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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Foundation Pay-to-Play Scandal?; Trump Pulls Ahead in New Poll; FOX News Settles Roger Ailes Lawsuit. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 6, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:20]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is after Labor Day, so put away the white, break out the red and the blue.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Sixty-two days and eight hours until Election Day, but who is counting? It is a nearly even race. Brand-new CNN national polls showing a major shift in the campaign, and why you can never, ever, count out Donald Trump.

Trump is crisscrossing the country yelling crooked Hillary, but today it's Donald Trump's own charity getting a new serious look for alleged pay-to-play hypocrisy.

Plus, outfoxed -- FOX News paying a former anchor $20 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against former CEO and current major player in the Trump campaign Roger Ailes.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Labor Day has marked a real shift in strategy for Hillary Clinton, today talking to reporters and launching attack after attack against Donald Trump for not releasing his tax returns and for much more.

No secret as to why the shift. The race is getting much tighter, according to some polls. Take our brand-new CNN/ORC poll, for instance. If you're sitting in Clinton's campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, you're probably hoping this poll is an outlier, that other poll numbers to come out will give a more accurate and favorable snapshot of the race.

But if you're sitting in Trump Tower, you're hoping against hope that CNN/ORC polls are right and that you're now winning the presidential race by the slimmest of margins right after Labor Day, when the election truly gets serious.

Let's right to CNN political director David Chalian.

David, what is the head-to-head horse race number here in the new CNN/ORC poll and what are the reasons for that underneath the top line?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Let's take a look at that four-way race in the horse race.

And this is among likely voters. Now that we're past Labor Day, we're talking at likely voters. Trump has this two-point edge, 45 percent to 43 percent, over Clinton, 7 percent for Johnson, 2 percent for Stein. This is a margin of era race.

Let's look at what is underneath it. This is what is driving the horse race here. Independent voters, Donald Trump has a 20-point advantage among independent voters 49 percent to 29 percent. Remember, Mitt Romney won independent voters, still lost the election, but he only won them by only five points.

Hillary Clinton will have some work to do with folks in the middle of the electorate. And look at women. I think this is one of the most interesting findings we have. Hillary Clinton is winning women overall by about 15 points, but she is beating Donald Trump by 53 points among single women vs. Donald Trump, who is winning married women by 17 points.

This is a normal partisan divide that we see, but it is on steroids this election season. And then finally the key factor of enthusiasm. Are you very enthusiastic about voting? And 58 percent of Trump voters say they are extremely or very enthusiastic. Only 46 percent of the Clinton voters say that. This is a warning sign. The Clinton campaign is going to want to boost that enthusiasm if they're going to get the kind of turnout that they're looking for, Jake.

TAPPER: David, obviously, it is not a national popular vote referendum. It is state by state. Are there more paths for Donald Trump to get to that magic number of 270 electoral votes?

CHALIAN: He still has a real narrow path to 270 electoral votes.

And you're right to notice that. It is a state-by-state contest. Most battleground states, she, Hillary Clinton, has the advantage right now, and in fact almost all of the battleground states. Donald Trump will need to do the work on the ground to actually create an opening for him to have a cleaner past to 270 than he does right now.

TAPPER: David Chalian, thank you.

It's not all good news for Donald Trump in this poll, of course. Look and you will find several critical areas where the Republican nominee needs to shore up his standing with voters, two of them on who would better handle foreign policy.

Trump trails Clinton in that poll among registered voters 56 percent to 40 percent. And on temperament, on proving that Mr. Trump can sit in the big chair and command, Trump lags behind Clinton 56 percent to 36 percent, big numbers where he needs to improve.

Sunlen Serfaty is here with me in Washington.

Sunlen, this event that Trump just held this afternoon in Virginia Beach seems to be intended to fix those numbers and lessen doubts that voters might have about Mr. Trump as commander in chief. SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right.

This was an event that was designed specifically by the Trump campaign to focus on national security to try to compensate for all of that, but for Trump it is still about the lingering questions after his almost daily recalibrations to his immigration policy that continues to have the spotlight.

[16:05:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): Donald Trump is making an across-the-board play to flex his national security muscles.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should not have been in Iraq, but we should not have gotten out of Iraq the way we got out. ISIS just evolved out of all of the turmoil, all of weakness, all of the stupidity of the decisions from Hillary Clinton, from Barack Obama.

