Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Any Moment: Trump's National Security Speech; Trump Says Generals Will Have 30 Days to Deliver ISIS Plan; Carson Says Trump Should Apologize for Obama Birther Comments. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired September 7, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO. I'm Carol Costello.
AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.
KATE BOLDUAN: Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan.
National security front and center for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Any minute, Donald Trump is set to lay out his national security vision, he'll be doing that in Philadelphia. He'll be doing that right there. We're waiting for him to take the stage. This is a big moment in the campaign. Just over 60 days until Election Day of course. But importantly, when we're talking about national security, early voting starts much sooner than that, this month in some states. That includes the mail-in ballots often used by active-duty military.
BERMAN: Now, today, we could learn new details about Trump's plan to beat ISIS. Up until last night, Trump proudly claimed that he had a plan but was keeping it secret. Last night, though, he indicated his plan was to tell generals to come up with a plan. So did he ever really have his own plan? That's just one of the issues on the table today.
Let's go right now to CNN senior White House, Jim Acosta, live for us at that event.
What are you expecting, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think what we'll hear from Donald Trump here is he's going to make this argument he's better suited to be commander-in-chief of the United States. We expect him to make these remarks here in the next half an hour or so. He's going to talk about, as you mentioned, that plan to talk to his generals on the first day he takes the oath of office, to come up with a plan for defeating ISIS. It is something he talked about at an event in Greenville, North Carolina, last night.
Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So we're going to convene my top generals and give them a simple instruction. They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS. We have no choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, among the other things we expect Trump to talk about during this speech, he is going to be calling for an end to those defense forced budget cuts known as sequestration. President Obama has also talked about ending sequestration. Donald Trump is going to be talking about this.
In addition to that, he's going to go after Hillary Clinton's foreign policy record, tie her to President Obama. And basically say that there isn't a military intervention that Hillary Clinton does not like. He's going to talk about her vote to authorize use of force against Iraq in 2003. He's going to talk about her support for intervention in Libya.
And, John and Kate, what's interesting about all of this is that there are some reversals we need to talk about if Donald Trump is going to be talking about, today, how he wants to lift those forced budget caps on the defense budget. We should point out back in 2013, he told Greta Van Susteren, over at FOX, he didn't think that was enough. Of course, he was caught on tape saying he thought it would be OK to go ahead and use force against Iraq before the war started in 2003. And so this is going to be a repositioning for Donald Trump on some key national security issues.
At the say time, he's going to use the speech to go after Hillary Clinton on this issue of her qualifications to be president. He has been saying over the last 24 hours she's not qualified to be president because of the way she handled her e-mails, the email server, and the iPhones and smart phones that were destroyed. We can expect to hear Donald Trump go off on that as well. Trying to make that case, because we saw in CNN/ORC poll that came out yesterday, people still believe that Donald Trump is not fit temperamentally to be president, that Hillary Clinton does score better in that regard than he does. Part of the reason for the speech is to chip away at those feelings among voters, because obviously that's one area, one deficit Donald Trump has to work on -- John and Kate?
BOLDUAN: Jim Acosta there at the speech. We're keeping a close eye on it. We he starts, we will bring it to you.
BERMAN: You'll see Trump walk up to that lectern along with all of us.
Here now to discuss Trump's vision on national security and the military, CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hurtling; and former Republican congressman from Michigan, Peter Hoekstra, a Donald Trump surrogate. And if I'm not mistaken, you were chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. PETER HOEKSTRA, (R), FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN & FORMER CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE & DONALD TRUMP SURROGATE: That's right.
BERMAN: Mr. Chairman, thank you for being with us.
Let me start with you.
Last night, for the first time, we heard Donald Trump say what he's going to do if he's elected. He's going to ask his generals to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days. That's different than what we heard up until this point on the campaign trail. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump said he had a plan but he was keeping it a secret. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't want the enemy to know what I'm doing. Unfortunately, I'll probably have to tell at some point. But there's a method of defeating them quickly and effectively and having total victory.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: How aggressive would you be in trying to destroy --
TRUMP: I don't want to tell you. We want to be unpredictable.
I have a great plan. It's going to be great. What is it? I'd rather not say. I want to be unpredictable.
I hate to tell people, because if I win, I don't want ISIS to know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:05:] BERMAN: So then he said he had a great plan. Now he says I'm going to tell my generals to come up with a plan.
Mr. Chairman, when he said he had his own plan, was he just making it up?
