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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Bob Woodward; As Trump Points Finger at Media, White House Rejects Any Responsibility For Recent Attacks; Another Suspicious Package Sent to CNN. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 29, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:03]

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was a very short hearing, as we expected. The judge informed him of his charges.

And after a very brief discussion, the judge determined that there would be a pretrial detention hearing and a status conference hearing scheduled for Friday -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Rosa, officials tell CNN that the suspect, he had a list of more than 100 people that he planned to send packages to? Do we know anything about who was on that list and how many packages he sent?

FLORES: You know, we don't know the names of everyone on that list. But CNN has learned that we have reported on some of the names on that list, that law enforcement officials have contacted everybody on the list.

And, Jake, I should add that in a gaggle with Sayoc's attorney after this hearing, I asked this attorney, you know, should Sayoc say something, given the bomb that was found and the package that was found in Atlanta?

And, Jake, his answer was very short. He said, Sayoc is innocent until proven guilty.

TAPPER: All right. Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

The FBI is now investigating last week's fatal shooting of two African-Americans at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky as a potential hate crime, the town's mayor's said today. Police say the accused shooter initially tried to get into a predominantly black church. But when he was unable to get in, he went to a nearby grocery store and started shooting.

Today, we're learning more about the victims.

Maurice Stallard was with his grandson when he was killed. He was buying poster board for the grandchild's school project.

Vickie Jones wasn't even inside the grocery store at the time of the shooting. She was killed right outside the store as the gunman was taking off. Investigators are looking into reports that the gunman told someone in

the store -- quote -- "Whites don't shoot whites."

The suspected shooter is being held on a $5 million bond.

President Trump in his own words talking about how he absolutely stirs up rage. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:53]

TAPPER: The accused Pittsburgh synagogue shooter and the man charged with sending more than a dozen IEDs to critics of President Trump both appeared in courtrooms this afternoon.

Amidst questions about national tensions and divisions, President Trump blamed not the falsehood surrounding the caravan that prompted the anti-Semitic shooter to kill, not the virulent rhetoric that has prompted his ardent supporter in Florida to send the bombs to CNN and to Democratic politicians.

No, the president blamed the media, tweeting this morning -- quote -- "There is great anger in our country caused in part by inaccurate and even fraudulent reporting of the news. The fake news media, the true enemy of the people, must stop the open and obvious hostility and report the news accurately and fairly. That will do much to put out the flame."

Asked today if he had any concerns that his words might provoke people to do awful things, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the president was going to continue to draw contrasts between his positions and Democrats.

Joining me now is the associate editor of "The Washington Post," Bob Woodward. His book "Fear: Trump in the White House" revealed the inner workings of an administration often plagued by chaos.

And I want to start with this fascinating excerpt of an interview you and Bob Costa did with then candidate Trump back in April 2016 about the rage in the country.

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes.

TAPPER: Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WOODWARD: In the Republican Party, I mean, there is a lot angst and rage and distress.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Record-setting,

WOODWARD: Record-setting.

(CROSSTALK) WOODWARD: And you have to tame that rage.

TRUMP: Yes.

WOODWARD: Don't you?

TRUMP: Yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability. But I do bring that out. I bring rage out. I do bring rage. I always have.

I have had many occasions like this, where people have hated me more than any human being they have ever met. And after it's all over, they end up being my friends.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: I bring rage out. Now, part of it seemed to be saying that he brings out rage in his enemies. But did he mean it -- how did he mean it?

WOODWARD: Well, he meant it very clearly.

And what was so surprising about it was, I said, oh, yes, you have to tame rage. Oh, no, no, I bring it out in people. And then, astonishingly, he says, I don't know there that is an asset or liability.

He says that twice. And he's clearly proud of it. We now know, as president, that is part of the strategy of blame the news media, get the environment roiled up as much as you can. And, in some ways, it's worked.

And so he he's embracing rage. And, of course, rage is fury, uncontrolled anger. The idea that a political candidate or a president would enjoy that, like that, think it possible that it's an asset?

TAPPER: Yes.

The president, in that same interview, the candidate in that same interview goes on to say that, when he becomes president, he will be so presidential, we will all be bored, but...

WOODWARD: Falling asleep.

TAPPER: We will be falling asleep.

WOODWARD: Yes, we're waiting.

TAPPER: But, yes, that hasn't happened. We're not bored and we're not falling asleep.

You think that he purposely manifests the rage, channels the rage, incites the rage among supporters?

WOODWARD: Well, he says so. TAPPER: Yes.

WOODWARD: And when he blames the media, when he goes up in these rallies, I mean, they are all designed to raise the boiling point, raise the temperature.

And that is contributing. We know presidents have extraordinary power. He has probably more power than any president I have reported on, going back to Nixon.

And he has seized it with the communication channel, with the tweeting, and the rallies and the press conferences. And, you know, he's out two or three times every day saying something. And so the news media follows it, rightly so.

