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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Scott Walker Drops Out of Presidential Race; Group Calls For Ben Carson To Withdraw From Presidential Race; Clinton Expands Lead After Months of Waning Support; Trump Steps Up Attacks as Fiorina Rises in Polls; The Pope Versus The GOP. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 21, 2015 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:08] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, Walker drops out. Scott Walker ends his campaign for president after disappearing in the debates and the polls that he went down swinging.

Plus, calls for Ben Carson to drop out of the race after his controversial remarks that the U.S. not elect a Muslim president. And Donald Trump, his first symbols in the polls as Carly Fiorina soars into second place. Now, the battle over the business records really takes off. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, you saw it right there. Breaking news, Scott Walker is out. The Wisconsin governor ending his bid for the republican nomination for president. Walker made the announcement just moments ago in Madison, Wisconsin. Taking a not too subtle swipe at Donald Trump on his way out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT WALKER (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will suspend my campaign immediately. I encourage other republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Now, Walker was among the early front-runners. He was leading in the early polls in the critical state of Iowa. Nationally, he was third behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson as of in July. But in the most recent CNN poll, Walker was an asterisk, less than one-half of one percent. Behind that drop, a lot of stuff, I'm sure, all including two disappointing debate performances and trouble fundraising. Dana Bash is OUTFRONT with us tonight.

Dana, not only did he announce that he's out, but he as we've been talking about, took a very nice parting shot at the front-runner. What are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. You know, I remember being in Wisconsin talking to Walker aids right before he announced his presidential bid just in July. And they said, his strategy at the time was going to be ignore Donald Trump. But, you know, Walker just like other republicans candidates learned he could only ignore Trump at his own peril. It wasn't just Trump itself, but really his style that Trump really is a shoot from the hip caution to the wind attitude. It turns out that's what republican voters are drawn to right now. And Walker is just the opposite. He was so cautious during his what, 70-day campaign that he sometimes looked unsure, uneasy, maybe flip-flopping. And that's the opposite, it seems of what republican voters are looking for at least right now.

BOLDUAN: I mean, and Dana, going in, I mean Republicans saw him as he was going to be the fighter. I mean, that was his pitch almost every stump speech. He's now the second republican to drop out. How did it happen so quickly?

BASH: Money. I mean, you know, he couldn't catch fire with money because, you know, they all go hand in hand.

BOLDUAN: Right.

BASH: Public opinion and money. But remember, like you were saying, just six months ago, he was the man to beat. He was the top of the polls. Now he's not even registering. And one source told me, when it comes to money, that it really dried up right after the first debate. That they just couldn't get enough donors to give.

And they have a lot of overhead. Another Walker source told me that the Governor, himself, explained today to his aides, that you cannot run a national campaign against a national debt if your own campaign is in debt. So, even though his Super PAC has a lot of money, there's a firewall there. And his own campaign didn't have it. So, that's one of the main reasons he decided to suspend his campaign today.

BOLDUAN: And another candidate is in the headlines today, Dr. Ben Carson facing calls to apologize and also drop out over his comments about Muslims in America.

BASH: You know, we have been talking with Scott Walker dropping out, Kate, about being a lifelong politician who is maybe more cautious in nature like Walker versus being politically incorrect as we've seen from some of this first time politicians. Trump and Carson. Nothing speaks more to that than the conversations going on inside the GOP right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Even in a campaign full of explosive comments, this one immediately stood out.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

BASH: Ben Carson said that he wouldn't want a Muslim as president in answer to a question about whether the Islamic religion is consistent with the constitution. Some of Carson's competitors distance themselves.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the constitution provides there should be no religious test for public office and I'm a constitutionalist.

BASH: There are two Muslim members of Congress that both lashed out at Carson.

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: That is asinine, it's almost like saying that a neurosurgeon could never become the president of the United States of America.

BASH: The democratic front-runner for president was quick to chime in saying in a tweet, can a Muslim be president of the United States of America? In a word, yes. Now, let's move on. The conversations about Muslims in America began at a Donald Trump town hall last week when he failed to correct a voter who falsely said, President Obama is a Muslim, even though he is a Christian. On Sunday, when asked what he thinks about the idea of a Muslim president, Trump stirred the pot, making this not so subtle suggestion about President Obama.

[19:05:32] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people said it already happened, frankly, but of course you wouldn't agree with that.

