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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Trump to Address Birther Issue Soon; Trump Praises Medal of Honor Recipient Supporters. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired September 16, 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] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to show you live pictures from Washington, D.C. We believe a presidential candidate is about to stage a grand event in a hotel ballroom, essentially to declare the sky is blue, water is wet and the sun rises in the east. We are told that, today, for the first time, Donald Trump will, might, admit that fact is fact, and he wants credit for it, at least in one conspiracy theory that he has flirted with for five years. We think, we think that Donald Trump might say that he now thinks that President Obama was born in the United States of America.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: But we don't know.
BERMAN: We don't know.
BOLDUAN: We don't know. We are waiting to see.
Last night, an aide to Donald Trump put out a statement saying this, quote, "In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate." Going on to say that, "Mr. Trump did a great service to the president and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised." The statement goes on to say arguably Donald Trump -- inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer.
Let's clarify, if need be. Hillary Clinton herself did not start this. Supporters of hers in 2008 talked about it but there is zero evidence she accepted the falsehood or perpetuated it at all. It was perpetuated and championed by Donald Trump.
While we are going to wait for Donald Trump to take the stage, let's first, go to a lot of people to talk about it.
Let's bring in chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, who is watching this. Brianna Keilar is here with us as well.
Dana, your thoughts this morning? What we know, where we stand as we watch General Michael Flynn warm-up the crowd.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What we know is after the campaign released that statement last night and despite the fact the campaign is insisting still that Jason Miller, his spokesman, speaks for Donald Trump, they understand quietly and privately that this is something that is bigger than that this is a conspiracy theory that he has been peddling since 2011, and it predates this political campaign, but obviously, got him into the political sphere, and I think helped plant the seeds for what is now his nomination as the presidential candidate. Given all of that, the sources I'm talking to say that they expect him to address this issue.
Now, we are all this morning giving caveats because as somebody just said to me by text, we will see what happens when -- Donald J. Trump knows what Donald J. Trump is going to say. It's been a little different lately because he's been reading from a teleprompter but we will see what happens when and if he gives this particular statement.
How far will he go? It's hard to imagine he will go as far as Hillary Clinton demanded this morning, which is an apology to President Obama and the American people. The suspicion is that it will be something along the lines of what was in his campaign statement last night, accusing Hillary Clinton, falsely, we should add, of starting this, and taking great credit for putting an end to it by getting Barack Obama to produce his birth certificate.
Now, of course, that all happened years ago, which brings us to the question of why now. You both know the reality of the political season and the polls and where things are at this late in the game and that is it's getting close and it's tightening. His campaign aides, many of them, and the people around him believe that if he keeps getting asked about this issue, it muffles and has too much noise around the things they think can bring over persuadable voters, like the big economic package that he put out last night. We will see what he actually says, if he says anything at this event. But in Trump style, he has a big event at a brand new hotel and he's got all eyes on him.
BERMAN: One thing is clear. The Clinton campaign and Hillary Clinton herself is already all over this.
Wait, Michael Flynn, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, retired general, is introducing Donald Trump right now. Let's listen in.
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much, everybody. Please sit down.
Under budget and ahead of schedule, isn't that nice?
No, it is a great honor. This is our brand new ballroom. You only see a small piece of it because we have it broken down, but this is the hotel. It's completed. We will be having our opening ceremony in October and it's going to be something very special. It's such an honor to have our first event. This is our first event. (CHEERING)
[11:05:04] TRUMP: And it's such an honor to have our first event for Medal of Honor winners. I mean, they are the finest.
TRUMP: And to get so many endorsements from the Medal of Honor winners is incredible. I look forward to spending a lot of time --
TRUMP: Come here.
TRUMP: They have a lot more courage than I do, I will say that, all the time.
But it is such an honor to have this particular ceremony be the first ceremony because I think when the hotel opens, officially, it will be one of the great hotels anywhere in the world. And I want to thank the GSA, General Services. They have been spectacular. These are spectacular people. These are tremendously talented people, all of the workers, all of the construction folks, all of the managers, the hotel staff. Amazing, amazing how good our country can do when we want to do it. But we have put in tremendous amounts of work and energy and money, and I really believe, I said it will be the best hotel in Washington. I think it may be one of the great hotels anywhere in the world. That's the way it turned out. So really honored to have this as our first event.
