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Clinton's Health Keeps Her Off the Trail as Race Tightens; Trump Running Mate Talks Issues; Pence Says Trump Has Given "Tens of Millions" to Charity; Pence: We Aren't Talking About Where Obama Was Born; Pence Says People Have a Right to Know About Candidates' Health; Pence Slams Clinton for Deplorables Comment. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 12, 2016 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Our thanks to George Clooney and John Prendergast. That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer, who is joined -- I can see him right over there -- by Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:14] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Transparency questions. Hillary Clinton has a case of pneumonia, keeping off the campaign trail and raising questions about why her illness wasn't disclosed until well after she cut short a visit to Ground Zero.

Donald Trump is also facing criticism over his own lack of transparency on health, taxes and more. I'll speak with his vice- presidential running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

Contempt for voters. Trump slams Clinton for saying half of his supporters fall into a so-called "basket of deplorables." Trump says that viciously demeans millions of voters. So who was Hillary Clinton talking about?

Other people's money. New questions about Donald Trump's charitable foundation and why he hasn't donated his own money to that foundation in years. Is Trump using funds donated by others to benefit himself?

And arson attack. Stunning new video captures what authorities say is an act of arson against the Florida mosque attended by the Orlando nightclub shooter. So who's behind the apparent attack?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news. Hillary Clinton is staying home sick off the campaign trail a day after cutting her visit short to New York's Ground Zero with a dizzy spell that was all caught on camera. Hours later, her campaign announced that Clinton has pneumonia and is promising to release more medical information later this week.

While Clinton battles illness and sharp new questions about her lack of transparency, Donald Trump, who has his own transparency issues, has released only a very brief doctor's letter on his health. He's now promising to release new numbers following a physical last week. Trump says he hopes Clinton gets well soon but suggests, quote, "something is going on."

Instead, Trump is focusing his attacks on Hillary Clinton's comment that his supporters represent a basket of deplorables. He says Clinton viciously demonized millions of decent Americans. Clinton has expressed regret for generalizing but vows to continue calling out bigotry in Trump's campaign.

And surveillance. Surveillance cameras catch what authorities say is an arsonist, setting fire to the mosque attended by the Orlando nightclub gunman. The sheriff's office says video shows the man arriving on a motorcycle, approaching the mosque with paper and a bottle of liquid, then fleeing when a fire is ignited. I'll speak live with Donald Trump's vice-presidential running mate, Mike Pence.

And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

As Hillary Clinton takes it easy today, Donald Trump, for a change, is not focusing in on her health. But he has another line of attack. Let's get the latest from our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar. Brianna, Trump is hitting back hard over her comments about his supporters.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Hillary Clinton insulted half of Donald Trump supporters, and she's only taken back part of her statement.



KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton backtracking after saying this at a ritzy Manhattan fundraiser.

CLINTON: You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're rallying to support Trump.

KEILAR: She later said she regretted saying half of Donald Trump's supporters in such terms, but she's standing by her criticism that he has given voice to white supremacists and others.

Trump has taken Clinton's gaffe and is running with it.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You cannot run for president if you have such contempt in your heart for the American voter.

CLINTON: Sexist...

KEILAR: His campaign has already cut an ad capitalizing on the comments. CLINTON: ... you name it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People like you, you and you.

KEILAR: Meanwhile, Clinton is out of sight, resting up as she recovers from pneumonia. Her doctor diagnosed her Friday, days after an extended public coughing fit explained at the time as seasonable allergies.

CLINTON: Every time I think about Trump, I get allergic.

KEILAR: But Friday's pneumonia diagnosis wasn't made public until Sunday, several hours after a bystander shot this video of Clinton stumbling while abruptly leaving Ground Zero. After Clinton paid a visit to her daughter, Chelsea's, apartment, she appeared in better shape.

The health scare follows months of Donald Trump questioning her physical fitness.

TRUMP: I say she does not have the stamina to be a good president.

She doesn't have the strength or the stamina.

She doesn't have the strength or the stamina to make America great again.

[17:05:04] KEILAR: Trump's response to Clinton's illness, subdued, even as he insinuates something more could be going on.

TRUMP (via phone): It was interesting, because they say pneumonia on Friday. But she was coughing very, very badly a week ago, and even before that, if you remember. This wasn't the first time. So it's very interesting to see what is going on.

I want her to get better. I want her to get out there. I look forward to seeing her in the debate.

KEILAR: Clinton's campaign is now batting away unfounded claims from Trump surrogates that she never fully recovered from the concussion she suffered in 2012, which caused a blood clot between her skull and brain.

BRIAN FALLON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: The reality is that the pneumonia is the extent what she has been diagnosed with. There are no other undisclosed conditions. There was nothing that happened yesterday that was caused by or related to what happened in 2012.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Secretary, how are you feeling?


KEILAR: Hillary Clinton may be out of sight, Wolf, but she did just take to Twitter moments ago, saying, "Like anyone who's ever been home sick from work, I'm just anxious to get back out there. See you on the trail soon." Signed "H," meaning that that is her tweet, Wolf. But under doctor's orders, she is laying low, at least through tomorrow, we believe.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll see how long that continues. Brianna Keilar, thank you very much. Brianna Keilar reporting.

