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Trump Posts Equality Pledge; Iran Opens Bases to Russia for Syria Strikes. Aired 6:30-7p ET

Aired August 16, 2016 - 18:30   ET

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


RAJU: ... honest and trustworthy, and Brianna, when I talked to Kelly Ayotte, I asked her twice, does she believe that Trump could be trusted with his hand on the nuclear codes? She would not answer that question either. Really just shows how these would unpopular presidential candidates are weighing down on Senate candidates in key races -- Brianna.

[18:30:19] KEILAR: That is a fascinating race that you are covering in New Hampshire. Manu Raju, thank you so much.

Let's bring in our political team to discuss this. We have Daily Beast political reporter Olivia Nuzzi; CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger; and we have "Washington Post" assistant editor David Swerdlick; along with CNN political reporter Sara Murray.

OK. You have -- this -- I'm almost speechless, right? This is so bizarre. Because you've got these down-ballot Republicans -- Democrats, too, right -- and they're trying to distance themselves from their candidate.

You know, Marco Rubio, he says he doesn't regret calling Donald Trump a conman. And yet, he's going to vote for Donald Trump. Kelly Ayotte, you heard. She's not endorsing him, and yet she's going to vote for him. How do voters square that, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they see right through it. I mean, I think voters are smart. I think they understand what's going on here, that these a candidates that don't personally like Donald Trump very much. But they're either a Republican -- they're Republicans, and they have to figure out what to do.

You know, Maggie Hassan is a bit of a different case there. And maybe she's looking at independent voters, which are a majority of the voters in the state of New Hampshire. She's looking at some polling that leaves her a little bit nervous about Hillary Clinton's numbers on the issue of trust. But I think, you know, people see right through it.

Look, in Florida, if you look at the polls, Marco Rubio is doing really well, and Donald Trump is not. So he's not going to tie himself to Donald Trump. And he just ran a presidential campaign in which he called him a conman, so it's not like you can take it back. And by the way, it's working for Marco Rubio in Florida, so he's going to keep doing it. OLIVIA NUZZI, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE DAILY BEAST": In some ways, it

seems to prove Donald Trump's point that he's been making for the last 14 months, which is that politicians are just in it for themselves. They're going to do anything that's going to be expedient. And it's interesting to see these people not know what to do when it comes time to, you know, figure out whether or not they're going to endorse the nominee.

KEILAR: Yes. How do you say "yes" and "no" at the same time?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think Olivia is right, yes.

BORGER: All my children could do that when they were 3.

SWERDLICK: For someone who's sort of a veteran legislator like McCain, right, he's got to get through this cycle, maybe another cycle. But if you have national ambitions like a Rubio, maybe Senator Ayotte, you know, this is not going to reflect well on them down the road if they, you know, run for a higher office.

KEILAR: Yes, it's not really -- you know, you're not really showing that backbone of steel that we hear touted by so many candidates or supporters of candidates or supporters of candidates. I want you, Sara, to listen to this. It's -- of course, we know -- today we were talking about this. Early voting starts in six weeks. We think about the election being November 8. But this is getting started much sooner than that. And it seems, though, the question is, is Donald Trump going to change tactics? Well, listen to what he said earlier today about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I am who I am. It's me. I don't want to change. Everyone talks about, "What, are you going to pivot?" I don't want to pivot. I mean, you have to be you. If you start pivoting, you're not being honest with people. And because I've heard this over the years and, you know, with politics, with general politics. Also having to do with me.

No. I am who I am. I've gotten here in a landslide, and we'll see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: OK. Is he saying, "I'm not pivoting," because he doesn't want to seem like a politician? Or is he really -- does he really mean "I'm not pivoting, even though I have all these Republican advisers, outside and inside in my campaign, telling me to pivot"?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there is a realization among his advisers that you can't convince Donald Trump to stick to a message, to be someone he's not.

Now it does make you wonder what he's going to come out and say at his event tonight, because we're actually now in a two-day stretch. Granted, Donald Trump has not spoken at public event yet today. But we're now in a two-day stretch where Donald Trump is actually trying to hammer home a message. This is a message of safety, security, anti-terrorism, anti-violence. So it makes you wonder if he's going to actually be able to carry that on to his event tonight.

But look, I think changing Donald Trump is like showing up and trying to change any 70-year-old man. He is very set in his ways. He feels like voters like the way he talks about the issues. And he's certainly got that kind of vindication in the primaries. And he feels like that's the key to his success.

So just because he's brought on a number of these advisors who might be saying, "We want you to deliver a speech from a teleprompter. We want you to talk about this. We want you to stop saying that," he might do a fraction of that. But the notion that you're just going to be able to change him overnight, I think even advisors are realizing it is a pipe dream.

