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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Finally Admits Obama Born in U.S. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 16, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TAPPER: -- Jake Tapper. I'm wishing you a great weekend. I will see you Sunday morning, and I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching, everyone.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Birther battle. For the first time Donald Trump admits that President Obama was born in the United States. But he doesn't say he's sorry or take responsibility for the years he spent pushing the phony conspiracy. Why did it take him so long until now to say it?
Outrageous lie. Hillary Clinton says Trump owes President Obama and all Americans an apology for what she calls his racist effort to delegitimize the nation's first black president. Could this be a turning point in the campaign?
And taunting U.S. troops. American Special Ops forces are jeered and threatened by a Syrian rebel group that the U.S. is arming, even as the Pentagon confirms the killing of a top ISIS leader. Where is the war in Syria headed?
I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. After five years of leading the birther conspiracy, trying to discredit the nation's first American -- African-American president, Donald Trump has finally come out and said it. And I'm quoting him now, "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period."
But Trump offered no apology and no explanation for his long series of attacks on the president's legitimacy. Trump's action, described as a shrug and a wink, by Democrats has aroused fury. Hillary Clinton, falsely blamed by Trump for starting the birther rumor, accuses him of outrageous lies and peddling a racist conspiracy. She says Trump must apologize to the entire country.
The Congressional Black Caucus chairman calls Trump -- and I'm quoting him now -- "a disgusting fraud."
President Obama shrugged off Trump's new statement on his heritage. And first lady Michelle Obama says her husband has set an example by going high when they go low. She warned being president isn't anything like reality TV.
I'll speak with a Trump supporter, Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.
And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with Donald Trump finally admitting that the president of the United States was born in the United States. Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is in Miami for us, where Trump is due to speak this evening.
Jim, what was Trump hoping to achieve today?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think he was trying to put a matter to rest. It's not working out that way for Donald Trump. Today he tried to take back a falsehood that he's said repeatedly, over the last five years, that President Obama is not an American citizen. And while he is trying to put this matter to rest, today he seemed to do just the opposite.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Nice hotel.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Today Donald Trump, once the leader of this nation's birther movement, finally came out and said he accepted the truth, that President Obama was born in the U.S. But in doing so, he told more whoppers.
TRUMP: Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.
ACOSTA: Trump's claim that Hillary Clinton is responsible for one of the nation's worst political smears is false. The same goes for the statement that he ended the birther controversy. That's not remotely true. As Trump was considering a run for president five years ago, he brought it up.
TRUMP: Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?
ACOSTA: Time and again.
TRUMP (via phone): I've been told very recently, Anderson, that the birth certificate is missing.
ACOSTA: Even after President Obama released his birth certificate to the country in 2011...
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barters.
ACOSTA: ... Trump kept spreading doubts. In 2012...
TRUMP: A lot of people do not think it was authentic certificate.
ACOSTA: ... and in 2014. TRUMP (on camera): I walk down the street, and they're saying,
"Please don't give up." A lot of people are questioning the birth certificate.
ACOSTA: Even earlier this year.
BLITZER: Is he a natural-born citizen?
TRUMP: Who knows? Who knows?
ACOSTA: No surprise, when asked for his reaction to the news that Trump was acknowledging reality, the president was not impressed.
OBAMA: I was pretty confident about where I was born. I think most people were, as well.
ACOSTA: as for Clinton, she slammed Trump's attempts to blame her as a disgrace, saying in a series of tweets, "Trump has spent years pedaling a racist conspiracy aimed at undermining the first African- American president. He can't just take it back."
CLINTON: Barack Obama was born in America, plain and simple. And Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology.
ACOSTA: Trump's birther reversal comes as he's trying to reach out to African-American voters, a key voting bloc that overwhelmingly supports Clinton. Democrats from the Congressional Black Caucus said they felt insulted.
[17:05:08] REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D-NC), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS CHAIR: This is a disgusting day. Donald Trump is a disgusting fraud.
ACOSTA: It was a surreal scene. Trump spent more time promoting his glitzy new D.C. hotel where he staged the event, and listening to military leaders supporting his campaign, including one retired general who has also questioned Mr. Obama's citizenship, Thomas McInerney.
LT. GEN. THOMAS MCINERNEY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Thank you, Don. It's very simple. We, all warriors here.
ACOSTA: And Trump never addressed the question why he's changing his mind now, ducking out as reporters were shouting for answers.