TRUMP: So I'm pleased to be here this morning with two Medal of Honor recipients and the six flags, OK, six flag and general officers. We have a tremendous amount of talent here. Lot of generals, General Kellogg, General Flynn. We have just the room is stacked with generals and talented people and leaders. I love leaders. The great people represent 120 flag and general officer endorsements. 120.
TRUMP: And that number is going up very rapidly. And now 17 Medal of Honor recipients. In addition -- that's a tremendous amount of very, very brave people.
In addition, I'm honored to be joined by the many veterans that are supporting us all throughout the room. Thank you very much for being here.
TRUMP: I'm also honored to have a Gold Star wife, Jane Horton, here. Jane is with us this morning.
TRUMP: Jane, where is Jane? Please stand.
Thank you, Jane. Thank you.
TRUMP: Incredible. Jane lost her husband, Specialist Chris Horton, in Afghanistan on September 9th, 2011.
Jane, it's such an honor to have you here. I hear so many things about Chris and he was a winner and thank you very much on behalf of the country. Thank you.
TRUMP: It's incredibly humbling to be in the company of these real and true heroes.
I had the privilege to introduce our first Medal of Honor recipient, Mike Thornton. Mike is a retired United States Navy SEAL, a tough cookie, and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in Vietnam, the Vietnam War. In addition, he is the recipient of a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. I'm proud to have him on my team, such a great honor for me.
And also fellow recipient, Bob Patterson, who likewise has the Medal of Honor, who is also here.
We have 17 Medal of Honor recipients and they have all endorsed me for president of the United States. And I have been endorsed by generals, and many of the generals have become very good friends of mine. We seem to have a very good chemistry together. But even the generals admit there is something very special about Medal of Honor recipients.
So, Mike, if I might ask you to just say hello. Come up, say a - couple of words. And thank you very much for being here.
[11:10:09] GEN. MIKE THORNTON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Whoa, stop. We don't need no more of that. This is all about getting the word out there.
I have known Mr. Trump since 1986, and when it wasn't fashionable to support the military in 1986, some great people like Donald Trump and Zach Fisher and he brought the "USS Intrepid" there, and he supported us back in that period of time.
You know, ladies and gentlemen, the medal I wear so proudly around my neck, I do not deserve the medal, never will feel I deserve the medal. But it belongs to every man and woman who ever served our great nation of America because, ladies and gentlemen, freedom is not free.
(APPLAUSE) THORNTON: Right now, today, is the most trying time in my life, which life is very short, but I have been around for almost 70 years, but you know, this election means so much. We do not need any more bureaucratic leadership from Washington, D.C.
THORNTON: We need true leadership from the top. Mr. Trump has never failed in anything because he listens to his advisers, he listens to his people. For the last eight years, our president hasn't listened to anybody, and that's the reason why we have lost CIA directors, we have lost secretary of defense. And many, many general officers have dropped out or resigned because of his leadership. We cannot stand for four more years of leadership like that. We need somebody that's going to lead from the front like Donald Trump.
THORNTON: So thank you very much for having us here. God bless you. God bless America. God bless Donald Trump.
THORNTON: Excuse me. I'm supposed to introduce Bob Patterson, my good friend for 45 years.
GEN. BOB PATTERSON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Just like the Navy, can't admit the Army's better.
I'm here to tell you something right now. I spent 26 years of my life defending this country. And after that, I spent another 17 years taking care of those veterans who I served with and were still serving, because I worked for 17 years for the V.A. before I finally retired. I have watched our country take a complete turn-around from where it was. We used to be the shining star. We are getting dimmer and dimmer and dimmer. It's all because of all the bureaucrats here in Washington, D.C. And it's time we send somebody to Washington that knows how to say, "You're fired."
PATTERSON: The gentleman I'm going to introduce is Major General Al Zapanta, CEO and president of United States-Mexican Chamber of Commerce based here in Washington, D.C. Served on many commissions under Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and both Bushs. General Zapanta entered the military in 1964 and he has numerous awards and decorations, including a Silver Star, five Bronze Stars, with "V" for valor and a Purple Heart.
MAJ. GEN. AL ZAPANTA, CEO & PRESIDENT, U.S.-MEXICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & TRUMP SUPPORTER: What Bob just did to me, he made me older than anybody up here.
