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Trump Again Claims He Opposed Iraq War; Clinton Talks About her Faith; RNC Chair On Clinton: "No Smile" During Forum; Veterans Weigh In On Forum; How To Win Over Undecided Voters; Gary Johnson On Syria: "What Is Aleppo?" Aired 9-10p ET.

Aired September 8, 2016 - 21:00   ET



[21:02:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us for the second hour of "360". If you thought you heard it all in this election, one candidate says Vladimir Putin is more of a leader than the sitting president of the United States. And the head of the RNC is criticizing the other candidate, the first woman nominated by a major party because he thinks she didn't smile enough last night.

May I remind you, there are still two months to go. The first debate just a few weeks away. We've got the latest from both campaigns tonight after a series of comments from Donald Trump at the NBC Forum last night. Sara Murray joins us now.

So Trump spent a lot of today defending what he said, explaining what he said in the forum last night.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. He did go after Hillary Clinton. He took another opportunity to take a couple shots at her for her use of a private e-mail server but he launched into a very lengthy defense today of his view of the war in Iraq. He again restated that he was opposed to the war before it began and this went on for quite awhile. But I want to play just a portion of it for you.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Before the war, much closer to the war, I gave statements that we shouldn't go in and shortly thereafter, immediately thereafter, and honestly, a lot of reporters said hey, right at the beginning, he made this statement. And that statement was a very major story in Esquire Magazine.

So I just wanted to set the record straight. There is so much lying going on. And Hillary Clinton lied last night about numerous things, including her e-mail but she also lied about this.


MURRAY: Now, Trump has made a habit of making this claim but in reality, there is no public evidence that he opposed the war in Iraq before it began. And that's the earliest public comments we've seen from him are at 2002 on Howard Stern where he was asked whether he supported the war and he said yeah, I guess so.

We even saw Esquire put out an editor's note. They pointed to this story in 2004 in which Donald Trump in fairness was very critical of the war in Iraq but in the editor's note they point out this story published more than a year after the war began, nullifying Trump's timeline. It was very clear the editors were very annoyed to see Donald Trump holding something like this up as evidence that he opposed the war in Iraq before it began, when there is really no proof of that, Anderson.

COOPER: Right. And Cory Lewandowski and the Trump campaign also point to an interview he gave with Neil Cavuto they say before the war in January, I think in 2003 the war began in March. But in that -- even in that interview, Trump said well, perhaps we shouldn't go in, perhaps we should, he's not definitively saying one way or the other which is something he had said although in passing on the Howard Stern show before the war.

So Trump's reading from that Esquire interview, he cited a section about Osama bin Laden. What did he say?

MURRAY: Well, this is particularly interesting because of the timing, Anderson. Of course, as you know, we're coming up on to the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

[21:05:01] And as he was citing this, there's a portion of the article in which he says that if he had been president, he would have caught Osama bin Laden much faster, that the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center never would have happened.

So an interesting comment to sort of reiterate in light of how close that anniversary is and also in light of the fact that both candidates have sort of agreed not to make Sunday a political day and both of them have said they will not be on the campaign trail.

COOPER: Sara Murray. Sara thanks very much.

Hillary Clinton a short time ago spoke about her faith at the National Baptist Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Earlier in the day she slammed Trump for his statements last night, saying he treats everything like a game, like he's living in his own celebrity reality T.V. program.

Joe Johns is here with the latest from the Clinton campaign. So a lot today -- Secretary Clinton spent a lot of time today expanding on what she said during the forum last night.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's clear they were not happy with what has been described as the rushed feeling of the forum. They say the candidate was asked in-depth questions, not given enough time to answer. Campaign said there needed to be more follow-up questions to Donald Trump that didn't get asked. Even sending out a fund-raising letter talking about the fact-checking in the forum, suggesting they need more money to fact-check Donald Trump.

And then today, the campaign felt it needed to get Hillary Clinton out there talking in front of the cameras because Trump had the last word at the forum, hence the Tarmac News Conference.

And Hillary Clinton also at one point revising an answer she gave during the forum when she said we're not putting ground troops into Iraq or Syria ever again. Today, she said putting ground troops in would not be in the best interests in the fight against ISIS and the other terrorist groups. Anderson, that's a much more nuanced statement.

COOPER: She also did spend part of the day taking on Donald Trump?

JOHNS: Right. She ripped into Donald Trump for praising Vladimir Putin while criticizing the American president. She called Trump unpatriotic, insulting, and scary, and said it suggests Trump would let Putin do whatever he wants to do, then making excuses for him. She also attacked Trump for "trash talking America's generals."

