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No Trump Plan to Destroy ISIS?; Trump Tax Return Controversy; Interview With South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; Clintons Defend Their Foundation, Hit Donation By Trump's; Trump Still Not Releasing Tax Returns; New Photos Reveal Crumbling U.S. Nuclear Weapons Sites. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 7, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: general confusion. Donald Trump says he will give military leaders a month to draft a new strategy against ISIS, after claiming he already had a secret plan to defeat the terrorists. I will ask Senator and former presidential candidate Lindsey Graham for his take on Trump's battle plan.

Taxing questions. Trump insists voters don't care about his taxes and he keeps refusing to make his IRS forms public. This hour, a closer look at what we know and don't know about Trump's taxes and why he keeps them under wraps.

Seeing red. Hillary Clinton wins a key endorsement in one traditionally Republican state and makes new gains in another. We will have the latest on Clinton's bid to change the electoral map and how Trump could stop her.

And nuclear damage. Just released photos show America's aging nuclear weapons sites, they are falling apart. It's a national security nightmare. How did the U.S. government let it happen?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, Donald Trump is trying to bolster his image as the potential commander in chief by promising to beef up the Pentagon's budget and its military might. In a new speech on defense policy, Trump accused Hillary Clinton of being trigger-happy and unstable.

Also tonight, there's growing pressure on Trump to release his tax returns as his running mate, Mike Pence, prepares to go public with his IRS forms. Trump has said for months he can't release his tax information because he's under audit. But now Trump is suggesting that he would share his tax returns if Hillary Clinton agreed to an unlikely deal and released thousands of her controversial e-mails.

Another story we're following, new photos reveal extensive damage at America's nuclear sites, a national security risk that the next president will face. The images released by Congress shows some decades-old facilities, they are leaking and they have rotted. I will talk about America's security and the presidential race with

Senator and former president candidate Lindsey Graham. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

In a moment, we will go live to Philadelphia, where Trump gave his national security speech.

CNN's Jim Acosta is on the scene for us.

But, first, let's go to Sunlen Serfaty in New York, where Trump is making a pitch to conservatives this hour.

Sunlen, what's the latest?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump will be speaking here shortly in his hometown in front of the New York Conservative Party. And it's expected that he will keep up this heavy national security message, part of Trump campaign's big push this week to attend to some of the doubts if he's ready to be commander in chief.


SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, Donald Trump is making the case he's better suited to be commander in chief than Hillary Clinton.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She is trigger-happy and very unstable, whether we like it or not. She's also reckless.

SERFATY: Trump says, if he's elected, he will give military leaders one month to present to him with a plan to defeat ISIS.

TRUMP: I will ask my generals to present to me a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS. This will require military warfare, but also cyber-warfare, financial warfare and ideological warfare.

SERFATY: That after Trump earlier in the campaign said he had a plan to confront the terrorist organization, but was keeping it a secret.

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

SERFATY: Trump's new 30-day request is drawing scrutiny from at least one retired military general.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's a sophomoric approach to elements of national security policy.

SERFATY: In his Philadelphia remarks today, Trump also said he would push lawmakers to get rid of the military sequester, across-the-board budget cuts adopted in 2013, and increase defense spending.

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. SERFATY: Yet, three years ago, he suggested the spending cuts didn't

go far enough.

TRUMP: It's a very small percentage of the cuts that should be made. And I think really it's being overexaggerated. A lot of things are not going to happen that people are going to happen.

SERFATY: This as Trump's taxes remain in the spotlight, with his running mate, Mike Pence, preparing to release his tax returns next week.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He clearly has something to hide. We don't know exactly what it is, but we're getting better guesses.

SERFATY: In response, Trump is offering this challenge to Clinton.

TRUMP: She has 33,000 e-mails that she deleted. When is she going to release her e-mails? She probably knows how to find it. Let he release her e-mails, and I will release my tax returns immediately.

SERFATY: But not so immediately, with Trump adding his usual caveat that he is not going to release his tax returns while they're under audit.


TRUMP: When the audit is complete, I will release my returns. I have no problem with it.

SERFATY: That reason seems to apply only to Trump's returns since 2009, as a letter from his Trump's tax counsel notes his returns from 2002 to 2008 have been closed administratively with the IRS.


SERFATY: And that meaning that those years of those tax returns could indeed potentially be released. Now, we do expect Mike Pence's tax returns to be released in the next 24 to 48 hours, which for Trump is only going to keep the issue, Wolf, very front and center.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thank you.

