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Hillary Clinton Takes Reporter Questions After Returning to Trail; Trump Delivers Economic Speech; Trump: Federal Reserve "Totally Being Controlled Politically"; Ceasefire Holding But Aid Not Getting In; Human Rights Group: 23 Civilians Killed In ISIS; U.S. Officials: More Ex-Gitmo Detainees Returning To Battle; Sources: U.S. Boosting Russian Intel Operations; U.S. Shifting More Intel Resources To Russia; Rep. Schiff: Putin Becoming More Hostile. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 15, 2016 - 16:30   ET


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You know, my campaign has id that they could have been faster, and I agree with that.

[16:30:00] I certainly expect them to be as -- as focused and quick as possible. But I have to say, from my perspective, I thought I was going to be fine, and I thought that there wasn't really any reason to make a big fuss about it. So I should have taken time off earlier. I didn't. Now I have. And I am back on the campaign trail.


Neither they nor their citizens can vote in the United States, so why are you making that sort calculated choice to take time off the campaign trail? What do you think it can get you? And what's the contrast with Trump?

CLINTON: I think it's important to be constantly reaching out, listening to, learning from leaders, and I was pleased to be able to find the time to meet with several of them, which I intend to do, to hear firsthand their perspective about what they see happening in the world today, to answer their questions from what I think is happening, whether it's in Syria or anywhere else.

There is a lot going on in the world, and I have a longstanding set of relationships that go back not only to secretary of state and senator but back to first lady. And I think it's important to attend to those relationships, and I won't be able to have as many meetings because of the press of the campaign as I have had in prior years, but I am looking forward to the ones that we are scheduling.

Thank you all very much.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton taking a few questions from reporters in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Let's go to CNN chief Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who is traveling with the Clinton campaign in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Jeff, a few questions. Not, I guess I don't know. Do we call that a full press conference? I probably wouldn't, but I'm a tough grader. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I am a tough grader

as well, but I think for this week since we've not seen her at all really since Sunday, Jake, I think you have to say it's probably as good as we're going to get.

Look, she did not acknowledge any specific shortcomings about, you know, how she informed the American public here and if she would do anything different. She did say that her staff could have been faster. I didn't hear her say anything that she could have done differently.

But, clearly, Jake, she is trying to turn a corner here, trying to move beyond this pneumonia diagnosis which really has rocked her campaign and her campaign staff. And she also acknowledged that, yes, she knew this is going to be a close race but did not really acknowledge what her staff in Brooklyn knows at the campaign headquarters that this is a very close race. Democrats across the country very nervous about this, about the tightening poll numbers here. She said she's going to keep on keeping on.

But I also noticed she didn't go on something her staff is doing, transparency, on his medical records or taxes as well. Going forward in the coming days, you can be sure she will as she prepares for the biggest event of this campaign in 11 days, that first debate in New York -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's bring back our political panel.

David Gergen, let me asked with you. Asked about tightening poll numbers, including our own CNN/ORC poll showing Trump edging Clinton in Ohio and Florida, two key battleground states. Clinton insisted her campaign always, always knew this was going to be a close race.

Do you believe that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I think that they've always assumed that they win by several points. I think they felt that Donald Trump would be nipping at her heels. I don't think anybody expected it to be this close, especially after her high numbers the other day.

What also struck me, Jake, about her appearance was how subdued she was with the press. I had the sense she didn't really want to be there. But you also had the sense, I did at least, that she is still recovering. You know, she didn't bring that zest to today that she has. But she did aim a very well-targeted dart against Trump over that black woman pastor in Flint. And I think elevated that story so it would get more attention now in the national press in the next 24 hours.

TAPPER: Yes. Interesting. Clinton also said that her senior staff new about her pneumonia diagnosis. She said the decision to do to the 9/11 memorial because she didn't want to stop. She also admitted she could have taken some time off earlier. A lot of criticism about how she and her team handled the transparency

issue about her diagnosis on Friday and then more. But, really, the story has overwhelmed something that I think the Trump campaign is more interested in talking about, and that is her comment about half of his supporters, though she has retracted that word "half", but many of her supporters being in a, quote/unquote, "basket of deplorables".

