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EARLY START

FBI Director Stands Firm Amid Criticisms; Clinton Defiant on Renewed FBI Probe; Trump Seizes on Abedin E-mails. Aired 3:30-4a ET

Aired November 1, 2016 - 03:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight James Comey indicates he is standing firm. The FBI boss thinks he made the right call on Hillary Clinton's e-mail situation.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: But Clinton campaign doesn't. It is accusing Comey of a blatant double standard.

BERMAN: Donald Trump and Mike Pence together on the trail today. They go to Pennsylvania with a message.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. 31 minutes past the hour on this first day of November, folks.

The breaking news, just one week to go until Election Day and a slew of developments in just the last hour. FBI director Jim Comey says he will not give an update. He will not give any update on the new e- mails that could be related to the Clinton investigation until his agents have reached a conclusion. Hillary Clinton maintains the investigation will amount to nothing, saying there is no case here. Donald Trump warns it could become a constitutional crisis for the country if Clinton is elected.

BERMAN: All right. I want to start with the e-mail. At this moment the FBI says it is urgently searching the newly discovered e-mails from a laptop belonging to disgraced former congressman, Anthony Weiner. There are hundreds of thousands of e-mails on that laptop.

We're joined this morning by CNN Politics reporter Eugene Scott.

ROMANS: Good morning.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning.

BERMAN: Eugene, Jim Comey, with the statement standing by his guns here. What is he saying?

SCOTT: Well, he's saying that he's not going to update citizens and voters and the rest of the people who are paying close attention to this situation until the investigation is complete. He's been under a lot of criticism and I think he wants to keep that from continuing.

ROMANS: So what are agents doing at this point?

SCOTT: OK. They're going through all of the e-mails with the special equipment that's pretty comparable to some equipment that they have out in Quantico, and they're trying to isolate the e-mails first. Then they're going to look through the e-mails that belong to someone on the Clinton campaign, Huma, and to see if any of that information was classified. And I think perhaps, most importantly, they want to see if she knew that it was classified.

BERMAN: Right. And the issue is that the e-mail program may go through it quickly, but once they identify e-mails that may be classified, if there are any, then humans have got to get involved, right.

SCOTT: Right.

BERMAN: And they have to figure out if they can release, you know, how classified are they, what's the situation there. So that's something they'll have to look into.

All right, Huma Abedin, we did not see her on the campaign trail yesterday.

SCOTT: We did not.

BERMAN: She was notably not with Hillary Clinton. So what is she doing? What's she's saying?

SCOTT: Well, she's been off the trail, as you mentioned, since this began, since this broke. But we do have a statement from her attorney. Her lawyers are saying, "Abedin only learned for the first time on Friday from press reports of the possibility that a laptop belonging to Mr. Weiner could contain e-mails of hers. While the FBI has not contacted us about this, Miss Abedin will continue to be as she always has been forthcoming and cooperative."

BERMAN: That is stunning.

ROMANS: FBI has not contacted us, interesting.

SCOTT: Interesting.

BERMAN: That is so interesting.

SCOTT: And to learn all of this from the press, I think that's very interesting as well.

BERMAN: It just goes to show this was Anthony Weiner's laptop. They got it through the Weiner investigation, they -- you know, and it wasn't --

ROMANS: It's completely unrelated, sordid and unrelated investigation.

SCOTT: Very unrelated.

BERMAN: All right.

ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: Eugene Scott, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: Thank you so much.

The Clinton campaign is accusing James Comey of a blatant double standard. Campaign manager Robby Mook jumped on reporting by CNBC last night that last month Comey opposed naming Russia as the so- called state actor hacking Democratic officials, warning it was too close to Election Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBBY MOOK, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's impossible to view this as anything less than a blatant double standard. That Director Comey would show more discretion in a matter concerning a foreign state actor than one involving the Democratic nominee for president is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: We should note here, CNN, we at CNN do not have the same reporting on Comey and Russia. The FBI has declined to comment.

BERMAN: All right. On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton says there's flat out no case here. She said that on the stump. In Ohio Clinton invited investigators to go ahead and dig into Huma Abedin's e-mails. She says they'll find nothing.

CNN's Joe Johns has the latest from Cincinnati.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, Hillary Clinton kicking off the final full week of campaigning right here in battleground Ohio, trying to use some of the anxiety surrounding the latest controversy to get out the vote.

[03:35:08] At Kent State, making the case there is no FBI case on the latest e-mails that were discovered, and here in Cincinnati calling on the FBI to take a look at the new e-mails but predicting they won't find anything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, there is a new e-mail story about, you know, why in the world the FBI would decide to jump into an election without evidence of wrongdoing with just days to go?

