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Trump Calls on Supporters to Watch Voting Places; Trump Reaches Out to Minority Voters; Obama Heads to Flood-Ravaged Louisiana Following Trump Criticism; Melania Trump Fights Back on "Untrue" Things on Modeling Agency. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 23, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:34:21] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: 77 days to go until Election Day. New claims from Donald Trump that the race is rigged, and new calls for his supporters to watch voting places on Election Day.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: You've got to get every one of your friends. You've got to get every one of your family, you've got to get everybody to go out and watch and go out and vote. When I say watch, you know what I'm talking about, right?


BERMAN: I want to bring back our panel. Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany is back; and Hillary Clinton supporter, Edward Espinosa, executive director of Progress Texas. CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times," Alex Burns, is with us. And Doug Heye is back as well.

Edward, you're the new guy, so let me start with you.

When Donald Trump says, when I say watch, you know what I'm talking about. What do you think he's talking about?

[11:35:16] EDWARD ESPINOSA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROGRESS TEXAS: Well, I'm not sure I ever know what Donald Trump is talking about. I'm not even sure if some of his followers do. When he's talking about rigged elections, let's look at what the landscape is like. States like Ohio, Florida, Nevada, they all have Republican governors. They all have Republican legislators. Who are his voters worried about running the elections in those states? Aside from the fact that there's no rigging going on, it would take something like tens of thousands of polling places to have to be rigged for this to alter an election. He doesn't know what he's talking about. I'm not even sure he understands how this process works.

BERMAN: Kayleigh, do you know what he's talking about?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. There are documented cases of voting fraud in the country. It doesn't take tens of thousands of polling places. Back in Florida in 2000 --


BERMAN: Was it rigged?

MCENANY: No, I don't think it was rigged. I'm making the point these elections are closed. There are documentations of dead people voting in L.A. He's encouraging people to be vigilant. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

BERMAN: There are people that see a racial element. He's saying look at Philadelphia, saying where people have claimed there were voters issues before, Alex. He's saying go out and watch there. Is that part of the overtone?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No question about it. Specifically the Pennsylvania speech, you're talking about where he said in certain parts of the state this is something that happens. That is not even a coded message. His supporters do know what he's talking about. I think it's from a political standpoint an odd message to be delivering at this point in the campaign when it is not a particularly close race. If it was neck and neck, and Trump was trying to firing up supporter supporters, that would be one thing. In a situation where you're trailing in national and state polls by sizable margins, it would be tough to walk out of an election losing five or 10 points, and you say it was rigged. I know other Republicans are concerned about this. You risk discouraging people from voting if you start delivering the message two and a half months out that it's rigged anyway.

BERMAN: Doug, I want to shift to the issue of race. You are a veteran of the Republican autopsy, as it were, which after the 2012 election, said the Republicans need to do a better job or a more concerted effort in outreach to minority voters. We've heard it now for a few nights, let's listen.


TRUMP: It is a disaster the way African-Americans are living in many cases, and in many cases the way Hispanics are living. I say it with such a deep-felt feeling. What do you have to lose? I will straighten it out. I'll bring jobs back. We'll bring spirit back. We'll get rid of the crime. You'll be able to walk down the street without getting shot.


BERMAN: Now, when the Republican autopsy in 2012 called for outreach, Doug, is this, Donald Trump is talking about minority issues there. Is this the way you want it done?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. In fact, it was not just about outreach. It was also about talking to those voters and how you talk to them, with tone being massively important. Donald Trump will say on one day I'm going to get 95 percent of the African-American vote in 20, and then uses this rhetoric. This matters electorally. I'm from North Carolina as I've probably

said a dozen times with you, John. North Carolina has a high percentage of African-American voters. They're organized. They were organized for Barack Obama certainly in 2008 and 2012. 11 historically black colleges will also be turnout machines for Hillary Clinton. Rhetoric like this only plays into Clinton's hands.

And when you talk about poll watching -- I've done poll watching in states throughout the country. Most of what that is isn't about voter fraud or anything like that. It's about seeing who has voted so you can send the call lists back to the county or precinct headquarters and make phone calls to get people at the polls at the last minute. This is how you rig an election. You don't have the kind of apparatus necessary to do that.

I received an e-mail from the Donald Trump campaign today that listed me as a big-league Donald Trump supporter, which I don't know how they made that mistake. More importantly, it said they have 77 days to build the national organization that will move grassroots efforts for the Trump campaign. 77 days is not enough. They won't be able to do it. You can have people watching the polls, but how do you then have those phone calls made in county and local headquarters to get those voters out? Donald Trump does not have that.

[[11:40:03] BERMAN: Ed, what Donald Trump is saying, albeit in language that Doug doesn't approve of and other Democrats -- Doug is not a Democrat -- but he is talking about issues he thinks are important to minority communities here. Republican talking about minority issues. Do you see that as something that could be helpful to them?

ESPINOSA: In general, yes. Specifically in this case, no. Because the problem is that Donald Trump may be the worst validater on these issues for the Republican Party, for any entity in a generation. This guy goes out and says, what have you got to lose by voting for me, after months of beating up on the Latino community, after kicking African-Americans out of his rallies. He has no relationship with these communities. When people - when he says, what have you got to lose, the answer in the minds of these voters is probably quite a bit.

BERMAN: Kayleigh, you want to get in on the last word?

