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Trump Lays Out National Security Plan; Pence Breaks with Trump, Says Obama Born in U.S.; Trump Calls for Increased Military Spending; FBI Director Defends Clinton E-mail Probe; Chelsea Clinton Hits Pennsylvania Campaign Trail; Pentagon Reports Russian Jet Flies within 10 Feet of U.S. Plane; Latest iPhone Has No Headphone Jack. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 7, 2016 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Trumped-up plans. Donald Trump outlines what he would do as commander in chief, while calling Hillary Clinton unfit for the post. Trump says he'll demand a plan from his generals within his first 30 days to defeat ISIS after previously saying his own plan is secret. And he wants more troops, ships and planes. How would he use them?

[17:00:25] Born in the USA. Donald Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, breaks with the boss, saying he believes President Obama was born in Hawaii, something Trump still refuses to acknowledge. And Pence is promising -- promising to release his tax returns, also at odds with Trump's stance. Is the Republican vice-presidential nominee going rogue?

Plane aggression. A Russian fighter jet comes within ten feet of a U.S. Navy plane in a very dangerous mid-air close encounter. The American crew was menaced by the war plane for almost 20 minutes. So what's behind this Russian provocation?

BLITZER: And hit the road, jack. Apple eliminates the headphone plug from its newest iPhone, forcing users to go wireless. The company calls it the courage to embrace the latest technology. Will consumers have the courage to pay the steep price for Apple's high-end wireless headphones?

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

Donald Trump says, as president, he'll ask American generals to present him with a plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. Trump gave a closely-watched speech on national security today, calling for increased Pentagon spending. Trump has previously said he has his own foolproof plan to defeat ISIS, but said he's keeping it secret because, quote, "I don't want the enemy to know what I'm doing."

Hillary Clinton's campaign is a family affair today, with Bill and Chelsea courting voters in key battleground state. The former president slammed Trump over a political donation for which Trump's foundation was fined. He said Donald Trump's attacks on the Clinton Foundation are an attempt to change the subject. And there's breaking news: a very dangerous encounter between a

Russian war jet and a U.S. Navy plane over the Black Sea. The Pentagon says it lasted almost 20 minutes, and at one point, the Russian fighter jet came within ten feet of the American plane. We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. He's a top advisor to Donald Trump and the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

And our correspondents and our expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with Donald Trump's major speech on national security today. Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is standing by with details.

Jim, so Trump wants a bigger U.S. military. Explain what he said.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Donald Trump is taking one more stab at trying to pass that commander in chief test. He is trying to make the case that that, when it comes to national security or defeating Hillary Clinton, the best defense is a good offense.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Laying out a national security vision he dubbed it peace through strength, Donald Trump pulled out the heavy artillery on Hillary Clinton.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Sometimes it seemed like there wasn't a country in the Middle East that Hillary Clinton didn't want to invade, intervene in, or topple. She's trigger happy and very unstable.

ACOSTA: Promising diplomacy not destruction under a Trump administration, the GOP nominee pledged to boost military spending, enhance the nation's cyber defenses, unleash a state-of-the-art missile defense system, and demand a new military-led plan to destroy ISIS.

TRUMP: I will ask my generals to present to me a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS.

ACOSTA: That's a new approach for Trump, who claimed he already had a secret strategy for defeating ISIS earlier this year.

TRUMP: I have a great plan. It's going to be great. But what is it? I'd rather not say; I want to be unpredictable.

ACOSTA: To achieve his goals, Trump would end the forced budget cuts on defense spending known in Washington speak as sequestration.

TRUMP: As soon as I take office, I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military. It is so depleted. We will rebuild our military.

ACOSTA: That's a reversal for Trump, who said three years ago sequestration didn't go far enough.

TRUMP (via phone): Frankly, this is a very minor amount of the cuts that have to be made, ultimately, and a lot of people are saying that. Even Democrats are saying that.

ACOSTA: But time and again, Trump tried to chip away at the public perception, backed up by poll numbers, that Clinton is more fit to be commander in chief, arguing her use of a private e-mail server was a disqualifying mistake.

