Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Overhauls Campaign in Dramatic Shake-up; Trump Receives First Classified Intel Briefing; New Questions About Clinton Donors; Torrential Rains Hit Flooding Disaster Zone. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 17, 2016 - 17:00   ET


TAPPER: Wolf has a new grandbaby, Ruben Blitzer -- well, not Blitzer but Ruben, his grandson. Anyway, here's Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, desperate measure. Mired in controversy, Donald Trump shuffles his campaign deck again. He's tapped an aggressive right-wing media executive to head his White House Trump vowing to maintain his off-the-cuff style. Can he turn around his troubled campaign?

Top-secret details. Donald Trump receives his first classified national security intelligence briefing on threats facing the U.S., and he convenes his own national security round table after expressing doubt about the credibility of U.S. intelligence. How will the briefing impact his campaign?

Foundation liability? New controversy surrounding the Clinton Foundation and a land deal involving major donors. Now a top U.S. newspaper is calling on Hillary Clinton to shut down the foundation is she's elected president. Would she do it?

And unfolding disaster. Catastrophic flooding is surging across large swaths of Louisiana, inundating some 40,000 homes and leaving at least 11 people dead. The deluge is the worst to hit the U.S. since Superstorm Sandy. Is more rain in store for these hard-hit areas?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Donald Trump is shaking up his staff for the third time in three months in an effort to revive his problem-plagued campaign. In a dramatic move, Trump has brought on two new top staffers. This includes a right-wing media executive expected to run a fierce, no- holds-barred campaign in these final 12 weeks before the election.

Sources inside the campaign tell CNN that Trump was frustrated by leaks and disloyalty in the campaign and disliked the direction that it's been going.

This afternoon, Trump received his first classified national security briefing just hours after he questioned the credibility of U.S. intelligence. Trump said as president he would not rely on intelligence from what he called "some of the people that are substandard."

Now, before the official briefing, Trump convened his own national security round table.

Hillary Clinton reacting to news of this Trump campaign shakeup by saying, quote, "He's still the same man."

Clinton is facing new questions about her family's foundation and ties to two influential Lebanese-Nigerian businessmen who made major donations. Newly-released documents show the State Department expressed interest in a land deal with the men while Clinton was secretary.

We are covering all of that and more this hour with our guests, including executive vice president of the Trump organization, also special council to Donald Trump, Michael Cohen. And our correspondents and our expert analysts are also standing by.

Let's begin with the Trump campaign overhaul, though. CNN political reporter Sara Murray is at Trump Tower in New York for us. This is a pretty dramatic shake up here just about 12 weeks before election day, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, as you mentioned, Donald Trump has become increasingly frustrated with the direction of his campaign. That came to a head over the weekend and early this week, sources tell us. That's when Donald Trump decided to make a change. Now, of course, we know he has been lagging in the polls, in these pivotal battleground states.

His advisors tell me they're not panicking yet, mainly because it is August and not October. The question is whether this shakeup might be the thing that helps Donald Trump turn things around.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I am who I am. It's me. I don't want to change.

MURRAY (voice-over): Kiss the establishment entreaties good-bye. Donald Trump is unleashed.

TRUMP: Everyone talks about "Well, are you going to pivot?" I don't want to pivot. You have to be you. You start pivoting, you're not being honest with people. And because I've heard this over the years, you know, with politics. With general politics. Also, I don't have to do a thing. I am who I am.

MURRAY: The GOP nominee shaking up his campaign yet again. Stage for a political knife fight with Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton doesn't have that strength or stamina, believe me. She cannot win for you.

MURRAY: Trump bringing on Steven Bannon, executive chairman of the fiercely conservative website Breitbart News as his new campaign CEO. And elevated pollster and senior advisor Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager. The latest campaign overhaul gives Trump the freedom to run as a political outsider, unconstrained by advisors urging him to become more palatable to the Republican establishment. Despite his dismal battleground state poll numbers, a source tells CNN Trump still believes he has a chance to win. And if he loses he wants to run the campaign on his own terms.