And I think what's important to point out here is despite how tight the overall race is, polls have also suggested Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by a significant margin among former or active duty military voters. So that's an area where she needs to make up some ground as you pointed out earlier, it's because we're approaching the anniversary of 9/11 and it's on a lot of people's minds, Anderson.

COOPER: Joe Johns. Joe thanks for the reporting.

Clinton also said today that Trump is unfit, totally unqualified to be commander-in-chief after he is, Joe just mentioned, trash talk American generals. That was her characterization, by the way, of what Trump said.

Here's a sampling of what he had to say about the military.


TRUMP: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it's embarrassing for our country.

We defeat somebody, then we don't know what we're doing after that. We lose it. Like as an example, you look at Iraq, what happened, how badly that was handled.

But if we're going to get out, take the oil. If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn't have ISIS because ISIS formed with the power and the wealth of that oil.

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: You've already said you know more about ISIS than those generals do.

TRUMP: Well, they probably be different generals, to be honest with you.

We've also got to make America strong again. And right now we are not strong. Believe me. We have a depleted military.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Joining me now is Trump supporter, retired Navy Rear Admiral Charles Williams and CNN military analyst retired Army General Mark Hertling.

Admiral Williams, let me ask you, when Donald Trump says take Iraq's oil, take the oil, he's talked early on about sending in U.S. oil companies to take the oil, surround those oil fields with troops, and he's quoted the idea, you know, to the victor goes the spoils. From a military, from a diplomatic, strategic standpoint, does that make sense to you to take the oil of a sovereign nation?

REAR ADMIRAL CHARLES WILLIAMS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, what I think he is saying is, as we did in World War I, we did in World War I think. There's a conference of nations who have been engaged in a fight and they sit down and they work out reparations, war reparations. This cost this country, our country, a lot of money to wage that war and to liberate Iraqis from Saddam Hussein. I think that's what he's referring to is there needs to be some kind of war reparation. We may have to go back in again to get rid of ISIS.

COOPER: But he's never actually said war reparations. He said take the oil. And to the victor goes to spoils. Is that a philosophy that should govern the U.S. military, the U.S. military?

WILLIAMS: There may be some Geneva Convention rules, and we had a nation rules, I don't know for sure. My take-away when he said that was he's talking really about getting some money back for the United States. And if it comes through oil, maybe the oil is shipped, it's -- there's revenue generated, and we get part of that revenue. I'm not sure how it would be worked out.

COOPER: Right.

WILLIAMS: But I think it's a war reparation, I think is what he's talking about.

COOPER: Because, General Hertling, I mean he has been very specific about taking the oil, about Chevron, other U.S. oil companies ...

[21:10:04] LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yeah. Let me jump on to it, Anderson.

COOPER: Right.

HERTLING: Let me -- I'm chomping at the bit here. It is a Geneva Convention violation. It violates two articles of the Geneva Convention. It would be a war crime. You leave when you attack a foreign nation and occupy it, you may take reparation but you leave the nation at its status quo. You don't steal its natural resources. That's number one.

Number two, I heard what Donald Trump said. It went on a long list of things that I've said I've heard him say on other subjects. And what's interesting is I -- for a guy who claims to be so outspoken and not politically correct in speaking the truth all day, I've heard multiple surrogates of Donald Trump explaining what he meant when he said I want to take the oil. This isn't an interpretive game. He's got to state what he means. Communications is a key element of a leader and he's failing miserably in this regard.

COOPER: Yeah. I mean in fact, Admiral Williams, in the past, when I have asked him well, won't the rest of Iraq, who are by the way our allies, won't they be upset that we are taking their oil. His response has been there is no Iraq, there are no Iraqis. That is not really a real country. Do you buy that as well?

WILLIAMS: I would still go back to -- if there was a conference of nations who have been engaged in this fight, work out a solution, and if the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government agree to with then I think he can do whatever that agreement is. And if it means taking small -- but people say taking oil, I'm not sure exactly what they mean.


COOPER: What he's saying specifically is -- no, he's saying Chevron, other U.S. oil companies, go in to the oil fields, have those oil fields surrounded by U.S. forces, that would be the U.S. forces on the ground, and take the oil. And give that money to wounded veterans here in the United States.

WILLIAM: Have you heard Donald Trump -- I have not heard him talk about an oil company, Chevron or Shell ...

COOPER: He said it to me multiple times.

