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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Interview With Tennessee Senator Bob Corker; Interview With Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse; Trump Hones Rallying Cry, Ramps Up Immigration Rhetoric; Angry Protesters Yell At Democrat and GOP Leaders In Public; President Trump Redecorates The West Wing In This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 21, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:10]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Credible cover-up? Saudi Arabia claims journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death was an accident. President Trump says that could be true.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a good first step, but I want to get to the answer.

TAPPER: But not everyone in his party is willing to buy what the Saudis are selling.

Two of those critics, Senators Bob Corker and Ben Sasse, in moments.

Plus, politics of fear -- the president going back to what's worked, fear and the border, claiming Democrats are opening the gates for a migrant caravan full of criminals.

TRUMP: Democrats want caravans. They like the caravans.

TAPPER: Will that red meat stop the blue wave? Potential 2020 challenger Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is here.

And sunshine showdown. Florida, ground zero for a critical election, who woulda thunk it?

ANDREW GILLUM (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Let's bring it home. Let's bring it home, everybody.

TAPPER: With millions of dollars pouring in, and big names hitting the trail, what can we learn from these key bellwether races?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Tampa, Florida, where the state of our union is barnstorming.

We are here in a key midterm battleground, just 16 days away from an election that will help determine the future of Donald Trump's presidency and the future of the United States, with the House, the Senate and 36 governor's races up for grabs, including right here in Florida.

This is all happening as the president faces an escalating international crisis.

In a brand-new interview with "The Washington Post," the president acknowledged that Saudi Arabia has engaged in deception and lies about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but it's unclear how much he holds top Saudi leaders accountable for the lies or for the murder.

He still sounds open to believing the official Saudi explanation that Khashoggi was killed in a physical altercation gone wrong inside their consulate in Turkey, the president saying it's possible something went -- quote -- "badly awry" without the knowledge of Saudi leadership.

"The Washington Post," where Jamal Khashoggi worked, calls the Saudi story -- quote -- "a cover-up."

Joining me now is Senator Bob Corker, Republican from Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

The Saudi public prosecutor blamed a -- quote -- "quarrel and brawl" that -- quote -- "resulted in Khashoggi's death."

The president said that he finds that explanation credible.

Do you?

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: No.

They have -- they have lost all credibility as it relates to explaining what has happened. And I do hope, over the next few days, we will actually have the tapes that the Turks have. I know we haven't received them yet.

But I don't think anybody believes that story. I can understand the president wanting to keep open channels. But I think those of us who -- who want to speak directly to this know that it's just not credible.

TAPPER: Well, the president said it was credible. He's not just keeping open channels. He's lending his authority to their official explanation.

CORKER: Yes. Yes.

Well, again, Jake, it -- it -- everybody can say what they wish. But it's just not a credible story for somebody to walk in with 15 other people and get into a fistfight and lose their life.

So, I do hope -- look, we're going to have a thorough investigation. I know that our agencies will be looking into it. We have invoked the Magnitsky Act, which says, within 120 days of when we did it a week ago, a full investigation has to take place and sanctions have to be -- or sanctions should be placed -- put in place for anybody who's had anything to do with it.

It's my sense -- and I don't know yet, but based on the intel that I have read, based on the other excerpts that I have read, it's my thinking that MBS was involved in this, that he directed this, and that this person was purposely murdered.

But we will have a chance to see that hopefully very soon.

And my sense is, Jake, even over the next week, it's going to become much clearer.

TAPPER: You said earlier this week that the White House had -- quote -- "clamped down" on sharing intelligence about Khashoggi's death with congressional leaders such as yourself...

CORKER: Yes.

TAPPER: ... the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The White House says that's not true.

CORKER: Yes.

TAPPER: And they referred reporters to you to clarify.

So, would you clarify? Are you getting the access you need to do your job?

CORKER: Yes, I was supposed to have a CIA briefing on Tuesday. I was in Washington dealing with some other issues.

And it was called off. And there is some question as to why that was the case. The White House has called us directly and vehemently denied that they called it off. It could have been some committee inner workings. It could have been just some confusion.

We ended up having additional briefings on Friday. One of our key staffers is going to have a briefing on Tuesday, a full briefing.

[09:05:01]

So, the intelligence faucet is turned back on. And there likely was just a miscommunication that took place.

But, obviously, I was there to -- to receive it. And it didn't take place. But, again, we are getting the intelligence that we need now. And, hopefully, the United States will actually get those Turkish tapes. I mean, the Turks have been talking more to the media than they have us as it relates to our intelligence agencies.

But, obviously, those would be very, very useful to us to be able to listen ourselves to what occurred.

TAPPER: Is it your understanding that the CIA has heard the tape that you're referring to or not?

CORKER: You know, I had a conversation yesterday with Secretary Pompeo about a wide-ranging number of issues.

And, to his knowledge at 2:00 yesterday, they had not received those tapes. So, sometimes, the CIA get things. Obviously, you know he used to run the agency. Sometimes, they get things, and it takes a couple days for them to go through them and make sure that they're valid.

