Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Grabs Lead In CNN Poll; Candidates Pushing For Votes With 63 Days Until Election; List Of Retired Generals And Admirals Backing Trump; Trump Won't Rule Out Path To Legal Status; Trump Sends Mixed Messages On Immigration. Aired 1-130p ET

Aired September 6, 2016 - 13:00   ET



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

We start with a campaign trail frenzy right now, with just under 63 days to go until the U.S. presidential election.

Right now, we're standing by for Hillary Clinton. She's set to speak at a rally in Tampa, Florida this hour. And in Virginia Beach, Donald Trump is preparing for a town hall on national secretary and veterans affairs. That event will be hosted by retired General Michael Flynn, whom we we'll speak with in just a few moments.

There is a new CNN-ORC poll showing how close this race is right now. Look at this. Donald Trump now leads Hillary Clinton by two points. It's 45 percent to 43 percent among likely voters. That's inside the margin of error.

Our National Correspondent Jason Carroll is in Virginia Beach where Trump is holding a town hall in the next hour. Our Senior Washington Correspondent Joe Johns is in Tampa for the upcoming Hillary Clinton rally.

Joe, first to you. Hillary Clinton just answered some questions to the news media about Donald Trump. What did she say?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: She did answer some questions to the news media about Donald Trump, among other things. She was asked about the latest polling, the CNN-ORC poling, that essentially shows a statistical dead heat. She said she doesn't respond to polls. She doesn't focus on them, as she has many times, in fact, Wolf, as you know in your interviews with her.

She's here at the University of South Florida, expecting to refocus her campaign right now on the issue of national security, also looking to try to pull more of the millennial vote in. That's very important because some of the internals in that CNN polling do suggest that Hillary Clinton is now doing much better with younger voters than she was during the primaries when she was running against Bernie Sanders in the Democratic contest. Meanwhile, earlier today, Hillary Clinton was also asked a few questions on the plane about, among other things, her speech in Cleveland just yesterday which was remarkable for an extending coughing fit that she had at the very top. She laughed it off by saying she was allergic to Donald Trump who was in the area at the same time. Let's listen to some of that.

So, it sounds like we don't have that at this time. But, once again, I think the important thing to say about the University of South Florida at this time is we do expect to hear a little bit more about national security.

Our polls show Donald Trump with an edge on the issue of terrorism. Hillary Clinton with an edge on the issue of foreign policy. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, in the military important state of North Carolina also giving a speech on the very same issue.

They did today put out an ad hitting Donald Trump, once again, on the issue of national security and whether he has the temperament to be commander in chief -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're just getting in some notes from what else Hillary Clinton said to the reporters aboard her plan. Among other things, she said, Donald Trump's career is full of scams, the frauds, the questionable relationships. She said, clearly, his tax returns tell a story that the American people deserve and need to know. She adds this, he clearly has something to hide. We don't know exactly what it is but we are getting better guesses. Strong words from Hillary Clinton.

I want to go to Jason Carroll who's covering Donald Trump for us down in Virginia. Jason, this is an event that Trump is about to do with a lot of veterans there talking about veterans' affair and national security. Set the scene for us.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, certainly a number of the supporters who are out here for Donald Trump feel as though speaking about veterans' affairs is one of his strong suits. And to prove that, as you know, today, the Trump campaign released the names of 88 retired generals and admirals who've come out in support of Donald Trump.

And not only will retired General Michael Flynn be taking the stage here, but we've also been told that Army General Bert Mizusawa will be taking the stage. I spoke to him very briefly about what Trump will be talking about here when he takes the stage.

[13:05:00] Some of the themes that he'll be addressing, some of the themes he's addressed before, which is that veterans should be able to see whatever type of doctor they want, whether it's in the V.A. system or a private doctor, if need be. This certainly speaks to a number of people who we've spoken to here in the room.

One man I spoke to, Wolf, retired from the Navy. He said he went to see a doctor. He had an ear problem. Had problems with that in the V.A. And when Trump started speaking about that, Wolf, that really appealed to him. So, a number of his supporters here in the room.

