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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Calling Obama ISIS Founder was Sarcasm; Clinton Leads Trump in Key Swing States; Interview with Representative Michael Burgess; Republican Party Chief Attends Trump Rally; Clinton Releases 2015 Tax Returns; Donald Trump Refuses to Release His Tax Returns; Aired 5-6p ET
Aired August 12, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:00] TAPPER: Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as well as a Bush administration cabinet who's now supporting Hillary Clinton. It all starts at 9:00 a.m.
That is it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning it over now to Jim Sciutto in for Wolf in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the art of sarcasm. After repeatedly calling President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS and insisting he meant exactly what he said, Donald Trump claims he was just being sarcastic. But today he adds not that sarcastic. Can he have it both ways?
Clinton surges. New polls show Hillary Clinton widening her lead in critical battleground states. As the electoral map seems to shift to Clinton's favor, Donald Trump does need to shift his strategy?
And is a surprise appearance by Republican chairman Reince Priebus a sign that Trump can patch things up with his party?
Plus Trump's taxes. Clinton releases hers, putting more pressure on Trump to release his. Do his many excuses including a claim that he's under an audit really add up?
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
According to Donald Trump, he says what he means and means what he says, except when he doesn't. Trump has repeatedly called President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS and stood by that label when questioned. After sleeping on it, Trump walked the -- the accusation calling it sarcasm, but in a rally just now Trump doubled down again, saying, quote, "I'm being sarcastic, but not that sarcastic, to be honest with you."
A new poll shows Hillary Clinton with growing leads over Donald Trump in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Other surveys put her ahead in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warns that his party's chances of keeping control of the Senate are, quote, "very dicey."
But does a surprise announcement at a Trump rally by party chairman Reince Priebus mean a fresh start for GOP?
Hillary Clinton put more pressure on Donald Trump today by releasing her 2015 tax return. It shows that she and her husband earned more than $10 million last year, paying about a third of that in federal income taxes.
Clinton has repeatedly called on Trump to release his returns but breaking with 40 years of tradition for nominees, Trump insists that he is under audit and will not go public until that audit is complete.
I'm going to speak with Republican Congress Michael Burgess, he is a Trump supporter. And all our correspondents and analysts and guests have full coverage of the day's top stories.
We begin, though, with Donald Trump on the campaign trail today, and leaving a trail of confusing statements about President Obama and ISIS.
CNN correspondent Jessica Schneider is live from Pennsylvania. So, Jessica, there, what is Trump saying today?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it's fair to say that Donald Trump focused the bulk of his speech this afternoon on straightforward messaging -- job creation, strengthening the military and law and order, but he still insisted on referencing those ISIS comments that have made such a splash over the past 48 hours.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Donald Trump is still criticizing President Obama for his handling of ISIS.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He let this happen. They had eight states and eight countries, they're now in 28 countries. They're expanding.
SCHNEIDER: But the GOP nominee is now saying he was kidding about his charge that the president created ISIS and blamed the media for its coverage of his remarks.
TRUMP: I said, the founder of ISIS. Obviously I'm being sarcastic. Then, then -- but not that sarcastic to be honest with you. So I said the founder of ISIS, and in fact, very soon he is going over to pick up most valuable player award. Did I say that? I say it all the time. So they knew I was being sarcastic.
SCHNEIDER: That after Trump repeatedly insisted Thursday that the president was the founder of the terrorist organization.
TRUMP: I call President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS.
HUGH HEWITT, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.
TRUMP: No. I mean, he's the founder of ISIS. I do. HEWITT: He's not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He's trying to
TRUMP: I don't care. He was the founder.
SCHNEIDER: Trump's attacks on the president comes as more evidence surfaces that Trump also wanted to rapidly pull troops out of Iraq including in this 2011 interview on CNN.
TRUMP: We should not have been there and I'd get them out real fast.
SCHNEIDER: It's not the first time Trump has claimed sarcasm to get out of a jam when he said this back in late July.
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
SCHNEIDER: He later dismissed the uproar.
TRUMP: I obviously was being sarcastic. In fact the people in the room were laughing. They found it very funny. Everybody knew that.
SCHNEIDER: Trump supporter Newt Gingrich this morning encouraging the straight talking businessman to be more careful with his words.
