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Trump Claims Obama and Clinton are Founders of ISIS; Former GOP Officials and Staffers Sign Anti-Trump Letter; Interview with Michael Cohen; Clinton Slams Trump's Plans for Jobs and Taxes; Secret Service's Challenges Protecting Candidates; Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 11, 2016 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:01] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jake Tapper. Thanks so much for watching. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the founder of ISIS. Donald Trump steps up his attacks repeatedly calling President Obama the founder of ISIS and Hillary Clinton the co-founder. Even when asked if he really means it, Trump insists that it's not a mistake.

Party pressure. Trump takes heat from GOP leaders frustrated with the direction of his campaign and its impact on other Republicans. But Trump says he prefers an attacking style and refuses to tone it down. Could the GOP divert resources away from Trump and toward down ballot candidates.

Russian cyber attack. The hack of the Democratic National Committee may be broader than believed. Targeting private e-mail accounts inside the Clinton campaign. Officials are blaming Russia for what the top Democrat in the House is now calling an electronic Watergate.

And Clinton strikes back. Hillary Clinton slams Donald Trump's proposed tax cut saying it would help millionaires and that Trump would pay a lower rate than middle class families. Clinton is about to release her tax returns. Will that persuade Trump to release his?

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Donald Trump may be going for broke right now despite repeated calls to tone down his campaign. He is stepping up his attacks, repeatedly calling President Obama the founder of ISIS and calling Hillary Clinton the co-founder. Asked by interviewers if he really means that, Trump refused to back down. He said today he'll keep doing what he is doing and that if he does not win in November, he'll enjoy, quote, "a very, very nice long vacation."

Republican leaders are increasingly concerned about the direction of Trump's campaign. Dozens of former GOP officials and staffers have now signed a new letter to the national committee chairman Reince Priebus saying Trump's, quote, "recklessness and incompetence could spark a Democratic landslide. They are urging the RNC to divert its resources away from Trump and toward Republicans running for other offices.

Hillary Clinton today focused on the economy but Democrats are focused on reports that the cyber attack on their national committee was much wider than thought. Sources say private e-mail accounts of officials tied to the Clinton campaign were hacked. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is calling it an electronic Watergate and says the Russians are behind it.

I'll speak with Donald Trump's special counsel, Michael Cohen, and our correspondents, analysts, and guests, they will have full coverage of today's top stories.

Let's begin with Donald Trump, who's stepping up his attacks on President Obama and Hillary Clinton repeatedly calling them the founders of ISIS.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is out on the campaign trail in Florida right now.

Jim, Trump didn't always take that stance but update us on the latest.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. After a year of ridiculing his opponents with nicknames, Donald Trump has come up with new attacks for President Obama and Hillary Clinton. He says as you mentioned just a few moments ago that they are the founders of ISIS. But that accusation and others from Trump have opened him up to criticism that he is being hypocritical.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It's fast becoming a go-to line of attack for Donald Trump. That President Obama and his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, gave birth to ISIS.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I call President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS. They're the founders. In fact, I think we'll give Hillary Clinton the -- you know, if you're on a sports team, most valuable player. MVP. You got the MVP award.

ACOSTA: Trump's rationale is that the president's withdrawal from the Iraq war created the conditions on the ground for the terror group's to rise to power.

HUGH HEWITT, TALK RADIO HOST: He hates them. He's trying to kill them.

TRUMP: I don't care. He was the founder. The way he got out of Iraq was the -- that was the founding of ISIS.

ACOSTA: Problem is, Trump once advocated a speedy pullout from the war, too, saying back in 2008, "I'd get out of Iraq right now."

Clinton came to the president's defense in a tweet, saying, "No, Barack Obama is not the founder of ISIS."

Trump first called Mr. Obama an ISIS founder at a rally last night in Florida, where he also referred to the president by his full name and slamming the White House over its handling of Russia.

TRUMP: Now we'll find out. But this was taken during the administration of Barack Hussein Obama. OK.

ACOSTA: Continuing that soft on terror theme, Trump also alleged that the Clinton campaign was aware that the father of the Orlando nightclub shooter was at a rally for the Democratic nominee this week.