Trump will also, when he takes the stage, talk about the failed policies of Democrats, and in terms of fixing what he calls a very broken V.A. system.

So, these are just some of the things that Donald Trump will be addressing when he takes the stage here just about an hour from now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason Carroll, Joe Johns, guys, thanks very much.

Trump, as Jason said, he'll be taking the stage in Virginia Beach. Trump will be joined by the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. General Flynn is a senior adviser to Donald Trump. He also accompanies the Republican nominee to the intelligence briefings he receives, now that he receives those intelligence briefings from the CIA.

I spoke with General Flynn just a little while ago and I asked him about the focus of Trump's town hall next hour.


LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (retired), SENIOR ADVISOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: The sole purpose is national security. We will discuss foreign policy. We will definitely discuss veterans' issues. And we will definitely discuss the readiness and the way, the direction that our military is going these days. They're a very stressed out force.

And so, it will be a good -- a good set of topics that we'll -- that we'll be talking about with a - with roughly somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 people today in Virginia Beach.

BLITZER: The Trump campaign just released a list of 88 retired generals and admirals who are supporting Donald Trump. Now, you, I understand, played a role in collecting the signatures. Is that right?

FLYNN: Yes. I -- you know, here we are, Wolf -- and I would tell you that that list, we thought about this, you know, a couple weeks ago. And one of the individuals on there, Sid Chaknow (ph), who's a -- who's a holocaust survivor as a child, is the one that really came up with the idea. And I'll tell you, as soon as we got the word out to a bunch of people, that thing just filled up quickly.

And, frankly, we had to cut it off this weekend, just because we wanted to make sure that it broke this particular week because this is an important week for national security and for -- and for our military, particularly the commander-in-chief's forum tomorrow. And there are a lot more names of people that have rolled in over the weekend so that list will grow. We're very, very happy with it. There's a lot of warriors on that list and a lot of people that care deeply about our country and the direction our country is going.

So, we're really appreciative of all the people that signed up. BLITZER: As you know, both Romney and McCain had more than 300

retired generals and admirals who signed a similar list. And what's notable this time is that several high-ranking Republican national security officials have not only not endorsed Donald Trump but they're staying out of it completely, Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger, James Schultz, James Baker, both Bush presidents. How disappointed are you? George Schultz, I should say. George Schultz.

FLYNN: Yes, I would just say that the list of names on that particular letter that talks about Donald Trump's -- their belief of Donald Trump's ability to be commander in chief, those are really all military retired flag officers, both admirals and generals.

I think what you're referring to is, I think, as the election went on for Romney, he was able to secure some number right at the very, very end, right prior to the election itself. So, I suspect we're going to get more endorsements from a variety of national security folks here in the coming weeks.

So, I'm not -- I'm not going to compare, you know, apples and oranges, because these are two different times in our -- in our country. And, frankly, right now, the state of play in the world, the way the complexity of the world that we face. And these are some very serious times.

And the people that I know on that list, which are many of them, and served with many of them, these are some very serious people that thought quite a bit about endorsing Donald Trump. And they have all jumped on board so we're real happy about that.

BLITZER: Well, what about the silence from Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, James Baker, both Bush presidents? You must be so disappointed they're not endorsing Donald Trump?

FLYNN: Yes, I -- you know, I kind of look at it -- personally, Wolf, I sort of look at this as, you know, there is -- there's people in the past -- I mean, those are great names. Those are great people and I have met some of them. I know some of them. I would just say that everybody is going to be making their own decisions as we go forward.

[13:10:04] I am -- I am less concerned about people that are -- that are looking at how we did things in the past. And I'm more concerned about people focusing on the future and the -- and the type of national security, the type of foreign policy, the type of military, the type of homeland security kind of issues that we must start looking at in a much, much different way. And I think that this election is an election of change. And I think that the people of this country, the United States of America, want change in a big way. And that's what Donald Trump brings.

