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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Is U.S. Olympic Swimmers' Robbery Story True; Trump Heads to N.C. Following Campaign Shakeup; Conway Says Bannon Is What Trump Needs; Trump Attacks Clinton on Stamina; Trump Changing Message on Building a Wall. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired August 18, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:00:05] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is the second overhaul of Team Trump in two months.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: He can hire and fire anybody he wants from his campaign but he is still the same man.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: You say it's not a shake-up, but you guys are down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Says who?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which polls?
KEILAR: All of them.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think it helps us to be a little behind them. It lights a fire under us.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Brazilian police pulling two American swimmers off their plane.
RYAN LOCHTE, U.S. OLYMPIC SWIMMER: The guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: The judge pointing to the inconsistencies in the accounts.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan Lochte stands by his story he was robbed at gunpoint.
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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BOLDUAN: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. John Berman is off today.
We will get politics in just a moment, but we want to begin with breaking developments in what some are jokingly calling the next Watergate and what could be turning into an international tug-of-war. Two American swimmers yanked from their flight before it took off from Rio to the United States after new questions have surfaced about their story about being robbed. Olympians Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz ordered to stay in Brazil until they speak with authorities about what did or didn't happen. Gold medalist, Ryan Lochte, was also involved but he flew back to the United States before the judge's order, and now it appears he might be changing some of his story.
CNN senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is joining me live from Rio, along with CNN sports analyst, Christine Brennan, both in Rio for us this morning.
Christine, first to you.
What are you picking up what are you learning?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Hands, but it's one of those stories where what happens is we start to hear rumors. We hear more rumors and pretty soon we'll have the facts. I'm guessing we will soon have the fact because the three U.S. swimmers still in the state are speaking with authorities we believe later this afternoon. They're in a Rio hotel. They're with U.S. Olympic Committee people and they have legal counsel and my sense is they are going to be able to tell us what happened. Whether the gun to the head story is accurate or not or what other story may be the true story. So I'm sensing that a crazy 48 hours or so might eventually come to an end here if those three Americans do tell their story and we get a chance to find out what really happened here in Rio.
BOLDUAN: Yeah, a crazy 48 hours.
It's turned into, no joke, an international incident, Nick. As things are ling up, as you've been following this story, it sounds like Brazilian authorities don't believe the story they were originally told.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, we now have two sides who really don't want to shift from their positions they've taken early on.
I should point out further to what Christine was saying, we're hearing from the hotel where they are staying that police arrived through a back entrance there earlier on. They left in a car that only contained the police, nobody else, and then slightly after that, those two swimmers then left their hotel. It's unclear where they are going. We've also heard those two have in fact had their passports taken from them last night at the airport. That, of course, makes it incredibly difficult for them to, under Brazil's eyes, to leave the country here.
We're getting this broadening sense, I think, as Christine was saying, the narrative slowly beginning to explain itself. There may well be a lengthy statement from police down the line. We've heard from a source close to the investigation echoing slightly what we heard from the court order that the investigation may not necessarily be convinced a robbery took place here at all. We know the court was trying to assess further whether or not a fade police report had been filed.
Ryan Lochte's lawyer says he has cooperated with anybody who asked him for information, that they will continue to do so. As of yesterday, when we got that statement, they said we haven't within approached again for further information.
It's become an international incident. But the issue is Brazil doesn't really want the idea, as the swimmers suggested, to be held publicly accepted that men disguised as police officers committed this armed robbery after they left the nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning. On the other side, the swimmers have suggested that very adamantly. They've tweaked slightly their story.
Here's one discrepancy which NBC's Matt Lauer heard about when speaking to Mr. Lochte just yesterday it.
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MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: He said that's when the guy pointed the gun in my direction and cocked it. And I pointedly said to him, you had said before it was placed on your forehead and cocked. He said no, that's not exactly what happened. I think he feels it was more of a traumatic mischaracterization. I think people listening at home might feel that was embellishment.
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PATON WALSH: Where are we going to go with this? Well, the obvious answer lies with wt the police investigation deems has occurred swimmers say they agree with that. Mr. Lochte is in the U.S. Unlikely he'll come back of his own free will. The three here, they're not facing necessarily if it turns out there was something misleading going on here, a massively huge misdemeanor. They deny that at this particular stage. It's the publicity around this, pitting these athletes against Brazilian authorities, that's made it an international embarrassment for everyone, frankly.
