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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz; Trump Speaks Out; Chaffetz: McCarthy Statement about Benghazi Hearing 'Inappropriate'; Russia Strikes. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired September 30, 2015 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Russia strikes, dropping bombs on Syria and telling warplanes to stay away.

Tonight, U.S. officials have grave concerns about Vladimir Putin's actual targets and his dangerous power play.

Trump vs. Putin. We're getting the Republican front-runner's first reaction to Russia's military moves in Syria in a brand-new interview with CNN. Would a President Trump let this stand?

And hearing or hit job? Planned Parenthood officials are fuming after a very tense interrogation by GOP lawmakers, accusing the committee's chairman of playing loose with the facts. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, he joins us live this hour to respond.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, the United States now warning Russia that its first airstrikes in Syria could fan the flames of war.

Secretary of State John Kerry, as you saw, just wrapped up talks with the Russian foreign minister. U.S. officials are expressing serious doubts that Vladimir Putin's military is targeting ISIS, as Moscow claims. They suspect Putin is going the enemies of his ally the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

Tonight, there is growing concern that this is a blatant and provocative attempt by Putin to strong-arm the Obama administration. I'll ask the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General George Joulwan, for his take and our correspondents and analysts, they're also standing by as we cover all the news that's breaking right now.

Up first, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has the very latest -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you just heard it there at the United Nations, that the two sides, the Russians and the U.S., may hey sit down as soon as tomorrow in some fashion and try and talk about military cooperation in these airstrikes.

This comes after a day of drama between both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): The first Russian compact camera video of their airstrikes in Syria. Russian warplanes struck near the city of Homs in Western Syria, an area where anti-government forces are operating, not ISIS, the terrorist group Russia claimed it was going after.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter had been assembling a military team to talk to the Russians about how to keep U.S. and Russian pilots safe when they fly near each other. But earlier Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad got a sudden visit from a Russian general.

(on camera): So, a Russian general shows up this morning at the embassy in Baghdad and apparently reads you -- your people a note saying airstrikes are going to begin in one hour. Is this not a little bizarre?

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is not the kind of behavior that we should expect professionally -- from the Russian military professionally. And that's one reason why I think it's a good thing to have an avenue of communication that is less unprofessional than a drop-in where we can talk about professional defense matters.

STARR (voice-over): The Russian general giving just one-hour notice strikes were to begin and telling the Americans to keep their aircraft out of Syrian skies.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: The Russians are using this opportunity to basically do their best to shove the U.S. out of the Middle East. And they're doing it literally and figuratively right in front of our noses.

STARR: One of the areas the Russians hit, north of Homs, where several factions, including the al Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra and other anti-Assad groups, are fighting the regime. The State Department trying to defuse rising military tensions between the U.S. and Moscow, but only going so far.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States and the coalition will continue our ongoing air operations, as we have from the very beginning.

STARR: Russian President Vladimir Putin says his military was invited into Syria by Bashar al-Assad, the Russian leader clearly ready to prop up Assad.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We will support the Syrian army only in its legitimate fights specifically against terrorist groups.

STARR: For now, little mention of ISIS, the U.S. priority. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Putin's ambitions are blindingly

obvious, my friends. He wants to prop up Assad, play kingmaker in any transition, undermine U.S. policy and operations and ultimately expand Russian power in the Middle East.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, the Pentagon also making clear that U.S. airstrikes will continue in Syria against any targets the coalition chooses to strike. They do want to sit down with the Russians as fast as possible and get these so-called deconfliction talks going, the technical talks that need to happen to make sure when Russian and U.S. pilots encounter each other in the sky, there is not an accidental disaster -- Wolf.

[18:05:03]

BLITZER: Because that really could be a disaster, Barbara.

Thanks very much.

Deconfliction, that's the new word of the day.

Let's talk about what is going on, Russia's military moves in Syria, joining us, the former NATO supreme NATO commander retired General George Joulwan, and Julia Ioffe. She's a contributing writer for "The New York Times Magazine."

General, you were saying the U.S. and Russia, former Soviet Union, they have been through these kinds of issues before. First of all, what is Russia up to right now?

GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: First of all, I think, to be honest, ISIS is as much of a threat if not more to Russia than it is to us. Their whole southern border is possible terrorist activity that could happen.

BLITZER: But the targets today in this first airstrike clearly, if you listen, to the Pentagon were not ISIS.

JOULWAN: Well, that I think needs to be determined.

But I think targeting ISIS for them a priority. And I would say -- for example, what bothers me here, do we have a joint air coordination center?

