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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Trump: Media Misinterpreted Second Amendment Comment; Questions over Clinton E-mails, Clinton Foundation; New Independent Launches Presidential Bid; Clinton To Spend Big in Georgia, Arizona. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired August 10, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00:] JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: He has to clarify that statement and move on. To his point, he can jump on and continue on. Hey, makes me look good with the Second Amendment followers. I get that.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I say clearly the campaign, they're frustrating with the continued media coverage of this. As a communications person, I would recommend certainly have him be the one to come out and put an end to this. I have his team and his surrogates come out there and talk about it. He needs to clarify it and move on. There's plenty of things to talk about. We have less than 90 days to go in this election. Time to turn the tide. Target number-one is policy also of Hillary Clinton and --
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And that's not breaking through right now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bill, final thought?
BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was just going to say, the biggest joke of all is to blame this on the media. I mean, come on. Kate, you and I were together on Monday in New York. We always talked about Donald Trump's economic policy, but how long would he get us off track by saying something outrageous and stepping on his foot again. Well, now he's done it. I mean this is not the media's fault. All we do are play his statements over and over again. I think this campaign has boiled down to now, not anything about policies but which candidate has the temperament to be president and a lot of Republicans are saying only one of them does, and it's not Donald Trump.
BERMAN: All right, guys, thanks very much.
A lot more to discuss. New e-mails and questions for Hillary Clinton. Did the Clinton Foundation ignore boundaries with the State Department?
BOLDUAN: And also this, the battle is on for the battleground states. A big lead for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. Is Pennsylvania out of the question for Donald Trump now? How does Trump close the gap?
We'll be right back.
[11:36:11] BERMAN: A new batch of e-mails and a new batch of questions for Hillary Clinton. A conservative watchdog group released nearly 300,000 pages of e-mails from the days Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and these e-mails raise questions about the Clinton Foundation's influence at the State Department.
BOLDUAN: Hillary Clinton's campaign says the e-mails did not involve Hillary Clinton and had nothing to do with her work at the State Department. Donald Trump's campaign says the e-mails have everything to do with Hillary Clinton.
Pamela Brown is with us. She was looking -- has been looking into this.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Some of these heavily redacted e-mails, Kate and John, do raise questions about the Clinton Foundations influence on the State Department during Clinton's tenure. In one instance, top Clinton Foundation official, Doug Band (ph), seemed to lobby aides for a job in the State Department for someone else. And in that e-mail, Band (ph) tells Clinton's former aide in the department, Cheryl Mills, and Huma Abedin that it is important to take care of, and that person's name is redacted, and then Band (ph) is reassured by Abedin that personnel has been sending in options. Then there was another e-mail in 2009 where Band (ph) directs Mills and Abedin to put a Lebanese Nigerian billionaire and Clinton Foundation donor in contact with the State Department's substance person on Lebanon, saying, as you know, he's a key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon, very important.
Now, these e-mails were not in the initial batch of e-mails Clinton's team turned over to the State Department. It's unclear why that was. They were obtained by Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The Trump campaign has seized on this new batch of e-mails, citing them as evidence of Clinton being corrupt.
The Clinton campaign says that's not true. There's no indication of foul play with these e-mails. With a spokesperson saying neither of these e-mails involve the secretary or relate to the foundation's work.
Important to note here. We know the investigation into Clinton use of a private e-mail server while at the State Department did not lead to charges. But the Clinton Foundation was not part of that investigation.
Back to you.
BERMAN: No, the FBI director said in his testimony he would not say whether the Clinton Foundation is being investigated separately. We just don't know. BROWN: I can tell you, I can tell you from my law enforcement sources
that about a little over a year ago the Justice Department looked into whether it should investigate the Clinton Foundation. At that time, there was not sufficient evidence to open up a case. And earlier this year, that was still the case. It's unclear if that has changed, especially with these new e-mails coming to light.
BERMAN: Important context.
Pamela Brown, thank you.
Let's talk more about this now with Hillary Clinton supporter and Democratic strategist, Tracy Sefl. Also with us, Republican strategist and former national spokesman for the Ted Cruz campaign, Ron Nehring; and Kansas secretary of state and Donald Trump supporter, Kris Kobach.
Tracy, let me start with you.