MCENANY: I do. He's advocating for changing the status quo. The Democratic Party has failed the African-American community. Take it from Tavis Smiley, Cornell West, people in the black community who have said this about President Barack Obama. Donald Trump has done a fantastic job. We focus on the one statement he made, but the other 90 percent of his speech was not what do you have to lose, but what do you have to gain? With me you have school choice to gain. With me, I'm going to bring trade jobs back here, bring $2 trillion abroad and give it to African-American business owners. He mentioned this in all his speech. I understand Democrats wanting to focus on one comment.


HEYE: I agree with you. Focus on those issues all day long. That would help Trump and other Republicans who want to talk about real issues.

BERMAN: Alex, in 15 seconds or less, do you think the target is minority voters here?

BURNS: I think the target is to make Trump seem like a somewhat more mainstream candidate. Trump himself may believe he can win black votes, may be able to win Hispanic votes. I think strategist around him in the Republican Party in general would be satisfied if he made himself a little less radioactive with suburban mainstream white voters.

BERMAN: Guys, thanks so much.


BERMAN: The potential next first lady of the United States is threatening to sue several news outlets. The reason? You may want to get the ear muffs ready for any kids that may be around.

Plus, after a flurry of criticism for not cutting his vacation short, President Obama on his way to flood-ravaged Baton Rouge. We're live in Louisiana.


[11:46:47] BERMAN: President Obama is on his way to Louisiana to see the damage caused by historic rains and flooding in and around Baton Rouge. Some say this visit, though, is coming too late. Donald Trump and others have criticized the president for not cutting a family vacation short to go to Baton Rouge sooner.

CNN's Nick Valencia is there in advance of the president's visit.

Nick, what do you see?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. It has been a miserable last ten days for the residents in and around Baton Rouge. It was 10 days ago that major rain that caused flooding in and around the area. The list of numbers is staggering. 60,000 homes have been affected. 3,000 people still without water. Communities waterlogged with three, five, seven feet of water.

We got a sense of how bad it was by walking down this block here in Livingston Parish which is, no doubt about it, the hardest hit area here because of the flooding.

Here we met Todd Mitchell, who has lived on this block for 32 years, been through hurricanes, severe weather. He says nothing has been this bad. In his home he had up to seven feet of water, lost a lot of prized possessions. The most heartbreaking to him was a family Bible that has been in the family since the early 1800s. He says it's unsalvageable, much like many of the possessions inside his home.

We talked to him little bit about President Obama's visit and whether he is also critical as a local newspaper has been that President Obama didn't excuse himself from his vacation last week to visit victims here. He said he didn't want to get into politics. But he said he was thankful for the GOP nominee, Donald Trump, coming here over the weekend, putting a spotlight on the resources needed in this community.

The focus though is not about politics among the residents. It is on the recovery and the cleanup effort. That effort will take months and months to complete -- John?

BERMAN: Nick Valencia for us. CNN will cover when the president does get there to Louisiana.

Thanks so much, Nick.

Melania Trump, the potential next first lady of the United States, now fighting back. This, after several news outlets reported some scurrilous, scandalous, and she says, outright false things about her former modeling firm.


[11:53:21] BERMAN: Donald Trump said this morning that the media pile-on against him is the worse in history. Now his wife is taking legal action. Melania Trump is threatening to sue at least 10 outlets for defamation. A lawyer for Mrs. Trump says he sent notices to "Politico," the U.K.'s "Daily Mail," and several other news organizations for false and inflammatory statements. This is connected to a story that claimed a modeling agency that represented her also operated as an escort service. The lawyer also says "Politico" also received notice about its reporting on Melania Trump's immigration history.

Joining us to discuss is CNN senior report for media and politics, Dylan Byers.

Dylan, explain exactly what is going on here.

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORT FOR MEDIA & POLITICS: Sure. It is a complicated story. And I want to be very clear, as of now, Melania Trump is putting these news organizations on notice. There is no actual lawsuit so far.

But what she has done, and done through her lawyers, is put 10 news organizations on notice, "Daily Mail," "Politico," "The Week" and digital news sites not as known to our viewers, for defamation, saying it cause personal damage to Melania Trump. We've spoken with the lawyer, we tried to hammer which news organization organizations received which complaints. For the vast majority of news organizations, it has to do with the insinuation based off of gossip in a Slovenian magazine that a modeling agency Melania worked for also operated as an escort service. We don't know that to be true, but that was reported by "The Daily Mail" last week and picked up by a number of other news outlets.

Separately, there is also reporting on her immigration history which Melania and her lawyers take issue with. That was the nature of the complaint against "Politico." Two news organizations have issued retractions. The others haven't. Many of these news organizations are reviewing their reporting to see how they're going to proceed.

But again, I want to stress, this is not a lawsuit. It's more of a threat to the news organizations saying, take this down, issue a correction, or else.

[11:55:31] BERMAN: On some cases, she did get action on this non- suit this morning, yes?

BYERS: Yeah, that's absolutely right. Like we said, some of the smaller digital news organizations immediately issued retractions and full-throated apologies. These were tweeted out by Donald Trump. Now whether they can get the bigger news organizations, like "Politico," "The Daily Mail," "The Week," to do so, that remains to be seen.

BERMAN: Dylan Byers, great to have you with us. Thanks for being with us. BYERS: Thanks.

BERMAN: Any moment, President Obama touches down in flood-ravaged Louisiana. He will look at the damage there. This is after he did receive criticism for not getting there sooner. We're live in Baton Rouge, coming up.