Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Do Trump's Job Numbers Add Up?; Hillary Clinton Back on Campaign Trail; Trump Promises 25 Million New Jobs, Huge Economic Growth; Hillary Clinton Takes Reporter Questions After Returning to Trail. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired September 15, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now it's our job to deliver on those and to make sure every single person and particularly every child, no matter who they are, what they look like or who they love, is part of the American dream now and way into the future.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: Let that be our message. Let that be our mission.
Please, come out and help us fight, fight for you, fight for our children, fight for our families. Let's make America all that it should be. Thank you and God bless you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Welcome to our viewers both in the United States and around the world. I'm Jake Tapper.
Hillary Clinton wrapping up her first event after Sunday when she appeared to collapse at a 9/11 memorial ceremony. You can hear the subtle message there from her campaign, James Brown's "I Feel Good." She just spoke about working families, why she said she wanted to run for president in the first place, to try to make a better future for America's children.
She definitely drew some contrasts with Donald Trump, but she did not go at him directly by name as strongly as she had in the past. She has spent the past three days at home recovering from pneumonia, her doctor says. Today, she is looking to get back in the swing of things.
She is in battleground state North Carolina. Recent polling has the race neck and neck.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is live in Greensboro, North Carolina, for us.
Jeff, what was the goal Clinton had for the speech beyond reassuring people that she is healthy and will be able to continue running?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, that was the goal first and foremost, just to show her supporters, show Democrats that she in fact is OK.
You can hear the music, as you talked about, James Brown's I" Feel Good." That was picked, obviously, for a reason, to send that message. That was her message when she stepped onto the campaign plane just a couple of hours ago, flying from her home in Westchester County, New York, down here to Greensboro. She said that she is feeling better, excited to be on the campaign trail.
But her aides, Jake, are excited to have her start drawing a contrast with Donald Trump. A lot has changed in the week that she has been in a battleground state. That was last Thursday here in North Carolina as well. In fact, polls have tightened nationally. Polls have tightened in individual battlegrounds, so she wants to start taking the fight to Donald Trump.
She made clear. She said, look, I am not a showman like my rival is. She called out his appearance on "Dr. Oz." She also talked about her role in public service over the years. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I have been involved in politics in one way or another for many years. It is not an easy business. It can get rough, and I have built up some defenses. When it comes to public service, I am better at the service part than the public part.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: Jake, also making the case here that she was reluctant to take time off the campaign trail with just 54 days to go before Election Day, but her campaign believes that her health is the most important thing that they have, because that debate, that first debate with Donald Trump, is 11 days away.
That's why her speech was significantly shorter today than other times. And it's why she is only doing one event here today before flying later to Washington this evening, Jake. She is still under medication. She is still recovering, but wanted to make her first step today that she is getting better, and that's why she was here today in Greensboro -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.
Let's bring in our political panel for more. National correspondent for "Bloomberg Businessweek" Josh Green, is with us. National political reporter for RealClearPolitics Rebecca Berg is as well. And we also have with us former adviser to four presidents David Gergen.
David, let me start with you.
She is back on the campaign trail. Assuming that she doesn't have any other health issues, do you think this health issue is just a blip or might it continue to have legs?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the health issue is likely to be a blip.
Even today, the release of the various medical records is nowhere near the story it might been two or three days ago. So I think it's receding some. But it's important for her to have a -- to not have any kind of accident or anything else, a day off. And it's very, very important. This first debate has become crucial to both candidates.
TAPPER: Rebecca, we are told there will be more of a focus of a positive message from Hillary Clinton. You heard just then she had some clear attacks against Donald Trump, but nothing like what we have heard before, when she was suggesting he is racist and giving voice to the alt-right movement.
Do you think that that is a wise move?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this was definitely a transition from defining Donald Trump to defining Hillary Clinton.
And at this stage in the race, you look at her unfavorables, Jake, that's exactly what she needs to do. Donald Trump is unpopular. Mission accomplished there. But Hillary Clinton is not popular. She hasn't convinced people that, if they're not supporting Donald Trump, that she is the one they should support.
