Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino; Trump Scripted With Minorities?; Storm Drenches East Coast; FBI Releases Clinton E-Mail Report; Dangerous Storm Threatening 40 Million on East Coast; Putin: DNC Hack a "Public Service", But Russia Didn't Do It; FBI Release Notes, Report on Clinton E-mails; Trump Q&A at Black Church Scripted in Advance. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 2, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Sticking to a script? Donald Trump continuing his outreach to African-Americans as his campaign tries to prevent any embarrassing new blunders. Are the questions and answers from an upcoming visit to a black church being planned in advanced?
Putin's praise. The Russian president denies his government was behind the cyber-attack on the Democratic Party's computers. But U.S. officials are skeptical as Putin goes onto celebrate the break-in as a public service.
And tropical deluge. Tens of millions of Americans are in the bullseye of a drenching and dangerous storm as the holiday weekend begins. CNN is on the ground as Hermine churns up the East Coast.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, a new window into Hillary Clinton's e-mail controversial and her role in the FBI investigation that ended without any charges against her.
The bureau releasing new documents, including notes on its interview with Hillary Clinton. They show she was fuzzy on details about e-mail security. She told agents she relied on aides to try to make sure that she didn't receive classified information through her private servers when she was secretary of state.
Donald Trump's campaign is pouncing, saying the information from the FBI reinforces Clinton's bad judgment and dishonesty. Tonight, Trump has added a veteran opponent of the Clintons to his staff, hiring David Bossie as his deputy campaign manager. Bossie is president of the conservative political advocacy group called Citizens United
Also this hour, Vladimir Putin says important information was made public by the cyber-attack on the Democratic Party's computers. In a new interview, the Russian president insists his government was not behind the break-in. But he goes onto ask if it really matters who was responsible, sowing doubts about his denial and concerns that Russia is attempting to manipulate the U.S. election.
I will discuss presidential politics with Congressman Tom Marino. He's a Trump supporter. And our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by to bring you full coverage of the day's top stories.
Up first, let's go to our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns. He has more on the FBI's report on Hillary Clinton -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the release of these redacted papers tells us more than we have ever known about the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mail controversy, but it leaves open plenty of questions.
For example, we knew that the agents found evidence that her e-mails were compromised, but that's not conclusive because they were not able to locate all 13 mobile devices that may have been used. The biggest question of all tonight is about Mrs. Clinton's fuzzy memories of the facts.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wow.
JOHNS (voice-over): The FBI's formerly classified report on its investigation into Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server reveals there was a lot she said she could not remember when being questioned by agents.
The report indicates 39 different times Mrs. Clinton said there were things she did not recall or remember according to the FBI's notes on her interview. The documents providing insight into why the FBI did not recommend charging Clinton.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
JOHNS: In her more-than-three-hour interview with the FBI, Clinton could not recall any briefing or training by State related to the handling of classified information. Clinton relied on her aides to use their judgment when e-mailing her and could recall anyone raising concern about information sent to her private account.
She also said she did not know that a C marking on a document meant it was classified and even asked interviewing agents for clarification. Some of the classified e-mails that caused the most trouble for Clinton discussed the CIA's covert drone program, which should never be discussed on any unclassified e-mail systems. The report says Clinton stated deliberation over a future drone strike did not give her cause for concern regarding classification.
CLINTON: Welcome to all of you.
JOHNS: But one of the things she seemed conclusive about was her motivation. She told the FBI she used her personal e-mail server for convenience and not to evade freedom of information laws.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch followed the FBI's recommendation and passed an prosecuting Clinton, who eventually admitted using a private e-mail server was a mistake.
CLINTON: I would certainly not do that again. That is something that, at the time, as even Director Comey said, seemed like a convenience, but it was the wrong choice.
JOHNS: Donald Trump wasted no time seizing on the release, saying -- quote -- "Hillary Clinton's answers to FBI about her private e-mail server defy belief. I was absolutely shocked to see that her answers to the FBI stood in direct contradiction to what she told the American people."
JOHNS: The Clinton campaign got what it wanted today. It called for the release of these documents in order to avoid selective leaking of the information by her opposition.
But the problem for her campaign is it breathes new life into a story that's dogged the Democratic nominee since before the primaries, giving critics fodder to question her honesty and truthfulness -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Joe, thank you, Joe Johns reporting.