When you have the Clinton Foundation, Doug Band (ph), a man, you know, an official from the Clinton Foundation, saying it's important to take care of someone in an e-mail to the State Department, how can you not interpret that as the Clinton Foundation asking for a favor from the State Department?
TRACY SEFL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: John, you were talking about context just a moment ago. I think this entire story should be placed in the broader context of where we are at in this presidential campaign. To your question, let me just say, these e-mails didn't even involve Hillary Clinton. She wasn't on them. This isn't about her. But this is just an ongoing relentless pursuit of nothing. None of these investigations are turning up anything. It's not even clear what we're talking about anymore.
Meanwhile, look at what's happening with Donald Trump --
BERMAN: Hang on, Tracy --
BERMAN: Hang on about that --
SEFL: But we're talking about e-mails.
BERMAN: I'm asking was the Clinton Foundation asking the State Department for a favor, and when Abedin responded, the favor was a job, we have them on our radar, personnel has been sending him options, were they responding to that favor. That's all I'm asking.
[11:40:11] SEFL: I have no idea.
BOLDUAN: Ron, to Tracy's point, when the campaign says -- (CROSSTALK)
SEFL: I don't think this is an issue. I'm not -- I'm not seeing this as an issue.
BOLDUAN: OK, Donald Trump campaign, they are making it an issue.
The Clinton campaign says, Ron, that none of this involves Hillary Clinton, just as Tracy said. Do they have a point?
RON NEHRING, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: How does it not involve Hillary Clinton? Her name is on the foundation. This is a Clinton Foundation, a Clinton Global Initiative, and so on. I think what this gets to the heart of is the fact when you are the secretary of state and you have a foundation that bears name, that is going around the world, raising money from foreign leaders and people who have a direct interest in U.S. foreign policy, the conflict of interest is inherent. What you see in the e-mails here is, whether it's a Clinton Foundation donor or somebody who is important to the activities of this foundation, they have special accession to people in the State Department because of Hillary Clinton's role as secretary of the state. This is another major error in judgment to have a foundation of this nature where the conflict of interest is clear. The e-mail issue, obviously, the second major error in judgment. But you cannot have a situation where potential donors or people have a back door into U.S. foreign policy through the State Department via a private foundation. That's completely inappropriate. We see the type of problems that creates in the e-mail type of traffic that's just been released.
BERMAN: Chris, we do want to get your take on this.
But, Tracy, let me just ask you, explain to me the relationship, then, revealed in these e-mails between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. What would be an appropriate relationship between the foundation and the State Department be?
SEFL: John, I can't answer that question. I'm not sure that anyone cares, outside of this conversation or in the circles that Judicial Watch lives in. I just don't see what is the issue here.
BOLDUAN: Chris, putting it into context --
SEFL: I just don't --
KRIS KOBACH, KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think there's a --
BOLDUAN: -- Tracy doesn't see a point to it. KOBACH: Looking at this, I always thought the Clinton Foundation e-
mails would eventually be a bigger problem for Hillary Clinton then the classified e-mails. I don't think anybody thinks Hillary intentionally put classified information at risk and exposed it. It was a mistake. It was negligence.
But as far as these foundation relationships, I think people can believe she may have, you know, given access or favors in exchange for huge contributions to the Clinton Foundation. It seems perfectly plausible. Not only this case of a job perhaps being offered, you have the Russian uranium deal, you have the cases of money from very wealthy African donors, and that's perceived to how lightly the U.S. State Department tread with regard to certain activities in Africa. It's a potential problem for her because it fits the message of the Trump campaign that she's corrupt and might be willing to take money for a deal.
The other thing, it cuts into her strong suit. What's Hillary Clinton's strongest suit in this campaign? Foreign policy, right? She's going to be saying I'm the steady hand at the wheel, I'm the better person in charge of foreign policy. Trump can now retort, look, these e-mails show you are selling our foreign policy to the highest bidder. So it hurts her in multiple ways that the top-secret e-mails didn't necessarily hurt her.
BERMAN: Chris, you would rather be talking about this than Donald Trump's statements on the Second Amendment, which a lot of people think were a call for violence. Do you think that Donald Trump is pulling focus unnecessarily away from what you think would be more important issues?
KOBACH: I think Donald Trump speaks off-the-cuff a lot. When he made that statement about the Second Amendment, he's reacting to the crowd. You can tell the crowd's shouting things and he's saying things back. I read that as saying, yeah, the Supreme Court's going to take away your Second Amendment rights, nothing you can do about it. Then he says, well, the Second Amendment folks, maybe. I think he means the NRA and Congress. Just because the Supreme Court rules, Congress still has to pass a bill confiscating or prohibiting weapons. And he's saying the NRA will be able to stop that. That's how I read it. I don't see -- I think it's totally overblown to suggest that that was some sort of assassination threat. It doesn't even make sense to read it that way.
BOLDUAN: It's so fascinating. Democrats think the e-mails are overblown. Republicans think Donald Trump supporters think the talk yesterday was overblown. I think we're in the middle of a presidential election.
Thanks, guys. Appreciate your time.
KOBACH: You bet.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, he was the man conservatives saw as the white knight for the Republican Party. So what does the man they first hoped would take on Donald Trump think of the man who is now taking on Donald Trump? We'll ask him next.
[11:44:43] BERMAN: And then Georgia, it is on someone's mind. Hillary Clinton allegedly getting ready to spend real money in a historically red state. Will this bet pay off?
BERMAN: There are new names jumping on the list of Republicans saying they will not vote for Donald Trump. And now there's a conservative jumping in the race, Evan McMullin. But before Evan McMullin there was another.
BOLDUAN: Constitutional attorney and writer for the conservative "National Review," David French. And David French is joining us now.
David, great to see you. Thank you for joining us.
DAVID FRENCH, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY & WRITER, NATIONAL REVIEW: Thanks for having me.
BOLDUAN: This could have been you, my friend, following this boomlet of Evan McMullin. Any regrets?
FRENCH: Not for one second. It was the right decision for me not to jump in. But, you know what, good for him. I'm glad he jumped in. If he's on the ballot in Tennessee, I'm positive at this point, knowing what I know about him, compared to the other candidates, I would vote for him and vote for him happily.
BERMAN: If we can ask you about what's been in the news over last 20 hours or so, Donald Trump making the statement suggesting that Second Amendment supporters might take matters into their own hands, what was your interpretation of that statement?
FRENCH: You know, it's honestly embarrassing to watch Republicans argue he was talking about mobilizing Second Amendment voters. It was a painfully obvious assassination reference. I don't think he was seriously making a call for Hillary Clinton to be assassinated. I think he was speaking from context. It was obvious.
And what you do when you put your foot in your mouth like that is you apologize immediately. Instead, you've got all of these Republicans out there trying to excuse the statement that was in context about assassination. You have Donald Trump, who is going to do what Donald Trump does, which is never make things better, always make things worse. It's deja vu all over again.
[11:50:33] BOLDUAN: David, you say they're embarrassing themselves as they try to explain it away. What do you say to Republicans out there who continue to criticize Donald Trump and say that what he's been saying, in past examples, is beyond the pale but do not un- endorse, do not pull back their endorsements and are standing behind him? People like Paul Ryan.
FRENCH: The same thing applies. At what point does he say something? Is it attacking a Gold Star family and then doubling down on those attacks? Is it attacking a judge because his parents are from Mexico? Is it making a comment or reference to assassination? At what point does self-respect come in, some sense of proportion and morally come in and say, you know what, he's not my guy. I use the word embarrassing. I use it intentionally. It's just embarrassing. It will haunt the conservative movement for years.
BERMAN: You say it's embarrassing for Donald Trump. Are you embarrassed by the Republicans sticking by him then? And what will the long-term consequences for them be?
FRENCH: Yes. Yes, I'm saying specifically -- I've been embarrassed by Donald Trump for months. I'm embarrassed right now for the Republicans who continue to stick by him, knowing who he is and what he stands for, and knowing that he stands for no principle higher than his own self-advancement. Any movement that will sell itself out to such a man, even when it is now obvious that he is doing better than anyone else at defeating Donald Trump -- Trump is defeating himself every single day -- you begin to wonder what is the intellectual core, where is the spiritual core of such a movement? And that's a fair question for voters to ask in future years if GOP politicians don't rediscover a spine here.
BOLDUAN: What is your direct message to Paul Ryan, then, David?
