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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Hires "Street Fighter" in Campaign Shakeup; Trump's First Classified Intel Briefing Just Ended; Interview with Congressman Tom Marino; Boston Globe: Shut Down Clinton Foundation If She Wins; North Korea Suffers Highest-Level Diplomatic Defection; 82,000 Told to Flee Out-of-Control Wildfire. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 17, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We're digging into the background of the right wing media executive who's running Trump's campaign. Will Steve Bannon live up to his billing as the most dangerous political operative in America?
Under scrutiny. More questions tonight about donations to the Clinton Foundation as a major newspaper urges Hillary and Bill Clinton to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest and end the foundation's work if she wins the White House.
And out of control. A massive wildfire is raging in it's quickly burning through homes and neighborhoods east of L.A. and more than 80,000 people have been warned to evacuate before it's too late.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KEILAR: Tonight, Donald Trump has been entrusted with classified information about America's security. His first closed-door intelligence briefing just wrapped up a few hours after he met with his own national security advisers. This as a new shakeup in his campaign suggests Trump may be more determined than ever to reject pleas for him to act more presidential.
Sources inside the Trump camp predict the Republican nominee will be unleashed by the combative conservative firebrand that he's tapped as his new campaign CEO. Trump says Breitbart media executive Steve Bannon, quote, "knows how to win".
Hillary Clinton's campaign says Trump's new hire says he's ready to double down on divisive rhetoric. Clinton campaigning in Ohio today and facing fresh questions about the Clinton campaign foundation and potential conflicts of interest.
And "The Boston Globe" is now calling for the Clintons to shut down the foundation if she's elected president.
I'll talk with Trump supporter and U.S. congressman, Tom Marino. He was at that national security meeting that Trump convened today and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
First now to CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll. He is covering the Trump campaign in New York.
What a day. So much drama today, Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of drama, Brianna. You know that New York Congressman Peter King was also at that meeting that Trump called today. He said it was refreshing to deal with the businessman rather than a politician and now that Trump has overhauled his campaign, going forward, voters could be seeing more of the type of unconventional candidate that got him through the primaries and where he is today.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I am who I am. It's me. I don't want to change. Everyone talks about, oh, when you're going to pivot? I don't want to pivot. I mean, you have to be you.
CARROLL (voice-over): And with a major shakeup in his campaign, Donald Trump seems less likely to pivot away from the brass style that has defined him so far.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think what he doesn't like is people telling him exactly what to say and how to do -- maybe that's Hillary Clinton's game. You know, what do the focus groups say?
CARROLL: Kellyanne Conway is now campaign manager but all the buzz is about media flame thrower Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and now the campaign chief executive, Bannon who "Bloomberg Businessweek" dubbed the most dangerous political operative I America.
Both will work alongside controversial political consultant, Roger Stone, also advising Trump, though the campaign denies it, former FOX News chief, Roger Ailes. In short, an aggressive mix of operatives.
So, why shake things up with less than three months to Election Day? In part, lagging poll numbers in key battleground states. Trump's former campaign manager whose strategy during the primaries was to simply "just let Trump be Trump" says the campaign needs to let their candidate unleash more on Hillary Clinton in his own way.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there were missed opportunities from the campaign over the last two to three weeks that have not had the Trump campaign responding directly to the mistakes that the Clinton campaign has been making.
CARROLL: Campaign chair Paul Manafort stepped in when Lewandowski was let go. And while sources say Trump's relationship with Manafort had soured over recent weeks, the campaign announcing today he will stay on as campaign chairman.
Trump saying in a statement he's committed to doing whatever it takes to win this election. And that could mean resisting efforts by some in his camp to make him more presidential. Meanwhile, today Trump receiving his first classified intelligence briefing in New York. That, too, creating headlines after Trump questioned the credibility of what he was going to be briefed on ahead of the meeting.
REPORTER: Do you trust intelligence?
TRUMP: Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. Look what's happened over the last ten years. Look what's happened over the years. I mean, it' been catastrophic. And in fact, I won use some of the people that are sort of your standard.
CARROLL: And, Brianna, a little more information about that classified briefing that just wrapped up today. Senior analysts from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were present, they fielded questions from the candidate and his representatives, both New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn also in attendance attendance.
