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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Former Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston; Russian Hackers; Trump Calls President Obama Founder of ISIS; Trump: Obama "Founded ISIS"; Clinton: Trump Plans "Trillions in Tax Cuts" for the Rich; Clinton Staffers Among Targets in "Electronic Watergate"; Doctors in Besieged City Plead with Obama for Help. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 11, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Will officials heed their warning?

Electronic Watergate. A new report says Russian hackers targeted personal e-mail accounts of Democratic Party officials, including members of the Clinton campaign. Congress' top Democrat is comparing it to infamous Watergate burglary. Will more damaging material be released before Election Day?

And we need action. A desperate plea to President Obama from doctors in Syria, warning they could be wiped out in a month, leaving hundreds of thousands of civilians living in jeopardy. Their message to the president, we don't need tears or sympathy. We need action. Will the U.S. 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.

Donald Trump is not backing down tonight from his latest controversial attack. He's repeatedly claimed over the past 24 hours that President Obama founded ISIS along with Hillary Clinton. He's gone onto say they are two of the terror group's most valuable players.

Trump's cascading controversies have prompted a group of leading Republicans to draft a new letter to the party chairman urging him to stop spending money on Trump's campaign. They say he's increasingly unlikely to win. And they're warning of -- quote -- "catastrophic impact" on other Republican candidates.

Also tonight, the personal e-mail accounts of Clinton campaign and Democratic Party officials are now believed to have been among the targets of that massive cyber-attack on the DNC. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi calls it an electronic Watergate which is widely blamed on Russia.

We're covering all of that, much more of that this hour, with our guests, including Trump campaign senior adviser former Congressman Jack Kingston. Our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.

Let's begin with the Trump campaign. CNN's Jessica Schneider is over at Trump Tower in New York City.

Jessica, Donald Trump keeps repeating his claim that President Obama and Hillary Clinton founded ISIS. What is the latest?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, Donald Trump has repeated those claims in five different settings over just the past 24 hours, most recently this afternoon in Orlando, Florida. When Trump was given the opportunity to clarify or explain exactly what he meant by founders of ISIS, he said it wasn't a metaphor. He meant exactly what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I call President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS. They're the founders.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Donald Trump refusing to back down from his incorrect claim that President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton literally created ISIS.

TRUMP: I think we will give Hillary Clinton the -- if you're a sports team, most valuable player, MVP. You get the MVP award.

ISIS will hand her the most valuable player award. Her only competition is Barack Obama.

SCHNEIDER: Trump first made the claim at a rally in Sunrise, Florida, Wednesday night. And when give the chance to clarify on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt's show, Trump took it a step farther.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.

TRUMP: No, I think he's the founder of ISIS. I do. He's the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award.

I give her too, by the way.

HEWITT: But he is not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He is trying to kill them.

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

SCHNEIDER: But the GOP nominee did call for the U.S. to get out of Iraq in a 2007 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

TRUMP: How do they get out? You know how they get out? They get out. That's how they get out. Declare victory and leave.

SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton rebuked Trump's charge today, tweeting: "No, Barack Obama is not the founder of ISIS," adding, "Anyone willing to sink so low so often should never be allowed to serve as our commander in chief." Wednesday night, Trump shamed the Clinton campaign for having the

father of the Pulse nightclub terrorist seated just behind her at a Florida rally earlier this week. But Trump made those comments with disgraced ex-Congressman Mark Foley in prime position behind him. Foley, a former representative from Florida, resigned in 2006 amid allegations he sent sexually explicit e-mails and messages scandal to underage teenage boys working at the Capitol.

TRUMP: How many of you people know me? A lot of you people know me. When you get those seats, you sort of know the campaign.

SCHNEIDER: The Trump campaign has not responded to requests for a comment about Foley being in attendance, this as sources tell CNN that RNC chairman Reince Priebus has expressed concerns to Trump about the direction of his campaign and potential impact on down-ballot races.

Trump insisted this morning he didn't have plans to change his approach, despite recent polls showing Trump trailing Clinton in battleground states.

TRUMP: I will 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:05:03]

SCHNEIDER: And Donald Trump may be trailing in some of those swing states, but a new poll out of Iowa shows he's neck and neck with Hillary Clinton. A Suffolk University poll has Donald Trump up 41 percent to 40 percent, with 17 percent of undecided voters.