[17:05:06] NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: One of the things that's frustrating about his candidacy is the imprecise language. He sometimes uses three words when he needs 10. He has got to learn to use language that has been thought through and that is clear to everybody.
SCHNEIDER: In an interview with the "Miami Herald," Trump took a stunning stance saying he would support trying U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism in military tribunals at Guantanamo. A proposal that would almost certainly be challenged as unconstitutional.
TRUMP: I know that they want to try them in the regular court systems and I don't like that at all. I don't like that at all. I would say they could be tried there. That'll be fine.
SCHNEIDER: As the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist poll shows Trump lagging in key states, trailing Clinton by 14 points in Colorado, 13 points in Virginia, nine points in North Carolina and five points in Florida, Trump yesterday even acknowledging he's having trouble in traditionally red Utah.
TRUMP: I have a tremendous problem in Utah. Utah is a different place and I don't know if -- is anybody here from Utah? I mean, it's -- I didn't think so. We're having a problem.
SCHNEIDER: And Donald Trump did stress that we need to win Pennsylvania at his last event in Eerie. He is now here to Altoona. Hundreds of people waiting outside in the sweltering heat to get inside. And interestingly Donald Trump actually tamped down on the chance of his supporters at the last event. They were shouting "lock her up," referring to Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump asked them to chant, "let's beat her in November" instead -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: That's a change. Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.
Let's turn now to CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.
Dana, you look at these polls. I mean, these are big leads in critical battleground states. So why is Trump going to Connecticut this weekend?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very good question that has a lot of people scratching their heads looking for the answer. But it actually underscores a lot of questions being asked about the Trump strategy, whether it's the ground game or more.
Let me just give you a little bit of perspective about why Connecticut is so perplexing. The last time Connecticut went to the Republican on a presidential level, people were listening to cassettes in their cars and they --
SCIUTTO: And I remember that time.
BASH: Well, yes. Well, you're not old enough, but -- and they were also using cell phones that are the size of shoe boxes. It was a long time ago. 1988. The answer according to the Trump campaign is that they believe that it is one of the states that Donald Trump can turn from blue to red. But it's not only that, he also spent time last week in Maine, which is also been blue. It's been blue since 1992. The Trump campaign argues that they do -- the way that they proportion their electoral votes, it is possible for him to get one, maybe two.
But still, we are, you know, less than 100 days out from the -- from the election, and so the question a lot of people are asking is, why go to any blue states like that? Why not focus on the battlegrounds like, in fairness to Trump, he did today in Pennsylvania. And he is spending a fair amount of time in other states like that.
SCIUTTO: And that's because if you hear from, to be clear, GOP strategists, this is not --
SCIUTTO: Not the chattery classes. So you know well, you've done a lot of reporting on this. The campaigns often lost or won on the ground. The ground game. Staffers in key -- particularly key states. Is he addressing any of the weaknesses there?
BASH: Well, they say that they are, but I think the big question, and I know the big question according to reporting I've been doing is, why isn't he spending money? You know, at the beginning of the general election, when he became the presumptive nominee, he was nowhere when it came to fundraising because he was a self-funder during the primaries. And it looked like he had a real trouble at the beginning. He doesn't any more. Last month his campaign boasted -- raising, you know, $60 million in
conjunction with the RNC, but they haven't spent a dime on advertising. Nothing. And Hillary Clinton has spent, just so you know, $42.9 million. That's just since the general election started. So what the Trump campaign says is that they do have a plan. They have a strategy, they're not going to share it with us because they don't want to divulge that strategy. But a lot of people I'm talking to are saying, what are you waiting for?
BASH: The Clinton campaign is defining her -- defining him, and they're just kind of getting pummeled on the air in a lot of these states without any kind of retort and the concern is that they have a candidate who's not exactly disciplined in message.
BASH: Now I will say that the field -- the Trump campaign, Jim, is that this is a strategy that worked in the primaries. He won without spending a lot of money. He won with what we call earned media speeches and interviews and things like that and so he feels probably that they can still do that. It's a different ballgame now. We'll see who wins there.
SCIUTTO: Well, the irony is, right, he has the money. He had a good fundraising month last month. It's just not going anywhere now.
