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EARLY START

Clinton and Trump Tangle in Fiery Third Debate; Trump Refuses to Say Whether He Will Accept Outcome of Election. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 20, 2016 - 04:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[03:58:16] CHRIS WALLACE, DEBATE MODERATOR: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely -- sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will look at it at the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the debate's least surprising questions yields the single most controversial response. Donald Trump refuses to say whether he will accept the outcome of the presidential election.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your post-debate edition of EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, October 20th, 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Debate number three is in the books. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton making their final pitch to the American people, both candidates sharpening their attacks, clashing on foreign policy, the economy and their fitness to lead.

The top takeaway after this 90-minute slug fest, Trump's refusal to say whether he will accept the results of the general election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Are you saying you're not prepared now to commit to that principle?

TRUMP: What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I will keep you in suspense.

As soon as the debate ended, CNN polled 547 registered voters who had tuned in and Hillary Clinton came in on top. Let's take a look at those numbers: 52 percent giving the decision to Clinton, 39 percent giving the nod to Trump. You should know, the voters we surveyed skewed slightly more Democratic than Republicans.

Let's go to Las Vegas and bring in CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju for more on Trump's refusal to say he will accept the will of the people on November 8th -- Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, this is something that stunned even Republicans and overshadowed even the positive parts of Donald Trump's debate performance. Right after this debate ended, Republican officials were in the spin room talking to our colleagues and saying very clearly that they believe Donald Trump will actually accept the results of the election. It shows how damaging they sense that moment was for Donald Trump's campaign.

Kellyanne Conway, the campaign manager for Donald Trump, speaking to our colleague Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Donald Trump will accept the results of the election because he's going to win the election.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What you just said to me was that he will accept. So, what you're telling me is that on election night, if he's sort of waffling, you as his campaign manager will say, Mr. Trump, no matter what it is, I mean, obviously, it won't be a big deal if he wins, but if he doesn't, you will say, Mr. Trump, this is what is going to happen and you're going to accept these results.

CONWAY: Absent evidence of widespread abuse and irregularities, yes, I would say that, but I actually think I'll be saying to him: congratulations, Mr. President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So, even Reince Priebus, the RNC chairman coming out afterwards saying that, yes, he does believe that Donald Trump will accept the results of the election. But as we've seen from time and time again throughout this campaign, campaign can say one thing. Staff can say one thing, and the candidate will say something different.

So, we'll see if Donald Trump takes that message and goes forward. But, clearly, there's a lot of significant moments in last night's debate, a lot of very heated exchange. But that one overshadowing it and also raising questions about his temperament. It's one issue that, of course, he's trying to reverse the minds of voters, John and Christine.

ROMANS: No question that is the headline of the night.

All right. Thanks for that, Manu, for us this morning in Las Vegas.

BERMAN: Yes, Mike Pence, his running mate, says he will accept the outcome of the election.

Ivanka Trump, his daughter, says she will accept the outcome of the election.

Donald Trump on an island here this morning. It's going to be a complicated island for every other Republican in the country running for office right now who's going to have to answer the questions about this over the next 24 to 48 hours.

After the debate, Hillary Clinton, she met with reporters on her plane and she talked about that answer from Donald Trump. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of our hallmarks has always been that we accept the election the outcomes of our elections. We do the best we can to have free and fair elections which we do. Somebody wins and somebody loses. So, what he said tonight is part of his whole effort to blame somebody else for his campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You see there, Robby Mook behind her, John Podesta behind her. Her staff applauded when she came on to the plane. Philippe Reince, you know, who did the debate prep playing the role of Donald Trump, when she was walking off the stage, I think I was reading somewhere that he called her, you know, one tough hombre or something, quoting Donald Trump right there.

So, the staff you can see very, very happy with Hillary Clinton.

Let's dig deeper. We'll bring in our panel right now. Here in New York, CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott, and CNN political commentator and talk radio host, John Phillips, he is a Donald Trump supporter. And then live from Las Vegas, Siegfried and Roy -- no, Dylan Byers, CNN senior reporter for media and politics, and Maria Cardona, CNN political commentator, Democratic strategist and Hillary Clinton supporter.

Let's go nonpartisan first, if we can. Eugene Scott, you are here with us. It's hard to get past the headline this morning. The headline is that what which we've been talking about, Donald Trump saying he refuses right now to say he will accept the outcome of the election on November 8th.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, I thought the comment about suspense was very interesting. And I think it alluded to his days as a reality show star. The problem is, this isn't a reality show. This is an election and I think people were expecting something a little more traditional and something more respectful of the system.

ROMANS: You know, Dylan, you know, he makes -- John Berman makes a really good point and it pains me to say this, but John Berman makes a really good point when he says this is the least surprising question of the night from moderator Chris Wallace. Will you accept the outcome of the debate as a bipartisan tradition in this country? And Donald Trump still kind of more of a showman there on that point?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Well, that's absolutely right. I mean, you know, Donald Trump really had two choices coming into this final debate. He could continue to cater toward the sort of core group of supporters he has and the populist, far right, what used to be known as the fringe but has now very much taken center stage in this campaign, or he could have made, you know, one last effort to try to pick up some of those undecided voters, some of those voters who still three weeks from the election have not made up their mind.

