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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Deadly 6.2 Quake Hits Italy; Trump Softens on Immigration, Attacks Clinton Foundation; Rep. Steve King Talks Trump, Immigration. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired August 24, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Evan Perez reporting in Washington.
Of course, we'll be keeping an eye on the situation in central Italy. 73 people so far have died there in a major earthquake.
Thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.
AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman. Kate is off today.
We begin with the breaking news, the very latest on the powerful earthquake that hit the heart of Italy. The death toll stands at 73, but that number is rising. It certainly appears worse than perhaps first thought. Rescuers and residents digging through the ruins, some with their bare hands, looking for survivors. It was a 6.2 magnitude quake. It hit in a part of Italy away from urban areas. But hundreds of thousands felt the violent shaking as far as 100 miles away in Rome. One historic town at the epicenter now reduced to a pile of rubble. Emergency crews are treating people wherever they can. The town hospital is badly damaged. Patients have had to be moved out into the streets.
We also have some dramatic video emerging today. It shows a rescuer trying to comfort a woman trapped under the rubble.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: You get a sense that scenes like that are playing all over parts of Italy today.
CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins us with the very latest.
Fred, what are you seeing?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. It's one of those small towns where everything that you said holds true right here. I want to show you the scene of where I am right now. It is one of those very old ancient houses here. There's so many in the region in Italy that absolutely collapsed and turned to rubble the moment the earthquake hit.
Now, I spoke to some folks who live here and they say there were two people in the house when this happened, many related to the folks who live in this town. And they said for the first three and a half hours they were digging through that rubble with their bare hands trying to get those people out. They said they managed to get one of them out. Another one then had to get out later when rescue crews finally arrived.
That's the other big problem you have here. The Italians are moving in a lot of assets, which has been absolutely devastated, but the big problem is the heavy equipment, the bulldozers, the big saws they need to try to cut through things like stones and metal, it's difficult to get them into this area because the roads are so very narrow. And many of them are also, now, littered with debris. So very difficult at this point in time.
As you said, the death toll right now stands at 73. The people here also say they believe it is going to rise.
And just one other thing, this is a region of Italy that, yes, it's not very densely populated, but this is the tourist season here. Many people come from cities like Rome, other large Italian cities, because it's so hot here, it's nicer here in the mountains. So authorities believe there may have been many, many more people here than they originally thought.
BERMAN: Fred, a lot of us hear 6.2 magnitude quake, that's bad, but it's not as bad as some we've heard before. The death toll, though, it seems to keep rising. The damage perhaps seems worse than previously thought. Is this because the quake was shallow or because some of these towns were built in a precarious fashion?
PLEITGEN: Yes. I would say it's a mix of both of those factors. On the one hand, as you said, the earthquake was very shallow. It was right here in this area. This is literally the epicenter of where this happened. Sometimes you have earthquakes that are less densely populated areas. And a lot of aftershocks will hit places and destroy them. This was right underneath one of these towns.
The other thing is that many of these houses are so very old. If you look at then, many are just held together by bricks and mud. Of course, a lot of those houses just simply turned to dust when this earthquake hit. There was one mayor of one of these towns that was so badly hit, he was saying, look, our town doesn't exist anymore and there are people trapped underneath the rubble.
But of course, you and I know and the authorities know very well from having dealt with emergencies like this in the past that this is the decisive hours right now. It's the first 72 hours after an earthquake like this hits that people can survive. If they're trapped under the rubble, if they've been in a house that's collapsed, and by luck they manage to get into some sort of pocket inside. Now the authorities are trying to scramble, to reach those places.
Coming in here, we saw a lot of mobile operating clinics that they're setting up. We saw a lot of those bulldozers. We saw the army that's been mobilized. Of course, the fire departments as well. They're moving a lot of assets into this area. But, again, very difficult to get into these little towns with these narrow roads, many of them obstructed. So they are facing a lot of difficulties as they have this race against the clock so close after this earthquake hit -- John?
[11:05:09] BERMAN: All right, Frederik Pleitgen for us in Italy. We keep getting updates and the damage does look worse than we thought. So thank you, Fred. Want to turn to politics now. A big Donald Trump rally set to start
shortly in the big battleground state of Florida. Donald Trump seems to have a new position on illegal immigration, which seems like a big, big difference than what he campaigned on for more than a year. In addition to that, there are new attacks from Donald Trump. He calls the Clinton Foundation the most corrupt enterprise in political story. This comes after an Associated Press report found that more than half of the non-government people who Clinton met with or spoke with on the phone as secretary of state gave money to the Clinton Foundation. Now, this doesn't account for her meetings with officials from foreign governments or from the U.S. government, which do account for way more of her meetings.