ACOSTA: Now, we should point out back in 2008, a low-level unpaid volunteer for Hillary Clinton's campaign then was spreading rumors about President Obama's citizenship, but that volunteer was fired at the time, Wolf; and there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton or anybody from her campaign staff was engaged in spreading those rumors.
Donald Trump will be here in Miami for a rally later on this evening. We'll be watching to see if he's tempted once again to say that Hillary Clinton was involved in spreading birtherism, which is obviously an outright lie -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta. Thank you very much.
So let's turn to our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. So Dana, after five years of promoting this birther lie, if you will, all of a sudden, he has come out and said the president of the United States was born here in the United States. You're getting inside information. Why did he do it today?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the short answer is the straw that broke the camel's back was that he was asked about it by "The Washington Post" a couple of days ago, and he didn't have an answer. And he basically left it open, which made the story continue to go.
And so I was -- I'm told that people who are close to him, his advisers, his friends, anybody who could get to him, said, "You've got to end this, and you've got to say" the words that he did say today, which is the president of the born in the United States.
But it was hard to get him there, I'm told. And because of that, that's as far as he would go. So never mind an apology. There was no explanation for why he got there, what changed, did anything change. Does he have any regrets. All the obvious questions that everybody would have. So he left more questions than answers.
And so what it means is that the next time he's in front of a reporter, it's hard to imagine he won't be asked those question, never mind the debate. That's a week from Monday.
And one thing, just to kind of give it in context. I was talking to a Republican strategist who knows a lot about kind of how these things work who said, you know, "Remember, it was just six weeks ago Donald Trump would have done this kind of thing, and people would have gone, 'Oh, it's another Trumpism.'" But he's had a normal campaign. He's reading from prompter. He's been relatively on message for the past month or so, and that's why this is one of the reasons why this is so jarring.
BLITZER: What are you hearing from your Democratic Party sources about the impact of all of this, the developments today that it's going to have on the African-American vote internally?
BASH: Well, one of the reasons why Republicans wanted to do this is because they see what Democrats are seeing, as well, which is that old Obama coalition, which relied a lot on getting out the vote in big numbers in urban areas and swing states was not really there for Hillary Clinton. So the hope was that you kind of put this off the table, and maybe you can keep that suppressed, if you will.
But what happened, really, I think genuinely organically today, we saw with the press conference, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and others from around the country, that it was five years of pent-up anger and frustration that came kind of bursting out from a lot of never mind black voters, but activists, Democratic activists.
So they're hoping that they can turn what really has been lackluster enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, help -- they can help them to say, "Look, you don't really want this guy, Donald Trump, in the White House, do you? Especially after having Barack Obama for the past eight years."
But here's the "but." I was talking to a Democratic strategist about this, said that could be helpful. The big issue: millennial African- Americans. And they're not so sure that this birther issue is going to be something that is going to compel them to get out and vote, if they're not so interested in Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: We did see the Congressional Black Caucus leadership...
BLITZER: ... come out very passionately and denounce Donald Trump.
BASH: Very passionately.
BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thank you very much.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. He's a Donald Trump supporter. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: Hey, it's good to be with you, Wolf. Thanks for having me on.
BLITZER: Do you believe that Donald Trump's statement today, first time in years he's acknowledged the president was born in the United States, is that enough in your opinion or does he need to go further?
DUFFY: No, I think that's enough. I think the American people want to have the question answered, do you believe he's a citizen or not. And today he did what he had to do. And looking at Donald Trump's record, he did it more quickly than he normally would have done it in the past. He came out and said no, the president was born in the United States. That was the right move on his part, and I think this should be put to rest.
BLITZER: It's taken him, what, five years. That's not exactly very quickly to acknowledge what we all knew once the state of Hawaii released that official birth certificate.
DUFFY: But if you look back in history, you mentioned this earlier, Wolf, it was a Clinton campaign staffer who pushed this story out in the '08 race. I don't know that Hillary Clinton came out and apologized for that staffer to Barack Obama for pushing that story. And spreading that mistruth. And then...
BLITZER: Let me just point out what you're referring to, because we did speak to Patti Solis Doyle, who is the Clinton campaign manager, earlier today, and what she told us was that there was presumably an unpaid young staffer in Iowa -- may have been a volunteer, maybe not even a staffer, a volunteer who was spreading this kind of stuff.