Joining us now, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

Thanks very much, Governor, for joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINE: You bet, Wolf. Good to be back.

BLITZER: I want to get to several issues, including national security. Let's start off with something very important to the American public, transparency, right now.

We just heard about Hillary Clinton's health. Her campaign says they will be releasing more medical information about her health later this week. Donald Trump said this morning he had a physical last week. He'll be releasing his, quote, "numbers" later in the week.

Why not go the extra step and just release all of his medical information? I assume you agree the American public deserves to know about the health of both of these candidates.

PENCE: Well, we do agree with that. And -- and let me first say, as Donald Trump has said earlier today, we wish Hillary Clinton well, pray for a swift recovery, look forward to seeing her back on the campaign trail.

But look, people are vying for the highest office in the land. I think the American people have a right to know. And Donald Trump in the days ahead will be releasing his information from the recent physical and providing that information available to the public. I think -- I think both candidates should do that. I think that's in -- in the public interest.

BLITZER: Do you think he'll go as far as John McCain did eight years ago, when he released years of his medical conditions, his health reports and allowed reporters and journalists, including our own medical -- chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to spend hours talking to his physicians, learning more about his health? At the time, McCain was 70 years old, the exact age of Donald Trump right now.

PENCE: I think we'll see -- I think Donald Trump has made it clear that he just happened to have his most recent physical on Friday, that we're going to be making all of that information available in the days ahead.

But I can tell you, having campaigned with Donald Trump and for Donald Trump over the last couple of months here, he is a man who is vigorous, who's energetic. And gets up early. He campaigns late. We talk about every day. We campaign at least once a week. And I'm very confident that, as that information comes forward, the American people will see confirmed that this is a man who -- who does have the energy and -- and the physical ability and stamina to be president of the United States.

BLITZER: But Governor, with all due respect, like me, you're not a doctor. I'm not a doctor. Shouldn't the American people speak directly to his physicians and get that kind of information? Because he certainly does look healthy. He's got a lot of energy. Don't we deserve to know a lot more?

PENCE: And I think we will know a lot more. I think Donald Trump's made that very clear. I think, just in the days ahead here, that that information will be made available. And I think that information ought to be available.

But to be honest with you, our focus in this campaign is not -- not on the health of my running mate or even on the health of the Democrat nominee. It really today is on the fact that I think millions of Americans were just literally shocked and alarmed at the statements that Hillary Clinton made.

BLITZER: We're going to get to that in a moment, but let's just wrap up the health issue. Do you believe Hillary Clinton is healthy enough to be president of the United States?

PENCE: Well, as you said, I'm not a doctor. I wouldn't care to speculate. I think the American people have a right to know the answer to that question. And they'll know it from Donald Trump. Donald Trump has made it very clear he's going to make his health records available. And we hope the Democratic nominee joins him in that.

But again, I really do believe, you know, campaign as I am just over this last weekend, back home again in Indiana over weekend, I -- the American people are really focused on the issues, and the fact that Hillary Clinton went before a group of wealthy donors in New York and literally called millions of Americans...

BLITZER: We're going to get into a discussion.

PENCE: ... a basket of deplorables.

[17:10:05] BLITZER: We're going to get into that basket in a moment, but I just want to be clear. Is Donald Trump going to simply release the results of his physical last week or his multiple records over the years?

PENCE: I think -- I think he's going to be providing the latest information on his health, which I think is the relevant information. But I'd refer you to the Trump Campaign specifically, and to the organization in New York about what they choose to do and when they choose to do it.

I know, in talking with him, he's anxious to be transparent about his health. And the American people are going to see, this is a man who is vigorous and healthy and energetic and will be a great president of the United States.

BLITZER: Was Rudy Giuliani OK, insinuating that she's not healthy? He was appearing to be referring to innuendos, also rumors out there. Were you comfortable with what he was saying?

PENCE: Let me just tell you, Donald Trump and I made it clear. We wish Hillary Clinton well, and we're praying for a swift recovery. We want to see her back out on the campaign trail, because the issues in this election are so important to the American people; and the choice could not be more clear. So we'll -- we'll leave it that.

BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani's not a doctor either. Just wondering if you -- you were OK with what he was saying.

PENCE: Well, look, our focus is on our campaign, on telling our story, on reaching more and more Americans every day. I'm here in Washington, D.C., because I'm going to be meeting with...

BLITZER: He's a senior advisor.

PENCE: I'm going to be meeting with leaders on Capitol Hill and with rank-and-file members on Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani is a top adviser, as you know.

PENCE: Rudy Giuliani is a great friend, and he's a great champion. He was a great...

BLITZER: Did he go too far?

PENCE: ... great mayor.

Look, I -- our focus is on the issues in this campaign, and I just want to be very clear. We wish Hillary Clinton well. we're praying for her swift recovery. We want to see her back on the campaign trail. We're ready to -- we're ready to compete.

BLITZER: So you don't want to answer that question, so let's move on. We're going to get to the basket in a little while.

