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Trump: Clinton's Policies 'Produced Ruin and Death'; Interview with Rep. Duncan Hunter; Discussion of Trump and the Military; Review of the Commander-in-Chief's Forum. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 8, 2016 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Spinning out of control, Donald Trump is declaring victory over Hillary Clinton after a national security forum and is offering a spin on some controversial comments he made overnight. Trump is under fire for praising Vladimir Putin for saying U.S. generals have been reduced to rubble and for claiming he opposed the Iraq War when he did not. Tonight, new questions from critics about his readiness to be commander in chief.

[17:00:32] Not smiling now. Hillary Clinton lays into Trump calling him temperamentally unfit, totally unqualified to be president. She's also defending her comments about ground troops in Iraq and answering critics of her demeanor. Critics say she should have smiled more during that national security forum. We'll break down what both candidates said and the fallout.

Debate expectations. Americans speak out about the upcoming presidential debates in our exclusive new CNN/ORC poll. A majority expects Hillary Clinton to outperform Donald Trump, and millions of voters are planning to tune in. Will they be the most watched presidential debates ever?

And menacing America. U.S. military forces are being harassed on the sea and in the air by Russia and Iran. From dangerous close encounters with American planes to blocking American ships, what's behind these brazen new provocations?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the race for the White House. Donald Trump is firing the latest volleys in a very bitter back and forth with Hillary Clinton, saying her policies, quote, "produce ruin and death." Trump says Clinton's performance in a national security forum showed she's unfit to be president.

Clinton is saying the same thing about Trump. She's slamming his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and calling his criticism of U.S. generals unpatriotic. New polls are showing Clinton leading Trump in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Trump leading Ohio, and the candidates tied in Florida.

We're also following growing concern over Russian and Iranian harassment of U.S. military forces. The Pentagon said there have been dozens of these kinds of incidents this year, including most recently a Russian fighter jet coming within ten feet of a U.S. Navy plane and an Iranian boat coming to a dead stop right in front of an American ship.

We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Trump supporter, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter.

And our correspondents and our expert analysts, they are also standing by. Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, they are trading some fierce charges.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are, Wolf, and the voters are getting a sneak preview of what this campaign will be like after the upcoming presidential debates, after their forum in New York. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are pounding each other on the issues that will shape the final weeks of this campaign, from Russia to the Iraq War.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I thought it was -- I thought it was very important and revealing in many ways.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Declaring victory after his national security forum with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump walked into an education event in Cleveland and sounded like he was in a schoolyard brawl, hammering the former secretary of state's e-mail scandal.

TRUMP: Every time she talks about the subject, it's different. She's got to get her act together. This is yet more evidence that Clinton is unfit to be your commander in chief.

ACOSTA: But Clinton is swinging right back, slamming Trump's praise of Russia's Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him.

The man has very strong control over a country.

ACOSTA: She blasted Trump's remark that Putin is more effective than President Obama as unpatriotic.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is scary. It is dangerous. It actually suggests he will let Putin do what Putin wants and even make excuses for him.

ACOSTA: The back and forth went all day long. Clinton aimed at Trump's comments on how the Obama administration has treated the U.S. military.

TRUMP: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble.

CLINTON: We saw more evidence that he is temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander in chief. He trash-talked American generals, saying they've been, quote, "reduced to rubble."

ACOSTA: On this comment Trump made about the intelligence briefings he receives as a candidate...

TRUMP: In almost every instance, and I could tell -- I am pretty good with the body language, I could tell -- they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what that were recommending.

ACOSTA: Democrats say it's more proof Trump isn't fit to receive those briefings in the first place.

[17:05:04] CLINTON: I think what he said was totally inappropriate and undisciplined. I would never comment on any aspect of a briefing.

ACOSTA: And hitting Clinton's decision to support the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Trump once again tried to make the case he opposed that war from the start, even noting media reports have rated that claim false.

TRUMP: I opposed going in, and I did oppose it, despite the media saying, "Oh, yes, no." But I was opposed to the war from the beginning. Long after my interview with Howard Stern.

ACOSTA: Trump did, indeed, tell Howard Stern he was in favor of the war.

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Are you for invading Iraq?

TRUMP (via phone): Yes, I guess so.

ACOSTA: Trump is now pointing to another interview he gave to FOX News in 2003 when he said, "I think the Iraqi situation is a problem, and I think the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned."