The shakeup puts Trump at the center of a circle of advisors, Bannon, Roger Stone and newly-ousted FOX news chief Roger Ailes, all known for their no-holds-barred tactics, and sources say it effectively shuts aside campaign chief Paul Manafort.

Hillary Clinton quickly seized on it as just another reset that won't make the candidate any more appetizing to voters.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think it's fair to say that Donald Trump has shown us who he is. He can hire and fire anyone he wants from his campaign. They can make him read new words from a teleprompter. But he is still the same man who insults Gold-Star families, demeans women, mocks people with disabilities, and thinks he knows more about ISIS than our generals.

MURRAY: Amid the latest reshuffling, Trump's receiving his first classified security briefing today, just hours after questioning the quality of America's intelligence gathering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you trust intelligence?

TRUMP: Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. And in fact, I won't use some of the people that are sort of your standards. You know, just use them, use them, use them. Very easy to use them. But I won't use them, because they've made such bad decisions.

MURRAY: But the intrigue at Trump Tower overshadowing Trump's security round table today and the message he hoped to drive home this week.

TRUMP: I will be your champion. I will be your voice in the White House. We will bring it back. We will once again be a country of law and order.


MURRAY: And there's a little bit of turf defending going on this afternoon. CNN's Jeremy Diamond obtained a memo that Paul Manafort sent to staffers, announcing this change today. I want to read you a portion. It says, "I remain the campaign chairman and chief strategist, providing the big-picture, long-range campaign vision and working with all of you to implement our strategy that will guide us to victory in November." A very clear message from Paul Manafort saying essentially, "I'm not going anywhere" -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Sara Murray at Trump Tower, thank you so much.

Let's get more now on all of this with executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, Michael Cohen.

Michael, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us. So this change, this shake-up, is this a sign that...

MICHAEL COHEN, EVP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: First of all, I've got to -- I've got to stop you for one second, because there's no shakeup. I mean, look at the words that you use and you blast at the bottom of your banner. Shakeup, overhaul, dramatic, desperate measures. There are no desperate issues.

You just literally read the memo that you received that Paul Manafort sent out, stating he's not going anywhere. The campaign is on its way to victory, and if you still use these ridiculous words in order to incite something. I mean, please understand that no one is buying into this anymore. It started out -- I don't know if you think it was funny, but these terms are not indicative of what's going on at the campaign.

All that Mr. Trump has done is he has added to the existing group of winners that he has hired for the campaign, which is still hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people less than the number of people that the Clinton campaign.

So if Hillary Clinton brought somebody in, are you going to use the terms "overhaul," "desperate measures"?

KEILAR: No, no. We would.

COHEN: No, you have not once. If I may, not one person of the 900 people that work for her campaign, not one has left, not one was promoted or demoted?

KEILAR: At the top, actually, we have not seen that, and I will tell you, Michael, that if that happened, we would cover it like that. And right now.

COHEN: You would never hear about it.

KEILAR: I mean, I disagree with you. I -- personally, I covered the Clinton campaign, I would be all over that. That would be a huge story. All of the banners that you see right here would be up on the television, as well.

COHEN: All right. So if there's any one person that's watching the show today that used to be with the Clinton campaign, please call in.

KEILAR: All right. Well, let me ask you about this. So you say -- you say it is not a shake-up but you guys are down.

COHEN: Says who?

KEILAR: The polls, most of them, all of them?

COHEN: Says who?

KEILAR: Polls. I just told you. I answered your question. COHEN: Which polls?

KEILAR: All of them.

COHEN: OK. And your question is?

KEILAR: OK. So my question is, I don't think it is really surprising when facing a challenge and trying to make a turnaround, that there would be some -- let's at least say some adjustments. OK? So I guess what my real question is here, that I did not get to get to, is what is the point of this? If you're calling it an expansion of winners, as you put it, working on the campaign, what is it about? To what end?

