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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump to Blacks: Vote For Me and "You're Not Going to Be Shot"; Bill Clinton Defends Clinton Foundation Amid Controversy; Clinton Strategy: Link Trump to White Identity Movement; Death Toll Rises in Italy Earthquake to 159; U.S. Navy: Iranian Ships Intercept U.S. Destroyer. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 24, 2016 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:08] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, Trump tells black voters if he's elected president, quote, "You're not going to be shot." Is that a winning message? We're live at a Trump rally in Mississippi.

Plus, breaking news, Bill Clinton breaks his silence on the controversy surrounding the Clinton Foundation.

And more breaking news, Iranian warships in in extremely closing counter with the U.S. guided missile destroyer, all of it caught on tape.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Jim Sciutto in tonight for Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, vote for me and you're not going to be shot. That's the case that Donald Trump is making tonight to black voters. Trump saying that the Democratic Party has failed them and that they have nothing to lose by trying someone new. A highly-charged appeal criticized in part because so far he's delivered it to audiences who are almost exclusively white. But tonight he's speaking in Jackson, Mississippi. The city's population about 80 percent black. Earlier today Trump at a rally in the crucial swing State of Florida hammered home this new message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: To those suffering and hurting and the people left behind I say vote for Donald Trump. Vote for Donald Trump. What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose? It cannot get any worse, and believe me, I'm going to fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT tonight at that Trump rally in Jackson, Mississippi. So, Jim, what more can you tell us about Trump's message tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, we expect Donald Trump to continue that outreach to minority voters that we heard earlier today in Florida. It's an outreach that a senior Trump campaign adviser tells me is really part of an ongoing conversation. They say they are looking forward, not back, when it comes to that outreach and it's a new approach that can be summed up by the candidate that says, what do you have to lose?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With the polls showing he's in the single digits among African-American voters and trailing badly with other ethnic groups, Donald Trump is trying to hit a multicultural reset button.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to reach out to minority voters. You've been talking a lot about Hispanics and African-American.

TRUMP: I think we're doing really great with minority voters.

ACOSTA: At his rallies in recent days, Trump is making the case it's the Democratic Party that's taking advantage of minority voters.

TRUMP: I'll be able to make sure that when you walk down the street in your inner city or wherever you are, you're not going to be shot.

ACOSTA: Trump's new pitch comes as he's teasing ahead to a new and perhaps softer policy on illegal immigration. A change that could appeal to not just Latinos, but other voting blocs turned off by the GOP nominee's super charged rhetoric on the issue.

TRUMP: There's certainly can be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people.

ACOSTA: But even Trump's running mate Mike Pence could not describe what that updated policy will include.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Individuals who have committed crimes in this country are going to go and they're going to go very quickly, to be processed for a justice system and out of this country, and beyond that, I just think, you know, stay tuned.

ACOSTA: Still Trump's shift in tone is notable as he appears to be testing a new outreach to Muslims.

KHIZR KHAN, GOLD STAR PARENT: Have you even read the United States constitution?

ACOSTA: Just weeks after his clash with the parents of a fallen Muslim-American soldier, the Khan family.

TRUMP: Christians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, everybody, you've got out and vote.

ACOSTA: At the same time, he's continuing to pound Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton created an illegal, private e-mail server, deliberately, willfully and with total premeditation. Premeditation.

ACOSTA: That sounded like a wink to supporters who have raised bogus questions about Clinton's health. Even one of Trump's own surrogates says, both Clinton and Trump should fully disclose their health records.

BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're going to have to have a lot of stamina and the ability to process a lot of information quickly, and we want to make sure that both candidates meet those qualifications.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now one of the other big questions is why Donald Trump is even doing in Mississippi tonight, it is a reliably red state that he ought to win come November, Jim. But one thing we do know about tonight, a Trump campaign official tells us that in addition to hearing from Donald Trump tonight, we will hear from the British politician Nigel Farage who was one of the architects of the Brexit, that is Britain's exit from the European Union. Obviously the Trump campaign sees a couple of parallels with the Brexit. One is, they obviously would like to see a voter revolt here at the polls in the United States. The other one being they would like to see the polls be as wrong here in the United States as they were in Britain -- Jim.

[19:05:10] SCIUTTO: Also a joint anti-immigrant message there. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Tonight's rally also comes as new CNN poll show Clinton within reach of winning two states that went red in the last presidential election. In the crucial swing state of North Carolina, Trump and Clinton neck and neck there among likely voters. Clinton has a one-point lead and that is within a margin of error. In Arizona, a state that hasn't gone blue since 1996. Clinton within five points of Trump there.

Tom Foreman, he is OUTFRONT tonight.

