Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Softens on Immigration, Attacks Clinton Foundation; New Polls Show Trouble for Trump; Explosion, Gunfire Reported Around American University, Afghanistan; Clinton to Speak on Trump's "Alt- Right" Movement. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 24, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I have to say, I find it interesting that conservatives would find it reasonable for Donald Trump to try to have an entire bait-and-switch in this. You know, he made promises to primary voters. That's really where he stands. He wants deportation. He attacked other Republicans for supporting, quote/unquote, "amnesty." And Andre just told us he would support a similar proposal. Donald Trump said it for 13 months. I think for voters, who do you think the real Donald Trump is, the person speaking for 13 months in this campaign or the person who, 70 days before an election, is losing and losing badly, and now tells people what they want to hear? That is the worst kind of politics. I wish conservative commentators would call him on it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Neera Tanden, Alice Stewart, Andre Bauer, thank you so much.

Coming up, more on our breaking news, a powerful earthquake hitting Italy now. Rescuers are digging people out from underneath the rubble. The death toll is rising. We're going to have a live update from a town that is now -- this is a quote from the mayor -- from a town "that is now gone."

Plus, we also have more breaking news. We were getting reports of an explosion and gunfire around the American University in Afghanistan. This is in Kabul. This is breaking just now. It appears to be an ongoing situation. We'll get the latest from Kabul, next.


[11:35:54] BERMAN: All right, we do have some breaking news out of Afghanistan and Kabul, a possible explosion at the American University in Afghanistan, an explosion and then reports now of gunfire. This is an ongoing situation there.

Let me tell you about the American University in Kabul in Afghanistan. About 1,700 students, our understanding, school is back in session. A university founded in 2004, began doing classes in 2006, about a five- acre campus there. Again, the title is the American University, Afghanistan. So you can understand now perhaps, to some, American University in Afghanistan might be a target.

We're trying to get more information about what is exactly going on there right now. It is ongoing. We were trying to reach someone on the phone. We'll bring you the very latest when that comes in.

Politics now. To give you a sense of where the race is for president, brand-new polls do show some trouble for Donald Trump. Missouri, which is the state won by Republicans in the last four presidential races and which Mitt Romney won by a lot in 2012, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a dead heat there. Virginia, which in the last couple of elections was seen as a swing state, no so swingy right now. The latest poll out of Virginia shows Hillary Clinton up by 19 points.

Joining me now is a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Those are polls which show Donald Trump trailing, Sarah. I know Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said yesterday he thinks by Labor Day or maybe a little past the polls will be tied or maybe Donald Trump leading. How?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, SENIOR ADVISOR, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, I think the exact way we've seen him moving up over the last couple of days. Every time you have a contrast between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, like we've seen over last two weeks, Donald Trump is moving up. Hillary Clinton has had a bad couple of weeks. Donald Trump has had a really good couple of weeks. People are sick and tired of the scandal and corruption that follows Hillary Clinton. And the more and more that comes to light, the more and more Donald Trump is moving up.

I think when you look at the biggest issues that Americans care about, the economy and national security, they trust Donald Trump every time on those two issues. When we get to the ballots in November and people are voting on the economy and national security, Donald Trump is going to beat Hillary Clinton. I think you're going to see a lot of that contrast and that first debate. I think Donald Trump is going to put Hillary Clinton in a tough position. She is not nearly as prepared, I don't think, as she probably feels like she is for that first debate.

BERMAN: So I talked to you yesterday. I had the honor of talking to you twice in 24 hours, which is wonderful. We talked a lot about the Clinton Foundation yesterday. I know you have concerns about the Clinton's relationship with the foundation and also with the State Department.

But I want to ask, in the interest of transparency here, because you talk about "Pay-to-Play" and conflicts of interests, do we know how a President Donald Trump would handle the transparency and handle the division between his business empire and the White House should he get elected? I mean, he said he's going to turn his company, all of the companies, over to his kids. Is that a solid enough line there? How do you prevent conflict of interest?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, I think Donald Trump's one of the most transparent presidential candidates we've ever had. He's not afraid to face the American people. He's not afraid to face the press. He does more interviews and sits down with the press and also with people from all over the country, day after day. It's been -- BERMAN: But the question is --


HUCKABEE SANDERS: -- almost an entire year since Hillary Clinton has set down for those same type of questions --


BERMAN: And we would love to see a press conference with Hillary Clinton. But my question right now is this: If, if you are concerned that people who donate to the Clinton Foundation could have influence on the State Department, how will a President Donald Trump prevent people who are doing business with the huge Trump corporation from having an influence on the White House? How will he draw those clear lines? We don't know.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Well, I think Donald Trump has been very successful without having to do that. He's never done that in the past. There's no reason to believe he would. The Clintons, on the other hand --


[11:40:53] BERMAN: Done what though? Done what exactly? Because, again, I'm talking about the future here. He is a very big businessman with a multibillion dollar business. He's going to turn the business over to his kids, right? So how do we know that people --


BERMAN: -- who did business with his kids won't be doing business with his kids to influence a Trump White House?

