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ISIS Announces Death of Senior Leader; Pro-Trump Pastor Apologizes for Clinton Blackface Tweet; Interview with Representative Chris Collins; Crucial Primary Battles in Florida and Arizona Today; FBI to Release Clinton E-mail Report and Notes; "Swinging" General's Case Raising Security Concerns. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 30, 2016 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:00] TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to new grandpa, Wolf Blitzer, who's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Terrorist take down. ISIS says a key leader, perhaps its most wanted leader, has been killed in Syria. He had called on followers to kill Americans by whatever means possible. And has been linked to bloody attacks in Europe. Did a U.S. airstrike take him out? Will his death make a difference in the war against ISIS?

Not backing down. Donald Trump, Jr. tells CNN his father's position on immigration is not softening at all. He says his father will still push for the deportation of undocumented immigrants if he's elected but suggests you have to start with baby steps.

What Clinton said. CNN has learned the FBI will publicly release agent notes from Hillary Clinton's marathon interview at FBI headquarters, along with the report recommending no charges in the e- mail investigation.

And double life. Could a fired general's secret life as a swinger have him exposed to blackmail? And how did his frequent sex club visits go undetected by the U.S. Military for years?

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, in an unprecedented announcement, ISIS says a senior leader has been killed in Syria. The terror group is vowing revenge. Mohammad al-Adnani was the most public face of ISIS and may have overseen bloody attacks in Europe. The U.S. officially labeled him a terrorist two years ago and put a steep price on his head. A senior Defense Department official says a coalition airstrike today did target a senior ISIS leader.

Also breaking right now, on the eve of Donald Trump's big speech on immigration, his son now says he is not softening his position at all. Donald Trump Jr. tells CNN his father will still push to deport undocumented immigrants, but says there are, quote, "baby steps," that need to come first. Ahead of Trump's immigration speech, the issue of race is also

dominating and distracting his campaign. A key Trump surrogate, an African-American pastor, has now apologized for tweeting a cartoon image showing Hillary Clinton in black face.

And new details tonight on the U.S. general who was fired after the Army discovered his secret life as a swinger. But there are also some new questions about how the military miss his frequent visits to sex clubs and whether he could have been targeted for blackmail.

I'll speak with Congressman Chris Collins, the first lawmaker to endorse Donald Trump, and our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's get to the breaking news. ISIS announcing the death of its most public figure, senior leader and chief spokesman, Abu Mohammad al- Adnani, blamed for bloody terror attacks abroad. Our Brian Todd has been digging into this.

What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani is not only ISIS' top spokesman, he is also believed to have been an operational commander of ISIS attacks overseas. Analysts have also called him a possible successor to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. U.S. officials put a $5 million bounty on him. So if he is indeed dead tonight, America's chief enemy in the war on terror has suffered an immense loss.


TODD (voice-over): He is near the top of America's kill list, possibly a higher valued target than the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi. Tonight intelligence agencies are scrambling to find out if Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, ISIS' top spokesman and a key operational commander, has been killed. A statement from ISIS media agency, Amaq, says Adnani died while inspecting military operations in the area of Aleppo, Syria, but does not reveal how he died.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This would be a stunning development. It would be one of the biggest moments in the war against ISIS. Abu Mohammad al-Adnani is an absolutely key figure in this terrorist group. He is much more than just a spokesman. He is one of their most senior figures.

TODD: U.S. officials tell CNN he's not only been ISIS' top spokesman, but also gave key directions on external plotting.

ALBERTO FERNANDEZ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: He's one of those, you know, executive VPs who actually gets his hands dirty and is a troubleshooter and does stuff that actually affected the reality on the ground.

TODD: The U.S. put a $5 million bounty on his head when the State Department named Abu Mohammad al-Adnani especially designated global terrorist. September 2014, al-Adnani issues an audio message calling for lone wolf attacks which analysts say was a game changer. He called on followers to kill Americans and what he called the filthy French, said to smash their heads with rocks or slaughter them with knives.