And that's really good question. But I want you to know, look, I've said repeatedly. I -- you know, I made a mistake. I'm not making any excuses. But I will tell you this, if they want to look at some more e-mails of one of my staffers, by all means, go ahead. Look at them. And I know they will reach the same conclusion they reached when they looked at my e-mails last year, right? (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: It wasn't even a close call, and I think most people have moved on. They're looking and focused on, OK, who is going to be the next president and commander-in-chief?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Traveling in Ohio, Clinton was not accompanied by her long- time aide Huma Abedin. Instead accompanied by Capricia Marshall who served as her chief of protocol while she worked at the State Department. Three stops today for Hillary Clinton, all in the state of Florida.

John and Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Joe Johns in Cincinnati for us.

This morning Trump and running mate Mike Pence go to Pennsylvania to talk about Obamacare. They will be on the stage with senators, House members and Dr. Ben Carson, highlighting what the Trump campaign calls the disastrous increases in Obamacare premiums, and they will pitch Trump's call to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Trump is also certain to bring up Hillary Clinton's e-mail controversy as he did at two campaign stops in Michigan.

CNN's Sara Murray has the latest.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, John and Christine.

While Donald Trump kicked off his week by spending the day trying to convince the American voters that the FBI was sure to find the worst in Hillary Clinton's e-mails and warning them that if they elect her, she'll be embroiled in scandal for years to come.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will be facing the very possibility of a constitutional crisis with many dimensions and, you know, this is so true, deleterious consequences should Secretary Clinton win this election. In other words, we're going to be tied up in court for the rest of our lives with this deal. She's not going to win the election, but I'm just saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now even though FBI Director James Comey has said it's too early to say whether anything significant will come out of these e- mails which came from a computer that was shared by Huma Abedin, a Clinton aide, and her husband, Anthony Weiner, that certainly hasn't stopped Donald Trump from seizing on it on the campaign trail. And it's given his campaign new hope that they may be able to compete in blue states that once seen out of their reach. He spent Monday barnstorming in Michigan and on Tuesday, he is hitting up Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Back to you, guys.

BERMAN: Interesting is whether or not they have hope of flipping the blue states, he simply has to flip some blue states if Donald Trump is going to win. So it may be out of necessity more than actual hope.

All right. The Trump campaign is distancing itself from a self- described white national supporter who paid for robocalls in Utah, going after a third party candidate. The calls to nearly 200,000 homes, they attack Evan McMullin, an independent doing well up there to perhaps turn Utah into a battleground state. The calls focus on McMullin's support for gay marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JOHNSON, SELF-DESCRIBED WHITE NATIONALIST: My name is William Johnson. I'm a farmer and a white nationalist. I make this call against Evan McMullin and in support of Donald Trump. Evan McMullin is an open border, amnesty supporter. Evan has two mommies. His mother is a lesbian, married to another woman. Evan is OK with that. Indeed, Evan supports the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So this call also claims without evidence that Evan McMullin is a closeted gay man because he is single and in his 40s. The Trump campaign now condemns that call saying it has no connection at all to it.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, Senator Richard Burr is apologizing for suggesting gun owners may want to put a bulls eye on Hillary Clinton. The North Carolina Republican made the comment in private over the weekend. In a recording of that comment obtained by CNN you can hear Burr talking about a visit he made to a gun shop the day before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Nothing made me feel any better than I walked into a gun shop, I think yesterday in Oxford. And there was a copy of "Rifleman" on the counter. It's got a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front of it. I was a little bit shocked at that. It didn't have a bulls eye on it.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The Brady Campaign, a pro-gun control group that supports Hillary Clinton is calling on Senator burr to step down. Burr says the comment he made was inappropriate. The Clinton campaign has not commented.

[03:40:06] Open enrollment for Obamacare starts today. Premiums are up an average of 22 percent, costs, very widely depending on age, location and the level of coverage. Here is what people across the country are paying. These numbers are for a 27-year-old enrollee. The cheapest premiums are in New Hampshire, $217 per month. A little change from last year. There are much bigger increases in the middle of the scale like in Arizona. You can see that. Up to $422. A 27- year-old enrollee there will pay more than $420 a month. The highest premiums are in Alaska, $760 a month.

The government says 85 percent of enrollees will get subsidies and three-quarters won't pay more than $100 a month. You know, that's based on income levels, depending on how many people are in the household. For a single policyholder it is $47,524. For a family of four, it's more than 92 grand.

If you are enrolling in Obamacare, it's crucial that you shop around this year because there are some changes. Shop around for your level of coverage. And we've been hearing a lot about people who are really getting hit by some of these premium increases, but the Obamacare exchange officials point out that the vast majority, 85 percent, will pay less than or around $100 a month for their premiums.

BERMAN: Because they'll get subsidies and when it's all said and done it will be less than $100.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: All right. Just seven days remain in this race. Both candidates out on the campaign trail. We're going to talk about the breaking developments overnight. That's next.

