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CNN/ORC Tie: Trump, Clinton in Virtual Tie; Interview with Rep. Chris Collins; Clinton Holds New Q&A on Plane; Obama Threatens "More Pressure" on North Korea; $20 Million Settlement in Ailes Sexual Harassment Suit. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 6, 2016 - 17:00   ET


TAPPER: You can follow me on Twitter, @JakeTapper, or the show, @TheLeadCNN. And now I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, virtual tie. Our exclusive new CNN/ORC poll shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton neck and neck for the first time in months. Trump now has a slight lead. Is his shift in tone and softer immigration stance appealing his -- increasing his appeal?

Hitting the foundation. Clinton goes after Trump, saying he broke the law by donating money from his foundation to a group backing Florida's attorney general. Clinton says Trump wanted to stave off an investigation of Trump University, but she's facing questions about her own family foundation. Should Bill Clinton still be in charge of that foundation?

Ailing FOX. An unprecedented move by FOX, apologizing for alleged sexual harassment by the ousted Chrisman, Roger Ailes, and paying out a $20 million settlement. Now another top network star is jumping ship, while Ailes assumes an informal role with the Trump campaign. Should the Republican nominee be taking advice from the disgraced news executive?

And un-imaginable. An un-imaginable disaster. North Korea's Kim Jong-un is slamming the U.S. as an aggressor and threatening disastrous consequences. Kim is calling for his country to build more nuclear weapons as he praises its latest missile launches. How far will he go to provoke the west?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The race for the White House is now a virtual tide. Our exclusive new CNN/ORC national poll shows Hillary Clinton's lead over Donald Trump has evaporated, with the GOP nominee two points ahead among likely voters. With the sampling error, that puts the candidates neck and neck just nine weeks before election day.

Clinton has launched a new attack against Donald Trump over his donation by his foundation to a group backing Florida attorney general Pam Bondi. The IRS deemed the gift illegal, and Trump had to pay a fine. Clinton is suggesting Trump donated, hoping to discourage Bondi from investigating Trump University. Trump and Bondi deny that. And new tonight: a $20 million settlement by FOX with former anchor Gretchen Carlson, who sued over alleged sexual harassment by the ousted news chief, Roger Ailes. FOX also issued a highly unusual public statement, apologizing to Carlson. In the fallout, top anchor Greta Van Susteren announced she's leaving FOX after 14 years. Ailes is now an unofficial advisor to Donald Trump.

We're also following fiery new rhetoric by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. He's railing against joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea, and threatening to unleash what he is calling unimaginable disaster. Kim is also vowing to step up his drive for nuclear weapons and warns an atomic attack could come at any time.

We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Donald Trump supporter, Republican Congressman Chris Collins. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by. We'll take a closer look at our CNN exclusive new poll in just a moment.

First, let's bring in our CNN political reporter, Sara Murray. She's following the Trump campaign for us.

Sara, Donald Trump is very pleased with this new poll.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Trump certainly is pleased, but one area where he's still trailing Hillary Clinton is on this question of who is best prepared to be commander in chief. And that may be why we saw him earlier today, hammering home this national security message in a town hall format that looked a little bit like a very public session of debate prep.


MURRAY (voice-over): In its final sprint, the presidential race has become a dead heat, and it's quickly turning into a dog fight.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary likes to play tough with Russia. Putin looks at her, and he laughs.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He says he has a secret plan to defeat ISIS, but the secret is he has no plan.

MURRAY: Today, Donald Trump is looking to bolster his national security credentials.

TRUMP: We've got problems, folks. We have to figure it out. And if we don't figure it out, we have to be careful, and vigilant, and strong.

MURRAY: That's as a new CNN/ORC poll shows him trailing Hillary Clinton by five points on the commander in chief test, Trump appearing with retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as he slammed Clinton's leadership abilities and called for closer ties with Russia.

TRUMP: Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? We have to get along with certain nations, very importantly, because it would be awfully good to have Russia and others with us on major attacks on ISIS.

MURRAY: The Trump campaign also rolling out a roster of 88 retired military leaders who say they're backing the bombastic billionaire but not without some reservations.

