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Trump: Democrats Are Playing The Race Card; Congressional Black Caucus Slams Trump's Birther Admission; Trump: Clinton Doesn't Want Guns, Let's See What Happens to Her"; Michelle Obama Slams Trump's Birther Comments. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 16, 2016 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:10] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. Donald Trump says the racist card is being used against him as he finally admits the President was born in the United States and says Hillary Clinton started the birther conspiracy.

Plus, as Clinton's lead over Trump's disappears Michelle Obama hits the campaign trail coming out swinging and, Donald Trump says, he won't release his tax returns because he's under audit. Is he? Where is the proof? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Donald Trump speaking for the first time since admitting President Obama was born in the United States slamming Democrats at this hour saying they are the ones playing the race card.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What they do is they spear opponents and you look at her history. And they question policies. And they talk all the time about racists, racists. The only word they know. They used it on Romney. They used it on everybody. They use it. When they are in trouble they always pull out the racist word and they are in very big trouble, I have to tell you.


BURNETT: Earlier today, after five years of questioning the President's birthplace including a new interview released yesterday, Donald Trump called a press conference at his newest Trump hotel to make what he called a major statement.


TRUMP: Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.


BURNETT: Now Clinton of course never said any such thing. Today she fired back at Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: For five years he has led the birther movement. To delegitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history. Barack Obama was born in America, plain and simple. And Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology.



BURNETT: Now, of course just to remind everyone, Donald Trump didn't push the birther theory just one time. Not even two times. He said he finished it. But he did this over and over again for five years. Here is just some of what he said.


TRUMP: There's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like.


TRUMP: I'm starting to wonder myself whether or not he was born in this country.

It is one of the greatest scams in the history of politics and in the history period.

His grandmother in Kenya said, oh no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed the birth. Now she's on tape and I think that tape is going to be produced fairly soon.

Barack Obama should end this and he should provide the public with a birth certificate.

A lot of people feel it wasn't a proper certificate.

I walked down the street saying, please don't give up, please don't give up on the whole thing with birth certificate. Who knows about Obama?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: His mother was a U.S. citizen. Born in Kansas. Was he natural born citizen?

TRUMP: Who knows? Who cares right now?


BURNETT: Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT in Miami tonight where Trump just wrapped up his last event of the day. And Jim, it has been five years. Why today? Why today?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the question, Erin, we should point out Donald Trump is speaking right now at this rally in Miami. He's not addressed the controversy so far but he is trying to take back that falsehood that he has spread for years that President Obama was not born in the United States. And campaign advisors have told me that they have been wanting to get this out of the way for a while now. But Donald Trump did just the opposite today.

TRUMP: Nice hotel.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Today Donald Trump wants the leader of this nation's birther movement finally came out and said he accepted the truth that President Obama was born in the U.S. but in doing so, he told more whoppers.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.

ACOSTA: Trumps claim that Hillary Clinton is responsible for one of the nation's worst political smears is false. Same goes for a statement that he ended the birther controversy. That is not remotely true. As Trump was considering a run for president five years ago, he brought it up.

TRUMP: Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?

ACOSTA: Time and again.

[19:05:05] TRUMP: I've been told very recently Anderson that the birth certificate is missing.

ACOSTA: Even after President Obama release his birth certificate of the country in 2011 --

TRUMP: A lot of people did not think it was an authentic certificate.

ACOSTA: No surprise when asked for his reaction to the news that Trump was acknowledging reality the President was not impressed.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I was pretty confident about where I was born. I think most people were as well.

ACOSTA: As for Clinton, she slammed Trump's attempts to blame her as a disgrace saying in a series of tweets, Trump has spent years pedaling a racist conspiracy aimed at undermining the first African- American president. He can't just take it back.

CLINTON: Barack Obama was born in America. Plain and simple and Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology.

ACOSTA: Trump's birther reversal counts as he's trying to reach out to African-American voters a key voting block that overwhelmingly supports Clinton. It was a surreal scene. Trump spent more time promoting his glitzy new DC hotel where he staged the event and listened to military leaders supporting his campaign, including one retired general who has always questioned Mr. Obama's citizenship, Thomas McInerney. LT. GEN. THOMAS MCINERNEY, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Thank you. It's

very simple. We're all warriors here.