BLITZER: Donald Trump often says illegal immigration is a national security issue, itself. And, as you know, there's a lot of confusion right now over his plan for dealing with the millions of undocumented immigrants here in the United States. I want you to listen to what he told reporters on his plane yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you rule out that one possibility in that determination --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not ruling out anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, I'm not including a pathway to legal status.

TRUMP: No. To become a citizen, you're going to go out and come back in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of Republican plans have talked about letting people have a legal status, just being able to live here, work here. There are people who have lived here for a long time and contribute to society.

TRUMP: We're going to make that decision into the future.


BLITZER: All right. So, last week, he said, if you want legal status in the United States, forget about citizenship, just legal status, you have to leave the United States and then reapply for entry. Yesterday, he had a different -- a different suggestion, saying we'll leave it to the future. We'll see what happens down the road. So, what is it? Where does he stand?

FLYNN: Well, you know, first of all, I had a very, very difficult time hearing that. But here's my take on where the immigration policy stands. This is about prioritizing the -- those illegally -- those individuals who are illegally here in this country.

And I -- and I keep going back to the word, undocumented. Undocumented means that they're here illegally, meaning if they have overstayed their visas or whatever it is, Wolf. So, people that are here illegally. And I think -- I believe what Donald Trump has really laid out is a prioritization of the different groups of those illegal immigrants that are here. And I think that that's a really smart way to do it. I mean, he's talked about, you know, those, of course, that have committed violent crimes, is in one case. We've looked at the sanctuary cities as another decision to make.

So, I think that the prioritization of those who are here illegally is a very smart way to approach this and understanding that some of this is going to take time because we're looking at such a large number that have been allowed to come into our country illegally. So, I think prioritizing is really what Donald Trump is talking about when he describes it.

But, at the end of the day, Wolf, people -- if you're here illegally, we have to get these people out of this country. And then, allow them to come back in under a legal process that all the other immigrants that have come to this country, and done so legally, have taken. And that process, you know, I think it takes -- it takes upwards of about 18 months. But it has to be done through a legal means. If that means that we have to fix that process, I think we're going to -- you know, obviously, we're going to have to do that.

So, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of pieces to this thing. And the only -- the only part that I would add, back to your question, is that this is really about prioritizing those who are here illegally and making sure that we understand each of the categories of the people that are here.

BLITZER: But he's leaving open the possibility that some of them could actually get legal status here in the United States down the road without leaving the United States first. He's opening up that possibility.

FLYNN: Yes, I mean, if -- and I -- again, I didn't quite hear what he said in the airplane there yesterday. But I would say that that is something that should be considered. I mean, these are thing -- so, these are ideas that are -- that are coming out, based on the sheer scale of the -- of the illegal problem that we face in this country. And each group that are here illegally are going to have to be looked at. And, you know, obviously, we want to start with the -- with those that are -- that are the felons and get them out of this country as quickly as possible and, you know, get them returned to their countries of origin.

But on the other scale, on the other end, maybe there are people who are here that have demonstrated, over years, you know, an ability to be part of the country. But they still have to go through a process that brings them into this country legally. They still have to go through that, sort of, legalization process.

BLITZER: But they might not, necessarily, have to leave the country first. They might be able to go through that process while remaining in the United States. Is that right?

FLYNN: That's possible. I -- you know, I mean, I'm -- at this point in time, I would leave those specifics up to the people that I know that are looking at this particular problem very hard.

The biggest thing is trying to figure out -- Wolf, the biggest challenge that we have is our own country doesn't even know really how many people we have here illegally. I mean that's -- that's really sort of stunning -- a stunning fact.


FLYNN: So, I mean, we have to -- we have to come to grips with that number first and really understand, you know, what we have, where they are, and then -- and then get into how we really want to categorize each of these different groups of people. So it has to be smart. And that's really what Donald Trump was talking about is a very, very smart, imaginative, creative solution to solving this problem. We cannot have a secure country if our borders are not secure, if people do not feel secure.