WILLIAM: The Shell or Chevron.

HERTLING: Multiple times.

COOPER: Chevron. I believe Chevron ...


HERTLING: Investigate the guy you're supporting.

COOPER: I'm sorry. What, General?

HERTLING: Like so many other people, I would suggest the Admiral investigate and analyze the guy they're supporting. See the things that he said and then make judgments based on that. The guy continues to say these kind of things which institute war crimes, war crimes. Unethical, immoral, illegal behavior.

COOPER: And General Hertling, just to be clear, I mean you're saying this is somebody who served in northern Iraq. I mean if the idea of trying to convince the Iraqis that we should get some reparations which is something that was discussed early on, certainly, in the war, is saying to them you're not a real country, you don't really exist, is that a wise thing for a U.S. president to say?

HERTLING: No, I don't believe so. And in fact, that's exactly the opposite of what we're trying to do in Iraq. We're trying to help them get a government that represents the 19 million people that live there, the Shia, the Sunnis, the Kurds, the Ottomans, the Turks, the Assyrians, the Calibians. It is a very disparate nation. They certainly have some challenges but they've been trying to put together a government that in fact will represent their people.

And they actually need some of their natural resources to help them pay for some of the things like security forces, sewage, water, electricity, and oil is their biggest product. So taking their oil would actually run counter to what we're trying to do and establish a government that would support the people of Iraq.


COOPER: Admiral Williams -- sorry, go ahead.

WILLIAMS: I did not hear anybody say take a 100 percent of the oil and leave by Iraq with no oil. When you asked me to come on today, there was a conference -- there was a meeting yesterday that Matt Lauer hosted or conducted and I've listened to that earlier today and I didn't hear anything in that interview about Chevron coming in and running the oil tankers.

COOPER: Right. Well, I can tell you in multiple interviews, I mean with me, he has said that from early on in the primary season and he continues to say take the oil.

But when you hear Donald Trump say that America's generals have been reduced to rubble, Admiral, did that give you pause at all or do you agree that that is the case?

WILLIAMS: When I made flag, chief naval operations for all the admirals in that were recently promoted, and he did a test called Meyers Brig and they looked at different personalities. One of them was risk. And he was very concerned because what he found that all these new flags were concerned, they were risk-averse. They got a very low grade on risk. And he said we can't have this. You got to be on the point in the end of the spear, you got to be aggressive, you got to push the envelope. So he was very concerned about that. And I think Donald Trump is concerned about that.

You know, if -- anybody who's at command knows, that when your boss loses confidence in you, you get relieved, you get fired. So Donald Trump finds people he doesn't have confidence in, I think he'll make a change. I think that's appropriate.

[21:15:03] COOPER: General, that idea that America's generals have been reduced to rubble, what do you think of it?

HERTLING: I totally disagree, Anderson. And what might be interesting is to ask Mr. Trump to name a single active duty general that's serving or admiral that's serving right now. And I would bet a month's pay that he couldn't do it right now. The issue is he doesn't know the generals. He's surrounded himself with a coterie of retired people who are telling him some things.

Truthfully, the cohorts that I've been serving with, I retired three years ago but the men and women I've served with are extremely capable. They are not risk-averse. And in fact, they have been in combat for the last 14 years and have learned how to mitigate risk to give themselves the best advantage.

We are challenged with the environment right now. We are dealing with a terrorist fight which is a much more complex and difficult fight than America has ever fought before. But I would suggest that the leadership of America's Armed Forces are -- is in very good hands right now in all elements of the service.

And I would agree, if a commander-in-chief or the Secretary of Defense finds an admiral or general that has done something wrong, they should relieve them but that's not the case. What's happening right now -- they're have been some generals who have been asked to retire early or relieved from their positions because they weren't living up or violating standards but for the most part, the several hundred generals and admirals that are serving in the nation's military today, serving the 1 percent of the American population that are wearing the cloth of the country are pretty damned good.

COOPER: Yeah, Admiral Williams, I mean I would think given the fact that we have been at war now for more than a decade, there is a whole class of officers and generals who have been facing risk every single day of their service. And so, I mean to say that they're risk-averse, do you think you can really be risk-averse given that we've had now ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long?

WILLIAMS: Well, that's what the test showed but they had results and they briefed the flag officers.

COOPER: When was that, though?

WILLIAMS: That was around 2001.


