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Clinton Foundation Firestorm Heats Up; Trump Softening Stance on Illegal Immigration?; Strong Earthquake Hits Central Italy; Strong New Ads from Both Campaigns; Conspiracies About Clinton's Health Have Appear to Strike Her Funny Bone. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 23, 2016 - 23:00   ET



The Clinton Foundation firestorm heating up tonight, that's in the wake of a report that claims more than half of the private individuals who met with Clinton when she was Secretary of State donated to her family's foundation.

[23:00:00] Trump says the foundation should be shut down. Clinton's camp insisting that the report, "Relies on utterly flawed data."

Let's get straight to CNN's Jason Carroll with the Trump campaign in Austin, Texas for us this evening. Hello, Jason. You covered the rally down there tonight. What do you have to say to the crowd?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were a number of topics that Donald Trump addressed. And, of course, he went over that the whole issue of Hillary Clinton and those 15,000 e-mails. He talked about the Clinton Foundation, basically, Don, calling it a pay for play type of system. The crowd really responded well to that.

And once, again, he made that appeal to African-American voters saying something that he said before saying that, "Look, if you don't feel as though you can walk down the streets without being shot. What do you have to lose by voting for me, Donald Trump?"

So once again we heard that appeal and we are here in Texas. There is a border state so, of course, there was also, Don, the issue of illegal immigration. That is also a topic that came up here tonight as well.

LEMON: And Trump and his surrogates have been softening the message, as they say this is a softening of this immigration policy for just the last couple of days. He did sound like he was backing away from the deportation thing tonight.

CARROLL: Right. Well, you know, his critics are certainly going to pounce on that interview he gave earlier today, Don, as you know where he was asked the question about illegal immigrants coming to this country, working, providing, perhaps with children and the interviewer asked him, "Would you change your position?" And he said quote, he said, "Certainly there can be a softening because we are not looking to hurt people." But when he was here tonight, he didn't sound like he was softening his position, Don. He really sounded like a hardliner really making an attempt to go after Hillary Clinton for being weak on the border.

Take a listen to what he had to tell the crowd a little earlier this evening.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And Hillary Clinton wants a totally open border. She wants catch and release. She wants Obama care and other things for illegal immigrants in many cases more than our great veterans get. She has said she's going to give massive amnesty in her first 100 days.


CARROLL: So really going after Hillary Clinton here tonight on the issue of illegal immigration, but at the end of the day here, Don, tomorrow one of the headlines without question is going to be Donald trump and this, "softening of his position."

When it comes to his position on the issue of illegal immigration, as you know, he's changed many times. In the beginning he said he would -- he was -- he wanted to deport all 11 million people who are here in the country. Then his position changed to, I would just to deport the bad ones' what he would say, then it changed again saying, "Well, my position is pretty much in line with what the president is already doing."

And just to give you just a little bit more insight into this in terms of how this campaign is sort of grappling with this issue, a little earlier this evening I spoke to Senator Jeff Sessions before he took the stage here and I asked him about Donald Trump and the softening of his position and his thoughts on the issue. And he was really trying to parsing his words here, Don.

I mean, he basically said, "Look, Donald Trump has not change -- he has not softened his position in terms of the legality of illegal immigration." But then he went on to say that this is an issue that Donald Trump is, "Clearly, wrestling with." Don.

LEMON: Softening, Jason, softening. Remember, it's not a change, not a flip flop, it a softening of his position. Thank you, Jason Carroll. I appreciate that.

I want to turn now to CNN Washington Correspondent, Mr. Jeff Zeleny. Softening, Jeff, softening. There are a lot of barbs thrown at Hillary Clinton but none tougher than this one. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Lie after lie after lie. Hillary Clinton is totally unfit to hold public office. It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins.


LEMON: OK, so let's tell our viewers if they are just tuning in, he's talking about news today on possible ties between Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation when she was secretary of state. So, give us the latest on that if you will, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Don, in a nut shell the associated press analyzed a lot of the calendars and records from Secretary Clinton's time in the State Department and they found in their analysis that more than half of the meetings she had were with donors to the Clinton Foundation, either individual donors or group donors.

[23:05:06] And they are pointing out that there, you know, there is a line potentially was crossed here in terms of allowing access. I mean, Donald Trump has been calling for an end to the Clinton Foundation for a long time. He's been calling her corrupt and crooked for a long time. But this new associated report -- a press report out tonight simply adds some fuel to that.

But, one of the issues here is that this isn't a new issue. Donald Trump was not introducing something brand new to his audience tonight in Texas. The questions about the Clinton Foundation have been asked for years really and we are getting some new information in terms of e-mails that are turned over and other things. But, it is hard to imagine that something at this point is going to change many minds.