Tax returns. Hillary Clinton has released more than 20 years of her tax returns. Donald Trump hasn't released any of his tax returns. And I understand the past few years he's still under audit. That's why he says he's not going to release it, but everything up to 2008 in no longer under audit. Why not release those years?

PENCE: Donald Trump has already provided voluminous information about his -- his financial dealings.

BLITZER: About his finances but not his tax...

PENCE: As the law requires.

BLITZER: We don't know what percentage of his income he was paying for tax. We don't know about charitable contributions. There's a lot the American public, I'm sure you would agree, you released your tax for ten years.

PENCE: I did. BLITZER: Don't you think the American public deserves that information? This is the president, potentially, of the United States.

PENCE: Well, I do, and so does Donald Trump. He's made it very clear that, after the completion of a routine audit...

BLITZER: Well, what about the other years? Why not the early years? Years going up to 2008.

PENCE: Again, you all in the media want to make pronouncements and decisions that are current and irrelevant. I think Donald Trump -- Donald Trump...

BLITZER: But polls show the American public wants to know this kind of information.

PENCE: Well, I think the American public also wants to know where 33,000 e-mails are. And I think the American people want to know about the pay-to-play system that was operating when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state of the United States.

I think, you know, when that routine audit is done, you're going to see Donald Trump make those tax returns available. And he's committed himself...

BLITZER: A lot of people have suggested that sounds like an excuse for not releasing the tax. You've released all your tax returns...

PENCE: I have.

BLITZER: ... for the past 10 years. And so you thought it was important that the American public know all of the information about your information. But the IRS itself says Trump is under no obligation to not release that information. He can do so even as the audit continues. Nixon did it.

PENCE: Right, right. Well, and he's also under no obligation to release his tax returns. It's become a tradition. I know Ronald Reagan, and I think CNN reported the other day when I was at the Reagan Library, Ronald Reagan released one year of tax returns, and he wasn't real happy about the invasion of privacy when he did it.

So there's a bit of a tradition here, but your viewers deserve to know that -- that Donald Trump and I and other the candidates in this race have fully complied with what the law requires about financial disclosure. That information about his finances is available. More than 100 pages of details about his financial dealings. And at the appropriate time, when the audit is done, he'll provide those tax returns.

BLITZER: He could -- he could -- without, you know, violating, whatever his accountants or lawyers are telling him about the audit, he could at a minimum release the amount of income he had, the percentage of taxes that he paid, the amount of charitable contributions. That wouldn't undermine the audit by any means. PENCE: Well, I think -- I think the commitment Donald Trump has made is, once the internal audit is done, he'll release the day returns in totality and not -- not parse them out, piece by piece, as you might suggest.

BLITZER: So I guess the question is why isn't he living up to the Mike Pence standard?

PENCE: Well, he's -- Donald Trump has made it very clear. He's -- he's lived in the public eye for a long time. He's fully been transparent about his financial dealings, as the law requires in his federal filings. And those tax returns will be out when that routine audit is done.

I do have to tell you, though, Wolf, because I travel around the country, I know members of the media are very interested in this. I don't hear a lot of people when I'm out on the stump as I was in Virginia just a few short days ago, I don't hear a lot of people talking about tax returns. They're talking about the future of the country. They're talking about wanting to see a stronger America at home. They're talking about wanting to see a stronger America at home and abroad.

And the reason more and more Americans are being drawn to this campaign, the reason you see those strong numbers in the polls, is because people are responding...


PENCE: ... to his message to make America great again.

BLITZER: So we're not going to get any information about his taxes until the audit is complete, including earlier years when those audits were completed?

PENCE: I think that's -- I think that's the right answer, but again, I just want to tell you, this is not what the American people are talking about.

And I respect -- I respect the role of the media -- you know I have throughout my career -- in asking all the tough questions. But I think the American people are concerned about their future. They're concerned about a struggling economy, about a 1 percent rate of growth in the last quarter. I mean, there's a lot of people hurting out there.

BLITZER: Obviously, there's a lot of huge issues. We're going to get to some of them in a moment.

But a lot of focus has been on the Clinton Foundation. There is also a charitable foundation called the Donald J. Trump Charitable Foundation. The lengthy story in the "Washington Post" that, I guess since 2008, to this charitable foundation, Donald Trump actually hasn't given any of his own money. This is money that came in from others that he then distributed that money to various causes or whatever. And it's raising further questions about how much charity Donald Trump has really given.

PENCE: Well, anyone who knows about Donald Trump and his career knows that this is a man that has given away tens of millions of dollars to charitable causes throughout the course of his -- his business life. He's been incredibly generous. I was down in Baton Rouge...

BLITZER: Because a lot of people -- a lot of people say, "We believe you, but show us the evidence."

PENCE: Well, I'll show you some evidence. I was down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There wasn't any press around, and in the car with Reverend Franklin Graham, leaving a church where people were working with folks that had been displaced by the terrible flooding in Louisiana, he just pledged and then gave, a week later, 100,000.

BLITZER: Was that from his own money or from this charitable foundation, which is receiving money from other people?