TRUMP: I didn't have accents -- access to all of the intelligence information that she did and everybody else did.

ACOSTA: But in 2006, Trump gave Clinton a pass on that prewar intelligence, telling "The New York Times," "Don't forget that decision was based on lies given to her. She's very smart and has a major chance to be our next president."

Clinton is instead focusing on Trump's plans for Iraq now, namely his position for dealing with ISIS.

CLINTON: He says his plan is still a secret, but the truth is he simply doesn't have one.


ACOSTA: But Trump is still not pointing to any interview where he definitively opposed the Iraq War before it started. He did note stories, Wolf, where he was quoted after the invasion, saying the situation there was a mess, but that was when many war critics were also raising questions about the wisdom of invading Iraq. Wolf, we simply don't have any evidence at this point from Trump that he opposed this war -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Trump supporter and Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California is joining us. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee, also served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So Trump has been inconsistent, shall we say, in describing his plan to defeat ISIS. He once said he had a secret plan, and he also said he knew more about ISIS than the generals.

Yesterday afternoon he reversed course, said he would rely on the generals to come up with a new strategy to defeat the terror group. Last night he simply said the generals had been, in his words, "reduced to rubble."

Do you agree with his assessment that the generals have been reduced to rubble?

HUNTER: So -- so Wolf, it's more nuanced than that. So no. In fact, we have a -- a fantastic chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who I served with, Joe Dunford. But you also have great Marines, four-star General Jim Mattis, who's the head of CentCom, that said, "Iran is the biggest threat that we face," wanted a plan for a nuclear Iran. He did not get it, and therefore, he was dismissed.

So you have a military who tries to give their strategy and tries to give their advice to this president, but what we see over and over again is that the National Security Council and the administration disregards the advice of our military leaders and does what they want to do anyway. I think that's what he meant by that, is that they are not being heeded the way that they should be.

BLITZER: So you disagree with Donald Trump when he says the generals have been reduced to rubble?

HUNTER: No, I agree with him. It's more nuanced, Wolf. You have -- you have generals whose advice is not being listened to. So if that's what he meant by that, and I can't get in Donald Trump's head and ask exactly -- and see exactly what he meant by that, but if he means that their advice is being minimized, and is being pushed to the side and not listened to, that's what I took out of what he said. If that's what he meant, then he's right.

But at the same time, we have great general leaders. We have a great chief of staff of the Army, great, great chief of the -- chairman of the joint chiefs. We have great generals in right now who have risen to the top, because they are the best military minds in the world.

So at the same time he's right and he's also wrong. It depends on the context that he means it in.

BLITZER: All right. Let me -- let me give you a little example when it comes to the generals. Donald Trump, he seems to be, shall we say, in a little bit of a different page than his top military advisor, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. I want you to listen carefully to what General Flynn told me yesterday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, and what Trump later told Matt Lauer last night.


BLITZER: Do you have confidence in the current leadership in the U.S. Military? Would Trump accept them, or would he want new generals, new admirals?

LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (RET.), ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP: I think we have all the confidence in the world in the military leaders that we have. Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, these are -- these are, you know, lifelong servants, courageous people who have given it all. And -- and I think that what they need to be able to do is they need to be able to unleash our military capabilities as well as other capabilities that we have inside of our government system, particularly in the intelligence community, and some other -- some other capabilities that we have to be able to really go after and defeat this enemy, get this thing over with instead of continuing on with this perpetual war that we're involved in.

[17:10:19] MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: You're going to convene a panel of judge -- of generals, and you've already said you know more about ISIS than those generals.

TRUMP: Well, they'll probably be different generals, to be honest with you. I mean, I'm looking at the generals today. You probably saw, I have a piece of paper here, I could show it, 88 generals and admirals endorsed me today.


BLITZER: All right. So Congressman, you heard him say he doesn't have confidence in the current generals. He's going to be looking at another batch of generals. Are you with him or are you with Lieutenant General Flynn?

HUNTER: I'm with Flynn on this, and I think this takes Donald Trump getting to know and talking to these gentlemen and ladies, the people that have served 30 or 40 years, and know the most about going to war than anybody else, whether they're think tanks, journalists, or politicians.

But here -- here's the thing: under this administration, the military leadership that we have right now has not been listened to. That, I think, is what Trump is saying, is that they are being disregarded. BLITZER: So let me interrupt. Let me interrupt, Congressman. What

evidence do you have that the president of the United States, the commander in chief, the secretary of defense, Ash Carter, and other top national security officials are not listening to the current military leadership and the chairman of the joint chiefs and the other members of the joint chiefs?