So, Tom, as we were reporting there, Donald Trump spending a lot of time trying to win over minority voters. Do these latest polls give him reason to be optimistic?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These latest polls give him reason to keep working hard at it. Let's think about this, if you look at North Carolina out here in the last election, 2012, one in five voters there was African-American and right now that group is tilting very heavily to Hillary Clinton. Eighty eight percent support for her in this poll among African-Americans. Trump down here almost off the charts at three percent, even the libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson is doubling his performance in that state.

So, that's a real challenge for him there. What if you move out to the next place, Arizona out there which is normally a red state, as you noted. There if you look at Latinos which is a big voting bloc out there, again, 57 percent going for Clinton. Trump, less than half that amount at 20 percent down here. His pitch to minorities around the country really is to say, look, I'm an economy guy, I will bring jobs, I will bring opportunity, I will lift all boats with the rising tide of a great economy out here and in the two states we're talking about, many voters in the general population believe that, but the minority population does not. They believe Hillary Clinton can handle the economy better, too -- Jim. SCIUTTO: Tom, there's been consistency in many polls that those with

more education tend to lean Clinton. Those with less, lean Trump. Do these latest polls tell us more about that?

FOREMAN: They give us more details on that. If you take a look at here at North Carolina. Look at this. Among college grads they tilt toward Hillary Clinton, 55 percent toward 36 percent among white non- college grads, he absolutely crushes her here in North Carolina and if we go over here to Nevada, same thing. College grads, you have a little lead here. White, non-college grads. He's way, way out front of her and these are some of the biggest gaps on education we've ever seen in our polling -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Tom Foreman in Washington. OUTFRONT now, executive director of the New York State Democratic Party Basil Smikle. He's a Hillary Clinton supporter, former Reagan White House political director Jeffrey Lord, he is a Donald Trump supporter, also the former director of Black Outreach for President George W. Bush, Paris Dennard, he is a member of the National Diversity Coalition for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton supporter Neera Tanden.

Paris, if I could start with you.

PARIS DENNARD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure.

SCIUTTO: If you look at that poll in North Carolina, Trump currently at three percent among African-American voters behind even Gary Johnson. I mean, basically within the margin of error. What evidence does he have that he could win over a significant number of black voters with this message?

DENNARD: I think the message is working. Look, before the convention we saw polls that showed him at zero percent. And then a couple of days ago, we have polls that put him at one or two percent and now three percent. And I've also seen polls that show six to 14 percent. So, what I see is increase. What I see is momentum. Ronald -- excuse me, Governor Mitt Romney got six percent of the vote and that was in November. We have a lot of time and a lot of ground to make up and we're going to do it. The message that's connecting with the voters each time he speaks to the black community, his polls numbers rise. It will continue to rise.

SCIUTTO: Basil, I saw you shaking your head.

(LAUGHTER)

BASIL SMIKLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Listen, Donald Trump's outreach to me is ugly and it's abhorrent because as you alluded to earlier, he's had largely white supporters. Perhaps in an effort to assuage their concerns about whether or not he's doing enough to outreach to minority communities, he's doing -- he's behaving in the way that he is, but my problem with that is that he's throwing up every racial stereotype that he can muster in speaking about communities of color and there are a couple of other problems. One, he's doing it in largely in absentia without actually going to

those communities and without asking those voters for their support. Number two, one of the concerns I have is that in every major policy area where blacks have been historically discriminated against, instead of actually finding ways to create stronger ground between sort of government and the business community and African-American community, he's exacerbated those problems in much of his career. And if you look at Hillary Clinton she's got a significant record on racial, economic and social justice. So I don't think African- Americans should be fooled by Donald Trump's overtures.

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey Lord, let's just remind our viewers of some of the things that Trump have said that have not sat well to say the least with African-American voters so far in the campaign. Have a quick listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.

[19:10:22] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don't want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?

TRUMP: Well, just so you could understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don't know.

Look at my African-American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest? Do you know what I'm talking about?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey Lord, you hear those statements, why should black voters believe that Donald Trump is sincere now?

JEFFREY LORD, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, number one, let me just set the record straight if I can about the record of the Democratic Party. This is something I wrote eight years ago for "The Wall Street Journal." They had six platforms that supported slavery. Over 20 that supported segregation or they refused to even touch the subject. And on and on and on goes to --

SCIUTTO: And the Democratic Party --

LORD: And the Democratic Party -- wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. They just had a convention. They couldn't even bring themselves to apologize for slavery. I mean, so this is a party with horrendous --

SMIKLE: What are you talking about?

LORD: Wait. This is a party that they apologize for slavery?

SMIKLE: Did they apologize for slavery? LORD: Don't you think so?

