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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Hillary Clinton Widens Electoral College Lead; Ryan Lochte Controversy; Trump Campaign Chairman Resigns; Trump Campaign Making A Lot Of Changes This Week; Trump: I Regret Sometimes Saying The Wrong Thing; California "Blue Cut" Fire Only 26 Percent Contained. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired August 19, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:10]

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Donald Trump says, regrets? I have had a few.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Still not a shakeup? Donald Trump's former campaign chairman is out, as the nominee takes a tone we have never heard before.

Plus, breaking news, key battleground states now going blue, a key race alert right here on THE LEAD, changing the state of the race.

And going for gold in the 100-meter mea culpa. Ryan Lochte speaking out for the first time since that Rio mugging that police say didn't happen.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

Well, Donald Trump has tried it before, but is this campaign reboot the real deal?

In the past 24 hours, Mr. Trump has accepted his campaign chairman's Paul Manafort's resignation, launched his first TV ad, made a presidential-style trip to tour Louisiana areas devastated by flooding, and perhaps most surprising for the first time he is sounding apologetic.

CNN correspondent Jessica Schneider in Dimondale, Michigan, where Trump will speak shortly.

So, Jessica, is this the general election pivot we keep hearing about?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Pamela, it certainly seems like a pivot, doesn't it?

But newly named campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told us earlier this week says this is exactly what people should expect, unique Donald Trump coupled with that pointed policy message. But for sure it is definitely a different tone over the past 24 hours.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Donald Trump touching down in Baton Rouge and criticizing the president for staying on vacation, the flooding the worst natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said he doesn't want to go and he's trying to get out of a golf game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard he was trying to stay under par while we're underwater.

TRUMP: He will never be under par.

SCHNEIDER: But Louisiana's governor, a Democrat, says he doesn't want the distraction of an Obama visit anyway.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: I would just as soon have those people engaged in the response rather than trying to secure the president.

SCHNEIDER: Donald Trump softening his tone after his latest campaign shakeup.

TRUMP: Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing.

I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.

SCHNEIDER: Trump never actually saying I'm sorry, but asking the electorate to consider a vote for him a vote for a shakeup of the system.

TRUMP: What do you have to lose by trying something new? I will fix it. Watch. I will fix it. You have nothing to lose, nothing to lose.

NARRATOR: In Hillary Clinton's America, the system stays rigged against Americans.

SCHNEIDER: Trump's first ads hit the air today. The campaign spending $4.8 million over the next 10 days for ads in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida.

NARRATOR: Donald Trump's America is secure, terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton's already on the attack. Campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeting: "In case you thought for a split-second Trump was genuine about feeling regret, he is back to demonizing immigrants again in his new ad today."

Trump's sharpened tone comes as a new team takes over and Paul Manafort resigns as campaign chairman. Sources telling CNN Manafort told Trump he was becoming a distraction and wanted to end it. Former right-hand man Corey Lewandowski says Trump is finally taking charge.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He did not like the direction where the campaign was going. The polling data in the key battleground states, he wasn't pleased with that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton's team sending out a sharp response to Paul Manafort's resignation, saying that it's an admission of the Trump team's ties to Russia and also adding some flowery language in there at the end, saying it is not the end of the odd bromance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin -- Pamela.

BROWN: Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for that.

And breaking news just in just minutes ago. After being criticized for remaining on vacation during the Louisiana flooding, President Obama will head to Baton Rouge. Louisiana's biggest paper called for the president to go, telling him to cut his vacation short, pleading with President Obama to not let the historic crisis go unattended.

Well, now he is going, we have learned, on Tuesday after his vacation wraps up. The White House said the president is eager to hear how the federal government can do more to help Louisiana residents in dire need right now.

[16:05:00]

And, meantime, while Donald Trump says he feels some form of contrition, Hillary Clinton's universe is collectively trying to prevent the same kind of ethical questions she is facing right now should she win the White House.

The Clinton Foundation revealing it will stop accepting foreign and corporate donations if Hillary Clinton beats Donald Trump in November.

CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns is in Washington.

And, Joe, a lot of Republican critics are asking, why wasn't the same rule in place when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, this is an acknowledgement that there needs to be a retooling if Mrs. Clinton is elected president.

Back in the day, there was supposed to be transparency and a firewall to prevent overlap between the State Department and the foundation. Now it is all under attack as inadequate by conservative groups and the Republican Party in general.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): Former President Bill Clinton trying to avoid the appearance of conflicts before his wife's presidential campaign his the homestretch, announcing he will resign from the board of the Clinton Foundation if the former secretary of state wins in November.

