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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

NFL Player Stirs Controversy; Anthony Weiner Sexting Scandal; Trump's Immigration Plan?; New Poll: Clinton Leading Trump by 7 Percent; War on ISIS: Turkish-Backed Syrian Rebels Retake Town from ISIS. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 29, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:23]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A brand-new poll shows that if you don't like either major party presidential candidate you're, far from alone. But it if you like them both, well, you might be the only one in the world.

THE LEAD starts right now.

So, what is the plan? With just 70 days until Election Day, Donald Trump supporters and biggest defenders waiting to see what, if anything, has changed in his tough-talking immigration policy.

Adios, Carlos Danger. It took more straw than exists in all of Kansas to break this camel's back. But, apparently, it broke. Top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin announced today she is finally leaving Anthony Weiner after yet another sexting scandal, this one even more disturbing than previous ones. Donald Trump today suggesting this is a potential national security issue.

Plus, take standing by taking a seat, 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to ignore the national anthem in protest -- what one Gold Star mother of an American hero thinks of that decision.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Today, a national poll from Monmouth University found something unprecedented in recent presidential politics. One-third of you voters out there don't like either major party presidential candidate. The poll also found virtually no voters who had favorable opinions about both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, which leaves the presidential debates as the biggest opportunity for either candidate to win over new supporters.

Donald Trump meeting with advisers as he prepares for that first debate next month. But he is also still hammering out some key aspects of his trademark policy proposal on illegal immigration.

Now, at a Republican debate last November, you might remember when Mr. Trump's plan to report all 11 million estimated undocumented immigrants was called a silly argument, a non-adult argument. Trump's response was -- quote -- "We have no choice. We have no choice."

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins me now.

And Jim, it sounds in fact that Mr. Trump now thinks we have a close.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that's right, Jake.

And I'm told we will be learning more about Donald Trump's immigration plan when he lays out policy on this issue later this week. He has that speech on Wednesday in Phoenix. And a senior Trump adviser says, yes, the GOP's nominee determination to build a wall on the southern border is as firm as ever. What to do about the undocumented, though, that is another matter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Donald Trump may be signaling his latest shift on immigration, moving toward the idea prioritizing deportation to target criminals and away from removing all undocumented right away.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All the media wants to talk about is the 11 million people or more or less that are here illegally. On day one, I'm going to begin swiftly removing criminal illegal immigrants from this country.

ACOSTA: In what may be major departure from his controversial call for a deportation force that Trump issued during the primaries, a senior campaign adviser said the GOP nominee will announce in a speech later this week that he will secure the border first and suggests that the conversation on what to do the millions of undocumented should come -- quote -- "years from now."

As for Trump's proposal to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border?

TRUMP: We are going to build a great wall on the border.

ACOSTA: The adviser said, don't bet on any cracks, adding, "It will be an impenetrable physical barrier." That is consistent with the candidate's promises just in the last week.

TRUMP: It's going to be as beautiful as a wall can be.

We will build the wall 100 percent and Mexico will be paying for the wall.

ACOSTA: In an interview on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, told Jake Tapper the policy is a work in progress, but insisted there will be no path to legalization in Trump's plan.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He will stand on the principles that have underpinned his commitment to end illegal immigration in this country.

NARRATOR: In Hillary Clinton's America, the middle class gets crushed.

ACOSTA: Still trailing Hillary Clinton if the polls, Trump is revving his spending on new ads aimed at winning back middle-class voters.

NARRATOR: In Donald Trump's America, working families get tax release, millions of new jobs created, wages go up, small businesses thrive, the American dream achievable.

ACOSTA: But Trump is still capable of stepping on own message. Take his tweets on the killing of relative of pro basketball star Dwyane Wade. Over the weekend, Trump saw the crime as vindication of his outreach to minorities, tweeting: "Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will vote Trump."

Hours later, he tweeted his condolences to Wade and his family.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think you have to look at both tweets, where he expresses his condolences. And he says -- and he reminds everybody he's been trying to make the case that the increase in random crime and senseless murders, the poverty, the joblessness, the homelessness in some of our major cities is unacceptable to all of us.

[16:05:11]

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: The Trump campaign will continue to reach out to minority voters with the speech scheduled for Detroit this weekend.

And the campaign is confident Trump's immigration speech will settle any jitters among his supporters. A top adviser says the address will reflect what he calls the consensus of conservatives nationwide.

Jake, after all the confusion over the last couple of weeks on this issue, that's what they need at this point.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

And for the second time this election cycle, I will warn parents that you might want to mute for a minute or so, since this politics next story, I'm talking slow so you can mute it, involves yet another man in the public eye who is proud of his crotch, and expressing so in a very public way.