[18:05:08] And as for that shakeup in Trump's campaign, campaign chairman Paul Manafort sent a staff to the memo -- sent a memo to the staff saying he still has his job and he will still be providing what he called the big picture long-range campaign vision -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, will Donald Trump listen? I think that is the question so many people are asking today.
Jason Carroll, thank you for that report.
Let's bring in now CNN political reporter Sara Murray. She is at Trump Tower in New York City. She's got more on this campaign shakeup.
You learned some pretty interesting stuff about what led to this moment, Sara.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Brianna, what we learned was that Donald Trump was growing frustrated for weeks but that really hit a head over the weekend. There was a "New York Times" story about unnamed advisers saying they were trying to give Trump advice but he just wasn't listening to it. When he was at a fund-raiser on Saturday night in the Hamptons, he talked to a number of people about this. On Sunday, he actually expressed his frustration with the direction of the campaign to Kellyanne Conway, the new campaign manager.
But it wasn't until earlier this week when Jared Kushner convened this meeting with Kellyanne Conway, with Steve Bannon, as well as with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, to sort of explain what the new pecking order was going to be, that Steve Bannon was coming on, Kellyanne Conway would be joining Donald Trump frequently on campaign trail, on the plane and that they would sort of be helping with the messaging and with the guidance.
There was just this sense from Trump that he was losing in the polls and he was not running the kind of campaign that he wanted to be running. In the primaries, he ran as an outsider candidate. That is where we he feels comfortable. And Trump still feels like he has a shot to win, sources are telling us.
So, he wanted to be able to say, I ran this campaign my own way. I stuck by what I knew as the outsider candidate. I was myself, whether that leads him to victory or to defeat -- Brianna.
KEILAR: What does this mean, then, for the next 2 1/2 months? Do we have a sense of what's that's going to look like?
MURRAY: I think you're going to see a lot of going back to basics like we saw during the primary. Donald Trump really thrives on holding big campaign rallies with huge crowds. That's another thing that we expect could be brought up. And he also thrives on not necessarily being so scripted.
We saw him in the primaries level some pretty tough jabs against Hillary Clinton, but we also saw him veer off script pretty regularly. And so, that is the risk, when you let Trump be Trump, he's not on a teleprompter. He can make these offhand comments that dominate a news cycle. And that's one of the things that has some veteran Republicans worried no matter who you put around him, he's not going to change. That Trump is, you know, he's already on his path to defeat.
KEILAR: Sara Murray pulling back that curtain for us today on these deliberations. Thank you so much for your great report.
And joining me now, we have Republican Congressman Tom Marino. He's a Trump supporter. He's member the foreign affairs and homeland security.
Sir, thank you so much for being with us.
REP. TOM MARINO (R), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: My pleasure.
KEILAR: So, today was -- this was a big day. I mean, not only did you have the change in the top of the Trump campaign, but you had Donald Trump receiving his first classified intelligence briefing today. This is -- I mean, think this is something that really shows just how serious this is, what this office is. I do want to start, though, with a separate meeting because you were there. This is one that Donald Trump convened. It's a round table with national security and law enforcement officials.
What was discussed there?
MARINO: Everything concerning foreign policy and law enforcement. There were 30 people at the table -- experts from all around the country, women and men, on issues concerning terrorism, foreign policy, issues concerning other countries, trade.
Myriad of issues that Donald sat -- he asked questions. People answered. He explored and delved deeper into those answers, asking more questions. And he had very, very good advice. I was very impressed with the
people around that table. They knew what they were talking about and they gave him excellent advice.
KEILAR: We had heard reports that there was a discussion about mosque surveillance. Was there?
MARINO: No, see, here it starts. Now there are going to be people making up issues concerning what was discussed and what wasn't discussed, and as far as specifics. Surveillance certainly was discussed, but you go to anybody in my state, and the states that I travel to, they want to make sure that their families are safe and they want law enforcement out there being vigilant, finding out information, if there are terrorist in this country and where they're at. But nothing specific about issues of where and when.
KEILAR: OK. So there was no discussion of surveillance of mosques.
MARINO: No. I heard no discussion concerning the specifics that you just mentioned.
[18:10:00] We certainly do appreciate that clarification.
As I mentioned, you had Donald Trump getting this briefing today, a classified briefing today from the director of national intelligence.
I wonder how you think that is going to impact his policies because certainly when we've heard from people who don't have these briefings and then they have these briefings, they say what I learned was that I did not have all of the facts. Do you think this is going to influence his policies?