TRUMP: They knew. But how would you -- how did you like that picture, him sitting -- 49 people killed. Other people will never ever, ever be the same. And that guy is sitting back there, and of course he likes Hillary.

[17:05:09] ACOSTA: But what Trump did not know is that sitting right behind him was disgraced former congressman, Mark Foley, who resigned for sending explicit text messages to Capitol Hill pages.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What attracted Mark Foley to Donald Trump?

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, I don't know. But what I'm saying -- some questions were asked about that. I'm not sure --

CUOMO: It's not as many as were asked about the Orlando father --

GIULIANI: He asked --

ACOSTA: Top Trump campaign surrogates blamed unfair media coverage. But former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani insists Trump will still take part in all three presidential debates despite his battles with the press.

CUOMO: You don't buy it?

GIULIANI: All three debates? The negotiations which the federal commission is always allowed between the candidates --

CUOMO: Absolutely.

GIULIANI: Is going to happen about, you know, I don't know, how big is the podium and do you wear red ties or does she wear a blue suit?

ACOSTA: CNN has learned that RNC chair Reince Priebus recently talked to Trump about the party's concerns about his campaign's effect on other congressional races. But Trump says he's not changing a thing.

TRUMP: Just keep doing the same thing I'm doing right now. And at the end it's either going to work or I'm going to -- you know, I'm going to have a very, very nice, long vacation.


ACOSTA: Now once source close to Trump says there is a, quote, "war going on inside the RNC" over whether congressional candidates should start thinking about going their own way in their own races.

And speaking of those state by state races, Wolf, earlier this afternoon Donald Trump said that he has a, quote, "tremendous problem with the state of Utah." That is a reliably red state. If he is having problems in Utah, Wolf, he's having problems in lots of places -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta in Florida covering the Trump campaign. Thanks very much.

There's breaking news we're also following. Sources now say dozens of Republicans including former lawmakers, officials in the GOP administration, former party staffers, they have signed a new letter to the RNC chairman Reince Priebus saying the party must divert all its resources away from Donald Trump and toward other candidates, Republican candidates.

Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash has obtained a copy of this letter. Dana, what are you learning?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the letter right here. It has not yet gone to the RNC because they're still collecting signatures. As last I check, there were 75 on it. As you said some former members of the RNC -- excuse me, officials there, some former members of Congress, most of these people were already anti-Trump officials. But the whole focus is they say in the wrong place. It shouldn't be on Donald Trump. They think that he's going to lose in a landslide and therefore they should try to save the House and Senate members who are on the ballot.

Let me just show you part of this letter. It says, quote, "We believe that Donald Trump's divisiveness, recklessness, incompetence and record-breaking unpopularity risk turning this election into a Democratic landslide. And the only -- and only the immediate shift of all available RNC resources to vulnerable Senate and House races will prevent the GOP from drowning with a Trump emblazoned anger around its neck.:"

Now this letter -- you know, obviously a public way to show Reince Priebus that some Republicans think that, you know, you, again, they need to shift. The pressure is coming from other places, too. Some RNC committee men and others I'm told are saying please, we don't think that this is winnable on a presidential level. Let's save the Senate in particular.

BLITZER: But is it really plausible that the Republican National Committee could do what the signers of this letter are saying, divert all the resources away from Trump toward other down ballot candidates?

BASH: I'm glad you asked that question. Is it plausible? It would be difficult but doable for a lot of complicated reasons. But most importantly I am told that Reince Priebus is not there yet. That he just doesn't think that this is the right thing to do right now but also just doesn't think it will work at this point. And there are lots of reasons, but one interesting reason is that a lot of the vulnerable senators, Republican senators, are in presidential battleground states. And that he believes, and history shows us, that there aren't a lot of ticket splitters.

Meaning, if you say, you know what, we're not going to focus on Donald Trump in, say, Ohio, and, you know, take resources and emphasis away from Donald Trump and try to put it more on the incumbent senator, Rob Portman, who is in a tough race, it will potentially suppress Republican voters and hurt Rob Portman as well as Donald Trump. So he doesn't think at this point it will work.