ACOSTA: And Trump never addressed the question, why he's changing his mind now, ducking out as reporters were shouting for answers.


ACOSTA: And before he could say the words birth certificate, Erin, Donald Trump did start off another controversy at this rally here in Miami. When he talked about the issue of guns and Hillary Clinton. Here is what he had to say.


TRUMP: I think that her body guards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Right? I think they should disarm. Immediately. What do you think? Yes? Yes. Take their guns away. She doesn't want guns. Take their -- let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away. OK? It would be very dangerous.


ACOSTA: And in the words of Reince Priebus, the RNC Chair who was on the stage with Donald Trump earlier tonight, Erin, Donald Trump is not always politically correct. Truer words have not been spoken. Reince Priebus lending his support to Donald Trump on what was a very big, important day for his campaign. He tried to put this birth certificate issue behind him. It is unclear that that is what happened at all, Erin.

TRUMP: All right. Jim, thank you very much. And let's go to the Clinton campaign now.

Jeff Zeleny is there. And Jeff, Clinton campaign thinks the birther controversy is going help them in a couple of ways.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they do, Erin. I mean, first and foremost this Obama coalition we talk about so much. Largely African-American voters. Hispanic voters, young voters that propelled the President to victory in 2008 and 2012 is supportive of Hillary Clinton but not as enthusiastically. They believe this whole Trump controversy will help them in that regard and the early indications are that they're right.

So much anger from members of Congress. Black leaders, others, who are meeting in Washington this weekend. And they were following this Trump news very carefully. They say they are motivated to go back to their communities and remind voters what Donald Trump has done. In their view try, you know, he is trying to take away the, you know, the story of the first American black president here. So this is very personal to them. And the second way is this. The Clinton advisors have become worried, some of them that Donald Trump has started to seem more acceptable to some voters.

We've seen him rise in the polls nationally and in battleground states as well. That is the key objective for the Clinton campaign to make him not look acceptable. They believe by saying things like this, by having this attention on this birther controversy, which is ridiculous and everyone knows it is not true. They believe that makes it look like the Donald Trump of old. As opposed to the Donald Trump of the future.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff.

And OUTFRONT now, Trump supporter Pastor Darrell Scott, founder and senior pastor of New Spirit Revival Center. Clinton support, Bishop Corletta Vaughn, senior pastor of Holy Ghost Cathedral. Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst. And John Avlon, editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast and the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America" where he investigates the claims that Clinton was behind the birther movement.

And I want to get to that specifically in a moment. But first Bishop Vaughn. Donald Trump came out and said, President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Was that enough?

BISHOP CORLETTA VAUGHN, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: No. Absolutely not. It is not enough. And I'm almost positive that everyone within the African-American community feels the same way as I do. It was very dismissive. And very disrespectful. We really expected him to say more. We already knew that our president was an American citizen. So we were expecting more.

BURNETT: Pastor Scott, dismissive and disrespectful?

PASTOR DARRELL SCOTT, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: No. He stepped up to the plate, and said what he had to say and walked off. I mean, he's not going to grovel, he's not going to beg, he is not going to cry. And you know what, and people need to stop whining so much. Stop whining. You all want some cheese with that whine. Whining so much over this birth certificate stuff. It is over. It is done with. Quit trying to resurrect some old stuff. Trying to play the Trump card as the race card and bring this stuff up and make something out of it that it is not. It is over with. He shut the door. OK. I believe he's born in America. Now let's move on.

[19:10:32] BURNETT: Of course, John, this is not something that Trump had brought up and let go. Right? He brought it up again and again and again including multiple times this year.

JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Yes. I mean, look, this is not something that just can be dismissed as past news because his advisors want it to go away because there is politically inconvenient for a presidential election. Donald Trump has been selling this swill as the conspiracy entrepreneur for five years. It was the foundation of his -- in 2012. He's continued to sound those notes throughout the campaign and even in today's statement, he lied well telling the truth. You know, by saying it was Hillary Clinton who started it personally trying to deflect and then he ended it.

BURNETT: So let me ask you on that. And get everyone's reaction, you have looked into this claim. AVLON: Absolutely.

