Return to Transcripts main page


Donald Trump's Nuclear Policy; Clinton Scores Endorsement From Ex-GOP Senator; Trump Holds Rally In Iowa Days After First Presidential Debate; Trump: Clinton Would Put Oval Office "Up For Sale"; Investigators Possibly ID Witnesses Seen On Video. Aired 4:30- 5p ET

Aired September 28, 2016 - 16:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Or wouldn't he?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would certainly not do first strike.

SCIUTTO: When it comes to ordering a nuclear war as president, Donald Trump seems undecided at best.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons is so deeply troubling. That is the number one threat we face in the world.

A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.

SCIUTTO: Secretary Clinton has made Trump's confusing public statements regarding the world's most frightening weapons a key part of her attacks.

CLINTON: He is very loose in his talk about nukes.

SCIUTTO: The Republican nominee had a chance to clarify his position Monday night.

LESTER HOLT, MODERATOR: President Obama reportedly considered changing the nation's longstanding policy on first use. Do you support the current policy?

Mr. Trump, you have two minutes on that.

TRUMP: Well, I have to say that, you know, for what Secretary Clinton was saying about nuclear with Russia, she's very cavalier in the way she talks about various countries.

We are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it, but I would certainly not do first strike.

SCIUTTO: "Certainly not," he said. But he contradicted himself just one line later. TRUMP: I think that, once the nuclear alternative happens, it's over.

At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can't take anything off the table.

SCIUTTO: Last December, he appeared stumped on the nation's nuclear triad, that is, its nuclear weapons delivered by missiles, bombers and submarines.

QUESTION: The three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority?


TRUMP: I think, to me, nuclear is just -- the power, the devastation, is very important to me.

SCIUTTO: As for someone a bit closer to the nuclear codes, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the priority is defense, this as he announced $108 billion in new funding for the triad over the next five years.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Your job is to make a deterrent so strong, so effective, so reliable, that no one can doubt that the American deterrent is strong.

SCIUTTO: Heading into Election Day, one of the most fundamental decisions for voters is which candidate they trust to wield the world's most devastating military weapon.


SCIUTTO: Well, my next guest says that Donald Trump does not have enough knowledge of nuclear weapons and the danger that they pose to the world.

That's right after this.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Right now, this is Rudy Giuliani speaking live at this Trump event in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He will be introducing Republican nominee Donald Trump.

And we will bring Trump's remarks to you live when he steps up to the podium.

But, right now, I do want to get to our panel.

And our panelists today, Rebecca Berg. She's a CNN political analyst and national reporter for RealClearPolitics. David Drucker, he's senior congressional correspondent at "The Washington Examiner." And Josh Rogin, he's a CNN political analyst and columnist at "The Washington Post."

Josh, I want to start to you, specifically to Trump's response to one of the most sensitive foreign policy issues really in the world right now. He was asked about your own reporting, if he supported the current policy that President Obama, as you know, considered changing, that the U.S. could use nuclear weapons in a first strike situation.

Here was Trump's answer at the debate.


TRUMP: But I would certainly not do first strike.

I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it's over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can't take anything off the table.


SCIUTTO: That's clearly a contradiction. I certainly would not do it, but I can't take anything off the table.

You have written that you don't think Trump actually understands the seriousness of this threat.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. This is a complicated policy that he was on both sides of in the same sound bite.

And if it was an isolated incident, we could say, OK, maybe he misunderstood the question or something like that. But this is by my count the 10th time in public that Trump has said something about nuclear weapons policy that didn't make any sense whatsoever, OK?

It shows that this whole theory that Trump was going to study up on these issues, that he had a bunch of very senior advisers around him who were going to make sure that he knew what he was doing by the time he got to this point, he hasn't evolved. He hasn't learned it. He hasn't studied it.

And he said in the debate -- this is the most important, most serious national security threat facing the country -- that he isn't curious enough to figure it out. That tells us more than anything specifically he said about nuclear policy one way or the other.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting, Rebecca, because, today, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who of course has endorsed Trump, weighed in on his debate performance. And he said that lack of preparation hurt him.

Here is what Paul Ryan had to say.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The lesson I try to pull into this campaign, which is have a more coherent, specific agenda so that people can sink their teeth into it, so that they know they're not just voting for a personality, but they're voting for like a cause, an agenda, solutions.


SCIUTTO: He didn't mention Trump's name there, but it seemed pretty clear who he was talking about.

At the same time, Trump's co-chair Sam Clovis, he said that voters don't care about policy specifics. Who is right here?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there might be some truth, unfortunately, to what Clovis had to say. But that doesn't mean that if you're running for president you shouldn't address policy issues, because there are voters who do care.

And it's a central part of the job as president to form policy for the country. So there is an expectation, certainly, that you would know what you're talking about on the most important policy issues of the day.