But, as of yesterday at 2:00, I don't think we had received those. And it'd be very helpful if they would go ahead and forward them, if they have them, obviously for us to make our own discernment.

TAPPER: You said that you believe that MBS, the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was behind the murder of Khashoggi.

During an interview with "The Washington Post" yesterday, President Trump praised the crown prince, praised his leadership. He called him a strong person. He added -- quote -- "He has very good control. He loves his country."

CORKER: Yes.

TAPPER: Just to be clear, you don't have any doubt that the crown prince is behind this?

CORKER: Well, look, again, Jake, my sense is that he is behind it.

I want to see the rest of the documentation. I want to see -- I want to know more about it. But that's my sense. I'm not -- I'm not condemning automatically today. I want to -- I want this investigation to be completed, but yes.

Look, if you sit down with him -- and I'm sure you have, Jake -- he is a very impressive young person, talking about the future of Saudi Arabia, pushing back against the Wahhabists there by doing some of the progressive things that they obviously rail against, moving away from solely focusing on fossil fuels, to privatizing Aramco, which hasn't occurred yet.

But if you -- if you listen to his vision of the future, it is very impressive. But then, if you look what he did, when he came into power, where he got the opposition in the Ritz-Carlton, detained them there, tortured many of them, when you look at the fact that Lebanon has a confessional system, and so their -- their prime minister, a Sunni, the fact that he didn't like the way he was carrying out his activities, he arrested him, obviously, Hariri has construction interests in Saudi Arabia.

And I think his wife lives there. So they had a lot of -- they had a hold over him, if you will. And then if you look at the rookie mistake he made in Qatar, where, without even talking to us, they put in place this blockade, he also has made some mistakes.

And, obviously, if he's gone forth and murdered this journalist, he's now crossed the line. And there has to be a punishment and a price paid for that.

And, again, I'm not rushing to judgment. Do I think he did it? Yes, I think he did it. Let's -- let's finish this investigation. We have the best in the world at being able to do that. We obviously have intercepts from the past that point to involvement at a very high level.

So, let's let this play out. But my guess is, at the end of the day, the United States and the rest of the world will believe fully that he did it. We will see.

By the way, I have heard from other ambassadors, Jake, in other countries...

TAPPER: If he did it -- go ahead.

CORKER: Well, I'm moving to that.

If he did it, then I think there should be a collective response. I have talked to ambassadors from other countries in the West. They're looking for the United States for leadership on this issue.

But they also want to make sure that they coordinate a response with us. They too have arm sales to Saudi Arabia. They too have interests there, just like we do.

And so this is something where I think you're going to see the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany working collectively with others, if he did this, to respond in an appropriate way.

TAPPER: If he did this, sir, do you think President Trump is helping him cover it up?

CORKER: I don't.

Look, I -- look, I understand the tremendous equities that they have involved here. And I would see the president evolving on this issue in a positive way.

Look, they have spent a lot of time in Riyadh. As you know, Jared Kushner has put together a Middle East plan. He came over the other day and gave us some of the high-level concepts the are working on.

But they have got a -- they have got a lot of stock here. And the fact is that you saw on Saturday the king, who, let's face it, is not -- is not particularly coherent -- I'm just being honest.

[09:10:10]

You have got a crown prince who's consolidated authority -- authority. He was given additional authority on Saturday, as I understand it, just to show that they are fully behind him.

And so, when you look at the country, I mean, this is the person, it looks like, that may be there for the next 30, 40, 50 years. And so I think, as we look at this -- and I have talked to other senators about this -- we have to -- we want to look at the individual.

And we want to make sure that, if this individual has been involved and directed this brutal killing of a journalist, then we have to punish that person.

We also need to think about the fact that Saudi Arabia is a country that is a fairly important country. And so we have got to figure out a way to have a nuanced response to this situation.

But, again, if he directed it, we need to put the same types of sanctions in place that we have done with other people who've done the same thing. And we could look to Russia to see the types of sanctions that have been put in place there.

Sanctions are a blunt instrument, OK?

TAPPER: Yes.

CORKER: They're not -- they're not that great. They're good, but they're not that great. And so we need to think of other ways to deal with this kind of behavior.

What we don't want is a ruler that's going to be around for 40 or 50 years going around the world continuing to conduct operations like this. And so, collectively, we have got to deal with this in an appropriate way.

TAPPER: I want to turn to another issue around the world.

President Trump announced yesterday he's terminating a key nuclear missile treaty with Russia, one that dates back to the Cold War.

Did the White House give you any sort of heads-up? And what do you think of this plan? Do you think it's a good idea, bad idea?

CORKER: Yes.

Yes, you know, in my conversation yesterday with Secretary Pompeo, this did not come up. I don't think he was avoiding it. We just covered myriads of issues.

It's been rumored they have thought about ending this -- this particular treaty. And there's no question that, for years, Russia has been violating it.