Tonight, a key member of Donald Trump's inner circle is publicly breaking with him on the birther controversy. For years, Trump stoked false claims that President Obama was born in Kenya. Now Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, is flatly declaring, and I'm quoting him now, "I believe Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. I accept his birthplace."

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's covering the Trump campaign for us.

Jim, has Donald Trump addressed this so-called birtherism issue that he once was so vocal about? JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He has not, Wolf.

This is one of the remaining questions of this campaign. Does Donald Trump still believe that President Obama was not born in the United States?

As we all know, Wolf, Donald Trump has famously questioned this over the years, at one point said he had sent investigators to Hawaii to get to the bottom of whether or not President Obama was indeed born in that state. Now his vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, is saying he believes the president was born in Hawaii.

But when you ask Donald Trump about this and he's been asked a couple of times over the last several days, he simply says, I do not want to answer the question. Consider how he answered this question last night on FOX News.


BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": Do 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.

O'REILLY. No, I know.


O'REILLY. But it's there. It's on the record, you know?

TRUMP: I don't know. I guess -- 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 are the first one that's brought that up in a while.


ACOSTA: And actually Bill O'Reilly is not the first person to bring this up in a while. He was asked about this by a local station here in Philadelphia just a few days ago.

Wolf, as Donald Trump was trying to reach out to African-American voters, he tried to do that here in Philadelphia. He tried to do that out in Detroit. And I recently just asked the Trump campaign earlier today whether or not Donald Trump still believes this, still holds onto this controversial bogus belief that the president was not born in this country. They have not gotten back to us.

And, of course, we all know the president did produce that birth certificate. They posted it in the White House Briefing Room. The president was born in this country. He was born in Hawaii. For it to be anything but that, the entire state of Hawaii would have to be in on the conspiracy. The only person who still hangs onto this belief at this point appears to be Donald Trump -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's talk a little bit more about Donald Trump's vision for America's national security.

Joining us now, Republican Senator and former presidential candidate Lindsey Graham. He's a leading voice on military affairs, member of the Armed Services Committee, very critical over this past year-and-a- half of Donald Trump on a whole range of issues.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: He gave a very detailed speech on national security. I assume you have gone through it. What did you think?

GRAHAM: Some of it, I liked. The idea of rebuilding the military is a must.

If sequestration goes back into effect next year, by 2021, we are going to have 420,000 people in the Army, 278 ships in the Navy, and the smallest Air Force in modern history. So, Mitt Romney says we need 540,000 people in the Army, I think 350 ships in the Navy, 36 Marine battalions, and about 1,200 fighters planes.

That's the right answer. Now, we got to pay for it, but I agree that we need to rebuild the military and set aside sequestration. But you also need to do more than that. The FBI is under sequestration, the CIA, the NSA. These are national security components, homeland security.

So, not only do you need to replace sequestration for the Defense Department. You also need to do it for other agencies that are involved in the fight on the war on terror.

BLITZER: It sounds as if you liked the Trump speech.

GRAHAM: I liked that part.

Now, here is the part that I didn't like. He called Secretary Clinton trigger-happy. I would say she's more naive than trigger-happy. She was right to want to go into Libya to help the Libyan people depose Gadhafi, who was a very brutal man.

The mistake the Obama administration made was not following up. In 2010, I wrote an op-ed piece with Senator McCain, Kirk and Rubio saying that we need to help this new Libyan government. The Islamists got 10 percent of the vote after Gadhafi failed. The Libyan people are not radical people, but the vacuum created by not following up after Gadhafi was deposed by its own people has led to a fractured Libya.

BLITZER: Do you believe the United States has not destroyed, defeated ISIS because the U.S. does not have enough troops, not enough warplanes, not tanks, not enough equipment?

GRAHAM: The reason we haven't defeated inside of ISIL is that the ground component is not capable.


BLITZER: Which ground component?

GRAHAM: The YPG Kurds.

We're relying heavily on Kurdish fighters with some Arabs. The Kurdish fighters who are the YPG Kurds are cousin of the PKK in Turkey. They will never take Raqqa back from ISIL, which is an Arab town, and hold it. Our strategy to destroy ISIL with a ground component in Syria is fatally defective.

BLITZER: But the only way to do it is if the U.S. deploys thousands of troops. Is that what you favor?

GRAHAM: The only way to do it is have Sunni Arabs, indigenous...

BLITZER: But they're not showing up. You know that.

GRAHAM: Well, they are never going to show up unless you take a side out. You're not going to have people in Syria fight ISIL alone, because Assad has killed 350,000, 400,000...


