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THE SITUATION ROOM

FBI Seeks Potential Bombing Witnesses, Info from Bomber's Journal Revealed; Sources: Suspected ISIS Mustard Attack on U.S. Troops; Charlotte Bracing for More Violence after Shooting; Trump, Clinton React to Fatal Police Shootings; Report: Trump Used Charity Money to Settle Legal Disputes; FBI Seeks Potential Bombing Witnesses Caught On Camera. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 21, 2016 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:08] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Seeking information. The FBI is looking for two men, potential witnesses to the New York bomb attacks. Surveillance video shows them removing an unexploded device from a piece of luggage. And now images from the suspect's yard indicate he may have been testing explosives days before the attacks. Did he plan and execute them alone?

Praising ISIS. A first look at the bombing suspect's blood-soaked journal. It reveals his fascination with terrorists and his praise for ISIS and al Qaeda leaders who he looked to for guidance. I'll talk to the congressman who brought a copy of the journal to Capitol Hill.

Controversial killings. Violence erupts after an African-American is shot and killed in Charlotte. Protesters clash with police, their anger fueled by a similar shooting in Tulsa just days ago. Will there be more protests tonight?

And racial politics. The presidential candidates react, with Hillary Clinton decrying what she calls systemic racism. Donald Trump says it's troubling and goes on to say black communities are in the worst shape they've ever been. Can Trump broaden his support among African- Americans?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The search for two potential witnesses to the New York City bomb attack. The FBI is seeking two men seen on surveillance video removing one of the explosive devices from a piece of luggage. Investigators are stressing they see the men as witnesses, and they're not accused of wrong-doing.

And new clues to the case emerging from the journal the suspect was carrying when he was captured. You can see a bullet hole in the pages, which are soaked with blood. The entries contain praise for ISIS and al Qaeda leaders, as well as talk of jihad, bombs and U.S. oppression.

We're also following the tense situation in Charlotte, North Carolina. Bracing for a possible repeat of violence that rocked the city overnight. Clashes with police broke out as hundreds of people protested the deadly police shooting of an African-American man just days after a similar incident in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The issue is front and center on the campaign trail as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both court black voters.

We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Mike McCaul. He held up a copy of the bomb suspect's journal during a hearing on terrorism today.

And our correspondents and our expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with CNN national correspondent Deborah Feyerick for more on the investigation into the New York bomb attack. Deb, what is the latest?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we want to update you on the status of the terror suspect. Right now, he remains unconscious. He's also intubated. He's being guarded by FBI agents, who are with him 24/7. Right now, it doesn't appear that he's going to be going anywhere anytime soon, because he still is healing from wounds he sustained during the shootout he began with police on Monday.

Meantime, his wife is expected to sit down and speak with FBI agents by the end of the week. All of this as a thorough investigation continues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): The FBI is eager to talk to these two men, described as potential witnesses. Surveillance video shows the two men walking along West 27th Street in Chelsea when they saw a carry-on bag, which they took after first removing its contents, a doctored pressure cooker, which was, in fact, a terrorist's bomb.

CHIEF JAMES WATERS, NYPD COUNTERTERRORISM BUREAU: We have no reason to believe that they're connected. That's why, as I have said, and I can't stress enough, they are witnesses at this time.

FEYERICK: Two minutes after the first bomb detonated, surveillance video shows Ahmad Khan Rahami four blocks away, first carrying a bag and then leaving without it. The bomb was placed across the street from a hotel with a busy outdoor cafe, the device covered with Rahami's DNA.

PREET BHARARA, U.S. ATTORNEY, NEW YORK: That evidence includes 12 fingerprints recovered from the undetonated bomb from the 27th Street location in Chelsea, including on the pressure cooker; duct tape; and the triggering cellphone.

FEYERICK: Writings allegedly from the terror suspect show he wanted to die a martyr.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: This is a copy of Mr. Rahami's journal.

FEYERICK: Rahami's blood-soaked journal, with a bullet hole, was recovered following a shootout with Linden, New Jersey, police. He writes "Inshallah" -- "God willing" in Arabic -- "the sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police."

