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Obama, Putin Meet Amid Rising Tensions; Donald Trump Unveils Tax Plan; Donald Trump Admits Childish Temperament. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 28, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:04] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Jennifer Gray, I'm looking forward to your first live shot from mars. Thanks so much.

That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over now to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, who is in New York.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, U.N. showdown. President Obama meets this hour with Russia's President Putin amid rising tensions over Syria, ISIS and Eastern Europe. They've already exchanged angry rhetoric in front of world leaders and icy stares during a tense toast. Are they headed toward compromise or conflict?

Nuclear threat. As the U.S. makes better bombs to deploy in Europe, Russia may make some moves of its own. Is Russia right to view this as a U.S. provocation?

And Trump tax plan. The billionaire says half of all Americans will pay nothing and the very wealthy would pay less, but why would Americans have to write to the IRS saying, quote, "I win."

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the United Nations. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news on opposite sides of some very dangerous world crises like the bad old days almost of the Cold War.

President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are meeting this hour right here at the United Nations. They traded sharp jabs today in dueling speeches, and they traded frosty looks during a tense toast. Now their first one-on-one talks in two years topping the agenda, the catastrophic war in Syria and the fight against ISIS.

Russia has moved troops, aircraft and heavy weapons into Syria, where it's backing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who President Obama says must go.

And there are continuing tensions in Europe. As the U.S. and its NATO allies confront Russia over aggression in Ukraine. The U.S. now upgrading some of its nuclear bombs. And Russia may answer by moving some of its missiles.

I'll speak with a former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General Wesley Clark. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they have full coverage coming up this hour. As the two leaders begin their meeting, we begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who has the very latest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, any moment now President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be behind closed doors, holding their first major face-to-face meeting in more than two years.

And they're once again firing rhetorical missiles at one another over the world's biggest challenges, namely Syria and ISIS.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Before their meeting, President Obama and Vladimir Putin let their body language do all the talking, clinking champagne glasses as the Russian leader cracked a sly smile.

Earlier in the day Mr. Obama warned the United Nations of what he called dangerous currents that could lead to a darker world, making his feelings clear about Putin's new shadow in the Middle East. We're told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder.

ACOSTA: The president slammed Putin's recipe for defeating ISIS, whose main ingredient is propping up that country's leader, Bashar al- Assad.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And according to this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse.

ACOSTA: But with no end in sight in the battle against ISIS, Putin is essentially proposing a Plan B. Instead of supporting the Syrian rebels like the U.S., Russia wants to back Assad. So it's forming an intelligence sharing agreement with Iraq, Iran and Syria.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): No one but President Assad's armed forces and Kurdish militia are truly fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria.

ACOSTA: Putin blamed the U.S. for the rise of ISIS.

PUTIN (through translator): We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government.

ACOSTA: As he explained to "60 Minutes," Putin argues the U.S. has miscalculated by taking the wrong sides in the Arab Spring.

PUTIN (through translator): We support the legitimate government of Syria.

ACOSTA: President Obama, who's long said Assad must go, is now softening that stance and adding he'll even work with Russia and Iran.

OBAMA: Realism dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out ISIL. ACOSTA: But the U.S. and Russia still aren't collaborating, even as

Moscow ramps up its military presence in Syria.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is not yet coordinated.

ACOSTA: Which is why these two leaders are talking face-to-face in their first bilateral meeting since this encounter more than two years ago. An easier time in the relationship before Russia invaded Ukraine and became isolated from the west, something Mr. Obama wants the world to remember. If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today.


ACOSTA: Now, if that's not enough frostiness in this post-Cold War relationship, consider how both sides were characterizing the run-up to this meeting. White House officials insisted it was the Russians who wanted it more than they did, and of course, Moscow says it's President Obama who sought out Putin.

[17:05:13] Expect both the White House and the Kremlin to be just as divided in how they recap this meeting, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens. They're meeting this hour here at the United Nations. Jim Acosta, thank you.

