Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Sen. Sanders, First Lady Campaign for Clinton; Trump Battles with Former Beauty Queen; Obama Reacts to Stunning Veto Defeat; Sources: Russia May Have Targeted Dems' Cellphones. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 28, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Not an apprenticeship. Michelle Obama hits the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton and warns Donald Trump that being president isn't anything like reality TV. The first lady slams Trump for his birther campaign and what she calls his cruel and insulting comments about women.
Food fight. Trump goes after a former beauty queen who says he publicly shamed her for gaining weight. With aides worried about the next debate, is Trump's campaign getting side-tracked?
School shooting. Two children and a teacher are shot in an elementary school in South Carolina. The suspected gunman, a teenager. What was he doing in the school, and how much worse could the attack have been?
And Putin problem. New concern that Russian cyber-attackers are targeting cellphones here in the United States. President Vladimir Putin is said to have thousands of hackers working for him, and with growing tension over Russia's aggression in Syria, how big a threat does Putin pose to this country?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news: a stunning defeat for President Obama today. For the first time, Congress has overridden his veto of a Bill. We're standing by to hear exclusively from the president after his own party abandoned him.
The presidential candidates are on the attack today at a rally in Iowa just now. Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton corrupt, saying she put the Oval Office up for sale.
Clinton has called in backup. Ex-rival Senator Bernie Sanders joined her in the battleground state of New Hampshire, making a pitch to his millennial fans, whose votes may be crucial to Clinton's chances.
In Pennsylvania, Michelle Obama ripped into Trump, saying America needs an adult in the White House. She painted Trump as erratic and threatening, someone who, quote, "traffics in prejudice, fear and lies." And the first lady slammed what she called Trump's cruel and insulting comments about women.
That comes as Trump is still feeling the fallout from Monday's debate, in which Mrs. Clinton raised the case of a former Miss Universe who says Trump very effectively shamed her for gaining weight.
Trump aides admit frustration at his performance, and there's growing pressure on his right now to prepare for the next debate.
I'll speak with Congressman Sean Duffy. He's a Trump supporter. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with Hillary Clinton, who's getting some VIP help out there on the campaign trail today. Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us from New Hampshire right now.
Jeff, Clinton is really going after younger voters, and she really needs them.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: She does, indeed, Wolf. Young voters are one of the biggest blocs of the Obama coalition that have yet to fall into place for the Clinton campaign. This is why it matters.
Millennials now match or outpace Baby Boomers in the electorate, if they vote. That is the worry of the Clinton campaign, that some are drawn to third-party candidates or Donald Trump. That's why her one- time rival, Bernie Sanders, came to New Hampshire with her today.
ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight Hillary Clinton is desperately speaking millennials.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The next 40 days will determine the next 40 years.
ZELENY: She's calling in reinforcements, hoping their glow fires up young voters still uncertain about her candidacy.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Make no mistake about it, that I will work with President Clinton.
ZELENY: And Michelle Obama delivering a blunt message to college students today in Pennsylvania: Don't be tempted by a third-party candidate.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's the truth. Either Hillary Clinton or her opponent will be elected president this year. 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.
ZELENY: Putting her popularity on the line, the first lady making clear how personal this election is, after Donald Trump spent years falsely questioning her husband's citizenship.
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.
ZELENY: It's all part of the Democratic effort to fill one of the biggest holes in rebuilding the Obama coalition: persuading young voters to support Clinton as enthusiastically as they did Obama. She's trying to make voters see this election as less about her than about their priorities, ranging from climate change to marriage equality.
CLINTON: It's not just my name on the ballot. Every issue you care about. Think about it. Because in effect, it's on the ballot too
ZELENY: Now, the voters we talked to here in New Hampshire, Wolf, many of the younger voters were, indeed, former supporters of Senator Sanders. Some say that they, you know, were slow to move over to the Clinton campaign, and they are still looking at third-party candidates, including Jill Stein, that Green Party candidate. But they know the stakes of this election are high here. They said after watching the debate on Monday that became clear to them.