Rahami talks about U.S. oppression and the slaughter against the Mujahedeen, so-called holy warriors in "Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham (Syria) and Palestine." And he praises ISIS chief al-Adnani, along with al Qaeda terrorists.

BHARARA: A hand-written journal found on Rahami at the time of his arrest, talking about, among other things, jihad, pipe bombs, a pressure cooker bomb, and the sounds of bombs heard in the street as well as laudatory references to Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden.

FEYERICK: Prosecutors say this summer, Rahami purchased several bomb components on eBay, shipping them to a New Jersey business where he worked. Rahami may have tested the explosives two days before the attacks.

The family's back yard shows what appears to be scorched earth, and prosecutors say video from a relative's phone shows Rahami with a cylindrical container filled with incendiary material, partially buried in a back yard. Then there's the lighting of the fuse, a loud noise and flames, followed by billowing smoke and laughter. Rahami then reenters the frame.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: And, Wolf, we can tell you that authorities believe that Rahami entered New York about two hours before the bombing and he left two hours after it was all over. NYPD detectives scouring video surveillance cameras, trying to trace every single step of his whereabouts that night.

And meantime, 100 tips -- more than 100 tips have poured in. But the one they really want right now is those two men, hoping they can provide evidence and hoping they still have that bag in which that bomb was carried -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick in New York for us. Thank you very much.

Let's get some more on the investigation right now. Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is joining us.

Evan, first of all, what is -- what more is known about these two men?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the remarkable thing about this is that the NYPD really is trying to make it known, make it clear that these vemen are not suspected of being any part of this whatsoever. It looks like what they've done is they've scoured as much as they can any kind of connections, and they've found no reason to believe that these men are connected to Rahami.

What I'm -- what I'm told, however, from looking at the -- at the surveillance cameras right in front of this business where this bomb was placed, is a surreal scene of people who essentially step over this -- this bag containing a bomb for minutes, for frankly for about an hour, people stepping around it. Party-goers. Ordinary people just going about their lives on a Saturday night in New York City. And it's a wonder that this thing did not go off.

I asked Chief Waters of the NYPD counterterrorism division today just about that. And he said these people are very, very lucky, Wolf.

BLITZER: What more are you hearing about the contents of this journal that was found and how it was recovered?

PEREZ: Well, the fact that it was -- that it was on his body and it got damaged in the firefight, that it had bullet holes, it has blood as you see from that picture. They're now trying to piece together as much as they can to try to put together what exactly he was thinking before he carried out the attacks, Wolf.

One of the things that they want to try to see is if he has any other writings. They found one -- some writings in the backpack that contained those pipe bombs in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They're also scouring other parts, other places that he lived, where he worked, to see if he had other writings to try to explain this. They described it as rambles, really. So at this point it's still a very early picture of what he had in mind.

BLITZER: And just restate what you're hearing: Ahmad Khan Rahami, he's unconscious now, in the hospital? Is that right?

PEREZ: That's right, Wolf. He is unconscious. It appears to be medically induced because, obviously, he had several surgeries to repair, you know, the injuries from those bullet wounds he was injured, in his shoulder as well as his leg and in his arm.

We expect that the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York here in Manhattan is going to have him moved as soon as possible so that they can try to present him in court to face these charges.

BLITZER: Evan, thank you very much. Evan Perez reporting.

Let's get some more on all of this. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congress Mike McCaul of Texas, is joining us. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, let's get, first of all, to this mystery of these two men that the FBI released their images, seeking information, unknown individuals, referring to the explosive device. They apparently saw a bag on the street outside what would have been the second bombing. They took the bag but left the bomb, the pressure cooker bomb, in a plastic bag there. What do we know about these two individuals?

MCCAUL: Well, I had Deputy Commissioner John Miller testify before my committee. He was asked about these two persons of interest, I guess you should say. I think they were found on 27th Street looking at the duffel bag, opening it up, seeing a pressure cooker was inside, dropping that, and then taking the duffel bag with them.