BURNETT: This claim. And what have you found?

AVLON: So, in my reporting back in wingnuts, you know, these conspiracy theories have different tributaries that lead to them. But what I followed was the source of the first lawsuit and the person who took credit for bringing it to the lawyer. It was a Clinton supporter out of Texas named Linda Star who was sort of an amateur opposition research, she was furious about the state of the primary like many Hillary Clinton supporters. She brought the suit to Philip Berg and they launched it right before the Democratic primary.

BURNETT: -- but you're saying not the Clinton campaign.

AVLON: Not the Clinton campaign. These were hard core, the Pumas, the hard core, you know, Hillary supporters who were furious that she lost the primary.


AVLON: It percolated but then it was picked up by conservatives and they have been carrying it ever since. First, Lou Dobbs on National Television, mainstreamed and it then Donald Trump did more than anyone else to keep it alive.

BURNETT: Pastor Scott, does he then as Hillary Clinton says owe an apology?

SCOTT: No, I don't think. Because it was not racial. It was political. It was political in his origination. It was political as it moved forward. It was simply a political maneuver. He used the same maneuver against Ted Cruz, questioning his citizenship. Nobody was asking him to apologize to the Canadians that are offended, the Democrats are playing on the emotions and emotionalism and the sensitivities of black Americans because they are afraid Donald Trump is making inroads into the black community. They are scared.

BURNETT: And we're going to talk about that very issue. The black community and the racist part of this in a moment. But I want to just play first Gloria the breaking news of what Donald Trump just said moments about Hillary Clinton and guns. Here he is.


TRUMP: I think that her body guards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Right? Right? I think they should disarm. Immediately. What do you think? Yes. Yes. Take tear guns away. She doesn't want guns. Take their -- let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away. OK? It would be very dangerous.


BURNETT: Gloria, obviously this echoes something that he said that got him in a lot of trouble last month. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: On the Second Amendment.

Yes. Look, I think Donald Trump was off script this evening. And maybe he wanted to change the subject. I don't think he wants to change the subject that way. But that is Donald Trump probably not reading off of a teleprompter. I think what we saw today and it's been alluded to before was an active political expediency. And the issue of birtherism and trafficking in these ridiculous conspiracy theories is what got Donald Trump onto the national stage.

And I think some of his political advisors who believe that it could derail him in his quest for the candidacy. And I think that is why you have heard adviser after adviser come out and say, including Mike Pence, say that I believe the President of the United States was born in Hawaii. And then finally they wanted to button it up. And they wanted to button it up because they didn't want it to come up in the campaigns. And Donald Trump was not willing to do that in his own way because he wasn't willing to apologize. Or to say I made a mistake. And he just came out there with one sentence. And you can't delete the history of what occurred over the last five years one, with one short sentence. And as a result, they have extended the controversy rather than ending it.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we have paused there. Thanks to all.

Next, Harry Reid calling Donald Trump a human leech. Trump firing back and mocking Reid. Wait until you see what Reid is saying tonight.

Plus, if Trump really is being audited by the IRS, where is the letter? Let's see it. And when it comes to Trump in transparency, these artists have something else in mind.


[19:18:28] BURNETT: Tonight the Congressional Black Caucus tearing into the Donald Trump flat out calling him a racist one by one for nearly 40 minutes. The Democratic members of the caucus leveling a series of personal attacks against Trump demanding he apologized for repeatedly saying, President Obama was not born in the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is nothing more than a two bit racial arsonist.

VAL DEMINGS (D), FORMER CHIEF OF POLICE OF ORLANDO: Donald trump is doing everything that he can to divide. He's a hater. He's a bigot. And he's a racist.

REP. BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN (D), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Trump has acted in a way that suggests he's a bigot.

REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D), CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: By innate definition, Donald Trump is a disgusting fraud.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: We will not elect a cheap bigot of the United States of America.


BURNETT: Manu Raju is OUTFRONT. And Manu, I mean, as we said, person after person for 40 minutes. You just spoke to the top Democrat in the Senate. What did he have to say about all of this?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. That is right. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, not known as someone who minces words. Remember, in 2012 he went after Mitt Romney day after day in the Senate floor falsely accusing Romney of not paying his taxes. But today when I talked to the Democratic leader, he called Trump a liar, a phony, an absolute fraud. He said he's one of the most immoral people I've ever had to deal with in politics. And he also let loose when I asked him about Trump's claim that Hillary Clinton's campaign started the whole birther controversy.