I am told by sources familiar with his thinking, though, that, you know, we'll see where the polls are in a couple of weeks, maybe September, to see if things change.

BLITZER: After Labor Day, that's when the battles really begin in a lot of these contests.

All right, Dana. Thanks very much.

Joining us now is Michael Cohen. He is in the executive vice president of the Trump Organization's special counsel to Donald Trump.

Michael, thanks very much for joining us.

MICHAEL COHEN, SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: Hey, Wolf. How are you? Good to see you.

BLITZER: So give me your immediate reaction, Michael, to this letter that's now circulating to Chairman Reince Priebus saying don't fund Trump any more, just keep the money for down ballot candidates in the House and Senate.

[17:10:09] COHEN: Right. So you're talking about former GOP individuals. What would have been nice is if in the past that these people would have united for a cause to help the American people to the same extent that they're uniting now against Donald Trump.

I think that they're all out of their minds and I think that they're wrong. I do not see this as a loss for Mr. Trump. I think he's wildly more popular than what the media is giving him credit for. I mean, on most of these shows, you talk about words like jaw-dropping comments by Donald Trump or Clinton slams Donald Trump.

I mean the negativity that's coming against Donald Trump from the media, along with the $20 plus million a month that the Clintons are spending against Donald Trump doesn't seem to be working.

BLITZER: Michael, this isn't the media. These are Republicans, lifelong Republicans.

COHEN: Former. Wolf. Wolf, former.

BLITZER: No, they're still -- they're still members of the Republican Party.

COHEN: Right. Former.

BLITZER: No, no, no. They're still Republicans, they haven't become Democrats. They haven't become independents, they're Republicans who simply say they can't support Trump.

Here is a follow-up question --

COHEN: I'm pretty sure I can find 75 Democrats, you know, right now who say that they can't support Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: I'm sure -- I'm sure you can. I don't know if they're writing a letter to the DNC. But let's get to the sensitive issue. Vulnerable Republicans out there. How many are asking Donald Trump to help them out there on the campaign trail? Because when he does go to some of these states, the vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in the Senate, they away from him.

COHEN: Right. So, Wolf, I'm not part of the campaign, so I don't know the answer to that. What I do know is that Mr. Trump receives a lot of phone calls from a lot of these down ballot candidates both for financial support as well as for his personal support. They have for many years and they still do now.

BLITZER: OK, let's talk about ISIS because he's created quite a stir by saying that President Obama is the founder of ISIS and Hillary Clinton is the co-founder of ISIS. What does he mean by that?

COHEN: Well, I think Mr. Trump made it crystal clear. For me just to repeat his words, this is a product, a splinter off of al Qaeda, which is the direct result of the pullout of Iraq. It was done improperly by many -- by the estimation of many military individuals with a lot of knowledge.

I don't have that knowledge on it, but I will say that ISIS came out and we all know this is a splinter of al Qaeda. Mr. Trump holds Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as insiders responsible for this.

BLITZER: But you're right, ISIS is the group that emerged from Al Qaeda in Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq was created after the U.S. went into Iraq in 2003 to get rid of Saddam Hussein. So would President Bush, who ordered -- who organized that invasion, is he the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq which became ISIS?

COHEN: I think Mr. Trump made it crystal clear that he believes that the MVPs and the founders are President Obama as well as Secretary Clinton.

BLITZER: He's calling them the founders because they supported by the end of 2011 a withdrawal, a complete withdrawal which earlier, by the way, had been negotiated by President Bush, that status of forces agreement --

COHEN: That doesn't mean -- look, many things that Barack Obama did that were not in lined with the Bush administration he took on. And remember, I happen to be a Democrat, and you know, and I personally did not want to see a fast withdrawal. I wanted to see a smart and proper withdrawal so that we wouldn't have a situation like ISIS.

BLITZER: All right.

COHEN: You know, people don't realize just how -- how they're growing at an exponential rate putting the United States as well as all of our allies around the world in some serious trouble.

BLITZER: All right -- COHEN: Unfortunately we see it on a daily basis.

