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Report: Trump Refuses to Back House Speaker Ryan; Obama Calls Trump Unfit to Lead; General Questions Trump's Ability to Lead; CDC Issues Historic Zika Travel Warning in Miami. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired August 2, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Not quite there yet. In a stunning turn of events, Donald Trump turns on his own party leader, saying he's not ready to endorse the House Speaker, Paul Ryan, in his upcoming primary. Trump is also refusing to support Senator John McCain in his reelection campaign and calls Senator Kelly Ayotte a weak and disloyal leader .
Unfit and unprepared. President Obama unloads on Donald Trump, slamming his attacks on a Gold Star family and saying the GOP nominee is not informed on key issues and is woefully unprepared to be president.
Hack sacked. House cleaning at the Democratic National Committee. Three top officials are out amid the controversy over hacked e-mails indicating the DNC favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.
And travel warning. U.S. health officials issue an extraordinary, an unprecedented warning for a Miami neighborhood, where the Zika virus carried by mosquitos holds serious risks for pregnant women.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. Just two weeks after the Republican convention, Donald Trump is lashing out at his party's leaders, refusing to back House Speaker Paul Ryan in his bid for reelection. Trump is turning Ryan's own words against him, saying, quote, "I'm not quite there yet."
Trump also tells "The Washington Post" he's not supporting Senator John McCain in his primary election. He singles out Senator Kelly Ayotte for harsh criticism.
President Obama today unleashed a blistering attack on Donald Trump, calling the Republican nominee unfit to be president. Obama says that Trump proves that almost every day, citing his attacks on a Muslim- American family of a soldier killed in action and saying Trump seems to lack even a basic knowledge of world issues.
Standing in the White House with a visiting foreign leader, the president said Trump is woefully unprepared to do this job, and he pointedly asked GOP leaders why they're still supporting their standard-bearer. I'll speak with retired four-star Marine General John Allen, who commander U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in last week's Democratic National Convention.
And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with Donald Trump's stunning attack today on leaders of his own party. Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now.
Jim, has Donald Trump just turned this campaign on its head?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think so. This may be the most extraordinary day of this campaign thus far. Hours ago, we heard President Obama say that Donald Trump was not fit to be president of the United States. Now we have Donald Trump saying that he is not ready to support Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House in his primary, which has become somewhat contested in the state of Wisconsin. That primary is set for Tuesday, just one week away.
In an interview with "The Washington Post," Donald Trump was asked whether or not he is ready to support Paul Ryan, and this is what he says, when you put it up on screen. He says, quote, "I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I'm just not quite there yet. I'm not quite there yet."
Wolf, that language is very interesting, because it's almost word for word what Paul Ryan said about Donald Trump and endorsing Donald Trump back in May, when he told Jake Tapper in May that he was not ready to endorse Donald Trump. You'll remember that.
But this seems to have come to a head in just the last 72 hours. You'll recall this controversy that flared up between Donald Trump and the Khan family. Paul Ryan issued a statement saying he didn't take issue with Donald Trump, didn't go after Donald Trump but indirectly took issue with Donald Trump's comments, saying that Muslim Americans served this country and that their sacrifices should be honored.
Last night, we got a hint of this, that this may be coming, because it was at this event in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, where Donald Trump tweeted that he appreciates the kind words coming from Paul Nehlen. That is the Republican who was challenging Paul Ryan in that district in Wisconsin. So Donald Trump, one week before this primary, it may be throwing -- it appears he is throwing his support behind the challenger to the speaker of the House. Donald Trump may be trying right now to primary Paul Ryan.
BLITZER: And it's amazing, because that primary, as you say, one week from today, next Tuesday, all of a sudden, out of the blue, Donald Trump is suggesting that maybe he's not going to meet with the speaker of the House who attended the convention, endorsed Donald Trump, even though he'd been critical of several sensitive issues of what Trump has been saying.
ACOSTA: That's right, and that was a big lead for Paul Ryan to go to that convention, preside over that convention, say good things about Donald Trump. He said very good things about Mike Pence.
And it seems that this controversy over the Khans has pushed Donald Trump in this direction of basically seeking payback against Paul Ryan.
[17:05:19] Now, Paul Ryan is not alone in being singled out by Donald Trump in this "Washington Post" story. He went after other Republicans, as well.
BLITZER: Including John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Republican nominee back in 2008. He didn't mince many words. John McCain is facing a tough reelection himself.