BLITZER: U.S.-Russia.

JOULWAN: U.S.-Russia, Russia-NATO or whatever -- how to pull the coalition together and make sure we don't go bump in the night.

And I think that to me is imperative here if we're going to have a coordinated effort in Syria.

BLITZER: You were shaking your head, Julia. JULIA IOFFE, "NEW YORK": It's been confirmed now that the

targets that Russia hit today were actually CIA-backed, U.S.-backed anti-Assad rebels.

When Russia said it was going to help Assad, it really meant helping Assad and it meant doing exactly what Assad is doing, not hitting ISIS, because, you know, ISIS' existence legitimizes his hold on power. He doesn't hit ISIS. He hits the other rebels that are trying to oust him power. They're using, like Assad, non-precision guided missiles. There is already a lot of collateral damage, and 30- some civilians were killed today.

When Russia said it was helping Assad, it really meant helping Assad, not going after ISIS.

BLITZER: Strategically, General, the Russians and the Syrians, the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Russia, they have had a very close relationship for a long, long time, so you really can't blame the Russians for wanting to bolster their guy in Damascus.

JOULWAN: They have given them some very sophisticated air defense weapons as well. So Syria has a formidable force in their country that can thwart I think U.S. or NATO operations if they want to.

BLITZER: Apparently, they haven't been doing much because the U.S. and NATO planes, Turkish planes, they have been going in to Syria to go after ISIS target.

JOULWAN: There is coordination in doing that.

Russia enters the mix here in a way that's troublesome because of the lack of coordination. We may not want the Russians there, but they are there and I think we have to find ways to integrate them into what we're doing. That may mean difficult for us because of our past experience and because of how we perceive the Russian involvement in Syria, but I think we need to do it.

Backing Assad is something they have been doing all along. I just think we have to get together and figure out how do we coordinate.

BLITZER: But, Julia, I think you will agree. For Russia and for Putin, there is a bigger strategic gain right now that they are looking at.

IOFFE: I don't know about the strategy. I think right now it's about tactics.

But let's get real here for a second. They don't have the same goals, the same strategic goals we do in Syria. They do not. Let's talk about the air defense system. Who has airplanes flying in the region? Assad and we do. This is, we're talking about a country -- I mean, deconfliction is, you're right, important, because we're talking about a country that just a year ago their military accidentally downed a civilian jetliner over Eastern Ukraine. They have very sophisticated, very powerful anti-aircraft defense

mechanisms. Yes, we should probably talk deconfliction with them.

JOULWAN: What I'm saying is therefore we need to have some way to have a dialogue here. At least I would recommend that as the senior commander on the ground.

If they are targeting ISIS and we're targeting ISIS, even though there may be on the rebel side strikes being done, we need to coordinate it.

IOFFE: But how do you coordinate with somebody who is pursuing objectives that are absolutely counter to yours?

(CROSSTALK)

JOULWAN: Leadership.

BLITZER: Kerry and Lavrov, they seem to be trying to coordinate. They had this meeting and now they are going to go back to their respective leaders and say let's move forward.

IOFFE: They are bombing opposite sides of the fight, but they're going to coordinate on that? How does that work?

BLITZER: We will find out.

JOULWAN: Leadership.

IOFFE: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Thanks very, very much.

Just ahead, we will stay on top of this breaking news, but there is other news we're following as well. Republicans vs. Planned Parenthood.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz, he is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He will respond to the uproar over the hearing he chaired yesterday, grilling the president of Planned Parenthood.

[18:10:10]

Also, we're standing by for a Donald Trump campaign event. We have a brand-new interview also with the Republican presidential front-runner. Trump now getting personal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:15:06]

BLITZER: Tonight, Planned Parenthood officials are firing back at House Republicans after a testy hearing on the group's tactics and funding. The women's health organization accusing GOP lawmakers of

haranguing and blindsiding the group's president during five hours of intense questioning.

The House Oversight Committee chairman, Jason Chaffetz, is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's going to have an opportunity to respond.

Congressman, stand by.

First, CNN's Tom Foreman has more on the battle over Planned Parenthood -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Democrats are hitting back hard today at claims made by Republicans during this hearing, saying their attacks on the head of Planned Parenthood were quite simply sexist, rude, and wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Stand up for women's health.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Planned Parenthood supporters are in an uproar over a hearing they think was a hit job with Republican congressmembers repeatedly interrupting and attacking the group's president, Cecile Richards.

And no one has drawn more anger than committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz. In a key moment, the congressman from Utah produced a chart seemingly showing a sharp reduction in cancer screenings and a sharp rise in abortions based on Planned Parenthood's own accounting.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: That is what going on in your organization.

CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: This is a slide that has never been shown to me before. I'm happy to look at it. And it absolutely does not reflect what is happening at Planned Parenthood.

CHAFFETZ: You're going to deny that -- if we take those numbers out of your report?

FOREMAN: Moments later, Richards did indeed deny it emphatically.

RICHARDS: Excuse me. My...

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARDS: ... informing me that the source of this is actually Americans United for Life, which is an anti-abortion group, so I would check your source.

CHAFFETZ: Then we will get to the bottom of the truth of that. FOREMAN: The truth is, while Chaffetz's office stands by the

numbers, the chart is misleading, suggesting more abortions than cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood in 2013, when cancer screenings actually outnumbered abortions almost 3-1.

Still, Republicans landed some other blows, pointing out that Planned Parenthood, far from scraping for cash, had a $127 million surplus last year. But the group's political action committee portrays Planned Parenthood as nonpartisan.

REP. GARY PALMER (R), ALABAMA: Yet in 2014, 100 percent of the contributions went to Democrats.

FOREMAN: And that Richards is paid well for a nonprofit boss.

RICHARDS: My annual compensation is $520,000 a year.

FOREMAN: The outrage from Planned Parenthood is still reverberating.

DAWN LAGUENS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: What I thought we saw yesterday from the Republican majority was evidence that they don't understand women. They certainly don't understand women's health.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: But plenty of conservatives were thrilled with the optics of this hearing because what they saw was a group they consider immoral, fiscally irresponsible and undeserving of tax dollars simply being held accountable -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

Let's bring in the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much coming in.

The chart you put out yesterday was misleading. If you had a do- over, you would have done it differently.

CHAFFETZ: Oh, I disagree. I don't think it's misleading.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But this was a chart that was put out by this anti- abortion group.

CHAFFETZ: And that's why we labeled it as such. The numbers are exactly accurate.

BLITZER: But the arrows show...

CHAFFETZ: There is a reduction.

BLITZER: I'll give you the two charts that would have been a more accurate way and we will put them up on the screen.

That's the chart you showed and it shows -- the numbers are specific. It shows that from 2006 to 2013, abortions went from Planned Parenthood from 289,750 to 327,000, cancer screenings, prevention services went from two million down to just under one million.

CHAFFETZ: Right.

BLITZER: But it makes it look like there is a whole lot more abortions than there are cancer screenings, whereas there's three times as many cancer screenings as there are abortions.

Here is a chart that Vox put out with the exact same numbers that gives a more accurate reflection of what was going on, the decline in cancer screenings, prevention services, the slight increase in the number of annual abortions.

CHAFFETZ: The annual number of abortions increased. The numbers were exactly accurate. The number of cancer screenings...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The numbers were accurate, but the arrows seem very misleading.

CHAFFETZ: I stand by the numbers. I can understand where people would say that arrows went different directions, but the numbers are accurate. And that's what we were trying to...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I guess the whole question is, it wasn't to scale. It didn't really show an accurate reflection when you show those kinds of arrows.

CHAFFETZ: The reality is the breast care screenings are down nearly 53 percent over...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And you know why they say they are down like that? Because the federal government has recommended less annual screenings for certain procedures. That's why they say the numbers have gone down.

CHAFFETZ: But their funding has continued to go up. And that's the point. They tout that they go.

We have Cecile Richards talk about mammograms in the past. They don't do any mammograms there at Planned Parenthood. Here is the point, Wolf, $127 million of revenue, more than their expenses.

[18:20:10]

BLITZER: Most of the money they get, they get about $500 million a year, most of that are Medicaid reimbursements for cancer screenings, for other procedures, not for abortions, because the federal government doesn't allow Medicaid to reimburse for abortions.

CHAFFETZ: When they have more than $100 million in revenue over expenses, I would say, look, they don't necessarily need federal taxpayer dollars.

They are flying first-class tickets. They're chartering private aircraft and they're sending money overseas. These are not things -- their exorbitant salaries, in my opinion, for a not-for-profit organization. We're having a funding discussion. The whole hearing was Planned Parenthood funding. That's what we were targeting.

BLITZER: Wasn't it really the result of those very disturbing videos that all of us have seen by now, videos that Planned Parenthood and a lot of other people say were doctored, were edited, were not really reliable?

Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on your committee, he asked you to call the makers of that video before the committee for a hearing. You declined. Why?

CHAFFETZ: Well, first step is issuing a subpoena, which I did, without the Democrats supporting it, issue a subpoena to get all of the videos?