Let's take a deeper dive on the information just released by the FBI and what it tells us about Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, has been going through all these documents.
Do they really explain, Evan, why the FBI director, James Comey, said she was extremely careless, negligent in handling classified information?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It really does.
The documents really show you what this really started about, Wolf. And it's about the drone program, the CIA's drone program, which, as Joe just mentioned, is a covert program. Everybody knows it exists, but government officials are not supposed to discuss it over unclassified e-mails, certainly not in a private e-mail server.
And in particular, there's a discussion around Christmastime around 2011 in which officials in the State Department are talking about a future planned drone strike by the CIA. It ends up not actually happening, but this gives you a window into what this entire controversy has been about, which is a fight between the CIA and the State Department.
The CIA has always found fault with the way -- how the State Department has handled how it dealt with this program.
BLITZER: There's a lot of focus now on those, what, three documents that Comey said have a letter C on those documents suggesting they were classified.
PEREZ: It really tells you a lot about what Secretary Clinton was -- how she knew how to handle these documents.
She said she didn't know what the C stood for. She even said she thought that this was a reference to alphabetical order of paragraphs. It tells us that even though despite she's been in public service all these many years, she really apparently did not know how to handle these documents. She says she never got any training or any kind of briefing from the State Department about how to retain public records or how to handle classified information. Remarkable.
BLITZER: Evan, Evan Perez reporting for us, thank you.
Tonight, a dust-up involving Donald Trump and his attempts to try to widen the slim support among African-American voters, this as Trump continues to deal with fallout from his hard-line speech on immigration.
CNN political reporter Sara Murray is covering the Trump campaign for us tonight. She's outside Trump Tower in New York.
What's the latest, Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, at first, Donald Trump faced criticism for making his pitches to minority voters in front of almost entirely white audiences.
But now it's become clear that even as he travels to these more diverse communities, voters might not be getting the kind of authentic engagement they were hoping for.
MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump is taking his tightly scripted approach to winning over minority voters to a roundtable in Philadelphia today. The GOP nominee is already facing criticism for his next campaign stop, an African-American church in Detroit.
That's after "The New York Times" unearthed a transcript of the pre- written replies the Trump campaign hoped he would deliver to pre- supplied questions in a Q&A with the pastor. Now that pastor says he's tweaking his questions and he expects Trump's visit will be a bit more expansive.
PASTOR WAYNE JACKSON, GREATER FAITH MINISTRIES: Wanted to meet and talk to some people while he was here. That's what his visit is all about, to make sure while that he, while he's in town, talking to people because he's been criticized that he's been preaching to African-Americans from a backdrop of white people.
MURRAY: As for Trump, his pitch is staying the same, arguing minority voters have nothing left to lose.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have tremendous numbers of African-Americans that have really had a hard time. They live terribly. And I say, what do you have to lose? I say, look, what do you have to lose? Give it to me. I'm going to fix it.
MURRAY: But after the backlash from his hard-line immigration speech this week, a speech that cost him the support of some of his own advisers, Trump says his plan was misunderstood.
Now he's saying his approach to dealing with millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. isn't set.
TRUMP: I want to see -- before we do anything further, I want to see how it shapes up when we have strong -- I use the word impenetrable borders.
MURRAY: All of this even as he admitted to "The Wall Street Journal" that his meeting with the Mexican president inspired him to toughen his immigration speech, Trump saying he added this line.
TRUMP: They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for the wall.
MURRAY: After the Mexican president revealed via Twitter that he told Trump he wouldn't pay for the border wall.
With the campaign entering its final sprint, Trump is taking care of other tasks, receiving his second classified intelligence briefing in New York today and hiring a new deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, the president of conservative advocacy group Citizens United.
MURRAY: Now, as the Clinton campaign tries to paint Donald Trump as too right-wing to be acceptable to voters, they're slamming his latest Hire. They put out a statement saying, Donald Trump has put the most extreme elements of the right-wing fringe in the driver's seat of his campaign -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara Murray in New York, thank you.
In the last hour, I spoke with a longtime Clinton associate, the former Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman.
Now let's bring in a Donald Trump supporter. Republican Congressman Tom Marino is a member of the Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees. He's joining us from Pennsylvania, his home state.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. TOM MARINO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I appreciate you having me on.