BRIGADIER GENERAL REMO BUTLER (RET.), TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think they're working in the right direction. And again, I'm here because some of his people on his campaign reached out to me. So yes, you're not doing it perfectly, but you're getting there.

[17:05:12] MURRAY: But amid the national security focus, Trump is still facing scrutiny over his motivations for donating $25,000 through his charitable foundation to a group backing Florida attorney general Pam Bondi in 2013. "The Washington Post" recently reported the IRS fined Trump for the improper donation, which came as Bondi was deciding whether to investigate allegations of fraud against Trump University.

She dropped the investigation, but Trump says that wasn't the goal of the donation, insisting they never spoke about it.

TRUMP: She is a fine person. Never spoke to her about it. Never.

MURRAY: An explanation Clinton clearly isn't buying.

CLINTON: The American people deserve to know what was said, because clearly, the attorney general did not proceed with the investigation.


MURRAY: Now tonight, both sides are saying they actually did have that conversation. Pam Bondi told FOX News that she asked Donald Trump for a donation, but she denied that there was any investigation underway, that she knew her office was looking into this at the time.

And Hope, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign also says that Pam Bondi and Donald Trump did speak about that donation and not about Trump University -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Murray, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on our exclusive new CNN/ORC poll showing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton locked in a virtual tie. Trump gets 45 percent among likely voters. Clinton has 43 percent. Third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are in single digits.

Let's dig deeper with CNN political director David Chalian. David, what else do these polls indicate?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Let's first look at some of the numbers that are driving that horse race, Wolf.

Let's first look at those key independent voters. Take a look at this number. Donald Trump is besting Hillary Clinton by 20 points, 49 percent to 29 percent. You see Gary Johnson there with 16 and Jill Stein with six among independent voters. Remember, Mitt Romney won independent voters by five points against

Barack Obama in 2012, but he still lost the election. A 20-point gap among independent voters is something that the Clinton campaign is going to want to work on, that Hillary Clinton is going to want to shore up some independent voters.

Now look at this next factor that is crucial when looking at the state of the race nine weeks before election day. Enthusiasm. Take a look at this finding, Wolf. Fifty-eight percent of Donald Trump voters tell us in this poll that they are very or extremely enthusiastic about voting for president. Only 46 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters say the same thing.

That is a big gap there. That is something that the Clinton folks will also want to work on if they're going to get the kind of turnout that they are looking to get out of this election.

And then finally, Wolf, as you know, we've been talking about sort of the honest and trustworthiness throughout this election as something that's been dogging Hillary Clinton. And Donald Trump had been struggling with it for some time, too.

Take a look when we asked who's more honest and trustworthy. Fifty percent of poll respondents say Donald Trump. Thirty-five percent say Hillary Clinton. So that is clearly turning into a disadvantage for Hillary Clinton in a way that you see Donald Trump trying to take advantage of all the time on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: David, put all this into some sort of perspective. This was a national poll. But as you know and our viewers know, the election will be won in the battleground states. What's that picture looking like right now?

CHALIAN: It's a really important question. You are right: this is a national poll, and we all know you win the White House by the state by state battle in those battleground states.

Take a look at CNN's latest battleground state map. You see there, if the election were to come out the way we sort of assess where the states are right now, Hillary Clinton would actually be elected president. There's nothing in this poll out today that says that Donald Trump's path to 270 votes got a lot easier. We will be on the lookout for more state polling in the days ahead. But right now she has an advantage in nearly every battleground state, those 10 to 12 states that are going to matter most. And Donald Trump still has a narrow path to getting 270.

BLITZER: We'll see if that changes. All right, David, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York is joining us. He's supporting Donald Trump. In fact, he was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Good evening, Wolf. BLITZER: I'm going to get through all of that, but let's clear up right now this whole issue -- and Hillary Clinton made a big deal of it today. The $25,000 donation that Donald Trump's foundation gave to Pam Bondi, a group supporting Pam Bondi, the attorney general of Florida, at a time when there was some sort of look into Trump University. He was fined, the foundation was fined by the IRS. They said it was illegal donation, fined $2,500 [SIC]. They shouldn't have done it.

