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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Syria Crisis; Clinton, Sanders Court Millennials in New Hampshire; Inner Turmoil in Trump Campaign?. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 28, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:07]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary and Bernie giving it the old college try.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Many of his voters felt burned after the primary. Today, Hillary Clinton hits the campaign trail with Senator Bernie Sanders. Can he deliver young people to the polls?

With less than six weeks until America votes, every minute counts, and the name-calling resumes, after Donald Trump says he held back at the debate where he took the bait about a beauty queen.

Plus, dying for help, bombs falling on hospitals in a city that desperately needs lifesaving aid. Today, the United States saying it may get militarily involved to stop the suffering in Aleppo, Syria.

Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper on assignment today.

Let's start with the politics lead and Hillary Clinton's pivot towards a major that may be quickly slipping from her grasp. And that is millennials.

Moments ago, Senator Bernie Sanders joined Clinton in a personal pitch to college students, Clinton trying to clear that she shares some of the same visions that had millennials turning out for Sanders in droves during the primaries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie's campaign energized so many young people, some of you in this crowd.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And there is no group of Americans who have more at stake in this election than young Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Let's bring in CNN's Brianna Keilar. So, Brianna, if we were looking for a way to appeal to millennials, it

might be paying for college education.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. It's a huge concern for young people.

This is something that really drew them to Bernie Sanders, which was that he proposed free public university and college, something that Hillary Clinton doesn't go as far as saying, but Bernie Sanders is fully behind her plan and fully behind trying to get his young supporters to support her.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton tapping Bernie Sanders' star power yet again in New Hampshire.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: This election is enormously important for the future of our country. It is imperative that we elect Hillary Clinton as our next president.

KEILAR: She is trying to attract young voters who overwhelmingly voted for Sanders in the primary, pushing her plan for free public college tuition for families earning $125,000 or less per year.

CLINTON: I don't know how we got to where we are, but we are going to fix it. This is wrong. It's wrong for students. It's wrong for families, and it's wrong for our country.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KEILAR: But polls show some millennials are looking past Clinton, way past Donald Trump, to third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. A new Bloomberg poll shows Johnson at 11 percent, grabbing support that would normally go to the Democrat in the race. The White House is worried is could endanger President Obama's legacy.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: And if you vote for someone other than Hillary, or if you don't vote at all, then you are helping to elect Hillary's opponent.

KEILAR: First lady Michelle Obama rallying voters in Pennsylvania, Clinton's Rust Belt firewall, also appearing in a new ad.

M. OBAMA: Hillary will be a president our kids can look up to.

KEILAR: And taking on Trump.

M. OBAMA: Then, of course, there are those who questioned and continue to question for the past eight years whether my husband was even born in this country.

(BOOING)

M. OBAMA: And let me say, hurtful, deceitful questions deliberately designed to undermine his presidency, questions that cannot be blamed on others or swept under the rug by an insincere sentence uttered at a press conference.

KEILAR: For a third day, Trump, the former owner of the Miss Universe Pageant, is under fire for how he treated 1996 pageant winner Alicia Machado for gaining weight, making no apologies this week.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was -- it was a real problem.

KEILAR: His campaign calls Machado's allegations that Trump called her Miss Piggy and Miss Housekeeping because she is Latina unsubstantiated. But Machado, a Clinton supporter, is standing by her claims about Trump.

ALICIA MACHADO, FORMER MISS UNIVERSE: He was really rude with me. He tried to destroy my self-esteem. And now I am a voice in the Latin community. That is the point. He can say whatever he wants to say.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: This is something that the Clinton campaign is very much enjoying. They feel like they -- that Hillary Clinton put the bait out there, that Donald Trump took it, Jim, and they feel this is really in the vein of Khizr Khan, that Gold Star family, also Judge Curiel, who Donald Trump went after personally.

They think this is something that works against him, for them. And instead of talking about, for instance, her e-mails, or talking about that clear attack line that he hasn't really been able to keep pitching, which is that she's been in public service for 30 years, that she is status quo, this is what Donald Trump is dealing with.

[16:05:13]

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's the kind of personal story that could last for days or weeks before the election.

KEILAR: And it has already. Yes.

SCIUTTO: No question. We're talking about it.

Brianna Keilar, thanks very much.

Well, Donald Trump is set to speak in minutes. Since Monday night, he blamed the moderator and his microphone for what critics, both Republicans and Democrats, I should say, have called a lackluster debate performance.

But today his campaign is granting they want their candidate to practice more before Trump faces off vs. Clinton the next time. That will be in Saint Louis. Still, it remains unclear if Mr. Trump is even open to being coached by his own staff.