Bolton is on his way to Russia. This could be somewhat like the fact that they were going to end NAFTA, and then ended up negotiating some small changes. And it looks like that it's going to be extended. So this could be something that is just a precursor to try to get Russia to come into compliance.

We have also have heard, Jake, that maybe they want to end the New START treaty. I think that would be a huge mistake. The START treaty has worked. I feel responsible, with others, but I really led the charge to cause it to be ratified. And it's worked.

So I hope we're not moving down the path to undo much of the nuclear arms control treaties that we have put in place.

But, look, there's no question Russia is violating. And if we're going to get out of it, I hope we at least are in a place research- and-development-wise where too have developed some mechanisms.

Otherwise, they're going to move ahead of us quickly. There are those in the defense world that feel like, because China's not a part of this, that they're developing systems that are going to move beyond where we are.

So, I understand there's some tensions here. Russia is violating.

TAPPER: Right.

CORKER: Maybe this is just a move to say, look, if we don't -- if you don't straighten up, we're moving out of this.

And I hope that's the case. I hope we're going to be able to figure out a way to stay within the treaty.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thanks so much for your time. We appreciate it.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse is calling for a return to civility in politics. So, is he OK with the president praising a congressman for body-slamming a reporter?

I'll ask him next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:17:31]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are live here in Tampa, Florida, where I will be moderating Florida governor's debate tonight at 8:00 p.m. Believe it or not, the two candidates have never met each other. They will tonight.

With 16 days to go until the midterm elections, and with the president facing the reality that Democrats, many of them impeachment-hungry, could take back the House, he's back in no-holds-barred campaign mode, going back to what worked in 2016, seizing on a hard-line immigration message and endorsing violence against journalists, seemingly, even as he accuses Democrats of inciting the mob.

Joining me now, Senator Ben Sasse, Republican from Nebraska. He's the author of a new book called "Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal."

Senator Sasse, thanks for joining us.

Your book deals with why the country is so divided right now.

I was reading it while this happened. And I want you to take a listen to what President Trump had to say at a recent rally. And he mentioned that Montana congressman who ultimately pleaded guilty to physically assaulting a journalist whose crime was he tried to ask him a question about health care.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my kind of...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And I said, oh, this is terrible. He's going to lose the election.

Then I said, well, wait a minute. I know Montana pretty well. I think it might help him. And it did.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, Senator, you write quite compellingly in your book about the need for all of us in America to see the humanity of each other.

And I have to say, I have been surprised at how quiet Republicans have been about the president of the United States joking about a criminal assault on a reporter.

What was your reaction to that?

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: You know, I have got to admit, I don't follow the rallies closely.

But, you know, I believe that the First Amendment is the beating heart of the American experiment. So, we need to have a president who celebrates the First Amendment and not pretends that beating up a reporter is OK.

But I think what you hear from a lot of Nebraskans, who also, I think, tune out most of the rallies, is there's sort of a short-term, long- term thing going on. And people feel like the president's rhetoric is kind of short-term playful. I don't think it's OK. But I do think most people tune most of it out.

I think what we need to be having a conversation about is the long term of, how does the next generation understand the American experiment? Because, right now, we don't have much shared sense of what it is.

TAPPER: But it's not playful to joke about assault, is it?

[09:20:03]

SASSE: No. No.

I mean, the guy was convicted of a crime. And the First Amendment, free speech, press, religion, assembly, protest, the right of redress of grievances, these are things we believe are rights that 320 million Americans have, not because government gives us these rights, but because they are our rights by nature, the founders would have said, and governments are shared projects to secure them.

So, we need a president and all other elected officials to be stewarding and shepherding our shared understanding of that to the next generation.

So, no, it's not OK. But I do think that it's sort of baked into the president's stock price, that sort of this amoralistic take he has on it is just what most people think the president's going to do. And most people where I live sort of ignore most of it.

Some think it's funny. Some are really anxious about it, but most people just think, well, that's kind of how the president talks.

We need to do better than that. But I also think there's a danger in pretending each new rally is immediate, urgent. I wish he did it differently, obviously.

TAPPER: You're on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I want to ask you about the U.S. response to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist.

President Trump seems to think American jobs and profits, through the tens of billions of dollars of arms deals with the Saudi Arabians, are a clear reason to moderate the U.S. response.

On the other hand, philosophically, Senator Marco Rubio said on CNN -- quote -- "There isn't enough money in the world to purchase back our credibility on human rights and the way nations could conduct themselves."

Where do you come down?

SASSE: Yes, I think that's well said by Marco.

So, we need to recognize that arms sales are always means to an end. They're not the end. The end is the American idea. And the end is stability in the world, so that problems abroad don't come home to roost for us.

So, we don't do arm sales for the purposes of the profits from arms sales. We do arms sales because we want to be allied with different countries around the globe that believe in our values and have a long- term sense of what we're up to together and why we have that alliance.

