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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Clinton Heads to Debate Amid New E-mail questions; Trump: "The Election is Rigged"; New Leaked E-mails Show Clinton State Department Pressured FBI to Change E-mail Classification; Trump: Ryan Wants Me to Lose So He Can Run in 2020; Melania Trump Speaks Out. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 18, 2016 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have great respect for women. I have tremendous respect for women.

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: My husband is real. He's raw. He tells it as it is.

TRUMP: We should take a drug test.

MELANIA TRUMP: I have two boys at home. I have my young son and I have my husband.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: State Department officials pressured the FBI to declassify an e-mail.

TRUMP: This is felony corruption.

MIKE PENCE, (R), INDIANA GOVERNOR & VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The State Department offered a quid pro quo to the FBI.

MARK TONER, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: There was no quid pro quo.

(SHOUTING)

(GUNFIRE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Fires have been raging overnight with ISIS militants attacking Iraqi tanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number of suicide car bombs directed at Iraqi security forces.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 1.2 million people potentially caught in the crossfire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman. KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Exactly three weeks until Election Day, one day until the big debate today. Just moments from now, Hillary Clinton will be heading off to Las Vegas ahead of tomorrow's third and final presidential face-off. That will also make it five days since Hillary Clinton has been off the trail studying up.

BERMAN: No one told me there would be math.

BOLDUAN: Sorry, especially coming from me.

New topic to the debate curriculum, newly released FBI documents revealing a top State Department official tried unsuccessfully to convince the FBI to declassify an e-mail from Clinton's private server. According to FBI interview notes, those conversations were seen to include a quid pro quo, at least according to FBI officials. The FBI and State Department both deny that claim. We'll speak with FBI spokesman, John Kirby, in a moment.

BERMAN: While that is happening, four new national polls have Hillary Clinton ahead, holding anywhere from a four-point lead, which is not so big, to a 12-point lead, which is wicked big.

BOLDUAN: Technical.

BERMAN: As Donald Trump continues to say, the whole thing is rigged, the press, the polls, and the polling places -- the claim without any real evidence -- but all likely to be part of the debate tomorrow in Las Vegas.

So let's go to CNN's Brianna Keilar, in White Plains, New York, where Secretary Clinton is about to depart for Las Vegas -- Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, John and Kate. We are going to be departing here in a matter of minutes to go to Las Vegas, the site of the debate showdown with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton has been spending the last few days preparing in earnest for this final debate, something that she has gotten criticism from Donald Trump for, for over preparing. But it's certainly a strategy feels has been working for her in these forums.

Now, while Donald Trump is going to have to deal for the first time in a debate with more accusers who say that he groped them or forcibly kissed them, that may be an issue that comes up.

For Hillary Clinton, it may be e-mails, some of that we had not heard about at the last debate from her campaign co-chair, John Podesta, also these FBI interview notes. You had an FBI official in these notes saying that basically they thought a State Department official who was there after Hillary Clinton had left the State Department but had worked under Hillary Clinton, this is Undersecretary Kennedy, that he was trying to help minimize the damage from Hillary Clinton's e-mail. One FBI official said that he was asking for the FBI to look at an e-mail that had been classified as secret and considered downgrading it and that there was a trade being made for that, help with personnel. Getting FBI personnel in foreign countries where they hadn't been allowed.

Now, another FBI official said, yes, there was this request to downgrade or to take a look at this e-mail and potentially downgrade it. There also was a personnel issue brought up by the FBI, not by State Department.

You have the State Department pushing back on this. The FBI saying, look, in the end, nothing was downgraded. No classification was changed on this e-mail. But it still feeds into some of this criticism from Republicans who question FBI Director Comey deciding not to charge Clinton. He did say she was reckless in her e-mail practices but decided not to charge Clinton.

The question, is this going to matter to voters? Does this feed into their perceptions about Hillary Clinton and those around her and how they operate? Or is this going to have an effect? We're going to see in this debate.

BOLDUAN: Brianna, great to see you. Thank you so much.

Looks like maybe Hillary Clinton is arriving to her plane right behind beyond that, Brianna, perfect timing.

Was it a quid pro quo? Was a favor requested or offered? The back and forth between State and FBI officials over declassifying an e-mail from Clinton's private e-mail server.

Let's get to the source. State Department spokesman, John Kirby, joining us now.

John, thank you so much for joining us.