And, to summarize, having spent two years on this in the book, we're being had, because he's doing things to distract us from all of the big policy decisions that he's gambling on.

[16:40:10]

TAPPER: But, while the same token we're being had, do you hold him responsible?

Obviously, the shooter is responsible for the shooting, the bomber is responsible for the bombing.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But there is a big conversation going on right now about tensions and divisions of America and the balkanization of America.

He assumes no responsibility for any of it. You heard Sarah Sanders this afternoon saying it's all the fault of the media.

Certainly, you know, the media is not blameless. But do you really think that he doesn't think he's responsible for any of it?

WOODWARD: We have to look at what he does.

And what he's doing here, it's in plain sight, and let's not kid ourselves, and he's stoking the fires. And that serves his political purposes, in his view. In Charlottesville last year, when he gave the speech saying, you know, we need to love each other, after trying to come down from the first version, he went ballistic, saying that was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life. Never show weakness. Never.

And he wants to have this volatility in politics. And he's succeeded.

TAPPER: And the volatility sometimes -- we were talking about this early on the panel. Why do these standards exist? Why do we have expectations that politicians will not promote conspiracy theories, will not demonize their opponents, will not call, you know, their opponents the enemy?

And is it not because of an expectation that somebody out there might take it the wrong way, might take it literally?

WOODWARD: But all politicians, all people in the country should be against violence.

TAPPER: Right.

WOODWARD: Against killing people. There should be no ambiguity on this.

He embraces the ambiguity here and has decided, I don't think strategically -- I think it's just an approach which he's used throughout his life and his presidency -- as, let's use rage.

The idea that a president, when I said, tame it, oh, no, no.

TAPPER: Yes.

WOODWARD: I bring it out in people.

TAPPER: Right. Do you think it's dangerous?

WOODWARD: Well, of course it's dangerous.

And it -- you know, we have the great opportunity -- or a president has a great opportunity to heal things, to make things better. And what -- the presidency is kind of the hallmark of the national and constitutional strength of this country.

And the president should represent that. And he is failing. He is -- even his supporters know that they're being riled up, and a lot of people like it. That's fine. But let's not kid ourselves.

TAPPER: Before you go, I want to ask you, you write in your book "Fear," which is a great read, about Jared Kushner making a -- coming to an understanding, a partnership, almost, with MBS, the Saudi crown prince.

Now we know that the Saudi crown prince is very dangerous and has done some very questionable things and a lot of people think he was behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist, "The Washington Post" journalist.

Did they have any idea how -- what a risk this was to partner with MBS?

WOODWARD: I went back and looked at some of the information from the intelligence analysts. And they said, MBS, who would become the crown prince, is a legitimate change agent, but he has some real issues with maturity and impulsiveness.

And that was a warning flag. The intel community was trying to tell Trump and Jared, hey, look, let's go slow on this. And they went full speed ahead.

They literally had the first meetings on this the first week of February 2017, the first month of the presidency. TAPPER: Amazing.

WOODWARD: This was a whole strategy designed to embrace Israel, Saudi Arabia, and isolate Iran.

And the result of it is a 27-page strategy actually on one hand to embrace Iran, on the other hand to confront them for their actions supporting terrorism. And the other -- Iran is one active participant in all kinds of subversive activities in the Middle East.

TAPPER: Bob Woodward, always -- always an honor to have you here. Thank you so much.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

TAPPER: Really appreciate it.

The wild and false conspiracy theories being given oxygen by this president and his administration that took the mail bomb suspect from Twitter loon to would-be assassin.

Stay with us.

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: -- oxygen by this president and his administration that took the mail bomb suspect from Twitter loon to would-be assassin. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back. We're sticking with our "POLITICS LEAD" and the danger of the fringe conspiracy theories becoming more mainstream. The Florida would-be bomber a Trump fan sent devices to people that President Trump has been attacking including CNN whom the President has labeled the very worst of the enemies of the American people. The Pittsburgh shooter no fan of President Trump was nonetheless taken by conspiracy theories that a lot of people out there have been feeding about the dangers of the individuals in that Central American Caravan. Now all this is in part due to social media where anyone can retweet and peddle absolutely false stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are truly an enemy of the people. The fake news enemy of the people, they really are.

TAPPER: The man who mailed more than a dozen pipe bombs to Trump's stated enemies last week, the president's words are the truth.

[16:50:07] TRUMP: Crooked Hillary Clinton. You know, that term has really stuck.

TAPPER: Andrew Kaczynski of CNN's "KFILE" reviewed some 3,000 of the would-be bombers social media posts and found a man seemingly overtaken by his belief in conspiracy theories prevalent on the right.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, KFILE REPORTER: In at least a couple of tweets at CNN, he actually parroted the President's talking line that the media were the enemy of the American people.