HUNTER: I can answer it. Jim Mattis being dismissed because he talked about Iran too much. He was the CentCom commander. General Jim Kelly who ran Guantanamo Bay, who thought we ought to keep Guantanamo Bay open and ran it very well, by the way. He was not promoted after -- after reaching a certain level.

You have a lot of people, a lot of generals, a lot of three- and four- star generals who don't fall in line with this administrations politics who are dismissed or not promoted.

But at the same time, you have great leadership, like Joe Dunford, General Milley in the Army. I mean, you have great leaders right now, but you also have people that didn't toe the line for this administration, and they were summarily dismissed.

BLITZER: Do you think Donald Trump trusts our military leaders and their ability to fight and destroy ISIS?

HUNTER: Yes, especially the ones that have been there and that know what they're talking about. And I think you can draw a dichotomy between our military leaders that have been on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan that know the area and the ones that sit back here and haven't been on a deployment in, like ten years but act because those guys back here are very politicized. There's a big difference between what happens in the Pentagon and in the White House and our combat leaders who know what to do on the ground.

BLITZER: Congressman, I need you to stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We have more questions; lots of information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We'll resume our conversation right after this.


[17:17:26] BLITZER: We're back with Duncan Hunter. He's a key member of the House of Representatives. He's also a Donald Trump supporter.

Congressman, during those classified intelligence briefings that Trump has received, so far he's received two of them. He claims that he could tell from the language of the professional intelligence analysts briefing him that they were, in his words, "not happy with the national security policies of the Obama administration."

Here's the question: Do you really believe these intelligence professionals would be giving away something along those lines with their so-called body language?

HUNTER: Yes, because here's -- here's the reason why, Wolf. When we pulled out of Iraq, when we pulled out of there, that was the president and Hillary Clinton did that, against all the advice of our military leadership. It was done against all of the advice of our military leadership.

When we withdrew our missile defense system out of -- out of Poland, that was done against all the advice of our military leadership. Not arming the Ukrainians with offensive weapons to go against tanks. That's against all the advice of not just our military leadership but our State Department.

So yes, I totally believe this, and by the way, I have seen the exact same thing that, where they say, "Here's what we're doing." And you say, "Do you agree with what we're doing?" And they stand there and say, "We're going to do what we're told, because that's what we do in the U.S. military."

So yes, I see this all the time.

BLITZER: How do you know, Congressman, that was against all of the advice that the president and his top national security advisors were receiving. How do you know there was a difference of opinion?

HUNTER: Because we did hearings on this.

BLITZER: Because usually in the Intelligence Committee, as you well know, there often is a difference of opinion.

HUNTER: But let's talk about military strategy and the advice of the highest generals in the land. OK, because that includes intelligence, too.

This administration, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, went against the direct advice of these guys. I mean, that's a plain fact. They all said. "If you pull out of Iraq, you're going to have a vacuum. It's going to be filled by somebody.

And lo and behold, we have ISIS. Obama pulling out of Iraq literally led to ISIS's incursion into Iraq, because you have no more U.S. Marines or soldiers on the border. So that was directly against military advice.

So sure, you probably had some guys who said pulling out of Iraq is a great thing. I'm sure there's not going to be a power vacuum. Those guys were totally wrong. The other 99 percent said don't do it.

BLITZER: Congressman, you know who came up with that time table for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq, right?

HUNTER: Yes. Sure, but that was wrong, too.

BLITZER: It was President Bush. Is wasn't -- that time line was President Bush.

HUNTER: So what? That was wrong, Wolf. It doesn't matter whether it was him or Obama. It will still wrong.

BLITZER: But President Bush came up with that time line, by the end of 2011 all U.S. troops should be out, and by then, the Iraq military supposedly, which the U.S. has trained, spent hundreds of billions getting them ready. They were supposed to be able to take charge. But clearly they couldn't.

[17:20;06] HUNTER: Sure. And again, military advisories will always tell you, never set arbitrary timelines. And that's what President Bush did, and that's what Obama's done with Iraq and Afghanistan.

He set arbitrary timelines, saying no matter what the situation on the ground is, this is what we're going to do.

And that's what we see. I mean, President Bush did the same thing, and we were against it then. Because we have hearings with these same generals that try to advise the president. We have hearings with them in Congress. So we hear their unadulterated points of view. And I can tell you that the president does not heed their advice in a lot of these situations.