ACOSTA: That's right. And this saga between Donald Trump and John McCain goes back many months but, again, this controversy with the Khans seems to have brought this to a head. John McCain just recently yesterday sharply criticized Donald Trump, saying that his comments about the Khans do not reflect what the beliefs are of people inside the Republican Party, its leaders and so forth.
And here's what Donald Trump says about John McCain. "I've never been there with John McCain." John McCain, of course, is running for reelection in Arizona. "He has not done a good job for the vets, and I've always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets. So I've always had a difficult time with John for that reason, because our vets are not being treated properly. They're not being treated fairly."
He goes on to go after, in this article, "The Washington Post" with Phillip Rucker. Kelly Ayotte, who is running for reelection for Senate in New Hampshire. That is a state that Donald Trump would like to win.
Wolf, if you want to talk to Republicans here in Washington, there are some who just are never going to be there when it comes to Donald Trump, but they at least want to hang onto the Senate. They at least want to hang onto the House.
And so to hear Donald Trump go after Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte in this extensive interview with "The Washington Post," has got to be just jaw-dropping up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.
BLITZER: Kelly Ayotte, the senator, the incumbent in New Hampshire, facing a tough reelection.
BLITZER: Trump saying about her, "I don't know Kelly Ayotte. I know she's given me no support, zero support, and yet, I'm leading her in the polls. I'm doing very well in New Hampshire. We need loyal people in this country. We need fighters in this country. We don't need weak people. We have enough of them. We need fighters in this country. But Kelly Ayotte has given me zero support, and I'm going great in New Hampshire."
ACOSTA: That's right. BLITZER: That's a direct quote from Donald Trump.
ACOSTA: That's right. And I can tell you I was just in New Hampshire recently covering Donald Trump. And there are ads being run in favor of Kelly Ayotte that don't mention Donald Trump, that talk about her being this tough, independent leader, really separating her from Donald Trump. That may have been what has gotten under his skin. He says that in that article in "The Washington Post" that he doesn't appreciate the fact that she hasn't come out and supported him. She has been very cool towards Donald Trump throughout this campaign process.
And so I think this is just going to be another big question for Republicans in Washington. Do they stick with Donald Trump? He's not sticking with them at this point.
BLITZER: I think it's fair to say this is extraordinary...
BLITZER: ... even a bombshell at this point, two weeks after the Republican convention.
Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.
Now to President Obama's stunning takedown of Donald Trump today, calling him, quote, "woefully unprepared" to take over the White House. Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar is here with us.
Brianna, the president pulled absolutely no punches today.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, that's exactly right, Wolf. President Obama is using the bully pulpit to target Donald Trump. He called him "woefully unprepared" to be president, and he said the Republican criticism of Trump rings hollow, and they should stop backing his candidacy.
KEILAR (voice-over): President Obama opening fire on the GOP nominee.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president. I said so last week, and he keeps on proving it.
KEILAR: His sharpest criticism yet of Donald Trump.
OBAMA: There has to come a point at which you say somebody who makes those kinds of statements doesn't have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding, to occupy the most powerful position in the world.
KEILAR: Ticking through his objections, including Trump's recent criticism of the parents of Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American soldier killed by a car bomb in Iraq.
KHIZR KHAN, FATHER OF FALLEN U.S. SOLDIER: You have sacrificed nothing.
KEILAR: The Khans' appearance at the Democratic convention last week went viral.
OBAMA: The notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that had made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country, the fact that he doesn't appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues.
KEILAR: The president questioning why Trump's own party supports him.
OBAMA: I think, that they have to ask themselves is, if you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?
This isn't a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily and weeks where they are distancing themselves from statements he's making.
KEILAR: Challenging those Republicans to pull back their support.
OBAMA: There have been Republican presidents with whom I disagreed with. But I didn't have a doubt that they could function as president. There has to come a point at which you say, "Enough."
KEILAR: And though Trump and Hillary Clinton both oppose the Transpacific Partnership, President Obama doubled down on his signature trade pact as he addressed reporters at a joint press conference with the prime minister of Singapore, a TPP member state.
OBAMA: Right now I'm president, and I'm for it. And I think I've got the better argument. And I've made this argument before. I'll make it again. We are part of a global economy, and we're not reversing that.
KEILAR: And yet the future of the agreement seems pretty dim. The president spent almost his entire presidency orchestrating this agreement with a whole lot of help from Clinton while she was secretary of state. But as a candidate, she has since disavowed the pact that she once called the gold standard for trade agreements. And aides indicate that she won't be changing her mind, that it will be dead on arrival if she gets to the White House.
