SCIUTTO: And what signal does he take from the midterms, particularly if it's a shellacking?

[16:35:02]

URBAN: But, look, he dismissed a chief of staff. Reince Priebus was fired by a tweet.

RYE: That had different implications.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: No, I agree with Angela. But I'm saying, he knows how to fire people when he wants to.

SCIUTTO: All right. So we will give him a couple weeks reprieve and then we will check back in together.

All right, looking ahead, some potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are visiting some very key places across the country. Who President Trump is already picking on personally.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: When you are headlining a major Democratic event in Iowa, it's designed to drum up presidential speculation.

And Democratic Senator Cory Booker is spending a lot of time, we should note, in Iowa, complete with a full slate of events today.

CNN's Rebecca Berg has been traveling with him.

Rebecca, he spoke on Saturday in Iowa at a Democratic fund-raising gala and you just talked to him. Is there any question about what he's laying the groundwork for there?

[16:40:05]

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Jim, he told us for the record that he is here solely to focus on getting out the vote for Democrats in the midterm elections, and he said he does not plan to make a decision on running for president in 2020 until after November.

That said, there is no question that Cory Booker is here in Iowa, his first visit as a would-be presidential candidate, to lay the groundwork in case he does decide to run in 2020. And he's doing all the things here that you would expect of a possible potential presidential candidate, raising money for Iowa Democrats, campaigning with them.

We rode along with Senator Booker and congressional candidate J.D. Scholten, who is challenging Steve King. And Scholten's campaign R.V. stayed. Booker spent 45 minutes with Scholten on the road Instagramming, deejaying, having a great time talking about Iowa.

And they were on their way to an event in Boone, Iowa, for Scholten with a bunch of farmers. And I want you to look at the reception Cory Booker got there when he talked about running for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: My chief of staff there wouldn't let me come up here to Iowa because he said people would be talking about presidential stuff.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERG: So a lot of laughter there from that crowd, and also, you might not have heard a lot of applause that followed that as well. I'm not sure if you could see in that shot, Jim, but the room was packed.

I was told it was at double capacity. People were literally in the rafters, wanting to talk to Cory Booker. A really positive reception for him there. By the way, as I mentioned, a lot of farmers there. They're getting ready for harvest here in Iowa.

You could say that Cory Booker is planting some seeds with his visit -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Planting some seeds, and in the midst of a trade dispute that they're watching, with China, they're watching very closely. Rebecca Berg, thanks very much.

Back with the panel now.

Let's run through the list of just the folks who were in Iowa in the last week only, Cory Booker. Kamala Harris. That was in Ohio. Joe Biden, he's going to be in South Carolina, another of course crucial state.

And Michael Avenatti in Ohio last Friday. Unofficial kickoff, 2020?

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: They are two different places, Jim. Ohio and Iowa.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: But they are key states.

KUCINICH: You Northeasterners.

(LAUGHTER)

KUCINICH: But, no, but to your point, those are also two states where there aren't really competitive Senate seats this cycle.

Usually, some of these other senators have been going and helping out gubernatorial candidates. Going in where their Senate colleagues might need a boost. These trips seem to be a little bit more about the future. And, of course, they are with House candidates. They are -- that is true. But...

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: There's a secretary of state race, too, in Iowa. And I cannot think of her last name, but her first name is Desiree (ph). It was historic that was an African-American who won in the primary. There is also that seat that normally we don't pay as much attention to.

But these times, desperate times call for desperate measures.

SCIUTTO: You see folks clearly testing out messages for the 2020 campaign. Cory Booker speaking specifically to political division in the country.

Have a listen to his -- part of his stump speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOOKER: I'm going to be continue to be a voice in this country for the love, for bringing ourselves, the nation together, not driving the nation apart. Trying to create a more courageous empathy in this country, where Republican and Democrat, whatever our diversity is, we don't fall into tribalisms, but we begin to work together, because that's what America does best.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Winning message for the Democrats?

URBAN: I would like to just run Cory Booker's questioning of the Senate Judiciary Committee back-to-back on that piece right there. Look...

RYE: You should. I think it stands up.

URBAN: Well, it's not. He was talking about trying to unite people. His questioning was not -- wasn't so conciliatory.

Look, I think one of the things the Democrats did learn from Republicans this last election, there was a huge Republican field. You had the big table and the small table during debates.

And I think it's clear that if you don't make the big table, you're never going to make to be president. You're not going to be a nominee. And so I think all these candidates are wisely in getting out, trying to get their numbers up early, so when these early polls come out, their numbers are high enough that they make it to the main debate, early in the evening, they're not on at 11:00 at night.

SCIUTTO: Not on the fringes, right. I hear you, although, listen, when you look at past presidential cycles, right, some surprises came through. You would not have said Obama was a front-runner in 2008, and certainly not Trump in 2016. (CROSSTALK)

URBAN: I'm saying how the rules for these debates are structured.