Yes, people on the right certainly believe that there is something nefarious and corrupt at the Clinton Foundation connected maybe with the State Department. On the left, I'm hearing from so many Democrats who are saying, "Why are you talking about the foundation?" Again, this has been investigated at nauseam.

So, the issue here is, you know, this is a sort of a sound track of the summer, but I'm not sure this is going to advance the ball at all. And the Clinton campaign pushed back hard on this report tonight saying it simply was not accurate.

LEMON: Yeah. Can I give you the full statement? It says -- here's how they responded tonight, Jeff. "This story relies on utterly flawed data. It cherry-picked a limited subset of Secretary Clinton's schedule to give a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donation to the Clinton Foundation. The data does not account for more than half of her tenure as Secretary. And it omits more than 1,700 meeting she took with world leaders, let alone countless others she took with other U.S. government officials, while serving as Secretary of State." That's the full statement there, Jeff.

ZELENY: It is. And, Don, it's really brings to mind if you're explaining, you're losing off within politics and that is a, you know, a very long explanation to the meetings and other things.

The reality is, the Clinton campaign and foundation has a perception problem. They recognized that that's why they decided this week to vastly change their rules should she be elected president. Just yesterday, President Clinton sent out a letter to his donors saying, "Look, I will step down from the foundation board. I will stop raising money from foreign governments and other things if she's elected." So they know there is a perception problem.

We're seeing a lot of Clinton allies rushing to the foundation defense talking about all the good work the foundation has done. No question they've done a lot of good work with malaria, drinking water, AIDS testing in Africa, around the world, but that's not exactly the point here. The point here is, was there a line crossed? Were donors given special access?

And, Don, this question is not going to be answered between now and Election Day, perhaps even beyond that. This is simply going to be one of those things, a Clinton controversy, like many of them over the years largely of their own making.

LEMON: And something that their opponent will use up until and beyond Election Day. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.

Here to discuss now all of this, Democratic Strategists Maria Cardona, CNN Political Commentator Angela Rye, Trump Senior Advisor Jack Kingston, a former Congressman from Georgia and Alice Stewart, the former Communications Director for Ted Cruz.

So when Jeff Zeleny said, you know, this is a perception problem, both of you were shaking your head. Do you agree this is a perception problem for ...


LEMON: Yeah.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, but facts matter. And so, you know, I'm glad that you read the statement. I'm glad that the Clinton campaign is pushing back and I'm glad that we're talking more about the great things that the Clinton Foundation does.

LEMON: Which you agree that there is an issue with perception?

CARDONA: Well, if you want to make it an issue, sure. But as somebody who has worked in Washington, you know, we talked about this. Somebody who -- I've worked for three cabinet secretaries under the Clinton administration, I can't tell you how many people would call me and would e-mail me who were good friends of my boss, who had donated to the Clintons, who were asking for a meeting or asking for some sort of favor.

What was my response? I would say, "Look, you have to go through official channels." I will put it through official channels and then I wouldn't do anything. If it was something that was appropriate for my boss to do, it was done, regardless of the fact that there was somebody who was a friend. Well, we're not going to tell them to go fly a kite.

LEMON: OK. So, to most people -- I understand that you guys work in Washington, D.C., but to most people around the country who don't work in Washington, D.C. it may seem out of sorts. But you say this is the way Washington works. Is that ...

RYE: I did say that, Don, and now I want to change that a little bit. I actually don't think that things are that different. If you even take your child's birthday party, it's not open to the community. It's an invitation based only -- it's based on who you know.

And so sometimes there are different access points in a relationships business, in relationships period that you'll know to go to. So, I think that part of this issue is you're making much adieu about nothing.

CARDONA: That's right.

RYE: And this -- in the earlier segment I know Congressman Kingston mentioned that there was basically a legal problem.

[23:10:05] In the same A.P. story, they say the meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreement the Clinton and former President Bill Clinton signed before she join the State Department.

LEMON: Congressman?

RYE: And very important.

ALICE STEWART, FORMER TED CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Hold on, hold on, just a second. I think certainly pay to play, an evidence of pay to play which is what we have here is not much to do about nothing. What we have seen already ...


STEWART: We have the Crown Prince of Bahrain had gone through official channels to request a meeting with Secretary Clinton. Those were denied and then all of a sudden they make a donation, reach out to Huma Abedin and magically ...

CARDONA: It's not magically.


STEWART: Exactly, that exactly what happened.


LEMON: Stand by, stand by Congressman. Alice, Alice, but to her point just so that we know where we are at this point, the Associate Press and all reports were saying there is no evidence of a quid pro quo. Go on and finish your statement.

STEWART: Well, the fact that official channels were gone through, no meeting was scheduled, a donation made to the Clinton Foundation and magically a meeting happens.