[11:05:25] BOLDUAN: Guys, stand by.
I want to add to the conversation with Paul Callan, CNN legal Analyst.
Paul, it's got to the point that Nick just ended on, it is not known what the answer is. That's obviously why they're trying to get more information. If, as Brazilian authorities seem to be leaning to believe they made this story up, if they made it up, how much trouble could they be in?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they could be in serious trouble. This would be a false report case. Just give you an example. Here in the United States, if you falsely report a serious c me like a felony, you can be guilty of a felony. In Brazil, if it were a sworn statement that was signed, and there are some reports that he signed a sworn statement, if that turns out to be a lie, that could be a serious crime under Brazilian law. He might be facing as much as three years in jail. So it could be a serious matter if Brazilian authorities put something together here.
Now, the other thing I wanted to mention was, I think there's an argument there's more than one discrepancy. Matt Lauer talked about the gun on the head. When I read the statement that Lochte made, he didn't say that the gun was placed on his head. He was a little vague about that. A good lawyer could argue he was just saying the gun was pointed at his head as opposed to actually touching it. However, Brazilian authorities are point to inappropriate behavior in the video.
BOLDUAN: In the video. What do you see, as an attorney, in that video?
CALLAN: I see what looks to be inappropriate behavior for somebody who's just been robbed and almost had their life taken by people posing as police officers. It doesn't look right. But these are kids, of course. I mean, they're young. They're exuberant because they just won, you know, medals. There may be an explanation. It's now how a normal person would react in the aftermath of a serious robbery in a foreign country.
BOLDUAN: That's part of why there are continued questions here.
Christine, beyond the legal fallout, what's the fallout for the biggest name here, Ryan Lochte? If it would come out they made this story up, you think it could be pretty big?
BRENNAN: Kate, yes. If the story is made up, big if, if the story is made up, I don't know any sponsor who would ever want to be attached to Ryan Lochte again. He's 32. He's won 12 medals. Watch one of the most decorated Olympians ever. Happy go lucky guy. He wants to have a career after this. And while there are other issues that seem far bigger as in international relations in these Olympic games and the image of these games, when we kind of drill down to Ryan and his future, if this is made up, Kate, he is -- I cannot imagine any sponsor would ever want to be near him and the U.S. Olympic Committee which, of course, wants all its Olympic athletes to come back, why would they ever be involved with him again, if this story is made up.
BOLDUAN: And that raise the stakes.
One question Nick Paton Walsh was also getting at this, this type of crime, it's a problem in Rio. There's a lot of talk about this leading up to the games, and Brazil knows that, Rio officials know that. Do you think that is part of what's behind the public perception of what this incident with such high-profile people, the public perception of it, is that behind a strong, such an aggressive response? This is an aggressive response to armed robbery.
CALLAN: Bear in mind, the Brazilian authorities are very sensitive to the reputation of their police force for being fair and enforcing the law as it should be enforced. Prior to the Olympics, they were doing raids on these poverty-stricken neighborhoods around Rio to clean up Rio to make it safe for the Olympics. And they were very proud that by the time the Olympics started, they had largely succeeded in that effort. So now a crime like this committed allegedly by Olympic athletes would kind of -- and, you know, there's always this ting of anti-Americanism. It's kind of nice to bring the big bad United States down if they are defaming your country by saying the police can't enforce the law properly. So there may be a lot of that playing in. You know, police forces are very aggressive in Brazil and it's not a place you want to get in trouble with the law.
[11:09:51] BOLDUAN: Christine says it seems like the parts that are moving, they're moving fast now, and there could be developments in the coming hour.
Thank you, Christine.
Thank you, Paul.
Thank you, Nick.
Coming up for us, next, she was just promoted 24 hours ago. Donald Trump's new campaign manager already talking about the shake-up and why she says it helps to be behind in the polls.
Plus, Trump once again questioning Hillary Clinton's stamina, saying it's not fair that she's sleeping and taking weekends off. We will discuss.
BOLDUAN: Happening today, Hillary Clinton set to meet with a group of prominent law enforcement officials from some of the nation's biggest cities, including New York and Los Angeles. A Clinton aide telling CNN that they will discuss challenges for police across the country. This comes just days after Donald Trump accused her of being prejudiced against police officers, and after Milwaukee became the latest city to erupt in protest after a police-involved shooting.