BLITZER: Have you seen all of the videos, all the unedited videos?

(CROSSTALK)

CHAFFETZ: No, nobody has, nobody has.

BLITZER: Do you have them yet?

CHAFFETZ: No, we haven't, because we issued a subpoena, but there's a temporary restraining order in California. There is a conflict between the legislative branch and the judicial branch.

And until we get all those videos, we're not going to call up this person to question him on the videos.

BLITZER: Will you bring that person who created those disturbing videos before the committee? Will you have a chance to review everything and to see if in fact those videos were edited, doctored to make it look as awful as it does?

CHAFFETZ: The reason that these people think that these supposedly were doctored is because all of the raw footage is already out there. That's the whole point.

The videos that we have not yet seen, we have got to get those into the committee and then we will make a decision about whether or not we even hold another hearing.

BLITZER: But to the average person out there, how can they authenticate that it hasn't been edited, unless you get all the raw video that you clearly want that you haven't received yet?

CHAFFETZ: Exactly. Elijah Cummings and I agree. We need to see all of the footage. That's why I issued a subpoena weeks ago. And we hope to get that...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Why bring her before the committee before you have a thorough investigation of the actual video that resulted in all of this?

CHAFFETZ: Because it wasn't a hearing about the videos.

The hearing was about the funding of Planned Parenthood which was very germane to the discussion we're having about funding of the government. Why should we send taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood when they have more than $100 million in revenue over their expenses?

BLITZER: Why is it relevant how much she earns every year, Cecile Richards, the leader of Planned Parenthood?

CHAFFETZ: She's had more than -- it's something like a $250,000 increase in her overall compensation.

BLITZER: But it's not a government organization.

CHAFFETZ: Exactly. It's a not-for-profit organization.

BLITZER: But they can pay -- executives for the American Red Cross, for the American Cancer Society, they get paid huge salaries as well.

CHAFFETZ: And I think that's a problem.

If you're a not-for-profit organization and you're scrambling for dollars, our point is, if you want to service more women's health care and if you want to get more dollars actually into care, these 13,000 community health centers are probably a better solution.

They are masterful at raising money at Planned Parenthood, but they are very much a political organization. They have a 501(c)(4). They have 527s that are under that. They have shared employees. Cecile Richards also takes money from the organization that's involved in the political activity. I'm telling you, it just doesn't make sense.

BLITZER: But you have to admit that Planned Parenthood, even though you disagree with a lot they do, especially the abortions, I know you oppose abortion rights for women, they do, do some really important work helping women get screenings for cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control. They help women, don't they?

CHAFFETZ: I think they do some valuable service, but to suggest that they are the leader in helping women in breast cancer screenings, when they offer no mammograms? My wife is involved and engaged in helping women who go through

this process. She works for a plastic surgeon and women going through these double mastectomies and it's very, very difficult work. My mother passed away from breast cancer. To try to characterize Republicans as if we don't care, I take great personal offense to.

It's why I led off in the hearing we do care about this. And I happen to believe, if you want more bang for your buck, if you want to service more people, if you want to provide more access, Planned Parenthood is not your solution.

BLITZER: Because Planned Parenthood they will send women to other clinics for mammograms. They don't do mammograms.

CHAFFETZ: Then let's give money right to those clinics that actually offer the mammograms.

BLITZER: But those other clinics, as well as Planned Parenthood, they get reimbursed by Medicaid for poor women who can't afford those services.

The federal government or the states in certain circumstances will step in and reimburse them for those kinds of critically important services.

CHAFFETZ: There are less than 700 Planned Parenthood facilities, yet there are 13,000 community health care centers.

[18:25:00]

BLITZER: But if a hospital does that kind of service, they get reimbursed by Medicaid as well, the same kind of reimbursement.

CHAFFETZ: I think the challenge that we have is that the taxpayers are spending more than $500 million in an organization.

They take revenue and they send it overseas. They're buying first-class tickets. They're getting private aircraft. They're paying nearly $600,000 in salary. They're doing all these things that don't go directly to women's health.

BLITZER: Is there any evidence, in your opinion, that Planned Parenthood has broken any law?

CHAFFETZ: No, I'm not suggesting they broke the law.

But we have a responsibility in Congress. If they are going to take over half, nearly half a billion dollars in revenue from the federal government, we have a responsibility to dive deep into how they are spending that money.

BLITZER: Listen to Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat on your committee. She summed up what she saw yesterday this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Make no mistake. Despite

what we hear from the other side, Republicans are doubling down on their war against women. We need to recognize this fight for what it is. It's about banning a woman's right to choose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So, that's what he said, strong words from her. Is she right?