HOEKSTRA: I don't think he was making it up. I think it's clear. I met with Mr. Trump three weeks ago. We talked about this. He had a number of his national security advisers. He clearly understands and knows what he wants to do. Number one, he does want to defeat ISIS and put in place a detailed plan to make that happen. The second part is he believes there's a role for our NATO allies to play with us, that this is not going to be America alone. The third thing is he wants to make sure people in the region, countries in the region, have a responsibility. And he will also reach out to various groups, whether it's the Kurds or whatever, to partner with us. So it doesn't necessarily mean American boots on the ground to defeat ISIS.
So at a strategic level, he very much knows exactly what he wants to do and what he's going to ask generals to do is to fill in the blanks. But give them a clear direction, which they have not had under President Obama, which says we want to beat ISIS. (CROSSTALK)
BERMAN: Mr. Chairman, just two points. First point, this plan, working with the Kurds, working with NATO allies, no U.S. boots on the ground --
BOLDUAN: Sounds exactly like what's happening now.
HOEKSTRA: No, it's not what's happening now. I've done a lot of work with the Kurds. We've never empowered the Kurds. We've never armed and equipped the Sunni tribes in Iraq to do the mission that they are very capable of doing. They, you know, are going from day to day. They're being spoon-fed the resources that they need. If we had equipped them a number of years ago, we would have defeated ISIS in Iraq and ISIS would be out of Iraq and there would be no ISIS there. There would not have been a caliphate. But no, we are not working effectively with the Kurds or the Sunni tribes.
Plus, we made major strategic errors, getting rid of Gadhafi, going into Syria, which both of those countries are now failed states. They joined Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan as being failed states. And so, no, there's a lot of mistakes that have been made over the last number of years.
HOEKSTRA: A President Trump understands those mistakes.
BOLDUAN: -- he supported that military intervention.
HOEKSTRA: Which military intervention?
BOLDUAN: Both in Iraq and Libya.
HOEKSTRA: The -- it's clear that we would be much better off if -- if Gadhafi had stayed in power, or if we had gone in and had overthrown Gadhafi, and President Obama has admitted, we didn't have a plan for what happened the day after Gadhafi left, so whether --
BERMAN: Mr. Chairman, just to be clear, Donald Trump supported going into Libya. In a video, in 2011, he said, "On a humanitarian basis, immediately go into Libya, knock this guy out very quickly, very surgically, very effectively, and save the lives." So he supported the policy. Now, it may have turned messy after the fact but he did support that policy.
HOEKSTRA: He may have supported that policy. He also would have had a policy in place. And this is what businesspeople are good at doing. They not only plan for the first step but they have a long-term plan. He would have asked the very simple question, what are we going to do the day after Gadhafi is gone. That appears to be a question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't ask and the president didn't ask.
BOLDUAN: Let me bring in Lieutenant General Mark Hertling on this.
You've had some strong things to say about this, especially, very specifically, we can get into a lot of it, but most specifically first, this idea he proposed yesterday, in 30 days, when he becomes president, he wants a plan from his generals on how to take out ISIS. You called that insulting to the people who are fighting this fight. What do you mean?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I did, Kate. And I'm very confused because, frankly, over the last 12 months or so, I've been taking meticulous notes on the things Mr. Trump has said, and he has shifted his position so many times from the military perspective I don't know what he wants to do. Now, listening to Congressman Hoekstra, I feel the same way, I'm very confused.
Mr. Trump started off by saying he would bomb the oil fields and encircle them with troops. Then he said he would bomb all the terrorist safe havens. Then he said he would torture. Then he said I know more than the generals do. Then he said I don't have to ask for advice because I know it all. Now he's saying I'm going to take some advice from the generals. So I'm very confused.
This could be placed as an evolution in his thought processes, but truthfully, these kinds of things, when you're talking about dealing with allies, conducting combat operations, there is an eight-point campaign plan that is in place. And it sounds an awful lot like what you just outlined Mr. Trump is going to do, working with the Kurds. I've been with the Kurds on the ground for almost two years. I know the kinds of things we have done with them and for them. And it is not what's meeting the current dynamics of what's being talked about in Washington, D.C. So this is all very confusing.
[11:10:19] BERMAN: General, though, what about the criticism you hear from Trump and others that Libya, whether or not Donald Trump supported the policy to go in, which he did, but after the fact, there was no plan to deal with what happened in Libya? What about the criticism we've heard about Iraq, that the United States pulled out too quickly and, again, without a plan to keep that country stable and that allowed ISIS to rise up, what about that criticism, General?