But still, listen to what Donald Trump said about it last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: America can never elect a candidate who, like Hillary Clinton, did government favors for those giving her family and her foundation massive amounts of cash.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, I want to go to Florida now, Tampa, where we are going to see that Donald Trump rally in just a short bit. CNN political reporter, Sara Murray, is there.
Donald Trump with a lot to say.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely, John. And Donald Trump has really been hammering Hillary Clinton over this notion of "Pay-to-Play", essentially saying she used the State Department to grant favors, to grant access donors to the Clinton Foundation.
The Clinton campaign hitting back hard against this as well as against that A.P. story he referenced.
Take a listen to what Joel Benenson, her chief strategist, had to say about that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY FOR AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: People give donations to this foundation because they believe in the work in this foundation. And to say that meeting with 84 people out of 3,000 people you've met with over the span of your tenure says something, you know, even inappropriate is going on, I think is a completely flawed premise. That's the problem with the A.P. report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So that's how the Clinton campaign is sort of explaining donations.
If you think Donald Trump is going to accept that explanation and stop tearing into Hillary Clinton over this, I wouldn't expect it. They believe this is a very potent line of attack.
But the other story line we've seen playing out around Donald Trump this week is will he or won't he change his stance on immigration. This has been a cornerstone of his campaign and it's one of the things that really riles up a crowd. We have not seen him change his tone on the stump. He still makes these calls to build a wall. He still calls for extreme vetting for people coming to the United States. In media interviews, he's showing some inklings that he might be willing to soften his position on immigration.
Take a listen to what he said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There certainly can be a softening. We're not looking to hurt people. We have some great people in this country. We have some great, great people in this country.
TRUMP: But we're going to follow the laws of this country.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any specific changes --
TRUMP: What people don't realize, we have very, very strong laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now that is clearly a very different tone than what we've heard from Donald Trump over the last year, than what we hear from him at these rallies. And if he does make a shift to saying he's only going to focus on deporting people who have been convicted of crimes, not deporting the 11 million people who are here undocumented more broadly, that's a big shift, John. And it's very close to President Obama's policy.
BERMAN: All right, Sara Murray for us in Tampa, where Donald Trump is scheduled to speak shortly. Keep us posted, Sara. Right now, I want to drill down on this issue of immigration with a
politician who's made it really the cornerstone of his career. Congressman Steve King, Republican, from Iowa, joins us now by phone. I should say King was a big supporter of Cruz during the primaries.
Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.
When you hear Donald Trump say that he's open to the idea of softening his position when it comes to some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, when you hear softening, what exactly do you hear?
REP. STEVE KING, (R), IOWA (on the phone): Well, couple that with the balance of what he said also, that we're going to follow the laws of this country and what people don't realize, that we have very, very strong laws, so when you balance that together, I think what it says is that if people are anticipated that there would be a deportation corps that would be deployed across this country. I think that softening means that's less likely.
I'm one who has been in favor of restoring our connections and relationship with all of our local law enforcement so they supplement the enforcement of immigration law as they're designed to do with every other law in this country. I think that's what he's talking about. And he said, too, we have the police force out there. They know who people are. And let's work with local law enforcement. And he didn't say it in this interview that ending sanctuary cities and enforcing the law, that will keep us busy for a long time --
[11:10:10] BERMAN: Congressman --
KING: -- even at an accelerated pace. So I think that's what he's talking about.
BERMAN: Congressman, it was directly -- when he used the word softening, it was an answer to a question with, do you favor changing law in a way that might accommodate people that contribute to society, had been law abiding, have kids here, would you be willing to change the law for them. To me, that reads, would you be willing to perhaps not try to remove them from the country. Would you try to create some legal status for them staying here? Would you be in favor of creating some legal status for people who, as the questioner was saying, contribute to society?