WILLIAMS: But the other thing I would point, Anderson, there was a four-star general and the command back then was (inaudible). He was a marine. And I remember he complained about Congress and he said, "I need this. I need these resources, this equipment. I can't get it." And I said, General -- I was only six that time. I said, "Did you ever put those four stars on the table and say if you can't give me what I need or don't believe in me, then you should get somebody else?" And his answer to me was, "Look, let me explain it to you. There's a lot of political correctness. The one stars want to be two stars, the two stars want to be three stars, three stars want to be four stars and the four stars want to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs." So there was political correctness to be not too far out there, to be risk-averse. So I think that exists.

COOPER: Admiral Williams, appreciate you being on. General Hertling as well, thank you.

Coming up, Donald Trump doubling down on his comment about sexual assault in the military which is basically what do you expect when you put men and women together. That was a tweet he sent out. Obviously that comment is drawing criticism. We'll talk about that next. Also later, a third party meltdown and incredibly cringe-worthy moment from the Libertarian candidate. And also there's a warrant out for the Green Party candidate to be arrested. We'll explain all of that ahead.


[21:21:29] COOPER: Well Donald Trump's Twitter history is back in the news. He's batting away the criticism, doubling down on the controversial stance on sexual assault. At the forum last night, Matt Lauer asked Trump about it. Listen.


LAUER: In 2013, on this subject, you tweeted this, "26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military, only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?"

TRUMP: Well, it is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that that's absolutely correct. And we need to have strength and we need to ...

LAUER: So, this should have expected? And doest that mean the only way to fix it is to take women out of the military?

TRUMP: Well, it's happening, right? And, by the way, since then, it's gotten worse. No, not to kick them out but something has to be happen. Right now, part of the problem is nobody gets prosecuted. You have reported and the gentleman can tell you, you have the report of rape and nobody gets prosecuted. There are no consequence.

When you have somebody that does something so evil, so bad as that, there has to be consequence for that person. You have to go after that person. Right now, nobody's doing anything. Look at the small number of results. I mean, that's part of the problem.


COOPER: Joining me now are CNN political commentators, former Ted Cruz's communications director Amanda Trump -- excuse me, Amanda Carpenter ...


COOPER: Not a Trump supporter. Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany and Clinton supporter and former New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn.

Amanda, I'm wondering what, you know, I saw the tweet you sent out. You said that Trump, "seems indifferent to sexual assault in the military." Why is that what you took away?

CARPENTER: Well, he is saying, you know, what did do geniuses expect, it sounds like he's saying rape happens, deal with it.

And for someone who's auditioning to be commander-in-chief, to tell women that you should accept a certain amount of risk of rape as a condition of military service, that's demoralizing. That is a bad signal for a commander-in-chief to have sent.

COOPER: Kayleigh, is that what you took away about he said?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, I took away the exact opposite. In fact, I look he sent out that tweet in 2013, that's before he was at all in the public light and what he said was his real concern, not just 1 percent of folks who have been sexually assaulted either -- or those cases are prosecuted. They're either not reporting it or it's getting to the point of being reported and not being prosecuted. So he was concerned about this when he was not a candidate, when there was nothing in it for him.

COOPER: Let's just look at the tweet that he had sent out that you just referenced there. We can put it on the screen. "26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military, only 236 convictions. What did do these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?" Christine, how do you read that?

CHRISTINE QUINN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, I don't read it that way. And look, I do agree with Donald Trump that not enough is being done, but I don't think he understands that the right way to do it is out of the chain of command as Senator Gillibrand has said.

But that said, I think the more important part of the tweet is -- Amanda's right, the dismissive way he talks about what happened, almost as if it was a joke. And then to say what did you expect, that's to imply that women, because they want to serve their country, should expect the potential of the heinous crime of rape and sexual assault. When in fact, there's no evidence that bringing men and women together in the military do that. It's also offensive to the vast majority of men in the military who are not committing rape and sexual assault.

But I just think if you look at that and what Donald Trump has said about sexual harassment in the workplace, the way he's spoken about women, if you're not a 10 you don't matter.

[21:25:02] He just doesn't appreciate in my opinion at all the realities of being a woman in America and to say you expect it, which is something that is so devastating where he doesn't appreciate the issue.

COOPER: Kayleigh?

MCENANY: No. What he is saying is that any time you bring men and women together, there's a risk that there's going to be sexual assault. Of course, you look at college campuses. And the military should be prepared. That when you let women into active combat, you need to ensure that there are protections for these women. You need to ensure that, you know, they're independent JAG officers overseeing all these cases that maybe JAG officers oversee pretrial situations.