PENCE: Well, I would -- I would leave you to them. I'm not exactly -- know where the check came from. But he made a commitment. He followed through on it a week layer. And there simply is no question, you can talk to charities all across the country who have benefited by the generosity of the Trump family. And -- and I'm very, very proud of their charitable record.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get into this whole issue that Hillary Clinton raised the other night when she spoke about the basket of deplorables.

She said that half, in her initial statement, she said this. She said, "To be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it."

Afterwards, very quickly, within a day, she issued a statement saying she regretted saying, "half." It wasn't half. I spoke to a press secretary today. I said, well, what percentage. He wouldn't give me a percentage. But she said there are supporters, and you know this -- there are some supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence who -- David Duke, for example, some other white nationalists, who would fit into that category of deplorables. Right?

PENCE: Well, as I told you last time I was on, I'm not really sure why the media keeps dropping David Duke's name. Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don't want his support, and we don't want the support of people who think like him.

BLITZER: Would you call him a deplorable? You would call him that?

PENCE: No, I don't -- I'm not in the name-calling business, Wolf. You know me better than that. What Hillary Clinton did Friday night was shocking. I mean, the millions of people who support Donald Trump around this country are not a basket of anything. They are Americans. And they deserve the respect of the Democrat nominee for president of the United States.

For her to rattle off this litany of pejoratives was just really shocking. And anyone with that low an opinion of the American people should never hold the highest office in this land.

BLITZER: But she said she regretted saying half. She didn't mean half. She said half, obviously, but she's walked -- she's walked that back.

PENCE: So what did -- well, did she walk it back?

BLITZER: She said she regretted it. She issued a statement.

PENCE: She said she regretted saying half. So what was it, 40 percent? I mean...

BLITZER: I tried to get an answer to that, but I couldn't.

PENCE: She has insulted millions of Americans. And her answer to that is to regret the math that she used. She has not apologized for doing this. She has not retracted the statement. And frankly, we really question her ability to campaign across this country and reach out to hurting Americans, having expressed this statement and not apologize for it without qualifications.

I have to tell you, I'm out there campaigning each and every day. The people that are supporting Donald Trump across this country are hard- working Americans. They're moms and dads. They're factory workers; they're coal miners; they're farmers; they're small business owners. They're veterans. And for her to make this sweeping generalization in front of a group of wealthy donors at a Barbra Streisand fundraiser in New York City is deeply offensive to millions of Americans.

[17:20:18] I just -- I have to tell you that I thought it was an extraordinarily low moment. Whoever is president of the United States of America is president of all of America. And she simply expressed contempt for millions of people in this country who simply want to make America great again.

BLITZER: But you know that Donald Trump himself over the past year and a half has expressed contempt for all sorts of people out there, whether Mexican Americans, Muslims.

He said the other day, on August 19, he said, "Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that, and believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly when it may have caused personal pain." What was he talking about? Which specific things did he say that he regrets?

PENCE: Well, you'd have to ask him about that. Donald Trump is a man with broad shoulders, but he's got a big heart. He cares about people.

BLITZER: Have you asked him when he said that, you know?

PENCE: I'll keep my private conversations private, Wolf.

BLITZER: I mean...

PENCE: What I would tell you is...

BLITZER: ... what he said about the Gold Star family, for example?

PENCE: Look, what -- what Hillary Clinton did Friday night, however there might be an effort by her supporters to draw some moral equivalency to early parts in the debate, was unprecedented in this campaign. She literally stood in front of a group of wealthy donors in New York City and said you can put half of Donald Trump's supporters in a basket of deplorables.

BLITZER: But Governor, you yourself have had problems with some of the controversial things that Donald Trump has said, before you became the vice-presidential nominee. You are very unhappy about what he said about what he said about Muslims, a ban on Muslims coming to the United States. You said he was offensive and unconstitutional. Those were your words.

PENCE: Well, I disagreed with the policy point. and I said it at the time. And -- but I strongly support Donald Trump's call to suspend immigration from countries compromised by terror.

BLITZER: Should he spell out what he regrets having said, instead of just a general statement, like you want Hillary Clinton to spell out and express regret and apologize for her comment?

PENCE: No. No.

BLITZER: Should Donald Trump be held to the same standard?

PENCE: I -- look, I -- and let's -- her running mate said she didn't need to apologize at all on Saturday.

BLITZER: She formally didn't apologize. She just expressed regrets.

PENCE: That's what I'm saying. Hillary Clinton did not apologize for insulting millions of people who rallied behind the campaign.

BLITZER: Should Donald Trump? For example, about John McCain not being a hero. He spent six years as a POW. Stuff like that. We all know the controversial things he said. Would it be appropriate at this point as a gesture to say, "You know what? I apologize"?

PENCE: But you cannot draw a distinction between things that were said in the heat of the moment and a prepared speech in front of wealthy donors.

This was not the first time she used this "basket of deplorables" line. She used it again and again. Wolf, you've been around this process a long time. This was intentional. There was forethought to it, and it was an extraordinary insult to millions of Americans.