BLITZER: This issue came up in an interview I did with Donald Trump back in 2007. I'm going to play the clip for you because it's going to have this eerie impact based on what he's saying today. Listen to this.


BLITZER: How does the United States get out of this situation? Is there a --

TRUMP: How do they get out?

BLITZER: Is there a way out of this?

TRUMP: How they get out? They get out. That's how they get out. Declare victory and leave. Because I'll tell you, this country is just going to get further bogged down.

They're in a civil war over there, Wolf. There is nothing that we're going to be able to do with a civil war. They are in a major civil war.


BLITZER: He was opposed to the war in Iraq and he said just get out, declare victory and get out.


BLITZER: That's in 2007.

COHEN: Right. What you guys do is you take a small clip. What Mr. Trump is referring to, number one, is he didn't want to be in that war in the first place. And I think he was speaking more about the economic disaster that the United States, by supporting these wars that have cost us trillions and trillions of dollars, forgetting about the countless American lives that we've lost.

[17:15:08] This is what Mr. Trump was talking about. But I think what Mr. Trump really would like to talk about right now is this entire e- mail scandal and the fact that Hillary Clinton, probably and the Clinton Foundation, probably took money from the same people over there in Iraq and Saudi and other countries in order to, you know, to fund her Clinton Foundation at the expense of, you know, we the American people.

BLITZER: He was in favor of a fast withdrawal in 2007 and he now criticizes President Obama and says President Obama is the founder of ISIS because he supported a withdrawal --

COHEN: No, Wolf.

BLITZER: -- from Iraq by the end of 2011. COHEN: Wolf, we financially can't afford it. You know, as Americans,

and as taxpaying Americans, we have to wake up and understand we have a $19 trillion, $20 trillion debt. What we are doing to our children and our grandchildren, and the future of this great country is irreparable. And as a result of these ridiculous wars where we're fighting for every other country, with no return to the United States of any compensation, that's what Mr. Trump is talking about.

And when he turns around and says if people or other countries want us to protect them, well, you have to pay for the service. Well, you can't have it for free. It doesn't make any sense. And that is what he's talking about. When we are at $20 trillion -- you know, as a deficit. You know, I saw on one of these programs, somebody was talking about the magnitude of this debt.

If the U.S. government cut a $1 billion a day on this deficit, it would take us 40 years to pay it off. I mean, this is some serious numbers. And I think that's what Mr. Trump is talking about. It's time to put America first.

BLITZER: I read the whole transcript of that interview we did in 2007. A lot of it is very consistent with what he says nowadays, the war was a disaster. He blames President Bush for the disaster, Rumsfeld, the secretary of Defense, Condoleezza Rice, he goes on and on and on. But he does say in 2007 get out of there, declare victory, withdraw right away, and get -- and presumably in part because of the lives lost, also the money that was spent.

Michael, we have more to discuss, stick around.

Michael Cohen is with us. Much more questioning coming up right after this.


[17:21:52] BLITZER: Our breaking news. Dozens of Republicans, former lawmakers, officials, party staffers, they've signed a letter slamming Donald Trump, urging the Republican National Committee to move resources away from Trump and toward down ballot Republican candidates.

We're back with Michael Cohen. He's the executive vice president of the Trump Organization and the special counsel to Donald Trump.

Michael, as you know, Hillary Clinton and her running, Senator Tim Kaine, they announced today they're going to be releasing their tax returns. Kaine for 10 years, Hillary Clinton for last year. She's earlier released tax returns for previous years. Donald Trump says he won't release his tax returns because they're still under audit. But that --

COHEN: Well, and --


BLITZER: Hold on a second. COHEN: Wolf --

BLITZER: Hold on a second. That explanation doesn't apply to all of his tax returns. Why not release those that are no longer under audit?

COHEN: OK. As special counsel to Mr. Trump, and I have been on your show, and I've watched you bring on, not just you but on "NEW DAY" and on "ERIN BURNETT," you brought on some of the most well-known and sophisticated tax individuals who had worked in the IRS who also will follow what I'm saying as special counsel to Mr. Trump.

