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Donald Trump Delivers Speech on Economy; Interview With Dr. Ben Carson; FOX News Scandal; Trump: Fixing the Economy "Won't Be That Hard"; Growing List of Republicans Now Backing Clinton. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 8, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Trumponomics 101 in session.

THE LEAD starts right now.

According to Donald Trump, making the American economy grow is easier than it looks, bigger tax cuts, better trade deals, fewer regulations. But under his plan, who saves the most? Who saves the least? And who will take care of the kids?

He watched his brother die, a 10-year-old boy killed while riding a water park slide, as a witness said his brother saw everything. Now today new questions about whether this 17-story super chute should have been opened to begin with.

Plus, paging the department of personal vendettas -- a new report alleging Roger Ailes used the FOX News budget to settle personal scores and avenge petty slights.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake today.

After a week of plummeting polls, picking fights and posting tweets, Donald Trump is going with a different P-word today, trying to turn his campaign around, policy, specifically economic policy, delivering what his campaign billed as a major campaign speech in Detroit.

The Republican nominee, interrupted more than a dozen times by protesters, offered his prescription for an American first economy and laid out his plans to create jobs, take on trade agreements and simplify the tax code, this as a new CNN poll of polls finds that Trump is trailing Hillary Clinton by double digits exactly three months before Election Day.

CNN Chief political correspondent Dana Bash joins me now.

Dana, the stakes were very, very high for this economic speech today.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They were. And I would add another P to your list, personality, because Trump's campaign advertised this speech as policy, but it was Trump's personality, an attempt to prove he has the temperament to be president that was on display, plus a reminder that he is not what most Americans can't stand, a politician.


BASH (voice-over): Back to basics.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to stop believing in politicians and start believing in our great country.

BASH: Donald Trump delivered a detailed economic policy speech, but his goal seemed to be more fundamental, reminding voters that he's an outsider eager to disrupt a broken system.

TRUMP: Our party has chosen to make new history by selecting a nominee from the outside, and that's outside of the very, very already proven rigged system.

BASH: Trump made sure to re-up his core anti-trade populist messages his campaign believes could play well in places like hard-hit Michigan.

TRUMP: American cars will travel the roads. American planes will connect our cities. And American ships will patrol the seas.

BASH: But he also used his speech to the Detroit Economic Club, businesspeople, to talk tax cuts and court college-educated wealthier GOP voters that polls show Trump may be at risk of losing.

TRUMP: We're reducing your taxes from 35 percent to 15 percent.

BASH: That's a 15 percent cap on taxes for businesses. He's also proposing a moratorium on new business regulations and renegotiating NAFTA. Trump even dumped his own tax reform proposal, wiped it from his Web site and adopted the House Republican plan.

TRUMP: My plan will reduce the current number of brackets from seven to three and dramatically streamline the process.

BASH: And he warned GOP voters considering voting for Hillary Clinton about her plans.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton, who has spent her career voting for tax increases, plans another massive job-killing $1.3 trillion tax increase.

BASH: Before he even spoke, the Clinton campaign released a Web video trashing Trump's plans.

TRUMP: I would borrow know that if the economy crashed you could make a deal.

BASH: CNN's poll of polls shows Clinton with a whopping 10-point lead over Trump. To turn that around, Trump has to bring college-educated women back into his column. He hopes his new tax break for child care developed with his daughter Ivanka will help.

TRUMP: Reduce the cost of child care by allowing parent to fully deduct the average cost of child care spending from their taxes.

BASH: Still, one of the most noteworthy parts of Trump's speech was what he didn't say, no insults for protesters, even though he was interrupted 14 times. He bit his tongue, except for this.

TRUMP: The Bernie Sanders people had far more energy and spirit. I will say that.


BASH: Trump was so proud he controlled his impulse to lash out at protesters, he used it in a fund-raising appeal right after his speech. Still, John, there were more high-profile GOP defections today; 50 prominent Republican national security experts, many veterans of the George W. Bush administration, signed a letter denouncing Trump's candidacy and pledging not to vote for him.


And they said that Trump would be -- quote -- "the most reckless president in American history" -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Dana Bash, thank so much. We will talk about that letter in just a moment.

First, joining me, former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, an adviser now to the Trump campaign.

Dr. Carson, thanks so much for being here.


BERMAN: So, this was a policy speech, a speech that outlined some of Donald Trump's plans on taxes, on trade and the like. Is this the type of speech you would like to see him give more of and is it enough to turn this campaign around?

CARSON: Well, yes.

Like I have said many times, we need to talk about the issues, because this is such an important election. It will determine the direction of our country. So what are the people actually concerned about? Why do you see these large crowds for Donald Trump? Why did you see the large crowds for Bernie Sanders?