[17:10:02] Dana Bash, thanks very much.
You can watch more of Dana's reporting on CNN.com on the Trump ground game.
I want to bring in now Republican Congressman Mike Burgess of Texas. He's a Donald Trump supporter.
Congressman Burgess, thanks for joining us tonight.
REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TRUMP SUPPORTER: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
SCIUTTO: You heard Dana's reporting just there now about Hillary Clinton, $42.9 million spent in ads just in the last month. Donald Trump raised last month, he hasn't spent money. There are weaknesses acknowledged within his own party in the ground game, why isn't that changing?
BURGESS: Well, this is an unconventional candidacy. I think we both stipulate that. And every prediction that I have made about this race for the past 18 months has been wrong so I'm not going to do that. But, look, you -- as a first time candidate, I learned you spend your money from election day backwards. You don't exhaust your resources right up front. You save something back for the -- for the big fight, the big fight obviously is going to be September and October.
SCIUTTO: So he's raised, though -- so let's look at this. $82 million just in the last month. What then is he going to spend that money on?
BURGESS: But look, we're talking about him today, aren't we? And that's the -- the thing about this unconventional candidacy is that it doesn't run on the same fuel that we have seen other candidacies run upon. And quite honestly sometimes it seems bumpy. But at other times, look what he has been able to accomplish. No one -- no one would have believed when he rode down that escalator 14 months ago.
SCIUTTO: The question is --
BURGESS: He could be in this position today.
SCIUTTO: The question is, does that success extend from the primaries into the general? But I want to move to Donald Trump's comments in the last 24 hours. He said today, as it started, that he was being sarcastic when he called President Obama the founder of ISIS. At his rally this afternoon, he said, quote, and I want to get this clear, "I'm being sarcastic," then he said, but not that sarcastic to be honest with you. Was he joking or not?
BURGESS: Well, look, here's what I do know. I was one of the last congressional delegations to go through Iraq in August of 2011 and it was astounding. I mean, the vacuum was palpable because all of the men, women, and equipment that had been there on previous trips, it was all gone and pulled down to the slabs.
SCIUTTO: Well, Congressman --
BURGESS: And you're part in the world --
SCIUTTO: To be fair, Congressman Burgess -- to be fair, that's a conversation --
BURGESS: Not tolerate a vacuum and as a consequence, there must have been some thought given as to what comes next. And they didn't.
SCIUTTO: But that's a different conversation to be fair.
BURGESS: They just simply didn't.
SCIUTTO: That's a different conversation -- you can and we should have the conversation about whether the president's decisions and policy, and if the withdrawal of troops laid the groundwork for ISIS to regain strength and territory. But that's not what the candidate said. The candidate said repeatedly he is the founder of ISIS. But then he said he was being sarcastic, but now again today he said well, maybe I wasn't being that sarcastic. I just want to ask you on that charge that he's the founder, not that his decisions led to --
SCIUTTO: Was he joking or not?
BURGESS: Look at how the press vilified George Bush when -- at the ending of his term, he said we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here. You didn't believe that. You know, this was a vacuum that was put in place by this administration and the secretary of state, I might add. And as a consequence, we've got the fight on our hands that we've got now. And it is no laughing matter. It's a serious situation and one that requires maximum attention from the commander-in-chief whoever they are.
SCIUTTO: Well, you've just said there, it is no laughing matter. Why then is it appropriate to joke about it, even to say you're being sarcastic about it?
BURGESS: I don't know that that is a joke. You'll have to ask Mr. Trump that. But the -- this is the -- this is the issue.
SCIUTTO: So you're saying it is not a -- it is not a matter of sarcasm?
BURGESS: The stage was set by this administration -- the stage was set by this administration and the harsh consequences that we have to deal with are because of the decisions that were made by this administration and Secretary Clinton when she was secretary of state.
SCIUTTO: I want to just to take the opportunity here because Donald Trump had an opportunity to clarify what he meant. And let's be clear here, he's running for president. ISIS is one of the central issues in this campaign so we want to be clear. I imagine people at home want to be clear about exactly what he's saying here. Let's listen to what he said with Hugh Hewitt when asked this charge of Obama being the founder. Let's listen now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGH HEWITT, CONSERVATIVE 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 mean, he's the founder of ISIS. I do. He's the most valuable player. I give it him the most valuable player award . I give her, too, by the way.