[17:05:03] MICHAEL WEISS, CO-AUTHOR, "ISIS: INSIDE THE ARMY OF TERROR": I think it was -- it was his declaration of war essentially.

TODD: Over the next few weeks, an ISIS sympathizer attacked New York police officers with an axe. There was a deadly assault on the Canadian parliament. Later less than three weeks about al-Adnani called for attacks on Russians, a Russian passenger plane was brought down in Sinai. Analysts say he could have at least an inspirational role in the Paris attacks.

CRUICKSHANK: In some ways he is a more dangerous figure than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi because he's believed to be overseeing the external operations division of ISIS and that's the part of ISIS that threatens the West, which carried out the attack in Paris which could one day carry out an attack in the United States on a significant scale.

TODD: Al-Adnani has been a threat for more than a decade. U.S. officials say he was among the first to join insurgents fighting American forces in Iraq. He was captured and detained for five years by the Americans, including a period of the same prison where Baghdadi was once held.

FERNANDEZ: He started off as a fighter, but very early on demonstrated his leadership and rose through the ranks. And yes, he was in Camp Bucca like many of these others were. Eventually got out and continued to rise.


TODD: Now tonight CNN spoke to a senior U.S. Defense official about these reports of Abu Mohammad al-Adnani's death. The official said that earlier this morning coalition forces conducted an airstrike in al-Bab, Syria. That's a town near Aleppo. Targeting a senior ISIS official in that attack. Now this U.S. official would not specifically say they were targeting al-Adnani and the official said they are still assessing the result of that operation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, he's been reported dead or wounded before. Isn't that right?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. In fact in January of this year, al-Adnani was reported to have been injured in a coalition airstrike in Iraq's Anbar Province but that was never confirmed and he lived to fight another day.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting, thank you.

We're following another breaking story right now. Donald Trump may be focused on tomorrow's big immigration speech, but there's another very contentious subject that's drawing attention to his campaign right now.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is joining us from Everett, in Washington state, where Trump is getting ready to hold a rally tonight.

Phil, the topic of race seems to be boiling over right now. What's the latest?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it, Wolf. It's an issue that has really kind of come to the unquestioned forefront of this campaign. And on some level there are roots in each campaign's strategy. Trying to bring this up as an issue, but it's also an issue that has grown increasingly personal over the last couple of days.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Today the pitch battle over the hot button issue of race in America continuing to escalate.

PASTOR MARK BURNS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I pray that those who are offended really receive as a sincere apology because it was never my intention to -- you know, to hurt anyone or to offend anyone.

MATTINGLY: Pastor Mark Burns, a prominent Trump supporter, apologized for tweeting a cartoon showing Hillary Clinton in black face. But not backing down from its inflammatory message.

BURNS: For me the black face wasn't the focal point of the picture. For me when I saw it, it was showing how Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party panders after the black vote.

MATTINGLY: As Trump's campaign disavows this robocall from former KKK grand wizard and Louisiana Senate candidate, David Duke, a white nationalist supporter who has dogged Trump's campaign for months.

DAVID DUKE, FORMER IMPERIAL WIZARD OF THE KU KLUX KLAN: We're losing our country. Look at the Super Bowl salute to the Black Panther cop killers. It's time to stand up and vote for Donald Trump for president and vote for me, David Duke, for the U.S. Senate.

MATTINGLY: The twin distractions potentially undercutting an apparent effort by Trump and his team to reach out to minority voters in recent weeks. A clear weakness for Trump according to a recent Pew poll which showed just 2 percent of black voters support the GOP nominee.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Parents walking with their beautiful child, and they get shot. They're shot. Their child is shot. Often killed.

Folks, what do you have to lose? What do you have to lose? Donald Trump will fix it.

MATTINGLY: Top Clinton adviser Joel Beneson firing back at the effort on CNN today.

JOEL BENESON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: The hint to denigrate and stereotype an entire popular in a way he has reflects the kind of bigotry and racism we've heard coming out of his mount. MATTINGLY: This all coming as Trump prepares for a crucial moment in

his campaign. His highly anticipated immigration policy speech. Trump's advisers have been touting consistency, even as Trump himself has appeared to waffle on the issue of deportation in recent days.