CHAFFETZ: No, she's not right.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: If many Planned Parenthood didn't do abortions, would you support Planned Parenthood?

CHAFFETZ: I totally disagree with the idea that they should be involved in this.

There are no federal dollars that go to abortions. I get that. They make that argument. I think there is a better way to get more dollars into women's health care. I care deeply about this.

BLITZER: Is this really all about abortions or is it about something else?

CHAFFETZ: It's about how we fund the community health care services. It's about how we fund Planned Parenthood. They are very much a political organization. They're very involved and engaged in...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What do you recommend that Planned Parenthood do? What would you do?

CHAFFETZ: We provide oversight. We got to have a discussion. Are we going to continue to pour nearly half a billion dollars into an organization that is a get-out-the-vote type of organization for the Democrats? Is that fair or can we actually...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Of that half a billion dollars, about 75 percent are Medicaid reimbursements for critically important things that Planned Parenthood does for especially poor women who have no alternatives.

CHAFFETZ: You make it sound so sweet, but there are a lot of other things that they are doing with those shared employees, shared assets, shared e-mail lists that are engaged in these political activities.

They are so flush with cash, they spent tens of millions of dollars over the course of years sending it overseas, when they are buying first-class air travel and chartering aircraft. It doesn't really sound like all that money is really going to help that poor young women who is looking for a little health care.

I have called for quadrupling, quadrupling the expenditure we have on cancer. I want the Democrats to join me on that. We only spend $5.5 billion on cancer fight and yet it kills 1,500 people a day in this country. So, don't tell me that we don't care about this.

BLITZER: I agree. We should be spending more on the fight against cancer.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAFFETZ: So why should we give $60 million in Title X funding to Planned Parenthood? Put that money into fight cancer instead of buying first-class tickets for Planned Parenthood. That's where I get fired up.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAFFETZ: That's where I'm passionate about. So, don't tell me that I don't care about this, when I lost my mother to this, when my dad died from cancer, when my wife works on this.

There is a better way to do this. I don't want to send the money overseas. I don't want them to be engaged in political activity. I want to fight and win the war on cancer. I'm tired of getting lectures from these Democrats that try to say we don't care about women. That's just absolutely offensive.

BLITZER: I totally agree the U.S. should be spending a lot more to fight cancer.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAFFETZ: Then where are you going to get the money? You can grab it out of Planned Parenthood and put into cancer.

BLITZER: Obviously, there's no doubt a lot of money has been wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAFFETZ: I didn't vote for that. We were wrong for going in there. I'll find a lot of money with you, but some of it should come from Planned Parenthood.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some other issues that are in the news right now while I have you.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, he wants to be the speaker of the House, replacing John Boehner. First of all, do you support him as the speaker?

CHAFFETZ: Yes. I do, yes.

BLITZER: OK. He was on FOX News last night and he described the Benghazi

select committee. He said this: "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she is untrustable. But no one would have known that, any of that, had happened had we not fought to make that happen."

Now, he's getting criticized severely for suggesting U.S. government money organized this Benghazi hearing for the purpose of going after Hillary Clinton politically, trying to embarrass her, as you see all the hammering he's getting today for that statement he made on FOX last night.

CHAFFETZ: Well, I think rightfully so. It's an absolute inappropriate statement.

It's not how this started. We wanted to get to the truth of it. Once upon a time, it was pretty much me and Trey Gowdy that were doing the investigation that blossomed into a lot more because we were being withheld documents, we were not given access to this information.

The more we have dove into it, the more we have learned about it. But that was not the reason we started. We started because there were four dead Americans and we didn't have answers as to what happened before, during and after. And I think Trey Gowdy has done a wonderful job, but there was never a directive to go do this to try to...

BLITZER: He makes it sound like this whole select committee is totally partisan, to try to undermine Hillary Clinton and her chances of being elected president. Does this, should this disqualify him from being the speaker of the House?

CHAFFETZ: I don't think it necessarily disqualifies him, but I think it's an absolute terrible statement. I don't think it's a fair...

BLITZER: He should apologize?

CHAFFETZ: Yes. I think he should apologize. I think he should withdraw it. I think it's an absolute inaccurate statement as to what we're doing and have done and the work on Benghazi.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another story that has just came up, and it involves you and the U.S. Secret Service. You're familiar with this, the inspector general of the U.S. Secret Service was part of the Department of Homeland Security. Has now said, and it's pretty disturbing, that that leak that you had applied yourself in 2003 to be a Secret Service agent. You got rejected for whatever reason. That that was inappropriate; it was confidential. And it should never have been made public.