MARINO: Well, certainly, he's going to hear of and learn issues and points of fact that the general public does not know about and should not know about. So will it have an impact on how he moves, what his thoughts are? I'm sure it will. It's not going to change Donald Trump.
Unlike Hillary Clinton, she is just programmed. The only thing she can do is say what she's told to say. You know, the phony show that can't think for herself on her own two feet.
Donald is a man of -- he created a $10 billion business. He's Donald Trump. He's going to say what's on his mind. That's why he has the following, that's why he has the popularity that he has. Thousands of people show up at his rallies. Hillary Clinton doesn't have those rallies because they want to keep her out of those rally, number one, people won't show up, and plus when she's put on the spot, she can't answer the question. You know, remember, she has a short circuit somewhere.
KEILAR: Donald Trump, the comments where she said she short-circuited the explanation of the FBI director --
KEILAR: -- James Comey as he described whether she had been honest about her public statements about her e-mail. Want to fill in the gap there.
MARINO: Just another lie, though. There's so many lies told by her keep track of them. Once she's called out on them, she's got to come up with an excuse and I don't want somebody in the White House that short circuits.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about something Donald Trump said, that raised the eyebrows of some people. He said he doesn't trust the intelligence that's being collected by the current national security community. Now, this would be the same community that he received a briefing from today, a classified briefing today.
Does he value information that he's being presented in and when he says as president he wouldn't use some of t standards or standard figures you would see giving him intelligence, how does he plan to do that? Is he talking about overhauling the intelligence community? What is he talking about?
MARINO: Well, don't you think it needs overhauled at this point? I've worked with agents as a U.S. attorney for quite a while. And I was in law enforcement, a prosecutor for 18 years. I have more retired agents and agents telling me, FBI, whether it's ICE, DEA, their hands are tied. The information --
KEILAR: Congressman, if maybe you can clarify this to me, I'm won wondering is he talking about people doing yeoman's work in the intelligence community or talks about leadership, nonpolitical appointees, lifelong people at the top?
MARINO: He's talking about this administration -- this leadership, this White House, President Obama who's not a leader. We don't get any true facts out of the White House. Something's always skewed. Something's always slanted.
KEILAR: OK. But that's a different --
MARINO: It's always wrong.
KEILAR: Let me -- I want to understand this. If that administration leaves and Donald Trump becomes president, then of course he has discretion. I mean, you would expect any president to do that. They bring in their guys. But when he's talking about the standards, I just wonder what he's talking about because obviously the administration people are gone, and then you have -- is he talking about other people who are responsible for intelligence who are fixture, not just in this administration, but have been for past administrations?
MARINO: No. In my opinion, I've not had this discussion with him on this specific issue. I think it's people from this administration. I've worked in government and worked closely with people across the board in government. The yeoman's work, the frontline people, they're good hardworking people.
But the people that the president has brought in to his administration, his inner circle, they skew the facts. They make things up. They lie. They tell the American people things that are just absolutely wrong just so they don't have to face the problems that this president is faced with as not being a leader.
KEILAR: Congressman Marino, we have so much more to cover. And you know what? We have a little time to do it. I'm going to get a quick break in. And we'll be right back to talk more.
MARINO: You bet. All right.
[18:19:11] KEILAR: And we are back now with U.S. congressman and Donald Trump supporter, Tom Marino.
We're talking about this new shakeup in the Trump campaign. And I want to ask you, because you're from Pennsylvania, and we see Donald Trump right now, he has said, you know, in the past, I'm going to win Pennsylvania, but we see him trailing in some of these most recent polls in your state considerably by double digits.
How -- I guess if Pennsylvanians receptive to Donald Trump, how does he -- his doubling down on the letting Trump be Trump thing help win them over?
MARINO: Well, first of all, I don't agree with the premise on the numbers, because the pollsters and pundits are using old matrices and they're not getting to the people who have changed their mind to come out and vote, who haven't voted in years or who haven't voted at all.
[18:20:01] They're not getting to the people, to the Democrats, who are clearly in my state voting for Trump, particularly the union people because they want jobs and Donald Trump has promised to bring those jobs in.
So, I don't trust the polls particularly at this point. It's too far out. But we have to work harder. We have to make sure that we get all the votes that we can in Pennsylvania because my position is clear, so goes Pennsylvania, so goes the rest of the country. And if Donald Trump wins Pennsylvania, which I think he will, the election's over.