They insist that there was nothing wrong, but it looks like a moment -- and the accusation is pay-for-play. You give a member of Congress -- you give a politician some money, and they do something for you.

COLLINS: Well, I mean, clearly, Hillary Clinton is desperate at this point in time. Donald Trump is in the lead. He has taken a double- digit, what was supposed to be a double-digit behind in the polls to where he's now in the lead slightly.

[17:10:09] So Hillary Clinton is doing what they teach you in Politics 101. The only defense to try to defend the indefensible is to go on the offense. So I'm not surprised in the least. They're digging for anything, and clearly what Mr. Trump did was a mistake, as a private citizen, and it pales in comparison to Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, the Clinton family foundation.

So this is not surprising. She'll continue, Hillary Clinton will, to attack Donald Trump on every front, because she can't defend the indefensible.

BLITZER: Because you know Donald Trump, he used to say all the time, "Yes, I used to give to Democrats, Republicans. That's the way you get things done. You give them money; they do things you want them to do."

It sounds like, in this particular case, he was a private citizen. He didn't want Florida to get involved in an investigation of Trump University. She was the attorney general, still is, and so he gave her a contribution.

COLLIN: Well, I will accept at face value both Mr. Trump and the attorney general saying there was no quid pro quo here. There was nothing of the sort. She asked for a donation. He gave the donation. Clearly, it was not something that should have been done. He paid a very small fine of $2,500.

But this is Hillary Clinton in her desperation to distract from the drip, drip, drip, drip of what's been going on with her e-mails, more to come. And now Donald Trump is clearly in the lead.

BLITZER: He seems to be shifting his position on immigration here in the United States and the undocumented immigrants in the United States. He seems apparently to be moving a little bit closer...

COLLINS: Well...

BLITZER: ... to your position. Let me -- let me just give you the background right now. In this

latest interview, he said this about undocumented immigrants eventually getting some sort of legal status in the United States without necessarily leaving the country and applying for reentry. He said, "I'm going to make a decision, or somebody will, whether it's me or somebody else, because by the time we'll have a secure border, we'll have a wall."

So what is he suggesting here? Because he seems to be going back and forth on this very sensitive issue.

COLLINS: Well, he's saying he's going to stress building the wall, securing the borders, get e-verify up and running and get rid of the criminal element of these illegal immigrants, at which point -- It could take a couple years, will deal with the 10 or 11 million illegal immigrants who are law-abiding, at least from the standpoint of their current employment on the farms and the like, restaurants and hotels.

And here is the compassionate piece I've called for for six months. A suggestion I've made is let's give the visas, or -- with working with the government to the farmers. Let the -- let the employer control the visa. Let him go get his work force, with supervision by the government. But let the employer, and if he's got current workers on his farm and wants to use his visas for those workers, obviously, than they would not have to go back across the border.

BLITZER: Is that amnesty?

COLLINS: Clearly not. There's no pathway of citizenship.

BLITZER: But there is a pathway to a legal status.

COLLINS: There's a pathway to legal status, and I might put that in the hands of the employer with control of the visas. Get the kind of discussion Congress can have with President Trump a couple years down the road. He has clearly said there will be no deportation force going business to business or house to house, trying to round these folks up and take them in.

BLITZER: He said there would be a deportation task force that would deal with the criminal element.

COLLINS: The criminal element. All Americans would say let's get them out of there. We agree with that. And then, as Mr. Trump says, once we know we've secured the border.

BLITZER: Last week, he said the only way to get legal status or citizenship, for that matter, is for these immigrants to leave the country and apply to come back legally.

But now he's shifted. He's saying some of them, they can stay here, and maybe, he said, I'm going to make a decision or somebody will, allowing them legal status.

COLLINS: Well, and again, it's not citizenship, because they would have to leave the country to get citizenship, if they were wanting citizenship. They don't. They want legal work papers. I think this is Mr. Trump saying he'll work with Congress. And many of us in Congress share the concept I have of figuring out a way to process these folks, get them out of the shadows, make them pay taxes, and let's move forward with a legal workforce, along with e-verify and security.

BLITZER: He's not being that precise, as you are, but I know you and he disagree on this sensitive issue. But he seems to be moving a little bit closer towards you.