Hillary Clinton's campaign today facing a new and disturbing distraction involving her top aide. Today, Huma Abedin said she is separating from her husband, former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner, this after screen shots of him sexting splashed all over today's "New York Post."

One in particular shows Weiner in bed in his underwear, his man parts visible, with, disturbingly, the couple's young child sleeping by his side.

Now, these are the same types of photos, minus the child, that sank Weiner's career in Congress, potentially hurt his chances of becoming New York mayor, and now, of course, divert the Clinton campaign as it fields questions about Clinton's top aide. CNN's Miguel Marquez joins me now live in New York.

Miguel, whether or not someone can be easily blackmailed is not something that national security officials take lightly and it's possibly relevant here.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well that is part of the problem. And that is certainly what Donald Trump is saying here.

Look, if you have security clearance or you are applying for security clearance, being blackmailed is a big concern. There is not any indication that it happened here. But now we have another serial sexting scandal from Anthony Weiner taking a front-row seat in presidential politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Weiner caught in yet another sexting scandal.

The disgraced congressman, husband to longtime and powerful Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin, humiliated once again, this time on the front page of "The New York Post."

And this time, it's not just a lurid photo of Weiner on the front page. The selfie he sent to a woman not his wife shows him in his underwear, this time with his child beside him.

"The Post" reporting the picture was sent by a 40-something divorcee out West in the midst of a sexual conversation, with the caption, "Someone just climbed into my bed." According to "The Post," Weiner and the woman exchanged messages going back to January of last year.

The disturbing image seized upon by Donald Trump, who used it to continue questioning Hillary Clinton's judgment, saying: "I only worry for the country, in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told. It's just another example of Hillary Clinton's bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this."

For some, the story about the husband of the current vice chair of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and previously her chief of staff at the State Department is a potential question of national security, for others, just a cheap tabloid story.

But for Huma Abedin, it was apparently the last straw. In a statement, Abedin said: "I have made the decision to separate from my husband. Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life." She also asked for privacy.

In 2013, during a comeback effort as he ran for mayor, Weiner was caught for a second time sexting with women under the alias Carlos Danger. Abedin defended him before the cameras.

HUMA ABEDIN, WIFE OF ANTHONY WEINER: So, really, what I want to say is, I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as we said from the beginning, we are moving forward.

MARQUEZ: But, today, separated, their marriage dissolving, even before the public announcement, a close friend telling CNN that the couple has been separated for months and recently she hadn't even been wearing her wedding ring.

Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after accidentally tweeting to the entire world a sexually explicit photo intended to be a direct message to a 21-year-old woman. After days of denials and mounting pressure to resign, he finally fessed up.

ANTHONY WEINER (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: To be clear, the picture was of me and I sent it.

MARQUEZ: This morning, after another humiliating round of sexting went public, Weiner finally deleted his Twitter account.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, as hard as it is to believe this appears to have happened again, we have reached out obviously to Anthony Weiner himself. He has not gotten back to anybody at CNN, as far as we know.

He did speak a little bit to "The New York Post" when they were working on this story, saying that he had this relationship with this woman for some time. He considered their conversations private, also said that nothing was inappropriate.

[16:10:12]

So, that may be a question, a to whether or not he knows the line of appropriateness. We haven't heard anything so far from the Clinton campaign responding to Mr. Trump's statement -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Miguel Marquez in New York, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN's Jeff Zeleny, who is live in the Hamptons in New York, where Hillary Clinton is fund-raising today.

Jeff, you are learning more about the more recent relationship between Abedin and Weiner.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I am, Jake.

I'm told by friends close to this couple that they indeed had been heading apart, that for the last several months or so they were essentially estranged.

But Huma Abedin, I'm told, did not know anything about this specific photograph until this weekend. She learned about it this weekend, presumably after "The New York Post" was seeking comment on this.

In fact, Anthony Weiner was here in the Hamptons spending some time as the end of summer approaches here during this big Clinton fund-raising swing. He left abruptly after this was discovered and he went back into the city here, Jake. But we have not seen from Huma Abedin at all. She was at Hillary

Clinton's side yesterday as she went from fund-raising event to fund- raising event. She has not been seen today at her fund-raising events. This is certainly a difficult personal situation for her.

And, Jake, there is no one closer inside the campaign to Hillary Clinton than Huma Abedin. So, you can be sure this is a distraction internally as well.

TAPPER: And, Jeff, what was her reaction, if you know, to that disturbing photograph that had their child in it?