Meantime, Donald Trump and his top lieutenants taking the show on the road in the first major event and first big test since the candidates shook up his campaign hierarchy. He's heading to the battleground state of North Carolina for a rally tonight in Charlotte.
CNN politics reporter, Sara Murray, has the very latest on Donald Trump and the overhaul.
So, Sara, what are you hearing, what Trump are we going to hear tonight?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, look, Kate, we knew Donald Trump wanted to take his campaign in a new direction. Will we see that new direction tonight? That is an entirely different question. He's be campaigning in North Carolina. We're hearing he's going to be delivering prepared remarks. This sounds more like the teleprompter Trump, more like this Establishment Trump that Paul Manafort had been working towards.
I think you're seeing the fact that the new deputies brought on board, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, are trying to walk a fine line. They want Trump to this have blunt, straight-talking style, but they want him to go after Hillary Clinton on the issues, whether it's dealing with ISIS, whether it's Obamacare. So we will see if he's able to stick to this message of law and order tonight and still rally a crowd when he's speaking from prepared remarks -- Kate?
[11:15:49] BOLDUAN: Absolutely.
Sara, good to see you. Thanks so much. Now get back at it.
Sara just ran in. She's still busy.
Trump's new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, telling CNN the controversial new campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, is just the person Trump needs driving the train right now.
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CONWAY: I'll tell you what Donald Trump needs. He needs people who are like him in this sense, you have to be unapologetically, unflinchingly unafraid of Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and all that Clinton campaign means. Because we feel like we're up. And we feel -- you know, you need people girded for battle who are at least willing to, as we like to say, leave it all on the field, give it our best shot.
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BOLDUAN: Let's talk about this. Joining me, Carl Higby, Donald Trump supporter and former Navy SEAL; Mark Preston, executive editor of "CNN Politics"; Tharon Johnson, a Hillary Clinton supporter and former Obama campaign official during the 2012 campaign; Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator, former communications director for Senator Cruz's presidential campaign; and Edward Espinoza, a Hillary Clinton supporter and head of Progress Texas.
Everybody, thank you so much for being here.
Mark Preston, we heard from Kellyanne Conway saying leave it all on the field, you got to be unleashed. So it sounds like, even though we heard from Murray just now, he will be speaking from prepared remarks, unleash Trump. What's that going to look like?
MARK PRESTON, CNN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICS: Well, you know, it's interesting.
PRESTON: It's going to look much different. We were talking about Bannon who is basically the head of the campaign right now. Kellyanne Conway plays an important role for Donald Trump. She's very well known in establishment politics. She's a very good pollster. She's a very good communicator. If anyone has not seen the interview she did this morning on "New Day," you should watch it because it shows how she's going to try to make Trump comfortable with himself and, at the same time, giving him enough rope to try to do what he wants to do.
The bottom line is Kellyanne Conway's job is going to be make Trump feel comfortable to go out and sell his message. At the same time, though, he will then turn to her for advice. Believe me, he's going to need a lot of advice on the road because she's going to be traveling with him everywhere to try to keep him on message.
BOLDUAN: No question, it seems that Kellyanne Conway is the best messenger that Trump has. We saw that prior to her promotion and we saw that this morning.
But, Carl, when it comes down to it, a new Donald Trump, if he wasn't unleashed already, then what was the Donald Trump we were watching to this point?
CARL HIGBY, FORMER NAVY SEAL & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, your right. What we saw, Donald Trump was the 100-watt light bulb shooting rays in every direction. Now Kellyanne Conway will take him and make him a 100-watt laser so he can cut steel.
BOLDUAN: You're confident in that?
HIGBY: I'm confident.
PRESTON: There's hope in that.
HIGBY: There is hope in that. I think Trump was trying to bring the gap between establishment and his true base. When you bring in Bannon, the co-author of "Clinton Cash," he's not afraid to go after Hillary Clinton. He's the guy Trump needs to get on the offense.
BOLDUAN: To Carl's point, Carl acknowledges he dipped in the polls. That he dipped in the polls. Wow, that's amazing, Alice.
Kellyanne Conway also talked about the polls and said something very interesting about being down in the polls. She said it's a motivator. She said she thinks it helps us to be a little bit behind. It lights a fire under us. It reminds us of what we need to do to get this done. Do you agree?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. It does. Being behind gives you a little street fighting enthusiasm.
BOLDUAN: A little behind, or 14 points, in battleground states behind?