KEILAR: And he's clearly at least concerned about Pennsylvania because finally --
KEILAR: -- you have general election ads that are going to be running for the first time, that's this weekend. Your state is among them. Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Virginia. We're not that far out here. We're a little over 80 days out from the election.
Is this enough and is this too late, perhaps, to make up for his deficit?
MARINO: It's not too late. We can always ramp up no matter what level we are, always striving to do better.
But the bottom line here is Donald Trump is Donald Trump, and the people I talk to in Pennsylvania, across the board, Republicans, Democrats and independents, they're voting for Donald Trump because he means what he says and he says what he means.
And as far as he's bringing new people onto his committee to help in his election, he still has far, far less paid than Hillary had. And he's bringing people that like he will bring to the White House, the smartest people to help him build his $10 billion company. The women and men who helped him there, that's the people he's going to be looking for.
He's not going to be looking for people who twist the facts and tell lies like Jarrett and Rice. And then the president just, you know, the lousy numbers that are there for unemployment, certainly, they aren't the right numbers that the president is giving us. The $400 million that now today came out that he paid Iran for the hostages. So, now, more Americans are going to be kidnapped and the demands will be greater for payments.
This -- we need a leader in the White House and Donald Trump is a leader and he's going to make sure that he improves the quality of life for all Americans.
KEILAR: All right. Congressman, thank you so much.
I do have to quickly say the administration says that is not true about the $400 million. I certainly know you have your opinion. We're very glad to have you on so you can say it.
Congressman Tom Marino, thank you so much.
MARINO: Did you expect to say -- did you expect them to say anything else? But thank you so much, it's been a pleasure.
KEILAR: Thank you so much for coming on THE SITUATION ROOM. We do appreciate it.
MARINO: Just ahead, more on Donald Trump's new campaign CEO, and why he's being build as the most dangerous political operative in America.
KEILAR: And Hillary Clinton on the attack warning Donald Trump will be the same man no matter who he hires or fires from his campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: He is still the same man who insults Gold Star families, demeans women, mocks people with disabilities, and thinks he knows more about ISIS than our generals. (END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:27:40] KEILAR: Tonight, a source tells CNN that the Trump campaign's new CEO, Steve Bannon, will want to, quote, "dig up every coffin in preparation for Trump's debates with Hillary Clinton."
We're learning more about the conservative media executive and his reputation as a political street fighter.
Let's bring in CNN's senior media correspondent, and the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Hey there.
You know, I understand this election, you really have to understand Breitbart. It's a far right website, sometimes loose with the truth but where Trump is almost always winning. It will tell you a more confident story about polls. It will tell you about more confident story about America, and at least its depiction of America.
And at the top of Breitbart is Steve Bannon, now at the top of the Trump campaign, too.
STELTER (voice-over): Donald Trump today with a big campaign shake up, bringing in a media executive to not only win the presidency but to win it his way.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's building up that leadership team. He wants to have people around him who want to win at all costs.
STEVE BANNON, BREITBART: We don't really believe there is a functional conservative party.
STELTER: In announcing the hire, the campaign made clear what Trump sees in Steve Bannon, touting that the new campaign CEO who's been dubbed "The most dangerous political operative in America".
Bannon, former Navy officer and Goldman Sachs banker, may lack campaign experience, but he makes it up for with his media prowess. He is the chairman of the far-right website Breitbart and has made political films intended to sway the minds of on the fence voters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of all of the 50 governors in the United States, she was sitting at the desk as one of those powerful and she wasn't afraid to use those powers.
STELTER: One of the films boosted Sarah Palin. Another tried to take down President Obama before the 2012 election. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're angry because you were basically lied to.
And we were disappointed because we thought there was going to be a change. Everyone that voted for him thought there was going to be a change.
STELTER: Some of Bannon's more recent work is already part of the Trump campaign.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: They created a model for massive self-enrichment.
STELTER: At times, supporters hear about the book "Clinton Cash."
TRUMP: The book "Clinton Cash" by Peter Schweizer documents how Bill and Hillary used the State Department to enrich their family at America's expense. She gets rich making you poor.
STELTER: It was published by Bannon's research group and led to many mainstream media stories about Clinton's potential conflicts of interest.