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, Russia, U.S. Clearly at odds right now, but is there any indication that maybe all this maneuverability could lead to some cooperation?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's what the common ground they're going to have to try to find in this meeting. And you saw some hints of it in the public comments.

President Obama talked about a managed transition from Bashar al- Assad, meaning that it doesn't have to be immediate. So question is how long would the U.S. be comfortable with him in power, and who would replace him? And would that be satisfying for the Russians?

Because President Putin spoke and praised Bashar al-Assad, but he also spoke of Syrian institutions. So could Russia be happy with the Assad regime minus Assad after a certain period of time? And could the U.S. be happy with Assad for a certain period of time as long as he goes at a point they're satisfied. That's where they really have to struggle to find that common ground. It's not clear that they will.

BLITZER: But if the president in his speech, President Obama, did suggest that maybe, even if they were doing the right thing, the U.S. could work with Russia and Iran, for that matter, as well, to deal with the Islamic state or ISIS.

SCIUTTO: No question. That is certainly on the table as to who the U.S. is willing to talk to. And president said that Russia, Iran, two countries the U.S. has been at odds with over Syria, at least, really at loggerheads with, they're willing to sit down at the table. And that by itself is progress. And so the question is can those three very diametrically opposed sides find a common ground?

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Let's get some more analysis on what's going on right now. Joining us the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General Wesley Clark.

General Clark, thanks very much for joining us. You saw those icy glares, staring at this toast between these two presidents, Putin and Obama. It's sort of reminiscent of the bad old days of the Cold War. And you served in the U.S. military during those bad old days.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: We're back to the geostrategic chess board, and this is Russia's move. They put a knight into the Middle East, so to speak. A chess piece. They pole-vaulted over Turkey, and now they've got their base established and a lot of key. And they've got tanks, air defense, combat aircraft, doing drone reconnaissance and presumably soon starting to strike to support Bashar Assad.

BLITZER: But in the process of helping Bashar al-Assad, which the U.S. is not too keen on, but if they do help beat ISIS, the U.S. would welcome that, right?

CLARK: Well, you would think so. But there's a larger issue that has to be worked also, because a lot of U.S. allies don't want Iran to dominate the region. And this is really about Russia and Iran's hegemonic aspirations in the region.

ISIS is, to some extent, a reaction against Iran. Iran had a dominant position in Iraq in the government, forcing the Sunnis out. We know that certain Sunni nations supported ISIS in the early days before they recognized they'd created a Frankenstein there. So they're worried about ISIS, but they're also worried about Iran.

And the talks still from these nations underneath is that the Iran nuclear agreement, however welcoming it is to forestall a war, might empower even greater ambitions by Iran in the region.

BLITZER: So what should the U.S. do, now that Russia is really maneuvering, putting in tanks, putting in heavy weapons, planes and troops, for that matter, into Syria?

CLARK: Well, No. 1 at the military level, you've got to go for some kind of deconfliction, because you don't want Russia and U.S. forces actually fighting. You don't want the aircraft seeing each other on radar and engaging with air-to-air missiles by accident or by mistake.

But I think the crucial thing for the United States is to focus on the end-state we're seeking in Syria. You know, we've never picked out -- we said Assad must go, but who's going to take his place? Is it just to be a democratic election? Is it a free-for-all? Are we going to have a series of weak parliamentary leader emerge, each for six months, like the Syrian opposition's doing right, now with no leadership? That won't work in this region.

BLITZER: We're standing by this hour. The two presidents are going to be meeting here at the United Nations, Putin and Obama. First time in two years they've met across -- face-to-face, for that matter.

And some of President Obama's critics, as you know, they say Putin right now is almost completely outmaneuvering President Obama in Ukraine, for example, and now in Syria.

CLARK: Well, actually, although I supported sending lethal weapons to Ukraine to make sure, I think President Obama, he took a chance that Putin wouldn't move. And Putin hasn't moved beyond this. And President Obama's still...

BLITZER: He's got Crimea.