SMIKLE: Well, sure, but the fact of the matter is -- but the fact --

LORD: And the answer is --

SMIKLE: No, that's a ridiculous --

(CROSSTALK)

That is a ridiculous argument! Those are the ridiculous argument, but what has the Democratic Party done for African-Americans? We elected the first black president. The first black mayor of the city of New York.

(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)

Someone that Donald Trump said wasn't even raised here. Come on!

LORD: It's soared in the Obama era. So --

SCIUTTO: The question -- this is a point about -- I hear your point about the Democratic Party and their record, but the question you did not answer is how do black voters hear the many messages from Donald Trump over previous months and then reconcile that with this current outreach.

LORD: What they are hearing from Donald Trump, and I think Kellyanne Conway is going to be helping because she worked for my old boss Jack Kemp whose book I hold in my hand, and he advocated a direct approach to the African-American community to go right into the heart of the community and talk economics, to talk jobs.

DENNARD: Right.

LORD: That's what we have to do and that's what Donald Trump is going to do. That's what he's all about here.

SMIKLE: Very quickly. Donald Trump is no Jack Kemp.

(CROSSTALK)

SMIKLE: I actually -- I actually -- I have followed Jack Kemp in his career. He was actually a reasonable individual. Donald Trump is no Jack Kemp.

LORD: Well, let me just say --

DENNARD: He's championing the message of Jack Kemp and that's what's important.

LORD: That's right. I remember coming out of the HUD Building one day and there were Democrats out there protesting with Jack Kemp was a racist which was just bizarre and a terrible thing to say.

SCIUTTO: Neera Tanden, I see you there, and I know you want to comment. What do you have to say?

NEERA TANDEN, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: It's hard to know where to start with Jeffrey Lord. Donald Trump started off his career attacking five innocent African-Americans in Central Park Five, he took ads out in that -- and that was 20 years ago.

DENNARD: Are we not talking about super predator?

TANDEN: He's been race baiting for --

DENNARD: Are we going to talk about the crime bill?

TANDEN: How most Americans know Donald Trump is through his attacks on the first African-American president. His attacks on his birth status. His vicious assaults.

DENNARD: They know him as a successful businessman.

TANDEN: And in this campaign he's attacked the civil rights discussion on policing and other issues, attacking people who have raised these issues. So the reality is that African-American community recognizes his -- that for 13 months he's been attacking civil rights heroes. He's been attacking the President and three months ahead of the election when he knows he's going to lose and lose badly all of a sudden he wants to do fake outreach, and I think it's actually an insult to the intelligence of African-Americans and the broader public who know his positions and have heard him over the last several years -- several months talk about really attacking several issues that African-Americans are concerned about. Right? Just in the last few weeks he's been talking about vote rigging and limiting the voting rights of African-Americans and others instead of expanding them.

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: The DNC knows a lot about vote rigging when you look at what they did to Bernie Sanders.

TANDEN: Sure. Sure. Let's talk about voting for everyone. If you care about voting rights for everyone, then let's have him talk about stopping these voting rights assaults in the courts right now. He could do that right now.

SCIUTTO: And Jeffrey and Paris, I know you have more to contribute. We will get back. We have the luxury of more time after this break.

OUTFRONT tonight, Donald Trump says shut down the Clinton Foundation. Tonight, Bill Clinton fights back.

Plus, Clinton linking Trump to a group called the alt-right. What exactly is it? We have a special report ahead.

And breaking news, a high-speed, high-stakes confrontation at sea. Iranian naval ships closing in on a U.S. guided missile destroyer.

Plus, as well, Italy's deadly earthquakes, rescue workers race against time to find survivors as the death toll is rising there. We will be live in Italy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:18:40] SCIUTTO: Breaking news. Bill Clinton fighting back. Tonight, he is responding to Donald Trump's allegations that Hillary Clinton sold access to the State Department through the Clinton Foundation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON (D), 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're trying to do good things. If there is something wrong with creating jobs and saving lives, I don't know what it is. The people who gave the money knew exactly what they were doing, and I have nothing to say about it except I'm really proud. I'm proud of what they've done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: This is part of the Clinton campaign's effort to push, to fight back against allegations of pay for play.

Our Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Hillary Clinton's campaign is firing back as pressure grows overpay to play allegations at the Clinton Foundation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that's a fair portrait, I think it's a misrepresentation of the data.

MATTINGLY: The campaign is attacking the Associated Press report that claims during the time she was secretary of state, more than half of the people outside government Clinton met with were foundation donors. But the campaign says, the A.P. analysis excluded meetings with foreign government officials.

ROBBY MOOK, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: To pull all of them out of the equation and cherry-pick a very small number of meetings is -- is pretty outrageous.

MATTINGLY: Her campaign is also defending the purpose and benefits of the foundation's work.

