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Clinton, Trump at Commander-in-Chief Forum; Powell's Email Goes Public; President Obama Holds News Conference in Laos. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 8, 2016 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Revealing responses from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the same stage for the first time. Trump with harsh words for some military generals. Kind words for Vladimir Putin. Standing by his controversial tweet about women in the military. We'll show what he said.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hillary Clinton at the same forum, pressed on the e-mail controversy. Now, a new wrinkle. E- mails, we were just talking about this, from Colin Powell about how to handle this at the State Department.

All of this as we wait to hear from President Obama. A live news conference in Laos. Any second from now.

[05:00:00] How will he respond to the latest back and forth in the U.S. presidential election? We will know and bring it to you live.

ROMANS: All right. It is exactly 5:00 in the East. Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is great to see you. Thursday, September 8th. It is 5:00 in the East.

And breaking overnight: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave surprising answers on national security to surprising questions and non-questions at the national security forum here in New York. Donald Trump offered new compliments for Vladimir Putin. He also issued new claims about information and impressions that he got from inside his national security briefings, those intelligence briefings that he just started getting.

Hillary Clinton faced tough questions about her e-mails and some of her foreign policy decisions.


MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Do you know more about ISIS than they do?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think that the decision

to go to war in Iraq was a mistake. We must learn what led us down that path so that it never happens again. I'm asking to be judged on the totality of my record.

LAUER: When referring to a comment about Putin made of you, I think he called you a brilliant leader.

TRUMP: When he calls me brilliant, I'll take that compliment, OK? He is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, oh, isn't a terrible thing? He called -- I mean, the man has very strong control of a country. Now, it's a very different system and I don't happen to like the system. But certainly in that system, he's been a leader.

LAUER: Were some of the e-mails sent or received by you referring to our drone program, a covert drone program?

CLINTON: Yes. Every part of our government had to deal with questions and the secretary of state's office was first and foremost. So, there are ways of talking about the drone program.


BERMAN: All right. CNN's Brianna Keilar, she has the very latest on all of this for us.



Much of Clinton's part of the forum centered around her email practices while she was secretary of state. And she really parsed her words that she tried to make the case that she did not endanger national security using a private server because there weren't e-mails with classified headers transmitted, the kind of e-mails that would be on the classified system versus an unclassified system, like the official State Department system or the one that she used on her private server, a very different thing though, than sending classified content, even without a header.

CLINTON: You know and I know classified material is designated. It is marked. There is a header so that there is no dispute at all that what is being communicated to or from someone who has that access is marked classified. And what we have here is the use of an unclassified system by hundreds of people in our government to send information that was not marked, there were no headers, there was no statement, top secret or secret or confidential.

I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously.

KEILAR: It was a surprising approach considering Clinton herself said recently that when she tries to explain herself, it just sounds like she's making excuses for herself.

And then there was a moment with Donald Trump who is struggling mightily in the polls with women when he doubled down on this tweet.

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

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

LAUER: So, it should have been expected and the only way to fix it is to take women out of the military?

TRUMP: And, by the way, since then it's gotten worse. Not to kick them out, but something has to happen. Right now, part of the problem is nobody gets prosecuted. You have reported and the gentlemen can tell you. You have the report of rape and nobody gets prosecuted. There are no consequences.

KEILAR: Trump also claimed that he did not support the Iraq war, which is untrue. Initially, as the nation went to war, he actually did support it and it was only later that he spoke out against the war publicly at a time when many people who had initially been in support of the war actually changed their minds -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Brianna, thank you for that.

Let's discuss the Commander-in-Chief Forum this morning as we wait for the president to speak in Laos. We've got CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott here again.

Eugene, something he said yesterday, Donald Trump at the forum caught a lot of people's attention. He talked about the intelligence briefing. Without giving away the substance of the briefing, he had a remarkable interpretation of what happened there. Listen.


TRUMP: What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly, when they call it intelligence, it is there for a reason, what our experts said to do. I was very, very surprised. In almost every instance, I could tell, I am pretty good with the body language. I could tell, they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.


ROMANS: Is it possible Donald Trump had an intelligence briefing and was told that Barack Obama is not following the intelligence community advice?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: I think that's what he heard. We don't know for sure if that is what was said. But that's certainly is what he wants to communicate he will make decisions based off wise counsel from the smartest minds possible and he has ability to lead. ROMANS: Did he also say he knows more about ISIS than all the

generals? He knows more himself than the intelligence community?

SCOTT: He did. This was before he had intelligence briefing. How he went about that is unclear. He made a reference he understands body language. There are some questions about whether or not that is enough to move forward with how best to respond to the challenges we are facing.

