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Clinton Tops Trump in Polls, Obama Approval Ratings on the Rise; North Carolina Man Arrested for Aiding ISIS; Trump Meets with Gold Star Families; Turkey Issues Arrest Warrant for Gulen. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 4, 2016 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Nia, the numbers are encouraging for Hillary Clinton. She's trying to attach herself as much as possible to the president of the United States.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, we saw that on stage. Obama in his speech saying he was going to pass the baton to Clinton Clinton, ask his voters or the Obama coalition to carry Hillary Clinton in the way they carried him, and in the embrace on stage there. So she knows about these approval rating numbers, 54 percent, and the economy also. That's a measure of how people feel about the economy, how they see the country going, and there's economic numbers particularly unemployment numbers in some of the big swing states all fairly low. I think the national unemployment rate is something like 5 percent. How all of these things bode withal for her and Trump's obvious path is to knock Obama, to tie Hillary Clinton to them. If people feel good about Obama it makes it much more tough for him also because he's not --


BLITZER: What he needs to do is recreate that coalition that President Obama put together to win decisively in 2008, 2012, young people, women, minorities, that's a tough challenge for her. Is it doable?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's doable, largely because a lot of those folks are simply unnerved about Donald Trump and she of course has struggled with more liberal voters, younger voters, those are Bernie Sanders voters but Donald Trump Democrats hope is the great unifier. What's been interesting since the convention is her effort to attract swing voter, independent voter, white works class voters. Maybe she can peel back some of Donald Trump's support in the key Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, which is one reason why they've been spending a lot of time there.

BLITZER: Look closely at the key battleground states, Ryan. He's got to do well in like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan. These are states -- if he's going to get to 270 electoral votes he needs to win these states.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You got to look at those solidly Democratic states in the industrial Midwest, the states that have gone for the Democrats the last few cycles. If Trump has a chance in this race to break through that blue wall that's where it's going to be done, so you've got to start seeing movement in Pennsylvania, Michigan, even Wisconsin to a certain extent. If you don't see movement there, you're not going to win. He's not going to win. He can't win the race. Even if he wins Ohio, he's not going to win unless he breaks through a lot more.

That 54 percent approval rating for Obama probably the number to watch right through the end of the election. That is the sort of proxy for how voters feel about the economy, how they're feeling about the country. It's confusing because, on the one hand, we see numbers about voters saying whether they want change or not and over two- thirds of voters say they want change. If you're Donald Trump, that's a nice number. On the other hand, they're saying 54 percent for the Democratic incumbent, and so that's a slightly more important number, because that tells you how transferrable Obama's popularity is to Hillary.


BLITZER: The key question pollsters love to ask is the country moving in the right direction, wrong direction, still not necessarily very good for this president or for Hillary Clinton.

LIZZA: Absolutely. Over two-thirds of the voters are saying things are going in the wrong direction. At the same time they're saying 54 percent approval for the incumbent president. So you know, it's --


BLITZER: Conflicts.

LIZZA: It conflicts but historically look at the numbers you just put up on the screen, presidential approval is the single best indicator for whether the incumbent party get another term or not.

RAJU: And which is why they'll lean on President Obama pretty significantly.


BLITZER: He's going away on vacation. Got a news conference coming up before he goes away on his summer vacation to Martha's Vineyard. He always wraps it up at 4:15 eastern later this afternoon from the Pentagon.

But after Labor Day, I assume he's going to be pretty active on the campaign trail.

RAJU: Yes, and you mentioned the questions about vulnerabilities on the left. He can help with that significantly. He's still very popular with the Democratic base, bringing out folks on the left. But in addition to President Obama, expect a lot of Elizabeth Warren, too, and Bernie Sanders as well. Democrats believe could be their line-up to energize folks who may not be that excited about Hillary Clinton. HENDERSON: You'll see Donald Trump, he's going to Michigan on Monday.

He's going to give a speech in Detroit so they very much want to play in these states. It's going to be hard. Michigan I think Obama in 2012 won by 400,000 votes. They have a lot of work to do. He has to figure out how to stay on message and make the focus of this campaign Hillary Clinton rather than chasing all of these shiny objects.

BLITZER: Going to Green Bay, Wisconsin, as you know, but missing from that event will be the Republican governor, the Republican Senator, and the Republican speaker of the House, all from Wisconsin.


RAJU: Yes. And Ron Johnson, the Senator there, also in a difficult race and kind of distanced himself from Donald Trump. When I went out there and interviewed Ron Johnson, he said at the time, around April or May, he said that, "I would stump with Trump," like the Ronald and the Donald. Since then he backed away from that. I will support Trump but not endorse him. Trying to make a distinction, but shows how difficult of a position Trump makes these.

BLITZER: Is there a distinction between supporting and endorsing and voting for?