BLITZER: All right. FLYNN: And those people that work their tails off, Wolf, to come in here legally, we have to protect that status as well because that's a very important process that people have worked very hard to make sure that they do correctly.


BLITZER: Coming up, more of my interviews with one of Donald Trump's key military advisors, the retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. I'll ask him what he considers the biggest strategic legal to the United States right now and what he, and Donald Trump for that matter, would have done if the Philippine president had insulted Donald Trump.

And we'll also talk to a key Clinton supporter, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff.

Take a look at this. You're looking at live pictures in Tampa. Hillary Clinton getting ready to take the stage there. We'll have coverage, of course.

Much more coming up right after this.


[13:20:26] BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures in Virginia right now. Donald Trump is getting ready to speak to a town hall there on national security issues, veterans issues. Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn is a senior Trump adviser. He'll be moderating that town hall, by the way, with members of the military and their families.

He also accompanied Trump to his two classified intelligence briefings that the Republican nominee has received so far from the CIA. I spoke with General Flynn just a little while ago and I asked him what he learned from those briefings about the biggest threats facing the country.


FLYNN: Our economic health, both nationally and internationally, is weak right now. So that is -- that is the single, biggest, strategic threat that we face is our economic health of this country. But what I -- what I came away from the couple of briefings that we have received, and I really believe that cyber is -- and I'll just be very blunt -- it's eating our lunch every single day, Wolf. We have to take a harder look at how we are working, not only in government and trying to protect our own government infrastructure, but also the nation's critical infrastructure across the -- across the country here. So everything from, you know, our electric grid system, our telecommunications system, our health care system.

So cyber is a problem. We see nation state and we see non-nation state actors that are -- that are really coming at us every single day, multiple times a day. And we have to build a much greater resiliency and we must figure out new ways of operating within the cyber domain. And there's some -- there's some interesting ways that we can do these things. And, frankly, the government can take on a much greater role, but it has to -- it is going to require some -- again, some imagination, some creativity and, frankly, a little bit more risk in some of the areas where we conduct mainly -- maybe we only conduct defensive operations instead of offensive operations. So we're going to have to really take a whole -- sort of a wider look at everything that we're doing in the cyber domain, but that's clearly a problem that our nation faces.

BLITZER: All right. Is Russia trying to use cyber warfare right now to interfere in the election process in the United States? You've heard the accusations.

FLYNN: Yes. I don't know. I don't know. I -- you know, I mean, you know, you'll have to ask, you know, the government, our government, if that's the case. I don't know. What I -- what I know is that Russia, as a nation state, has a significant capability in the world of cyber. Now we do know that Russia does things like supports some cyber transnational organized criminal groups. And the same on the -- on China as well. So these are -- these are sophisticated capabilities. But in terms of whether or not Russia is involved in our election system right now, I don't know. I mean you have to ask -- ask the Russians.

But I would tell you that what we have to protect is, we have to protect our political system as much as we have to protect our defense systems. And right now I feel like we are way behind in many areas, particularly in the capacity, what I would describe as the numbers of people that we need in our own country. And there's some estimates, Wolf, that we need between 700,000 and a million new workers in the field of cyber between now and 2025. So we've got a lot of work to do in this country to be able to get up to speed in this new domain of cyber.

BLITZER: You heard President Obama yesterday saying that when it comes to cyber capabilities, the U.S. is by far the best at it and can deal with this issue defensively better than anyone and offensively better than anyone. That sounded to me like he was issuing a not so settle threat to the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, whoever may be involved. You want to play this game? We can do it better than you. What was your reaction when you heard that?

FLYNN: I'm glad the president has said something about it. I appreciate the fact that he is -- he is speaking up about this particular issue, particularly with all the -- with all the noise, Wolf, about potential influence of our -- of our election, you know, process. So I'm glad the president said something. He needs to say something. He needs to say more about it.