TRUMP (on camera): Hillary Clinton has taught us, really, how vulnerable we are in cyber hacking. That's probably the only thing that we've learned from Hillary Clinton.

ACOSTA: Yet, it was Trump who once invited Russia to hand over Clinton's missing e-mails. A remark he said was a joke.

[17:05:00] TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

ACOSTA: The Clinton campaign says it's Trump who has something to hide, as in his tax returns. While Trump complains he is still under audit, Democrats point out Trump's own tax attorney has stated that IRS examinations of the real estate tycoon's tax returns for the years 2002 through 2008 have been closed administratively, meaning they could be released.

TRUMP: Let her release her e-mails, and I'll release my tax returns immediately.


ACOSTA: Now one area of defense that Trump can work on as a candidate is his campaign war chest. A campaign official tells CNN that he did raise $90 million last month. That is far less than what was raised by the Clinton campaign, but it is enough to start firing back at all of those damaging attack ads that she's been running all over the country, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta in Philadelphia, thank you.

Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, is breaking with the presidential nominee, saying he believes President Obama was born in the United States. Trump was a longtime driver of the so-called birther movement, questioning whether the president was eligible to be the president of the United States, and Trump has not -- has still not disavowed that issue.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is joining us with the latest. Sunlen, some Trump supporters speaking out about this controversy. What's the latest?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Ben Carson, who of course is one of Donald Trump's top surrogates, is saying that he believes all of this is actually hurting Donald Trump when it comes to African-Americans, of course a key voting block that Trump has been trying to court in recent days.

And Ben Carson saying that he believes that Donald Trump should be apologizing for all of this. He thinks that will really help him. Here's what he told CNN's Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think it's time for Trump to acknowledge that all that birther nonsense was a mistake and to apologize, so that African-American voters to whom he's reaching out might be more willing to listen to his message?

DR. BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that would be a good idea, absolutely. I suggest that on all sides. Let's get all of the, you know, the hate and rancor out of the way so that we can actually discuss the issues. And how we get caught up in all this other stuff, you know, is a reason that we will go down the tubes if we don't correct it.


SERFATY: Now, Donald Trump has never backed off of those insinuations, and he has never denounced the birther movement writ large. And in defiance of Ben Carson, Trump says basically he is not apologizing. He instead is insisting right now that this is a nonissue.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: So you think your birther position has hurt you among African-Americans?

TRUMP: I don't know. I have no idea. I don't even talk about it anymore, Bill, because -- you know, just because I'm not talking about it.

O'REILLY: Yes, I know. But it's there. It's on the record.

TRUMP: I don't know,. I guess with maybe some. I don't know why. I really don't know why. But I don't think -- very few people -- you're the first one that's brought that up in a while.


SERFATY: And his running mate, Mike Pence, of course, is being questioned about all of this, and he's breaking with Donald Trump over his involvement in the birther movement. Mike Pence saying today off camera with reporters, quote, "I believe Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. I accept his birthplace. I just don't know where he's coming from on foreign policy and economics and on Obamacare."

But very notably, Wolf, Mike Pence today did not call for Donald Trump to apologize, and that was after repeated questions today by reporters.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen. Thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Donald Trump's new national security plan for fighting ISIS, specifically. A Trump military advisor, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, is joining us live.

General, thanks very much for joining us.

LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER DIRECTOR, DIA: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So you just heard Trump once again today saying he's going to ask the generals for a plan within his first 30 days, if he's elected president, to defeat ISIS, but you also heard during the campaign Trump indicated he already had a plan. He said it was foolproof. He just didn't want to release it to tip off the terrorists. So what is it? Does he already have a plan or is he depending on the generals to come up with a plan?

FLYNN: Yes, I think if you -- if you listen -- and this is actually about four weeks ago -- if you listen to some of the -- some of the speeches that Donald Trump has been giving, he has been talking about this issue for a long, long time, and there's really four components. Cyber, financial, military, and ideological, in terms of the components to do this.

But at the end of the day, Wolf -- and this is something that I'm adamant about, Donald Trump is adamant about -- we have to stop being so predictable to the enemies that we have around the world. We are the best enemies, because we continue to telegraph every single move we are going to make, whether it's we're going to put 500 more soldiers into Iraq, or we're going to, you know, leave 8,000 here.

