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Trump Facing Questions over Clinton Relationship; GOP Candidates Prepare for Debate by Watching Rivals' Videos; Mitch McConnell Comments on Obama's Iran Nuclear Deal. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 6, 2015 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:48] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, may face questions tonight about his relationship with the Clintons. A phone call from Bill Clinton to Trump is adding to the intrigue about their ties. An aide to Clinton confirms the call happened in late May when Trump was deciding whether to join the presidential race and Hillary Clinton was already running.

Jeffrey Lord is a Trump supporter, a former Reagan White House political director, and he's contributing editor to "American Spectator, who is joining us now from New York.

So, Jeffrey, we've heard from the Clinton side that the race was not discussed. An aide says that this was Bill Clinton responding to a few, sort of solicitations or calls from Donald Trump and then he reached out. Tell us what you can about this call.

JEFFREY LORD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, AMERICAN SPECTATOR & FORMER WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR: First of all, in writing for the "American Spectator," we can't endorse candidate so I can't be a, quote, unquote, "Trump supporter" --


KEILAR: OK. There you go.

LORD: I wanted to say that for the record.


LORD: I don't think there's much to this, to be perfectly candid. I understand what you understand. I saw suggestions in "The Washington Post" or there was concern that Donald Trump was a, quote/unquote, "Clinton plant." Donald Trump, whatever one thinks of him, favorably or unfavorably, he's nobody's plant. So I really don't think there's too much to this. They had a conversation. They've been friends. Elections are tough. Elbows are out. I don't think there's much more to it than that.

KEILAR: OK. So they were just checking in?

LORD: Sure, sure.

KEILAR: It's amazing to think they weren't talking about politics. What else is there to talk about? LORD: Well, they might have talked about politics. I certainly don't

think Bill Clinton was saying to him, you know, Donald, you need to get in there, in some conspiratorial fashion.

KEILAR: Oh, sure.

LORD: He may well have mentioned it. It would seem odd if they didn't mention it. But, and any kind of concerted discussion on this, I think, was not there.

KEILAR: OK. So let's talk about Donald Trump's plans tonight. He says he's going to be very civil. He says he doesn't want to attack anyone. But we also know that he's saying, look, if he's punched, he's going to counterpunch.

LORD: Sure. Right.

KEILAR: It doesn't necessarily seem like it takes a lot for Donald Trump to seem like he's been punched and to really get out there. So how is there not going to be some dramatic moment or do you expect he's going to stay true to his word?

LORD: I think he'll be Donald Trump. You know, we used to have a saying in the Reagan White House let Reagan be Reagan. I think Donald Trump will be Donald Trump. And he will rise to whatever occasion is there. What I find very interesting about this, Brianna, there was a political cartoon from the year 1900 when William McKinley, who had no vice president at that point -- his vice president had died -- he picked Governor Teddy Roosevelt of New York to be his vice president. Teddy Roosevelt was this huge personality and a hero of the San Juan War. And the cartoon shows this enormous Teddy Roosevelt on a horse in uniform, and sitting, as a tiny little figure on the horn of the saddle, is William McKinley, and that, more or less, seems to be what's going on here. You have this huge figure looming all over this. He will be there in the flesh on the stage and you've got a group of other guys all smart, all talented,Carly Fiorina, they're all, you know --


KEILAR: She won't be on the stage. She'll be in the earlier event.

LORD: Well, that's right. She'll be in the other debate. But they're all sort of, in one way or another, trying to figure out, how do they deal with him. And I think that's --


KEILAR: Yeah, how do they do that, Jeffrey? Shed some light on that. How do they approach this? Do they just pretend he's not on the stage or do they --


KEILAR: -- or how do they advance their message? LORD: I think they have to discuss -- I mean, John Kasich has to be

John Kasich, talk about himself, what he's done as governor of Ohio. Marco Rubio is big on foreign policy. He should talk about that. And speaking of Marco Rubio, there is a story out there in an outlet called "D.C. Whispers," which Rush Limbaugh was mentioning earlier today, which I find very interesting, that donors, unnamed, Republican donors, have been telling these candidates that they need to get on the stage tonight and, quote/unquote, "take out Donald Trump." I would be amazed if they did that. I mean, they figured Senator Rubio was one of the recipients of this advice. Apparently, there are others of the consultants that swarm around them. That will be very interesting to see if anybody sort of wants to deviate from "this is who I am and this is my record," and go down that path. Then I think they might be, you know, opening the barn door the way they don't want to do it.