BLITZER: But so far he's got the support of the Russians, the Iranians, Bashar al-Assad. For all practical purposes, how do you destroy ISIS in Raqqa, its capital in Syria, how do you destroy ISIS in Mosul, the second largest city of Iraq? It's going to take thousands of U.S. ground troops.

GRAHAM: What did I say during the campaign? I finished in the top 17. So, I don't know what you get for that.

But the bottom line is, I said we need about 10,000 U.S. forces to help the Iraqi security forces to take land back from inside of Iraq.

BLITZER: They could do that in Mosul? It's been two years. They haven't done anything.

GRAHAM: We have 7,500 people on the ground.



I applaud the president for putting ground forces on the ground in Iraq that took Fallujah away and Ramadi. But Mosul is a town of almost a million people. We need more American troops to help the Iraqi security forces liberate Mosul. Inside of Syria is where it falls apart.

BLITZER: Mosul used to be a town of two million people.

(CROSSTALK) GRAHAM: Yes, exactly right. Exactly.

BLITZER: Whose plan is better, based on everything you know, to destroy ISIS, Hillary Clinton's plan or Donald Trump's plan?

GRAHAM: I like Hillary Clinton's idea of a safe haven inside of Syria.

The thing I object to about Donald Trump, he says he wants to leave Assad in power. The one thing I want your viewers to know, from my point of view, you will never end the war in Syria if you leave Assad in power. The Arabs in the region are not going to accept him as the leader of Syria, because he's a puppet of Iran.

The people of Syria who have been brutalized by Assad are not going to accept him as their leader. So, Mr. Trump, your view that you can solve the war in Syria and end it by leaving Assad in power I think is fatally flawed.

BLITZER: In addition to being a politician, a member of the Senate, you're also in the U.S. Air Force.

GRAHAM: I just retired.


BLITZER: You just retired, but you spent years and years in the U.S. Air Force.

As an Air Force officer...

GRAHAM: I was lawyer. So, I don't want to oversell.

BLITZER: But you were an officer. From your perspective, who would be a better commander in chief, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

GRAHAM: I really don't know.

BLITZER: You must have an idea.

GRAHAM: Well, at the end of the day, if you're not worried about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton being president of the United States, you're crazy. Look at both of them.

BLITZER: Well, who would be worse?

GRAHAM: I don't know. I don't know what Clinton would do about Assad.

I don't know what -- let me tell you this. Here is why I think she's naive. She reset the button with Russia, not understanding what Russia was all about. She brags about an Iranian nuclear deal, not understanding what the ayatollah is all about. He's a religious Nazi.

So, I think her judgment is very much flawed and when it comes to understanding the Mideast. Donald Trump believes it's better for dictators to be in power, rather than support people who want to have more social justice and have more of a democratic life.

I think Mr. Trump, quite frankly, doesn't understand that the young people in the Mideast are not going to live in dictatorships for our convenience anymore, and this idea of leaving Assad in power, leaving Gadhafi in power, Saddam Hussein in power, that model will not work.

BLITZER: He says the region was better off with those dictators.

GRAHAM: Well, you go live there yourself.

BLITZER: But, for example, Libya, he says, under Gadhafi, it was bad, but look at Libya today with ISIS running big chunks of Libya.

GRAHAM: Here's what he doesn't understand. And this is my problem with him.

There's two things going on in the Mideast, a fight for the heart and soul of Islam between radicals and the vast majority of Muslims and a desire by young people not to live in Gadhafi's Libya, Mubarak's Egypt, Saddam Hussein's Iraq. These uprisings in Syria came from the people, not from the Sunnis.

BLITZER: He said today that since 9/11 -- Sunday is the 15th anniversary of 9/11 -- the U.S. taxpayers have shelled out $6 trillion in military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, elsewhere.

GRAHAM: Where does he get that?

BLITZER: He says $6 trillion and look at the region right now. He says that money basically was a waste.

GRAHAM: I will tell you this. If you disengage from the reason, you will have another 9/11.

On September the 10th, 2001, we didn't have one soldier in Afghanistan and not one penny of aid going to the Taliban, who ran Afghanistan, not an embassy. We were completely disengaged. And we got attacked anyway.

Here's my problem with Donald Trump. He doesn't understand that way you win the war is you build up the lives of others, not just destroy terrorists. If you don't stick with it in Iraq, if we take Mosul back, and we don't have a residual force, Iraq will fall apart.


If we don't have a follow-on force after we take Raqqa away from ISIL, it will fall apart.

BLITZER: So, you want U.S. troops to stay there for 20, 30, 50 years?