COLLINS: Would hope so.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Congressman. We have more to assess, more to discuss. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[17:18:41] BLITZER: The presidential contest is now too close to call. Our exclusive new CNN/ORC national poll of likely voters shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a virtual tie.

We're back with the Republican congressman Chris Collins of New York. He's supporting Trump.

Congressman, I want you to listen to something Donald Trump said about Hillary Clinton, and then we'll discuss.


TRUMP: I just don't think she has a presidential look. And you need a president to look, you have to get the job done.


BLITZER: He said, "I just don't think she has a presidential look. And you need a presidential look, you have to get the job done."

Now, a lot of people are criticizing him, the presidential look, saying she's a woman, she doesn't have a presidential look. He's being sexist. There's never been a woman president of the United States.

COLLIN: No, I couldn't disagree more with those that are saying that. I mean, Mr. Trump in his business, in his company, as you can see, that he treats women with respect.

BLITZER: But is he trying to capitalize on the fact that there's never been a woman president of the United States?

COLLINS: I don't think that at all. What he's pointing out is, with all of her negatives, she is not, with her character flaws, suited to be president. And when you see her, she can't hold an impromptu news conference. She's like a robot.

BLITZER: What does -- someone looking presidential, "I don't think she has a presidential look," what does that have to do with her qualifications to be president of the United States?

[17:20:00] COLLINS: I think the irony is the liberal press was saying Mr. Trump didn't look presidential. I mean, the last three weeks, the difference is Mr. Trump is now pulling in the undecideds and the independents, looking more presidential. He was criticized for months and months by not looking presidential.

BLITZER: When the press he doesn't look presidential, it wasn't because of the way he looked. It was because of the substance of what he was saying, how he was acting. You've heard those kinds of criticisms. It wasn't the fact that he looked in a specific way.

COLLINS: Well, and I would say the same thing here. He's not talking about the way she looks physically. He's talking not unlike what the press said about him. She's not suitable, given her character flaws, to be the president. She does not present herself in a way that she would be a true counter to Putin or to North Korean and things of that sort.

So I -- I would not read anything more into that than the same criticism that was coming at Donald Trump the last six months.

BLITZER: One final thing, and it's sort of related. Twenty-First Century FOX, they've now reached a $20 million settlement with Gretchen Carlson, former FOX anchor who allegedly was sexually harassed by Roger Ailes, who was -- who was the...

COLLINS: Based on the settlement, I don't think you need to use the word "alleged" any more.

BLITZER: Well, whatever. It hasn't been adjudicated in a court...


BLITZER: ... or anything like that. But he is now an unofficial, informal advisor, Roger Ailes, to Donald Trump. Is that appropriate?

COLLINS: Well, I can't speak to who is advising Mr. Trump or not. He was trying to get the best advice he can get. Certainly, that behavior can never be tolerated.

BLITZER: But is it a liability to have someone like that who -- I use the word "allegedly"; you didn't use the word "allegedly" -- was sexually harassing Gretchen Carlson, maybe other women at FOX News?

COLLINS: Well, I don't know what he -- his role is, and when it comes to advice, I mean, no one has ever said the man's not brilliant in his job. But you can't condone his behavior, and so to the extent we need to win this election, to preserve the balance in the Supreme Court and keep it conservative, and move our country in another direction. If there's an expert out there that can give him some detailed expert advice, I'm not going to tell Mr. Trump...

BLITZER: He's clearly a talented guy, Roger Ailes.

COLLINS: That's what I mean. BLITZER; A very smart guy, but is it appropriate for him to be flying on Trump's plane, giving him this kind -- would you want someone like that giving you advice?


BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much.


BLITZER: A blunt answer, one of the reasons we have you on the show.


BLITZER: Chris Collins, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up, the one issue where Donald Trump has a strong lead among independent voters. We're going to talk about it with our political experts.

And once again, the ousted FOX News chief, Roger Ailes, advising Donald Trump, even as FOX shells out $20 million to settle sexual harassment allegations against Ailes. How much influence is he actually having on the Trump campaign?


BLITZER: With just nine weeks to go until the election, our exclusive CNN/ORC national poll, just out, shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton virtually tied among likely voters.