Donald Trump indicating today through Rudy Giuliani that he will be participating in all three presidential debates this fall -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you.

There's also breaking news tonight. CNN has learned that top Republicans are now circulating a draft letter urging the party chairman, Reince Priebus, to divert resources from Trump, warning his campaign is going down and threatening to take other Republican candidates along with it.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is working the story for us.

Dana, 75 leading Republicans have so far, they have signed this draft letter. What do we know about it?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's about a handful of former members of Congress, but also, as this letter says, people who have worked on presidential campaigns and on campaigns for House and Senate.

What they are arguing, and I should say the they, most of them, it looks like, are already in the never Trump camp. But they are taking that opposition a step further and formally asking the RNC chair to move resources away from the Trump campaign into the down-ballot races, Senate and House races because they believe that's the most important right now.

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

Very strong language there. I'm told that this hasn't actually gone to Reince Priebus yet, because they are still collecting signatures. At last check, there were 75 people who signed it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, is it really plausible that the Republican National Committee would actually do something so drastic, give up on investing in the presidential nominee of their party?

BASH: It's an important question and the answer at this moment in time is no.

I was told by a couple of sources who are familiar with Reince Priebus' plans and where he is right now on that very question. The answer is no for several reasons. One of them is the fact of the matter is that there's a lot of vulnerable senators in particular, Republican senators, who are on the ballot in battleground states.

They feel that at this point they're kind of inextricably tied with Donald Trump, even though many of them are kind of going out on their own, campaigning on their own. Many of them like Rob Portman in Ohio has very strong name I.D. back home, that he feels that if you kind of cut the head off of the funding for the guy at the top of the ticket, it could backfire and there could be voter suppression or at least Republican voters who might not go to the ballot who they need for people like Rob Portman in Ohio, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and so forth.

However, I'm also told it's early. It's still August. They're definitely watching very carefully to see where Donald Trump's polling numbers go nationally, but more importantly in the key battleground states.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. The senior adviser to the Trump campaign former Congressman Jack Kingston is with us, former congressman from Georgia.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

JACK KINGSTON (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, thank you.

BLITZER: You heard about this letter, this draft letter to Reince Priebus, the chairman, saying, you know what? He's going down. This could be a landslide, Donald Trump. Take the money you're giving to his campaign and just move it to these vulnerable down-ballot House and Senate Republicans.

Your reaction to that?

KINGSTON: Well, a couple of things, Wolf.

Number one, you got to keep in mind that these politicians were at their political prime in the days of Beanie Babies and discos. They're seeking relevance again by being the great contrarians. You can always do that in this town.

Number two, it's the height of elitism for a bunch of Washington so- called insiders to say that the nominee of the Republican Party isn't good enough for them. He fought through a very tough primary, beat 16 well-qualified candidates and they're saying he doesn't meet their muster. The American people aren't going to accept that.

BLITZER: But which vulnerable Republicans, either running in the House or the Senate, are actually urging Donald Trump to go out there and campaign with them or even showing up when he shows up in their respective states?

KINGSTON: Politicians always do a two-step, depending on what their district politics looks like. And in some areas, it's better not to have Barack Obama, better not to have Newt Gingrich, better not to have Nancy Pelosi visit.

This is not anything new. And politicians' very first instinct, as you know, is always survival. So, they're going to look at...

BLITZER: But some of these Republicans are going so far as to denounce Donald Trump.

KINGSTON: Well, yes, but some of them don't.

It's looking pretty bleak for my friend Mark Kirk in Illinois right now. He's distancing himself. It's a political calculation. But I think it's one of self-survival.

[18:10:04]

And I don't think it's really founded. But, again, here is somebody who won a 17-way primary. You have to respect the system. If you have a problem with the system, change the system.

And I will say this also, Wolf. They should take a lesson from the Bernie Sanders supporters. I was in Philadelphia. I saw them walk off floor. I know how mad they were. But most of them, including Bernie himself, have now come home to their party. I wish Republicans would think in terms of party loyalty as well.

BLITZER: What do you say about all these reports that so many Republicans, including Reince Priebus, are urging Donald Trump to tone things down, not go off the cuff, not say some of these things he's been saying? You Donald Trump, he's Donald Trump. He does what got him to this dance so far. He's continuing to do so.