GRAHAM: I want U.S. troops stay there as long as it is necessary to keep us safe.

BLITZER: That could be a long, long time.

GRAHAM: It will be a long time.

BLITZER: Senator, stand by. We have much more to discuss, much more with Lindsey Graham right after this quick break.


BLITZER: We're back with Republican Senator former Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham. We're talking about Donald Trump's vision for America's security and his attacks on Hillary Clinton.


Senator, she has a new ad going after Donald Trump. I'm going to play a clip, because it hits home very closely to you. Listen to this.



TRUMP: I know more about ISIS than the generals do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain, a war hero.

TRUMP: He's not a war hero.

MAN: He's a war hero.


DONALD TRUMP: He's a war hero -- he's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK?


BLITZER: All right, John McCain is one of your best friends in the U.S. Senate.


BLITZER: You hear Donald Trump saying that, does he owe John McCain and other POWs an apology?

GRAHAM: No. He endorsed Senator McCain.


BLITZER: But does he owe him an apology for saying that?

GRAHAM: I don't think John feels like he owes him an apology. I think it would help himself it he apologized.

I think it would help him Mr. Trump to say I believe that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. He has a chance to make this really competitive. I think most Americans understand the difference between their grandmother who is here legally and a drug dealer. If he would say, I see that difference too, it would help him on the

immigration issue. When it comes to foreign policy, what President Obama has done is not working in the region. The answer is to put together coalitions in the region that are more effective than they are today.

So, as to Hillary Clinton, I think her big sin is not being trigger- happy, but being naive, not really understanding what Russia was all about under Putin, what the ayatollah really wants. The money we're giving him in sanctions relief is not building...

BLITZER: Does Trump owe the president an apology on the birther issue?

GRAHAM: I think so. Let me tell you, I have had a lot of differences with Barack Obama. I think he's been weak, indecisive when it comes to foreign policy. And I think he's misjudged the region horribly. I think he presided over the dismantling of the military.

But I don't dislike the man. I think he's a good man. He's been a good role model. I don't believe he's a Muslim and I don't believe he was born in Kenya. And here's this Trump problem. If you hang onto these views and you can't say that's not right, then people question your judgment.

If you really do believe that this president was born in Kenya, then I'm not so sure I want you to be my president.

BLITZER: What would it take for you to vote for Donald Trump?

GRAHAM: He's doing much better.

General Flynn is great guy. The idea that he is going to have the generals come up with a plan to destroy ISIL, rather than some secret plan of his own, makes me feel a lot better. He's articulating rebuilding the military in a fashion that I agree with.

He talking about immigration more realistically, I think. What would it take for Donald Trump to win this election? For people to believe he's got the judgment, the background and experience and temperament to be president.

They don't want to vote for Hillary Clinton unless Donald Trump makes them. And the way he would win this election, in my view, is to up his game when it comes to the issues about where President Obama was born, realize we're not going to deport 11 million illegal immigrants and we shouldn't try.

A family here that's done nothing but violate the immigration law that are good, decent people is one situation. A criminal gang member is another.

BLITZER: And release his tax returns?

GRAHAM: I think he should release his tax return. Ever president since 1980 has done so. Why should we have an exception for Donald Trump? What is so unique about Donald Trump that he should not be required to release his tax returns? And if he did that, what Hillary Clinton has done with this e-mail really is offensive to me.

Everything she told the American people about the e-mail situation has Proven to be a lie.

BLITZER: Except the FBI director, James Comey, today wrote a letter to all the FBI employees saying he stands by his decision. It wasn't even a close call. It was the right decision not to recommend criminal charges against her.

GRAHAM: I didn't say that I thought she should be prosecuted, even though I have got concerns about destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, people under her charge destroying instruments, technology that may have relevant information to the investigation.

But she told us all that I have turned all over work-related e-mails and I never sent or received classified information. Either she didn't know what she was talking about or she tried to deceive us. That's where the public has flaws with her.

BLITZER: Did Comey make the right decision in the end to recommend against criminal charges?

GRAHAM: All I can say is that it's perplexing to me that she's not being held more accountable. I can say this, as a military member. If you did exactly what Hillary Clinton did regarding classified information, you would be at least reprimanded and most likely court- martialed.

BLITZER: Well, he did reprimand her. She said she was extremely careless and negligent.

GRAHAM: I don't want to set a standard for the rest of the government and have a different standard for somebody who leads the government, because I can tell you, if you're a rank and file member of our government, member of the military, the FBI, and you did this, you would be in a world of hurt.

BLITZER: You were a lawyer in the U.S. Air Force.

