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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Trump Heads to Mexico; Pence Accuses Clinton of "Hiding". Poll: Unfavorability Rating for Clinton Gets Worse. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired August 31, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: -- "Holy Hell," Thursday, 9:00 p.m. eastern.
Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.
AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm John Berman. Kate Bolduan is off.
The breaking news this morning, Donald Trump taking a pretty stunning detour from the campaign trail. Right now, he is headed to Mexico. Not New Mexico but old Mexico, the country he wants to wall off and send a bill. The country he claims is sending criminals and rapists to the U.S. The country whose president compared him to Hitler and Mussolini. The country does not vote for U.S. presidents.
Trump is set to meet privately with Mexico's unpopular president, Enrique Pena Nieto, just hours before Trump delivers a huge immigration speech in Arizona.
Want to get to John Vause, in Mexico City.
John, this is a meeting which paints an unlikely picture to say the least.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To say the least, John. Those swift and unhappy reactions to the fact Donald Trump is coming here to meet with the Mexican president. In fact, the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, who has gone a few rounds with Trump already over the past year or so, he appeared on CNN a couple hours ago and he did not hold back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICENTE Fox, FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT: He is not welcome to Mexico. By 130 million people. We don't like him. We don't want him. We reject his visit. I don't understand why President Pena has offered this opportunity. I think it's nothing more than a political stunt. Trump is using Mexico, using President Pena, to boost his sinking poll numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Now, Trump was quick to respond on Twitter, pointing out March, Vicente Fox actually invited Donald Trump to visit Mexico. That was when Vicente Fox was apologizing for using the "F" bomb. You may recall when Fox said we're not paying for that F-ing wall.
The current president of Mexico, Pena Nieto has also had some tough words for Donald Trump. He's linked the rhetoric of Donald Trump with the rhetoric of Mussolini as well as Hitler, saying by demonizing minorities as Hitler and Mussolini did is similar to what Trump had been doing. We should tell you that Enrique Pena Nieto has softened his tone of last.
But still the question many are asking, what is in it for the current president of Mexico to invite Donald Trump to this meeting? I guess that's what we're waiting to find out -- John?
BERMAN: There have been protests against Donald Trump, caricatures against Donald Trump in Mexico, not to mention, as you said, the current Mexican president, Nieto, has compared him in the past to Hitler and Mussolini. Strange to say the least.
John Vause, in Mexico City, thank you.
So why did Donald Trump agree to go to Mexico City to meet with a man who has compared him to Hitler and Mussolini?
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more on that.
When did this start to materialize and why, Sunlen?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it happened very last minute. A very hastily arranged meeting. As of 9:00 p.m., last night, the Trump campaign was saying they were still considering the offer. Certainly the sort of last-minute detour from the presidential campaign is something we typically don't see when events are pretty typically carefully choreographed and well scripted. So certainly a detour from what we're used to seeing.
The invitation was extended both to Trump and Clinton. Of course, the Trump campaign is very eager to play up what they believe is a decisive presidential move, a lot a lot of presidential photo ops, going to meet with someone, frankly, they don't always see eye to eye with.
The Clinton campaign, no surprise, John, very eager to remind people today that Donald Trump has passed rhetoric on immigration, calling them rapists, calling illegal immigrants rapists and criminals, and trying to hold their feet to the fire, so to speak, on his primary campaign promises.
BERMAN: It's interesting, the "Washington Post," which bro story last night, reported this new campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, who loved this idea of going to Mexico, he loved the picture that's going to come up later today of Donald Trump meeting with the president.
Also Donald Trump has another big moment today. He gives what they've been billing as a big immigration speech in phoenix tonight. Ways h what's he going to say? What's his policy? Do we know? [11:05:10] SERFATY: Frankly, there are a lot of details that are
vague right now. It's not clear what Trump will propose tonight. The Trump campaign is promising some additional clarity. I think the picture we're starting to see emerge, it appears Trump is going to approach this in some sort of piecemeal approach.
It was interesting, Donald Trump Jr, his oldest son, was on an interview with Anderson Cooper last night and he specifically used the words "baby steps," which was pretty striking to me. Here's more of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR, SON OF DONALD TRUMP: We have to secure our border. We have to start implementing an E-Verify system. We have to let. ICE. Do their job.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, A.C. 360: Now we're hearing someone from the campaign just the other day on the 11 million, we'll figure that out down the road. Is there going to be more clarity on that tomorrow?
DONALD TRUMP JR: The 11 million is one thing. When you take out, again, the out the people who committed felonies and send them back home, that's actually millions of people. That's a big portion of that group. Without doing that, everything else is irrelevant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: This certainly, it seems in line with what we're starting to hear from Donald Trump on the campaign trail, almost a reflecting that he's almost narrowing his scope on s proposals, prioritizing criminal deportations, focusing on border security. Hopefully, hear more of what he has to say.
