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Trump Campaign: Obama Born in U.S.; Clinton Blasting Trump's Minority Outreach; Deadly Airstrikes Rock Syria. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2016 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: a big admission from the Trump campaign, saying once and for all President Obama was born in the USA. But it came only hours after Trump himself once again refused to concede that fact. What will Trump say today when he visits RNC headquarters?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, Hillary Clinton back on the campaign trail after a fight with pneumonia. Why she says that time was useful. Now, what she will do to try to stop the back slide.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm George Howell.

ROMANS: Nice to see you this Friday morning, George.

I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, September 16th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Good morning, everyone.

Breaking overnight: Donald Trump's campaign saying unequivocally for the very first that Donald Trump believes President Obama was born in the United States. It would be a major reversal for this candidate, a candidate who rode the birther controversy to political prominence starting five years ago.

Just yesterday, Trump told "The Washington Post", quote, "I'll answer that question at right time. I just don't want to answer it yet." That was yesterday to "The Washington Post."

Then, hours later, Trump's campaign was crediting him for ending the controversy years ago while blaming Hillary Clinton for first bringing it up during the 2008 primary race.

A Trump campaign statement says, "In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the president and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised."

All right. It's noteworthy that the statement came from the campaign. It did not come from Trump himself. But we may hear it from the candidate's mouth later this morning when Trump visits Republican Party headquarters. Hillary Clinton for her part was back on the campaign trail, trying to

blunt the momentum Trump developed while she was sidelined with pneumonia.

CNN's Brianna Keilar has more.



A spokesman for the Trump campaign released a statement that says, in part, "Having successfully obtained President Obama's birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States."

Now, this is something that we have heard from top campaign officials before. We have not heard this from Donald Trump himself. And the statement we're not. This is a spokesman.

For years, of course, Donald Trump has either openly questioned President Obama's birth place or his dodged when asked to give a definitive answer on the topic. So, that's what we'll be waiting for. Does the candidate repeat what his campaign is saying?

And the timing here is significant. This statement from a spokesman came just hours after Trump's comments to "The Washington Post" were published. "The Post" asked him if Obama was born in the U.S. and he said, "I'll answer that question at the right time. I just don't want to answer it yet." And still, he has not.

Hillary Clinton then jumped on what he said. She said this while addressing the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute at their annual gala.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Today, he did it again. He was asked one more time, where was President Obama born? And he still wouldn't say Hawaii. He still wouldn't say America. This man wants to be our next president? When will he stop this ugliness? This bigotry?

KEILAR: This playing out as Trump is making a play for African- American voters or some see at least a play for voters who turned off by what they believe is a very belated and thus far ineffective attempt to reach out to the black community. This is a key Democratic voting bloc.

Hillary Clinton has been losing some ground here, not to Donald Trump but to third party candidates. And so, she was very quick to seize on Trump's misstep with this constituency. These birther comments, yes, particularly off-putting to black voters because they're seen as an effort to delegitimize the first African-American president.

But also, she seized on Donald Trump insulting the pastor of a black church in Flint, Michigan, who he called a nervous mess the day after she pretty calmly and briefly interrupted his address to her congregation once he started criticizing Hillary Clinton. She asked him, saying basically as they have previously agreed to keep his comments apolitical -- George and Christine.


HOWELL: Brianna Keilar, thank you.

Clinton's campaign seems determined to make it as hard as possible for Donald Trump to walk away from the birtherism controversy this morning. Clinton's chief spokesman tweeting overnight, "Trump needs to say it himself on camera and admit he was wrong for trying to delegitimize the country's first African-American president."

[04:05:06] Clinton herself back on the campaign trail. She stepped out on stage in North Carolina to the one and only James Brown's "I Feel Good". The Democratic also acknowledged her brush with pneumonia.


CLINTON: It's great to be back on the campaign trail. But it turns out having a few days to myself was actually a gift. You know, the campaign trail doesn't really encourage reflection and it is important to sit with your thoughts every now and then and that did help me reconnect with what this whole campaign is about.


HOWELL: Clinton saying she took time to reconnect. On the Republican side, Trump had a rally in New Hampshire last. The traveling press corps almost missed the event all to Trump's delight.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I have really good news for you. I just heard that the press is stuck on their airplane. They can't get here. I love it.

So, they're trying to get here now. They're going to be about 30 minutes late. They called us and said, "Could you wait?" I said, "Absolutely not. Let's get going." Right?