Once she found out about it, once Hillary Clinton found out about it, they immediately fired this individual and Patti Solis Doyle said she called David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager, to officially apologize for that. So there really wasn't an effort to spread this kind of birther smear.
DUFFY: But the question becomes, did Hillary Clinton apologize to Barack Obama for spreading that mistruth? And I don't believe that she did.
Looking at Donald Trump, though, I agree with you. Some people might say, Wolf, it's fine for Trump to push this issue until the president came out and showed his birth certificate. But once he presented the birth certificate, the issue is over, leave it alone, Mr. Trump.
BLITZER: But, Congressman let me put it there for a moment..
There is no evidence at all that Hillary Clinton ever raised the birth place of then Senator Barack Obama.
DUFFY: No, but her team -- her team did. And frankly, if it's someone who has a position that actually could be fired...
BLITZER: But the team -- the team didn't. There was one volunteer in Iowa who was fired for him doing that. But there was never any team effort, if you will, to smear the Democratic presidential candidate.
DUFFY: But Wolf, when we look at teams, you know, when we look at Manafort, who used to work for Donald Trump, and there was allegations that he worked for Russia. People took those allegations of Manafort and tried to throw them onto Donald Trump.
It goes both ways. If candidates are responsible for their team, both Democrats and Republicans have to be responsible for their team members.
I mean, I don't know if you recall this, but I think this comes -- this is a big issue, Wolf, because Donald Trump has been making up numbers with the African-American community. They want jobs, and they want opportunity. And he's been doing great outreach, going to African-American churches. This story does a real number on his ability to win the African-American community. And...
BLITZER: So should he apologize? Should he apologize to the president of the United States and the American people?
DUFFY: No, I don't think so.
BLITZER: But wouldn't that help him? If you say he's trying to get support with African-Americans, wouldn't that go further in trying to get that kind of support, if he were to say, "You know what? I was mistaken. He was born in the United States. Let me take this opportunity to apologize to the president"?
DUFFY: It will -- it will never -- it will never be over. That won't be enough for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. We're in campaign season. I think it's important that you kill the story, you make sure you're
dead clear that Barack Obama is an American citizen, born in the U.S. Now let's go talk about the real issues that Americans care about.
I saw a quote, though, Wolf, that came from Bill Clinton when he was talking to Senator Kennedy. I mean, this is -- there is some offensive stuff that I think Hillary has to answer for, as well. When Bill said, you know, "A few years ago go, this guy would have been serving us coffee," in reference to Barack Obama. I mean, there are some real things that the Clinton campaign was doing in that '08 race that I think would make folks scratch their head and go what -- you know, what was Hillary up to in the '08 campaign?
BLITZER: But I just want to -- I just want to reiterate...
DUFFY: Looking -- looking...
BLITZER: Let me reiterate that there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton herself ever discussed the so-called birther issue.
DUFFY: I agree with you.
BLITZER: And when her campaign found out a volunteer was doing so this Iowa, they immediately fired that volunteer, got rid of that volunteer; and the campaign manager from the Clinton campaign formally called up the campaign manager from the Obama campaign and apologized.
DUFFY: And I agree with those facts, Wolf. You're right on that. I would just -- I was making the note that Hillary never made an apology herself for her team member. Your viewers will judge that, and voters will judge that on its merits.
But going to Donald Trump, I think he kept the story alive way too long. Now it's become a political liability for him. And I think it was smart for him out and say, "Listen, again, I don't believe what I had thought before. The president's a citizen. And let's put this story behind us and talk about issues that can grow the economy and keep us safe."
[17:15:10] BLITZER: Don't you think he should have done that once the birth certificate came out?
DUFFY: I do. Yes, he should have done that right when he saw the birth certificate. And again, he kept the story alive way too long, but I'm happy that he ended it today, because it's a negative story for him.
BLITZER: Congressman, I need you to stand by. We've got more to discuss. There's a lot going on today. We'll be right back.
I'm back with Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. He's a Donald Trump supporter.
Congressman, Donald Trump has been invited to speak at several major events hosted by African-American groups. He was invited to speak at the NAACP convention. He was invited to speak before the Black Women's Agenda meeting here in Washington.
Today he's already in the city, at least in Washington. He declined.
You spoke about needing to get more-African-American support. Is it a mistake for Trump not to address these groups?