Saudi's got a lot of explaining to do. And I think everything should be on the table. The intel that I have read is obviously not as exhaustive as the intel that the president sees. But I think the cover stories from the Saudis are a mess.

You don't bring a bone saw to an accidental fistfight inside an embassy in Turkey -- or a consulate in Turkey. So the Saudis have said a whole bunch of crap that's not right, accurate or true. We know that. And we need to have some shared principles about what

we're trying to get done if we ally with them in particular ways.

Policies flow from that. Arm sales are one policy. They're a means. They're not an end.

TAPPER: Let's turn back to your book.

You have some harsh words in the book for partisans on both sides, including FOX News host Sean Hannity. You write his goal is not to promote a conservative agenda or coherent arguments against liberal principles, but instead -- quote -- "His core cause is to rage."

Hannity was founded on Twitter to you, saying -- quote -- "After your book fails, I will gladly debate you about how the success of the last two years never would have happened with your never-Trumper positions. Also, we can talk about why I know you are a con artist and phony. You owe the great people of Nebraska an apology" -- unquote.

I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond to Sean Hannity.

SASSE: Yes.

So, I have told Sean I would be happy to debate him in a neutral environment about whether or not his business model is good for America, because it's bad for America.

And I think we need to back up. This isn't about Sean Hannity. It's about the whole polititainment industry, which is, I think the vast majority of Americans want politics to maintain a framework for ordered liberty, but they don't want politics to swallow up every sector and every aspect of life, every institution and every discussion.

And so most people are tuning this out. And I think that's -- it's important for us to sort of recognize what's happening in the way we consume media now broadly.

In the 1950s, "I Love Lucy" had a 68 percent share. It wasn't important content, but it was shared content. Everybody in America knew what Lucy and Desi were doing. And it was something you had in common with your neighbors, even if you were arguing with them about a project at work or if you differed on politics.

Today, the most watched cable programming in America, Hannity is number one, and Rachel Maddow is usually number two. Both of them have the same basic business model, which is try to intensify the political addictions of the 1 percent of America that's listening to you.

And you can always just demonize your opponent, never give a fair shake to what the other argument is. And I say that as one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. I'm the second or third most conservative number of the Senate.

So I'm not mealymouthed indifferent on policy. But I don't think policy differences mean that people I differ with on a given policy, I have to regard as evil and therefore not as a part of a shared America.

And the business model that people like Hannity advance, it's not good for the next generation, because it doesn't get to any sense of what a shared republic is doing together.

[09:25:00]

TAPPER: You write in the book about the tendency of individuals to overlook the flaws of those -- quote -- "in the tribe."

You say -- quote -- "There is a deep and corrosive tribal impulse to act as if the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But, sometimes, the enemy of your enemy is just a jackass."

I wanted to ask you, because I was reading this, and I was thinking about the Kavanaugh hearings, when President Trump publicly mocked Christine Blasey Ford as the crowd laughed. And the response from Republicans, I have to say, was rather muted.

Do you think your tribe failed Christine Blasey Ford by, at the very least, not condemning the president when he mocked her testimony?

SASSE: Yes, so I went to the Senate floor after the president's mocking rally -- I think it was in Mississippi -- and made a speech about why the MeToo movement is important and why the MeToo movement doesn't belong to Republicans or Democrats, and politics shouldn't swallow it, because there's a whole culture of sexual violence that needs to be called out and shouted out, and mores need to be changed.

And most of that's bigger than and outside of politics. So, I was critical of what the president said there.

But, bigger picture, I think it's really important for us to recognize that this political tribalism, which is amping in our time, is filling a vacuum of the collapse of the natural tribes, the normal tribes that give people's lives happiness and meaning.

The happiness literature is pretty clear. You're happy if four things are true. Do you have a tight nuclear family? Do you have a few deep friendships? Do you have a shared -- do you have shared vocation? Do you have a sense that you have meaningful work? And do you have a local worshipping community or a theological or philosophical framework to make sense of death and suffering?

Those things are all local. And those are kinds of tribes that usually in human history have been thick. They're thinning in our time because of the digital revolution. And politics is trying to fill that void.

Political tribes aren't going to make you happy. Just because you're Republican or Democrat, that doesn't mean other partisans are going to join you and comfort you late in life when you're lonely.

So there's a lot -- there's a lot we need to do. But we need to recognize that the decline of the good tribes is a huge part of why political tribalism is amping in our time.

TAPPER: And you write a great deal about it in your book "Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal," the only book I have ever read that quotes both Adam Sandler and George Washington.

Ben Sasse, thanks so much for your time, Senator.

SASSE: Thanks for the invite, Jake.

TAPPER: Some new concerning numbers for Democrats about Latino voters in the 2018 midterms. Will dislike of President Trump not translate into votes?

A potential 2020 challenger to the president, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, will weigh in next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:31:37]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are live here in Tampa, Florida, where, this evening, I will be moderating the Florida governor's debate. That starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Power players and likely presidential contenders are crisscrossing the U.S. right now, as Democrats try to flip the House, maybe even the Senate.