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[03:45:49] BERMAN: One week, seven days, half a fortnight. I suppose you could say that.

ROMANS: Here we go.

BERMAN: You could say that.

ROMANS: It's not really half a fortnight.

BERMAN: You're right, no one would say that. All right. But this is the penultimate Tuesday in this election season. We can say that.

ROMANS: You're going to penultimate everything until --

BERMAN: No, that's it. This is the last --

ROMANS: That's it. Let's talk about penultimate Tuesday.

BERMAN: This is the last penultimate Tuesday for election day. I want to bring in "Newsday" columnist, syndicated radio talk show host, Ellis Henican, who's sitting here waiting patiently to actually answer some questions from us, wondering what's wrong with us.

ROMANS: Yes, what's wrong with you. What's wrong with you, John Berman?

BERMAN: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLIS HENICAN, NEWSDAY COLUMNIST: What's wrong with you? No one uses that word anymore.

BERMAN: We're putting it back in, we're making it happen. All right. Ellis, I think what we have seen --

ROMANS: We're making grammar great again.

BERMAN: -- over the last 24 hours is the Clinton campaign trying.

HENICAN: Yes.

BERMAN: To do anything to turn this story around, to have something else out there besides the FBI looking into Huma Abedin's e-mails. And you heard campaign manager Robby Mook in his conference call last night, all of a sudden talking about Donald Trump and the Russians. Let's just listen quickly to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOOK: It's impossible to view this as anything less than a blatant double standard. That Director Comey would show more discretion in a matter concerning a foreign state actor than one involving the Democratic nominee for president is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Robby seeming to read a statement there. And this has to do with the CNBC report that says that Comey stepped in and said, I don't want to go public with the fact that the FBI is saying the Russians are involved with Democratic e-mail hacking. CNN has a different reporting on that. But you can see what the Democrats are trying to do here.

HENICAN: Sure. That did not sound like a casual phone call, did it?

BERMAN: No.

HENICAN: Listen, as long as people are talking about the server in the basement, that's bad for Hillary Clinton. The more they're talking about Jim Comey has violated protocols and whatever, the Russians are doing with people who know Trump, the better it is for Hillary, right? So the strategy has been very clear from the beginning. I think it's kind of halfway working?

BERMAN: So you do think they are muddying the waters a little bit here?

HENICAN: Muddy. Yes. It certainly hasn't taken the story entirely away from Hillary and her e-mails. But you know what? What if it takes it 40 percent away or 30 percent away? That's at least a partial victory in a difficult week.

ROMANS: And Donald Trump, you know, on the campaign trail yesterday in Warren, Michigan, thanking Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner and Hillary Clinton for this gift on the campaign trail. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Thank you, Huma. Thank you, Huma. Do you think right now that Hillary Clinton is happy with the services of Huma? I don't think so. I don't think she likes Huma. And I never thought we'd be saying thank you to Anthony Weiner. Never. Thank you, Anthony. I never liked you, Anthony. I never liked you, but thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I think Trump even more than a year ago said Anthony Weiner was a threat to national security.

HENICAN: Yes.

ROMANS: You know what I mean? He's been able to go back and say, I told you so about Anthony Weiner. And then --

HENICAN: Did you hear the four Humas in there, by the way?

ROMANS: Yes, what was that about? What do you think?

HENICAN: Don't think it was an accident. That foreign sounding name.

ROMANS: So here's my question about this. I mean, Donald Trump, we knew Donald Trump -- we're going to talk about his tax in a minute. We knew Donald Trump had tax problems. We got new iteration of that. We knew Hillary Clinton had an e-mail investigation, new iteration of that. Do either of these story lines change what people think about their candidate?

HENICAN: Well, you know, it's impossible to me to believe that a Trump voter is going to jump to Clinton or a Clinton voter is going to jump to Trump because of it. There's a build-up disgust out there. I mean, as we know, so many voters don't like either one of these candidates. You know, it probably be affects motivation a little bit or frustration. I mean, I think it's an effective tool.

ROMANS: So let's talk about the taxes a little bit because the "New York Times" has this piece sort of really laying out. They looked at some -- they looked at some casino records and also the records that they were given for Donald Trump's taxes, and they found this elaborate stretching tax law to the brink, as they say, finding this elaborate strategy of taking forgiven debt which is income, instead of taxing as income doing this complicated swap for equity so that Donald Trump can take other people's debt and other people's losses and write it off for years on his income.

HENICAN: That's right.

ROMANS: Does it change things for him? HENICAN: Change things dramatically, no. But I do think it's

interesting that even the Trump lawyers were advising Donald, you know, the IRS is probably not going to go with this.

ROMANS: As the "New York Times" reporting.

[03:50:02] HENICAN: Right. If we're audited there's a pretty high chance that they will disallow this. But no, I got to tell you, I think your point -- your first point is correct, which is that the people who are affected by e-mail have already been affected. The people affected by Trump tax strategies, you know what, they're not on the Trump bandwagon anyway.