And he knew that question was coming. His entire campaign knew that question was coming. And yet, he decided to basically cast doubt on the very bedrock of American democracy, which is the peaceful transition of power. And in so doing, he went back to the sort of core group of supporters which may rally around him, but are not going to deliver him to the White House.

BERMAN: John Phillips, Donald Trump supporter, forget for a minute the moral outrage that you hear from a lot of people, Democrats and Republicans, this morning over the idea of not, you know, honoring this time-honored tradition of accepting the results.

From a tactical standpoint to have that be the one thing people are talking about coming out of this must win debate for Donald Trump -- and it was a must-win debate for Donald Trump.

[04:05:07] The guy is down 8 points in the polls leading in to last night. It just seemed like something that doesn't help him over the next two and a half weeks.

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I agree. Have elections been stolen in the past, a lot of Republicans think that Kennedy stole the 1960 election from Nixon. A lot of Democrats believe that Al Gore had the 2000 election stolen from him by George W. Bush. Is that a probability? No. Will I accept the election results? Absolutely.

And I think it takes away from what I thought was an otherwise pretty decent performance from Donald Trump. It's like taking antibiotics. We've got some bacteria that's killing you. You can't just take the antibiotics most of the time. You have to take it all of the time. And he had a pretty good night outside of that. But that one situation is taking away what would have otherwise been a good performance and having all of the focus being driven to that point.

ROMANS: I thought like he was pretty restrained, have good stamina for the first 40 minutes or so, but then there were these moments where he couldn't sort of help himself. You know, when he called Hillary Clinton a nasty woman during a middle of a Social Security commentary.

Let me ask you, Maria Cardona, and we'll play that sound in a minute, let me ask you about Hillary Clinton's response to this whole rigged election thing. She was clearly prepared for this. Let's listen to this moment on the debate stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: The FBI conducted a year-long investigation into my e-mails. They concluded there was no case; he said the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus. He lost the Wisconsin primary. He said the Republican primary was rigged against him.

Then, Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering; he claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him.

There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.

TRUMP: Should have gotten it.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: This is -- this is a mindset. This is how Donald thinks. And it's funny, but it's also really troubling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I'm going to go out on a limb and think that you think, Maria, she did a great job in that answer.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought she was deft because she not only underscored how ridiculously dangerous his whole "the elections are rigged" is in terms of what it means for our democracy, what it means for our history, what it means for the peaceful handing over of power from one party to another from one individual to another.

But in using that rift in using the situations in the past where he is not winning or feels he is being cheated, and then he whines about the situation, whatever it might be, being rigged, he is painting him as this 12-year-old child who, you know, rants and stomps and complains if he doesn't get his way, which goes to her overall message during this whole campaign which is this is a man who is temperamentally unfit, wholly unprepared, and uniquely unqualified to be commander in chief and president of the United States. And I think it worked brilliantly.

BERMAN: All right, guys, stick around. A lot more to discuss coming up, because there were other issues. Though, honestly, they were overshadowed by that one comment. But there were other issues discussed.

ROMANS: Yes, we're going to have more on the debate coverage, post- debate coverage ahead. Did Donald Trump revive his presidential campaign? Will Hillary Clinton be able to seal the deal?

We've got a whole bunch of highlights and lowlights with the best political team on television. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:12:50] CLINTON: My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald's, assuming he can't figure out how to get out of it. But what we want to do is to replenish the Social Security Trust Fund --

TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. Such a nasty woman. Here in New York, CNN politics, not nasty, but political reporter Eugene Scott, CNN political commentator and talk radio host John Phillips, and live from Las Vegas, Dylan Byers, CNN senior reporter for media and politics, and Maria Cardona, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist.

That moment getting a lot of attention overnight on social media. We are talking about replenishing the Social Security Trust Fund and that's the excitement that comes out of it.

Let me ask you, first, Eugene, that moment right there, that was vintage Trump, right? He was button down for a while and couldn't help himself.

SCOTT: Yes. You know, these moments where you ask yourself, is Donald Trump is really trying to win women voters? Last night, when you saw that and the answer was no. We saw on social media respond very critically to that. That wasn't really well-received, and I don't know how that helped him at all.

BERMAN: It was interesting, because she was poking him at that moment.

She made, you know, a not subtle jab at all on Donald Trump in not paying taxes. He's responding, but his response was not in a vacuum, John Phillips. The response comes in an environment where he is heavily criticized for his treatment of women and his attitude towards women.

So, when you say something like that, you know, the alarm bells go off everywhere. It was instant.

PHILLIPS: Sure. This is a guy who cut his teeth with the media, with the New York tabloids. My friend, E.J. Benjo (ph) was the gossip columnist of the New York Daily News" and he said, before Twitter, he used to get these voicemails from Donald Trump that were akin to a lot of these tweets. And that was the negotiation that he had back and forth. One day, he came after you, and the next day, you were his best friend.