KING: The answer would be there would be some softening, which I didn't quite hear they would be willing to change the law. But personally, I would push back on that as a member of the Immigration Subcommittee and House Judiciary and one who has taken the lead on the immigration issues for a long time. I think Donald Trump understands this. Asked further on this, I think he would come back to this point, we have to restore the respect for the rule of law in America. And part of that is to enforce the laws that we have. If we fail to do that, then the result of that will be reward people for breaking the law, which means it would erode the very position that's taken him to the nomination.
BERMAN: To be clear, if he were to allow people, even people who contribute to society and have been law abiding, which was the way the question was asked, if you allow them to stay, would that be tantamount to amnesty?
KING: I would say yes. The reason for that is they're not law abiding in the first place. By crossing the border illegally, they're, by definition, criminals. And he has said he wants to remove the criminals in this country. So I would say that it would be tantamount to amnesty to reward people that break the law. He also reinforced the statement those who overstay their visa have to go home.
BERMAN: So again --
KING: -- respect for human dignity in this but enforcement of the law.
BERMAN: But if you are softening your position, as he puts it, that contribute to society, that would be opening the door to calling amnesty, yes?
KING: I would interpret this statement to be perhaps less aggressive than people have anticipated. That's where I hope it stays. I will continue to, myself, advocate for enforcement of the laws we have. I think Donald Trump hasn't said anything that he would be inclined not to do so. I think it has to do with the pace and how aggressive he might want to be.
BERMAN: That's a charitable reading I think of what Donald Trump has actually said, because he hasn't made it clear. And, remember, you, of course, were a big supporter of Ted Cruz during the primaries. I'm just curious what you would have said had Donald Trump used this language when you were working so hard to get Ted Cruz elected or nominated for president.
KING: Well, that's good question. And the tone of this campaign shifts along the way. I know Ted Cruz had strong positions. Both of them had pretty much etched in stone that they would be for restoring the respect for the rule of law as they doing along the way. I think still I have to -- of all of the things Donald Trump has said and his buoyancy to the nomination has relied upon, his commitment to enforce the law, build a wall, put the respect for the rule of law back in place again, and make America for Americans again, make America great again. You don't do that by eroding the rule of law. So I think there's much more out there that says he's going to follow through on his commitments on immigration.
And maybe, you know, Jeff Sessions being part of that team, as close as he is, he's a good friend and he would help anchor this, and I'll do my best to anchor this so we hold the law together and respect the rule of law. But I say also we need to provide for the dignity of every human person. Part of that is to say to them, respect our laws, and so that means they he to be enforced.
BERMAN: If he did move off this position, though, you think it would be a mistake?
KING: Oh, I think it would be a mistake if he moved off this position, yes. To soften the tone a little bit, I think that's fine. I think it's -- to the degree some of his critics have overstated his position he's taken. I would expect that softening this tone is something that may be part of this new campaign that -- and Kellyanne Conway, his new campaign manager, is terrific, brilliant. It's an excellent choice to have her there as campaign manager. And some of this might be some of the tonal difference she's recommending to Donald Trump. I wouldn't disagree with Kellyanne at anytime. I've found her to be a great asset to my campaign, too.
BERMAN: All right, Congressman Steve King, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
KING: Thank you all very much.
[11:14:53] BERMAN: All right. New attacks. Donald Trump blasting the Clinton Foundation as the most corrupt in political history. But with 76 days to go, do you think this line of attack will make a difference?
Plus, agonizing wait for help. Survivors right now trapped beneath rubble of a powerful earthquake. We have much more on our breaking news. We have new developments just ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It is impossible to find out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Clinton campaign is pushing back hard on a new report.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than 50 percent of the private citizens Clinton met with during her tenure as secretary of state were donors to the Clinton Foundation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that's a fair portrait. I think it's a misrepresentation of the data.
TRUMP: Lie after lie after lie.
We're going to have a deportation force. They will go out.
And there certainly can be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people. HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF
STATE: There is no new Donald Trump. This is it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:20:51] BERMAN: All right, Donald Trump says he is considering softening his immigration proposal plans because he does not want to hurt people. He is also calling the Clinton Foundation the most corrupt enterprise in political history. That, after a new report from the Associated Press that, when they looked at a calendar, more than half of the appointments Secretary Clinton had with private individuals, came with people who donated to the Clinton Foundation.
Here to discuss that with us, Andre Bauer, CNN political commentator, former lieutenant governor of South Carolina and a Donald Trump supporter; also here, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a Hillary Clinton supporter; and Alice Stewart, CNN political reporter and a former communications director for Senator Cruz.