Yes, Clinton, the main target of the pro-Trump site. Close behind, immigrants. Republican establishment types like Paul Ryan and the news media. Take this moment from November when Trump was on Bannon's radio show.
[18:30:16] STEVE BANNON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN CEO: Look, the media is the Praetorian guard of the permanent political class. All the consultants that come after you in the permanent political class of consultants, they're all in bed together.
STELTER: "Weekly Standard" writer Steven Hayes says Breitbart is "the only place more Trumpian than Trump," a comfortable "alternative reality," where Trump is a winner, no matter what the poll says.
Trump's surrogates see Bannon's hiring as a sign that now nothing is off-limits.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They're willing to say and do things that others in the mainstream media wouldn't do.
STELTER: So what will we see from Steve Bannon's version of the Trump campaign? Probably the full Trump. That's what one Clinton source to me they are bracing for what they expect from this new leadership structure: putting up conspiracy theories, bringing up Clinton's past, bringing up sex scandals in Bill Clinton's past, et cetera, et cetera. At least, that's by the books at Breitbart, but we will see now more from the Trump campaign, Brianna.
KEILAR; Brian Stelter, thank you so much for that. Let's bring in now CNN political analyst Rebecca Berg. She's also a political reporter for Real Clear Politics. We have "Washington Post" assistant editor David Swerdlick; CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju; and CNN political director David Chalian. This is an all-star cast that we have. So glad to have you here. And I want to ask you, Manu, first, because we just heard that great piece by Brian about Steve Bannon, and this is the guy who has a take- no-prisoners approach. He certainly did at Breitbart. And we heard Sara Murray, also, with some great reporting today, where she said Donald Trump, you know, this is what he's comfortable with. He wants to be Donald Trump. And if he is going to lose, he's going to do it his way.
So you know, is that Bannon's biggest asset or is that a liability?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: For Trump it clearly is his biggest asset. Obviously, Donald Trump does not like the direction his campaign is going right now. Even if Michael Cohen is not aware of the polls that show him, Donald Trump, struggling. Donald Trump sees those polls and knows he needs to turn things around. He thinks that if he can get back to what was successful in the primary, perhaps that could work in a general election, while other folks are skeptical.
What's also interesting was that the addition of Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager. Now, she's one to take more -- more mainstream Republican positions. In fact, in 2014, she was advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, really counter to what Donald Trump has been pushing, a centerpiece of his campaign. So we'll see how this new dynamic plays out.
KEILAR: Why do you think is happening now, David?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think it signals a couple things as Manu was saying, right? Clearly, I mean, give Trump credit. He sees that, in the last couple weeks all the polls show that he is trending downward in the battleground states. So at least he's being nimble.
But if he really wants to reach out and broaden his coalition, expand his tent, get a majority of voters, it is a little concerning, I think, for Republicans if, in fact, he is going with the brand of Steve Bannon, who sort of is playing to the base that already supports Donald Trump. I think Manafort wasn't able to keep him moderated, and so they're bringing in fresh troops.
KEILAR: What was your reaction to this, Rebecca? Were you surprised? Is this something that is in line with what you would expect?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I was actually pretty unsurprised, Brianna, for a few reasons.
First of all, this is Donald Trump. He has expressed publicly in recent interviews and interviews going back weeks and months that he likes to run his campaign his way. He didn't want to pivot. He tried it. Didn't really work for him. And so Bannon is a perfect fit for him. Stylistically in terms of his message.
And the thing is, Bannon has been sort of informally consulting Trump. Consulting for him and his campaign by extension. They've been in touch for years. So Steve Bannon was actually brought in in 2011 to meet with Trump
when he was thinking of running in that cycle. That didn't happen, but they stayed in touch. Obviously, Bannon went to run Breitbart. It grew into a massive media company. And they would talk all the time about what Breitbart was writing: interviews that their reporters were doing or doing with Trump.
And then Bannon, himself, interviewed Trump multiple times on his radio program for Breitbart and brought him on for the debut show, even. So they're very, very close. It wasn't be a big surprise for me.
KEILAR: They have a long relationship.
OK, David Chalian, I want to play something for you. I spoke last hour with Donald Trump's special counsel, Michael Cohen. This is one of his top aides. And I want you to listen to his response when I talked to him about really the numerical difficulties that his campaign is facing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: You say it's not a shakeup, but you guys are down.
MICHAEL COHEN, SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: Says who?
KEILAR: And it makes sense that there...
