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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
New Presidential Polls; Terror in Kabul; Earthquake in Italy; New CNN/ORC Polls Out of Arizona, North Carolina; USA Today: "Mothball" The Clinton Foundation. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired August 24, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Brand-new CNN polls out in just moments.
THE LEAD starts right now.
And breaking news: Two battleground states with deep red roots possibly flipping -- the latest CNN poll results releasing live here on THE LEAD.
And 120 killed, dozens buried, survivors digging through the rubble to rescue them, one mayor saying that his town is no more. We're live at the sight of Italy's devastating earthquake.
Plus, they can be the difference between life and death for children with severe allergies, so why are lifesaving EpiPens soaring so much in price and what happens to the families that can't afford to pay?
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
SCIUTTO: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for Jake Tapper. All those stories ahead.
But we begin with breaking news.
The American University campus in Kabul is under attack as we speak. At least one university guard is now dead, 21 students injured in the attack. Officials say dozens of students and staff are still trapped inside, their fate unknown. Witnesses say they are still hearing blasts and gunfire on campus, fires still ablaze there as well.
It all began just before 8:00 p.m. Kabul time when assailants opened fired, tossed grenades, and detonated explosives on campus.
I want to bring in now Bilal Sarwary. He's a freelance journalist in Kabul, also an old friend.
Bilal, to your knowledge, is the siege on that campus still under way? Are the attackers still alive?
BILAL SARWARY, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: I was just able, Jim, to speak to an Afghan special forces commander who is in charge for the operation. He said they believe two attackers are still out there. He confirmed that 260 people, mostly students, have been rescued, and he also confirmed that they have cut out the electricity at the university, so that special forces can use night-vision goggles and go after these attackers.
He said the mission right now to save and protect lives. University guards, armed guards are also holding against the Taliban attackers as the special forces commander is putting it on the third floor. So, many worried families, many worried parents still outside of the university.
And at the emergency hospital in Kabul, doctors are already confirming that they have 14 wounded, including three women, and three of those wounded are in critical conditions.
SCIUTTO: Now, Bilal, you just said there that Afghan police, they are identifying the Taliban as being behind this attack, not another group such as ISIS?
SARWARY: The Afghan special forces commander and another Afghan intelligence official is already saying that this is the work of the Taliban as of now.
They are saying that it's still an ongoing situation, so they're trying to gather more information. But you have to remember, Jim, since Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the Pakistan-based militant group, has taken over for the military commander for the Taliban, we have seen more lethal attacks.
We have seen trucks being driven into Kabul with four-ton explosives. We have seen deadly attacks, so no one really is in any doubt that the Taliban are still very brutal and still very militant, specifically Sirajuddin Haqqani. And his organization really has been able to penetrate and infiltrate inside Kabul and carry out these high-profile attacks.
SCIUTTO: And despite an enormous security presence in and around Kabul.
Once witness that we spoke to who made it out safely, thankfully, said that he has friends and teachers still trapped inside. As you speak to Afghan special forces, they're behaving as if there are still hostages on campus.
SARWARY: What they're saying, that their mission is to protect lives.
I don't know anyone is really elaborating whether they are being taken hostages or these students and faculty members, including Western nationals, are in the wrong please at the wrong time, because on the third floor you have Afghan guards and some of these people stuck.
And then on the second floor, you have these attackers who are basically crisscrossing between third, second and first floor. Afghan special forces fighting against these attackers are cream of the crop. The crisis response unit is trained to fight these sort of attacks. [16:05:02]
But, Jim, it's important to mention that these special forces are extremely tired. They have been fighting in Helmand and in Kunduz over the past two weeks or so.
One of the fears here everyone here in Kabul had, what happens if you have got a complex attack? Of course, the intelligence threats and intelligence sharing every day basically suggests that the Taliban and the Haqqani Network would want to carry out complex attacks in Kabul, because it also guarantees them headlines, international headlines.
The attack against the American University is an attack against Afghanistan's future. This is a university that has educated almost more than 100 top government officials, young people. Afghanistan is a very young country, where 75 percent of its population is below the age of 25, according to some estimates.
You can only imagine how big a blow this is.
SCIUTTO: No question. And many foreigners among them as well, students and teachers.
Bilal Sarwary in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, thanks very much.
Now to more breaking news, a disaster in Italy, the death toll rising tool after today's powerful 6.2 earthquake there. The count is now at 120 killed, 100 hurt, but still countless others missing and worries that that death toll will rise.