BLITZER: The Hillary Clinton campaign says they are very pleased that the FBI has released all these documents now, because they think once and for all it can put this whole issue to rest and explains why the FBI director recommended against any criminal charges being launched against her. Do you agree with that?
MARINO: Well, I wouldn't expect anything more out of Hillary Clinton and her campaign.
And this just raises more and more questions. I wrote a letter to Director Comey. We were U.S. attorneys together and asked him to give us the content of that information, that interview. I knew it was going to be highly redacted. But this tells us so much more.
BLITZER: Well, it was released. He did exactly what you wanted. He released all the notes from that lengthy interview that Hillary Clinton gave the FBI, released all the recommendations to the Justice Department there should be no criminal charges.
Yes, he says she was negligent, extremely careless in dealing with classified information, but broke no laws. Do you accept that conclusion from Comey?
MARINO: I do not accept it.
First of all, he kept going back to there was no intent here. Intent has nothing to do with this. It's the negligence, the gross negligence on her part. And given the fact today, look how she answered the questions in the interview. How many, I don't remember, I don't recall?
Mr. Blitzer, you and I know. I'm a prosecutor. And that's the favorite line for defense attorneys when they try to get their defendants, don't lie. And to prevent yourself from being hung up in lying, say I don't remember.
She didn't remember classified information. She didn't remember training. I was a U.S. attorney over six years ago, and I remember the training I got for classified information and secret and top- secret information.
BLITZER: What are you saying about Director Comey?
MARINO: I'm very surprised, because we worked together as U.S. attorney.
He was promoted to deputy attorney general. I don't quite understand the rationale here. And just remember, though, the president runs the Justice Department.
BLITZER: So, what more should he have done, in your opinion, speaking as a former U.S. attorney?
MARINO: Well, first of all, it's rare that an FBI director steps out front and says to the American people why there is an indictment or why there is not an indictment. They make a recommendation to attorney general, and the attorney general...
BLITZER: But he wanted to be transparent. He said he wanted to be transparent with the American people on such a high-profile case.
MARINO: Well, how do you justify transparency when, first of all, intent isn't an issue? And he raised that. And what more do you need for gross negligence?
The American people are sick and tired of this, Mr. Blitzer. The higher the person goes up in the government, the more they get away with and the more money they make. I have prosecuted successfully, successfully cases with less evidence.
BLITZER: Director Comey said no one has ever been prosecuted for the kinds of alleged problems that Hillary Clinton did with these personal e-mail servers.
MARINO: Maybe not for that specific issue concerning the specifics that she didn't -- when she is saying she didn't remember or gross negligence vs. intent.
And I keep going back. Intent had nothing to do with this. But, still, with the evidence that came out several -- over the past months, with the evidence that came out today, there's certainly enough there, Mr. Blitzer, to indict.
And let a grand jury make that determination, because it just looks like this is being so massaged from this administration that no wonder the American people are fed up with Washington.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about Donald Trump, a man you support, that you want to be next president of the United States.
He's going to do an interview with an African-American bishop in Detroit tomorrow. "The New York Times," as you know, they obtained a draft script showing 12 questions that were going to asked and written responses, suggestions from Trump advisers how he would respond.
Does this highlight a potential problem, that Donald Trump is scripting this kind of conversation with an African-American pastor, instead of simply going before an African-American audience and speaking from the heart?
MARINO: I think it's a good thing he goes before the African-American community.
And you know Donald. He rarely stays on script. So, you know he's going to answer other questions, he's going to go off-script. He's going to read some of the script.
But I know him personally. I have come to know him very well. And he's going to speak to the heart of this, look the African-American people in the eye and show what a leader he can be for them, because he's right. What's been the benefit of this administration for African-Americans over the years? There's still so much unemployment. There's still so much violence. There are still so many gangs, killings. Just look at Chicago, where the president is from. What's being done about that?
BLITZER: But it's only 68 days to go until the election. And the criticism of Donald Trump from the African-American community, why has he waited so long to do this?
MARINO: You're going to have to ask him why he's waited so long.
