Return to Transcripts main page

WOLF

Rubio Running for Reelection; Reid Asks for FBI Investigation. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2016 - 13:00   ET

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


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- for hate and a voice for violence. Why should we believe him, that he's changed?

JESSE MORTON: I'll just have to prove myself and deal with the questions that come as I go. Just I have an enormous amount of guilt and regret. This is an opportunity for me to make amends, to some degree.

COHEN: Have you forgiven yourself?

MORTON: I think, yes. I have seen things that people have done and to know that I once sort of sympathized and supported that view, it sickens me.

COHEN: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching. "WOLF" starts now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 7:00 p.m. in Rome, 8:00 p.m. in Istanbul, Turkey. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

We're now just inside 70 days until the U.S. presidential election and less than a month away from the first presidential debate. Hillary Clinton spoke about the debate during a fund raiser last night, saying she doesn't know which Donald Trump will actually show up at that debate.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is headed west to Washington state where he may be previewing his big immigration speech which is scheduled for tomorrow in Arizona.

Our Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is watching the Clinton campaign. Sunlen Serfaty has the story from the Trump campaign.

Sunlen, Donald Trump tweeted this earlier, a little tease for his big speech tomorrow. From day one, I said that I was going to build a great wall on the southern border and much more. Stop illegal immigration. Watch Wednesday.

All right, Sunlen, what do we know? What do we know about the speech that he's going to be delivering tomorrow?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he's been giving some hints in recent days and he speaks this evening in Washington where I do expect him to kind of double down on what he's been doing, as you mentioned in that tweet. And on the campaign trail in recent days, reminding his supporters who come out to see him at the rallies that, yes, he intends to build this wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. You know, one of the core principles of his primary campaign.

But I have to say, going into tomorrow's speech, there -- it's very clear that there are a lot of questions that still remain. The biggest is, what are exactly his plans for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that are still in the country.

I was at a speech in Des Moines, Iowa over the weekend and he tipped his hand just a bit indicating that he might be moving toward prioritizing deportations, focusing first on criminals that are here in the country illegally. And then, the big question is what to do with the rest. So, very clear there is some shifting going on and a lot of questions going into tomorrow's speech.

BLITZER: Jeff, Hillary Clinton, she's not directly on the campaign trail. She's doing a lot of fund raising, including one last night. How much time and energy is she spending right now on debate preparation?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, she's ramping up her debate preparations. She has had the mornings off a lot this week before she's doing those afternoon and evening fund raisers. I am told she is reading briefing books, even out at the Hamptons on somewhat of a summer vacation. She is zeroing in on focusing on Donald Trump.

I'm also told, Wolf, she's watching a lot of Trump T.V., if you will. Some of those highlights from debates he had earlier in this Republican primary season. She is studying intensively. The campaign is seeking a lot of advice here. And the campaign's chief strategist, Joel Benenson, told CNN's "NEW DAY," Chris Cuomo, exactly what she is looking at.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: What Donald Trump had in the primaries was a different ball of wax entirely. He had a free for all with eight people on the stage. In 90 minutes, he spoke for about 12 minutes. I don't think he can go toe to toe with her. I think he'll be very aggressive. I don't think he can go toe to toe with her on policy. I don't think he can go toe to toe with her on substance. I think we'll 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: But, Wolf, at a fundraiser last night, Hillary Clinton was actually soliciting advice from some donors, asking them how she should approach Donald Trump. Many are from New York. They know him very well.

But, Wolf, I cannot think of a presidential candidate in modern history who has debated more than Hillary Clinton. She had some 28 debates or so in 2008. Of course, her Senate debates back in 2000 and 2006 and, of course, her pr1imary debates with Bernie Sanders this time around. So, with all that experience, though, a lot of teachable moments in there. But, certainly, this is a very different time with Donald Trump, of course, a different candidate.

BLITZER: He certainly is.

