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FOX Apologizes, Settles with Carlson for $20M; Iranian Boats Interfere with U.S. Ships; Trump Defends $25M Donation to Florida's Bondi; Interview with RNC's Sean Spicer. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 6, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:31:] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Huge news this morning in the media world and the fallout could definitely hit the political world. 21st Century FOX settling a sexual harassment lawsuit with former FOX News anchor, Gretchen Carlson, paying Carlson $20 million. The company saying this, in an apology, that they "Sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Carlson claimed the lack of respect and dignity came from her former boss, Roger Ailes. This is the same Roger Ailes who happens to be advising the Trump campaign right now, particularly in debate prep. We don't know yet how much of the $20 million Ailes will pay.

Also this morning, at FOX News, Greta Van Susteren announced she's leaving the network. Let's leave that aside for the moment.

Joining us, CNN political analyst, national political reporter for RealClearPolitics, Rebecca Berg; Ron Nehring, was a bigwig in the Ted Cruz presidential campaign; and former senior adviser to the Trump presidential campaign and Trump supporter, Ed Brookover.

Ed, I want to start with you.

FOX just settled the lawsuit with Gretchen Carlson for $20 million.

BOLDUAN: A lot of money.

BERMAN: A lot of money. Roger Ailes has been advising debate prep. Is a guy in the middle of a $20 million sexual harassment settlement, is that the guy you want advising you on debate prep?

ED BROOKOVER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think what Mr. Trump wants for his advisers are people who are experts in their field. Gretchen Carlson said she's ready to move on from her settlement. I think that's the case with all of us. Mr. Ailes has shown from working with other presidential campaigns, from his building of FOX News, he understands what communications is all about. I'm sure he'll give good solid advice to Mr. Trump.

BOLDUAN: When you're trying to -- when you need to appeal to women voters, does that look good?

BROOKOVER: I think people are going to be judging Mr. Trump on Mr. Trump and his performance. Your poll this morning suggests Mr. Trump is doing much, much better among men and women. I think he's been showing over the last period of time, from his recent speeches on policy, outreach in the inner cities, he is showing the public what kind of president he's going to be.

BERMAN: Rebecca, George W. Bush, during his campaign, said you can judge the character of a man by the company he keeps. What does it say about Donald's character that keeps company with Roger Ailes? Now in the middle of a $20 million sexual harassment settlement that cost him his job and now cost him a lot of money.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they have clearly been close for a long time. Donald Trump trusts Roger Ailes' advice and vice versa. If you read the Gabriel Sherman, "New York" magazine piece on this ongoing drama, it reported that Donald Trump was actually advising Ailes on this lawsuit at the same time Roger Ailes was advising Donald Trump on his presidential campaign. So it's a very symbiotic relationship they have, and a long-standing one as well.

But the question is, from a political perspective, do voters necessarily care that Donald Trump is keeping company with someone like Roger Ailes or any other aide to his campaign? There's been plenty of campaign drama for Donald Trump when it comes to managers, his top aides. So far, it hasn't mattered in the context of this campaign.

I think Ed is probably right that, even though this will certainly create headlines for Donald Trump that maybe he wouldn't want, ultimately, voters are going to judge based on Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Do voters then care about this, Ron? I want to get your take. Trump over the past couple days has been asked about his past comments pushing the birther conspiracy. When he's asked if he regrets bringing it up, when he's asked about it, he says the same thing over and over now. He says I don't talk about this anymore. I don't talk about this anymore.

You worked for Ted Cruz. Donald Trump brought up rumors about where Ted Cruz was born and his citizenship. Is that a good answer?

RON NEHRING, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & FORMER NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, TED CRUZ PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: No, it's not. Donald Trump says a lot of weird things. The tendency is when some of the weird things he says has been disproven or laughed at, such as making this bizarre claim, which he doubled down on after the convention, which was more bizarre, that Ted Cruz's father was connected to Lee Harvey Oswald, and that the "National Enquirer" should receive a Pulitzer Prize for their ridiculous article on this matter. What Donald Trump's methodology is, is to stop talking about certain crazy things and hope that everyone forgets it. Unfortunately, you can't escape that. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both are trapped in brands that they created back during the primaries and before. So right now the choice of the American people being asked to make is do we give nuclear weapons to Donald Trump, who tends to say weird things, or do we give nuclear weapons and elect a Richard Nixon is a pantsuit, which is Hillary Clinton's ongoing problems with respect to ethics. That's why I think the polling is moving in the direction we've seen, because Hillary Clinton has suffered so much in terms of not being perceived as someone who is trustworthy at all.