But I think the more he gets into this, don't forget, he's not a politician. Hillary Clinton has been a politician since the '70s. And he's understanding the fact of what's really going on in this country. And he sees it and takes this to heart. And he really wants to improve the quality of life for Americans, and he really wants to improve the quality of life for African-Americans, because he employs so many African-Americans, Hispanics.
He's the only one that's been able to create jobs. And let me ask you this, Mr. Blitzer. How's it been going the last 30 years with governors and senators and career politicians being president? We're $20 trillion in debt, 20 million out of work or underemployed. Businesses are leaving the country in droves.
Failed health care. The borders are open, terrorists in the country. I will pick my money to go on Donald Trump, because I know he's concerned about my children.
BLITZER: You're blaming Democratic and Republican administrations over the past 30 years?
MARINO: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's no question about it, Mr. Blitzer.
BLITZER: All right.
MARINO: There's no question about it.
I'm one that calls it like it is. And I don't -- just because I'm a Republican doesn't mean I don't criticize my own party. And the history shows that both parties have screwed up.
BLITZER: OK, Congressman, stand by. You can call me Wolf, by the way.
We will take a quick break. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Donald Trump supporter Congressman Tom Marino.
Congressman, it turns out, as you probably know by now, that Donald Trump added in that line about Mexico paying for the wall in his immigration speech the other night in Phoenix only after the Mexican president tweeted that Mexico would not pay for the wall.
Hillary Clinton called Trump someone who could be baited by a tweet.
Did he prove her right in this particular instance?
Donald Trump says what's on his mind. And that's what the American people want. At least, that's what I'm hearing, not only in Pennsylvania, but across the country.
We said -- he made it very clear that they were not going to discuss, according to the private conversation, concerning who was going to be paying for the wall. But I think there are several ways to pay for the wall. So, and I think Donald Trump is sticking to his guns. He should stick to his guns.
We need that wall. The president of Mexico and Donald agreed on many things, the criminals crossing the borders into the United States, the guns and the money going into Mexico, the people traveling from Central America through Mexico to get to the United States. So, they got off on a positive start. It's only the first conversation.
And in politics, in conversations like this, it takes more than one to try and reach an agreement.
BLITZER: You're a member of Congress. You understand how the House and Senate works, Republicans and Democrats. Do you believe Democrats would vote for paying for a brand-new wall to be built along those 2,000 miles?
MARINO: No, I don't, because here's the premise. A lot of the Democrats that I hear on the floor want amnesty.
And to me it's the greatest voter registration scam in the history of this country.
BLITZER: Because if these people are allowed to become U.S. citizens, you think most of them would vote for the Democratic Party; is that what you're saying?
MARINO: Oh, of course, or else they wouldn't be -- they wouldn't be U.S. citizens.
Amnesty is not the answer here. Protecting the border is the first issue, and it protects Mexico as well. And we do need a wall there. We need the high-tech 21st century wall there. And, certainly, I have been to Mexico. I have spoken. I'm vice president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. I have spoken with -- I have had conversations with Mexican leaders.
They understand what the problem is. But they just don't see to want to be able to do anything about this.
BLITZER: Congressman Marino, thanks very much for joining us.
MARINO: You bet.
BLITZER: Just ahead: Is there anything in FBI report on Hillary Clinton's e-mails that could change voters' minds?
And we're also tracking the threat from Hermine. After hitting Florida as a hurricane, it's now threatening 40 million people on the East Coast on this holiday weekend.
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news, the FBI releasing its report on the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails, along with notes on the bureau's interview with Hillary Clinton.
Let's bring in our CNN political analyst Rebecca Berg. She's a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. Also joining us, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, CNN political analyst Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," and our justice correspondent, Evan Perez.
Ryan, how damaging is this report to Hillary Clinton?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think there are some things in -- you have a lot more detail, right, no smoking gun. If there were a smoking gun, she would have been indicted.
But we have more detail about some of her carelessness, frankly. One that's getting a lot of attention is this -- e-mails with the markings of the letter C on it. She said she told the FBI she didn't know that that meant classified.
And I think that raises questions about, if saying you're the most prepared person ever to be president, you should probably know what classified markings on documents mean.
Now, she has apologized. She has said she was careless. So politically, you know, I think people have really made up their mind on this issue. I don't think it's going to change a lot of -- a lot of minds, but it's damaging to her.