COHEN: Well, I think bringing on somebody like Kellyanne Conway was a great move and it was something, personally, I would have liked to have seen happen earlier, but the campaign wasn't ready for it. Now they are.

[17:10:10] I think she's a brilliant individual. I think that, you know, she understands the data coming in. Look, Hillary Clinton has got 13, I think, or 14 different pollsters that are working on creating her message. So when she talks about usage of a teleprompter by Donald Trump, she would have no clue without her script writers and her teleprompter. It's used in order to keep you on your message, very much like you guys do on the morning when you're on television. You use teleprompters because it keeps you on your message.

But these are Donald Trump's words. He's going to stay true to who he is, and he's going to end up -- in all fairness, he's going to end up winning this election in November, because people are seeing through the nonsense.

KEILAR: Does he -- does he not want to use the teleprompter? Is that something that we'll see change?

COHEN: I think in certain circumstances he probably won't use a teleprompter, but I would recommend to him, if he asked me, that I think a teleprompter is absolutely fine to use.

He's going to go off message, you know, from time to time, simply based upon the crowd that's there. He's incredibly warm with crowds, and he really knows how to speak to people, which is why he gets his 25 to 30,000, you know, attendees at all of his rallies.

I mean, they're not coming there simply because they have no place to go. They want to hear the man's message. He understand the problems of America, which is something that I do not believe Hillary Clinton understands.

KEILAR: So Steve Bannon -- I mean, I think we can agree, he's come on in a substantial role, and this is someone, you know, heading up Breitbart News. He's really made it a point to go after the Republican establishment. Paul Ryan, for instance, you have a lot of Republicans who say, "Look, Donald Trump is going to try to broaden his appeal. He's going to try to bring in some people in the more moderate region of the political spectrum. He sort of needs to work together with the Republican establishment, but this is someone who's gone against them. So what should people read into this about...

COHEN: I don't think people -- I don't think -- I don't think you or anybody...

KEILAR: Can I finish my question, Michael? What should people -- what should people -- look, I mean, I'm asking you to answer this question. What should people think about where this may change Donald Trump's relationship with the, quote unquote, "establishment GOP"?

COHEN: It's not going to change anything with Mr. Trump and his relationship to the establishment GOP. It's not going to change anything. He's brought on to fill a purpose, and that's it. He's not the campaign. He is one of many people that are part of the campaign. And, you know, it will be about messaging, and he comes with a very specific talent. He reaches a large segment of the country. You may not agree with his positions all of the time; you may not agree with his positions any time.

The bottom line is it was a decision that was made to bring him on for a specific purpose. He is not the end-all of the campaign. There are many people there that are advising Mr. Trump in terms of messaging, in terms of getting out the vote, and in terms of what is necessary to win the election. It is plain and simple.

KEILAR: I think this is a big day, certainly, when it comes to presidential politics, the day he receives his first national security intelligence briefing. That's a really big deal, and I think it really brings into what all of this is about and some of the responsibilities of being president.

He said this morning that he doesn't trust the current intelligence community. Why did he go for the briefing then, I guess? Or -- and how does he relate to them in the future? Because you can't exactly scrap the entire gigantic intelligence community wholesale and go a completely different way if you're president.

COHEN: And so what's your question?

KEILAR: OK, I asked you a two-parter. So one is why did he go for the briefing if he doesn't really believe what they say or he has a lot of questions about their honesty?

COHEN: OK, so I think he's smart to ask a lot of questions. Whatever it is that's going on right now, clearly, it's not working. The world is in a worse place than it was four years ago, eight years ago or 12 years ago. We are not seeing the advantages that some of the lieutenant generals that are on these shows are talking about. We are not making the great headway strides that they're trying to tell us.