I've got to tell you, I'm out there on the campaign trail. The people that are drawn to this campaign -- Republicans, independents, many Democrats -- are drawn because they believe this country can be stronger at home and abroad again. They're weary of an administration, the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, that has weakened America's place in the world, stifled America's economy. They're drawn to that broad shoulder of leadership of Donald Trump.

And to be subject to this kind of a demeaning statement is just simply beyond the pale. And she should -- she should apologize and retract the entire statement without qualification.

BLITZER: Should Donald Trump apologize to President Obama for suggesting he's not -- he wasn't born in the United States? You know he was born in Hawaii. Everybody knows he was born in Hawaii. We've all seen the birth certificate.

But to this day, even though Dr. Ben Carson says he should apologize, Rudy Giuliani says he believes he was born in the United States, Kellyanne Conway says the same thing. Should he publicly just say to the president once and for all, "Sorry, I know you were born in Hawaii"?

PENCE: You know, we're just not talking about that issue.

BLITZER: Why not?

PENCE: It's a four-year-old issue. Because it's not what the American people are talking about. It really isn't, Wolf.

I mean, I can honestly tell you, I mean, this is the greatest privilege in my life to be running for vice president of the United States. I'm traveling all over this country. I was on the West Coast yesterday. I'm in Florida later this week, Virginia over the weekend. The American people are coming together.

This is a movement coming behind Donald Trump, because they know we can be stronger, we can be more prosperous, we can keep more faith with the principles enshrined in the Constitution, as the late Justice Antonin Scalia did in his time on the Supreme Court, and we can have someone in the Oval Office who will maintain the highest level of integrity in that highest office in the land. Those are all the reasons why they're following Donald Trump.

[17:25:07] BLITZER: That would be a nice gesture if he were to do that, since you believe he was born in Hawaii, right?

PENCE: Well, of course. Of course. And look -- but, there's so many things. I have to tell you, it -- it is just not what people are talking about. There are people -- it seems some days like the whole world is spinning apart. We hope and we pray that the ceasefire in Syria holds, however tenuous, even at this very hour. This economy is struggling. Americans are hurting.

Donald Trump is building support all across this country, more every day, because he's talking about what the American people are talking about. BLITZER: Let's talk about some of those national security foreign

policy issues. I've got a few of them I'd like to raise.

First of all, I don't know if you saw this post that the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, put out, complaining about those who don't want Israel to build settlements, Jewish settlements on the West Bank. He said -- he posted the video and he called it, "No Jews." He said this was ethnic cleansing. Powerful words. Do you agree with the prime minister of Israel?

PENCE: I strongly support the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu. And I strongly support the interests of the Jewish state of Israel as our most cherished ally. We will stand with Israel in a Trump-Pence administration.

BLITZER: Because the State Department says, if you -- if the Israelis continue building settlements in the West Bank, it raises real questions about Israel's long-term intentions in the West Bank and would effectively make it impossible for there to be a two-state solution, Israel living alongside a new state of Palestine.

PENCE: I think -- I think what's in the interest of peace in the region is that America's commitment to Israel be unambiguous. And quite frankly, since the days of the last Clinton administration, where we slipped into the role of being an honest broker in the region, we've sent mixed signals in various administrations.

Donald Trump and I will stand four-square shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish state of Israel; and the American people can count on that in this administration.

BLITZER: North Korea, another critically important issue right now.

Donald Trump has said in the past that he would speak with Kim Jong- un, the North Korean leader, if he were to visit the United States. But he also said it's up to China. He said China could fix this problem, solve this problem in one day.

So what is it: talk to Kim Jong-un, have China do it? Where do you and Donald Trump stand on this crisis right now with North Korea?

PENCE: Well, I think the nuclear test, the firing of three ballistic missiles during the G-20, it's the kind of provocation we've grown accustomed to from the regime in North Korea.

But Donald Trump is exactly right. North Korea operates within the sphere and under the enormous influence of China. And sitting down with China and explaining to them that we need them to step up and lean in and make it very, very clear that these provocations are no longer acceptable, leave aside the repression of its people, will be a very, very important part of foreign policy in that region.

BLITZER: So -- if you're vice president and he's president -- I know you served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee for a decade when you were a member of Congress -- and he became president, what would it be: have China deal with this, or would the U.S. take the initiative and talk with Kim Jong-un?

PENCE: I think that would be a decision for the president to make, and I would strongly support the president's decision.

I don't know if it needs to be an either/or. I mean, the thing -- the thing that I think is very appealing to millions of Americans about Donald Trump is he knows how to make a deal. He knows how to sit down with people. You saw the way he went to Mexico City. An awful lot of people -- not you, Wolf -- an awful lot of people in the media were shocked. Here's Donald Trump, who's taken some very, very strong stands with regard to Mexico.

And yet he was able to go to Mexico City and sit down with President Pena Nieto, have a very cordial discussion, talk about things of common interest and come home. I guarantee you that a President Donald Trump will engage leaders around the world. He'll engage it with American strength, and we'll find a way to advance the safety and secure of the people of this country and our allies.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Putin, the president of Russia. Donald Trump has said nice things about Putin. You yourself said that Putin is a stronger leader in Russia than President Obama is here in the United States. You know, you've caused some heartburn among some of your fellow Republicans, who have said some pretty tough things about Putin, like the speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

So explain exactly the Pence position and the Trump position on Putin, because it's caused a lot of concern and confusion out there, as if you're saying nice things about a guy who's taken over parts of Ukraine and done also -- maybe even interfering in U.S. domestic politics.

