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Trump Again Calls Obama ISIS Founder (He's Not); New Conflict of Interest Question Dogs Clinton; 75 Republicans To RNC: Abandon Trump's Campaign; Pelosi: DNC Hack Is "Electronic Watergate." Aired 8- 9p ET

Aired August 11, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:20] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. John Berman here, in for Anderson.

We have as big of a night as you can have without a guy using giant suction cups to climb Trump Tower. Donald Trump just wrapping up a rally tonight in Florida, again repeating the claim that President Obama or as he likes to say now, Barack Hussein Obama is the co- founder of ISIS along with Hillary Clinton.

And Secretary Clinton, CNN has uncovered new evidence that a top State Department staffer for Hillary Clinton was doing work while at State on behalf of the Clinton Foundation. That and new details on the tiff between the FBI and the Justice Department over launching a investigation into Secretary Clinton.

Somewhere tonight, the makers of Tums are smiling. Campaign heartburn all around.

We begin with Donald Trump's case of it given one opportunity after another to walk back his ISIS remarks, he just simply is not doing it.


HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: Last night, you said the president was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way.

HEWITT: But he's not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He's trying to kill them.

TRUMP: I don't care. He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that was the founding of ISIS, OK?

HEWITT: They screwed everything up. You don't get any argument from me. But by using the term "founder", they're hitting with you on this again. Mistake?

TRUMP: No. It's not a mistake. Everyone's liking it. I think they're liking it. I give him the most valuable player award. And I give it to him and I give the co-founder to Hillary.


BERMAN: So, as you saw, Donald Trump is now speaking in Kissimmee, Florida.

CNN's Jim Acosta is there.

So, Jim, he said it again tonight, didn't he?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did. I guess you might say, John, he's quadrupling down and this is the fourth event in 24 hours during which Donald Trump did say that President Obama is the founder of ISIS. As a matter of fact, he added a new wrinkle to that riff tonight by saying he is the founder of ISIS in a true sense -- which, of course, is not the case. That is false. President Obama is not the founder of ISIS.

But Donald Trump went on to say why he feels this way. He said that if only the president had left a small force in Iraq, instead of totally withdrawing from the country, that perhaps things might be different.

But, John, keep in mind, that just runs contrary to what Donald Trump said to CNN back in March of 2007. He told Wolf Blitzer in March 2007 that the U.S. should declare victory and leave. He said nothing at that time about leaving a residual force.

A lot of -- you know, there are people on both sides of this debate, in Washington, who say President Obama should have never used the term "jayvee" then referring to ISIS, that perhaps he should have left that small residual force. The White House, I know that, being at the White House, they pushed back on all of those arguments.

But Donald Trump isn't using those arguments out here. He's basically saying something that is false, which is that the president is the founder of ISIS. Something that we know it's not true.

BERMAN: And the reason Jim I supposed he keeps saying it, and the reason I say this, because he said it to Hugh Hewitt -- he thinks everyone likes it. Is that the case in the crowd there?

ACOSTA: Oh, absolutely. And keep in mind -- national security, law and order, those are the operative terms inside this campaign. They believe those two issues are what are going to propel them to victory come November, at the same time what Donald Trump has the independent, middle of the road, moderate voters and the question is are those arguments persuasive when just from a factual standpoint, they're not true. What Donald Trump is telling this crowd here, and what he's been telling crowds over the last 24 hours is that the president and Hillary Clinton are responsible for the rise of ISIS.

And with these different terrorist attacks happening all over the world, his belief is, is that people are going to find that argument to win the day even if he may not be factually correct in what he's saying. BERMAN: So, no sign, Jim, and I'm sure you pressed the campaign on

this, no sign he's going to back off on those statements any time soon?

ACOSTA: No, not at all. And as a matter of fact, they think that this argument is working. I would expect Donald Trump to continue talking about this.

As a matter of fact, he said at one point during this rally that he's resisting the advice of his advisers when it comes to talking about the really nasty TV ads that are playing down in Florida against him. So, even if his advisers were telling him, OK, maybe you shouldn't talk about this, you know, Donald Trump is pretty open sometimes at his rallies and sometimes resists the advice of his own advisers.

BERMAN: And, Jim, before the rally that they were setting up, I was watching the monitor, and I saw a Confederate flag hanging up on the crowd with the words -- there it is right there, Trump 2016. Was that taken down?

[20:05:00] ACOSTA: It was eventually taken down, John. It took about 15 minutes and having covered a lot of these rallies and I know you have as well. Previous campaigns would have over there and told those guys, you either take the flag down or you leave.