Talk to me a little bit about this latest incident, this Russian fighter jet for 20 minutes harassing a U.S. Navy plane in international airspace, very, very dangerous, according to the Pentagon. What are the Russians up to now?



I don't understand. What is the purpose here? Is it just to shove it in Obama's face to kind of -- I don't know. I don't know. What's the endgame for Putin here? What does he achieve by this? Because something bad can happen. And I can tell you, if there's a conflict between Russia and the United States, we win.

But it's a symptom of a greater problem. I think the red line being drawn by President Obama against Assad and not being enforced once Assad crossed it, he's using chemical weapons today. That Iran, Russia and China see this president as weak, and it's a symptom of a greater problem.

BLITZER: Is the Senate and the House going to fund the money necessary to just deal with Zika in Florida right now? Are you going to hold that hostage to Planned Parenthood funding?

GRAHAM: If we don't, we're having -- we're going to make a huge mistake.

BLITZER: Have a separate bill just to fund the battle against Zika?

GRAHAM: Get it -- get it done. Get it done. And we have differences with Democrats and Republicans.


BLITZER: Are you ready to lead that charge?

GRAHAM: I am ready to vote tomorrow for a stand-alone bill that just passes, sends the money, no strings attached.

But what I'm asking Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to do is have the FBI brief us about what the Russians may have done regarding our election. The plane incident is immature and dangerous. But if the Russian intelligence community has been using proxies to interfere with the democratic election of 2016 in the United States, if that is true, then Congress should wreak holy hell on the Russians. We should impose sanctions on this regime like you have never seen before.

BLITZER: Do you believe they're doing that?

GRAHAM: I don't know. My suspicions that they are doing it.

But if they are, how does the Congress and this president not push back? It's mind-boggling to believe that Russian intelligence surfaces or hacking into the Democratic National Committee and other instruments of politics and trying to affect our election by turning potentially...


BLITZER: But, supposedly, they want Trump to be president.

GRAHAM: Well, at the end of the day, every Republican should want the Russians to be punished for this.

There is no short-term gain for us as Republicans. If the Russians are manipulating and cyber-attacking the Democratic Party to create upheaval in our election, every Republican should stand with every Democrat to tell the Russians this is going to stop.

BLITZER: Lindsey Graham, thanks very much for joining us.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BLITZER: The senator from South Carolina.

Just ahead: a closer look at Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns. Is he hiding something, as Hillary Clinton claims? We will look for clues in the information about Trump's finances, information that's already public.

And we're learning more about a huge concern for the next president. America's nuclear weapons manufacturing sites, they are in serious disrepair. Right now, we have new photos just released, and the potential danger is enormous.

We will be right back.


BLITZER: Tonight, Donald Trump seems to be acknowledging that he could release his tax returns if he wanted to by offering to go public with the information if Hillary Clinton were to release thousands of e-mails.

[18:32:48] Let's take a closer look at why Donald Trump has been keeping his taxes under wraps, at least until now. Clinton is claiming that he has something to hide. Our political team is standing by to talk about all of this.

But first, let's go to CNN's Phil Mattingly. You've been looking closely, Phil, at this issue. What do you know about his finances?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. What's he hiding? That's the refrain we're hearing over and over again from Democrats on the campaign trail.

Look, Donald Trump in deciding, at least up to this point, not to release his tax returns, is bucking nearly four decades of major party tradition. So we wanted to know why. Here's what we found.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Donald Trump refuses to release his tax returns.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Nobody cares about it except some of the folks in the media. Nobody cares about it.

MATTINGLY: Trump claims he can't release any of his returns while under routine audit. Even as the IRS has made clear there's no legal requirement for Trump to withhold them.

TRUMP: Just so you understand, I'm under an audit, a routine audit. And when the audit's complete, I'll release my returns.

MATTINGLY: And even as Trump's own lawyers note the IRS review of his 2002 through 2008 returns is complete. Even his own running mate, Mike Pence, preparing to release his taxes this week.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'll -- I'll give mine to y'all this week, and he's going to provide his after a routine audit is done.

MATTINGLY: Trump's refusal has drawn sharp attacks from Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Clearly, his tax returns tell a story that the American people deserve and need to know.

MATTINGLY: And despite Trump's contention, a series of polls show voters do, in fact, care about Trump's tax returns. So what exactly aren't voters seeing?

JOSHUA BLANK, NYU TAX LAW PROFESSOR: Voters could see the type of taxable income that he has, whether it's ordinary income or capital gains incomes. Voters could also learn how much a candidate has given to charity.