PENCE: Look, my record in denouncing Vladimir Putin is long and storied, whether it be his oppression of the press or his violence or his aggression in the region. And that's all been very clear.

[17:30:09] Look, when Donald Trump and I said that the small and bullying president of Russia was stronger on the world stage than President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in her tenure, that was not an endorsement of Vladimir Putin. That was an indictment of the weak and feckless leadership that President Obama and then-Secretary Clinton have brought to the world stage. Look, America is stronger than Russia. The American political system is superior than the Russian political system in every way.

We just simply need a president of the United States who will command the respect of the world and lead with American strength, and that will be Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Because I just heard you say stuff about Putin I never heard Donald Trump say about Putin. Are you on the same page with Donald Trump when it comes to brandishing Vladimir Putin, as you said, somebody who does awful things to his own people?

PENCE: I think Donald Trump and I know what we're dealing with in Vladimir Putin. I mean, he's a former KGB agent. He has a strong authoritarian strain. He's repressed not only the media but his own people, and suspected in violent acts. And of course, he's invaded Ukraine and Crimea.

Look, but what you have in Donald Trump is someone who will take the world as it comes. What you hear him saying is that he's willing to engage foreign leaders. I mean, the very ceasefire that we are watching tenuously right now was brokered because the United States of America was willing to sit down with Russia. Give Secretary Kerry his credit for sitting down with his counterpart and saying to the Russians, "You need to bring Assad to the table. We bring -- we bring the insurgents to the table and work out a ceasefire so that humanitarian aid can flow."

What you hear Donald Trump saying is not that we are turning a blind eye to the realities around Vladimir Putin, but it says that he is the president of that nation. We are going to deal with him. And we're going to deal with him in a forthright way to advance the interests of the United States of America.

And as Donald often says, how about get Russia involved in finding a way for us, once and for all, to destroy ISIS at its source and make both of our nations safer?

BLITZER: Let's get to some domestic economic issues critically important to the American people. I know we don't have a lot of time. But Janet Yellen. The subject came up in Donald Trump's interview this morning on CBNC. He suggested that the Federal Reserve chair was keeping interest rates low for political reasons to help Hillary Clinton, in effect, get elected president of the United States. Do you agree with that?

PENCE: Well, I think -- I think it's very questionable that we're continuing to keep interest rates low. It tends to create this artificial prosperity that shows up in the stock market and on Wall Street, but it's not hitting Main Street.

And the reality is that, for whatever the motivation at the Federal Reserve, there is this masking of some fundamental problems in the American economy that the American people are feeling each and every day.

I really do believe that the millions of Americans who are rallying to this cause are rallying to the fact that you've got this clear-eyed businessman who looks at a 1 percent American economy and says, "That's not good enough."

BLITZER: So is she politicizing decisions at the Federal Reserve?

PENCE: I wouldn't -- I don't -- I'm not here to judge or to speculate, but there is simply no question that -- that the unwillingness of the Federal Reserve to make any adjustment whatsoever has created a climate where, frankly, the hedge fund managers and the stock brokers do really well, the stock market stays inflated, because essentially the free money on the marketplace, and -- and the American people are struggling. We need a pro-growth plan the likes of which Donald Trump has laid out to lower marginal rates, to lower the business taxes, to roll back regulations, repeal Obamacare. That's what will get the economy moving again.

BLITZER: One final question before I let you go. The debates, I know you're preparing for your vice-presidential debate against Tim Kaine. Donald Trump said something curious today that -- he said that maybe there shouldn't be any moderators in these presidential debates, he said, because they could be rigged, very unfair. Earlier, he thought the moderators were all fair, the moderators that were chosen by the presidential debate commission.

What is it? Is he OK with the moderators? Is he going to go forward with the debates? I know you talked to him about this.

PENCE: I talk to Donald Trump every day, sometimes twice a day. Look, I think he's looking forward to the debates, but the idea of just being on the stage squaring off, really being able to talk about -- talk about the future that Hillary Clinton offers, with essentially a third Obama term, considering the same policies that have weakened America's place in the world, stifled our economy, and Donald Trump's plan to rebuild our military, stand strong on the world stage, get this economy moving again, I think -- I think more that we hear from these two candidates, the more confident I am that Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.

[17:35:06] BLITZER: And you're going to meet with members of Congress tomorrow.

PENCE: I am.

BLITZER: What's your message to them?

PENCE: My message to them is that there's tremendous momentum in this campaign. We're seeing it not only in the national polls, but we're seeing it in key battleground states, where we're either tried straight ahead. We're seeing great progress in our Senate races. We're seeing some real separation in some key Senate races.

And our -- my word to them is very, very simple. Donald Trump and I are committed to doing all that we can, not just to bring home a victory at the White House but to make sure that we reelect strong Republican majorities in the House and in the Senate; and we're going to part partner with them every day between now and the election day to bring that about.