Bernie Sanders, I'm told tonight, Wolf, is going to start campaigning much more aggressively now that the Senate is out of session. Starting in October, he has a very aggressive schedule hitting some of those states where he won -- Wisconsin, Iowa, others -- to try and help her defeat Donald Trump -- Wolf.
BLITZER: She clearly needs his help right now. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.
So Donald Trump's attacks on a former beauty queen have blunted the impact of his attacks on Hillary Clinton and put his attitudes towards women back in the spotlight.
Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is on the campaign trail in Wisconsin right now. So Jim, how damaging is this for Trump?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It could be damaging, Wolf. Donald Trump has spent the day trying to shift the focus back to Hillary Clinton and away from this battle with a former Miss Universe. And there is a sign that the Trump campaign is trying to do some damage control. They've invited a former Miss Wisconsin to appear with Trump at a rally here in Wisconsin later on tonight.
ACOSTA: It's a "he said, she said" that's getting in the way of Donald Trump's quest to be crowned the winner in November.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary Clinton, who I happen to believe is grossly incompetent, is going to increase taxes. She'll be very, very bad for our country. I think it would be worse than four more years of Obama.
ACOSTA: Not his fight with Hillary Clinton, which is raging on after his shaky debate performance. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alicia Machado, you are the new Miss Universe!
ACOSTA: But with Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe who says Trump once called her "Miss Piggy" for gaining weight, now a high- profile surrogate for Clinton.
ALICIA MACHADO, FORMER MISS UNIVERSE: No more insults for the women. Somebody like that, can't be a president.
ACOSTA: The Trump campaign fired back, releasing a statement saying these are totally baseless and unsubstantiated claims by Miss Machado. But Trump was caught on tape in 1997, mocking Machado's weight gain to shock jock Howard Stern.
TRUMP (via phone): She gained about 55 pounds in a period of nine months. She was like an eating machine. She ate a lot of everything.
CLINTON: He called this woman "Miss Piggy." Then he called her "Miss Housekeeping".
ACOSTA: It was the Machado moment that caught Trump by surprise at Monday's debate.
CLINTON: Alicia Machado.
ACOSTA: Even though Trump declared himself the winner in that faceoff, he's hinting he will get more aggressive and perhaps try to tar Clinton with her husband's past affairs, a risky move for Trump, who's had his share of infidelities.
TRUMP: I watched her very carefully. And I was also holding back. I didn't want to do anything to embarrass her.
ACOSTA: Trump's son Eric describes his father's restraint on the topic as a gutsy move.
ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: I think that took a lot of courage in so many regards. And I think, you know, I think he really answered that well and took the high ground.
ACOSTA: Trump advisors maintain the GOP nominee will do more debate prep before his next round with Clinton. Good idea, says House Speaker Paul Ryan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did a vice-presidential debate. Did you prepare a lot for that?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I know where you're going with this one, all right?
Yes, I did, David.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Well -- does preparation help?
RYAN: It does, David.
ACOSTA: But at his rallies, Trump supporters are standing by their candidate, whether it's his battle with Machado...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I used to do beauty pageants. You have a title to uphold. Maybe he was a little out of line, but I still think he did right by what he did.
ACOSTA: Or the Clintons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know that Bill's lifestyle necessarily is Hillary's lifestyle choices, but I think that character is on the table.
ACOSTA: Getting back to those debate preparations, sources inside Trump world concede the GOP nominee has to do more homework before that next debate with Hillary Clinton.
Although one advisor, Wolf, notes that the format at this upcoming debate later on in October is a town hall format, so the preparations might be a little bit different. But one Trump advisor told me, Wolf, Donald Trump does not make the same mistake twice -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We shall see soon enough. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. He's a Donald Trump supporter. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: It's good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Let's talk about preparing for a presidential debate. Listen to what the first lady, Michelle Obama, said about Trump today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So when it comes to the qualifications we should demand in a president, to start with we need someone who will take the job seriously, someone who will study and prepare so that they understand the issues better than anyone else on their team. And we need someone with superb judgement, in their own right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:10:09] BLITZER: So your reaction to that. She's saying he simply didn't care enough to really study and prepare for that first debate.