BERMAN: There's a school of thought out there the sheer number of things that have come up about Donald Trump over the last year, the incremental rate of return on each new thing is very, very small here. So you know, had there been no other stories than a story about Donald Trump stretching the tax law might have been a big deal. But because there are, you know, 15 other things that have been discussed about his taxes, whether it'd be the -- you know, 900, you know, million dollars that he wrote off, whether it'd be the charities that he may not be giving to, this just seems like one more little thing.

HENICAN: John, that's a really good point. And also, don't forget, it plays into the Trump narrative, which is that the media is beating up on him, just relentlessly pounding on this poor man. So, yes, I think at this point the political impact of any of that stuff on either side is probably mostly past. There's got to be a real big one at this point to shake a lot of voters.

BERMAN: All right. Ellis Henican, making the most of this penultimate Tuesday.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: There we go. Thank you.

Donald Trump's most prominent backer in Silicon Valley under fire for his support of the nominee, but now Peter Thiel speaking out. We'll tell why he says Donald Trump will make America normal again, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:55:35] ROMANS: The NAACP taking the North Carolina State Board of Elections to federal court after three counties cancelled thousands of voter registration. This happened after a small group of people challenged about 4500 registrations of voters whose mail was returned as undeliverable.

The NAACP says this violates the National Voter Registration Act which prohibits systemic voter removable within 90 days of an election. But in North Carolina voters can challenge the eligibility of other voters up to 25 days before the election. The executive director of the State Board of Elections says the board isn't responsible since the challenge has been brought by individuals, not by counties. BERMAN: The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge from Ohio

Democrats as absentee voting procedures. Party leaders along with the Northeast Coalition of the Homeless objected to parts of a law requiring absentee and provisional ballots be rejected unless the voters have perfectly filled in five fields of information on forms that accompany their ballots.

Some controversy brewing in the hotly contested Wisconsin Senate race. Democrat Russ Feingold has returned some $45,000 in campaign contributions from employees of a Boston law firm whose bonuses were reportedly tied to political donations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN SENATE CANDIDATE: If there is any question at all about contributions, I don't want anything to do with it. So we just did what was appropriate, took action and make sure there's no question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: A spokesperson for Republican Senator Ron Johnson is slamming Feingold saying he was happy to rake in illegal contributions from this out-of-state, high powered law firm without asking any questions until he was caught red handed.

ROMANS: All right. Money time. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream. Dow futures higher this morning. Optimism coming from Asia. Shares are rising on a manufacturing report out of China that came in at the highest level in two years. European stock markets open at the top of the hour. Futures there pointing higher well right now as well, oil rising.

October was a rough month for average investors. Exclusive data from Openfolio shows 80 percent of investors lost money over the month. The average decline was 2.3 percent. Openfolio says political uncertainty and corporate earnings put investors on edge. As for the 20 percent of investors who did make money in October, they were three times more likely to own this stock, Netflix. It's up 21 percent over the past four weeks.

Peter Thiel is Donald Trump's most prominent backer in Silicon Valley. Some would say one of his only backers in Silicon Valley. The billionaire made headlines for his speech at the Republican National Convention. Then last month, he pledged to donate more than $1 million to the Trump campaign. Thiel has been criticized by some of his peers for supporting Trump, but others like fellow billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos say different opinions are important.

Yesterday he said Trump's agenda makes him the right choice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER THIEL, BILLION TECH ENTREPRENEUR: Just as much as it's about making America great, Trump's agenda is about making America a normal country. A normal country doesn't have $500 trillion trade deficit. A normal country doesn't fight five simultaneous undeclared wars. In a normal country, the government actually does its job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Thiel distanced himself, though, from Trump's controversial remarks about women, calling them clearly offensive and inappropriate. But from Peter Thiel, there is an impassioned support for Donald Trump. And some people who know him say he is sort of a contrarian. He has made his money by being a contrarian and when you look at the politics, he -- he has the contrarian play in politics at the moment.

BERMAN: All right. EARLY START continues right now.

All right. Overnight, James Comey indicates he is standing firm. The head of the FBI thinks he made the right call on the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

ROMANS: The Clinton campaign crying foul. It's accusing Comey of a blatant double standard.

BERMAN: Donald Trump and Mike Pence teaming up. They'll be on the same stage together today. They have an agenda in a key swing state.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this special early, early edition of EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is early. And it is Tuesday, November 1st, 4:00 a.m. in the East. The breaking news, just one week to go until Election Day and a slew of developments in just the last few hours.

FBI director Jim Comey says he will not -- he will not give any update on the new e-mails that could be related to the Clinton investigation until his agents have reached a conclusion. Hillary Clinton maintains the investigation will amount to nothing. She says there is no case here.