So Wolf, President Obama backing up Hillary Clinton, opposing Donald Trump but not on this trade agreement, where her past support for it has really become a liability in key states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.
OBAMA: Really fascinating, I must say. All right, Brianna, thank you.
Donald Trump was very busy campaigning today himself, shadowed by controversy but operating on the theory that the best defense is a strong offense.
Let's go to our national correspondent, Jason Carroll. He's working this part of the story. What are you learning, Jason?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's start with this statement that we received from the Trump campaign late this afternoon, which shows that they received the endorsement of a father whose son was a former Navy SEAL killed in Benghazi. This is once again an attempt to show that they do have the support of the military.
All this despite some missteps Trump has made in referring to members of the military.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Donald J. Trump!
CARROLL (voice-over): Donald Trump out on the trail in Virginia today, steering clear of his confrontation with the family of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier, Humayun Khan, who was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Instead trying to draw attention to his military support.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: A man came up to me, and he handed me his Purple Heart. I said to him, "Is that, like, the real one or is that a copy."
And he said, "That's my real Purple Heart. I have such confidence in you."
And I said, "Man, that's, like -- that's, like, big stuff." I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier. But I tell you, it was such an honor.
ACOSTA: The Purple Heart is awarded to those wounded in combat.
Swift reaction coming in from Hillary Clinton, tweeting, "This from a man who says he sacrificed for our country." Clinton pointing to Trump's response to Khan's father, who criticized the GOP nominee during the Democratic National Convention, saying Trump had not sacrificed for his country.
Following his rally today, Trump telling Gray (ph) TV he was fortunate to have -- not have served.
TRUMP: I've regretted not serving in many ways. Because so many of the greatest people I know have served.
CARROLL: Amid the bipartisan backlash to Trump's comments, Trump's son, Eric, today insisted in an interview with CBS that his father has apologized to the Khan family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would your father be willing to apologize and move on?
ERIC TRUMP, SON OF DONALD TRUMP: I think that's a great question for him, and I think he has by calling them a hero.
CARROLL: Eric Trump also saying the Trump children are willing to speak up and speak honestly with their father.
CHARLIE ROSE, JOURNALIST: Who tells your father he's wrong? Who tells him he's wrong?
E. TRUMP: We can tell him he's wrong.
ROSE: When was the last time you told him he was wrong?
E. TRUMP: Listen, we do it respectfully, and we go back and forth as a family. And I think that's actually the benefit of having kind of children be part of this process.
CARROLL: Donald Trump trying to keep his focus on Clinton, hammering his Democratic rival today on trade, immigration, and her ability to improve the economy, as well as her character.
TRUMP: Here's a woman who's a total thief. I mean, she's a crook. She's got a bad temperament. She's got a temperament of a loser.
CARROLL: But Trump getting sidetracked during his remarks by a crying baby.
TRUMP: Don't worry about that baby. I love babies, so -- I love babies. I hear that baby crying, I like it. I like it. What a baby. What a beautiful baby.
Actually I was only kidding, you can get the baby out of here. That's all right. Don't worry. I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I'm speaking.
[17:15:00] CARROLL: Trump's rhetoric and his off-color comments continuing to be a concern to GOP leaders. Republican Congressman Richard Hanna of New York writing an op-ed, saying, "While I disagree with her on many issues, I will vote for Mrs. Clinton."
The Khan controversy not the only comments from Trump raising eyebrows this week. Asked about the sexual harassment allegations against former FOX News chief Roger Ailes and how his daughter, Ivanka, would respond under similar circumstances, Trump said, "I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case."
Eric Trump backing up his father with these comments.
ROSE: Does your father stick by what he said?
E. TRUMP: There is no question that obviously, it should be addressed, and it should be addressed strongly.
Ivanka is a strong, you know, powerful woman. She wouldn't allow herself to be, you know, objected, you know, to it.
CARROLL: And Wolf, again, some questions about the tone and rhetoric at some of the Trump rallies. It's not unusual when you go to these rallies to hear people chant, "Lock her up, lock her up" in reference to Hillary Clinton.
Today at this rally in Virginia, we at one point heard a young boy who must have been about 11 years old, stand up and use the "B" word in reference to Hillary Clinton. Again, sometimes these are the types of things that get -- gets the crowd going. But it's a real concern for those in the GOP who say that, in order for Trump to secure the win here, he's got to lure in independents. He's got to lure in these people who are still on the fence.
The rhetoric at these types of rallies is not what needs to be done to reach out to these groups -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jason. Thank you. Jason Carroll reporting for us.