HERTLING: Yeah, all that criticism, some of it is founded, John, some of it is not. But it's not something that can be addressed in a three or four-minute conversation on CNN. But truthfully, mistakes are often made in political engagement and in combat engagement. That's why there's got to be clarification from the very beginning, and the secret plans and no one knowing what we're going to do next is not beneficial in order of getting to the real problems. So, yes, there were some issues in Libya, but I'd remind everyone that it wasn't the United States that was leading the way in Libya. It was members of our NATO alliance that wanted Gadhafi out and we contributed to that. And, yes, it may not have been thought out completely in terms of what the end state was going to be. There are indications of what might occur and what could occur. Some of those things did not occur. And it caused a little bit of a government morass. So all those things are certainly up for discussions. But to put these all in very simplistic solutions is contrary to what human engagement and conflict is all about.
BOLDUAN: Mr. Chairman, on the most basic level, Donald Trump said, for months, that he was not going to talk about his plans that he had to combat ISIS and defeat ISIS because he wanted to be unpredictable. He had a plan and he was going to keep it secret. Do you want your candidate to keep his plan secret?
HOEKSTRA: Well, I think he's going -- he's not going to telegraph what the generals come back with in terms of tactically implementing what a victory against ISIS will look like. They will keep guessing on that. But, you know, the bottom line here is -- and I appreciate what the general's talking about. But in the last seven and a half years, the military and our political leaders have put us in a position where we are losing this war. In 2008, roughly 3,000 people per year were losing their lives as a result of radical jihadist attacks. In 2015, that number was now approaching 30,000 people per year. This cancer from radical Jihadism has spread from the Middle East in from Northern Africa into the midsection of Africa. It's going into Asia. You've got this mass migration flow going into Europe. I'm sorry, that does not look like winning to me. It doesn't look like winning --
BOLDUAN: Do you want to hear specifically how he is going to be different than what President Obama has put in place? Do you want to hear specifics from Donald Trump on how he will put in place a different plan than what we've already heard, what you've laid out in broad strokes is in broad strokes what the administration has been doing.
HOEKSTRA: No, it is what the administration has said they are doing. But when you actually get on the ground and you take a look at what's going, the steps that are being taken, those are not the things happening on the ground. Take a look at Iraq. Mosul, the second- largest city in Iraq, 500,000 people, that city is still under the control of ISIS. You have a caliphate the size of Indiana --
BOLDUAN: But do you want to hear specifics from Donald Trump, is what I'm asking.
HOEKSTRA: Well, the specifics are we're going to put in place a strategy that actually is going to enable us to win and is going to take the handcuffs off our military personnel to give them the tools, the equipment and the discretion to put into place a strategy that will --
BERMAN: But Mr. Chairman, the strategy you laid out, which Donald Trump hasn't really laid out, is it that different than the strategy? Is may not be the strategy playing out on the ground, that's your argument, but it is very much the strategy that's in place right now.
If I can follow up on something you said earlier, you were talking about Libya. You said you were convinced that Donald Trump would have a plan to govern Libya after overthrowing Gadhafi. What evidence do you have of that? Particularly, because in terms of a plan here, he's been inconsistent on what his plan is, to battle in the Middle East, on what his immigration plan is. What evidence do you have that he would have a consistent plan for something like this?
HOEKSTRA: Number one, I've met with Donald Trump. I come out of the business world myself. What you do in the business world and what I've seen in the questions and process that Mr. Trump goes through, he's always thinking two, three, four steps past the initial decision. So that's very consistent.
The other thing is when you go back to 2013, 2012 and pull quotes out from Mr. Trump and say, look, he's evolving and he's changing his position. I'm sorry, the facts on the ground have gotten much worse in the last three or four years so, of course, his position is going to evolve, because the situation he's looking at is much different than the quotes he was given in 2013. We have lost five countries that are now failed states, critical countries in the Middle East, in Northern Africa. They were not failed states in 2011, in 2012. So of course, his policies are going to evolve, because the day he takes office in 2017, the conditions are going to be much worse, and the challenges he's going to be facing as commander-in-chief are much different to 2012.
[11:15:58] BOLDUAN: That's a fair point, conditions on the ground can change. But in terms of should the United States have gone into Libya, he was not anti-that, he was for that. That is in the past. That's factually accurate. He supported U.S. involvement and intervention in Libya. That is a fact.