STEWART: Let's just say she answers that question a lot better than Michael Cohen. Kellyanne Conway brings a lot to the table. Her background he experience. She can tell Donald Trump who to attack and who to attract. She understands we need to attack Hillary Clinton for her support of Obamacare and her ideas to expand it, her failures in terms of foreign policy and inability to recognize radical Islamic terrorism. To attract women, first and foremost, that is one of her areas of expertise. Romney had the 10 points down in the gender gap with Obama, and McCain even more so. It's incumbent upon Trump to bridge the gender gap and she can help do that quite a bit. Also Independents. She understands the need to reap out to independents and bring them into the fold. Steve Bannon, on the other hand, is just the opposite. He comes to the table with his finger on the Trump scale from the very beginning of him walking down the escalator. He is very extreme on his views. And what he -- the "Breitbart" vote, we've got that. That is hay in the barn. We need to expand the message. Hopefully, Donald will listen more to Kellyanne than Bannon and, if so, measure in the right direction.
[11:20:28] BOLDUAN: Alice, now that Kellyanne is on the bandwagon, you're sounding pro Trump now.
STEWART: He couldn't have made a better choice in bringing someone -- not just her experience on polling but if she's going to be traveling with him and have his ear day in and day out, that is certainly a positive sign but at the end of the day, we all know that Trump will be Trump and that is what got him to where he is but we're in a different electoral now. We're not preaching to the GOP choir. This is a general election electorate and he needs to broaden his appeal quite a bit.
BOLDUAN: And alike is saying the person to be attacking is focused squarely on attacking Hillary Clinton. He did that last night. He went after her last night, again, on her stamina. Listen to this.
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TRUMP: She doesn't really do that much. She'll give a speech on teleprompter and then she'll disappear. I don't know if she goes home and goes to sleep. I think she sleeps. But --
SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST, HANNITY: Takes weekends off?
TRUMP: I guess she takes a lot of weekends off. She takes a lot of time off. And, frankly, frankly, it's really not fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: What is he getting at, Edward?
EDWARD ESPINOZA, DIRECTOR, PROGRESS TEXAS & HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: It's basically code for saying that she doesn't have stamina for this. In saying those things, what he's trying to imply is that the little lady can't hack it. And that's something that's going to maybe appeal to the base that he's already got. But anyone with -- any thinking person is going to see right through it and no what he's trying to get at. Incidentally, I think Trump is older than Clinton.
BOLDUAN: Yeah, he's two years older.
ESPINOZA: Right, so I don't know where the stamina argument, if he really has a whole lot on her on that.
But the other thing is anyone who's watched this Clinton campaign and prior Clinton campaigns knows that she is a workhorse. She doesn't take days or weekends or nights off. She is out there on the road hitting the pavement every day. I don't know what campaign he's watching but it's not the one everybody else is seeing.
BOLDUAN: Tharon, false allegation, conspiracy theory or not, negative stuff like this, his negative branding has worked in the past. Are you concerned now this unleashed Trump? He focuses squarely on Clinton like this that it's going to stick?
THARON JOHNSON, FORMER 2012 OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL & HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: This recent move shows he's rearranging the deck on this sinking titanic. With 80 days left in your campaign, he's on his third campaign manager. When you're less than 90 days, this is when the American people are starting to pay close attention to this election. I think the attacks on Hillary Clinton show that Donald Trump really has no message that's going to resonate for him in battleground states. Mitt Romney got 206 electoral votes. This is all about the electoral college. If he's losing in key battleground states like North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and others, I don't really see his pathway to victory. This new unleash Donald Trump and then we're going to scale him back, listen, Donald Trump has doubled down on doing what he knows best and that is attacking people and being a very divisive candidate. I think this teleprompter sort of stunt is only going to work for a day or two. Next week this time, he'll be insulting more people, more demographic groups. I just think it's not going to November.
BOLDUAN: Alice, I want to get your take as a woman. What about this stamina, as Edward put it, code for the little lady can't hack it? How does that help? Do you think it helps?
STEWART: Clearly, absence makes the heart grow fonder with Democrats and Hillary Clinton. She's doing well in the polls. Her failure to hold rallies isn't hurting here.