Joining me now, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. He's on the trail in Minnesota right now campaigning for Democrats in the House and the Senate.

Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us.

Looking at the current state of play, things should be looking good for your party. The president's approval rating is underwater. Democrats are raising record-breaking amounts of money.

And yet it looks as though Democrats may actually possibly lose seats in the Senate in November, and it's not guaranteed that you're going to take back the House. What's the problem?

ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Well, look, I think all of us know that, even with the momentum, the new registrations, the feelings that are so anti-Washington right now, you don't win until you win.

The deck is stacked against the Democrats a little bit in the Senate seats, but we're seeing tremendous enthusiasm. I'm feeling it everywhere. I have been in Mississippi. I have been in Oklahoma. I have been here in Minnesota. You can see in blue states, in purple states and red states people who are sick and tired of the status quo. So I think it will be a very strong election in just 15 days, 16 days.

And we're seeing a lot of people who have never run, never volunteered, never registered before. That's a hopeful sign that doesn't really show up in polls.

TAPPER: Latino voters are going to be crucial in 2018, especially in California districts, your home state, that Democrats will need to flip to win back the House.

GARCETTI: Yes.

TAPPER: A new Politico analysis of polling from Siena College and "The New York Times" shows Latinos are more than 10 points less motivated to vote than white voters.

You have Mexican-American heritage.

GARCETTI: Yes.

TAPPER: You're mayor of a city with a booming Latino population.

Why doesn't the Democratic message, why doesn't it resonate enough with Latino voters?

GARCETTI: Well, I think it's really important to do two or three things.

One is to speak to Latinos in the communities where they are, run more Latinos, and invest in long-term political infrastructure in Latino communities.

Latinos are not monochromatic. You know, they trace their ancestry back to South America, to Central America, to Mexico, like in my family, and the Caribbean. And it's -- we're a very diverse group. And we care about a lot more than just immigration, though we're passionate about having sensible immigration policies that don't go after our families.

I think it's really important to talk education, to talk infrastructure, to talk good jobs and the future of work.

So, people will show up when they are being talked to. And we are placing a lot of investments in California in that, trying to get that in other states as well. But it's a good message for Democrats everywhere.

But this is a growing population. This is an important part of America. But you can't ignore it either. And so, when you have certain races where there are Republican Latinos who are running against non-Latinos in those districts that are majority Latino, that can be a tough sell.

And Latinos have pride to see a Spanish surname or to have somebody who they know comes from the same background, and they're willing to cross over sometimes.

I think this time, though, it's very clear. We have got such a hostile president to Latinos in general, to working people in America, have been anti-middle class, anti-rules, a place that is really unified.

I loved what Senator Sasse said, local communities. There's really two Washingtons -- sorry -- two Americas, but it's not the red and blue, and the rural and urban, immigrant, non-immigrant. I think it's Washington and the rest of us.

And that's a message I think that resonates a lot with Latinos and all Americans right now.

[09:35:05]

TAPPER: I understand you don't like the way President Trump talks about immigration.

But I want to ask you.

GARCETTI: Sure.

TAPPER: A new report from "The Washington Post" shows the number of families apprehended at the border has nearly doubled in just the last two months.

The president's been criticizing Democrats as supporting open borders. I know that you reject that. But how do you think the United States should deal with people who are trying to come into the country illegally?

GARCETTI: Well, fundamentally, what this administration doesn't get, like so many of its plans, they know what they're against; they don't know how to solve the problem.

Investing, for instance, in stabilizing the economies of the countries in Central America is a great way to cut off the supply. They think a wall will keep people out, when they don't go to the root of the problem.

This is similar to a lot of their policies, where it's really about, you know, let's get out of a nuclear treaty, let's do something with North Korea, let's weaken our alliances, let's do things that take away our health care, but they don't have any plans ever to get to the root causes or to replace what they're against.

And, to me, that's what's worrying. This isn't just an administration whose values are cruel, but it's also an administration that is absolutely ineffective.

And, as a mayor, we can't B.S. a pothole. We have to fix real problems, not invent imaginary ones. And just focusing on the border really isn't getting to the heart of what the matter is and why people leave. My grandfather was a war refugee as a 1-year-old baby, and he came

over the Mexican border in the arms of my great-grandmother. If that was now, he probably would have been ripped out of his mother's arms, not been able to serve as a veteran in World War II, earn his citizenship, buy a house, start a family, learn a trade, become a union member, open a barbershop. I literally wouldn't be here.

And so if we have an administration that constantly is looking just at what happens at the border between Mexico and the United States, they're missing the forces that drive immigration in the first place.

TAPPER: Let me ask you about your job as a mayor, and specifically one of the biggest challenges you have.

You were screamed at for four hours this week at a town hall on homelessness. Homelessness is nearly up 50 percent in your city since you became mayor, according to "The L.A. Times."