It just goes to show you that there are times with this campaign and they have a lot of great people working with them behind the scenes, the advance people and so forth, that sometimes there is a lack of experience with dealing with these sorts of things. The flag was taken down at one point and then the people who were flying this flag put it back up again and finally it took local law enforcement officials and volunteers here to persuade these men to take down the flag. But it took a good 15 or 20 minutes as Donald Trump might say in one of his tweet, it was sad.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Acosta for us in Kissimmee, Florida -- thanks so much.

More now on what Jim just mentioned, the criticism has been leveled by many that the president left a power vacuum in Iraq by withdrawing U.S. troop, a power vacuum that ISIS filled. However, here is the moment Jim Acosta mentioned from back in 2007, Donald Trump -- Donald Trump pushed to take out all U.S. forces from Iraq even while fully aware of the chaos that might follow.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: How does the United States get out of this situation? Is there --

TRUMP: How do they get out? You know how they get out? They get out. Declare victory and leave because I'll tell you, this country is just going to get further bogged down. There's a civil war over there, Wolf. There's nothing that we're going to be able to do with a civil war. They are in a major civil war and it's going to Iran, and it's going

to go to other countries. They are in the midst of a major civil war, and there's nothing -- and by the way, we're keeping the lid on a little bit, but the day we leave anyway, it's all going to blow up.


BERMAN: All right. Let's bring the panel in.

Trump supporters Andre Bauer, Scottie Nell Hughes, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" presidential campaign correspondent, Maggie Haberman. Also, conservative Trump critic Margaret Hoover, David Brock, founder of Media Matters, and the pro-Clinton super PAC Correct the Record, and former Clinton 2008 senior campaign adviser Maria Cardona.

Scottie Nell Hughes, you heard Hugh Hewitt sort of throwing Donald Trump a lifeline there. More than throwing a lifeline, he provided a road map to explain his -- you know, President Obama founded ISIS comments. But Donald Trump didn't want anything to do with it. He just wanted to say President Obama founded ISIS.

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That was very kind of Hugh Hewitt to do that, because in the past, he's been critical of Donald Trump. And I think he knew the storm that was going to be continued if Mr. Trump did not take it. But obviously, Mr. Trump feels this message is resonating with his folks.

Now, from a conservative standpoint, let me just say, are we going to get a signing of a charter or cutting of a red tape of someone of the founding of ISIS? Absolutely not. However, many conservatives think it was the irresponsible of pulling out of troops by this administration and Hillary Clinton that led to the creation of ISIS, left this void that was filled, and that is what we're dealing with right now.

And we have yet to find Hillary Clinton or President Obama say that they were happy with how they did this, that they actually said -- if they would do anything different. As of now, they're sticking with their plans and they've not disavowed, they've not said we would have changed it differently. And right now, we're dealing with this jayvee squad on an international stage.

BERMAN: Any comment on the fact that we just heard Donald Trump saying he would have done the same thing but even earlier than President Obama did?

HUGHES: Well, that's the joy of words come back to bite on that, and hopefully Mr. Trump remembered that before he went out and said it. But you know what? We have learned he wasn't running for office at that point, he didn't have all the security clearances. He might have not known everything going on that he knows right now.

BERMAN: So he was wrong then?

HUGHES: You know, I think his thought was we just need to get out there, that we were siting, we are putting a lot of blood, we're putting a lot of our troops, a lot of our money in there, and at this point let's just cut and let's get out.

Nobody predicted that I think ISIS was going to go in there and we were going to create this new Islamic terrorist group that was going to be as large and as dangerous and unpredictable. This was not -- this is not like al Qaeda.

BERMAN: So, you're saying no one knew, like no one saying like President Obama --

HUGHES: No one predicted that we would -- no one predicted that we would have a terrorist group and it doesn't follow the same rule of order that other terrorist groups have done, believe it or not. These are folks going out here into the Western communities to infiltrate us.

BERMAN: So, if no one predicted it, then it's probably fair to say that the president and secretary of state didn't found it?

HUGHES: Well, no one didn't have any security clearance. I think all of us in the general population did not realize what we were dealing with. We would expect our president and our administration to have a little bit more knowledge of what was going on, that we hear on the ground.

BERMAN: Margaret Hoover, there's been a discussion about when U.S. troops were pulled out of Iraq and how they're pulled out of Iraq for a long time, and that is a legitimate discussion to have about the security of the entire Middle East and, you know, and foreign policy.

Does saying President Obama founded ISIS lend itself to having a constructive discussion about that subject?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Obviously, it does not, John. I mean, we -- all of us know this. I mean, I hate that I'm in a position of pointing out that Hillary Clinton is correct, that words matter. But the truth is, responsible individuals who care about our country can acknowledge that this is highly irresponsible rhetoric.