BLITZER: Are you going to meet with Ted Cruz?

PENCE: I'm going to meet with a great number of members. I hope to have a chance to meet with Ted and Senator Mike Lee, my own Senator Dan Coates. But I'll be meeting with the Republican conference. I'm meeting with senators at their policy luncheon. And it's a great honor for me to come back. Because I've got a whole lot more people walking around with me these days, but it will be good to be back with a lot of good men and women that serve our country with great sincerity.

BLITZER: Governor, you've been very generous with your time. Thank you so much for joining us. We hope you come back. Good luck out there on the campaign trail.

PENCE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Governor Mike Pence, the Republican vice-presidential nominee.

Let's take a quick break. We have a lot to assess. We'll continue our special coverage right after this.


[17:40:47] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The Republican vice-presidential nominee, Mike Pence, just here in THE SITUATION ROOM moments ago said people have a right to know about both presidential candidates' health.

He also repeatedly slammed Hillary Clinton for using the phrase "basket of deplorables" to describe Donald Trump's supporters, at least half of them, although she backtracked from that later, said she expressed regret referring to half of those supporters, part of that basket of deplorables.

Let's get reaction right now from our political experts. We've got the best ones right here. Gloria, what did you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Mike Pence is a great running mate, I will tell you that. I think he is the best defender of Donald Trump. I think he was clearly here today to go on the attack on the basket of deplorables, which he called deeply offensive. And he also told you that anyone with that low an opinion of the American people should never hold the highest office.

It's clear that -- this this campaign wants to take that mistake to -- to another level and say that Hillary Clinton, you know, has basically said what Mitt Romney said about the 47 percent, that she has -- you know, she has written off half of the American electorate.

BLITZER: It's a strong talking point for the Republicans, Mark.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: It absolutely is. And to Gloria's point, too, the fact that he was able to defend Donald Trump or at least try to divert your way from all the tough questions about -- about Donald Trump in a way where he didn't give an answer was amazing in some ways. It was politically amazing how he was able to defer on issues such as the birther, on Putin, on the issue of deplorable. He said he's not in the name of -- the name-calling business, yet he also said, you know, "We don't want David Duke's support."

Mike Pence really, when you look back at the people that Donald Trump could have as his running mate, Mike Pence really could turn out to be his best choice, because he's very good at defending him. BORGER: Very good.

BLITZER: David Chalian, what do you think?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean, I agree with everything my colleagues have said here. I do think he is a skilled, practiced interviewer in the conversation with you.

I do think he deliberately did not want to label David Duke deplorable. He didn't want to associate himself with that word, because they want that word to belong to Hillary Clinton and nobody else.

BORGER: Right.

CHALIAN: And they don't want any sound bite of that. That was crystal clear, even though he repeated, of course, that has disavowed David Duke and that they don't welcome his support, he wouldn't label him that way. That certainly is going to generate some -- some headline out of this interview.

But listen, the other thing that I think was clear, though, is that Mike Pence, as good of a defender as -- of Donald Trump as he is, he also is always aware of his own political future, and so there are certain things he wants to make sure he preserves for himself.

Such as he's happy to talk about why he thought it was important to release his taxes, but when you asked him whether or not Trump should subscribe to the Pence standard, you know, he gave a little laugh there and sort of brushed that off and once again used that comment about the audit. So he is doing things that preserve for himself a political future while also trying to defend Trump.

KEILAR: But I also think that Mike Pence in that interview showed the difficulty of capitalizing on what Hillary Clinton said about the basket of deplorables and half of Trump supporters being that, which is in order to really say, if you are for Donald Trump, that what she said is terrible and that she's painting half of his supporters as racist or Islamophobes or xenophobic, is that you need to condemn in pretty strong terms the element that is deplorable. Paint is as a -- as a tiny, unwelcome sliver. And even with Mike Pence who, as he tried to do that, you saw that it was very difficult.

And not only that a number of questions that you asked him -- Do you agree with Rudy Giuliani on the health? You know, do you think that Hillary Clinton is healthy? What will Donald Trump release when it comes to his health records? -- he didn't have very straightforward answers for you. And I think -- I think that is a problem when you are the running mate, and there are so many things that you really -- I mean, while he was able to skate around some things, he really could not fully back up his candidate on a number of things.

[17:45:11] BORGER: OK. So now that we've complimented him --

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. BORGER: Let's take the other side of it, as Brianna is saying, which

is, on the charitable donations which you pushed him on, given the "Washington Post" reporting today. You know, he says he's given millions to charity. Well, we don't know.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tens of millions.

BORGER: Tens of millions to charity. OK. We don't know. Why don't we know? Because he hasn't released his taxes. His answer on the taxes is he is doing what the law requires, right, and he's -- you know, and he's disclosed on his election documents.


BORGER: But he didn't defend him. You know, he couldn't -- when you were pushing him, he can't defend not releasing his tax returns because he has released his own tax returns as a governor, et cetera. So those questions still remain out there, so what he does is he deflects and he's very practiced at deflecting.

PRESTON: Very quickly, one thing that really struck me on the issue of birther and Donald Trump leading the effort.