But we are starting to hear Republicans amp up the pressure on Donald Trump right now to start preparing for the second debate. If he missed an opportunity in the first one, and many Republicans agree that he did, even if Donald Trump says he won, there is, you know -- there are two more debates to go.


And he can certainly come back and log a better performance moving forward. So, Lindsey Graham today, for example, came out and said, he needs to start preparing better for these debates.

SCIUTTO: David, I feel like we ask this question at every chapter of this presidential campaign. Well, after the primaries, he's going to dig deeper, or after the convention, or after this flub, he is. Now after the debate.

He has got the advisers around him, but it doesn't seem that he is listening to them on that preparation issue. Is it going to change now?


I think what we have learned over time is that the candidate that you see on the campaign trail is the candidate that you get, whether they win or they lose. And if Donald Trump hasn't studied up on these issues yet, he's not going to start now, just about 30 days before an election, where he has a chance to win.

It's not like he's 10 points behind and he better do something radically different from his point of view.

I think what's interesting here on foreign policy is, on the one hand, he is incoherent and all over the map in terms of how he discusses it, but there is a sort of undercurrent, a theme to his foreign policy. And that is less U.S. involvement in the world and a willingness to question whether the U.S. should continue to be the global guarantor of world peace, as it has been since World War II.

This is something we have not seen from either party since then, and I think Trump, as president, could be a major change in how the U.S. acts around the world.

SCIUTTO: And, listen, that's a line of argument. And that's something that is supported by some members of the party.

But, Josh, have you heard him articulate that line of argument beyond a line here or there?

ROGIN: Yes, when Trump reads his foreign policy speeches from the Teleprompter, they make sense. All right? Somebody went over there and went through them. And you can put them -- it's exactly as David said. It's a drastic change in U.S. foreign policy. It's not where the Republican Party is writ large. But it's an arguable position. It's not crazy.

It's only when he is not reading from a sheet of paper or from a Teleprompter that he reveals the fact that he doesn't actually know these issues beyond any surface stuff, and he says crazy stuff like we're going to take the oil. We're going to bomb the S out of them and all of these other things that are not only damaging, in the sense that they show that we have a major party candidate who hasn't studied now the issues, but people around the world hear these things and other countries are making calculations based on the very possibility that he could become president.

So, it's already having an effect on America's reputation, credibility and role in the world.

SCIUTTO: No question.

Rebecca, I have to ask you. Another result of this debate is we appear to have a running battle between Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, and Alicia Machado, a beauty queen who says that Trump once called her Miss Piggy.

He doubled down on those comments today, saying, well, she did gain weight.

Here's what -- before I let you answer, let's hear what she said on CNN about this.


ALICIA MACHADO, FORMER MISS UNIVERSE: He was really aggressive. He was really rude. We can't accept -- we can't accept more insults for my Latin community. No more. No more insults for the women.


SCIUTTO: So, we have heard a lot about how Trump needs to appeal to suburban women, to win some of them, some of those undecided independent voters.

How much does this hurt him with them?

BERG: Well, it certainly does not help.

And I think the Clinton campaign calculated that he would take the bait in the debate setting, and he would also continue to take the bait moving forward in interviews. And they calculated correctly, Donald Trump really just stumbling over himself here.

And there is no need to be starting these arguments with just weeks to go until Election Day, but Donald Trump tends to do this. And it does matter, because, for example, I was just up in Pennsylvania on debate day, and I spoke with an undecided woman voter, an older woman, about 60 years old.

And she was telling me that she has voted Republican for her entire life, wants to be able to support Donald Trump, but it's specifically his comments on women that have turned her off. And so having him in this sort of conversation right now is not going to help him with voters like that.

SCIUTTO: We're going to go to this event now in Iowa, because Donald Trump has now taken the stage.

Let's have a listen to what he has to say.


TRUMP: I want to thank you.

And before we begin, I have a special friend right here who lost her incredible daughter to an illegal immigrant. And she was in the back. And I said, you have to come.

Michelle (ph), please come up. Michelle, come up. This is a special woman, an amazing, an amazing woman.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wanted to say thank you, everybody, for turning out for Mr. Trump. Hillary called me...

SCIUTTO: So, we see Donald Trump carry a woman -- bring a woman to the stage, says that she lost someone to an illegal immigrant. We are going to keep watching Donald Trump's speech there, and we will monitor it.

But I want to go back to the panel now.

Josh, longtime Republican -- and I want to get your thoughts as well, David -- John Warner, former Senator John Warner.

[16:45:00] He was an icon of the Republican Party, particularly strength in foreign policy issues. He came out today, not only saying he wasn't for Trump, but he's going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Let's listen to what he said.


FMR. SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: No one should have the audacity to stand up and degrade the purple heart, degrade military families, or talk about the military being in the state of disaster. That's wrong.