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. And so, Hillary Clinton and her allies have tried to sort of take ownership and take advantage of that as much as possible as an avenue to talk about some of Donald Trump's more offensive remarks, some of his supporters who are part of this alt-right movement, but it has also at the same time given Donald Trump a major opportunity to energize his supporters.

Now, you see at his rallies his supporters showing up in deplorables t-shirts, signs, identifying themselves enthusiastically as deplorables. It's sort of their signature now. So, it's something that has the opportunity to motivate both sides to an extent, but you're right, this has completely overshadowed it. Not that this is, you know, a blessing for Hillary Clinton's campaign because it's given us more questions about her transparency. That's never good for her.

TAPPER: All right. Josh Green, Rebecca Berg, David Gergen, thanks one and all. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, Donald Trump just promised Americans a huge number of new jobs if he is elected. Can he deliver? We'll talk to two economists right after this quick break.


[16:40:23] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

A lot of bold promises today from Donald Trump about jobs and economic growth. He promised a richer country if he is elected. Can he make it happen?

Joining me now, president of the American Action Forum, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and former chief economic advisor to John McCain's presidential campaign, Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Plus, with us, Mark Zandi, chief economist and Moody's Analytics. He has advised both Democrats and Republicans. We should note that he has donated to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Thanks both of you for being here. We appreciate it. You've both studied Trump and Clinton's economic plans extensively.

Doug, let me start with you. Did you hear anything new in Mr. Trump's speech today?

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, FORMER MCCAIN CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Oh, certainly I did. I think the most significant thing we saw was an acknowledgement of the criticism that it just didn't add up. They changed significantly his tax plan so that, instead of losing $12 trillion over the next ten years, they estimate it losses, far less. They would argue $2.6 trillion. I think that's a big response. They went to great lengths to claim it really did add up and walk through that.

TAPPER: And, Mark, what do you think?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Yes, I agree with Doug. There's a big change in the tax plan on a static basis by half. We'll still -- I'll have to do the arithmetic to see if in fact it adds up. We'll see.

Nothing else changed, though. His views on immigration, on trade policy, on energy policy, all the same. So, all the changes were really in the tax plan. And in the details of the tax plan, there's a lot of changes nitty-gritty. There's a lot of changes there as well.

TAPPER: And the reason you bring up immigration and trade is because Mr. Trump has promised 25 million jobs over the next ten years and you think that that kind of job growth is not feasible, Mark, with the other components including immigration.

ZANDI: No, it's not feasible. The reason is -- the only way you would get there is if you significantly increased immigration. In fact, you'd have to more than double current legal immigration into the country to have enough people here to actually create that many jobs.

The simple reason is that the baby-boom generation, that's the big baby boom generation that people in their 50s and early 60s, they're retiring, and they're going to retire en masse over the next ten years. So, the labor force -- if we don't change immigration law and allow for immigrants in the country, the growth in the labor force, and labor force are the people who are willing and able to work is going to grow very slowly so that it's mathematically impossible to create that many jobs.

TAPPER: Interesting. And, Doug, let me ask you, Mr. Trump first promised that the U.S. economy would grow at a 3.5 percent rate. Then he said his goal to get the U.S. to grow at a 4.8 percent, possibly even more.

Are those figures possible? Are they likely?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: They're not likely. Mark's on the right arithmetic. GDP output, the economy, however you want to label it, grows because we have workers. You can have growth in the number of workers. That's going to be slow. Or output per worker productivity.

So, he needs a productivity boom of unprecedented proportions to get to those kinds of numbers. And the places he is pointing to -- energy, I don't think so. I'm a big critic of the Obama administration's regulatory burden, but getting rid of isn't going to deliver a percentage point of growth.

So, it's hard to make it add up especially when you add in the negatives, the immigration is a negative, the trade is a negative. Yes, he's going to try to make it add up and grow more rapidly. I give him points for that. But the numbers are not there.