BASH: This as Trump's status as the republican front-runner is starting to slip. He's still on top but losing ground, down eight points in a new CNN ORC poll since early this month. And Carly Fiorina is on the rise in second place with 15 percent after a standout debate performance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now back on the controversy about Muslims and whether they should or could be in the White House, Huma Abedin, Kate, who was of course a long time and close aide to Hillary Clinton who also happens to be a Muslim, she sent out a tweet tonight. And here's what she said, she said, you can be a proud American, a proud Muslim and proudly serve this great country, pride versus prejudice -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: You can absolutely be sure this would be an attack line in the general, no question about it. They're setting enough already right there. Dana, great to see you. Thanks so much.

Outfront with us now is Nihad Awad, he's the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Mr. Awad, thank you so much for joining us.

NIHAD AWAD, NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN ISLAMIC RELATIONS: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: You are not -- you are calling not just for Carson to apologize, but your group is also calling for him to drop out of the race. Now, we've already seen him and his teams say today that he is not backing down. So, would anything short of dropping out be acceptable to you? AWAD: Well, the question is, would it be acceptable to the public.

The public upholds, and likes, and wanted to live under the United States constitution. And Ben Carson clearly stated that he does not believe in that part of the constitution, which is Article Six, which says no test should be acquired as a qualification to any office or public trust in the United States. So, he clearly trashed the United States constitution by saying that an American Muslim cannot be president of the United States. That is a religious test. And therefore, he is proving himself unfit or not ready to lead the United States. Because he's not going to uphold the constitution.

BOLDUAN: So, nothing short of him dropping out will be acceptable to you is what I'm taking to that?

AWAD: Well, he has to prove to all of us as Americans, that he will protect the United States constitution. If he does that and if he say that I no longer, you know, believe in the statement I made, I think it will be up to voters. But he clearly and he doubles down whenever he opens his mouth about the constitution.

BOLDUAN: Interesting. Now, I spoke with Ben Carson's business manager earlier today about your response, about the press conference that you all held. I spoke to him directly afterward. Listen here to what he said.

(BEGI VIDEO CLIP)

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, BEN CARSON'S BUSINESS MANAGER: We are no longer interested in the rhetoric of care and what they say. When they change their actions, end their behavior, that what is going on in this world, in this country, in ISIS beheading people, treating women like animals, I mean, disregard in life, behead and killing homosexuals because of their choice, I mean, are you kidding me? Change your action. Show us that we are worthy of your trust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And that's Armstrong Williams. He's pointing the finger at you. How do you respond?

AWAD: Well, if he googles it, where we stand on this issue, he would know that we had condemned ISIS and all terrorist organizations that harmed innocent civilians. And the record shows that. But now, they are trying to change the conversation. They are trying to target the messenger instead of focusing on the message which is, the flawed statement that Ben Carson said that he does not believe in Article Six of the United States constitution. How would we trust someone who would be in the White House to treat all Americans equally and uphold the constitution? That is the question Ben Carson has to answer.

BOLDUAN: Now, Mr. Awad, we know that you have even invited him to meet you, to meet with your group to discuss. We will see how this conversation goes going forward. Please give him an aloof. Thanks so much.

AWAD: It's an open invitation. BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

AWAD: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll see how the campaign says about that. Now, OUTFRONT with us now, CNN political commentator and conservative radio show host Ben Ferguson and also joining us, former chief of staff to the republican Senator Mitch McConnell Josh Holmes. Great to see you both. So, you've heard, I mean --

BEN FERGUSON, RADIO HOST, "THE BEN FERGUSON SHOW": Good evening.

BOLDUAN: -- the back and forth continues guys -- good evening, Ben.

FERGUSON: Yes.

BOLDUAN: And so Ben, from your perch, what are conservatives saying, should Ben Carson apologize?

FERGUSON: No. And they also think that he is being taken out of context. I mean, you listen to what your last guest just said. And with all due respect, he did not hear Ben Carson. Ben Carson did not say that we should pass a law that a Muslim should not be allowed to be the president of the United States of America. What he did say was, I would not advocate for a Muslim to be the president of the United States of America. That is completely different from what they are now claiming. Which is he's saying that there's some, you know, religious test here that we should ban all Muslims from serving in government or at the highest office of the land.