[11:40:15] HUCKABEE SANDERS: Well, I think that history does have something to say about this. Just because he hasn't been president, he has been in business for a very long time. And he's never had any "Pay-to-Play" type of scandal. On the other hand, you have a serious pattern of problems with the Clintons, with corruption following them back from their early days in Arkansas to where they are now. They're the only people in America I know that have gotten away with as much as they have. I mean, this is a --


BERMAN: But, Sarah, I don't know, first of all, as a business person, how you can have a "Pay-to-Play" scandal. We know, as a political donor, Donald Trump himself has said he spread money around because he wants to have access to politicians in the past. That's one of the reasons he's given money. So he certainly knows a little bit about how the process works. I'm just wondering if the campaign thinks they need to make clear now how they will draw these firm solid lines between a Trump White House and the Trump corporation.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: And I think that they certainly could draw those lines. I think the problem is the Clintons never did. I don't know that we're talking about a hypothetical when we have a real-life situation where there was an alleged line drawn and it was crossed over and over and over again. I mean, you have the A.P., who is hardly a right-leaning news source, that tells us that 50 percent of the people that Hillary Clinton met with outside of government were donors to the Clinton Foundation. That is an absurdly high amount of people and quite the coincidence. I don't think there's a reason to sit here and spend so much time talking about hypotheticals when we should talk about the actual scandal that took place. It's the reason why Donald Trump and other senior Republicans are calling for a special prosecutor to take a look into this. There's so much evidence here that, to ignore it, is just simply malpractice.

BERMAN: We haven't ignored the issues of the Clinton Foundation. We talked about it yesterday. Again, I was just trying to figure out lines that would exist going forward in the interest of transparency, in the interest of keeping the voters informed.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, it is always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you. HUCKABEE SANDERS: You bet. Thank you, John.

BERMAN: We do have breaking news to tell you about. Reports of a possible explosion and gunfire around the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. We'll have details ahead.


[11:46:54] BERMAN: All right, breaking news from Afghanistan right now in Kabul, a possible explosion at the American University of Afghanistan.

We're joined now by senior international correspondent, Nima Elbagir.

Hopefully, Nima, we have more details. We heard about an explosion and gunfire. What else are we learning?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is an ongoing standoff. It appears to be there are also hostages inside the building. An associated press photographer has been tweeting out desperate pleas for help. He's saying, "There are women here, they're crying. Please someone come in and get us." What makes the situation even more upsetting for those trapped inside is this is the second assault on the American University in Kabul, just within this month. And Australian and American faculty member were kidnapped at the beginning of August, on August 7th. That is still unresolved.

You can't help but think, even though at this point the assailants are unidentified, that when you attack the American University in Afghanistan that you are clearly seeking to attack the symbolism of what that represents. This was supposed to be a lasting legacy for America in Afghanistan. And it also is one of the few places, John, that can still attract foreign faculty members. It is ongoing. And it is a deeply upsetting situation for those caught inside.

BERMAN: Yes, some 1,700 students there associated with it. It opened its doors in 2006, about a five-acre campus there. Nima, to be clear, you're hearing reports from people on the ground of an ongoing hostage situation?

ELBAGIR: There are definitely people trapped inside and they are speaking about themselves as hostages. Whether this is the intent of the assailants, we still don't know. Their identities aren't clear and we haven't had any claims. But that's how it's being characterized by those attempting to survive it -- John?

BERMAN: There was a U.S. serviceman killed in Afghanistan yesterday. Clearly, very much a nation in conflict both in the battlefield and in the cities itself.

You mentioned the American University there being targeted recently with those professors who were kidnapped. Do we have any sense of what security precautions might be being taken at that university? With the name the American University in Afghanistan, you know it's the type of place that would be targeted.

ELBAGIR: Absolutely. As we had understood it, after the previous incident, that security had been really, really bolstered, especially as this is a very prestigious institution. Much of that prestige is derived from the ability to attract a certain caliber of faculty members from all around the world. They knew they were a target. They know they are a target. The fact their security was breached, this is something that will be very, very worrying for those faculty members and 1,700 students -- John?

[11:49:47] BERMAN: Very worrying, indeed.

Nima Elbagir in London for us, tracking this situation.

Again, the latest is reports of an explosion, reports of gunfire at the American University in Afghanistan in Kabul right now. Nima just telling us right now there are reports from people inside they're looking at this as a hostage situation as well. Obviously, this is very fluid. We'll get the latest developments.

We'll also talk about the earthquake in Italy and politics after the break.


BERMAN: Hillary Clinton speaks in Reno, Nevada, tomorrow. The topic you might be shocked to learn is Donald Trump. A Clinton aide says, quote, "The alt-right brand is embracing extremism and presenting a division and dystopian view of America which should concern all Americans, regardless of Party."