I personally will not allow him to release those tax returns until the audits are over. There is not a lawyer on this planet that should give that advice. Any advice other than what I just gave to their client, short of suffering malpractice.

BLITZER: Even the tax returns that are no longer under audit? Why not release those?

COHEN: Wolf, I would not give absolutely nothing until the audit is over. That's my advice to Mr. Trump as special counsel. It's the same advice that you had experts on the various shows saying exactly the same thing.

BLITZER: You know, there's been questions asked whether or not he still is under audit. Is there any kind of letter from the IRS or anything you want to release to the news media to at least confirm that he is under audit?

COHEN: You know, the man is -- come on. Wolf, the man is telling you that he's under audit. He's been under audit so often it's actually out of control. And yet you always want to question Mr. Trump's honesty and voracity, when in all fairness it's Hillary Clinton who has a 26 -- and this is by your own poll, she's what, 66 percent to 67 percent unfavorable when it comes to trustworthy and honest?

I mean, let's go back to this whole Clinton Foundation. Let's go back to things that are attacks including the way that everybody on -- you know, in the media is attacking Mr. Trump in terms of, you know, words, and again, like the jaw-dropping and the slamming him. Nobody is slamming Donald Trump. And let me tell you another thing. You're going to be very shocked when it comes time that people have to pull the lever for the name of the individual that they trust, for the person that they know that can actually do something with the economy and not have their speech writers give them some of the greatest lines.

I mean, I sat and I watched Hillary Clinton's speech today in Michigan and I'm sitting, I was wondering, you know, who's saying this stuff? She hits every single point. She calls Mr. Trump pessimistic and negative. Pessimistic and negative --

BLITZER: All right, let me ask you --

COHEN: He is the most optimistic man that you will ever meet. [17:25:02] All he wants is to build this country. He wants to put

people to work. She is using his lines thinking that just because she says it people are going to believe it. No matter how many times, Wolf, you or others say the same thing, nobody is buying it.

BLITZER: You're the special counsel. Very quickly, I don't know if you know the answer to this, his tax rate. You're not going to release the tax return, but do you know what his tax rate is?

COHEN: So Mr. Trump has said, and I will repeat the same thing. He has the finest tax attorneys in Washington. And as a businessman, it's his obligation, not just to him, himself, his family, the company, he plays the least that is legal. And he has the best tax attorneys making sure that he does that because that's what businessmen -- that's what they do, and for him to do anything less than that would make no sense.

BLITZER: We have a lot more questions. Unfortunately we've run out of time, Michael, but we hope you'll come back soon.

COHEN: Wolf, I'll always come back for more abuse.


BLITZER: It's not abuse, these are -- these are good serious questions.

COHEN: I mean -- they're not serious questions.

BLITZER: They're serious questions. They're important questions that the American people --


COHEN: They are important but you're missing the entire point.

BLITZER: Listen to me. Michael, he wants to be president of the United States.

COHEN: Wolf, you're missing the entire point here. There is only one man that's going to build the economy, create jobs, and protect this country. There's only one man who's mantra is make America great and America first. It's Donald Trump. The rest of it is written by Hillary Clinton speech writers, that's all that --

BLITZER: All right.

COHEN: That's all that there is to know.

BLITZER: Michael Cohen, thank you very much.

COHEN: Always.

BLITZER: Coming up, more on Donald Trump's new strategy of attacking President Obama and Hillary Clinton as the founders of ISIS and refusing to back down. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:26] BLITZER: We're following multiple developments in the race for the White House including Donald Trump repeatedly calling President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS. With us in THE SITUATION ROOM, CNN political analysts and "Daily Beast" Washington bureau chief Jackie Kucinich, our chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN Politics executive editor Mark Preston, and senior political commentator David Axelrod, he's a former senior adviser to President Obama.

David, Donald Trump doubling down on his attacks against President Obama, the man you used to work for, calling him repeated over the past 24 hours, the founder of ISIS. So you were with President Obama. What's your reaction to this?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you just heard Michael Cohen stumble all over the place trying to explain it. It's unfathomable. Donald Trump called for a complete withdrawal of troops in 2007. President Obama engaged in a responsible phased withdrawal, ending it on the date that was called for in the Status of Forces agreement that President Bush signed with the Iraqi government.