RAJU: Do you think criticism of Obama's citizenship questioning whether or not the President was a United States citizen, is that racially motivated in any way?

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: Of course it is but forget about that. Why has he let this drag on for years? And then the man has the audacity, the ability to lie like no one I've ever seen. Hillary is the one who brought it up. There couldn't be anything further from the truth. He's a liar. And I don't know if we should give any credence to anything the man says.


RAJU: Now, remember, Erin, Harry Reid working really hard to tie down tickets to Trump. Arguing that they are one in the same as he vigorously tries to win back the Senate majority. And when I asked him about polls showing the Senate majority possibly out of risk and Hillary Clinton losing, he sharply dismissed them calling them silliness and he said Donald Trump will, quote, "Never be elected president of the United States" -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. And I want to bring back Pastor Darrell Scott and Bishop Corletta Vaughn. Along with Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany and Clinton supporter Basil Smikle.

I want to start with you Pastor Scott. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Let's just go through some of the words here. Racist, bigot. Disgusting. Fraud. These are some of the words that they used today. Do they cross the line?

SCOTT: Yes. You know what I saw? I saw a lot of Trump haters calling Trump a hater. I saw lot of pots calling the kettle black. I mean, I saw them hurdling insults at someone they say they don't like him because he insults people. Now, you don't ever have -- you know, you can't take an offense as justification to her allow insults yourselves. So, you know, they are guilty of the hypocrisy that they accuse Trump of.

Stop whining Congressional Black Caucus. Stop crying and whining and move on and find something else to talk about in this election. Find some issues and policies to talk about rather than keep talk about old stuff. Listen, it is Trump's prerogative to believe what he wants to believe. If he wants to believe Obama was born on Mars that is his prerogative. Move on.

BURNETT: OK. Bishop Vaughn. Let me ask you on these issues. Disgusting, fraud, bigot, racist. Person after person, productive? The right thing to do? We are here in Washington, D.C., Erin, at the Democratic Black Caucus. We represent basically all of the policy makers and the politicians that represent predominantly the constituency of Africa-American people. And yes they were speaking the heart of their constituency. This is how we feel.

VAUGHN: It may not be accurate. But they represent a constituency and they said how the people feel. These people are talking to their leaders. They're talking to their policy makers. They're talking to their senators. Their congressman. They are talking and so they are repeating what the people are saying. They were absolutely in line and accurate.


BASIL SMIKLE, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, I tell you, it is imperative that we do not let Donald Trump perpetuate this lie. Hillary Clinton did not start it. He started it.

BURNETT: On the issue of the birther controversy but --

SMIKLE: On the issue of birther controversy --

BURNETT: But the crucial question. Is he a racist? Did you come out point-blank and go to that microphone and say, he's a racist, he's a bigot, he's a disgusting fraud?

[19:23:10] SMIKLE: I'm not a priest but everything he said to me is racist. Everything he said is bigoted. And let me be very clear about this. There was a time in our country when black people could not walk freely without showing their free papers. And Donald Trump pushed the sitting president of the United States, the first African- American to stand on a stage to reveal his birth certificate. What Donald Trump is saying is that, he is not one of us. And when you dovetail with that with his message about make America great again, that is why this is offensive.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: The message of, he is not one of us began with the Clinton campaign. Let's look at facts. I know before everyone goes crazy, let's look at the facts.

BURNETT: OK. Hold on. I don't want to re-litigate that though right now.


BURNETT: I mean --

MCENANY: The Washington bureau chief -- said it began with Sid Blumenthal who asked him to investigate, there's many things he could go through but --

BURNETT: OK. Since you brought it up, I will just give you a chance Basil to respond to that. OK. That is a report we have not yet confirmed.


Close Clinton advisor of then Washington Bureau Chief said Sid Blumenthal personally called him to pitch this story.

SMIKLE: I have no idea what's that's about. Hillary Clinton did not do it. The campaign did not do it. She has said that --


SMIKLE: She has not questioned whether or not the president at United States --

MCENANY: To me it worked. She did -- (INAUDIBLE).

