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Third Party Candidate Gets on Utah Ballot; Russia Negotiates with U.S. on Syria; Top Clinton Super Pac Cuts Spending in Some Battleground States; Boat Rescues After Deadly Flooding in Louisiana. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 16, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] EVAN MCMULLIN, (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have excellent volunteers who come out of nowhere immediately to help us there. We're making progress in other states.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What are the chances? I know you're fighting and you'll make challenges for states where the deadlines have already passed. What are the chances you make it in all 50?

MCMULLIN: I don't think we'll make it on all 50. It is possible through third parties. We have an increasing number of third parties reaching out to the ballots on our states. It is possible we'll get on to all 50. That's not my expectation are, nor is it need, but it certainly would be wonderful to have that happen.

BOLDUAN: To make this real, do you have to make it onto the debate stage?

MCMULLIN: I think it is real, and we do want to be on the debate stage. I don't think either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will want me on that stage, but that exactly why I should be there. 42 percent of Americans consider themselves Independents. 82 percent of Americans think this country is on the wrong track. We need something new. Americans want something new, and the response we've had even in the last -- we're only a week old. The response has been tremendous. About 90,000 people in the first weekend 90,000 Americans across the country reached out to us via our website, to volunteer, donate, get engaged. It's been an incredible response. We've got a lot of great momentum.

BOLDUAN: Money matters.

MCMULLIN: Yes, it does.

BOLDUAN: How much do you have in the bank now?

MCMULLIN: Well, I'm not going to say that.

BOLDUAN: More than a million bucks?

MCMULLIN: We have more than we need to charge ahead, absolutely. We've been surprised actually by a number of donations that have come in. Mostly it's small dollar donations, hard working Americans who want something new. In addition to that, I'm in New York obviously now, meeting with major donors, have already had many of those meetings. So we couldn't ask for a better situation in that regard. We are getting traction with donors large and small across the board.

BOLDUAN: I was watching your Twitter feed during Donald Trump's speech. One of them you said, "Extreme Donald Trump, you sound more like ISIS than an American president."

MCMULLIN: That's right.

BOLDUAN: What do you mean?

MCMULLIN: Everything about Donald Trump is extreme. He tries to divide Americans in the same way ISIS does, the same way Vladimir Putin does. He wants to pit religion against religion, race against race. We've been a divided country for so long, Kate. It's time for us to unite. I believe both candidates of the parties, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in different ways are dividing this country. I believe I can unite this country. I believe that Americans want to be united. I believe there's a great desire for that among most Americans. That's what we hope to provide is a way forward in that regard.

BOLDUAN: Early voting starts in South Dakota, another state, end of September.

MCMULLIN: It starts early. Let's be clear about what the paths to victory here are. If neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, nor I am able to win 270 votes in the Electoral College, it will go to the House of Representatives. The other thing is --


BOLDUAN: When was the last time that happened? It was 1824.

MCMULLIN: But when was the last time we had a political situation like this and a campaign like this? This is an election season unlike any other. Again, 42 percent of Americans are Independent. Only 28 percent say they affiliate with the Democratic Party, only 28 percent affiliate with the Republicans. We're in new waters we haven't seen for a long time. A great opportunity out there. I came in as an unknown, and we've had this incredible national response. It's not about me. It's about American people wanting a new generation of leadership.

BOLDUAN: Evan, CNN's last reporting was that Mitt Romney was interested in hearing what you had to say. An endorsement by him would be a huge boost for an unknown, for a campaign that's getting started this late in the game. Have you spoken to him?

MCMULLIN: I haven't spoken with him, but our teams are in touch. I think it's where it needs to be right now. This is a grassroots campaign. It's turning into a bit of a movement, I think I'll say. And that's what this is about. This is about the American people. It's not about established leadership. It's not about that. It's about Americans saying --


BOLDUAN: Speaking out against Donald Trump, Mitt Romney spoke out very forcefully.

MCMULLIN: Let me make clear, I have a lot of respect for Mitt Romney.

BOLDUAN: Would you want an endorsement?

MCMULLIN: Of course, I would. Understanding what Donald Trump's candidacy, the risk and danger it presented to our country, he spoke out on that. He's one of the few. He deserves credit for that.

Our campaign is anything but traditional. I think everybody can see that. I feel it on a minute-to-minute basis. This is about the American people saying we want another choice. These two choices, Clinton and Trump are acceptable for our time.

BOLDUAN: Evan McMullin, Great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

MCMULLIN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Good luck with those donor meetings.

MCMULLIN: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: We'll talk to you soon.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

[11:35:08] BOLDUAN: Programming note, CNN is hosting a town hall with Green Party presidential nominee, Jill Stein. You can watch that live tomorrow night at 9:00 eastern.

Also, a top Clinton super PAC is cutting spending in several battleground states, citing her lead against Donald Trump in certain polls. Are they getting too confident too soon? More on that just ahead.