How does that make him the founder of ISIS? The thing that -- but let me speak, not as someone who worked for President Obama, but as someone who worked in 150 campaigns and several presidential campaigns. I don't understand the strategy of a guy who has the worst numbers of any major party candidate in history in terms of his favorables deciding that it's smart to attack a popular president and somehow that's the path to victory. It thrills the people in the room in front of him, and maybe that's what he's after. But it doesn't help him grow his support. And that's what he needs to do.

BLITZER: As you know, Dana, Donald Trump is always under a lot of scrutiny, but now more Republicans are coming out and saying -- and they're writing this letter and you brought the news, to Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, you know what, don't spend any more -- don't waste money, in effect, on Donald Trump's campaign. Save that money for down ballot Republicans.

BASH: That's right, and this is part of the growing concern based especially on what has happened over the past two weeks with Donald Trump's campaign. Not just the things -- the controversial things that he has said, but more importantly just this is the hard data. People looking at numbers, not only nationally but in key battleground states, concerned that he is going to not just hurt himself, but drag down Senate Republicans. I mean, many of the vulnerable are also in the battleground states.

I should say that most of the people, it looks like, who've so far signed on to this letter, former RNC aides, some former Hill officials and former members of Congress, most of them, it looks like, were already in the never Trump camp. Now they're just taking it a step further to try to get the RNC to shift resources. As I said earlier, my understanding is at this point it's just a nonstarter. They're not going to do that for lots of reasons. BLITZER: Is there a serious number of vulnerable Republicans up for

re-election in the House and the Senate who are asking Donald Trump to come in and campaign for them? Are they going out and campaigning with him when he shows up in their respective states?



PRESTON: So we haven't seen where Donald Trump actually goes into a state such as New Hampshire, and campaigns with Kelly Ayotte, who was up for a very difficult re-election right now. In fact he went out and was very critical of Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. But she is the perfect example of somebody who's got to be very careful. Even when he went out and attacked Kelly Ayotte, as well as John McCain and Paul Ryan, Kelly Ayotte could not go out and attack Donald Trump. And the reason being is that there is still a core group of support that she needs to win in November.

BASH: Exactly.

[17:35:03] PRESTON: So a lot of times, with the exception of like Mark Kirk in Illinois who has a very difficult road to re-election, a lot of these folks just kind of have to be careful what they say not to offend those Trump supporters.


BASH: Can I put one quick thing about that? Because I just happen to be talking to a long time Republican strategist who was asking me about that very thing, noting that, you know, in campaign that we've covered of George W. Bush or John McCain or even Mitt Romney, they fought the local officials off the stage. Like OK, we have enough of you here. Now it's just the opposite which of course is one of Donald Trump's calling cards.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, you know, we have seen, though, just on your point, is not Trump people -- vulnerable wanting Trump to come campaign but in Ohio there was a report today that Rob Portman's people are actually showing up at Hillary Clinton's rallies to start encouraging Ohio voters to vote cross ballot, to vote for Hillary Clinton and Rob Portman. So that's something, I mean, personally haven't seen, which is pretty unique in this election.

BLITZER: Yes. You know, it's interesting, David. When you hear these reports that Reince Priebus, who is the chairman of the Republican National Committee, he speaks regularly, almost probably on a daily basis, maybe several times a day, with Donald Trump personally. Certainly with senior members of Trump's campaign, that he's been trying to tone things down a little bit. But over the past 24 hours, we haven't seen Donald Trump tone down, if anything he's doubling, tripling, quadrupling down on this notion that the president of the United States and Hillary Clinton are the founders of ISIS -- David. AXELROD: To me?


AXELROD: Yes. Look, he has -- he has toned down. If you listen to him, he's speaking in more muted tones. The language is as incendiary as it was before. And look, I think one has to accept that Donald Trump is Donald Trump. The things that got him to this point, that ability to say, that willingness to say the outrageous thing, that unbridled nature, that's what got him to this point.

