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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump to Unveil Child Care Plan Tonight; Alleged ISIS Cell Busted, Ties to Paris Attacks Suspected; President Campaigns for Clinton, Attacks Trump; Trump Defends Supporters; Iran Warns U.S. Planes: You Will Be Targeted By Missiles. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 13, 2016 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Will the president's action translate to votes for Hillary Clinton?

Name-calling. A battle is raging between the campaigns over Clinton's calling half of Trump supporters a basket of deplorables. The Trump is seizing on that remark. But now Clinton is firing back with a new anti-Trump ad.

And Trump running mate Mike Pence is facing continuing criticism. Why is he denouncing, but refusing to label Trump supporter and white national David Duke as deplorable?

Terrorist takedown. A suspected ISIS sleeper terror cell is busted, possibly disrupting a major plot. Investigators believe the young men arrested played role in the Paris terror attacks after training with ISIS in Syria. How did they get into Europe? And are there still more at large?

And threatening America. Iran threatens to fire missiles at U.S. military planes flying in international airspace. The provocation comes just weeks after Iranian vessels harassed a U.S. ship. Now CNN has obtained a transcript of Iran's latest menacing message.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: There's breaking news in the race for the White House, President Obama making his first solo campaign appearance for Hillary Clinton, who is recovering from pneumonia.

The president and the crowd in Philadelphia were notably energetic as President Obama extolled Clinton and blasted Donald Trump as unfit for the office. Clinton is trying to move forward from the controversy she sparked, calling half of Trump supporters -- quoting her now -- "a basket of deplorables."

Her campaign is out with a new ad featuring denigrating remarks Trump has made. But he and running mate Mike Pence are demanding Clinton apologize for her controversial comment. And there are new terror developments tonight. A suspected ISIS

sleeper cell has been discovered and caught in Germany. Three Syrian men are now under arrest. Investigators believe they are connected to the Paris terror attacks that left 130 people dead. At least 30 other suspected ISIS terrorists linked to the attack are believed to be at large in Europe.

We are covering all of that, much more this hour with our guests, including Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and experts analysts, they are also standing by.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is here. He begins our coverage.

Joe, the president was fired up campaigning for Hillary Clinton.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: He sure was, Wolf.

This event was planned long ago, but with Hillary Clinton taking another sick day, her senior aides tonight saying they were very satisfied to let President Obama step in and speak for the campaign, blasting Donald Trump as a bogus champion of working people and attacking the idea that there is -- quote -- "some equivalence" between the candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): President Obama is giving Hillary Clinton's presidential bid a lift tonight as the Democratic nominee recuperates from pneumonia.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Can I just say, I am really into electing Hillary Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Now, this is not me going through the motions here. I really, really, really want to elect Hillary Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNS: Clinton tells CNN she had hoped to be able to avoid taking a break from her campaign schedule.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Like a lot of people, I just thought I could keep going forward and power through it, and obviously that didn't work out so well.

JOHNS: But the decision to wait to disclose her illness until video surfaced of her stumbling while leaving a 9/11 ceremony on Sunday is raising new questions about Clinton's lack of transparency.

H. CLINTON: I didn't think it was going to be that big a deal.

JOHNS: Bill Clinton sharing the fact what happened to his wife over the weekend was not an isolate incident.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On more than one occasion,over the last many, many years, the same sort of thing has happened to her when she just got severely dehydrated.

JOHNS: That as Clinton and her campaign try to turn the transparency issue on Trump, saying he isn't being held to the same standard.

H. CLINTON: Compare everything you know about me with my opponent. I think it is time he met the same level of disclosure that I have for years.

JOHNS: Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, today suggesting during an appearance on MSNBC that candidates should be entitled to privacy when it comes to health records.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't know why we need such extensive medical reporting, when we all have a right the privacy.

JOHNS: But it seemed to suggest medical privacy doesn't apply to Clinton in this case.

CONWAY: The question remains, if this is about transparency and medical records and health conditions, then why was she so furtive in the business of concealment here?

JOHNS: President Obama today also calling out Trump for a lack of transparency on another matter, tax returns.

OBAMA: You want to debate transparency? You have got one candidate in this race who's released decades' worth of her tax returns. The other candidate is the first in decades who refuses to release any at all.