What is most concerning about Trump's rhetoric, though, actually isn't what it reveals about his lack of detail to policy. What it reveals to me especially against the context of what was happening in Iraq, remember? An incredibly unpopular decision that George W. Bush made which was to double down troops over the surge, what you need to be able to do as president is make highly politically, unpopular decisions when faced with full information and facts and stand by them.

Not only can Donald Trump not make a decision and stand by it, he can't pick a line of argument and stick with it.

BERMAN: It's interesting because Donald Trump made these arguments to Wolf Blitzer in the exact time of the surge. So, it's interesting to see the dichotomy there.

Andre, let me ask you about the use full name of the president, Barack Hussein Obama? Why do you think Donald Trump is doing that?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he's trying to show his -- what he believes are ties to some of the terrorist groups.

BERMAN: I'm sorry, what are the ties to the terrorist groups?

BAUER: I'm not here to connect those dots and I think he's trying to go back to the thought that he thinks that he is sympathetic to the cause. I mean, letting the Syrian refugees in. I think it's demonstrating what he thinks is a lapse in judgment in being --

BERMAN: Let me just serve the role of Hugh Hewitt and give you a lifeline.

BAUER: I'll take all of them I can get.


BERMAN: You're not saying that you think President Obama is sympathetic to the cause of ISIS.

BAUER: No, but I'm saying that I think that Donald Trump is trying to show a connection with somebody that doesn't have the best interest of the United States government at heart.

BERMAN: So, he's deliberately using that as some people call it a dog whistle. A dog whistle is silent, that's not silent at all. He's using it to send the message that President Obama has some kind of nefarious intent?

BAUER: I don't know -- that would be (INAUDIBLE) interpreted -- I don't know. I haven't talked to Donald Trump about it, but clearly he has a rub with the president and he's decided to address him by his proper name.

BERMAN: Do you see it like that, Maria?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is not a dog whistle. It's a freakin' megaphone what he's using, and yes, he's doing it because he knows that this is -- this is crack. This is political crack for his supporters because he knows that his supporters, frankly, believe something that he has put out there ever since he started the birther movement that somehow our president is not American, was not born here, is Muslim and is sympathetic to the terrorists.

I don't even -- I can't find another word, John, another adjective to underscore how outrageous this is, how jaw-dropping this is, how irresponsible this is and how completely and totally unfit this underscores the fact that this man cannot be our commander-in-chief. And we're not only seeing outrage from the Democrats or independents , you have, day after day, you have let's use an Olympic image here, a relay race of Republicans who are passing the baton coming out every single day and every single hour defecting from supporting Donald Trump and frankly, many of them are supporting Hillary Clinton because they're so outraged and so concerned. BERMAN: David Brock, I know you probably agree with this. I'm not

going to ask you about that because I think you agree.

What I'll ask you is the stories out today and there have been a couple more about the Clinton Foundation. We're going to show Drew Griffin will have a story a little bit about Cheryl Mills who apparently was doing work for the Clinton Foundation while at the State Department. There's that and then there's story that CNN's been reporting all day that the Justice Department and some FBI field offices disagreed on whether to investigate the Clinton Foundation.

Do you think there is cause for an investigation here? Do you think this reflects some kind of muddled sense of how the operation should have run?

DAVID BROCK, FOUNDER OF PRO-HILLARY SUPER PAC: I don't think -- no, I think the decision not to investigate was correct. I don't think the e-mails that have come out in the past couple days show anything wrong. Certainly not anything that would approach the violation of the law.

BERMAN: Violation of the law is one thing. Violation of public trust and the idea that there should be a complete separation is another. In this --

BROCK: But these e-mails were innocuous. I mean, this shown --

BERMAN: Asking for a favor? Asking for a favor?

BROCK: It comes up on her own dime and on her own time for a job interview, somebody who's been with the Clintons for 20 years. I mean, that's just perfunctory in my view.


BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, let me ask you, again, it may not be illegal. It was investigated and we don't know if it will be deemed illegal, but it does present the image of at least confusion or muddled interest here when someone working at the State Department does interviews for the Clinton Foundation.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK TIMES PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT: The question about conflicts of interest is very open in government about the appearance of a conflict of interest. And so, this goes to the appearance of a conflict of interest and while there has been explanations offered and they're the ones that David offered and the ones you heard from the campaign, and in one instance a donor who was involved and a meeting being set up.

[20:15:04] Those all make sense, but it does speak to a confluence and it feeds a narrative that has existed around the Clintons for a very long time of thinking that the rules don't apply to them.