DUFFY: I don't think it was so much the issues of preparation that is the real attack. It's that, in a debate -- this goes back to high school debate -- if an attack is launched at you, you address it, swat it away; and you pivot back and attack your opponent. I mean, he spent how much time on the birther issue, on his taxes. Get away from those issues and go back to Hillary.
BLITZER: Why wasn't he prepared for that? Because apparently, his aide said he didn't want to do mock debates, which in a situation like this -- if you were going up in a debate, you'd want to practice.
DUFFY: I absolutely would. And I think he's been successful. He's had a lot of primary debates. He didn't -- he probably had the same strategy and preparation. I think he thinks he does well off the cuff. But this is a whole different league. An hour and a half debate, only two people.
And hopefully, he learned his lesson that you have to put more prep time in on the issues that are going to come and how you're going to pivot to get your points across to the American people.
BLITZER: Because what message does that send to the American public if they say, you know, he didn't even prepare for this debate? He came in unprepared.
DUFFY: Listen, I think that it was a strategy on his part, to think "I'm better off the cuff. I'm more authentic to the American people." And I think his argument makes sense when you say, "They buy authenticity. They don't want me rehearsed. They don't want me with stats and figures I'm trying to remember them. They want to come out; they want to see an energy, and a passion and a heart to fight for the American people."
But when you're in a knuckle fight and you can't pivot, I think it's problematic. But when you talk about -- I think this is what Mrs. Obama was just talking about, was that she has a history and she has planned. She's been in situations in the past.
Hillary has a long record of, yes, being in tough situations and failing the test, whether it was the vote in Iraq, whether it was the support of...
BLITZER: Did he fail in that debate in bringing those issues to the fore?
DUFFY: Absolutely. I mean, he was given -- he was given a blank slate to start punching back, and he left those issues on the side. I mean, at the end of the debate, she was ripping his skin off on the woman issue.
I'm sorry. He should have pivoted and talked about all of what Bill Clinton has done, but not about Bill Clinton but about what her response was to the victims of sexual aggression and potentially the sexual crimes, that Hillary Clinton didn't support the victim, didn't support women. She supported Bill and attacked these women. He could have gone there.
BLITZER: You heard him say, when she came out, and she really went after him for failing to release his income tax returns. You said he should release his returns.
DUFFY: I have.
BLITZER: You said it right here on the show. She cited several reasons why he should release the tax returns. She said he doesn't pay federal taxes. By the way, he said to that, "That's smart." You heard him say that's smart if he doesn't pay federal taxes.
Doesn't donate to charity. Isn't as rich as he says he is. Do you share those concerns?
DUFFY: Well, in regard to what -- the allegations made by Hillary Clinton?
DUFFY: Well, listen, that someone doesn't pay taxes, I think Donald Trump follows the law. This is another call that we have to have tax reform. We want to know what people pay, and that you have all these carve-outs and loopholes that have been put in the tax code...
BLITZER: She said there's something he's hiding out there. That's not -- that's why he's not releasing the taxes.
DUFFY: I think this is where he missed the point. He should have pivoted and said, "Listen, I've done the disclosure. I've been legal in regard to how I've dealt with taxes."
Hillary Clinton was required to hold those 33,000 e-mails. She got a request from Congress to preserve the e-mails. She Bleach Bitted, deleted, can't be recovered, 33,000 e-mails. I mean, that's the bigger story.
Donald Trump, private citizen. Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, totally eradicated a set of e-mails that, Wolf, you and I know, those aren't e-mails that you Bleach Bit that are about Chelsea's wedding or about a yoga class. These are serious e-mails that she didn't want the American public to see. He should have pivoted to that.