[18:30:21] BLITZER: Will it have an effect, Gloria, on these undecided voters out there?
BORGER: Well, it's hard -- you know, it's hard to say. What it does is it plays into a pre-existing narrative about her, which is that she's not forthright and that -- and I think what the Trump campaign is trying to do right now, and you can't blame them, is they're also trying to play into and say, "Look, she was careless. She can't be trusted." And that plays into another narrative about her. And we've seen that when she's had issues over the last two or three
weeks, her national polling lead has been cut in half. Whether that's directly related to this or not or whether national polling at this point really matters or not is another question.
People who love Hillary Clinton, the e-mails do not matter one whit. OK? It's not an issue for them. For other people, it might be, and, you know, to a certain extent, it could have an impact.
BLITZER: Evan, I've gone through the FBI reports, the complete reports released today made public, some redactions in there, as you know. What stood out in your mind? What are the mayor points that the Trump campaign is likely to seize on?
PEREZ: Well, I think -- I think you're going to see an ad in which they're going to point out 39 times in which she was asked questions by the FBI and she didn't recall. I think that goes back to the question of whether or not she's forthright, whether she is, you know, forthcoming with answers whenever she gets into trouble. I think you're going to see some of that in ad campaigns coming forward.
And then frankly, the thing that really starts this all is the CIA drone program. And this is really a fight that's been going on for years behind the scenes between the State Department and the CIA over this program. And this is where you see it played out in these e- mails. Hillary Clinton talking about it. Her aides talking about it in oblique terms. And this is what really started this and has really overshadowed her campaign as a result.
LIZZA: And this is what the FBI was really getting at in the interview. They really wanted to know if that crossed the line.
PEREZ: Right. They wanted to know whether she understood that what she was doing was wrong. And you come away from this point of view that, frankly, the FBI concluded that, despite all her years in public service and all her time here in Washington, she really did not understand and did not know how to handle classified information, which again, goes to the question of how prepared is she?
BLITZER: And Rebecca, that's why the FBI director said he did not recommend criminal charges. He said she was extremely careless in dealing with classified information; she was negligent in dealing with classified information; but she didn't commit any crime.
BERG: Exactly. And so that's really, I think, the most important point if you're Clinton's campaign and Clinton herself, is that there was nothing in here that was bad enough to charge her with a crime. And so that's really -- we couldn't have expected anything out of this report that would be a smoking gun, because we knew -- we knew the end of the story before we read the beginning of the book. Right? We know how this ends.
PEREZ: Everybody -- everybody who's reading these pages today is reading it from the lens of where they already started. So Republicans and critics of Hillary Clinton are reading it from that place. And her supporters, like Gloria said, are reading it from the other.
BORGER: And, you know, the Trump campaign has put out a bunch of statements today, as you might anticipate, and one said, you know, after reading all these documents from Donald Trump himself saying this, I really don't understand how she was able to get away from prosecution. Raising questions about why the FBI did not decide to prosecute her.
LIZZA: And their argument has always been that they looked through the case history, and they never saw a case brought for something like this. And, I mean, that's fairly persuasive. Right? Until someone -- until the Trump campaign or someone else says, "Oh, wait a second. We found someone that did exactly what Hillary Clinton did, and they were -- you know, and they were prosecuted and they went to jail," then Comey, I think, has the -- you know, the facts on his side.
BLITZER: The Republican nominee, he's going to go before a black church in Detroit tomorrow. He's going to reach out for African- Americans. A little late right now. Only 68 days to go. He hasn't really done that yet.
But the -- some of the strategists are suggesting he really doesn't anticipate getting a big voter, amount of voter support among African- Americans, but maybe this will convince some undecided white people out there in suburban areas, for example, he's a much more realistic, reasonable kind of guy.
BORGER: I think that is largely what it's about. I mean, obviously, they'd like to get up their African-American support from zero to something a little bit more than zero.
LIZZA: Right. Speaking of nothing to lose.
BORGER: I think Mitt Romney had 6 percent. I mean, you know.
[18:35:00] But I think what this is about is people who might be thinking about voting for Donald Trump who think he's intolerant, particularly suburban women, white voters who don't like Hillary Clinton, some of them. You know, and I think they -- but they hold back, because they don't want to vote for an intolerant person.