[18:05:15]

JOHNS: Trump's campaign deflecting questions about his tax returns and also failing to provide specifics in terms of his charitable giving after the running mate Mike Pence told CNN on Monday that Trump had given away tens of millions of dollars.

QUESTION: Will Donald Trump release anything from the IRS proving that he's under audit?

CONWAY: I don't know. Why? In other words, why are you -- are you calling him a liar?

QUESTION: We're taking his word for it.

CONWAY: Are you calling him a hire?

QUESTION: Part of why people are calling for him to release his taxes is so that we do know how much he has given to charity. Will you or the campaign release exactly what that number is?

CONWAY: I doubt it.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Why would you doubt it?

CONWAY: I doubt it, because this is like badgering. In other words, I don't see it as journalism. I see it as badgering.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The Clinton camp says it expects to release additional medical records for Hillary Clinton this week, and Donald Trump will reportedly discuss his medical records on "The Dr. Oz Show" on Thursday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Joe Johns, thank you.

Let's get some more on President Obama's campaign appearance in Philadelphia today.

Our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is on the scene for us. She's where the president spoke.

Michelle, he really laid into Donald Trump today.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did, and somewhat unexpectedly too.

He stood here at the bottom of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps, yes, the ones from "Rocky," and showed that he was here not just to support Hillary Clinton, but to punch back at Donald Trump repeatedly and directly. He called him out by name, which he doesn't always do. He also got pretty specific, including Trump's praising of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Think about what has happened in the Republican Party. Right? They used to be opposed to Russia and authoritarianism and fighting for freedom and fighting for democracy.

And now their nominee is out there praising a guy, saying he is a strong leader because he invades smaller countries, jails his opponents, controls the press, and drives his economy into a long recession.

(BOOING)

OBAMA: No, look, I'm actually being serious about it. Think about this.

And then -- and when the interviewer asked him, well, why do you support this guy? He is a strong guy. Look, he has got an 82 percent poll rating.

(LAUGHTER) OBAMA: Well, yes, so -- Saddam Hussein had a 90 percent poll rating.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I mean, if you control the media, and you have taken away everybody's civil liberties and you jail dissidents, that's what happens.

If the pollster calls you up and says, do you support the guy who, if you don't support him, he might throw you in jail, you say, yes, I love that guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI: President Obama didn't hold back. He said that the Republican Party was fanning resentment and blame.

He also called Donald Trump for his knowledge, his charity work, his business dealings, said he was hiding his tax returns. This is what we can expect to see more of from President Obama when he gets out on the trail much, much more often next month -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will be watching him every step of the way. Thanks very much, Michelle Kosinski in Philadelphia.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Joining us now, the Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He is supporting Hillary Clinton.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Last hour, we spoke with a Donald Trump supporter, Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York.

So, how much help does Hillary Clinton really need to get President Obama's successful coalition, minorities, young people, women, out there to the polls in order to be elected president of the United States?

COONS: Well, Wolf, it is always helpful to have a strong ground game, and it is always helpful to have great surrogates, Vice President Biden, President Obama and others, out there on the campaign trail.

But the most important thing is that Secretary Clinton sweats the details. She has got great policies. She's got good and strong and clear ideas for how to solve the very real problems facing America and to keep us safe and strong.

So, I frankly think it is great to have President Obama stirring up the crowd in Philadelphia. It is great that we have a good get-out- the-vote plan and that Clinton campaign is very well-organized.

But it is most important that she is a terrific and strong candidate.

BLITZER: The president made this first solo campaign visit to Pennsylvania. That's curious because Pennsylvania, neighboring to Delaware, it's a state that Democrats have been winning in presidential contests since the '90s. It's Pretty reliably Democratic as far as presidential contests are concerned.

Trump says he is going to win Pennsylvania. Are Democrats concerned right now about Pennsylvania and that's why the campaign sent the president there?

[18:10:00]

COONS: Well, Wolf, I think the president was there partly because we have an important Senate race, partly because Trump can't win if he doesn't win Pennsylvania, and partly to engage with one of the most important states from the perspective of our Democratic base.