BLITZER: Duncan Hunter, the congressman from California, thanks much for joining us.

HUNTER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, we have some brand-new polls from some critical battleground states. They have just been released. Who's leading in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, at least right now?

Also, Russian and Iranian ships and planes are harassing U.S. military forces. So why is the number of these incidents growing?


[17:25:42] BLITZER: We're following the breaking political news this hour: Donald Trump claiming victory in a closely-watched national security forum and deriding Hillary Clinton's performance.

Let's get some more on the campaign -- Clinton campaign that's unfolding right now. Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is joining us with the latest.

Joe, Hillary Clinton says Trump demonstrated he's temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified -- her words -- to be president during that forum.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Hillary Clinton's campaign got going fast today after that candidates' forum last night. They called it disappointing, and she held a news conference to try to get the last word in, ripping into Donald Trump for praising Vladimir Putin. She called him unpatriotic and scary and attacked him for trash-talking America's generals.


JOHNS (voice-over): Tonight, Hillary Clinton is ratcheting up the attacks on Donald Trump. CLINTON: Everything is a game. It's like he's living in his own

celebrity reality TV program. You know what, Donald? This is real reality. This is real people. This is real decisions that have to be made for our country.

JOHNS: But she's also clarifying a pledge she made at Wednesday night's national security forum.

CLINTON: They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again, and we're not putting ground troops into Syria. We're going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.

JOHNS: Clinton today facing questions about whether she's limiting her options when it comes to combatting the terrorist group.

CLINTON: I've said that before. I've said it on numerous occasions. I believe it.

I think putting a big contingent of American ground troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria would not be in the best interests in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups.

I support the air campaign. I support Special Forces. I support enablers. I support surveillance, intelligence, and reconnaissance.

JOHNS: Clinton also standing by her comments in an interview with Israeli television Wednesday that ISIS is rooting for Trump to become president, citing a former high-ranking counter-terrorism official.

CLINTON: He quoted ISIS spokespeople rooting for Donald Trump's victory, because Trump has made Islam and Muslims part of his campaign.

JOHNS: President Obama offering his own rebuke of the GOP nominee during an overseas trip to Laos.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think the guy's qualified to be president of the United States. And every time he speaks, that opinion is confirmed.

JOHNS: The president urging Americans not to excuse Trump's rhetoric.

OBAMA: Behavior that, in normal times, we would consider completely unacceptable, and outrageous, becomes normalized. People start thinking that we should be grading on a curve.

JOHNS: And Clinton blasting RNC chairman Reince Priebus for his controversial tweet criticizing Clinton for not smiling during Wednesday night's forum.

CLINTON: I don't take anything seriously that comes from the RNC. We were talking about serious issues last night.

JOHNS: Clinton reiterating her regret for using a private e-mail server while secretary of state and insisting she's committed to protecting classified information.

CLINTON: There was no headers, there was no statement, "top-secret," secret, or confidential. I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I did exactly what I should have done. And I take it very seriously, always have, always will.


JOHNS: Once again, her fundraising is picking up. After almost 30 fundraisers in August, she attended the first one in September today in Charlotte, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Joe, thank you very much. Joe Johns, reporting.

Let's talk a little bit more with our political experts on all of this. Gloria Borger, so Donald Trump says that he knows more -- he said this in the past, more about ISIS than the generals do.

Last -- yesterday he said the generals have been reduced to rubble under President Obama and Hillary Clinton's leadership.


He still enjoys a significant amount of support from the military, from veterans, how's this going to play?

BORGER: Well, he enjoys three to one support even after the Kahn family and the whole gold star controversy. He still does enjoy a huge amount of support.

I -- look, his campaign will say that he was saying last night was he was talking about his frustration with the United States policy that has reduced the generals to rubble. But there is really another way to interpret that which is that the generals are rubble. And that they could take that in a very different way.

So once again, as with immigration policy, we are finding ourselves trying to figure out what Donald Trump means when it comes to national security and what he would do. He also said, Wolf, that he would fire a lot of these generals. Either he respects them or he would fire them and by the way we know that you can recall people, but you don't really fire them. So everybody is sort of left scratching their heads.