BERG: And this is the message that Hillary Clinton herself is now pushing. Going on the campaign trail and saying that Donald Trump is actively pushing a racist message with his campaign. This gives him an opportunity to say, "Well, look, if I were pushing a racist message, would I be going to this black church and speaking directly to this group of people?"
BORGER: Right, but it's pre-planned. Right? Because they know that they can't have another "what have you got to lose" moment.
BLITZER: You know, Evan, it's very interesting on a different -- a different political story that's unfolding involving the Russian president, Putin. He's denying that Russia had anything to do with the hacking of the Democratic Party computers, although he's saying it's a good thing they came out, because the public deserves to have this kind of information.
PEREZ: It's really remarkable that the Russian president has such a great point of view about the American public being informed about what's going on in their government. And, you know, you'd wonder whether he would support that for the Russian people, as well.
Look, the U.S. intelligence officials that I've talked to for the last few weeks are certain that this is the work of Russian intelligence, and this is classic, this is exactly what they like to do.
The Clinton campaign wants people to believe that Putin is trying to get Donald Trump elected. People don't believe that actually is the case. That what's happening here is more of he's creating noise. I think the Russians want to create noise. They think, by the way, that what -- whatever is happening here, they think the U.S. is doing this and worse to them. They remember that Hillary Clinton in 2011, during -- during his campaign, she said that he was stealing the election. So he's trying to, frankly, get even with the United States.
LIZZA: I mean, both sides steal each other's secrets. Right? And I'm sure our intelligence services try and steal party secrets from the Russians. What is so dramatically different in this case is not just stealing it but strategically leaking it, if that's, indeed, what happened.
PEREZ: He's in support of Assange.
LIZZA: I think that's different than what Hillary -- Hillary Clinton making a public statement.
LIZZA: Versus, say, our NSA grabbing some documents from the Kremlin and then releasing it to damage him.
BORGER: And if you're stealing secrets, maybe you also have some secrets on Republicans that you are not, as you put -- as you call it, strategically leaking. Because I presume, if the Russians are spying, which they are, they're doing it to everybody.
LIZZA: That's why I don't necessarily buy that he's not trying to elect Donald Trump. I think he's got a history of doing this.
BLITZER: What do you think, Rebecca? Do you think the Russians would want Trump to be the next president?
BERG: I think it's pretty clear, if you look at the public statements that Vladimir Putin has made, that he thinks Trump is actually a pretty good guy. And based especially on some of the policies that Donald Trump has pushed. Pulling out of NATO, potentially, if other countries aren't paying their fair share. That's something that Russia would love, because if NATO isn't as strong, it potentially destabilizes Europe, gives Russia a chance to have more influence.
And so there are a lot of policies that Donald Trump has pushed that Russia would view very favorably.
BLITZER: We have...
BORGER: I think it's also personal. I mean, Hillary Clinton pushed the reset button, and then she said, "Wait a minute. Vladimir Putin is a bad guy." And she has come out publicly and spoken about Putin. And you know, I think he has a certain amount of ego here involved in these things, like a politician.
PEREZ: He's having fun.
BORGER: Yes. And she's stirring the pot.
BLITZER: I'm sure he is. All right. Everyone stand by. We have much more on this Putin story that's coming up, new information coming in. Also, we're going to preview a major new CNN documentary on Donald Trump. Gloria's been working on it for months and months and months. Stay with us.
[18:43:36] BLITZER: We're back with our political team as we head into the Labor Day weekend and the final gasp of summer before the heat of the fall presidential campaign.
Gloria, you've done, really, an amazing job putting together this two- hour documentary on Donald Trump. It will air Monday night, Labor Day here on CNN. Let me play a little clip.
BORGER (voice-over): Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, one of the biggest in the world. Lots of glitz, glamour and stage craft. But behind the curtain, serious problems.
ALAN LAPATAS (PH), ARCHITECT, TRUMP PLAZA: When I went there on opening day, it was a mess.
BORGER: Alan Lapatas (ph) was the architect for Trump Plaza.
LAPATAS (PH): And you couldn't find your way around without a guide dog, which is not good for a casino.
BORGER: And Lapatas (ph) says the casino control commission had issues, too.
LAPATAS (PH): They shut down a third of the slots. The slots are the primer of a new producer of the new casino. To shut down a third on opening day was both humiliating and financially disastrous.