For evidence of why the Trump campaign reportedly wants Trump to do more homework, so he doesn't get ensnared by Hillary Clinton's traps, like he did Monday night when he maligned that former beauty queen Alicia Machado. Want to get right to CNN's Phil Mattingly. He is in Council Bluffs with Donald Trump.

Phil, this spat with this Miss Universe winner, it seems to be continuing, and Donald Trump not giving it up.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Jim, look, it's something that clearly caught him off-guard on the debate stage and the well-coordinated media blitz that followed that was set up by the Hillary Clinton campaign has only set him further back on his heels.

It's problematic for a campaign that, even though publicly they're saying they did very well in the debate, is acknowledging that, behind the scenes, changes need to be made. First among those changes, try and get back on offense.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Donald Trump back on the campaign trail and back on the attack.

TRUMP: And we're going to get rid of that crooked woman.

MATTINGLY: The Republican nominee trying to regain his footing after a shaky debate performance against Hillary Clinton Monday night, sharpening his attack on the Democratic nominee.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton, who I happen to believe is grossly incompetent, by the way -- I just feel like she's grossly incompetent.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: But Hillary Clinton is going to increase taxes. She will be very, very bad for our country. I think it would be worse than four more years of Obama.

MATTINGLY: Despite Trump's repeated victory pronouncements, via debunked unscientific online polls on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: And almost every single poll had us winning the debate against crooked Hillary Clinton, big league, big league.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTINGLY: And repeatedly patting himself on the back for going easy on Clinton during the debate, pulling his punch at the last moment about Bill Clinton's infidelities.

TRUMP: For 90 minutes, I watched her very carefully, and I was also holding back. I didn't want to do anything to embarrass her.

MATTINGLY: Trump's son Eric praising his father's approach.

ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I think that took a lot of courage in so many regards. And I think he really answered that well and took the high ground.

MATTINGLY: Trump's advisers are quietly delivering the message to him that he didn't have a good night, and privately expressing frustration that Trump missed opportunities to go after Clinton. Moments, they say, were missed because of Trump's belief that he didn't need to rely on traditional debate preparation.

But aides also telling CNN that Trump and some in his inner circle believe his approach, off-the-cuff and impromptu, is what his supporters want, something rally-goers here in Iowa today made clear they agree with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you just look and you go, well, why is it that Donald Trump destroyed 16 competitors who are, to one degree or another, far more advanced in the political arena than he is? Now, you have to sit back and say, well, what is that one thing that separates them all? And it's the fact that he is the outsider.

If Trump got rid of 16 highly qualified opponents on the Republican side in the primaries and they're all establishment candidates, why would he want to change his game plan when he is against an establishment candidate on the other side?

MATTINGLY: Trump also being rewarded with his biggest one-day fund- raising haul of his entire campaign on Tuesday. His finance director calling the national call-day event a -- quote -- "tremendous success."

TRUMP: We had the biggest day we have ever had because of the success last night of the debate. They raised almost $18 million.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Jim, Donald Trump is in the midst of a post-debate swing state blitz here in Iowa in a couple of minutes, then going to Wisconsin.

The campaign, at least according to one senior adviser, tells me he is going to unveil a sharpened and new attack message over the course of these next two events on Hillary Clinton, trying to tie her to Wall Street, trying to really sharpen the focus on what they see as Clinton's corruption.

It's the types of issues that Donald Trump failed to dig in on, in that debate, trying to shift the focus now and, as I noted, Jim, go back on the attack.

SCIUTTO: Phil Mattingly with the Trump campaign, thanks very much.

Joining me now, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzincger. He does not, I should say, support Donald Trump.

[16:10:02]

Thank you, Congressman Kinzinger, for taking the time.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: You bet. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: So, you have this battle now, very public battle, started on debate night, but it's continuing for a couple of days, with the former beauty queen Alicia Machado.

Is this the kind of public spat that Trump wants right now?

KINZINGER: He shouldn't want it.

It's hard to read him because sometimes he just likes being in the press and being in the lead story. This is not something good to be the lead story on. And from a larger perspective, even just beyond the presidential race, I am worried about the health long-term of the Republican Party.

And I think it's important for the Republicans to continue to brand ourselves not as, you know, the words he is saying, but as people who say, look, we want an effective, efficient government, a strong foreign policy and we are an inclusive party that welcomes everybody. And sometimes obviously the message of Donald Trump violates that.

SCIUTTO: So, as I said, you are not supporting Donald Trump. Did he say anything Monday that changed your mind about him?

KINZINGER: No.