I don't think we're worried about Pennsylvania, but I think it is prudent, it's wise, it's important to highlight and to invest in getting out our base in Pennsylvania and engaging with the voters across the state of Pennsylvania on why Secretary Clinton has got a better plan, a better path forward for our country.

BLITZER: Yes, I listened to the entire speech the president delivered, and almost all of it involved the presidential campaign. There were some brief references to that Senate race that you're talking about in Pennsylvania.

Transparency is such a key campaign issue right now. So, did the Clinton campaign, Senator, make a major mistake by not immediately disclosing her medical diagnosis with pneumonia?

COONS: Wolf, I don't think this was a major mistake.

Those of who have been on the campaign trail or covered people on the campaign trail know just how hard she works, how determined she is to just kind of power through anything in her way.

I don't think folks will hold it against for believing that, with just a little rest, she would be able to get back right out on the campaign trail. They have addressed it promptly.

And when you stack this up against developments in the Trump campaign, some of the outrageous things he's been saying, and Mike Pence refusing to disown the Ku Klux Klan leader, I don't think the fact that she had a bad afternoon on a hot day is going to amount to much at all, compared to the very real challenges her opponent faces.

BLITZER: But her doctor told her on Friday that pneumonia is very serious, especially if you're over 65 years old. She is 68, almost 69 years old. Next month, she will be 69 years old. And recommended that she rest for a few days to deal with it. Take the antibiotics and rest up.

She rejected -- as she herself told Anderson Cooper last night, she reject that advice and she went out there. And we all saw what happened when she nearly collapsed trying to get into that van. That all could have been avoided if she would have accepted her doctor's advice.

COONS: That may be true, Wolf, but that's the Secretary Clinton I have gotten to know.

When I have had the chance, the honor to travel with her overseas, she goes very hard. She works tirelessly. She puts every ounce of energy she's got into the job of serving our country. And to me, frankly, that's an admirable quality, even if perhaps her doctor would have preferred her to take a day off and rest.

This is someone who sweats the details, who works tirelessly and who has got a big heart for the American people. And I frankly don't think folks will hold this against her very long. It just reflects how strong she is and how hard she works on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: But, as you know, if you take a look at the polls, Senator, she has a problem with the voters when it come to trust. Look at this. We asked the question, who is more honest and trustworthy? Fifty percent said Donald Trump. Only 35 percent said Hillary Clinton.

That's a problem for her. How does she deal with that?

COONS: Well, I think both candidates have struggled to connect with the American people at a time when there is record distrust in government, in those who seek public office and whether and in whether or not the government can meet the very real needs of the people of the United States.

I think the way Secretary Clinton deals with this question, this issue is by being authentic, by talking with people, by listening to voters and by doing what she's been doing, which is both to put forward really good and strong policy ideas and to have those of us who have served with her and know her go out and campaign on her behalf and share the stories that come from years of service together.

BLITZER: John McCain released eight years of medical records back in 2008, when he was running for president of the United States. He was at the time 70 or 71 years old.

He allowed reporters, including our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to interview his doctors for hours and hours. Should both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do the same thing now?

COONS: Well, I think it is important, as you said, Wolf, for there to be more transparency.

Secretary Clinton has already released, I think, 40 years of her tax returns. We have yet to see a single tax return from Donald Trump. I do think more transparency around their health records would be positive, too. And Secretary Clinton has already said she is going to be taking steps in that direction.

BLITZER: But do you think they should go as far as what John McCain did? Because they're roughly the same age that he was.

COONS: Well, here's what I do know, is that Donald Trump releasing some records on "The Dr. Oz Show" and releasing a trumped-up letter from a doctor about his medical condition isn't going to win any points for transparency.

I do think both candidates ought to be more fully transparent about their health records. And if that's what comes out of this very minor incident, that is probably a good thing for the electorate and for the American election.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, I want to you stand by. We have more to discuss, including latest reports that the Russians may try to hack and influence the U.S. presidential contest. Getting new information on that.

Senator Coons, stay with us. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:24]

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news this hour, President Obama slamming Donald Trump in his first solo campaign appearance for Hillary Clinton.

The president detailed her qualifications and said Trump -- and I'm quoting him now -- "isn't fit in any way, shape or form to be commander in chief."