Voter turnout, as you know, is very important in these races. You have two candidates who are the most unpopular maybe in history for a presidential race. You need to give people a reason to show up on November 8.
TAPPER: Josh, one of the reasons I think Donald Trump has been able to narrow the gap in the polls is he has had a fairly, for him especially, disciplined month, sticking to the Teleprompter, on one imagines doing what Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon is telling him to do.
But yesterday in his speech in Flint, Michigan, Pastor Faith Green Timmons interrupted him when he started to attack Hillary Clinton. Let's listen to that and then also listen to his response to what she had to say when asked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Candidate: Hillary failed on the economy, just like she has failed on foreign policy. Everything she touched didn't work out. Nothing. Now, Hillary Clinton...
PASTOR FAITH GREEN TIMMONS, BETHEL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us for...
TRUMP: Oh, oh, oh, OK, OK.
TIMMONS: Not to give a political speech.
TRUMP: OK. That's good. And I'm going to go back on to Flint. OK. OK.
When she got up to introduce me, she was so nervous, she was shaking. And I said, wow, this is sort of strange. And then she came up. So she had that in mind. There is no question about it. She was like a nervous mess. And so I figured something -- I figured something was up, really.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Quite a contrast there. I thought he handled what happened yesterday in Flint perfectly and humbly. And then he goes on "FOX & Friends" and you hear that.
JOSH GREEN, "BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK": Well, I did too. And so did she. Very brave to stand up and stop Donald Trump in mid-speech.
But the idea to then come around on "FOX & Friends" and sort of take shots at her, it reminded me of that famous "Seinfeld" where George Costanza thinks of the clever line a few days after the fact.
TAPPER: Jerk store.
GREEN: Jerk store, exactly. It looked silly. It's not a good look for Trump.
And I think if you talk to people in his campaign, they're going to want to move past this and get him back to being the disciplined guy who reads from a teleprompter, stays off of Twitter and lets Hillary Clinton hang herself with various scandals related to her health, the Clinton Foundation, whatever you want to have it.
TAPPER: And, David, I have to say, with the debates coming up, this seems like something that the Trump people are probably worried about, the difference between Trump on message, on Teleprompter. I thought he handled what happened yesterday in Flint very humbly, very reasonably, and then of course you have him this morning riffing and saying not such nice things about this pastor.
GERGEN: Intemperate remarks about a black woman pastor, that's really dumb politics.
And so you don't get a Teleprompter for interviews. You don't get a Teleprompter debates. They're going to have to work very hard. Now, Roger Ailes, as you know, is gifted in this area. And he will be well-prepared, I think, sort of temperamentally for it.
But if he goes off-script like that, he's going to -- it is going to cost him a lot. I want to go back to this point about the shift in Hillary Clinton.
It does seem to me that, if she lets this campaign be about who do you like most or who do you distrust the most, there's a very good chance she could lose the campaign. If you can make this campaign about substance and who is going to have the best vision for the country, the best programs going forward, that's a campaign she should be able to win pretty handily.
So, in that sense, I think she's wise now to begin pivoting.
TAPPER: And that's interesting, Josh.
Let's talk about that for a second, because it's true that more Americans think she is untrustworthy and dishonest more than they think that about Donald Trump. But she does have advantages when it comes to temperament and when it comes to knowledge.
GREEN: Well, she does.
One of the interesting things over the last month or so, clearly, the Clinton strategy was, we are going to brand Donald Trump as a racist, as somebody who is dangerous and unacceptable. You saw the connection to the alt-right movement.
That didn't really work. Trump has done better since then. He seems to be immune or somewhat immune to that type of attack. I think it makes sense that Clinton is going to fall back on what she knows best, policy, solutions for the country. It may not be the most exciting thing, but as she said in the speech in Greensboro, I am not a showman.
She has got to show other talents.