I mean this is a very dangerous time that we are in for the country as a whole beyond just cyber. I mean some of the things that we talked about in these different briefings that we've received and some of the things that we know, you know, that you report on all the time, Wolf, is just the complex issues with -- we're dealing with, with China, North Korea, the South China Sea, Ukraine. The entire Middle East is on fire right now and falling apart. Places like North Africa, Afghanistan, which we've seemed to have forgotten about and we still have a large number of troops over there and they deserve -- they deserve to know that we care deeply about them and we need to be talking about them as well.

[13:25:36] So, you know, we need to make sure, the people in this country need to understand that we are facing a very, very complex, difficult time around the world and that there are nation -- there are nation states that do not see our way of life here in the United States as their way of life. And we have to protect that. We have to make sure that we -- in order to achieve, you know, peace, we've got to have a strong defense, as Donald Trump likes to say. So I just think that it's very important that we take all of these things very seriously. And we -- and we are able to juggle those in a very routine, matter of fact fashion.

BLITZER: General, the president canceled a planned meeting with the president of the Philippines after that Philippine leader used some very vulgar words directed at President Obama. Here's what he said.


PRES. RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINES: President of a sovereign state.

(speaking in foreign language).


BLITZER: Basically called the president of the United States, according to some translations, an SOB. And the president said, you can't go to a meeting with a guy like this. The U.S. has very strong treaty obligations, treaty commitments with the Philippines. How do you think Donald Trump would have responded if the Philippine president had called him an SOB?

FLYNN: Yes, well, I mean, personally, I think that, you know, it's better to go face guys like that and stand up to them, to be honest with you. I mean I'd have -- I've have probably gone personally -- I'm talking personally -- I'd have probably gone there and called him an SOB and then said, OK, now let's talk. We've got to figure out how we're going to move forward because what we have to be very conscious of, Wolf, is that China is making moves in the South China Sea on some of these -- on some of these island parcels down there. In some cases, they may be working deals with the Philippines. So -- the government of the Philippines. So we have to be very smart about how we deal internationally with some of these rulers, these presidents around the world.

You know, the president made his decision based on how he made his decision, but I think that sometimes it's better to stand up to people who come across as bullies instead of backing down from them and walking away. I mean this is not a time, Wolf, around the world where we can take our ball and go home. We have got to confront the situations that exist around the world. And the Philippines, right now, Wolf, are in a very delicate position because of their geographic position, you know, aside -- along the South China Sea there. So -- and we know, we know publicly that China is making moves with the Philippines to try to work something out. We do not want to lose the alliance that the United States of America has with the people of the government of the Philippines. A very important alliance and it goes back, you know, nearly 100 years.

BLITZER: One more question, because yesterday Donald Trump said, if he had been president, and the Chinese government treated him upon his arrival in China for the G-20 Summit the way they treated President Obama, not proving the proper stairs, not the proper red carpet, he would have told the pilot, take off and go back home. This is no way for an American president to be treated. Was Donald Trump right in that kind of analogy?

FLYNN: Yes. I mean I think he is. I mean, you know, this is embarrassing for the United States of America. I mean have some respect. Have some respect for the office of the president of the United States of America. Particularly a president who's already -- you know, he's had seven and a half years as the president. He's on his -- probably his last trip to the far east there and into a G-20 summit. So show some respect for him.

BLITZER: General, you just said that the -- that Donald Trump -- the president should have gone ahead with that meeting with the Philippine president, even though he called him an SOB, because too much was at stake. But now you're saying the president should --should have simply left China because the proper stairs were not given to the -- to Air Force One when it arrived there, even though the G-20 leaders were all waiting on critically important issues to meet with him. Isn't that a contradiction?

FLYNN: Yes. No, it's not a contradiction. I mean I look at the context and look at the timing of when that happened. That was at the very beginning, these statements from the Philippine president. You know, they've been in the last 24 hours or so.

[13:29:58] So, I mean, you know, there's some -- there's some timing issues there. But, you know, I mean, we have been the best enemies and the worst friends around the world and we have got to stop being both of those, Wolf.