JACK O'DONNELL, RAN TRUMP PLAZA: It really was a breakdown of monumental proportions.
BORGER: Jack O'Donnell ran Trump Plaza for three years. He was there when the Taj opened. O'DONNELL: Donald's answer to the problem was to immediately go in
and shame the little, and berate and demand firings in the midst of the chaos. And that's the last thing that a good leader does in those -- in that situation.
BORGER (voice-over): O'Donnell was tapped to restore the calm. Weeks later, O'Donnell says he resigned. Trump says he was fired.
O'DONNELL: Donald is so wrapped up in hyperbole that it's almost constant lies. Something could go bad, like the opening of the Taj, and he would say it's because we had so much business here that this happened. Not that the systems broke down, not that we don't know what we were doing. We had so much business it broke down.
LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: What about the slot machine thing where they were down for a while?
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: The slots were so hot, nobody has seen people play that hard and that fast.
KING: So, what, it blew out the slots literally?
TRUMP: They were virtually in play. It was a fuse, or like a fire.
BORGER: No one felt the heat more than Trump himself. With his life playing out in the papers, from his businesses, to the break up to his 12-year marriage to Ivana.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. You really -- we're going to have these documentaries airing Monday night, but, Gloria, you go through his whole life. All of his business life, his personal life. It really tells the story of Donald Trump.
BORGER: That's what we're trying to do in these documentaries is sort of give you. You know, we are so involved in the minute by minute of the campaign. And we're trying to step back and give you a portrait of Donald Trump, the breadth of his life, who he is, who he was growing up, who he was as a businessman, and the thing that was stunning to me, Wolf, in talking to people from all parts of his life is that they say he hasn't changed. That Donald Trump is Donald Trump. He didn't change to get into politics. He is the person that people I've spoken to who knew him 30 years ago say nothing in this campaign has surprised them because they know what he's like.
So, I think what we're trying to do here is give you a view of his life which, by the way, happens to be very interesting.
BLITZER: As much as we know about Donald Trump, we're going to learn more about this Republican nominee in the course of these two hours.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I haven't seen it but just in that small clip learned something. That's a classic Trump, right? The regulators, if I'm standing this correctly, shut down the slots. Larry King asked him about and he says, well, people were playing them so hard.
BORGER: They exploded.
LIZZA: He comes up with some kind of wild excuse. What did you learn about him that surprised you more than anything in putting this together?
BORGER: I think what surprised me was the notion he hasn't changed. I'm used to covering politicians who change all the time. What surprised me was that this is a businessman who decided, I think, that the next, what was he going to do. What was left for Donald Trump.
And running for president, to him, after becoming a national celebrity, don't forget, "The Apprentice" made Donald Trump a national celebrity, that he had to stage. What was left for him? There was something and it was running for the presidency.
And to him, it seemed a natural extension. In talking to people who know him well, they say he was never going to go for something smaller in politics. If you know Donald Trump, he was going to go for the largest.
BLITZER: And, Rebecca, there's no doubt that he beat 16 or 17 Republicans for the nomination, governors, senators. Jeb Bush had $150 million, didn't go very far. And now, he's one of two people who could be the president of the United States.
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: It's astounding, to say the at least. I'm so excited to see this documentary and learn more about the background that prepared him for this moment or didn't prepare him for this moment potentially, because what he was dealing with in business was in many ways different than what he's dealing with now.
BORGER: And, you know, we start out when he was this young, successful, real estate builder, developer, following in his father's very successful footsteps. Take him to Atlantic City where he made a lot of money. We take him through the fall where he faced his bankruptcies and his comeback, which was kind of astonishing, all the way through the sort of national celebrity and the campaign.
BLITZER: We're looking forward to it, Monday night.
Gloria, thank you so much for doing this. Excellent work, two-hour documentary. Please be sure to watch the back to back special reports on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It all begins Monday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Two documentaries, each two hours. You'll want to see both of these documentaries.
Just ahead, after leaving behind flooding in Florida, and a quarter million customers without power, Hermine is moving through Georgia, into the Carolinas and threatening tens of millions along the Atlantic Coast.
[18:50:02] And Russia's Vladimir Putin said he doesn't know anything about the cyberattacks on the Democratic Party and other institutions. Is that a denial?