BERMAN: It is question of political blindness? Is it not believing that people would perceive it that way or not caring? HABERMAN: I mean, I can't speak to what's in their heads. What has

generally come out from their allies is, you know, a sense of they believe that they are dealing sort of more harm than good. We will hear the Clinton's point to do all of the good work that this foundation does. It's a charity, period.

It's not a charity, period. It does charitable work, but at the end of the day, it's also interwoven completely with Bill Clinton's post- presidency in a very specific way.

BERMAN: All right, guys. Stick around. I know you have more opinions on this in and many other things. We have much more time to discuss, including exploring all the occasions that Donald Trump has gone after President Obama with dubious claims. Margaret Hoover mentioned the birther charge. Trump just won't let that one go, and there are plenty of other examples as well, we'll show next.

And later tonight, Drew Griffin reported and we were just talking about the Clinton foundation's relationship with the State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


BERMAN: So, as you heard at the top, Donald Trump again repeated his claim that President Obama is, quote, "the founder of ISIS." This is just the most recent in a long line of claims, false claims that Donald Trump has made about the president, including that he wasn't born in the United States.

[20:20:07] And even when there's proof that he's wrong, Donald Trump doesn't seem dissuaded.

Randi Kaye reports.


TRUMP: Barack Hussein Obama.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three little words with a big message: He is not one of us -- Donald Trump's way of raising questions about President Obama.

TRUMP: Barack Hussein Obama.

Barack Hussein Obama.

KAYE: Trump used the president's full name again this week when suggesting Obama was the founder of ISIS.

(on camera): It's all part of a long history of accusations by Trump, questioning the president's religion and even his citizenship. Remember, it was Donald Trump who led the charge on the birther movement, suggesting Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen and therefore could not legally serve as president.

TRUMP: People have birth certificates. He doesn't have a birth certificate. Now, he may have one, but there is something on that birth -- maybe it's religion, maybe it says he's a Muslim. I don't know.

KAYE (voice-over): Trump often repeated his suspicions.

TRUMP: I want him to show his birth certificate.

There is something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like.

KAYE: At the White House correspondents dinner in 2011, the president used humor to turn the tables on Trump, who didn't seem to find anything funny about the joke.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, for the first time, I am releasing my official birth video.

KAYE: He followed that up with a clip from "The Lion King" since Trump had suggested Obama was actually born in Kenya.

Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump has breathed new life into the notion that President Obama is a Muslim, even though the president is a Christian and was born in Hawaii. Remember this?

TRUMP SUPPORTER: We have a problem in this country, it's called Muslims. You know, our current president is one. You know he's not even an American.

TRUMP: We need this question. This is the first question.

KAYE: After Trump too heat for not setting the record straight.

TRUMP: Like the Iran deal, who would make this deal? During the --


TRUMP: What did you say? I didn't hear it.


TRUMP: OK. I didn't say it. I didn't say it!

KAYE: Trump has also criticized the president numerous times for not using the term radical Islam.

TRUMP: I mean, nobody knows what's going on. Nobody knows why he doesn't have more anger. Look at what's going on. Look at what's happening? This Orlando attack was just absolutely horrendous and yet he doesn't use the word of radical Islamic terror.

KAYE: Trump used Obama's hesitance to use radical Islam to suggest once again that his sympathies may lie elsewhere. After the shooting at the Orlando Pulse nightclub in June, the shooter claimed allegiance to ISIS. Trump took aim at Obama, practically floating the idea the president of the United States may have ties to the terror group.

TRUMP: We are led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or he's got something else in mind. There's something going on. It's inconceivable.

KAYE: An aspiring president taking aim at the president every chance he gets.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger joins now, and once again, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" presidential campaign correspondent, Maggie Haberman.

Gloria, you know, we were speaking with Andre Bauer, lieutenant governor -- former lieutenant governor of South Carolina who's a Trump supporter and he wasn't saying he was advocating this, but he says he thinks what Donald Trump is doing by saying "Barack Hussein Obama" and all these other stuff, is clearly trying to create links between President Obama, at least mental links with his supporters, between President Obama and terrorism. It's a dog whistle or maybe a dog whistle plus.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's not really it's a dog whistle. It's just a whistle. I mean, you can hear it very clearly.

I mean, in Randi Kaye's piece just before when Trump said after the Orlando terror attack, there's something going on with the president, you know, and you have to sort of scratch your head and say what was he implying by that using the name over and over again using the name "Barack Hussein Obama". What he's trying to do here politically is to appeal to his base of support that he's got to consolidate right now, and remind his supporters how much they dislike this president, and then link Hillary Clinton to President Obama.