BRIAN FALLON, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: If any American voter is troubled by the idea that the Clintons want to continue working to solve the aids crisis on the side while Hillary Clinton is president, then don't vote for her. And I think most voters are pretty reasonable on that point.

MATTINGLY: The A.P. found no evidence of Clinton doing anything unethical and many of the people with whom she met were leaders of major charitable groups who have met with Republican and Democratic members of Congress. But the mere appearance of impropriety has given ammunition to Donald Trump as he continues to push for a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton ran the State Department like a failed leader in a third-world country. She sold favors and access in exchange for cash.

MATTINGLY: The review of donor access showing the presence of Ukrainian businessmen. Victor Pinchuk at a Clinton-hosted dinner. Pinchuk, a foundation donor had retained a lobbyist to arrange State Department meetings. It also showed a 2009 breakfast meeting attended by Blackstone Chairman Stephen Schwartzman, the firm, a major donor to the foundation. Schwartzman had requested the State Department's help on a visa issue. Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is trying to shift its focus back to Donald Trump.

JOEL BENENSON, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: I think if you want to be hammering somebody in this race day in and day out about disclosure, it's a man who put out a two-paragraph letter from a doctor, whose own credentials appeared bogus on his own letterhead and a man who has refused to release his tax returns.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And then as you see, the Clinton campaign is refusing to give an inch on this and you heard why from Bill Clinton. They believe the good the foundation does far outweighs the difficulties when it comes to politics. But those difficulties, they are very real and if you talk to Democrats as a lot of us have been doing all day today and yesterday, there is a lot of frustration here that this is an issue that Donald Trump has seized on, it's one that he's attacking on, it's one they're very concerned, he will successfully stick to over the next couple of weeks. You heard from the Clinton campaign. They're not backing down and they don't believe there's any truth to the report that's been driving this coverage over the last couple of days -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: All right. Phil Mattingly in New York. My panel is back.

Neera, Hillary Clinton facing what are major allegations here and yes, we have heard Bill Clinton push back as Phil Mattingly was saying there, but we haven't heard Hillary Clinton. She hasn't had a press conference in week, as you know and sit-down interviews with major media. Why is that? Why that silence?

TANDEN: She's not silent. The campaign has been very vocal on these set of issues and the only issue I would take with your reporting on this is that, it's not just the Clinton campaign, you have major news outlets, Vox, The Washington Post and other news outlets recognizing that this A.P. story was a distortion and cherry-picked a few people.

SCIUTTO: It's Hillary Clinton who is running for president. It's Hillary Clinton, he is running for president. Why aren't we hearing that message from the candidate?

DENNARD: Right. Right.

TANDEN: Her entire campaign is talking about this. I'm sure you'll hear about it from Hillary, as well. She has a speech tomorrow and she'll be speaking over the next couple of days. I think the reality here is that this is a Trumped-up charge by Donald who just to recognize the idea that Donald Trump is talking about pay to play about anyone when his campaign, we just learned, just booted up the price of the rent they were charging the campaign that goes to line his pockets during this campaign.

Something where he is directly benefiting right now, where he has banks from China to Goldman Sachs who are essentially he's in debt to, but he will not stop those debts. He will not outline that for the American people. It is a ridiculous charge. What you see here is Republicans, conservatives going after the Clinton Foundation which has done a lot of good for a lot of people.

SCIUTTO: OK.

TANDEN: Its goal is to --

DENNARD: Jim --

SCIUTTO: Neera, i want to get Paris --

TANDEN: No, its goal -- let me just finish.

SCIUTTO: I want to get Paris a chance to respond because we don't have a lot of time.

TANDEN: Eleven million people in Africa have actually benefited and that's an important go.

DENNARD: Hey, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Paris.

DENNARD: There's an important thing about this whole part. Neera has commented more about this than Hillary Clinton. We've heard the defense from her and from the rest of the campaign, but while she is going --

TANDEN: And he'll hear from her.

DENNARD: While she is going around fundraising and remaining silent about her pay to play allegations which are good and factual, we see Donald Trump -- we see Donald Trump meeting with the black and African community and --

(CROSSTALK)

SMIKLE: There is no pay to play.

DENNARD: -- and Hispanics like he's doing tomorrow at Trump Tower at 10:00 a.m. We see him going to the black community like in Jackson, Mississippi where it's the heart of the biggest HBCU Jackson State University right there.

SMIKLE: You know what? We do not hear from Hillary Clinton because she knows that this is a true charge which goes back to what they did while they were in the White House, pay for play and partisan in the Lincoln bedroom. The American people know that at the end of the day things do not stick to Clinton.

(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)

DENNARD: -- Before we go. Basil, go ahead.

SMIKLE: We talked about this, no pay to play. There is no pay to play. I can't say it anymore plainer than that, and even in the A.P. reporting, it's sort of undermined its own report by basically saying that there was no pay to play.