You know, he is concerned about this. And he said when you bring men and women together, you need to have a plan for when things go wrong that women are protected. There's nothing wrong with that.

COOPER: Amanda, I know you want to get in.

CARPENTER: Yeah. Well, one point on that. You know, when Donald Trump said -- posted that tweet, he was weighing in on a very active political debate. And it's what Christine brought up. It was Kirsten Gillibrand bill which Ted Cruz actually worked with her on co- sponsored it to take prosecutions for sexual assault in the military out of chain of command and to put it into an objective third party. That's something Donald Trump doesn't seem willing to support. He seems to like the system as it is.

MCENANY: That's not true. That's not what he said.

CARPENTER: And that's a question that's still ongoing. Well, we can ask him. Does he want to have sexual assault prosecuted within the chain of command or to an objective third party?


COOPER: He said last night there should be some sort of court system in the military ...


COOPER: ... which there is.

CARPENTER: Which is that ...

QUIIN: But that's not ...

CARPENTER: ... system isn't working ...

MCENANY: He's referring to ...

CARPENTER: ... clearly, that he's not talking intelligently ...

QUINN: Right.

CARPENTER: ... about this debate.


MCENANY: He's referring to the Heritage Foundations who has looked into this and said they don't want it outside of the military. They find that there are ways there are ways to protect women inside the military chain of command.

QUINN: Two things. One, the Heritage Foundation's research is incorrect. And I think what Senator Gillibrand did in a bipartisan way and is pushing to do really speaks to the reality of we need to take it out of the chain of command.

Donald Trump is correct in the sense of saying the chain of command has failed but he's incorrect about understanding the complexities of the solution. But I just want to go back to this idea that any time you put men and women together, there's the rape -- the risk of rape and sexual assault.

Rape and sexual assault are about power and control and violence. It's not about sexual attraction between men and women. It's about power, control and violence. And I think that statement by Donald Trump fails to understand this crime and its pervasive nature in society.

MCENANY: I was thinking you're so happy to have a Republican candidate for the first time talking about this issue, bringing it to the forefront, concerned about it before he was ever a presidential candidate. That's advocate you should be thrilled that Donald Trump is concerned about this.

QUINN: I'm not thrilled that he doesn't understand that the chain of command will not be the answer. It's been part of the problem. And I'm not thrilled when anyone, regardless of party, says that bringing men and women together, what did do geniuses expect, you should have known this was coming. That is victim blaming and I find it offensive.

COOPER: I want to also switch to something that RNC Chairman Reince Preibus tweeted out last night. He said, "Hillary Clinton was angry and defensive the entire time, no smile and uncomfortable. Upset that she was caught wrongly sending our secrets." That tweet has been deleted. Clinton responded with another tweet saying, "Actually, it's just what taking the office of President seriously looks like."

It's interesting because we went back and looked at the forum. It's not as if Donald Trump was actually smiling throughout. In fact, it was just at the beginning and at the end of the forum. By our count, Trump actually smiled less than Hillary Clinton did.

Does that tweet raise any questions to you? Because it's something that Clinton, you know, brought up. She was asked about and said, you know, in fact, let me show our viewers what Clinton said about it, the RNC.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to let all of you ponder that last question. I think there will be a lot of PhD thesis and popular journalism writing on that subject for years to come. I don't take my advice. And I don't take anything seriously that comes from the RNC. We were talking about serious issues last night.


COOPER: I was wrong. Actually, the RNC did not delete that tweet. But does that raise questions for you? I mean that women being told to smile more when nobody says the guy smile.

MCENANY: No. Hillary Clinton was visibly irritated having to account for her misused of classified information. And I think that's fair. It's been pointed out by nonpartisans. And in fact, Hillary Clinton's referenced Tim Kaine smile before, behind that smile is a backbone of steel and we didn't even raise an eyebrow when she brought up Tim Kaine's smile. I think this is why just 23 percent of women call themselves the feminist because, in my generation, millennial women, we're strong. We don't like the victim card. We don't like when Hillary Clinton used it against Bernie Sanders, and Rick Lazio, and now Reince Priebus.


MCENANY: We're strong.

QUINN: You know what? I'm pretty sure that myself as a 50-year-old woman and Hillary Clinton as a 68 or 69-year-old woman, we're pretty tough, too.

COOPER: We got to leave it there. Kayleigh McEcany, thank you. Christine Quinn, Amanda Carpenter as well.

[21:29:58] Just ahead, we're going to hear from a group of veterans who watched last night's presidential forum with our Gary Tuchman. Did the candidates' answers sway any of their votes?