[17:10:05] We have got to be much more unpredictable, especially when we are fighting this radical Islamist terrorism that we are facing. This is a very unpredictable enemy, and we have to be as unpredictable.

BLITZER: So does he have a plan in mind already? Or is he depending on the generals to come up with a plan during his first 30 days?

FLYNN: I think what he has and what we have discussed, we have a -- we have a, you know, actually, quite a bit that we have talked about in terms of laying out an overarching strategy.

And I do completely agree that, you know to give a chance to the Department of Defense and some other parts of our government to be able to come in within the first 30 days, lay out a strategy, and some of that is going to be driven by what I would say mission orders or intent that Donald Trump will provide to his leadership in the government, particularly in the Department of Defense.

So I see this as a very smart move, and one that is very calculated and one that is, to a degree, is unpredictable. I think at the end of the day, Wolf, when we -- when we talk about these types of plans that we have to fight our enemies, you know, once -- once a strategy is chosen and we begin to move towards that goal, then the president has a responsibility, as the commander in chief to come out and inform the American public, "Here is how we are going to approach this and here's our goals, here's our objectives." Instead of just staying involved in this never-ending conflict that we are currently involved in. We can't afford it any more. We just can't afford it.

I think, Wolf, if I can, I mean, one of the numbers that Donald Trump used today, and it just came out over the last couple of days -- I think it just came out over the last 24 hours -- is that we have spent upwards of $6 trillion -- I mean, that's an unimaginable number for most people -- on the -- in the last 15 years of this persistent conflict. Six trillion dollars. So I mean, we can't afford to keep doing this. We have to have a strategy that actually gets us to winning.

BLITZER: How do the generals, the members of the joint chiefs, the chairman of the joint chiefs, been giving President Obama their best advice on how to destroy ISIS? The question is, how will Donald Trump's approach, if he's president, be any different?

FLYNN: I think it will be much different, vastly different. I think that the approach that we have taken is very narrow, and that -- and that has been very, very sort of intentional on the part of the White House. The strategy of, again, sort of narrow operations, using narrow tools, and really not going after some of the bigger components.

I think there's been -- we can do far more on the financial side. We can do much, much more on the ideological side. We're not even allowed to use the -- not even allowed to clearly define the enemy. So there's components of, I know, strategically that we are discussing and we have discussed that we would be offering -- that a President Trump would be offering through his commanders, his Department of Defense and his military leadership, to be able to come back with some very sound objectives that could actually get us to the goal line, where we could say we actually defeated this enemy. Because right now, we're not doing that.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting, General, your colleagues, your former colleagues at the Pentagon, have not been doing their best? They've been derelict, if you will, in this war against ISIS?

FLYNN: No, I'm not suggesting that at all, Wolf. Not one bit. What I do believe is that they've been giving their best military advice. It's just not -- it's not the advice that -- that they're necessarily believe should be followed. I just -- I know that there's a lot of frustration, and I'm telling you that -- that there are people that know that we could do more in our military, for sure. And I know we can do far more on the ideological front, and we could do far more on the financial front. And one of the other big components that came out of today's address was cyber. And how we are operating...

BLITZER: Let me get to that in a moment, General. Because I want to get your sense. Do you have confidence in the current -- current leadership in the U.S. military? Would Donald Trump accept them, or would he want new generals, new admirals?

FLYNN: No, I think we have all the confidence in the world in the military leaders that we have, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, these are -- these are, you know, lifelong servants, courageous people who have given it all. And -- and I think that what they need to be able to do is they need to be able to unleash our military capabilities, as well as other capabilities that we have inside of our government system, particularly in the intelligence community. And some other -- some other capabilities that we have to be able to really go after and defeat this enemy, get this thing over with instead of continuing on with this perpetual war that we're involved in.

BLITZER: Let me get your sense, because you're experienced. You spent a lot of time in the U.S. military. You worked your way up to become the director of defense intelligence.

