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Interview With Tennessee Senator Bob Corker; Clinton and Trump on Foreign Policy; Clinton: Trump Unqualified to be President; Interview with Mike Pence. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 8, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did either candidate pass the commander in chief test last night? What do you think?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Chief concerns, Hillary Clinton today calling Donald Trump unpatriotic and scary after they tangled over who is the better potential commander in chief. Did Clinton break the cardinal political rule of never say never?

Also, a CNN exclusive with Donald Trump's running mate, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, standing firm today with the guy on the top of the ticket when it comes to the Russian president vs. the American president.

Plus, blank state. A presidential nominee stuns morning shows by saying, "What is Aleppo?" So, we're going to give some CliffsNotes on the Syrian war and the greatest humanitarian crisis of this century?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Give me a little bit of that special election music. There you go.

Last night almost felt like a debate. You could hear the fact- checkers uncapping their red sharpies as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went one after the other fielding questions on national security.

But the dueling narratives each nominee built were certainly enlightening in how different they were and some foreign policy experts would say in how detached from the facts on the ground they were.

CNN political reporter Sara Murray is in Cleveland following the Republican nominee who just gave a speech there.

Sara, it is hard to argue that anyone had a particularly good night last night, so Hillary Clinton first thing this morning going on the offensive, responding to some of Trump's more provocative comments, but it seems as though Trump was set on making sure that Clinton did not get the last word.


Donald Trump was here in Cleveland. He was appearing at a charter school, and he was supposed to be addressing education policy, but he could not help but rehash some of the topics that came up during last night's national security fortunately.

Now, one of the things he did was, he went into a lengthy defense, saying that he was an early opposer of going into war in Iraq, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, and he also couldn't help but going after Hillary Clinton one more time on her e-mails.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Last night was yet another test, and Donald Trump failed yet again.

MURRAY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump waging political warfare today over who is more qualified to serve as commander in chief.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The whole saw how unfit she was at the town hall last night.

MURRAY: After Donald Trump lavished praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin last night.

TRUMP: I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Putin. He has been a leader far more than our president has been a leader.

MURRAY: Hillary Clinton took to the tarmac, denouncing Trump's preference for Putin over President Obama as bizarre and astonishing.

CLINTON: Now, that is not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief. It is scary, because it suggests he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do and then make excuses for him.

TRUMP: She tried to make up for her horrible performance last night. It was a horrible performance. So, she went on the tarmac and told more lies.

MURRAY: Clinton taking Trump to task for offering relatively few details in Wednesday night's national security forum.

CLINTON: He says his plan is still a secret, but the truth is, he simply doesn't have one, and that's not only dangerous. It should be disqualifying.

MURRAY: That's as Trump explained he has a plan to defeat ISIS. He's just not ready to reveal it.

TRUMP: I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don't want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.

MURRAY: The GOP nominee saying he will rely on the input of generals to help craft his anti-terrorism agenda, just not the generals currently leading the nation's military.

TRUMP: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it is embarrassing for our country.

MURRAY: As Clinton seized on the moment to lash out against Trump's temperament.

CLINTON: We saw more evidence that he is temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander in chief. He trash-talked American generals.

MURRAY: Trump also generating controversy last night for standing by this tweet about sexual assaults in the military.

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: In 2013, on this subject, you tweeted this -- quote -- "26,000 unreported actual assaults in the military, only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?"

TRUMP: Well, it is a correct tweet.

MURRAY: With both candidates now receiving classified briefings, Trump says he left with the impression the intelligence community is not pleased with the Obama administration.


TRUMP: I am pretty good with the body language. I could tell they were not happy.

MURRAY: An assessment Clinton scoffed at.

CLINTON: I think what he said was totally inappropriate and undisciplined. I would never comment on any aspect of an intelligence briefing that I received.


MURRAY: Now, Donald Trump did eventually make it back around to education policy in his appearance in Cleveland here today, but it was a little bit of an awkward setting to see him speaking at a charter school, where there are a number of rows of schoolchildren, as he talked about the threat that the country faces because of terrorism, and as he essentially called Hillary Clinton a liar for how she handled her e-mails -- Jake.