Here is why. The earthquake's epicenter shook a region in central Italy that is surrounded by mountains and filled with historic brick buildings, many of which collapsed in the tremors, leaving many still trapped beneath the rubble.
Let me show you another view. On the left, that's a street corner seen on Google Earth before today's quake. On the right, that is that same street corner after today's quake. You could see the buildings crumbling there.
Our Fred Pleitgen, he made his way to the epicenter of Amatrice, Italy.
Fred, we know, and you have been speaking to rescue workers, the next few hours really critical for those rescue crews. Why is that?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim.
They're saying the first 72 hours are going to be absolutely critical, because they believe if there are people who might be trapped somewhere in the rubble of the buildings you see behind me, in this small town of Amatrice, that they might be able to survive for about 72 hours if they were able to get into some crevice inside or some sort of gap inside and survive that initial collapse of the building.
And I can tell you, the rescue crews are still very much at work here, even though it is pitch black outside. It's the middle of the night here in Italy. They're still working with sniffer dogs. They also have heavy equipment now, where they're trying to cut through some of the rocks to see whether or not they can reach some people who might still be trapped underneath.
And every once in a while, us who are standing out here are asked to be completely quiet. A whistle goes off. And they say everything be quiet, because they think they may have heard someone who may still be trapped underneath.
We have had several of those alarms happen earlier. So far, they have not found anyone in the time that we have been here. But there have been some people who have been pulled from the rubble in what has been a tragic day. Let's have a look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely appalling noise, clinking, thundering sort of rumble. It sounded like someone had put a bulldozer under the house to try to knock it down.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): The strong and shallow quake caused many of the ancient buildings in Amatrice and surrounding cities to crumble, trapping residents beneath the rubble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The important thing is to stay calm. Police officers are on their way now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They found two person alive under a building that collapsed. So this is our first priority.
PLEITGEN: Amatrice's mayor, Sergio Pirozzi, telling Rai News -- quote -- "The town is no more."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): By sheer luck, I have no idea how I survived, just like many others. But many others did not.
PLEITGEN: No one is allowed to sleep in the town of Amatrice tonight, Italy's civil protection agency said. More than 1,000 people have been displaced because of the quake.
John Carlos (ph) was in a house on top of a hill that collapsed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I can't go around without clothes. They gave me these shoes, so at least I'm not barefoot, but obviously we can't move around here. I heard people asking for help, people calling out, asking for help. But in this condition, what could I do?
PLEITGEN: Today's earthquake not far from the 2009 quake in L'Aquila that killed around 300 people.
Lazio's regional government is asking for blood donations. And the local Red Cross has asked residents to open their Wi-Fi networks to improve rescue communications.
Italy's prime minister saying:
MATTEO RENZI, ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): It is a time when we're in shock, but it is a moment for action. With my heart and my hands, I would like to say to Italians during difficult moments Italy knows how to react and what to do.
PLEITGEN: And Pope Francis tweeting in Italian expressing great sorrow for the people affected by the earthquake. He sent a team of six firemen from the Vatican Fire Department to aid in the search-and- rescue effort.
PLEITGEN: Jim, the rescue efforts, they continue here throughout the night.
And I can tell you, we have been here and we have actually felt some aftershocks as we have standing here. One, as we have noted, was of the magnitude-5.5 on the Richter scale.
But the workers here, they just keep going and going, looking to see if there are more survivors. But in the time that we have been standing here, we have already seen two people who have been killed pulled out of the rubble, so absolutely tragic here for this village and so many around here -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: No question and we may see more. Fred Pleitgen, he is in Amatrice right near the center of that earthquake.
I want to go now to Atika Shubert. She is in Saletta, Italy, just north of the epicenter.
So, Atika, as you have been working your way through there, what have you been seeing and what can you see from your vantage point now?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a tiny village. And it was absolutely devastated.
It is only about a mile from the epicenter. You see behind me one home that is just absolutely collapsed. Behind there was the town plaza. It used to have 10 homes there. Now only two have survived. And as soon as we arrived here earlier this afternoon, they had just managed to pull two bodies from the rubble.
They're still going now actually through that rubble there. I spoke to a family that is kind of camped out there. They have pulled up chairs. And they say they don't want to leave until the father of the family has been pulled out. They realize the likelihood of his survival is very slim. But they still want to wait to see what happens, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Those buildings there so fragile. And of course this happened in the middle of the night, when people were sleeping.