It is obviously because people are very concerned about the status quo and the way things had been going. And 70 percent almost of the people believe that we're on the wrong track. So, obviously, we need to start thinking about, how do we correct this? How do we turn the ship around?

BERMAN: One of the issues that I remember you talking a lot about during your presidential campaign was the national debt. You described it in very dire terms.

Overnight, a Trump economic adviser, David Malpass, he backed off the claim that Donald Trump would eliminate the debt in eight years. Do you feel like you know enough about Donald Trump's economic plan, how he will pay for these tax cuts that he just proposed today?

CARSON: Yes. I know what general philosophy is.

The philosophy is, America went from nowhere to the pinnacle of the world economically in less than a hundred years. Why did that happen? It was because we had policies that encouraged entrepreneurial risk- taking, capital investment, hard work, self-reliance.

What we have done now is moved away from that. From 1850 to 2000, we had an average growth rate of 3.3 percent. Since that time, it's been miserable. And during the entire time of the Obama presidency, it has never reached 3 percent. I believe that is the first time in history that's ever happened. They say it's the new normal.

There is nothing normal about it. It is because we are saddling the people with all these regs and with tax policies that disincentivize, rather than incentivize American ingenuity.

BERMAN: So, Dr. Carson, in addition to growth, do you think Donald Trump needs to lay out specific spending cuts to explain how he will pay for this?

CARSON: Well, believe me, there is a lot of spending cuts that can be made.

You know, have your fact-checkers check this, but if you don't raise the federal budget by one penny for three or four years, you balanced the budget. That's how easy it is. But we have gotten so used and so addicted to spending, we don't think about simple things like that.

You look at the 645 federal agencies and sub-agencies, all of which have budgets, many of which duplicate services, we don't need all of that. So, obviously, let's look at what we need, get rid of what we don't need and operate in an efficient manner.

BERMAN: So, Dr. Carson, there is this letter than CNN has learned about from 50 of the country's most senior Republican national security officials, many of whom have served in past Republican administrations.

They signed this letter, saying they would oppose Donald Trump.

I want to read you a line from it. They say: "Donald Trump put at risk our country's national security and well-being" and that he would be -- quote -- "the most reckless president in American history."

Again, some of the signatories are names you know, John Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence, former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chernoff, Tom Ridge. These are household names, particularly in Republican circles.

Are these the types of names that Donald Trump needs if he is going to win in November? CARSON: Well, I think what Donald Trump is recognizing and what a lot

of the American people recognize is that the very people who have been running things have kind of run us into the ditch.

We aren't doing that well. If we were doing great, I would say, absolutely, let's grab these people and let's listen to everything they have to say because they are leading us exactly in the right direction. But that's not the case.

So, that is the reason that we have brains. If things aren't moving in the right direction, you analyze it and you move into a different direction.

BERMAN: I respect your knowledge of brains, as a neurosurgeon.

However, let me ask you. John Negroponte, Michael Hayden, Tom Ridge, these are people you think who drove us into a ditch?

CARSON: I believe that the policies that we have been following over the last few decades have led us to where we are. We didn't get there automatically.

We got there because of the policies of the establishment, both Democrats and Republicans. And if they were really smart -- and I hope they are and they will start thinking -- why not utilize this experience and the knowledge that they have to work together to try to find a better way?


BERMAN: But this includes policies that were in place during the Bush administrations and the Reagan administration, in your mind?

CARSON: Of course. I'm talking about things that have been going on for decades.

I don't lay it all at the feet of one person, and I don't lay it all at the feet of one party. You know, the issues that affect America right now, they are not Democrat or Republican issues. People must get that through their thick skulls.

We must understand that our strength is in our unity and resist the urge to capitulate to those agents of the vision who derive their power and their power base from dividing people into groups.

BERMAN: Dr. Ben Carson, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it, sir.

CARSON: My pleasure. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, the Republican presidential nominee laying out his most specific economic policy plans yet, but the question is, will these Trumponomics work and are they in line with the Republican Party? We will take a look next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:15:00] BERMAN: All right, welcome back to THE LEAD, John Berman

here, in for Jake today.

Donald Trump's economic message has resonated during this election season with people who feel left behind by the economy. But what Donald Trump often says goes against a lot of what the Republican Party believes or at least has believed. Some Republicans have called Trump's policy thought bubbles, especially on trade, the second coming of Smoot-Hawley, which if you need a refresher didn't work out so well.