He has already stopped giving paid speeches and a spokesman says he will keep it that way if she is elected. And the foundation announcing it will no longer accept corporate or foreign donations.

The Clintons have amassed a whopping $155 million combined from paid speeches since leaving the White House in 2001.

TRUMP: The book "Clinton Cash" Peter Schweizer documents how Bill and Hillary used the State Department to enrich their family and America's -- at America's expense. She gets rich making you poor.

JOHNS: The foundation has come under scrutiny for its close contacts with the State Department while Hillary Clinton was secretary. The Clinton campaign flatly denies any pay-to-play allegations. In fact, the candidate has defended the foundation's work.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have so much that we're proud of. And I will put that up against any of the innuendo and accusation coming from Donald Trump.

JOHNS: But Republicans jumped on the new announcements. The RNC releasing a statement saying: "If everything was above-board while Hillary Clinton ran the State Department, as the Clintons have said, then why change a thing?"

Clinton today trying to steal Donald Trump's spotlight, who is visiting Louisiana. After calling the governor there, Clinton taking to Facebook to plead for help for the flooding victims, writing: "My heart breaks for Louisiana and right now the relief effort can't afford any distractions."

All this as new details are emerging on Mrs. Clinton's controversial e-mail server. "The New York Times" reporting that she told the FBI it was Colin Powell, her predecessor at the State Department, who advised her to use personal e-mail.

"The Times" cites an excerpt from Joe Conason's new book about Bill Clinton, saying that at a 2009 dinner party hosted by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recommended Clinton use her own e-mail, as he had done, except for classified communications, which he had sent and received via a State Department computer.

Today, Powell's office responding in a statement that he had no recollection of such a conversation, but did write Clinton a memo regarding his use of a personal AOL account, saying: "At the time, there was no equivalent system within the department. He used a secure State computer on his desk to manage classified information."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Of course, the difference between Powell and Mrs. Clinton's e- mail couldn't be more obvious. Powell served at a time when the use of e-mail was just reaching popularity and, more importantly, he never had his own private server -- Pamela.

BROWN: Joe Johns, thank you so much for that.

Well, key battleground states that are looking less and less like a fight. Our first look at what states are starting to turn blue on the electoral map after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:12:40]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROWN: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Breaking this hour, CNN has just put out a new electoral map. And it takes state-by-state snapshots of the presidential race. It rates them in a number of ways. There are the solidly Republican or Democratic states that are pretty much guaranteed to vote one way or the other.

And then there are those states that lean Republican or Democratic, but not a done deal for one candidate of a particular party. And then, of course, the battleground states, where the race is truly up for grabs.

So, what did our latest map find? Hillary Clinton has a dramatic edge, so dramatic that Donald Trump could win every battleground, and it still wouldn't be enough to keep Clinton out of the White House.

Let's bring in CNN political director David Chalian. He's in Washington to give us a lay of the land.

So, David, tell us what you have learned here on this map.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, since last month, as you know, Pam, lots of polls have been coming out in battleground states, critical battleground states, and they have almost all been in Hillary Clinton's direction. This is after her convention bounce and Donald Trump facing some controversial weeks.

So let's look at what the map looked like before today's changes. And you will see that there were about eight battleground states, true battleground states there. We took three of them and now made them lean Democratic, so New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the last two being pretty big electoral prizes.

You see there now in light blue they now lean Democrat. And that means if you total it all up, Hillary Clinton, her states that are solidly on her side or leaning her way add up to 273 electoral votes. That is more than the 270 you need to win.

We should caution, of course, this is just a snapshot of where the race looks right now. This is not a prediction of how it will come out on November 8. But it shows Donald Trump's mission is a tough one, because as you noted, he could end every battleground state that we have now and it still would not be enough. He needs to now start digging into territory that is leaning in Clinton's direction. BROWN: We know he spent a fair amount of time in Pennsylvania and

some of those other battleground states. Was there anything that surprised you with this new electoral map?

CHALIAN: Well, I think Virginia is one big surprise so far of where we're at, that Hillary Clinton's lead is so substantial there, that both her super PAC, the super PAC supporting her, has said they're going to come off the airwaves there in September.

We saw a "Washington Post" poll out just a few days ago that showed her 14 points up there. And, indeed, it is not a state where Donald Trump is advertising in his initial buy that started today. So that I think is one big surprise because, you know, just until Barack Obama flipped Virginia from Republican to Democrats in 2008, it had not been on the Democratic side since 1964.