Joining us now, retired Marine Corps four-star General John Allen. He commanded U.S. forces and the international security assistance force in Afghanistan. He delivered a forceful speech at last week's Democratic National Convention.
General, thanks very much for coming in.
GEN. JOHN ALLEN (RET.), U.S. MARINE CORPS: Good to see you, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to get your immediate reaction to what we just heard from Donald Trump in this interview with "The Washington Post," going after Senator John McCain, saying, quote, "He should have done much -- a much better job for the vets."
Are you surprised that Trump is now going after McCain only, what, a few weeks before McCain's primary reelection bid?
ALLEN: Well, by any standard, John McCain is a hero to all of us that ever wore our uniforms. He's an icon. He's been a great leader in the Senate, a great American leader. I'm not surprised that he's being attacked. I'm not surprised, because he stands for principal. He stands for all of the moral values that all of us have treasured and valued so long in uniform. The value of being an American service member. He stands for all of those things. And so I'm not surprised at all that he's being attacked for it.
BLITZER: You're now a veteran, and you've studied the impact on veterans. Do you think that John McCain has failed veterans?
ALLEN: No, of course not. No. He's been a great supporter of veterans. He's been a great supporter of the Department of Defense. And I've watched him with great admiration doing both of those things: supporting our active duty and supporting our veterans.
BLITZER: General Allen, I want to take a quick break, but we have a lot to discuss. John McCain is one thing. Donald Trump, is he qualitied; fit to be president of the United States?
Much more with General Allen right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:22:34] BLITZER: Our breaking news, only two weeks after the Republican convention, Donald Trump is slamming GOP leaders. Trump is refusing to back the House speaker, Paul Ryan, in his reelection bid, and he's turning Ryan's own words against him, saying, quote, "I'm not there yet.
Trump also tells "The Washington Post" he's not supporting Senator John McCain in his primary bid for reelection.
We're back with retired Marine Corps General John Allen, former commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
General, is Donald Trump, if he were commander in chief, will troops disobey his orders?
ALLEN: Well, as I've said, Wolf, we have been trained from the very earliest moments of our time in the service to obey legal orders. It is the inherent responsibility of commanders, senior commanders, and our political officials, who are empowered by the Constitution to give us direction and orders, to ensure those orders are legal.
The problem, I think, which your question implies, is -- have been public statements about the potential that we could be -- we could find ourselves involved in torture or the murder of the families of alleged terrorists, or be engaged in indiscriminate carpet bombing. I would hope that we would never find ourselves in a position where the commander in chief would give that order. But were we to receive that order, we'd be obliged, first, to advise that that order is illegal and then, if it were to be reinforced, we'd have to disobey it.
BLITZER: So you would -- if you're a four-star general, if you were still on active duty, and the commander in chief -- let's say it's Donald Trump -- were to say, "Go ahead and do waterboarding" or "Go ahead and kill not just the targets, the terrorists, but if necessary, family members," you would regard them as murder and you wouldn't obey?
ALLEN: Absolutely. There'd be no question in my mind. An illegal order like that, I have an obligation to the Constitution of the United States, which I swore to defend with my very life. That's about the rule of law. It's about who we are as an American people. And I would disobey that order if I were given the order to abjectly torture detainees in my possession, or to attack the families of alleged terrorists and murder them, as well. I'd be forced to. I have no choice.
BLITZER: And you would tell those Marines under you to go ahead, disobey those orders, as well?
ALLEN: They wouldn't get that order, because I wouldn't send it on to my subordinates.
BLITZER: And you really believe that Donald Trump as commander in chief could give those orders to the U.S. military?
ALLEN: No. I don't know now, Wolf. My hope would be that this conversation that we're having more broadly across the campaigns would potentially change his views on that issue. I mean, that's the reason we have these conversations. This is why people offer their advice during campaigns, to try to walk people away from positions that are just untenable later when that individual may become the president of the United States and the commander in chief.
[17:25:23] BLITZER: You've seen the criticism that you've received from General Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the joint chiefs, for your decision to speak at the Democratic convention, suggesting it compromises the integrity of the U.S. military. Do you believe it does?
BLITZER: I would -- I'd be very careful about using that word "integrity."
What I would say is that Marty Dempsey is a terrific soldier, one of the greatest we've ever minted in our republic. He was a great chairman, and he's a great friend. And I fully understand why he felt it was necessary for him, and in his previous role and in his current role, to offer that view.