CARDONA: That's not how it happened that way.



LEMON: OK, hang on, hang on Congressman. I'll let you get in a moment.


LEMON: I want to stick to the topic and I don't want to go off on a tangent., hold on Congressman.

RYE: So we will.

LEMON: So Alice is saying that there was the meeting magically happened. You guys are saying that's not the way that happened. Explain that and then Congressman, you can get in after. Go ahead.

CARDONA: So that's not the way it happen, because what actually happened is Huma Abedin's response when she was asked for this meeting, for the Crown Prince of Bahrain, who by the way is somebody who should be meeting with the secretary of state regardless ...

LEMON: Through official channel.

CARDONA: ... through official channel. That's exactly what she said. This meeting has been already -- is routing through official channels. And so essentially she took herself out of it. So it didn't magically just appear ...

LEMON: But think it melts up.

CARDONA: ... it was a meeting that was actually in the process of being put together.

LEMON: Yeah, so it says tomorrow Friday, this is the Crown Prince of Bahrain saying, he's in tomorrow asking to see her, it said "good friend of ours." Right and that is from David Band right.

CARDONA: Doug Band.

KINGSTON: And Don, I ...

LEMON: And then it goes on to say you have to go through officials, I mean she doesn't know when it's going to be in New York or have, you can read them of the screen and then it goes on.

Congressman, go on, on this ...


LEMON: ... particular subject with the e-mails, can you talk to this particular subject before we move on?

KINGSTON: Yes, I can. LEMON: Go ahead.

KINGSTON: Do we really believe that somebody said he's a good friend of ours? No kidding. He just gave $32 million to the foundation.


LEMON: Let him finish, let him finish.

KINGSTON: But Don -- Don I want to bring this up. If everything that Clinton Foundation does is so great, why do they want to close it down?


CARDONA: They don't want to close it down.


CARDONA: You want to close it down.

KINGSTON: I sat back patiently so I got some floor time here ...


LEMON: Let him finish, let me finish.

CARDONA: All right.

LEMON: The Clinton Foundation, the Clintons don't want to close it down. Donald Trump is saying it should be closed down.

KINGSTON: They said if she is elected president, they're not longer going to take foreign donations. Well, if it was wrong for her to take foreign donations as president, what's the difference when she was secretary of state. Listen, the only I want to clear and clear her very good name, is I have a special prosecutor. And I think it's an idea we should all agree upon.

LEMON: All right, Maria.


KINGSTON: All I want to do is clear her name. She's having trouble with these e-mails and ...


CARDONA: Can I just said that. OK, Congressman you had your say, you had your say because we've been talking about the Clinton Foundation for almost an hour and a half. What is so rich about Donald Trump asking for a special prosecutor is that here you have a guy who refuses to turn over his taxes. The first candidate in 40 years ...


KINGSTON: That's not the label, that's not the label.


CARDONA: In his taxes, right, we will see whether he has connections to Russia, connections to the Bank of China, which we already know hold massive amounts of debt ...


CARDONA: ... it's my turn to talk.

LEMON: Let her finish, let her finish. Please, please let her finish.

CARDONA: Thank you, it's my turn to talk. OK, Bank of China, massive debt to the Bank of Germany. If he becomes commander in chief of the United States he will have at his finger tips the ability to change policy to be able effect something positive for China, for Germany, for China, for Germany, for Russia.


CARDONA: Hang on, I'm not finished.

LEMON: Congressman, please be respectful, let her finish.

CARDONA: I am not finish Congressman.

LEMON: Everyone has a chance to speak.

CARDONA: So that should be much more concerning because then those positive policy changes would not just help those countries which are sometimes hostile to the United States but they would be focused on ling his own pocket.

LEMON: Alice Stewart, go.

STEWART: I think the fact that we have Bill Clinton has now said if she's elected president, we'll shut -- he will disband his ties to the foundation. Some have called for -- Donald Trump was called for the foundation shutting down completely.

[23:15:01] Look, there's no to speeding, they did some great work. James Carville went to the fact that if it does shut down, people will die if the foundation shuts down. Look, he also -- James Carville also said it's the economy, stupid. And in this situation we're talking about the economy of the Clinton family to the tune of $156 million, who don't know the difference between where the State Department and the Clinton Foundation ...

CARDONA: They don't take a cent from the Clinton Foundation, not one cent.

KINGSTON: Don't forget, they left the White House flat broke. Let me say this though, we often hear about other great work and it was said earlier that children would die in Africa. I was on the Foreign Operation Committee that actually oversaw the foreign aid. I have been to dozens of the PEPFAR programs which are the aids in Africa program ...