BLITZER: Yes, he said Mark Preston, he said there probably would be some different generals if he was elected President of the United States. Although his top military advisor, retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, told me here yesterday, we just heard it, that he personally has all of the confidence in the world in our current military leaders. So there seems to be a major -- a major disconnect there.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: And not the first time right, that there's been a major disconnect we've seen from Donald Trump and one of his top advisors.

Look, we saw Hillary Clinton go to North Carolina today. Hillary Clinton really tried to hit home the idea that Donald Trump did not have respect for generals. The reason why? 725,000 veterans live in North Carolina. Four major military bases are represented in North Carolina. 15 electoral votes on the table.

Obviously very, very important Wolf for Hillary Clinton to try to at least eat away at what has always been and probably will be a pretty solid Republican constituency in this presidential election.

BLITZER: Manu, why does Donald Trump keep saying he always opposed the war in Iraq. Because before the war, he was on the Howard Stern radio program and he told Howard Stern, yes, I probably do support the war.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think that's all he questioned him. Donald Trump can answer but I do think that he probably legitimately believes that he did oppose the Iraq war back at the time. And that comment he made to Howard Stern was more of an off- hand comment.

BLITZER: I'll read it to you. Howard Stern asked him "are you for invading Iraq?" that was the specific question. Trump said "Yes, I guess so, you know, I wish it was -- I wish the first time it was done correctly."

RAJU: Yes, and I bet he wishes he had that back, it was a bit of wishy washy comment. But clearly an affirmation of the current policy.

But, also the fact that look, he was not obviously a politician at the time, there is no record of him either really opposing the war the way that say Barack Obama did in the run up to the Iraq war, which he ran his 2008 campaign on. And the fact that you know, the only thing that we have really out there is this Howard Stern comment which undermines his case.


PRESTON: And, Wolf, this is one of his biggest weaknesses, right? We're 60 days going into election day right now and you are going to see the entire nation now entirely focused on this election. Donald Trump can say one thing, but the fact is we have an audio recording -- an audio recording on a radio show that is listened to by millions of people, it's pretty hard to say that he didn't in fact back the Iraq war.

BORGER: Once we invaded and he felt it wasn't go well, he told the Esquire Magazine "it's a mess.


BORGER: That is true but it was already started. Exactly.

BLITZER: Yes, he said two days into the war, he said something along the lines of "it's been a militarily speaking -- from a military standpoint, it's been a tremendous success and that interview with Esquire Magazine, that was August 2004, more than a year after the war, and he read extensively from the quote he gave Esquire Magazine today Donald Trump in which he strongly opposed the war. But that was a year into the war, Jackie. That's when the war was really going bad already.

KUCINICH: Well, right, and then a lot of war skeptics were starting to voice their concerns about what was going on in Iraq. So it doesn't really make him very special.

So the fact that he's saying -- he's like I knew all along, I would have done this differently. Well, based on what he said on Howard Stern, which (inaudible) he wouldn't have. He supported it going in which, you know, the vast majority of politicians, including Hillary Clinton, including Mike Pence, voted for and did.

BORGER: I was for it, before I was against it, which is what we've heard before.

BLITZER: The other thing, Jackie, you know that's causing some concern back in 2013, he had a tweet about men and women serving in the military. He defended it last night, it was a correct tweet, basically the bottom line suggesting you know when men and women are serving together, there's obviously the sexual harassment stuff like that. But he sort of defended that last night and he's getting some grief for that.

KUCINICH: Well, it shows a --



BLITZER: Here it is up on the screen. I'll read it. "26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military, only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together." That was back in 2013.


KUCINICH: Well this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how men and women in the military work together. And sort of -- he doesn't understand the professionalism of the military. And not only that it undermines the contributions women have made in the military. Some of his other tweets that were criticizing women going into combat.

So, he definitely should clarify this because this not only turns off women, this could turn off veterans who can't -- who definitely don't want to hear their female or their male colleagues disparaged like that.

BORGER: I think what the questioner was getting to was the question of the judicial process that in the military because there's been a lot of controversy over this about whether you should have outsiders doing the judging rather than your superiors because it might -- you know, some women might not want to testify in front of people they actually work for. And so that is an ongoing issue. KUCINICH: It's the stigma of reporting it.

BORGER: Reporting it, exactly.

RAJU: And this is the thing that Donald Trump has struggled with. He doesn't want to clean it up necessarily because he doesn't want to succumb to political correctness. And you know even if he were to do that it would probably help him with women voters. But at the same time his whole brand is saying it like it is.

BLITZER: Because when he said what were those geniuses thinking when they decided to have men and women serve together.