TAPPER: Speaking of the showman critique, take a listen to Hillary Clinton talking about Donald Trump's appearance on "Dr. Oz."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Now, I confess I will never be the showman my opponent is, and that's OK with me. Just look at -- look at the show he put on with Dr. Oz today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I mean, do you think that that's an effective critique?
BERG: Well, her campaign also called it -- her campaign manager, Robby Mook, also called it a charade, completely unserious.
And, you know, it doesn't hurt Hillary Clinton to try and cast some aspersions on Donald Trump's transparency, when she also is not being fully transparent, releasing her full medical history. And so it makes sense that she is trying to draw a contrast.
She is making the case right now that she is the more transparent of the two candidates, but voters still have some serious doubts about her transparency.
GREEN: Just objectively, what Trump released to Oz is a joke. That's not any kind of medical disclosure.
I don't think we should even equate the two.
BERG: You don't know voters who were wondering about his testosterone levels?
GREEN: Well, I know I wasn't.
GREEN: But I think he needs to make a more robust disclosure than that.
But Clinton really has been belatedly somewhat forthcoming about her own health in a way that Trump has not.
TAPPER: David, let me just ask you, because Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two of the oldest nominees running for president in the history of the country. Donald Trump would be the oldest president ever elected. Hillary Clinton would be the second oldest behind only Ronald Reagan.
Do you think that they have a responsibility, both of them, to release more when it comes to their medical records because of their age?
I think there has been a new tradition in recent years. You need to know about the health of the person running anyway. We have had presidents in the last couple of decades who have been in their 50s and 60s. This time, we have two presidents going into their 70s.
And it puts an even greater burden on them, greater responsibility, to be totally forthcoming. John McCain set the gold standard here. We had about 1,000 pages that he made available to the press. I think both these candidates really ought to do that. But let's be clear. She has clearly disclosed a lot more than he has.
TAPPER: All right, David, Josh, Rebecca, stick around. We have much more to talk about.
Twenty-five million new jobs, that is Donald Trump's promise to the American people. Do the numbers add up? We will discuss.
[16:15:33] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
If you look on the left side of the screen, you'll see where Hillary Clinton just finished speaking in Greensboro, North Carolina. On the right is the podium she will soon stand before and take questions from reporters.
Obviously, this is her first visit to the campaign trail in a few days after she fell ill and appeared to actually fall on Sunday. Her doctors later said that she had pneumonia. We will bring Hillary Clinton taking reporters' questions to you live as soon as she steps to the mike.
In the meantime, let's continue our conversation with our panel.
Josh, let me just ask you a pretty simple question that a lot of voters out there are wondering. Why is this race so close?
JOSHUA GREEN, NATIONAL CORERSPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Well, I think it's because Hillary Clinton hasn't convinced people that Donald Trump is unacceptable. We see his support rising.
I was just in Ohio, a new Bloomberg poll has him up five points. It's not just blue collar workers supporting Trump now. It's also white collar workers. All sorts of people across the state.
I think the other reason is a lot of her campaign has been directed at trying to disqualify him, talking about his racism, his showmanship, his lack of detailed policies, but she hasn't really put forward her own message, a compelling rationale why people would want to rally behind her. I think she's got to do that now.
TAPPER: And, David Gergen, we see Hillary Clinton in Greensboro about to take reporters' questions. That's unusual for her to say the least. She has not really been eager to take questions from reporters in a press conference type setting.
Does this suggest that they are getting the message that they need to do some things differently?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It does. I think it's wise of them to take the questions. They have got to be pivoting now. What they want to do is get rid of as many of the lingering issues that are eating away at her as possible so they can have a cleaner shot at getting through to the public and not being continually under a barrage for being secretive about the press, secretive about pneumonia and everything else.
But I also think, I want to go back to the question of why it's so close? You know, if you go right down to the fundamentals, this is a change election. And she's running as a status quo candidate. That makes it -- that's a heavier burden to carry.
She is running for sort of term three of the Obama presidency. Now, President Obama, to be sure, is more popular than either one of the candidates. But nonetheless, in a change election, the person who runs for change has got a pretty good shot.