CLARK: Yes. And we haven't surrendered it legally either. So we're not going to take it back by force. We're going to take it back by economic development. If what we believe in is true, that democracy and the free market system are superior to the kind of kleptocracy that Putin's running.

Now, with respect to Syria, the key thing is who follows Assad? Is it a general from the Syrian military? Which general would be acceptable to us?

Because our key point is you do have to have strong leadership in this region. You can't have an extended period. We know U.S. forces on the ground can't broker this agreement. So -- and former Syrian intelligencia who are living now in Paris and advocating for the Syrian opposition, they don't seem to be strong enough. Maybe I'm misjudging them, but I've met with a number of them. Got to have strong leadership on the ground.

BLITZER: All right. General, we have more to discuss, including this very worrisome development from the U.S. perspective: a new intelligence-sharing alliance emerging between Iran, Iraq and Russia. What's going on? Stay with us. Much more with General Clark right after this.


[17:15:59] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. President Obama and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, they're officially meeting at the United Nations now.

This was the scene earlier today when the two leaders toasted at a U.N. luncheon. We're back with the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General Wesley Clark.

General Clark, it's now been reported and confirmed that there's a new intelligence-sharing cooperation deal involving Iraq, involving Russia, Iran and Syria, for that matter. Is that good for the U.S. that these countries -- Iraq, for example, a country the U.S. liberated from Saddam Hussein, now working with Bashar al-Assad, with Iran and Russia? The U.S. is not involved in this. CLARK: Well, we are actually involved in this through Iraq. And

we'll probably get some information coming out of this. So the idea for the United States would be take as much as we can, lose as little as possible out of this.

It's not good geo-strategically. It might -- it might help us in targeting.

But you know, the larger question is what is Russia doing there and who are they going after? Bashar Assad's regime has deliberately avoided ISIS, because he's wanted to pose for the west the alternative, "It's either me or ISIS."

So he's gone after the moderate Syrians. They were a softer, easier target. And so -- what now is Russia (AUDIO GAP) or are they really going to go after is?

BLITZER: This regime in Baghdad right now seems much more inclined to work with Iran, for that matter, Russia and Syria than maybe even the United States.

CLARK: Well, this regime in Iraq has never really, even since Maliki, he was always a tool of Iran. I mean, we kept forces there. They used us. But the Iranians did not want us to extend that U.S. presence past 2011.

BLITZER: That Iranian arc is going from Iran through Iraq into Syria and into Lebanon through Hezbollah. That's a source, in the Sunni Arab world, of enormous concern right now.

CLARK: Absolutely. It's a concern to Turkey. It's a concern to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and of course, to Israel, as well.

BLITZER: Thirty thousand foreign forces now, foreigners, have now joined up with ISIS in Syria and Iraq right now. And it doesn't seem to be ending by any means. They keep coming in. How do you stop that flow?

CLARK: You have to stop that in the source countries by tightening up on matters of, like, Internet privacy and things like this.

But the point is, Wolf, that once you put the Russian forces in there, you will further incentivize volunteers to come in to support ISIS. This will be a war against Sunni Islam.

My Sunni Islam friends tell me, confidentially, they say, "Look, no one's going to fight against Hezbollah any way, unless they're zealots." They say, "We had to use these crazy Sunnis, these terrorists. They were the only ones willing to fight." That's how ISIS got its start, and this will further mobilize ISIS.

BLITZER: It's sort of pitiful what's going on. The U.S. rrying to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, a half a billion dollars appropriated for that kind of a mission. And in the end the U.S. military central commander says, "You know what? They maybe trained four or five." Four or five. Not four or five thousand. Four or five. Isn't that


CLARK: Wolf, you have to start at the top of this. You have to go back to say who is the political leadership? The problem we've had from Syria in the beginning is we haven't had real political leadership. That political leadership needed to be in there on the ground in Syria directing the military forces. They didn't. They wouldn't. They complained they couldn't because the U.S. wouldn't provide air cover for them.