I think there are plenty of other valid issues that Donald Trump can attack her on that are going to resonate with independent voters and it's not going to alienate women voters and that what he needs to do. He needs to be focused on key issues, national security, Obamacare. And certainly, we can go on and on about her exposing classified information on her unsecured server and her failure to answer questions on Benghazi. Those are valid issues and talking points that resonate with people. Leave her physical -- or physical health out of it. I think there are more substantive issues that are more valid and will resonate with voters.
BOLDUAN: Focus is the key there. Alice, focus, focus, focus.
And focusing on, Mark, the next two weeks, we've got 82 days until the election, but the next two weeks, what realistically do you think Trump can accomplish in making up the problem in the polls in the next two weeks before labor day, especially keep sticking on this, the fact that Bannon, he brings on has never run a campaign before, and he's brought in 82 days before the election.
PRESTON: A couple of things. It's really funny. During this campaign, we always say the next two weeks are the most critical two weeks. I would argue the next two weeks are the most critical two weeks. Here's the reason why though.
Here's the reason why. Because if Donald Trump can use the next two weeks while people are at their beach, while kids are getting really for school.
[11:25:19] BOLDUAN: People are at "their" beach.
HIGBY: I like that. I like the thought of that.
PRESTON: I'll be sitting here with you, unfortunately.
PRESTON: No. But, look, the bottom line is, if he can use the next two weeks basically to practice, to stay on message, which takes him to the critical moment of the campaign, that first presidential debate. If they can use the first couple weeks to have him work on themes, to work on themes, to hone his message, take that into September, and then we go into that first presidential debate the third week of September, that's when things are really going to matter.
HIGBY: Also, Donald Trump needs to not so much worry about directly attacking Hillary but just make questions arise about Hillary. It's been, what, 282 days since Clinton's held a press conference. Make her answer questions. When she starts answering questions, the focus comes off Donald Trump's negatives and on to Hillary Clinton's negatives which are very, very high right now.
BOLDUAN: Try this on for size. He can practice thing, try this practice, Carl. If he's made one promise in this election, it's been, I will build the wall. He says it over and over again. The crowds come to his rallies in order to be there be for the moment when they can yell who's going to build it, Mexico's going to build it, 100 percent, he says. It seems that promise might be changing a little bit, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are going to build a great border wall.
We're going to build the wall. The wall is going to be built.
It's going to be a big wall. It's going to be a beautiful wall.
We will build the wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
HANNITY: How certain does the wall get built? How certain does Obamacare get repealed?
TRUMP: You can never say 100 percent but I'm telling you pretty close to 100 percent, the wall gets built. We need it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: What? Now, it's not 100 percent?
Carl, we say this -- we put these things together and it is, you know, fun to look at, but that's really actually serious. This is his one main promise.
HIGBY: Think Donald Trump is going to do everything in his power to build that wall. What he didn't anticipate was the incredible backlash he's getting from within the establishment Republican Party. He's worried about the 2017 congressional leaders saying, no, we're not going to fund this. He's thinking, I'm going to push as hard as I can to build that wall. He'll figure out a way but he'll try to get Mexico to pay for it.
BOLDUAN: Go, go.
PRESTON: I was going to say, look, Donald Trump's campaign has been based upon the fact that I am the smartest, can get things done, get out of my way, I'm going to steam roll you. If his concern now is 2017, then it seems like there is going to be a change in his campaign.
BOLDUAN: There might be some reality setting in, Edward.
ESPINOZA: Then why is he worried about Congress not paying for it if his whole promise was Mexico's going to pay for it? What this all comes back to, it doesn't matter who's running the campaign, you always still have the same candidate. And no matter who's helping the candidate, the question is, can the candidate help himself from saying things off script that don't make any sense? Can he stay on script when people put him there? He didn't do it at the convention. Can he do it in the future? The answer is no. And when you have to compare that to the alternative, which is Hillary Clinton, no wonder she's leading in the polls. She's a much more disciplined candidate with a disciplined campaign, and it's really, he's out of his league.
BOLDUAN: The best answer to that is, can he stay on message. You can never say 100 percent, but close to 100 percent. Maybe that's how we should now on.
Guys, thank you so much. Great to see you. Thank you all.
It looked like a presidential cabinet meeting, for sure. Trump holding a roundtable about national security. I'll speak live to someone who was there for that roundtable, for that cabinet-esque meeting. We'll ask her what she thought of it.
Plus, it's being called the worst American disaster since Superstorm Sandy and now one newspaper calling on President Obama to cut his vacation short as the devastation gets worse. We'll go there live.