Sunlen, as you know, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, they're really going after Donald Trump for supposedly being a friend of some of the fringe hate groups out there right now. But now, he's publicly distancing himself from, for example, David Duke down in Louisiana. What is the Trump catch saying about all of this?

[13:05:04] SERFATY: Yes. Well, the Trump campaign moving very quickly to distance themselves and disavow from David Duke's support. Of course, David Duke, a former KKK leader, he's running for Senate in Louisiana along with 24 other people on the ballot.

But he came out with a robo-call in Louisiana, where David Duke basically tries to tie himself to the Trump campaign. Here's a small part of that robo-call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID DUKE: I want massive immigration to stop 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 VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: Now, the Trump campaign responding very quickly in a paper statement saying, quote, "Mr. Trump has continued to denounce David Duke and any group or individual associated with a message of hate. There is no place for this in the Republican Party or country. We have no knowledge of these calls or any related activities but strongly condemn and disavow.

And, of course, the Trump campaign has received a lot of criticism in a -- in the past that they haven't been quick enough to distance themselves from David Duke when he's made statements like this. Certainly, this robo-call goes one step farther. Of course, the Trump campaign really very sensitive at this moment, especially to not give any sort of opening for Democrats to attack them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks very much. Jeff Zeleny, thanks to you as well.

Donald Trump supporters now apologizing for sending a tweet showing a cartoon of Hillary Clinton in black face. The pastor, Mark Burns, says he stands by his message that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats take African-American voters for granted. But on CNN's "NEW DAY," he says he's sorry for the method he used to convey that message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK BURNS, PASTOR: For me, the last thing I wanted to do was to draw attention away from Mr. Trump's policy. And that message was a divisive message. And once I discovered how divisive it was, this is not the campaign talking. This is not someone yelling in my ears saying, you need to take that down or this is Mark Burns all by himself who truly loves people.

FEMALE, CNN HOST, "NEW DAY": Yes.

BURNS: And I love this country, and I believe in Donald Trump for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. Gloria, these issues of race and racism, they keep bubbling around in this campaign.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you know, they do, Wolf. And I think it probably started with Judge Curiel, going back to the question of Donald Trump's comments about this American judge of Mexican dissent.

And then, Donald Trump telling African-Americans, what have you got to lose? You know, vote for me. What have you got to lose? And I think we've sort of descended into is this sort of pit of racial politics culminating in what you -- in what you just saw. And Donald Trump is trailing significantly with African-American voters.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the problem for the Trump campaign is that this follows such a familiar pattern.

BORGER: Yes.

BASH: That he tries to do something that's unique and strategic in his campaign. As you said, he's not doing well at all. I mean, the latest national poll had him at two percent. Now, in fairness, Republicans tend to not do very well --

BORGER: Right.

BASH: -- with African-Americans. But that's the whole point of his message, don't take Democrat -- Democrats take you for granted, so on and so forth. And what I meant by the pattern is -- and then, somebody or some -- usually it's Donald Trump.

In this case, it was one of his top surrogates coming out and putting that image up on Twitter of Hillary Clinton in a black face. And it took him, the pastor, you know, a good, I don't know, almost 24 hours to do what he did this morning which is apologize. He was on another network yesterday with an African-American host not only sticking by it but questioning who her ancestors were. BORGER: Right. And you know, this -- I think this is a broader issue

because I don't think it not only hurts with African-American voters. I think it hurts with white voters who are, perhaps, undecided. Particularly white suburban women, white Republican women who are saying, look, I don't want to vote for somebody that I believe is even potentially a race-baiter in any way, shape or form.

And there's a new poll out in Pennsylvania today which shows that Donald Trump is up with white voters in that state by nine. Mitt Romney was up -- won white voters by 15 points in the state of Pennsylvania but he still lost the state.

BLITZER: In this new poll --

BORGER: So, that's a problem.