This is pretty embarrassing for the U.S. Secret Service that they've gone ahead and now acknowledged that one of the top officials there had deliberately decided to smear you. CHAFFETZ: The idea that the Secret Service would spend ten

minutes -- look, I'm a sitting member of Congress. I'm the chairman of the oversight committee. I have a constitutional responsibility to provide oversight. But it's pretty disturbing that the Secret Service would, you know, dive into my own personal records.

BLITZER: Forty-five Secret Service officials, they got this information. The assistant director, Edward Lowery, he wrote an e- mail to fellow directors back on March 31, saying, "Some information that he," meaning you, "might find embarrassing needs to get out, just to be fair."

And then they leaked this to some website, and it was obviously embarrassing. And now the inspective general says that was totally inappropriate. This was confidential information. It should have never been made public.

Has anybody called to apologize to you?

CHAFFETZ: I did have Secretary Johnson today call and apologize...

BLITZER: Jeh Johnson?

CHAFFETZ: Jeh Johnson.

BLITZER: Secretary of homeland security?

CHAFFETZ: Yes. I did have the director of the Secret Service call and apologize again. They've each called now twice.

But that ain't good enough. That is not good enough. They have a deep-seated cultural problem in the Secret Service. I worry that, if they're doing this to me, they're doing it to who knows how many other people. I just -- it's a little bit scary, Secret Service diving into my background as a sitting member of Congress?

It's not about me, but it is about what are they doing over there? These people are entrusted with guns with the president, for goodness sake, and if the -- they're supposed to be the Secret Service. We give them police powers, and we give them the ability to, you know, dive into confidential information. And it's very disconcerting.

BLITZER: We're going to follow the story and see what happens to these officials. All right, Jason Chaffetz. Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman, for coming in.

CHAFFETZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good serious discussion.

CHAFFETZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, as we await remarks by Donald Trump, we're learning more about a new "People" magazine cover story on his family. Melania Trump is opening now for the first time in the campaign.

Plus, Trump responds to his wife's assessment of his often brash personality. CNN's brand-new interview with the Republican frontrunner, that's coming up, as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:37:57] BLITZER: Donald Trump is answering reporters' questions before a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire. Let's listen in briefly.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm going to go over it. But we're going to create a lot of jobs. We're taking jobs back from China and all these other countries that have just been ripping us, ripping us. Mexico, China, Japan, we're going to be taking them back.

But you know, they were so happy, in a certain way. They said, "Well, we want policies." So I gave policy on immigration, and they were sort of happy that. They didn't necessarily agree with everything. A lot of people don't agree build a wall. They say you can't build a wall. How can you build a wall? It's going to be too expensive. Our trade deficit with Mexico is $45 billion a year. Don't forget, I said Mexico.

I love Mexico. I love the Mexican people. I have thousands and thousands of Mexican people that have worked with me over the years. Thousands. I have a great relationship. But their leaders, I said all the time, are too smart for our leaders, too cunning, too sharp; and they're ripping us.

So we have a deficit, and Nabisco is moving. Nabisco. What's more United States than Nabisco? They're moving to Mexico from Chicago! They're going to make Oreos in Mexico. No, think of it.

And then we have Ford Motor Company, $2.5 billion plant. You heard that story. I'm not going to tell it, because if I do, they'll kill me. You know, I have all these live television sets.

You know, every other candidate can go and make a speech. Every other candidate. And they make the same speech for months, and they have 100 people. For instance, Jeb Bush is down the road. They're expecting 125 people tonight. No, it's true.

Now, I'm going to tell you, because we have been getting amazing crowds. We had 20,000 people on Friday in Oklahoma. Twenty thousand people in Oklahoma. A great place. That was an amazing event.

We had 20,000 people. We filled up a stadium, you know, where the Mavericks play. Mark Cuban, good guy. And he has the Mavericks, and it's called American Airlines Center. That's in Dallas. Twenty thousand people showed up. Some were so far up, I said, "Can you even see me?" And we had three days to do it, because when we got it, back when they said, "You know, you can have that arena if you want, it," "I said, "When?" "Monday night." This was, like, Thursday. I said, "How can we fill it up?" The first day they did 12,000 people. Then we went to Mobile, Alabama, as you know, just before that.

We had 35,000 people. It's been amazing.

So tonight -- and I want accurate counts, because these people, they don't count heads. You know, they'll say, "Yes, this place was OK." The press. They are so -- by the way, pan out on these people, please. CNN and all of you live cameras, pan out.