I've spoken with several of your colleagues privately. They say, yes, drone strikes are important, airstrikes are important, cyber warfare is important. The political diplomatic front is important.

But if you really want to destroy ISIS, you've got to send 50,000, 100,000 troops into Mosul, destroy ISIS. You've got to send 50,000 ground troops into Raqqa in Syria, maybe 100,000 troops, and destroy ISIS. Is that what you're talking about?

FLYNN: Wolf, that's exactly -- I'll tell you, this is exactly the point. We have got to stop being the best enemies in the world and the worst friends in the world.

We're the best enemies, because we constantly talk about exactly what we're going to do; and we're so predictable. And we're the worst friends, because we place our friends, particularly in the Middle East, in a position where they're opposed to each other.

I mean, look at what we have done with Iran alone and all of the other nations in the Middle East are looking at the United States and going, "We're not even sure if we can trust you anymore." I mean, this is a very serious issue.

BLITZER: Well, let's just get a specific, General. He say he wants to unleash the military. Is he talking about deploying thousands of ground troops in the Middle East to destroy ISIS?

FLYNN: I think what -- part of this is -- part of this, Wolf, is the imagination, the creativity and the ingenuity of the American soldier, essentially, as to how we conduct our operations. In very, very close cooperation, sort of by, with and through the allies and friends that we have both in the region and elsewhere in the world, particularly in Europe.

So I mean, the numbers game, Wolf, is not something I'm going to get drawn into. And frankly, I think it's a shame any time -- any time -- that one of our leaders starts talking about we're going to send another 500 or we're going to send another one thousand, or we're going to place somebody here. We're going to attack from these directions. That's -- that's just -- it's unbelievable that we do that. We should stop doing that today.

BLITZER: All right, General, I need you to stand by. We have more questions.


BLITZER: I want you to explain a little bit more what Donald Trump was saying in his major national security speech today, where we go from here.

Much more with General Flynn right after this.


[17:21:13] BLITZER: Donald Trump has said he has his own secret plan to defeat and destroy ISIS. He once said he knows more about the terrorist group than the military commanders.

But in a new national security speech today, Trump said, if he's elected president, he'll ask the generals to formulate a specific plan within his first 30 days in office to destroy ISIS forces.

We're back with one of Donald Trump's key national security advisors, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

General, Trump wants to drastically increase the size of the U.S. military. You heard that today. Where is the money going to come from?

FLYNN: I think -- I think part of what he laid out also in the speech is how we need to look inside of the government, and we need to look even inside of the Department of Defense for some of these -- for some of these, basically, cost-effective savings.

But I believe one of the biggest things that we have to do is get rid of the sequester -- sequester act that is already in play right now that's been just devastating our military.

BLITZER: But that, General, means spending even more money, if you reduce those automatic Defense Department budget cuts.

FLYNN: Yes, I think -- I think part of what we have to do is look at -- look at where the -- the amount of spending that we have already ongoing, and looking at where we want to be as a nation in terms of our defense spending overall. And it's probably somewhere between, like, a 3 and 4 percent of the -- of the budget.

So, you know, what I would just tell you is, in Donald Trump's speech today, he laid out some of where those cost savings would come from, and I think that there are ways to do this. There are ways to get at the type of military that we need.

BLITZER: General, let me point out to you, and you know this well. You used to run the DIA. The U.S. spends more on military and defense than any other nation. In fact, look at this chart. The U.S. spends more on defense on military matters than the next seven countries combined, including Russia and China, North Korea, Iran, all these countries; Britain and France. So once again, the U.S. spends more than anyone else. Why?

FLYNN: Yes, so Wolf, one of the things that we have to be very conscious of, and frankly, all your listeners and all the folks have to do is listen to what our military service chiefs are saying. Listen to what the leaders in the Department of Defense are saying today.

For example, the Army. The Army chief of staff said just a few months ago in front of Congress that we aren't -- we aren't ready to fight against these nation-state actors around the world today. We're not ready to fight. We're ready to fight against an ISIS, but we're not ready to fight against, like, a Russia or a China, if God forbid, those kinds of things came up.