TAPPER: Such falsehoods used to be fodder for tabloids and the fever swamps of the internet but now they're promoted from the bully pulpit. His phones at Trump Tower were wiretapped by Obama, false. The Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico was inflated to make him look bad, false. He saw Arab Americans in New Jersey cheering on 9/11, false, and on and on and on.

TRUMP: Today's Democrat Party is held hostage by left-wing haters, angry mobs, deep state radicals --

TAPPER: And it's not just President Trump giving weight to baseless claims. CNN's "KFILE" has found leaders at all levels of the Trump administration who have sold fiction as fact.

KACZYNSKI: A couple of people were put on leave, one was allowed back, the Administration has actually defended these people at times.

TAPPER: Former conservative radio host and naval intelligence officer Frank Wuco is a top adviser to the Department of Homeland Security. In 2013 Wuco promoted a claim that John Brennan then a candidate to lead the CIA converted to Islam while stationed in Saudi Arabia.

FRANK WUCO, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR TO THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: If he's so attracted to shifting political winds that he will dive headlong into them when he's serving in a foreign country to favor the foreign government, that is -- that's disconcerting.

TAPPER: There is no evidence to support that claim. John Gibbs, a Senior Adviser at the Department of Housing and Urban Development's help spread the conspiracy that Hillary Clinton's Campaign Chairman took part in satanic rituals retweeting it with the caption "true, true, and true." The claim is actually false, false, and false. Christine Bauserman an assistant to interior secretary Ryan Zinke resigned earlier this year after CNN uncovered her social media posts she once shared this image questioning President Obama's college and birth records. Gee, why would a member of the Trump administration question that.

TRUMP: He doesn't have a birth certificate.

TAPPER: Oh right, her boss led the charge on that lie that the nation's first African-American President was actually born in Africa. No matter how often the media tries to fact-check these conspiracy theories, people share them, people chant them in large auditoriums, and sometimes they motivate individuals to violence.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Let's talk about some stuff with our panel. I want to get to the conspiracy theories in a second but first we have a little housecleaning because for you, the Republican National Committee is jumping on your comments. You earlier in the show said that Donald Trump has radicalized more people than Isis has. David and Mona disagreed with you strongly. So you wanted to clarify it. JULIA IOFFE, CORRESPONDENT, GQ MAGAZINE: I do want to clarify it. I

think I spoke in the heat of the moment. This has been a very emotional and personally painful time for me. I think I exaggerate in that and I apologize for that. But what I -- the point I was trying hand-fistedly to make is that there -- it's not a coincidence that according to the ADL, the number of anti-Semitic attacks has jumped by nearly sixty percent in the first year that Donald Trump was in office. And it's no coincidence because even though the main danger is homegrown right-wing extremists as many studies have pointed out, this administration has methodically shifted resources away from monitoring those people away from trying to control those people and keep them from committing violence. But I do apologize for that heated rhetoric. It was -- let's just say it's not factual.

TAPPER: And David, you wanted to take a shot with Bob Woodward's interpretation of the interview with Trump where he said that he brings rage out in fear.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And when you listen to the audio and sat here and listen to it carefully, and I think you're trying to make the point to Bob where the President says he brings rage on people because people hate the President. Now that he goes to rallies and tries to incite rage but people it says that their natural, right, their natural state the President says look I don't know if that's good or bad but people, I have a very strong -- I listed very strong emotions what the President was saying there.

TAPPER: OK, a little housecleaning there. But let's talk about conspiracy theories because it does seem, I mean, I'm old enough to remember that George W Bush knew about 9/11, we're going to war in Afghanistan just so Dick Cheney could get rich off of a Halliburton pipeline. I mean these things are in the bloodstream but they do seem to becoming more prevalent.

MONA CHAREN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, right. There was a poll once that show that 61 percent of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge about the attacks on 9/11, that kind of thing. Yes, it has been --

TAPPER: Now he's America's sweetheart by the way.

CHAREN: Well, yes that's true. And as he says, you know, in a few more decades he'll be a hero. But look the there is a difference though between the kinds of things circulating at the extremes and on the in the fever swamps and being taken mainstream by the President. I worry a lot about President Trump giving credence to things like well, Scalia you know there might have been a pillow over his face and you know, that -- when he does that, he diminishes the value of truth itself.

[16:55:17] SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And it's not just the President, there are -- he has been enabled by members of the Republican, not just a Republican National Committee but members of Congress. There are members of Congress who have spouted these conspiracy theories. The Republican National Committee right now is that I'm sure they're going to attack me after this but they are literally -- the funnel through which Donald -- these -- the most heinous things get out there. Donald Trump today just said that the caravan is full -- is an invasion. Like this is -- this is very problematic.

And at some point in time some folks is going to have to stand up and say not only is it's not OK but this will not continue on our way.

TAPPER: OK, thanks one and all for being here. A very passionate day, a very emotional day for everybody. Coming up, the congressman who represents the district in Pennsylvania where the synagogue massacre took place. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.