And I've told you this on this show. Release the taxes, let's get those e-mails, and let's have a fair showing.
BLITZER: And you must have been very uncomfortable when she went after him for calling the Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, at one point "Miss Piggy," "Miss Housekeeping." She really went after him, because she gained a little weight, and he was really, really angry at her and publicly humiliated her. And she was 19 years old at the time. She really suffered.
DUFFY: Yes, listen, I have five daughters. I think that is a horrible thing to say about someone. I think it has a real impact on someone. And so a tragedy that those comments would be made. But again, Hillary Clinton...
BLITZER: Because he fell into her trap on that one. He really let her get under his skin, and he reacted as he often does. You hit him. He's going to hit you back. But in these he was on the defensive.
DUFFY: And -- and she knew that she could do that to him if she got under his skin, and he took the bit. But Hillary called Monica a narcissistic looney-toon. Gennifer Flowers trailer trash. I mean, they both have dirty... BLITZER: He didn't do any of that. He failed in the first debate to raise any of that.
[17:15:10] DUFFY: He did, and for me as a former prosecutor, I know sexual assault victim, it's really hard to come forward and to tell your story, and when they do, to have the first lady attack you. That would have been powerful, had he pivoted and made that point.
BLITZER: All right. I want you to stand by. We're getting some breaking news, Congressman. I'm just being told we're getting in an interview, some exclusive sound from a CNN town hall with President Obama. He's firing back right now, especially at Democrats. Democrats. His fellow Democrats, saying they have just made a very big mistake today.
We're going to take a quick break. We're going to be right back with that exclusive new sound from the president of the United States. Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[17:20:12] BLITZER: We have exclusive breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. President Obama reacting to this afternoon's stunning loss at the hands of the U.S. Congress. Huge bipartisan majorities voted this afternoon to override one of his vetoes, the first time ever in his presidency.
Here's what the president had to say just now while taping CNN's presidential town hall with our own Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I want to get back to the men women, but I have a quick question for you. Congress has done something today that they have never done to you before. You vetoed a bill that would have allowed 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia. They today overrode your veto. That has never happened to you before.
TAPPER: Your reaction?
OBAMA: Well, I think it was a mistake. And I understand why it happened. Obviously, all of us still carry the scars and trauma of 9/11. Nobody more than this 9/11 generation that's fought on our behalf in the aftermath of 9/11. And, you know, those families deserve support, and they deserve resources. That's why we set up a victims' compensation fund. And on average, families received about $2 million each.
But what this legislation did was it said, if a private citizen believes that, having been victimized by terrorism, that another country didn't do enough to stop one of its citizens, for example, in engaging in terrorism, then they can file a personal lawsuit, a private lawsuit in court.
And the problem with that is that, if we eliminate this notion of sovereign immunity, then our men and women in uniform around the world could potentially start seeing ourselves subject to reciprocal laws.
And the concern that I've had has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia, per se, or my sympathy for 9/11 families. It has to do with me not wanting a situation in which we're suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we're doing all around the world. And suddenly finding ourselves subject to the private lawsuits in courts where we don't even know exactly whether they're on the up and up in some cases.
So -- so this is -- it's a dangerous precedent, and it's an example of why sometimes you have to do what's hard. And frankly, I wish Congress here had done what's hard. I didn't expect it, because voting -- if you're perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that's a hard vote for people to take. But it would have been the right thing to do.
And I am concerned. And this is not just my concern. General Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs, said this is a bad idea. Secretary of defense said it was a bad idea. And then we found out some of the people who voted for it said, "Frankly, we didn't know what was in it. And there was no debate of it." And it was, you know, basically a political vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Strong words from the president of the United States, who suffered a humiliating, major setback today.
We're back with Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. He's a Donald Trump supporter.
You voted against the president. You voted for this legislation to override the president's veto. Does the president have it wrong?