ZELENY: It was described to me as furious and sickened. Those are the exact words that were described to me by people familiar with her reaction to this, Jake, that she, of course, knows what her husband has done over these last five years and more, but involving their son, Jordan, a 5-year-old, I'm told she was furious and sickened -- Jake.

TAPPER: Well, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

The question, of course, how much will all of this have on the campaign, if anything, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:35] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

A new national poll of likely voters from Monmouth University shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 7 points. Neither of them over 50 percent, significantly.

More on all of this, I'm joined by our political panel, Donald Trump national spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, senior writer at "The Federalist", Mary Katharine Ham, and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.

So, OK, let me just get this out of the way. Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner, whom announcing separation officially after this photograph which disturbingly included a picture of their son with him in this sexting picture. That presence of the kid makes it more troubling than -- and not funny.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. No. We have gone a step further from like compulsive sexual behavior to disturbing sexual behavior. Look, I -- my heart is with this child for one and this like family situation that's blowing up.

I also think when it comes to the political part of this, I think there is a very good argument to be made that Huma and Hillary are a danger to national security without Carlos Danger at all. And I would stick with that. But I think Donald Trump preference will probably bring this up a couple times.

TAPPER: Well, let's get to you, Katrina, to talk about this, because Mr. Donald Trump using the scandal to question Hillary Clinton's judgment, saying that Weiner might have learned classified information through his wife. There's no actual evidence we have that he has learned anything classified.

KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN NATIONAL SPOKESWOMAN: Well, no, which is exactly why he asked the question. I mean, Huma Abedin is one of the individuals that played a dual role at the State Department, at the Clinton Foundation. And we all know now that classified information was recklessly and carelessly handled. And he just asked the question. Who knows what he learn end who he told if he did learn something.

TAPPER: And, Steve, what do you think? Is this a vulnerability for Secretary Clinton when it comes to her judgment, when it comes to national security?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It has nothing to do with her judgment. You can question Huma's judgment in staying for the third time, but, you now, this couple that was growing apart. It was a personal tragedy. She was staying together for the sake of her child and it's just an untenable situation right now.

TAPPER: Do you think it's going to have any affect on the polls, on her campaign?

MCMAHON: I don't think it's going to have any effect at all. It's not -- Huma Abedin is an aide to Secretary Clinton. She's not a central figure in the campaign in the sense that her judgment and her choices in her personal life are going to affect the country.

TAPPER: Katrina --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Go ahead, Mary Katharine.

HAM: There was never a clearer case for delete your account. Now, we have it.

TAPPER: Katrina, let me ask you, "BuzzFeed" obtained a recording of a robocall from former Klan leader David Duke who's running for Senate in Louisiana. Let's play a quick clip of that.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DAVID DUKE, U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Unless massive immigration is stopped now, we'll be outnumbered and outvoted in our own nation. It's happening. It's time to stand up and vote for Donald Trump for president and vote for me, David Duke, for the U.S. Senate.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: Does that bother the Trump campaign to have David Duke saying, vote for Trump and vote for me?

PIERSON: Well, it's absolutely disturbing. The Trump campaign has no knowledge of the campaign that David Duke is running and we have disavowed David Duke and don't condone any activity that he is doing.

TAPPER: What do you think, Mary Katharine? Do you think they need to tell them to take it down?

HAM: Yes, I think in past, it has taken longer for Donald Trump to repudiate the likes of David Duke than I would have liked. I'm glad to hear this now. I think being as active as possible in this front is great. There is this part where Donald Trump has to take responsibility for -- I mean, even if you look at his Twitter account which is like three quarters of his campaign apparatus, the retweeting frequently of alt-right white nationalist types, elevates them and gives them oxygen they wouldn't otherwise have.

[16:20:11] And I do think that's problematic in reaching the exact kind of voter she's now trying to reach, probably with this immigration speech tomorrow which ironically may turn off some of these Dukes (ph).

TAPPER: Steve, let me ask you a question. The Trump campaign is now running TV ads in Colorado and Virginia, two battleground states --

MCMAHON: Are they still battle ground states, really?

TAPPER: Well, Clinton, I mean, your point --

MCMAHON: She got a huge lead.

TAPPER: And she has stopped advertising there. And that's my question. Do you think that they should reconsider if he is up on the air there?

MCMAHON: I think they should keep running as many ads as they can in blue states that Democrats carried six out of the last six elections. And in some of these purples that have now gone for Hillary Clinton by 10, 12, 15 points, to the point where the Clinton campaign and PACs that support her are off the air. I mean, it's pretty clear what's going on in a lot of the states, and it's not moving in Donald Trump's direction. It's moving pretty quickly in the other.