SMIKLE: He did not do that. And the fact of the matter is that Donald Trump perpetuated this movement is a precursor to his campaign, which is not at all inclusive. So when -- so if the Congressional Black Caucus wants to get up there and say, you know, what, this man is racist, he's bigoted. Let him diffuse that. And so far he has not.

MCENANY: OK. So, Bishop Vaughn, just a moment ago speaking on that stage within the past hour, Donald Trump talked specifically about people saying that he's a racist and here is what he said about it.


TRUMP: That is a racist word, it is the oldest play in the Democratic play book and Americans have had enough of it. OK. We get it. We get it.


BURNETT: So, he's saying, it's a card. He is saying, they are playing the card on him. Bishop Vaughn.

VAUGHN: This is so ludicrous to me. We invited him to come and speak at the NAACP. He refused to come. We also invited Mr. Trump to come in DC to the Black women's agenda this morning, today. We were here. We wanted to hear from him. Mrs. Clinton, my candidate, accepted the invitation. Why would Mr. Trump not come to these very, very, very important moments with African-American people where he can continue to engage them? If he loves us if he wants us to vote for him, then why doesn't he come where we are? He was just in Flint a few days ago and again he had an opportunity to speak about the water crisis there. Instead he begins to bash Mrs. Clinton with this birther issue. He had to be stopped by an African-American pastor. He does not respect us. He does not honor us and he does not come near us to speak to us and engage us. That is why we continue to say that he operates as a racist.

BURNETT: OK. All right. Thank you all for being with me.

Next, Donald Trump says he can't release taxes because he's under audit. Is he?

Plus, Michelle Obama hits the campaign trail and is she now the secret weapon for Hillary Clinton?


MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: We also need someone who is steady and measured, because when you're making life or death, war or peace decisions, a President can't just pop off.



[19:30:49] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news just moments ago: Donald Trump making questionable comments about the Second Amendment and Hillary Clinton.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm, right? Right?

I think they should disarm immediately, what do you think? Yes? Yes. Yes.

Take their guns away. She doesn't want guns. Take them and let's see what happens her. Take their guns away, OK? It will be very dangerous.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now senior advisor to the Trump campaign, Boris Epshteyn, Hillary Clinton supporter Maria Cardona, here firm currently does work for a Clinton super PAC. Kayleigh and Basil are, of course, back with me.

Maria, your reaction.

MARIA CARDONA, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: I think this is up in there in the category of what he said about the Second Amendment, people taking care of Secretary Clinton. I think it's vile. I think it's putrid. I think it underscores something that the American people have looked to expect from Donald Trump, which is this kind of divisive, hateful rhetoric.

I don't think it does anything to help him reach additional vote which I know is something that his campaign is desperate to do. I think it brings him back to make sure that his message is under scored with his core supporters. That is what they like. Like political crack for them and he's giving it to them.

BURNETT: Of course, if you want to distract from the birther controversy, he has done it.

BORIS EPSHTEYN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: So, now, his supporters do crack? Okay. Are they deplorable, desperate and crack?

CARDONA: If you say so.

EPSHTEYN: He was being sarcastic just like when he said that President Obama received the important MVP from ISIS. Do you think he got an actual award? He didn't. Being sarcastic. It is Friday night. There is still a little room for levity.

But the actual message is this: Hillary Clinton is against the Second Amendment. She's against guns and he's saying guns are needed to protect us. And she's using armed security just as he is.


EPSHTEYN: Let me finish. Here is bottom line. Guns are an important part of society. That is what Donald Trump was speaking about.

He was being sarcastic when he made that comment. Everyone can agree about it. I'm sure you will whip yourself into a frenzy but there is nothing here.

BURNETT: We don't make jokes of someone shoot --


BASIL SMIKLE, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: -- guns away. Let's see what happens because I'm sure something dangerous will happen. That is what he said.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: OK. Everyone calm down. Clear about the principle he was trying to put forth. You have a candidate who is surrounded by guards and Secret Service, clad in guns and guns to protect her and yet that same candidate has questions the efficacy of the Supreme Court saying the Second Amendment means that a single mother can own a weapon to protect her family.