KINGSTON: ... the malaria programs. And I can tell, we stumbled on to Gates Foundation money, we stumbled on to Rotary International money all the time. I did not see that much Clinton Foundation. So all of a sudden how wonderful they are, why weren't they at the Democratic National Convention ...

LEMON: OK, sorry Congressman.

KINGSTON: ... saying here's an example of our good work. I want -- I'm just saying.


CARDONA: They have a five star rating from philanthropy foundation folks.

LEMON: Congressman, actually your facts were not right.

CARDONA: No, your not.

LEMON: As a correspondent who has been in Africa on the outskirts of Kigali and I've seen with Paul Farmer and the Clinton Foundation is they do very good work. And that's not to say that there, you know, something there may not be some issues that comes to secretary of state Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, that Clinton Foundation no one could deny does very good work especially in Africa and saves a lot of lives.

So I think James Carville is rig that if it was shut down, lives would be in jeopardy, because of the good work that they.

We'll continue, we're going to continue after the break. I've going to get to a break. I will let you finish right after the break. We'll be right back.


[23:20:21] LEMON: Some breaking news to report to you right here on CNN right now out. It's out of Italy tonight, a strong earthquake striking central Italy. Happened just a while ago, 3:36 a.m. local time, a very strong earthquake, a 6.2 in magnitude hitting the southeast town of Norcia, followed by a 5.5 magnitude aftershocks.

Again, there are local media reports in Italy about extensive damage and people possibly trapped in the rubble. We're going to bring you the latest developments as we get, but here's the information we had now, strong earthquake striking central Italy just little while ago, 3:36 a.m. local time. 6.2 in magnitude hitting southeast -- southeast town of Norcia, 5.5 magnitude aftershock hitting as well. Local reports have said extensive damage and people possibly trapped in the rumble. That's our breaking news. We will get to that breaking news as soon as we as we get more information, more details. Our procurers and correspondents in the region are working on it.

I want to turn now to Donald Trump's rally in Austin tonight talking to supporters about his immigration proposals, slamming Hillary Clinton, saying she's unfit to be president.

Bark with me now, Maria Cardona, Angela Rye, former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston and Alice Stewart. Thank you for being patient Congressman, when I say I have to get to the break, I going to do it, that's my job. Finish your thought. Just tell me about the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Foundation does do some great work in Africa ...


LEMON: ... no one can deny that. Doesn't mean that there are no other issues when it comes to Clinton and State Department.


KINGSTON: Don let me say this, I used to live in Africa as a very small child. I visited Africa many times and many clinics, and for James Carville to say people would diet without the Clinton Foundation, that's totally exaggeration, but the reality is and all this, is there's just this consistent pattern of lying and covering up with the entire Clinton family.

And I just want you to think about, from 2007 to 2014, the Clinton family made $141 million. And to say it wasn't a deliberate scheme on pay to play, and to risk themselves, , what other cabinet member in the history of America, what other cabinet member has ever had such a scenario?


LEMON: You're not saying they should not have made any money, right?

KINGSTON: I believe them making $141 million, those -- I've heard Bill Clinton speak and he's a good speaker. Not $141 million worth.


CARDONA: Are you accusing them of stealing from the foundation? Is that what you're doing?

KINGSTON: It's a quid pro quo. It's a pay to play.

CARDONA: Quid pro quo is for what?


CARDONA: That's a huge accusation, Congressman. And it's not true.

KINGSTON: Well do you think he -- all that money, well ...

CARDONA: They don't get paid one red cent from the Clinton Foundation. (CROSSTALK)

RYE: You're going for a special prosecutor for crimes that are haven't even -- they are not even on the table, like even the as AP reporting acknowledges that they're not in violation ...

KINGSTON: No, no, what they paying reporter said ...


KINGSTON: ... there weren't favors done. Access is a favor, that is an access.

RYE: Congressman Kingston you have special access as the former member of the United States House of Representatives. You can go down to the floor and lobby your fellow members on behalf of your ...

KINGSTON: No, that's not true.


RYE: How, is that not true?

KINGSTON: No, that's not true.

RYE: You don't still have access to the floor of the House?


LEMON: I've got to soften this position and pivot right now, because I want to talk about ...

STEWART: We're all trying to help put this to rest ...

LEMON: OK, great.

STEWART: ... put this to bed and let's bring in a special prosecutor, let him answer how ...

LEMON: Let's talk about immigration, Alice, let's talk about immigration Alice. Why can't Donald Trump just say that, you know, I fought hard and long hard about it and, you know, have been -- yeah I want to start by focusing on undocumented immigrants who are guilty of crime, instead the campaign is trying to nuisance said it looks like, you know, a pretty big something that looks like a pretty big change in policy.