[19:10:30] People every day, in a campaign, look at candidates and they decide which candidate they think is close enough to their personal beliefs or their religious beliefs. I can say this very clearly, if someone was a conservative Muslim running against Hillary Clinton, I would probably support them. But ultimately, if a Muslim is running for office and I have an evangelical Christian that is more aligned in my faith, I'm going to support them. That does not mean that a Muslim is banned from running for the presidency as they are implying, which is insane.

BOLDUAN: So, Josh, do you think what Ben is saying is spot on? That Carson was right here?

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. I mean, I almost can't believe we are having this conversation, right? We are talking about a candidate for president of the United States who happens to be right now in a top three situation who is actively advocating that millions of Americans are unqualified to be president of the United States. Just simply by their religion. This is not an issue of your personal preference. This is the foundation of our country we're talking about. I can't even believe we have gotten to a place where anybody can justify this kind of point of view from somebody who's looking for the votes from a millions of Americans.

BOLDUAN: Ben? FERGUSON: Again, you are making this much bigger than it really is.

Every single day, people that run for office look at the religion, the background of an individual.

BOLDUAN: Right. But Ben, let me ask you this, real quick, Ben.

FERGUSON: Well, let me finish. Donald Trump shouldn't be president because he made too much money or Carly Fiorina should not be president because she is too rich or Hillary Clinton should not be president because she --

BOLDUAN: Here is the difference.

FERGUSON: -- birth, abortion for goodness sake.

BOLDUAN: They are talking about one person and their situation. When I spoke with the Business Manager Armstrong Williams, a close confidant to Carson today --

FERGUSON: Sure.

BOLDUAN: -- he said, and we asked him if he's saying that the numbers vary that between two million and seven million Muslim that live in the United States today, if he thinks that all of them fit into the same category as being unfit to hold the highest office in the land. And they said, yes.

FERGUSON: Well, look, Armstrong Williams is not Ben Carson. What I heard Ben Carson say was he would not advocate for a Muslim being in the White House. I don't think that that is some shocking statement that means that he is implying that you can't run. You can run, no matter what your religion is. Now, could he have maybe said, hey, right now in this country, there's plenty of other candidates that I would support before someone that is a Muslim --

BOLDUAN: Right.

FERGUSON: That's his right to say that. But I also know that this morning, when I woke up, there's probably about 50 percent of Americans that would say that they would never vote for me because I'm an evangelical conservative Christian. And no one is criticizing them for that. I mean, this is part of politics.

HOLMES: Yes. But Ben, Ben --

FERGUSON: You don't get to decide what you will -- no, but what I'm saying is, there are people right now in the Democratic Party that would not vote for many of the republican candidates solely because they are evangelical, conservative Christians. And that's okay. It's the same right that Ben Carson says that he would not advocate for a Muslim in the White House. That also is okay. This is not that big of a deal.

BOLDUAN: I know you say it. We'll see if it turns out to be that big of a deal. Because one question is, is this going to hurt Ben Carson? Some folks saying, can he survive this? I mean, how much do you think this is going to --

FERGUSON: I don't think it will.

HOLMES: Well, look, I think the bigger problem is, here we are, yet again, allowing liberal critics to argue that the Republican Party is somehow bigoted and somehow doesn't have a view of inclusions towards people in the United States rather than what I think Ben Carson is trying to talk about which was Islamic extremism. Which is a huge concern to republican primary voters in fact to all Americans. And the fact that this administration refuses to acknowledge Islamic fundamentalists extremism as a problem in this country --

FERGUSON: Agree.

HOLMES: -- is something that republican primary voters are dying to hear about.

BOLDUAN: So Ben --

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON: Let me say this too. You have a trust problem --

BOLDUAN: Is this the conversation you want to have?

HOLMES: That's right. I mean --

FERGUSON: We can take this on top of conversation but here is something else. There is a trust issue, in many conservative voters when it comes to Muslims in this country, based on the fact that when we have attacks, whether it be the Boston bombers who are active in a mosque, whether it be the Fort Hood shooter who was active in a mosque, whether it be the individuals that came to shoot at the Draw Mohammed event who are active in a mosque. We do not see many Muslims in these mosques telling authorities, hey, we have extremists in here. And we are seeing this homegrown terrorist who are active in their local communities, in their local mosques. And the leadership in those mosque are not calling them out for it. So, there is a big trust issue here. And there are terrorist attacks in this country to back them up.