BOLDUAN: Brand new developments on the war with ISIS. Russia says it's in very active negotiations with the U.S. regarding the longstanding conflict in Syria. This, as the U.S. confirms Russian fighter jets conducted air strikes in Aleppo, using, for the first time, an Iranian air base.

Let's go to CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, for more on this.

Barbara, what does very active negotiations mean? What are you picking up?

[11:40:13] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question because the U.S. and Russia have been in discussions certainly about some kind of agreement for months now. But have not been able to reach an agreement because of Russia's bombing of civilians in Syria. So the Russians putting the word out there that these negotiations are suddenly very active maybe as much a Moscow message point as anything else. Sources we're talking to here in Washington are saying, not so fast, they don't see anything yet that makes them want to sign an agreement.

Again, it comes back to what the Russians are really doing with their aircraft. And just in the last couple of days, as you pointed out, and we have seen in Aleppo, which is in such dire condition from being bombed overhead, the latest is that the U.S. Says these Russian bomber aircraft are taking off from a base in Iran and have bombed in Aleppo and another city, but in Aleppo in particular bombing civilian that's where U.S. says it cannot come to agreement with Moscow.

One of the big conditions on the part of the U.S. is Russians have to stop bombing civilians and actually go after ISIS targets, which the U.S. doesn't very much embrace, if you will, at this point. So a lot of messages going on, a lot of, if you will, verbal pressure from Moscow. That's nothing new.

But the real bottom line right now is the Pentagon really holding firm. They want to see the Russians stop bombing the civilians before any next steps are taken -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Less talk, more action.

Barbara, great to see you. Thanks, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Back to politics. West Pennsylvania, here comes Hillary Clinton. She kicks off a voter registration drive shortly in the predominantly African-American section of the city of Philadelphia, the day after being with Joe Biden two hours away in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Clinton is aimed at shattering that state, where she is now leading in the polls. This might be a clear sign of the times. The main super PAC for Hillary Clinton is halting ads in some battleground states.

Let us discuss with Guy Cecil is co-chair and chief strategist for that super PAC, Priorities USA, the main super PAC supporting Clinton; Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic"; and Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, back with us, a Donald Trump supporter.

Gentlemen, great to see you.

Guy, taking TV ads off the air in three weeks in September in Virginia, Colorado and Pennsylvania. That is strong move. Where are you putting that money?

GUY CECIL, CO-CHAIR & CHIEF STRATEGIST, PRIORITIES USA SUPER PAC: I think it's important for some perspective to realize that 85 to 90 percent of our reservations are actually still in place. There's no question that Donald Trump faces some particular challenges in places like Colorado and Virginia and for that matter Pennsylvania. So we're looking to expand our operations on the ground in key starts, investing in turnout operations in places like Florida and Ohio. We're significantly expanding our digital operation targeting younger voters. I think after Labor Day I wouldn't be surprised if you see us moving into expansion states where we think this race is becoming closer and closer going into November.

BOLDUAN: Like Georgia, like Utah?

CECIL: There's no question that places like Arizona and Georgia have gotten closer over the course of time. We'll look at how the race develops and we'll make decisions going into Labor Day.

BOLDUAN: Not tipping his hand there. Shocker.


Ron Brownstein, my one-man historian of all things politics, you look at this "Washington Post" poll that was just out in Virginia, it had Hillary Clinton up 14 points. What does that tell you?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think Virginia in many ways -- we all grew up looking at Ohio as one state entire national mix.

BOLDUAN: Right, the bellwether.

BROWNSTEIN: Ohio hasn't been affected as much by the diversity of changing America. If you look at the balance of Virginia between white and non-white, urban and non-urban, white color and blue collar, you can make a case it is the closest miniature of the country in a single state. In fact, President Obama's margin of victory in Virginia in 2012 almost exactly matched his margin of victory nationally. When you look at this new poll, it does in fact encapsulate the challenge Donald Trump faces. He's confronting huge deficits among the three key components of the modern coalition, minority voters, millennial voters and losing college educated white voters, numerous in the northern part of the state, suburbs of D.C., losing them by double digits after Mitt Romney won them by double digits in 2012. That is the coalition that is coalescing against Trump both in Virginia and nationally. Not only Virginia, but as Guy noted, also in Colorado and Pennsylvania. That is the modern Democratic coalition. You see it very powerfully in Virginia.

[11:45:39] BOLDUAN: Secretary, that sounds, in short, like a problem for Donald Trump. What do you do about these poll numbers? Do you, as a Donald Trump supporter, as someone who has run for office, do you want to see him finally starting to spend some money?

KRIS KOBACH, KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: There's no question he's going to be spending money and the campaign is raising money now finally on pace with the Clinton campaign.

But I would say this about the poll numbers. Donald Trump is one of those interesting characters in politics where you have the phenomena called social desirability bias. The person on the phone may give the pollsters an answer he think the pollster wants to hear. That's why Trump outperformed the polls, on average, 2 percent during the primaries. In order words, he did 2 percent better than the polls suggested he would. In states like Pennsylvania, I think he did 8 percent better. If I were working for Hillary's campaign, I would take these numbers with a grain of salt because Trump could actually being doing quite a bit better than the polls suggest.