STEWART: Well, simply for the -- simple fact that the cornerstone of his campaign while he was going through the primary process was he was going to be the one to make serious changes when it comes to immigration. That was a focal point of his campaign throughout the primary process and we heard repeatedly on the debate stage, I'm going to build a wall, Mexico will pay for it, we're going to deport illegals.

We all knew there were aspects of that that could not be carried out to and executed, but that's what his message, that's what rally debates, that's what helped him to win the primary.

Now, we're in a general election, the electorate is much different, and he does need to soften his message quite a bit and maybe make some tweaks here and there and there's some key components of that, he still wants to certainly ...

RYE: That's a hell of a tweak.

STEWART: ... he wants to deal with the illegal immigrants in a humane way, and ...

LEMON: Alice?

STEWART: ... wants to be fair and working American. So there does need to be some tweaks and I think that's what he's going.

[23:25:05] LEMON: Ms. Stewart, how long have I known you? For at least, but almost about eight years now. For a long time.

STEWART: Eight years, yes.

LEMON: OK, so since its 2008 campaign. How is this not a flip-flop?

STEWART: Because it's not a flip-flop and it's a softening of a position. Now, for the truth is, it's going to be a difficult, tough road ...

RYE: If this is what he means.

STEWART: ... to hoe. When this has been a cornerstone of his campaign ...

RYE: Right.

STEWART: ... and he does need to make some tweaks on this, the key things he needs to keep in mind, have to keep that base that got him to where he is and make sure ...

LEMON: That's a good point, Alice.

STEWART: He has to bring in Hispanics, he has to bring in ...

CARDONA: Oh, that's not happening.

STEWART: ... that are ...

LEMON: Stand by.

STEWART: ... those are key component, they don't want such harsh rhetoric.

LEMON: She's right but he does have -- he does have to go for the middle. So do you think that's going to hurt him or help him with his supporters?

CARDONA: I think it will absolutely hurt him with supporters, because his supporters, the majority of them came out during the primaries and every single state except Wisconsin and New York, and voted for him, because of his draconian stand on immigration.

Because he said, deport the 12 million illegals. Because he said to build the wall, because he said, he's going to do a deportation force. Because he said he wants to have a program, just like Eisenhower did call operation wetback. His supporters love that and now if what he is saying is true, which we still don't know yet because his campaign and he are very schizophrenic on the stump, we don't know exactly what it is that he is going to putting out there.

LEMON: Yeah.

RYE: There are two observations here. Marco Rubio was ridiculed in nearly every primary debate for having this same position, Marco Rubio who is part of the gang of six on the Senate side, a bill that passed the Senate but we couldn't even get considered on the House floor was ridiculed for this.

This is essentially why they voted against Marco Rubio in this primary election. Now, Donald Trump is not only embracing that position, but he's embracing Barack Obama's position on immigration. George W. Bush's immigration division. The same ...

KINGSTON: It's not.

RYE: ... document calling immigrants, anchor babies in the primaries. This is substantially more than a flip-flop. It is actually offensive. It is actually offensive. And I think that people need to hold him accountable for this. It's not just softening of a position. It's a complete 180. This is a new Donald Trump.

LEMON: Congressman?

KINGSTON: Don, number one, as long as we're talking about immigration and being tough on the border, we're winning because Hillary Clinton is out of step with the American people on this. Donald Trump has been very ...


KINGSTON: Donald Trump, has been consistent in force existing laws, secure your border, protect American jobs and that is so important for the people who've seen their household income fall from 57 to $53,000. You know, we have 43 million people on food stamps under Barack Obama, we have 94 million underemployed under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is nothing but a first term of Barack Obama.

LEMON: Congressman, I do to say you're throwing a lot of number of out there, but this is something that was actually researched yesterday evening and the reason for the food stamps and all that is in large part because of ...

CARDONA: The great recession.

LEMON: ... because of the great recession. KINGSTON: But, you know ...

LEMON: It has nothing -- it does have very little anything to do ...


LEMON: ... with immigrants or illegal immigrants.

KINGSTON: He's had seven years with his hands on the steering wheel. We've had an anemic recovery of less than 2 percent.


LEMON: Yes, but if you're looking at the numbers -- I was addressing that you're specifically talking about aid and food stamps and that. But you can't really tack it on to illegal immigration.

KINGSTON: Well, no, no, Don, because what Donald Trump is talking about is protecting American jobs and American workers from their jobs going to illegal immigrants.

LEMON: OK, Congressman ...

KINGSTON: And nothing is legitimate.

CARDONA: Meanwhile, Donald Trump is making his clothes made overseas.


LEMON: I've got to go, we're getting off the rails here. Thank you everyone. It's always an interesting conversation when you guys come in. Thank you, Alice, thank you Congressman. Thanks to you too as well, I appreciated.