[19:15:20] BOLDUAN: I think you need to be careful in saying that the leaders of all of this mosque, they are not trying to help authorities.

FERGUSON: No, I'm saying in some of them. No, no, I'm saying, in some of them. They usually say, well, they were distant. They weren't a big part of our congregation. When in fact, many around them say that they were active in these communities and in these mosques.

BOLDUAN: Well, it's definitely going to be a headline that continues to follow. Ben Carson, we will see how that campaign response again.

Josh, it's great to see you. Ben, it's great to see you. Thanks, guys. HOLMES: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

OUTFRONT for us next, Hillary Clinton riding high in the polls, once again. Our special report on how she's turning around those numbers. But can she keep it going?

Now, Donald Trump is also ahead along with Carly Fiorina. Her poll numbers surged while his dropped. Now, Trump is on the attack. Should he be worried?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:19:24] BOLDUAN: Tonight, did Hillary Clinton get her mojo back? After months of dropping in the polls, Clinton is now expanding her lead nationally. At a new CNN poll shows if Vice President Joe Biden stays out of the race, Clinton surges even more. Biden is still mauling over his decision. But tonight, he could have given his clearest indication yet.

Brianna Keilar is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today in Louisiana and Arkansas, Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail buoyed by a new CNN ORC poll that show she's opening her lead in the democratic field.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are not going to let our country be taken backwards by people who are out of touch and out of date.

KEILAR: Clinton now stands at 42 percent nationally with Bernie Sanders at 24 and Joe Biden still mauling a run at 22 percent. It's good news for Clinton after months of sliding poll numbers. A 10 point drop last month's alone, as Sanders and his passionate following have stopped away support. Clinton told CBS, she does not intend to run a negative campaign against Sanders.

CLINTON: I know Bernie, I respect his enthusiastic and intense advocacy of his ideas. That's what I want this campaign to be about.

KEILAR: But a major unknown for her campaign, will Biden run? If he stays out, this new poll shows most of his support goes to Clinton, putting her almost 30 points ahead of Sanders. In an interview with a Catholic magazine, American Biden, who just lost his son Beau brain cancer three months ago made it clear, he's not ready to make a decision.

VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN (D), UNITED STATES: It's not quite there yet. And it may not be there in time to make it feasible to be able to run and succeed because there are certain windows that are close. But if that's it, that's it.

KEILAR: One person close to Biden long thought to be resistant to a run, his wife, Jill.

BIDEN: You have to talk to my wife about that. I have to talk to my wife about that.

KEILAR: But after reports she is now supportive of a run, a spokesman for the second lady issue this statement. Of course, Dr. Biden would be on board if her husband decides to run for president, but they haven't made that decision yet. A possible Biden candidacy comes as the Clinton campaign tries to make her seems more spontaneous and accessible. She's giving more interviews and making appearances on late night TV.

CLINTON: Let me grab my pen.

KEILAR: But asked on CBS to give three word that describe the real Hillary Clinton, she struggled.

CLINTON: I mean, look, I am a real person with all the pluses and minuses that go along with being that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And that is really the opening that some Democrats see for Joe Biden. He is very authentic and he is open, even when talking about something as personal about mourning the loss of his son, Beau. But you heard in there, Kate. Even he is acknowledging the window for getting in this race is closing. October 13th, the first democratic debate that CNN is hosting is just around the corner. Though it's unclear what Biden sees as his last chance for getting in this race.

BOLDUAN: That's an excellent point, Brianna. October 13th, debate, I think is a pretty important marker at any point in this race. Great to see you. Thank you so much.

OUTFRONT with us now, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. She's also a senior advisor for Correct the Correct, a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC. Also joining us, Jonathan Allen, she's a political correspondent at Vox. And co-author of HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton. Great to see you both. So, Governor --

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Yes.

BOLDUAN: No matter what those around Biden are saying and what a lot of folks are hoping. I mean, there's a draft Biden movement, from what you hear from Joe Biden there when he says that it may not be feasible in terms of the timing. Is this the Vice President essentially telling us what you see, that he's not going to run?

GRANHOLM: Well, who knows exactly, but if you look at his actual words in all of these interviews, I mean clearly, he knows that if he got in and, you know, we all love Joe Biden. I love Joe Biden. But if he got in, he would have to make a difference between he and Hillary Clinton. And they are so close. And no doubt, your poll today, your CNN poll, which has her on the rebound, you know, the people who are surrounding him have got to look at that. He has got to look at that, too. What would he bring that she is not already bringing. That's got to be a question. And you know, that poll, you've got, she's got now 50 percent support, majority support of all of the candidates who are listed among women and minorities. She's, you know, hopefully put the e-mail stuff behind her. So, I don't know. It would be a tough thing for him to jump in this late.

[19:24:10] BOLDUAN: And John, I want to get your take on this. I mean, the Governor was just mentioning, this new poll. I mean, it shows that without Joe Biden in the race, it really mostly helps Clinton. She would then have nearly doubled Bernie Sanders level of support. But you think that in the long run, Joe Biden not in the race could actually hurt Hillary Clinton. Why is that?

JONATHAN ALLEN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, VOX: Well, I just think that you sort of define the democratic race by Hillary Clinton. It's Hillary Clinton supporters and anti-Hillary people. And I think Bernie Sanders has showed some pretty good spirit and putting together a pretty strong core there of the anti-Hillary group. But if both of them are in the ways, Biden and Sanders, what I really expect to see happen is, that anti-Hillary vote ends up divided. And that's helpful to her. And even if Biden pulls a little more from her than he polls from Sanders, it's not enough to get Sanders into first place or enough to get Biden into first place.

GRANHOLM: Which is why I'm sure he's thinking about it.

BOLDUAN: Right.

GRANHOLM: I mean, he does not want to get in for a third time and, you know, face another -- you know, it's soul sucking to run for president. It's hard. And he's just had this horrible thing. So, let him make his decision, I'm sure he is going to do what's best for him.

BOLDUAN: On his own time. Absolutely. But he's even acknowledging, that time is quickly running out. I have to get your guys take. As we are talking about Hillary Clinton rising in the polls. You know, Clinton insiders, they say that the voters are going to see more humor, they're going to see more heart from Clinton. This weekend, we saw a little of that. We saw her dancing on the campaign trail in this video from ABC. And then there was this hilarious appearance on Jimmy Fallon. Look at this again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haven't seen you since my last wedding.

CLINTON: Well, I'm sure I'll see you at the next one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you writing all this down?

CLINTON: Hold on. Let me -- let me grab my pen.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Now, John, I know that's exactly what you say anytime a source calls you. I'm grabbing my pen, which is a nice glass of wine.

ALLEN: You know, I actually go for Jack Daniels. But yes --

BOLDUAN: So, funny there's a lot of alcohol combo tonight in this studio as well. No, this is the Hillary Clinton that folks, they want to see more of. But here is the question. I mean she said in an interview with CBS, I'm a real person. Folks don't normally have to say that. Will this last?

ALLEN: Yes. I think it's not helpful for her to be out there making the argument she's a real person. She's not warm and fuzzy. And I thinks sometimes when she tries to be warm and fuzzy, it doesn't work.

GRANHOLM: Come on! John, look at her in that Fallon thing. She was totally warm and fuzzy. She was great.

ALLEN: Right. That was a great moment for her. And I think her campaign has done a good job for getting some good moments out for her. But that's not who she really is most of the time. I think the wine glass, everybody can relate to. To the extent that she can do that I think is helpful for her image. But I think it's not necessarily who she is naturally.

GRANHOLM: Kate, I would disagree, and just quickly because I know you've got -- I would say that all of these interviews when you combined them, both the serious ones like on "Face the Nation" as well, Jimmy Fallon and Ellen DeGeneres. And the questions he's answered about the email over and over again. It opens people's minds up now that that's been put behind to hear what she has to say about policies. So, she's going to be talking about healthcare this week. She's going to be talking about -- for the middle class. That I think is contributing to the rights and his poll numbers in addition to being accessible.

BOLDUAN: I think it is yet to be seen though if she has put that e- mail controversy behind her.

GRANHOLM: Sure.

BOLDUAN: As much as you would love it.

GRANHOLM: I would. I would.

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN: The Governor has got some more wishful thinking going on there.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Exactly. Now, wine for all of us. Governor, it's great to see you.

GRANHOLM: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: John, it's always great to see you.

ALLEN: Take care, Kate. BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, Carly Fiorina, the new number two in

the polls and new number one in Donald Trump's sites. Can his attacks on her business records stopped her search?

And also, Pope Francis arrives in Washington tomorrow. His first visit to the United States. So, will Republicans greet him with open arms?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:32:22] BOLDUAN: Donald Trump feeling the heat and on the attack now that Republican rival Carly Fiorina surges in the latest poll, rocketing her to second place. The Republican front-runner, today, more aggressive than usual, taking every opportunity to slam Fiorina, whether it was on TV or on social media. And this time, it's more than her face or persona that he's bashing. He's taking on her record, the way she sounds and her prospects of winning.

So, how is the former Hewlett-Packard CEO responding to these Trump attacks?

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT with tonight's "Money and Power".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carly Fiorina now in second place, trailing only Donald Trump whose lead fell eight points after last week's debate.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As people come to know me, and they understand who I am, and what I have done and, most importantly what I will do, they tend to support me.

FOREMAN: Donald Trump lost no time, turning both his tongue and his tweets on the surging Fiorina.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think when people find out what a horrible job she did at business, running two companies into the ground, Lucent and HP.

FOREMAN: On Twitter today, Trump blasted Fiorina, saying she's terrible with business, the last thing our country needs.

But Fiorina's accomplishments are impressive. After college, jobs as a secretary, she joined a trainee program at AT&T, there she soared through the ranks. In just 10 years, becoming the company's first senior vice president. Soon after, she was named president of AT&T's spinoff, Lucent, leaving in 1999 to become CEO of Hewlett-Packard. No woman had ever risen to such heights in American business.

FIORINA: We are not losing revenue as a result of this merger.

FOREMAN: She oversaw the mega-purchase of Compaq. The two companies' combined sales led Fiorina to make this claim.

FIORINA: We doubled the size of the company. We quadrupled its top line growth rate. We've quadrupled its cash flow. We tripled its rate of innovation.

FOREMAN: But HP went into a tail spin, losing half its stock value, laying off 30,000 workers. In 2005, Fiorina was fired.

Jeffery Sonnenfeld is a professor at the Yale School of Management. Fiorina calls him a Clintonite, a charge he denies.

JEFFERY SONNENFELD, PROFESSOR, YALE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT: She doubles revenues. That's not what business is about. You try to increase profits. The proof is in the history. Everything she bought has been shuttered, or else it was divested.

FOREMAN: Dartmouth's Paul Argenti says Fiorina's tenure produced mixed results.

PAUL ARGENTI, DARTMOUTH PROFESSOR OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATION: I do not think she's like the worst CEO of all time. And I don't think that she completely destroyed the company. And, in fact, I think the company probably ended up in a better place as a result of the strategy she set in motion.

[19:35:01] FOREMAN: And as Fiorina told Erin Burnett, with the tech bubble bursting, many firms were in trouble back then.

FIORINA: Every other technology company laid people off. It's the worst thing a CEO can do is have to say to someone, you don't have a job.

FOREMAN: But for Donald Trump, it all comes down to what he says happened at HP during her reign.

TRUMP: The company is a disaster and continues to be a disaster. They still haven't recovered.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: The thing is, there are people out there who were directly affected in their job like Carly Fiorina's decision. Some of them have taken to the Internet with great venom over this. They're just furious about the whole thing. The question is, does that really spill over into a movement in the political realm that can derail her current rise in polls?

Kate?

BOLDUAN: I think that scrutiny is only just beginning. Tom, thank you so much. Great to see you.

OUTFRONT with us now, political commentator and former political director in the Reagan White House, Jeffrey Lord. Also with us, CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp.

Great to see you both.

S.E., Tom laid it out really well --

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey, Kate!

BOLDUAN: Hey there.

Tom laid it out really well, the blemishes or the dark spots in Carly Fiorina's record. Do you think she's able to shake that? I mean, it was clearly an effective line in 2010.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Carly has opposite problem as Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney needed to convince the country that his record of success in business should matter. She has to convince the country some of her failures should not. That's really a marketing trick.

I would, if I were her, talk up more of her personal story of rising from receptionist to CEO, and how hard she worked to get there and less of the bullet points on her time at HP and Lucent, because that's where she gets into some trouble.

I would also remind her to avoid the Romney problem of getting defined too early. You can hear Trump and some Democrats sort of talking up her record of failure both in business and in politics, in that failed Senate campaign. If I were her, I would position as a fighter, someone who fought her way up the corporate ladder, who fought breast cancer, who fought her way on to the debate stage, right?

I think that's a better definition for Carly. And she's got to do that early before this other stuff really starts to cement.

BOLDUAN: It's interesting you put it that way.

I mean, Jeffrey, Trump says that he's not worried about Carly Fiorina, but if you just look at his attacks from just online since yesterday, I mean, he put out that she is terrible at business, did a such a horrible job at Lucent and HP, virtually destroying both companies, that she never got another CEO job offer. He went on from there.

I mean, that sure sounds like a Donald Trump who feels threatened. Should he be?

LORD: Well, Kate, I think that's happening here is the second debate marks the end of the first stage of this campaign. What we are shifting into now is what is, quote/unquote, "normal" in a presidential primary season. I mean, this is the stage when George H.W. Bush went after Reagan for voodoo economics and Lyndon Johnson was going after JFK for his family's -- father service as ambassador for England and believing the Nazis were going to win.

I mean, it gets -- I think Joe Biden right about now is being accused of plagiarism by the Dukakis campaign.

BOLDUAN: What does that mean for Trump and Fiorina? Because there is nothing that is typical or usual about how the campaigns have been run so far.

LORD: Right. What it means is it's settling into now, we're getting into their records. We are really getting into it. We are off the surface stuff. We're really going to get into Carly's record. We're going to get into Donald's record. We're going to get -- you know, Ben Carson and his statements and all this.

This is pretty normal. This is what's going to happen. We have Scott Walker dropping out. And so, you know, there will be more of those.

This is what's going to happen. She's going to have to buckle in here as will Donald and they are going to go at it.

BOLDUAN: Now, one of the interesting things, S.E., and I think you and I talked about this off camera. Fiorina is the first candidate to successfully attack Trump afterward gaining in the polls, not dropping or kind of cratering like others have. Why is that, do you think?

CUPP: You know, I'm not sure that she's actually attacked him, per se. I remember the two moments that the debate, one where she delivered the look at my face line. I don't know that I would call that an attack. I think she kind of let Trump walk into a punch line. And then going after his record, I think Jeffrey is right, that's part of normal campaign business. I think even Trump wouldn't think that was below the belt to sort of talk about Donald Trump's record on business.

So, I think she's actually avoided Trump smartly, if you look at other people like Marco Rubio who have kind of just stayed, you know, kept his head down, that has served him well, too.

But Carly does have a built-in advantage, just being a woman, whether that's fair or not.

[19:40:04] I think it makes it a little bit more difficult for him to swing at her in the ways that he has attacking her looks. And not suffer some consequences for that. I think you have seen his dip in the polls.

BOLDUAN: Well, we will see about that, though, because every day brings another fight.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Great to see you.

LORD: That is right.

CUPP: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys.

LORD: Bye, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, a top general says Bowe Bergdahl is not a traitor or a Taliban sympathizer and should not go to prison. Our report on that coming up next.

And Pope Francis appearing before a joint session of Congress. Could the people's pope face silence or even worse from angered Republicans?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Tonight, attorneys for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl are calling for the public release of the military report about Bergdahl's disappearance from his military base in Afghanistan. Bergdahl's lawyers, they filed the request with the army court of criminal appeals today. Now, this comes as the lead investigator in the case is suggesting that the army sergeant does not deserve life behind bars.

[19:45:04] Bergdahl is now waiting to learn his fate.

Martin Savidge is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After nearly five years in captivity, their son Bowe is coming home.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You could forgive Bowe Bergdahl's family for believing the nightmare for their son was finally over. It wasn't.

Even before he got home, many Americans believed Bergdahl was a deserter and possibly a traitor. His freedom for five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo sparked outrage, especially when it was reported soldiers had died looking for him.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Welcome to Hannity. Now, we are learning more and more about the six soldiers who lost their lives.

SAVIDGE: The backlash forced Bergdahl's hometown of Hallie, Idaho, to cancel plans for a homecoming celebration.

And the negative narrative grew.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Part of the poll that we reported last night says that Bergdahl, all right, wanted to go to Uzbekistan, all right, and be a Russian hit man.

SAVIDGE: But according to the Army's own investigation, that narrative was completely false. During a hearing to decide if Bergdahl should face a court-martial, two key witnesses took the stand, Major General Kenneth Doll, the army's lead investigator spent a day and a half interviewing Bergdahl and says his investigation found no soldiers died looking for him. He also testified Bergdahl left his post under the delusion his unit was being poorly led and he needed to speak to a general at a different U.S. base 18 miles away. His plan failed the following morning when he was captured by the Taliban. Doll said he felt jail time for Bergdahl would be, quote, "inappropriate".

Next came Terrence Russell, a former Air Force survival instructor, and one of the top experts on prisoner of war. He teared up as he described in detail Bergdahl's 1,797 days of torture, depravation and captivity.

According to Russell, Bergdahl was beaten with rubber hoses and copper cables and tried escaping several times, telling military officials, quote, "Bergdahl's experience ranks in the same echelon of horrible conditions we have not seen in 60 years. He was an army of one. He had to fight the enemy alone for four years, 11 months. You cannot overestimate how difficult that is."

He said there was absolutely no evidence Bergdahl provided any military information to the Taliban.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Martin Savidge is joining us now.

So, Martin, with all of these developments, the defense is also saying that Sergeant Bergdahl, that he suffered from a severe mental disease or defect. That is how it was presented in the courtroom in the hearings. What does that mean for the case against him?

SAVIDGE: Well, it depends, actually. That came from documents from the U.S. coast guard. It turns out that Bergdahl was applied and accepted by the Coast Guard before the Army. But he was out of basic training. The Coast Guard said essentially mentally unfit for even them. The Army waived any kind of psychological evaluation.

This would be considered, perhaps, a mitigating factor here. In other words, it would not necessarily excuse his actions, but it could possibly be taken into account by a court-martial if it comes to that point and we still as yet don't know if there will be a court-martial case.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Everyone, obviously, including Bowe Bergdahl, now waiting to hear his fate if they will take that step if he will face a court martial.

It's great to see you, Martin. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

BURNETT: OUTFRONT for us next, Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress on Thursday. Ahead, why are so many Republicans angry with this very popular pope?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:52:53] BOLDUAN: Tonight, anticipation is building as Pope Francis begins his U.S. tour tomorrow. First stop, Washington, D.C., making him the first pontiff to ever address a joint session of Congress. But right along with the excitement, there's also some skepticism.

Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Pope Francis arrives in Washington for his first visit to the U.S., President Obama will be welcoming a powerful political partner. But with the next presidential election heating up, the White House is rejecting the notion the pope's trip is all about politics.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no plan or strategy that's been put in place to try to stage an event that will advance anybody's political agenda.

ACOSTA: That's a tough claim to make, considering the pope's position as the White House led the charge for same-sex marriage, Pope Francis has softened on his own stance on gay priests.

POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge him?

ACOSTA: On climate change, the pope says it's a global problem, with grave implications. The earth, our home, is beginning look more and more like an immense pile of filth". And he slammed trickle down economics, saying, "This opinion, which has never confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

And then there's the president's policy on Cuba, a change the pope helped broker in secret.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis.

ACOSTA: Conservatives have dubbed it the Obamafication of Pope Francis and GOP presidential candidates have had enough.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just think the pope was wrong. The fact is his infallibility is on religious matters, not on political ones.

ACOSTA: It's not the first time a pope and U.S. president have joined forces. Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were close allies in the fight against communism during the Cold War.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN FAITH AND RELIGION COMMENTATOR: When John Paul II kind of went against Polish communism and aligned himself to the solidarity movement, I didn't hear a lot of uproar. He was lauded for that kind of advancement.

[19:55:01] And so, I just think it's interesting that this pope when he kind of wades into those waters seems to get criticized to stay out of politics.

ACOSTA: Some Republicans are also steamed that the White House is inviting pro-choice and pro-gay rights advocates to the pope's arrival ceremony. Mike Huckabee dubbed that a new low for an administration that will go down as the most anti-Christian in American history.

The White House insists the pope deserves a diverse audience.

EARNEST: There is no theological test that was administered prior to giving tickets to the South Lawn Wednesday morning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, White House officials concede there could be moments when the pope publicly disagrees with the president, for example, on the subject of abortion. Aides to the president say they have some clue as to what the pope plans to say on Thursday at the joint meeting for Congress, but they're also bracing for plenty of surprises.

Kate, this is a very unpredictable pope.

BOLDUAN: That's right, Jim. Thank you so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts right now.