I don't, in my judgment, think they were connected to this. But of course, you know, the FBI and New York Police Department have to run down every lead and interview any potential suspect or person of interest.

These two persons obviously have some connection to the pressure cooker, because they took it out of the duffel bag.

BLITZER: Because that duffel bag, potentially, has a lot of evidence. Fingerprints, where it was purchased, who was purchasing it, for example. And it's been several days, four days, since -- since the incident. No one has come and showed up with that duffel bag, and it's been now several hours since the FBI released this bulletin. Has anyone come forward and said, "Hey, by the way, we're these two guys, and we just were curious about the duffel bag"?

MCCAUL: Haven't found them yet, but as we saw with Tamerlan Tsarnaev. When you put these things out, you can find suspects in the process.

But you're right. This is the best evidence that was left behind. It had fingerprints on it that led us to the suspect, Rahami.

BLITZER: The bomb. The bomb that was left behind had fingerprints.

MCCAUL: The unexploded IED, pressure cooker. It also has DNA material. The same individual -- same DNA linked to the New Jersey explosive devices. I think that's important because, what we want to find out is, is the DNA Mr. Rahami's or is the DNA another potential suspect in this terror attack? That could lead us to somebody beyond the current suspect.

But it also indicates that the two are linked, because the same DNA on the unexploded device in New York also appears on the device in New Jersey.

BLITZER: You know, one more thing about this bulletin that just came out several hours ago. They said if anyone has any information, call the FBI, a free -- a toll-free tip line, as it's called. Call your local FBI office. But it then also says, or get in touch with the nearest American embassy or consulate, which suggests that maybe there are some people overseas in various countries who may be familiar with these two individuals and be able -- might be able to provide a tip.

Normally, in a bulletin like this, they don't tell you to call the U.S. embassy, the nearest U.S. embassy or the nearest U.S. consulate.

MCCAUL: That may be an attempt to get them to the consulate for protection purposes. We want information from them. And don't forget: Rahami had several trips to Afghanistan and

Pakistan, claiming he had family, relatives over there. He was submitted through secondary screening coming back into the United States. He also married a Pakistani woman, who we believe is still in Pakistan today.

BLITZER: In Pakistan. You don't think she's -- supposedly she was in the United Arab Emirates and she was cooperating with authorities there. That's what we heard in the past few days.

MCCAUL: Well, the latest I had was that her whereabouts were not exactly known but that, at the time, they thought she was in Pakistan.

BLITZER: All right. Well, that's interesting. She's originally from Pakistan, and we know that he had spent, what, almost a year near Quetta in Pakistan at one point in the not too distant future [SIC], Rahami.

Let's talk about this journal. And you brought it up to Capitol Hill. In which he was keeping this journal. And you've got the images there. A lot of it still soaked in blood, because he was shot. But what he writes in there is so disturbing.

MCCAUL: Well, I think what we found in this journal, Wolf, is that -- is the best evidence. It's almost like a confession when you read it.

He talks about wanting to set off bombs in the streets of New York. He talks about wanting to set off explosive devices before a 5K run.

In addition, I think there's a lot of speculation, as you know, right after this happened, was this an act of terrorism? You know, people jumped on board quickly. Some people didn't, trying to speculate what the motivation behind this act of terror was.

I think this journal answers fully all those questions, particularly when you look at the references to bin Laden, to the cleric al-Awlaki who his sermons have radicalized so many people.

When he talks particularly about the ISIS spokesman who has been since killed in an airstrike, Mr. Adnani. He says in the journal that his guidance came from the lead ISIS spokesman, Adnani, who is the chief of external operations within the ISIS organization.

What that tells me, Wolf, as a counterterrorism expert, is that now we can definitively say this was an inspired -- an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack.

BLITZER: Because there were other elements. He praises bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki. So it could be both ISIS-inspired and al Qaeda- inspired, if you read all that -- that journal writing.

MCCAUL: And I don't think a lot of these -- these terrorists really make a lot of distinctions here. I think we find that in a lot of these cases that, you know, Chattanooga, Fort Hood. Al-Awlaki was inspiring them to do a lot of these activities. But then they -- they latch onto ISIS as sort of the winning team right now for that inspiration.

BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, stand by for a moment. We're getting some more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Appears that there has been a chemical weapons attack on U.S. troops in Iraq by ISIS. Barbara Starr is getting new information at the Pentagon. We'll share that with you right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[17:19:37] BLITZER: We've got breaking news. We're back with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Mike McCaul. We're going to talk to him about the breaking news. Just coming in, a suspected poisonous mustard gas attack against U.S. and Iraqi forces by ISIS.

Let's get the details from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. What are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this hour U.S. military experts are testing the shell that landed at this air base in northern Iraq, a place called Kiara, south of Mosul. U.S. and Iraqi troops located there.

[17:20:06] It happened on Tuesday. U.S. troops, the most important thing, they are not hurt. There is no indication of any U.S. troops exposed to this mustard agent this they believe was in the shell that landed on the base.

But some U.S. troops did, as a precaution, go through decontamination. They saw the remnants of the shell. They saw a suspicious substance. They tested it. The first test came back positive, the second test negative. So that is why tonight they are going through more intensive testing.

Why do they believe it's ISIS? ISIS operates in the area. ISIS has staged mustard attacks in the past; and ISIS is desperate to hold onto this area, Mosul in northern Iraq. It is the center of their claim that they have a caliphate. The Iraqis plan to move against Mosul. ISIS wants to hold onto it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, thanks very much.

Mr. Chairman, your reaction, first of all, to this report.

MCCAUL: Well, it demonstrates that ISIS is willing to use chemical weapons against Americans, to kill Americans, whether it be over in Iraq and Syria or whether it be in the homeland. which is what we're always concerned about.

BLITZER: Is that realistic, that ISIS elements here in the United States could use this kind of mustard agent against American civilians?

MCCAUL: I think it would be very difficult -- Wolf, they certainly have the intent. Do they have the capability? Probably not. They would have to get that into this hemisphere, into the United States. But they do have the intent. They've demonstrated that.

It also kind of shows how they're becoming a little more desperate in the fight. Remember, Mosul, as Barbara Starr talked about, is really going to be kind of the fight. Mosul and Raqqah are what they are holding onto to still maintain this caliphate. And they'll use everything they have in that fight. I think they've had this for quite some time. Now you're going to see them unleashing it.

BLITZER: Let's hope they don't unleash it here in the United States. Bad enough that they're unleashing it against U.S. forces in Iraq and potentially in Syria. Mr. Chairman, thanks for coming in.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news. Fear of another night of violent protests following a deadly and racially charged police shooting.

Plus, Donald Trump reaching out to African-American voters and claiming that black communities are, quote, "in the absolutely worst shape ever."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:26:42] BLITZER: We're following a tense situation in Charlotte, North Carolina. Police are bracing for possible violence while leaders appeal for calm following the deadly police shooting of an African-American man, the second such incident in recent days.

Brian Todd has the very latest for us. Brian, outrage over the shooting, and it certainly rocked the city overnight.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly did, Wolf. The city of Charlotte very tense again tonight, following a night of rioting and looting, which left more than a dozen police officers injured last night.

The shooting deaths of two African-American men in Charlotte and Tulsa, Oklahoma, leaving two more American cities struggling with the aftermath of police shootings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In Charlotte, protesters throw rocks and water bottles at police, stomp on and damage vehicles. They block traffic on a major interstate, then grow in intensity.

CHIEF KERR PUTNEY, CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG POLICE: They broke into the back of a tractor-trailer and started setting items on fire.

TODD: Sixteen police officers were injured, one hit in the face with a rock. The riot, sparked by the fatal police shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott Tuesday afternoon. In an emotional Facebook live stream, a woman who says Scott was her father claims he didn't have a gun and if he did, the police planted it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My (EXPLETIVE DELETED) daddy is definitely disabled. What (EXPLETIVE DELETED) gun he had. He in the damn car reading a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) book.

TODD: But the police say a gun was recovered and no book.