KINGSTON: Yes.

He's an unusual candidate. And he is making that transition from the private sector and the business sector, where bravado kind of rules the day, to the public sector, where you have to be very careful with what you say.

He makes Washington establishment uncomfortable. We understand that. But the reality is that when he say things, he's not talking to Washington. He talking to the guy who is out there struggling.

BLITZER: But do you agree with him when he says that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are the founders of ISIS?

KINGSTON: You know what, I think he's driving a point. He's doing it rhetorically. But the reality is...

BLITZER: But he says he's not doing it rhetorically. He says he's serious. You heard that exchange he had with Hugh Hewitt on the radio.

KINGSTON: Well, but the reality is when Barack Obama left Iraq without a statement of forces and collapsed the international coalition, it gave rise to ISIS.

And I think there's an argument to say it would not have been there without the Hillary Clinton State Department and the Barack Obama White House.

BLITZER: This was President Bush's timetable, as you know, the end of 2011.

But listen to this. Back in 2007, when I interviewed Donald Trump, he was calling for exactly the same thing that he's now accusing President Obama of doing, unilaterally pulling out of Iraq too early. Listen to what he told me back in 2007.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2007)

TRUMP: They have a civil war going on.

BLITZER: Who do you blame?

TRUMP: Well, there's only one person you can blame, and that's our current president.

Obviously, Rumsfeld was a disaster. And other people that are giving him advice have been a disaster. And Condoleezza Rice, who's a lovely woman, but she never makes a deal. She doesn't make deals. She waves. She gets off the plane. She waves. She sits down with some dictator 45-degree angle. They do the camera shot. She waves again. She gets back on the plane. She waves. No deal ever happens, so, I mean... BLITZER: You got to close a deal at some point?

TRUMP: You got to make deals. The world is dying to make deals and we don't have the right people doing it.

BLITZER: The vice president, Dick Cheney.

TRUMP: Well, he's obviously a very hawkish guy on the war. He said the war was going fantastically just a few months ago, and, you know, it's just very sad. I don't know if they're bad people. I don't know what's going on. I just know that they got us in to a mess, the likes of which this country has probably never seen.

It's one of the great catastrophes of all time.

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

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: How do they get out? You know how they get out? They get out. That's how they get out. Declare victory and leave, because I will tell you, this country is just going to get further bogged down. They're in a civil war over there, Wolf. There's nothing that we're going to be able to do with a civil war. They are in a major civil war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It was strong. That was back in 2007. And he said just get out of there and declare victory.

Would that have been smart?

KINGSTON: Well, I think those comments were consistent with his opposition to the war to begin with. And unlike Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump was against our action in Iraq.

And, number two, remember, this was in '07. He's saying cut a deal. A statement of forces, frankly, is cutting a deal with the international team to say we're going to get out, but here are the rules of engagement.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He says that whole war was -- you voted for the war.

KINGSTON: Yes.

BLITZER: So, what you did was a disaster as far as Donald Trump is concerned.

KINGSTON: Colin Powell famously said, if you break it, you own it. And that's the problem. We didn't really pay -- we underestimated the war.

BLITZER: You acknowledge now that was a blunder to go ahead and support the war back in 2003?

KINGSTON: I think at the time we based it on our best intelligence.

BLITZER: But it was a blunder?

KINGSTON: It's not gone the way it should have. And that's absolutely the case.

BLITZER: Because that war created, as you know, al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS. So, the question is, those who supported the war, are they the founders of al Qaeda in Iraq?

KINGSTON: You had the Taliban, which was very aligned with al Qaeda and al Qaeda was there in Afghanistan and operating in other places in the Middle East.

And so the idea was, we have the go to war against them. But I think what Donald Trump is saying -- and, look, I was on the Armed Services Committee of appropriations -- when the president left Iraq without a statement of forces, the rules of engagement fell apart. It left a vacuum.

[18:15:05]

BLITZER: But Donald Trump said they should have done that in 2007.

KINGSTON: He was a private citizen at the time. And I would say he did not have the intel that Barack Obama had.

BLITZER: Does that make any difference? If he was a private citizen, he was obviously intelligent man. He studied situation closely. He said the war in Iraq is a disaster. The U.S. is losing a lot of young men and women. It's costing the U.S. taxpayer a fortune. Declare victory and just get out of there.