Let's get some insight from our political experts. Joining us, CNN political analyst and Real Clear Politics national political reporter Rebecca Berg; our political director, David Chalian; CNN Politics executive editor Mark Preston; and our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

David we went through the numbers. Here they are -- put them back up on the screen -- Trump 45, Clinton 43, Johnson 7, Stein 2. What do these numbers say to you? Has Donald Trump turned this election around?

CHALIAN: I don't know that he's turned it around as much as it is a return to where it was before the conventions, which is a close race, a margin-of-error race. He clearly has put a floor underneath him, and in fact, in this poll, seems to be creeping up a little bit beyond what may have been his ceiling to date.

I look at this like we came at the beginning of August. Hillary Clinton came off a very successful convention. She got a bounce out of that while Donald Trump was spiraling with this controversy over the Khan family, the Gold Star family. That episode rocked the election, and I think what we're seeing now is a return to what both campaigns expect to be a pretty close election all fall.

BLITZER: Donald Trump seems to be muddying his position a bit, making it a little bit more confusing, shall we say, on immigration, illegal immigration. He says he would make that decision about allowing a pathway to legal status way down the road, or somebody will. Is he deliberately muddling his position right now in order to win political support?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, first of all, an understatement to say that he's muddying it, because he has gone back and forth and back and forth and back and forth so many times that it's confusing to know where he actually stands on the issue.

What I think is probably happening within the Trump campaign is that there is a power struggle about how to address this issue. And there are those within the Trump campaign that want him to take a hardline position, Wolf, on this, and we saw this after that trip to Mexico. After he goes down to Mexico, he seems very magnanimous about the issue, no real talk about the wall; answered a quick question. Then he goes up to Arizona a few hours later, and he goes hardline on it again.

I think for Donald Trump right now, is that the last person he's listening to, in many ways, is probably influencing what he to the press when they ask him the question.

BLITZER: Because he has, obviously, in terms of our new poll, turned things around rather dramatically.

He's got this one issue, and you've been covering it, Jim...


BLITZER: ... the $25,000 contribution from his charitable foundation to Pam -- a group supporting Pam Bondi, the attorney general, at a time when she was, I guess, thinking, or at least officials in the attorney general's office were thinking about participating in a lawsuit against Trump University. The charitable foundation had to pay a $2,500 fine. It was an illegal political contribution. How much of a problem is this for Trump?

[17:30:07] ACOSTA: Well, I think, considering the fact that Donald Trump out on the campaign trail, has been accusing Hillary Clinton of pay-to-play when it comes to the Clinton Foundation, that this raises serious question and that the Trump campaign is going to deal with this.

I will point out, Wolf, I was speaking with his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, today, and she said that this contribution that went from the Trump Foundation to Pam Bondi's political group, quote, "was legitimate. It was sent to the wrong group after a series of errors. This has since been corrected." So they used the word "legitimate." This was when I asked Hope Hicks whether this was a mistake. They don't consider this contribution to be a mistake. They think it was legitimate.

BLITZER: But they paid $2,500 to the IRS as a penalty.

ACOSTA: That's right. They paid this $2,500 fine to the IRS to clear it up, but it's not going to clear up these questions, mainly because Donald Trump has raised this issue himself. He has raised these questions about Hillary Clinton, and so it's only fair game for these questions to be asked of the Trump campaign and the Trump Foundation.

BLITZER: I'm anxious, Rebecca, to get your opinion of, when Trump says Hillary Clinton does not have, in his words, a "presidential look." You heard what the congressman, Chris Collins, had to say. Is there a sexist element here, as Trump is being widely accused of doing?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's always hard to know exactly what Donald Trump means, because he tends not to go into more detail or explain exactly the meaning behind his words, necessarily.

But the Clinton campaign, as you would expect, perhaps, is certainly pushing that interpretation of this remark, pushing back, saying that Donald Trump was wrong to say this and that it was a sexist remark.

It could also be getting at this theme that Donald Trump has been hitting that Hillary Clinton is too weak to be a president, doesn't have the stamina, as he says, to be president. So there are plenty of interpretations. One of them, of course, that he means she's a woman and, of course, a woman doesn't look like a president, because there hasn't been a female president before.