The problem is, it doesn't have broader appeal and he can't, as I said earlier, grow his support by doing this. But I don't think that they can stop him. This is his nature. And I don't think it's going to stop.

BLITZER: Mark, what are you hearing about conversations between Reince Priebus and Donald Trump and his campaign?

PRESTON: Well, so there's been a lot of talk about this. And look, what I heard is that, in fact, there was no -- Reince Priebus did not call Donald Trump and say, by the way, we're going to reallocate resources unless you get your campaign in order. What we have heard, though, what I've heard is that there was a phone call and there was some harsh words that were said, and look, I think Reince Priebus took it very personally when Donald Trump came out and said very nice things about Paul Ryan's opponent up in Wisconsin.

Paul Ryan, the House speaker, and Reince Priebus are very close friends, and that was on the table, and I do think that Reince Priebus was very upset about how Donald Trump handled the Khan controversy.

We shouldn't be talking about Donald Trump fighting inwardly right now. And that's what Republicans are upset about. We should -- they should be talking about how they're going to attack Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: Yes. That's a good point. All right, guys, stand by. We're also following new developments in the Hillary Clinton campaign today. She turned to the sports pages to find a new putdown for Trump's plans to cancel trade deals and tax imports.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Team USA was as fearful as Trump, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles would be cowering in the locker room, afraid to come out to compete. Instead they're winning gold medals. America isn't afraid to compete.



[17:43:19] BLITZER: Hillary Clinton today slammed Donald Trump's plans to cut taxes, saying they create what she calls a Trump loophole that only benefits the wealthy. Today in Michigan, she said her own plans will create more jobs and cut taxes for the middle class. CNN's Pamela Brown is working the story for us. Tell us a little bit

more about her plans.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It was Hillary Clinton's turn today, Wolf, to make her pitch about why she is better for the economy than Donald Trump. And she highlighted divisions between her plan and Trump's in a key battleground states that she lost during the primaries.


CLINTON: It is wonderful to be back in Michigan. And --

BROWN (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is drawing a sharp contrast with Donald Trump on the economy.

CLINTON: When he visited Detroit on Monday he talked only of failure, poverty, and crime. He is missing so much about what makes Michigan great.

BROWN: Speaking at a manufacturing plant outside Detroit, Clinton charged that Trump's economic proposals would benefit the wealthy at the expense of middle class Americans.

CLINTON: He hasn't offered any credible solutions for the very real economic challenges we face. My mission in the White House will be to make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top.

BROWN: The setting for Clinton's speech today, Macomb County, home to the so-called Reagan Democrats.

CLINTON: Did you make this?


BROWN: Clinton is looking to appeal to blue-collar workers who might be swayed by Trump's populist rhetoric.

CLINTON: How can you not be frustrated and even angry when you see nothing getting done? And a lot of people feel no one is on their side and no one has their back.

BROWN: Her speech comes three days after Trump addressed the Detroit Economic Club where he accused Clinton of backing trade agreements that have heard Michigan's manufacturing industry.

[17:45:06] TRUMP: Hillary Clinton has supported the trade deals stripping this city and this country of its jobs and its wealth.

BROWN: Clinton responding to Trump's criticism today.

CLINTON: Mr. Trump may talk a big game on trade, but his approach is based on fear, not strength. Fear that our country has no choice but to hide behind walls.

BROWN: Clinton also attacking Trump today not only on his tax proposal but for his failure to release his tax returns.

CLINTON: He refuses to do what every other presidential candidate in decades has done and release his tax returns.

BROWN: Donald Trump is firing back saying Clinton's record on taxes doesn't match her rhetoric.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton has supported tax increases on the middle class her entire career.

BROWN: When it comes to the handling of the economy, the latest CNN- ORC poll shows Clinton with a narrow advantage over Trump. 50 percent of voters trust her while 48 percent say they trust Trump. Clinton is hoping to expand that by undercutting Trump's core message on the economy.

CLINTON: Now there is a myth out there that he will stick it to the rich and powerful because somehow he's really on the side of the little guy. Don't believe it.