ADM. JOHN KIRBY, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Happy to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. You said it was not a quid pro quo. Why not?

KIRBY: Because the facts don't bear that out, Kate. We looked at this. The FBI looked at this. There were two conversations happening, you know, simultaneous. Yes, we did, Pat Kennedy did ask the FBI to reconsider classifying this particular e-mail. He wanted a better understanding quite frankly of why the wanted it to be secret. We didn't think it needed to be. We lost that argument, the State Department -- I'm sorry -- the FBI won and the document ended up being classified secret.

At the same time, yes, the FBI did consult with Pat in the context, you know, of multiple conversations. It did talk about wanting some more authority and some more slots in places like Iraq. Ultimately, we decided that that wasn't warranted and they didn't get those extra slots. But these were two separate issues discussed in parallel. There

was no quid pro quo. There was no bargain. There was not even a bargain suggested or hinted at on either side.

[11:05:50] BOLDUAN: John, how then do you explain the fact if you read the "Washington Post" and "New York times" two FBI officials left those conversations with the impression that there was a quid pro quo? One says the State Department offered. The other says the FBI did. The fact is, there were two officials there who say one was discussed.

KIRBY: The FBI's the one who raised the issue of resources and manning slots. We did raise the issue of the classification of this e-mail. I can't speak to what those officials came away from believing out of those conversations. What I can tell you for a fact is we looked at this, the FBI looked at this, and I encouraged you to go look at the FBI's statement on this, which is very strong, and neither of us, both institutions, have come to the conclusion that there was any bargain suggested or offered or pursued.

We have a normal interagency process of discussion over the classification of this e-mail traffic and after, you know, 55,000 pages that we made public, obviously, there were interagency debates and discussions. We didn't agree with everybody about whether an e- mail should be classified and we weren't bashful about making that case and having that argument. We didn't win every one. Certainly didn't win this one. But that's the way the process supposed to work.

BOLDUAN: John, top Republicans now, especially in the House, they're calling for Undersecretary Pat Kennedy to be removed. Did he do anything wrong?

KIRBY: No, not at all. He did exactly what he is supposed to do. Working under the law of the land, which is the Freedom of Information Act, he had a responsibility to the American public to not release anything that was too sensitive and to do it, if we were going to redact it, to do it appropriately. We felt in this particular e- mail a proper redaction was what we call a B-7, law enforcement redaction.

They disagreed and thought this particular piece of the e-mail should be classified secret. They won the argument. It was thus classified secret. But that's his job, as we were working through this, to have those kinds of discussions. No, there was no wrongdoing.

I might add, he's been a loyal public servant going on four decades now. He's a very dedicated diplomat here at the State Department. He has the full trust and confidence of Secretary Kerry.

BERMAN: John Kirby, thank you for being with us. Appreciate your time, sir.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, John.

KIRBY: Thanks for having me, guys.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Let's talk about this a little bit more. Joining us, CNN political commentators, Paul Begala, senior adviser for the pro Clinton super Pac Priorities USA; Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist, former communications director for Ted Cruz, Errol Louis, political anchor at Time/Warner Cable News; and Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast."

Alice, let me start with you.

Admiral Kirby, John Kirby, he says nothing to see here, you buy that?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. Clearly that's what he's supposed to say. He threw the FBI under the bus. There was a quid pro quo here. Clearly goes to show further evidence of what the FBI has indicated, that there was careless disregard for classified information.

As Paul Ryan said, she has shown that she has not -- doesn't know how to handle classified information and, as we've seen -- this comes on the heels of the earlier e-mails that have come out about the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. And what tends to happen is it becomes so much, the volume is so much, I think voters kind of tune it out. It turns into a molehill out of a mountain of evidence that we need to see more about Hillary Clinton's e-mails, because we've seen a conflict of interest and a Pay-for-Play with the State Department --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: A lot -- this is like becoming a long menu here. Let's stick to the State Department. You say there was a quid pro quo. Do you have proof? We have heard two officials said there was, Kirby and, you know, the FBI say no. What's your proof?

STEWART: As you indicated, two of the FBI officials left thinking there was going to be what they requested was going to happen. Simply the fact there is an environment within the State Department and the FBI for this type of quid pro quo to even be asked. I think that's a great concern.

BOLDUAN: Regardless, no fault, nothing changed with the classification. John Kirby, the FBI, they are on the same page, denying a quid pro quo happened. Regardless, politics and governing, or whatever's going on there, two very different things. Here we go again.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.