CHALIAN: Hillary Clinton actually raised this on the campaign plane with reporters yesterday when she met with the press, after not meeting with them for a while. She raised this and then left it, and said, "I'll leave it to you all to opine about this and figure out what it means." But she made not to introduce that she had heard this was said.

BERG: And this is the problem with Donald Trump being so vague all of the time, saying things without really considering the weight of his words, because he can fall into these traps that actually end up helping the Clinton campaign and playing into the narratives that they want to push.

PRESTON: But I also think it's dangerous for us to interpret what Donald Trump means as we're talking about this, because when I heard that, I didn't interpret it as him being sexist. I just thought he meant that she was sickly and didn't look presidential. She coughs too much and...

BERG: It could be a health thing. We don't know.

PRESTON: In a classic Donald Trump way. You know, Rebecca's right. He says these things, throws them out there, and steps back.

ACOSTA: But it was a warning to the campaign, because he made a similar remark about Carly Fiorina during the primary process, and it was just brutal for him. The reaction was brutal inside the Republican Party. So I think he got an understanding today that, if he tries to push this sort of comment during the fall debates, for example, coming up in a few weeks, that that's just going to be a huge... BLITZER: When he said, "Look at that face."

ACOSTA: Exactly, you know, not having a presidential look. Yes.

BLITZER: Yes, that was Carly Fiorina.

All right, guys. Stand by. Much more coming up. Hillary Clinton took reporters' questions now for the second day in a row. It made some headlines we need to discuss.

And later, more details about today's unprecedented settlement of the sexual harassment lawsuit against the former FOX executive, Roger Ailes.


[17:35:09] BLITZER: A newly accessible Hillary Clinton once again answered reporters' questions aboard her campaign jet today. Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is in Florida following the Clinton campaign for us.

Joe, these Q&A sessions seem to be becoming a regular routine, at least two cays in a row.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. At least for now, Wolf. Hillary Clinton once again taking questions from the media, using the opportunity to defend herself and also launch new attacks on Donald Trump.

Also here at the public event in Tampa, focusing on national security and veterans' issues, with the anniversary of September 11 just days away.


JOHNS (voice-over): Hillary Clinton fielding questions from the press for a second day in a row.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I had so much fun yesterday I thought I did want to do this again. Adventures on the plane.

JOHNS: Traveling aboard her new campaign plane to Florida, Clinton called out Donald Trump for not releasing his tax returns.

CLINTON: The scams, the frauds, the questionable relationships, the business activities that have stiffed workers, refused to pay small businesses. So clearly, his tax returns tell a story that the American people deserve and need to know.

JOHNS: Clinton is campaigning today in Tampa, where she took aim at Trump's command of foreign policy and national security issues.

CLINTON: When it comes to fighting ISIS, he has been all over the map. He's talked about sending in American ground troops. Not on my watch. That is not what we are going to do. JOHNS: Clinton is also targeting Trump on the airwaves, highlighting

the GOP nominee's past comments about veterans and military families in a new television ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What sacrifice have you made for your country?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think I made a lot of sacrifices. I built great structures. I've had tremendous success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those are sacrifices?

[17:40:02] JOHNS: That as Clinton's vice-presidential pick, Tim Kaine, blasts Trump's temperament during a national security speech in North Carolina.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He says whatever he feels like at any given time, because you can do that when you're a TV star, but you can't do that when you're the president of the United States.

JOHNS: But Clinton is still facing questions when it comes to her honesty, amid the fallout from her use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state.

Today she dismissed calls by Republicans to launch an investigation into whether she tried to impede Congress' initial probe into her e- mail server by deleting archives of her messages.

CLINTON: I believe I've created so many jobs in the sort of conspiracy theory machine factory, because honestly, they never quit. They keep coming back.

JOHNS: That as a new CNN/ORC poll shows that 50 percent of likely voters see Trump as the more honest and trustworthy candidate, while 35 percent choose Clinton.

Vice President Joe Biden tells CNN's Jeff Zeleny that Clinton should let voters know how she really feels.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My advice to Hillary always is just open up. Let them see your heart a little more. Because she has the heart.