But I have to tell you, you know, I agonized over this. It was not a decision that I took lightly. And with the comments about the potential for our involvement in torture, or carpet bombing, or the potential that he knows more than all the generals know about ISIL, those comments ultimately required me to come forward and make these -- make these remarks and offer my support to Secretary Clinton to be the president of the United States and the commander in chief.
It was not a decision that I made lightly, but it was a decision I felt I had a moral responsibility to undertake.
BLITZER: A lot of Marines who served with you and whom you mentored are still serving. Do you fear, though, that by speaking out the way you did, you're encouraging them to become more political?
ALLEN: No, I don't think so at all. There was never a moment in the entire time I wore the uniform that I believed that I had any responsibility to be political at all.
And I believe that the nature of the institution of the United States military, the strength of the current senior leadership of our military, I believe that we're fully intact. We'll be an apolitical force.
Civilian control of the military and the subservience of the military to the Constitution of the United States is who we are as a nation. It's just when I have these concern about the politics that have been injected into the conversations about how we will employ the military, potentially in an illegal manner that cause me, ultimately, the concern that I've had.
BLITZER: Was it a mistake to be introduced as a general, as opposed to being a private citizen?
ALLEN: I'm not going to go there, Wolf. I mean, I was introduced as to who I am, and so I know that General Dempsey talked about whether it was John or Mike, with respect to General Flynn. I don't have any regrets about being introduced as General Allen.
BLITZER: Were you invited to speak at the convention?
ALLEN: I was. Yes.
BLITZER: Or did you propose that, say, "I'd like to speak at the convention"?
ALLEN: I was invited.
BLITZER: Who invited you?
ALLEN: I don't recall. Someone within the campaign. But I felt it was an opportunity for me to speak about my issues.
BLITZER: But you agonized over it?
ALLEN: I did.
BLITZER: Go back and forth. Tell us about the agony.
ALLEN: Well, it goes to the point that you raised and that General Dempsey's talked about, and that is whether a retired officer has a responsibility to speak about politics or not. And the conventional wisdom has for many years that we should hold our peace on this issue.
But the truth, of course, is that many former and retired senior leaders have come forth at particular moments and become members of administrations or have supported administrations. Colin Powell is one who comes to mind immediately. George Marshall, who was one of our greatest generals, who was also one of our greatest secretaries of state. The Marshall Plan perhaps, one of the deciding factors in the Cold War, would never have come into existence without him.
So my guess would be that for them, as well, these were not easy decisions to make. And it was not an easy decision for me to make, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure it wasn't. A lot of your friends who know you well say you're soft-spoken, as you are in this interview right now, and they were surprised to see you as vociferous, as vocal, as angry as you appeared to be at that convention. What made you speak in that manner at the convention?
ALLEN: First it was my loyalty to the American people, the American public. Also to be heard over the crowd, which it was very loud. I couldn't believe how enthusiastic that crowd was that day to the many messages that they were receiving.
But I also felt, very powerfully, I felt an obligation to get out several messages. And one of them, of course, is that we will honor our treaty obligations that our precious allies and friends overseas deserve our support and, under the Clinton administration, will continue to receive our support. And so those many messages, I felt, was important. And it was key
that we got those out, and that night was the right forum to get them out.
BLITZER: As you know, the president of the United States today said that Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States, woefully unprepared for the presidency. What's your biggest concern if Trump is elected president of the United States?
ALLEN: Well, as with many candidates who have not direct experience with the military or direct experience in government, it requires -- it's not an insignificant lift to become familiar with all of those many dimensions of successful leadership in the White House, whether it's leading the country or leading the forces as the commander in chief.
And so my concern would be for any candidate to be elected. The enormity of the information and the enormity of the work that will be necessary to be competent.
That's why I supported Hillary Clinton. She really understands it. She understands that America exerts its influence, through its friends and its allies and our ability to honor our treaty obligations. She understands the employment of all aspects of American power but also understands the employment of American force as manifested and embodied by the U.S. military. And she gets that. We're not going to have a long time for that to be figured out with her as president.
BLITZER: But you know eight years ago, then-Senator Barack Obama was similarly accused of not being qualified to be president of the United States because of his lack of experience. You remember that criticism he went through.
ALLEN: He also had a superb national security team, in the immediate aftermath of his being elected. And I think Hillary Clinton also has access to quite a number of really exceptional individuals who are experts in national security, experts in our treaty relationships, experts in our overseas relationships.
And so I have confidence that not only will she, at a personal level, have the kinds of experience and capability that will augur well for her leadership, but she'll also surround herselves [SIC] with real experts, as well.
BLITZER: General Allen, thanks so much for joining us, and thanks for your service.