LIZZA: Basically, saying I'm being a good party person so the voters chose this guy so I guess I'll choose him but I'm not exactly embracing him.

[13:35:14] BLITZER: Won't be able to show up with you with the Republican presidential nominee when he visits my state. That's a little odd.


All right, guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, a North Carolina man under arrest, accused of plotting ISIS-inspired attacks here in the United States. How he was allegedly trying to recruit would-be terrorists. Much more right after this.


[13:39:55] BLITZER: We've got some breaking news. A North Carolina man has been arrested and charged with trying to aid ISIS. The FBI accuses 35-year-old Erick Jamal Hendricks of trying to recruit people and organized ISIS-inspired attacks inside the United States and believe he may be potentially linked to the thwarted terrorist attack in the cartoon contest in Garland back in 2015.

CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez, with me right now.

First, what do we know about the arrest today?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT; The arrest of Hendricks, Wolf, is because he tempted, according to the court papers filed in North Carolina today, he was trying to create a sleeper cell. He thought he was. This is part of a sting operation orchestrated, in part, by the FBI. But he was in touch with a lot of different people who have been part of other terrorist incidents, including, as you mentioned, Elton Simpson, one of the attackers who tried to carry out an attack on a Prophet Muhammad drawing contest last year in Garland, Texas. He was in touch with Simpson before that attempted attack. If you remember, a security guard was able to stop that before anyone else got hurt, just those two attackers were killed. And we also know that what Hendricks was trying to do was use personal information of members on the military out on the Internet. If you remember, some of the personal information of members of the military was published by ISIS, and he was going to use that information to be able to target members of the military, using the sleeper cell he was trying to organize.

BLITZER: Did he have weapons?

PEREZ: He did not have weapons but he was in touch with people who were allegedly trying to get weapons.

BLITZER: This is the second arrest of an alleged ISIS sympathizer here in the United States. Yesterday, a D.C. Transit police officer was arrested.

PEREZ: That's right. This is another arrest. It seems like every day we get another one of these. His name is Nicholas Young. He's appearing in court in a few minutes here in Washington or rather in Alexandria, Virginia. He's a 13-year veteran of the D.C. Metro Transit Police Department. And the FBI has been keeping an eye on him for six years, Wolf. They were very concerned about some of his statements, some of his comments. Metro P.D. reported him to the FBI. But all the time they were watching him, recording his conversations, he never actually crossed the line into anything criminal until just last week, when he bought 22 gift cards that he thought were being sent overseas to ISIS supporters in Syria. Turns out, that was also part of the FBI and FBI operation. They arrested him yesterday. Again, he's appearing in court to get a lawyer appointed to him, and we expect that that case will be going forward from there.

BLITZER: He was a transit officer. He worked in the subway system, the metro in Washington. This is the first time, correct me if I'm wrong, a police officer in the United States has been arrested, charged with sympathizing with ISIS?

PEREZ: That is right. We've had over 100 of these arrests. The Justice Department, the National Security Division has now rolled up over about 100 ISIS supporters in the United States in the last couple years. We've had former corrections officers. We've had former members of the military, Reservists. We've never had an active police officer. And that's the scary thing, this guy has been on the job allegedly protecting the metro system here in Washington and now he's in jail facing these charges. 20 years in prison if he gets convicted on these charges.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Evan Perez, reporting for us.

Coming up, Donald Trump tries to right the ship after feuding with the father of a fallen American soldier. Up next, we'll hear from one of the Gold Star family members that Donald Trump met with yesterday. There you see him. Was his message enough to win them over? We'll be right back.


[13:47:28] BLITZER: Right now, here in Washington, on Capitol Hill, an effort is under way to try to get some Republican lawmakers to revoke their endorsement of Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. That effort is under way. Showing live pictures right now. A group of U.S. military veterans planning to deliver a petition to Senator John McCain's office. They want McCain and other GOP leaders to withdraw their endorsement of Donald Trump after he criticized the parents of a Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq after the parents criticized him at the Democratic convention.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump appears to be looking for ways to ease those tensions with veterans groups, members of his own party. He met yesterday with the families of six servicemembers killed in combat.

With me now is Gold Star dad, Craig Gross, one of the family members who met with Mr. Trump yesterday. His son, Army Corporal Frank Gross, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan on July 16th, 2011. There is a picture of the young man, the young American fallen soldier.

Mr. Gross, let me extend, first of all, on behalf of me and all of our viewers our deepest on condolences to you and your wife for the loss of your son.

Tell us a little bit about Frank Gross, your son.

CRAIG GROSS, FATHER OF FALLEN U.S. SOLDIER: Well, Corporal Frank Robert Gross was just a great young man. He was just a good -- he was not only a good son, he was a good friend. He and I golfed together. We fished together. We went camping together. Just about everything that I like to do, Frankie liked to do. And I'm an artist, and he was just a prolific artist. He loved to play the guitar. I play the guitar. So it was just a very unusual relationship. When I talk to other dads, I don't find very many dads that had the type of relationship that I had with Corporal Frank Robert Gross.