So the fact that that it is so much in her direction, that is a trouble sign for Donald Trump. He has to reach into that kind of territory, territory that has recently been with Republicans or maybe Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton having success there, he is going to need to woo them back to his side.

BROWN: All right, David Chalian, thank you so much for that. To see more of the battleground map and to get other insights into the presidential, pull out your smart phone, go to the app store, and download the CNN politics app.

Now let's bring in our political panel to dig in today's news, "New York Times" presidential campaign correspondent, Maggie Haberman, former South Carolina state representative, Bakari Sellers, and Donald Trump campaign co-chair, Joseph Borelli. They all joins us here onset. Thank you so much for being here.

Maggie, I want to start with you just on the heels of what we heard from David Chalian. How can Donald Trump change some of those blue states and win in the fall. We have what, 81 days to go.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a daunting task, right. I mean, he just started going on air with ads today. He is only going air in four states. They had initially broadcast five. They are underfunded compared to Hillary Clinton and his negatives are worse than her.

She does have high negatives and that is something that gives Republicans some hope. But he is starting from a position that is toward the back. He is operating a campaign that assumes so far anyway that all of the traditional tools of political campaigns and presidential races that we have seen before don't really matter.

He needs to present a vision of himself that is not just sort of undoing his negatives. I mean, that is the chief among them, he has to bring his negatives down. He has to present a vision of the country that focuses on what people are voting on.

So today's ad was about immigration, which is an issue he cares about, but that is not the top issue that general election voters vote on. And so until he can sort of get towards that, it's going to be a struggle.

BROWN: And of course, there is new leadership in his campaign. So there is this editorial from "Washington Post" basically warning Democrats to not get complacent despite the sinking poll numbers. He basically said that she will be on the other foot if Democrats don't heed the warning signs I've noticed in the past few days.

Of course, talking about Trump's new discipline, his focus on law and order issues, and the outreach he made to African-Americans earlier this week. So Bakari, do you think this could become a closer race that what we're seeing right now?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it has every possibility of becoming a closer race. I think I will tighten up. But I do think that is why Democrats, Hillary Clinton, all of the guys and people in Brooklyn have to make sure that they go after every single vote.

What was even more telling about the map that David showed was that not only was Hillary Clinton having those advantages in the states that lean Democratic, even the swing states that were up.

You saw that Ohio was up. Nevada was up. Florida was up. She is still leading in those states as well. She's not leading by enough to actually move them from one category to another, but she's leading there as well.

The advantage that Hillary Clinton has over Donald Trump is that Donald Trump has placed a ceiling on where he can grow. Donald Trump in the 430 days since he's been running for president of the United States has not shown that he could expand his base.

He is not bringing in white college educated women. He is not bringing in Hispanics. He is not bringing in African-Americans, and so it is very, very difficult for him to win in a lot of these swing states because as we all know the country is becoming browner. What is not becoming browner is the messaging of Donald Trump.

BROWN: But we're also seeing a new Donald Trump in terms of him coming out and sounding apologetic. Joe, on that note, the Clinton campaign quickly came back and said look, that is hollow. He didn't even apologize for specific comments he made. What specifically was Donald Trump referring to in terms of what he was sorry for?

JOSEPH BORELLI, CO-CHAIR, DONALD TRUMP NEW YORK CAMPAIGN: Look, Hillary Clinton has some nerve lecturing anyone on apologizing and fessing up for things that have been wrong given her record.

Look, specifically, he said a lot of things that probably have angered something, and he said some harsh words. But look, the fact that he came out there and acknowledged this and said he regrets it, place him in direct contrast with Hillary Clinton on this issue.

She is someone whose main negative is that she's untrustworthy. We see sort of the circle of scandals around her. Instead of addressing them head on, like what they've tried to do today with the foundation, she has always failed to just simply say a few keywords like we were wrong, I'm sorry, I did this, and move on. This new tone, this sort of --

BROWN: But many people can say that about Donald Trump. It took him this long in the campaign to say I'm sorry, and people say Hillary Clinton took awhile --

SELLERS: That actually is not accurate. In fact, Hillary Clinton has said --

BROWN: Right. Initially it took a while to say --

SELLERS: That's a bit of the irony and here I am about to do what Donald Trump does so often, but Hillary Clinton has said, you know, I apologize. I made mistake for my e-mail, the private server, I shouldn't have done that. I apologize. She said it a thousand times. The media keeps asking her, you know, what are you going to apologize --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Initially she didn't apologize so to be fair -- go ahead, Maggie, I know you've been covering this.