TAPPER: And, Katrina, let me ask you -- early voting starts late next month. Has Mr. Trump, do you think, waited too long to make decisions about his immigration policy, to start running ads? What do you think?

MCMAHON: No, not at all. People are just now paying attention, and after Labor Day, that's when everyone pays attention. He is closing the gap in many of those polls that we're talking about and I think now is the perfect time for Mr. Trump to get out there and give voters a reason to support him over Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: And, Mary Katharine, I want to get your response. This morning, Trump had more to say on the violence in Chicago. "Inner city crime is reaching record levels", he tweeted. "African-Americans will vote for Donald Trump because they know I will stop the slaughter going on." And investigation by factcheck.org found that there has been small spike in some crimes in some cities, but murder rates still on the overall long-range decline. Obviously, one murder is too much.

Is this an effective campaign issue? HAM: Well, I think that's the question. And I think when it comes to actual minority voters, the answer is no. I can't think, it's hard to think of something more tone deaf than the tweet over the weekend about this murder that happened in Chicago.

TAPPER: Dwayne Wade's cousin.

HAM: About Dwyane Wade's cousin. I don't think that reaches those voters. But what it may do is reassure -- I'm so ham-handed, I'm not sure it even reassures these exorbitant Republican voters that, like, hey, I'm doing my thing. I'm trying to reach these people. Which is what some of them want reassurance of because as I said, of the elevation of the alt-right in the past. They get this feeling like, what's he doing here?

TAPPER: All right. Steve, Mary Katharine, and Katrina, thank you one --

PIERSON: Well, look, just real quick, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes?

PIERSON: We talking about the statistics in the cities, but here's the thing. When you're looking at Baltimore, when you're looking at Milwaukee, communities don't set their communities on fire because they feel like they are being represented. Mr. Trump is simply saying, give me a chance.

TAPPER: All right.

MCMAHON: Give me a break.

TAPPER: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

This, a newly wed American Mormon is gun-toting terrorist, according to authorities in Venezuela. His family said the charges are ridiculous, they are trumped up. And now, they're fighting to get him released from jail and back to the United States. We will bring you their story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:21] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our world lead today: the already challenging war against ISIS facing yet another obstacle. Two U.S. allies whom one would think might be focusing on the demolition of ISIS are instead now battling each other along the Turkey/Syria border. In the Middle East, after all, as it said, the enemies of my enemies are my enemies. And in this case, it is the Turks versus the Kurds.

Thick black smoke clouds are hanging over this key border town of Jarabulus, Syria, today. Turkey helped Syrian rebels push ISIS out of Jarabulus, all the while targeting U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in ruthless air strikes.

Let's bring in CNN international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

Nick, the fact that the Turks and the Kurds are fighting, does this hurt the war against ISIS in a big way?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Potentially, the U.S. policy here really hanging. We've had a glimmer of potential hope in the last hours and they have come forward and ask the Kurds to pull back over the natural border. They asked them to respect the Euphrates River. They say they think that appears to be happening. That's the Syrian Kurds then moving east away from the Turkish and the Syrian rebels they're backing who appear to be moving south away from that town you mentioned.

Now, also, the Pentagon are asking the Turks and the Syrian rebels to slow that southern advance. But it's s very messy about who, where, what and which stage?

Over the weekend, Jake, we've seen an airstrike for the Turkish military reportedly killed 25 Syrian Kurdish militants and we've also seen a Turkish soldier killed in an attack on some tanks, and much territory, 400 square kilometers the Turkish claimed changed hands.

It seems calmer now and the Pentagon are trying to get both their allies to stay off each other, but, my God, has Turkey opened a new chapter in this war here, it's not a short term prospect and we all know how they feel about the Kurds. President Erdogan in the last few hours simply saying we are going after all threat, Kurdish or ISIS along that border. This could be a very open-end chapter in a yet already exhausting war, Jake.

TAPPER: And then, on the subject of the topic in that war, ISIS, the group remains relentless. It's claiming responsibility for two recent deadly terrorist attacks. What are they?

PATON WALSH: Ghastly wars that haven't mentioned in this previous conversation. In Karbala, there have been an attack on a wedding party, which ISIS claimed killing 15, thought to be dominantly Shia. That's the enemy they have.

And in Yemen, a war we fail to ever talk about that continues to rage here, an attack on military recruits in Aiden, in the port city there, perhaps killing as many as 60. This is just the routine of terror ISIS give to the world. They seem to be on the back foot now in Syria, but it's that distraction we're talking about with the fight there between the Kurds and Turks that really caused a mess in this final chapter, Jake.