But in fact, look, in Bosnia, Asmir Begovic would never have held onto Sarajevo if he hadn't stayed there, and there wouldn't be a Bosnia today, except for Asmir Begovic's personal courage.

Where is that Syrian -- Free Syrian leader who's got the courage and the force of personality to hold a moderate opposition? Apparently it doesn't exist. I don't know. But that's what we in the United States should be looking for and cultivating. And the number of Americans trying apparently to get in maybe 250 Americans are there right now fighting with ISIS. How do you stop that?

CLARK: Well, I think you've got to reach the parents of these young people in the United States. By the way, they're probably not all Islamic. ISIS recruiting has reached out beyond Muslims to young people simply looking to make a name for themselves and a service for themselves.

But you've got to reach the parents. The parents don't appreciate the danger until it's too late. So you've got to see -- parents have to watch what are my children looking at on the Internet? Who are they talking to? And why?

BLITZER: And if the parents suspect something, it's pretty hard for a parent to call the FBI and say, "I'm worried about my son, what he's doing." That's pretty hard for any parent to do.

CLARK: Sure. You can't get to the FBI, but you can get to the local police. You can go to school authorities. You can go to other community leaders. You can go to your imam, if you're Muslim.

And these people know the connections. I mean, we've been pretty active in terms of U.S. government work with local authorities to try to help local authorities deal with this problem.

BLITZER: One final question. NATO -- and you were the former NATO supreme allied commander -- right now in this whole war, they seem to be invisible.

CLARK: Wolf, this is not a NATO issue, per se.

BLITZER: But NATO's involved in Afghanistan.


BLITZER: Why isn't NATO involved in trying to crush and destroy this Islamic State?

CLARK: Well, it may come to that. But NATO is ultimately a creature of U.S. leadership. Where the U.S. doesn't lead, NATO doesn't go. The U.S. led NATO into Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Do you blame President Obama for not leading NATO?

CLARK: No, I'm not blaming anybody.

CLARK: Because NATO right now, as I said, is invisible. Because the problem in Syria really isn't a NATO problem. The problem in Syria is who is the alternate political leadership?

If we had that leadership -- and that's not a NATO function, then the rest of it would follow. What we could have done perhaps is cultivate that leadership.

You know, that's not an easy problem. In World War II when Charles De Gaulle emerged as a the leader of the free French, he drove Eisenhower crazy. Churchill hated him. He was obnoxious and annoying. That's exactly the kind of leader that Syria needs right now to impact the conscience and leadership of western nations.

BLITZER: That leader, unfortunately, doesn't seem to exist right now. Let's see if there's a Syrian De Gaulle, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thanks very much for joining us, General.

General Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander.

Coming up, the U.S. now upgrading its nuclear bombs -- yes, upgrading its nuclear bombs in Europe. Russia threatening to make some moves of its own. How dangerous is this latest disagreement?

And President Obama and President Putin, they're meeting behind closed doors this hour here at the United Nations. We're waiting for the first pictures to emerge from those talks. First time in two years they've met each other face-to-face. You're going to see those pictures. We're going to give you all latest breaking news.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:27:39] BLITZER: while President Obama and Putin are wrangling over Syria and Ukraine this hour, their first face-to-face meeting in two years, there's another dispute brewing.

The United States is planning to upgrade -- upgrade its aging nuclear weapons arsenal in Europe, and Russia is clearly not happy.

Brian Todd is looking into this for us. What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight Vladimir Putin is outright angry about this nuclear upgrade. He sees this as the U.S. and NATO ratcheting up a posture toward Russia. And there is serious concern tonight over what Putin might do in response.


TODD (voice-over): Vladimir Putin's government outraged tonight vowing, quote, "countermeasures" against what it believes is America's aggression with nuclear weapons. Pressed by CBS's "60 Minutes" about Russian forces in Ukraine, Putin angrily turned the tables.

PUTIN (through translator): American tactical nuclear weapons are in Europe. Let's not forget that. What does this mean? Does it mean that you occupy Germany or that you've transformed the occupation forces into NATO forces?