I mean, Mitt Romney who lost the presidency, had 92 percent of Republicans supporting him. Donald Trump right now has about 83 percent of Republicans supporting him. A lot of them are running away from this rhetoric, I might add. But he's trying to consolidate those people who like him and mobilize them and say, OK, if you like me, this is why it's important to vote and remind them how angry they are at the president and at this administration.

[20:25:01] BERMAN: You know, Maggie, this is not loose talk. This isn't some kind of verbal slip. I mean, this is deliberate and no mistake. Donald Trump just told us it was no mistake. He's saying this stuff on purpose. Why?

HABERMAN: Because he believes it and because he's gone several days going from one pre-announced pivot to another, and he's now clearly saying what he thinks he's been saying it all day, and he was very clear that I -- this is me, this is who I am in one of his many interviews this morning.

It is, as Gloria said, it is not a dog whistle. It is just whistle. It is designed to do what we heard in the previous segment, which is to leave people a different impressions to what he's trying to say, so people can say it different ways. Hugh Hewitt in the interview this morning did try to offer him some way to say, surely you meant it and he said, "No, I didn't."

What's interesting about it just from an observational standpoint on his behavior is that he's tried very hard throughout this campaign not to talk about birtherism anymore. He has said over and over again, I don't talk about that anymore when he's gotten asked about it. So, using the president's middle name in particular is sort of a creeping way of getting back into that, but it is a way to mobilize his base.

BERMAN: He's never pronounced birtherism, by the way. He just said he doesn't want to talk about it, right?


BERMAN: And, Gloria, it's interesting. The president is an interesting target for Donald Trump right now because the president's favorables are 20 points higher than Donald Trump right now. It may not be the smartest target for him.

BORGER: No. Well, look, you know, the prime beneficiary of this campaign has been the president. You know, his popularity has gone up substantially and Hillary Clinton, of course, you know, benefits from that.

I think the problem that Donald Trump has right now is that according to a Bloomberg poll this week, he's gone down seven points with independent voters. "The Times" pointed out, of course, that he's losing ground rapidly with Republican women, and this is why the Republican National Committee is so concerned and so upset, and one of the reasons, because their candidates are saying, look, we can't run alongside him because our constituents, a lot of our constituents don't like this and it's going to be each man for himself heading into the -- heading into the general election.

So, there's a lot of consternation about it and if Donald Trump wants to win with or without the Republican Party alongside him, I think he's made that very clear.

BERMAN: And that's the Republican side and I was doing dial testing during the Republican convention, and independents, they actually found a lot to like in Donald Trump's speech, but it was when he was talking about the economy and when he was talking about the issues. Any time he veered into anything that was close to an attack, those dials went way down.

Independents just didn't like it one bit, and I can't imagine that they like this type of stuff either.

HABERMAN: It may turn out that everything we have known about elections over the last several decades will prove wrong this time. But historically speaking, take away not just the attacks and the sort of the racial undertones, voters want to hear about what will impact their lives. They don't want to actually hear candidates talk about themselves over and over again at a certain point. And we are now in a general election window. And when Trump does the attacks, he actually often does it in the form of saying, and this was done to me. Someone did something to me. I'd like to point out that part of what he's doing with this Obama swing is he's trying to punch back at -- remember, Hillary Clinton was in there, too, on this.

He believes that he is sort of mirroring the Democrats' attacks on him as unfit for office. The problem is that the Democrats' attacks have been validated by or at least supported by prominent Republicans, prominent people in the party and out of the party who don't, you know, look for a job and don't have a need for it and are fine going along with that, and saying this isn't real.

Trump is not being that with that kind of support and it just sort -- it overshoots.

One of the other things with Trump is that there was a consistent sort of need to understand either, does he really mean this? Does he really believe this and does he really think this? It doesn't actually matter. I mean, what matters is what he's saying.

BERMAN: Right.

It's incumbent on us to take him at his word that he means it.

HABERMAN: Well, and words -- whether he does or doesn't, when you're the president of the United States or running to be that, words matter.

BERMAN: All right. Maggie, Gloria, thanks so much.

Up next, just how frustrated with the Trump campaign is the Republican Party? We were just talking about it and we have new reporting on it, and we'll give you that information when 360 continues.


[20:33:251] BERMAN: So it's not the kind of headline you want to see as a presidential candidate, let the 90-days out from the Election Day, party chief voices concerns about campaign direction. Your party chief, your campaign. And yet that's exactly where Donald Trump and RNC Chair Reince Priebus find themselves. Headline alone is a headache.