BERMAN: I'm not sure you are supposed to say what went on in the briefing even to suggest what the community recommended and the president did or not do. That could be valuable to adversaries. Donald Trump last night made a claim once again about his support for the Iraq war. I want to play it for you right now.


TRUMP: Well, I think the main thing is I have great judgment. I know what's going on. I called so many of the shots. I happen to hear Hillary Clinton say I was not against the war in Iraq. I was totally against the war in Iraq. You can look at "Esquire" magazine from '04. You can look before that. I was against the war in Iraq because it will totally destabilize the Middle East, which it has. It has been a disaster war.


BERMAN: "Esquire" magazine 2004. Donald Trump knows the Iraq war began in 2003. The discussion to launch the invasion was actually in 2002, the fall and winter of 2002. In 2002, he gave this radio interview to Howard Stern where he said flat out he was supportive of the invasion. Let's listen.


HOWARD STERN: Are you for invading Iraq?

TRUMP: I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.


BERMAN: So when Donald Trump says he opposed war, it is a lie. He is on the record saying he supported the invasion. After it was a yea old, he was on record of changing it. Also interesting when Donald Trump made that claim, Matt Lauer on stage, there was no effort to correct it right there.

You know, Donald Trump continues to peddle this. It's interesting. It's revealing from what might happen at the upcoming debates.

SCOTT: Very much so. But I think the upcoming debates, given response that Matt Lauer received, moderators will be on it to fact check because social media is on it. This election has been fascinating in the sense that we have people respond immediately to things the candidates say that have been inconsistent with what they said in the past. ROMANS: It is interesting. Trump called Putin more of a leader than

President Obama. That was crystal clear. Interesting to me that it happened on the same day you have the report of a Russian fighter jet coming within ten feet of an American plane. A 19-minute ordeal.

Tell me a bit about the optics about that. You have a Republican candidate for president saying that Vladimir Putin is more of a leader than the United States president, at the very time clearly saber- rattling happening between the two countries.

SCOTT: Yes, this election has been unique in many ways. We have not seen a leading candidate praise a Russian leader like the way we have seen Donald Trump talk about Putin. And it's been very interesting, especially considering the recent situation regarding suspected hacking from the Russian government into the DNC regarding e-mails and leaks. It just seems as if this is not the direction one wants to go regardless where you praise and painting the leader of Russia, Putin, as a better leader than the president of the United States.

BERMAN: All right. Eugene, stick around for a second here. Major world figure will get a chance to respond all of this and weigh in on the presidential forum.

The current President Barack Obama is due to hold a news conference any minute. He is in Laos.

[05:10:00] You are looking at the stage. He'll up there really any minute. We are waiting for it to happen. And weigh in on the presidential forum.

What did he think about what he saw on stage last night?

Let's bring in White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski live for us in Laos this morning.

Good morning, Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, you know, we will go for weeks and weeks without hearing from President Obama. At least not in this kind of forum of the press conference.

But here on this foreign trip, this is the second big press conference in two days. The last was about pressing world events and foreign policy. This one, especially given all that was given last night, he is likely to get question after question on what's going on in the United States. Sometimes he will weigh in to a large extent. He will go on the rants as he called it one time on Donald Trump. Other times he will say that's ground I have covered. I will let the American people decide.

But I think it's very likely that he will weigh in on some of these statements, say, especially since White House sources tell us he is eager to get back on the campaign trail. He sees the enormous stakes and he sees the poll numbers. He wants his voice heard in favor of Hillary Clinton.

His schedule hasn't allowed it. We do expect to see and hear much more of him on the trail starting next month.

One more thing we expect him to weigh in on is likely Rodrigo Duterte, the new president of the Philippines. This is the guy who cursed President Obama and then threatened to curse him again. And in a rare move, the White House canceled the meeting they were supposed to have.

We hear they exchanged pleasantries and had some kind of discussion last night, although one White House source says he doesn't think Duterte apologized.

So, there should be a range of topics, but a lot about the American elections -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Michelle Kosinski for us in Laos. We will get back there very quickly as soon the president starts speaking. Thanks, Michelle.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get an early start on your money while we wait. A record 5.9 million job openings in July in the U.S., 5.9 million. Never been this many. But employers cannot find the right workers to fill them.

Another figure showing the drama improvement in the labor market, there are now 1.3 job seekers for every available position. John, look at that chart, that is the fewest since 2001. You can see what the recession looked like, when almost 7 workers were standing in line for one available job.

BERMAN: Just look at that increase.

ROMANS: It's unbelievable. And now, since then, it shows you 1.3 workers for every available job.

BERMAN: That's a long time, look at how long --

ROMANS: Look, there's a real wrinkle here. The biggest increase in job openings from skilled position, business services up 166,000 in July. Durable goods, 27,000.