DUFFY: Well, I think it depends about how the campaign feels about the political speaker persuasion of each of the groups. I think any candidate, especially at this late in the game, wants to make sure they're going before groups that are going to be fair with them. I'm not saying that either of these groups would not be fair with Mr. Trump, but I think the campaign probably assesses that and wants to make sure they're going to get a fair shot for any crowd they go before.
And maybe they felt like the NAACP and the woman's group you referenced, it wouldn't be as far or balanced as if he went to another group. But I don't know that for sure because I don't sit in those meetings.
But I will note that he is doing the outreach. He's going to African- American churches, and he's going to swing states that are necessary, targeting the communities in which he's reaching out to in the states that needs to win. So I think that's a little more important than going to Washington, D.C. It's better to be in Pennsylvania and Florida and Ohio and where he's been in Michigan. Those are the important places and the important people that you have to reach out and touch and talk to.
BLITZER: What about Wisconsin, your state?
DUFFY: Well, he's been here a number of times. He hasn't been to any African-American churches thus far, but I know there's been outreach from his campaign to those churches, especially in the Milwaukee area, should he come back. We're on that, you know, just on the cusp of being in play. We haven't moved as much as Colorado and Michigan has.
But if we do, I think he'll be back, and I think he'll be here talking to not just the African-American community, but the Hispanic community in Wisconsin.
BLITZER: Last time we spoke, Congressman, you told me that you do believe Donald Trump should release his tax returns. What did you make of his son, his reasoning as to why he shouldn't release the tax turns saying essentially it's because it would take the focus off of Trump's message -- there's thousands of pages -- and that would be a mistake?
DUFFY: As I told you before, Wolf, I think that transparency for both candidates is incredibly important. This is information that we want to see before November 8; we don't want to see it in January or February.
Now, his son is probably right. It would take focus off the bigger issues that he wants to speak about. But again, I think there's a higher calling. We want to see his taxes. We want to see the money he's made and where he made that money.
Just the same as I've said I want to see Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and it concerns me that they were destroyed after that they had the subpoena from Congress to hold those -- those e-mails for us, the fact that it took sledgehammers to her iPhone. All of this is concerning to me.
I think the American people have a right to know everything they can about the candidate that they're going to vote for in November. And if we're limited on information, we're not making the best choice as voters possible.
And I think it's a shame on both sides of the aisle that we don't have more sunlight shining into the campaign so we can -- we can see all the skeletons that they have, all the great attributes that they have, and then on balance we get to make a decision on who is the best person to lead America. And both -- both candidates, both campaigns have issues about transparency; and it would be nice if we could clear that up before November 8.
BLITZER: Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, thanks so much for joining us.
DUFFY: Thank you, Wolf. Have a good day.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Next hour, by the way, I'll speak with Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
Coming up, new details about a previously undisclosed U.S. drone strike targeting another top member of ISIS.
Also coming up, Michelle Obama hits the campaign trail, praising Hillary Clinton and blasting Donald Trump without ever mentioning his name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: The minute that individual takes that oath, they are under the hottest, harshest light there is. And there is no way to hide who they really are. And at that point, it's too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:28:39] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. In Donald Trump's latest flip-flop, he now says President Obama was, in fact, born in the United States. Trump has been the main cheerleader for the so-called birther movement
for the past five years. Take a look at this time line. Starting in February 2011, Trump repeatedly questioned whether the president was born in this country. More than half of those incidents came after the president released his birth certificate in April of 2011. Now, that's the square marked in red. So will this brief pronouncement by the Republican nominee today persuade voters to move on?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our political experts. Gloria Borger, to you first. So he admitted today the president was worn in the United States. I'll play a little exchange I had with him back in 2012 after the birth certificate was released.
BLITZER: I don't understand why you're doubling down on this birther issue after the state of Hawaii formally says this is the legitimate birth certificate. He was born in Hawaii. Why are you going through all of this, Donald?
TRUMP (via phone): Well, a lot of people don't agree with that birth certificate.
BLITZER: But if the state of Hawaii authorizes it, the state of Hawaii says this is official, he was born in Hawaii on this date, here it is, why do you deny that?
TRUMP: A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How can you say that if the --
TRUMP: A lot of people -- now you won't report it Wolf, but many people do not think it was authentic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was back in 2012. This is an exchange I had with Donald Trump in January of this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Who knows about Obama --
BLITZER: His mother was a U.S. citizen born in Kansas, so was he a natural born citizen? TRUMP: Who know -- who knows. Who cares right now? We're talking about
something else, okay? I mean I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I'll write a book, I'll do another book and it will do very successfully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, even this year he's expressing his doubts about whether the President was born in the United States. He's got his own theory, he's going to write a book about it.