Joining us now, with the details of the story behind that headline, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. And Dana, you have new details about how this all started, a call between Reince Priebus and Trump that really began the latest chapter in this strange relationship.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is strange, but, you know, remember last week, John, when Donald Trump declined to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan in his GOP primary contest, we reported then that the RNC Chair Reince Priebus who was a close friend of Reince was furious. At the time I was told it was initially so upset he didn't want to talk to Trump, but he eventually did and sources familiar with that call tell me that Priebus told Trump he needs to understand that politics is not about fairness. It's not personal and that if Republicans criticize him like Ryan and others did about Trump's controversial comments about the Gold Star parents, the Khans, they do have because, they feel that they have to for their own political viability.

And perhaps in some cases they believe that it's just the right thing to do, but Reince -- I'm told Reince Priebus explained to Trump that's OK if it happens, because as the guy at the top of the ticket told, Trumps needs them to win and again not personal.

So, it's a kind of tough love that Reince Priebus has played for the better part of the year, one that seems to be getting tougher for him to play.

BERMAN: It sounds like the Godfather. It's just business, not personal. I understand you also have a copy of 11 is now been signed by what 75 Republicans from the staff level on up.

[20:35:03] What did they say, and what do they want from the party?

BASH: That's right, you know, these are mostly I think all never Trump Republicans, some former congressmen, former GOP campaign officials and Hill staffers asking Reince Priebus to shift party resources to congressional races to save the Republican majorities on Capitol Hill and I'll read you part of the letter. It says, we believe that Donald Trump's divisiveness, recklessness, incompetence and record breaking unpopularity risk turning this election into a Democratic landslide and that only the immediate shift of all available RNC resources to vulnerable Senate and House races will prevent the GOP from drowning with the Trump-emblazoned anchor around its neck.

Now, I can tell you sources who I'm talking to, John, who are familiar with the RNC plan say that Priebus is not considering that yet. For one, he doesn't think it will work and one of those reasons is as you all know many vulnerable Senate Republicans are in presidential battleground states. So, their races might be inextricably tied no matter what the public officials or even the campaigns try to say to voters to change that.

BERMAN: So, what does the Trump campaign now saying about all this?

BASH: Well Donald Trump himself was asked about it on Fox News tonight. Let's listen.



DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He just put out a press release and he just put out a tweet saying it's untrue, and I mean, if it is true, that's OK too, because all I have to do is stop funding the Republican Party. I'm the one raising money for them, in fact right now I'm in Orlando, I'm going to a fund-raiser for the Republican Party. So if they want to do that they can save me a lot of time and a lot of energy.


BASH: Not sure what press release he's talking about, but at the bottom line there is there was -- you know, there was a little bit of a threat, but Donald Trump does have a point and it actually speaks to some of the practical problems that the RNC would have if, and this is a big if, hypothetically they would try to dump Trump or at least move away and that is the way the party is working especially this year. The RNC and Donald Trump are raising money together for a victory fund and so it's all tied together and when I say "it" I'm talking about the money.

BERMAN: All right, Dana Bash. Thanks so much. Back now with our panel, Margaret let me start with you, Donald Trump's response there was really interesting to hear. It's not true, but if it is true, you know, what ...

HOOVER: I don't need them.

BERMAN: ... I don't need them.

HOOVER: I don't need them anyway. Well look, first of all on the fund-raising bit, there's a huge amount of money, huge, because we can't help, but channel Donald Trump these days of money that is on the sidelines, that is simply not playing and not getting ridden that would if their RNC even took sort of a small gesture aside to demonstrate that they're going to separate themselves from Donald Trump would immediately pour in to help us down ballot races because it's already going to independent expenditures to help some of these down ballot competitive Senate races.

One other thing, the RNC and the Senate candidates who are in tough seats, Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte, Toomey in Pennsylvania and Mark Kirk, everybody needs to go back and study 1972. In 1972 Nixon won a historic landslide every single state and Democrats in the Senate picked up two seats, South Dakota and Kentucky. You can't figure out how to run a split ballot race and that is what Republicans have to study if they want to have prayer upholding the Senate, because this is headed towards a historic landslide.

BERMAN: Scottie Nell-Hughes, 75 people signing a letter there, what's your message to them.

HUGHES: OK, I'm glad we have a list of rhinos finally complete that as a matter it makes me very upset, because as a Trump supporter, the biggest torpedoes are not coming from the Democrats. It's coming from those of our own party, those that had already said our party on a course for disaster, and we have lost the last two presidential elections.