SERFATY: The GOP nominee is campaigning today with retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn in Virginia.

TRUMP: People say as an example, Russia, Hillary likes to play tough with Russia. Putin looks at her and he laughs.

SERFATY: As his running mate, Mike Pence, hammers a similar theme in Missouri.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's been amateur hour on the world stage for the last 7.5 years. Donald Trump showed you can have broad shoulders and still stand with grace and poise on the international stage.

SERFATY: The synchronized effort includes the campaign's release of a letter signed by 88 retired million leaders announcing their support for Trump and calling for a "long overdue course correction in our national security posture."

But as the Trump team tries to refocus on national security, Trump's still shifting stance on immigration is raising more questions about the cornerstone issue of his campaign.

TRUMP: I'm not ruling out anything, no, no.

SERFATY: Trump is refusing to close the door on potentially allowing undocumented immigrants to get legal status without leaving the country, telling reporters Monday:

TRUMP: We're going to make that decision into the future, OK? Good question. I'm glad you asked me. That decision will be made.

SERFATY: Trump also leaving open the possibility in an interview with ABC News, saying it could be that some undocumented immigrants get to stay, adding -- quote -- "I'm going to make a decision or somebody will, whether it's me or somebody else, because by that time, we will have a secure border. We will have a wall."

But that position stands in direct conflict with what Trump said less than a week ago at his major immigration policy speech in Arizona.

TRUMP: For those here illegally today who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only, to return home and apply for reentry like everybody else.

SERFATY: This as Trump is still facing questions over his refusal to release his tax returns.

TRUMP: The only one that cares is the press, I will tell you, and even the press, I'll tell you, it is not a big deal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And a seemingly endless shift in Trump's positioning on immigration is leaving many to question whether this is a calculated strategic move on his part to intentionally keep his stance so vague. And certainly right now, Jake, he is giving a lot more questions than he is firm answers on all this.

TAPPER: All right, Sunlen Serfaty, thanks so much.

Donald Trump has been accusing Hillary Clinton of pay to play with donors to the Clinton Foundation, saying that they received special access to her as secretary of state.

But Clinton this afternoon launched a broadside against Trump about a donation he made to help the attorney general of Florida, Pam Bondi, as her office was reviewing a New York state complaint against Trump University, to see if there was any relevance to voters and citizens in Florida. Her office ultimately decided it was not.

Last week, we learned that Trump paid a fine to the IRS for an illegal $25,000 donation by his foundation to a political group supporting Attorney General Bondi. As a candidate, Donald Trump has bragged about what he has been able to get because of political donations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have given to Hillary. I have given everybody, because that was my job. I have got to give to them, because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass, OK? It's true. They kiss my ass.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: In this case, Trump this week insisted he only gave money to Bondi because he has known her for years and he respects her, but it's worth noting his charitable foundation violated tax law by making this donation to a political group.

CNN's Drew Griffin has been investigating this for months. And, Drew, you first told us about this donation back in June. And I guess it's a pretty simple question. Is this an example of what Mr. Trump has bragged about in the past -- quote -- "I got to give to politicians, when I want something, I get it"?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, as you can imagine, both Donald Trump and Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi deny there was anything like a quid pro quo, pay to play, but we found the facts and we will let them speak for themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is my great honor to introduce to you...

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is a huge supporter of Donald Trump.

BONDI: ... the next president of the United States of America, Donald Trump.

GRIFFIN: Bondi is also the Florida attorney general whose office decided not to pursue a case against Donald Trump.

And the decision was made almost exactly at the same time Trump made a $25,000 donation to Pam Bondi's political PAC.

TRUMP: I have just known Pamela Bondi for years. I have a lot of respect for her, never spoke to her about that at all.

GRIFFIN: Trump on his plane this weekend denies any connection. Pam Bondi also forcefully denies any connection, calling it bullying by the Clinton campaign.

[16:10:05]

So, what did happen? Here are the facts. Pam Bondi took office in 2011. Trump University was already out of business. Prior to her taking office, Florida attorney general's office received 20 complaints against Trump Institute, a business affiliated with Trump, but it, too, was out of business.