KEILAR: So he clearly, Olivia, personally struggles with making that adjustment. And yet, let's say he didn't. Let's say he was more nimble. Wouldn't he have the latitude to do that? Because it seems like so many of his supporters, they're not going anywhere. They're for him. He could -- he even said it: "I can kind of do whatever I want to do." He used more, you know, visual terms for that. But couldn't he appeal more to the people in the middle, and he's just not doing it?

[18:35:13] NUZZI: I think that's possible. But I think when people say that they will support him no matter what, that's when we're in the context of him just being himself and saying outrageous things that upset people. I don't think his supporters think it's even within the possibility that he would start pivoting to the center and trying to act a little bit more like Mitt Romney.

KEILAR: So they -- and they don't want him, then, to kind of tone it down? This is -- this is what keeps them stuck to him?

NUZZI: I don't think so. No. When you're on the ground at his rallies, I'm sure you talk to his supporters, just like I have. What they like about him is that he tells it like it is. He's sort of a more extreme version of what Chris Christie was out projecting himself as, initially.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, part of the problem these members of Congress have that we were -- that we were just looking at in the piece before is that I think, after Trump got the nomination or was well on his way to getting the nomination, they were told by Trump advisers that Trump was going to pivot.

KEILAR: Yes.

BORGER: And they feel -- they feel, "Uh-oh, OK, we're out there. We thought he was going on pivot. And guess what? He's not going to pivot. He is who he is, as he -- as he says." So there's a little sense of betrayal there. DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": One thing I

thought that was interesting in that clip you played of Trump talking about not wanting to pivot was this idea that, you know, he won in a landslide, which did he in the primaries, right?

And he probably still sees his crowds. He still sees all the media attention he's getting. And as a first-time candidate, it might be hard to get his mind around the fact that he probably will get 50 million or more votes in this election, but he'll need 60 million or more to win the election. And so a landslide is relative to the amount of support that's out there and adding to your coalition. Not just playing to your base.

KEILAR: I almost think of it in terms of the Olympics, right? Maybe you're really good at the vault. But if you want to win the all- around champion, if you want to be the big champion, you also have to be good at the floor exercise, right? He needs to have these two different things.

But I wonder what you think about this idea that we have early voting just six weeks away, because he's raised money. I mean, 80 million dollars in the last month. Why isn't he spending it? Shouldn't he be out there with ads? He hasn't done anything with ads.

SWERDLICK: He should be spending money on ads, if for no other reason than the Clinton campaign as well as the down-ballot candidates are buying up the available ad time in the various states. There is a finite amount of commercials that can air in the swing states, and the sooner they get to buying that ad time, the better and the cheaper the ads, by the way.

BORGER: But I think they'll start after Labor Day. You know, the Clinton campaign and PAC has withdrawn some ads in some states. And they bought it cheaper. Now if you buy the ads, it's a little more expensive.

But -- but I think that after Labor Day, I'm presuming -- and Sara can talk to this. I'm presuming this is when you're going to start seeing more Trump ads on the air. Although ten swing states have early voting, so they better start around Labor Day, right.

MURRAY: Yes, and we have seen Trump come out and say, "Look, it is a little bit early to be putting money on the airwaves." But it does make you wonder: for a guy who didn't put a whole lot of stock in the ground game, for a guy who still doesn't seem to put a whole lot of stock in turn-out-the-vote efforts, what they're doing with their money and whether they're just sitting on it, waiting to do a massive ad buy after Labor Day.

We do know they're doing some stuff on the digital side. They feel like they can do better targeting there and sort of bring in voters more effectively that way.

But at a certain point, if you're sitting on millions of dollars in cash that you've actually raised, it's not Donald Trump's own money at this point. Why not go up on the airwaves? KEILAR: All right, panel. Stick around, because we have much more to

talk about Hillary Clinton and her e-mails. Again, something she doesn't want to talk about but her campaign continues to deal with. We'll be right back with our expert analysts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:43:30] KEILAR: We're back now with our political team and a new chapter in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. The FBI sending Congress notes on its interview with Clinton and other secret information. This as Clinton makes gains in crucial battleground states and tries to build on that momentum on.

We have CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns covering Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. What's the latest here, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, with that new chapter potentially unfolding, the Hillary Clinton campaign continued to plug away for the second straight day right here in the state of Pennsylvania, even though polls show she has a healthy lead.

Though the campaign is just a little bit concerned about the number of registered voters in the state. To that end, Hillary Clinton trying to drum up some new voters here in West Philadelphia today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): Hillary Clinton campaigning today at a Philadelphia voter registration event.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: When Donald Trump speaks, he speaks about fear. He speaks about such negativity and such pessimism.