SCIUTTO: I hear you.

URBAN: You are going to have two tiers. You have the main card and then an undercard. And you definitely want to be on that main card. And I think these folks are wisely getting out, trying to get their numbers up.

SCIUTTO: I get it. Yes.

Kristen.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Yes.

I think if you are a Democrat and you have ever thought once maybe, kind of, possibly about being president of the United States, now is the time. There's no reason not to.

You know, that you never know when you're going to wake up in the morning and President Trump has decided to point his Twitter feed at you, which can put the spotlight on you, and perhaps lift you a couple poll points. This is such a -- such an, I think, open contest on the Democratic side that there is no reason not to run.

And I will say one nice thing about a Democrat whose name has not been brought up, is Amy Klobuchar, who is somebody who, if there's anybody that came out of this whole Kavanaugh process, I think looking maybe a little better it might be Senator Klobuchar. Even Judge Kavanaugh in his testimony, they had a contentious exchange but he complimented her at the beginning.

SCIUTTO: He apologize, yes.

ANDERSON: He apologized to her, he complimented her by saying thank you for asking good questions today. She's somebody where -- you know, that message that Cory Booker just had, we need division, we need to come together, you're right, I don't actually think that he is 100 percent the best messenger for that but I actually think she could be if America was looking for kind of a no-drama president.

RYE: You know, I got to say I really disagree with that and I'll say before this -- what people are deeming as a 2018 pre-run to 2020, he was saying the same thing on my podcast last year about love like I was trying to get him to let me say I don't have to like the president if I don't think he's human enough, right? And he was like no he's still human, still a spirit of love. That is definitely his posture. He also has the right to be an advocate for people who don't have voices in the -- in a Senate judicial nomination process. I don't think that makes him divisive. I think that makes him an advocate and I think that we should be careful with that kind of rhetoric. I also think that we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the very critical role that Kamala Harris played in that not just that nomination process but in several others throughout this year. SCIUTTO: So the -- not the antidote but the flipside to Cory Booker's message unity, love, etcetera, Michael Avenatti who is you know recently announced his own aspirations for president, he talks a lot about how the Democrats have to sort of you know sharpen their nails as it were a fight back. Here's his tweet responding to Cory Booker. I have a lot of respect for Cory Booker but we are very different. We have very different views as to how to solve the crisis of Donald Trump and the dumpster fire of his presidency. Hashtag fire with fire, hit harder, fight club. His argument Jackie is essentially we have to take our gloves off just the way President Trump has.

KUCINICH: And there are Democrats who think that. Now, traditionally Democrats aren't big celebrity candidate people. No -- I mean, unless maybe Oprah gets in. I don't know. But I think he has -- you hear that. You see that on Twitter. You see it -- you see it out there but I just don't know if that's -- I mean, Angela could speak to this more than I could. I don't know if fighting fire with fire is what Democrats are going to want in 2020 in their nominee.

SCIUTTO: The critique -- the consistent critique has been there's no message.

URBAN: Well you're going to have Tom Steyer, Howard Schultz, Michael Bloomberg, you know, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren. There's a lot of folks we haven't heard from yet, big fields.

RYE: Yes. I think that I would like to see firefight with fire but I'm not the only one apparently and I think that we -- the reality of it is there are some candidates where that's possible, Michael Avenatti, probably because a lot of people are like who is Michael Avenatti, right? But for these --

URBAN: I'm not sure there's anybody in America says that anymore.

RYE: I think there are several few that would be surprised if you talk to some folks that don't watch cable news as much as we're on, David. But there are a lot of people who then -- there's no shade to the network -- but there are a lot of people who don't know who he is. I think the other important thing for us to consider is people need to have a record. People need to demonstrate that they can bring folks together and actually move the needle on policy that Americans read most about.

SCIUTTO: Well, you know, Avenatti did not have a particularly good -- last couple of weeks when you get to the capital confirmation, right?

RYE: Democrats weren't happy with them.

SCIUTTO: Yes, they weren't.

URBAN: They blame him.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Kristen, quick final thought.

ANDERSON: Yes, I mean, I think Michael Avenatti is very popular among a segment of Democratic voters who are very, very, very plugged into what goes on this network and other cable news networks. But you know what, I'm not writing anybody off because 2016 proves anything is possible. That we can agree on. Thanks very much to all of you. This is just one of the toughest stories we've been covering these last few days, the deadliest transportation crash. To be clear, that includes plane and automobiles in nearly a decade. Now investigators are looking at the limo company after 20 people were killed. What are they looking for now?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] SCIUTTIO: Just moments ago we heard an update from investigations into the terrible limousine crash that killed 20 people in upstate New York over the weekend. CNN's Miguel Marquez is live in Amsterdam, New York where a vigil for the crash victims is scheduled tonight. Miguel, just a horrendous personal toll for the people there. We learn now that the police have talked to the limo company that now seized vehicles from the company. Are they saying that the company is responsible?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They aren't saying that yet. They are looking in several different agencies from the FBI, NTSB, New York State Police, Department of Transportation here all looking into this. Department of Transportation says that this company has been scrutinized before for its practices. The owner of the company has been located. He's in Pakistan. The company is cooperating with investigators but this accident has just left an absolute hole through the small town in Upstate New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAUREN LEMOS, FAMILY OF THE VICTIMS: They're just wonderful, kind, loving --

MARQUEZ: Family, friends, an entire town reeling after 20 people died in a single car accident. One of the couples killed leaves behind three children, all under five.