One-third -- one-third of our combat brigades in the Army are ready. The rest of them are not ready to go to war.

So I mean, we have some significant modernization, readiness, and training problems right now. So when we look at how we are going to get to where we need to be, part of this is just a cultural change in how we are, focusing on the kinds of things that we need to do. So there's some very real problems inside of our military.

When our pilots have to go to graveyards and go to museums to get spare parts for their planes, I mean, that -- this is not the United States of America. It's a third-world country.

BLITZER: I know -- I know, General, you've got to run. One final question. As you know, a Russian SU-27 fighter jet today made some very unsafe close-range intercept movements of a U.S. Navy P8A Poseidon aircraft. For 20 minutes that Russian plane was harassing the American plane. At one point, it came within ten feet. Now you know this issue. If Donald Trump were president of the United States, and the Russians did that to an American war plane, what would he do?

FLYNN: Yes, I mean, this is unbelievable. And Wolf, this is 24 hours after, or maybe 48 hours after the president of the United States, our president, had a meeting with President Putin. So did -- was there some exchange there that got Putin upset?

[17:20:15] I mean, I don't know, but this is so dangerous. This is so dangerous for our military forces. And I will tell you, this is the type of behavior that we cannot put up with, Wolf. We can't have...

BLITZER: The Russian behavior? Are you talking about putting up...

FLYNN: Russian behavior.

BLITZER: So what would -- what would the president -- what would a President Trump do about that kind of Russian behavior? FLYNN: Well, you know, I think that part of this is we have to look

at -- look at how many times these things have happened over the last few months. Is this just a complete disrespect for our own president? I mean, come on.

So we cannot have this. There is no relationship right now with Putin, and there's no relationship with Russia that we must have. We must strengthen this relationship so people -- so there's mutual respect so we don't have these very, very dangerous conditions out there on the -- you know, on the frontiers of what we're trying to do to defend our own country. We can't have that.

BLITZER: General Flynn, thank you so much for joining us.

FLYNN: OK, thanks, Wolf. Any time.

BLITZER: Michael Flynn, the former head of the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and a key advisor to Donald Trump.

Coming up next, I'll speak with an anti-Trump Republican -- that's a little bit later -- Senator Lindsey Graham. He's refusing to endorse Donald Trump.

And straight ahead we'll dig deeper into Trump's call for a bigger U.S. military. Is he playing off -- playing to the GOP base?

Plus, the breaking news. We've been reporting it. A very harrowing midair encounter between a Russian fighter jet and a U.S. Navy plane. New details are coming in. This story, coming up.


BLITZER: We're following the latest developments in the presidential race, including Donald Trump's major speech today, calling for increased spending on the U.S. military. Trump also called Hillary Clinton, quote, "trigger happy and very unstable."

[17:31:24] Let's get some insight from our political experts. Mark Preston, he said today he wants to eliminate that automatic spending cut for defense spending, the sequestration, as it's called. But back in, what, 2013, he thought the cuts were over-exaggerated, not necessarily such a big deal. Is this an example of what some of his critics are saying, that he's playing to his Republican base right now?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Yes. And it's low- hanging fruit for Donald Trump to actually go out and say, "I am for increasing the military, bolstering the military." We heard him talk about that today. Not only troop size, but also updating weaponry and ships and what have you, airplanes.

What's interesting about this is that it took this long for Donald Trump to do it. You would have thought he would have done this during the Republican primary, if not right after he won the Republican nomination. Two months before election day, he's come out, and he has said this. Had he done this before, he probably would have been more successful, Wolf, getting support from the Republican establishment, from the Republican hawks that he needs in his corner to win in November.

BLITZER: During the campaign you heard Donald Trump say he has a plan, a foolproof plan to destroy ISIS. He also said he knows more about this than the generals do. Today he says, though, he wants to consult with the generals if he's elected president and get a specific plan during his first 30 days in office. Does he have a plan of his own, or is he relying on the generals?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's unclear. During the course of the primary, as you said, he laid out any number of things he might do. He talked about 20 or 30,000 ground troops, perhaps. And at some point, he said he would send very few troops.