ROMANS: All right. All this coming after Trump unveiled details to his economic plan, made some very bold optimistic predictions, claiming his proposals would return America to the big growth days of the 1990s.


TRUMP: In working with my economic team, we have a plan that puts us on track to achieve that goal. Over the next ten years, our economic team estimates that under our plan, the economy will average 3.5 percent growth and create a total of 25 million new jobs.


ROMANS: He says that 4 percent growth may be larger, he boasted, is attainable. That hasn't happened since Bill Clinton was in office, by the way.

Take a look, the economic last hit a 4 percent growth rate in the year 2000, fueled by a technology revolution, driven by computers, driven by the Internet. Imagine, before that, people did not have email at work, they didn't have computers on their desks. That technological revolution unleashed some major growth. There's also two recessions in there on that chart. One under George W. Bush in 2001 as you can see, and, of course, the great recession which started in December of 2007 and lasted until the summer of 2009.

Now, as for the jobs market, Trump says he can create 25 million new jobs over 10 years. Now, for some context here, President Obama -- under President Obama, there have been 9.7 million net new jobs during his eight years in office. That was after a brutal start during a recession. That red bar there is when hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost.

Trump says this is the slowest jobs recovery since the Great Depression. He is right. That's because the economy was coming out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. This is no garden variety recession.

So, how does Trump planning to reach the 3.5 percent to 4 percent growth goal and add $25 million jobs? He says he will, quote, "unleash" opportunity. He will lower taxes for all Americans and businesses, removing what he calls destructive regulations. He will increase energy production already at the record high, by the way, and negotiate new trade deals in favor of U.S. companies.

All that sounds great, but no president can walk in the White House and flip a switch and huge growth and millions of new jobs come. It will take time for any of the programs to be established, passed by Congress which could prove very difficult.

Again, a very optimistic, George, plan here, 40 minutes, Donald Trump talking about the economy yesterday, and economists immediately sort of sharpening their pencils and saying, look, on paper, this looks good. But how do you do it?



In the meantime, Donald Trump Jr., his son, is under fire for a reference to the Holocaust he used to defend his father. The candidate's son accusing the media of favoring Hillary Clinton. In his interview with the Philadelphia radio station on Wednesday, listen here to the comment that has the Anti-Defamation League calling for a retraction.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: The media has been her number one surrogate in this. Without the media, this wouldn't be a contest. But the media has built her up. They've let her slide on every indiscrepancy, on every lie, on every DNC game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of the thing. I mean, if Republicans were doing that, they would be warming up the gas chamber right now."


HOWELL: The Trump campaign claims Donald Trump Jr. was referring to capital punishment, not the Holocaust.

On the matter of his father's tax returns, Trump Jr. insists it would be wrong to release them because he says they would create questions and, quote, "distract" from his dad's message.

ROMANS: All right. He did not say his name, but President Obama took unmistakable aim at Donald Trump's immigration rhetoric while speaking at a dinner for the Hispanic Caucus Institute.

[04:10:01] The president warming up the crowd for Hillary Clinton, said the bitterness of the campaign threatens to alienate voters.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But if we're truly going to fix this broken system, then we're going to have to push back against bluster and falsehoods and promises of higher walls. And, look, throughout this political season, the talk is cut deeper than in years past. It's a little more personal. It's a little meaner, a little uglier.


ROMANS: He told the crowd his successor will need to get meaningful immigration reform past, no matter how tough she is.

HOWELL: He did say "she".

ROMANS: He did.

HOWELL: CNN is going on the frontlines of the crisis in Syria. Thousands of people there desperately waiting for aid, as a fragile cease-fire continues to hold. CNN is in Aleppo, next.


[04:15:04] HOWELL: The United States and Russia accusing each other of violating a shaky cease-fire in Syria. The violence there continuing in pockets, 23 civilians have been killed by airstrikes Thursday in a province not covered by the truce. Nine of those victims are children. Human rights observers say it is unclear who is behind those attacks.

In the meantime, the four-day old cease-fire is holding in Aleppo, but desperately needed humanitarian aid still has yet to arrive there. CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports, the only way aid groups can reach that

town at this point is by navigating what locals called death road and that is where Fred picks up the story.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, George and Christine. You know, it was a fairly quiet night here in Aleppo. The ceasefire seems to be pretty much holding, although we did hear some airplanes circling over the sky, we also heard occasional artillery shell being fired and what appeared to us to be mortars being fired as well. Now, the big question on this Friday is going to be, is aid finally going to reach the besieged eastern parts of the city?