TRUMP: I mean, go a step further. They'll pay back taxes, they have to pay taxes. There's no amnesty as such. There's no amnesty. But we work with them.

MATTINGLY: But today, Donald Trump Jr. tells CNN Trump still intends to remove all undocumented immigrants from the U.S.

[17:10:05] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He still says deport -- they all got to go.

DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: That's been the same. Correct. But again you have to start with baby steps.

MATTINGLY: And Trump himself making clear in a tweet that the central component of his proposal remains unchanged, saying he will build a great wall on the southern border and much more.


MATTINGLY: And Wolf, it's the "and much more" that people are most interested in. Donald Trump's advisers today playing coy, saying, wait and see during that speech tomorrow in Arizona what that much more actually is, but it's those details that are increasingly important and Wolf, it's those details that when you talk to those Trump advisers, they make clear, Donald Trump, behind the scenes, has been struggling with. A very complex issue, obviously, as well all know. How he reconciles his views and the views of competing advisers inside his camp, that's the most interesting thing to watch tomorrow in Arizona -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will be watching. Phil Mattingly, thanks very much. You're going to hear much more from Donald Trump Jr. later today right here on THE SITUATION ROOM. And you can watch Anderson Cooper's entire interview with him later tonight on "AC 360."

In the meantime, joining us now Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York. He was the first member of the U.S. Congress to endorse Donald Trump.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yes. Always good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You heard Donald Trump Jr. tell Anderson Cooper just now that his father, Donald Trump, Sr., will take, quote, "baby steps" on the issue of immigration. Do you believe Donald Trump is still committed to deporting all of the estimated 11 million undocumented people living here in the United States?

COLLINS: Well, Wolf, I'm not party to the speech he's going to give, but what I expect we may hear and I would certainly support this is deporting those immigrants who have broken our laws, where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are allowing them to stay in the U.S. You've got to draw a line. Certainly those undocumented workers, the illegal immigrants who have broken our laws should be deported. At the same time, you know what I've called for, which is -- America is a compassionate country.

Our dairy farmers, our crop farmer have individuals, illegal immigrants that have been milking the cows three times a day for the last 15 years, raising a family, and it is certainly my hope that we'd have a path for them to get legal work papers which would then mean they're no longer illegal immigrants. They would be able to travel back and forth to visit family. They'd be doing a crucial job that Americans don't want.

I certainly would support that because as I've said, it would be very difficult if not impossible to actually deport 11 million immigrants. But let's start with getting those immigrants who have broken our laws out of the country and let's also implement E-Verify. So going forward we no longer face the situation and our dairy farmers and crop farmers use E-Verify to validate that every worker on their farms is here legally with work papers.

That would be something that I think would be a great step forward. Something I've heard nothing from Hillary Clinton about. And meanwhile, let's secure those borders, build the wall and make sure the problem doesn't keep getting worse.

BLITZER: But, Congressman, I just want to be precise. You would not necessarily say all of the undocumented immigrants would have broken any laws as you say would have to be deported, would have to leave the country before they can come back and have some sort of legal status. They could remain in the country and get legal status? That's what you would like to hear from Donald Trump?

COLLINS: It is. For those illegal immigrants who are obeying our laws, they're gainfully employed on our farms, in our hotels and restaurants, I think that would be a compassionate solution. One that would work. And I am hopeful we will hear that as Donald Trump does live up the to pledge to secure our borders, build the wall, make sure those illegal immigrants who have broken the law are deported and that we implement a strong E-Verify system.

BLITZER: Let's talk about what Pastor Mark Burns did. As you know, he was involved in Donald Trump -- still involved very much in his outreach to the African-American community. He tweeted a cartoon yesterday portraying Hillary Clinton in black face. He's since apologized but what was your reaction? Is it appropriate for somebody representing the Trump campaign at a high level like that to be putting out those kinds of images?