TODD: The Kremlin is angry following a report on a German TV station saying the U.S. is prepared to deploy upgraded nuclear bombs to bases in Europe.

HANS KRISTENSEN, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: This is the new nuclear gravity bomb. This is the new version of it. There are already old versions of the B-61 nuclear bomb in Europe. They're in Turkey, and they're in Italy. And they are in Germany and Netherlands and Belgium.

TODD: What caused Putin's alarm? The new report that Germany is refitting its tornado attack planes to accommodate the upgraded bombs.

Analyst Hans Kristensen, from a group that wants nuclear weapons arsenals reduced, says the new bombs, the B-61-12s, will be unveiled in 2020 with a significant new feature.

KRISTENSEN: The new is in the tail kit, which is a guided tail kit with fins that can steer the bomb more accurately toward its target.

TODD: And no nuclear bomb that's actually dropped from a plane has that, right?

KRISTENSEN: No. This is the first guided nuclear gravity bomb in the U.S. arsenal.

TODD: Each of the upgraded bombs Kristensen says are three to four times more powerful than the nuclear bomb, Kristensen says, are three to four times more powerful than the dropped on Hiroshima. Pentagon officials tell CNN they've long said they had planned to refresh the nuclear arsenal they already have but are not adding weapons with new capabilities. And they point out the U.S. Has already significantly cut its nuclear stockpile.

But a key question tonight: how will Russia respond to America's enhanced nuclear bombs?

[17:30:10] One analyst says Putin may place more of his weapons into a sliver of land Russia controls, wedged between U.S. allies Poland and Lithuania. Mr. Putin is trying to, by muscular action, intimidate the west. And using that sort of logic, he may decide to put additional nuclear capacity in different parts of Russia. In Crimea which is, of course, not part of Russia but they claim it.


TODD: Now, the U.S. and Russia are not the only places in danger in this nuclear showdown. Analysts point out many of those newly outfitted American nuclear bombs are going to be stored here at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. That is only about 60 miles away from the Syrian border, an area where ISIS is active where there's a lot of fighting with ISIS in a region where terrorist attacks from other groups are common place.

Wolf, it's a real concern about the storage of those nuclear weapons that are being upgraded.

BLITZER: It's really frightening, Brian. When you think about it those nuclear bombs in Incirlik and Turkey, how well secured are they?

TODD: Analyst Hans Kristensen says they're stored in underground vaults and says they're still building a double security fence around the weapons storage sites at Incirlik because of all the violence not far away. Again, 68 miles from the Syrian border.

Kristensen says there's going to be about 50 American thermonuclear bombs stored right here, and those numbers are not expected to change. U.S. officials, of course, they'll never confirm nor deny where nuclear weapons are or how they're secured. That's what we're hearing tonight from analysts.

Some real concern about those nuclear bombs right there at Incirlik.

BLITZER: So frightening to just be reporting about enhanced nuclear weapons capabilities going on right now in Europe. Brian, thank you.

Let's bring in our counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. He's a former CIA official. And Julia Ioffe, she's a Russia expert who writes for "The New York Times" magazine and "Foreign Policy Magazine," as well.

Phil, how much could tensions escalate right now especially given reports of U.S. nuclear upgrades in Europe?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think tensions may escalate, but not because of the upgrades. I see the upgrades as standard operating procedure for America and its allies.

But what we're seeing here is Putin the aggressor, the aggressor in Crimea, creating bases in Syria, now trying to portray the Americans as the people who are causing the problems. I see this as Putin trying to position himself to take further action, maybe positioning forces himself in the region and then painting the Americans as the people who caused him to take the action.

BLITZER: Julia, what do you think Putin's calculations are here in making these various moves and threats?

JULIA IOFFE, RUSSIA EXPERT: You know, I'm going to agree with Phil. Putin has been updating his nuclear and his traditional arsenal for many years now. And he has -- you know, when news like this breaks, he can't not react. He can't say that this is not unacceptable, that this is, you know, warmongering by the U.S.