TAPPER: Mr. Trump said today that the Fed, the Federal Reserve is totally being controlled politically. The Fed obviously is an independent agency. James Pethokoukis who writes about the economy for the American Enterprise Institute responded to that accusation on Twitter. He wrote, quote, "So Trump is deliberately smearing U.S. central banks, so people will think an economy where jobs incomes are growing is artificial and will crash."

Mark, is that what Trump's doing or is there any evidence that he's right?

ZANDI: No, there's no evidence that he's right. I don't think it's productive to argue that the Federal Reserve is conducting monetary policy, setting interest rates for political reasons. There's absolutely no evidence of that and it does no one any good.

So, yes, I just think that's patently false and wrong. And again, it's not helpful. You know, I don't think that's the thing that would lead to investors that are confident about the U.S. economy and invest in it and drive the economy forward. So, no, it's just wrong.

TAPPER: What do you think, Doug?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think Mark is being too nice. I mean, it's counterproductive and something that no presidential candidate should do.

And if you think about it, what he is saying is the Fed, they do what the administration wants them to do. If elected, he would be appointing Fed officials. Is that what he wants people to think about his Fed officials? It's a very bad place for him to go.

[16:45:10] JACK TAPPER, CNN's THE LEAD ANCHOR: All right. Doug, Mark, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.


TAPPER: Spies in our midst. Why the United States is stepping up the spy games overseas? Stay with us. That story next.




[16:50:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our WORLD LEAD now. CNN is live in war-torn Aleppo, Syria to show you these incredible images, their positive images, smiling children. Many of them have known only war in their lifetimes. playing in the country's bomb- marked streets. A very fragile ceasefire has so far held and been extended 48 hours. UN convoys are hoping to deliver much needed aid to the more than 300,000 civilians trapped in Syria's largest city, Aleppo. For months, the rebel-held area has been under a complete siege by government forces backed by Russia. CNN's senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen made his way to the government-controlled side of Aleppo. And Fred, what are you seeing on the ground there? It seems like there is activity on the streets.

[16:50:46] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There certainly is activity on the streets. You know, it really is almost a tale of two cities here in Aleppo. We drove in here earlier today, and I can tell you, on the outskirts, the destruction is absolutely unbelievable. There was an area that we went through that was called Ramouseh, which was actually where some of the heaviest fighting took place right before the ceasefire went into effect. And there, you can almost not find a building that either hasn't been heavily damaged or completely flattened. And the same goes for a lot of the other districts that are very close to the front lines. But then you also have other places here in Aleppo where life is almost normal. You know, of course, there are shortages, of course, people don't have a lot of things. But at the same time, they do try to lead a normal life as much as they can. So, there almost is a real divide here in the city where you have people who are suffering very, very badly, you know, some of the neighborhoods that we went to today. There were people who were picking up branches to try and make fire, so they could at least cook something, but in other places, people really are still trying to sort of cling onto a little bit of normalcy, Jake.

TAPPER: And Fred, obviously the government has been holding up aid from getting into Aleppo. Why? What is the holdup?

PLEITGEN: Well, you know, there are several holdups. On the one hand, the aid trucks can't cross the border from Turkey into Syria, which is the closest place to Aleppo, without the permission of the Syrian government. And the Syrian government said that it's not going to give that permission just yet. It's something that the United Nations is still working on. And then you also have the big aspect of securing these convoys, because they have to go through areas that are held by various rebel factions. You have obviously areas that are held by various government factions, they would have to cross enemy lines essentially. And there, the U.N. wants security guarantees. That - all of that is sort of being set up. I was actually at that main corridor that's supposed to be used. It's called the Castello Road. And there though appear to be preparations under way to try and make that happen, but right now, the U.N. says it's still a negotiating game that's going on. They want to make it happen as fast as possible. We're hearing it might happen tomorrow, but at this point in time, very difficult to say, Jake.

TAPPER: And Fred, it is ceasefire. It's fragile, it's also complicated and complex. A human rights group in Syria is now saying that 23 civilians including 9 children were killed in airstrikes, but the airstrikes were on a town that is supposedly held by ISIS. Would that be a violation of the ceasefire?