JOHNS: And more signs that the post-Labor Day tempo is picking up. The campaign announced today that first lady Michelle Obama will campaign in Virginia for Hillary Clinton. And the -- there will be more campaigning after that with Elizabeth Warren in Philadelphia on Friday.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Joe Johns in Tampa for us. Joe, thank you.

Let's get back to our political experts. David Chalian, that 50-35 number, 50 percent think that Donald Trump is more honest and trustworthy than Hillary Clinton. How does she get her numbers higher than that? Only 35 percent.

CHALIAN: Yes. Tough to call that a surprising number after the last 16, 17 months of news coverage about Hillary Clinton dominated by the e-mail controversy that she's been facing.

I don't know that her mission is to somehow get a majority of people to think that she's honest and trustworthy. She'd like to improve that number a little bit. I think one way to do that is to make herself more accessible, try to get rid of this notion that she's hiding something.

But those numbers are largely baked in at this point. That's going to be a hard number at this stage of the game for her to completely turn around.

BLITZER: She also says that she doesn't think her husband, Bill Clinton, should step down from the Clinton Foundation until after the election, not right now. Would it help her if he were to step down at this point?

PRESTON: It's a rock and a hard place at this point, because it's very complex. If he steps down at this point, and they're acknowledging guilt in some ways, that he shouldn't have been in that position in the first place when she was secretary of state.

By waiting it out, it allows them to say, "Listen," assuming that she wins the presidency, "this is the appropriate time for him to step down."

But for all the critics out there that are saying this foundation should shut down tomorrow, there's a lot of winding down that goes down. There's a lot of good work that the Clinton Foundation does do that they have to shift over, so that isn't the right answer either, Wolf.

BLITZER: When she met with reporters in the back of her plane today, the first thing she did, she spoke on and on and on about Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns.

Donald Trump supporters say nobody cares about his tax returns. But there are a lot of people who care about those tax returns. Does it matter, though, at this point with, what, only 63 days to go, whether or not he does?

PRESTON: It does matter, Wolf. I mean, absolutely, the public has a right to see what is in Donald Trump's tax returns. Presidential candidates have been doing this all the way back to Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon was under an audit at that time, and he released his tax returns.

It is about as ridiculous as not holding a press conference for 275 days, Donald Trump's position on this. To not release your tax returns is denying the public the right to know something that everybody needs to know. If he has been paying a very small percentage of his income on -- in his taxes, that is something the public needs to know about. If he's been dramatically overstating his net worth, that is something that the public has a right to know about.

And, quite frankly, I think both of these campaigns trying to avoid public disclosure has just been one of the sad parts of this campaign. It just does not really meet the standard for what we expect our presidential candidates to live by in modern times.

BLITZER: Rebecca, she all of a sudden is becoming much more accessible to the traveling press corps with her. She's gone back yesterday to answer questions, gone back today, back of the plane, to answer reporters' questions, starting to do some interviews right now. Is she succumbing to all this pressure out there?

BERG: Well, it's funny how some public pressure and pressure from the opposing party can help change a candidates' behavior. I think this was a situation where it was a combination of those two factors. You had a lot of pressure coming from reporters like us who want to be able to have access to the candidate who they're covering, but also from Republicans. Donald Trump has been pushing this theme that Hillary Clinton is not transparent.

You look at those honest and trustworthy numbers in the polls, and that's a continuing problem for her. And so she needed to take steps to show that she was being transparent, to open up, and it also enables her to make the argument that Donald Trump isn't being fully transparent with his tax returns and to make that argument a lot more effectively down the road.

[17:45:15] BLITZER: Guys, stay with us. Don't go too far away. We'll have more coming up.

Also, today's unprecedented settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit against the former Fox News Executive Roger Ailes. Will Donald Trump keep turning to Ailes for political advice?

Plus, President Obama's stern new warning to North Korea's Kim Jong- un.


[17:50:47] BLITZER: Another important news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now, a stern new warning to North Korea from President Obama. After meeting with South Korea's leader at a Pacific Rim Summit, the President threatened tighter sanctions saying North Korea's continued provocations will, quote, only invite more pressure and further deepen its isolation.