It plays into this neo-Soviet image he has that it's Russia that's defending the peace even in places like Ukraine. Remember the line there from Moscow was that they were defending the Russian-speaking minority from a fascist junta that was sponsored by the U.S. and the CIA.

So this is, you know, of that -- of that line, that the U.S. is warmongering, saber-rattling and Russia's just trying to maintain the peace.

BLITZER: That's the argument that Putin is making.

What does a tactical move like this, Phil, tell you what the U.S. calculations might be?

MUDD: I don't think the U.S. has many calculations here. Look, if we portray this as a chess match, we move a pawn that has upgraded some nuclear forces in Europe. But the Russians have taken our queen, king and the rest -- the rest of the board.

They have embarrassed us, I think, in Syria. We do not have a way forward. Secretary Kerry has got to figure out a way I think to engage the Russians, because now that they have this alliance with the Iranians and the Iraqis, we have nobody on our side except a few dozen moderate forces on the ground.

They beat us in Crimea. They embarrassed us, I think, in Ukraine. The Americans have to step back in the conversation with the president in New York might have something to do with this, say the Russians are taking us at every turn. How do we outmaneuver them?

BLITZER: Take a look at this picture, Julia. This is a photo just occurred at the top of this meeting. First meeting in two years between Putin and President Obama. You see that grip, that handshake right there. We're going to get the videotape momentarily. We'll have a chance to assess what's going on.

But clearly, it comes on the heels of Russia's increased role in Syria right now. What do you think they're trying to do?

IOFFE: They look like best friends there, don't they? Like age-old buddies.

You know, I'm going to agree with Phil, who is in some ways channeling the Russian -- the Russian thinking. You know, that this is a kind of zero sum contest in the Middle East between Russia and the U.S.

[17:35:06] In some ways the U.S. and Russian interests kind of dovetail unintentionally. The U.S. is very hesitant about getting sucked into this --to a civil -- a very bloody, very messy civil war in Syria. Russia sees the U.S. hesitating, in some ways pulling back, and sees an opportunity for itself to project power in the region that it has lost in the course of the Arab Spring, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S.

So they see a vacuum. They see an opportunity to act. They see an opportunity to act like a power broker that they've always wanted to be. Putin has long railed against a unipolar order that he has -- does not like the fact that, after the Cold War, there's one player in town calling the shots. That's the U.S. He wants to be another shot caller, for lack of a better term.

BLITZER: Julia, these pictures that we're showing our viewers now, the start of this meeting between presidents Putin and Obama, how does it play in Russia? When you see the president of the United States shaking hands with the president of Russia, does that help Putin domestically? Does it hurt him domestically? You're an expert in this area.

IOFFE: Well, it does make him look kind of short, I've got to say. That said, I think it does play well in Russia. It goes to my previous point that Russia wants to be a power broker in the world, not just in its -- not just in the former Soviet republics or the areas on its border, its so-called sphere of influence.

It wants to be a big player on the world stage, somebody that you come to, that you need to talk to, that you need to make -- cut deals with to solve things very far from its borders.

So the fact that the Kremlin can now show that President Obama had to meet with Putin in order to fix the Syrian conflict, of course that goes to show that Vladimir Putin is a very important person that, you know, that makes the world spin.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure it does play like that.

Phil, do you think that the Russians actually could help in this war against ISIS?

MUDD: Heck yes. I'd say big-time. If you look at who the Russians have on their side, they're on the ground with drone surveillance in Syria. They're a close ally obviously on the front lines with the Syrian military. That's great intel that the Syrian military would be collecting against ISIS. They're in line with the Iranians. The Iranians' friends, Hezbollah, are a close ally, as well, fighting on the ground in Syria. And obviously in this new alliance, they have on the border the Iraqis.