Since Pam Bondi took office, up until the decision was made, Florida received just one complaint against Trump University. According to a spokesman for Florida's attorney general: It wasn't enough to justify Florida filing suit. Instead, staff, doing due diligence, reviewed the complaints and the New York litigation and made the proper determination that the New York litigation would provide relief to aggrieved consumers nationwide."

In other words, Floridians could join New York's lawsuit. The spokesman also told CNN Pam Bondi had nothing to do with it, the decision was made by staff. In fact, the spokesman says Pam Bondi didn't even know there were complaints around Trump.

But around the same time the Florida attorney general's office was deciding to not pursue a case against Trump, Pam Bondi was pursuing Donald Trump himself for a political donation. It was September of 2013. Trump's foundation donated $25,000 to Bondi's political action committee. Bondi's attorney general's office never pursued the case.

Did one follow the other? Pam Bondi, again today on FOX Business News, says no.

BONDI: Of course I asked Donald Trump for a contribution. That's not what this is about. She was saying she was under investigation by my office at the time and I knew about it, none of which is true.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Jake, we should also point out many states were looking at complaints about Trump University and deciding if they should pursue a case or not. That includes Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Those states all have Democrats as attorneys general at the time. And, but for a few warning letters, they too decided not to file lawsuits against Trump -- Jake.

TAPPER: Hmm. Interesting.

Drew Griffin, thank you so much.

What does Ben Carson think about that $25,000 payment? That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:19] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Let's stick with our politics lead. Did you think that Donald Trump finally landed on a position that undocumented immigrants would not be able to stay in this country and eventually pursue legal status, did you think that? Well, think again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We're going to make that -- we're going to make that decision into the future. OK? Good question, I'm glad you asked. That decision will be made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Nine weeks until Election Day, and Donald Trump is still sending some rather mixed messages on this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Joining me now is former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, who's an adviser to Donald Trump.

Dr. Carson, thanks as always for being here.

DR. BEN CARSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely, a pleasure. TAPPER: So, I would love to get some clarity here on an issue that

continues to confuse people. During his immigration speech last week, Donald Trump said there would be no path to legalization without people going back to their home countries and then re-entering the United States and getting back in line like everything else. But during an interview with the press in his campaign plane yesterday, he said he was ruling anything out in terms of the people who are in this country illegally and that he would decide in the future.

Does Donald Trump have a firm immigration policy as to what happens to 11 or so million undocumented immigrants in this country right now and can you explain to me what it is?

CARSON: Well, he wants to prioritize things. It's sort of like if you had a laceration to your leg, an artery dastardly (ph) was cut and you're bleeding profusely. You can spend all your time trying to stop up the blood or you can put a tourniquet on up-stream.

And what we need to do is stop the flow of illegal people coming in here. So, he wants to secure the border first a foremost. And then we want to apply the laws. The laws have not really been applied. So, we don't really know what it looks, with Democrats and Republican. Nobody has applied it because they have all tried to --

TAPPER: This is what everybody said.

CARSON: No, they tried to use this issue as a political football.

TAPPER: I understand that, but what you're saying right now, seal the border, deal with the criminalities --

CARSON: Well, I haven't finished. I haven't finished yet.

TAPPER: Deal with the criminal aliens and then lastly, we'll deal with all those -- that's what everybody says. That's what Democrats say. That's what --

(CROSSTALK)

CARSON: I haven't finished yet, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Go ahead. Sorry.

CARSON: I have not finished, OK?

OK, so I said those are the priorities. Those are the first things you do. And then, you want to look and see what is left over afterwards. There will be time to consider in a compassionate and fair way what to do with individuals who don't necessarily want to become American citizens.

If they want to, they want to vote, they have to go through the same thing that everyone else does. But if they don't, there is a possibility of a guest worker program or other things. These are things that can be looked at in a calm and rational manner after we stem the tide. TAPPER: I understand that, sir, but as I was saying when I rudely

interrupted you, that is the same position that you had during the primaries, that Jeb Bush had during the primaries, that Marco Rubio had during the primaries, and as you know better than most, the way -- one of the ways that Donald Trump won was by saying he was going to be tougher than all of you guys, that he was going to remove all 11 million undocumented immigrants from this country with a deportation force. Now, that seems to be completely evaporating into the ether.

CARSON: Well, you know, it is irrelevant at this point, because it is what it is. He is the nominee, and has to come up with rational and workable plans, has to work with various advisors and experts in terms of the best way to do this, and it needs to be done in a fair and compassionate way that is consistent with the way we in America do things.