COHEN: Says who?
KEILAR: Polls. Most of them. All of them.
COHEN: Says who?
KEILAR: Polls. I just told you. I answered your question.
[18:35:02] COHEN: Which polls?
KEILAR; All of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So I think -- and I was trying to get at the point with him that, look, it makes sense, right? You're not doing so hot. It makes sense to have a shakeup.
But I think getting into that point, now I have another question which is they see the polls. They're looking at them. And I hear them contesting some of the polls. But is his campaign, David, just kind of in denial about the depth of some of these issues they're having right now?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No. I think Michael Cohen is probably playing loyal combatant there. I don't think they're in denial.
In fact, Brianna, you and I cover a lot of politicians. We know that all of them are pretty obsessed with polls. Their polling. Even though they all like to say, "Well, the polls don't matter. The only one that matters is on election day."
I don't know that we've ever covered a politician as obsessed with his polling as Donald Trump is. So he is keenly aware of what he sees in the polls. In fact, that is what precipitated some of these changes.
Listen, we can talk about how this will affect Donald Trump, how it won't and speculate about that, but what we can say for certain is that Donald Trump looked back at the last two months of his campaign since Corey Lewandowski left, and he didn't like the direction it was going. It was not to his satisfaction, and he made a change.
And I think it is a clear indication that the last two months were a little bit of wasted time for him, since he was already in the, you know, full-on general election mode, trying to chip away at Hillary Clinton, and was not at all pleased with how the campaign was going.
KEILAR: All right, guys. Now, we're going to take a break. We have much more ahead. Stay with me. We'll be back in just a moment.
[18:41:20] KEILAR: Tonight, Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump has shown America who he is, and that won't change, no matter who he hires to run his campaign. The Democrats trying to use the Trump campaign shakeup against him, even as the Clintons face some new and very real questions about their foundation.
CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is in Ohio where Hillary Clinton has been campaigning today.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.
Questions tonight about the State Department, a billionaire who gave big money to the Clinton Foundation, and a land deal in Africa that the Clinton campaign says never got off the ground.
JOHNS (voice-over): Riding high on new polls showing big leads in Virginia and Colorado and tied in Iowa, Hillary Clinton arrived in battleground Ohio today in full attack mode, leveling attacks against Donald Trump, once again calling out the billionaire businessman over his failure to disclose his tax returns and repeating the accusation that his tax plan would give the Trump family a benefit of $4 billion.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He's even created a new tax loophole that we call the Trump loophole. Of course, we have no idea what tax rate he pays, because unlike everybody else who's run for president in the last four or five decades, he refuses to release his tax returns. So the American people can't really judge.
JOHNS: And behind the scenes, Clinton's campaign manager was also blasting the Trump campaign for the latest shakeup, telling reporters in a conference call...
ROBBY MOOK, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER (via phone): Donald Trump has decided to double down on his most small, nasty, and divisive instincts by turning his campaign over to somebody who's best known for running a so-called news site that pedals divisive, at times racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
JOHNS: A reference to Breitbart news chief Steve Bannon, who's taking over as chief executive of the Trump campaign. In her Cleveland speech, Mrs. Clinton made a brief reference to Trump's new CEO.
CLINTON: Donald Trump has shown us who he is. He can hire and fire anybody he wants from his campaign. There is no new Donald Trump. This is it.
JOHNS: The turmoil in the Trump campaign distracting from Mrs. Clinton's own troubles, including new details that, shortly after she stepped down as secretary of state, the State Department expressed interest in a Nigerian land deal involving billionaire Lebanese Nigerian businessmen Gilbert and Ronald Chagoury.
Gilbert had given over a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation. The property in question was one of several on a list of properties the department was considering for a consulate. Ultimately, the deal never went through.
The continuing controversy surrounding the foundation and the inference of play for pay, which the campaign has denied, prompting the "Boston Globe" to write in an editorial that Mrs. Clinton shut it down if she becomes president, saying, "The inherent conflict of interest was obvious when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009. If the Clinton Foundation continues to cash checks from foreign governments and other individuals seeking to ingratiate themselves with a President Hillary Clinton, it would be unacceptable."
JOHNS: And a statement tonight from the campaign, pushing back on the conservative group that made the latest information about the alleged Nigerian land deal public. It says, "Citizens United is a right-wing group that's been attacking the Clintons since the 1990s and once again is trying to make something out of nothing. This draft letter was written after Hillary Clinton had already left the State Department, and it never led to any deals."