They've got the biggest players in the region -- Hezbollah, the Syrians, the Iraqis and the Iranians -- on their side. They've got a straight flush, if you will. We've got, like, a pair of tens. We've got the Kurds. We've got some of the Turks. We've got the Jordanians. If you want intel on the ground, you want the people in the fight. And they've got the people in the fight on their side collecting intelligence. BLITZER: We're only seconds away from getting the video. Here it is. I want you to watch the video. Let's watch the body language. We'll watch presidents Putin and Obama. They walk into this photo op. Let's just listen.


OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about a timeline, Mr. President?


BLITZER: All right. So there you have it. They came out. They shook hands. There was a photo opportunity. They heard the questions coming in from the reporters. They walked right out.

Phil, what did you make of that?

MUDD: What I make of it is they don't have any answers. If you have an answer of how you cooperate in Syria when the Americans haven't quite figured out how to get out from behind the eight-ball that is supporting a few of the moderates and realizing the moderates will never be in the game, big-time. If they're trying to figure out what to do in Europe when the Americans couldn't figure out how to oppose Putin in Crimea, I don't think they have answers to the question, so why take the questions?

BLITZER: They certainly didn't take any questions. They heard the questions.

Julia, the body language from what you saw what was your conclusion, if anything?

IOFFE: I'm amazed they came out to do that handshake at all. Because if anything, it just underlines the fact that they probably talked past each other. If I were to hazard a guess, Obama probably thought correctly that Putin was lying to his face and that they don't have much to discuss. But he had to try to talk to him. You've got to keep talking, right? You can't just freeze people out indefinitely.

And then they shook hands for our benefit to confirm that this meeting happened. And I mean, the fact that they had nothing, like absolutely nothing to say to anybody after this, I think is very telling.

BLITZER: They both addressed the U.N. General Assembly, separate discussions earlier in the day. We're going to stay on top of this story. Guys, don't go too far away.

Up next, a very different story we're following. Donald Trump, he unveils his tax plan today, saying half of all Americans would pay nothing. And even the very wealthy would pay less. But why would Americans have to write to the IRS saying, quote, "I win."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:44:43] BLITZER: The GOP presidential race is tightening. The latest poll shows Ben Carson pulling just about even with Donald Trump. But as his rivals gain ground, Trump is making a splash today by unveiling his tax plan, which would slash income taxes for individuals and businesses. CNN's Joe Johns reports.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The economy is what I do well.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT(VOICE-OVER): Donald Trump back in the spotlight tonight, unveiling his much-anticipated tax reform proposal.

[17:45:02] TRUMP: I think you'll see we have a -- an amazing code. It will be simple. It will be easy. It will be fair. It's graduated. As you get up in income, you pay a little more.

JOHNS: Under Trump's plan individuals making less than $25,000 and couples earning less than $50,000 would pay no income tax and send back a one-page form to the IRS saying, I win. As for the wealthiest Americans such as Trump himself, singles earning more than $150,000 and households making more than $300,000 would see their tax rate cut from nearly 40 percent to 25 percent.

TRUMP: This is actually a tax reduction. A big tax reduction. Including for the upper income. I believe that the economy will do so well that even though they won't be getting certain deductions, which aren't fair for them to be getting, that they'll end up doing better.

JOHNS: Trump's tax proposal resembling the plans of two of his rivals, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who also call for lowering the top income tax bracket and reducing rates for businesses. The billionaire candidate says any lost revenue would be offset by growing the economy and ending tax loopholes for wealthy hedge fund managers. But no specifics were provided to judge that claim.

TRUMP: I actually believe they'll do better because I think the economy will grow. It will grow rapidly. And we'll have something very special.

JOHNS: Trump's policy rollout comes as Ben Carson surges in the polls. Now running neck and neck with the real estate mogul.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm just going to be who I am. If people likes -- if they like that, that's great. And if they don't, so be it.

JOHNS: Carson climbing to 20 percent in the latest NBC News-"Wall Street Journal" poll essentially tied with Trump at 21 percent. Also moving up, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio tied for third at 11 percent a piece. Rubio, who's become a fresh target for Trump, swinging back.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I'm not interested in the back-and-forth to be a member or part of his freak show.