HEWITT: But he's not sympathetic to them. He hates them, he is trying to kill them.
TRUMP: I don't care. He was the founder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Help us rectify that comment with him then saying he was being sarcastic.
BURGESS: Look, I don't think there is any question that the conditions were created by this current administration. And look, you spent a lot of time talking about polls at the beginning of this segment. [17:15:04] The one poll that's really striking, 80 percent of the
country does not like the status quo right now. 80 percent of this country wants something different. Hillary Clinton is your candidate if you want .
SCIUTTO: But to be fair, that's a different question than I asked. Just the question -- because this is clearly an issue that you take very seriously as we all do. ISIS is a threat. It's not only a threat there, it's a threat here at home. I'm just asking --
SCIUTTO: Is it an issue that is appropriately joked about?
BURGESS: And I wish -- I wish that the administration had taken it seriously in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014. When I asked in a briefing in 2014, what did you think was going to happen, they just hadn't thought it through. It was magical thinking. This part of the world, as dangerous as it is, everything will be OK if we just walk away. That was crazy talk then.
SCIUTTO: I want to ask because a few of these things he said in the last 24 to 48 hours, they're creating an environment. He called the president the founder of ISIS, not that he made decisions leading -- created conditions for ISIS. He called him the founder. He used his full name, Barack Hussein Obama with emphasis. Is this a continuation of Donald Trump's original efforts to delegitimize this presidency?
BURGESS: Absolutely not. Look, the -- the president is responsible for the decisions he made 2011, 2012, 2013. Now using the president's full name, I fail to see how that is an issue of any sort. And I'm rather surprised that you try to make it one. But the president is responsible for the decisions that he made. The secretary is responsible for the decisions that she made as secretary.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Burgess, please stay right there. A lot more questions on this topic and others. Please stay with us. We'll be right back.
[17:21:14] SCIUTTO: Welcome back, and we are back with Republican Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas. He is a Donald Trump supporter.
Congress Burgess, Secretary Clinton, she's now released 39 years worth of tax returns over the course of her career. Just today her 2015 returns.
Donald Trump has said he wants to be transparent with the American people. An opportunity here. He could release his -- at least his tax rate without publicizing his entire returns. Why doesn't he do that?
BURGESS: You need to ask the candidate that question. He has filed his financial disclosure which many people in the media has said a year ago that he would never do when in fact he did so and showed that his candidacy was serious back in those early days.
Look, I have been audited before. It's no fun, and I've got every bit of sympathy for anyone who is facing an audit. They need to do everything that they can to get through that process.
SCIUTTO: But to be clear -- to be clear an audit --
BURGESS: And I want him to do that.
SCIUTTO: The IRS does not -- when the IRS is auditing, it doesn't prevent you in any way, legally, from releasing those returns. I wonder if you -- you're a public official.
BURGESS: No, it doesn't. It doesn't.
SCIUTTO: Do you believe he should release his returns?
BURGESS: In general, I think it is a good idea for presidential candidates to be transparent on that point, but I don't know that we've ever had a presidential candidate of either party who is under an active audit who has then released their returns while that audit is ongoing.
Look an audit is a -- it's a serious business. And --
SCIUTTO: But he is running for president. He's running for president and this defies four decades of tradition here. He'd be the first candidate in 40 years not to release his returns.
BURGESS: Look. People have to make their own decisions on that. I actually -- having been through that situation, I am supportive of him getting through the audit first, and then we'll see what happens.
SCIUTTO: Can you say if Donald Trump paid taxes last year?
BURGESS: Can I say? It would be inappropriate for me as a member of Congress to look at someone else's tax returns.
SCIUTTO: Even when they're running for president? Because I imagine people at home, they paid their taxes and would want to know if -- if the person running for president did the same.
BURGESS: Are you asking me if I went to the agency and asked to see his returns? The answer to that would be no, and that is Richard Nixon enemy stuff.
SCIUTTO: No, I know.
BURGESS: I would not do that.
SCIUTTO: That's not the question. The question is, do you know, as a Trump supporter, if he paid any taxes last year.