HABERMAN: She didn't for several months and then she finally -- that's not why either, but she finally she did say -- she finally did sort of address it. Initially, there was a huge refusal to even focus on it and then eventually --

BROWN: Let me just quickly ask this because there was a big development today in Trump (inaudible) with Paul Manafort leaving the campaign. You have Paul Manafort leaving. Corey Lewandowski was fired. These are two of Trump's top people in his campaign yet Trump has touted all along that he has the ability to bring in the best and the brightest people. How can he have that ability if these two people, you know, are basically --

BORELLI: The resignation notice that Donald Trump put out today sort of speaks to itself. It says, look, Paul Manafort resigned. We're moving forward. We're going forward and that is it.

You already saw today, though, some shift in the campaign all week really. I mean, with this wonderful speech he had on Monday and Tuesday, law enforcement issues, talking about terrorism.

Then you have a great speech last night, really changing his own persona, his own tone, and how he's addressing things. So you see the change that already happened. I mean, it's just kind of pro forma that I guess Paul Manafort finally left.

BROWN: The question is how long will he be able to keep this change up, Maggie? What do you think 81 days to go?

HABERMAN: So we reported earlier this week that Roger Ailes had begun quietly advising Donald Trump. He was a part of these meetings that took place that were in response to a story that my colleague, Alex Burns and I wrote over the weekend. He has urged a bunch of changes. You're seeing a lot of that this week.

What you saw from Donald Trump this week -- and it is ironic. It is more like a traditional candidate. He might have much of the same messaging, but the way he is presenting has been very different.

So for all of the focus on Stephen Bannon coming in who is, you know, a notorious flame thrower. Kellyanne Conway, who is also elevated is not like that. There has been a lot of focus on sort of doing the traditional normal things that a presidential candidate would do.

Going to Louisiana which is flood ravaged and touring and looking sort of leaderly, these are all of the kinds of things he didn't do for a long time and favored sort of rallies. Whether that is going to be enough at this point or whether he can sustain it is another question.

BROWN: And now we are hearing President Obama will be touring Louisiana. Some say this is a win for Trump after Trump criticized him and so we'll be keeping an eye on that trip.

Bakari Sellers, I know you want to say more, but we have to go unfortunately. Thank you guys, really appreciate it. Coming up right here on THE LEAD, Ryan Lochte breaking his silence about the international incident that started at a gas station in Rio. Is his apology enough?

Then flames in California leveling everything in its path. Paul Vercammen is in San Bernardino County, California -- Paul.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We now have much more concrete numbers on how many structures were burned including this iconic landmark along old Route 66. We'll have that in just a few moments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:32]

BROWN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper today. In our National Lead, close to 10,000 firefighters battling fires across California right now. Nearly 58 square miles have been overtaken by just one fire, the rapidly spreading blue cut fire that began just this Tuesday. Authorities say the fire is now only 26 percent contained, but that is an improvement from just 4 percent yesterday morning.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is in San Bernardino County for us. So Paul, this wild fire has left a trail of devastation in its wake. Do we have any idea of how many homes have been destroyed?

VERCAMMEN: We do, Pam, a much more firm number on the structures and homes. Let's start with the structures, 213, that could be everything from a barn to a shed to this. The iconic summit in at the top of Cajon Pass. This was a stop along Route 66. A nostalgic stop.

People liked to come in and have an ostrich burger or a piece of pie. Now let's talk about the homes. The manager of the Summit Inn lives right over there. That's one of the houses that burned in this fire along with her husband.

There was 96 homes burned in the blue cut fire so clearly a lot of devastation. For a while they could not get the assessment teams in to figure out what was burned because it was absolutely too difficult to battle the blaze and do the assessment at the very same time -- Pam.

BROWN: And Paul, you know, this fire quickly ignited just on Tuesday. Veteran firefighters have called the fire unprecedented. How are they handling the terrain there?

VERCAMMEN: Well, as you can tell, we're at the top of this pass and it just spread so quickly. They had to go to the air. We saw a full pledged aerial assault. In fact, much of it playing out during THE LEAD when we were live yesterday.

One of the techniques they used was they call it in firefighting terms painting the hillside in which air tankers dropped so much of the purple retardant. It worked dramatically well.

Because they sealed off the most active plank of the fire yesterday right where they dropped all of this retardant. So it was a brilliant aerial assault with both the firefighting tankers and the helicopters, which were dropping water and that worked.

And the containment number, by the way, at 26 percent will no doubt go up again when they have a chance to compare notes and figure out just what they got to and what they got at today -- Pam.