PRESTON: I think attacking the generals and, quite frankly, the civilian commanders in the military making this decision. Let's just take a step back and look at last night in totality.

It was not a good performance for Hillary Clinton because she seemed defensive. We can go into the reasons why she was. It was not a good performance for Donald Trump. He offered no specifics on any -- on any of these major issues. And, quick frankly when he went out there and offered praise for Vladimir Putin at a time while criticizing Barack Obama, let me just give you one number, the Pew Research Center last year did a global research study on what people's perception was on Vladimir Putin 40 different countries. In America, 75 percent of Americans have no confidence that Vladimir Putin will do the right thing regarding world affairs.

Why would Donald Trump continue to double down on this?

BLITZER: So Gloria based on --

BORGER: He has 82 percent approval ratings Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: Based on what we saw last night, what does it say about this upcoming presidential debate?

BORGER: Oh, well, fasten your seatbelts. I think that they were not on the same stage together last night and you see what's occurred today in the --in the -- in the aftermath. And, I think that Hillary Clinton is not going to be shy in any way, shape, or form about attacking him on his national security expertise, an area in which she has a great degree of comfort. And it's very clear to me that he's not going to be shy about attacking her about her judgment as Secretary of State, as part of the Obama administration.

So, you know I think we all ought to stay tuned for that one.

BLITZER: Get ready for that. And, stay with us right now we have much more to discuss.

We have some brand new poll numbers from four of the most crucial battleground states including Ohio and Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: We're going to share those numbers with you. And later we'll get the latest from the Pentagon where there's growing concern right now over Russian and Iranian provocations of the U.S. military.




BLITZER: We're following the breaking news of the Presidential race. Brand new poll numbers in four of the most crucial battleground states show Clinton and Trump, that race getting tighter and tighter.


BLITZER: Let's start in Florida, where the Quinnipiac latest survey among likely voters have both candidates tied at 47 percent. In North Carolina, Clinton leads 47 percent to 43 percent. In Ohio, Donald Trump is one point ahead of Clinton, 46 to 45 percent. And in Pennsylvania, Clinton is holding on to a five point advantage, 48 percent to 43 percent.


BLITZER: We're back with our political experts. Those numbers show this race is tightening pretty dramatically.

PRESTON: They are. And, look, we saw the CNN ORC International Poll yesterday show that across the nation it was tightening. We're starting to see it now in the state polls as well as much as there was consternation that our poll wasn't right. Clearly it is right.

Here's a couple of things though to keep in mind. Let's just talk about the state of North Carolina right now which Barack Obama won in 2008 by about 14,000. Mitt Romney won it by a couple of points in 2012. It was reliably red, now it's become a battleground. But the state that Donald Trump has to win.

You have Virginia to the north, you have Tim Kaine, who's on the ticket with Hillary Clinton. His message, he was in North Carolina yesterday, he'd come across that border. It's also a bigger problem that if they were to knock off North Carolina potentially Democrats are now looking at Georgia.

These are states that Republicans shouldn't be having to spend money in Wolf, and shouldn't have to focus all of their time. There are other states that they have to try to win or save including Ohio, Florida, and other states.

BLITZER: It's basically a few states that are going to make the difference.

RAJU: It is, it's almost like in 2012 and in 2008 even if the electoral map -- the college actually heavily favored Obama in 2012. I can tell you though, you know, on the other side is that talking to

Republicans on Capitol Hill, they feel better now about Trump, even if they're not fully endorsing him or criticizing him on his comments like last night, because that margin is tightening.

John Cornyn, the remember to the Republican from Texas, he told me yesterday he's happy that the margin is tight now because that's going to help his guys down ticket. Even if Trump loses some of those states, if he loses by four or five points, better than if he's losing by eight, nine, or ten points. That's a much harder margin for those senators to overcome.


KUCINICH: Well and the ground for him does make the difference. I was talking to some folks from Ohio yesterday and they were saying that Trump isn't really a presence there. He has a couple of key staffers and he's been building up but compared to Hillary, she's just flooding the zone across Ohio, and Donald Trump is woefully behind there.


KUCINICH: So, when it comes down to it, when the margins tighten, that ground game is really going to matter.


BLITZER: And you saw in the poll numbers Gloria that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party --

BORGER: Yes, that's what I was just going to say.