BURGESS: I have no knowledge of whether he did or did not. And at this point, let me just tell you. I don't know how material that is. There are plenty of other aspects of Secretary Clinton's candidacy that are less than transparent and I trust out news media folks are going to be equally aggressive on those -- on those counts.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Burgess, I appreciate you taking the taking the time and taking the hard questions today.
BURGESS: Sure. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Coming up, with Donald Trump sinking in the latest polls, the top Republican in the Senate has a new worry.
Coming up, are Democrats on their way to taking over control of the Senate?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:28:47] SCIUTTO: This afternoon's Donald Trump rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, included an unexpected guest speaker. Trump was introduced by Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. This is especially intriguing in light of this week's reports that the party hierarchy is alarmed by Trump's drop in the polls since the Republican convention.
With us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, CNN political analyst Rebecca Berg. She's a Real Clear Politics national political reporter, our chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich. She's also the Washington bureau chief for the "Daily Beast."
Dana, .if I could start with you so. Priebus making a surprise appearance today. Was this a successful show of unity after all these reports this week?
BASH: I think so. And I think that the reality that's going on behind the scenes is that Reince Priebus is -- has been upset with Donald Trump, but he also understands that he needs to figure out a way -- at least try to figure out a way to get Donald Trump on course. And there's no question that that's what today was about. It was about kind of being there with him behind the scenes. But more importantly showing everybody, you know what, maybe it's been thought. But we're in this and we're going to do this together. As somebody said to me, to show that the band has got to stay together.
SCIUTTO: Jackie, one thing Priebus told the audience today is not to believe the garbage they read.
[17:30:03] Another shot right at the media for reporting this wrong. But does that show that he's trying to just silent those reports to bed, this division, this "Come to Jesus" moments?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he is, but I don't think it's going to work because there is still this -- whether or not he wants to acknowledge it, there is discontent still very much present in the Republican Party. I mean, just yesterday you had a group of Republican that haven't even sent the letter to Priebus because they're still gathering signatures. SCIUTTO: Right.
KUCINICH: To say that they should stop spending money propping up Donald Trump. So he can say that, but the reality is this isn't going away because there's a lot of people who are just dissatisfied with how this is going.
SCIUTTO: In his own party. So speaking of those concerns, Rebecca, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell speaking those concerns out in public saying that he may not be calling the shots next year. That, you know, he might be in trouble. He said chances are dicey. That is a remarkable comment from the GOP majority leader.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is remarkable but he is living in reality. I mean, it's a very tough math in a normal election cycle, and with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket it becomes an even more difficult year in many of these states if not all of these key battleground states. So we're talking about in terms of the Senate races. And so Mitch McConnell knows what we all know, that it's going to be a very tough uphill climb for him.
But what the Senate candidates are trying to do at this stage, this goes back to what Jackie was saying, regarding the letter that was sent to the RNC or is being sent to the RNC saying that, you know, maybe the RNC should redirect its resources to these down-ballot races. These candidates are trying their best to separate themselves from Donald Trump. To tell voters that they are different candidates, that Donald Trump doesn't necessarily represent the Republican Party.
What's interesting, I haven't seen any evidence yet that voters do think of Donald as a figure head for the Republican Party. They think of him kind of in his own category and that's good for Republicans. They want --
SCIUTTO: So you're saying maybe it doesn't -- it doesn't damage them necessarily in the down-ballot races.
BERG: Not necessarily. If they can persuade voters that Donald Trump is a category on to himself, that he is not a Republican and that their down-ballot candidates in a different category as well, then they could be safe.
SCIUTTO: So I have to ask you, guys. We had this moment with ISIS and Obama being the founder of ISIS. Then you had this morning, that almost expected pull back. Donald Trump saying it was a sarcastic comment. But then he almost not being to help myself, he said, well, actually I wasn't being sarcastic there. It really gets down to is this a futile exercise, Dana, to try to pin him down on what exactly he was saying?
BASH: I think so, but it's certainly something that we have to try to continue to do. And I think what makes this particular situation different than the other I don't know half a dozen, maybe more times where he said something, he's gotten blowback and he said never mind, I'm just kidding, what made this different is the interview he did yesterday with Hugh Hewitt radio show, the host, who gave him, to use your word, a lifeline, actually two lifelines.