SCIUTTO: David, he said this is the first time he will ever vote for a democrat for president. I'm just curious, how much of an impact do big-name republican endorsements for the democratic candidate make?

[16:45:39] DRUCKER: So generally, these things they don't matter too much, especially at a time when voters aren't that interested in what very important people have to say about this. However, for republicans like the voter that Rebecca was talking to, up in Pennsylvania, they're trying to figure out what to do and wondering, "Is it OK for me to vote for Hillary Clinton, if I just can't get there with Donald Trump?" Having other long-time republicans like John Warner, who is going to be voting for a democrat for president for the first time ever in his life, can make it OK for them to do the same thing. It creates a permission structure. And that's why Hillary Clinton's campaign didn't just accept John Warner's endorsement but highlighted it, and why Tim Kaine was there to accept it.

SCIUTTO: All right. Josh, David, Rebecca, thanks very much for joining us. We're going to keep an eye on Donald Trump speaking to voters in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and we'll be right back after this.


TRUMP: And here I am, working harder than ever before. I'm like a lot of people in the different rooms, in the different stadium.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. This is Donald Trump speaking live in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Right now, he's laying into the Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton. Let's listen.

TRUMP: She disgraced the office of Secretary of State by putting it up for sale. And if she ever got the chance, she would put the Oval Office up for sale, too, and nobody has any doubt about it. And we can't let that happen. That's why you have to go out and vote on November 8th, and early voting in Iowa starts tomorrow. Get out. Don't take the chance. Don't take a chance. Do not take a chance. She deleted and bleached 33,000 e-mails. Nobody ever heard of the bleaching. Nobody ever heard of it. And they don't use it. It's a very expensive process. People don't use it. But she used it, and nobody understands how she can get a congressional subpoena, she gets the subpoena. This didn't happen before the subpoena. She gets the subpoena, and she then goes out, and she deletes 33,000 e-mails. You know, if somebody sues you, and they want your records and you do that, as a private citizen, it's -- you know where you go. She gets a congressional subpoena, and I'm so disappointed with the people in Washington for allowing her to get away with this. I'm so disappointed. And that means on both sides, by the way. I am so disappointed.

When they say there's nothing they can do. There's nothing they can do? She gets rid of 13 phones. How many people have gotten rid of 13 phones? And how many people - we got one hand. What business are you in? What's your business? I think he was just a wise guy. That's all. But she destroyed a number of them with a hammer. How many people have destroyed an iPhone or a phone with a hammer? Anybody in the room? Couple of hands go up. I don't know if they're kidding. I think they're kidding, but who knows. Her staffers taking the Fifth Amendment, how about that? And her ring-leaders getting immunities. Now, she has people taking the Fifth Amendment. Four people plus the guy who illegally did the server, you know, he put in the illegal server. So there are five people taking the Fifth Amendment, like you see on the mob, right? You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment? And then they read a whole list of charges. She's guilty on every one of them. And then what do they say? But that's OK. And yet other people that have done two percent of what she did, their lives have been destroyed. You tell me. You tell me what's going on with our country, what's going on with our government.

Foreign enemies, with easy access to hack her server, lies to congress under oath about turning over her work-related e-mails, which are largely destroyed, although I have a feeling they can get e-mails. You know, I've always heard you really can't destroy e-mails. I don't think they tried too hard to get them. Do you? Does anybody think? I don't think they tried too hard. The Clintons have perfected the politics of profit. But more importantly, when you look at what's happening, I think it has more to do with other things. Large corporations who support terrible trade deals and offshore jobs.

SCIUTTO: You've been listening to Donald Trump here. We're going to keep an eye on the Trump rally. Meanwhile, we'll be back after this short break.

TRUMP: -- and you look at the deals that are made, a lot of those deal -


[16:58:48] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our "National Lead" now, the FBI says it believes it has identified two men wanted for questioning in a series of bombs planted in New York and New Jersey. These men are considered, I should say, witnesses in this case. The FBI says surveillance video shows them removing a pressure cooker bomb from a bag in Manhattan, then walking away with that bag. Investigators think the men were tourists visiting New York from another country. They are now working with partners overseas to find and contact them. This comes after the capture of Ahmad Rahami, he is suspected of planting that series of bombs across the New York and New Jersey area. One blast in the Chelsea neighborhood left nearly 30 people hurt. Rahami still unconscious in the hospital after a shootout with police last week, as he was captured. A judge with formally arraign him on charges only when his condition improves.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jimsciutto or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN, and don't forget to tune in tonight on CNN for the exclusive town hall with President Obama, moderated by Jake Tapper. It's going to be great. It all starts at 9 o'clock Eastern Time.

That is it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto in today for Jake Tapper. I'll turn you now over to the very capable hands of Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."