So is he skeptical about some of the information? I guess he -- I guess he is, based upon his own words. But he has every reason. This is what a businessman would do in business. This is what he would do for America. He's skeptical about what is being given to him. And I think that that's a smart way to go. KEILAR: If he, I guess, makes good on what he said today, which is he

said the people who are your standards, so the kind of go-to intelligence folks in right now who deal with U.S. intelligence, he said he wouldn't be using them. But that's the second part of my question.

How does he approach that when he's president? Does he sort of scrap the system as a whole? How -- where does he find his council?

COHEN: I'm sure his military advisors will give him a plan that is for the benefit of America, the benefit of the American people in order to help to make America great again and, of course, to put America first. And I'm sure that they will provide him with all of those answers.

KEILAR: But...

COHEN: He will take those into consideration.

KEILAR: But that's different, Michael. That's -- that's the defense side of things. What about the intelligence side of things?

COHEN: Again, the same people will probably be advising him on the intelligence side.

KEILAR: OK, we have much more to talk about. Michael Cohen, if you can just hang tight with me, and we'll talk more after a quick break.

COHEN: You got it.


[17:20:31] KEILAR: We are following the dramatic shake-up inside of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, I will say a characterization his campaign does take issues with.

But this is less than three months before election day, and he has put a right-wing media executive in charge who sources say plans to unleash Trump while focusing on attacking Hillary Clinton.

We are back now with executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, Michael Cohen. Obviously knows Donald Trump very well, so we certainly appreciate you being on to continue this conversation, Michael.

Yesterday, we saw Donald Trump, and he was near Milwaukee, and this was really, I think, the first time in his campaign that he sort of specifically had a message for black voters. Why did it take him until this point? It's been some time.

COHEN: Right. It was just the time that it was decided by the campaign. I think you're reading, again, way too much into each and every thing. And I don't -- I don't think that there is anything specific. Eventually, he's going to talk about -- next will be Hispanic and what's needed in order to help that community, as well. It is certainly an issue. The African-American problem in this

country that they are unfortunately afflicted by, is very serious; and it needs to stop, and it needs to be corrected. This violence, the killings, the loss of life, the loss of opportunity, the inability to get a good education, because the tenure of teachers or the schools. I mean, you know, again, you know, it's just all a big problem, and it was the time that Mr. Trump decided to make that -- you know, that part of his speech.

KEILAR: You called it the African-American problem. So is that -- is that the sort of things that you just went through there, is that what you meant by that?

COHEN: No, what I'm saying is the problem that exists in the African- American community. It's things that I've been talking about with Pastor Daryl Scott, Pastor Mark Hurds and, you know, Omarosa, and the other 100-plus members of the Black Evangelical Coalition that exists in our National Diversity Coalition for Trump.

We've been talking about the same issues now for well over a year and actually going back to 2012, when I first met Pastor Scott. It was a conversation that took place between Pastor Scott and Mr. Trump even going back then. So the problem has just exacerbated. It certainly has not minimized. And yesterday was just the time that Mr. Trump felt it was necessary to put it out there.

KEILAR: But why then? Because at that point in time he's near the Milwaukee area that has seen a tremendous amount of upset over the weekend following the police-involved shooting and killing of an armed black man, and yet he goes to the suburbs in a county where the population is just 1.2 percent African-American.

Why does he choose that audience instead of choosing a different audience to say, "Look, I am -- I am speaking to concerns that your community has"?

COHEN: That -- that concern doesn't just exist if you go into the community. He will go into the community, and he will speak. It's not the last -- it wasn't the first and last time he's going to be speaking about this issue. It's just the first.

So whether you're speaking directly or you're speaking at this, as you guys call it, a white crowd, it's irrelevant. There are people that are watching it on the shows. There were -- it was covered from start to finish on all five major networks, plus cable, so millions of people, hopefully, got a chance to hear Mr. Trump's message.

You see, Mr. Trump doesn't see it the way you do, where you talk and you classify this is white, this is black, this is brown, this is yellow. Mr. Trump doesn't see a black America, white America, brown America. He sees the United States of America. And that's the difference between him and Hillary Clinton.

