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Interview With Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer; Trump Surrogate Apologizes for Tweeting Hillary Clinton in Blackface; Top ISIS Leader Reportedly Killed. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A top ISIS terrorist is dead.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: ISIS says that a key leader, the public face of the terrorist group and the man who more than anyone may have inspired barbaric attacks against the West, is dead.

More racial charges -- a key Trump backer, African-American pastor and surrogate for the campaign, now apologizing for bringing blackface into the race.

Plus, he sat out the Olympic Games at the height of racial tensions in the '60s. Now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is here to defend Colin Kaepernick's right to sit out the national anthem. He will explain why.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

We will start right with this breaking news and our world lead, a major blow to ISIS and its operations. ISIS announcing this afternoon that a senior leader of the terrorist group whom intelligence officials say is regularly cited by lone wolf terrorists as having directed inspired attacks in the Middle East and Europe and the man who is the most public face of the terrorist group, he is now dead, according to ISIS.

(AUDIO GAP) was his name.

Let's get right to CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He's live in Turkey near the Syrian border.

Nick, you called this a seismic moment in the fight against the terrorist group.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is certainly the most public voice they had.

Yes, Omar al-Baghdadi is their leader, but he's often in the shadows. This is the man you often heard from in audio messages. This is the man who masterminded their often very slick and gruesome public P.R. machine that put out the high-definition videos of executions and brutality that attracted recruits, and most importantly, as you mentioned, who slightly twisted the previous model of the lone wolf terrorist.

Remember the bin Laden idea, where you would need instruction from somebody in a foreign land. Well, Adnani said forget about that. Do whatever you fancy doing, go ahead with your dastardly plans and we can claim that later on, making the sort of odd freelance operations we have seen around the West in the last summer more common.

What we do know about his demise? Very little. We do have startlingly, though, two statements, from the ISIS-affiliated Al Aamaq news agency, and another statement too from ISIS themselves on their sort of masthead note paper, if you like, that both same the same thing, that he is dead, they don't say when, and they say he died while inspecting military operations near Aleppo.

It looks like it might be quite close to where Turkey has recently done a military incursion. We have no independence evidence that he's dead. We don't have comment from the Pentagon, who may possibly know something about this. But, at the same time, too, ISIS are in a bad place territorially, so it would be very strange for them to necessarily fake his death. It's a big blow to their morale, a key public figure missing and perhaps a sign that they really are on the wane -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank to talk more about this.

Paul, thanks for joining us.

The State Department once called Adnani a specially designed global terrorist. They had a $5 million bounty on his head. This must be a pretty big blow to the terrorist group, assuming it is true.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is a huge blow against the terrorist group.

Western intelligence services wanted to get him more than any other ISIS operatives. And that includes Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. Why? Because he was in overall charge of their external operations division, the unit within ISIS that orchestrated and launched the Paris attacks and Brussels attacks and other attacks internationally, someone considered very, very dangerous from an operational point of view.

As Nick was pointing out, someone who also put out fatwas calling attacks worldwide, and those helped inspire multiple attacks on both sides of the Atlantic.

Notably, just a few weeks before the Orlando shooting, he put out a call for attacks during Ramadan. So some justice for the victims in Paris, in Brussels, other places, and indeed in the United States, where we have also seen deadly ISIS-inspired terrorism. A very significant moment, indeed.

The fear now is that ISIS will retaliate. The operatives they recruited for these international attacks, ultimately, they report up to al-Adnani The fear in the hours and days ahead is that we could see attacks accelerated certainly here in Europe, where there is a lot of concern that there are ISIS operatives here and present and ordered to launch attacks -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Paul, ISIS is vowing revenge. We don't know how al- Adnani died, but presumably that is a hint that he was killed by coalition forces.

CRUICKSHANK: Well, it may be coalition forces, but it could also be Russians or the Syrian air force in some kind of way.


They have obviously also been launching airstrikes against jihadis in that particular area. We will have to wait and see. It may just have been that the coalition got lucky here. From his point of view, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time and he was killed.

If indeed there was some kind of U.S. role in this, I think we can expect some answers on that very, very shortly. This would perhaps be the biggest breakthrough yet in the war on ISIS.

TAPPER: All right, Paul Cruickshank, thank you so much.

Now let's turn to our politics lead today, 70 days to go in what feels like Dante's version of a presidential race, both candidates finding now that even when they make attempts to do good, those attempts are used as examples of how they are up to up to no good.

For instance, liberals telling Hillary Clinton cut off all ties with the Clinton Foundation. The appearance of impropriety is just too great, given the stakes.

On the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump's reaching out to African-Americans spurring more heated charges of racism. In this most recent case, an African-American surrogate for the campaign apologizing for tweeting a cartoon of Hillary Clinton in blackface.

Let's talk about all this more with CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joining me now.