TAPPER: Sara Murray, thank you so much.

And joining me now is Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. He's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for being here, as always.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Jake, always good to be with you. Thank you. TAPPER: So, Senator, you have criticized Vladimir Putin for

corruption. You have said Putin cannot be allowed to succeed in his aggression, that Putin must pay a heavy price until he changes course.

Take a listen to Donald Trump talking about Putin last night.


TRUMP: If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him. I have always said he is really very much of a leader. You can say, oh, isn't that a terrible thing?

He called -- I mean, the man has very strong control over a country. Now, it is a very different system, and I don't happen to like the system, but certainly in that system he has been a leader far more than our president has been a leader.


TAPPER: Do you have any concerns at all about Trump's apparent affinity for Vladimir Putin, who has obviously annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine, and is supporting Assad?

CORKER: Well, I think one has to be a little careful to let flattery affect one's judgment. So, I will just leave it at that.

Look, we have interests that we ought to be able to work with Russia on, no question. The terrorism issue one that threatens them, just like it does us.

On the other hand, let's face it. Over the last several years, President Putin has operated in ways that very much have been against our interests. And I think we have to recognize that that is just a fact, and has done so in many ways in a very ruthless manner.

So, I don't condone that, as you referred to earlier comments I have made some time ago. And I think we have to recognize that there are significant differences in just the way our countries are set up, but also significant differences in what our national interests are.

And so while there are a few areas where we ought to be like-minded, there are certainly multiple areas right now, Syria, Ukraine, Crimea, where those differences are pretty profound.

TAPPER: Do you think that the president of Russia is a stronger or better leader than the president of the United States?

CORKER: Well, I don't want to get into -- I mean, this is a political season and comments are being made.

And I have got a job to do here, Jake, as you know, to deal with just the current issues we're dealing with around the world. And I don't want to referee personality issues. And I don't even want to weigh in on a comment like that.

TAPPER: Trump said last night that there were things that he has learned in the classified intelligence briefings that all presidential nominees get that surprised him, and he said he could tell from body language that the briefers were not happy because -- quote -- "Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending."

Hillary Clinton today said that making that comment was inappropriate and undisciplined. What do you think?

CORKER: Well, again, I certainly have not been involved in those briefings.

And I -- again, I -- you're putting me in sort of a personality referee position, which is not a position that I should be in or want to be in. And really I'm more of a public policy person, as you know.

Typically, I will say, with intelligence briefings, they really attempt not to try to give you a direction. They try to keep it to the facts of the intelligence gathering.

TAPPER: I know you are eager to want to talk about the here and now, especially about Syria.

Take listen to Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson talking to Mike Barnicle this morning.



MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC: What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?


BARNICLE: You're kidding.


TAPPER: Do you think that is disqualifying?

CORKER: Again, I didn't see the interview.

I have never met Governor Johnson. I -- just again, it doesn't move me to comment.

I will let you and those who give editorial comments around these kinds of things discuss that. Again, Jake, I don't want to be -- I am chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. It's a huge privilege. I work with people on both sides of the aisle to try to solve our problems.


And the last place I want to be in all of this is a referee over who is qualified, who isn't qualified.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the dire humanitarian crisis in Syria right now.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are meeting in Geneva to try to negotiate some sort of cease- fire. What more can the U.S. do to help the Syrian people who are being slaughtered?

CORKER: There is really not a great deal that we are able to do because of the complexities that have arisen.

We can meet with Russia. But Russia knows that there's nothing that the United States is going to do force-wise, at least while this president is in place. I do hope that our next president is going to be willing to work on some way of causing these people who are being bombed, poisoned, tortured some way for them to have some safe zones to move into until this conflict ends.

But it is really, I think, a blight on our own nation relative to how we have handled this. And it is -- it is heartbreaking to see what people who have the same aspirations, Jake, that you have and that I have and others have, to see them being treated in this disastrous manner.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Bob Corker, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

CORKER: Thank you. Thank you.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton says everything is a game to Donald Trump, as if he is in living in his own reality TV program. But she is also trying to do some cleanup about a comment she made about troops in Iraq and Syria -- that story next.