BLITZER: -- Candidate, he's getting in Pennsylvania, 9 percent, 15 percent North Carolina, 14 percent in Ohio, 8 percent in Florida. A lot of experts think those numbers are drained away from Hillary Clinton's support.

BORGER: I think so --

BLITZER: -- if you will. But he got himself into a lot of trouble today. He was asked about Aleppo and he didn't know --

BORGER: -- he said what?

BLITZER: -- And he didn't know what that was.

BORGER: He didn't know what it was. So I think that's disqualifying honestly for a presidential candidate. You don't know what Aleppo is, I'm sorry, so let's see what happens to his numbers now.

I think voters are going to take note of that particularly when you have a Commander in Chief debate like we had -- like we had last night.

If you look at a state like North Carolina, he's at 15 percent, Ohio, 14 percent. Voters are upset. They don't like any of these guys. And you know there was a bumper sticker I saw the other day, you know,

I hate my guy but your guy is worse. So, and I think -- so, people are looking at Gary Johnson. But if they start taking a serious look at him, after the comment about Aleppo not knowing what it is, they might -- they might really reconsider here.

PRESTON: Here's what we should expect over the next 60 days right now. And we'll be talking a lot about the tightening of the race. We are going to see a consolidation of Democrats going behind Hillary Clinton. Those that aren't there, which they are all basically -- they're going to be there. What we've seen since Labor Day, is we are going to see a consolidation of Republicans getting behind Donald Trump. But to your point, Wolf, it is going to come down to a couple of key states.

Hillary Clinton could lose the states of Ohio and Florida, and still win. Now that has got to be troubling right now for Republicans, specifically the Trump campaign.

BLITZER: And Gary Johnson could make a difference if it's really, really close in those states.

RAJU: Yes, and that's what's going to be interesting to hear if folks like in the Clinton clan for instance start to make the case that a vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Donald Trump. They way that we've seen in past elections like Ralph Nader for example.

BORGER: Well, that's right. Ralph Nader by the way got 2.7 percent of the vote and, the Gore people still believe that it cost them the election. And let's see what John Kasich does. The Governor of Ohio. Let's see what he does.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We have much more coming up.

There's other important news though.


BLITZER: Growing concern over the increasingly brazen attempts by potential adversaries to provoke the U.S. military. The latest from the Pentagon, that's coming up.




BLITZER: This week's intentional and unsafe encounter between a Russian fighter jet and U.S. Aircraft is being compared to a similar provocation last spring when a Russian jet buzzed a U.S. warship.

The incidents join a long list of increasingly brazen military challenges from potential U.S. adversaries. Let's get the very latest from our Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Russia, Iran and

North Korea's military all taunting the U.S. military. It may be turning into a significant strategic threat.


STARR: Tonight, fresh reason for concern following the close encounter of a Russian jet and a U.S. Reconnaissance plane. The Russian coming within ten feet of the U.S. aircraft. Just the latest in Russian provocations directed at the U.S. Military in the air and at sea this year.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter warning the Russian government this week that the U.S. is watching and is ready to act.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Make no mistake, we will defend our allies, the principle international order and the positive future it affords us. We will counter attempts to undermine our collective security.

STARR: And, with Russian aggression not decreasing, some see a deliberate strategy at work.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The fact they are engaging the U.S. in such a dramatic fashion indicates they are willing to challenge the U.S. at every step of the way.

STARR: And Russia is hardly the only country attempting to provoke the U.S. Military. Iran continues to harass U.S. ships with dangerous approaches like this that U.S. Military officials have deemed unsafe. Some coming within 100 yards of U.S. Navy vessels.

In the most recent, an Iranian boat came to a dead stop in front of a U.S. Navy ship risking collision. The Pentagon points out there's been 31 such encounters this year so far, up from 23 incidents all of last year.

COL. LEIGHTON: They are telegraphing the way they will counter the U.S. vessels. That shows that they want to challenge U.S. vessels and they're willing to do so not only in wartime but also in peacetime.

STARR: Each incident carries with it the risk of miscalculation and the United States being drawn into an unintended conflict.

And the stakes even higher in the pacific where North Korea continues to test ballistic missiles often with little warning and the potential for dire consequences, weapons that may be able one day to reach the United States.



STARR: Tensions have been rising significantly on the peninsula since Pyongyang allegedly tested a hydrogen bomb earlier this year. Wolf? BLITZER: Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon. Thank you. Coming up, Donald Trump is facing fall out for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.


BLITZER: There's breaking political news. That's coming up next.