Jim, the Trump campaign really trying to push forward to his big immigration speech on Wednesday, but again all these distractions.


And Donald Trump is finding, Jake, that he has plenty of competition when it comes to ill-advised comments. His own surrogates and staffers are creating even more headaches for the campaign.


REV. MARK BURNS, HARVEST PRAISE AND WORSHIP CENTER: Never, ever we will allow her to step back into the office...

ACOSTA (voice-over): A popular warmup act at Donald Trump rallies, Pastor Mark Burns preaches with a booming voice and a passion for ripping into Hillary Clinton.

BURNS: And she don't belong in the White House. I'm going to still say she belongs in jail.

ACOSTA: But just hours after Burns tweeted this cartoon of Clinton in blackface, an image that is offensive to African-Americans, he apologized and became the latest prominent campaign voice to create a distraction for Trump.

BURNS: Obviously, my message, I stand by, but the methodology, I do not. The message is simply this. I believe that the Democrat Party has been using the black vote, that black voting bloc.

ACOSTA: Pastor Burns' tweet adds yet another obstacle to Trump's efforts to woo African-American voters. The Clinton campaign accused Burns of crossing the line.

JOEL BENENSON, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I think he surrenders the ability to discuss the issues. I think it's unfortunate. There is an unfortunate pattern here.

ACOSTA: Other top surrogates and staffers from the Trump campaign are coming under scrutiny as well. BuzzFeed discovered this audio of Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon using a derogatory word for lesbians on a conservative radio show.

STEVE BANNON, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN CEO: The women that would lead this country would be (INAUDIBLE) they would be pro-family. They would have husbands. They would love their children. They wouldn't be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters Schools up in New England.

ACOSTA: And the anti-Trump Keep America Great super PAC unearthed this 2013 video of Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway talking about women in the military.

In this panel discussion, Conway argues that rape would not exist if women were as strong as men.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I want the best prepared military, regardless of gender. But I'll tell you, if physical fitness, if we were physiologically, not mentally, emotionally, professionally, equal to men, if we were physiologically as strong as men, rape would not exist. You would be able to defend yourself and fight him off.

ACOSTA: The Trump campaign claims it rejects extremist views, like those of former KKK leader and Louisiana Senate candidate David Duke, who placed a robo-call asking voters to back the GOP nominee. DAVID DUKE, FORMER IMPERIAL WIZARD OF THE KU KLUX KLAN: Unless massive immigration is stopped now, we will be outnumbered and outvoted in our own nation.

ACOSTA: The campaign in a statement: "There is no place for this in the Republican Party or our country."

But Democrats counter that Trump's policies, like his plan for a great wall on the southern border, stir up racial tensions, even if one prominent conservative said he's not buying all of Trump's promises.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I can choose a path here to try to modify you, but I never took him seriously on this.


ACOSTA: Now, Trump will be walking a tightrope in his upcoming immigration speech in Phoenix tomorrow night.

Move too far to the right, and you risk losing middle-class suburban voters and Latinos, who see Trump's rhetoric as too extreme on the issue, but any changes to Trump's immigration plans could erode support in the conservative base that delivered him this nomination, Jake.

And we should point out, we talked to the campaign -- or tried to talk to the campaign to get a comment on what Bannon and Conway say in this about this piece, and we got no response from the campaign.

TAPPER: No response, all right. Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

Trump surrogates keep claiming that Hillary Clinton is hiding health problems of some sort, some even pointing to a highly edited Web video as "evidence" -- evidence in air quotes -- of their unsubstantiated claims.

We will talk about that more next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Let's say with our politics lead today. There are critical Democratic and Republican primaries under way in Florida and Arizona right now, ones that could potentially impact which party controls Congress in November. Former DNC Chair Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is hoping to best her opponent, Tim Canova, backed by Bernie Sanders, in the Democratic primary in Florida.

Also in Florida, Senator Marco Rubio hoping he can defeat his Republican rival, Carlos Carlos Beruff. And in Arizona, Senator John McCain trying to fight off a challenge from state Senator Kelli Ward, who has raised the issue of his age. Mr. McCain turned 80 yesterday.

Happy birthday, Senator.

Joining me now, former Republican Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer, who is a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

Governor Brewer, thanks for being here, as always.

JAN BREWER (R), FORMER ARIZONA GOVERNOR: Thanks for having me on, Jake.

TAPPER: So, both Senator McCain, whom you have endorsed, and Marco Rubio, they're facing primary challenges today. Both, according to polls, are favored to win, though they both face potentially tough races in November.

There are Republicans in Arizona and elsewhere worried that Trump could potentially cost Republicans the Senate. Is that a concern you have at all? And what would your best advice be to John McCain, assuming he wins today's primary?

BREWER: My advice to John McCain is to continue what he has done for our great state for the last 30 years.