DENNARD: We saw emails. We saw emails from the Clinton Foundation requesting meetings for State Department.

SMIKLE: You saw e-mails and made conclusions that couldn't be made. There is a --

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: At least we have emails that weren't deleted. At least we have those.

SMIKLE: Coming from the Trump campaign.

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey to you, just a quick point. Donald Trump calls the Clinton Foundation in his words, the most corrupt enterprise in political history but he gave them $100,000 and his campaign spokesperson acknowledged they do good work. Is that hypocritical?

LORD: I think they do some good work and I think that he along with a lot of people gave money thinking that's what was going on. To the best of my knowledge Donald Trump never met with Secretary Clinton asking for a favor from the State Department.

SMIKLE: He's actually running against her and lying about it.

LORD: Yes. Let me just say here. Back in 1996 I wrote a piece for "The Wall Street Journal," Ross Perot when it was raised with Bill Clinton and Bob Dole accused the Clinton White House of exactly this. I looked into it and found out that a drug dealer had gotten into the White House after making a $20,000 contribution and was there at a Christmas Party hosted by Hillary Clinton.

DENNARD: Unbelievable.

LORD: And they said, well, we have no idea how the guy got in. He got hit $20,000, that's how he got in.

SCIUTTO: We'll going to have to leave it there. Unfortunately. But I do want to thank Neera, I want to thank Paris, Jeff, Basil, as always.

OUTFRONT next, Hillary Clinton tying Donald Trump to a White nationalist movement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about us having a home, a place where we can be with people like ourselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Like ourselves, and more breaking news. Four Iranian war ships in an extremely close encounter with a U.S. guided missile destroyer. It is all on videotape. That story coming right up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:42] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

Donald Trump about to take the stage in Jackson, Mississippi, where he will make his case to black voters there. But Hillary Clinton is highlighting the Trump campaign's ties to a far right-wing movement that focuses on white identity, some of the rhetoric downright racist. It's called the alternative right.

Our Brian Stelter is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Donald Trump says he is seeking minority voters --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And I think we're going to do great with African-Americans and with the Hispanics.

STELTER: -- Hillary Clinton is trying to tie Trump to the so-called alt-right, a movement often associated with white nationalism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Propelling the term alt-right into the national spotlight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Explain to us what alt-right is.

STELTER: The answer depends on who you ask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a dressed-up version of the American neo- Nazi movement, to be honest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mainstream media is portraying the alt-right as a mob of unruly, racist, bigoted, sexist, uneducated white males.

STELTER: Breitbart.com, the website chaired by Steve Bannon has proudly led the job. Last month, Bannon told "Mother Jones", "We are the platform for the alt-right."

Now, Bannon is the Trump campaign CEO and Clinton is seizing on the connection, calling the alt-right disturbing and extreme.

So, what is it, exactly?

PAUL RAY RAMSEY, BLOGGER: It's about us having a home, a place where we can be with people like ourselves.

STELTER: This video blogger says the movement which started online several years ago is about ethnic nationalism, race, specifically the sense that white identity is under assault in America fuels the alt- right, which stands opposed to both progressive and mainstream conservative thought.

Supporters say they're not racist or divisive, but that is what some critics charge.

CHARLIE SYKES, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I've spent 20 years trying to say that conservatives are not racists and we're not misogynists. You know, this is not what we stand for. And now, suddenly, we have the Republican nominee who has become associated with some of these darkest elements of American politics.

STELTER: Trump is a favorite of the mostly young, mostly white men who identify as alt-right.

TRUMP: We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.

STELTER: Nativism and even racial separatism are themes of at-right websites that embrace Trump, but some of the loudest adherents say they are just being provocative.

Milo Yiannopoulos has been a face of the movement through social media stunts, though he has been banned from Twitter. He is cheering on Trump.

MILO YIANNOPOULO, EDITOR, BREITBART NEWS: He represents the best hope we have of smashing correct political correctness apart, of breaking open, you know, all of the taboos and the stuff you're not supposed to say, allowing real debate to be had again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: Some of his supporters of the mostly online movement say they're bringing new energy, new passion to a party who needs it. But the passion of the fringe websites and fringier than Breitbart come across as sexist, racist and anti-Semitic and I'm sure that's what Clinton will bring out tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: No question. Brian Stelter, please stay with us.

OUTFRONT now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, Boris Epshteyn, he's senior advisor to the Trump campaign, and Karine Jean- Pierre, she's the national spokesperson for moveon.org. She's also a Hillary Clinton supporter.

Boris, I want to respond to Brian's piece there. You've seen this group and they want a country where they can be with people like themselves. Pretty clear they're talking about white people.