[11:35:40] BERMAN: Ed, there's no statute of limitations to crazy --


BOLDUAN: For being asked about crazy things you said in the past.

BERMAN: Ed, do you think President Obama was borne in the United States?

BROOKOVER: I do. And I think Mr. Trump has --


BERMAN: What is it so hard for Donald Trump just to say that then --


BERMAN: -- yes, President Obama was borne in the United States?

BROOKOVER: Mr. Trump has chosen, and rightly so. The American public isn't deciding the next president of the United States based on that question, but on who will give more jobs, make American more secure, make America safe for their children and grandchildren. Right now, it looks like they're moving in the direction of Donald Trump. As the polls are saying, they don't trust Hillary Clinton anymore.

The other thing the polls are saying is 70 percent of America thinks it's time for change. Donald Trump represents change. Hillary Clinton certainly does not.

BOLDUAN: One thing they're also saying, if you're talking about that, Ron, to get you on this, when you look at who is voting for who, the parties are going to their party leaders. 90 percent of Republicans are now supporting -- saying they're now going to support Donald Trump. Republicans are coming home. Are you joining them?

NEHRING: Well, you know, I'm in the "vote your conscience" camp right now. I want to see what Donald Trump is able to do going forward. He has an opportunity to reinvent himself, if he chooses to take it.

I think the most dramatic thing he can do to shake this race up would be to take some of the bizarre things he's said in the past -- and the American people are very forgiving. Everybody loves a comeback story. Donald Trump has been down in the polls a long time. The Americans will love a comeback story. If he were to come out and specifically apologize for these bizarre and crazy things he's said that's kept the Republican party from being able to come together, certainly Republicans, of course, a fast majority of Republicans are going to support for Donald Trump, but it's not there with the fundraising and in terms of grassroots activity particularly in terms of the battleground states. He can shake the race up, but I don't know if he has the ability to come out and apologize for the bizarre things he said in the past, the offensive things he's said, and be able to move forward. If he had done that at around the time of the convention and before, we would be looking at a very, very different dynamic against a very weak Hillary Clinton.


BERMAN: We certainly haven't seen him do that. He flat-out refuses to say the president was born in the United States. He says he doesn't talk about it anymore. It doesn't mean you can't also talk about other issues if you want to tell the truth.

Guys, thank you so much.

We'll move on. No strings attached or were there? A $25,000 donation to the person -- a person considering whether to investigate Trump University. But Donald Trump insists it wasn't used to make her look the other way. We'll discuss.

BERMAN: Also breaking news. We're getting word of a close encounter between an American Navy ship and Iran. We'll go live to the Pentagon next with the details. We are back.


[11:42:51] BOLDUAN: This just in from the Pentagon. CNN is learning that U.S. and Iranian ships got uncomfortably close again in the Persian Gulf.

Let's get to Barbara Starr with more details on this.

Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Kate and John. What we're learning from the Pentagon is this happened on Sunday, word just coming now. A U.S. patrol craft was in the Persian Gulf when he was essentially swarmed by seven Iranian Revolutionary Guard small boats. One of those boats came within 100 yards right in front of the U.S. Navy ship and came to a dead stop in the water, significantly raising the risk of a collision between the U.S. Navy ship and the Iranians. The U.S. Navy had to make a sharp turn, steer out of the way and it came within 100 yards of this Iranian ship that stopped dead in the water right in front of it.

There have been a series of these incidents. They're raising a good deal of concern at the Pentagon. Consider the numbers, the increased incidents. So far, this year in 2016, 31 unsafe encounters with the Iranians in those waters. All of last year, 23.

So the Iranians, in the view of the U.S. Navy, stepping up their unsafe actions in these waters, and there is a good deal of concern that this could lead to a potentially deadly encounter, something the U.S. says it wants to do everything to avoid -- John, Kate?

BERMAN: Close calls, very, very dangerous.

Barbara Starr, thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

BERMAN: Coming up for us, a $25,000 question about a questionable $25,000, perhaps. Donald Trump dismisses any notion that a donation made to Attorney General Pam Bondi's campaign had anything to do with a potential investigation into Trump University. That's next.