BASH: Didn't you really mean, Mr. Trump, that -- the peace was there, and then by pulling out the troops out that ISIS was created. He left a vacuum. In so many ways, and Trump is no, no, no, what I really mean is they were the founders of ISIS.
SCIUTTO: I meant it literally.
BASH: So in this case, it's even more perplexing that he's now saying never mind, I was just being sarcastic.
SCIUTTO: The thing is, this matters, though, does it not? I mean, this is truly a life or death issue because ISIS is a threat over there, but it's also a threat here to the homeland. And in Europe.
I mean, I just wonder, Jackie and Rebecca, does that have an effect on this very essential topic in the campaign?
BERG: I mean, it matters internationally when we're speaking about our role on the world stage and the effect that our politics have internationally. I mean, this has been a conspiracy theory that has been out there in the Middle East before that the United States is actively supporting ISIS --
SCIUTTO: Propagated by Russian broadcasters among others.
BERG: Exactly. And this is something that has been around for many years and so to have a nominee for the presidency from one of the two major parties, saying these things it does have an effect.
BASH: And that's the key, it's not just semantics.
BASH: It's sort of international dog whistling.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Absolutely.
BASH: I mean, what is going on, right?
KUCINICH: Well, and Dana read the definition of founder yesterday. I feel like I should have brought sarcasm with me today because no matter -- you can't do that when you're the commander-in-chief because of everything you all are saying. And also he -- some of the things he is saying is actually in Russian propaganda press.
KUCINICH: Which is -- that's problematic. You shouldn't have the person running for the Republican nomination for president just repeating what you see in some -- in some of those publications.
SCIUTTO: And it's the tenor, too, right, because at the same time he will say Barack Hussein Obama. KUCINICH: Right.
SCIUTTO: Again, when we talk about the dog whistle, that goes back to that old conspiracy theory that Obama is actually -- these things are connected and dangerous.
[17:35:01] KUCINICH: That he helped push because of the birther.
SCIUTTO: Right. Absolutely.
Jackie, Dana, Rebecca, thanks so much as well. You're going to be coming back in a little bit. Everyone, stand by.
Clinton's campaign today put new pressure on Donald Trump by releasing the Clinton's 2015 tax returns. We're going to look at those numbers, next.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back, and we are back with our political experts.
[17:40:01] Although Hillary Clinton is not campaigning today, she did find a way to put new pressure on Donald Trump.
CNN's Pamela Brown, she is here.
Pamela, tell us what Clinton's move was today.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, Jim, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine released their own tax returns making the case they have nothing to hide unlike Donald Trump. A day after blasting him on the economy and hammering him for not releasing his own tax returns.
BROWN (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is keeping the pressure on Donald Trump to release his tax returns.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He refuses to do what every other presidential candidate in decades has done and release his tax returns.
BROWN: Clinton and her husband Bill today released their 2015 tax return which showed they raked in $10.6 million last year when she was running for president. Much less than the nearly $28 million they made in 2014. They paid roughly a third of their income to Uncle Sam, $3.2 million. Making their effective tax rate 30.6 percent. On par with their 32 percent effective rate in 2014.
At the same time, the campaign disclosed 10 years of returns from running mate Tim Kaine and his wife Anne Holton. They reported about $313,000 in income and paid nearly 63,000 in federal taxes for an effective rate of 20 percent.
The Clinton campaign says now it's Trump's turn. MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will only really
know if he's a real deal or phony if he releases his tax return.
BROWN: It's part of a coordinated effort by the campaign that includes a new Web video featuring prominent Republicans calling on Trump to release his returns.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: For the last 30 or 40 years, every candidate for president has released their tax returns. And I think Donald Trump should as well.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: He doesn't want to do it because presumably there's something in there that is bad.
BROWN: Trump says he'll release his returns once an IRS audit is complete.
TRUMP: Well, look, I'm in a routine audit. And every lawyer tells you, including Greta, who is a lawyer, but she said, you know, when you're under a routine audit you don't give your tax returns.