Some of the men Trump is presumably trying to win over with the speeches like he made hours ago, one of them is with me now, Douglas Holtz-Aiken, he's an economist, former director of Congressional Budget Office and former chief economic adviser of John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

Doug, thanks so much for being with us. We should disclose you do not support Donald Trump but you also do not intend to vote for Hillary Clinton, and you are or have been for a few election cycles until this one sort of the economic conscience of the Republican Party.

So, let me ask you flat out, what did you like about what you heard in Donald Trump's speech today?

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE DIRECTOR: Well, I think the most promising part was his clear olive branch to Republicans by talking about the House task force tax reform proposal. If he indeed did fully embrace it, and it is not clear where he ended up, he moved toward it, but if he embraced that, that's a really bold proposal that will genuinely help economic growth in the United States, and that's the number one issue facing our economy. And I think that shows he understands the politics of having to get Republicans to, you know, rally around him.

But he also understands the need to contrast himself strongly with Hillary Clinton. There's nothing in her proposal that's going to cause faster growth. He's got some things that will.

BERMAN: What did you not like about what you heard from Donald Trump today?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think on the substance, it's very hard to defend where he is on trade and immigration. Those are just things that are counter to tradition of the Republican Party. They're counter to the best interest of the middle class that he wants to help, they're best helped by trade, they're best helped by growth. So, that's really disappointing.

And then the weird thing, he basically said look, I'm a new different forward looking candidate for the 21st century and I'm going to deliver to you the economy of 1964. It's a very strange construct in the end.

BERMAN: What do you mean by that? Because he did specifically say he is the candidate of the future, Hillary Clinton is a candidate of the past.


BERMAN: Yet, Donald Trump is often the one who says "make America great again", which is by definition sort of harkening to a past time. So, what specifically are you talking about?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: We are going to build lots of buildings with American steel and talk about steel a lot, and we're going to talk about American cars on American roads and American planes and American ships patrolling seas, and so very much a vision of the '50s and '60s. There's not a word in there about Airbnb, Uber, what's the future of online economy, where are you on technology and innovation, that kinds of things that most people believe are the strength of American economy and will be our future.

BERMAN: To be fair, you're not going to find a lot of politicians who will stand up and tell voters anywhere in the country, we're not going to make stuff again here at least like we have. That would be rare. You agree that would be unique.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: That would be unique. I don't think you need to say that, but I think you need to acknowledge the places where this economy has been uniquely successful, and that has been in productivity, innovation. You know, we have worldwide brands that no one else has ever created. There are no Googles or Facebooks coming from other countries. That needs to be acknowledged as part of our future.

BERMAN: So, one of things that Donald Trump talks and has talked about for sometime is the unemployment rate. And he called the idea that the unemployment rate is now actually less than 5 percent. He said it is one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics.

Do you agree with that?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: No. Shame on him. The reality is this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does a first-rate job of trying to measure unemployment in the United States. And there's no way that any political superior to get the staff to game the numbers or somehow that the staff is incompetent.

It is hard task. We sample 60,000 households and try to guess what's going on in the economy at 310 million people. The result is that you get some noise and it bounces around from month to month. And that's a reality most economists have learned to live with and most politicians we have briefed have learned to understand.

It's just really I think a mistake to somehow lead the American public they are being lied to. That's not a helpful stance for any politician to take.

BERMAN: That goes for the unemployment rate. Does that also go for one of the things he's been saying in the stump the last week that this election could end up being rigged? HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think the same thing is true. I think there's a real

question about some of the facts he laid out like about NAFTA failing us. Things like that. I mean, it's time to fact check some of these statements. They just aren't right.

BERMAN: And just to be clear, you support NAFTA. You seem like a free trading Republican, as they sometimes call them. But a lot of the parties moved away from that and a lot of the electorate has moved away from that.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: We have seen this movie before. I mean, as far back as the early 2000s when then President George W. Bush wanted to get Trade Promotion Authority, it got through the House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans by a vote. Trade has always been a tough issue. We saw Barack Obama's campaign saying would he renegotiate NAFTA. We are seeing the same movie again.

The reality is that when you're done, trade is good for America. The majority of Americans support it.

[16:20:00] And that's what he will do as president.

BERMAN: Dough Holtz-Eakin, great to have you with us. Thank you so much.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Hillary Clinton supposed to give her own economic policy speech in Detroit later this week. But today, she already decided to try to set the record straight, at least in her mind, after Donald Trump said she is to blame for Detroit's current economic status.

Then, a 10-year-old boy enters a waterslide taller that than Niagara falls, with speeds up to 50 miles an hour. By the time the ride is over, he is dead. Now, investigators are trying to figure out what happened.