BERMAN: Baby steps is a new policy. If that is, in fact, Donald Trump Sr's policy. We'll wait to hear from him directly tonight.
Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much.
Want to bring in Helen Aguirre Ferre, the director of Hispanic communications at the RNC. She attended Donald Trump's recent roundtable with Hispanic Republicans.
Helen, thanks so much.
I want to read you three tweets that Donald Trump has sent over the last 14 months or so. Number one, this is from March 2015, "Mexico's court system corrupt. I want nothing to do with Mexico other than to build an impenetrable wall and stop them ripping off U.S.". Later in June he wrote, "Mexican government does not want me talking about terrible border situation and horrible trade deals. Forcing Univision get me to stop, no way." A third one from just in December, "When will the Democrats and Hillary in particular say we must build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it, never." This is just three of a collection of tweets that Donald Trump has
sent around about Mexico. The Clinton campaign's been prepares to meet with the current president Mexico. Which of these tweets, which of these statements do you think Donald Trump should disavow?
HELEN AGUIRRE FERRE, DIRECTOR OF HISPANIC COMMUNICATIONS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I think what Donald Trump is going to talk about today is the importance of this meeting between two leaders. I think it's very important to mention that President Enrique Pena Nieto invited Trump and Trump took the opportunity, as a successful businessman does, taking the right opportunity in order to meet and take advantage. To be able to meet face-to-face to talk about a number of issues that are of great concern between both countries. Of course, immigration is one. But NAFTA and trade is also very important. And also we have to acknowledge he problem of drug trafficking that both countries want to deal with and work collectively together --
BERMAN: Helen --
AGUIRRE FERRE: -- in order to solve these issues.
BERMAN: He said, I want nothing to do with Mexico other than build an impenetrable wall and stop them from ripping off the U.S. Does that need to be the sole focus of the meeting today?
AGUIRRE FERRE: Well, the sole focus of the meeting today is going to be able to talk about points in common between both sides. And President Pena knows full well what Trump has said. Trump is going to negotiate in favor of American workers. Mr. Pena Nieto is going to be the gracious host, as he is, and talk about what's important to Mexico. When we look at these issues, we look at the issues we have as two countries who are neighboring countries and we have to deal with these issues in a way that's appropriate as two leaders should --
BERMAN: The language that we heard from Donald Trump during the primary campaign was largely the language of these tweets. Again, I want nothing to do with Mexico other than build an impenetrable wall. Mexico's going to pay for it. Do you think that's the type of negotiating language he should use today, or do you expect Donald Trump will soften?
AGUIRRE FERRE: I think Donald Trump is a successful negotiator and his business experience really leads to that. He's going to know what to say that's going to be absolutely appropriate. President Pena Nieto knew full well what Trump has said in the past. But he's also a smart leader trying to negotiate the best terms. He knows Mr. Trump has presented issues that are irrefutable. That we need to look at NAFTA and renegotiate deals. It's being pro-American workers. Is there a better way to negotiate these deals that will Benefit the United States which is not to say not Benefit Mexico, but let's face it, we have to do better for our economy and our workers.
[11:10:10] BERMAN: Helen, you were part of that meeting that Donald Trump had with Latino Republicans where people left thinking -- they left the meeting thinking maybe he was open to the idea some kind of legal status for some of the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States. Do you think that Donald Trump will open that door tonight in his speech? Will he open the door to some kind of legal status for some of the 11 million undocumented workers here?
AGUIRRE FERRE: What Mr. Trump's been very clear about is there's going to be no citizenship and no amnesty. We know that.
BERMAN: Does that mean legal status then?
AGUIRRE FERRE: -- been very clear about border security --
BERMAN: But that should be --
AGUIRRE FERRE: -- you know what, I think this speech is going to be about how to deter illegal immigration, and that is going to be not taking account -- we tonight don't know for sure but deterring illegal immigration is needs to be addressed. This may not be the speech that's going to be the deal with the entire process of immigration reform. But will be very clear about how to deter illegal immigration. We used to be a country where we applauded legal immigration but we turned a blind eye to illegal immigration which really just compounds the problems that we have. So focusing on making illegal immigration easier will come at some point. But how to deter illegal immigration is paramount and is going to be addressed tonight.
BERMAN: Well, we are waiting to see if he does address the legal status issue of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Helen, thank you for being with us.
AGUIRRE FERRE: Thank you for the invitation.
BERMAN: All right, Donald Trump's trip to Mexico. He is on his way. He should get there relatively soon. It does come with some risk and reward.
Here to discuss, CNN political director, David Chalian; and "CNN Politics" executive editor, Mark Preston.