Look, I thought, as a lot of people say, the first 20 minutes to a half-hour, he held his own. And I think -- I disagree with him on the issue of trade, but I thought he executed that argument properly and well, talking about over-government regulation and over-government spending, I agree with all of it.

And it seemed like, after 30 minutes, he went off the rails. And when you talk about foreign policy, there was a lot of not over -- not overly coherent arguments made. He had an opportunity to disavow his association with Vladimir Putin, and he didn't do that.

And I think he had a lot of opportunity to go after Hillary Clinton that he missed. And, again, as many people have been saying, that's why you prepare for a debate, not to be scripted, but to be able to know how to come back on certain things.

SCIUTTO: I'm glad you brought up Russia because I want to ask you about it.

You have the director of the FBI on the hill today, James Comey, all but identifying Russia as being behind these series of attacks on the U.S. election system. You have today an European investigation finding it was a Russian missile that took down a passenger jet over Ukraine, killed nearly 300 people.

And of course this happening as Donald Trump repeatedly praises Vladimir Putin. Do you think that Donald Trump needs to condemn these acts by Russia?

KINZINGER: Oh, yes. I think he has to be out front condemning these acts, because as the

party of Ronald Reagan, we're the ones that, you know, with all Americans, took on the Soviet Union and the evil empire. We're the ones that stood for freedom for people that lived behind the Iron Curtain.

Donald Trump needs to do that. And I am confused as to why he isn't. It's one thing to say you admire his leadership style. By the way, his leadership style is authoritarian. I don't admire that. But that's one thing to say.

But it's another thing to make it sound like you wouldn't follow through on Article V in NATO, which is the reason we brought down the Soviet Union without firing a shot, not condemning the actions in Syria, not condemning -- and it frightens me, no matter who benefits from it, the idea of Russia hacking into our election system and releasing e-mails and influencing our election, because that's the kind of thing you read about in their old Soviet satellite states they used to have.

That doesn't happen in America.

SCIUTTO: Right. Right out of the playbook.

And you heard him in the debate again question that Russia is behind these attacks. When I speak to intelligence officials -- I'm sure you get better briefings than me -- and now you have these public statements. This is a broad view of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement community that it's coming from Russia.

And I presume that in Donald Trump's intelligence briefings, he is hearing the same thing.

KINZINGER: He might be. I haven't sat in on his briefings.

But I can tell you the military community, the intelligence community, the reason you're seeing a lot of them speak out now more is because they feel like this isn't a message that's necessarily coming through the administration.

You don't hear the administration talking as much about the Russian nuisances they should be. And so you are seeing these institutions of government that understand this trying to, in essence, go about it in a different way.

But people need to understand that, as terrible as ISIS is -- and we have to destroy them -- Russia is a big threat on the national scene to stability for our allies and anywhere else.

SCIUTTO: So, while this is happening, you have U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continuing to hold out hope for peace talks. This follows even this strike on a humanitarian aid convoy which the U.S. said was Russian. The Russian warplanes bombed a humanitarian aid convoy in the midst of what was meant to be a cease-fire.

I want to read a withering statement that just came from Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain on this.

They said: "Secretary of State John not delusional Kerry has made the one threat the Russians feared most, the suspension of the U.S.-Russia bilateral talks about Syria. No more lakeside tete-a-tetes at five- star hotels in Geneva, no more joint press conferences in Moscow. We can only imagine that having heard the news, Vladimir Putin has called off his bear hunt and is rushing back to the Kremlin to call off Russian airstrikes on hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid convoys around Aleppo."

Is the Obama administration, is John Kerry being delusional?

KINZINGER: Yes, absolutely.

When this last cease-fire came in, I said, this isn't going to last long, and not because I'm amazingly prophetic, but because we have been here before.

You cannot effect a cease-fire with the Russians or with the regime of Assad without an or else. So, hey, we need a cease-fire, or else this is what's going to happen. We're going to destroy your air force. We're going to put a no-fly zone.

That is how you have effective cease-fires, not or else we're going to put you in time-out, which is, in essence, what's happening.

The Russians don't fear this. They are doing things according to what is in their interests. And if they think they can push the United States around as they have been, they're going to continue to push until they hit some kind of a wall. They haven't hit that wall yet.

JIM SCIUTTO, GUEST ANCHOR: Adam Kinzinger, thanks very much for taking the time.

KINZINGER: You bet. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Always great to have you on.