KINGSTON: I think he still was reaching back to his historic stance against the war, which Hillary Clinton and John Kerry...

BLITZER: And you.

KINGSTON: ... and Jack Kingston and other people did say we should do this.

But the reality is, I was not for leaving without a statement of forces. A statement of forces would have probably headed off an ISIS kind of creation. We're fighting terrorism all the time. But as long as we're talking about this, it's important, because if you look at...

BLITZER: Because he's now accusing the president of the United States of founding ISIS. You don't agree with him on that?

KINGSTON: I would say that Barack Obama was contributory by not having a statement of forces. And I would further say Hillary Clinton was contributory if you look at the foreign policy under the two of them.

BLITZER: But that's a different statement than Donald Trump said yesterday, last night and today.

KINGSTON: Wolf, when he's speaking, he's so often speaking to the man on the street, the woman on the street who can identify with clear language. And I think he was driving a point.

BLITZER: But isn't this dangerous to -- when he says the president of the United States is a founder of ISIS, people hear that. And, you know, there are crazy people out there who take those kinds of statements very seriously and there's a lot of concern that that could generate some serious problems out there.

You understand the concern that the Secret Service, for example, has when they hear that kind of talk?

KINGSTON: When Hillary Clinton in May of '08 was asked to quit the campaign, why don't you quit the campaign, she alto Senator Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, getting killed. And that to me is really scary language.

But you didn't hear the hullabaloo about that. And Hillary Clinton said that in May of...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There was a lot of coverage of that in the time in 2008.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I remember that. I remember she later apologized. I remember that very vividly.

But you agree, I think you agree with most people, it's time to tone down the rhetoric. This is getting pretty dangerous.

KINGSTON: I think the rhetoric is always going to be part of a campaign, but as somebody who did the funding for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia, where the Secret Service trained, I don't believe the Secret Service went to either campaign and advised them on their rhetoric.

They tell them, hey, watch the balcony up there. Here's your escape route if there's a problem. We're going to do crowd control in certain ways. But I don't believe Secret Service has intervened with either campaign on the rhetoric. But I also think the American people understand so much of political rhetoric. And I would say thank goodness for all of us most of the rhetoric is dismissed either way.

BLITZER: Because it's getting heated out there, as you well know. And I know you would like to see things toned down a bit.

Congressman, we have more questions for you. Let's take a quick break. Much more with Jake Kingston, a senior adviser to Donald Trump, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:22:24]

BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, CNN has obtained a copy of a draft letter signed by 75 top Republicans urging Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus to stop spending party money on Donald Trump's campaign.

The letter warns that Trump's chances of winning are "evaporating by the day" and that Trump will take down other GOP candidates.

We're back with Trump campaign senior adviser former Congressman Jack Kingston.

The other issue that has come up today, Hillary Clinton saying probably tomorrow she will release her 2015 tax returns. She's released earlier years before. That Tim Kaine will release 10 years of his returns. And she's challenging once again Donald Trump to do the same thing. Any chance we will see his tax returns?

KINGSTON: I don't know that a decision has been made on it. But I hope she puts her e-mails on the table as well.

We found out recently now that Clinton Foundation was -- there was apparently a quid pro quo. And so to me, if she wants to have full disclosure -- we're not demanding that she put her taxes on the table, but we do believe she should put the e-mails on the table and let people find out, was the Clinton Foundation or was she selling access?

BLITZER: We are going to have a full report on that coming up.

But would it smart? Sean Duffy, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin, told me earlier in the week he would welcome Donald Trump releasing his tax returns, as all presidential candidates, Democratic presidential candidates, Republican presidential candidates, have done this since the '70s.

KINGSTON: A lot of this is a political nuance. And the decision will be made by the Trump family. And I think that Hillary is doing what other candidates do. You release yours first and then beat the other person up for not doing it.

But I think if we're talking about releasing things, we'd like to see her release the e-mails. Just once and for all, get it done and stop lying about it. Tell the people what were on those e-mails or let us read it ourselves.

BLITZER: You mean those 33,000 that she said was deleted?

KINGSTON: Yes.

BLITZER: She says she doesn't have them if they were deleted.