Mark Preston, with you, what's the potential reward for Donald Trump to make this trip?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, John, I mean, look at, this is very high drama, unprecedented, historic. For Donald Trump, he is now owning the narrative. He's created the narrative, he's owning the narrative, he's owning the news cycle. I got to tell you, when it was initially announced, I thought it was a stupid move on his part. The more I thought about it, it's a smart move on Donald Trump's part. If you look at polling in the states that are going to decide this election, these battleground states, Donald Trump would lose the election today. Donald Trump needs to turn it around 69 days to Election Day right now. For his supporters and perhaps those who are a little bit hesitant about supporting him, this could allow him to play the commander in chief card.
BERMAN: Preston's gone from stupid to smart in the period of less than 12 hours, David Chalian. He mentioned, Mark did, that it allows Donald Trump to take over the narrative. Can he control the narrative over the next few hours in Mexico? And that gets to the risk question. What are the risks for Donald Trump today, David?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Think the biggest risk is what the Mexican president does out of this meeting. His own politics at home may make him think that he wants to embarrass Donald Trump or somehow shame Donald Trump for the things he said about Mexico in the past and come out of the meeting and beat his chest about that. How Donald Trump deals with that I think is one potential pitfall re. Don't think overall it is a huge risk. I think it is a pretty controlled environment that Donald Trump can handle. Especially if they're just going to give statements perhaps or if we don't hear from them at all and we just see photos. I mean, as you know, a presidential cabinet and foreign leader with all their various aides around them, they can pretty much control their movements and what's seen pretty well so it seems to me the Trump folks can design the pictures they'll get out of this. The other thing is what's actually on the ground. If Donald Trump is seen to be -- if we see Mexican residents sort of dismiss his arrival in their country, you know, then that might raise questions for voters back home about how he can position himself on the world stage.
[11:15:26] BERMAN: David Chalian, Mark Preston, thanks so much. We will watch this all play out on our TV screen so stick around for that.
In a short time, Donald Trump will be in Mexico for this big meeting with a man who once compared him to Hitler. Then, though, he's going to Arizona, for what he promises will be a big speech on immigration. Ahead, we're going to speak to a congressman from that very state.
Hillary Clinton, she received an invitation to Mexico but she says she'll hold talks with the Mexican president at the appropriate time.
Up next, Donald Trump's running mate is slamming Clinton for being in hiding.
BERMAN: All right, Donald Trump, heading to Mexico right now. Mike Pence is taking shots at Hillary Clinton for taking time off the campaign trail these last few days. Listen to what he said earlier this morning on "New Day."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE PENCE, (R), INDIANA GOVERNOR & VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know where Hillary Clinton is. I heard she's going to Cincinnati today. I think the American people see quite a contrast between Donald Trump, who gets an invitation from a world leader, drops what he's doing, even with a major speech on the schedule for tonight, and heads down to Mexico to sit down with the president of that country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: We can help Mike Pence out there. Hillary Clinton is going to Cincinnati today for a speech at the American Legion.
Joining me to discuss other matters, CNN political commentator, Hillary Clinton supporter, Paul Begala; and Kansas secretary of state and Donald Trump supporter, Kris Kobach.
Paul, you are a shrewd political strategist, including for folks not in the United States. You've done campaigns and helped out leaders in other places. What's the strategy for the Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto, what's going on here, why did he issue the invitation to him?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I never went there but I love Mexico. 23, it's the lowest in memory for any Mexican president. So he's got his own political problems and they're catastrophic. The poll I saw that had Pena Nieto at 23 had Donald Trump at 2. Maybe Pena Nieto has his own need for a Hail Mary, the same way Donald Trump seems to need a Hail Mary. I don't know if Pena Nieto is intending to show toughness. I think they're both in an interesting position. Do they confront or do they surrender? I suspect what Trump's going to do is surrender, to tell you the truth. I don't think he's going to go down there and use the kind of rhetoric in front of the Mexican president he used here at home.
[11:20:51] BERMAN: Mr. Secretary, Kris Kobach, do you think Donald Trump should go down to Mexico and talk tough? Some of the things on Twitter, "I want nothing to do with Mexico other than to build an impenetrable wall." Is that what you want him to deliver when he goes to Mexico today?
KRIS KOBACH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he absolutely should go down there. I think they will talk about the wall. Remember, the invitation came from the Mexican president. I think it's in their interest to meet with Mr. Trump. Look at it from their perspective. They see an election that's going to be close. There's a significant probability that Trump will be the next president. If that's the case, there will be big changes in the U.S./Mexico relationship, especially if Trump is able to reduce the flow of illegal immigration. Right now, illegal aliens are sending home about 23 billion a year in remittances. Mexico doesn't have a welfare system like we do. If that starts to change, the Mexican government is going to be looking to the United States for help and they may be coming to us saying, OK, you've changed the illegal immigration flow, this is how it's affecting us. I think he's setting the stage for what he recognizes may be necessary in the future.