COOPER: A lot of people still digesting some of the remarks made during last night's commander-in-chief forum. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump didn't appear together. They took questions from the same live audience, and military members and veterans onboard a decommissioned aircraft carrier in New York.

Gary Tuchman watched the forum with a group of veterans in Virginia. Here's his report.


CLINTON: ... my voting to give President Bush that authority was, from my perspective, my mistake.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 11 veterans, six from the navy, three army, one marine and one from both the navy and the marines.

TRUMP: I may love what the generals come back with.

TUCHMAN: So who do they think came across more presidential?

Well, we have four Democrats on the front, one, two, three, four, and independent here. Five Republicans in the back, one, two, three, four, five, independent there.

Who thought during this program Donald Trump did the best? Made you feel the safest? Everyone in the back. Five Republicans, one independent.

[21:35:50] Who thought Hillary Clinton did the best? One, two, three, four, five. You know, we didn't arrange rows like this. It just worked out that way. You all sat down at the chair.

Some levity after the program ended. But earlier in the evening, a very different atmosphere here in Virginia Beach. There was some criticism when Hillary Clinton talked about e-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As commander-in-chief, the buck stops with you. Yeah. Leadership starts at the top.

TUCHMAN: In contempt and sarcasm from the Republican vets when Clinton spoke more generally.

CLINTON: But I will also be as careful as I can in making the most significant decisions any president and commander-in-chief can make.


TUCHMAN: As for the Democratic veterans, when Donald Trump spoke, contempt was often conveyed without even saying a word.

LAUER: And you also said this, "I can promise you this, I will always tell you the truth."

TRUMP: It's true.

LAUER: So let me read some of the things you said.

TUCHMAN: But the Democrats in the group did speak out when they felt Trump spoke too vaguely and simplistically.

LAUER: So is the plan you've been hiding this whole time asking someone else for their plan?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no plan.

TUCHMAN: A prevailing feeling among the Democrats?

VERNARD T. HINES, U.S. ARMY VETERAN SUPPORTING CLINTON: Well, when they asked him what is your plan, say something.

TUCHMAN: And among the Republicans? One common theme emerged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't want my life in her hands.

TUCHMAN: And what about the independents? Army Veteran Steven Jones says he feels safer with Clinton than Trump.

STEVEN JONES, U.S NAVY VETERAN SUPPORTING CLINTON.: She's got clear and concise outlines for what she wants to do and how she plans on doing it.

TUCHMAN: The other independent is Army Veteran Gene Swisher. He doesn't feel comfortable with Trump's positive talk about Vladimir Putin.

TUCHMAN: Is that enough to disqualify him from you voting for him?

GENE SWISHER, U.S. ARMY VETERAN SUPPORTING TRUMP: I've only got two choices and that's a lesser of the two choices.

TUCHMAN: So you're voting for Donald Trump because more so because you don't like Hillary Clinton?

SWISHER: That's correct.

TUCHMAN: Opinions for the most part reinforced by this town hall.

ANTIONE HINES, U.S. NAVY VETERAN SUPPORTING CLINTON: He's a citizen statesman. He embodies leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would trust another CEO, another person inside the room, another general or another commander rather than him.

TUCHMAN: So other people on this panel here (inaudible) Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I trust him more than I would trust Donald Trump.

TUCHMAN: What do you think, guys? Do you take that as a compliment?

A night of considerable disagreement ending with laughter among 11 people who have served their country with distinction.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Virginia Beach, Virginia.


COOPER: I appreciate them all taking the time to do that. It doesn't look like last night's forum changed certainly any minds in that group. There are still plenty of undecided voters. And with 61 days to go, this is the final stretch for winning them over.

Joining me again tonight, CNN's senior political commentator and former Obama senior advisor David Axelrod and former Romney campaign adviser Stuart Stevens.

Stuart, we're about two months obviously from election day, what does Trump do at this point to get undecided voters behind him?

STUART STEVENS, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAUGN ADVISER: I think he has to reassure them and he also has to talk I think, about in more specifics some policy about what he would do. You need to know more what you're going to get with a Trump presidency.

Right now, Trump has a certain number of votes. But, you know, he's not doing nearly as well as Mitt Romney did with certain key groups of Republicans like white women. These are the -- and more educated voters. These are the key to winning a state like Pennsylvania. It's ultimately one of the keys to winning a state like Virginia. The north of Virginia voters. And in Florida, in Cincinnati suburbs. These are the voters he has to talk to.

