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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

CNN Poll of Polls Shows Presidential Race Tightening; Interview with Congressman Adam Schiff of California; McCain: If Clinton Is Elected, I'll Be A Check On Her; Unprecedented Look Into Life Inside A Cult. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 1, 2016 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: All on one blockbuster night.

[16:30:00] Clinton has been called the most famous person no one knows.

CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF HILLARY CLINTON: I never understand that, it is so clear to me who my mother is. She never forgets who she is fighting for and she's fighting first and foremost for children and for families.

ANNOUNCER: Trump has a passion for business and the spotlight.

DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: No one is going to outwork him. No one has got more energy than him.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: He always said to us, find what it is that you're passionate about and pursue it with your full heart.

ANNOUNCER: They are stories from the people who know them best, CNN Special Report. Hillary Clinton at 8:00, Donald Trump at 10:00, CNN Labor Day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with the national lead now and something you just have to see. This morning, a SpaceX rocket exploded at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

[16:35:03] Now, we can show that blast as it happen. Take a look and watch as the flames just engulfing the rocket. This view -- wow, look at that -- from a web cam that rolls on test launches at Cape Canaveral. No one, thankfully, was hurt at all.

This was during a test ahead of a launch schedule for this week and the rocket. It was going to carry a satellite for Facebook. SpaceX describes the explosion as an anomaly as it was fuelling the rocket. The company still doesn't know what went wrong, but my God, something sure did.

Turning back to our politics lead, the end of summer was pretty sweet for Hillary Clinton's war chest, pulling in $143 million for both her campaign and the Democratic Party just last month. This as new national poll numbers show a tightening presidential race.

Out this afternoon, CNN's poll of polls. That's an average of the five most recent respected national surveys. This poll of polls finds Clinton still topping Trump, but just by five points in a four-way match up, compare that to the 10-point for the Democratic nominee in the CNN poll of polls immediately after the Democratic convention.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats are flooding the zone tonight, trying to block a Donald Trump pivot. From Vice President Joe Biden in Ohio --

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a guy born with a silver spoon in his mouth that now he is choking on because his foot is in his mouth, along with the spoon.

ZELENY: To vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in New Hampshire.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's not be tricked by Trump. The campaign has kind of got the elements of a big con going with it.

ZELENY: It is an all-out effort to prevent Trump from getting a second look by independent voters and skeptical Republicans, as summer ends and the race kicks into higher gear after Labor Day.

Trump hit Clinton hard on trade today in Ohio, casting himself as a friend of the working man.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: No state has been hurt worse, really, by Hillary Clinton on trade policies than Ohio.

ZELENY: Biden said not so fast, urging voters to listen more carefully to Trump.

BIDEN: My biggest problem with Donald Trump, I'll tell you about it in a minute, it's not his cockamamie policies. It's the way he treats people.

ZELENY: Clinton spent the day off the campaign trail, exhaling after a record setting fundraising month. She raised more than $140 million for her campaign and the Democratic Party in a coast to coast August sprint, the biggest haul of any month so far. She is putting some of that money to work, trying to expand the map of battleground states.

The first target, Arizona, where Trump gave that fiery immigration speech Wednesday night.

TRUMP: Trojan horse, watch what's going to happen, folks.

ZELENY: And today, the Clinton campaign is airing its first ad Arizona, saying Trump's rhetoric is not suitable for children.

TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists.

ZELENY: Still, the race is closer than Democrats would like. Even after Trump's rough August, polls show Clinton's lead is far from a runaway. The latest CNN poll of polls showing the five most recent national surveys has Clinton leading Trump, 42-37, with libertarian candidate Gary Johnson at 9. As state polls show the race tightening in some battlegrounds, Kaine telling CNN's Chris Cuomo Democrats can't be complacent.

KAINE: It's close. This is not going to be easy. Never for a minute have I thought this was going to be smooth-sailing. I thought this was going to be a tough, tough, campaign.

ZELENY: Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Thanks to Jeff Zeleny.

Joining me now from Los Angeles is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's a ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks, Jake. Good to be with you.

TAPPER: So, an ABC News/"Washington Post" poll out yesterday found that post-convention, Clinton's favorability rating among women voters dropped nine points, among Hispanics, it dropped 16 points, and among people who identify as liberals dropped 13 points.

Why, and should the Clinton camp be worried?

SCHIFF: You know, I think the secretary is running a very good campaign. I think it has been a solid campaign. There are always things beyond the candidate's control. And some of the drip, drip, drip on the e-mail stuff is not something I don't think they have much control over.

But within that universe of things where they stir the course and they can step with their campaign is going to talk about, I think they have done extraordinarily well and I think we are seeing some of the tightening of polls that you traditionally see at the end of summer. Voters begin to tune in more. We may see whatever final bounce that either candidate got from the convention ultimately going away and now, we see more of the true state of the race.