BERMAN: Mr. Secretary, if you'll humor me, if I can get a couple yes/no answers for some questions about immigration in the United States. So let me just ask you a yes/no question. Do you consider legal status for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.? Any kind of legal status for any of them? Do you consider that to be amnesty?
KOBACH: Yes, if it's done en masse. If you have like one individual case for humanitarian reason, that would not be an amnesty, but if you do it to large groups of people.
BERMAN: We're talking tens of thousands. All right, so Donald Trump opens the door to possible legal status for any of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country tonight -- because we don't know what he's going to say in the speech -- if he does that, you would consider that to be amnesty?
KOBACH: If it's a broad category. If he says all of these people who meet these criteria get amnesty.
BERMAN: Even if they pay taxes? So Donald Trump makes them pay back taxes, that still would be amnesty in your mind?
KOBACH: It's still amnesty if they pay a fine, yes.
BERMAN: One other category here, without deeming it specifically legal status, stamping some piece of paper saying you are now legal. He talked about he's not going to force them out. He's not going to get to people for some while. If you do not actively enforce what you consider to be the law to get them out of the country, if you allow them to stay, is that also amnesty?
KOBACH: No. Let me explain that. There's this false dichotomy that sometimes people talk about and they think well you either have to have an arrest of every single one of the 11 million or you have an amnesty, really there's a choice in between. You start ratcheting up the level of enforcement. Many people will make the decision, I can't get a job, there's a chance I'll get arrested, I'll just go to my home country on my own. How high do you ratchet up enforcement is the question. That's exactly the way to approach it. I never said you have to arrest every single one of the 11 million. Practically speaking, that's not how you would do it.
BERMAN: Thank you for that clarity. Appreciate that.
Paul, I want to ask you about a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll that came out a few hours ago that has to do with the candidate's favorability. Hillary Clinton is less favorable. She has a higher unfavorability than ever before. Look at this chart here. 56 percent unfavorable, 41 percent favorable here. Now what you really can't see if this graphic right here, Paul, is that her unfavorables have dropped consistently since the convention to a new low for her. So what's happened since the convention to drive her numbers down? Why the sharp drop since August?
BEGALA: Two things. Her unfavorables have gone up unfortunately. I know what you're trying to say. BERMAN: Thank you.
BEGALA: She had a great convention but it was a bit of a sugar high. I was thinking at the time, Kris is right, he says it's going to be a close election. He's exactly right. This is going to be very tight. It's settled back to where it was before the convention, which is a three to five point lead for Hillary. If you simply look at those numbers in a vacuum, you think this is terrible, and it is. Greatest political strategist ever lived, certainly not me or my partner James Carville, was Henney Youngman, the great comedian, any time anybody asks him how's his wife, he says, compared to what? How's Hillary? Well, compared to what?
[11:25:23] BERMAN: Paul --
BERMAN: Donald Trump numbers are terrible as well but they haven't gotten worse since his convention. Hillary Clinton's have. Donald Trump's has stayed static. Something happened with her. What?
BEGALA: Hers have gone to only a tiny bit better than Donald Trump, which is terrible, but still better than Trump's. That's the thing.
BERMAN: But down. Headed down. The trajectory is down. Donald Trump's are static. One is getting worse while the other is staying the same.
BEGALA: Again, she had a terrific convention. Trump not only had a bad convention, he had a terrible period coming out of the Democratic convention, where he attacked the Khan Gold Star family. That really sent Trump way down. Now it's leveled back out. I think you're going to basically be in stasis. Not acting like a guy who he thinks is going to win. He's acting like he's panicking.
And by the way, I feel for Kris. I don't share any of his views on immigration but I believe he believes them earnestly. Trump doesn't. He built Trump Tower illegally with illegal immigrants from Poland. The "Washington Post" went to this Trump hotel and found undocumented workers working there. Now a new story suggesting his modeling agency somehow got around the immigration laws. All just a con for him. He's softening. Now his new hat is going to say "make America make baby steps again." None of this is on the level for him. He'll go to Mexico City today. I don't think he'll say the things Kris would say, because I don't think he really believes anything. I think he wants to say or do anything he can to get ahead in this election. Hillary's pushed him around real good. Pushed him around from being where Kris is on immigration, and now basically part of the Gang of Eight, gang of nine with Trump. That must be frustrating for Kris and other people who take a more hard-line position on this.
BERMAN: We'll see what Donald Trump says today in Mexico and then tonight in Arizona.
Kris Kobach, Paul Begala, thank you.
BERMAN: So while Donald Trump is headed to Mexico, Hillary Clinton is focusing on states that she hopes can help win on Election Day. She goes to Ohio. We'll preview her speech coming up.
Plus, the gap in the ground game. Hillary Clinton has more offices, campaign offices in just one state than Donald Trump has in eight states combined. So why's the race still as close as it is? We'll discuss.