Now we're back the Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, the National Security Agency director, Admiral Mike Rogers, said today he is deeply concerned about possible U.S. election hacks. I want to you listen to Admiral Rogers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. MICHAEL ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR/COMMANDER OF U.S. CYBER COMMAND: This continues to be an issue of great focus, both for the foreign intelligence community attempting to generate insights as to what foreign nations are doing in this area.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is the first time we have seen attempted interference in elections in the United States of America, isn't it, Admiral?

ROGERS: Sir, we continue to see activity of concern. Again, I'm not going to characterize this activity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN recently reported that White House officials are cautious about saying Russia is to blame for the cyber-attacks, in part because the U.S. presidential election is so soon. So how real, Senator, is this fear of Russian retaliation, if you

will?

COONS: I think this is a very real concern, Wolf.

I led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Eastern Europe this summer and was really struck at how broad the actions by Russia have been across Europe, both overt and covert operations that they have taken to interfere with elections and with civil society and with political activity all across Eastern, Central, and Western Europe.

Their goal, I think, is to divide the United States and Europe, to undermine NATO. And given the earlier hacks into the DCCC, the DNC that have been connected to Russian hackers, I do think we should take this very seriously.

BLITZER: Has enough been done to make these elections safe here in the United States?

COONS: I don't think so.

Elections are controlled very much at the local level. We have invested in modernizing our elections systems over the last decade, but as we saw in recent elections, there are still some serious problems in terms of the operations of our elections at the state and county level.

[18:20:05]

So I, frankly, think we should be paying close attention to this, particularly given that Vladimir Putin has demonstrated an affection for one candidate over the other, and given the very troubling signals that have been sent by Donald Trump to our allies in Eastern Europe about how he views Putin and the importance of our NATO alliances.

BLITZER: Iran threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy aircraft over the weekend, as they were flying just inside the Strait of Hormuz in international airspace, this coming after the U.S. provided, what, $1.7 billion in cash to Iran and another $100 billion or so could be on the way right now, part of this whole deal that you supported, Senator, this Iran nuclear deal.

With hindsight, given what you know right now, should the U.S. have made that nuclear deal with Iran?

COONS: Well, Wolf, so far, the deal has held, as I characterized it, the least bad public option we had before us.

Let's just review what has happened. Iran really has set aside its nuclear program. They have shipped out of their country the overwhelming majority, 98 percent, of their enriched uranium. They have shut down their enrichment centrifuges and filled the core of their potential plutonium reactor with concrete.

They have taken some of the big steps they said they would. And they have allowed in searching inspections that have given us better insight into what is going on in their nuclear program and their science programs than we have ever had.

There are, of course, ongoing and real reasons for us to distrust Iran. And I have pushed hard in the Senate and with the administration for us to impose further sanctions against their human rights violations, their support for terrorism and their illicit ballistic missile launches.

There's lots of irritants in our relationship, Wolf, including the ongoing mystery about what the Iranians did with Bob Levinson, an American FBI agent who was almost certainly taken captive by the Iranians many years ago.

BLITZER: And still is missing as we speak right now.

COONS: Yes.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

COONS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Coons of Delaware.

Just ahead, more on President Obama's campaign speech for Hillary Clinton today, firing up that crowd in a state he lost to her in a Democratic contest eight years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Every time I thought I had that race won, I was like going up the Rocky steps. I was about to celebrate. And then I look and she's right there.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: And I got whooped here in Pennsylvania. She whooped me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:27:11]

BLITZER: Breaking news here.

We have just learned Hillary Clinton will return to the campaign trail on Thursday. She is going to rest up tomorrow. On Thursday, she is going to return to the campaign trail.

You just heard President Obama earlier this afternoon hammering Donald Trump on the issue of transparency. The president launch a sustained verbal attack on the Republican nominee in Philadelphia during his first solo campaign appearance for Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Do you mind if I just vent for a second? (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: You know, you know, the -- you don't grade the presidency on a curve.

This is serious business. And when we see folks talking about transparency, you want to debate transparency? You have got one candidate in this race who's released decades' worth of her tax returns.

The other candidate is the first in decades who refuses to release any at all.