[13:35:37] KEILAR: Yeah, who knows what to expect.


Who knows whether they would come out on top in that battle? We'll see.

Jeffrey Lord, looking forward to chatting with you after this debate. Thanks so much for being on with us.

LORD: Yeah. Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Now for the latest on the debates and the candidates, head over to

And still to come, Malaysian authorities say there's more plane debris that's washed up on Reunion Island. But Australian authorities coordinating the search for MH370 say there's been no indication of that. We'll explain next.


[13:40:30] KEILAR: There are conflicting reports today over whether more plane parts washed ashore on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Malaysian authorities say pieces of windows, seat cushions and aluminum material have been found, but Australian authorities coordinating the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 say none of the debris turned over to Reunion police so far appears to be aircraft debris. So what does all of this mean?

I want to bring in our experts, CNN contributor, David Gallo, also director of special projects for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and we have CNN safety analyst, David Soucie, former FAA safety inspector and the author of "Malaysia Airlines Flight 370."

David Soucie, you hear the prime minister saying this one thing that the flaperon last week came from MH370. Experts say, not so fast. Why are we getting so much conflicting information between the plane part and between this other debris? DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, we're looking at professional

investigators doing their job versus people who are under pressure, they are political, they know what they have to say, looking at it from a political perspective and under pressure to look like they're not withholding information so they're trying to be transparent but they're being too forthright, I think. They're saying too much. Most of these accident investigations we don't get information out to the public for at least a year, so the fact that it's coming out in pieces like this is horribly difficult for the families. It's really not the way to do it.

KEILAR: David Gallo, when you see where this flaperon was found, assuming that it came from MH370 that seems like a safe bet, obviously, what we know about the plane's last reported position and ocean currents, what you know really, do you think searchers are looking in the right spot?

DAVID GALLO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL PROJECTS, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION: I think, Brianna, they have to look in that spot, and maybe other spots as well a bit further out to sea. But I agree with David, too, this is not the way to give information to the families. It brings us right back to the first few days of conflicting information right after the disappearance of the plane. So I think they're in the right spot but they need better control on information flow.

KEILAR: It does feel like deja vu, doesn't it? What does this do, do you think, to families, to people who are particularly invested in this when they don't feel like they're getting clear answers?

GALLO: To me? It's horrible --


KEILAR: David Gallo, you.

GALLO: Horrible. This is a 516 or 517 days and worse, 516 or 517 nights, not knowing where their loved ones are. I think the Malaysian authorities have very little credibility to begin with which led to all sorts of conspiracy theories and what not and this is going to make the wounds deeper, bring all that stuff up once again.

KEILAR: Yeah, I think you're right.

David Gallo, David Soucie, thanks so much to both of you.

Still ahead, those candidates are cramming for the showdown in Cleveland. The video questions they've submitted for the rivals to answer and how they could lead to some interesting moments on the stage.


[13:48:16] KEILAR: For many of the Republican presidential candidates, tonight's prime-time debate will be the culmination of hours of meticulous prep work. Usually, they can only guess what questions will be asked, but this year, they're getting a little bit of a preview in the form of videos recorded by their rivals.


SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Except for myself, Dr. Carson and Donald Trump, nearly everyone on this stage has spent most of their career in public office. Don't you think we'd be better off not electing another career politician?

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I'd like to ask all of the candidates as politicians and really non- negotiators, people who don't negotiate jobs and lots of other things, how are you going to make America great again?


KEILAR: Joining me now we have Mike Duncan, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee; and Katie Packer, the deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign. She's now, we should say -- just a little note, her firm is doing some work for Marco Rubio's campaign.

So I wonder, Katie, to you, before we even get into this idea of what the candidates said, what do you think of this idea of them reporting questions for their rivals?

KATIE PACKER, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Well, I don't think it's totally unexpected. I think the candidates want to make a little news ahead of the debate and make it clear that these are some of the questions that they're going to need to provide answers to. But it'll be an exciting night, particularly for the candidates that we haven't heard a lot from in the recent months, and lots of opportunities for them to make news this evening.