CARDONA: Thank you Don.

LEMON: Up next, Clinton campaign using Trump's own words against him in their latest ad.


[23:33:03] LEMON: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump putting out new ads and neither one pulls any punches. Here to discuss now Republican Consultant Margaret Hoover, CNN Political Commentator Bob Beckel, and Republican Media Consultant John Brabender. Hello to all of you.


LEMON: Mr. Brabender first. Hillary Clinton's latest ad is using Trump's own words against him. Here's part of it.


NARRATOR: In times of crisis America depends on steady leadership.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously.

NARRATOR: Clear thinking.

TRUMP: I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.

NARRATOR: And calm judgment.

TRUMP: And you can tell them to go themselves.


LEMON: So, John, this isn't the first time that the Clinton ad that we have seen using Trump's own language against him, but this time they put his words in the context of the country's safety. Effective?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT: Well, I think this is more the context of what they've been doing for the last month. They're trying to put a question mark around Donald Trump. I think it's also the context that you really have to look at this is they've decided they are not going to make this about Hillary Clinton. They know people don't like her. I'm sure that they've tested this and found that there are very few messages that will move anything positively towards her. So they decide they're going to make this a referendum on Donald Trump. And basically what they're saying with this ad is, "If you don't like me, that's OK. I'm less likely to accidentally blow up the world than Donald Trump is."

LEMON: All right.

BRABENDER: And so I think that's really what the message is here.

LEMON: Trump's ad also has a grim outlook. Here it is.


NARRATOR: In Hillary Clinton's America, the system stays rigged against Americans. Syrian refugees flood in. Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay, collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line. Our border open. It's more of the same, but worse.

Donald Trump's America is secure. Terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out.


[23:35:02] LEMON: John, you say you wish that Trump's ad actually featured Donald Trump?

BRABENDER: Yeah. I think my problem with that ad and my guess is that that ad was conceived before Kellyanne was in charge and it was the past regime (ph). It really plays to the base. It really plays to people already voting for Trump. I think they have to make this transition to make it where people want to vote for him. I'd rather see him as the messenger in their ad and have it to be something more visionary and hopeful than negative or critical. LEMON: Yeah. And so funny that you said because I was saying as it was playing to Margaret that it seemed - this ad seemed a little old school. It seemed kind of Mitt Romney-esque. It didn't seem sort of like the modern ...

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN NEWS POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: From another era. And then some like ...

LEMON: Yeah.

HOOVER: I mean the thing that's so extraordinary and disheartening about this presidential election cycle is that both candidates are running as a referendum on the inadequacies of the others. And so there isn't anything inspirational or hopeful. I mean, John, your wish is my wish. It's all of our aspirations in American politics, and the farthest thing that we're never going to get there this time around sadly.

The worst part is that Donald Trump has sewed the seeds of this rigged system. And what this does is it sets up the reality that if Hillary Clinton were to win, on day one, she is viewed by significant portion of the electorate as an inadequate and illegitimate president, right?

What he gets from this is, you know, to go off on vacation and then leave us with the civic sort of fabric of our country more frayed and less cohesive. It is a very self-interested and unpatriotic message to leave the American people with.

LEMON: Bob Beckel, what do you say to that?

BECKEL: Well, first of all, you know, this is may be the first election where the majority of the people go to the polls to vote against somebody, is supposed force somebody.

I think a lot more were going to vote against Trump and vote against Clinton, but let's face it. We only have two positive choices here. But on her ad and using his voice, I think it's perfectly fine. And it ought to be done and it ought to be done more.

I mean, look, Trump said these things, he stepped in it himself and the problem I've got with his ad is it's so dark and it's so -- I agree with John. I mean, it seems to me that Trump's got a real problem, I mean, if he doesn't know it, at least Kellyanne or somebody must know it that people don't trust him, they think he's a shyster. And the best way to do that is come up with a positive ad. But no, it comes that he's sustaining that, you know, that ad reminded me of Willie Horton back in the '88 campaign. Now, that one happened to work but this one I don't think is going to work.

LEMON: Yeah. I think that was my initial response, that it just seemed old school, not that it's not effective, it may be very effective, but it seemed old school.

Hillary Clinton is, you know, flooding the airwaves with campaign ads. She appeared on Jimmy Kimmel last night. She's fund-raising across the country. Most recently today in California with Justin Timberlake, but she only has one campaign event scheduled this week.

And then we have Donald Trump, who made a small advertising buy, but has four big rallies this week. Margaret, what's your take on the two different strategies here?