What she is, she's the divisive one. It's not him. He sees the United States of America, and all he wants to do is make sure that everybody, no matter what race, religion, creed and color you are, that you have every opportunity to -- you know, to enjoy the American dream. And that's his message. And that's why Mr. Trump is going to do substantially better than what the rest of you think he's going to do amongst the minority communities.

[17:25:08] KEILAR: Wouldn't he do better speaking to, for instance, the NAACP, which he chose not to speak to?

COHEN: Well, maybe, your opinion he would. Maybe he doesn't feel at the time that he was asked that it was the appropriate time. That's not to say that over the next 84 days that he won't address the NAACP or he won't address Hispanic coalitions. I'm sure he will, and he will pass along the same message that he cares about people. He cares about Americans. He doesn't care if you're black, you're white. He's color blind. See, the liberal disgusting media, all you want to do is paint the guy out to find the words that you go back to...

KEILAR: I'm not -- I'm not trying to paint him. That is not...

COHEN: ... a racist. That's exactly what's going on.

KEILAR: No, I just said it's not what I said. I did not say that. Here -- here's what I am asking.

COHEN: Look at the way that you phrase the question. It's wrong. And I'm telling you again, Donald Trump doesn't see color. He doesn't care. He wants to see every American.

KEILAR: OK, but let me ask -- I heard you say that, but let me ask you about this. When is a better time to try to broaden your message or even speak to a community that, when you're polling at 1 percent with African-Americans. Mitt Romney was at 6 percent, John McCain at 4. Those are not great numbers, but they were doing better than he was, even with a campaign that lost.

COHEN: Right. And my statement to you is I don't care about those poll numbers. I have some very deep relationships into the African- American community as an example. And trust me, he's doing a whole lot better than 1 percent.

And the same pundits that are giving you this answer are going to be surprised the same way they were when Donald Trump ran away with the nomination for the -- at the primaries. You're going to all be very surprised when he polls substantially higher than what any of you are giving him credit for.

KEILAR: And just a final question for you, because in your last appearance with CNN, you said as Mr. Trump's lawyer, you would not let him release his tax returns while he's under audit.

COHEN: And I stand by that statement. As Mr. Trump's special counsel...


COHEN: ... I will not allow him to release.

KEILAR: So why doesn't -- my question is why can't he just tell Americans the tax rate?

COHEN: Because then they'll ask him the next question. And it's my -- it's my opinion and my decision to guide Mr. Trump as I see correct and fit; and it's my statement to him that I will not allow him to release the tax return or any of the information on it until the audit is over.

KEILAR: So the -- so the next question might be how much did he donate to charity? I mean, why -- why is that a bad question? Isn't that something you would want to know about a candidate?

COHEN: I don't think it's a bad question, and I don't think what his tax rate is a bad question. And how much he earns is not a bad question. I'm just saying again, he's under audit, and I will not allow, as his counsel, I will not allow him to release the information or the tax return.

KEILAR: All right, Michael Cohen, thank you so much for taking the time.

COHEN: Thank you.

KEILAR: We do appreciate it.

Coming up, Hillary Clinton reacts to Donald Trump's campaign shake-up.


CLINTON: He can hire and fire anybody he wants from his campaign. They can make him read new words from a teleprompter, but he is still the same man.



KEILAR: We are following a major shake-up in Donald Trump's campaign after telling an interviewer that he doesn't want to pivot into a different mode for the general election.

[17:33:05] Let's get the insight of our experts. We have CNN political analyst and "Daily Beast" Washington bureau chief, Jackie Kucinich; our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson; CNN Politics executive editor Mark Preston; and our political reporter Sara Murray, live for us in front of Trump Tower, where she has been covering Donald Trump for the entirety.

And I want to talk to you guys -- to you first, Mark -- about this shake-up. Donald Trump hired Steve Bannon. Maybe some people say, "I don't know who that is." But this is the head of Breitbart News, and this is now going to be his new campaign CEO.