[11:48:37] BERMAN: It is the $25,000 question in politics right now. Donald Trump dismissing questions about a donation his foundation made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's re-election campaign back in 2013. This gift came around the time that Bondi was thinking about opening a fraud investigation into Trump University.

BOLDUAN: Bondi eventually decided not to pursue the investigation. Critics suggest that Trump was essentially giving her money to look the other way. Trump says that is not true. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never spoke to her. First of all, she's beyond reproach. She's a fine person. Never spoke to her about it at all. Many of the attorney generals turned that case down because I'll win that case in court. But many attorney generals throughout the country would turn that case down. I never spoke to her.


BOLDUAN: David Fahrenthold, from "The Washington Post," has done a lot of reporting on this story. He joins us now.

David, thanks for joining us.


BOLDUAN: There are a lot of details. You have done a lot of digging on this. Explain how this played out, the timeline.

FAHRENTHOLD: OK. So in 2013, Pam Bondi, the attorney general of Florida, has basically a decision to make. Some folks in Florida have come to her with complaints that they feel they were defrauded by Trump University. She had to decide whether to turn that into a formal fraud investigation. At that time, while the decision is on her desk, she solicits a campaign donation from Donald Trump, $25,000. He gives it out of his Trump Foundation, which is a charity, and it's not allowed to make political gifts like that. After the $25,000 gift is given, Bondi decides not to press the investigation on Trump University. It sort of goes away in Florida. So that's what happened back then. Now we're dealing with the IRS fallout from the way Trump made this contribution.

[11:50:19] BERMAN: What are the open questions here, David, that you see as a reporter? What you hear from a lot of people on the left, you have a quid pro. Trump gives money, Bondi doesn't investigate.

FAHRENTHOLD: The difference between Trump and Clinton is that Trump was not in government. He was outside government, trying to make government do what he wanted. He used to brag a lot during the primaries that he gave money and government officials did what he wanted. This is a clear example of that. He is backing away from that now.

There's two questions. One, in Florida, did Bondi break the law by asking somebody for money while she was thinking about investigating him? From Trump's perspective, there's a real interesting question about his taxes. He sent tax forms from his foundation to the IRS that covered up this donation. They say it was inadvertent. But they listed a fake, false donation in their tax filings that had the effect of hiding this donation that they shouldn't have given. Will there be any more fallout from Trump as a result of that?

BOLDUAN: That is a remaining question that will stay out there.

David, thank you so much for joining us. Good digging. We'll be back with you.


BOLDUAN: Let's talk about this and the state of the race with Sean Spicer, the chief strategist and communications director for the Republican National -- Republican Party.

Sean, great to have you here.


BOLDUAN: Thank you for joining us.

David Fahrenthold has done a lot of digging on this find that Donald Trump has paid through the IRS, because there was a campaign finance violation. The money goes to the attorney general in Florida who is considering investigating Trump University, then she stops investigating. She decides not to. Is that Pay-to-Play?

SPICER: Not at all. Look at what happened. There were 48 other attorneys general that didn't investigate this. The only one that did was Eric Schneiderman, in New York, who is a partisan Hillary Clinton supporter. So when you look at the totality of this, you recognized that of all of the 50 states where this was brought up, only one state pursued it, New York, who is a close ally of Hillary Clinton.


SPICER: Hold on. Again, but there was a clerical error that was made, it was all fixed, paperwork re-filed. That's it. Again, when you look at the facts, if this was a cover-up, where are the other 48, 49 states that should have done something? None of them agreed with Eric Schneiderman, who is the only one, an ally of Hillary Clinton. The rest of them, including Pam Bondi, also shared that there was no merit in going forward.

BERMAN: I want to move on to an interview that Donald Trump gave last night, aired this morning on "Good Morning, America." He spoke to David Muir. David asked about comments that Trump has made saying Hillary Clinton doesn't look presidential. Let's watch this exchange.


DAVID MUIR, HOST, GOOD MORNING, AMERICA: You have often talked about Hillary Clinton's stamina.

TRUMP: Right.

MUIR: You have even said she doesn't look presidential.

TRUMP: I really do believe that.

MUIR: What do you mean by that?

TRUMP: I don't think she has a presidential look. You need a presidential look. You have to get the job done.


BERMAN: Sean, what is a presidential look?

SPICER: I mean, if someone who has questioned Donald Trump's fitness to become president, when she gets up there and makes certain accusations, she doesn't look and appear as someone who should be presidential. She doesn't look presidential when she covers up the things she's done in the Clinton Foundation. She doesn't look presidential when she has installed a secret server to evade government tracking? That's --


BERMAN: -- what he is talking about.