MATTINGLY: A CNN review of Trump's available financial documents show four potential areas that may shed light on Trump's reluctance. Take Trump's charitable giving. An extensive "Washington Post" review of Trump's personal charitable donations has raised major questions of what Trump has actually given, despite Trump's bold claims to the contrary.

TRUMP: This is my check for a million dollars.

MATTINGLY: Or take Trump's tax rate, an issue that dogged the Republican Party's 2012 nominee for months. Trump has made clear, as a businessman, he's done everything in his power not to pay more tax than necessary.

[18:35:11] TRUMP: I pay as little as possible. I use every single thing in the book.

MATTINGLY: But Trump's involvement with real estate raises the very real possibility he pays nothing at all, according to tax experts.

BLANK: An obvious benefit is that a taxpayer who owns property, real estate, a building, can trade that property for another building; and as long as that property is going to be used for investment purposes or in business, the taxpayer won't pay tax on the gain at all.

MATTINGLY: In fact, CNN has identified at least three years, 1978, 1979 and 1984, where he definitively paid zero dollars in federal income tax. Documents show another two years, 1991 and 1993, where Trump likely paid little to no income tax, as well. And when asked about it during the campaign, he's been hardly forthcoming.


TRUMP (via phone): It's none of your business.

MATTINGLY: Then there's the issue of Trump's total net worth. Now, to be clear, a few years of tax returns wouldn't shed light on whether Trump is actually worth the 10-plus billion dollars he claims, but it would show Trump's net income and adjusted gross income, providing more detailed insight than the financial disclosure form filed by Trump in May.

But perhaps most importantly for Trump's opponents, a detailed release of Trump's returns would provide a window into Trump's business connections.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Maybe he doesn't want people to see that he's got some connections.

MATTINGLY: Trump's own lawyers making it clear that Trump is the, quote, "sole or principal owner" in approximately 500 separate entities. Those entities engage in hundreds of transaction, deals and new enterprises every year.

For the moment, however, there is little indication that Trump's returns will be revealed before election day, though Trump himself appears willing to make a deal.

TRUMP: In the meantime, she has 33,000 e-mails that she deleted. When is she going to release her e-mails? She probably knows how to find it. Let her release her e-mails, and I'll release my tax returns immediately.


MATTINGLY: And Wolf, I asked a Clinton official whether or not they liked the idea of that trade and just got a chuckle on the phone. So I don't think that's going to happen any time soon.

But look, you also have to calculate here that there is a political calculation in what the Trump campaign is doing with the tax returns. As one Trump advisor told me yesterday, look, we just don't see the upside right now of releasing those returns. Again, it's up to the campaign. It's up to Donald Trump. He can release them whenever he wants or when the audit ends, if that happens before election day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly reporting. Thank you very much.

David Chalian, the -- you saw that poll. People do care about his tax returns. They'd like to see all the specifics. He's giving the Clinton team, if you will, ammunition by not releasing that information. But I guess he feels he's better off by doing that.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: There's no doubt that they made that calculation. Obviously, the excuse of the audit is not one that holds any water. So it is a pure political calculation.

But it is interesting what you say about giving Hillary Clinton an opening, because it gives her an opening on a line of attack that they are trying to prosecute, of hiding Hillary and that she is not revealing everything. And so to expose yourself like this, on the very same line of attack you're going against your opponent with, definitely weakens your argument.

BLITZER: and every presidential candidate since Nixon in the '70s has done it. From a political standpoint, what's he most worried about?

CHALIAN: Well, you know, that question really needs to be answered by Donald Trump. It's clear, you saw it in Phil's package, that snippet with George Stephanopoulos. When asked about his personal tax rate, that seemed to get under his skin and said it was none of your business.

So I think looking at the personal rate, his level of charitable contributions, I just think he doesn't want to subject himself to that kind of scrutiny.

BLITZER: If -- this notion that he'll release his taxes, Manu, if Hillary Clinton releases all of her e-mails, is that at all realistic?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Probably not. But it certainly undermines his message. I think that was actually a mistake by Donald Trump to say that. He's been saying for all along that he can't release it because of his audit, but now he's suggesting perhaps that he can.

Clearly, there's a calculation that, if these are released, it could lead to just dozens and dozens of stories about his business connections, whether he was forthright about his charitable contributions. Much better for him, in his view, to have this process argument than one over the substance.