HOOVER: Look, I mean, Donald Trump doesn't have the resources that Hillary Clinton has. I mean, he simply is behind incinerating. He had one month where everybody said, "Oh, we caught up." But that's one month. I mean, he's far lags behind Mitt Romney in 2012. Historically, his numbers aren't there. So, he's compensating with earned media. I mean, he's doing, you know, talk to a grandmother in Ohio tonight. I mean, he's been in Ohio day after day after day having huge rallies. Like, this is a campaign that has spent more on renting stadiums in key target states than they have on field staff in any states. OK. That is an earned media strategy and it's gotten him, you know, to date, $3 billion in free ads.

LEMON: And so my question to John is, does it matter, John, you know, especially at this point that he's behind in the polls but, you know, not that much? Some polls he's catching up. Does that even matter, the traditional way that Margaret is talking about?

BRABENDER: Well, look, I possibly have made more political ads than anybody on the planet. I've been doing this for a long time. And the secret is presidential ads matter less than probably any other race because they get so much free media.

With that said, I care a lot about messaging and I do think Trump needs to transition to being more hopeful about what his America is going to look like and how everybody's going to share in that and what's in that for them. We got to get away from him being the one who is doing the prosecution of Hillary Clinton. Let other people do that and let him start being a little bit hopeful and that people start feeling like they're going to be proud to be Americans more than they are today.

LEMON: Is his messaging too dark? Is Hillary Clinton, you know, not on the campaign trail enough? We'll discuss right after this.


[23:43:41] LEMON: I want to update you now on breaking news that I told you about just moments ago. It's out of Italy, tonight, a strong earthquake striking Central Italy, 3:36 a.m. Local Time, 6.2 in magnitude, hitting the southeastern town of Norcia, excuse me, Italy, followed by 5.5 magnitude aftershock.

The town of Amatrice has been badly damaged with people trapped under the rubble. That is according to the mayor who says half the town is gone.

Here's what Italy's Civil Protection Agency is saying, that the earthquake was severe. And we're going to bring you more details as we get them on this earthquake in Italy. Again, it appears to be bad. And the resource of CNN is working on that and we will bring it to you as we get it. We turn back now to the campaign trail. Donald Trump, with the campaign, now backing down on discredit rumors about Hillary Clinton's health.

Back with me now to discuss Margaret Hoover, Bob Beckel and John Brabender.

OK. So, before we get to the health thing, I want to know, Bob, you know, we talked about, you know, being out in the campaign trail, not being out on the campaign trail, is the Clinton campaign making a tactical error on a week where republicans are out in full force hitting hard on her foundation and e-mails in an effort to get the Trump's poll numbers up?

[23:45:02] BECKEL: No. I mean, that for a couple reasons, look, she has got such a substantial lead in the states. They took their ads down in Virginia. Virginia used to be considered a vast ...

LEMON: And Colorado as well.

BECKEL: And Colorado as well. Now, the other thing keep in mind is she was on the Olympics with advertising, 50 percent positive and 50 percent negative and a lot of it. Trump not one single thing.

So, I think, right now for Hillary Clinton, if you want that Donald Trump is the one who has to get back into this race, it's not Hillary Clinton. And frankly, if I were running Hillary Clinton campaign, I'd keep her off the trail as much as I could. But Trump continued to try to move numbers when she's not doing. You said he's sketching some braces (ph). I don't know where they are. I read he say this everyday.

And it's up for that bogus "Los Angeles Time's" poll, every other one is consistent that she has a 5 to 5.5 point lead over him and it doesn't seem to change. And in Ohio it's getting bigger, and in North Carolina, I mean in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, I mean, at the rate it's going. He's said he got to do something dramatic and maybe that will happen in the debates, or he's going to get crushed. I mean crushed.

LEMON: John, do you think he's going to get crushed unless he does something dramatic?

BRABENDER: No. And I think actually some of these polls are actually closer. I think, first of all, there is a closet vote for Trump where people aren't going to tell a pollster they're for him. Second ...

BECKEL: Oh, John, you don't believe that.

LEMON: I don't think Margaret believes it either.

BRABENDER: I'll give you the example. In Pennsylvania in the primary, he won all 67 counties. Nobody expected that because Pennsylvania is not the most homogenous states in the world. And if you really want to talk about this, I mean, I wrote a story for the "Wall Street Journal" on opinion peace on how does Trump get the 270, the states to watch are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina? He has to win every state that Romney did, which is very doable and then if he can win Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, he becomes President of the United States.

LEMON: Margaret.

BECKEL: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

HOOVER: How is he going?

BECKEL: John, John, please, that's the yellow brick road, buddy.

BRABEBDER: All I know is Hillary is going to be seen as the incumbent, which means she's going to get very few undecided votes. Donald Trump, we all agree, had a few bad weeks.

BECKEL: A few?