It is $84 million that Donald Trump has brought and had said here's to the party to get you elected and as history has shown so far, those that ran against Donald Trump like the tingle (ph) camp, they lost. The people right now when you look at these rally and you have the largest numbers, 10, 12, 15,000 people showing up there's something you've never seen in Republican politics that are engaged in states like New Hampshire and Maine, Virginia, Pennsylvania and these senators want to come against that man?

It's not only risking Donald Trump, but it's risking all of the folks right now that have been engaged because of him. This is a dangerous road and, you know what in the fall, if Mr. Trump is elected, when Hillary Clinton does support and puts liberal judges over that support pro-choice, when she seats there and actually decides to put people into war action that we don't agree with -- the blood is on their hands and it's not on ours.

BERMAN: Andre, Donald Trump supporter, you think anyone who signing this letter anyone who's not supporting Donald Trump, anyone expressing their concerns they're not real Republicans at this point, Scottie Nell-Hughes just called rhino.

ANDRE BAUER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well I'm voted for Republicans are quite frankly I would not very happy with because I was a team player and this is an unorthodox campaign it has driven people out that weren't normally in the Republican Party, because there is a temperament out there of people that are so fed up with Washington.

They're not just fed up with it the presidential level, they're fed up within their own party and they're just -- it's get the bums out year and they've had enough up to here and so they may unelect some of their own party members, because they want substantive change in Washington.

[20:40:14] They want to see him rein the budget in, they want see as quick continue to be the world peace keepers, there's a lot of change needed in Washington and it hasn't happened under either leadership and so there's a frustration that's not tapped into yet that the pundits haven't figure out or Washington crowd hasn't.

BERMAN: So Maria Cardona, I know you're only too happy to sit here and watch the discussion among Republicans who may not be supporting Donald Trump in that discussion and you think that this just goes to show how bad things are for Donald Trump, right?


BERMAN: You think things are so bad for Donald Trump, why then in some instances aren't the polls numbers worse? In the new poll at Iowa today which voted twice for President Barack Obama and Donald Trump's winning in Iowa or at least tied there up by a point in Iowa in a new Suffolk University poll there, if things are so bad how come it's not worse?

CARDONA: Well, because -- and I say this all the time, because I think the worst thing that Democrats can do is go into a state of complacency because that it will be held Donald Trump wins, regardless of how awful Donald Trump is as a candidate and how many Republicans are saying that they even believe that he's unfit for the highest office in the land, we live in a very divided country. We live in a very polarized country.

So that is something that will always be reflected in these polls which is why Democrats and Hillary Clinton campaign are not taking anything for granted. I've said this over and over again, Hillary Clinton needs to wake up every morning and pretend like she's 10 points behind, we need to make sure that Democrats and Independents and frankly one of the things that I think that Donald Trump is creating are Hillary Clinton Republicans the way that Reagan created Reagan Democrats.

HUGHES: They're called Democrats, we're going to call them Democrats, where they really belong, there were blue dog Democratic ...


CARDONA: They weren't Democrats before.

HUGHES: Well, they've done a lot of damage to our party.

CARDONA: And here's ...

BERMAN: They were called -- sorry. They were called Reagan Democrats and some example ...

HUGHES: And then ...

BERMAN: ... for a long time your party certainly welcomed them.

CARDONA: Well like I ...

BERMAN: Hang on one second guys, hang on, we're going to do here is take a break. We're going to come back and talk much more about a lot of this. Hillary Clinton calls out her opponent for what she calls the "Trump Loophole" in his economic plan which she says let him pay a lower tax rate than millions of middle-class Americans, we have the latest on her economic speech, next.


[20:46:14] BERMAN: Hillary Clinton was at war at Michigan today giving a speech that attacked and Donald Trump's economic plan as a way to make rich people like himself even richer. CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny reports.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Let's go out and build a future.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hillary Clinton offering an upbeat view of the economy.

CLINTON: I want you all to work with me, to build the kind of progress that America deserves to see!

ZELENY: It's a starkly different picture than the one Donald Trump painted earlier this week in Detroit.

CLINTON: He talked only of failure, poverty and crime. He is missing so much about what makes Michigan great!

ZELENY: The economy is at the heart of a bruising tug-of-war between Clinton and Trump. She made clear she feels the pain of working-class voters.

CLINTON: How can you not be frustrated and even angry when you see nothing getting done? And a lot of people feel no one is on their side and no one has their back.

ZELENY: Even while bluntly admitting trade deals she supported have hurt American workers.

CLINTON: It is true that too often past trade deals have been sold to the American people with rosy scenarios that did not pan out.

ZELENY: Trade is the popular of Trump's populist argument against electing the second President Clinton.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton has supported the trade deals stripping this city and this country of its jobs and its wealth.