HOEKSTRA: That is a fact. I'm not sure that that position would have been maintained if we would have had the intelligence briefings because, if the intelligence -- if President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton had listened to their intelligence briefings, they would have recognized the people they were partnering with in Libya were linked with radical jihadist groups. And I can tell you, Donald Trump recognizes that radical jihadist groups, groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, are a threat to the United States, and they are not a group -- and these are not the type of ideology we can partner with to bring stability and security to the Middle East and in Northern Africa.
BERMAN: We have to take a break.
But General, I want to give you a quick chance to respond to the Chairman here, General.
HERTLING: Again, I'd just say, John, I'm deeply confused by the thing ms. Trump is saying. I'm even more confused by the things now that Congressman Hoekstra is saying. He's a member of the intelligence community. He knows you can't go backwards in terms of saying, tomorrow, what you would have done yesterday. These are all things -- there's a great deal of conjecture in some of the things the congressman is saying. It's nice to be a Monday morning quarterback but sometimes you don' get that opportunity even when you have the intelligence briefings. The congressman was in Congress at the time. Why didn't he stop all this?
BERMAN: All right, General Hertling, Chairman Hoekstra, thank you. Appreciate your time. Certainly a lot to discuss.
And pretty soon, there will be more to discuss.
BOLDUAN: We'd love to continue the conversation between you two.
Thank you very much.
BERMAN: We're waiting to hear from Donald Trump. I guarantee that will spur more discussion. We'll have live remarks as soon as they begin.
BOLDUAN: Plus, it would be a good idea for Trump to apologize for questioning President Obama's place of birth -- those Birther conspiracies -- this is according to a high-profile Donald Trump supporter, Dr. Ben Carson. So what does Donald Trump have to say about that?
We'll be right back.
[11:21:58] BOLDUAN: We're waiting right now for Donald Trump to lay out his national security plan. Looking at live pictures of the podium now. He's going to speak any minute in Philadelphia. One of the things we will be listening for it Trump's plan to defeat ISIS. What details will he provide?
Let's talk about it. Let's bring in our panel, Brad Woodhouse, a Hillary Clinton supporter, president of Correct the Record, a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton; John Jay LaValle, a Trump delegate from New York, and vice chairman of the New York State Republican Party; CNN senior CNN political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson; and CNN senior CNN reporter, Jeff Zeleny.
Guys, great to have you.
John Jay LaValle, you probably heard a very interesting, and very interesting discussion between the general and the chairman -- former chairman the House Intel we just had, talking about Donald Trump today, yesterday and days before and where he stands on his plan to defeat ISIS. Yesterday, he said he's going to ask the generals to give him a plan within 30 days. Before, he said he's already got a great plan, he's keeping it secret. Has he evolved?
JOHN JAY LAVALLE, CHAIRMAN, NEW YORK STATE REPUBLICAN PARTY & TRUMP DELEGATE FROM NEW YORK: No.
BOLDUAN: Here is the difference between those two statements --
LAVALLE: Like the congressman said, you know, he has a plan but he's also speaking with generals and, you know, things change day to day. So it's going to be fluid. But what I love about Donald Trump's approach, opposed to Hillary Clinton's approach, he is putting time lines. He is a business person. He's not a politician. That's why our government has failed. There's never a time line. There's no sense of urgency.
BERMAN: I don't understand the business -- we heard that from the chairman before. He said he would have had a plan in Libya after the fact. What's the proof that he would have a plan? When, John? His proposals have changed a lot.
LAVALLE: Not true.
BERMAN: It is true.
LAVALLE: First of all, that's not true that his proposals have changed --
BERMAN: They have on immigration --
BOLDUAN: We don't know what his plan is because he said he's going to keep them secret.
LAVALLE: -- a $10 billion empire. This is a successful businessman. He sets goals. He sets targets. He sets the limits on those. And he makes moves. That's what he does.
BOLDUAN: Here's the problem.
BOLDUAN: Here's the one problem, with his plan to defeat ISIS, it's a secret. He's not going to talk about it. He's not going to give details because he wants to be unpredictable.
In the primary, Republican voters who supported Trump like that. I heard that from voters that they like that. Now it doesn't sound like it's going to be secret or we're still going to be secret and still not know. How are we going to know?
LAVALLE: It will always be a secret in the sense you should not be telegraphing your punches. Don't walk into a boxing match say a left hook, then jab twice and then I'm coming over the top.
BOLDUAN: You think Hillary Clinton is going to protect troop movements?
LAVALLE: In America, we expect our politicians to telegraph everything we're doing overseas. We shouldn't be doing it. You need strategy. I don't think whether you're more of a Democrat general or Republican general, the one thing you want is the ability to do your job, and not do it with your enemy knowing where you are. I mean, this is, like, military 101. And yet, the American public -- at least the media keeps asking it, we want to know what you're going to do. Like, why is this a secret? It's supposed to be a secret.
