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Trump Heads to Mexico Ahead of Major Immigration Speech; Trump Continues to Talk Race in Campaign; Trump, Clinton Ground Game in Battleground State; Clinton to Speak to American Legion Convention in Cincinnati; Clinton Unfavorability Rating Gets Worse. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 31, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:21] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this just in to CNN. A U.S. Defense Department official disputes Russia's claim that Russia killed an ISIS leader that called for attacks against the West. The U.S. official tells Jim Sciutto, quote, "It would be laughable, but for the very real humanitarian suffering Russia has inflicted. We stand by the statement we made yesterday. We conducted a strike that targeted Muhammad al Adnani. We are assessing the results of that strike." Russia claimed its air strike killed the terror group's key deputy near the Syria/Turkish border. ISIS announced Adnani's death yesterday.

All right, let's bet back to politics, Trump's visit to Mexico and so much more. Let's bring in our panel, Angela Rye, CNN political commentator, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus; Jim Geraghty, senor political correspondent for the "National Review." Back with us, Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of the state of Kansas and Donald Trump supporter. And Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst.

Gloria, moments ago, I asked you and Angela what's going on and Angela's response was, "What's not going on" --


-- because there's so much going on and it's August still. This is supposed to be the slow time in the campaign.


BERMAN: Why are we seeing this sort of explosion of activity at least from the Trump side?

BORGER: Because Donald Trump is looking at the poll numbers in battleground states. He's looking at the numbers in Florida, in Colorado, in Nevada. He understands that he's got to do something to move voters in those states. This trip to Mexico today is the Trump version of a Hail Mary, don't you think? What he's doing is trying to meet with the president of Mexico. Good for Trump because he gets to go on foreign soil, meet with another leader. It's a private meeting. He can come out and say, I told him exactly what I wanted to do. They're going to have to pay for that wall. Then he can come back and give evening in Arizona and tell voters how tough he was. But all those who were maybe undecided will take a look at it and say, well, he did go and meet with the president of Mexico, so it shows he's tough, he's a negotiator and he's audacious.

BERMAN: Kris, let me get your take. I know you think he's going for different reasons. I suspect you don't suspect it is a Hail Mary. Do you acknowledge right now the Trump campaign has to make up some ground?

[11:34:52] KRIS KOBACH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, what we know is that the polling is very close in a lot of border, you know, battleground state. So there's no downside for Mr. Trump to go and meet with the president of Mexico. There's a lot of upside, as was just mentioned. Why not? It's convenient because it nicely frames his immigration speech he's about to give in Arizona. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't go. It also makes him look presidential. So, you know, I think he's going out of today with probably a slight bump in the polls. It's been difficult to peg exactly where Trump is because of the fluctuating -- sometimes he'll generate a huge surge in people who come to a primary or caucus. He actually did 2 percent better than the polls show going into each of those states. So who knows, but it's going to be close. I think this is a smart move.

BERMAN: Angela Rye, in the midst of everything else, he continues to talk about the issue of race, right, and last night during his speech he used some language from him we haven't heard exactly before. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is the Democratic Party that is the party of slavery, the party of Jim Crow and the party of opposition.



BERMAN: It was after Donald Trump remarked the Democratic Party is the party of President Lincoln. All of which is true, Angela, but I wonder if you have a different take?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One, I regret this was 20 minutes outside of my hometown in Seattle where he said this foolishness. And no shade to Jeffrey Lord, but it sounds like he's been watching Jeffrey, who repeats this mantra often.

I think what I would say to that is it's really important to have -- to know history. But it's even more important to have historical context. So there was a moment when there was a mass exodus from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party by white nationalists, white supremacists at the time. And that all shifted. I think that's important. I don't know if they need to watch "Eyes on the Prize," a documentary on PBS, or know what happened when Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequently signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or the Fair Housing Act of 1968 into law. Measures that are important. And they are the beginning of African-Americans allegiance to the Democratic Party for protecting racial equality and ensuring African-American advancement in the country. At least, laying the foundation for that. Since then, the Republican Party knows it has a black problem. Not just by optics. Not just by rhetoric. But also by the policies it pushed. Autopsy report in 2012 when Mitt Romney lost --


BERMAN: Jim Geraghty, let's talk about metrics right now. PBS, great reporting on the number of campaign offices. Basically, the ground game in some states, Hillary Clinton has offices in 15 battleground states. Donald Trump has 88. There's some more stark numbers in some states. In Florida, it's 34 to one for Clinton. New Hampshire, 17 to one for Clinton. North Carolina, 30 to zip for Hillary Clinton. How much do you think this matters going into the fall?