ALLEN: Thank you, Wolf. It's good to be with you again.
BLITZER: Thank you. We'll have -- we'd love to have you back.
Quick programming note: during the next hour here on THE SITUATION ROOM, I'll be joined live by the Trump campaign national spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson.
Also still ahead, an unprecedented government health warning. The CDC says pregnant women and their partners should not travel to part of a major U.S. city because of mosquitos that may carry the Zika virus.
And our political experts are standing by to discuss President Obama's new and harshest yet attack on Donald Trump.
[17:36:52] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. At a new interview in the -- with "The Washington Post," Donald Trump has just refused to back the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and Senator John McCain, both of whom are facing tough Republican challengers in the upcoming primaries.
We're joined now by our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, who's still with us; our CNN political analyst, Jackie Kucinich, the Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast"; and our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, the senior editor for "The Atlantic."
Ron, you just heard Donald Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, tell "The Washington Post" he will not endorse these two top leaders in his party, Paul Ryan, John McCain, in their upcoming bids for reelection, at least not yet. How unprecedented is this?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wow. You know, what is the word? I mean, we are so far into uncharted waters, I mean, it really is nothing remotely like this in terms of the fissure we are seeing within the party.
It kind of, you know, reminded a moment ago when you had General Allen on there, making the case for Hillary Clinton, that there is simply no one of that stature who will go out in the Republican Party and personally vouch for Donald Trump. At the convention, you know, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, the most enthusiastic they could get was to say he would sign their bills. They didn't say they viewed him as someone that they would be proud to have as president.
And now you're seeing the flip side, as Donald Trump pushes back against those Republicans who have criticized him. I think we are in a cycle here, a spiral that is going to continue. And the question really becomes can the GOP leadership get all the way to November without a full and open breech with their presidential nominee, which would be unprecedented, obviously?
BLITZER: It clearly is pretty amazing.
Jackie, Trump said he's not endorsing Paul Ryan. And he used these words. He says he's not quite there yet. That's almost exactly what Paul Ryan told our own Jake Tapper when Donald Trump was the nominee and he wasn't yet ready to endorse -- endorse Donald Trump. Is this sort of payback?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It certainly seems that way. I believe that's what the kids call a burn. Because he really -- he really did not like that Paul Ryan broke with him, Paul Ryan completely -- it came from left field. So Donald Trump values loyalty. We see it with his staff, and we see
it with someone like Chris Christie, who's never broken ranks with Donald Trump. So the fact that he views someone like Paul Ryan and John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte, who's also mentioned in that story, as being disloyal and not being completely on the Trump train, watch out.
BLITZER: But he's asking, Brianna, for party unity. And at a sensitive moment like this, he's clearly not showing the party as unified.
KEILAR: No. He's essentially saying, you know, "Even if I put you in an impossible situation, I expect loyalty from you." We've seen that from people who do support him. And especially this criticism when it comes to the Khans, and he's taking on a family that lost a son, serving the U.S. -- serving the United States in a way that, even if they get up on the stage at the DNC, the fact that their loss sort of inoculates them against criticism of voicing what they think.
And I -- and also, he had someone at his convention who did that.
So I think there are these Republicans who are saying, "There's no way I can get behind these things that Donald Trump is saying."
[17:40:08] Paul Ryan, that's not the only thing that he issued a statement about, and he could have even been more harsh about it, against Donald Trump. But Judge Curiel, the Muslim ban, all of these things, despite an endorsement of Donald Trump, he has broken with Donald Trump on these things, and he's getting hit because of it.
KUCINICH: He's trying to be careful, and it's not paying off at all.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Wolf, can I...
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
BROWNSTEIN: Can I add one point? I mean, you know, this really underscores the extent to which the Trump victory was a hostile takeover, in effect. He mobilized a different slice of the Republican coalition to win the nomination against the resistance of almost all of the party leadership.
And the real question here, you know, is not so much what happens between now and November, but if he won, if he won, could the Republican Party in Congress pull together as a coherent unified entity. Or would you see a pro- and anti-Trump factions develop very quickly.
For example, at a panel I did in Cleveland, Tom Cole, who is one of the savviest members of the House Republicans, you know, said that, if Donald Trump was elected and tried to implement his plan to deport -- mass deportation of 11 million immigrants, the House Republicans would try to stop him.
And I think what we're really seeing here is how deep a fissure Trump represents inside of the GOP coalition. It's going to be a turbulent ride all the way to November. If he got past November, it would be even more turbulent.
KEILAR: You've seen that...
BLITZER: Go ahead.