BLITZER: And we know that Mike Pence, his running mate, is going to release his income tax either tomorrow or Friday. He has said he's going to do it. That's simply going to keep this issue alive.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, and I think it's safer for Pence. I'm going to guess that he has a more typical tax return. Donald Trump probably is worried about, among other things, like Manu said, you know, the way he made his money. Also whether he has a lower effective tax rate than the average person. That just doesn't look good in this kind of a campaign.

BLITZER: On the national security speech today, he said -- he used to say he had a secret plan to destroy ISIS. He wasn't going to release it, because he wasn't going to tip off the terrorists, what it was. But now he says that, if he's elected, the first 30 days he's going to ask the generals to come up with a specific plan to destroy ISIS. There seems to be a contradiction there.

BERG: Well, there is a contradiction there, Wolf. And Donald Trump has to figure out how to balance, really, not having a policy on ISIS in the past to sounding like he does now have a policy on ISIS. It's not unusual for a presidential candidate to come out and say, "I will trust my generals on this issue." But the real problem for Donald Trump is that, ultimately, the president has to make a decision based on the input he or she gets from their generals and the information that they have available to them. Donald Trump still needs to show voters, I think, that he understands this issue fundamentally. Just a day ago when he did this town hall with General Flynn,

obviously, someone who supports him in his campaign so was feeding him very friendly questions about these issues. Flynn asked him about the specifics of his plan to defeat ISIS. And instead of giving him any specifics, Donald Trump instead launched into his usual spiel about how he'll be strong, he'll defeat ISIS "big league." He used these words. And then he pivoted and started talking about his polling in the recent CNN poll.

So I think voters are, at this stage, looking for a little more detail from Donald Trump directly when he's not speaking in a scripted environment.

BLITZER: But David Chalian, a lot of that Republican base like what had they heard from Donald Trump today. You heard Lindsey Graham say a lot of this speech was pretty good.

CHALIAN: That is true. I think the base would be quite happy with that. Start seeing the reaction from that. Also, look at our most recent poll.

On the issue of terrorism, that is a slight Donald Trump advantage right now. And I think that today's speech plays into that advantage that he has. I would imagine we're going to hear several versions of that speech from now through the debate.

BLITZER: Mike Pence also said on the birther issue, he believes that the president of the United States was born in Hawaii. Case closed. Case closed.

Donald Trump still refusing to say that. Do you see any chance that he might acknowledge that in the days, weeks ahead? Lindsey Graham wants him to do it, as well. Says it would add to his credibility.

RAJU: Perhaps. Especially if he needs to get African-American voters. Of course, he's doing very, very poorly with that voting bloc, essentially confused. Maybe he can get up from 1 percent to 5 or 7 percent by talking more openly about it or acknowledging that he shouldn't have said that. Clearly, Mike Pence doing Donald Trump no favors by saying that. Mike Pence really in an untenable position, because he also correctly believes that Barack Obama was born in this country. And Mike Pence doesn't want to look like he's on this birther fringe.

BLITZER: And -- and David, Dr. Ben Carson goes one step further. He told Jake Tapper that not only was President Obama born in the United States but that Donald Trump should apologize to the president for spiraling, keeping that birther issue going for so long.

SWERDLICK: He probably should apologize. I don't think he will because it was a source not only of putting him into the political spotlight but also a source of humiliation for him. Back at 2011 at the end of April 2011, you know, he went to New Hampshire, got off his helicopter, gave a press conference and said, you know, "I forced the president to give up his birth certificate." And a few days later was that infamous White House Correspondents Dinner where he was really shredded by the president. That was the end of any talk of Donald Trump running in 2012. So I just don't see how he can bring it up and back off.

BLITZER: Rebecca Berg, is it personal between the president and Donald Trump?

BERG: Well, it seems like it's personal for Donald Trump, at least at this stage. And I think David is right, that this is a source of embarrassment for him, if he were to go back on what he said. This was a very big, drawn out fight for Donald Trump in 2011 to try to get the president to release his birth certificate. Obviously, not rooted in any sort of fact. But it was a very public stand for him. So for him to then shift on that would be a really big, big pivot for him.

BLITZER: Donald Trump keep saying I'm not talking about it anymore. Next question.

All right, guys. Stand by. There's other important news. We're following America's nuclear weapons manufacturing sites. They are in serious disrepair. You're going to see new photos that are shocking. We have details of the potential danger.


[18:49:03] BLITZER: Tonight, the Clinton's are wrapping up their defense of family charity while escalating their attacks on Donald Trump made -- escalating their attacks on Donald Trump.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, Hillary Clinton has been out of campaign trail so far today. But her family members, they have been very active.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Bill Clinton has been very active today, Wolf. And he's seen political opportunity in Donald Trump's illegal contribution to a public official who later decided to drop consideration of an investigation into the now embattled Trump University.