BLITZER: -- in this new poll, Dana, the new Monmouth University poll, overall, it has Hillary Clinton up by eight points --

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: -- over Donald Trump. You can see it, 48 percent to 40 percent. But among minorities, we're talking about African-Americans, Hispanic, Asian voters, Hillary Clinton's lead is massive. 90 percent say they're going to vote, support for Hillary Clinton. Only five percent of minorities say they're going to support Donald Trump. That's a formidable advantage she has there.

[13:10:06] BASH: It is. And I was actually looking back at some of the data from sort of the pre-Obama years. Obviously -- maybe not obviously. But we should note that --

BORGER: Yes.

BASH: -- with the first black president, first black candidate, African-Americans went out big time for him. Prior to that, the average that Democrats got was about 85 percent. So, it's not that far off from what Democrats generally get.

But I think Gloria's point is dead on. It's not -- it wouldn't be such a deficit demographically. And when it comes to voters, if Donald Trump were not suffering with some of the more traditional Republican white voters that he is right now. He's doing well with working -- working class white voters or those without college degrees. But it's very different when you look at the (INAUDIBLE.)

BLITZER: And we know that less 70 days until the election, but less than a month until that first presidential debate, Gloria, and you're going to be doing some reporting on. Who's coming in to help these candidates?

BORGER: Well, "The New York Times" first reported this morning that Trump's co-author of his book, "The Art of the Deal," Tony Schwartz, who has been a vocal Trump critic and says he regrets co-authoring the book with Donald Trump, is one of those people -- and I confirmed it, one of those people that the campaign has reached out to. Not necessarily to try and help them in debate prep because this is somebody who knew Donald Trump very well in the mid-'80s, after all

But it's really about how to kind of get under Trump's skin. How to disarm him. How to deal with him. And, you know, kind of what gets his goat so if Hillary Clinton wants to get him going, so if she can show that maybe he doesn't have the right temperament to be president. So, that's what they're reaching out to him on.

BASH: And, Wolf, you know, what I want to mention is a little bit separate from that issue and that is something that the world got to see last night, that we see behind the scenes here, which is just the kind of ironman Wolf Blitzer is.

BORGER: Oh, yes.

BASH: On Jimmy Kimmel last night. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE", ABC: Never in my wildest imagination did I believe that it would become some big deal.

BLITZER: There was no pop.

KIMMEL: I have a pickle jar here if you want to. You are a more impressive man than me.

Here we go. Here it is. Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Oh, no. Oh, there was a pop.

KIMMEL: I heard the pop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: We saw -- I saw what you were doing.

BLITZER: There was -- there was definitely a pop.

BASH: You were going for the pop.

BLITZER: There was no -- I heard -- I don't know if the audience could hear it.

BASH: You could hear it.

BLITZER: I heard the pop. It was clearly audible.

BASH: I re-listened to it again today with my head phones on and the pop was quite loud.

BORGER: And you know what? You can come over to my house --

BLITZER: It's not that easy opening up those pickle jars.

BORGER: -- you can come over to my house and open those jars for me any time. BLITZER: It sealed pretty tightly.

BORGER: Right.

BASH: Yes. But, again, you know, you are -- you're the iron man. Whether it's the "SITUATION ROOM" or opening pickle jars.

BLITZER: I had a lot of fun with Jimmy Kimmel. He did a great job.

BORGER: He did very well.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very, very much.

Coming up, it's primary day in Florida where Marco Rubio is working to keep his Senate seat after an unsuccessful presidential run. But will he stick around for his full term or will he run for president again in 2020? CNN's Manu Raju asks it.

And more news on the Clinton e-mail front. The FBI could release the report on its investigation as soon as tomorrow. We have new details.