KINGSTON: Well, the e-mails now that show a record of access because of donations to the Clinton Foundation. We'd just like to see everything.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Those are State Department e-mails that are being released under the Freedom of Information Act and other ways. Those are State Department e-mails that are still available.

KINGSTON: Well, it seems like WikiLeaks has better information on Hillary Clinton than she does herself.

But we would love to see more about her e-mails. And I don't know why she is living with this scandal. If she is squeaky-clean on it, she should have dumped them on all the table a year ago.

[18:25:02]

BLITZER: Do you have any idea what his tax rate is?

KINGSTON: No, I don't.

BLITZER: Donald Trump?

KINGSTON: But I'm sure he's paid a lot of taxes over the years. And I know he's created a lot of jobs, which is something that Hillary Clinton can't claim. She's not created jobs.

He's a job creator. And right now, in the private sector, that's what we need are private sector jobs, not government jobs. And that's to me -- what we heard from her today about her economic plan is just more government spending, a third term of Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Jack Kingston, the former congressman, a senior Trump adviser, thanks for joining us.

KINGSTON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will definitely have you back.

Just ahead: more on Donald Trump's claim that President Obama founded ISIS. Why is he suggesting this?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:23] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump's newest attack is targeting President Obama as well as Hillary Clinton. He's claimed repeatedly over the past 24 hours that they founded ISIS. He called them the terror group's most valuable player.

Let's dig deeper. Joining us, CNN political analyst Rebecca Berg, national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics", "Washington Post" assistant editor David Swerdlick, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and our CNN politics executive editor, Mark Preston.

Gloria, let me play a few of the sound bites, the clips Donald Trump accusing the president and the Democratic nominee of founding ISIS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He's the founder of ISIS, OK? He's the founder. He founded ISIS.

And I would say the co-founder would be Crooked Hillary Clinton.

He was the founder, absolutely the founder. In fact, he gets the -- in sports, they have awards. He gets the most valuable player award, him and Hillary.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: Last night, you said the president was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.

TRUMP: No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, these are the founders of ISIS. These are the founders of ISIS because of bad judgment. These are founders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So, Gloria, why is he doing this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's trying to appeal to his base. He's trying to get out the base voters who don't like President Obama, who were not necessarily in favor of the war in Iraq. And, you know, he knows the GOP voters vote on the terror issue. You know, it's either at the top of their list or number two on their list.

And he wants to remind people that ISIS is still around. And, you know, even Hugh Hewitt said, I understand you created the vacuum and that's what you're talking about. He said no, no. I'm talking about Barack Obama founded ISIS.

You know, it's very simple. He does this over and over again during the campaign to quite some effect and if this election is going to be about mobilization, getting your voters out there, this is really one way for him to do it and it could prove to be effective.

BLITZER: Hugh Hewitt gave him an opening to back away from that. Remember, ISIS is the world's leading terror organization right now. To accuse the president of the United States and Hillary Clinton of founding ISIS, that doesn't get more serious than that.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Right, and I think we can all say at this table that Hugh Hewitt is no fan of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

BORGER: Right, exactly.

PRESTON: And quite frankly, for somebody on talk radio really understands foreign policy. So, by offering Donald Trump that basically plank to walk it back a bit and Donald Trump not using it shows, as Gloria says, that he is not giving a dog whistle. It is a loud whistle to the base of what he's trying to do. There's something to be said to a television commercial needs to run

six times I believe it is before it actually penetrates into the voters head. Donald Trump over and over again saying this and saying this is powerful to his base. However, it is going to alienate those in the middle who think not only was that egregious, Wolf, what I found actually even more egregious quite frankly is that he said that ISIS was honoring Barack Obama. That's very harsh language.

BLITZER: Because, you know, the Republican base is one thing, he did very well getting that Republican nomination. But if he's going to be elected president, he's got to reach out and bring in independents and maybe some Democrats as well.

DAVID SWERDLICK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, no, and he's sounding this message as Mark said, that President Obama is somehow culpable rather than presenting what would be a reasonable critique, right, to say that maybe President Obama should not have gotten out on the Bush- Cheney 2008 status of forces timetable and instead left a reserve force of troops in Iraq. No, he's going the full way and saying the bumper sticker essentially that Obama is the founder of ISIS, which will alienate voters in the middle.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But, you know, it strikes me he's going one large leap beyond just referring to any sort of vacuum of power that was created in the Middle East by U.S. foreign policy. In fact, I asked his informal but very close advisor Roger Stone about this this evening, what was Trump getting at, why didn't he take this lifeline from Hugh Hewitt on the radio today.