I want to bring in John Phillips, CNN political commentator and Donald Trump supporter; Bakari Sellers, CNN political commentator and a Hillary Clinton supporter; and John Avlon, CNN political analyst and editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast."

John, I want to start with you. Our friend, Matthew Dowd, says, that "Whoever this election is about between now and November, loses." So whoever his election is more about, loses. Whoever talks about more, loses. Two things. Is that what Hillary Clinton is speaking tomorrow. And I use that term, alt-right, without explaining. I wonder if you can explain to our viewers exactly what that means.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, alt-right is a term came out of the '08 campaign when a bunch of nationalist conservatives said the problem with the Republican Party was the Neo-Conservative establishment during the Bush years. So this particularly incubated online in a lot of sort of hyper-partisan forms. Some of the major themes being nationalism, some ethnic or racial nationalism, which is where the scene gets really ugly. But "Breitbart," under Steve Bannon, now CEO of the Trump campaign, has been a real champion of the alt-right, a real magnet for those readers and that vision of hyper- partisanship. So that's where this connection comes in and that's why Hillary Clinton will hit this message hard tomorrow.

[11:55:36] BERMAN: It is interesting, Bakari, because this comes as Hillary Clinton is giving a speech about Donald Trump and race, at a time when Donald Trump started talking about race a lot more during his campaign. We have sound from last night where he talks about it again last night. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I say this to the African-American community: Give Donald Trump a chance. We will turn it around. We will make your streets safe so when you walk down the street you don't get shot.


BERMAN: Now, I know, because I watch you on TV a lot, Bakari, that you don't like the way that Donald Trump is addressing minority voters right now. But the fact that Hillary Clinton is responding to it tomorrow, does that show some kind of concern on behalf of the Clinton campaign?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. In fact, I have to address two things. One, you actually give Donald Trump way too much credit when you say he is addressing race. No, Donald Trump is actually not. I think he is making these, quote/unquote, "appeals" to soothe the white people who believe he is intolerant. Donald Trump is not talking about criminal justice reform the way that even the way Rand Paul and Cory Booker have. Donald Trump is not talking about poverty the way Paul Ryan and Tim Scott have. So he's not talking about issues that directly affect the African-American community.

Number two, the alt-right movement -- and John Avlon, he defined it so eloquently. But today, if you go online, you see it embraces this white nationalism, which is very dangerous. "Breitbart" has become this website, and Steve Bannon, who is now CEO of the Donald Trump campaign, where racism is not only there but it flourishes, it grows. It is a dangerous narrative for someone who is running behind somebody who is running for president of the United States. And in Nevada where the state is so diverse, it is a good message to be.

BERMAN: John Phillips, you want to respond to this? Do you think there is a connection between the alt-right movement and Donald Trump, and do you think he is vulnerable there? JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right around the time that

Donald Trump is moderating his rhetoric, she has decided to paint him as a John Bircher. And she's doing it because the public is reminded that she was born without the ethics gene. And what you said in the intro is correct. She is trying to turn this campaign into a referendum on Donald Trump. Over the last month, she has been very successful at doing that. This week, the narrative changed, and we are now talking about her and the Clinton Foundation and e-mails and lack of drawing a wall between the State Department and Clinton Foundation. And she is doing whatever she can to knock that off the front page.

BERMAN: A couple things that came up during this show, I was talking to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, of the Trump campaign, and I was asking -- you are talking about, John Phillips, of the line between the State Department -- what about the line between the Trump family business and a potential Trump White House. If the kids, who are central to Donald Trump's political campaign, are running the business, John Avlon, doesn't it leave it vulnerable to foreign actors, anyone trying to influence the White House, to doing business with the Trump kids?

AVLON: Sure. But there are two key differences. One, this would be for-profit, not non-profit. And obviously, the Trump organization takes a lot of foreign money. That's been a source of a lot of questions around his business connections. The for-profit part takes the patina of charity off of it.

The biggest difference is that's a hypothetical. And Hillary Clinton's campaign has come under justified scrutiny because, as secretary of state, there weren't the kind of sort of absolute firewall separations there should have been. Politics is perception, and the Clintons should understand that. But if we want to get into the alternative future of a President Trump and his complicated relationships with money and foreign powers, good god, that would get weird quick.

BERMAN: All right. I have time for yes-or-no answers, literally nothing more from John and Bakari.

John, do you think Donald Trump is now supportive of some kind of legal status for some undocumented immigrants in the United States? Yes or no?

PHILLIPS: It's complicated.


BERMAN: Bakari Sellers, do you think he supports it, yes or no?

SELLERS: Shoulder shrug.


That's all I got. I don't know.

BERMAN: That says something, in and of itself. John Phillips, Bakari Sellers, John Avlon, thanks so much for being

here, guys. Appreciate it.


BERMAN: Thank you all so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR. A lot of breaking news out of Italy and now an ongoing situation in Afghanistan.

"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[12:00:06] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Welcome to "Legal View."

We're following this breaking news out of Afghanistan. Reports of an explosion along with heavy gunfire --