BORIS EPSHTEYN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: There's absolutely no connection between whatever these groups are and the Trump campaign. Zero connection whatsoever. And the piece was maybe interesting in reporting on some particular websites, but there is absolutely no connection. The Trump campaign has repeatedly disavowed any racist statements, any racist, any white supremacists and so on and so on.

And if you want to talk about a movement, Donald Trump has a movement, and it's a movement to make America secure, make America successful again.

SCIUTTO: Did he disavow the alt-right moment?

EPSHTEYN: He disavows racist, white supremacist. This alt-right movement is a term that's coined by the left to again, attack Donald Trump in some way, and really today to take the point away, to take the attention away from the horrible week that Hillary Clinton has had.

SCIUTTO: Brian, your reporting and I want Karine --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Hillary Clinton is using this to take attention away from some of her own controversies. It makes sense --

EPSHTEYN: With your help.

STELTER: -- for her to be giving this speech tomorrow.

It's not with our help, however. She is choosing to give this speech. The alt-right terms is almost a decades old, but it needs to gain attention because Donald Trump has hired Steve Bannon, the head of Breitbart to run his campaign.

[19:35:02] And that website and other websites that are fringier than Breitbart do provoke racial resentment. It's not just about racism, it's about racial resentment.

EPSHTEYN: You have no evidence of any connection with any of those websites and Donald Trump. Any at all, relationship between Donald Trump and the campaign and any of those other websites that you're talking about. None at all. And you know that, Brian. You know there's not connection.

SCIUTTO: Karine, do you buy that defense?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Breitbart is known for being a dumpster fire for racism, for sexism, for all of the types of hatred that is connected to the Trump campaign because he now has hired the CEO of Breitbart to now be the CEO of his campaign. There is a connection, Boris, and it's clear.

And you know what? For her speech tomorrow, she doesn't have to go far. All she has to do is click on Breitbart.com and look at all of the hateful headlines.

(CROSSTALK)

EPSHTEYN: It's just a website. Mr. Bannon is a businessman. He also worked at Goldman Sachs. And Goldman Sachs gave a lot of money to Hillary Clinton.

JEAN-PIERRE: Who you choose to run your campaign says a lot about how you're going to govern --

(CROSSTALK)

JEAN-PIERRE: How you're going to govern as a candidate.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I just wanted to add in here that I spoke to a source who is familiar with the speech who made it a very specific point about it being broader than race.

STELTER: Right.

BASH: Obviously, you talked about and you've all talked about the allegations of having a sort of racial hatred underlying a lot of this. But she's going to talk about hatred more broadly that she will insist is not just about Bannon or about Breitbart.

What the key thing that we are -- I am told to look for tomorrow is, as you can imagine -- Hillary Clinton to tie that into Donald Trump. To say --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: No, no, no, but of course, to specifically to say it's not about Bannon and it's about Donald Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: -- this is relevant because it relates also to the immigration debate, this is just coming in. Donald Trump gave a town hall tonight on FOX News with Sean Hannity. As you know, for months, Donald Trump has said that anyone here illegally in the United States and illegal immigrants and undocumented workers will be deported and here's what he's saying in part, quote, tonight, as he changes that position. I'll read it.

"I've had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me and they said, Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who has been here 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it's so tough, Mr. Trump, I have it all of the time. It's very, very hard thing."

Boris, yet again, it sounds like he is backing off what was a key part of his campaign message.

EPSHTEYN: Well, the key part remains, and that's when he becomes president, all criminals who are -- illegal immigrants who are criminals will be deported. And under Barack Obama, under the Obama/Clinton --

SCIUTTO: That's different from what he's saying.

(CROSSTALK)

EPSHTEYN: -- 100,000 criminals have remained in this country, illegal immigrants.

SCIUTTO: But that's a different point because initially he said anybody who is here illegally, not just ones who you throw --

EPSHTEYN: He's said throughout the campaign that he will make sure that once we get out all of the illegal immigrations who are criminals then he will approach the rest of the illegal immigrants in a humane manner that's in line with --

SCIUTTO: It sounds like he's saying they can stay in the country.

EPSHTEYN: That's not what he's saying. He's saying the policy is being determined as we speak. But again, it will be in line with --

SCIUTTO: The person who has been here for 15 and 20 years, to throw them out, is so hard, Mr. Trump.

Is there any other way to interpret those comments?

EPSHTEYN: The way you look at it is that's one of the considerations. Of course, they're families and you want to treat people humanely. He said that from the beginning of his campaign.

BASH: He did, he did. I went back and looked at an interview I did in July of 2015, a month after he announced, and he did talk about humanely. However, you're exactly right, Jim, he talked about the fact that everybody will have to leave. Mass deportation.

SCIUTTO: This is different.