(BOOING)

OBAMA: You want to debate foundations and charities? One candidate's family foundation has saved countless lives around the world.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: The other candidate's foundation took money other people gave to his charity and then bought a 6-foot-tall painting of himself.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: And he had the taste not to go for the 10-foot version, but...

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You want to debate who's more fit to be our president? One candidate who's traveled to more countries than any secretary of state ever has, has more qualifications than pretty much anyone who's ever run for this job, and the other who isn't fit in any way, shape, or form to represent this country abroad and be its commander in chief.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's discuss that and more with our political panel.

David Axelrod, was this the most fired up that you have seen the president since he ran for reelection back in 2012?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's just say, Wolf, I think he is highly motivated.

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD: He -- and he is motivated not just by his obvious respect and affection for Secretary Clinton, but he's motivated too by Donald Trump.

He honestly feels there's this huge gap between them. And he's done her a great service here, because after a very bad weekend, he went out there and blasted this thing back onto Trump.

[18:30:15] And Hillary Clinton was doing very well in the summer when the focus was on Donald Trump and his deficiencies. And this is a pretty big cannon to roll out there to get the thing back on track for her.

BLITZER: Can he help, Gloria, can he help her, Hillary Clinton, recreate that Obama coalition, bring in more young people, minorities, the coalition that got him twice elected president?

BORGER: There's always a question about how transferrable an incumbent's popularity is to the person who's running. And he's pretty popular right now.

But I think -- and they're completely in sync. There is no ambiguity that Barack Obama wants Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States. He said it today: "I really, really, really want this to happen."

What he's got to do -- and I think he started out really well today -- is to try and convince his voters, those loyal to him, that they ought to be enthusiastic about her, particularly compared to Donald Trump.

So while we know, for example, that she's doing really well with African-American voters compared to Donald Trump, she's to get those people to the polls. And this is where -- this is where President Obama can help, because he needs to let people know that his legacy is on the line here.

And if they like and respect him, then this is what he needs for his legacy to stand firm. And I think that's what he started doing today.

BLITZER: Manu, let me play another clip from the president today, speaking about this election in Philadelphia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump says stuff every day that used to be considered as disqualifying for being president. And yet, because he says it over and over and over again, the press just gives up. And they just say, "Well, yes," you know? "OK." They just stop.

"I was opposed to the war in Iraq." Well, actually, he wasn't. But they just accept it.

So -- so the bottom line is, is that we cannot afford suddenly to treat this like a reality show. We can't afford to act as if there's some equivalence here. To be president, you have to do your homework, and you have to know what you're talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He says, Manu, basically, that Donald Trump is fundamentally not qualified to be president of the United States. MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Two points he's

trying to make. One, making that qualification argument and saying that Hillary Clinton is someone who clearly is, in his view, the most qualified candidate to be president of the United States. Not just now but in previous election cycles, too.

You may not love Hillary Clinton, you may not trust her, but you can trust her to do the job. That's one argument.

But also, similarly, there's a real frustration in Democratic ranks that the president is judging this race, in their view, on a curve. Because Donald Trump says things that are very controversial on a daily basis. Democrats believe that Donald Trump gets away with this.

But when Hillary Clinton says, like, the line about "basket of deplorables," it's something that the press seizes on and goes after her over. So he's trying to make those two arguments there. We'll see if it works, though.

BLITZER: She's resting up, Rebecca Berg, right now. She's resting up because of the pneumonia. She's going to go back out on the campaign trail, we're told, Thursday. But her campaign did release a new ad today going after Trump. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You can't lead this nation if you have such a low opinion for its citizens.

GRAPHIC: What's Donald's opinion of our citizens?

TRUMP: How stupid are the of the country?

We're building a wall. He's a Mexican.

You've got to see this guy, "Ah, I don't know what I said. Ah, I don't remember."

You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. What the hell do you have to lose?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So she's clearly trying to go after what Trump's critics call his greatest hits.

REBECCA BERG, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Exactly. And this goes back to the broad case that Hillary Clinton is making in this election, that Donald Trump doesn't have respect for voters. That he's not a serious candidate. That he's unfit for the presidency.