There's a deep irony here. Many Second Amendment advocates have said the same thing Donald Trump has said, which is this -- you can't surround with men clad in guns and then advocate taking away of --


BURNETT: Hold on. Go ahead, Basil.

SMIKLE: -- we're trying to normalize behavior and language that should not. That is the problem. (CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: Donald Trump is rising in the polls and you want to make that out is off the rails.

SMIKLE: For so many of us that talked about gun control, we understand getting, repealing the Second Amendment was a massive hurdle. That is not what we're talk about. That's not what we're talking about --


SMIKLE: I never said that. Stop that. I never said that. Don't do that again. What I said was what we talk about is having reasonable gun control. That's what Hillary Clinton is talking about. But when we start normalizing language like, well, let's take guns away from those that secure her and let's see what happens. --


EPSHTEYN: She's surrounding herself with people with guns, protection for what, 40 years? And.

BURNETT: There's a way to point out the irony that does not that incumbent of let's see what happens to her when the guns are away --


CARDONA: When Donald Trump says -- when Donald Trump says that Hillary Clinton is again the Second Amendment, that's another lie.

EPSHTEYN: So where are you on the Second Amendment?

CARDONA: Coming from the candidate who has been deemed by most fact checkers as the most dishonest candidate in --

EPSHTEYN: That's a talking point. Where is Hillary Clinton on the Second Amendment?


CARDONA: In this presidential, frankly in our modern history.

EPSHTEYN: I'm just asking the liberals here, where is Hillary Clinton on gun rights?

CARDONA: And secondly --


CARDONA: Sarcasm. He made light of it. You know what? This is a serious presidential race.

EPSHTEYN: I'm asking a serious question where is Hillary Clinton --

(CROSSTALK) CARDONA: I can tell you she absolutely supports the Second Amendment.

EPSHTEYN: OK. So, what's her proposal?

CARDONA: Her proposal says additional laws to protect gun owners, to protect --


CARDONA: Did I say that. That's desperation right there.


BURNETT: The conversation is very simply. It's whether he should have just said what he said the way he said it. That is what this conversation is about.


EPSHTEYN: Because there is not one thing he said in this campaign that the two of you haven't gotten whipped up in a frenzy about and said --


MCENANY: Hillary Clinton waits with bated breath listening to every syllable that comes out of Donald Trump's mouth waiting to turn everything into a controversy.


BURNETT: We hit pause.

Next, Michelle Obama on the campaign trail today.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: There were those who question and continue to question for the past eight years up to this very day whether my husband was even born in this country.


BURNETT: Plus, Trump says he doesn't want to release his tax returns because he's under audit. Where is the audit letter?


[19:41:09] BURNETT: First Lady Michelle Obama making her debut on the campaign trail, confronting Donald Trump for repeatedly questions whether her husband Barack Obama was born in the United States.


OBAMA: There were those who questioned and continue to question for the past eight years, up through this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country. Well, during his time in office I think Barack has answered those questions with the example he set by going high when they go low.


BURNETT: Is she the Clinton campaign's single best surrogate?

Michelle Kosinski is OUTFRONT.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a first in this campaign season. Michelle Obama, solo on the trail.

OBAMA: This time is really bittersweet for me. It is a time of real transition for me and Barack and our girls. My husband is gonna need a new job.

KOSINSKI: Her message in this battleground state of Virginia is recapping her husband's accomplishments, Hillary Clinton's qualifications and repeatedly slamming Donald Trump.

OBAMA: If a candidate is erratic and threatening, if a candidate traffics in prejudice, fears and lies on the trail, let me tell you, that is who they are.

KOSINSKI: But the first lady has long been a reluctant campaigner even when her husband was running. She quickly learned every word draws scrutiny.

OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country.

KOSINSKI: Makes headlines, even cartoons.

But today the confident first spouse seems more than willing to be herself.

OBAMA: Turn up for what?

KOSINSKI: Dancing on Ellen, poking fun at herself.

OBAMA: You are the president and I am your boo.

KOSINSKI: Speaking her mind.

OBAMA: I want to go to Target again.

KOSINSKI: It's worked. Her approval rating over 60 percent, by far the most popular person in her party, beating out both candidates, her husband and Bill Clinton. She electrified the convention in July.