Kim Jong-un's military launched three ballistic missiles this week. Kim also called for more, in his words, miraculous achievements in bolstering North Korea's nuclear forces, and he threatened attacks that would cause, in his words, unimaginable disaster.

Other news we're following including today's unprecedented settlement of the sexual harassment lawsuit involving Roger Ailes, the former top executive at Fox News who advises Donald Trump. CNN's Brian Todd is here with more of the details. Brian, a huge sum of money involved.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a massive amount, Wolf. Gretchen Carlson is getting $20 million from 21st Century Fox. And what's also making big news and sparking some outrage is that the man whose alleged behavior started all of this, Roger Ailes, not only doesn't have to pay any money himself in the settlement according to his lawyer, he's also landed an important influential role as an adviser to Donald Trump, the man who is now running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton in the race for president.

In an extraordinary statement tonight, Fox apologized for the alleged sexual harassment Carlson said that she suffered from this former Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes. Here is part of that statement, quote, we sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect that she and all of our colleagues deserve.

CNN'S Brian Stelter tells me that companies like Fox simply don't do things like this. They don't pay $20 million settlements when there's no there, there. Brian says the Murdochs who own Fox, he is told that they are convinced that Ailes was indeed harassing women in his Fox News office for several years.

Ailes was ousted at Fox after more than 20 women reportedly spoke with an investigating law firm about his alleged advances toward them. It is important to note here Roger Ailes still and continually denies the allegations.

What's also making news tonight, Wolf, Ailes now advising Donald Trump as he prepares for the debates. Trump, of course, has serious problems attracting women voters. A CNN poll just out shows him trailing by double digits among women. Democrats call Ailes involvement a slap in the face to women voters. Trump has a pattern of insulting female candidates. At a debate on ABC, Trump said about Clinton, quote, I just don't think she has a presidential look. You need a presidential look. We also know what he said about Carly Fiorina, how he insulted her looks.

Now, the Trump campaign, interestingly, denies that Ailes is advising them formally or informally. We reached out to Roger Ailes' attorney who would not comment on this settlement other than to say that Ailes is not contributing to any of it. Also, that attorney would not comment on the criticism that Roger Ailes could be a liability to the campaign. Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, this comes on the same day that Fox is losing long- time host, Greta Van Susteren. What do we know about that?

TODD: Not a great day for Fox, Wolf. Fox announced that this morning, Van Susteren reportedly tried to renegotiate her contract after Ailes resigned but those negotiations did not pan out. She opted to leave now. Interestingly, she posted on her Facebook page that Fox had not felt like a home to her for a few years.

BLITZER: One other question, has the Trump campaign said anything publicly about Roger Ailes? Will he continue to be an unofficial informal adviser to Donald Trump, especially going forward towards the first Presidential Debate?

[17:55:05] TODD: Wolf, the Trump campaign is denying that he is even with them as an adviser in an informal or a formal role. They will not talk about Roger Ailes. But Brian Stelter, our media correspondent, the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," he's got good sources saying that Roger Ailes is a key informal adviser to Donald Trump, prepping him for the debates with Hillary Clinton.

And I talked on David Gergen, our analyst this morning. David, of course, has advised several presidents. David said, you know, honestly speaking, you really couldn't do much better than Roger Ailes for a debate coach. This is the man who helped get Richard Nixon elected. He advised Ronald Reagan, he advised George W. Bush in some of their key moments, successful moments, in their campaign. Donald Trump couldn't do much better as far as strategy in a debate and how to present yourself in that debate and hit Hillary Clinton on certain key points in that debate than with Roger Ailes as his coach.

BLITZER: Yes. But he's also, obviously, right now bringing a lot of baggage as well. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you very much.

Coming up, the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is now too close to call. We're going to have details of our exclusive new CNN/ORC poll.


[18:00:53] BLITZER: Happening now, too close to call. CNN's exclusive new poll shows Donald Trump now in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, the Republican gaining ground after weeks of lagging behind. What is driving Trump's numbers up?

Fighting over veterans. Trump meets with military families and wins the support of dozens of retired generals. This as a new Clinton ad accuses Trump of disrespecting veterans. Tonight, who's --