He also talked about taking out the oil fields in Iraq, even though most of that activity is in Syria in terms of ISIS. So he hasn't always been -- been all over the map here.

I think this gives him a pretty safe landing space, this sort of non- plan plan that he has, to go and ask the generals once he's in the White House. This gives him a way to say, "Well, listen, I'm not going to reveal my plan. It's a secret plan," but he would find out, you know, what the plan is 30 days into his tenure as president.

Listen, I think he's got a lot of work to do. Mark talked about getting some of those hawkish Republicans around him. So he's got work to do in terms of getting those folks to back him.

In talking to Republicans, you know, you asked them -- for instance, I've asked them, what's the biggest concern you have about Donald Trump? And often, they would say his foreign policy knowledge and his foreign policy plans. So today you heard him, I think, roll out pretty boilerplate Republican ideas. And I think you'll see him do more of that tonight.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right.

Rebecca, he calls Hillary Clinton in his speech today trigger happy, very unstable. She's going after his character, saying he's unfit to be president of the United States. In the next two months, it's going to get very, very personal, I suspect.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And I would argue that it already has, Wolf.

I mean, what's really unusual about this presidential race, well, one of about a million things that are very unusual about this presidential race, is that each of the candidates is really making the argument that the other is unfit to be president. Not that they are wrong on policy necessarily. Not that they are not qualified, that they are unfit to be president of the United States. So it is a very personal argument that they're making.

At the same time you have Hillary Clinton saying that Donald Trump is pushing racist ideas through his campaign. Donald Trump saying that Hillary Clinton is corrupt. These are really strong terms.

BLITZER: He called her a bigot.

BERG: Exactly. These are really strong terms.

But at the same time, I mean, we could hope for maybe more of a high- minded policy discussion, but when you have a candidate like Donald Trump, who's campaign is essentially based wholly on who he is and his style, his character, not his policy prescriptions, and he really doesn't have very specific ones that Hillary Clinton can latch onto, you're left with this discussion that becomes very personal.

BLITZER: And Hillary Clinton also is upping the pressure on him to release his tax returns. And he says he can't do it, because there's an audit. The IRS says he could do it, if he wants to release those tax returns. He says he's not going to do it. Mike Pence, the vice- presidential running mate, he's going to release his tax returns tomorrow. That will automatically increase the pressure, I assume, on Trump, raising this issue once again.

PRESTON: Right, it already has. And Donald Trump has said, "Listen, the American people don't care about seeing my taxes." And quite frankly, they do, right? So if you go back and look at national polls next month, a strong majority of them, whether it be 60 percent or 70 percent, depending on what poll you look at, say they think that Donald Trump should release these tax returns.

What, really, this comes to is the issue of honesty and trustworthiness, which is really two key qualities we're talking a lot about this campaign. Not only about Hillary Clinton, her e-mail server and her work with the Clinton Foundation, and the access between the foundation and the State Department, but also the fact that Donald Trump continues to stonewall on releasing any information about these taxes.

BLITZER: He could release his earlier years that are no longer under audit. He could release those, but he's declined, as well.

HENDERSON: Yes, he has, and he's been pretty steadfast in this whole idea that he's not going to release them, he's under audit. I think last night he may have said he would release them if Hillary Clinton released his e-mails -- her e-mails.

So I don't know. I think the American people, as Mark said, they do care about this, but I don't think many voters, if any voters, are going to be voting on whether or not Donald Trump releases his tax returns. I think at this point I think there's very little incentive for him to do so, and he's landed on this place where he isn't. And he finds himself now tied, at least in a lot of these national polls, with Hillary Clinton. So whatever damage has been done by him not releasing his tax returns, you know, is kind of baked in at this point.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody stand by. Much more coming up including new words, just released today by the FBI director, James Comey, strongly defending his decision not to recommend charges, criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. We'll update you on that when we come back.


[17:41:55] BLITZER: Following some breaking news: CNN has learned the FBI director, James Comey, is strongly defending the bureau's investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails and his decision to release the documents about the investigation last Friday, right at the beginning of Labor Day weekend.