BROWN: As Clinton urges transparency on tax return, she is still not releasing transcripts from her paid speeches. A point that Bernie Sanders seized on during the Democratic primary and Trump could revive.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am going to release all of the transcripts of the speeches that I gave on Wall Street behind closed doors not for $225,000. Not for $2,000, not for 2 cents. There were no speeches.
BROWN: Hillary Clinton has said she'll release her speech transcripts when Donald Trump does. Meantime the returns today show nearly 10 percent of the Clintons' income went to charitable contributions. Most of that, $1 million, was donated to the private Clinton Family Foundation -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Pam Brown, thanks very much.
Let's bring back our political experts. So, Dana, Hillary releasing those tax returns. Very quick response from the Trump campaign.
BASH: That's right. And the first line says it's all. She didn't release what we wanted to see. She released the one thing we don't want to see and then goes in to talking about the e-mails and about the e-mails and about the speeches that she gave in Wall Street, and so on and so forth. So, you know, that is what you would expect them to do, to deflect. But it's still -- it's maybe going to be harder for him to do if Hillary Clinton continues to push this, and more importantly you hear from Republicans saying, you know --
SCIUTTO: It's not just the Democrats.
BASH: Where are they? Where are they? Having said that, having said that, at this point, there doesn't appear to be any evidence that it's hurting Donald Trump. There might be other things that are hurting Donald Trump, but at this point there doesn't seem to be any real pressure on him to do this.
SCIUTTO: Well, interesting. As you say, the pressure is not confined to one party. We just interviewed Congressman Burgess from Texas. He's a Trump supporter. He told me five minutes ago, a few minutes ago, it would be a good idea, and you heard Ted Cruz saying the dame thing and Mitch McConnell saying the same thing. So how does he defy those voices within his own party?
KUCINICH: When it starts mattering in the campaign trail, when it starts seeing that it's actually hurting him. I think that's -- I don't know that he will still do it, but I think that would be more of an impetus than Mitch McConnell. I mean, obviously his supporters don't care because he didn't do it during the primary, and they didn't seem to mind. But I mean, this is a basic fairness thing. You know, to be able to see how much you're paying in taxes. It's something g-- you know, as Hillary Clinton said, it's been done for decades and he's not doing it.
SCIUTTO: His supporters don't care but, Rebecca, do independent voters care? Because that's really what we're about now.
BERG: Right. And they might. Because Donald Trump fundamentally is trying to argue that Hillary Clinton is not being transparent. Right? That she's not showing people what was in her e-mails, that she's not coming clean to the American public. And so how can he make that argument at the same time that he is not putting forth all of his financials. All of his --
BASH: (INAUDIBLE) guilty here.
BERG: All of his personal documents.
SCIUTTO: Look, that's something because he then opens them up -- I mean, as he mentioned, he mentions pay-for-play, he mentions the Clinton Foundation. We do know that this has been the subject of a possible investigation.
[17:45:03] And ultimately a decision not made to take it that step. But folks have been looking into this.
BERG: And frankly, he did criticize Mitt Romney in 2012 for not releasing his tax returns. Not releasing a more full supply of his tax returns. And so for Donald Trump now to say it's not important, it's not necessary, it's really inconsistent.
SCIUTTO: The Clinton Foundation questions how much is that a danger in these final 80 some odd days before the election as it percolates? How much of a danger to the Clinton campaign? BASH: Well, it certainly is in that it feeds into the pre-existing
problem that she has with voters. And the data bear it out pretty much across the board. Trust worthiness, honesty, the fact that people see her as more of the same. Part of the rigged system. And if you pick all of the phrases that Donald Trump uses on purpose, and he has historically at least in the Republican primaries to his advantage, it helped him win, as long as it plays into those notions and more importantly as long as Donald Trump continues to stay on message with that as pretty much to a person, every Republican I've talked to want him to, then it does have the potential to hurt her.
SCIUTTO: Final word, Jackie?
KUCINICH: I mean, I completely agree with Dana on that. But I do think if Donald Trump couldn't come back with, "Well, what are you hiding?" She would have a much stronger case.
SCIUTTO: Jackie, Dana, Rebecca, thanks again.
Coming up, a closer look at all the excuses Donald Trump has used for why he will not release those tax returns.