JOHNS: But her e-mail controversy still casting a shadow over her campaign. The FBI releasing a new report to Congress, detailing why it recommended no charges be filed against the former secretary of state over her use of a private e-mail server.

The report also includes notes taken by the FBI during witness interviews. The report is classified, but it does keep the controversy alive for Clinton, while offering Trump another talking point against her.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary Clinton lacks the judgment, as said by Bernie Sanders, stability, and temperament, and the moral character to lead our nation.

JOHNS: The Clinton campaign saying they prefer the report be released publicly rather than parts selectively released by someone with political motives against Clinton.

Meantime, Clinton is polling very well in key battleground states like Virginia. A new "Washington Post" poll finds Clinton ahead of Trump by eight points there, 51 percent to 43 percent among likely voters. In fact, Clinton is doing so well, her super PAC, Priorities USA, is

pulling ads in Virginia, along with crucial states, Colorado and Pennsylvania, for much of September.

AD ANNOUNCER: Priorities USA Action is responsible for the content of this advertising.

JOHNS: The group telling CNN, Clinton's early success on those states means they can focus their attention and cash in states where it's more needed.

In Philadelphia today, she was working hard to turn out African- American voters in record numbers.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We want you all to register to vote. We have places to register because we don't want you on the side lines come November.

JOHNS: Clinton courting the black vote a day after vying for white working class voters alongside Vice President Joe Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, trying to hold on to the battle ground state that has gone to Democrats in every presidential election since Bill Clinton won in it 1992.

CLINTON: Friends should not let friends vote for Trump.

JOHNS: And the Clinton campaign is already putting together a transition team, announcing former Colorado senator and interior secretary, Ken Salazar, will lead it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Tonight, the Clinton campaign also put out a written statement on the latest development in the e-mail controversy. It reads, "This is an extraordinarily rare step that was sought solely by Republicans for the purposes of second-guessing the career professionals at the FBI. We believe that if these materials are going to be shared outside the Justice Department, they should be released widely so that the public can see them for themselves rather than allow Republicans to mischaracterize them through selective partisan leaks."

Hillary Clinton going on to another battleground state tomorrow, Ohio.

Back to you, Bri.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Joe.

They certainly don't want to keep talking about the e-mails that Republicans will make them continue to do that.

Joe Johns for us in Philadelphia, thank you so much.

I want to get back to my panel now, because we actually have some new information just in. This is a Facebook post that Donald Trump put on his Facebook page. And this is what it says. He says, "This is my pledge to the American people. As your president, I will be your greatest champion. I will fight ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and hate and oppression in all its forms and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people."

Sara Murray, to you first on this, because this is someone who has not taken back his comments about Judge Curiel, a Mexican American, who he said that he is Mexican, not Mexican American, and basically that he can't do his job, because he is Mexican, even though he's not, he's Mexican American.

The Muslim ban still part of his proposals and he, when you're talking about people being honored equally, I mean, he attacked the mother of a U.S. soldier who died for his country.

So, why now? How does this square with the person that we have seen presenting himself in a very different way?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, and, Brianna, you forget, when he joined the race and talked about Mexicans being criminals and rapists who are crossing the border, it was kind of like when the RNC announced earlier today that they were going to do social media outreach to Hispanic voters. It makes you look it at for a second and say, I don't think that's what's going to do it. I don't think that a Facebook post from Donald Trump saying he rejects bigotry and hatred is going to make the scores of voters that we've seen, whether it's women, whether it's Hispanic voters, whether it's black voters that we see in the polling have serious problems with Donald Trump.

I don't think a Facebook post is what's going to move them. They are looking for a change in his tone, a change in his policies. They are looking for apologies in moments where they believe that he attacks people unfairly and that's just not how Donald Trump campaigns. We just played the clip of him saying he's not going to change. He's not going to pivot.

KEILAR: It's -- I think people are going to question, David, his sincerity here.

DAVID SWERDLICK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I think they do. When I hear that, it brings me back to a speech, the original law and order president speech that he made back in mid-July, when we were talking about Philando Castile in Minneapolis, when we were talking about Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and Trump gave that law and order speech. That was the headline. But he said everyone in his administration, everyone will be protected and treated justly without prejudice -- kind of a bridge-building comment.

The problem to what Sara is saying with the way Trump has presented this, is that every time he makes bridge-building comment, he doesn't sustain it and he doesn't emphasize it.

[18:50:03] And so, any opportunity he has to sort of bridge this trust-deficit that he has with communities of color evaporates until he makes another statement, like the Facebook post.