PUTNEY: Mr. Scott exited his vehicle armed with a handgun, as the officers continued to yell at him to drop it. He stepped out, posing a threat to the officers, and Officer Brentley Vinson subsequently fired his weapon, striking the subject.

TODD: The officer, who like Scott is African-American, was not wearing a body camera. Other officers were, but no video or a photo of the gun has been released.

The incident comes just days after a fatal officer-involved shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that has also drawn scrutiny. Police say officers came upon Terence Crutcher beside a vehicle stopped in the middle of the road last Friday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That looks like a bad dude, too.

TODD: His hands were up. But when an officer orders him to the ground, he instead returns to his car. Officer Betty Shelby shoots him.

OFFICER BETSY SHELBY, POLICE: Shots fired!

TODD: The officer's attorney says she was afraid he was behaving oddly and reaching for a weapon. But police say no weapon was found, only the drug PCP.

And family lawyers say his car window was not even open.

DEMARIO SOLOMON-SIMMONS: We see very clearly on the video that Terence never made a sudden movement towards the officers or towards going inside of the vehicle. We can see on the video that when Terence was shot, the officers were not in any imminent harm.

TODD: Both cases raising the question: under what circumstances is police use of force allowable, if an officer thinks a person has a gun.

RON HOSKO, LAW ENFORCEMENT LEGAL DEFENSE EXPERT: Someone who has the intent to use that gun can use it in with less than a second and bring fatal harm to you or another officer or somebody nearby. And so an officer is going to respond to that potential threat with a threat of their own and does not have to wait to have that gun pointed at officer.

BLITZER: Even if it's not pointed at the officer?

HOSKO: Absolutely. An officer does not have to wait to have that gun pointed at them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, the officers in both Charlotte and Tulsa are now on paid administrative leave pending investigations. Law enforcement expert Ron Hosko says, of the two cases, this officer, Betty Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the one most likely to face possible charges because there is no dispute that the man she shot and killed was unarmed.

[17:30:08] Now we look ahead to tonight in Charlotte, where an activist group planning to hold a protest rally in less than two hours from now. The mayor and police chief there appealing for calm, Wolf. We'll see what happens in Charlotte tonight.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

Out on the campaign trail, the presidential candidates are speaking out about these controversial police shootings. Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is working this part of the story for us.

Brianna, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, they're issuing very strong statements.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the -- certainly, both of them are trying to attract support recently from African-American voters. Or, as some observers say, Donald Trump is trying to attract support from white voters who are uncomfortable with his support from white supremacists. These shootings have brought the issue of race and law enforcement to the forefront again, and the candidates are responding.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): On the campaign trail, the police killings of black men in Oklahoma and North Carolina are dominating the conversation.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There is still much we don't know about what happened in both incidents. But we do know that we have two more names to add to a list of African-Americans killed by police officers in these encounters. It's unbearable, and it needs to become intolerable.

KEILAR: Donald Trump specifically addressing the killing of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: That man was hands up. That man went to the car, hands up. Put his hand on the car. I mean, to me it looked like he did everything you're supposed to do.

KEILAR: Stressing his law and order message, he also defended police but questioned if the female officer who shot Crutcher may have, in his words, choked.

TRUMP: You have somebody in there that either makes a mistakes that's bad or that chokes. People that choke, people that do that, maybe they can't be doing what they're doing. OK? They can't be doing what they're doing.

KEILAR: Trump made those comments before a largely black audience at a church in Cleveland, where he invited controversial boxing promoter Don King to introduce him. King using language unheard of in modern politics from the podium of a presidential nominee.

DON KING, BOXING PROMOTER: If you are intelligent, intellectual, you're intellectual negro. If you are dancing and sliding and gliding (EXPLETIVE DELETED) -- I mean negro...

KEILAR: Trump did not acknowledge King's word choice. His trip to Ohio part of his latest pitch to black voters, with whom he has historically low support.

TRUMP: Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they've ever been in before, ever, ever, ever.