Neera, I want to start with you.
When Hillary Clinton was being confirmed as secretary of state, she knew there would be perception problems with the Clinton Foundation. She faced a lot of questions from Richard Lugar, among other people, at the time. She said, "The foundation and the president-elect," that being President Obama, "decided to go beyond what the law and the ethics rules call for to address even the appearance of conflict." To address even the appearance.
So at a minimum, when you read the A.P. account from her calendar, you know, her private appointments, more than half were with foundation donors. Does that meet or doesn't that meet the admittedly low bar of even the appearance of conflict?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: It absolutely doesn't. I mean, look at the list the A.P. is looking at, Melinda Gates, who's a global philanthropist and has invested millions of dollars in helping women and girls in Africa. John Kerry has met with Melinda Gates. I'm sure many Republicans have met with Melinda Gates. I think the A.P. story is truly unfortunate because it's just mischaracterizes the work Hillary is doing as secretary of state and the kind of work the foundation was doing and the people she's meeting. Muhammad Yunis, a person who has won a noble Peace Prize for the work he's doing, the A.P. is counting. I think that's ridiculous. These are people she would normally meet as secretary of state. And the A.P. is really trying to distort that image by calling them Clinton donors. Melinda Gates --
BERMAN: No, but they are. Sorry, you're bringing up Melinda Gates, Muhammad Yunis. But they're --
TANDEN: Absolutely, and that's why she met with --
BERMAN: Hang on. Hang on.
But they are all donors to the Clinton Foundation. The A.P.'s not misrepresenting that, are they?
TANDEN: No, but obviously the reason she met them was probably because of the work they'd done. Muhammad Yunis? He's met with numerous secretaries of state in the United States and around the world. Why characterize him as Clinton donors? What they are is people the secretary of state should meet with. The challenge around this whole debate around the Clinton Foundation is a lot of mischaracterization.
The polls -- Donald Trump is obviously far behind in the polls and that's why he's attacking on this range of issues. He's essentially at the end of the day essentially attacking a foundation that provided 11 million people in Africa life-saving medication, AIDS medication. It's done a range of great work in the world. That's why I think it's unfortunate you're seeing partisan attacks.
BERMAN: It is not just Donald Trump doing it. It isn't just Donald Trump. And there have been questions about the Clinton Foundation, perhaps cross over, fuzzy lines, again, dating back to when Hillary Clinton was confirmed.
Alice, you wanted to jump in here. Address what you want, but also address what Neera was saying, what is wrong with meeting with Gates or Yunis?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First off, I'm sure it kills her and other Hillary supporters to not able to write this off as some vast right wing conspiracy. This is the Associated Press. This is a straight down-the-road news organizations that is shining a light on clearly "Pay-for-Play" activity that's going between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation --
TANDEN: Absolutely not --
STEWART: When we had half of the people she met outside of got donated up to $156 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation.
TANDEN: It's not half the people.
STEWART: It does raise questions.
Look, her own hometown paper -- I just moved here from Arkansas. The hometown paper even said the Clintons have been getting away with these ethical shortcuts for years. And clearly it states that the lower she sinks, the higher she rises in the esteem of her fans and those who benefit from her largess --
TANDEN: What hometown paper is that, "The New York Post"?
STEWART: The "Arkansas Democrat Gazette," who have covered the Clintons for many years, who understand this is the type of activity they've been getting away with for years --
BERMAN: OK, alike, so the A.P. doesn't say "Pay-to-Play."
STEWART: Yes, it does not.
BERMAN: It lays out part of the calendar.
TANDEN: Just part of the calendar.
BERMAN: Again, of the private meetings -- which doesn't include any person from a foreign government or any person from this government -- of the private meetings, more than half were Clinton donors. That's what the A.P. says right there. So just be clear about what it says.
Andre, I want you to jump in here, though, and about that, about the limitations of that the A.P. report here is. It's not the majority of her meetings as secretary of state. It was the majority of her meetings with private folks. You could meet the case that she's meeting with people she's known for a long time. She knows people who donate to the foundation. Is there a -- any evidence of illegality there?
[11:25:18] ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, the first thing I want to point out is this wasn't just turned over to the A.P. They had to sue. It took them three years to get this information. It's not like it's just open for everybody to see. It just shows how crooked government is. And it shows why there's such distrust.