And you can't sort of take this Breitbart approach. These aren't people who read Breitbart. And they want to know what's they're getting when they buy a president. And I think Trump, it's just kind of what, you know, famous box of chocolates. You don't know what you're going to get every bite.

COOPER: David, I mean two months out, obviously it's crunch time. Where do you think Hillary Clinton's campaign needs to focus resources right now?

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Well, I think it's the sort of the converse. I mean she's in a good position right now. She leads in virtually every battleground state in large measure because of what Stuart is saying, Trump's weakness among particularly college educated whites although also among minorities.

So I think her goal has to be to spend time or her mission has to be to spend time in those states and perhaps doing more campaigning in some suburban areas than a Democratic candidate normally would to try and keep block him from making gains in those areas.

I'd also add this. It's not just what she and he will be doing, but what their respective organizations will be doing. And I think in any close battleground state where the vote may be separated by a few points, the fact that her campaign has invested for a year and a year and a half, a major effort in identifying voters and doing the analytics that go along with that and in developing a sophisticated field operation is going to make a difference of a few points. And I'm not sure in the last 60 days if Donald Trump can make that up.

[21:40:15] COOPER: David Axelrod, Stuart Stevens, guys, thanks.

Just ahead, Donald Trump has stirred up a controversy among Democrats certainly over his immigration policies. So, I'll ask the nation's first Hispanic U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, what he thinks about Trump's immigration plans. All to get his take on last night's presidential forum.


COOPER: Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez has not yet endorsed either a presidential candidate. Appointed by President George W. Bush, he was a key architect of the administration's controversial counterterrorism policies. He's the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. attorney general. And he just published a memoir, "True Faith and Allegiance", a story of service and sacrifice in war and peace.

Gonzales watched last night's presidential forum. He joins me tonight.

Judge Gonzales, I'm curious by your reaction to what Donald Trump said at last night's commander-in-chief forum. He said U.S. military generals have been "reduced to rubbles.'' Said about Vladimir Putin that he's a leader far more than our President.

[21:45:01] Do you believe Trump passed the commander-in-chief test? ALBERTO GONZALEZ, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, obviously the voters are going to have to decide that, Anderson. The one thing I would remind your viewers is that lots of things are said during a campaign and then when someone takes the oath of office and becomes president you know, oftentimes, they have to back off of what they may have campaigned on.

But clearly, the president of the United States words matter and when you say something there have to have -- there has to be consequences to that and you have to be careful about what you say. Obviously, the military plays an important role in our society and the commander-in- chief is a constitutional office and, you know, when you have someone who understands that.

COOPER: One of the things your book addresses is your time as one of President Bush's top advisers in the aftermath of 9/11. I mean, I'm wondering, 15 years later, do you think Trump is the person best equipped to deal with the threat of terrorism? Because polls show on that subject, he is leading on Secretary Clinton.

GONZALES: Yeah, there's no question about the fact that president -- that Secretary Clinton has more experience in foreign policy. I mean, obviously, given her role as secretary of state and as a senator on the Foreign Relations Committee.

The question that I would ask and I think all voters should ask is whether or not based on that experience, has she exercised legitimately good judgment? You may have experienced something but may do a terrible job or have done a terrible job but if the sole qualification is experience as in foreign policy or national security, then obviously she's got that over Donald Trump.

I think there are a lot more unknowns with respect to Mr. Trump. He's a lot more unpredictable. Now, that can be good sometimes in the foreign policy area but I would say consistency and predictability is probably better with respect to our enemies who know what the consequences are going to be when they do something, but also, it's reassuring to -- for our allies to understand what the United States is going to do in response to a threat or an incident.

COOPER: I haven't had a chance to ask you about this before and I'm wondering because you were attorney general before, you were White House counsel, served time in the Texas Supreme Court, obviously. If someone had suggested that you couldn't do your job because of being a Mexican descent that you couldn't be fair because of your heritage as Trump had said about Judge Curiel in the Trump University case, what would you have said to that?

GONZALES: Well, that would be wrong. I mean, I wrote an op-ed about this. I wrote that Donald Trump was right to expect affair and impartial hearing before a neutral judge, but to say that someone is impartial solely because of their race I think I wrote was improper and I think it would be improper.

You know, the Hispanics would take the same kind of oath as, you know, a white person or African-American to discharge their duties with fidelity to the law, to the constitution. And so, that would be wrong as far as I'm concerned.