DUFFY: He does. And I'm disappointed in the statements he just made there. To equate the good work that America does around the world to Saudi Arabia, and if you can prove were supporting the terrorists that attacked us on 9/11, I'm sorry. Our victims, our families of 9/11 have a right to go sue a government that supported those terrorists.
BLITZER: But he says that what you did today, Congressman, is you're endangering American military personnel who are serving abroad, diplomats who are serving abroad, intelligence officials who are serving abroad, because these other countries are now going to say, "You know what? The United States had a drone strike, killed some civilians. We're going to arrest these people."
DUFFY: If America supports terror like Saudi Arabia did, maybe. Maybe he wants to take the point that, because he sent $1.7 billion in cash payments, $1.3 billion of it in U.S. taxpayer money, to Iran, a lead sponsor of terror, could there be liability for that? Maybe. That cash -- that cash payment shouldn't have been made. But don't equate the United States with Saudi Arabia when they've supported...
BLITZER: Quickly, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
DUFFY: That's right.
BLITZER: But you believe the Saudi government was involved in that?
DUFFY: I think you have to prove that. To show liability you have to show their involvement in funding of those who executed that attack. If you can't, I don't think you have liability.
[17:25:09] But I think it opens the door now to say, "If you can prove it, you can get a claim against Saudi Arabia." And I think that's fair.
BLITZER: Congressman Duffy, thanks very much for coming in.
DUFFY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The -- in the next hour, I'll speak with Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro. He's got very strong views on all of this.
And stay with CNN. In just a few hours, you're going to see President Obama's entire town hall discussing the challenges facing U.S. military veterans as well as his legacy as commander in chief. You can watch it tonight: 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Coming up, new revelations about suspected cyberattacks from Russia. Is Vladimir Putin behind the efforts to break into state voter registration lists?
We're also following breaking news in South Carolina, where three people have been shot at an elementary school.
BLITZER: Today Hillary Clinton is getting help from two of the most popular people among voters she desperately needs.
[17:30:28] Senator Bernie Sanders joined Clinton for a campaign event aimed at young voters, while the first lady, Michelle Obama, courted women and African-Americans and slamming Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot afford to squander this opportunity, particularly given the alternative, because we know that being president isn't anything like reality TV. It is not an apprenticeship. And it is not just about fiery speeches or insulting tweets. It's about whether someone can handle the awesome responsibility of leading this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our political experts. Mark Preston, like a lot of other Democrats, she really went after Donald Trump. She didn't mention him by name, but we all knew who she was clearly talking about. This has become a common feature: really attack Trump but don't mention his name.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, you know, Wolf, we're at this time in the campaign where these candidates have 100 percent name I.D.
I just spoke to a Clinton campaign official, and they said there's -- you know, there's no real planned, concerted effort to do so, but the fact of the matter is, having Michelle Obama out there attacking him on one thing, having Bernie Sanders out there attacking him on another thing, hitting different constituencies, is very, very powerful.
But I would go one step further and say, you know what? It might have been her way at getting back at Donald Trump. Not giving him the respect that she thinks she deserves, because he is the one who really pushed forth this birther issue. It's something that she mentioned today with big disdain, Wolf.
BLITZER: And she did get some help, Hillary Clinton, Abby, from Bernie Sanders. It was very popular with a lot of young voters in a Bloomberg politics poll. Likely voters under 35: Clinton 40 percent, Trump 36 percent, Gary Johnson 11 percent. Bernie Sanders is desperately needed by Hillary Clinton right now.
ABBY PHILIP, "NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, and really across the board. It's millennials, and it's a lot of places -- it's a lot of voters in states that she's having some trouble with right now. New Hampshire, included where they were today.
But also in places like Colorado where she's seeing some erosion among younger voters, some of those people going to third-party candidates.
So the plea that you're seeing from Bernie and also from Michelle Obama and Barack Obama isn't just vote for Hillary Clinton. It's don't you dare vote for Gary Johnson or anybody else, because if you do that, you're jeopardizing the country's future.