And that was how Donald Trump plays people, he is a negotiator. He's a guy that goes in and decides that one day, he's going to give you the business and the next day, you're going to be the guy that is his most favorite person in the world.

ROMANS: So, that plays with newspaper editors. Does it play, Dylan Byers, with women, women voters, suburban women voters who are not sure about Donald Trump?

[04:15:05] BYERS: No. I mean, absolutely not. And, you know, look, again, it goes back to does Donald Trump actually want to win these voters or is he so thin-skinned and you talk about Hillary Clinton sort of baiting him with some of the things that she said tonight. He always takes the bait.

And if you look at the running theme across the three debates, whether Donald Trump performed well or not well by his standards, the one real line is that he always takes the bait. He always -- instead of prosecuting Hillary Clinton, and there are many things to prosecute her on, he always ends up defending himself, he always ends up having to litigate his own record, his own history, where he stands on the issue. That is a losing campaign for him.

BERMAN: And, again, this came after, several minutes after Hillary Clinton talked about Donald Trump's treatment of women in this way. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don't think there is a woman anywhere who doesn't know what that feels like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You know, that was a moment where Hillary Clinton, I think, came across as heartfelt to the audience, Maria, and also, one where she clearly was prepared to address the issue.

CARDONA: No question about that, John. This has also been clearly a recurring theme not just from the moment that Donald Trump burst on to the scene insulting everybody, but clearly insulting women. Remember the very first Republican primary debate with Megyn Kelly.

But this is something he's done throughout his whole life. I mean, we now have audio on the Howard Stern show where he is grading women's physiques, degrading them, devaluing them and, in fact, saying in one sentence he doesn't respect women.

So, I think this was the culmination of Hillary Clinton I think crystallizing for the American people and especially 53 percent of the electorate that are women, that this is not somebody who is not just he's unfit to be commander in chief, but he is asking the American people to give him the job when he is somebody who doesn't value women, who will demean them, who has debased them and doesn't think that they are equal to him.

And so, in saying that and then in poking him on her answer on Social Security and him answering her with what a nasty woman, he proves her point in a moment of clarity that as you all have been saying is the top line of this debate.

BERMAN: All right. Guys, stick around. A lot more to discuss. Donald Trump pulled out some Spanish for the first time in the debate. We'll discuss that. We'll also talk about the policy because there was actually a real relatively traditional partisan policy discussion here as well.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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[04:22:38] TRUMP: We're going to secure the border. And once the border is secured, at a later date, we'll make a determination as to the rest. But we have some bad hombres here, and we're going to get them out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Donald Trump with embellishment to the immigration plan.

Let's talk more about this now with our panel.

John Phillips, first to you, Donald Trump supporter. You know, on the issue of immigration, they both got their points out there. I think they both appealed to their audiences and then, you know, the cherry on top of his cake was the "bad hombres" line from Donald Trump, and again, on social media, a lot of people are saying, whoa, what's going on here?

PHILLIPS: I think that is Carlos Danger's alternate persona on the Internet.

Look, there are substantive differences between him and Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton tried to say, look, I want to deport the bad guys, I want to make sure that the criminals aliens who are here are deported.

But does she support sanctuary cities? Does she want to force locales, does she want to force cities and counties to deport people that are in their county jails who have broken the law? The answer is she supports a lot of these local cities. She supports Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities that harbor these people. So, there are differences.

ROMANS: Maria Cardona, let me have you weigh in here, because the last time I heard some of the surrogates and some of the supporters of Donald Trump, you know, in the arm-chair quarterbacking of that particular comment defending it, saying it's just an expression. What's more important here is that he has been consistent on his message about immigration and you have to control the border before you can allow people in legally.

Do you think the bad hombre line will help? Well, I'm sure you think it hurt him. CARDONA: It is completely offensive, Christine, when you have

somebody -- and yes, you're absolutely right. He has been consistent in essentially going after Mexican immigrants, going after Latinos. And this I think underscored especially for Latinos that this again is somebody who does not respect them, doesn't think of them as real human beings. And for him to utter his first Spanish word in this campaign in this

manner, I think underscores how little he thinks of the Latino community. And, you know, we are here in Las Vegas. This immigration is a huge issue.

And while I agree that Donald Trump underscored what his draconian position and that is great for his base, the fact of the matter is that the majority of the American people are where Hillary Clinton is, which is supporting comprehensive immigration reform, which means border security but at a same time, a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that are here who have not committed crimes.

[04:25:18] And so, this is going to affect him. I think it did continue to hurt him among the Latino community. But you know, at this point in time, really, it was awash. It doesn't really matter.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: We're going to get right after the break. We'll take a break, we'll come to you first right after the break, Dylan Byers. Thanks so much.

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, you know, how did they do? We will give them some grades, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely -- sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

TRUMP: I will look at it at the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)