[16:15:01] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is that a concern you have at all? And what would your best advice be to John McCain, assuming he wins today's primary?

JAN BREWER (R), FORMER ARIZONA GOVERNOR: My advice to John McCain is to continue what he has done for our great state for the last 30 years. He is absolutely a warrior. And he's going to will win today overwhelmingly and come November, he's going to beat his opponent overwhelmingly also. I think people are concern about security and jobs and opportunity. And John will help us get that done.

And he will work, he will work with Mr. Trump, but he will also stand his ground. That is what a good president needs. He needs people out there that understand the job situation and they understand the security situation, and the tax situation. And that's what Donald Trump is all about. He's making a difference.

TAPPER: Did it bother you at all when Trump said that John McCain, suggested he wasn't a war hero, saying he prefers people who weren't captured?

BREWER: I was disappointed. Absolutely, I was, because John McCain is definitely a war hero.

TAPPER: In today's "USA Today", former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani defended his raising questions about Hillary Clinton's health. He said it was a public service and he asked people to draw their own conclusions. But I think what a lot of people are objecting to was when Mr. Giuliani said this.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Go online and put down Hillary Clinton illness, take a look at the videos for yourself. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I guess the question is, are we now at a point where these kooky, deceptively edited videos from anonymous people online are now acceptable, quote/unquote, "evidence" for campaigns, because I'm sure you would agree, that's a real Pandora's box, anybody can make a video where anybody looks like they're doing anything.

BREWER: Absolutely. It is irritating, frustrating, and, of course, one wants to believe what they read is always right, but, you know, believe half of what you see and only half of what you read, I guess. Bottom line is, is that people have to do their research. And with the Internet today, it's just totally, totally out of control.

But for most people, we know what they stand for. We hear it right from their lips to our ears, and that's what we have to pay attention to, based on their record and what they say directly to us.

TAPPER: Should people like Mayor Giuliani stop trafficking and go to web videos and find these conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton's health?

BREWER: Well, we know that Hillary Clinton had some issues with her health. I mean, she has hyperthyroidism that she has to monitor. And, of course, that thyroid monitors all of your body.

And she doesn't have a whole lot of energy. She is taking a lot of vacations. She's been in hiding for a long time, you know? She needs to come forward. Has not had a press conference for, what, over 260 days? What's going on? That's a normal way you run a campaign.

TAPPER: Well, I don't think there is anything normal about the way Mr. Trump is running the campaign either.

But let me ask you about Mr. Trump's much anticipated immigration speech. Do you have any idea what he is going to say, one way or the other, about whether or not he will use a deportation force to remove the 11 or 12 million undocumented immigrants from the United States? Because that's been a real point of confusion in the last few weeks.

BREWER: Well, I think Mr. Trump, you know, just as all (ph), into the future to change things the way that it's been handled here in the United States. And Mr. Trump is going to stay his ground. He's made a commitment. He's going to build a wall. No amnesty, citizenship, get rid of sanctuary cities. I'm anxiously awaiting just exactly in this in-depth policy tomorrow and I -- to hear how he's going to accomplish all of that. But I think he's made a commitment and he's going to address the issue.

TAPPER: Do you think if he backs away from the deportation force, and the promise to remove all 11 million immigrants that he might lose conservative supporters in places such as Arizona?

BREWER: You know, I have no idea. I know that it will be far better than what Hillary Clinton suggested that she's going to do. Again, Jake, we need our borders secured. We need to get rid of sanctuary cities. We need to know that there's not going to amnesty in citizenship.

And he has said that they're going to go back and get in line and come back across the legal way. And that's what we want. We all believe in the rule of law.

TAPPER: All right. Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer -- thank you so much, Governor.

BREWER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: When voters go to the polls, they'll be comparing Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. But our next guest says we shouldn't even bother comparing them? Why not?

Then, poisoned by lead. And it turns out the government knew the land was toxic almost two years before they told dozens of families living there. But we're not talking about Flint. That story next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Just hours ago, the FBI said, as soon as tomorrow, it could publicly release the findings from their investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of private email servers and the potential national security repercussions. This comes as we're now learning how the former secretary of state is preparing for the upcoming debates, where she's no doubt preparing all sorts of ways to discuss that controversial issue.

"The New York Times" is reporting that the Clinton campaign is consulting with a team of psychology experts to help her get inside Trump's head and try to bait Mr. Trump into making blunders on stage.

Let's get right to CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, Clinton is also utilizing someone who knows Trump very well, Tony Schwartz, who helped him write "Art of the Deal".

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jeff, he is one of the many people here in New York who know Trump well, who have reached out to the Clinton campaign and offered to help prepare for this marquee moment of this campaign, that first debate on September 26th.

[16:25:07] One Clinton adviser told me today, there is no shortage of advice flowing into their Brooklyn headquarters for how to take on Trump.


ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is spending the final days of summer watching the Donald Trump highlight reel.


More energy tonight, I like that. She's got a beautiful face, and I think she's a beautiful woman.

ZELENY: She's preparing for her first debate with Trump now less than a month away.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: When guy toe to toe with Donald Trump, which I'm looking toward to doing --

ZELENY: Her campaign is dealing with one distraction after another. CNN has learned the FBI is set to pull back the curtain as soon as Wednesday on its decision to recommend no criminal charges be filed for how Clinton handled classified information on her private e-mail server. Yet, Clinton is trying to keep her focus on getting ready for Trump. Perhaps no presidential candidate in modern history has logged as much time as Clinton on the debate stage, at least 40 in all, producing a textbook worth of teachable moments.

From her Senate debate with Rick Lazio --

RICK LAZIO: Sign it right now.

ZELENY: -- to her run-ins with Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're likable enough, Hillary. No doubt.

CLINTON: Thank you so much.

ZELENY: But Trump is a rival all his own and planning is urgently under way.

CNN has learned that Clinton is taking these steps: seeking tips from writers who have watched Trump for years, including Tony Schwartz, co- author of "Art of the Deal"; consulting experts on Trump's 3 Ps, his policy, personality and politics; and studying moments from GOP debates that agitated Trump, particularly exchanges like this with Ted Cruz.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Donald, you can get back on --

TRUMP: You're a lot of fun up here tonight, I have to tell you. Thank you for that book, I --

CRUZ: Donald, relax.

ZELENY: Joel Benenson, the campaign chief strategist told CNN's Chris Cuomo Clinton is preparing for a raucous debate.

JOEL BENENSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: I think we will see a lot of the same kind of hyper, over the top rhetoric from him that we've seen. That's who he is. I don't think he can control himself.

ZELENY: All this as Trump tries to keep alive another sideshow, Hillary Clinton's close aide Huma Abedin separating from her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner after another sexting episode.

TRUMP: In the case of Anthony Weiner, she's married to a guy that is uncontrolled and uncontrollable. He's a sick person.

ZELENY: And tonight, Trump seizing on a "New York Times" editorial that urged Clinton to cut ties now with her family's charitable foundation, not after she's elected. The paper calling it an "ethical imperative".

In a statement, Trump said it was "a devastating rebuke of Hillary Clinton's poor judgment and broken ethical compass".


ZELENY: Now, there's no doubt questions about the foundation will remain and be central in their debate. But Trump also contributed money to that same foundation, a reminder he is not always been such a critic of the Clintons.

Now, Jake, at a fundraiser last night in the Hamptons, Secretary Clinton said, I don't know which Trump will show up. Maybe he will be presidential and try to convey a gravity that he hasn't before. She said she's preparing for that and every other possibility.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

A respected political columnist has a message for Americans. "Hillary Clinton has her problems," he writes, "but you simply can't compare her to Donald Trump." "National Journal" senior political columnist Ron Fournier wrote that for "The Atlantic" and he joins (AUDIO GAP).

This final week in Washington, D.C. before hanging it up and going back home to Detroit.


TAPPER: So, let me ask you, Ron, this is the crux of your piece, putting Clinton's record next to Trump. So, you write, on one hand, Benghazi and the e-mail and lies. On the other hand, mendacity, bigotry, bullyism, narcissism, sexism, selfishness, sociopathology and a lack of understanding or interest in public policy, all to extremes unseen in modern presidential politics."

You have been a tough critic of the Clintons, but you're saying it's not even close.

FOURNIER: Yes, like you, I'm a tough critic on anybody who deserves tough criticism. And like most voters, I'm trying to make a decision between two candidates who are very flawed. Perhaps the most flawed two candidates, certainly the most disliked candidates we have had in modern political history. So, when I sat down and went through the process that most Americans are going to have gone to, I just concluded for myself that her enormous lack of credibility that she's earned is outweighed by his outrageous lack of temperament.

TAPPER: Does that mean you're voting for him? For her, I mean, for her?

FOURNIER: Well, I actually get towards the bottom story. If it's a binary choice, I just know I couldn't vote for Donald Trump. He's ill-suited for the presidency. I agree with, what, three quarters of American public who believes he is not suited temperamentally to be president. If it's a binary choice, it would have to be Hillary Clinton, but it's not. So then you get into a complicated thing, do I vote for -- by I, I don't mean just me but all voters -- one of the third party candidates?

TAPPER: Gary Johnson, Jill Stein.

FOURNIER: If you're doing that, I'm one of those people who won't tell a voter you're throwing away a vote, don't buy that. The only vote you throw away is one you don't cast. But do be conscious of the fact, that depending on what state you live in, like I'll be living in Michigan.

TAPPER: That's potentially a battleground state.