KEILAR: A false claim that vastly defies all of the facts of American history. Trump's comments spawned outrage, including from Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights movement icon.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I don't know where this man is coming from. Is he saying that the conditions are worse than slavery?

KEILAR: Leading overwhelmingly with black voters, Clinton is still struggling with younger African-Americans, many of whom supported Bernie Sanders and are now considering a vote for a third-party candidate. In Florida, pitching her economic plan, Clinton talked about inclusivity, hoping to draw a contrast with her opponent.

CLINTON: To say loudly and clearly in this country, no one's worthless, no one's less than. We're all of value.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And just a short time ago at a town hall, Wolf, we learned that Donald Trump talked about -- more about his law and order message, and he said that he is for stop and frisk, which, as you know, is a practice that was used in New York City. He said it worked well there. You need to be proactive.

It's something that, after challenges, was abandoned in New York City because of the disproportionate number of African-American and Hispanics who were stopped by police there.

BLITZER: Brianna, I need you to stand by. Our political panel is also here, joining us. Not only Brianna Keilar but assistant editor at "The Washington Post," David Swerdlick; senior political analyst of CNN and senior editor at "The Atlantic" Ron Brownstein; and CNN Politics executive editor Mark Preston.

Actually, guys, I want all of you to stand by for a moment. More information is coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll discuss, review right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:39:04] BLITZER: Following the reaction to a pair of officer- involved shootings in Oklahoma and North Carolina. The presidential candidates, they are weighing in, as well, thrusting the issues of race and justice right to the forefront of the campaign.

Let's get back to our political experts. Ron Brownstein...

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BLITZER: ... a new poll NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, we'll put it up on the screen. Hillary Clinton 43 percent; Trump 37 percent among likely voters' choice for president. Gary Johnson, 9 percent. Jill Stein, 3 percent. That's a -- a healthy lead, at least, for her right now.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. And a key number for me in that, Wolf, is Donald Trump at 37 percent. I mean, in national polling he has trouble getting above the low 40s in any poll.

And the principle reason for that is reaffirmed in this new poll. Not only facing historic deficits among minority voters, including African-Americans, but he's underperforming with college white voters. He's losing college whites by six points in this poll.

Poll out today in Wisconsin, Marquette University, he's losing college whites by 18. Poll out today in New Hampshire by Monmouth, he's losing college voters by 23. He is doing very well with those non- college whites. They are the core of his coalition.

But if he's going to get from where he is in the roughly 40 percent or slightly above range into something more of the mid-40s, which is plausibly where he's going to need to win, he's going to have to reverse those doubts among college whites. Two principle doubts: not qualified, racially biased. That's his challenge. So far, he hasn't met it.

BLITZER: And David, he is making a major effort to attract some African-American support. Once again today, he was at an African- American church. He spoke about the tragic shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte.

He also said that -- these words. He said African-American communities, in his words, are in the worst shape they have ever been. Then he repeated "ever, ever, ever." And one of his supporters, Don King, actually used the "N" word in introducing him today. So how is this outreach being received?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, it's really a jumble, Wolf, right? I mean, it's notable, I think, that he used the word "tragic," because it signals, at least, that he sees the pains that African-Americans particularly feel about this -- this series of incidents that are on tape where African-Americans are, you know, in these violent encounters with police.

It goes back, again, to back in July when he first declared himself the law and order candidate. He said -- I'm just going to quote here -- that in his administration, everyone will be treated justly and without prejudice. That's a message that resonates.

The problem is he doesn't stick with it. And the other problem that he has is that it gets messed up with his birther controversy and with some of the other statements that he makes that don't resonate with the vast majority of African-Americans. And that's why you see it reflected in the polls.

BROWNSTEIN: He's had a lot of history. He wasn't born in this campaign.

SWERDLICK: Yes, exactly.

BROWNSTEIN: And he doesn't start on kind of, you know, a blank slate. And that's the challenge.