These are high-paying jobs that require specific technical training. In the first two categories, you match skills with the need of a worker. It can be a specific match.

We saw the biggest decrease in health care and social assistance, some low wage positions, included there.

Bottom line, there are millions of good jobs out there, but they need experience and skills to go with them. That is the real wrinkle in the strength what we have seen in the labor market of late.

There are jobs out there. For some reason, some companies are holding off on hiring or waiting to find the right worker. In some cases, there are available workers, but not the right skills.

BERMAN: Interesting.

ROMANS: It's the modern labor market dilemma.

BERMAN: It is. It's the new now.

All right. We are watching Laos right now. President Obama set to deliver a news conference any second from now. He will no doubt face questions about the U.S. presidential election and some recent statements made by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We'll take you back there in just a moment.


[05:17:52] ROMANS: OK. It's about 17 minutes past the hour.

We are waiting for President Obama to begin his news conference. Among other things, we expect questions about national security summit and Philippines' leader insulting language at President Obama. We will bring that to you live the very moment it begins.

You can see the empty podium there.

BERMAN: We just got the two--minute warning. Eugene Scott is sitting here with us waiting for the president to speak. No doubt he will be asked about the summit.

We learned how much the president will involve himself in the election before November 8th. The answer is a lot, as much as he can, particularly in October.

SCOTT: Yes, very much so. We just heard he will hit the campaign trail. He won North Carolina in 2008, which she is banking on him to help her this time. He's doing really well with some voters there, specifically voters of color and women, and he is eager to get back out there.

BERMAN: I think it's interesting that he will be on the campaign trail. Of these candidates have pretty high unfavorables. You know, the president now seven years in the economic recovery and sort of the last months of his election, or his presidency. He does have a lot of unfinished business in Asia, though, you know, TPP and a lot of other things here.

SCOTT: Yes, very much. And we're going to see how he responds to some of those issues on this trip, which his last before he leaves the White House. It will be interesting to see how he responds to some of the recent interactions he had, especially with the leader of the Philippines.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting. I was speaking to a Republican strategist this week, who said that if he were the Democrat, just send President Obama to Philadelphia. Go there and lock it down. Have him speak.

He can help win the African-American vote there. Also the suburbs with college educated whites, extremely popular. Go there and lock it down. Shuttle back and forth between Philadelphia and North Carolina and that make all the difference. SCOTT: Yes, it would seem like it. He is doing well with those

communities. I think when you bring up that example, the question is who can Donald Trump bring on that would be the equivalent for him that can lock things down with him and the voters and the areas that he's having a hard time.

[05:20:06] I'm not quite sure who that person would be right now.

ROMANS: Is there a risk for President Obama to address the leadership gap that Donald Trump claims this president has? He called last night in the national security forum, he said that, you know, the president of Russia was a better leader than the president of the United States.

SCOTT: I think he is risking making this election about him, which it is not. He needs to communicate that Hillary Clinton is the better person to lead the country.

BERMAN: All right. There he is. President Obama, let's listen in.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Once again, I want to thank the government and people of Laos for their hospitality and leadership for the hosting of ASEAN and East Asia Summits.

And I especially want to express my gratitude for the warmth and the kindness that they've shown to me as the first U.S. president to visit this nation. It has been a memorable and, at times, a very moving visit.

We're here because, as a region with more than 600 million people, several fast-growing economies, some vibrant democracies, but also countries transitioning to democracies, and given their strategic location along vital trade routes, the 10 nations of ASEAN are critical to peace and prosperity not only in the Asia Pacific but to the world.

Indeed, the United States and ASEAN are among each other's top trading partners. We're the largest investors in this region, and ASEAN is one of our largest markets for U.S. exports, supporting hundreds of thousands of American jobs. So, our trade and investment fuels jobs and prosperity across our countries.

And that's why, as part of my rebalance of American foreign policy to the Asia Pacific, I've deepened our engagement with the nations of Southeast Asia and with ASEAN as an institution. As the first U.S. president to meet with the leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries, I've sustained our cooperation throughout my presidency.

Earlier this year, I was proud to host the first U.S.-ASEAN Summit in the United States, at Sunnylands, California. Our meeting here in Laos was our eighth meeting. And this visit marks my ninth to the ASEAN region -- more than any U.S. president.

Together, the United States and ASEAN have forged a strategic partnership guided by key principles, including that ASEAN will remain central to peace, prosperity and progress in the Asia Pacific. The United States is now firmly part of the East Asia Summit, and we have worked to make that organization the region's leading forum for dealing with political and security challenges, including maritime security.