COOPER: At this point, have you endorsed, I mean, I've heard a couple things you've said but you said both are flawed candidates. Are you publicly endorsing anybody?

GONZALES: You know, I'm still gathering information. I'm handicapped by the fact that I don't know Hillary Clinton that well or Donald Trump that well as individuals which I think is very, very important.

The truth of the matter is when I'm asked this question I said, you know, I think American voters while they may care what I think, they have an obligation to do their own research, to learn about these candidates and decide who is best for this country, who's best for them and their families.

You know, we still have three debates to go. We still have time to gather up information and that's what I'm doing, although let me emphasize that I'm a lifetime Republican and I support the Republican Party but I also have to admit that I'm an American first and at the end of the day, I'm going to make the decision based on what I think is best for America and best for me and my family.

COOPER: The book is called the "True Faith and Allegiance", a story of service and sacrifice and war and peace. Judge Gonzales, thank you. Pleasure to talk to you as always.

GONZALES: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Up next, what is going on with the third party candidates? Gary Johnson of the Libertarian ticket today asked what is Aleppo? And there's an arrest warrant out for Jill Stein of the Green Party for the graffiti she left behind in one town. More on that kerfuffle in a moment.


[21:52:41] COOPER: Breaking news, new polling shows a tightening race and one of the third party candidates has reached double digit support. Take a look at this. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian ticket now has 15 percent support in North Carolina, 14 percent in Ohio, according to the polling by Quinnipiac University. That's a new milestone for the candidate.

But for Johnson to be included in the first presidential debate later this month, he needs 15 percent in national polling. He's only at 7 percent in the latest CNN Poll. What he did today is likely not going to help. Watch this.


MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC HOST: What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?


BARNICLE: You're kidding? JOHNSON: No.

BARNICLE: Aleppo is in Syria. It's the epicenter of the refugee crisis ...

JOHNSON: OK, Got it, got it.


JOHNSON: Well, with regard to Syria, I do think that it's a mess.


COOPER: Tonight, Randi Kaye looks at Johnson's trouble understanding what Aleppo is and the difficulties link to the other third party candidate Jill Stein.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a simple question but the answer was disastrous. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson hardly hiding his embarrassment about the Aleppo gaff later when speaking with Bloomberg's Mark Halperin.

JOHNSON: ... but not remembering or identifying that that's Aleppo, guilty.

MARK HALPERIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Does that mean you know and how you know?

JOHNSON: I'm incredibly frustrated with myself.


KAYE: Frustrated? No doubt. Though he tried to explain he'd been caught flat-footed.

JOHNSON: I understand the significant, I -- believe me, no one is taking this more seriously than me. I feel horrible. I have to get smarter and that's just part of the process.

KAYE: Johnson later tweeting about his mistake. "Started my day by setting aside any doubt, I'm human hashtag what is Aleppo? My statement."

From there, Johnson were now to release an official statement again trying to explain his confusion. "Yes, I understand the dynamics of the Syrian conflict, I talk about them every day but hit with what about Aleppo, I was immediately thinking of an acronym not the Syrian conflict.

Hillary Clinton quick to take a swipe at Johnson's Syrian flipped up.

CLINTON: Well, you could look on a map and find Aleppo.

[21:55:01] KAYE: Another third party candidate with her sight sits in the Oval Office, better hope deputies in North Dakota don't find her first. An arrest warrant has been issued for Jill Stein in Morton County after she was charged with a misdemeanor for criminal trespass and criminal mischief.

Stein's in hot water for spray painting construction equipment during a protest against the Dakota access pipeline. Stein tweeted out this photo of her spray painting adding, "The Dokota Access Pipeline is vandalism on steroids."

JILL STEIN, GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are here at the barred gates of American debates.

KAYE: This wasn't Jill Stein's first brush with the law. Four years ago in 2012, Stein was arrested for protesting outside Hofstra University during a presidential debate. Third party candidates weren't invited.

STEIN: Well, we're here to stand our ground for the American people who have been systematically locked out of these debates for decades.

KAYE: Stein later told Democracy Now she and her running mate were handcuffed and held for eight hours.

In a race where the two leading candidates have such a likeability problem, Johnson and Stein may have finally had a real opening but voters in the end may only remember their most forgettable moments.

JOHNSON: I guess people will have to make that judgment for those that believe this is a disqualifier, so be it.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: We'll be right back


[22:00:07] COOPER: Hey, that does it for us. Thanks for watching.

"CNN TONIGHT with Don Lemon" starts now.