[16:20:06] TAPPER: With all due respect, sir, I don't think promises made to voters are irrelevant.

CARSON: Well, I didn't say that they were irrelevant, but bear in mind, when you -- what you talk about during a campaign, and what actually happens, as you know, in and all administrations are different. You get different information. You learn things along the way and you make adjustments along the way. Perhaps there are others who had already learned those things, it doesn't matters. The important thing is that it does get learned and it does get integrated into the process of decision making.

TAPPER: Well, I would disagree with you on the question about whether or not it matters. But I want to ask you about another important issue.

CARSON: Well, there's no -- there's no disagreement because I agree that it does matter.

TAPPER: Right, but it matters what somebody promises on their way to the nomination, and if they completely change their position to what all their opponents had during the primaries, it tends to undermine the sincerity of just that promise.

CARSON: Well, very much like the promises that have been made to people in our inner cities for decades. And yet their conditions are not getting any better, those matter, too.

TAPPER: Agreed and I'll get to that in one second.

I want to ask you, Donald Trump continues to hammer Hillary Clinton for alleged corruption. But I want to get your reaction to Donald Trump's charitable foundation donating $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, at the same time she was looking at fraud allegations against Trump University. She obviously did not pursue that, did not enter into the suit, along with New York State.

Critics say he was trying to influence her decision. Trump has bragged that he gives money to politicians and they do his bidding.

Does this situation bother you at all?

CARSON: Well, let me put it his way. I know them both, I know that they're friends, and I know that people tend to support their friends and their campaigns.

Pam Bondi is a very meticulous lawyer and would be looking very carefully at anything that looked askew. So, I say, if people want to investigate it, they should, but it is not consistent with what I know.

TAPPER: The contribution, of course, was illegal. The contribution that Donald Trump made and he had to pay a fine, a $2,500 fine.

CARSON: And if that was illegal, he should have paid a fine. There's no question about it. I have no problem with that.

TAPPER: You don't think it undermines his charges against Hillary Clinton that she's crooked when he's doing something that looks to be textbook example of pay to play, you give this person, they don't pursue a legal action against you and your university?

CARSON: Well, you know, Donald Trump has admitted that he knows how the system works, and that he has worked with both Democrats and Republicans, and that money has been exchanged. You know, he has not tried to hide the fact that has occurred.

A lot of times the rules become more clear after you have done something. That certainly was the case I think with Dinesh D'Souza. But it happens, and that's the reason that we have laws and the reasons that we have rules and people have to pay the consequences when they occur. One of the things that I learned during my run is that the depth of corruption on both sides is unimaginable. It's just unimaginable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: What about Donald Trump's stepped up efforts to reach minority owners, does that trip to Detroit matter if Trump is unwilling to apologize for pushing the false accusation that President Obama was not born in this country? Our interview with Ben Carson continues, next.

Plus, with Zika spreading in the U.S., will Congress finally get around of passing that Zika funding that they couldn't agree on before they took a seven-week recess?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:38] TAPPER: We're back to THE LEAD.

And we're going to stay with politics lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

Donald Trump's recent pitch to African-American voters has been -- Democrats have failed you, what do you have to lose by giving me a shot? The GOP nominee took that message to a black church in Detroit Saturday? But is the strategy working?

Trump's former rival and current campaign advisor, Dr. Carson, is still with us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Dr. Carson, you were with Mr. Trump in Detroit over the weekend. You took him on a tour of your neighborhood. He's been saying he will make lives better for African-American and other minority groups in this country. It doesn't seem as though nonwhite voters are buying it. When asked in a recent poll, who would better improve life for minorities, 86 percent of respondents favored Clinton, compared to just 12 percent for Donald Trump. That's a poll among nonwhite voters.

It doesn't seem as though Mr. Trump's outreach is working.

CARSON: But wouldn't you agree, Jake, that it's better than he do some outreach. You know, traditionally, the Republicans have pretty much left the African-American vote to the Democrats and assume that there was no point in even trying for it. He is at least making an effort and putting out some proposals that are actually pretty darn good, you know, in terms of school choice, and school vouchers.

The reason that the Democrats are against those escapes me, because a good education is really the foundation for success in our society. And he is talking about policies that will, you know, create an atmosphere that allow jobs to flourish.