KEILAR (voice-over): After months spent fighting allegations of influence peddling between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton's State Department --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is like Watergate, only it's worse.

KEILAR: The Clinton campaign sees an opening to turn the tables on Donald Trump with the revelation that he made an illegal contribution through his nonprofit foundation to a group backing the re-election of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013.

[18:50:08] PAM BONDI, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: The next president of the United States of America, Donald Trump. KEILAR: Four days after Bondi said publicly she was weighing an

investigation of the defunct Trump University, now at the center of two federal class action cases, the Trump Foundation made a donation of $25,000. Bondi never investigated Trump University.


KEILAR: In her home state, Bill Clinton on the attack for his foundation and his wife.

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

KEILAR: As Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine take a break, she's relying on help from other big names, including her daughter Chelsea, campaigning for the first time since giving birth to her second child.

CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF HILLARY CLINTON: I am deeply and unapologetically biased towards my mom.

KEILAR: She's holding two events in Pennsylvania despite her mom's lead in the polls there. It's a must-win for Trump to get to the White House or as the Clinton campaign sees it, a must lose.

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

KEILAR: That as Clinton gets a surprise boost from the heart of reliably red Texas, with "The Dallas Morning News" editorial board endorsing a Democrat for the first time in 75 years. "Resume versus resume, judgment versus judgment, this election is no contest," writes the board.

Criticizing Clinton over her lack of honesty, her e-mail controversy and concerns about the Clinton Foundation, but still concluding, "Clinton has made mistakes and displayed bad judgment but her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponents. And in Arizona, where a Democrat hasn't won since Bill Clinton was victorious in 2006, a new poll shows Clinton and Trump neck and neck, though nearly a quarter of voters there say they're not sure who they'll vote for.


KEILAR: Now that, of course, is a border state with an eye towards immigration policy.

And looking at a new CNN/ORC poll on the issue, it might show you why Trump is having struggles there because even when voters say when the answer question, who do they trust more on the issue of immigration, you have both of these candidates, Wolf, tied up. But you have a sizeable majority who say they do not like Donald Trump's plan for a border wall and then two to one say they do not like Trump's previously stated plan for a deportation force.

BLITZER: Brianna, thank you.

Just ahead, crumbling U.S. nuclear weapons plants. We're getting a look at some brand new photos showing the crisis facing the next commander in chief.


[18:57:14] BLITZER: They're some of the oldest and most vital parts of America's defense capability and now, new photos reveal key nuclear weapons sites across the country are falling apart.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working this story for us.

Barbara, some of these facilities are crumbling.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They are, indeed, Wolf. It's really pretty shocking. Nothing is more important than America's nuclear security. Today on Capitol Hill, we saw a look at the reality.


STARR (voice-over): Whether it's Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, the next commander in chief is going to inherit a major nuclear national security nightmare, crumbling nuclear weapons plants. Some facilities dating back to the Manhattan Project.

CHARLES MCMILLAN, DIRECTOR, LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY: Because it's more difficult today to bring new facilities online, we must continue to operate existing facilities longer than we had anticipated than when they were originally built.

STARR: Seventy-plus years later, they're still in operation. Photos released by Congress show a leaking sealing, crumbling concrete and rotted floors at some of the nation's most critical nuclear sites.

In Oakridge, Tennessee, at the Y-12 uranium facility, officials acknowledge there is crumbling concrete and poorly maintained facilities. At the Pantex nuclear weapons assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas, rotting ceilings and walls. And at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons design laboratory in New Mexico, tarps are catching water from a leaking roof.

MCMILLAN: Los Alamos today, we have trailers that were put into service 30 years ago, and in some of those trailers, we have problems with ceilings, water damage falling in, we have problems with rodents in them.

STARR: It's just one of the national security and intelligence challenges. The Obama administration is getting ready to hand off to the next president.

Across the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies, briefing books are being assembled on every topic. The nation's top intelligence officer cautioning with the wide-ranging

terror and cyber threats in the world this presidential transition season will be a vulnerable time.

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I know a lot of people have been feeling uncertainty about what will happen with this transition, a lot of catastrophizing if I can use that term. So, I'm here with a message, it will be OK.


STARR: Back to the nuclear facilities for a minute, more money may not even be the answer. What officials are saying is some of these facilities are so old, so crumbling, it is almost impossible to properly maintain them at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, they've got to do something. They've got to fix that and do it quickly.

Thanks very, very much for that report. Good work.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.