You have pollster and advisor Kellyanne Conway, who's been promoted to campaign manager. She's more of sort of a -- I don't want to say establishment, but someone who is well-established in political circles, for sure. Polling, the like. By hiring these people, Mark, what is the takeaway?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, let's detangle this a little bit, too. Because it is very interesting. It's not surprising when you see the presidential campaign shake things up. Whoever started out as the campaign manager gets the boot, is shown the door. We've seen that already, you know, with Corey Lewandowski on the Donald Trump campaign. He was asked to leave.

We also saw it in 2004, John Kerry did a -- did a change. He changed his campaign manager. John McCain did the same thing in 2008. So did Hillary Clinton. So it's not surprising.

What is surprising is that we've seen a change twice within just two months, 60 days, of Donald Trump trying to right the ship.

And to your point, too, the fact is, a lot of people don't know who Steven Bannon is or have any idea who he is, but he is very powerful. He understands the media, and he also understands how to be very provocative.

So I do think Donald Trump probably was getting very frustrated with what we were hearing about the direction of the campaign, and that he wasn't able to be himself. I don't think we're going to see Donald Trump all of a sudden just go out and attack Hillary Clinton at every moment he can do it. However, let's start looking at how his attacks are placed towards Hillary Clinton and that's where I think we will see the influence of Steve Bannon on this campaign.

[17:35:12] KEILAR: Sara, you have some great reporting on this, and really the thinking of Donald Trump and the Trump campaign when it comes to why this move.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there really was a sense from Donald Trump, like Mark was just saying, that he was frustrated by the direction of the campaign. He was frustrated with trying to be half of an establishment candidate, when there were so many Republicans in the establishment who didn't like him. And sort of half himself. And so he decided to try to take the reins back. Essentially, the logic there being, "Look, I want to run the campaign the way I want to run it." Trump still thinks he has a shot to win. "And if I lose at least I've run the kind of campaign that I set out to run."

I think there is a realization from Trump that he's never going to be the establishment darling. He's always going to be the outsider candidate, but he is surrounded by advisors who sort of wanted him to still have this establishment appeal.

KEILAR: This is a big deal, Nia and Jackie. You can't sort of overstate that, right? I mean, this is -- when you look at this, what does it tell you about the type of Donald Trump campaign that we are going to be seeing from here until November?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it tells us that the Donald Trump from the primary is going to be the Donald Trump that we see from now on. In many ways, this is the Donald Trump that we've seen him for the last two months or so, since he's clinched the nomination, and everyone had waited for his pivot, for Donald Trump 2.0, 3.0, 4.0. We see him give a big speech, and it's like, "Oh, is this going to be the new Donald Trump?"

But there never really has been. And I think establishment folks had always been waiting on that but have been, I think, disappointed. After -- after the convention, his fight with the Khans. Some of the things he said on the campaign trail. So I think, you know, he is who he thought the establishment was, to paraphrase Dennis Green.

KEILAR: It makes me wonder, Jackie, because I went back, and I was looking at the polls and sort of where they have been for Donald Trump. And you look right after the convention, he did get a spike, but it was low before, and it went and it sort of, like, sank right back down after that. He managed to get around the mid-40s, and now it's sort of around 40, 41. He's not -- he's really not, in any consistent way, been able to push that number up to where he really needs it to be. And it makes me think of an economic term, of the law of diminishing returns.

At what point does Donald Trump, or it seems like maybe he's thinking, no, there aren't going to be diminishing returns on his approach?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He never really wanted to not be the Donald Trump of the primary. And I think right now, the convention started a month ago. And a month later, unity is canceled in the Republican party. Donald Trump has made it very clear it's his way or the highway. He tried to pivot, but he never really pivoted. It was one -- as Nia said, it was one speech or another, and maybe, like, a day or an hour or two at the shortest.