Mr. Trump, thank God for you and your leadership.
ZAPANTA: You know, being a Vietnam veteran and serving all the way through the Iraq and Afghanistan war in the Department of Defense as chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board for half of the military that we deployed to that region 15 years ago, and we're still there, National Guard and Reserves. And when they came home, they couldn't use the V.A. because they weren't veterans because they were still part of their Reserve and National Guard unit. I know the next president of the United States, Donald Trump, will fix that.
[11:15:16] ZAPANTA: I also would like to say, you know, deplorables are also deployables.
ZAPANTA: Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor for me to be here and supporting the next president of the United States, who will lead from the front, who has the kind of leadership that we need, is not afraid to make that decision. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm really honored to be with Donald Trump.
ZAPANTA: I actually probably did this on fellow is really a personal friend. I have immense respect for him. He won his Silver Star in Korea when the North Koreans tried to take over our location there on the DMZ. He's a very special warrior. He is a major general. It is my honor to introduce you to Major General Burt Misazawa.
MAJ. GEN. BURT MISAZAWA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Thank you, Al.
We do go way back but I don't really go back to the Korean War. But that's, indeed, where I was awarded the Silver Star.
After 40 years of serving this nation in uniform and four combat deployments, I have become convinced that our nation needs a multi- disciplinary inter-agency approach to defeat our enemies and to secure the long-term fruits of victory. In essence, what we need is fresh thinking, innovative approaches and strong leadership. It's been my privilege to have spent quality time with Mr. Trump on and off the campaign trail over the past few months. I have been extremely impressed with this gentleman's stamina. And if any of you are privy to his schedule, you would be totally amazed at what he has been able to do. (APPLAUSE)
MISAZAWA: In addition, I have been very impressed with his intellectual curiosity and his raw intelligence and his energy and his enthusiasm and, yes, indeed, his temperament. He's got the right temperament that we need in the White House.
MISAZAWA: The thing I have been most impressed with is his absolute love for the men and women in uniform and the support he's going to give them from the White House.
MISAZAWA: And I can guarantee you the men and women overseas and their families at home, will not be in vain in addition to the billions of taxpayer dollars we spend supporting them. That's why I stand by Mr. Trump to be our next commander-in-chief.
Now it's my pleasure to introduce Admiral Don Lauren, a Naval Academy graduate, class of '74. He commanded a guided missile frigate destroyer squadron. He ended a brilliant career as deputy director for Strategic Plans and Policy and covered Russia, Africa and NATO. So, my pleasure.
ADM DON LAUREN, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Thank you, everyone.
We are a group of national security professionals who dedicated our lives to the security of our nation, as deplorable as we are.
We are not a political group. But we are a national security group that has chosen to support a political candidate.
The series of discussions you have all listened to Mr. Trump have deal with national security. National security is not solely about the military. It's comprised of my facets -- defense, diplomatic development, economic security, energy security, border security, cybersecurity, Homeland Security. The logical --
[11:20:00] LAUREN: The logical policy presentations that Mr. Trump has delivered over the last few weeks lay out a sound strategic approach to the security of nation and the security of all Americans. These policies comprise a holistic approach to addressing the complex facets of national security in a complex and extremely dangerous international world. Moreover, Mr. Trump combines this multi-faceted approach to our security with a pronounced commitment to those in uniform serving our nation today and, in fact, all veterans who have worn the cloth of the nation. That commitment extends to the families of those who have served. For as all of us in this room know, their sacrifice has been as equally difficult if not more so than our own.
George Washington said, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and are appreciated by our nation."
LAUREN: Mr. Trump has embraced those words of our first president.
Mr. Trump has also shown an extreme dedication to those that have shouldered the wounds of battle in the service to our nation. And we have several of those people with us today. He has committed himself to the words of President Abraham Lincoln, words emblazoned in the motto of the Department of Veterans Affairs, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan." This is why all of us here are assembled to support Donald Trump for president. We have --
LAUREN: We have lived national security for a large part of our lives. We understand how a strong economy, cooperative governance, combined with skilled diplomacy, sound energy policy, sound alliances, and a united American public, all defended by a well-trained, appropriately funded, fully committed and technologically unsurpassed military, come together to make America strong and make the world a safer place.