BERMAN: But on some of the basic points though, I think the American people do deserve to know. Do you want to commit more troops to that effort? Did you support the initial invasion of Iraq, yes or no?
BOLDUAN: Yes. The answer is yes.
[11:25:15] BERMAN: The answer to that is yes. So because he moved on it, I think they have the right to know details.
Jeff Zeleny, you covered the campaign extensively. Is this the kind of thing that makes them crazy going after Donald Trump because it's a moving target here? If they try to differentiate m him on specific policy, do they know what policy he supported?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No, and that has made it more difficult. Let's look at immigration. Immigration has been an example of a very moving target for Trump. In some ways politically speaking only that has played to his benefit. Because his whole point here is to have, you know, people who were concerned he was too harsh maybe to open their eyes to him.
The Clinton campaign now is suddenly focused on national security. Front and center this week. This is the reason why. The Clinton campaign, accord to all the advisers and strategists I talked to all week long in New York, they believe Donald Trump has, in fact, gained ground wit some of those suburban voters, those suburban women voters who are a little bit worried about him on immigration, he's definitely gained ground. They don't want him to gain ground on national security. That's been one of the weaknesses for interest Trump in the eyes of many voters, many Republican voters who don't think he's up to the task here. But it's difficult when he is all over the map here. But that's why I think this forum tonight and the fact we're talking about it more shines light on it. But he has been very elusive I guess, to be generous, on national security. Perhaps, you know, it's intentional, I'm not sure. But we'll see what he says here in Philadelphia.
BOLDUAN: But to the point of who's up and who's down on the issue of foreign policy and terrorism. You look at the most recent poll, Brad. Donald Trump is up. Donald Trump is up on who can better handle terrorism. Why is she losing him on that?
BRAD WOODHOUSE, PRESIDENT, CORRECT THE RECORD SUPER PAC & FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, DNC & HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, you'd be surprised that I don't believe that result.
BOLDUAN: I'm shocked you don't believe these polls --
BERMAN: I mean, he has led on terrorism in a lot of polls. This is not an anomaly.
WOODHOUSE: I understand that. Look, there is a history in this country going back many presidential elections where Republicans have led -- have led on this issue. I don't believe when this election is over with you'll see him lead on that issue. I think tonight will be decisive in that regard.
I think the debates will be decisive in that regard, that Donald Trump has benefited in the polls because he's all over the map on these -- on these issues and he can't be -- he can't be pinned down. What I would like to see today in a speech on national security is I'd like to see him explain why he was for going into Libya and, today, why he says he was not, which is not true. Why he says now that he was against going into Iraq when, in fact, he was. Why today he says we should get rid of sequester when before he said the sequester didn't go far enough. The problem here is that people after what we went through in -- during the Iraq war and went through with the Bush administration, they want clarity and certainty and trust on national security. Donald Trump has not given that to them at all.
BERMAN: We are waiting for Donald Trump to step up to the lectern and begin his speech soon.
I want to bring up other issues with you while you're here.
Nia-Malika, the Birther issue which is something Trump spoke about four years ago. He's been asked about it receive types in the last few days. This is the idea that President Obama was not born in the United States. He was asked about it last night on FOX News, listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, HOST, THE O'REILLY REPORT: Do you think your Birther position has hurt you among African-Americans?
TRUMP: I don't know. I have no idea. I don't even talk about it anymore, Bill --
O'REILLY: I know, but it's there, it's on the record.
TRUMP: I don't know. I really don't know. I don't think -- you're the first one that's brought that up in a while. I don't think so. I mean, look, I went to Detroit. We had -- it was like a love-fest. We had just a great, great time. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: First of all what he said there is simply not true. He's not the first one to bring it up in a while. He came up two days ago and two days before that. He's actually faced a bunch of questions, and given the same answer, which is I don't talk about it anymore, which is different than I apologize.
Dr. Ben Carson says he should apologize, Nia. Do you see this as being something that the Clinton campaign will bring up and will follow Donald Trump in the coming --
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and I think you've already seen the Clinton campaign bring it up. You've seen Bernie Sanders bring it up as well whenever he's talking about Donald Trump. And they say, listen, this is the guy who floated this, what they say was a racist or racially tinged idea, that Barack Obama was not an American, that he was born somewhere else, that he was sort of a Manchurian candidate. And, listen, Donald Trump didn't just stop there with the Birther thing.