But he really is, you know, going to be himself. He said that from the beginning. And every time they try to make him something else, it was sort of -- it looked sort of like a pit bull trying to learn to waltz. It just was awkward, and it didn't work. That's why the teleprompter thing has -- he's struggled with it, because he doesn't like it, and it's not him.

KEILAR: Does -- do you think he feels, from talking to people, that he did pivot? Or do you think he just feels like, "A pivot doesn't work for me. Why would I -- why would I try to be something I'm not"?

HENDERSON: I mean, in talking to folks who used to work for Donald Trump -- and there are a lot of people who used to be on the campaign and who are on the campaign -- the sense is that he always believed that the primary Trump is the -- is the person, and that strategy is the way to win. And he hasn't -- he wasn't proved wrong, right, in wanting to be the Donald Trump who is the Donald Trump?

So I think we'll have to see. Again, you see him trying to, you know, for instance, he's trying to reach out to African-American voters. That seems to be a nod to this idea that independent, swing voters, white voters are nervous about him, are nervous about some of the racialized rhetoric that's come from him. I think that's more of an appeal to those white suburban voters than actually African-American voters. So I think we'll see some of that in fits and starts. But by and

large, I think this is going to be a Breitbart-branded campaign, and it's going to be Donald Trump in the way we've seen him so far.

KEILAR: All right. Nia, Jackie, Mark, Sara, thank you.

And we're going to talk ahead about the Clinton campaign and issues with the Clinton Foundation. Something that we should be exploring. And we'll be talking about a new situation with the Clinton Foundation after a break.


[17:44:06] KEILAR: Hillary Clinton says it doesn't matter who Donald Trump hires or fires on his campaign team, because he won't change. However, a Clinton campaign official says they're expecting, quote, "more conspiracy theories and more wild accusations."

CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is covering the Clinton campaign. What else is Clinton saying about the shake-up?

SUZANNA MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, she is downplaying the shake-up, first of all, because she's citing a quote from the famous poet Maya Angelou, saying that a plot, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them."

This is her strategy for campaigning, to continue emphasizing that voters, no matter who he hires or who he fires, there is no new Donald Trump and that that man is not fit to be president.

At the same time, what is happening today is Clinton is now facing a new controversy over her role in the Clinton Foundation.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Hillary Clinton in the critical battleground state of Ohio today, touting her economic plan and taking aim at Donald Trump's repeated missteps.

[17:45:00] HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been saying that Donald Trump has shown us who he is, he can hire and fire anybody he wants from his campaign, but he is still the same man who insults Gold Star families, demeans women --

MALVEAUX: And pressuring Trump again to release his tax returns.

CLINTON: Of course we have no idea what tax rate he pays because unlike everybody else who's run for president in the last four or five decades, he refuses to release his tax returns.

MALVEAUX: But now new questions about the Clinton Foundation whether Hillary Clinton used her influence as secretary of state along with Bill Clinton to help a big donor who supported both their political campaigns as well as their foundation get a coveted land deal with the State Department. It was in 2011 when the State Department began searching for a new

location for its consulate in Lagos, Nigeria. Two years later a State Department e-mail reveals they're interested in purchasing property at Echo Atlantic owned by the Chagoury Group. Lebanese born businessmen brothers Ronald and Gilbert Chagoury. It is one of the number of sites the department was looking at.

Federal records show Gilbert Chagoury had donated up to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. It was in the mid '90s when President Bill Clinton rewarded Chagoury, a big Democratic donor, with a White House dinner and meetings with high-ranking officials. Later Bill Clinton visited the Echo Atlantic site twice, including just one month after Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state.

Weeks later the State Department sent this letter to the Chagoury firm, saying, "This letter acknowledges that the United States of America is potentially interested acquiring an interest in such real property pending further study."

The conservative advocacy group, Citizens United, suspecting undue influence, sued stating, "A month after Bill Clinton visits a Gilbert and Ronald Chagoury run land project tin Nigeria, the U.S. State Departments wants to buy the same land. Who could be so lucky? A major donor to the Clinton Foundation. That's who."