COLLINS: No, it was not appropriate. Let's face it, on both sides, whether it's Hillary's KKK commercial, which was just disgusting, you cannot -- or in the case of some individuals who may be supporting Trump, anyone thinking they're speaking for Trump is just not so. You can't hold a candidate accountable for what other people may say or do surrounding them other than very quickly, which Donald Trump did, disavow any part of that. The pastor did apologize. At the same time he tried to explain the situation using the word pandering.

[17:15:06] And so you can't excuse it. I would never try, Mr. Trump has not. I hope we can just move beyond that and focus on the big issue for, you know, many living in these inner cities who have not participated in any economic growth. We need to make America great again for all Americans, we need make America work again for all Americans, and Mr. Trump is pointing out many have been left behind whether it's education or work. And that's the issue that he's trying to bring forward.

BLITZER: Congressman, I want you to stay with us. We have more questions for you. Let's take a quick break. We'll resume the conversation right after this.


[17:20:16] BLITZER: We're talking with a key Donald Trump supporter, Congressman Chris Collins of New York, but first while the spotlight is clearly on the presidential race, some big names are facing big primary battles today.

CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju reports.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight Senators Marco Rubio and John McCain each facing primary challengers who aligned themselves with Donald Trump. While they are both favored to win tonight, they are navigating the Trump terrain. Needing to woo the billionaire's backers to win in November as well as independents and Hispanic voters put off by the GOP nominee's words.

(On camera): Trump is losing in the state, you're obviously battling some national headwinds because of it.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, I'm not sure that Trump is losing in Florida, but it's irrespective. I mean, how the top of the ticket. I have to earn my own way for U.S. Senate seat. People know who I am and they're going to want to know what I've done in the last six years.

RAJU: Would you campaign with Trump when he comes down to Florida?

RUBIO: We have our own schedule, and so we're not going to disrupt our schedule. I'm not disrespectful. It's just that we've got an event. I can't cancel it. But if it makes sense, we'll, you know, we'll look at individual events on a case-by-case basis and see if they make sense.

RAJU (voice-over): Senate GOP leaders worried about Trump at the top of the ticket, successfully convinced Rubio to run for reelection and help keep their fragile majority. But will Rubio serve his full six- year term if reelected? RUBIO: No one can make that commitment because you don't know what

the future is going to hold in your life personally or politically. I can commit to you this, and that is, that if I am running to be a U.S. senator, I am fully prepared to allow the U.S. Senate to be the last political office I ever hold, and my goal was to go back and be regarded as one of the most effective senators of the 21st century.

RAJU: Trump's struggles also hurting Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey with a new poll today showing him trailing his Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, by four points.

That raises the stakes for Rubio and McCain to help the GOP keep control of the Senate. Rubio won't take back the attacks he waged against Trump. His primary foe says it could backfire in November.

CARLOS BERUFF (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: His lack of endorsement of the -- real endorsement, not a tepid endorsement of the nominee irritates them.

RAJU: In Arizona, a CNN-ORC poll finds McCain comfortably ahead of his Republican primary opponent, Kelly Ward, who is embracing Trump but facing a tough challenge from Democratic Ann Kirkpatrick, McCain has approached Trump carefully, offering his support for the nominee but also calling on him to retract his criticism of prisoners of war.

(On camera): Would you appear on the same stage with Donald Trump if he came here?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think it's important for Donald Trump to express his appreciation for veterans, not John McCain, but veterans who were incarcerated as prisoners of war.

RAJU (voice-over): Democrats have their own headwinds to battle. In southern Florida, voters will decide tonight whether to side with a Bernie Sanders supporter, Tim Canova, over Congressman Debbie Wasserman Shultz who has been accused of tilting the scales to help Clinton while chairing the Democratic National Committee.

And Rubio is eager is tie his likely Democratic opponent, Congressman Patrick Murphy, to Hillary Clinton.

RUBIO: How can Patrick Murphy support Hillary Clinton after all the outrageous things that keep coming out about her?

RAJU (on camera): Do you trust Hillary Clinton? Do you 100 percent trust her?