BROWN: And the campaign adviser tells CNN that Hillary Clinton will release her 2015 tax returns as early as tomorrow, and Tim Kaine will release 10 years of tax returns as well. A coordinated effort to keep the pressure on Trump who says he will release his tax returns after an audit is complete -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela, thanks very much. Pamela Brown reporting.

Coming up, a huge challenge facing the U.S. Secret Service. Keeping the presidential candidates safe when protesters rush the stage. This year in particular it keeps happening again and again.


[17:51:21] BLITZER: Violence at campaign rallies. Demonstrators charging toward the candidates. Climbers scaling the Trump Tower. The Secret Service has had their hands full this campaign season.

Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. Brian, is this business as usual for the Secret Service?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Secret Service says it is business as usual. Agency officials telling us they train all the time for situations like this. But there is no doubt with all the stage rushing scenes this year, with the violence at Trump and Sanders rallies, with Trump himself inciting violence sometimes, the Secret Service this year is dealing with a unique set of challenges.


TODD (voice-over): In the middle of Hillary Clinton's rally, a protester rushed the stage. The Secret Service quickly responded. The woman was subdued, hustled out.

In March, a man rushed Donald Trump's podium in Dayton, Ohio. Trump was startled. The agents quickly handled the situation.

This year the challenge of protecting candidates has reached new heights from a man using suction cups to climb Trump Tower to two party conventions with fence jumpers and other security headaches.

And a multitude of candidates who attract passionate crowds. At a Bernie Sanders event in California, he was rushed by several people. What's that moment like for a Secret Service agent?

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT IN CHARGE: You want to get between them and the protectee and hold -- and cover their hands and make sure that you've got an area to touch and reach and feel for anything inside a coat or a jacket.

TODD: Former Secret Service agents tell us at that moment one or two agents have to go to the threat, take down that person. Another agent secures the candidate and other agents immediately check for other threats.

ANTHONY CHAPA, FORMER SECRET SERVICE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Others are running to other areas so you have 360-degree coverage at all times in an instant.

TODD: The Secret Service is constantly training for these scenarios. Sometimes role-playing with a fake candidate. But this year another challenge. A candidate whose rallies are often marked by fights in the audience. A candidate who sometimes incites violence himself.

TRUMP: Like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you. If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. Would you? I will pay for the legal fees, I promise.

TODD (on camera): Is Trump himself frustrating the Secret Service by inciting some of these people and saying the things that he says?

JOHNSON: Hundred percent that protecting Donald Trump is a challenge, but so was President Obama as the first African-American eight years ago.

CHAPA: It creates a unique challenge for sure. I mean, look what happens to presidents when they're in a war footing and they start talking about the enemy.

TODD (voice-over): And former agents say each one of these events is a Super Bowl for the Secret Service and losing that Super Bowl isn't an option.


TODD: Now with everything that has happened on the campaign trail, is the Secret Service under particular stress this year? A Secret Service official told us absolutely not. Former agent Larry Johnson says now that the conventions are over and there are fewer candidates to protect, the agency probably not quite as stressed as it was earlier this year. But Johnson points out there's still almost three months left in this campaign season and in this climate, Wolf, anything can still happen.

BLITZER: The Secret Service does an amazing job.

TODD: They do.

BLITZER: Those are really solid professionals. When I was a White House correspondent, I worked closely with them. My hat goes off to these Secret Service officers and agents.

All right, Brian. Thank you very much.

Coming up, even as he calls President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS, Donald Trump takes heat from GOP leaders frustrated with the direction of his campaign.

[17:55:01] Dozens of former officials and staffers call on the party to divert resources from Trump to other Republican candidates.


BLITZER: Happening now, President Obama founded ISIS? Donald Trump is repeatedly claiming that the president founded the world's most notorious terror group.

Trump's latest remarks attempting to link the president to ISIS have Republicans worried. Could it backfire?

Breaking point. The never Trump movement is now drafting a new letter to the Republican Party chairman warning Trump may lose the election and take House and Senate candidates down with him. It's urging the RNC to stop spending money on Trump saying he's undermined the party at every turn.

Will officials heed their warning?

Electronic Watergate.