ZELENY: But she warned against accepting Trump's isolationist solutions.

CLINTON: Mr. Trump may talk a big game on trade, but his approach is based on fear, not strength.

ZELENY: She also coined a new phrase to use against Trump and his plan to lower corporate taxes.

CLINTON: He called for a new tax loophole. Let's call it the "Trump loophole", because it would allow him to pay less than half the current tax rate on income from many of his companies.

ZELENY: They are fighting over some of the same terrain. That's why Clinton made her pitch in a factory in McComb County, home of the fabled Reagan Democrats.

RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I want to ask those of you people called Reagan Democrats to join with me and come home with me today.

ZELENY: Trump believes those voters offer his best shot for winning the rust belt and the presidency. We talked to former Michigan Governor James Blanchard today, he says that times and candidates are different.

JAMES BLANCHARD, (D) MICHIGAN FORMER GOVERNOR: There are still a lot of people with fond memories of Ronald Reagan, but he was measured, optimistic, positive. That's a stark contrast to what we've got now here with a sad, sad, deranged spectacle, really.

ZELENY: Above all, Clinton is hammering home to voters increasingly including Republicans the election is a choice.

CLINTON: Now there is a myth out there that he will stick it to the rich and powerful because somehow he's really on the side of the little guy. Don't believe it.


BERMAN: All right, Jeff Zeleny joins us now. Jeff, I understand Hillary Clinton is poised to release her 2015 tax returns. What's the plan here?

ZELENY: She is, John. I am told by people close to her campaign that those tax returns could come out as early as tomorrow. Now, that will make the 38th year of tax returns over the course of their long political life that Bill and Hillary Clinton have released tax returns.

Tim Kaine also is set to release 10 years' of returns. But John, this isn't about their returns as much at all. It's about Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns. So far he would be the first presidential nominee since Richard Nixon to not release tax returns.

[20:50:06] Now, the question is, do voters care about this. His supporters, maybe not, but right here in McComb County, Michigan, so many undecided voters, so many working class undecided voters, John, when she said that today at this factory floor talking about the economy, there was applause from people in the room when she asked if he's hiding anything, so you get the sense among some working class voters at least this could resonate with them, which is probably why they're bringing it up at all. John.

BERMAN: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Tonight officials admit the DNC computer hack is worse than first thought. Next, see how far beyond the Clinton campaign it went or far beyond the DNC it went and why one leading Democrat is calling it the "Electronic Watergate"?


BERMAN: Democratic Party officials confirm the cyber attack on their e-mail system is even worse than first reported. Remember, last month WikiLeaks posted many of the controversial e-mails that revealed a bias toward Hillary Clinton. This of course infuriated Bernie Sanders supporters and sparked a convention wildfire that political vaporized the party's chairwoman.

Now the new DNC leadership says that more systems may have been hacked including ones handling private e-mails. CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto reports.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, the hack of Democratic Party e-mails now includes the private e-mail accounts of some Democratic Party and Clinton campaign officials. [20:55:04] The hackers one law enforcement official told CNN, are quote, "Going after everything they can", to the point that both parties have been warned to assume all e-mail correspondence could have been compromised. And now for the first time, the alleged culprit publicly identified by a top ranking Democrat.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: This is an "Electronic Watergate". This is a break-in.

SCIUTTO: House minority leader Nancy Pelosi who received classified briefings on the hack, pointing the finger directly at Moscow.

PELOSI: I know for sure it is the Russians. The Russians broke in. Who did they give the information to, I don't know. Who dumped it, I don't know.

SCIUTTO: So far, the White House is not directly blamed the Russian government for the hack of the DNC or other earlier cyber attacks suspected of Russian involvement. However, intelligence and law enforcement officials have told CNN it is the most likely suspect.

As first reported by the "New York Times" the cyber intrusions targeting Democratic Party organizations included a breach of private e-mail accounts of several Democratic Party officials. Some with direct ties to the Clinton campaign, according to a U.S. official familiar with the investigation.


SCIUTTO: Tonight we are learning that the interim head of the DNC, Donna Brazile, has written all DNC staff to say that they will be informed next week if their e-mails have been compromised. She wrote, "We understand that this incident is alarming to all who may be affected and I share your anger at those who committed and abetted this act."

And John, keep in mind Nancy Pelosi saying this is the first time anyone in the U.S. government has publicly fingered Russia for the DNC hack. John?

BERMAN: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

Just ahead, a CNN investigation raising new questions about an off- site meeting, one of Hillary Clinton's top aides had back when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. This meeting on behalf of the Clinton Foundation.

Did it cross an ethical line? New evidence, next.