[11:10:06] BOLDUAN: But I'm saying this is more conversation about how Hillary Clinton, the suggestion is Hillary Clinton and the people around her play by a different set of lies.

BEGALA: She's long gone from the State Department. Somehow she's controlling a career diplomat and a career law enforcement intelligence agent and darn you, Donald Trump, curses, Donald Trump, he has unpacked a conspiracy. The FBI is in on it and the State Department is in on it. CNN, obviously, the crooked media, is in on it. We're all going to have a big meeting at the Masonic temple at noon eastern. So, darn you, Donald Trump, you discovered -- he began a campaign --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: John Kirby's having to speak out about it now --

BEGALA: -- nutty conspiracy theories --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: These are notes from the FBI.

BEGALA: Yes, and the FBI says there was no wrongdoing and the State Department says there's no wrongdoing. Nobody says there's any wrongdoing except Trump and being he's right because he's a conspiracy genius.

BOLDUAN: Stop whispering. People can't hear whispering on TV.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: We can't just move on after that performance.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Errol, Jackie, do you care to weigh in?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around in this election. This is not one of them. I think you're absolutely right, Kate, that this does remind people of the e-mails. This does remind people about what James Comey said about how Hillary Clinton handled classified information. And that's not good for the Clinton campaign to have that reminder.

BERMAN: Let's talk a little bit about Donald Trump. Donald Trump was in Green Bay last night. He gave a speech. Did not mention Paul Ryan in that speech --

BOLDUAN: Did not, in Green Bay.

BERMAN: -- afterwards when interviewed by ABC's Tom Llamas. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM LLAMAS, ABC CORRESPONDENT: Do you think he wants you to win?

TRUMP: Maybe not, because maybe he wants to run in four years or maybe he just doesn't know how to win. Maybe he just doesn't know how to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Uh-oh. Errol Louis, Paul Ryan's won nine straight

elections in the state. He's speaker of the House. Who needs whom more here?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A very good question. We have to point out they did not carry Wisconsin when he was on the ticket. So he's not the king of Wisconsin. He's pretty good.

BERMAN: Crown prince.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

LOUIS: Clearly Donald Trump needs Paul Ryan more than the reverse at this point. We see him trailing not just in Wisconsin but in many other swing states. To the extent that the bottom is collapsing underneath the Trump campaign. The evidence of that is the polls, you know, in the key swing states. Paul Ryan has walked away from the campaign. A lot of resources have walked him.

So when you see the RNC maybe not doing quite so much for Trump as he was expecting or he had bargained for or, frankly, he had asked for. It's a real serious problem. Statements like we just saw are not going to help heal that breach. An example of Trump as an outsider, which got him pretty good so far. It works against him. You've got to talk to your fellow politicians in a particular way if you don't want an all-out war three weeks before the election.

BOLDUAN: It should be said while Donald Trump did not mention Paul Ryan during, when he was on stage, there was a lot of protesters in the crowd who were protesting Paul Ryan in the crowd amongst his supporters.

Let's talk about the debate. Election law prohibits you giving advice to Hillary Clinton campaign. There is your caveat so you don't have to give it. There's your disclosure so you don't have to give it.

But you can advise us. How would you advise Hillary Clinton to us? What should she focus on in the debate?

BEGALA: Actually, on voters and their needs.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: What do you mean now because --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: My complaint on both sides, she can tell you Donald Trump is a horrible human being and I know she believes that. Trump will stand there and spin conspiracy theories he's going to come up with by tomorrow. Somebody ought to talk about the voters. I'm betting on my gal Hillary. In other words, it's so hard to do. It's easy for a guy like me to say you're standing next to a stark raving lunatic. It's hard to mention he's out of his mind and he wants nuclear weapons.

But she has to. She has to pull back away from that enormous force field of Trump and focus on voters. People are in pain in this country. People do want change. And she needs to outline what she's going to do to help middle class wages go up, to help moms pay for child care, to help families. There's a lot she's got in her policy arsenal that she needs to trot out and use in the debate and not simply just smash and attack. This is coming from a guy who, like, my whole life is attack policy.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Alice Stewart, you think Trump should do the same?

STEWART: Clearly to agree with Paul here, she -- I mean, I'm not the only one that will look at the fact that Hillary did better than Donald in the first two debates and she did so by poking and provoking Donald. This time, if I was her, I would focus, as Paul said, on the issues. Make her case to the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Should Donald Trump do the same?