And Roger Stone said it's because he believes, just as Stone himself believes, and he's advised Trump on this, that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama actually supported ISIS with weapons and with their policy. This is something that is kind of a conspiracy theory on the right that something that Russia has pushed. It is now something that Donald Trump is inadvertently pushing and actually, he has tweeted about this in the past, in 2014. He, Donald Trump personally tweeted that Obama sent ISI weapons through Benghazi directly, and, of course, this has not been proven, but it is something that Donald Trump is trying to suggest.

BORGER: He's implied in the past that the president somehow is soft on ISIS. I can't remember the exact terminology he's used. Look, he's got an issue if he wants to say, this is a president who once said, called ISIS the jayvee, OK? Like that's a legitimate gripe against President Obama. You can take that down that road and Republicans do every day.

This, as Rebecca is saying is, you know, is a step further which Trump does all the time with a lot of success, I might add.

BLITZER: All right. I'm going to tell our viewers what we're seeing. Donald Trump at a rally coming up in next hour in Kissimmee, Florida. And you see a Confederate flag already up there with Trump's name on it. I'm sure that's going to generate some commotion as well.

But, go ahead, Mark. You wanted to weigh in. PRESTON: I mean, even the picture we're seeing right now, I have to tell you, I was down in North Carolina last week, and I saw a lot of Confederate flags still flying. I mean, it obviously is a very divisive issue. I don't think we can necessarily blame Donald Trump for that gentleman having that flag there. It all depends how Donald Trump is going to address it after the fact. If he is asked the question, what do you think about this flag being flown? Is it offensive? Do you think it shouldn't be flown, or should it have place in a museum as like Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, eventually came around after this terrible shootings?

BLITZER: And, Gloria, a lot of people are pointing to the fact last night for the first time in a long time, all of a sudden, Donald Trump is referring to the president of the United States as Barack Hussein Obama.

BORGER: Little dog whistle, yes.

BLITZER: I mean, that sort of came out of blue.

BORGER: Right. And it's the same dog whistle that Mark is talking about. I mean, this is about mobilizing people who don't think that Barack Obama was born -- is an American citizen. That think he's somehow soft on ISIS.

You know, this is mobilizing his troops and it's what he's got to do, Wolf. The problem is that he's also got to appeal to independent voters and the polls show, Bloomberg this week had a poll which showed him down seven points.

BLITZER: We've just been told, by the way, that the advance staff at this Donald Trump rally have asked that individual to remove that Confederate flag. They removed it but then they just put it back up again.

We'll continue to watch this part of the story. Guys, stick around.

Just ahead, Clinton campaign officials are targeted of what's being called an electronic Watergate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:42:40] BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is attacking Donald Trump's economic policy, accusing him of planning trillions of dollars in tax cut for the wealthy, including himself. Clinton dubbed it the "Trump loophole".

Our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny has more now.

Jeff, in Hillary Clinton's speech, there was a direct rebuttal to Donald Trump's economic speech earlier in the week.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It was indeed, Wolf, a direct rebuttal to that speech, but also a full throated rejection of his entire economic populist argument. She stood on this factory floor here in Macomb County, Michigan, a critical political battleground, looked workers directly in the eye, Wolf, and said, "Don't believe him when he says he's for the little guy."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Stronger together. Let's go out and build a future.

ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton offering an upbeat view of the economy.

CLINTON: I want you all to work with me to build the kind of progress that America deserves to see.

ZELENY: It's a starkly different picture than the one Donald Trump painted earlier this week in Detroit.

CLINTON: He talked only of failure, poverty and crime. He is missing so much about what makes Michigan great.

ZELENY: The economy is at the heart of a bruising tug of war between Clinton and Trump. She made clear she feels the pain of working class voters.

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.

ZELENY: Even while admitting trade deals she supported have hurt American workers.

CLINTON: It is true that too often, past trade deals have been sold to the American people with rosy scenarios that did not pan out.

ZELENY: Trade is the pillar of a Trump's populist argument against electing a second President Clinton.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary Clinton has supported the trade deals, stripping this city and this country of its jobs and its wealth.