[17:51:16] SCIUTTO: Hillary Clinton today released her 2015 tax return. Shows that she and her husband earned more than $10 million last year paying about a third of that in federal income taxes. That putting more pressure on Donald Trump to release his tax returns. A 40-year tradition for presidential nominees.
CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into that.
So, Bryan, we know Trump has had more than one excuse through the years for not doing that.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly has, Jim. Trump's found several different ways to dance around releasing his tax returns and to avoid a clear explanation of why he hasn't released them. Tonight he's under more pressure than ever for a full accounting.
TODD (voice-over): Donald Trump promised he'd release his tax returns to the public, but that was a year and a half ago. Then at the start of 2016, Trump said he was working on it, saying the information was approved and, quote, "very beautiful." He went from that to downplaying their impact.
TRUMP: You can't tell anything from tax returns. Maybe there's something in his tax returns. There's nothing.
TODD: Then what's become a familiar deflection. Trump says a long running IRS audit of his taxes prevents him from revealing his returns. TRUMP: I can't do it until the audit is finished. It would be crazy
to give papers before the audit is completed.
TODD: He got defensive about it when speaking to ABC.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABS NEWS: What is your tax rate?
TRUMP: It's none of your business. You'll see it when I release it.
TODD: And he's floated theories denied by the IRS on why he's being audited.
TRUMP: Maybe because of religion, maybe because of something else, maybe because I'm doing this, although this is just --
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What do you mean religion?
TRUMP: Well, maybe because of the fact that I'm a strong Christian and I feel strongly about it and maybe there is a bias.
DAVID NAKAMURA, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think he's demagoguing that issue. I mean, I think he's trying to distract from what's really going on. When he's defensive sometimes he reacts, you know, irrationally.
TODD: Through all the deflections and excuses, still no release of tax returns from Donald Trump. Is he legally prevented from releasing them during an audit?
ROBERT KOVACEV, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TAX DIVISION ATTORNEY: There is no legal reason why Mr. Trump couldn't release his returns now. It's perfectly allowable for him to do so.
TODD: Is Trump really being audited by the IRS?
TRUMP: You know, I get audited every single year.
TODD: Trump has offered a letter from his tax lawyers sent to him in March saying, quote, "Examinations for returns for the 2009 year and forward are ongoing." But is there a letter from the IRS to Trump specifically saying he's being audited? The IRS says it's not allowed to tell us. Trump's campaign and his lawyers aren't telling us either. And the political pressure on the GOP nominee is building.
NAKAMURA: I think you're going to keep seeing the Democrats continue to hit this because they do sense there's a vulnerability here.
TODD: Trump's tax returns might confirm whether he's a rich as he says he is, gives as much as to charity as he says he does, and might reveal who he does business with, where his interests lie. Still one prominent tax attorney says he'd advise Trump not to release his taxes while he's being audited.
KOVACEV: Thousands, millions of people would be looking at it and probably see transactions that are complicated and perfectly legitimate, but that look strange to someone who is not trained in the tax field. And that could raise a public outcry.
TODD: Now Trump could get around that. He could provide other basic figures without releasing his returns. Figures on his adjusted income, his charitable contributions. He could come out and say what his tax rate is.
Today we asked the Trump campaign and his tax lawyers if they could provide us that information. They declined, saying, again, that the nominee is undergoing, quote, "a routine audit," and he'll release those returns when that is done -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Brian, we know Trump has complained that the IRS is constantly auditing him every year. He's suggesting he's being unfairly targeted. You heard him there saying even possibly due to his religion.
SCIUTTO: Have you found any evidence of that?
TODD: Not really, Jim. You know, tax attorneys and other experts we speak to, they say that companies all around the country, all around the world that are as big and complex as Donald Trump's company, they are always being audited by the IRS. There's really nothing unusual about being audited every year or for an audit to last a few years. So they say that excuse by him really doesn't fly.
[17:55:15] SCIUTTO: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
Coming up, after repeatedly calling President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS and insisting he meant exactly what he said, Donald Trump first doubles back then doubles down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So I said the founder of ISIS. Obviously I was being sarcastic. Then, then -- but not that sarcastic, to be honest with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Happening now, Trump change. Donald Trump now says he was being sarcastic when he claimed that President Obama founded ISIS. Why is he backtracking now after repeating that attack --