[13:13:24]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:17:12] BLITZER: There are some key congressional primary votes happening today, all of them taking place in the shadow of the presidential race. In Arizona, Senator John McCain is seeking a sixth term in the U.S. Senate, but first must win his primary battle against former State Senator Kelli Ward. Florida voters will be busy deciding three important races. Marco Rubio once said he was done with the Senate, has done an about face and is trying to be re-elected. He still has to beat out businessman Carlos Beruff for the GOP nomination. On the Democratic side there's a nasty campaign going on between two congressmen, Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. There's also a key House race, incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, is fighting Tim Canova, a candidate backed by Senator Bernie Sanders. But with the Republicans fighting to hang on to the Senate, the Florida race with Rubio might just be the most important. CNN's Manu Raju explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marco Rubio used to be Donald Trump's harshest critic. Now Rubio is on Florida's ballot in today's Senate primary. And he's giving the GOP presidential nominee a lukewarm embrace. Rubio is open to campaigning alongside with Trump. And he won't take the GOP nominee to task for calling Hillary Clinton a bigot.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Democrats have been calling the Republicans bigots for a long time. I mean I've been --

RAJU (on camera): But do you agree with Trump calling Hillary Clinton -- RUBIO: I think Hillary Clinton has a lot of problems. I think she's corrupt. She's dishonest. I do think some of the policies she stands for do harm minority communities, absolutely.

RAJU: Is it too far to call her a bigot though?

RUBIO: Well, again, I'm not going to -- you have to ask other campaigns about the terms they use. I'm not -- I can tell you I don't want Hillary Clinton to be our president.

RAJU (voice-over): After ending his presidential bid, Rubio decided to run for re-election after the GOP lobbied him to break his pledge to leave the Senate. And he won't be making any more pledges, not even to serve out his full six-year term if he wins this November.

RAJU (on camera): Can you now commit to voters here in Florida that you will be serving your entire six years if you're elected?

RUBIO: No one can make that commitment because you don't know what the future is going to hold in your life, personally or politically. I can commit to you this, that is that -- I am running to be a U.S. senator. I am fully prepared to allow the U.S. Senate to be the last political office I ever hold.

RAJU (voice-over): To keep control of Congress, Republicans need Trump to stay competitive with Clinton in battleground states like Florida. That means Republicans like Rubio need to court Trump supporters, as well as independents who may be turned off by the GOP nominee. Polls now show Rubio edging his likely Democratic opponent, Congressman Patrick Murphy.

RUBIO: Florida cannot afford a hyper partisan liberal in the United States Senate.

RAJU: But while Murphy is a stanch Clinton supporter, Rubio has done battle with Trump.

RUBIO: He would be a disaster for America.

RAJU (on camera): You said a lot of things about Trump during the primary that you have not taken back yet.

RUBIO: The primary's over.

RAJU: You called him a con artist. You called him a sham artist. You still don't -- you're not taking that back?

[13:20:01] RUBIO: The primary's over. No, but the primary's over. Right now the primary's over. The Republican voters have chosen the nominee and we have a choice between two people. I do disagree with Donald on a number of things. I disagree with Hillary on everything.

RAJU: You said that he's too erratic to be trusted with the nuclear codes.

RUBIO: The primary's over. I'm not focused on the primary arguments. RAJU: How could you support someone you still have not taken --

RUBIO: How can Patrick Murphy support Hillary Clinton? How can he stand with Hillary Clinton when over and over again she's proven to be untrustworthy.

RAJU (voice-over): Murphy, who is facing progressive firebrand Alan Grayson in today's primary, says he trusts Hillary Clinton despite polls saying most voters feel the opposite.

RAJU (on camera): Do you trust Hillary Clinton: Do you 100 percent trust her?

REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), FLORIDA: Yes. Yes, I do.

RAJU: I mean what issues do you actually disagree with her on?

MURPHY: Yes, well, you know, look, I -- her support of the Iraq War, right, early on.

RAJU (voice-over): But Murphy is eager to tie Rubio to Trump.

MURPHY: I was shocked, as a lot of people I spoke with were shocked about the support that Marco Rubio has given to Donald Trump. Donald Trump is perhaps the most racist, bigoted person to ever make it this far.

RAJU: Yet Rubio's primary challenger, Carlos Beruff, says GOP voters are frustrated that the senators have not embraced Trump tightly enough, while adding this attack on Rubio.