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'd like to read that book actually. He -- you can't delete history with a sentence. And that's what he tried to do today. With one sentence he said Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. And that would presume that everybody could just say, okay, fine, you didn't spread this lie for years and years.
You know, his campaign also said that it was something that Hillary Clinton spread which is not true. And, that he in fact should be credited for putting an end to it. When in fact he was somebody up until an interview the other day with the "Washington Post" where, you know, he wouldn't definitively say anything, so he's continued to stoke the flames.
And, this is an issue that has catapulted him to the national stage in politics. And, it was also an issue that was threatening to derail him from the presidency. And, so they felt they had to do something about it. They wanted to put to rest, Wolf, but by doing it this way, they've ended up raising more questions and guaranteeing that it will continue to be an issue.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: They wanted to put to rest, but. I don't think he wanted to delete all that history in one sentence. I don't actually think - because from a crass political calculation, you have to remember his most fervent Arden supporters are in line with him on this. His most enthusiastic supporters, many of them are --
BORGER: He wanted to do both --
CHALIAN: Yes. So he was trying to do this dance. But I don't think he wanted -- if he wanted to erase history and really walk away from this and put it to -- then he would have come out and done something very non-Trumpian and apologized and explained that he got it wrong.
BORGER: But he could never do that .
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But you know what --
BORGER: He could never do that.
CHALIAN: He didn't do that also because politically that doesn't serve him in every way he wanted to be served today.
BASH: You know but -- I think that you are giving him a lot of credit as a, you know, an astute politician. Which, okay, let's say he is, he got the Republican nomination, he's never run for anything in his life. However, my read on this, and, you know some of it is informed if you're talking to sources about it, is it's not so much that he's worried about angering his base. It's that he doesn't want to go there. He doesn't want to do it. He doesn't want to do it.
He doesn't want to say he was wrong. He doesn't want to revisit it. And that's why in the statement it was so short and he didn't even entertain the idea of going those extra miles to answer the most basic obviously questions that will come after that new declaration.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: He doesn't believe he was wrong.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead - go ahead Don.
LEMON: He doesn't he's wrong. I mean listen, we're all adults here. Let's be honest. You know when someone means something. You know when someone is being disingenuous. If I say to you Wolf, I'm really sorry, I apologize. You know when I'm being honest.
So, I watched today along with millions of other people and Donald Trump was not being honest. He did not want to say those words. And he insulted -- and, this is something that is very personal for African- Americans. And, not only for African-Americans, but for any decent human being out there will.
He insulted millions of people and the sitting president of the United States today with what he did. What he did was insulting and there are other words that I could say but I couldn't -- won't use on television. And, the problem with all of this is that Donald Trump and his surrogates and his supporters, they think that this is an issue that's behind him, this is something that's going to help him. It's not going to help him.
It's not going to help him with African-Americans. It's not going to help him with decent people in America. And, it's certainly not going to help his people when they come on to shows like ours because they're being completely disingenuous.
Even the congressman that you had on, John Duffy, as nice a guy as he may be, and he's not here to defend himself. But he was turning cart wheels to try to come up with some explanation to make this right with what Donald Trump did.
He said Hillary Clinton were one of his supporters. Those same people will come on and say the people who hit people, who yell at people, who say vile things on the internet from Donald Trump's camp that he cannot be responsible for his supporters, and some of the people who volunteer for him.
Well, if he can't be responsible for those people then Hillary Clinton can't be responsible for her people as well. So it is a double standard here that they are trying to -- and they're jumping through hoops.
[17:35:02] I don't believe Donald Trump said. I don't think most of America believes what Donald Trump said. And if he really did -- if he really did believe what he said, he would say I apologize to the President of the United States not only for putting that out there, I should never have done it in the first place. Not for not believing that his birth certificate isn't real, but I should not have done it in the first place, it was wrong, it was awful, and I shouldn't have tried to delegitimize the first African-American President.