Because you know what they do? They have the camera, live television on my face the entire amount. My wife goes, I go home, "Were there any people there tonight, darling?" They don't see. They never show the crowds. They never show -- they don't want to.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to listen to monitor Donald Trump. He's at this town hall in New Hampshire. But Don Lemon is joining us right now, our CNN anchor.

Don, you had a chance to sit down with Donald Trump earlier today, I take it. It was in New York over at Trump Tower. How did that go?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It went well. It was a wide-ranging interview, Wolf. We started off talking about the campaign and the polls, of course. He brought his own polls to the interview, and we sort of joked about that.

But very quickly we turned to foreign policy, considering what's going on in the world, especially what's happening in Syria, what Russia is doing with those airstrikes. And I asked him about it: how would he handle it, what he thought of the situation.

BLITZER: Don, hold on one second. Hold on one second. I want to hear part of that interview, but I'm just told we've got to take a quick break. We're going to have the interview with Donald Trump. Don Lemon is going to stay with us. Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:47] BLITZER: Now to CNN's brand-new interview with Donald Trump. He's responding to his wife's take on his personality. He's also weighing on Russia's first airstrikes today in Syria.

Don Lemon is with us once again to talk about it. You sat down one-on-one with him today.

Don, talk a little bit about that.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, it's probably one of the most interesting interviews I've had with him. This is -- I think this will be four in maybe as many months in a short time. And he was, you know, he gave me a lot of detail about the situation that's happening in Syria, Russia and the air strikes.

We started off talking about the campaign, about the polls but then very quickly we moved to foreign policy and I asked him how he thought that we got to this place after the president and Putin had just met here and that they were planning talks about deconfliction.

Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, number one, they don't respect our president. They really don't respect us anymore and that's why they are doing this. At the same time, if they want to hit ISIS, that's OK with me. I'm not going to be saying we have to do it all. You know, we're like the policeman of the world.

LEMON: But according to U.S. officials, the areas that are being hit are not ISIS strongholds. These are areas that are propping up Assad they believe.

TRUMP: Right. And I'm hearing that and I hear they are hitting both but I'm hearing that and then you say to yourself, Assad bad guy killed hundreds of thousands of people, but you wonder what's going to happen with the other people that we don't know who they are. We always give weapons, we give billions of dollars in weapons and then they turn them against us. We have no control.

So, we don't know the other people that we're supposed to be backing. We don't even know who we're backing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, as far as the situation in Syria, in regards to is, he has said let's just let the Russians take care of it and I asked them, Wolf, if he would like to change his position and answer the way he sent the answer there. I'm sure that they are, they say they are hitting is targets but they're probably propping up Assad, as well.

BLITZER: You also had a chance to speak with him, Don, about his wife Melania. That cover story in "People Magazine" that has come out. What did he tell you?

LEMON: He seemed a little more relaxed than usual and at some points in the conversation, jovial when we talked about his family and this interview. I asked about his son, Barron, the 9-year-old and what he thinks of this. He answers. You can hear that tonight.

But I asked if he thought what kind of first lady would Melania Trump be and would we see her on the campaign trail? Yes is the answer. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Let's talk about Melania, your wife.

TRUMP: OK.

LEMON: She said this to "People Magazine" recently. Even if you give him advice, talking about you, he will maybe take it in, but then he will do it the way he wants to do it. You cannot change a person.

Did you like what she had to say? Do you agree?

TRUMP: Well, I think it's probably true. Look, I mean, I have my own mind. I do listen to lots of people and then it goes through that and I do what I think is right. But I am very open and I think what she also means is that I'm very open to listening to a lot of different ideas and a lot of different people.

LEMON: We saw her, you know, coming saw her coming down the escalator with you when you made your announcement, standing by your side. Are we going to see more of her on the campaign trail with you?

[18:50:01] TRUMP: I think very much so. She's very much into the women health issues. I think she'll be amazing. And I think Ivanka is going to be amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, this is the first time that he is going back to New Hampshire, back to the place where he was asked, Wolf, about the president being a Muslim and about Muslims being a problem in this country and we have to get rid of him. We talked about that. I asked him, if that would come up again in a situation, would he handle it differently?

You'll have to watch to find out. That was one of the really interesting parts of the interview and I also asked him very straightforward and, frankly, because of his comments and because of people's perceptions about him, I asked him if he is a racist and I also asked him about his stance on homosexuality. I asked him, quite bluntly, if he was homophobic. Watch tonight. You'll hear the answer.