BOLDUAN: Is he talking about because she is a woman?

SPICER: Oh, my god. Give me a break. I mean, at some point, she can glob a million insults at Donald Trump, and no one asks a question. He says she doesn't look presidential because of the actions that she has undertaken that are clearly not in keeping with government --


SPICER: Hold on.


BERMAN: He talks about her actions all the time. When he is talking about her look, he is not talking about her actions. He's talking about her look. You are not wearing a tie. That's how you look today. He is talking about some kind of appearance there.

SPICER: But what you are inferring what he means. Kate is inferring it because of her gender. That's not true. I mean, he's talked about --

BOLDUAN: I am just asking a question about that.


BOLDUAN: And Donald Trump didn't answer.

SPICER: It is about how she carries herself. She does not appear presidential. She does not act like a president. She evades government scrutiny, avoids the transparency that she was to live up to. She avoids the oath that she had signed to live up to on classified information.

When she hurled insults at Donald Trump last week for what was an unbelievable meeting in Mexico with the president down there, she used a ton of insults to describe that, no one questioned her lobbing those insults. When he goes back, it is always about Donald Trump. There is a huge double standard when it comes to how this campaign is being covered.

BERMAN: You talk to David Brock. They claim the double standard goes the other way. There's a lot of standards going around here.

I want to move on to a different subject, Mike Pence is releasing his taxes. Donald Trump won't do it until an audit is done. Donald Trump told viewers that voters don't care about seeing taxes. If voters don't care about it, why is Mike Pence releasing his?

[11:55:13] SPICER: Because he wants to. Donald Trump has basically said, I'm under audit, and under the advice of counsel, I will not release until it is done. He has released a financial disclosure form that is all the assets and debts. It is more comprehensive than a tax return ever could be.

BOLDUAN: It does not show things that on a tax reform does.

SPICER: I didn't say that. I said it is much more comprehensive than a tax return.

Again, I think one of the points that David made during his reporting is that Hillary Clinton was in government for a long time. We continue to see a Pay-to-Play from the Clinton Foundation. Talk about a lack of transparency.


BERMAN: This doesn't have --


SPICER: Hold on.


SPICER: It does. They sat there and faked amnesia as far as why they didn't know about this secret service over and over and over again.


SPICER: And that was government.


BERMAN: Anyone can release their taxes under an audit. That's not a reason --


SPICER: That is between him and his counsel to decide whether or not --


SPICER: Huh? Great. But he has made a decision, on the advice of counsel, he is not going to do it until the audit is over. It's been asked and answered. If the audit gets cleared up, he will do it.

Again, when it comes back to what Hillary Clinton has not done, she was in government and evaded the law and what was required of her over and over again.

BOLDUAN: Both sides seem to just want to change the subject to the other candidate. It is so funny.


BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this, changing the subject. Donald Trump, after giving his immigration, different positions he has on immigration, and his speech, Senator Jeff Flake, of Arizona, was critical of him. How did Donald Trump respond? He took him on, on Twitter, and called him a weak Senator, weak Jeff Flake. A Senator of Arizona. Do you think Senator Jeff Flake is a weak Senator?

SPICER: I don't think -- again, I have said this before on several topics, those aren't necessarily the words I would choose. We have a better argument, a better values and better solutions for this country.

But again, one of the things about Donald Trump and one of the things that makes him appealing to folks is doesn't coach things political correct.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that helps Donald Trump?


SPICER: I think what people are tired of is a bunch of politicians who say anything and do anything. What you see with Trump is a guy that's going to go down there and fight, no more business as usual.

BERMAN: What he said about Jeff Flake, was that appealing to you?

SPICER: Was that appealing to me?

BERMAN: You said it makes it appealing.




BERMAN: -- appealing to you?

SPICER: Look, again, I don't tend to use words like that in describing fellow Republicans. What I understand is what people are tired of is the same old politicians using recycled talking points. What Trump offers is a breath of fresh air, and not going to do the business as usual that is keeping Washington from solving the problems.

BOLDUAN: Sean Spicer --


BOLDUAN: -- a breathe of fresh air, AT THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: Our business as usual is going to commercial right now or we won't be in business.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Sean.


BERMAN: We'll be back in a moment.

BOLDUAN: Thanks.