And we're guided by the shared vision of the region that we put forward at Sunnylands -- open, dynamic and competitive economies; mutual security and the peaceful resolution of disputes; and respect for human rights -- in short, a region where all nations play by the same rules. That's a vision that we advanced here.

We're stepping up our efforts to increase trade and investment. As part of the initiative I announced earlier this year -- U.S.-ASEAN Connect -- we're doing more to connect our businesses and investors so that it is easier to start new ventures together. More to connect our entrepreneurs so we're encouraging innovation in what are increasingly digital economies. More to connect clean energy projects as we pursue a low-carbon future.

All of which will also reinforce this region's continued economic integration through the ASEAN Community. And given that four ASEAN nations are also part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I reiterated that I am determined to do everything I can to encourage the U.S. Congress to approve TPP before I leave office.

With regard to security, our nations reaffirmed our commitment to a regional order where international rules and norms are upheld and where disagreements are resolved peacefully. There was recognition of the importance of the international arbitration ruling in July, which is legal and binding, and which clarified maritime claims by the Philippines and China in the South China Sea.

We discussed the importance of claimants adhering to steps to which they've already agreed, including respecting international law, not militarizing disputed areas and not occupying uninhabited islands, reefs and shoals. And I reiterated that the United States will stand with allies and partners in upholding fundamental interests, among them, the freedom of navigation and overflight, lawful commerce that is not impeded, and peaceful resolution of disputes.

The United States and ASEAN also continue to deepen our cooperation on transnational challenges. We discussed the importance of continuing to share information to prevent terrorism and the flow of foreign fighters.

[05:25:04] Given the threat of climate change to all our nations -- especially countries in this region -- we agreed on the importance of bringing the Paris agreement into force as soon as possible. We agreed to cooperation in the fight against human trafficking, including sharing more information on smugglers, closer law enforcement cooperation and more support for victims.

And at the East Asia Summit, our 18 nations expressed our grave concern about North Korea's provocative missile launches, highlighted the threat posed by its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and called on North Korea to uphold its international obligations.

And, finally, I'm especially pleased that we continue to deepen the connections between the people of ASEAN and America -- particularly our young people, like the inspiring young men and women that I met with at our town hall yesterday. Our Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative is now than 100,000 strong. The Women's Leadership Academy that I announced yesterday will support women leaders in business, government and civil society throughout ASEAN. And we're going to help increase language skills among students and teachers through our English for all program.

In closing, I'm mindful that this is the last day of my last trip to this region as President. And when I think back to the time that I spent here as a boy, I can't help but be struck by the extraordinary progress that's been made across so much of the region in the decades since -- even as there's still a lot of work to be done.

And so, it means a great deal to me, not only as president, but also personally, that over the past eight years we've increased cooperation between ASEAN countries and the United States. It is unprecedented the breadth and depth of our relationships. And I think it's one of the most successful parts of our rebalance policy.

We've made it clear that the United States will continue to stand with the people of this region in advancing their security, prosperity and dignity, including universal human rights. And I am very optimistic that the ties of friendship between our people -- as reflected by that roomful of young people that we saw yesterday -- will bring us even closer in the years to come.

So, with that, I'm going to take a couple questions. And I will start with Kathleen Hennessey of AP.

REPORTER: Thanks very much, Mr. President.

There's been a lot of talk back at home and here about how you were received on this trip, your last to Asia. Donald Trump said you were humiliated. I suspect you think that was overblown, but --


REPORTER: Maybe you could talk about whether or not you think your reception here was at all limited to some of the -- or at all related to the limits and challenges of your Asia pivot policy.

And while we're talking about legacy items, if I could just ask another quick one on Guantanamo Bay. You have four months left, 60 prisoners left. At this point, are you willing to acknowledge that the prison will be open by the time you leave office?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, in terms of my reception here, as far as I can tell has been terrific. I don't know if you've gone and talked to some people in Laos. They seem pretty happy about my visit.

Everywhere we've gone, we've had a great reception -- just as earlier when we went to Vietnam, we got a great reception. You will recall there were millions of people lining the streets.

So, if this theory about my reception and my rebalance policy is based on me going down the short stairs in China, yes, I think that is overblown. And I think that any reasonable person, certainly any person in the region, would be puzzled as to how this became somehow indicative of the work that we've done here.

If you look at the remarks of leaders, if you look at the remarks of ordinary people, if you look at the concrete work that we've gotten done on everything from economic programs to development programs, to legacy of war issues, to promoting civil society and young people, the concern that I've heard is not that what we've done hasn't been important and successful; the concern that I've heard is will it continue.

And almost uniformly, the question I get from other leaders is, we hope that America's interest and presence and engagement is sustained.

And my hope and expectation is, is that my successor will, in fact, sustain this kind of engagement, because there is a lot happening here.