BLITZER: Everyone stand by. We're only getting started. We're going to take a quick break and resume this conversation right after this.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the democratic side of the presidential race. Just a little while ago, Michelle Obama wrapped up a campaign appearance on behalf of Hillary Clinton. She never mentioned Donald Trump by name but her disdain for him was loud and clear.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. Michelle, you were there at the first lady's rally outside of Washington in Northern Virginia. She had some very tough words for Trump, didn't she?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right Wolf. You know, that was the question, how much would she get into that. But, it is now clear that even as it concerns the first lady, the time has passed for keeping things completely positive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: But this is exactly how the campaign wants to try to maximize Michelle Obama's star power. That more than 60% approval rating that everybody else would love to have. And, the crowd young, diverse, precisely the people this campaign needs to actually go out and vote. So that was part of her message. But what stood out the most the first lady repeatedly and harshly slamming Donald Trump.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: But back then, people had all kinds of questions about what kind of president Barack would be. Things like, does he understand us? Will he protect us? And, then of course there were those who questioned and continue to question for the past eight years up through this very day whether my husband was even born in this country.
OBAMA: Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set by going high when they go low.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KOSINSKI: She got into the birther issue pretty quickly. But, she also said that a candidate can't be erratic and threatening. Can't spread lies and prejudice on the trail. Calling it excruciatingly clear that only Hillary Clinton has the temperament and the qualifications to be President of the United States, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Michelle Kosinski in Virginia for us. Michelle, thanks very much. Let's get back to our political experts. Gloria, the first lady can be an enormous asset for Hillary Clinton in generating trying to recreate that Barack Obama coalition that twice got him elected President of the United States.
BORGER: Yes, and I -- and I think you saw that today. She was freely talking about Donald Trump without mentioning his name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: And she said a candidate is not going to suddenly change when they get into office. You know who she's talking about. And I think she can. What she was doing in that speech today specifically was motivating people saying to them get out and vote. It's not good enough to come to these rallies. It's not good enough to just shake your head. You've got to go out and vote and register to vote and get your friends to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: And, that's what she's going to be doing for the rest of this campaign.
BLITZER: David, it's not surprising she went to Virginia. That's a state that is still very much in play.
CHALIAN: Yeah, I mean Hillary Clinton has had pretty significant lead there for some time. We saw recent polling come out like in the national polls, like in other battleground states, with a narrowing a little bit. But this has been one of the those Barack Obama converted old red states to the Obama coalition that they were feeling pretty good about to this day and they still do.
Remember, it's the kind of state where Barack Obama was able to alter the makeup of the electorate a little bit. And that's exactly what Michelle Obama is there to try to do. To ensure that the electorate looks like it has -- you know, it's more young people, more minorities. That that is over represented in a way to make certain that those voters are there for Hillary Clinton on election day.
This is -- you've got to remember, Hillary Clinton really started down the road two-fold. Get the Obama coalition out, that was always the key. But, also completely disqualify Donald Trump.
With the tightening of the polls the concern is the disqualification of Donald Trump hasn't been an entirely successful project yet. And so, it makes the emergence of the Obama coalition all that much more important to her path of success. BLITZER: Critically important she's got those two efforts under way.
But, you know, on the birther issue today as we all saw, the President sort of joked about it, but she was dead serious. She takes this very seriously. And I suspect almost all African-Americans take it very seriously what Donald Trump has been doing over these years.
BASH: Oh, no question about it. I mean Don -- our Don Lemon talked about this in the last segment. And, just -- I mean just from engaging with African-Americans about this over the past five years, but more importantly, to see the way for example the congressional black caucus really organically reacted to what they saw today. That was about a very deep wound with the scab being ripped off. I mean, there's no question about that. That's what that was about. And, that's going to continue.
BASH: Obviously for Michelle Obama, it's incredibly personal. I mean this is her husband that they're talking about and not just saying that he wasn't born here. It's to make a case that he is other and he is somebody different and therefore as others have said, trying to delegitimize him.
BLITZER: And Don, as some of their friends have said to me, you can only imagine what their two daughters, Sasha and Malia go through when they hear this kind of stuff leveled at their dad.
LEMON: Yes. I mean, can you imagine? And, listen, look at the first lady today. She is the First Lady of the United States so I feel I can speak that way about her because she is my first lady and Barack Obama is my president until there is someone else. She is a class act.
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LEMON: And there is a reason that they call her the closer, because today she was authentic, she was classy, she looked beautiful, she represented the United States in the way that the United States should be represented. You don't have to agree with her ideology, you don't have to be a democrat to see that.