Now there's a typhus outbreak, likely due to the booming number of rats attracted by all the food and human waste in Skid Row and other places.

Some critics might say hey, Mayor Garcetti, why are you traveling the country campaigning for Democrats in the midterms, when you have this huge crisis in your own backyard?

GARCETTI: Well, I think they're linked together.

And I welcome a national conversation, Washington, D.C., where there are more homeless per capita, where you see in Seattle and San Francisco, and you see in red and blue cities, a mental health crisis.

And mayors, as I said, can't avoid that. I have -- a lot of people told me, never touch the issue of homelessness. But I am so passionate about it. We have people who are dying on our streets from opioid addiction. I'm so proud of voters in Los Angeles, who passed the two largest measures in the local level in U.S. history to combat homelessness.

This is what people say is an unsolvable problem. And I'm committed to solving it. We're opening up new beds. Our typhus numbers are actually about the same as they have been in past years. But we're focused on preventing homelessness.

We have veterans. We have got kids that are emancipated from foster care. My wife and I are foster parents. We have got folks that are coming out of sexual and domestic violence.

So, to understand homelessness, we really do need leadership from Washington, D.C. But I'm leading a group of mayors around the country saying, we need housing policy. We have to take care of the least among us.

And I think making sure we have a Congress that can actually answer that call and a Washington that will listen is absolutely the link between both national politics and local politics. TAPPER: You tweeted last night that -- quote -- "It's time to start

picturing the post-Trump era."

Just last month, you brought party leaders from the four most important early primary 2020 states backstage to meet Jimmy Kimmel and D.J. Khaled. You have already acknowledged you're considering running for president in 2020.

How are you making your decision about whether or not to launch a bid for the White House? And when will we know your decision?

GARCETTI: Well, first and foremost, I'm having important conversations at home.

But I'm mostly focused in the next 16 days at making sure we have a Congress, because President Trump isn't on the ballot, but a Congress that enables him is, that seems to be either bullies, brownnosers, or bunglers, folks who are either kissing up to the president, folks who are mirroring his bullying, or folks who are just ineffective at getting anything done.

But I will make a decision probably in the next couple months. And I do hope, whether I do or not, that mayors do look at this. I think mayors get things done. We know energy policy because we own utilities. The Port of L.A. is America's port, together with Long Beach, bringing 40 percent of our international trade in by sea.

We deal with public safety issues. We have to create jobs, fix education. And I think that voice is really important.

TAPPER: Right.

[09:40:00]

GARCETTI: You know, when President Trump got out of the Paris climate accords, we got 412 cities to say, we will do it instead, because we're on the front line with our firefighters dealing with historic fires and floods.

So, I will have some important conversations at home talking to a lot of other folks. But, really, I'm just pushing hard for this next couple weeks to see if we can change this Congress and get a group of people that are more responsive to local government, local communities, and the average American.

TAPPER: Just a quick yes or no. Do you think you will make a decision before the end of the year?

GARCETTI: I do believe, yes.

TAPPER: OK.

Mayor Garcetti, thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate it.

GARCETTI: Good to be with you, Jake. TAPPER: It's becoming an epidemic protesters screaming at political

officials at restaurants and out in public. Where does this stop? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I'll work with President Trump when he's doing things that are good for Florida and America. And when I disagree, I have the courage to say so.

[09:45:04]

CASEY DESANTIS, WIFE OF RON DESANTIS: Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by President Trump. But he's also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids.

RON DESANTIS, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR IN FLORIDA: Build the wall.

CASEY DESANTIS: He read stories.

RON DESANTIS: Then Mr. Trump said you're fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Two Republican candidates running statewide here in Florida, two very different attitudes toward President Trump. Which one will be more successful?

We're live here in Tampa, Florida where I'll be moderating the Florida governor's debate this evening at 8:00 p.m. But let's discuss Congressman Gaetz, let me start with you.

DeSantis, full embrace of Trump, running for governor and the Governor Rick Scott running for Senate, saying that he will stand up to him when he needs to. Which approach do you think is better?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Well, we saw just yesterday Governor Scott e-mailed out to his supporters great enthusiasm as a consequences of the president's tweets, highlighting Governor Scott's record. I think with Ron DeSantis there are a few areas of disagreement but also we seen success as a result in Florida offshore oil drilling is a threat to our military mission, our economy, our property values.

Ron DeSantis and Pam Bondi and I and Ted Deutch we disagree with offshore oil drilling and because Ron has a close relationship with the president we were able to work together and get Florida off the table. So an example of an area of disagreement but progress and cooperation coming as a result.

TAPPER: Congressman Deutch, I know that you support Gillum for governor and Nelson for Senate. But do you think that DeSantis' decision to tie himself more closely, at least in ads, with President Trump, might play a factor? Might play a role in whether or not he wins?