ZELENY: But she warned against accepting Trump's isolationist solutions.

CLINTON: Mr. Trump may talk a big game on trade, but his approach is based on fear, not strength.

ZELENY: She also coined a new phrase to use against Trump and his plan to lower corporate taxes.

CLINTON: He called for a new tax loophole. Let's call it the Trump loophole because it would allow him to pay less than half the current tax rate on income from many of his companies.

[18:45:12] ZELENY: They're fighting over some of the same terrain. That's why Clinton made her pitch in a factory at Macomb County, home of the fabled Reagan Democrats. RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: I want to ask, those of you some

people call "Reagan Democrats" to join with me and come home with me today.

ZELENY: Trump believes those voters offer his best shot for winning the Rust Belt and the presidency.

We talked to former Michigan Governor James Blanchard today who says that times and candidates are different.

JAMES BLANCHARD (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: There's still a lot of people with fond memories of Ronald Reagan, but he was measured, optimistic, positive. That's a stark contrast to what we've got now here, with a sad, sad, deranged spectacle really.

ZELENY: Above all, Clinton is hammering home to voters, increasingly including Republicans, the election is a choice.

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: And, Wolf, Clinton also called on Donald Trump yet again today to release his tax returns. He's not yet agreed to release any tax returns. The first presidential nominee not to do so since Richard Nixon.

Wolf, I'm told by someone close to the Clinton campaign, she intends to release hers tomorrow. Tim Kaine will also release ten years of his returns, trying to keep the pressure on Donald Trump and to highlight the fact he's yet to release those tax returns -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

Tonight, we're also learning that attack on the Democratic National Committee compromised the personal e-mail accounts of Clinton campaign and Democratic Party officials. The top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi is calling it an "electronic Watergate".

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is working the story for us.

Jim, Russia is strongly suspected of being behind this.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And this is the first time anyone in the U.S. government has definitively fingered Russia for the DNC hack. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, leaving no doubt, she said that she's sure that Russia carried out this attack. Keep in mind -- she gets security briefings, intelligence briefings on things like this.

The only question she says is who the Russians have shared those e- mails with.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, the hack of Democratic Party e-mails now includes the private e-mail accounts of some Democratic Party and Clinton campaign officials. The hackers one law enforcement official told CNN are, quote, "going after everything they can to the point that both parties have been warned to assume all e-mail correspondence could have been compromised."

And now, for the first time, the alleged culprit, publicly identified by a top ranking Democrat.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: This is an electronic Watergate. This is a break in.

SCIUTTO: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who received classified briefings on the hack pointing the finger directly at Moscow.

PELOSI: I know for sure it is the Russians. The Russians broke in. Who did they give the information to, I don't know. Who dumped it? I don't know.

SCIUTTO: So far, the White House has not blamed the Russian government for the hack of the DNC or other earlier cyber attacks suspected of Russian involvement. However, intelligence and law enforcement officials have told CNN it is the most likely suspect.

As first reported by "The New York Times", the cyber intrusion targeting Democratic Party organizations included a breach of private e-mail accounts of several Democratic Party officials, some with direct ties to the Clinton campaign, according to a U.S. official familiar with the investigation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: And tonight, our Jeff Zeleny reporting that the interim head of the DNC, Donna Brazile, she's written to all DNC staffers to say that they will be informed next week if their e-mails have been compromised. She wrote, quote, "We understand this incident is alarming to all who may be affected, and I share your anger at those who committed and abetted this act" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a worrisome development that is?

All right. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto.

Just ahead, a desperate cry from doctors in Syria. They are pleading directly to President Obama for help, warning thousands of lives are in jeopardy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:54:03] BLITZER: Desperate doctors in Syria are pleading directly with President Obama for help. They're warning that thousands of lives could be at risk unless the United States moves to end the siege of Aleppo.

Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is joining us.

Elise, the White House confirms it has received this open letter.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they did, Wolf, and officials call the attacks against Aleppo laid out in this letter appalling. But the doctors tell the president in his desperate plea that they don't need his tears. They need action.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT (voice-over): Aleppo's last remaining doctors, just 15 who remain in the besieged city, are issuing a desperate plea to President Obama, begging for a lifeline and slamming the U.S. for failing to stop the horrific bombing. Writing in an open letter, quote, "We have seen no effort on behalf of the United States to lift the siege or even use its influence to push the parties to protect civilians."