TAPPER: And, Rebecca, one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton has not done as many press conferences as those greedy reporters like the rest of us would like her to is that sometimes, when she goes, she causes more harm than good for herself.
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: She does. And what Hillary Clinton and her allies argue is that she is held to a higher standard in that respect than Donald Trump who throughout the campaign at some points has really started a controversy every single day a is able to move beyond those in a way that Hillary Clinton hasn't been.
And it's kind of an excellent question I think as to why that is. I don't know that I have a great answer, but that has made her a little bit on the defensive when it comes to press conferences. But she is also just naturally this very private person, doesn't really like engaging with the press, doesn't really like the press. And so, it's like pulling teeth to get her to talk to us.
TAPPER: Josh, do you think Hillary Clinton is held to a higher standard than Donald Trump?
GREEN: I think she is held to a different standard. I mean, he is not a politician. He is -- there is no predicate for a candidate like Donald Trump in our political history. But look, I mean, if you want to talk about press conferences and press availability, Trump has done a far better job making himself available to reporters. If anything, he has made himself too available to reporters for his own good.
And I think part of the reason that he's been able --
TAPPER: Not in the last few months, though.
GREEN: Well, I was about to say. But part of the reason he's risen in the polls a bit is because he's made himself less available and doesn't get in trouble, you know, with a scandal every time he calls into "The New York Times" or holds a press conference or, you know, goes on TV and mouths off.
TAPPER: Yes, generally he's, in recent months, stuck with fairly sycophantic interviewers that have not challenged him on issues, not all of them, but a lot of them.
In her return to the campaign trail, Clinton talked about some of her vision for America, Donald Trump just a few hours ago however accused Clinton of abandoning American workers and that her solutions provide no hope for people out of work. Trump says his business plan, his economic plan, will give Americans 25 million new reasons to hope.
CNN's Jim Acosta is in Miami for the Republican nominee will hold a rally tomorrow.
[16:20:00] Jim, Trump is promising quite a bit in this plan.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is, Jake. He laid out the economic plan earlier today. He is also making some moves designed to show voters that he can be transparent. He released a new report on his personal health earlier today. He is also promising to sever his business ties if he is elected president.
But, Jake, there is one area where he is not bulging at the moment, and that is his tax returns.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): Donald Trump offered his prescription for improving the nation's fiscal health contrasting his economic plan with Hillary Clinton's proposals.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The only thing she can offer is a welfare check. That's about it. Our plan will produce paychecks --
ACOSTA: In a speech, Trump vowed to slash corporate taxes, guaranteeing robust economic growth and 25 million new jobs, though he didn't offer many specifics on how he would play for his plan.
TRUMP: An explosion of new businesses and new jobs will be created. It will be amazing to watch.
ACOSTA: But the GOP nominee is sharing more details about his own physical fitness to be president, releasing a new letter from his personal doctor. That physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, finds Trump is in excellent health but on the heavy side, weighing in at 236 pounds.
Trump told "The Dr. Oz Show" the only exercise he really gets is on the stump.
TRUMP: When I am speaking in front of 15,000 and 20,000 people and I'm up there using a lot of motion, I guess in its own way it's a pretty healthy act. I guess that's a form of exercise.
ACOSTA: In releasing the letter, the Trump campaign made a not so subtle reference to Clinton's bout with pneumonia that forced her to cancel some events, saying in a statement, "We are pleased to disclose all the test results which show that Mr. Trump is in excellent health and has the stamina to endure, uninterrupted, the rigors of a punishing and unprecedented presidential campaign.
A theme Trump continued in a talk radio interview.
TRUMP: I can say for this, you need tremendous stamina. I mean, tremendous. I'm in three different states in one day.
ACOSTA: Trump is also vowing to be more transparent in his business dealings, promising to cut ties with his company around the world if he is elected president.
TRUMP: I will sever connections and I'll have my children and my executives run the company and I won't discuss it with them.