BLITZER: As the president said today, Rebecca, if you don't vote, that's a vote for Donald Trump. He kept making that same point. So is this message going to resonate with younger voters?
MAEVE RESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the turnout question is actually a huge question with millennials in particular. There was a recent ABC News poll that showed only 40 percent of millennials right now are very likely to vote. So that's a big deal when it comes to a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who's going to rely on turnout among millennials.
But really, the message, I think, for millennials right now that is very important for the Clinton campaign is what Abby said. Making the case that you can't vote for Gary Johnson and expect Donald Trump to lose. Because right now, you have a lot of those protest votes among millennials especially. There isn't the same enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton as there was for Barack Obama among millennials. BLITZER: David Axelrod, you helped build that Barack Obama coalition
back in 2007/2008. Can Hillary Clinton recreate it this year?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the elements of that coalition were women, and he won those -- he won women in large numbers. Minorities. He did very well, and the turnout was high. And young people. He's doing very well with women in polling, and he's looking to maximize that number. Michelle Obama can help with that in the suburbs of Philadelphia, for example, where it's going to be very important.
Minority turnout is a concern. And that's why Philadelphia was also important for her as a target today.
And then the question of millennials, I think, is the most troubling. Not just the turnout but how many will flake to the third parties. We've seen in some polls that that number runs as high as a third going to a combination of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. And so there has to be a concerted effort aimed at these millennials.
And frankly, Bernie Sanders has a lot of work to do to undo a year of battering of Hillary Clinton with these voters and telling them that she was part of the same corrupt system as all the other politicians and so on. Now he is trying to make a strong case on her behalf.
But there are going to be some young people saying, "Wait a second. You told us something else, and now you're telling us this." So how much he can do, I think, is a question.
BLITZER: Very quickly, David Axelrod. Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic Party, former Democratic presidential candidate, governor of Vermont, he had a tweet today, and I'm going to put it up on the screen: "Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?" Question mark. Your reaction to that?
AXELROD: My reaction was that was outrageous. And I know he, like Donald Trump, has refused to apologize for an outrageous statement. He really should. I mean, there are plenty -- there are plenty of ways and valid reasons to attack and critique Donald Trump, but that was a really -- a really outrageous tweet.
And, you know, I don't think Howard Dean has done anything since the great scream in 2004 quite like this. He ought to pull that back.
BLITZER: And so far, Mark Preston, he hasn't done that, right?
PRESTON: He hasn't done that. And as David said, he has doubled down, much like Donald Trump has, which is what Democrats have criticized Donald Trump so much for. Now we see a very prominent Democrat basically doing the same thing.
David Axelrod is absolutely right. This is inappropriate. And at a time when the political discourse is really in the gutter, this is only adding to it. BLITZER: Yes, and Donald Trump all the time makes the point he
doesn't drink, doesn't us drugs. A family history there. And very adamant about that.
Everyone stand by. We all remember Trump's huge appearance on "Saturday Night Live." Up next, we're getting some new information about how "Saturday Night Live" will deal with Donald Trump when its new season premieres.
[17:4:18] BLITZER: Breaking news we're following. Two children and a teacher were shot at a South Carolina elementary school this afternoon.
An official with the Anderson County Sheriff's Office just now said all three victims were struck by bullets from a handgun. According to earlier reports, all three victims are alive. They're being treated in hospitals. We don't know how seriously they've been injured.
Authorities also tell CNN the suspected gunman is a teenager and is in custody. Just now officials announced a man who is related to the suspect was found dead at a home near the school. We're going to bring you more details as they come in. A very disturbing story we're following.
We're also following other breaking political news right now. We're back with our political experts.
And David Axelrod, it's very interesting, because a lot of the Trump aides are saying, you know, he really didn't prepare; he didn't want to listen to his advisors. You helped Barack Obama prepare for debates in 2008, important debates against Hillary Clinton when she -- when they were both running for the Democratic nomination.