So, I don't think these polls are surprising. I think we can anticipate a further tightening potentially between now and November.

[16:40:00] But I think they're running a very good campaign.

TAPPER: Trump is out there holding rallies. He had his ballyhooed trip to Mexico. A big rally last night in Arizona. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has done two public events, two, in the last two weeks. What gives?

SCHIFF: I think is a decision that the campaign has to make. How much are they devoting in the summer months, the time when people aren't as focused on the campaign to raise the resources they need for that final sprint that begins after Labor Day. And I can't say that that's the wrong judgment to make. I mean, when you're in that home stretch, and I've been there before, you don't want to run out of the resources you need to be communicating, to be responding to attacks, to be able to go on the offensive.

So, I think as we get closer to November, she may be very glad she raised the resources that she needs rather than spending that time out stumping during the summer months.

TAPPER: We just learned that she and the campaign and the Democratic Party raised more than $140 million in the month of August. So, presumably, that was time well spent. But let me throw another number at you. A "USA Today" poll today found 59 percent of likely voters believe Hillary Clinton is not honest or trustworthy. That's almost identical to the not honest, not trustworthy numbers of Donald Trump.

Are you concerned about this? And do you think is there anything she can do to turn that around?

SCHIFF: You know, I'm concerned about it because I think as president, it means that they're going to continue attacking her from the first day. I agree with our vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine that we can't take anything for granted. It's going to be hard fought to the end.

But if she is successful, I think those numbers are going to make it difficult in the sense that she may not get the same honeymoon that other presidents get early in their administration. But, again, you know, for those of us what know Secretary Clinton and has such tremendous respect for her, and admire her capabilities and her integrity and her warmth in person, those numbers are very surprising to see, because they don't reflect the person that we know.

But I think what they reflect, Jake, is that ever since she left the job of secretary of state, where she was widely revered by Democrats and Republicans alike, and she became a potential candidate for president, there has been a concerted and I think quite successful effort by the GOP to tear her down. I don't think you or I would do much better if those kind of resources were devoted to tearing us down.

So, some of that fall is inevitable. But that portrait you see in those polls is simply not the secretary that those of us that know her, know here to be.

TAPPER: I think a lot of it though, maybe you would disagree, but I think a lot of it is not just about Republicans attacking her, a lot of it has been about legitimate questions about the Clinton Foundation, and whether or not donors of the foundation got access to the State Department, her e-mail server, that's been a huge issue for her. Aren't those issues legitimate issues by journalists, by the FBI, et cetera? Isn't that really more to blame than the Republican attack machine?

SCHIFF: You know, I think there's certainly legitimate issues there, but if you look, for example, at the Clinton Foundation, notwithstanding all the investigation that has been done of the Clinton Foundation and contacts with Clinton Foundation supporters, no one has revealed any evidence that the secretary of the State Department did something for those donors that should not have been whether they're donors or not. There has never been any evidence of any illegality or impropriety. The most you can say is that people with the foundation had also contact with the secretary. And given some of these were Nobel Prize winners or heads of state, you would expect that to be the case.

So, should that be responsible for those numbers declining? I don't think so, not without the fuel that's added by these consistent Republican attacks. Yes, there are I think fair questions for journalists in all of this, but I think that, you know, at the end of the day, to go from being one of the most respected women in the world, which she still is, but to have the numbers that you're showing us today I think would not have been the case without many tens of millions -- and hundreds of millions spent really to tear her down and drive up her negatives, as one of our Republican leadership said so pointedly was the whole point of the Benghazi Select Committee.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

Back to our breaking news right now, Hermine now upgraded to a hurricane as it barrels toward Florida's gulf coast. We're going to bring you an update on the hurricane's path just minutes away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. Let's stay with our Politics Lead. I'm joined now by our political panel to discuss the tightening polls, the fallout from Trump's immigration speech, what voters wish the candidates would do.

Former Obama adviser and Hillary Clinton supporter, Stephanie Cutter is with us as well as former Georgia congressman and Donald Trump senior advisor, Jack Kingston. Thanks to both of you for being here.

Stephanie, let me start with you. The polls are narrowing. She is only up five in the CNN poll of polls and her numbers are going in the wrong direction also in some of the key states. Are you concerned about it? Do you think that the Clinton campaign is taking is seriously now?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: I think they are probably taking it very seriously. I think you can look back at how they have defined the polls and what I also think about this race is this is going to be a five to seven-point race.

This is -- we don't have races that are 10 to 15 points any more. We haven't had them in decades. So I think this is a product of the race tightening after the conventions. It's repositioning itself in the run up to the debates.

You know, she is still five points ahead. Some states are tightening, but she is still ahead in those states. Nobody should take anything for granted. Everybody is going to work towards this election.

I think some of the news that's come out over the last week or so, a couple of weeks, on the e-mails and the foundation, doesn't help her with certain types of voters. But I think her base I strong.