CARLOS BERUFF: Because I don't respect the guy.

RAJU: Trump is slated to give a major speech on immigration Wednesday, but despite their contrasting views, Rubio pulled his punches.

RAJU (on camera): Do you hope that he reverses his position to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants?

RUBIO: Well, I've consistently said that -- that's not -- I don't think that's a realistic approach.

RAJU: Is it realistic to build a wall on the border of Mexico?

RUBIO: Sure. Not -- I mean you don't need to have a wall across the entire border, but key sectors of the border, absolutely you need a wall. And the airports --

RAJU: Force Mexico to pay for it?

RUBIO: Well, Mexico's not going to pay for it. I've already said that. But it's we -- that's our national security interest.

RAJU: Should Donald Trump soften his rhetoric?

RUBIO: Again, you'll have -- and I'm more focused on the Democrat's rhetoric on this issue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Manu is joining us now live from Orland.

Manu, if Rubio secures the nomination, how do his chances look in November?

RAJU: Pretty good, actually, and this is why Republican leaders were aggressively lobbying Marco Rubio to change his mind and run for re- election by they viewed him as the one candidate that can win because this state is so vast, so expensive to run in. It costs about $5 million a week to be advertising on TV state wide. And Marco Rubio has widespread name recognition. So when you're looking at polls right now, he's up by three, by five, by up -- even eight points in some polls. That's giving Republicans a lot of confidence. But Donald Trump is the big x factor and the fear is that Donald Trump starts to lose by a big margin to Hillary Clinton by eight points, by nine point, by ten points, it will be very hard for Marco Rubio to win. And that's what we're seeing nationally. And that's one reason why Republicans really need Donald Trump to stay competitive in these battleground states if they want to hang on to control of the Senate, Wolf.

BLITZER: Important point. Manu, thanks very much. An excellent report, as usual.

This just coming into CNN right now, anonymous threats have forced the Department of Agriculture to close down six offices across the United States. The department is now working with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to try to determine how serious these threats are. But, for now, they've closed specific offices in Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and North Carolina. There are also two offices shut down in West Virginia. The threats were directed at personnel and the facilities. The department says those six officers will remain closed until further notice.

Up next, the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid, now asking the FBI director to investigate suspected Russian links to what he calls, quote, "government tampering" in the U.S. presidential election. We have details. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:28:10] BLITZER: Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, is now raising a serious red flag over potential threats that Russia could hack the U.S. presidential election. And now he's asking the FBI to instigate. Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is reading this letter, watching what's going on.

It's pretty startling what the Senate minority leader is saying.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No -- this is an enormously potentially dangerous thing for the U.S. election. And Harry Reid, you and I were talking about this, would be briefed on the intelligence related to this. What we know, the FBI is speaking to CNN, breaches discovered in the Illinois and Arizona election systems, two key states in the election, as you know, affecting the records of hundreds of thousands of voters. The FBI is now investigating.

No evidence at this point that they changed any of that data. But just the fact that it was a target and that they gained access raises questions about potential influence on the election. Whether or not you change results, just to sew doubt about the results could be potentially damaging, particularly at a time when you have a major candidate whose has sowed his own doubts with his supporters, talked about the legitimacy of the election. And you speak to Russia experts on this and this kind of interjection into foreign races is straight out of the Soviet playbook.

BLITZER: Let me just read the first sentence of this letter that Harry Reid wrote to James Comey, the FBI director.

"I have recently become concerned that the threat of the Russian government tampering in our presidential election is more extensive than widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results."

[13:29:45] SCIUTTO: Yes. He's speaking specifically about this. Because this is the first time it's been discovered and documented that hackers, believed to be Russia, the investigators told CNN that it was a foreign actor, but in earlier public comments they mentioned Russia. And we've seen other examples of this, right, that aren't specific to election records, right, because, of course, you had the DNC hack source to Russia, which isn't specifically to election records or to the results, but it does have an effect on the political debate. Of course it was tremendously