BOLDUAN: But, Secretary, do you think that bias could be true in all of the battlegrounds?

KOBACH: No. Well, the bias tends to work in places where the social atmosphere makes Trump a less desirable answer for people to give. It's not going to work in Kansas. It's a conservative state. Nobody is going to have any compulsions about telling a pollster they're going for Trump. It would work in northern Virginia, the Philadelphia suburbs and certainly in the Denver area. I would say if I were on their campaigns, don't go to the bank with those numbers just yet.

BOLDUAN: Guy, I want to get your take. Manu Raju did a fascinating interview with Kelly Ayotte and the governor there. He asked her many times in the interview if he thought Hillary Clinton was honest. She dodged it. She did not answer the question. Later, her campaign clarified saying she does think Hillary Clinton is honest. She couldn't bring herself to say it, it seems, in the interview with Manu. What do you say to that?

CECIL: What I heard is she trusted Hillary when it comes to the country. Candidates around the country, almost all of them have not just said they are supporting the nominee whose name they failed to mention multiple times like Kelly Ayotte, they actually have endorsed Hillary Clinton, they have stood on the stage with Hillary Clinton. I think it's telling that where we are today on this show is a Trump supporter saying we shouldn't believe the polls in part because Trump and his supporters would be too embarrassed to say they're supporting their candidate. I think that may be true of United States Senators like Kelly Ayotte who are trying to run away from Donald Trump. But the idea that voters are not getting an honest answer in the polls I think could be challenged on a significant level across the board in multiple battleground states.

BOLDUAN: But, Guy, wouldn't you have liked Maggie Hassan to answer that a little more candidly, a little more straightforward. If you think Hillary Clinton is honest, maybe the answer should be yes.

CECIL: I think that's what she said afterwards. If I could go back and write scripts for every candidate ruing for the United States Senate in every place, as you might imagine, I think the world would be a better place. I think she gave a straightforward answer which is she trusts Hillary Clinton when it comes to the issues affecting Americans. Maggie endorsed Hillary Clinton, not just in the general election but in the primary and ultimately I think when you compare that to Kelly Ayotte who is embarrassed by the Republican Party nominee, doesn't want to admit she's voting for him and basic question. Should Donald Trump have access to the nuclear codes? That seems like at the very basic level something that we should believe the American president should have access to. BOLDUAN: Ron, final thought from you.

BROWNSTEIN: Real quick. The question is whether it matters electorally how much you embrace or run away from the presidential candidate. The trend is that either way we ear seeing a greater correlation between the way people vote for president and the way they vote in Senate races steadily since decline. In 2012 in virtually every state, every major contested Senate race, roughly 85 percent or more of the people who voted for president voted for the Democrat. 85 percent of those who voted for Mitt Romney, they voted for the Republican candidate. If you're a candidate, it may not matter how much you embrace or distance yourself from Donald Trump, in those states, just like in red states in 2014 for the Democrats, it is very hard to turn away from the top of the ticket. To hold the Senate, if Donald Trump loses, Republicans will have to reverse four decades of a steady flow of voting behavior for a tighter correlation between the president and the Senate vote.

[11:50:10] BOLDUAN: You can be sure that split-ticket data, be sure the Republican party is very aware of those.

Guys, great to see you. Thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, rescue officials in Louisiana now searching for survivors in the wake of deadly flooding. We'll take you there live.


BOLDUAN: The disaster unfolding this hour in Louisiana. At least nine people are dead in the state.

CNN's Rosa Flores is riding along with rescuers on a boat between Baton Rouge and New Orleans looking for rescues.

Rosa, what are you seeing?

[11:54:45] ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. You can see around me that this community is completely submerged in water. We have seen the tops of vehicles. You can see that the homes are also completely submerged in water.

What this crew is doing is knocking on doors, doing welfare checks and making sure people are OK. We were at a house a while ago, she had lost power, her cell phone had died. So they were knocking on her door to see if she was OK. If she doesn't answer, they call back to dispatch, to make sure in, they have that information. Unfortunately, that woman didn't answer her door. However, there are a lot of people, just civilians, people with boats here in Louisiana, there's a lot of them in southern Louisiana, that are helping out, going house to house, knocking on doors, taking people to dryer land. And that could have been the case for that particular woman.

This is Ascension Parish, adding to the list of disaster parishes. Just by looking at these pictures, you can see why.

BOLDUAN: How deep is the water there? What are they dealing with?

FLORES: You know, the water is very deep, just to give you a cameras a little bit, mailboxes are pretty stable and we're literally riding by them. Flood stage for that river just north of here is 29 feet, right now is at 38 feet. That gives you a sense of how high the water is here.

BOLDUAN: Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

We'll be watching that as the disaster continues to unfold in Louisiana and the effort to save people continues.

Coming up, Donald Trump set to stop by an event for law enforcement in Milwaukee this afternoon. It comes in the wake of the deadly shooting in Milwaukee that sparked violent protests. Details ahead on that.