Clinton and Trump battle over national security

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," September 8, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, the generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful. ISIS --

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Do you know more about ISIS than they do?

TRUMP: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it's embarrassing for our country.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: That's how he talks about distinguished men and women who have spent their lives serving our country, sacrificing for us. That's how he would act as commander-in-chief.

GOV. MIKE PENCE, REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: In all due respect, I think he was talking about the commander-in-chief reducing the influence of generals to rubble.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, some cleanup there from perhaps the vice presidential nominee, explaining further what Donald Trump said about the generals being reduced to rubble as Hillary Clinton attacked on that.

Hillary Clinton had her own cleanup today on one of the comments in the commander-in-chief forum.


CLINTON: We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we're not putting ground troops into Syria. We're going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.

I think the approach I've outlined intensifies what we are doing, but also recognizes that there is no, in my opinion, path forward to ground troops that would be in our interest.


BAIER: Well, as of Thursday, there are 4,460 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, according to the Pentagon. Roughly 400 more U.S. troops arrived in Iraq over the Labor Day weekend in fact. The administration putting more ground troops in. There are roughly 300 U.S. Special Operation Forces on the ground in Syria.

This, as this race is tight. Quinnipiac out with some new polls. Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and there you can see within the margin of error for almost all of those, Ohio, Trump leading by one and tied in Florida.

Let's bring in our panel: Byron York, chief political correspondent of the Washington Examiner; Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press, and Tom Rogan, columnist for the National Review.

Tom, let me start with you. Your take of the commander-in-chief forum and what you took from it. We talked about two of the elements that had to kind of be clarified today.

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, I think the first thing is that you see again this difference in temperament between the two candidates, increasingly notable and increasingly unrestrained going towards the election.

Clearly Hillary Clinton is trying to make that her pivot, that you can't trust Donald Trump in any sense, of being sitting in that Situation Room. On the flip side, Donald Trump saying you can't trust Hillary Clinton because of the decisions she's made.

But as this goes on, as these different parts, you know, on Hillary Clinton's point about the troops on the ground, Donald Trump again re- emphasizing the notion of taking the oil, there are discrepancies that both candidates will jump -- I think both candidates, both campaigns quite frankly have quite a lot to be disappointed about last night.

BAIER: Julie?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think that's right. I don't think that either of these candidates did much to address their core weaknesses. I think if you're Hillary Clinton, you probably have a right to be frustrated that so much of your time was spent on the e- mails. Yet every time she's answering these questions and she's getting into these technical arguments, it just doesn't come across as something that I think the public buys.

And for Trump, it was more clearer than ever that he does not have policy proposals. And somehow he's going to have to find some level of detail before he gets on stage for three debates, which are going to be much longer and much more detailed than what we saw last night.

BAIER: I think it was clear on Hillary Clinton's point and the Clinton campaign that when she came out to do a press conference, her first, you know, with that podium.


BAIER: They had some cleaning up to do because they would have let it stand perhaps if they were happy with everything that's said.

YORK: They did. I have a little different view. I think that they have to be a little bit worried after last night because I think what happened is you saw a potential advantage for Trump in the debate coming up September 26th. The advantage is, Hillary Clinton has a long, public record to defend. Donald Trump has nothing. So look at the first few questions. There's a question about using classified information and the e-mails, a question about the vote for the Iraq war, a question about the beginning of the Iran nuclear negotiations.

All of these things are actual stuff that Clinton did when she was ether in the Senate or as secretary of state. None of that with Trump, there are questions about temperament, what do you think, you said something about that. It's easier to talk than to defend that record and that's what Hillary Clinton had to spend a lot of time doing.

BAIER: Another thing Donald Trump said last night and Matt Lauer got a lot of grief for not pushing back on this issue was what he said about Iraq. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I happened to hear Hillary Clinton say that I was not against the war in Iraq. I was totally against the war in Iraq.

BAIER: You've come up with articles, but there's audio of you before --

TRUMP: No, there isn't. No, there isn't.

BAIER: There's a BuzzFeed piece that has --

TRUMP: Let me just say. Yes, I'm talking to Howard Stern.


TRUMP: Weeks before, first time anybody ever asked. Don't forget, I was a civilian. First time anyone ever asked me about the war, about should we go in, because there was a question, are we going in, and I said very weakly, well, yes, I guess.


BAIER: And, Tom, he points then to a 2004 article where he says, you know, he was against the war. Does this matter? Hillary Clinton's campaign obviously says it matters.

ROGAN: It matters in the sense of the Clinton campaign, again, successfully at least in terms of campaign materials, run off, weaponized those inconsistencies, right? The consistence at inconsistency. And the secondary point where I think it hurts him is in the notion of that establishment middle on foreign policy. That's probably more realist, probably more inclined to a Republican candidate because of negative viewpoints about the president's policies. But the difficulty he has is that in those inconsistencies, that credibility as a commander-in-chief becomes undone to some degree. And so it's something I think we'll see the Clinton campaign, you know, you can't trust him in that room. That issue beyond the policy specifics.

BAIER: All right. I want to -- Julie, you mentioned the e-mail issue. I want to play one of her answers about the e-mails and then some perspective from what she said before.


CLINTON: Classified material has a header, which says top secret, secret, confidential. Nothing. And I will repeat this and this is verified in the report by the Department of Justice, none of the e-mails sent or received by me had such a header. I did not e-mail any classified material to anyone on my e-mail. There is no classified material.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Even if information is not marked classified in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.


BAIER: So there's a lot to comprehend about this story. But I think people are starting to get it when you see the different clips.

PACE: I think so. I think the problem for Clinton all along has been that the answers that she gave at the U.N. press conference, which were before she actually launched her candidacy, were so certain. She left very little ambiguity when she said there was no classified information that I sent or received.

Well, we know that's not the case. And now she finds herself in this process of trying to explain things like headers on documents that, frankly, I think most people just, one, don't understand, and two, don't care about. They care more about what James Comey is talking about, which is the content.

Why would you be talking about a potential drone strike on your personal e- mail sent through a private server? I think that is more concerning than the labeling of documents. And she keeps getting in this trap about technicalities and it's just not a good place for her to be.

BAIER: Finally, Byron, we'll put up the Quinnipiac state polls again, if we could. What do you see in there? Quinnipiac is a trusted organization. And these state polls are obviously very important because it matters about the electoral college numbers.

YORK: Well, things are getting a little better for Trump just as they are nationally. I mean, there's just no doubt that the polls have closed a little bit in the last few -- the last few weeks. And clearly this -- what you see on the screen is the most important thing right now because for Trump to win, he's going to have to win all the states that Mitt Romney won. And then on top of that, he's going have to win Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. So unless those states work out for him, he's not going to win.

BAIER: The reason we just put up the one, the Quinnipiac, we usually have average in polls, some of the averages in those states are back to the beginning of August or even the end of July. So we want to keep it the freshest.

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