FRENCH: Un-endorse. Un-endorse. Look, I don't think he's listening to me. I don't think he particularly cares what I have to say. I can't imagine a serious conservative --
BOLDUAN: But, David, everyone says that Paul Ryan is a conservative. You agree with that, yes?
FRENCH: Absolutely. And I respect Paul Ryan in many, many ways. I do not respect this choice that he's made here. I wish and I hope that he can unmake this decision before it's late.
BERMAN: "New York Daily News" and some commentators said Donald Trump should drop out of the race. Is that a subject worth discussing or is that just selling newspapers?
FRENCH: That's just selling newspapers. If there's one thing we learned about Donald Trump is that Donald Trump pursues his own self- interest relentlessly, and dropping out at this point would be a humiliation for him, a humiliation for his family. He's not going to do -- he humiliates himself in his mind, unintentionally. This would be an intentional act of self-destruction that he's not going to make. That's just selling newspapers. I would be stunned and amazed, and it would be inconsistent with what we know about Donald Trump if he dropped out on his own.
BOLDUAN: We have been stunned and amazed by much in this election cycle.
David French, great to see you.
FRENCH: Thank you.
BERMAN: The Clinton campaign now making a big effort, they say, to turn a pair of red states blue, they say. But can they take Georgia and Arizona away from the Republicans?
BOLDUAN: They say. Doesn't apply there.
BERMAN: Doesn't apply.
We'll discuss when we come back.
[11:57:00] BOLDUAN: Depending on who you talk to, Georgia and Arizona are either Republican red through and through, maybe turning swing-state purple, or possibly looking more blue than anything else, or maybe they're the states that are latest pawns in the political game of battleground roulette.
BOLDUAN: Hillary Clinton's campaign thinks the Trump campaign is vulnerable in those states so Team Clinton says they plan to expand operations in both.
Let's talk with Rebecca Dehart, the executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party.
Rebecca, prove it. Prove it. How much money is the Clinton campaign about to spend in Georgia? How many people do you have working for her there in that state right now?
REBECCA DEHART, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The Clinton campaign has already been on the ground in Georgia for a few weeks. Details will be forthcoming about this expanded investment that they'll make in Georgia. I don't have all of the details now, but I can tell you that the state party itself has expanded with our new program. We've hired more than 30 people in the last two months. We are opening satellite offices throughout the state and we have some of the nation's best field operatives heading our program.
BOLDUAN: When is Hillary Clinton going to next campaigning in Georgia?
DEHART: Right now, we have Cory Booker coming in this weekend. We are having the who's who list of surrogates come through on Georgia and I can't wait to see what the next the 90 days brings.
BERMAN: As of now, is there any plan to have Hillary Clinton in Georgia?
DEHART: Not that I'm aware of in the next couple of weeks. We're focused on the Cory Booker event this Saturday and building out a program over the next 90 days.
BOLDUAN: Rebecca, former Congressman from Georgia, now a Trump adviser, Jack Kingston, he was on last week. We asked him, he said Georgia is absolutely not turning blue. He also had this to say. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER GEORGIA CONGRESSMAN & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I hope that Hillary Clinton spends a lot of time in Georgia and spends a lot of money because that will free up our resources to go to Pennsylvania, Florida and other states. So, you know, I'm laughing at this in the backroom. I know it makes a good story for the Clinton campaign. It's kind of icing on the cake of maybe a good week for them. But the reality is it is an absolute fantasy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: An absolute fantasy. What say you?
DEHART: I'm OK if they want to continue to think that until November. The polls over the past month have shown time and time again that not only is Georgia in play but Clinton is leading. We have continued to close the gap cycle after cycle. In 2008, President Obama got 47 percent of the vote without any significant presidential investment. In the past eight years, we have done nothing more but trend towards a more Democratic electorate. We feel very confident that we're going to be able to bring this home for Hillary Clinton this November.
BERMAN: Rebecca Dehart, thank you for being with us.
DEHART: Thank you for having me.
BOLDUAN: We'll see you in Georgia.
DEHART: All right.
BOLDUAN: And thank you all for joining us AT THIS HOUR.
BERMAN: "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right about now.
[12:00:08] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Welcome to "Legal View."
If we are not in the home stretch of this bizarre --