[18:45:02] So the message they're putting out tonight to voters is there's nothing to it, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, Joe Johns, thanks for that report.
Back now to our expert panel on this. And David Chalian, to you. Something strikes me about that reaction from the Clinton campaign. One, they're attacking the motives of the group that has looked into this but, you know, motives aside, it doesn't mean it's not a valid question. That's one.
Then, on the other hand, you now have the "Boston Globe" editorial board. This is a fairly liberal editorial board, writing a very strong column that says the charity should be shut down entirely if Hillary Clinton is elected.
I mean, where do you think the Clintons would be on that request?
CHALIAN: And if I'm not mistaken, an editorial board that endorsed her in the New Hampshire primary.
You know, listen, Brianna, I think that Hillary Clinton has left the door open to this notion, actually. Anderson Cooper interviewed her, if you recall, in June right after she wrapped up enough delegates to secure the nomination after the final primaries and said would President Clinton, would Bill Clinton disassociate himself completely from the foundation if, indeed, Hillary Clinton was elected president? She said, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Remember, when she launched her presidential campaign in April of 2015, she quit the board of directors of the foundation and left the foundation for the purposes of the campaign.
So, it seems to me that it would not be out of the realm of possible and they've never sort of shut this down. That, indeed, putting the foundation to rest if, indeed, she's elected president may well be on the table.
KEILAR: So, it may well be on the table.
Do you think, David Swerdlick, they would be inclined to really follow through with that? I think it's something they would really have to weigh even if it's on the table, right? This is their baby.
SWERDLICK: I'm not sure if they will. It is their baby. If they could find a way to do it gracefully, they might want to consider that. They're not going to be able to shake this narrative that there's overlap between State Department business and Clinton Foundation business. Whether there's anything there or not.
And the Clintons, that statement that you just put up on the screen, they have a tendency to try to lawyer their way out of these things that just doesn't play well.
KEILAR: And I wonder, Manu, if they even want to deal with it. You cover Congress. I don't need a crystal ball to see into the future if Hillary Clinton is president to know that a Republican House Oversight Committee is going to go to town on the Clinton Foundation if it's operational.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And they already have. They almost certainly will as soon as, assuming that she wins. But, you know, if she were to move forward in stopping donations or shutting down the foundation, it would be an acknowledgement that this foundation has been ethically compromised, and that is one thing that the Clintons have furiously denied. They view these as conspiracy theories, attacks from the right. They think the foundation has done a lot of good things.
So, once you stop something and you change tactics, it's an acknowledgement you did something wrong which they have not acknowledged to this point.
KEILAR: I do want to talk a little bit more about the shakeup we're seeing in the Trump campaign because now you have Hillary Clinton saying, she's weighing in. The campaign is weighing in on this. And it seems like their strategy is to treat it as chaos, that they want to let fill the space and that she can just keep doing her thing.
BERG: Well, for right now, it's working quite well, right? She's having a fantastic month. Donald Trump seems to be self-destructing every day or so. And it behooves her to try to amplify that message, to try to basically point us in the direction of the fires that Donald Trump is setting and failing to fit out.
But that isn't a long-term plan for Hillary Clinton. At some point, we would think Donald Trump will have a good day, we will turn our attention back to Hillary Clinton and some of the problems that her campaign is having, some of the controversies that have been arising and we will focus on that once again. The question is whether voters are going to focus on that once again.
To this point, Hillary Clinton and her campaign have done a very good job of persuading people that Donald Trump is a bigger danger to America, that he is unfit for the presidency. And that's a really strong argument to be making for them. But Donald Trump, by the same token, could try to make the t Hillary Clinton is unfit for the presidency.
And that is exactly what Steve Bannon has been trying to do on Breitbart and I bet we'll see a lot of that from his campaign now.
RAJU: And let's what happens when this ad campaign begins for the Trump -- the Trump campaign has not started its ad campaign --
RAJU: -- in these battleground states.
BERG: We'll see.
RAJU: They're going to start that coming soon in a matter of days, five battleground states. We still have three debates. Maybe there will be these further e-mail leaks.
So, there are a lot of -- there's a lot of time.
KEILAR: There's a lot of things that could develop.