ACOSTA: Where Trump's commitment to transparency gets cloudy is on his tax returns. Donald Trump Jr. suggested today that his father may opt against releasing his taxes.
DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: He's got a 12,000 page tax return that's under audit. What we don't want to do is create a story where then every, you know, want-to-be auditor in the country goes through and says what if, what if? There is nothing there. But if there is, they're going to try to create a story.
ACOSTA: On a Philadelphia talk radio show, Trump Jr. blamed a pro- Clinton media that he likened to an execution squad.
TRUMP, JR.: They've let her slide on every, you know, indiscrepancy, on every lie, on every DNC game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of the thing. I mean, if Republicans were doing that, they'd be warming up the gas chamber right now.
TAPPER: And we're going to bring you those remarks from Hillary Clinton live right now, taking reporters' questions.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: -- presidency. We're offering ideas, not insults. Plans that will make a real difference in people's lives, not prejudice and paranoia.
And as you know, my opponent is running a very different kind of campaign. His latest target is a pastor in Flint, Michigan, who respectfully asked him not to use her pulpit for political attacks. He called her a nervous mess. That's not only insulting, it's dead wrong.
Reverend Faith Green Timmons is not a nervous mess. She is a rock for her community in trying times. She deserves better than that. And Flint deserves better. In fact, so does America.
So I am going to keep working as hard as I can to lift up our country, not tear it apart. I honestly believe there is so much more that unites us than divides us, and I believe, with all my heart, the American dream is big enough for everyone to share in its promise.
So, I'm determined to be a president for Democrats, Republicans and independents, for all Americans. To really roll up our sleeves, solve our problems and make positive differences in people's lives.
So, with that, I would be happy to answer your questions.
Hey, Celia (ph).
REPORTER: Reflecting over these last three days. (INAUDIBLE) Is there anything you should be doing differently right now on your campaign?
CLINTON: Celia, I have always said that this was going to be a tight race. I have said it from the very beginning, whether I was up, down, it didn't matter. I think those are the kinds of presidential elections that we have in America at this point in our history.
I'm very proud of the campaign that we have put together.
[16:25:02] I feel like we are in a strong position going into these last weeks. What matters is who registers to vote and who is motivated and mobilized to turn out to vote. And I'm going to keep doing everything I can to deliver my message about what's at stake in this election and my campaign is going to continue to work hard every day to turn out every voter we possibly can. And that's -- that's our goal and that's our strategy.
CLINTON: This has been such a terrible conflict, and the humanitarian cost is incalculable. I really applaud Secretary Kerry's persistent efforts to try to reach some kind of an agreement with the Russians in order to create a period of cessation of hostilities, in order to get humanitarian assistance into Aleppo and other places within Syria.
I think, whether or not this works, is really up to the Russians. It is up to whether or not Vladimir Putin decides that it's time to do what the Russians can do to bring this conflict into a period where there can be the beginning of political discussions, a hope for protective zone for people who are under relentless assault from the air, and a commitment to going after the terrorist groups that pose a threat to everyone.
So I am going to watch this closely, but at the end of it, it's going to be determined by whether or not the Russians decide it is in their interest to pursue this agreement.
CLINTON: You know, my senior staff knew and information was provided to a number of people. And, look, this was an ailment that many people just power through, and that's what I thought I would do as well. I didn't want to stop. I didn't want to, you know, quit campaigning. I certainly didn't want to miss the 9/11 memorial.
As a senator at that time, I consider it a sacred moment and I was determined there. It didn't work out. So I got the antibiotics up and going, got the rest that I need, and we're going on from there.
CLINTON: No. I -- look, I -- no. I communicated with Tim. I talked to him again last night. He has been a great partner, and he's going to be a great vice president.
We communicated. We communicated. But I am, you know, not going to go into our personal conversations, and I feel very comfortable and confident about our relationship, and I really look forward to working with him closely.
CLINTON: You know, my campaign has id that they could have been faster, and I agree with that. I certainly expect them to be as -- as focused and quick as possible.