Russian air strikes helping regime forces have decimated Aleppo.

[18:55:03] Hospitals are a frequent target. The doctors write, "Last month, there were 42 attacks on medical facilities in Syria, 15 of which are hospitals in which we work. Right now, there is an attack on a medical facility every 17 hours. At this rate, our medical services in Aleppo could be completely destroyed in a month, leaving 300,000 people to die. What pains us most as doctors is choosing who will live and who will die."

DR. LINA MURAD, SYRIAN AMERICAN MEDICAL SOCIETY: Imagine, you know, you are trying to work in a hospital with no clean water, no electricity, no medical supplies and all those civilian victims coming over?

LABOTT: The doctors' urgent appeal investigating another poisonous gas attack today in the neighborhood in Aleppo. Chilling footage shows victims in the hospital as aid workers sift through the rubble. This man describes smelling gas and gasping for breath. The raid, despite a Russian pledge to stop military action to allow for desperately needed humanitarian aid.

Last week President Obama acknowledged the challenges of trying to solve the conflict in Syria.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been wrestling with this thing now for a lot of years. There is not a meeting that I don't end by saying, is there something else we could be doing that we haven't thought of?

LABOTT: But Aleppo's doctors warn, "We do not need sympathy, tears or even prayers. We need action."

And that will come for this first responder notorious for pulling a baby out of the rubble, who colleagues say died today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT: And, Wolf, officials say they're working around the clock to try to get an agreement with Russia to end the violence and allow life-saving humanitarian delivery into places like Aleppo, but the doctors on the front lines tell us that by allowing this violence to continue including the attacks from Russia, the U.S. bears some of the responsibility here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Elise Labott at the State Department, thank you.

I want to dig deeper with our senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward.

Clarissa, you were in Aleppo just a few months ago and you gave a speech to the United Nations Security Council about this horrific situation there, alongside two of the doctors that delivered the letter to the White House.

What else can you tell us about this horrible situation in Aleppo?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what I always tell people is I first went to Aleppo in the summer of 2012 and I thought, this is hell on earth. This situation cannot get any worse.

And yet every time I go back to Syria, it does get worse. And on this most recent trip, there were entire areas that looked like the moon. There was nothing but gray, rubble, destruction all around. Many, many people displaced from their homes. People dying every single day, hospitals, bakeries, fruit markets being targeted by relentless bombardment.

And here we are a couple of months later, Wolf, and the situation has gotten worse because the rebel-held part of the city, home to roughly 300,000 civilians has been more or less under siege by the regime for nearly a month.

And those doctors who wrote that letter they don't have life support machines, they don't have CT scanners. They don't have oxygen for babies. They don't have good water to use, even. They don't have diesel that powers the generators that keeps those hospitals running.

So, you're looking at a humanitarian crisis here, and it doesn't seem that the world is really listening, Wolf?

BLITZER: So how much frustration is there on the ground toward the United States?

WARD: There's a huge amount of frustration because people feel like they've been calling for years now for some kind of help. They feel that the U.S. is the one country that has the ability to stand up to the Russians, to the Iranians and to the Assad regime.

The reality, of course, on the ground is that the U.S. has very little leverage in Syria. It simply doesn't have, Wolf, any skin in the game. So, it's very limited in terms of how much it can dictate terms to Russia and the regime of Bashar al Assad who are spending, of course, hundreds of millions in blood and treasure in trying to keep the Assad regime going. So, I think that the U.S. is very limited in what it can do, but for people on the ground in Syria, what you'll hear again and again, is inaction is a form of policy too. It has consequences, too, and by doing nothing to avert these massacres, you are, in fact, complicit in these war crimes, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, what the United States can do right now is very limited? Is that what I'm hearing?

WARD: With the current White House policy with regards to Syria, there is very little that the U.S. can do to influence events on the ground. There are many other policy courses of action that President Obama could have chosen to take, but you've heard him say over and over again that he feels pretty confident in the situation that he did take.

The irony in all of this, Wolf, is the people who have become heroes on the ground are the Islamist rebel factions who have fought to try to lift that siege in Aleppo.

BLITZER: Clarissa Ward, thanks very much for that report. A horrific situation in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, as well.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.