JIM GERAGHTY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, we're about to learn. Because you look at numbers like that we should be expecting a loss for Trump on par with Barry Goldwater or George McGovern or maybe even, you know, Walter Mondale. You say, OK, he's going to get demolished. We're about to learn really well about whether this is a unique campaign, you need campaign offices or not. I myself would have them than not have them. But earlier during the primary, Trump was asked about how much he wanted to emulate Obama's data-driven get-out-the-vote efforts from 2012 and he kind of shrugged it off and scoffed and said, look, I don't think it was that big a deal. Look, you can argue about how effective this stuff was, maybe it only helps a percentage point or two. But we saw in Florida, in 2000, that percentage point could really matter a lot. Look, if it ends up being a very similar electoral college map to 2012 and 2008 and, for that matter, 2004, year 2000, it very stable electorate college map for the last four elections. Maybe these campaign offices don't matter that much. You know, if that's the case, I guess campaigns could save a lot on rent in the coming cycle.

BERMAN: Jim Geraghty, Gloria Borger, Kris Kobach, Angela Rye, thank for being with us. Appreciate it.


[11:39:21] BERMAN: Hillary Clinton is getting ready for her campaign event today, her first campaign event in several days. She gives a speech in Ohio. She is slated to speak moments from now. This happening as Donald Trump heads to Mexico. We'll bring you the Hillary Clinton moments live.


BERMAN: All right, we are waiting to hear from Hillary Clinton. Today, she is scheduled to speak just moments from now at the American Legion national convention in Cincinnati. Aides say the message will be about American exceptionalism.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live at the event in Cincinnati. Jeff, obviously, this was the first time we've seen the secretary in a

few days. She's been off the campaign trail fundraising. This event obviously planned before the surprising news Donald Trump is going to Mexico over the next few hours. Do we expect to get any response to the Mexican trip at this event today?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, that's a bit unclear. Hillary Clinton was coming here to talk about American exceptionalism, like you said, to talk about alliances around the world. She, of course, will make the argument that Donald Trump would fracture these global alliances. So you could see Mexico coming up in the context of that. I can't imagine that she would let this speech go by without talking about this. So far, her aides are not saying if she is going to address the Trump visit or not.

We do know her campaign was invited on Friday to visit Mexico. And her aides responded that, look, she knows world leaders, she has met with world leaders. This is Donald Trump's first visit with the head of state. And she will schedule a visit on her own time during the -- when the time is right.

But now they believe this is all about politics. We will see if she addresses that in her message today, John, but this is not designed to be a Mexico-related speech.

We should note that Donald Trump is also going to be here, speaking before this American Legion conference tomorrow.

[11:45:40] BERMAN: All right, Jeff Zeleny for us, in Cincinnati, thank you so much.

This meeting in Mexico, this is one that no one saw coming. Donald Trump heading to Mexico right now to meet with the president there. We're going to get details on this visit.

We'll also get reaction from an Arizona member of Congress. Donald Trump going to Arizona to give a big speech on immigration. What does this congressman think he should or would say?


[11:50:00] BERMAN: So where exactly does Donald on immigration, deportation and build that beautiful border wall? Tonight, we might find out. He's set to deliver a major speech in Arizona just as soon as he gets back from a surprise visit from Mexico.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva, from Arizona, a Hillary Clinton supporter.

Congressman, thank you for being with us.

The Mexican President Enrique Peno Nieto invited both candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, to Mexico. Donald Trump is going. Do you think Hillary Clinton should go as well?