The State Department denies that there was any special consideration of the land deal.

ELIZABETH TRUDEAU, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: The Echo Atlantic site was identified, as I said, by an independent international real estate firm in 2012.

MALVEAUX: The land deal never went through, but an editorial "Boston Globe" Tuesday calls on Hillary Clinton to shut down the foundation if she becomes president saying, "The inherent conflict of interest was obvious when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009. If the Clinton Foundation continues to cash checks from foreign governments and other individuals seeking to ingratiate themselves with a President Hillary Clinton, it would be unacceptable."


MALVEAUX: Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon responded today saying that Citizens United is a right-wing group that's been attacking the Clintons since 1990s. Once again trying to make something out of nothing, that the draft letter was written after Hillary Clinton had already left the State Department, and it never led to any deal."

Now CNN also reached out to the Chagoury group for comment, Brianna, and so far we have not gotten a response.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It's interesting that reaction from the campaign. Motivation aside from whoever is pursuing this, it doesn't mean then that it's not a valid line of inquiry. MALVEAUX: It certainly doesn't mean that it's not a valid line of

inquiry. In fact it is a valid line of inquiry. This is not the first time that we've actually taken a look at the Chagoury Group and those brothers to see what kind of connection they have to the Clintons and what kind of influence.

KEILAR: Suzanne, thanks so much for that report.

Coming up, torrential rains add to already catastrophic flooding across Louisiana. The Red Cross now calls this the worst national disaster to hit the U.S. since Super Storm Sandy.


[17:53:16] KEILAR: Breaking news. Parts of Louisiana have been hit with another 2 1/2 feet of rain. This adds to already catastrophic flooding that has damaged some 40,000 homes. The floods are blamed for at least 12 deaths.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray is southeast of Baton Rouge, and what's the forecast here? This is really the question. Are we looking at more rain?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we're actually going to see a few spotty showers each and every afternoon which is typical during the summertime here in south Louisiana.

We're not going to see anything that's really going to worsen the flood. But of course, when you're trying to clean up, a lot of people have their belongings just out on their front lawn trying to dry them. The last thing you want is rainfall.

And the other thing, Brianna, is, look, I mean, this rain fell over the weekend. It's now Wednesday. And you still have neighborhoods completely underwater. There are some homes in the back of this neighborhood that still have three feet of water in them. And we actually have a drone just to our north and as it flies up, you can see the scope of all of this.

This water is receding very, very slowly. Of course, yesterday when we were in Livingston Parish, we saw some homes that had over 12 feet of water inside of them. So it takes a long time. And the unfortunate part is we were out on a boat earlier today with rescuers that were trying to get people to higher ground.

And they were telling us that yesterday some of these areas had no water but now because of all of that water with nowhere to go, it's trying to fill in the main rivers and then these smaller rivers just get filled up and all of that backwater just flows into these neighborhoods. Some places that had no water yesterday now completely under water. And so some of these people just had to gather what they could, get to higher ground.

Brianna, a lot of people in need here. A lot of people, tens of thousands will be displaced for a very, very long time.

KEILAR: It is just -- it is astronomical the size of this, tens and tens of thousands of homes.

[17:55:05] You can just imagine what that would be like in your community. It's really terrible. And we do appreciate the report.

Jennifer Gray, thank you.

And coming up, Donald Trump unleashed. Why he's unlikely to change in the final weeks of the campaign.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I am who I am. It's me. I don't want to change.



KEILAR: Happening now, unleashed. Donald Trump shakes up his campaign, hiring a political brawler who's expected to let Trump be Trump. Is the bare-knuckle 2016 race about to get even uglier?

Street fighter. We are digging deeper into the background of the right-wing media executive who's now running Trump's campaign. Will Steve Bannon live up to his billing as the most dangerous political operative in America.

Under scrutiny. More question tonight about --