BLITZER: Manu Raju reporting for us from Florida.

We're back with Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York.

Congressman, do you think we could see Senator McCain, let's say, or Senator Rubio actually withdraw support from Donald Trump, run against him, if you will, if they win their respective primaries today?

COLLINS: No, Wolf, I don't. I believe the Republican Party is united to make sure that we have a Republican president to defend the Supreme Court and make sure that the split Supreme Court stays conservative and constitutional. Certainly Marco Rubio has said he is supporting Donald Trump, and I believe Mr. McCain as well, when it comes time November 8th. He's going to be voting for Mr. Trump.

We are more united than the liberal press would want to make America to believe. We know what's at stake with the Supreme Court. We know what's at stake with all the rule making and all the executive orders that have come out of the Obama administration, that have effectively had negative impacts on all businesses around the country, our farmers. So what's at stake in this election means we have to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.

We need to turn a corner. We can't have an effective third term of Barack Obama. So I believe when it all settles down on November 9th and we look back, you're going to see 95 percent plus of Republicans voting for Donald Trump.

[17:25:02] BLITZER: But there is a problem. It's one thing, let's say, for McCain and Rubio to win Republican primaries. In the general election in November, they've got to get support from independent voters, women, minorities, Hispanics, big Hispanic population in both Arizona and Florida, for example. Do you sense that they may be walking away, at least, a bit from Trump in order to try to gain that support?

COLLINS: Well, what I do know is all politics is local, everyone is running their own race, but as Mr. Trump has shown in the last few weeks, as I believe he's going to show with his immigration speech, he's putting forth real plans for tax reform, for redoing the Veterans Administration, now on immigration. And as America sees his plans unfold, and Hillary still hiding somewhere, she hasn't had a press conference since December, she is not coming out with these types of proposals, certainly on immigration.

So I really think as Mr. Trump is staying very disciplined, talking about his agenda, always pivoting to all of the mistakes that Hillary Clinton has made, her dishonesty, her lying to the American public, I think, you know, with 70 days to go, you're going to just see a level of enthusiasm behind Mr. Trump that's going to have the current pundits shaking their heads and is going to take us to a great victory in November, keeping the Senate, taking the White House, we can finally turn this country around.

BLITZER: Chris Collins was the first member of the U.S. Congress to endorse Donald Trump. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

COLLINS: Always good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, there's breaking news. Donald Trump Jr. says his father is not softening his stance on any part of the immigration issue including deportation. Our experts, they are standing by. And could a fired general's secret life as a swinger have -- have

exposed him to blackmail? How did his frequent sex club visits go undetected by the U.S. military for years?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:31:22] BLITZER: Our breaking news. Donald Trump Jr. tells CNN his father is not softening his position on immigration at all.

Joining us now, our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich, she's the Washington bureau chief for the "Daily Beast," CNN political director David Chalian, and CNN Politics executive editor, Mark Preston.

Dana, so Donald Trump Jr. told just now Anderson Cooper that his father is not softening his position at all on immigration. That he still favors deporting all undocumented immigrants living here in the United States. Are we getting a clear picture from Donald Trump tomorrow night precisely where he stands on this issue?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so. I mean, that's the honest truth.


BASH: It's the honest truth because he has been more and more clear as his son was today on everything having to deal with illegal immigration other than what you do with the undocumented immigrants already here. And it sounds a lot like kind of the safety zone for most Republicans. The thing that brings them all together, whether you're talking about securing the border, E-Verify, things like that. The very, very sticky situation and controversial question of what to do with the undocumented immigrants unclear.

I mean, you just talked to a Trump surrogate who has a very different position than what we think Donald Trump has about people who are here illegally but not breaking any laws and really sort of upstanding members of society. Will Donald Trump do that or will he just leave it alone and just talk about the things that unite Republicans?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We should just note that leaving it alone is actually a different position that he took in the primary. So Donald Trump Jr. --

BASH: For sure. That's for sure.