If something that has not happened in eight years, Congress just delivering a blow to President Obama when members of both parties actually worked together this time. That's right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our national lead, you're looking at live pictures of the commander in chief right now. He is thanking U.S. troops at the Fort Lee Military Base in Virginia. This comes after a major blow to his administration today on Capitol Hill. For the first time in his two terms, the House and the Senate, with overwhelming bipartisan support -- you heard that, bipartisan support -- voted to override his veto of a bill allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for the involvement of alleged officials in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Later tonight, President Obama sitting down for a town hall with members of the military and veterans hosted by our very own Jake Tapper.

Let's get right to CNN's Michelle Kosinski who is with the president in Fort Lee Army Base in Virginia.

So, Michelle, how is the White House responding to this literally unprecedented veto override?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, you know, so often they call for a bipartisan cooperation in Congress. Almost every day we hear them say that. Well, this is the kind of cooperation the president does not want. You can say they didn't so much hand him this veto as they figuratively slammed it down on the table and shoved it back at him.

I mean, this was overwhelming. Only one member of the Senate voted to sustain his veto. That was Senator Harry Reid. He had been lobbied directly by President Obama. It was also overwhelming support for the override also in the House. It gives you a sense of the emotion surrounding this issue.

And the White House has also used some emotional language over the past few days, speaking out vehemently in favor of vetoing this bill. Why it sets a dangerous precedent. Today, the White House took it a step further in their language after it was overridden. They called this the most embarrassing thing the Senate has done since 1983, referring to a prior veto of another bill.

But that sparked what has been described as fury on Capitol Hill with one aide calling it amateur hour at the White House.

Senator Chris Coons saying, well, asking us to stand between 9/11 families and their day in court is a lot for us to ask -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: President, clearly, of course only has four more months left in office. He'll leave office with two wars that he wanted to end in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, they're expanding.

What message was he hoping to send to troops there today?

KOSINSKI: Well, you can hear part of it in the town hall, but also as he spoke to troops, he wanted to thank them. That was how the White House was framing this visit. But he also wants to really make a case for his foreign policy. He has had a very difficult relationship with the military over his years. I mean, there's been disagreement even within the military over his time line for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, over his policies on changing the culture of the military. And now, over how best to fight is.

So, you'll hear when you watch this extremely interesting town hall tonight how he answers those questions directly, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Michelle Kosinski with the president -- thanks very much.

As we mentioned, tonight, you can watch a special CNN town hall with President Barack Obama. The president joining CNN's Jake Tapper as well as an audience made up of active duty service members, veterans and those from the military community in Fort Lee, Virginia, the home, that is, of the combined armed support command.

Let's bring in the guy who usually sits in this chair here, that is Jake Tapper.

So, Jake, whenever you see the president with the troops, he clearly takes that role very seriously, very emotionally. Was it an emotional interaction there today?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD: There were some real moments of emotion, absolutely, because one of the things we wanted to do with this town hall has have troops and veterans and their families ask questions directly to the commander in chief that are in some cases uncomfortable questions, to be honest. It kind of the thing -- a thing you really would see in no other country that I can imagine, maybe in the U.K. But really just a purely American thing, that you would have a humble woman of modest circumstances whose husband served and died, and she had a question about why is it that the military still has this problem of post traumatic stress and soldiers who feel ashamed and soldiers who feel like they can't admit it, and putting that question to the president.

We had other moments of individuals who lost family members asking other tough questions. And then there were moments of, I don't know how many military people you have on your Facebook page, but I follow -- I have a bunch of friends that are in the military or military families. One of the things they regularly ask about or sound off about is about Colin Kaepernick, taking a knee during the national anthem. That was question that was asked today.

Why doesn't President Obama more eagerly use the term radical Islamic terrorism? That was a question that was asked.

So, I think it was very representative of the concerns of members of the military, veterans and their families, Jim.

SCIUTTO: It's remarkable. Face-to-face with the president, a chance to ask those questions, it's going to be great to watch.

Jake, thanks very much.

And be sure to tune in to CNN tonight for the exclusive town hall with President Obama at Fort Lee, Virginia, moderated by Jake Tapper. It all gets started at 9:00 Eastern Time.

It is one of the most important and daunting powers of the presidency, control of America's nuclear arsenal.

[16:25:06] So why doesn't Donald Trump have a concise, clear-cut answer when it comes to his own nuclear policy? That's right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

It is clear that Donald Trump is unclear on what he would do with nuclear arms. As we saw a couple nights ago with the first presidential debate, the Republican candidate contradicted himself within seconds on the crucial nuclear weapons issue.

Here is our attempt to decipher Trump's stance on nuclear armament.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Would he?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't take anything off the table.

SCIUTTO: Or wouldn't he?

TRUMP: I would certainly not do first strike.

SCIUTTO: When it comes to ordering a nuclear war as president, Donald Trump seems undecided at best.