How -- how did you handle the issue when -- when Barack Obama didn't want to hear certain criticism, didn't want to hear certain things for you? How did you handle that? Because clearly, Donald Trump doesn't necessarily want to hear certain things from his aides.
AXELROD: Let me just say first, Wolf, when I heard these reports that, well, he doesn't really prepare in the traditional way, he doesn't really dive into briefing books and so on, I thought, either he is the greatest political talent of all time and can go into the most pressureful event there is in politics, a general election presidential debate, and excel without preparation, or this is going to be a long night for him. Well, it turned out to be a long night for him.
And the people around him should have tried to prevail on him before that disaster.
Now, sometimes a candidate won't listen. And listening seems sometimes to be a challenge for Mr. Trump. And look, every candidate is a little bit resistant. No candidate likes to hear what they don't want to hear. But part of the job of being an advisor is to sometimes tell them what they don't want to hear.
I'm sure that I irritated the president and then-Senator Obama many, many times. He could -- I'm sure he would attest to that. But that is part of the job of being an advisor. And if you can't tell your candidate the truth, you're not doing your candidate a favor.
BLITZER: Is he going to listen to that advice, Mark Preston?
PRESTON: I would -- if I was a betting man, I would say probably not. Or if he does, he certainly won't accept all of that advice.
Wolf, look, the bottom line is, is that Donald Trump seems to have gone through his life, you know, listening to his own advice and has done pretty well for himself. And now at this time, at this very important time, he thinks that he can win the presidency, you know, based upon what he thinks is the way to move forward.
Clearly, politics is a different game than business. While there are similarities, they are very much different. He should be listening to the political pros.
BLITZER: Rebecca, Donald Trump, there's a pattern here, the way he handles controversy: the controversy of Miss Universe Alicia Machado. Of course, there was the Khan family, Gold-Star family. You know, he doesn't apologize. He doesn't back off. That's a pattern, and a lot of his advisors are not happy with that.
BERG: It is. It's problematic. Because if you don't apologize, if you don't at least walk back what you said that's creating such controversy, you get mired in the controversy. And we've seen this over and over with Donald Trump, in spite of some of his advisors' best efforts to move the conversation in a new direction.
And we're seeing that now. They're trying to undermine Miss Machado's credibility. They're trying to change the subject to some of Bill Clinton's past affairs. And so, at the same time that Donald Trump is dwelling on this controversy. And so it really doesn't help him to continue this conversation.
[17:45:05] BLITZER: All right, Abby. We're just getting this clip in. "Saturday Night Live," the new season, starts this Saturday, and they're about to unveil a new Donald Trump. Watch this.
PHILLIP: Could not be more perfect.
BLITZER: Alec Baldwin, the new Donald Trump. What do you think?
PHILLIP: I think it's going to be amazing. I'm ready for it.
BLITZER: It's going to be a lively little exchange, I'm sure.
PHILLIP: Especially after Monday's debate. They'll have a lot of material to work with. BLITZER: They'll certainly will. All right. All right, guys, stay
with us. An important note to our viewers, stay with CNN. In just a few hours, you're going to see President Obama's entire town hall discussing the challenges facing U.S. military veterans as well as his legacy as Commander-in-Chief. You can watch it tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.
Growing suspicions that Vladimir Putin may be behind cyber attacks in the United States. Is he trying to undermine the credibility of the next U.S. President?
[17:55:41] BLITZER: Are Russian cyber attackers targeting cell phones here in the United States? Experts and intelligence sources say Russia is stepping up its activities, and they're pointing to the highest levels of the Kremlin. Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we're getting word that Vladimir Putin's hackers may have been using more tools than we originally thought to hack into the Democratic National Committee.