OBAMA: I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

KOSINSKI: History has proven first ladies can make a big difference. In 1964, Lady Bird Johnson took a train through the south where the civil rights movement was deeply unpopular, campaigning hard. Johnson won.

In 2004, Laura Bush was seen as George W's secret weapon, humanizing him and making a personal case for protecting America.

Michelle Obama could help project the energy and enthusiasm needed for Hillary Clinton. So, why hasn't she within out there far more?

ANITA MCBRIDE, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO LAURA BUSH: Certainly, they would want her to do it more but she's got do what comes natural to her and where she feels authentic.


KOSINSKI: And we heard her hit Donald Trump pretty hard there. That surprised some people. But clearly even as the concerns of fist lady, the time has past to keep things 100 percent positive here. But we can expect to hear more on the trail from her as well as the president. His schedule has kept him from doing much to this point. White House sources tell us next month, he's going to be on the trail one to two days every week. He's going to focus on states where his help is needed the most -- North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, et cetera.

They are both going make the case that there is much at stake and you can't take anything for granted. You have to get out there and exercise your right to vote -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Michelle, thank you.

And next Trump refuses to release his tax return saying he's under audit. Is he?


[19:48:46] BURNETT: Tonight, the top Democrat in the Senate attacking Donald Trump on his tax returns. Harry Reid saying Trump is avoiding the issue because voters aren't buying what he's selling.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: You don't believe anything he says and certainly you don't believe the fact he's not going give us his income tax returns because there is an audit on every person of consequence says it doesn't matter if he's in an audit or not.


BURNETT: He may have a fair point there. Of course, Harry Reid lied last time around when he said Mitt Romney paid no taxes.

Still, though, there is a crucial question: where is the proof Donald Trump is being audited?

Kyung Lah has tonight's "Big Number".


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You heard it throughout his campaign. Why Donald Trump won't release his taxes.

TRUMP: I can't give them. I mean nobody would let you give them when you are under audit.

I'm releasing when we're finished. As far as the tax returns, as soon as the audit is complete.

LAH: But that's not what he promised to an Irish TV network in 2014.

TRUMP: If I decide to run for office I'll produce my tax returns absolutely. I would love to do that.

LAH: This week, pressure mounting interest Trump's own party.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I released mine. I think we should release those.

LAH: Trump's campaign did issue this letter from Trump's own attorneys, but not from the IRS, saying an IRS audit of his returns from 2009 and forward are ongoing.

[19:50:06] That is as far as the campaign pressure mounting interest Trump's campaign manager.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Will Donald Trump release anything from the IRS proving that he's under audit?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't know. Why? Are you calling him a liar?

CAMEROTA: Well we're taking his word for it.

LAH: So is there real harm during an audit to release tax forms or letters from the IRS?

Igor Drabkin was an IRS attorney for six years and now represents taxpayers against the IRS.

(on camera): There is always an letter informing the taxpayer.

IGOR DRABKIN, FORMER IRS ATTORNEY: In my process, there is always a letter informing the taxpayer of initiation of tax examination.

LAH (voice-over): That letter doesn't usually have any detailed private information. As far as the audited tax returns themselves, Drabkin says while he would not recommend Trump release every page, he could release the first two pages, simply showing income and taxes paid.

(on camera): Given all the heat he's getting, would you advise him as his tax attorney to release the first couple of pages?

DRABKIN: I think if he feels it is a matter of public disclosure, it is a matter of transparency, then I don't see much harm in releasing the first two pages of the return.

LAH: You use the word transparency.


LAH: Is that important here?

DRABKIN: I think it is important in our public discussion of potential presidential candidates.

LAH (voice-over): The IRS says under current privacy laws, it cannot comment on individuals. Legislation introduced just yesterday aims to change that. House Representative Jarred Huffman, a Democrat from California, calls it closing the, quote, "liars loophole".

REP. JARRED HUFFMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: It's a perfect lie if someone has the depravity to look the American people in the eye and just lie about a pending audit. The IRS can't say anything either way.