[11:15:04] STEWART: Donald Trump should absolutely remind Republicans he is the Republican nominee. And remind people why he won the primary. He has won -- and I truly believe his policies on the economy and national security and health care and immigration are stronger than hers. He needs to make that case to the American people. They don't want to hear more about, you know, all these things that have distracted people for the past several weeks.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Or just say e-mail FBI and foundation over and over.

STEWART: And WikiLeaks.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BERMAN: Jackie, Paul, alike, Errol -- I looked at the wrong person at the wrong time.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Thank you, all.

BOLDUAN: I was really impressed --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: That was a head fake.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Thank you all for being with us. (CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: All right, Billy Bush made me do it. No, not that. But Melania Trump says her husband was egged on into what she called boy talk. What did she say when Trump apologized to her?

BOLDUAN: Live pictures of the Rose Garden at the White House. We'll be looking at President Obama. He will be holding a news conference in a short time from now. Sure to come up, this election. Obama has not been one to hold back his feelings towards Donald Trump. What will the president have to say when he speaks to reporters this hour? We'll bring you his remarks live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:20:09] BOLDUAN: Melania Trump speaking out for the first time to CNN since the convention in July. Also speaking out for the first time since the release of that 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape where Donald Trump is heard bragging about groping women. Melanie Trump says he was egged on by Billy Bush and chalks it up to a conspiracy against her husband. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP: Because they were kind of boy talk and he was lead on like egg on from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, A.C. 360: You feel the host, Billy Bush, was sort of egging him on?

MELANIA TRUMP: Yes.

My husband is kind and he's a gentleman and he would never do that but everything was organized and put together to hurt him, to hurt his candidacy.

COOPER: Organized by --

MELANIA TRUMP: The opposition, yes.

COOPER: Media, Clinton?

MELANIA TRUMP: Media, Clinton, yes.

COOPER: You think they're working together?

MELANIA TRUMP: Yes, of course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: All right, with us now, CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, former adviser to Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton; and Emily Tisch Sussman, a Democratic strategist and Clinton supporter, Ron Nehring, former spokesman for Ted Cruz presidential campaign and now a supporter of Trump. David, on balance, having listened to Mrs. Trump there, was it

smart to have her do this? After a lot of this controversy, you know, had heated up and then started to die off a little bit.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they should have put her up earlier but on her behalf, I would say she was warm enough. I think she was appealing in and of herself. So you have to give her points for that. What did strike me is her saying he was egged on by Billy. She would have been better off to say he's a changed man. And to say it was boys talk. He's a 60-year-old corporate executive. They're running him as, you know, one of the smartest, wisest men in America. He engaged in boys talk? That to me doesn't fit together. So I felt overly it was a good appearance but the headline that came out of it was not good for her.

BOLDUAN: Emily, you are no fan of Donald Trump, there's a huge headline there. What did Melania Trump do for Donald Trump do you think in this interview?

EMILY TISCH SUSSMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think not much. It was a good attempt. It was too little, too late. If their attempt is to make her relatable, that's the idea of putting the candidate's wife out there, right, or defend him, you may think he's this thing, but he's really this loving father. That's the idea, putting the candidate's wife out. I don't think she pulled through on that. I think she came across as not relatable. I think it only fed to the American impression of her overall. And she backed up this idea that -- not only that it's boy talk but that it's a left-wing conspiracy. I think that really just plays to his base. That does not move the middle which is what he needs to attraction to win anyway.

BERMAN: That's where Donald Trump himself is playing, Ron Nehring. Trump last night spoke to Tom Llamas of ABC News and asked him about the charges that have come forward, woman after woman saying Donald Trump approached them, touched them, groped them or did something to them, inappropriate ways. Listen to how Donald Trump responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LLAMAS: Have you crossed the line with women ever?

TRUMP: I don't think so. I have great respect for women. I have tremendous respect for women. These people came up maybe for a little fame or maybe for some other reason or maybe because they're part of the Clinton campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So this is what he has been saying. The question now, as we approach this final debate tomorrow is what he will say or should say tomorrow night on that stage in Las Vegas. What are your thoughts on that?