PRESTON: The people are not talking about it.

BORGER: Right.

PRESTON: Well, people are talking about it, you know. So to Gloria's point, that whole interview was him trying to deflect you pressing him, me pressing him, and what's really interesting is the Rudy Giuliani comment when you kept pressing him on it and he said, look, I don't want to talk about it or what have you. I said, all right. Well, I guess you just don't want to answer it. And then you moved on. I mean --

CHALIAN: And you got him to say it.


CHALIAN: You said you don't think he's born in Hawaii.


BORGER: Right.

CHALIAN: And you heard him immediately say, of course not. He said that.



CHALIAN: But his candidate hasn't said that.


KEILAR: And it's hard to defend someone when you -- it's hard to defend someone, which he was trying to do, when they behave in a very different way because when Mike Pence behaves to a very different standard, it's a tacit acknowledgment that what Donald Trump is doing is wrong in his eyes.

BLITZER: Listen --

BORGER: This is the man who has donated 10 percent of his income to charity, right? I mean, you know, it might --

BLITZER: According to this, 10 years of his taxes, that's -- yes.

BORGER: Who has released 10 years of his tax returns.


BORGER: So it's highly --

BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a moment. Much more right after this.


[17:50:43] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence telling me just a few moments ago that people have a right to know about both presidential candidates' health. We're back with our political experts.

David Chalian, he was very nice to Hillary Clinton wishing her well.

CHALIAN: Yes, there's no doubt about that. He was following the lead of Donald Trump this morning who did the same thing. Notice how serious they are when speaking about really wanting her to get better and hoping to see her back out on the campaign trail. Again, their sober tone in wishing her well and not trying to make a political issue of it adds to the seriousness of the issue, of course. I don't think that's by mistake.

The other thing though that is clear, as you noted, Mike Pence talked about Donald Trump saying he's going to release more information this week. We know already from Hillary Clinton's campaign, more information this week. The one thing that is crystal clear from this weekend, we are going to get more health information about both of these candidates who are near record in terms of their age than we've had to date. It may not be enough of everything that we went to see, but we're going to get more from both.

BORGER: But we don't know how much more.

CHALIAN: That's right.


BORGER: What we don't know about Donald Trump is he just had a physical. Will we just get the results of a physical, which, after all, is a snapchat in time, or will we have more complete medical records?

We, to this date, have more on Hillary Clinton's health, certainly, than we do on Donald Trump's, but even she is going to release more because she has much more of a complex medical history. So we're not quite sure about how much transparency we're going to get here.

PRESTON: We want to take that spiel at the table about the flowery language that could potentially be in the letter that will be in the Donald Trump doctor. You know --

KEILAR: Or perhaps, someone will intervene and it will be a more serious letter that doesn't have such hyperboles in volumes.

PRESTON: Right, it certainly is. It certainly is. I mean, no doubt. I mean, look at -- I think what Mike Pence did today was a difficult tap dance around dealing with a candidate that has been a difficult candidate for the Republican Party.

BORGER: And, you know, he can't really call for more disclosure on Hillary Clinton's health because, A, Donald trump hasn't disclosed anything, and, B, when you raise the word "disclosure," you then have to go to other things that should be disclosed, as in tax returns.

BLITZER: Brianna, the Clinton campaign is acknowledging they made some serious mistakes over the past few days in not immediately disclosing that Hillary Clinton has pneumonia.

KEILAR: And I think what they mostly feel or the campaign is saying that they made a make on was that initial statement on Sunday that she was dehydrated and overheated, and then what we learned later was that it was pneumonia.

So it came out in kind of these drips and drabs. I think, ideally, looking back, I think they would have liked to have maybe just said on Friday that she had pneumonia. But at the time -- what I'm sort of trying to get to the bottom of, and it is hard to tell and I noticed that some of the campaign staffers are somewhat evasive about it, is how many people really knew that she had pneumonia?

BORGER: Right.

KEILAR: Because Tim Kaine spoke to reporters on his plane, and he said that he spoke to her on Sunday about it. So her running mate was unaware that she had pneumonia until it seems approximately the time we were aware.

BLITZER: We heard earlier --

KEILER: And that tells you something.

BLITZER: We heard earlier from her press secretary that the senior staff was told on Friday that the doctor in this particular case is --

KEILAR: Right. How senior of the stuff though? BLITZER: Well --

KEILAR: That was hard -- that was a neutral --

BORGER: And --

BLITZER: Brian Fallon, the press secretary, said he knew and senior staffs and that was it.

BORGER: And the explanation seems to be power through. You know, that's the phrase we're hearing all the time. She wanted to power through it, which is something all of us can relate to when you're sick and you still --


BORGER: -- and you still have to work. Go ahead.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody, stay with us. A lot more coming up, including Donald Trump. He tears into Hillary Clinton for calling some of his supporters "a basket of deplorables." But Clinton is backing down only slightly. Will it make a difference to voters?


[17:59:01] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Health scare, new questions about Hillary Clinton's physical condition after she falls ill and stumbles as she's forced to leave an event. Only afterward does her campaign disclose she has pneumonia. Now, both --