LEMOS: I just pray that they'll have lots of people to support them and remind them of how wonderful their parents were.

MARQUEZ: 17 of the victims all from the same small Upstate New York town of Amsterdam. Young couples, some recently married, all now dead after the modified Ford Excursion stretch limousine they rented sped through an intersection, hit a parked car and crashed into a ditch. The driver and two pedestrians also died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're getting report of a multi-vehicle, motor vehicle accident.

MARQUEZ: The 17 friends initially rented a bus from Prestige limousine chauffeur service in Gansevoort, New York for a day-long surprise birthday party. The bus broke down and the company sent instead a 2001 Ford Excursion that had been modified into a stretch limousine. A relative says the victims were suspicious from the start. [16:55:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My niece instinctively had thoughts

that gee, this is you know, this is not good you know, what they sent us. I guess the first vehicle broke down and they sent them another vehicle.

MARQUEZ: Investigators now looking into the driver, the company that rented the vehicle, road conditions, and the intersection where the accident occurred. State Route 30 and 30A is a T-bone intersection. Route 30 is a steep hill leading to the intersection with only a stop sign. The driver may have been driving as fast as 60 miles an hour when he went through the intersection finally coming to a stop in a ditch next to a restaurant.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We don't yet know the cause of the accident if it was a vehicle malfunction, if it was a driver malfunction, driver error, that's part of the ongoing investigation.

MARQUEZ: Just last month of vehicles chassis, suspension, brakes, and overall systems were tested. It failed that state inspection and the driver should have had a CDL or Commercial Driver's License, he didn't.

CUOMO: I think the owner of this company has a lot of questions to answer. There's an ongoing investigation. But is there a possibility of liability civil and criminal, certainly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: And now New York State Police say that criminal charges are certainly possible in this case. Investigators have the black box of the vehicle, also the module for the airbags. That should give them some information about how this took place, and autopsies on those 17 people that were in that vehicle are still ongoing. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Just heartbreaking. So many families involved. Miguel Marquez continuing to follow that story, thanks very much. A dire new report is warning that hurricanes could become more frequent and more extreme and the world could face disastrous levels of global warming if nations do not make drastic changes within the next 12 years. CNN's Nick Watt joins me now live. Nick, one of the most shocking parts of this report is just how soon these experts are predicting that we could see major changes in effect saying time is running out to address this.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Listen, Jim, you know, climate change warnings often seem far off and hard to imagine but not today. This morning the U.N.'s climate change panel released what it's authors claim is the most important climate change report ever published and they're telling us that we need "rapid far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Deadly wildfires from California to Greece that record-setting rain just dumped by Hurricane Florence on the Carolinas, drought crippling Cape Town, South Africa, and heat wave turning Europe brown. And now we have only 12 years to stop all this getting much worse. Average temperatures have risen about one degree Celsius since 1880. In Paris, leaders pledged to keep the rise well below two degrees. This report now suggests we aim for 1.5 a benchmark were predicted to reach by 2030.

JIM SKEA, INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE: The message is that countries will need to cooperate.

WATT: Yet President Trump is trying to revive the polluting coal industry here in the U.S. He's also pledged to withdraw from the historic Paris Climate Change agreement and recently rolled back Obama era targets for cutting vehicle emissions.

DREW SHINDELL, CO-AUTHOR, CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT: They really benefit a tiny group of fuel companies at the expense of the American people.

WATT: And in Brazil, home to the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of our planet, the presidential frontrunner says he'll also withdraw from that Paris deal.

SHINDELL: From the standpoint of getting the whole world motivated to actually make the changes that would be needed to meet the goal, we have an awfully long way to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very clear that's half a degree matters.

WATT: Apparently if we're up two degrees rather than just 1.5, sea levels will rise an extra four inches, the Arctic already at record low ice levels as seen in this NASA image will be totally ice-free on average once a decade instead of once a century, all of the world's coral will completely disappear and flooding and wildfires here at home will be even worse.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now, we haven't heard any reaction to this report yet from the Trump administration's but we did hear from former Vice President Al Gore who said that the Trump administration is quote -- sorry --- has "become a rogue outlier in its shorts sighted attempt to prop up the dirty fossil fuel industries of the past. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Well, it's science. You would think that it would not be disputed. Nick Watt, thanks very much. Follow the show on twitter @THELEADCNN. And our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, supporting rod.