JOHNS: Rand Paul also getting in on the action.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How could anyone in my party think that this clown is fit to be president?

JOHNS: Carson's rise comes even as he continues to face questions about his controversial remarks last week that a Muslim should not serve as president.

TAPPER: You're assuming that Muslim Americans put their religion ahead of the country.

CARSON: I'm assuming that if you accept all the tenants of Islam, that you will have very difficult time abiding under the Constitution of the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This interview is over.



JOHNS: Now that interview was cut short by the Carson campaign, but the discussion continues. And frankly it hasn't hurt him either in the polls or in the pocketbook since he made his comment about a Muslim president. The campaign tells me he brought in about $500,000, $600,000 from first-time donors to political campaigns -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Joe Johns, reporting for us. Thank you.

Coming up, Donald Trump says he may end up paying even more under his own new tax plan. He talks about that with CNN. He talks about taxes, his rough and tumble campaign style. Stay with us.


[17:53:11] BLITZER: Donald Trump unveiled his tax plan today saying almost half of all Americans would pay no income tax but what about the billionaire himself?

CNN's Erin Burnett sat down with Donald Trump today. She's joining us now live.

Erin, what did he tell you?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR, OUTFRONT: You know, it's interesting when you first see that, that you're going to have half of Americans paying no tax. He even talked about how it used to be that income taxes were only paid by the top 1 percent of Americans. You might think you were looking at a Bernie Sanders plan. But this plan is far, far from that. This is about tax cuts, tax cuts and he said billionaires would pay more, hedge fund managers, but when it comes to himself, maybe not. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: I will probably end up paying more money, but at the same time, I think the economy will do better so I'll make it up that way, but I will probably end up paying more money. I believe in the end I might do better because I really believe the economy is going to grow more beautiful.

BURNETT: Betting on growth.


BURNETT: That's the bottom line, Wolf. He's depending on growth. This is a classic Republican what they call a supply side plan. He believes he can cut taxes. You don't have to raise them anywhere significantly. That the cut itself will spur growth. That is the bet.

BLITZER: You also talked to him, Erin, about his style of political combat through this campaign. What did he tell you?

BURNETT: You know, we had a frank conversation about this, Wolf. I said look, you call people losers and a lot of people think that that's not the way that someone who has the temperament to be president of the United States would talk, would you call Vladimir Putin a loser? By the way, he said no. Here is how, though, for the first time, Wolf, I think he admitted that his words have been a little bit childish. Here's Donald.


BURNETT: So when people say the temperament question -- before we go -- people say the temperament question, they say look, this is a guy who calls someone a loser, he'll say something and they say that that's childish.

TRUMP: But this is a campaign.

BURNETT: But they say that that's childish, they say that's not the temperament of a president.

TRUMP: Probably it is a little childish. But you know what, this is a campaign and usually -- and I think you know this better than anybody, I'm responding to them. I'm a counterpuncher. I think in every single instance I've hit -- for instance, Walker is very nice to me. All of a sudden he hit and I hit him back.

[17:55:09] All of these guys -- Rubio was very nice to me. Couldn't have been nicer. All of a sudden a week ago he started hitting me. I hit back --

BURNETT: So you're saying you're not going to talk about Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: No, I'm not going to do that.

BURNETT: Calling him a loser or something like that if you're the president?

TRUMP: I actually say the opposite.


BURNETT: And Wolf, he actually took Vladimir Putin's side on the conflict in Syria. We'll have all of that and a lot more as he talks about his rivals, Bill Clinton, a lot more coming up at 7:00.

BLITZER: We'll Look forward to it, Erin. Thank you very much.

Once again you can see Erin's interview with Donald Trump tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, showdown at the U.N. President Obama meets behind closed doors with Russia's President Putin. There you see the video. Tensions are high over Syria, ISIS, Ukraine. Are they headed toward compromise or conflict?