KEILAR: Yeah, we're certainly waiting to see what the moment is. You never know going into this what's going to happen.

Mike, I want you to listen to a question from Chris Christie, from Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Here's what he said.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Please give me your specific plan to reform entitlements in our country.


[13:50:11] KEILAR: All right. I hear that question, Mike. It's certainly a question that comes up. How does a candidate approach a question, like specifics on entitlement reform in 60 seconds? Can they do that?

MIKE DUNCAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Obviously, they can. This is spring training. This is the countdown in Cleveland. We're starting the process here because we're having the first debate here several months later than normal and we'll end here with the nomination. But we've got 15 months to go. We have six months before anyone gets to vote on this. The specifics and -- in fact, you've gotten people on the stage tonight and very limited time. We're not going to get a lot into the details, which means that there's limited opportunity to make mistakes tonight.

KEILAR: Many opportunities to make mistakes.

And, Katie, really, like we said, there is an unpredictable nature to this. What are you looking for in this debate?

PACKER: Well, what I'm looking for is sort of the get past all of the bluster that we're hearing. Donald Trump is getting about 22 percent of the vote. That means that 78 percent of Republican voters are undecided or choosing somebody else. It's an opportunity for the other candidates to get to show what it is that they are passionate about and their vision for America. And I think all of them are being looking to make America great again. That's not really, you know, a domain solely for one candidate and I think we'll get a chance to hear from the other candidates and they'll have to make their case.

KEILAR: How much, Mike, do you think we'll be hearing these candidates taking each other on versus taking Hillary Clinton on?

DUNCAN: Well, I think the focus is going to be on Hillary Clinton. If you go back to Trump, that's what he is tapping into. Dissatisfaction with what is going on in this country, the failed policies of the Obama administration. You're going to hear a lot about that tonight and we should be. This is an election about change but really it's going to be an election about confidence for the American people.

KEILAR: Katie, as a former Romney campaign official, one of the reasons these debates were so key for him is that he appeared more presidential than the rest of the field. In just a very general way, and there was some appeal for that for Republican supporters, how do you coach a candidate to appear more presidential and how important is this?

PACKER: Well, there's a saying that you shouldn't fight with a pig because you just get dirty and make the pig mad and I think when you avoid that, you look more presidential. When you keep your focus on the ultimate rival, which is Hillary Clinton. She's only sort of staying afloat because the Republican brand has suffered recently. And I think as we see other Republican candidates emerge, it will show strength and leadership. We have a real opportunity to defeat her next time and I think that they need to keep their focus on here. She's ultimately the target.

KEILAR: All right. We will see if they take your advice, both of you.

Mike Duncan, Katie Packer, thanks to both of you joining us in Cleveland.

DUNCAN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Still ahead, the war of words between the president and Republicans after yesterday's speech where he blasted opponents of the Iran nuclear deal. The Senate majority leader is now fighting back.


[13:57:58] KEILAR: Today marks 70 years since American forces dropped an atomic bomb on Japan during World War II, devastating the city of Hiroshima. Thousands of people lost their lives that fateful day in 1945. Among them, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. In light of the occasion, Secretary of state John Kerry sought to remind the public that nuclear weapons are not just a concern of the past but today's ceremony, quote, "underscores the importance of the agreement that we reached to reduce more nuclear weapons."

The stage is set for U.S. congressional showdown on the Iran nuclear deal. Senators have agreed to begin debate on September 8th after returning from a month-long recess. The president has an uphill battle.

Mitch McConnell made comments a short time ago.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The president strikes me, at least so far, as treating this like a political campaign. Demonize your opponents, get the Democrats all angry, and rally around the president. To me, this is a different kind of an issue. This is not your typical political debate. This is an enormous national security debate that the president will leave behind, under the Constitution, a year and a half from now, and the rest of us will be dealing with the consequences of it. So I wish he would tone down the rhetoric and let's talk about the facts.


KEILAR: McConnell was talking about President Obama's comments yesterday when he said that those chanting "death to America" are finding common cause with the Republican caucus. And Congress has until September 17th to vote on the deal that.

That's it for me. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. on "The Situation Room."

For our international viewers, "Amanpour" is next.

For our viewers in North America, "Newsroom" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.