KEILAR: Today saying he would use stop and frisk. That's not going to resonate.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let me get Mark Preston into this. More of this drip, drip, drip by "The Washington Post." More information on this charitable foundation, the Trump Foundation. "The Washington Post" reporting, what, a quarter of a million dollars of the foundation's charitable money was used to settle his legal problems. The Trump campaign now reacting. Is this really going to hurt him, though?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: As a standalone, no. I mean, we haven't seen anything that would be really damaging to the conventional candidate from previous elections such as this be hurtful to Donald Trump. And, again, this is one of these issues.

I think what we're going to see, though, over the next couple of weeks and certainly on that debate on Monday night, you're going to see Hillary Clinton and certainly her campaign in the days of following up is to build this dossier, this argument, to pull together all these disparate acts that they say show that Donald Trump is, A, not competent and, B, is a liar.

So this will be one of those pieces of the puzzle that the Clinton campaign tries to put together as they try to disqualify Donald Trump in the eyes of the voters as we head into this election.

BLITZER: It's also -- you've covered Trump. You've covered these candidates for a while, Brianna. All of a sudden, Donald Trump is -- he used to complain about Hillary Clinton not doing news conferences with the reporters who travel with him. It's been a long time now since he's done a full-scale news conference. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told Erin Burnett last night when he -- when he goes to a rally that's press availability, if you will, even though he's not answering any questions.

Does he need to do some news conferences right now to get back into that groove?

KEILAR: All I know is that he's not. And that is not press availability, to go to a rally. BLITZER: It's been 56 days since he had formal...

KEILAR: It's been 56 days. And he's on the other side of this argument now. He hit Hillary Clinton for not having a press conference. His surrogates did left and right for not having one for nine months. Well, now it has been about two weeks. She's had six availabilities to the press. She has had multiple press conferences. And he has not.

And not only, he's had kind of a few things in a row that look pretty bad in terms of press accessibility. Getting to an event. And because he is extraordinary in that his press corps does not travel with him, the only candidate recently to do that. Hillary Clinton just started doing that.

He made fun of them, actually, when they didn't get to his event. And he didn't wait for them. They only saw two minutes of his event. This is the pool. It's pretty extraordinary that the pool does not get to see the candidate at an event.

Also, describing some of these events, basically, as press conferences when they're not. So certainly, I mean, from the press perspective, of course, he should be more available to the press. It could also help him. We've seen Hillary Clinton been able to kind of reassert the narrative when she has that opportunity. Donald Trump does do that a lot through rallies. But, no, it's not -- certainly no press accessibility.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say, just one further thought on this question of whether all these controversies hurt Donald Trump. This race is close, because voters have a lot of doubts about Hillary Clinton. But I think it is a mistake to say that all these controversies have not hurt Donald Trump.

The level of resistance he's facing, the share of voters who say they have an unfavorable view of him, who give him marks on honesty and integrity no higher than Hillary Clinton and say he's not qualified as president.

[17:45:00] An extraordinary roughly 60 percent of the voters in each case kind of view him negatively on that, and he is stuck somewhere around 40 percent. It adds up.

I mean, there isn't like another -- it isn't spinal tap. There is not another 8 percent out there. This is kind of a hundred percent of the electorate. And I think his challenge in the debate is much more to change those perceptions than even to deepen the negative perceptions about Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: That debate Monday night, Hillary Clinton skips for the next several days getting ready, practicing, going through questions. He seems to be a bit more aloof when it comes to that kind of debate preparation. SWERDLICK: Yes. I'm still one of those wondering whether this is a

little bit of a rope a dope, whether he is really preparing a little more than he is letting on and trying to work the lower expectations that he won't be as good of a debater as Clinton.

On the other hand, I do think that without a teleprompter, this is going to be a challenge for him. Hillary Clinton is a good debater. She is not as good of a retail politician, she is a good debater.

BLITZER: He did well, though, in the Republican primary debates, and he emerged as the Republican nominee when all this ended.

SWERDLICK: With a lot of other candidates.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see how he does one on one with Hillary Clinton. All right, guys. Stand by. There's more coming up. And we'll bring you updates on the investigation into the New York bomb attack including a plea from the FBI for information on two potential witnesses seen removing an unexploded device from a piece of luggage. There you see the picture.