LAH: The congressman does admit that the legislation doesn't have much of a change of making it through the Republican controlled House, and we did reach out to the Trump campaign to see if anything had changed on the taxes. The campaign issued the same statement they issued before, Erin, that this was a routine audit a he would release the tax returns when that is complete -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you.

And OUTFRONT now our legal analyst, criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor, Paul Callan.

All right. Paul, so you've looked at this. There is no law who says he can't put this letter out. He would have a letter.


BURNETT: But a letter -- your point it would be very specific. It wouldn't just say hey we're looking at your taxes.

CALLAN: Yes, given the scope and diversity of his business operations, it would be shocking if he were not being audited or one of his businesses are being audited.


CALLAN: But these letters when they come in, they are rather specific. They would say, for instance, we're going to rook at your charitable contributions. You have submitted back up for these items, OK? All of a sudden, that would trigger a press story. Wait a minute, the IRS is auditing his charitable contributions.

BURNETT: So, the reason for the audit would be in the letter.

CALLAN: Yes, it would.

BURNETT: He may not want the reason -- CALLAN: And it may be they don't have any valid grounds to challenge

the deduction taken but it would create an issue in the middle of a political campaign. And I would tell you this -- no lawyer would advise a client to release tax returns while an audit is ongoing. You just wouldn't do it. The safe way if you are a lawyer is tell the client: listen, keep it quiet.

One other quick thing I want to add, Trump is the target of all kinds of lawsuits all over the country. This would be a pot of gold for people suing Trump. That is another nonpolitical reason you wouldn't release it.

BURNETT: That's right. And as you pointed out, as we have talked to, tax lawyers that we've talked to have agreed with Paul. They would advise a client not to release while under audit.

Up next, a former FBI agent missing in Iran tonight. His family desperate for answers going to the White House. They're my guests tonight.


[19:57:23] BURNETT: Tonight, Republicans pushing for a law to ban the United States from making cash payments to Iran. That would make what the White House did illegally when it gave Iran nearly $2 billion in connection with the release of five American hostages in the Iran deal.

President Obama addressed the nation when the hostages came home, noting that one American Robert Levinson is still missing. Tonight, Levinson is still not home. The retired FBI agent and CIA contractor is still missing for nearly a decade. His children are asking for answers, meeting with the White House and the Secretary of States John Kerry this week.

I asked Dan Levinson and Sarah Moriarty what the government is telling them about their dad.


BURNETT: Dan, let me start with you. You met with President Obama's top advisors, national security advisor Susan Rice was there. What did they tell you?

DAN LEVINSON, SON OF BOB LEVINSON: They told us they are working on the case and they are not going to rest until he's home safe us to. And we were hoping that this is going to be the case and the administration is coming to an end soon in January. So, we're hoping with this limited time window with Iranian elections coming up, that the urgency is now more than ever and that they are doing everything they can to bring him home.

BURNETT: Sarah, when you first heard that the United States had paid Iran nearly $2 billion in connection with the release of the five Americans that came home earlier this year, your father obviously not among them. How did you feel? SARAH MORIARTY, DAUGHTER OF BOB LEVINSON: We were devastated,

absolutely devastated. It was very hard.

LEVINSON: There was a lot of the leverage. And that is one of the avenues that they could engage with the Iranians and that was a lot of money and obviously we would have liked to see if there was any kind of connection with that. Then that should have been more than enough to bring my dad home.

But unfortunately that didn't happen. We're just going to keep moving forward and seeing what's the next steps to get him home.

MORIARTY: It's been nine and a half years that he's been without basic human rights and until he is home, it will never be enough. And we are absolutely devastated that he was just not part of that.

BURNETT: Sarah, if your father happens to be somewhere where he sees you both, as you are speaking now, what would you want to say to him right now?

MORIARTY: It's always, we love you. We will never stop until you come home. You have so many people here fighting every single day to bring you home. And we love you very much.

And you have several grandchildren that can't wait to meet their Grandpa Bob.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both so very much.

LEVINSON: Thank you so much for having us.

MORIARTY: Thank you.


BURNETT: Sarah and Dan tell us that the FBI tells them their father is alive in Iran right now. You can hear the full interview with them including their trip to Iran to look for their dad on our CNN International show this weekend on Sunday. Please watch.

Thanks for joining us. Anderson is next.