Atika Shubert, thanks very much from Saletta in Italy.
Turning now to our breaking news in the race for the White House, brand-new CNN polls out in the key states of Arizona and North Carolina. We will have that for you right after this break.
[16:15:53] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with breaking news in our politics lead.
The very first CNN/ORC battleground state polls of this general election. And they show that with 76 days to go before the election, the Democratic dream of flipping two states blue still not yet a reality. These new numbers come as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both raising eyebrows across the nation today, though not for reasons their campaigns would like.
First, I want to get right to these polls and right to CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.
So, Dana, Arizona and North Carolina -- Arizona, it's been a dream. There's been a lot of talk about the Democrats flipping this. Look at these numbers, not quite there yet. And North Carolina looks like what it always has been which is a battleground state.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And let's start with Arizona, because as you said, it has been reliably red on the presidential level for two decades. But right now and the hope among Democrats has been to flip it, especially given that Donald Trump is on the ballot. They're hoping to energize Hispanic voters for Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump.
Look at our new poll, it shows that Trump has a five-point lead in Arizona over Hillary Clinton, with Gary Johnson polling at 12 percent and Jill Stein of the Green Party at 4 percent. Now, Trump's lead appears to be amplified by his support among independents, four in 10 independents in Arizona say they'll vote for Trump.
Now, let's look at North Carolina. As you say, it is such a swing state that it went for President Obama in 2008, but Romney in 2012. And right now, it is still that way, neck and neck. Look at that.
Clinton, 44 percent, Trump 43 percent, and again, Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate at 11 percent.
SCIUTTO: It's been a story in this race that education has been key. Less education, more support for Trump. In general, more support for Hillary Clinton. Is that reflected in the polls?
BASH: That's right.
Absolutely, it is even more so. It's actually quite stunning when you look at it. As you mentioned, the education gap among white voters is one of the hallmarks of this campaign. It is so pronounced in these battleground states that if you take a look at that, at this, Trump is doing even better with non-college educated voters than he does elsewhere.
Just look at that, Arizona first, 57 percent Trump, Clinton 27 percent, a 30-point gap. But even bigger in North Carolina, 65 percent to 23 percent, 42 percent among the white voters without college degrees.
Let's look each state with college degrees. First of all in North Carolina, remember, it is neck and neck overall. Clinton tops Trump by eight points among whites with college degrees. And in Arizona, where Trump is ahead, he only has a narrow lead over Clinton at 2 percent.
SCIUTTO: So, finally, we heard Donald Trump especially in recent days, going after, it seems, minority voters, saying that -- you know, often, sometimes even saying you have nothing to lose with me, do we see any sign that he is winning them over in these polls?
BASH: Not quite, but it is interesting to look at where it breaks down. Let's start again with Arizona, the Latino vote. It is a huge part of the electorate, 18 percent of the vote in 2012. Right now, 20 percent of Latinos there say they will vote for Trump, which given all the controversy Trump has generated and that community, actually it might be higher than you would think, but still the vast majority, 57 percent are supporting Clinton, while a libertarian Gary Johnson gets 50 percent, and Jill Stein of the Green Party, 5 percent.
So let's go to North Carolina where the African-American vote is critical, more than 20 percent of the electorate was black back in 2012. Hillary Clinton is crushing everyone else with black voters, 88 percent in this poll. Donald Trump has 3 percent. Gary Johnson is at 7 percent.
Now, 3 percent, you look at that and say, well, he's barely registering. What is he doing?
Well, that's true in some respects, but I think that the way -- I know the way that the campaign is looking at it, in places like North Carolina where the black vote is such a huge share, if he can move that needle from 3 percent to 6 percent, or 7 percent, which is a big "if", that can make a big difference overall if it continues to be neck and neck.
SCIUTTO: Fascinating stuff. Dana Bash, thanks very much.
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Donald Trump is still doubling down on his pitch to African-American and Latino voters. Today, he's going to rally supporters in the majority black city of Jackson, Mississippi, as he tries to draw together a coalition that could push him over the top this fall.
[16:20:08] CNN political reporter Sara Murray is joining me now live from Tampa, Florida.
Sara, so Mr. Trump just finished up an event there where you are. He spent a lot of time doing something that's a bit unusual for him and that is focusing on Hillary Clinton.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Jim, Donald Trump tried out some new zingers against Clinton today, but he didn't just go after her about her time at the State Department or about the Clinton Foundation. He also used today to test out his new approach, reaching out to minority voters, going after Clinton right here in Florida where there is a sizable Hispanic population.
MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump is keeping up the drumbeat of criticism against Hillary Clinton, accusing her of using the State Department and her family foundation as political piggybanks.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary Clinton ran the State Department like a failed leader in a third world country. She sold favors and access in exchange for cash.
MURRAY: Campaigning in the pivotal battleground state of Florida today.
TRUMP: As you know, Florida is my second home.
MURRAY: Trump now tailoring his Clinton criticism to help him win over more African-American and Latino voters.
TRUMP: Hillary Clinton would rather give a job to an illegal immigrant than an unemployed Hispanic citizen, an unemployed African- American citizen, or even to a veteran.
MURRAY: Part of the campaign's pledge to improve outreach to minorities and pushback against the perception by some that Trump is racist.
TRUMP: African-Americans are tired of being used by those phony politicians.
MURRAY: But even some of Trump's most ardent supporters acknowledged it's a tough sell.
DR. BEN CARSON (R), ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: He truly recognizes that he's probably not going to get the majority, and not the majority of African-American votes because of tradition.
MURRAY: Trump's pitch to minorities comes as speculation swirls about whether he'll tweak his immigration policy. For now, he is at least tweaking his tone, saying he's open to a softer approach for undocumented immigrants without criminal records.
TRUMP: There certainly can be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people.
MURRAY: Amid all of this, both candidates are still fielding questions about the sparse information they provided on the state of their health.
Today, Ben Carson calling on both to be more transparent.
CARSON: I think that someone who is running for president of the United States, particularly if they're elderly, and that would include both major candidates, should disclose their medical history.
MURRAY: While Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani continues to question Clinton's health based on a gesture of surprise during an interview and a bathroom during a debate.
(on camera): But you don't see any problem with questioning the possibility of the Democratic nominee's health based on no facts?
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYORK: What do you mean based no facts? They were rather bizarre things that happened like that time her head started shaking in the middle of an interview. And the time that she got off the stage for some period of time during a debate. This isn't based on no facts. Do those facts mean that she is seriously ill? I don't know.
MURRAY: Now, despite that sort of flimsy evidenced Rudy Giuliani gave he said he still believes Hillary Clinton should release more medical records and that if she does it, Donald Trump will follow her lead.
Back to you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: I think that stop on stage was to go to the bathroom.
Sara Murray in Tampa, thanks very much.
So, how is the Clinton campaign responding to new attacks on the Clinton Foundation? That's right after this.
[16:27:59] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Donald Trump hammering Hillary Clinton over questions of a possible overlap between the Clinton Foundation's work and her work at the State Department. But he's not even close to the only one. Just look at the papers this morning. "The Washington Post" here, "The latest Clinton e-mails show what an ethics agreement shouldn't look like." "USA Today" says, "Mothball the Foundation".
So, how is Hillary Clinton's campaign responding?
CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, he is in Washington.
Jeff, both Secretary Clinton, Tim Kaine, they have no public events today, what are we hearing on the foundation from the campaign?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WALSHIGNTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, campaign aides are pushing back with vigor on this, saying the A.P. report is flawed. They called it grossly unfair as well. But Hillary Clinton herself has yet to weigh in at all, which is
unusual given how much political oxygen this controversy is consuming. It has rattled the campaign, perhaps even caught them a bit off guard. But so far, the Democrats believe it doesn't change the fact she's in command of this race.
ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, Hillary Clinton back on defense. The Clinton Foundation in Donald Trump's crosshairs.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary Clinton is desperate to cover up her crimes.
ZELENY: As she races millions on a star-studded California swing, off of the campaign trail for the third straight day.
Trump is having a field day with an "Associated Press" report reviewing Clinton's calendar during part of her time at the State Department. It found more than half of her nongovernment visitors gave money to the Clinton Charitable Foundation.
Clinton aides said those numbers are just not true.
She has not commented, but her team is mounting a full-throated defense of the foundation's work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton and her family had a foundation, it is charitable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charitable organizations that are doing important work, and the idea that they would be dragged into a political back and forth and used as weapons for attacks is completely absurd and beyond the pale.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's one of the most massive misrepresentations you could see from the data. And then they're trying to malign and implicate that there was something nefarious going on when, in fact, there wasn't.