BASH: And, you know, and then eventually, he called it a deportation force. He said the good ones, these are his quotes, and the bad ones. The good one, he said would be able to come back in and not the bad ones. This very much appears to be different about letting people stay, which is what so many of his Republican opponents in the primaries supported and got hammered for.

SCIUTTO: Karine, I want to give you a chance to respond.

JEAN-PIERRE: I think it's bigoted double speak. He doubles down with the group, his base and says hey, you know what? We're going to build a wall, we're going to deport undocumented workers, 11 million of them, who have been living in the shadow.

And then he turns around and he's like, oh, but we're going to do it in a humane way because he's winking and looking at the base that should be on the Republican side that he's hemorrhaging, which is the suburban moms, which is the educated voters. So, it's -- he's trying to do two things at once.

SCIUTTO: This is a point Charles Blow made in "The New York Times".

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, exactly.

EPSHTEYN: You alleged with the word bigotry, then you gave no examples of bigotry. This is a candidate right now who has been on the campaign trail. He's been talking to people, he's been experiencing the campaign trail and part of his press conferences, and Hillary Clinton and then --

(CROSSTALK)

EPSHTEYN: Hold on, let me finish now. And he's sticking to the key of his policy which is deporting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes and then you're saying that the rest of the policies --

SCIUTTO: We're going to have to leave it there. Apologies, Boris, and Karine, thanks very much as well. Brian and Dana, my colleagues here as well.

OUTFRONT next, we are standing by for Donald Trump about to rally his supporters in Mississippi.

Plus, the breaking news, Italy's deadly quake overnight and rescue workers desperately searching for survivors now. We'll be live in Italy.

And more breaking news: Iranian naval ships closing in on a U.S. guided missile destroyer.

[19:40:02] We'll have more details on that after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:44:00] SCIUTTO: Breaking news. A race against time to find survivors in that deadly earthquake in central Italy. Just moments ago another powerful aftershock.

The 6.2 jolt was felt as far away as Rome, 100 miles from the quake's epicenter. At least 159 now dead, more than 1,000 people displaced.

Our Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT in Amatrice, Italy, the epicenter of the quake.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The deadly 6.2 magnitude quake struck in the middle of the night. The small town of Amatrice around 90 miles northeast of Rome near the epicenter devastated. Amid the rubble, the town's clock tower is still standing. Frozen in time, 3:37 a.m., the moment the quake hit.

Amatrice's mayor telling CNN, quote, "The town is no more."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): It was very scary. There was a huge tremor. Everything was moving and we were not able to get up. There was no light. Nothing, no one to rescue us, no one came to our rescue.

PLEITGEN: Most of the three-story building in the picturesque little villages pancaked, buried under tons of concrete, a survivor.

"Are you able to breathe?" the rescue worker asks. The desperate answer, "Only a bit".

CNN's Barbie Nadeau was broadcasting live from nearby Saletto with rescue workers on the roof of the damage, suddenly, there is a roar.

Fortunately, no one appeared to be injured at the home next door collapsed.

Residents, some still in their pajamas dug with their bare hands to find survivors. The arrival of heavy-lifting equipment delayed and blocked by debris.

Amatrice was preparing for its annual food festival, the town's population swelled by tourists.

EMMA TUCKER, SURVIVED EARTHQUAKE: The house was trembling, shaking and it got more and more intense. It was actually an appalling noise, clinking, thundering, sort of rumble. It felt like someone put a bulldozer to the house to try to knock it down.

PLEITGEN: The death toll continued to rise throughout the day. Here, a lone dog searches through the wreckage of the homes in the nearby town of Arquata del Tronto.

EMILY CHIESA, WITNESS: All of the houses are gone. There are no houses anymore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And, Jim, the rescue crews are still searching, hoping to still find survey offers and there are instances where they do. There was one 8-year-old girl who was pulled from the rubble earlier. People here are very happy about that.

I was also on the scene when another man was pulled from the rubble. He'd been there for hours, as well. But, unfortunately, as much as the rescue crews are searching, they most often come across dead bodies. We were on the scene of one site where two dead bodies were pulled from an absolutely destroyed building.

And, of course, that's something that hits these close-knit, small communities very, very hard. We've seen people who have broken in tears. Nevertheless, the rescue workers still continuing to push on.

SCIUTTO: Let's hope more signs of hope.

OUTFRONT next, breaking news: a standoff on the high seas. Why were these Iranian war ships zeroing in on the USS Nitze.

And Jeanne Moos on the war of words between Donald Trump and Cher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHER, SINGER/ACTRESS: And I think that if breaking news ever happened and he had to go to the podium, we would all just go (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:51:08] SCIUTTO: And breaking news, an extremely close encounter on the high seas. The U.S. Navy says that Iranian ships conducted a high speed intercept of an American warship. Here is a dramatic video, just in to CNN.