BRABENDER: And she really didn't increase her numbers all that much. In fact, the national polls have come down and shrunk in the last five days ...

LEMON: I want Margaret to get in.


LEMON: Margaret, go ahead.

HOOVER: Look, I mean, as you both know, you're sophisticated not to know, it's not the national polls that matter here, it's the state-by- state polls. If you look at the head-to-head match ups and the underlying fundamentals in each of those states, you just mentioned, John, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida, and they are -- Pennsylvania is not looking good. In Florida and North Carolina, when you look at the independent registration, not just the voter registration for republicans and democrats which seems to suggest the silver lining for republicans, but actually independent voter registration which far dwarves either party's registrations, and we know how independents go (ph) about Hillary and Trump's vote, but, you know, they both feel negatively but they feel worse about Donald Trump.

BRABENDER: You know, you mentioned Pennsylvania, 75,000 ...

LEMON: Let her finish her point. Let her finish her point ...


LEMON: ... and then I'll let you get in, John.

HOOVER: Which is not enough to compensate for the 9-percentage point deficit that he's suffering there. But, what's also interesting, we haven't talked about this, is the use of social media. Donald Trump absolutely believes that his ability to use Twitter and talk directly to 10 million people and then have the subsequent sort of ripple effect of earned media he gets from it is also going to help him. That's why he doesn't need to pay as much for ads. That's why he doesn't need to feel stopped. That -- I mean, I think, he believes this is his Ronald Reagan approach, talk directly to the American people.

But what's shocking, too, is the level of precision that one can have with social media, he is not taking advantage of. I mean, the point of having a sophisticated campaign operation today is to be able to target independent voters to be able to go directly to where they are. He is still, absolutely to your point, John, earlier, running a primary campaign in the general election.

LEMON: John.

BRABENDER: With that I do agree with, that they do have to expand it. But, I mean, we got to remember. There's a guy who beat 16 incredibly credible candidates in the primary by changing the rules. Well, I think they are walking a tight line now with this paradox of when he plays to sort of the Reagan democrats and some of the red meat that they're looking for, it isn't always consistent with what some of the more moderate republicans are looking for. I think he has to marriage those messages better and I think there's still an opportunity to do that. And if anybody wants to write off Donald Trump at this point, I think it's ridiculous.

LEMON: Yeah. Let me get in Bob (ph). I got to go to have breaking news. I'm sorry. We'll have to continue this discussion at another time. Thank you very much.

When we come back, we're going to update our breaking news out of Italy, the earthquake there, 6.2 in magnitude. We'll be right back.


[23:53:40] LEMON: We have more now on our breaking news out of Italy tonight to share with you. A strong earthquake striking central Italy at 3:36 a.m. Local Time, 6.2 magnitude quake hitting southeast of the town Norcia, Italy followed by 5.5 magnitude aftershock.

In one town they said it was so badly damaged that people are trapped under the rubble. That's according to the mayor who says half of the town is gone. We'll update you as we get more information on this.

Now, I want to turn back to politics because it has consumed so much of our broadcast and specifically the claims about Hillary Clinton's health, which seemed to have struck her funny bone recently.

CNN's Jeanne Moos dissects some of the more outlandish claim.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You know who's making fun of Hillary Clinton's supposed health issues? Hillary.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Take my pulse while I'm talking to you.


CLINTON: So make sure I'm alive.

MOOS: Jimmy Kimmel even put Hillary to the test.

KIMMEL: Can you open this jar of pickles? This has not been tampered with.

MOOS: Pickle jar aside, some jokes are more jarring.

CONAN O'BRIEN, NEWMAX ANCHOR: Donald Trump has been saying that Hillary Clinton looks unwell. Trump then admitted he thinks any woman over 35 looks like she's dying.

MOOS: But some of the funniest comments about Hillary's health aren't jokes. They're actual theories.

[23:55:02] For instance ...


MOOS: The time Hillary acted startled by reporter's questions.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: It almost seems seizure-esque to me.

MOOS: What was seizure-esque was how critique sees donut (ph).

HANNITY: Weird seizures, psychotic facial ticks.

MOOS: Putting it to music. Even if the reporter some described he's looking starred said she wasn't, and Hillary wasn't having a seizure. Doctors weren't buying in.

FIONA GATA: I can't say that is a seizure.

MOOS: Then there was pillow-gate. Photos with arrows point at pillows propping up Hillary. There was also the anti-seizure injector pen. The secret service agent is clutching something. Is it an emergency seizure syringe? Actually it seems to be a flashlight. Watch the agent point it at the floor as Hillary moves to a darker area. Next thing you know, they'll be saying she is growing a tail. Oh, wait. A few have already said this is evidence she is possessed by the devil.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

LEMON: That is it for us. Thank you so much for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.