BLITZER: Tonight, 40 million people on the East Coast are on the path of a dangerous storm as the holiday weekend begins. Hermine is hitting into the Carolinas after hitting Florida as a hurricane.
CNN's Brian Todd is in Charleston, South Carolina, for us.
What's the latest there, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just got another dose of some high wind and threatening skies behind me. You've got some rip tide and storm surge that still remains a threat here in Charleston.
[18:55:01] As the storm starts to move away from here, right now, tonight, the threat really lies with the outer banks, they're starting to get drenched with rain in the outer banks. They could get seven inches of rain in some areas there. Plus, again, storm surges and riptides there.
And the danger of this storm tonight, Wolf, is how deceptive it is. This is a storm that has gathered strength, lost strength and now could gather again. As it moves off the outer banks we are told that it could gather strength again as it heads out before touching shore on the Delaware shores, plus New Jersey and then as it moves into New York.
So, again, this is a storm that is much more resilient than people thought it would be and from here in the Carolinas up toward the mid- Atlantic, people are -- officials are warning people, look, you've got take this more seriously than many of you seem to be taking it. Don't go out if you don't have to, don't drive through deep ponds in the roads. Just take it more seriously than a lot of you seem to be doing and hopefully, we'll get through this in the next 24 hours, Wolf.
But this storm tonight still remains a threat from here up to New Jersey and then into New York.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you very much.
Turning now to Russia and serious concerns that Moscow may be trying to tamper with the U.S. presidential election. Tonight, Vladimir Putin is denying his government was behind cyber attacks on the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.
But the rest of Putin's new interview seems to send a very different message. Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is looking into this.
Elise, what are you finding out?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in his first public comment since the Democratic Party hacking, Vladimir Putin said he wasn't involved, but he said whomever was responsible committed an act of public service and in his carefully chosen words have some Russia watchers questioning whether his denials fall flat.
LABOTT (voice-over): Tonight, a carefully worded denial and praise for the stunning cyberattack against the Democratic National Committee, both coming from one of the leading suspects, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Does it even matter who hacked the data from Mrs. Clinton's election campaign office? The important thing is the content that was given to the public.
LABOTT: In an interview with Bloomberg News, the former KGB agent turned Russian leader now calling the theft and publication of e-mails from the Democratic Party servers in July a public service, and saying there is no reason to bother investigating who was responsible for the breach.
PUTIN (through translator): There's no need to distract the public's attention from the essence of the problem by raising minor issues connected with the search for who did it.
LABOTT: The messages, including disparaging conversations about Bernie Sanders, between the Democratic Party's then-chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and party officials, led to Wasserman-Schultz's ouster as the Democratic convention was just beginning.
In the wake of the release, Donald Trump praised Putin and encouraged the Russian government to try and hack into Hillary Clinton' private e-mail server.
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
LABOTT: Putin's first public comments about the hack today come as sources told CNN last month the U.S. intelligence community is convinced Russia was behind the hack along with recent attempted breaches at "The New York Times" and several think tanks in Washington, raising concerns about Russia's intentions, but Putin says he isn't taking sides in the U.S. election.
PUTIN (through translator): I would like to work with the person who can make responsible decisions and implement any decisions that we reach. Their last name doesn't matter.
LABOTT: Tonight, experts say Putin's comments about the cyber attack appear to be carefully crafted especially his denial.
PUTIN (through translator): I don't know anything about it and on a state level, Russia has never done this.
LABOTT: One former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine points to Putin's use of the phrase "state level", which essentially gives the Russian leader an out. JOHN HERBERT, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Mr. Putin has made a
practice of conducting quasi official operations for state purposes. That, in a sense, puts one layer away of the activity from the government. Again, same reason why mafia dons hire hit men who are not part of their organization.
LABOTT: Now, Putin didn't take sides in the interview. In fact, he didn't have much enthusiasm for either candidate. Tonight, the Clinton campaign says Putin's comments suggests he is endorsing foreign interference in the U.S. election. A spokesman calls this a national security issue and says the American people deserve answers about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Those denials not enough for the Clinton campaign.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of suspicion that Putin and the Russians are trying to interfere in domestic American politics.
Elise, thank you very much for that report.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.