CHALIAN: Donald Trump Jr. said nothing has changed, but if the idea of status quo works, and the undocumented are allowed to stay that are not convicted of crimes, but there is no solution about legal status or anything like that, that's actually different than deporting them all which was his position in the nomination.


absolutely agree. I mean they -- I don't know that they know what they're going to do with the undocumented that aren't criminals. United States is already deporting criminals. There's already the policy. So it just doesn't seem that they're going to be honing on. This is going to be about border security. I don't know if they're going to get into the nitty-gritty of the actual problem that had been the toughest -- that no one really has a solution to yet in this political battle.

BLITZER: Dana, you've doing some reporting on some of the down-ballot races. Senators in competitive races, for example, who are running. They actually could wind up helping Donald Trump in those respected battleground states?

BASH: You know, when I started talking to Republicans who believed this more and more, I was kind of surprised because it's counterintuitive and you just were talking to a guest about the concept of John McCain who's got a primary today, Marco Rubio who's got a primary today, whether when they reach the general elections, assuming they win today, whether they're going to run from Donald Trump or how it's going to affect him.

Traditionally when we think of coattails, it's a popular candidate helping people who are lower on the ballot. But because everything this year is kind of upside down, the hope among some Republican operatives who I have been talking to really across the country is that the marquee names like McCain, like Rubio, who they think could win in their states, could help Donald Trump. And not just there but also states like Ohio.

BLITZER: Mark Preston, there's primaries today in Arizona, Florida, you're watching those races very closely. What are you looking for and what might we see tonight that could impact November for example?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, I'll tell you what, Wolf, not so much what we see tonight, but will be in the 72 hours after this race. Will national Democrats decide to go all in into a state like Arizona, having money freed up that they don't have to spend in a battleground state such as Colorado which seems to be going their way or New Mexico? Perhaps Nevada.

[17:35:07] But will they go into Arizona and will they go directly at Donald Trump and try to link John McCain with him and try to kill two birds with one stone? Get two victories out of that.

Same thing could happen in Florida as well. If you look at the makeup of the voters back in 2012, 18 percent of the electorate in Arizona were Hispanic, 17 percent of the electorate were Hispanic down in Florida. You know, Marco Rubio is Cuban, a third of those were Cuban. So perhaps he has a little bit of a better advantage with those voters, but if Democrats do decide to spend a lot of money, if they do try to pick up the Senate seats, which they certainly will in Florida, perhaps they will in Arizona, then that could spell trouble.

BLITZER: There's a new Monmouth University poll, David. You looked at it closely today in Pennsylvania. It shows Hillary Clinton -- you can see it right there -- up by eight points, 48-40 over Donald Trump. If he loses Pennsylvania, realistically, what is his path to 270 electoral votes?

CHALIAN: Without Pennsylvania, which is a huge prize with 20 electoral votes that could really help him. Without Pennsylvania, he has to look now to six states basically. He has to look at Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio. Those six states, which he would need to really start doing much better than we're seeing him doing at the polls now, but that's where his focus would have to be if he loses out on a big prize like Pennsylvania. That's why the number is so troubling for them right now because that is a key building bloc to 270 and without it they need to pull a lot more pieces together.

KUCINICH: It's also kind of a white whale for Republicans. Last cycle, remember Mitt Romney, the last week cut and went to Pennsylvania and talked about he thought he was going to win because he saw people hanging out of a parking garage, waving, didn't happen. And he definitely did not win Pennsylvania. So it's been this sort of prize that they just haven't been able to capture yet.

BLITZER: You know, Jackie, one other thing, though, the debates are less than a month now. The first presidential debate. Hillary Clinton, I don't think -- she's done a lot of debate. Has she ever faced anyone like Donald Trump?

KUCINICH: No, absolutely not. And that itself will present some challenges. Not only can't she not let him get under her skin and sort of have a Jeb Bush-Marco Rubio angry moment on stage, she also can't look like she is talking down to him. She can't be wooden. She has to be loose, and she can't go too far in the weeds because of the contrast. But, you know, Hillary Clinton, she's many things, but she's very good at debating. So you have to imagine they're preparing very hard for just, you know, Donald Trump as much as you can sort of situation.