And this is why her advertising is really so effective, because Donald Trump has made these statements throughout the course of the campaign. Even as he's more restrained now, and even some Republicans who are his biggest fans have noted his improvement on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton, her campaign, had these old clips at their disposal

to be able to remind voters that Donald Trump has had these more controversial moments.

[18:35:11] And they need to make sure, essentially, that his speaking and his rhetoric are not normalized in this campaign. And this is really the big fear among Democrats and part of the reason that Obama was out there today, critiquing the media and our coverage of this election, because they do think that we have normalized the way that Donald Trump is running this campaign.

BLITZER: You know, David Axelrod, the -- a lot of Democrats are criticizing Trump's comments about Putin. But a lot of Republicans are very uncomfortable with that praise of Vladimir Putin, as well. How much of a problem is that for Trump?

AXELROD: Well, I think it could be. Remember, Ronald Reagan, who was the iconic figure for so many conservative Republicans, built his career on the -- talking about the evil empire and opposing people like Putin. Now, ultimately, he made his peace with Gorbachev. But this is really -- this is really antithetical to a lot of the mainline Republican conservatives.

And -- and you know, earlier on your show, I watched Representative Collins try and square the circle on this thing, and he looked very awkward doing it, trying to give Putin a pass -- well, he's almost a dictator, but he's not really a dictator. You know, that's a -- that's a very hard line to walk.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, because Trump keeps saying, "Putin says nice things about me, so I'm going to say nice things about him." That's -- that's been a phrase he's said over these past few months.

BORGER: Yes. Look, I mean, this is -- that's pure Donald Trump. If you say a nice thing about me, I'm going to say a nice thing about you. And he tells you that.

And so, if Putin -- you know, it's interesting. If Putin were to start criticizing Donald Trump, which I doubt he will do. But if he were to start doing that, I wonder whether Donald Trump would change his tune. It's -- it's hard to know.

To David's point, though, watching Republicans twist themselves into a pretzel trying to figure out how to say well, like Paul Ryan did, the House speaker, "I disagree with Donald Trump's assessment on Putin. I think he's terrible. I think he's a dictator" and then yet not, you know, distance themselves from Trump, who is, after all, at the top of the ticket, it's kind of -- it's kind of hard to watch. It's hard.

BLITZER: All right, everybody, stand by. We're going to continue this conversation. More on what Donald Trump is now saying about Hillary Clinton's remarks about that basket of -- a lot coming up on this. It's a serious issue that Donald Trump is raising right now. We're going to continue our special coverage with our panel. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:42:28] BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is defending his supporters while sustaining an attack on Hillary Clinton for calling them -- and I'm quoting now -- that "basket of deplorables."

Our national correspondent, Jason Carroll, is in Iowa for us, where Trump spoke earlier. Jason, the Trump campaign feels like it really has Clinton on this "deplorables" remark.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They really do, Wolf.

I mean, look, even before Donald Trump took the stage, Rudy Giuliani took the stage, telling the crowd, "I'm in that basket of deplorables with you. I'm proud to be there with you." The crowd erupted with applause.

When Trump took the stage, he said that he's going to be president for all Americans. He said Hillary Clinton is running a campaign without any solutions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): Donald Trump is not letting Hillary Clinton off the hook for her "basket of deplorables" remark.

TRUMP: While my opponent slanders you as deplorable and irredeemable, I call you hard-working American patriots who love your country and want a better future for all of our people.

CARROLL: The GOP nominee in Iowa today, continuing to hammer his Democratic rival for these comments on Friday.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You can put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.

TRUMP: These are not deplorable people. That I can tell you.

CARROLL: And bringing supporters onstage at his event in Asheville, North Carolina, Monday night to drive his point home.

CLINTON: Thank you all.

CARROLL: Clinton has said she regrets using the term "half," but she and her campaign are not down from calling out what they see as racists and intolerant comments expressed by Trump and his supporters. Among them, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.

GOP vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence on Monday refused to call Duke deplorable in an interview with Wolf.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We don't want his support, and we don't want the support of people who think like him.

BLITZER: Would you call him deplorable? You would call him that? PENCE: No. I'm not in the name calling business, Wolf.