KEILAR: ... the division in the Republican Party as it is -- it's in the majority, but in some ways it almost hasn't been. This division between the Tea Party Republicans and more establishment Republicans.
I think, to Ron's point, what we're seeing if Donald Trump were to become president, it could make that look like child's play.
BLITZER: It's a sensitive issue.
And Ron, Donald Trump said Senator McCain, who is a Vietnam War hero, as we all know, has in his words, "has not done a good job for the vets." So how do you see this playing out?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think it is very hard for Donald Trump to have credibility against John McCain who, contrary to Trump's, you know, characterization, was a war hero, on the issue of taking care of vets.
But McCain and Paul Ryan are now in a somewhat difficult position, in that they chose not to disavow Donald Trump over Judge Curiel, over the Muslim ban, over his criticism of the Khan family, and McCain's case, over his personal criticism of his war record. And now, could they -- can they realistically, plausibly say, "Well, since he didn't endorse me, this is the off-ramp that I needed?"
So they're a little bit boxed in, in terms of their kind of personal position. But I'm guessing that, after this, you're going to hear even more kind of pro-forma, perfunctory support of Donald Trump from other Republican elected officials.
And look, this matters, Wolf. It's not that there are a large number of Republicans who are going to go out and vote for Hillary Clinton. But the more of these kind of figures, ranging from Michael Bloomberg to Sally Bradshaw, the former chief of staff for Jeb Bush, who say that it's OK for people who usually vote Republican to go the other way, that helps explain why Hillary Clinton has a ten-point lead in your new CNN poll among college-educated white voters who, you know, usually tilt Republican.
A permission structure is being created to allow more of those voters to feel, "In this case, it's OK to go against my usual partisan inclination."
BLITZER: We heard today, Jackie, the president of the United States say that Donald Trump is really unfit to be president, to be commander in chief, that he's woefully unprepared. Strong words. How uncommon is it for a sitting, outgoing president to level these kinds of accusations against the challenger and the nominee from the other party?
KUCINICH: I mean, not only is it highly unusual, the place he did it was highly unusual. He was actually in the White House, surrounded by the trappings of being a president, with a foreign leader next to him as he was doing this.
KEILAR: Not an interview, right?
KUCINICH: Not an interview. This also wasn't a campaign stop. He didn't have his sleeves rolled up.
KEILAR: Standing next to Hillary Clinton.
KUCINICH: Exactly. No. This was -- this was a formal event where he decided to really take it to Donald Trump. And this, as Ron said -- this is a way for him to signal to independents, maybe some liberal- leaning Republicans, maybe some Democrats who aren't so sure about Hillary Clinton, and be like, "You know what, guys? This guy is not acceptable." And that's what he said today. We'll see if it works.
BLITZER: Brianna, he was standing right next to Prime Minister Lee of Singapore, who clearly seemed to be in a rather awkward position, because Prime Minister Lee kept saying, "I don't want to interfere in American politics. Don't get me involved." But the president was very forceful in going after Trump.
KEILAR: He -- and he just kept going. That was the thing. There were so many statements. It wasn't just that he came out with one sentence that he was unfit. Unfit, woefully unprepared, attacking him on all these different areas. He said he -- you know, he seems to lack knowledge of things. It was a litany of things that he really went through. And that was so that you definitely heard him. I think that was his point: "I'm not just going to say one or two things. I'm going to make it very clear."
[17:45:00] And all of a sudden, that became the story of the day. And I think that was what he wanted.
KUCINICH: And chiding Republicans for continuing to support him. People like Paul Ryan before Trump went after him. And Mitch McConnell for that matter.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, Wolf, it's just another example of, if there was a Geneva convention in politics, all of the rules are being thrown out. The closes thing I can remember to this, anything like this, was Ronald Reagan in 1988 making that offhanded comment, I won't pick on an invalid, which was taken -- about Michael Dukakis, which was taken as a veiled reference to the thought then that Michael Dukakis had undergone a treatment for depression which would have been a much bigger deal in 1988 than today.
By the end of the day, Reagan had to apologize for doing even that. So the idea of President Obama clearly is relishing the idea of getting directly on to the battlefield against Donald Trump, this is a continued escalation of kind of the partisan wars. But again, it's also a reflection of what I was saying before which is, that if you think about all of the other voices, that are willing to validate and support Hillary Clinton, there's just nothing like that on the Republican side.
And maybe for some voters it's a sign that, you know, Hillary Clinton is part of the establishment and Donald Trump will bring the change that they want. There's an alienated portion of the electorate that may respond that way, but for a lot of these center right college- educated, white-collar suburbanites, they are getting a very strong message that this is a time when they can break from the way they have usually voted.