Experts telling us that at least one unit of Putin's army of cyber warriors has the ability to target cell phones. And the FBI, tonight, looking into whether they have done just that. Another indication that Putin's offensive cyber offensive on America's political process is in high gear just 41 days before the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, the cyber attack targeting the Democratic National Committee could be much worse than originally thought. Law enforcement and Democratic sources telling CNN investigators are planning to image Democratic staffer's phones to see if they've been breached.
If they have, it could be part of the previous hack of Democratic Committee e-mails, wildly believed to be the work of the Russian government.
DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, CO-FOUNDER AND CTO, CROWDSTRIKE: There's a great deal of concern that the group behind the original hack, the Fancy Bears group tied to Russian military intelligence, has the capabilities to target phones.
TODD (voice-over): Dmitri Alperovitch, whose firm CrowdStrike tracked down the hackers in the DNC case, says Vladimir Putin has thousands of hackers working for him. CIA director John Brennan, in an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett, spoke of Putin's ambition.
JOHN BRENNAN, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Mr. Putin has been very aggressive on the foreign policy front but also very aggressive in the cyber realm, and we know that the Russians are very active in that area. TODD (voice-over): And there's one hacking entity tonight being tied
more closely to the Democratic Committee hack, Guccifer 2.0. Guccifer 2.0 is tied to that hack because they distributed the content. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials believe Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian intelligence operation. Alperovitch says those hackers could work right under Putin in Moscow, or he could be keeping them at arm's length.
ALPEROVITCH: Whether Guccifer is a group of operatives wearing Russian military uniforms, they're part of the GRU, or whether they're an outsourced operation, we don't exactly know. But we know that there's some sort of affiliation.
TODD (voice-over): Putin has denied all of it.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): I don't know anything about it. And on a state level, Russia has never done this.
TODD (voice-over): Something else Putin's government is denying tonight, the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, killing nearly 300 people.
A team of international prosecutors says the missile was brought into Ukraine from Russia, fired from a village under the control of Russian separatists.
His invasion of Ukraine, his alleged cyber attacks on America's election are, according to experts, part of a bigger calculation from Vladimir Putin.
ILAN BERMAN, VICE PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY COUNCIL: First and foremost, Vladimir Putin is under enormous pressure domestically to demonstrate that he's winning and to signal to the world that Russia, no matter how much we try to stop them, Russia is a global player.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But why is Putin specifically targeting the Democratic Committee for cyber attacks as so many believes? Well, analysts say he is trying to sow doubt around the world about the American political process, to make it look like it's corrupt and that it doesn't work. And they say he is also trying to undermine the credibly of the next American President, even before he or she takes office. Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, huge questions tonight, what can the U.S. government do to respond to Putin's alleged cyber attacks and why haven't they done it?
TODD: It is a big question, Wolf. Cyber security expert Dmitri Alperovitch, whose firm tracked those DNC hackers, he says the Obama administration could publicly name Putin's government is doing this, that it could indict some of the hackers, use sanctions or launch its own cyber attacks against Russia. And he says, right now, it's inexcusable that they haven't done that.
White House officials tonight countering to us, they're telling us they have to gather the facts of this case first. That takes time, but they promised us they will pursue those bad actors.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.
Coming up, Donald Trump steps up his attacks on Hillary Clinton, but is a feud with a former beauty queen side tracking his presidential campaign?
And Michelle Obama goes to bat for Hillary Clinton and takes a few swings at Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:54:55] MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: We also need someone who is steady and measured because when making life or death, war or peace decisions, a President can't just pop off or lash out irrationally. No, we need an adult in the White House. I guarantee you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:59:38] BLITZER: Happening now. Popping off, Michelle Obama unleashes a laser sharp indictment on Donald Trump as she campaigns for Hillary Clinton. The First Lady says a President can't just pop off or lash out irrationally. She calls his dismissal of the birther controversy insincere and denounces his name calling and negativity. Will her popularity translate to votes for Clinton?
Pressure to prepare. Some of Donald Trump's aides are said to be voicing disappointment at his debate performance and urging him to practice for the next showdown.