RON NEHRING, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER & FORMER SPOKESMAN, TED CRUZ PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I think Donald Trump needs a dynamic moment in this campaign that's going to change the trajectory. When you are saying the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing louder is not the right strategy. I'm going to, you know, contradict some of the other talking heads we've seen on TV. I think Donald Trump needs to who he's been in the past. He needs to talk about the past and how he occupied a celebrity zone in the past and a lot the things he said was all a part of that. Now he's 70 years old. Moving forward at this stage in life, he's decided he wants to do something different.

He wants to do something bigger. That's why he's running for president. Now he's going to, you know, demonstrate what it takes to be in a leadership zone. And then he should go on to connect with the American people and the issues that matter to them, that motivate them, that they're concerned about, and concurrently disqualify Hillary Clinton for the office. And there's plenty of ammunition to focus on to focus on that with. That's the strategy that I would advise not only the debate but going forward in the campaign. With how he chooses to do that, we'll wind up seeing. He has to own what he's done in order to move past it.

[11:25:10] BOLDUAN: Owning up to it, though, that kind gets close to an apology. He did apologize, owning up to it, though, going after that apology.

BERMAN: He apologized for "Access Hollywood."

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Since then, sent a very different message.

We talked about the debate in the last segment, Emily. When it comes to this in the debate, we heard both Paul Begala and Alice Stewart say they need to talk about the issues. This is an issue. This isn't maybe the issues that they were talking about. How does Hillary Clinton handle this issue when it comes up in the debate? Because we know that the moment she goes there, he counters with Bill Clinton.

TISCH SUSSMAN: It's certainly not something she's unprepared for. I think it's very clear what he's going to be bringing up. I think she has the right strategy on this. To double down on this is core to who he is. This is not just about any individual instance that comes up. He denied it to Anderson Cooper during the last debate, saying it was just words, I don't act on these instances. We'll now seen he does --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: He was accused, he denied it.

TISCH SUSSMAN: He was accused so, so I think that needs to come up. What we've seen how he deals in tough situations now, these aren't the toughest, these aren't dealing with nuclear crisis. Like this isn't dealing with war, the economy. This goes to him just being a little bit challenged in his bravado, and he freaks out. And he can't handle it. So I think that is what she needs to do. BEGALA: She needs to wait and let Chris Wallace raise the

question. He's a tough questioner, we all know that, to get there. But you would go there, right, moderator. He'll go there. And then she can come in after Trump.

I want to go back to what Ron said. I think he offered the best strategy we've heard from anybody on the Trump side. He ought to be whispering in the candidate's ear. This should not be "I never did any of these things." It rather shod be a defense of I've done some things when I was younger that were stupid but I'm now 70 years old --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: The problem is he's accused of sexual assault in some these instances --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, I understand that --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: This isn't young and foolish.

BERMAN: This is different than Bush dancing on a bar --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: This is like when I was old, I'm still irresponsible.

(LAUGHTER)

But no, I'm just trying to make the point when he goes out and says I never did any of this and then you have 11 women or five women, whatever the number's going to wind up being, contradicting him, he looks like he's lying. He's far better off to say I did some things that were bad. I've moved on. And, you know, I think campaign ought to move on to the issues.

BERMAN: Ron, everybody agrees with you. Let's talk about election fraud. Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida, says that the election is not being rigged. I hope Donald Trump stops saying at. Are you on Team Marco Rubio here or Team Donald Trump?

NEHRING: I don't think the American election is rigged. Do think American democracy has its own faults and problems like every other democracy on the planet does. The most unfortunate thing when Donald Trump goes out and tries to say the election is rigged, he's telling his strongest supporters that the election outcome has been predetermined so don't bother to show up and volunteer.

Instead, he needs to tell every one of his supporters to go out, volunteer with the local county or district Republican Party, be a part of walking precincts, making phone calls, and poll watching on Election Day to the extent they're helping to identify Republicans that haven't voted and helping to ensure they're contacted and vote. That would be the single best thing he can do in the context of saying the election is close, some of these polls are very competitive in these battleground states, we need everyone to engage. That would be the far and away better strategy for him.

BOLDUAN: So right now, put Ron Nehring in Team Rubio on that one.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Great to see you. Thanks, you guys.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: What do a first lady, a first daughter and a primary first runner up have in common? All trying to turn a red state blue for the first time in a decade what are the chances or is it all just a show?

BERMAN: Plus, President Obama, about to hold a news conference. You'll get live pictures there from the Rose Garden. Looks like he's getting close right there. Will he get asked questions about this election? What new does he have to say about Donald Trump? We'll bring you those remarks live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)