All right. Thank you so much, David Swerdlick, David Chalian, Manu Raju, Rebecca Berg. Really appreciate it. If you're looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton and Donald
Trump, you can learn more tonight about the Green Party's presidential and vice presidential candidates and that's because they are going to take part in a live CNN town hall event tonight.
[18:50:05] That's 9:00 Eastern with Chris Cuomo. Tune in and check that out.
Now, just ahead, a high-level diplomat flees Kim Jong-un and defects from North Korea. We're learning some new details there.
Plus, breaking news, mass evacuations. More than 80,000 people are warned to flee as a wildfire rages out of control.
[18:55:19] KEILAR: Tonight, North Korea's Kim Jong-un suffering an embarrassing high-ranking defection from his regime, even as U.S. officials warned the dictator may be making gains toward his goal of being able to attack the U.S.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is digging on all of this.
What are you learning here, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Gains indeed, Brianna. The U.S. intelligence community is taking a very close, fresh look at North Korea's weapons testing program and it does not like what it sees.
STARR (voice-over): It's the highest-level diplomatic defection ever from Kim Jong-un's North Korean regime.
THAE YONG DO, DEFECTED TO SOUTH KOREA: Socialism is not something in the air.
STARR: North Korea's deputy ambassador to the U.K. defecting and reaching safety in South Korea.
Last year, the ambassador appeared loyal.
THAE YONG HO: If you read our papers and the magazines and the photos, you can see how socialism is carried on and put into practice.
STARR: A South Korean government spokesman says the ambassador wanted out.
JEONG JOON-HEE, SOUTH KOREAN UNIFICATION MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): I am aware that he defected due to his yearning for liberal democracy.
STARR: It comes as U.S. officials tell CNN that intelligence agencies are watching significant new North Korean military steps that increase the threat to the U.S. and its allies. LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They have been
exceedingly active in demonstrating capability.
STARR: The latest intelligence analysis concludes North Korea is now aggressively testing medium and long-range missiles, warheads and nuclear devices and it no longer cares if the world sees its test failures.
HERTLING: When you have this many tests, you're eventually going to get it right. That what concerns me.
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: Kim Jong-un is trying to demonstrate to the world that he has capability both in terms of the nuclear test as well as ballistic missile.
STARR: New satellite images reveal activity at North Korea's nuclear test site. A canopy now blocks views from spy satellite. Rogue mobile missiles, difficult to track, have been tested, as have intercontinental missiles that could reach Alaska. The U.S. also now assumes North Korea has a rudimentary, miniaturized warhead for a nuclear attack.
HERTLING: As soon as they have one test that they can classify as an extreme success, then we're talking a whole different ball game in their potential to threaten other sovereign nations in their area, but also potentially parts of the United States.
STARR: So the bottom line here now the North Koreans are making progress in key areas that could give them the ability to attack the United States with little or no warning time for Washington -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- thank you.
We are following breaking news, this wildfire burning out of control in southern California. It's already burned 30,000 acres. You have more than 80,000 people who have been warned to evacuate.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is on the scene there.
And the governor in California has declared a state of emergency already.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, and this is because this fire, Brianna, has been so fast moving and so erratic that it is not burning in just one direction. The winds coming in in the afternoon lifting up these flames and throwing them to different parts and then causing it to burn in other regions and that's very scary.
I just want to show you just how hot this fire was. Take a look at this school bus that burned out as the fire raged through here. The tires completely burned off of it and the glass burned out of the windows and this is what you're seeing in this little community here off of Interstate 15. And for those of you who don't know, this is a thoroughfare that
people like to take between southern California and Las Vegas. It is shut down and officials say it may be shut down through tomorrow because of red flag warnings. These winds really kicking up. We actually drove on a part of it today, Brianna, parts of the barrier were burned down, and there was one tractor trailer pulled over to the side. It looks like the driver got away, but the trailer did not.
It completely burned through, just something that you do not see all of the time and very scary and that's why they're asking residents to stay away, Brianna.
KEILAR: Oh my goodness.
And just real quick. How much of this is contained at this point?
ELAM: Zero percent containment, and this really is part of the issue. They're out there with -- you may hear it behind me, helicopters, airplanes dropping water and fire retardant from the sky, all of that very important to helping stop this fire.
KEILAR: Yes, we hear them behind you. Stephanie Elam there, we really appreciate it.
I am Brianna Keilar. Thank you so much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.