But this is as Dana and David said, this is the kicking in of the Obama machine and electorate that he electrified back in 2008 and in 2012.
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LEMON: And Donald Trump could not have handed Hillary Clinton a better gift today. What Hillary Clinton needed most of all in these times was enthusiasm especially from young people, from African-Americans, and from women, professionals. She didn't have to be on the campaign trail today. Michelle Obama did it for her. Donald Trump did it for her, as well.
BLITZER: And, a lot of people already think today could be a turning point in this election. But we shall see. Guys, stay with us. Be sure to watch CNN tonight -- later tonight with
Don Lemon, 10:00 p.m. eastern, he's going to have a lot more on this very subject. We're counting down also to the first presidential debate. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faceoff on Monday, September 26th. You'll see it live of course right here on CNN.
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BLITZER: Also coming up, we're getting new details right now about a U.S. drone strike that killed another top ISIS leader.
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BLITZER: Just weeks after ISIS lost one of its top commanders, a chief spokesman, in a U.S. air strike, the Pentagon now says the United States has taken out its replacement closely tied to the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Our Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us now. What are you learning, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: A significant loss Wolf, because this is one of the very few ISIS leaders who had direct access to the ISIS leader, Al-Baghdad. While Abdul Salman described as the chief propaganda artist for ISIS, author of those horrific torture and execution videos so key to ISIS' global message.
U.S. forces they used a drone to target him while he was riding a motorcycle inside Raqqah, this is the capital of ISIS' self-declared Islamic state.
Now, this strike happens as 40 U.S. special operations forces actually hit the ground in Syria, this to aid rebels in the assault on ISIS. But those rebels gave U.S. forces risking their lives there, a chilling, even demeaning reception.
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SCIUTTO: American special operations forces taunted as they leave Syria by the same rebel group the U.S. government is arming and backing.
In an embarrassing confrontation the rebels chant "Down with America" while the man behind the camera calls the American troops "pigs" and threatens to cut off their hands.
These troops are part of 40 American special operations forces now on a new mission, accompanying and assisting Turkish troops in an attempt to clear ISIS out of Northern Syria. But this chilling sendoff shows their presence may not always be welcome.
One person filming the U.S. soldiers' departure says the rebels cannot accept fighting alongside America.
JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: If it's true, obviously that kind of rhetoric is not acceptable as part of what should be a coalition designed to go after a common economy which is DASH. And we wouldn't condone that kind of bombastic and pugilistic rhetoric against frankly our forces or anybody else.
SCIUTTO: In a separate incident U.S. Special Forces raised the American flag at an outpost in Northern Syria after coming under fire by what they believed were the forces of U.S. allied Turkey.
Meanwhile in Aleppo a U.S. and Russia brokered cease fire appears to be holding as it enters its fifth day. But desperately needed humanitarian aid convoys are still blocked by Syrian government forces.
The only way into one of the hardest hit areas of the city is one highway fittingly nicknamed death road. Until that humanitarian relief starts flowing the Pentagon does not consider Russia or the Syrian regime to be in compliance with the cease fire. Threatening the plan to establish a join center in Switzerland aimed at coordinating U.S. and Russian air strikes against ISIS and other terror groups.
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SCIUTTO: Now under the terms of this deal, if the peace holds for seven days, still got a few days to go, Russia and the United States will establish this joint implementation center located in Geneva, Switzerland. This for cooperation on military operations in Syria targeting terror groups. Of course principle among them ISIS. The Syrian government Wolf, as part of this would be barred from conducting air operations at least in those areas. But still, a lot of questions, a lot of bars to be met that haven't been met yet.
BLITZER: So -- but, it works. Those folks in Aleppo need those trucks to come in. Jim Sciutto, thank you very, very much.
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BLITZER: Coming up; after five years Donald Trump finally admits that President Obama was born in the United States. But, democrats demand an apology for what Hillary Clinton calls Trump's racist effort to discredit the first African-American President.
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BLITZER: Happening now; breaking news. Birther backtrack. After years of promoting a conspiracy theory, Donald Trump, admits President Obama was born in the United States but refuses to explain why. Tonight, democrats are demanding Trump apologize.
No erasing history. Hillary Clinton says Trump can't undo the damage from heading what she calls outrageous lies. How will this controversy play in the very close presidential race with the first debate only 10 days away?
Going there; Michelle Obama addresses the birther conspiracy and takes on Trump during --