[16:15:30] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with breaking news and the politics lead, in a new CNN/ORC poll, looking at how voters are responding to the charges and countercharges made by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

So, who has gotten downer and dirtier in this race?

Fifty-three percent of registered voters say Trump and his campaign have unfairly attacked Clinton, while just 43 percent thinks it's Clinton's attacks on Trump that had been the most unfair.

One major way Trump has attacked Clinton, of course, has to do with the FBI investigation into her use of the private email server while secretary of state. Sixty-two percent, most voters, believe how Clinton handled her e-mails while secretary of state is an important indicator of her character and ability to serve as president. That number has steadily gone up since news of Clinton's server first broke.

Clinton continually suggests selecting Trump would put the nation at risk. What do voters think? Well, a narrow majority of voters agree, 51 percent of those polled, as opposed to 48 percent. They think he will shake things up in Washington in a good way.

Hillary Clinton hammered Donald Trump as completely unqualified to be commander-in-chief at a campaign rally in North Carolina this afternoon.

CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar joins me now live.

Brianna, Clinton is hitting Trump even as she had to do some clean up of her own comments last night as well.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. She's still talking email. She was last night. She's still unable to put the issue to bed. And also today, taking questions about why she has taken the use of conventional forces against ISIS off of the table before she ever even, well, if she does win, steps foot into the White House.


KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton still sensitive to liberal worries about her Iraq War vote made a promise to voters last night.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We're not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we're not putting ground troops into Syria. We're going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.

KEILAR: Today, she's facing questions about whether she's ignoring the fact that Special Forces are already in combat in Iraq and Syria, and if she is restricting her options for defeating ISIS.

CLINTON: I think putting a big contingent of American ground troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria would not be in the best interest of the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups. I support the air campaign. I support Special Forces.

KEILAR: Clinton is criticizing Donald Trump for a lack of command when it comes to foreign policy and national security concerns.

CLINTON: It's like he's living in his own celebrity reality TV program. You know what, Donald? This is real reality. This is real people. This is real decisions that have to be made.

KEILAR: President Obama providing back up from his foreign trip to Laos.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think the guy is qualified to be president of the United States. And every time he speaks, that opinion is confirmed.


KEILAR: But Clinton is again tangled up in her e-mail controversy for parsing words about whether she and aides transmitted classified information through her unqualified email system. She did, the FBI said. But Clinton offered this defense. CLINTON: There were no headers. There was no statement, top secret, secret, or confidential. I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously.

KEILAR: Just as she took the military issues forum, too seriously according to the head of the RNC, Reince Priebus tweeting, "Hillary Clinton was angry and defensive the entire time. No smile and uncomfortable. Upset that she was caught wrongly sending our secrets."

CLINTON: I don't take thing that comes from the RNC. We were talking about serious issues last night.


KEILAR: Now, the thing that Donald Trump said that probably upset the Clinton campaign the most, Jake, was when he said, "I was totally against the war in Iraq." She's sensitive to the fact, obviously, that initially she wasn't.

Well, Donald Trump as well was for the Iraq war.


KEILAR: And it was completely untrue, what he said, and this is the fund raising e-mail that her campaign sent out. "Subject line, Matt Lauer," where they basically name check him, "failing to fact check," they say this claim. And they also say that many other outlets lack the wherewithal to call him out. They said, "We need to fact check him, the campaign, that costs money, basically, please donate."

[16:20:02] TAPPER: OK. Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

Our brand new interview with Republican vice presidential nominee, Governor Mike Pence, does he agree with Donald Trump that Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama? He'll tell us next.

Plus, brand new battleground state poll show a much different race than just a few weeks ago.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Another new poll just rolled out this afternoon. It shows a very close race in some key battleground states.

First, Florida. The poll from Quinnipiac University shows Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied at 43 percent. This is in a four-way race with Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein both factored in.

[16:25:03] Let's move to the swing state of North Carolina. Clinton is just four points ahead of Trump there with 42 percent. In Pennsylvania, Clinton leads by five points, 44 percent to Trump's

39 percent.