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Sure, absolutely I do, Jake. And I appreciate the panel you brought together today. I have immense respect for my colleague, Matt Gaetz and General Bondi but they -- they represent really what's happening in this election. You've got General Bondi who on behalf of Rick Scott, rather than defending the people of Florida went to court to sue to take health care away for people with pre-existing conditions.

TAPPER: You're talking about Obamacare.

DEUTCH: Right and Congressman Gaetz, who brings tweets out conspiracy theories that the president then uses to advance his own conspiracy theories all the while bringing a holocaust denying to the STATE OF THE UNION, that's the Trump brand in Florida.

And while I respect the service they provide, people understand it. They want someone who is actually going to stand up for them, for the people and not for President Trump alone.

TAPPER: I'll let you respond to that. But let's let Attorney General Bondi respond first.

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you. As chief officer and legal officer for the state of Florida I firmly believe in covering pre-existing conditions. I've always said that but we have to do it in a legal way and Congress has to act. And that's why we filed this lawsuit. We all want pre-existing conditions covered.

And it's nice to have such a panel, by the way, where we can conduct ourselves with civility and we actually all like each other.

TAPPER: I want to -- I want to first of all just read the tweet he's referring to about the conspiracy theory that had to do with the caravan. And you tweeted out, "Footage in Honduras, giving cash to women and children to join the caravan and storm the U.S. border at election time. Soros? U.S.-backed NGOs" -- non government organizations -- "Time to investigate the source." That's what Congressman Deutch is referring to.

GAETZ: Yes, I was wrong. It wasn't in Honduras. It was in Guatemala.

That tape was provided to me by Honduran government officials. It was collected by Central American intelligence officials. And I think we've got to learn a lot more about how these like large organizations of people come together.

What I've learned on the Arms Services Committee looking at intelligence reports is you really have three groups, you have the thugs, you have the organizers and then you have a lot of desperate migrants who feel like they have nothing to lose. And where you have those thugs forcing local businesses to turn over cash and resources that's a problem.

If you have organizers working in concert with U.S. NGOs or left- leaning groups that's also a problem. So I think that we've seen that model in other parts of the world, Jake, in the Balkans. Judicial watch just did a report where you saw U.S. NGOs working alongside Soros backed groups for political outcomes. I hope that's not happening in Latin America or anywhere else in the world.

TAPPER: Symone Sanders, this is an issue that not just Congressman Gaetz but also President Trump is talking a lot about, the caravan, allegedly criminals in the caravan coming to the United States.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Unfortunately we're not talking about asylum seekers and how folks do -- can legally come to the United States and seek asylum.

Look, I know that Donald Trump and his allies would love to make the closing argument of this midterm election about fear, about fear mongering, about the -- quote -- unquote -- "mob." But I'm so excited that Democratic candidates up and down the ticket all across the country and right here in Florida are talking about the issues. They're talking about the assault that the Republicans are making against health care.

They're talking about the fact that, look, Democrats want to get to work for the people. They want to put together a tax plan that works for hard-working middle-class folks and not just the one percent. So I -- definitely I do not think that this talking point, if you will, that the Republicans are trying to gin up across the country to (INAUDIBLE) folks into going to the polls is going to work.

(CROSSTALK)

GAETZ: -- good for hardworking middle class folks if the caravan gets to the United States? We at least acknowledge that it's --

(CROSSTALK)

GAETZ: -- for the president if we're able to make those asylum determinations in Mexico, in Central America, and we don't have that crisis visited on the American people.

[09:50:10]

SANDERS: I don't think we should be fear mongering. They're the real conversation we need to have about immigration in this country. Unfortunately, some folks, your tweet included weren't having it.

TAPPER: Go (ph) ahead (ph), Congressman Deutch.

DEUTCH: I just -- it's all -- it's not always about wins for the president. It's about American leadership. And when the president of the United States is tough -- you know when he's tough? He's tough when he's talking about people seeking asylum. He's tough when he's ripping kids away from their parents.

You know when he's not tough? He's not tough standing up to Vladimir Putin on stage in Helsinki. He's weak when he's talks about how much he loves Kim Jong-un. And just this week with Khashoggi the president spent the enticement two weeks now trying to give the Saudis some opportunity to come up with the story that he could support instead of standing up for human rights and American values. That we need to stop worrying about what the president claims or wins for him and start looking out for the American people, and can they (INAUDIBLE) stand for the people? That's what this is election is --

TAPPER: General Bondi, do you have any concerns about how the president handles -- Trump has been handling the Khashoggi crisis?

BONDI: I don't. And originally I'm a career prosecutor. Originally we didn't know anything -- first of all my heart breaks for his fiancee, for his family, for all his constituents in the media. It's horrible what he (ph) did -- what happened to him.

Thank goodness that in Istanbul they have video so now we will find out the truth. But President Trump is saying, we have to find out what happened. They're denying it now.

But now they're changing the story. It's evolving. So I have -- I mean, we all have no doubt that they played a part just to what level did they play a part?