BLITZER: I'm going to ask all of you to stay with us. Much more on the breaking news.
Coming up, there's other news we're following, though, very worrisome developments. Worries about the Zika virus sparking an unprecedented warning from U.S. health officials.
Also Donald Trump calling for closer ties with Russia. There are disturbing new claims about a poison gas attack after the downing of a Russian helicopter in Syria. Could Russia be trusted? Much more right after this.
[17:51:08] BLITZER: The Zika threat has led U.S. health authorities to issue an extraordinary and unprecedented travel warning. They're saying don't go to a certain area of Miami.
Brian Todd has been looking into this. Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just a short time ago the Florida Department of Health confirmed to us that there is now a 15th case of non-travel related Zika virus in Miami-Dade County. Those are cases where people are getting the virus from local mosquito bites. Tonight the office of Miami-Dade County's mayor tells CNN the mayor is taking the extraordinary step of ordering aerial spraying in areas north of downtown Miami.
That's where more than a dozen cases of Zika have been identified. They're even distributing mosquito repellent wipes to people in that area. Officials are concerned this outbreak could get worse before it gets better.
TODD (voice-over): Emergency response teams in Miami trying to kill a dangerous parasite. They're going after a breed of mosquito, experts say, that's good at hiding in places we all walk by without even thinking.
DAMIEN SANCHEZ, OC MOSQUITO SQUAD: You can see all the organic matter underneath there, so you get the water pooling and you have food for the larvae mosquitoes.
TODD: Tonight this type of mosquito, the Aedes aegypti, is the cause of a travel warning never seen before. The CDC for the first time cautioning pregnant women and their partners not to travel to an American neighborhood. A one square mile section just north of downtown Miami.
The agency says the Zika virus transmitted by that mosquito is circulating in that area with more than a dozen cases and counting.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: I would not be surprised if we start seeing additional cases in this area as well as in perhaps other areas, although we hope and I believe ultimately we'll be successful in containing this, it may get worse before it gets better.
TODD: Zika which spreads from pregnant women to their fetuses can cause severe brain malformations and other birth defects. Tonight experts are warning pregnant women who live in that neighborhood to get tested.
How did Zika spread inside America? Officials say it's very likely that people who had Zika came into the U.S. Some who had the virus and were in that neighborhood of Miami were bitten by mosquitoes which then bit other people.
The mosquitoes themselves can't travel very far, experts say. Only a few hundred yards in their lifetime. But they're prominent all over the southern U.S. and could trigger a wider spread of Zika.
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: There are many other people that are coming back from the Caribbean and Central and South America to all parts of the United States, and we in public health expect that now and again there may be other introductions and small (INAUDIBLE) of spread across the country.
TODD: Tonight officials are warning pregnant women and their partners stay inside where there's air conditioning. If you're outside, wear long sleeves and apply repellent with the ingredient deet.
SANCHEZ: You're going to spray it on the hand.
TODD (on camera): Right.
SANCHEZ: Rub and it then apply to the face. Instead of -- you don't want to spray it directly on the face where you're going to inhale it.
TODD (voice-over): And get rid of standing water. Even tiny amounts of it pooled on children's outdoor toys.
TODD: Now what experts are concerned about tonight is that this Aedes aegypti is a tough mosquito to stop. Resistant to some insecticides. So they say if they don't bring that mosquito under control soon, especially in that region of Miami, this virus could spread for weeks if not for months, Wolf. There's a lot of concern tonight.
BLITZER: And I understand now tourism is taking a hit in that area as well.
TODD: That's right, Wolf. We're seeing signs of it. This place called the Windwood Yard in that section of Miami, that's a very popular restaurant, bar and activity spot. That's closed today in response to all of this. But Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Jimenez insists tourist areas are safe in that area because they're far enough upwind from where the virus was found.
[17:55:03] Also beach areas they say, which have, you know, of course, wind and breezes are safer. These mosquitoes are not considered strong flyers and wind can keep them away. You can also use a fan to try to keep them away.
BLITZER: Very disturbing developments, though. Brian, thank you.
Coming up, our breaking news. In a truly extraordinary move, Donald Trump is turning on Republican leaders and telling reporters he's not ready to endorse the House Speaker Paul Ryan in his upcoming primary. Trump is also refusing to support Senator John McCain in his re- election fight.
And President Obama unloads on Donald Trump, calling him unfit and woefully unprepared to be president of the United States.