[16:25:00] BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

As Hillary Clinton tries to rebut policies by Donald Trump, she is also touting some new supporters, some actual Republicans with a long history of bucking their party, who say that Trump is just not their guy. One of the latest Republican defectors is Ronald Reagan's final political director, Frank Lavin, who wrote a CNN op-ed who said, quote, "It is thunderingly clear that Donald Trump deserves to lose."

I want to go on the road with the Clinton campaign right now. CNN's Pamela Brown in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Hillary Clinton just wrapped up a rally.

Florida is important geography for the Clinton campaign, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. This is a crucial battle ground state and you heard Hillary Clinton come out today with this scathing rebuttal against Donald Trump's economic plan. She says that his tax plan is aimed to help wealthy people just like Donald Trump at the expense of middle class Americans.

And she aimed to draw a sharp contrast, saying that her plan will create more jobs and support hardworking Americans who want to start small businesses just like her own father did.


BROWN (voice-over): During her two-day swing in Florida focusing on jobs, Hillary Clinton is trying to blunt Donald Trump's path to victory in this crucial state.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Economists, left, right, in the middle, all say the same thing, that Trump's policies would throw us into a recession. The last thing we need.

BROWN: Clinton's campaign already hitting air waves in Florida, looking to paint Trump as soon who profits off of other people's pain.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?

BROWN: A new CNN poll of polls shows Clinton with a ten-point lead over Trump. Up six points from just before conventions. Now, some prominent Republicans unhappy with Trump are breaking from their party and coalescing around Clinton, such as former Michigan Governor William Milliken, who joins major GOP donor Meg Whitman and New York Congressman Richard Hanna.

Despite her recent gains, Hillary Clinton's latest effort to move past her e-mail controversy had backfired. On Friday, she said she short- circuited her remarks about the FBI statement on her private e-mail server.

CLINTON: I may have short-circuited, and for that I -- you know, will try to clarify.

BROWN: Trump quickly pounced, calling her unstable and unfit to be president.

TRUMP: She used the term "short-circuited". She took a little short circuit in the brain and she's got problems. It amazes me actually. Honestly, I don't think she's all there.

BROWN: Clinton's running mate Tim Kaine defended her during a "Meet the Press" interview Sunday, saying she has repeatedly apologized for using her private e-mail server and pledging the Clinton/Kaine administration will be more transparent.

TIM KAINE (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I am not presumptuous enough to start thinking about how I'm going to do things after November. But I know that this is something that she has learned from and we're going to be real transparent, absolutely. BROWN: The Clinton campaign also taking note of Trump's July fund-

raising haul of $80 million, still $10 million shy of its own total but closing the gap. A fact that prompted campaign manager Robby Mook to write in a memo, "This was far more than anyone expected and should be wake-up call to all Hillary supporters."


BROWN: And the new CNN poll of all polls also shows that Clinton is making gains over Trump when it comes to the economy. She is hoping to capitalize on the momentum here in Florida, set the stage on jobs ahead of what here campaign is saying. A huge speech on jobs later this week in Michigan.

Back to you, John.

BERMAN: All right. Pamela Brown in Florida for us. Thanks so much, Pamela.

Let's bring in our panel right now. Hillary Clinton supporter Richard Socarides joins us now, Republican strategist Ron Christy, and Donald Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway.

Kellyanne, I want to start with you here. You know, one of the things "The New York Times" wrote today, they said this speech, you know, Donald Trump wanted to change the subject. You've heard others call it a campaign reset, reboot.

Did the campaign need a reset?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, DONALD TRUMP ADVISER: Well, we're happy with what happened today. But this speech has been on the calendar from many, many weeks, and "The New York Times" and other anti-Trump publications know that.

Let's focus on the substance here and let's focus on what issues really are. People want this campaign to stop being this constant cacophony of who said what on a given day and to really address their struggles.

You saw that today. Mr. Trump talks about the 7 million additional people who now live in poverty since President Obama has taken office. That's a real number. Nobody can argue that or spin that, John. It's a serious number.

The fact we've had three straight quarters with less than 2 percent growth in GDP, that's a terrible number. Ninety-four million Americans out of the work force.

He identified the problem then went on to solutions. Take our tax brackets from seven to three, give small business relief. Child care tax credits. Six hundred new regulations under President Obama, he wants to roll back many of those because they are hurting people.

And I think anybody that wants to look at plan has the opportunity to look at the website or roll the tape. BERMAN: Just to be clear, he did speak all about policy today. This

was an economic speech. He didn't engage with protesters at all. But when you say everyone else wants to focus on other things, you do acknowledge that Donald Trump has had a role in the focus on some other subjects beside policy in the last 10 days.