Trump narrowly leading in Ohio, he is 41 percent compared to Clinton's 37 percent.

These races are tightening.

Just moments ago in an exclusive interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Trump's running mate, Governor Mike Pence, not only agreed with Trump's assertion last night that the president of Russia is a stronger leader than the president of the United States, but Governor Pence called Trump's claim inarguable.

Pence also tried to clean up Trump's criticism of military leadership when he said this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble.


TAPPER: Dana Bash joins me now live from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library where that interview took place.

Dana, did Governor Pence seem reluctant at all to repeat the assertion about the president of Russia being stronger than the president of the United States?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, he actually didn't. I asked him about that statement, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump, in the context of why Mike Pence was here at the Reagan Library to give a speech comparing Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump both in terms of the eras and in terms of the men and their leadership.

I talked about the obvious, that Ronald Reagan stood up and called the Soviet Union the Evil Empire, and how that could or, does it compare to what Donald Trump is saying about Vladimir Putin?


BASH: Last night, Donald Trump said that Vladimir Putin has, quote, "been a leader far more than our president has been a leader."

Do you share that view?

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think there is a great analogy between the time that Ronald Reagan was willing to name what was the greatest threat to the people of the United States which was the communist Soviet Union. He called it an even Evil Empire.

And just a few short weeks ago in Youngstown, Ohio, Donald Trump unlike President Obama and Hillary Clinton was able to name what is the greatest threat to the people of the United States today which is radical Islamic terrorism. Both men, they identified the signature threat of the time. They named it, they challenged it, and developed a strategy --

BASH: But, Governor, Donald Trump said that Vladimir Putin has been a leader far more than the president of the United States. Do you share that view?

PENCE: Well, remember, Ronald Reagan spoke boldly on the world stage, even about the Soviet Union --


BASH: I'm talking about Donald Trump. Can you just answer the question about that current --

PENCE: But it was Ronald Reagan also who met with Gorbachev and demonstrated that you can as Teddy Roosevelt said, you can walk softly and carry a big stick. You can speak boldly and plainly, but you can have relationships with people on the world stage.

BASH: Do you personally think that Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than the current president?

PENCE: I think it is inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country and that's going to change the day that Donald Trump becomes president of the United States of America. I mean, look, you've seen instances --

BASH: I don't need to tell you because you were in Congress. He has -- Barack Obama has a true democracy here with the Congress that pushes back with those checks and balances. Vladimir Putin doesn't have that.

PENCE: That's exactly right.

BASH: So, is it hard to say?

PENCE: And Trump said he doesn't particularly like the system.

BASH: While we're on foreign policy, I have to ask you. You mentioned last night that Mr. Trump said that the generals, quote, "have been reduced to rubble under President Obama and Hillary Clinton." Do you agree wit that? And is that how a commander-in- chief should speak about the military brass?

PENCE: Well, I think -- I think the American people are deeply troubled at a foreign policy and military policy of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that has caused the wider Middle East to literally spin out of control. We have seen civil war in Syria, civil war in Libya. We've seen entire areas of Iraq that were won by the American soldier be compromised.

BASH: But he is talking about the generals. The generals have been reduced to rubble. He wasn't talking about -- PENCE: I think -- I think that in all due respect, I think he was

talking about the commander-in-chief reducing the influence of generals to rubble. I think the truth is that the leadership that we have had at the top, and you heard Donald Trump talk about that last night.

BASH: Let me ask you about that in terms of plans, Mr. Trump also said last night that he has a secret plan to defeat ISIS, which he says he doesn't want to broadcast to the enemy.

PENCE: Right.

BASH: You are his running mate. Has he shared his secret plan to defeat ISIS with you?

PENCE: Well, I'll keep our private conversations private.

BASH: Do you know -- I mean, you don't have to tell me what the plans are. But do you know --

PENCE: Well, what I can tell you is what he laid out yesterday. What he laid out in Youngstown, Ohio, is a plan to bring in military commanders within 30 days for -- and to have their recommendations, including added to his thoughts and his ideas of how we can hunt down and defeat and destroy ISIS at its source.