In a memo to FBI employees, Comey wrote -- and I'm quoting him now -- "There really wasn't a prosecutable case against Hillary. At the end of the day, the case itself was not a cliffhanger," he said, "despite all the chest beating by people no longer in the government. There really wasn't a prosecutable case."

Our Evan Perez, our justice correspondent, breaking the news. Very strong words from James Comey, the FBI director.

With the polls showing the presidential race tightening right now, Hillary Clinton is getting some additional help. I want to bring in our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns.

Joe, the one person we didn't see out on the campaign trail today was Hillary Clinton herself.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Wolf, but tonight, it's her husband, the former president, doing the heavy lifting after having his own foundation's activities called into question by his wife's opponent. Bill Clinton tonight trying to turn the tables on Donald Trump.


JOHNS (voice-over): Hillary Clinton getting some campaign reinforcements in the form of her family.


JOHNS: Bill Clinton rallying supporters today in Florida, where he hammered Donald Trump for paying a fine to the IRS after the GOP nominee made an illegal $25,000 donation through his foundation to a political group backing the state's attorney general, Pam Bondi, in 2013.

B. CLINTON: Her opponent attacked my foundation. I think that's because he knew they were about to report that he used his foundation to give money to your attorney general, but -- which is not legal.

JOHNS: The Trump Foundation made the donation four days after Bondi said publicly she was considering an investigation into the now- defunct Trump University. Bondi never launched a formal probe.

The former president also mocking Trump's campaign slogan.

B. CLINTON: Saying you're going to make America great again is like me saying I'd like to be 20 begin.

JOHNS: That as Hillary Clinton picks up a rare endorsement from the "Dallas Morning News: editorial board, which hasn't backed a Democrat in more than 75 years. The board writing, "Clinton has made some mistakes and displayed bad judgment, but her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponent's."

Bill Clinton welcoming the news but urging supporters not to get complacent.

B. CLINTON: We've got to keep working. Endorsements don't vote. People vote.

JOHNS: And Hillary Clinton getting some good news in Arizona, a red state she is hoping to turn blue this year. A new poll there shows her neck and neck with Trump, with nearly a quarter of voters in the state undecided.

A CNN poll from Arizona last month showed Trump ahead five points.

A new CNN/ORC poll, meanwhile, finds immigration now rivals the economy as a top concern, with voters almost evenly split between Clinton and Trump on who is best able to handle the issue.

The survey finds little support for some of Trump's specific proposals on immigration, with 58 percent saying they oppose his plan to build a wall on the southern border, and two in three voters saying they're against mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.

[17:45:23] CHELSEA CLINTON, HILLARY CLINTON'S DAUGHTER: I thought I was my mom's biggest fan here.

JOHNS (voice-over): And Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, also hitting the campaign trail in Pennsylvania today for the first time since the birth of her second child.

CLINTON: Even if I weren't a mom, this would be the most important Presidential election of my lifetime because everything that I care most about, I worry, is at risk.


JOHNS: Just a little while ago, the Clinton campaign issued a statement blasting what it called the childish insults in Donald Trump's speech today comparing him to a schoolyard bully saying Trump has only one way of responding to a legitimate criticism of his own vulnerabilities, quote, I know you are but what am I. It goes on to say you could dismiss these actions as insecure schoolyard behavior, but this man is running for President. Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Joe, thank you very much. Joe Johns reporting.

We're going to have more of the breaking news coming into the SITUATION. There's been a new very close encounter between a Russian jet and a U.S. military plane. Stand by for new details. Also, Apple's latest iPhone doesn't have a headphone jack. Is it a

technological advance, or is it a mistake?


[17:50:58] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. A very close encounter, a very dangerous encounter between a Russian fighter jet and a U.S. Navy plane. An incident the Pentagon is calling an unsafe, close range intercept. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us. What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just how dangerous was it earlier today over the Black Sea? A U.S. Navy P-8 patrol aircraft flying in the international air space was approached by a Russian SU-27 fighter. The Russian plane came within 10 feet of the U.S. Navy plane according to the U.S. crew, a very dangerous maneuver by the Russians.