BLITZER: Mark Preston, which Donald Trump is going to show up do you think at that first presidential debate? That's the question that Hillary Clinton asked some of her fundraisers yesterday.

PRESTON: Right, well, look, it's unclear because everything has been unpredictable about him. But I would caution this for Donald Trump. There is still an expectation when you're on a debate stage, when you're in public that you have a bit of decorum specifically when you're talking about debating for the highest office in the nation. Quite frankly, you know, the most powerful person in the world.

I also think Donald Trump is going to be a little bit careful that he doesn't seem like he is attacking Hillary Clinton because she is a woman or seems like he's talking down to her. He did that in the primaries. It did not go very well when he was talking to Carly Fiorina so he'll have to be very careful not only in his first debate, but his second and third one as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm going to have everyone stand by. There's much more to discuss including Hillary Clinton, how she prepares for her crucial debate with Donald Trump, CNN has now learned the FBI's report on her use of a private e-mail server is about to be made public.

And could a fired general's secret life as a swinger have exposed him to blackmail? And how did his frequent sex club visits go undetected by the U.S. military for years?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:43:33] BLITZER: CNN has learned the FBI is preparing to release its report and notes from the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e- mail practices while she was secretary of state. It could go public as soon as tomorrow. For her part, Clinton already is focused in her upcoming debates with Donald Trump.

Let's go to our correspondent Pamela Brown. Pamela, what are you learning about Hillary Clinton's debate preparations.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've learned, Wolf, that Hillary Clinton is taking both traditional and nontraditional avenues as she prepares to take on Donald Trump on the debate stage next month. And the campaign has talked with psychology experts, even Trump's former co-author, trying to figure out what makes Trump tick.


BROWN (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is gearing up for her first debate as a presidential nominee, even asking donors at a high-dollar New York fundraiser for advice on how face off against Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: : I really want to hear from you, on any of your thoughts or ideas about how I should debate Donald Trump. Just to name one thing. But we have 71 days left in the campaign and I'm not taking anything, anyone, or any place for granted.

BROWN: Clinton told the crowd she's not taking any chances against her often unpredictable opponent.

CLINTON: I do not know which Donald Trump will show up.

BROWN: CNN has learned the Clinton campaign is compiling a dossier on Trump ahead of the debate and consulting with Trump's "Art of the Deal" co-author turned critic for insight. He recently spoke to CNN.

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ART OF THE DEAL": When the attention and the spotlight is not on Donald Trump, he will do anything to get it back.

[17:45:05] BROWN: To prepare, Clinton is watching clips of Trump's Republican primary debates.

TRUMP: All talk and no action.

BROWN: And taking notes on what agitated him.

TRUMP: First of all this guy's a choke artist and this guy is a liar.

BROWN: She is also reading briefing materials about Trump's policies, personality, and politics.

BENESON: I don't think he can go toe-to-toe with her on policy, I don't think he can go toe-to-toe with her on substance. I think we'll see a lot of the same kind of hyper, over-the-top rhetoric from him that we've seen. That's who he is. I don't think he can control himself.

BROWN: Hillary Clinton is no stranger to the debate stage. Having debated about 40 times including nine meetings with Bernie Sanders.

CLINTON: Senator Sanders did call me unqualified. I have been called a lot of things in my life, that was a first.

BROWN: And more than two dozen within then Senator Barack Obama in 2008.

CLINTON: Senator Obama, it is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you because you never take responsibility for any vote and that has been a pattern. You and the -- now wait a minute. In the Illinois state legislature -- just a minute.

BROWN: As well as her New York Senate debates which include this decisive moment when Republican Rick Lazio encroached on her space at the podium.


BROWN: As Clinton prepares to debate Trump, she is under renewed pressure over the Clinton Foundation. The "New York Times" editorial board says she and Bill Clinton have a, quote, "ethical imperative to stop accepting foreign and corporate donations to the foundation now rather than after the election." This comes as the FBI plans to publicly release interview notes and its July report recommending no charges against Clinton over her private e-mail server.