You know, look, people want to know who the secretary of state's meeting with. And clearly it's OK for the secretary of state to meet with all these folks.
BERMAN: Melinda Gates?
BAUER: Absolutely, but any of these folks. I'm not -- there's no debate on that. There's no debate the Clinton Foundation does wonderful things. The question is, is there "Pay-to-Play." Did she only open doors to certain people who gave money? I think the king of Bahrain tried to get a meeting. As the king of Bahrain, he couldn't get a meeting, but as the king of cash, as a donor, he could get a meeting. There's a problem there. And the A.P. -- this isn't "Breitbart." This is the A.P., as just
pointed out, who is about as fair as it gets, that says, hey, wait a minute, we've studied this and it's wrong. And they knew this was going to be a problem when she first took office --
BERMAN: The A.P. didn't say it was wrong. They just said they studied it --
BAUER: Look, they gave us the facts.
BERMAN: -- and published the facts.
But, Neera, I'll let you have the last word --
TANDEN: Oh, my god.
BERMAN: Go ahead.
TANDEN: First of all, on "Pay-to-Play," this is a ridiculous charge. Why? Because the Clintons did not receive any money from the foundation.
They set up this foundation to do good work in the world. So it's ridiculous charge.
And the idea that any Trump supporter -- I'm a big fan of Andre's on many levels -- but the idea that you're talking about transparency or "Pay-to-Play" when he would not even release his tax returns, he would not tell people any aspect of his financial dealings. And we just learned that he jacked up the prices of his rent that he could benefit from, at Trump Towers that he could benefit from to soak his donors during this campaign. So I think I have to say this is a ridiculous double standard.
TANDEN: And I hope people see through it.
BERMAN: Neera, I want to talk about transparency when it comes to Donald Trump coming up in a little bit.
I want to focus on transparency when it comes to his policies right now, Alice, his immigration policy, which has been the cornerstone of his campaign for like 15, 16 months right now. Up until last week, it was a certainty that Donald Trump said he wanted to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this he wanted them to. He made that crystal clear. Now, it's not as crystal clear. Now, he admitted last night he might be willing to soften his position on the presence of some of those who, he was asked, contributed to society. Two part question: Do you see this as a shift? And if so, why? STEWART: Clearly, it is a shift, based on what we're hearing. We
don't know what he's going to say, but all indications are he is softening his position on this. The difficulty is, as you indicated, throughout the entire primary process, he was very hard on immigration. This was the cornerstone and focus of his campaign. He prided himself on bringing this to this into the conversation, saying he's going to build a wall, Mexico will pay for it. And now what we're seeing is he's softening on that.
Look, we've said all along, since he won the primary, he has to broaden his electorate to bring in more people in order to win the general, which is exactly what he needs to do. If he's going to tweak immigration, which is a key point of his campaign, he has to do it in a way that doesn't alienate a space and infuriate those who voted for him on this issue, but also take into account the needs and concerns of Hispanics and others who want to see a more softened tone on immigration. That's going to be the challenge and what he has to do when he's rolling out his new proposals for immigration.
BERMAN: Andre, can you tell me definitively as we sit here right now whether Donald Trump supports some kind of legal status for some, even a small number, of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in this country now?
BAUER: My understanding is he is. Look --
BERMAN: So, yes, he is for legal status?
BERMAN: For whom exactly?
BAUER: I think it gets caught in the weeds. But I think the big picture is, look, we know Donald Trump wants to build a wall. Both of them are for some sort of legalized immigration. I think she's against the wall. He's for the wall. She's for letting more Syrian refugees in that are unvetted, and he's against that. There are differences.
Look, I think the great thing about Donald Trump is he's saying I don't have all the answers. He's surrounding himself by people like Kellyanne Conway, who are so sharp. Part of being a leader is listening, garnering facts, and saying we may have to tweak policy for the greater good and for adapting and the logistics of making it work. I can't do everything I wanted but here are some things that are really important to me. I think building a wall is one of them.
BERMAN: Neera, last word. It seems like maybe Donald Trump is moving closer to the position of the president over the last eight years.
TANDEN: I have to say, I find it interesting that conservatives would find it reasonable for Donald Trump to try to have an entire bait-and- switch in this. You know, he made promises to primary voters. That's really where he stands. He wants deportation.