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA, (D), ARIZONA: Well, I think at some point that gesture is important. But you know, to be quite honest with you, Trump's visit is more political. It's a campaign stop for him. His campaign is trying to make him appear for statesman, more presidential. It's not going to work. I don't know what kind of reception he's hoping to receive from the president of Mexico. But given as he propelled his campaign with the harsh and bigoted rhetoric against Mexicans in general and Latinos in this country overall, I don't see how you can make traction by merely creating the political campaign stop for him. I don't think it means anything.

Hillary is doing the right thing, constraining on what she needs to do. Arizona is a battleground state, they're neck and neck, and Hillary has a chance to capture Arizona.

BERMAN: Again, as a political action, do you think it's worthwhile for Hillary Clinton sometime in the next few weeks to go down there?

GRIJALVA: Inevitably. I wouldn't put it as a high priority, personally. This is a race that's a tough race across the nation. That's where the concentration should be. I don't think Hillary Clinton needs to make a ceremonial stop to meet the president of Mexico to increase her credibility with the Latino voters. She already has that.

BERMAN: Can Donald Trump increase his credibility with Latino voters? He's giving that immigration speech in your home state, Arizona, in just a few hours. There are reports that he may soften his tone, if not his actual policy. Do you think that could help him?

GRIJALVA: I think he's going to continue with this whole fantasy that we're going to build a wall from one end of the southern border to the other with Mexico. That's not going to happen. Mexico is not going to pay for it. At least in Arizona, I represent that border region. We have part of a wall built. And you'll notice it's almost all on public land anywhere along the border private property, and the whole issue of eminent domain is important. Native American reservations are not wanting it going through their land. It's not going to happen. It's just the red meat that he started when he started this campaign to propel him to continue to talk about immigration. No, I don't think there's anything he can say, my friend, that is going to gain any credibility given the fact that he has used immigration for years --


BERMAN: Let's talk about Secretary Clinton. ABC News/"Washington Post" have a new poll out today. She has higher unfavorability numbers that she's ever had before. The numbers have shot up since the convention. I'm wondering why you think that is, if some of the information coming out about the Clinton Foundation has contributed to that, and if you think she needs to draw a quicker more severe separation with the Clinton Foundation

GRIJALVA: I think a separation is necessary. I also believe the Clinton Foundation -- I think something I said the other day was misinterpreted by the news media that now the campaign leader of Trump's campaign, that network, if that's what we want to call it, said they was saying that you should shutter the Clinton Foundation. Absolutely not. They've done good work around AIDS, the work in Haiti with women and empowerment strategies across -- they should continue their good work. The foundation should do that. But as far as Hillary and Secretary Clinton, I think she needs to sever that and get this distraction out of the way. Because Innuendos and the outright lies that we're going to hear from Trump on the foundation and Hillary is not worth the expense. That would bring to end many of -- many of the attacks Trump is doing right now. I think the separation is important and a clean separation is necessary. But the foundation goes on with its very humane projects that it has across this world.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, we're talking about separation for Bill and Chelsea Clinton in this case, Secretary Clinton herself --


GRIJALVA: Clintons plural.

BERMAN: Congressman Raul Grijalva, thank so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

GRIJALVA: Thank you.

[11:54:50] BERMAN: We're awaiting the arrival of Donald Trump in Mexico. He's set to meet with the president there. This dramatic last-minute border crossing drawing criticism from Mexico's former leader.


BERMAN: The 1980s saw the rise of the spiritual group known as Buddha Field. Tomorrow, CNN premiers "Holy Hell," a look into the group and its leader, who attracted hundreds of followers to his controversial movement. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was contemporary. He wasn't so little old man with a Gray beard. He was wearing Speedos and Ray Bans and he was dancing and doing contemporary music.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He spoke four or five languages. He was amazingly humorous, witty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very playful, like a child. He could do something -- oh, my god, I can't believe he just did that. He could dance, was artistic. He was all those things we all love to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was unlike anyone I ever met before. He encouraged me to drop all my ideas of what I thought I was supposed to be.


BERMAN: "Holy Hell" premiers tomorrow on CNN at 9:00 p.m. eastern time. Don't miss it. Thanks for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.