PLEITGEN: Yeah. You know, it wouldn't, and it's interesting. The airstrikes apparently happened near the town of Deir ez-Zor, which is sort of in the southeastern part of Syria, and very much an ISIS- controlled area. ISIS is specifically excluded from the ceasefire, and all the areas under ISIS control as well as Jabhat al-Nusra as well. So, technically, this is not a breach of the ceasefire that took place in those airstrikes.

TAPPER: All right. Frederick Pleitgen, thank you so much. Great reporting. Please stay safe.

From Guantanamo Bay back to the battlefield, the new report from the director of the office of national intelligence says, at least two more detainees released from Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp have rejoined suspected terrorist groups, bringing the total number of freed prisoners to do so under the Obama administration to 9 out of a total of 161 released detainees. Now, that is a lower percentage of detainees returning to battle than under the Bush administration, obviously, though, nine is nine too many. This news comes as the house passed a measure today prohibiting President Obama from releasing any additional inmates from Gitmo until congress comes up with a new defense bill. The White House has threatened to veto that measure. Coming up, a top lawmaker calling it the largest intelligence failure since 9/11. What is it? I'll give you a hint. It has to do with Vladimir Putin. Stay with us.




[16:56:28] TAPPER: Welcome back. Also in our WORLD LEAD, from Russia but without love, the Cold War ended nearly 30 years ago, but tensions between the U.S. and Russia have reached the fever pitch with fewer than two months since the Election Day. CNN has learned that U.S. intelligence agencies are ramping up espionage operations to try to get a better read on Moscow's motives. This comes at the same time that the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says that, " Not understanding the intentions of Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative, has been " The largest intelligence failure since 9/11." Let's get right to CNN Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Harsh words, how is the U.S. stepping up its efforts?

[16:57:07] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Let me tell you, as it relates to politics, there's an enormous contradiction between Donald Trump's view of Putin in Russia and U.S. intelligence's view of him in Russia as the primary threat to U.S. national security. And as a result, they're now expanding resources across the board. This is human intelligence. That means spies, surveillance. That means satellites and other electronic interception, and cyber capabilities.

Tonight, U.S. intelligence focused on Vladimir Putin and Russia. Viewed as increasingly assertive and ambitious in countering U.S. leadership and national security interests around the globe. Russia's activity now includes what appears to be an unprecedented effort to undermine confidence in the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election. As Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mike McCaul detailed on CNN.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL, (R-TX) CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: The idea of a foreign power, particularly one like Russia, a foreign adversary attempting to mess with our elections, and Director Comey basically told us that the motivation was to undermine the integrity of the American political electoral process. These facts, allegations are very disturbing.

SCIUTTO: Sources tell CNN that the intelligence community is expanding resources aimed at Moscow to match Moscow's evolving threat to the U.S. Those resources include human intelligence, electronic surveillance and cyber capability. Ranking member of the house intelligence committee, Adam Schiff tells CNN, "Putin has taken Russia in a much more hostile, aggressive and adversarial direction, and the U.S. is directing more resources and focus towards Russia, and that's a necessity." Russia's cyber threat is of particular concern. The deputy director of the NSA has told us that Russia today has alarming capability, not just to hack places like the Democratic National Committee, but to harm the U.S. Homeland via cyber-attack.

But you're saying that today, foreign actors already have the capability of shutting down key U.S. infrastructure?


SCIUTTO: Via cyber-attack?


SCIUTTO: Some intelligence analysts say the renewed focus is late, and has allowed Moscow to gain an advantage.

COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's a failure to properly resource our intelligence agencies vis-a-vis the Russian problem is really coming home to roost right now. And because of that failure on our part, we're playing catch-up in a very large way.

SCIUTTO: Now, U.S. intelligence officials tell me they never took their eyes off Russia, but they can see that predicting Russia's actions, while always difficult, is particularly tough with Russia, because President Putin has an insular, close-knit decision-making process as well as that he's proven himself capable of what they described as impulsive moves at times.

TAPPER: He's been quite different from 2000 to 2016. Jim Sciutto, thanks so much. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. You can follow me on Twitter @JakeTapper. Turning it over to Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM". Thanks for watching.