CARROLL: A comment welcomed by Duke, who told BuzzFeed, "It's good to see an individual like Pence and others start to reject this absolute controlled media."

PENCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

CARROLL: Pence passed up another opportunity to label Duke as deplorable on Capitol Hill Monday, but he reiterated that he and Trump have disavowed Duke's support.

PENCE: My colleagues in the House of Representatives know that I believe that civility is essential in a vibrant democracy.

[18:45:01] And it's just never been my practice.

CARROLL (voice-over): Clinton's running mate Tim Kaine blasting Pence for his comments.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If you can't call it out and you stand back in your silence around it, you're enabling it to grow. You're enabling it to become more powerful.

CARROLL: The Clinton campaign also hammering the point with a new TV ad featuring past comments from Trump.

TRUMP: They're losers.

Disgusting, stupid.

You can't lead this nation if you have such a low opinion for its citizens.

CARROLL: But Trump says it is Clinton's campaign that's a campaign of hate.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton has been running a hate-filled and negative campaign with no policy, no solutions and no new ideas.

CARROLL: Trump is turning his attention to his childcare policy which his daughter Ivanka helped craft.

With House GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rogers, Ivanka will introduce her father tonight.

TRUMP: She is the one who has been pushing for it so hard. Daddy, daddy, we have to do this. And it's true. She's very smart and she's right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And Trump will be delivering that speech just about an hour from now in Pennsylvania. Part of that proposal will include a six- week paid maternity leave for new mothers, partially funded through unemployment insurance. Again, Wolf, that speech expected to take place just about an hour from now in Pennsylvania -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Manu, thank you very much.

So, what's the chances of that new program that Donald Trump is going forward? Let's say he becomes president of the United States.

Manu, you covered Congress. That family leave program he's putting forward tonight, could actually pass Congress?

RAJU: It's uncertain. It certainly depends on what the make-up of Congress is. We don't have all the details yet. Trump has is going to do that tonight and how it will be paid for, and the cost program. That's going to be what Republicans in particular are going to look for.

The House Freedom Caucus, one member, Raul Labrador, was asked about this today and he said, well, we need more details. That's what they're waiting for.

Now, in this plan, it allows folks to deduct their childcare expenses from their tax returns. They believe, the Trump campaign believes it can save up to about $1,200 per family per year. But again, we have to see the details. They're saying it would cut from unemployment insurance, cut fraud from unemployment insurance to pay for that plan. But what exactly does that mean to do actually to pay --

BLITZER: And his daughter Ivanka is going to be with him tonight. She's been pushing this forward. Typically, these are ideas family leave that Democrats put forward.

BERG: They are. Most Republicans would argue that they should be left to the individual businesses to decide. If a business does have a paid family leave option for its employees, maybe that would be more attractive and attract better employees.

So, they promote a free marketplace instead of the government mandating what you would do.

But Ivanka, this really illustrates her influence in the campaign. She is a top adviser to her father and she in the past has actually supported Democrats as opposed to Republicans. She and her husband Jared only became Republicans for this campaign to support her father. And so, now, we see her influence.

And she's also out there softening his touch a little bit. Her speech during Republican National Convention I think was really a highlight for the Trump campaign. She showed a much softer image for the campaign, but also may be a compassion that he doesn't always project. And so, having here out there -- this is something that Republicans have been asking the campaign to do for quite some time, will see it as a net positive.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by.

Just ahead, law enforcement breaks up a suspected ISIS sleeper cell believed to be tied to the Paris attacks. Another major terror plot in the works.

Plus, breaking news we're following, the Iranian threat against U.S. planes. CNN obtains new details of Iran's disturbing warning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:53:44] BLITZER: We're learning new details tonight about the terror arrests in Germany. The suspects believed to be part of an ISIS sleeper cell.

CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is working the story for us.

Jim, the young men arrested are suspected of playing a part in the Paris terror attacks.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Multiple connections here. New details showing just how broad and interconnected ISIS's network is of terror across Europe. A cell caught in Germany tied to those horrific attacks in Paris, as well as another attack on a high speed train, all of them leading back to ISIS's home base in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, a suspected cell discovered and caught inside Germany. Special forces raiding this refuge shelter in northern Germany, arresting three Syrian nationals whom they believe are connected to November's deadly terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

THOMAS DE MAIZIERE, GERMAN INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): A federal crime office investigations show a link with the killings in Paris in November 2015.