Plus, Donald trump under fire tonight after a new report alleges he used charity money to settle his business disputes. Were those payments illegal?

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[17:50:52] BLITZER: Donald Trump's charitable foundation is facing heightened scrutiny tonight following a report which detailed possibly -- possibly -- illegal payments to settle Trump's personal legal disputes. Our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta has been digging into the story for us. What are you learning, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Trump campaign is hitting back at reporters asking questions about the GOP nominee's charitable foundation, and Trump advisers argue it's the Clinton Foundation that deserves all the scrutiny. But the questions about the Trump Foundation aren't going away.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even as more questions are surfacing about his charitable foundation, Donald Trump is keeping up the attack that it's Hillary Clinton who can't be trusted.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Hillary is President, it would be a disaster. If Trump is President, you will be very, very happy.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The Trump campaign is dismissing accusations the GOP nominee may have violated U.S. tax laws by spending charity money raised by the Trump Foundation to settle legal disputes at his businesses. Top adviser Chris Christie warns it's a subject Clinton should avoid.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: Be careful what door you open, Mrs. Clinton, because you're not going to want people to be talking about the Clinton Foundation and comparing it to anything that Donald Trump has done in his life, including giving away tens of millions of dollars of his own personal money.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But Trump Foundation tax documents don't show Trump donated tens of millions of dollars. The documents do find the Trump Foundation directed $100,000 to a veterans' charity group to resolve a legal battle over the height of a flag pole at Trump's Mar- a-Lago resort in Florida instead of Trump using his own money to pay the fine.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: This is a classic Donald Trump. The way that they, quote, settled it was for Mr. Trump to donate $100,000 to a veterans' group. I don't want that to be lost here.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The Trump Foundation also directed $158,000 to settle a dispute with this man who won a hole in one contest at a Trump golf resort but was never paid the million dollar award.

Much of the Trump Foundation's money comes from private donors, not Trump himself. At a campaign rally Tuesday, Trump bragged he's good at spending what he called "OPM" and will bring that mindset in Syria.

TRUMP: It's called other people's money. There's nothing like doing things with other people's money because it takes the risk. You get a good chunk of it and it takes the risk.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In a statement, the Trump campaign attacked "The Washington Post" who first reported the foundation story, saying there was not and could not be any intent or motive for the Trump Foundation to make improper payments. All contributions are reported to the IRS and all foundation donations are publicly disclosed.

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: The tax law says that if you run a charity as Donald Trump does, you can't take the money out of your charity and use it to buy things for yourself or to help your own business. It's called self-dealing and it's against the law.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The controversy swirling around the foundation comes after weeks of attacks from Trump who accused the Clinton Foundation of what he calls "pay to play."

TRUMP: It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: But we should note tax records also show the Trump Foundation donated money to the Clinton Foundation. It's also clear the Trump Foundation is no ordinary charity. When you call the number listed on its tax forms, a person at the Trump Organization, Wolf, not the foundation, answers the phone. I know because I did it myself today.

BLITZER: And you just heard? What did you hear?

ACOSTA: You talk to somebody on the phone who works for somebody that works for the Trump Organization, and when you asked to be transferred to the foundation, they asked who I was -- I'm a reporter -- I was transferred to Hope Hicks, the spokeswoman for the campaign.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Jim Acosta reporting for us.

ACOSTA: You're welcome.

[17:54:29] BLITZER: There's breaking news straight ahead, new information about the probe into the New York and New Jersey bombings. What are investigators learning right now from the suspect's blood soaked journal?

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[17:59:35] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. FBI search four days into the New York bombing investigation, authorities now are asking for help finding two men spotted on surveillance video. What information might they have?

Bloody journal. The alleged bomber's own words reveal his admiration of terrorists and possible clues about a motive. Was he inspired by the ISIS or Al-Qaeda leaders he praises?

Protesters versus police. Officials are urging calm after two African-American men were killed by police officers in separate shooting incidents -- one in North Carolina, the other in Oklahoma. We have new details on the investigations tonight.