You can see the ships closing in on the guided missile destroyer, as they tried to reach the Iranians by radio, 12 different times, they fired 10 flares, no response. It wasn't until the last minute when they were 300 yards apart that the Iranians finally slowed down and turned away.

CNN military analyst, General Spider Marks, OUTFRONT tonight.

General, I want to put the video up again as we talk about this. As -- if you're a captain of this ship, this is no small thing, right?

GEN. SPIDER MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No, not at all.

SCIUTTO: They're very worried about small boats threatening U.S. war ships.

MARKS: Well, it's happened before.

SCIUTTO: USS Cole.

MARKS: Yes, absolutely, Strait of Hormuz, international waters are always contested and but this is international waters and thank goodness the Navy is so incredibly well-trained, they act with discipline. And what see from the Iranians is quite odd especially on the heels of $400 million release of our hostages, nuclear deal, this is how they say thank you.

So, thank goodness we've got captains in charge of ships who know what they're doing and they followed all the procedures. They blasted the horns. They fired off flares which are internationally accepted signs when you're trying to figure out the intent of another vessel.

SCIUTTO: Let me -- let's get to a tent here, because this is just the latest of the string of incidents. You had them taking U.S. sailors last year. You remember that.

MARKS: Yes.

SCIUTTO: They took for a time a U.S. commercial ship in these same waters. Are they trying to spark a conflict?

MARKS: I think you would have to assume on certain level -- yes, they'd love to see some escalation. It gives them free rein to do, to escalate themselves, to do something else.

Again, you can't really -- it's very difficult to understand intentions. But you have to be able to look at capabilities, you add to that whatever you can discern in terms of intention and it gives you a very good, very clear definition of what the threat is.

This is an existing threat in that part of the world. The United States is a routine presence. This is not abhorrent behavior.

SCIUTTO: These are international waters, commercially, you know --

MARKS: And the U.S. has been patrolling that part of the world forever.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting. On that point of intent, it's difficult to judge intent. That's true for the captain because he's there and he's got to protect his ship, it's a difficult decision to make whether to fire or not.

MARKS: Oh, absolutely. He doesn't want to escalate. Force protection is rule number one. Every unit that's deployed, irrespective of the service, has force protection as rule number one. So, you've got a captain of the ship who is trying to observe what's going on and trying to discern what this intent is and at the same time, he has a ship of sailors and he's going to protect them. He's got the obligation to do that.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MARKS: And he walks up to the line and the Iranians are pushing that line and they're poking us in the eye. So thank goodness, we've got disciplined U.S. sailors.

SCIUTTO: U.S. naval destroyer right there, very close encounter there.

General Spider Marks, thanks very much, as always.

MARKS: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos with Cher versus Donald Trump. And it's getting ugly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:56] SCIUTTO: Hillary Clinton has a new attack dog on the campaign trail. A surprising one.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Forget Sonny and Cher.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Think Hillary and Cher.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: The 70-year-old singer has gotten on her high horse lending a hand to Hillary and aiming big guns at Donald Trump.

CHER: I think he's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) idiot.

MOOS: Cher was dispatched to her gay fan base, fundraisers in Miami, Fire Island and --

ANNOUNCER: Please welcome to Provincetown, Cher!

(CHEERS)

MOOS: Even lookalikes in drag showed up. Cher mocked Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

CHER: He means he wants to make America straight and white.

MOOS: To compare Trump's reading from a teleprompter to a children's book.

CHER: It's like a racist "Fun with Dick and Jane".

MOOS: In front of the mostly gay audience, Cher even nitpicked the Donald on how he says --

TRUMP: Our LGBTQ citizens.

MOOS: It's like he just learned it, you know?

TRUMP: LGBTQ.

MOOS: It's a little like he's taking an eye test.

Cher sang Hillary's praises though she did concede.

CHER: She's not the greatest speaker in the world.

MOOS: The Donald is no Cher fan. He's tweeted she should spend more time focusing on her family and dying career.

When she tweets about him, she uses a toilet emoticon rather than Trump's name. She never runs out of bad names to call him.

At the fundraiser, she raised the specter of President Trump --

CHER: I think that if breaking news ever happened and he had to go to the podium, we would all go (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

MOOS: Trump supporters fired back. "Cher is way past her expiration date, time to dump her in the trash." Cher's response, "Had I known I'd get such vicious hate for supporting Hillary, I would have done it anyway."

Bang, bang, these two like to shoot each other down.

TRUMP: Cher is somewhat of a loser. She's lonely. She's unhappy.

CHER: I just think he's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) idiot. MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Don't mess with Cher. Thanks for joining us tonight.

"AC360" starts right now.