BROWN: And the Clinton campaign has said it wants those materials to be released to the public after they were released to members of Congress just a couple of weeks ago. Those materials could be made public as early as tomorrow.

And, Wolf, this is certainly something the Clinton campaign wants to move on from.

BLITZER: A lot of people want to read all those reports. Assuming they're coming out.

All right, Pamela, thank you very much. Coming up, new questions about why it took the U.S. military so long

to discover a top general's scandalous double life as a swinger who visited sex clubs. The revelations of one U.S. senator now demanding much better background checks.


[17:51:47] BLITZER: New questions are being asked tonight about how the U.S. Military screens officers who handle highly classified information and why it missed the general that spent years visiting sex clubs with a woman who was not his wife. The general was discovered and fired.

Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has been looking into all of this.

Elise, there is no guarantee other top officers aren't leading the so- called secret life as well.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, that's right, Wolf. And tonight there's growing concern that the Pentagon is not doing enough to vet people closest to America's important secrets after a top U.S. general involved in protecting the U.S. from Russian threats was caught leading a double life as a swinger.


LABOTT (voice-over): Tonight new questions in the bizarre case of David Haight, the Army major general at the center of a salacious Pentagon sex scandal who apparently lived a double life for more than a decade. All of it, critics say, undetected by what should have been more stringent background checks.

The married father of four ran the U.S. Military's campaign against Russia until this past spring when he was demoted after a Pentagon investigation appeared to uncover evidence he had been frequenting swingers' clubs, participating in group sex, and carrying on a nearly 10-year affair behind his wife's back with another woman. Sometimes using government computers and phones.

Jennifer Armstrong told "USA Today," which first broke the story, she began swinging with Haight after meeting him in Iraq in 2005. Armstrong's name was redacted from this Army inspector general's report but she confirmed the relationship to "USA Today," even providing this picture of her with Haight. Of grave concern experts say is that Armstrong and Haight solicited partners on at least one swinger's Web site and exchanged sexually charged e-mails, moves experts warn, that could have left him vulnerable to blackmail and espionage from foes including Russia.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Russia's intelligence services can exploit these kinds of situations very easily. That could be a ticket for them to gain information. It could also be a ticket to blackmail.

LABOTT: Tonight experts say flaws in the screening of officials entrusted with the nation's top secrets weren't strong enough and that regular polygraph exams and checks of his computer records should have raised red flags.

LEIGHTON: For people in operational positions like the general was, they are normally not administered. If they were they could have potentially uncovered significant issues with his lifestyle.

LABOTT: Today at the Pentagon, a top U.S. commander defended the current system.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I don't know all the details of that particular situation. I think what we go through to prepare leaders is very sufficient.

LABOTT: But tonight, sources say many on Capitol Hill don't buy that and are pushing for more stringent background checks.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill telling CNN Haight's case shows, quote, "more needs to be done to detect potential threats to national security secrets. Too many cases in recent years have shown gaping holes in the process."


LABOTT: Now Haight was pulled from his post and his security clearance has been suspended pending review. Now he refused to answer questions from the army inspector general but issued a statement to "USA Today" apologizing for the pain he caused his wife and family.

[17:55:01] CNN has tried to reach both Haight and Jennifer Armstrong, Wolf, but we've been unable to reach them.

BLITZER: Elise Labott, reporting for us. Thank you very much.

Coming up, there's breaking news. ISIS now says a key leader, perhaps its most wanted leader, has been killed in Syria. He had called on followers to kill Americans and was linked to bloody attacks in Europe. Did a U.S. airstrike take him out?

And Donald Trump Jr. tells CNN his father's position on immigration is not softening at all. He says his father will still push for deportation. But why is he talking about starting with, quote, "baby steps"?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. ISIS deputy killed. The U.S. put a multimillion-dollar bounty on his head. Now the terror group says its top spokesman is dead. Did American forces take him out? We're getting new information this hour.