OLIVIA NUZZI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: This sort gets to the fundamental problem with the Trump campaign. That he lacked self- awareness. He doesn't know if getting to Trump time and he needs on work a little bit harder to get people to get out and vote. He doesn't know that it's too late perhaps to make in roads with, you know, minorities, or women.

He just doesn't understand that a lot of his comments have been perceived as bigoted. He disagrees with that, fundamentally. And that's why I think he says things like this without realizing how hypocritical it seems.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, we were looking at polling earlier in my office, and I think that Trump is now at 1 percent with African-Americans.

KEILAR: This is what I was saying -- the margin off error is three, which would it take to minus two percent, possibly, which is impossible, right?

BORGER: You know, Trump understands that he's got a huge deficit here.

KEILAR: Yes.

BORGER: He understands that he's turned off a lot of women and he's turned off a lot of Republican women as a result of his language, and I think this is trying to right the ship.

The question is, it's one thing to do it on your Facebook post. It's one thing to do it in an ad. It's another thing to do it day in and day out on the campaign trail, staying on a message and hitting that home and we have to see if he can do that.

KEILAR: Yes, that's a really good --

NUZZI: He could. I think the problem with Trump at this point in the game is that everyone knows who he is. Everyone knows what his values are. Everyone knows what his beliefs are. So, it seems impossible at this point that he can change the perception.

KEILAR: The cake maybe completely baked.

Olivia Nuzzi, Gloria Borger, David Swerdlick, Sara Murray, thank you much to all of you.

And, of course, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, they aren't the only options for voters, right? You can learn more about the Green Party presidential and vice presidential candidates and we will have them here during a live CNN town hall event and check that out tomorrow at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Just ahead we are standing by to hear Donald Trump at a rally in Wisconsin and we're learning tonight's speech may be somewhat different. What does that mean?

Plus, Russia and Iran teaming up for a first of its kind mission? We'll have new details. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:33] KEILAR: Tonight, we're following new military cooperation between Russia and Iran that is causing concern here in the United States. Moscow using Iranian bases for the first time to launch air strikes in Syria.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

What are you learning about this, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Brianna.

It is a Russian show of force that Washington is not happy about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Russia says its long-range bombers like these carried out airstrikes in Syria against ISIS after taking off for the first time from a base in northwest Iran.

Russian aircraft according to the U.S. struck in Aleppo, Idlib and Deir Ezzor. The Russians notified the U.S. they were flying into Syria, Moscow insisted it is going after ISIS.

The U.S. disagrees.

COL. CHRISTOPHER GARVER, ANTI-ISIS COALITION SPOKESMAN: We have not struck targets in Aleppo in a very long time. We have not struck targets in Idlib in a very long time if we have at all. Now, we don't see concentrations of ISIS in those areas.

STARR: The Secretary of State John Kerry called his Russian counterpart to raise concern about using Iran's air base.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: It complicates what is already a tense complicated situation.

STARR: Publicly, Russia wants the U.S. to agree to join operations especially near Aleppo where tens of thousands of civilians are trapped. The Russian defense minister says Moscow is in very active negotiations with the U.S.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's his messaging on what he wants to happen to gain an upper hand as Russia does in these negotiations.

STARR: Tonight, the State Department said the U.S. is continuing to pursue an agreement, but the U.S. military has been skeptical of any deal with the Russians because of the continued bombing of civilians in anti-Assad rebel groups rather than ISIS targets.

The U.S. believes Moscow is still aiming at bolstering the Syrian leader Bashar al Assad.

HERTLING: We are nowhere close to reaching a final agreement while they continue to bomb civilian facilities especially hospitals which they have done within the last couple of weeks.

STARR: If the Russians hope to unnerve the U.S. by using an Iranian air base to show more cooperation with Tehran, U.S. officials say it did not work.

CNN has learned U.S. intelligence assets, including aircraft like these AWACs were able to trap the Russian military as it landed in Iran and throughout its bombing attacks inside Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, what will happen next, you know, it's not at all clear that the Russians are really going to change their mind. These Iranian bases give them the ability to be that much closer to their Syrian target, that much closer to killing more Syrian civilians, Brianna.

KEILAR: Barbara Starr, thank you for that report.

The Navy is honoring gay rights leader Harvey Milk, naming a new oil carrying ship after him at a ceremony that just wrapped up in San Francisco. Milk was a navy diving officer who served during the Korean War and he went on to become California's first openly gay elected official when he won a sit on the San Francisco board of supervisors in 1977.

Milk was assassinated less than a year later, along with Mayor George Moscone by fellow supervisor Dan White.

I am Brianna Keilar, and thank you very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.