I think she has the ability to reach out to new voters where I think Trump is closing those doors.

TAPPER: Congressman, let me ask you, John McCain won his senatorial primary last night. He also released a video afterwards in which he doesn't mention Donald Trump at all.

[16:50:05]But he does have a moment where he says if Hillary Clinton is elected president, Arizona will need a senator to stand up to her. It is kind of reminiscent, you're old enough to remember this as am I, kind of reminiscent of '96 when Republican senators sensing that Bob Dole was not going to win, started talking about you need to elect me to stand up to Bill Clinton. Are you worried about that at all?

JACK KINGSTON, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: You know, I think some of this is just John McCain getting back to his Maverick self. As you remember, he was sometimes a thorn in the side to George Bush.

I watched the whole video, I don't think he was saying it's going to be Hillary as much he was saying his opponent is going to be rubber stamp to Hillary or whoever the Democrats are.

But I do want to say on these polls, it is very exciting right now because of the Reuters poll shows that it's a dead heat. Rasmussen dead heat. I believe that Real Clear Politics shows the same that CNN does on the five-point difference.

But people are starting to focus now and the economy, jobs, national security, these things people want to know about it, and Donald Trump has a better platform rather than a third term of Barack Obama.

TAPPER: Last word, quickly, if you could.

CUTTER: I obviously disagree with what the congressman said about Trump's appeal in this race. I think he's made a concerted strategy to just double down on his base, and I'm curious whether or not there is enough of his base to bring him over the finish line. I don't think there is. Ultimately winning elections is about expanding your vote and I think he is contracting it.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman, Stephanie, thank you so much. I appreciate it. We'll come back with more to be continued. Plenty of time before the election.

Usually when you get this deep inside a cult, there is no getting out. But a new CNN film is giving you a look inside the mysterious, secretive and in some cases dangerous world of cults, that is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Back to THE LEAD, turning now to our Pop Culture Lead. A CNN film gives us a rare, unprecedented, eye opening look at life inside a cult through the firsthand experience of a man who willingly gave up his life to follow a mysterious and eccentric spiritual guru for more than two decades.

So why did he along with more than a hundred other people give up their lives to follow this man, who appears to enjoy the occasional nip and tuck and is often scene in the film wearing nothing more than a speedo. Why give it up to follow him in the search for the meaning of life?

CNN national correspondent, Kyung Lah, looks for that answer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just started experiencing a higher part of myself.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're easy to dismiss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happiness is where ever you are.

LAH: The spell bound followers of an eccentric spiritual leader, a man who often wears nothing but speedos promising enlightenment while former members say addicted to his own vanity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His eyes, his eyes, his lips.

LAH: Operating on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the group today is robust, with more than a hundred followers here. Who could be drawn to this?

WILL ALLEN, FORMER MEMBER: You know, we all willingly did this adventure. We all jump into this and we thought we knew what we are doing.

LAH: Will Allen is the creator of the film, "Holy Hell" airing on CNN. He and these people in the film came from middle class families and are college educated, brought together and drawn slowly in, seeking community, religion.

ALLEN: I would call it a cult because it has one leader at the top who is our mission supposedly our mission that you're giving your power to.

LAH: Allen says for decades, he rejected his parents and friends dedicating all his time and money to his leader's teaching. A story told again and again by followers in the film.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not talking about stupid people.

LAH: Rick Allen Ross is an expert on cults and author of the book "Cults Inside Out." He says trying to force a family member out of a suspected cult often backfires.

RICK ALAN ROSS, "CULTS, INSIDE OUT" AUTHOR: That may lead to further isolation of the person that's involved in the group. Be positive, do not be critical or negative.

LAH: Recent history is riddled with examples of people who refused leave extremist groups. The Branch Obedience (ph) led by David Caresh (ph), 76 people died including their leader in a standoff with federal agents.

In Jonestown, the People's Temple lead by Jim Jones. A mass suicide of more than 900 of those followers. But many groups never get to this point, existing legally in a gray area that doesn't break the law.

(on camera): In the nine years of the group spent in here Hawaii, there have been some misdemeanor issues between members and former members of the group, but the Honolulu Police Department has never opened up a wide ranging criminal investigation into the group itself or it's leader.

(voice-over): Families are often left watching helplessly as they lose contact. Others turn to cult interventions forcibly pulling them out. Will Allen hopes by sharing his experience, his film serves as a warning beacon to the vulnerable.

ALLEN: By making this movie, I lay down a canvas where you can go, OK, we can talk about this now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: We reached out to the leader for a comment. He did send us a written statement, writing, quote, "It is heartbreaking to see how history has been rewritten. It is devastating to see these friends who were once so filled with love to the world become so angry. If any of my actions were a catalyst for their disharmony. I am truly sorry." He declined to speak to CNN on camera. Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

TAPPER: You can watch the new CNN film "Holy Hell" tonight at 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper turning you over to Mr. Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.