SCIUTTO: Investigators says the three arrived in November 2015, just before the Paris attacks, sent by ISIS and carrying thousands of U.S. dollars in cash and mobile phones. One of the accused, a 17-year-old, is suspected of receiving training in weapons and explosives in Raqqah, Syria, the capital of ISIS's self-declared Islamic State.

[18:55:09] DE MAIZIERE: The suspects came to Germany following orders from the Islamic State in November 2015, to await instructions from the Islamic State. So, it could be that we are dealing with a sleeper cell.

SCIUTTO: Officials say the men travelled on false passports made by the same ISIS forger who provided travel documents to the Paris attackers. A CNN investigation uncovered other suspects tied to the same cell, and the sophisticated network that ISIS uses to move operatives around Europe.

STEFAN BIEHL GERMAN FEDERAL PROSECUTOR SPOKESMAN (through translator): We've had the three that were arrested under surveillance for a month.

SCIUTTO: Showing ISIS' growing web of terror in Europe, one of the suspects also have links to the network behind an attempted attack on a high speed train to Paris in August 2015, a source tells CNN. That attack was thwarted by three American tourists.

European security officials continue to hunt for a further 30 to 40 suspected ISIS terrorists whose helped support the Paris attacks. The French president warning his people to brace for more terror.

PRES. FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRANCE: I do everything possible for the French people. And I owe them the truth. The threat is there and it will continue. We therefore have to confront it with courage.

SCIUTTO: Just last week, a dramatic close call. As police in Paris captured three women who attempted to set off a car loaded with gas canisters in the French capital's busy Latin quarter. Further carnage avoided only when the crude device failed to detonate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: European officials tell CNN that ISIS is ratcheting up its planning for international attacks in part to retaliate for battlefield losses in Syria, Iraq and Libya, as well as rallying supporters as it faces the prospect of losing that self declared Islamic State -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

There's also new information about Iranian threats against U.S. planes flying in international air space.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr first broke the story for us.

Barbara, we now know exactly what the Iranians said to those American pilots.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We do, Wolf. And tonight, all of that is leading to growing worry here at Pentagon that there could be miscalculation between the U.S. and Iranians and it could lead to disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Iran threatening to shoot down two U.S. Navy reconnaissance planes. It happened Saturday when a Navy EP-3 and a P- 8 near the Strait of Hormuz received three radio calls from Iranian air defense units. In one of the calls, an Iranian military person said, "Coalition aircraft, I understand you are doing your mission in international waters, but you are approaching Iranian boundaries. If you do not change your heading, you will be aimed by Iranian missiles. Change your heading immediately."

The U.S. pilots knew they were outside the range of Iranian surface- to-missiles so they proceed without incident according to U.S. military officials. But the chief of naval operations is making clear -- his commanders have the authority to act against Iran if needed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is really nothing that limits the way that they can respond.

STARR: The U.S. says provocations by Iran in the air and at see are growing. Thirty-two incidents so far this year, compared to 23 all of last year. Most are conducted by Iran's more militant revolutionary guard core naval forces.

JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think some of this is kids with bravado. Some of this is just Iranians showing how tough they are against this really overwhelmingly massive U.S. naval capability.

STARR: The concern always is, it could spin out of control.

Several revolutionary guard corps small attack boats recently swarmed a navy ship.

ALTERMAN: It is irresponsible. It could lead towards violence. The Americans have both shown restraint but also demonstrated that you have to be ready to defend yourself.

STARR: The commander of the navy saying confrontations with the Americans are, quote, "sheer lies". But the CMO says the U.S. should think about talking to Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's very important we eliminate this sort of activity where we can. There's nothing good can come from it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: U.S. Navy officials say tonight they will continue to exercise restraint, but they will be ready to act against Iran if they must -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very dangerous potential situation unfolding in the Persian Gulf right.

Barbara Starr, as you broke the news for us yesterday, following up excellently as she always does. Thank you very much, Barbara, for that report.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.