BLITZER: He sounds like a great young man, indeed. Once again, my heart goes out to you and your family.

Tell us about the meeting you had with Donald Trump yesterday. How did that go? How did it come about?

GROSS: Well, I got -- I received a phone call from Chris Hager the day before yesterday. It was late in the afternoon and he asked me if I wanted to go to the Trump rally in Jacksonville and meet personally with Donald Trump. And Karen and Billy Vaughn were going to be there, as well as a couple other Gold Star families. And I just -- I said, you know, I'm going to take this opportunity to go and see what exactly Mr. Trump wanted to talk to us about. And I went with expectations of just walking into a room, shaking his hand, and walking out the other door. That's not what happened.

[13:50:26] BLITZER: What happened inside, if you can share that with us?

GROSS: Well, first of all, we were greeted by Pam Bondi at the front door. It was very nice to see Pam. And then we were escorted into another room with Donald Trump. And once again, I expected just to shake his hand and just keep walking. And he stopped us and he shook all of our hands and gave us a hug and told us that he appreciated us coming and meeting with him. And then he said, let's all just sit down here at this conference table and chat for a few minutes. A few minutes turned into 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and we were there probably 35 or 40 minutes. He asked us questions about our sons, where our sons served, how they were killed in action. And he was -- he leant us a very empathetic ear and I was very impressed with the meeting overall.

BLITZER: Can you identify with the Khan family, who lost a son back in 2004 in Iraq, and have had this feud, as you know, with Mr. Trump?

GROSS: Well, you know, I'm the vice president of Gold Star Fathers for the state of Florida. And, Wolf, if I was asked to speak at a political event, I would have -- I would have kept my comments strictly focused on my son. I would not have said anything about either candidate. I believe that as a Gold Star father, it is incumbent upon me to preserve the dignity of our sons and our daughters' sacrifices that they made. Our sons and our daughters went in to war to protect the Constitution of the United States and to protect every American. They did not go in to war to protect a certain segment of society, a certain race, a certain religion, a certain color, or a certain creed. They went to protect the Constitution of the United States of America. And I absolutely refuse to get in the middle of this. I'll say, as a Gold Star father, we will continue to do everything we can to preserve the dignity of our sons' sacrifices. And whatever we do in the ballot box, we're doing it because of their sacrifice, because it has been said freedom is not free.

BLITZER: Well said, Craig Gross.

Once again, our deepest, deepest condolences to you and your wife and your entire family in the loss of your son, Corporal Frank Gross. He was only 25 years old when he was killed in Kandahar in Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device exploded and killed him.

Once again, thank you so much. Thanks for all work you are doing as well. We appreciate it.

GROSS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, Turkey issues an arrest warrant for a cleric in Pennsylvania considered a key suspect in last month's failed coup in Turkey. But will the U.S. extradite this individual? We have a live report.


[13:57:47] BLITZER: There's a very important new development unfolding in the failed coup in Turkey last month. A court in Istanbul has just issued an official arrest warrant for a cleric here in the United States. The warrant accuses Fethullah Gulen of leading the July 15th coup.

Let's go to Istanbul. Our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, is on the story for us.

Arwa, how could this impact relations between the U.S. and Turkey, two very close NATO allies?

DAMON: Well, there's a very real potential that they just may not be so close anymore. Because everyone here, Wolf, from the president on down has very openly and harshly said that whether or not the U.S. actually does end up handing over Fethullah Gulen it is going to be a direct measure of the two nation's relationship. And if they fail to do so. They are also threatening that it could a very vital and strategic relationship. The Turks believe that he and his movement were behind this coup. They say they have the evidence to back it. And they say that the U.S. has a responsibility to actually bring him into custody now. They have already put that request forward, even though they haven't presented all of the evidence and intelligence they have at hand to do with this most recent failed coup. But they say they have intelligence that he may be trying to flee to another country where Turkey won't be able to reach him.

And, Wolf, there's already a sense here amongst the Turkish population that America must somehow be responsible for this failed coupe because, in their perspective, they are harboring the man that their government is accusing of having carried it out.

And you can hear this music behind me. We're just overlooking Istanbul's Taksim Square where, every single night, since this failed coup attempt, there have been thousands of people coming to gather, in what can only be described as Erdogan's peoples' power, demonstrating against this attempted coup and showing their support for the government -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Arwa Damon, in Istanbul for us, thanks very much.

We could hear more about the cleric when the president of the United States holds a news conference later today. Look for CNN's live special coverage. It all begins 4:15 p.m. eastern on CNN.

I'm back 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."

The news continues right now, right here on CNN.