This is not the first time. We have video of Russian planes going over U.S. Navy ships in very close range. There'd been a lot of very aggressive maneuvers by the Russians. This encounter lasted close to 20 minutes. Earlier today, the U.S. Navy, obviously very concerned about all of this.

And the big question remains, why are the Russians doing this? Is this something Vladimir Putin himself is ordering, or are these Russian pilots out there hotdogging? Wolf.

BLITZER: And the Iranians have been doing similar stuff as well. All right, Barbara. Thank you very much.

A very different story we're following tonight. Your Apple iPhone, apparently, is out of date. The company unveiled its new iPhone 7 today which includes a big gamble, no built-in jack to connect headphones.

CNN's Brian Todd is here in the SITUATION ROOM. So, Brian, how are you going to listen to music?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you can either listen to music the way you have been but you need to use an adapter with some traditional earphones that you can plug into it, or you're going to have to shell out 159 bucks for new wireless earphones called AirPods.

Now, Apple is counting on us all to embrace the new technology as we so often have, but tonight, the idea of eliminating that tiny little port in your iPhone is getting some major push back.


TODD (voice-over): The unveiling many couldn't wait for and some dreaded. Tonight, after its trademark slick stage production at a packed theater in San Francisco, Apple is out with its new iPhone.

TIM COOK, CEO, APPLE INC.: It's the best iPhone that we have ever created. This is iPhone 7. It has a gorgeous new design. TODD (voice-over): The new iPhone 7 is water resistant, has a fancier

two lens camera. It's sleeker, offering two new shades of black. But the biggest change, no more headphone jack.

STEVEN OVERLY, TECH REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: This plug right here that we're all used to plugging in to listen to music will no longer exist on the iPhone 7.

TODD (on camera): What is the upside to that?

OVERLY: For the upside, for anyone who's ever gone on a run and had the cord get sort of tangled or put it in the bottom of their bag and had to unknot it, you know, that will no longer be an issue.

TODD (voice-over): To save space, headphones will only plug into the lightning port, the port used for charging. Included in your purchase, your buds with a lightning port plug and an adapter to plug in normal 3.5 millimeter headphones used by everyone else. But the biggest innovation, for another $159, there will be wireless ear buds called AirPods.

PHILP SCHILLER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF WORLDWIDE MARKETING, APPLE INC.: The AirPods deliver truly an Apple magical experience. When you try it, you're just going to be blown away.

TODD (voice-over): But AirPods need charging. You can't use them with non-Apple phones, and you wouldn't want to lose them during work outs.

SCHILLER: It really comes down to one word, courage. The courage to move on.

TODD (voice-over): But after today's unveiling, some serious push back on social media from those not ready to give up their traditional headphones. Why have so many of us been so reluctant to get rid of this?

OVERLY: Well, there's the cliche that change is hard, but it honestly goes beyond that. You know, the cord on the headphones also serves a functional purpose, whether you're reaching for them in your bag or trying to make sure the right doesn't get separated from the left.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say Apple needs to push new products like wireless headphones, accessories, and the just unveiled water resistant next generation of the Apple Watch in order to recoup after recent setbacks.

Over the past year, Apple sales of iPhones dropped for the first time since the device was introduced in 2007.

OVERLY: Well, they've declined because of competition from smartphone makers like Samsung. And also, data shows that people are upgrading their phones less often.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Now, with Apple stock in desperate need of a resurgence, the pressure is on for the company to produce another revolutionary product or to make impressive upgrades of existing ones so they can keep making money.

But Apple fans, also called the "iFateful", well, they say Apple has a proven record of pushing us all past entrenched technologies, getting rid of Ethernet ports, floppy disks and CD drives on Apple computers ahead of the curve. Wolf.

[17:55:53] BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you very much. Coming up, Donald Trump is about to speak to a group of conservatives just hours after his closely watched national security speech. What is his secret plan to fight ISIS? One of the top Republican senators on military and defense issues, former Presidential candidate Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, he's standing by. He'll take our questions.


[18:00:37] BLITZER: Happening now, general confusion. Donald Trump says he'll give military leaders a month to draft a new strategy against ISIS after claiming he already had --