It's something, of course, that United Nations has been working on. But at this point, their trucks are still stuck on the border between Turkey and Syria. What we're hearing here on the ground is that there is a chance that it could happen today, but, of course, there are still administrative hurdles. On the one hand, permissions from the Syrian government, on the other hand, safety guarantees of free passage by a lot of rebel organizations as well to actually make it to that area.

So, the U.N. says that it's doing its best. The route that aid is going to take is called the Castillo road. I was actually able to go there yesterday and it seems as though there are preparations under way there try and allow that aid to get through.

But again, very difficult in this very complex battle field to really put a timeframe of when that's' going to be. We've also been traveling around the city, and I can tell you that the destruction here in Aleppo is really epic.

We went and visited some families in a frontline district and many of them were actually living in the ruins of their destroyed houses. But for them, of course, after so many years of war, they say just having that calm for a couple of days, having the ceasefire in place is something that they truly cherish -- George and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much for that.

President Obama's effort to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suffering another congressional setback. The House passing legislation that would prevent the transfer of any remaining detainees to the U.S. homeland or any third party countries. The vote comes a day after an intelligence report found two more former Gitmo prisoners had returned to terrorist activities since being release.

All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour now, Friday morning.

Back to politics. After a wild day, Donald Trump taking his campaign to "The Tonight Show." We've got those highlights, next.


[04:22:16] ROMANS: Donald Trump letting his hair down, sort of, during an appearance on "The Tonight Show" Thursday. Trump played with host Jimmy Fallon who was just itching to do something unpresidential. Watch.


JIMMY FALLON, THE TONIGHT SHOW: Thank you for giving us the material we're doing. It's been amazing to follow and exciting because you say some shocking things. I can't even believe.

TRUMP: I'm trying not to anymore.

FALLON: You said on our show before that you never really apologized until -- unless you feel the need to apologize.

TRUMP: I don't love apologizing. I'm not thrilled about apologizing, but I'll apologize if I'm wrong something, sure.

FALLON: Have you played the board game sorry?

TRUMP: I sort of like Monopoly better.

FALLON: I read you eat fast food all the time.

TRUMP: Well, I eat it a little bit when we're traveling because we'll be on the plane. You know, they have a name to preserve, they have name, whether it's McDonald's or Wendy's or any of them. And at least you know what you're getting. I don't want to go into a restaurant and say, "Mr. Trump would like a hamburger to go." Now, I don't know what they're going to do to that hamburger. If they like me, I'm happy. If they don't like me --

FALLON: The next time I see you, you could be the president of the United States. I wonder if we could do something that is not presidential. I want to do something while we are both civilians.

TRUMP: Like what? This is -- I'm not liking the sound of it.

FALLON: Can I mess your hair up?


TRUMP: Go ahead.



ROMANS: Pretty good comic timing. Monopoly is a very good answer.

HOWELL: That was good answer, yes. That image of Trump's hair messed up, you never see that. You never see that every day.

ROMANS: You don't see that. All right. Good sport. HOWELL: Donald Trump's campaign now says President Obama was born in

the United States, but here's the question. Will Trump himself say those actual words? More on the birther drama and latest in the race for the White House, next.


[04:28:57] HOWELL: Breaking overnight, the Trump campaign trying to set the record straight, saying President Obama was born in the United States. The only problem is the candidate himself has not said those words directly. So, the question now, will he say it at a big party meeting later today?

ROMANS: Hillary Clinton responding to the drama as she gets back on the trail after battling pneumonia. How will she try to stop her slide in the polls in these key battle ground states?

Welcome back, everybody, to EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.

And breaking overnight, Donald Trump's campaign says for the first time unequivocally that Trump believes President Barack Obama was born in the United States. This would be a major reversal for the candidate who rode the birther controversy to political prominence starting five years ago.

Just yesterday, Trump told "The Washington Post", quote, "I'll answer that question at the right time. I just don't want to answer it yet." Then, hours later, Trump' campaign was crediting him for ending the controversy years ago, while also blaming Hillary Clinton for bringing it up, there's question about that during the 2008 primary race.

A Trump campaign statement says, quote, "In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the president and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised."