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U.S. Plan in Syria?; Trump Tax Cut; Interview With Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton; Bill Clinton Blames Media for Hillary Controversies; New Help for Women, Children Brutalized by ISIS. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired September 28, 2015 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: superpower standoff.

President Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin may be face to face here at the United Nations amid their open and bitter disagreement over the war in Syria, their deep divisions laid bare in dueling speeches. Will their meeting lead to any progress? I'll speak to a leading Obama critic, Republican Senator Tom Cotton.

Mission impossible? Stunning failures of the U.S. strategy to train and equipped moderate Syrian rebels are revealed, prompting Putin to mock how few fighters the program has even produced. Now the Pentagon is scrambling as American weapons fall into terrorists hands. Can this disastrous effort be salvaged?

Trump tax cut. Donald Trump unveils an ambitious plan to drastically reduce income taxes for most Americans, including the very rich. Will the returns of millions of tax filers wind up simply saying I win?

And Clinton's 2016 take. Former President Bill Clinton opens up to CNN about the race for the White House and his wife's quest to become the country's first woman president. Who is he blaming for the controversies dogging her campaign?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the United Nations. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, the first one-on-one meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in two years. They have been holding talks right here at the United Nations where the two leaders earlier addressed the General Assembly in speeches that underscored their deep and frosty divide over the war in Syria and how best to take on ISIS.

We're also following the strong defense of the nuclear agreement with Iran by the country's president. In his U.N. speech, Hassan Rouhani said the deal created a new environment for global diplomacy and he called it "a victory over war." And in an interview with CNN, Rouhani is indicating a prisoner exchange with the United States might be possible. At the same time, Iran has made a deal with Iraq to share intelligence on the fight against ISIS and also with Russia and Syria.

The agreement increasing U.S. concern about Russia's rapid military buildup in Syria and appears to confirm suspicions of cooperation between Baghdad and Moscow. We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our correspondents and guests, including Senator Tom Cotton. He's member of the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, begins our coverage. Jim is with me over here at the U.N.

First of all, Jim, what are you finding out about this meeting that's going on right now between Presidents Putin and Obama?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The meeting is still under way. Syria certainly at the top of the agenda. Judging by the somewhat stiff handshake before the meeting, the less- than-enthusiastic toast at the leaders luncheon earlier in the day, but, also more importantly, the vastly different rhetoric we heard from the floor of the U.N. General Assembly earlier today, competing speeches by President Obama and President Putin, you see very different views of the situation on the ground there. The question is can the two sides find common ground?


SCIUTTO (voice-over): A tense meeting between the U.S. and Russian presidents with Syria at the top of the agenda. Earlier, President Obama took to the U.N. stage to make an impassioned defense of diplomacy, hailing progress with Iran and Cuba.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion.

SCIUTTO: And making clear he is now open to negotiations to end the relentless war in Syria.

OBAMA: The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict.

SCIUTTO: Still, Presidents Obama and Putin sharing a toast at a U.N. luncheon sounding unlikely partners in peace, Obama calling Bashar al-Assad a tyrant.

OBAMA: When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation's internal affairs.

SCIUTTO: President Putin, a bulwark against terrorism.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.

SCIUTTO: And missing from either speech, specifics on bridging those differences to end the fighting and the flood of refugees. The two leaders were equally apart on Ukraine. President Obama called Russia's continuing occupation there a challenge to peace worldwide.


OBAMA: We cannot stand by when the sovereignty and the territorial of a nation is flagrantly violated. If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today.

SCIUTTO: President Putin blamed the U.S. for stirring what he described as so-called democratic revolutions in the Mideast and beyond with grave consequences.

PUTIN (through translator): Do you realize now what you have done?


SCIUTTO: President Obama recalled his recent diplomatic successes with Cuba and Iran as a defense of the possibilities of diplomacy, two countries of course where there were decades of hostility, and yet you had those agreements.

The question is, on Syria, are the differences so great that they can't find common ground? But you did hear a possibility today just in that phrase from President Obama, managed transition from Bashar al-Assad. Does that open the window of him staying a period of time that satisfies the Russians? Does he get out soon enough to satisfy the U.S.? That's certainly the kind of thing they are talking about across that table here right now, Wolf. The question is, do they come to agreement?

BLITZER: We will see what they say coming out of this closed- door meeting that they have had -- they are right now having even as we speak. Jim Sciutto, thank you.

In his speech, President Obama speech also touted the nuclear deal with Iran, as did that country's president, Hassan Rouhani. he called it an example of victory over war.

Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is with us here at the United Nations as well.

What else did Rouhani, Elise, say about the agreement?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: He said clearly it's better than sanctions and acrimony among nations, Wolf, but he also said it could be a pretext for further cooperation within the United States and other countries around the world.

And I think for U.S. officials, Wolf, the whole idea that the U.S. would cooperate with the Syria a little bit more is really important for Iran. For years, the U.S. has shunned Iran's involvement in Syria and these other conflicts in the region. Now it's talking about Iran having a seat at the table, an integral player.

What officials tell me is, listen, this could open the door for further cooperation. What the U.S. wants to do is try and harness some of this goodwill from the deal into getting Iran to be a more cooperative player in the region, but they say, look, we're also positive about the Iran deal, but until Iran implements it, let's not say it's a victory over war because the jury is still out whether Iran is going to implement.

They are pretty positive, though, because they really think Iran wants to get the sanctions lifted.

BLITZER: The Iran president, Rouhani, told our Christiane Amanpour in an interview that Iran might be willing to release those American prisoners -- it's holding four Americans in Iran -- but only in exchange for Iranians who are jailed here in the United States, in other words, a prisoner swap. What are you hearing about that?

LABOTT: Officials are being very coy about this. Obviously, they don't want to do anything to jeopardize getting these Americans released.

But, look, Secretary Kerry did give a nod to the fact that talks are ongoing. Rouhani told -- President Rouhani told Christiane that there are talks about issues of getting the Americans released, getting their prisoners released. But the U.S. I don't think doesn't want to publicly make that correlation.

But you have seen in the past the U.S. did make a prisoner swap with Cuba for Alan Gross for the Cuban five and those other intelligence agents. There is a precedent here. I think we need to watch this space and certainly it's not ripe yet, but I do think there are some talks going on very quietly behind the scenes, if not necessarily about a prisoner swap like cold and hard, maybe humanitarian gestures on both sides.

BLITZER: The U.S. did release some prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl as well. That was a swap, as we all know. Elise, thank you.


BLITZER: Let's some get more on all of this.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton is joining us. He's from Arkansas. He's a key member of both the Intelligence and Armed Services Committee.

First of all, would you be open to a prisoner swap along those lines, Senator?

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: No, Wolf, I would not. The last time this president engaged in such a high-profile prisoner swap, we traded five stone-cold Taliban killers and got back Bowe Bergdahl, who is now facing trials for deserting his post.

More importantly, it engages in the worst kind of moral equivalence. The Iranians that we hold were convicted by independent courts under a democratic form of government. Iran is holding four Americans hostage without any due process whatsoever, a Christian preacher for spreading the Gospel of Christ or a reporter for doing his job.

They should have released those Americans a long time ago.

BLITZER: As you know, the Iranian president, Rouhani, is calling this nuclear deal a victory over war. Here's the question. Is that preferable to war, having this kind of diplomacy that might in fact wind up ending Iran's nuclear ambition?

COTTON: Unfortunately, Wolf, I think the nuclear deal is a victory for Iran and a victory for countries like Russia as well.


The president said all along that he would address Iran's malign influences throughout the region. And what we have seen since in the days since this nuclear deal was reached is Iran is continuing to spread that influence.

Now we have Iran cooperating with Iraq and Russia in Syria, upending one of the most longstanding, settled, bipartisan policies of the last 40 years, which is to keep Russia out of the Middle East. That's just one of the dire consequence of this nuclear deal.

BLITZER: In that CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, Senator, Rouhani also ridiculed Republican presidential candidates who oppose this Iran nuclear deal. He said they wouldn't even know where Tehran was on a map. What do you say to that? What's your response?

COTTON: Well, I think most of them probably could pick out Tehran on a map and plenty of our military commanders could pick out where Hassan Rouhani is at most times of the day.

BLITZER: Senator, I want you to stand by. We have more to discuss, including this. What happens if, in Syria, Bashar al-Assad and his regime and his military were to fall?

Stay with us. Much more with Senator Cotton coming up.



BLITZER: We're back with a key member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas.

We are going to talk to him in just a moment about the Pentagon program to arm and equip moderate Syrian rebels to help the fight against ISIS, a program so far that's been a stunning, stunning failure.

But, first, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what's the latest you're hearing over there?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, so far, the Pentagon has spent about $50 million to train and equip less than 200 Syrian rebels. They were supposed to be fighting ISIS. Many of them wanted to fight Assad. There is nothing really to show for the program.


STARR (voice-over): French air forces conducted their first airstrikes against ISIS positions in Syria, but airstrikes are not significantly changing the war on the ground. The Pentagon now urgently looking for a way to revive its disastrous effort to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight ISIS.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are looking at additional opportunities to train and equip Syrian forces that will combat ISIL.

STARR: But after the first group of trained fighters came under attack, another disaster. September 20, a second group of 70 Syrian rebels trained and equipped by the U.S. crossed into Syria.

That morning, 30 of those rebels reunited with their opposition group. But the next day, the commander of the group was told by al Qaeda to turn over U.S.-provided weapons or be attacked, and he did.

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The hope was that the second graduating class would be an improvement.

STARR: Now several U.S. military officials tell CNN they are waiting for crucial decisions to be made by the White House. One idea, train the rebels to help call in airstrikes and help with communications, not necessarily engage in combat. The U.S. train and equip program has been racked with crisis since its first group of 54 fighters entered Syria.

WEISS: They were almost immediately attacked by Jabhat al-Nusra. Some of the guys I think were killed. Others were kidnapped or captured. There had been speculation at the Pentagon some of them may have defected over to Nusra.

STARR: Then a shocking admission of how few of those rebels were left.

GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER: It's a small number, and the ones that are in the fight is -- we're talking four or five.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: As I see it right now, this four or five U.S.-trained fighters, let's not kid ourselves, that's a joke. (END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: It looks like half-a-dozen U.S.-provided trucks, ammunition and nobody is sure what else was turned over to this al Qaeda group in Northern Syria by the rebels that the U.S. had been counting on. Right now, it is not clear here at the Pentagon, officials say, what the next steps will be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Reminds me of what happened in Mosul in Northern Iraq, when U.S.-trained Iraqi forces simply ran away, left all their U.S. military equipment behind in the face of a few ISIS guys moving in on Iraq's second largest city, a disaster there, now another disaster unfolding.

Thanks very much, Barbara, for that report.

Senator Cotton, you're on the Armed Services Committee. You served in Iraq. How can the U.S. train and equip troops, moderate rebels in Syria who apparently don't want to fight ISIS?

COTTON: Well, Wolf, the program today has been an utter failure. You heard some of those numbers. Having four or five troops on the ground or having U.S. weapons turned over immediately to al Qaeda, this just goes to show what happens when you don't have a strategy and you're not committed to victory.

The president has been indecisive and has not taken action in Syria for four-and-a-half years, to include when Syria violated his own red line. Vladimir Putin is decisive. He's committed to victory and he now has aircraft and surface-to-air missiles and main battle tanks in Syria.


What the United States needs to do at this point is reaffirm our commitment that Assad must go and that Iran and Russia cannot be granted a sphere of influence in Syria, and that we will not sit down at the negotiating table to help broker Assad's victory in this fight. There are still plenty of fighting forces inside of Syria who want to see Assad go. We should have been helping them from the very beginning.

BLITZER: It's a fair point.

But I spoke with Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, here in New York at the United Nations. And he told me bluntly that if Syria and its military were to fall into the hands of the terrorists, all that Syrian military equipment would be in the hands of ISIS, the Islamic State and terrorists as well, and that could spill over and directly impact Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel.

That's a possibility, isn't it?

COTTON: Well, unfortunately, it already is affecting and destabilizing those countries. Jordan has almost 15 percent of its population now are Syrian

refugees. Just last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu from Israel had fly to Israel to speak to Vladimir Putin, one of the first times that an Israeli prime minister has had to worry about the presence of Russian vehicles and tanks and aircraft in the Middle East in over 40 years.

This is just the consequences of inaction and indecision in Syria. And if Assad himself were to go, which would be a good thing for the United States, because a bad thing for Russia and Syria, there would still be a multifront fighting effort within Syria, probably elements of his regime, moderates who are from Syria and outsiders like al Qaeda or the Islamic State and the Kurds as well.

This situation is not going to get better in the near run, but we cannot concede to Russia and Iran that they will have a client in Bashar al-Assad and Syria after that's been the United States policy for over four years.

BLITZER: Senator Cotton, thanks very much for joining us.

COTTON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, a very different story we're following. Donald Trump, today, he unveils a plan that would slash taxes for most Americans, including the rich. Why is he saying he personally would probably wind up paying more taxes?

Plus, the former President Bill Clinton talking to CNN about the race for the White House and who is to blame for his wife's struggles right now. Will his comments hurt or help her campaign?



BLITZER: Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is unveiling his plan to overhaul the U.S. tax code. The GOP candidate is proposing large cuts for most Americans, including the wealthiest, but he tells CNN he would probably wind up paying for.

Our political reporter, Sara Murray, is joining us with details.

Sara, what is Trump calling for in terms of income tax?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when Donald Trump unveiled the policy, he was selling it as a huge cut for the middle class, and while they do stand to benefit, experts tell me it may be America's richest families who stand to gain the most.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These numbers are really spectacular.

MURRAY (voice-over): Tonight, Donald Trump delivering more policy proposals, unveiling a plan that slashes taxes for the wealthy.

(on camera): But this still looks like a pretty big tax cut even for those at the top of the spectrum.

TRUMP: This is actually a tax reduction. I -- a big tax reduction, including for the upper income.

MURRAY: Under Trump's plan, individuals earning less than $25,000 and married couples earning less than $50,000 would pay nothing. But Trump also gives the wealthiest Americans, like himself, a huge tax break, cutting the rate from nearly 40 percent to just 25 percent. The billionaire real estate mogul refusing to share his current tax rate, but saying he strives to keep his tab down.

TRUMP: I fight like hell to pay as little as possible. Can I say that? I'm not a politician. I fight like hell always, because it's an expense.

MURRAY: Trump's plan most closely resembles one of his fiercest GOP rivals, Jeb Bush. Bush also calls for sweeping cuts and a top rate of 28 percent. Marco Rubio's plan brings it to 35 percent and offers broader tax credits for the nation's poorest Americans.

TRUMP: If I win, if I become president, we will be able to cut so much money.

MURRAY: Others say this is Trump's attempt at striking a populist tone, as critics slam his interview with CBS, saying Trump is advocating for universal health care, even as he calls for repealing Obamacare.

TRUMP: I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of, much better than they are taken care of now.

MURRAY: As Trump shows how America will look under his leadership, Ben Carson is climbing in the polls, essentially tied with Trump in the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" survey.

Carson's surge comes even as he continues to face questions about his comments last week that a Muslim shouldn't be president.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So you are saying that there is something specific about being a Muslim, that you have to reject Islam in order to be a president?

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you have to -- you have to reject the tenets of Islam. Yes, you have to.


MURRAY: Now, Wolf, one of the big questions Donald Trump is facing now is, how much will this tax plan cost? While he says it will be deficit-neutral, a number of economists and tax experts I talked to today said they think it will come with a hefty price tag.

BLITZER: All right, Sara, thanks very much.

Sara Murray reporting.

Let's get some more from our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny; and our senior political reporter, Manu Raju.

Gloria, in making his announcement, Trump said -- and I'm quoting -- "This is my wheelhouse. That's what I do well." But in comparison to other candidates' tax plans, does his really stand out?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: His tax plan is kind of like Jeb plus, and it's probably a smart thing for Donald Trump to do. I mean, Jeb Bush announced his tax plan; and Trump has lower brackets, lower corporate tax rates. And so he's sort of one ups Jeb.

And it's in keeping with Republican orthodoxy. It also attacks Wall Street, which is very popular these days, as you know, in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

So from Trump's point of view, he looks like a Republican who's a bit more populous and anti-Wall Street; and there isn't anything wrong with that if you're running in the primary, Wolf.

BLITZER: Probably right.

Trump usually shines, Manu, when speaking off the cuff, but today we saw him sticking basically to the script. What does that tell you about his confidence level, if anything, right now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it's unmistakable, Wolf. Trump has been on sort of a downward slide in terms of the polls. And certainly, he's still in front in most of the polls.

But as Sara noted in her piece, he's neck and neck with Ben Carson right now; and part of it has to do with a lot of questions about where he stands on key policy issues.

I mean, you saw in that "60 Minutes" interview last night, he was speaking off the cuff then; and he really was rambling a lot of times and a lot of times espoused positions that sounded like he was a Democratic candidate and opened him up to a lot of criticism.

So clearly, this has to be part of Donald Trump's calculation, to stick closer to the script and be a more polished candidate. We'll see, though, if he's able to stick to that in the coming weeks.

BLITZER: Jeff, let's take a closer look at that new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, as Manu pointed out, neck and neck right now, since July. Trump has been down. Senator Rubio and Carly Fiorina, they are up. Fiorina seeing the largest jump of the GOP candidates. What do these candidates need to do now to continue building that kind of momentum?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, not all candidates are building momentum, actually. I mean, Jeb Bush, to start with, look at him in that poll; really has taken such a slide since the last survey. But let's talk about the ones who are.

Marco Rubio, without question now, is emerging as the compromise conservative candidate, the compromise establishment candidate. He had a very good debate performance a couple weeks ago out in California during our debate; and he, a lot of people saw him during that, of course, some 24 million people, and he's doing well.

Now it kind of depends how he fares in this, really, back and forth, his fight with Donald Trump. Donald Trump has decided that Marco Rubio is his latest sort of villain, if you will, or target. He's calling him a kid. He said he sweats a lot, all these other things.

Rubio is trying to stay out of the fray here. And he said today on NPR he's not going to be sucked into this Trump "freak show," in his words, not mine. So it will be interesting to see how Rubio navigates this.

But Wolf, this is not good for Jeb Bush. Going into the end of the third quarter here, which ends on Wednesday, at the end of September, donors are getting nervous, getting agitated here, wondering what's happening here. So not, not, not good for Jeb Bush.

For Ben Carson, I have to say, running neck and neck with Donald Trump, it clearly shows voters are open to a candidate who's not elected before. We'll see where they end up, though; how this tax plan actually plays out.

This is Donald Trump putting some more meat on the bones. We'll see if they like how it tastes.

BORGER: You know, Wolf, I just want to echo what Jeff is saying about -- about Jeb.

Back in June, he was at 22 points in the polls. July 14, now seven. If you've invested $100 million in Jeb Bush, you're kind of wondering where your money has gone.

The problem Jeb has right now is that he's nobody's real second choice. People who want Jeb say, "OK, he's my No. 1." Then they're looking to other candidates as their second choice. Marco Rubio, for example, is a lot of people's second choice. But Jeb is not a consensus for No. 2, which would take him higher. It's a -- it's a problem he's got.

And the zeitgeist right now, as you know, is against the dynastic candidates. It's really for the outsiders and the new people like Marco Rubio, for example, and that hurts Jeb, as well.

[18:35:00] BLITZER: Manu, Representative Kevin McCarthy in California, the majority leader in the House, says he's going to run for speaker now that John Boehner has quit. You've been talking to your sources. What do they say?

RAJU: Well, Kevin McCarthy is really in the prime position to lock this up. He's heavy -- the heavy favorite right now.

Conservatives are weighing whether or not to get behind him, particularly the conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, who hold roughly 30 votes or so on the House floor. And if they decided to ban together to vote against Kevin McCarthy, that could present a problem for him to actually move forward to win the speakership. That is going to be one of his challenges going forward, getting at least some of those members on the House Freedom Caucus to support his bid.

Right now, it appears that he probably has more support than John Boehner did, but there's still a lot of time. At least he's going to have to really tell people what he -- how he envisions his speakership being different than John Boehner's. Because you're hearing folks saying, well, he's No. 2 under John Boehner. Will he be just another -- just another version of the Ohio Republican, who of course, had to leave on Friday, announce his resignation under pressure from conservatives who felt that he was not confrontational enough with not just the White House but the Senate, as well.

BLITZER: All right. Manu, stand by. Gloria, Jeff, stand by. Just ahead, Bill Clinton talks to CNN about the controversies shadowing his wife's presidential campaign. He also talks about Donald Trump. Stay with us.


[18:41:17] BLITZER: Bill Clinton is speaking out about the controversies confronting his wife as she seeks the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. And he doesn't hesitate to lay blame. Listen to what he told CNN's Fareed Zakaria.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: There will be a new president in 2017, January. You're, some would say, the most skilled student of American politics. Why do you think Hillary Clinton is having a tougher time than many imagined? The lead in the national polls has narrowed; Iowa and New Hampshire seem tough.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, think you know why. I think you know why.

1992, I received a call before -- in '91 before I started running for president, from the Bush White House. He said, "We've looked at the field. You're the only one that can win. The press has to have someone every election. We're going to give them you. You better not run."

All of a sudden, something nobody thought was an issue, Whitewater, that turned out never to be an issue, was a big $70 billion investigation. And all the hammering happened; and you asked voters, "Do you really believe this? This amounts to anything?"


"But do you trust him as much?" "No. There must be something."

So this is just something that has been a regular feature of all of our presidential campaigns, except in 2008, for unique reasons. Ever since Watergate, something like this happens.

I'd rather it happen now than later. And it was always going to happen. The -- the other party doesn't want to run against her. And if they do, they'd like her as mangled up as possible.

And they know that, if they leak things and say things, that that is catnip to the people who get bored talking about what's your position on student loan relief or dealing with the shortage of mental health care. We're seeing history repeat itself.

And I actually am amazed that she's borne up under it as well as she has, but I have never seen so much expended on so little.

There have been a shocking number of really reputable press people who have explained how you can't receive or transmit classified information, how the government has no central authority for classification, that defense, state, and the intelligence agencies have their own.

There have been a lot of really fine things, just that they don't seem to show up on television very much; and it is what it is.

But I think she -- you know, she went out and did her interviews, said she was sorry that using her personal e-mail caused all this confusion; and she'd like to give the election back to the American people. And I trust the people. I think it will be all right.

But it's obvious what happened. You know, at the beginning of the year, she was the most admired person in public life, and she earned it. Why? Because she was being covered by people who reported on what she was doing. The new START treaty, the Iran sanctions. Tripling the number of people on aids getting medicine for no more tax money. America was -- when she left office, our approval rating was more than 20 points higher than it had previously been.

What happened? The presidential campaign happened. And the nature of the coverage shifted from issue-based to political. And it happened.

You can't complain. This is not -- this is a contact sport. They're not giving the job away. And people who want a race wanted her to drop some. And the people in the other party desperately wanted it because she's already put out more positions on more issues and said how she would pay for them, I think, than all the others combined based on the two -- the Republicans, based on the two debates that I saw.

ZAKARIA: But you think it's a Republican plot, really?

CLINTON: No, I'm not going there, because that's what -- it's not -- a plot makes it sound like it's a secret. No, I think that that there are lots of people who wanted there to be a race for different reasons. And they thought the only way they could make it a race was a full scale frontal assault on her. And so, this e-mail thing became the biggest story in the world.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get some analysis.

Gloria Borger, your reaction? Was this a good defense put forward by the former president?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought it was really revealing, Wolf. Hillary Clinton may have apologized for this and for the whole e-mail controversy and having the server in the basement, but Bill Clinton is not apologizing for anything, and what he's using is the same defense we've seen over the years because he says they have had the same problem, which is that it is our enemies who are doing this to us. It's become a regular feature of our campaign and said it's not a plot because it's not a secret.

But there you have Hillary Clinton going out and saying I made a mistake, this was wrong, I shouldn't have done it and then you have Bill Clinton off message there, not saying the same thing but saying, you know, it's the same old, same old. So, the two messages don't actually coincide.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, when the former president goes out on the campaign trail, speaks for his wife, does it help her? Because I remember eight years ago, seven years ago in this particular case, there were some moments when it didn't necessarily help her.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No question, Wolf. We remember those moments so, so well. During the primary fight when he got into back and forth about Barack Obama's experience and just could not get his mind around the fact that young Senator Obama was beating her.

I think it's slightly different this time. I do think that Bill Clinton is overall a net positive. Yes, he comes with a little bit of baggage, no doubt about it but Democrats still like to hear from him. He still offers up the best defense of anyone really in the Democratic Party, if he sticks to policy and other things but I don't think this sour grapes victim card is what she needs right now.

But I do think that this sort of sour grapes victim card is what she needs right now. But I do think he'll be starting more campaigning coming up. He's going to appear before the West Virginia Democratic Party. He'll be doing some other fundraisers.

So, I think by and large, if he gets out there and talks about what she'll do for the country, I think that is good. Not about the blaming, the blaming is not what voters, at least Democrats I talked to, really want to hear this year, Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, do his words indicate how confident or maybe worried the Clinton team might be about her current standing? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think they are

very frustrated, Wolf. I mean, this is almost October. This e-mail controversy broke in March and we're still talking about it. It's taking her so completely off message and obviously hurt her standing significantly in the polls. So, clearly, there is some concern in Clinton headquarters are trying to figure a way to do that, which is one reason why they are sending the former president on the campaign trail.

You know, the problem as Gloria suggested, is that they are moving, lurching from message to message and exactly how to confront this issue, and it's so hard to explain this e-mail issue very succinctly to people when there are all these questions, legitimate questions raised about her e-mail use.

And, you know, Wolf, the old adage is, if you're explaining in politics, you're losing. And that's the real problem for the Clintons right now.

BLITZER: It is interesting, Gloria. We're seeing a lot more, Hillary Clinton doing interviews and now her husband doing some interviews. It's potentially significant move on the part of the campaign.

BORGER: Yes, and I think it's smart, you know, to put Hillary Clinton out there more. Actually, she should debate all the time. She's a terrific debater. The more you get out there and you do interviews, the better you are and I would argue that she has gotten better, more relaxed, more conversant. And the more people see her, I think the more used to her they may get.

The problem with Hillary Clinton is, that her words are parsed like nobody else's and she understands that, so she self-edits. If she's out there more, she can be a little more relaxed.

BLITZER: All right. All right, guys, thanks very much.

This note: be sure to join Erin Burnett at the top of the hour for her interview with Donald Trump.

[18:50:01] He tells her he'd probably pay more under his own tax plan.

Plus, this important programming note, CNN will host the first Democratic presidential debate. That's on October 13th in Las Vegas, Nevada .

More news, right after this.


BLITZER: They are among the countless victims of ISIS, members of an ethnic and religious minority who were attacked, massacred and enslaved in an assault that shocked the world. Now some of them are getting the help they desperately need.

CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson has the exclusive story.

Ivan, you were there when the brutal is assault was unfolding.

[18:55:02] Update our viewers on what's happening now.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Yazidis, this religious minority, have been a real target of hatred for ISIS who view them as infidels. And in addition to forcing them from their homes, they enslaved thousands of women and girls that they kidnapped.

And some of these women have succeeded in escaping with horrifying experiences. And we saw a group of them who are seeking refuge in Germany. We saw them making their last goodbyes before leaving their homeland.


WATSON (voice-over): They are dressed mostly in black, the color of mourning. Women's who faces we will not show to protect their privacy. Yazidi Kurds subjected to unspeakable crimes by ISIS. They receive a final blessing from their spiritual leader.

"What ISIS did to you will not happen again," the patriarch says. "Stop wearing black. It will only remind us of what we have suffered."

Iraq is the ancestral homeland of Yazidis, an ancient, ethnic and religious community. Nestled in the valley in the Kurdish controlled north, a Yazidi sanctuary called the Lalish Temple.

(on camera): I'm deep in the heart of the Lalish Temple, the holiest site for the Yazidis. This religious minority has a long and painful history of persecution, but no one could have predicted the ferocity of the assault that they faced at the hands of ISIS starting in 2014.

(voice-over): A little more than a year ago, ISIS militants attacked the northern province of Sinjar, where they allegedly massacred more than 3,000 Yazidis and captured 5,000 more, triggering a mass exodus as hundreds of thousands of Yazidis fled their homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are -- all of us are traumatized now really.

WATSON: Yazidi activist (INAUDIBLE) has interviewed more than 1,000 former Yazidi captives of ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Money of them are -- they were sex slaves under ISIS captivity, and they were beaten, tortured by ISIS fighters. They have PTSD, have depression, we have no instruments here in Iraq to treat them.

WATSON: This month, 66 Yazidi women and children began the long journey to Germany. They emerged from the Lalish Temple barefoot, as is the custom on this sacred ground. Among those leaving is 15-year-old Saba Mirsa Mahmoud (ph).

"I'm both happy and sad to go," he says. "ISIS killed my dad, my cousins and uncles, and they kidnapped 25 relatives, including women.":

Saba's uncle shows photos of murdered family members. Not pictured, Saba's 16-year-old sister who was enslaved by ISIS for three months before she escaped.

Her family will get a chance at a new life in Germany. But that does not make saying good-bye any easier.

"Go ahead, get on the bus," Saba's uncle tells his nephew.

This is the agony of the Yazidis, attacked because of their faith, with thousands still in modern day slavery, survivors left with little choice but to say farewell to their homeland.


WATSON: Now, Wolf, a state government in Germany, the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, has agreed to take up to 1,000 of these former female and child prisoners of ISIS and give them free housing, psychiatric treatment for their terrible traumas that they've endured and schooling as well, and residence for up to two years.

But there are still thousands of people, women, girls, believed to be in ISIS captivity, and ISIS modern day slavery.

So, this is one of the crimes that that armed faction appears to be succeeding in getting away with. And the bigger crime is the effective cleansing of an entire religious and ethnic minority, the Yazidis, who are defenseless as well. They have no militia to defend them, the cleansing of them from their ancestral homeland -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson, thank you so much for sharing this story with us. I know you're going to stay on top of it. Thank you.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

Please be sure to join us once again tomorrow, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.