BLITZER: We will certainly watch. Looking forward to it, Don. Thank you very much. The Donald Trump interview with Don Lemon airs later tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Don, thanks very, very much.

When we come back, more on the "People" magazine cover story. The editor will be with us. We'll discuss when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:55:37] BLITZER: The Trump family on the cover the "People" magazine, following in the footsteps of the Obamas, the Clintons, other political figures.

Let's get the inside story on this new Trump profile.

Joining us, the "People Magazine" senior editor, Charlotte Triggs. She's joining us from New York, along with our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, and our senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson.

Charlotte, letting people inside his home, is Trump even more firmly cementing his seriousness as a presidential candidate? CHARLOTTE TRIGGS, SENIOR EDITOR, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: You know, this

is something that all the presidential candidates tend to do. They do the cover of "People Magazine". They like to show off their families. And this is definitely a move that shows that he, you know, is very serious as a candidate and he actually has said to people that he thinks he will win.

BLITZER: Describe his demeanor throughout your extensive interview. Is he acting like a front-runner in this GOP race?

TRIGGS: You know, I know him going way back from, you know, covering entertainment for years, and he actually is acting just like he always had, like a real person, like, you know, a typical New York businessman. He's very natural and he talks to you like just -- you know, not necessarily a politician in one way. He's very friendly.

He answers any question that you have. He's a very reasonable guy. You know, he doesn't get caught up in being pc, which I think everybody knows and he's just very much the blunt Donald Trump that everyone has known.

BLITZER: What about his wife Melania? How was she?

TRIGGS: She's very interesting. She's very soft-spoken. She tries not to, you know, disagree with her husband but she says that she's not a yes woman, that she has her own opinions and that, you know, she has her own thoughts on things and, you know, she really only got political when she talked about immigration.

She says that she does agree with her husband. She was a naturalized citizen and she had to go through a long process and thinks that everybody should have to do that.

BLITZER: But does she sound like a potential first lady?

TRIGGS: You know, she may have the potential of a first lady, but she doesn't seem like she's quite wrapped her head around it. She says that she's taking things day by day, and that there's a long road to go and she's not quite sure if she's ready for it right this minute.

BLITZER: Jeff, in this poll, the Suffolk University/"USA Today" poll, he's still way ahead, 23 percent. Ben Carson, 13, Carly Fiorina, 13. Everybody else in single digits, some of them in really low, low single digits.

He's doing well.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He's still commanding this race. He's still driving this race. But it's unclear if he has growth potential. He still has not grown. He was in the 30s or so. Now he's a little bit under that.

So, you know, we've said repeatedly he's at his ceiling. We don't know if it's his ceiling. But still almost a quarter of the votes in this big of a field, I mean, he's still driving the race. The question is, are voters -- how are they going to sort of, you know, like his policy positions? We saw his tax plan earlier this week. We'll have to see a few more of those.

And he's actually campaigning more. He's on the stump in New Hampshire tonight. So, this is the time when voters are taking their measure.

BLITZER: He's on "People Magazine", "The New York Times Sunday Magazine", he's on "Rolling Stone" magazine, is -- what does that say to you?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: He's on Don Lemon tonight as well.

BLITZER: He's on TV almost every night.

HENDERSON: Yes, he is. He's out there. Part of that explains some of his poll numbers and his ability to stay in the front lines of these voters. We don't know what they'll do going forward. But I do think "People Magazine" in an attempt to sort of humanize him even more --

BLITZER: And introduced his wife.

HENDERSON: -- introduced his wife, who would be a very different kind of first lady. She speaks four languages. She was born in Yugoslavia. I think she has a jewelry line.

She -- so far she has said she's not ready to get political at this point. It's hard for me to imagine her in Spartanburg, South Carolina, stumping, or in Iowa, but maybe that will happen.

We've seen prior would-be first ladies like Michelle Obama target women, for instance. She would have round tables with women and that very much helped her husband. So, it would be interesting, if she ever does that, what that would look like.

ZELENY: And he has 9-year-old son, I think that is something we sort of know more of his older children, who really run the family business. But the 9-year-old is interesting.

So, I think anytime you bring your family out, it softens you up and is the full picture of the man.

BLITZER: Looks like he's a very, very serious presidential candidate.

ZELENY: For now.

BLITZER: We take a look at all those indicators.

Nia, Jeff, Charlotte Triggs, thanks very, very much.

Remember, the first Democratic presidential debate is just around the corner. They will be hosted by CNN live from Las Vegas. Be sure to join us on October 13th. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Tweet me

@wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.