And as to the immigration quickly if I could again I'm a prosecutor and all I'm seeing are kids overdosing from opioids and they are coming -- I've never thought in any of our lifetimes we will see heroin in a pill form. That is coming in to our country from Mexico.

I've been to Mexico. I brought the Mexican attorney general right here to Tampa to safety. I brought them here twice to train them, we're working well together with Mexico, but to me it's about drugs and the drug influx into our country.

Human trafficking, I've met with human trafficking victims. The black market fentanyls coming in from China to Mexico. They mix (INAUDIBLE) pills and being sold on the streets here in Florida and throughout the country.

TAPPER: So you mentioned the mob before and how President Trump is talking about the mob. I want to show some images. This is Nancy Pelosi in Miami facing a mob and Mitch McConnell in Kentucky facing a mob.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this piece of (EXPLETIVE) Pelosi right here. You (EXPLETIVE) communist. You don't belong here you (EXPLETIVE) communist. Get the (EXPLETIVE) out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now Attorney General Bondi, I know you have faced groups -- people who are hostile to your views, and I want to ask you, there is an argument that public officials, I'm not making this argument, I'm just saying there is an argument out there that public officials that this is the free speech rights of the American people when they do that, but you have been on the receiving end? BONDI: I have and it was the Maxine Waters talking points that I got. You know, we're walking in a documentary about Mr. Rogers and the only part they videoed, they chose to air was at the end and not the part where they told me -- they didn't even understand what I did for a living that I'm ripping babies out of the arms of mothers.

And I said, I'm glad you're videoing this because I've never agreed with separating children from their parents. Never.

TAPPER: But they didn't air that part?

BONDI: Of course not. And then -- I mean, screaming in my face. Blocking me from walking in. I feel horrible as to what happened to Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. Thank goodness (INAUDIBLE) take up for him there.

But it's tough and it's awful when it's happening to anyone in this country. And it was -- it was more than just disagreeing with me, it was blocking, spitting me. What kept going through my mind was Tampa General Hospital five minutes away. And when they punched me how fast can I get there?

DEUTCH: Yes. Look, those images are terrible and they're frightening and it awful when it happens to anyone. It needs to be condemned and here in Florida Mayor Gillum has come forward and condemned any acts of violence like that. And his opponent Ron DeSantis is buys appearing at conferences with people who celebrate violence against protesters. That's --

TAPPER: What conference are you talking about?

DEUTCH: The conference down in Florida that he attended multiple years in a row. That's the problem.

When the -- the reason the president wants to talk about angry mobs is because he understands, he's smart enough to know it's not about angry mobs. This about a lot of angry Democrats and moderate Republicans and independents who are tired of the divisive rhetoric. They want someone who's going to stand up for their health care, stand up to those who want to cut social security, stand up for gun safety. It's not a mob it's movement.

GAETZ: You thought those were moderate instead (ph)?

DEUTCH: It's not a mob. It's a movement, Jake.

(CROSSTALK)

[09:55:03]

GAETZ: Those didn't strike me as a group full of moderates. Those strike me as radical people trying to create disruption and to potentially to hurt people --

(CROSSTALK)

GAETZ: Yes. No. Look, no one -- no one should --

(CROSSTALK)

GAETZ: -- in political violence from either side but you mentioned Mayor Gillum just days ago there was an LGBT activist who was there -- one of his rallies who was assaulted. That has not happened to my knowledge at any DeSantis events and this is the new tool of the left.

Guilty by association. Ron DeSantis goes and speaks at some forum and some other person happened to speak there who said some offensive thing at some time -- look, let's debate the issues, let's talk about the fact that Florida is doing very well, the fact that tax cuts are working for the American people --

TAPPER: OK.

GAETZ: -- and not engage in that --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Thanks one and all for being here.

This week the public got a peek at a painting hanging in the West Wing. What else would really tie the room together that's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): President Trump is doing a little redecorating over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

TRUMP: I move painting around the White House. I just thought it would be great.

TAPPER: The centerpiece a new painting with a flattering image of Trump taking his place in history mingling with members of the Republican club former presidents Nixon, Reagan, Lincoln.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never heard or seen such outrageous, vicious, distorted reporting in 27 years of public life.

TAPPER: What else might President Trump commission? Perhaps a variation on Michael Angelo's David?

TRUMP: Someday maybe they'll name it after Trump but I'd much rather have a statue in Washington D.C.

TAPPER: Clearly the famously reserved first lady could be the inspiration for a modern day Mona Lisa.

Melania Lisa?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear.

TRUMP: That's the Mona Lisa, one of the great Mona Lisa's of the world.

TAPPER: Or better yet a couple's portrait. American Gothic a homage to those heartland voters.

TRUMP: It's great for our farmers.

TAPPER: Because what's the fun of being a billionaire and the president if you can't paint your way into history?

TRUMP: I'm an artist, in a certain sense I'm an artist.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Be sure to tune in tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, I will be moderating the Florida governor's debate between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis right here on CNN.

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.

"FAREED ZAKARIA" starts next.