LAUREN: And finally, finally, all of us on this stage, all of you in the audience that served, you took an oath. You pledged, sealed with the honor and commitment and your own lives, an oath not solely to our country, not to our flag, not to a chain of command or not to a commander-in-chief, but an oath to a piece of paper, a piece of parchment upon which is written those ideals in which we believe, those values that define us as a nation, those very virtues that those who have served before us defended with their lives, an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to that Constitution, to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to ensure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. That oath is important to all of us here today.
LAUREN: That oath remains the cornerstone of our lives long after we have taken off the uniform. That oath is important to Donald Trump. And he, in fact, will take that very same oath on January 20th, 2017.
LAUREN: That's why we assembled in this room along with many other veterans and their military families, all support his candidacy for president of the United States of America. Together, we will all make America great again.
Thank every single one of you for your service to our nation and may God continue to bless our United States of America.
[11:25:07] LAUREN: It's my pleasure now to introduce Lieutenant General Tom McInerney, a West Point graduate, but we won't hold that against him.
Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, he then joined the Air Force, completed pilot training and went on to a long distinguished military career, including assistant vice chief of staff, headquarters, U.S. Air Force. His awards are numerous, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, a true good American hero, Tom McInerney.
LT. GEN. TOM MCINERNEY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Thank you, Don.
It's very simple. We, all warriors here, are supporting Mr. Trump because he has then only budget, the only economic plan, that can rebuild the military. If you elect Hillary Clinton --
MCINERNEY: -- you are going to get 1 percent growth. You are going to get 3.5 percent to 6 percent growth with this administration because he knows how to take the handcuffs off America's economy. We need that.
MCINERNEY: Make it very clear to the American people, there is only one candidate that can rebuild the United States military and make us great again.
MCINERNEY: -- it's my distinct pleasure to introduce Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, who is on the --
BOLDUAN: There you go. Been listening to this event out of Washington, D.C. It started more than 20 minutes ago. Waiting for Donald Trump and his big announcement. Still getting introduced by members of the military.
BERMAN: To be clear, we have been told this event would be an event where Donald Trump would address his past trafficking in the Birther issue, the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States. He opened the event making a plug for his hotel. He has a new hotel. So in a sense, you could say he was leveraging five years of Birther conspiracy to promote his hotel. But now, we have been listening to veterans and military officials praising Donald Trump. He has lined up quite a bit of support onstage.
I want to bring in CNN's Jake Tapper now, anchor of "The Lead" and "State of the Union."
Jake, this is more of the "showmanship" that we have come to see from Donald Trump and his campaign.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD & CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Sure. And while these American heroes are, you know, people that we should all show reverence and respect, they are much greater men than Rick Astley (ph), it's hard to imagine this as anything other than a political rick-roll, the idea that we were told this was going to be Donald Trump addressing something that his top campaign advisers, many people in the Republican National Committee, want him to address and clear up, and then stop talking about, which is this lie that President Obama was not born in the United States, which has been discredited for more than half a decade now, but Donald Trump has been trafficking in it as recently as this year. We were told he was going to do that. Instead, they bring out a number of Medal of Honor recipients and military heroes instead. And it was clever on one level. On another level, it does speak to the integrity of the Trump campaign. They told us something was going to happen and it's not happening.
BOLDUAN: Gloria Borger, you have been watching this along with us. What do you think?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Jake is right. Let's see if Donald Trump gets up at the end of this event and says something about the Birther issue. We saw last night that there was a statement issued on his behalf by his communications director, but the words have not come out of Donald Trump's mouth. And they tried to flip it in this statement, saying that he had done a great service to the people of the United States in confirming something that 80 percent of Americans at least believe they already knew. So as we suspected, this was going to be a promo for his hotel. I think that this is also a campaign event with American heroes here. And I think we have to wait to see if Donald Trump indeed says anything at the end of this event.
BOLDUAN: I'm starting to question that more and more.
BERMAN: Let's be clear, Donald Trump this morning to Maria Bartiromo said -- he was asked flat-out, does he think the president was born in the United States. He refused to answer, and he said we have to keep the suspense going.
I want to bring in part of our panel now.
Marc Lamont Hill, let me start with you.
We have to keep the suspense going, which he seems to be doing on the stage right now. It feels like he's treating this like a game.
MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah.
BOLDUAN: Is questioning the birthplace of the president of the United States, is that a game?
HILL: It should not be a game. .