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DNC Chairwoman to Resign After Convention; Clinton Camp: Russians Hacked Emails to Help Trump; Obama: Trump Not Prepared to be President; Michael Bloomberg to Endorse Hillary Clinton; Tight Race Between Trump and Clinton; Russia Behind E-mail Hack?. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 24, 2016 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news.

Stepping down. The woman in charge of the Democratic Convention leaving her role after e-mails surfaced suggesting a plot against Bernie Sanders. But Debbie Wasserman Schultz isn't going right away. She'll be here this week.

Exploded accusations as Donald Trump taunts Democrats over the email firestorm. The Clinton campaign now blaming the Russians for the leak in a sinister effort to actually help Donald Trump.

And hitting Trump. New attacks from President Obama against the Republican nominee. Why he says Trump isn't prepared to be commander in chief.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world for CNN's live special coverage from Philadelphia. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Happening right now: it's the last thing the Democratic Party wants on this, the eve of what's supposed to be a triumphant and solidifying and unifying national convention. Confusion and uncertainty and an upset in the highest level of party leadership. Long-time chair of the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she is out, resigning that position, not immediately, but as soon as this convention wraps up here in Philadelphia Thursday night. Its fallout from a mountain of leaked e- mails that appears to show the committee and the chair showing bias toward Hillary Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders.

CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash is on the convention -- at the site of the convention, inside for us.

Dana, a Democratic source says Wasserman Schultz spoke to both Hillary Clinton and President Obama before she announced her resignation.

What else are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm told by somebody who is close to the situation that the president himself did call her to thank her for her service, for her time leading the Democratic National Committee, really, during his tenure in the White House. But that leading up to that, there was a scramble of full- court press. This is according to a source I'm talking to, Jeff Zeleny, John McCain, that they wanted it do before the gavel went down tomorrow to actually start the proceedings at the convention, on the floor behind me.

And when I say "they", my understanding is it was the Clinton team -- as you can imagine, the Sanders team and even the White House, that it was pretty much universal, that the Democrats did not want this cloud over their convention for lots of reasons, primarily because it completely feeds into the notion that Bernie Sanders supporters came out in droves for him about, which is, the system is rigged, that Washington is broken and the whole idea on the floor here, if you're Hillary Clinton, is you want the Sanders people who are coming to get behind you, and this doesn't help.

BLITZER: As you know, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she still may open the convention, close the convention, hit that gavel. What's likely to happen if she does make even a brief appearance like that?

BASH: Well, we don't know. We do know from talking to sources around this that Debbie Wasserman Schultz feels she has worked incredibly hard for the party for many years now. She worked up to this moment at this convention, and that she wants her due. She wants her chance to speak to the delegates.

To answer your question, obviously the concern, not just from people who are aligned with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but people who, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is they want her to be in a position of concern out there. Let me just read something very briefly, the end of Bernie Sanders' statement on this. And this kind of, again, illustrates why this is so tough for her and for the party.

He said, "The party's leadership must always remain impartial in a presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race."

For delegates coming here who voted and worked so hard for Bernie Sanders, to see that kind of statement coming from their candidate who just a few weeks ago stood with Hillary Clinton and said, "It's time to get behind our nominee," that is going to make things very difficult for them, because we've already seen, and I'm sure you have, wolf, lots of Bernie Sanders signs and buttons and people still outwardly supporting Sanders in and around the streets of Philadelphia. And so, it's not so easy for them to turn that off.

One other thing I wanted to say to you is that the Trump campaign is stoking it -- is stoking the notion of the system being rigged. Paul Manafort, the campaign chair of Donald Trump, put out a statement just simply saying just that, that this proves not just the DNC is rigged, but also Hillary Clinton.

[18:05:08] And he said that this proves her e-mails are a problem and that she should get out of the race -- Wolf. BLITZER: Let's not forget, Bernie Sanders got 13 of the votes in the

caucuses. And he's got a lot of supporters here. I just arrived this morning. You see a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters out on the street and a lot of them will be inside the convention as well, at the Wells Fargo Center.

All right. Dana, thanks very much.

I want to bring in our panel to weigh in on all of this and more. Joining us, our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, our CNN political commentator, and Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen, also with us, our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, and the executive editor of CNN Politics, Mark Preston.

Jeff, you've done a lot of excellent reporting on all of this. There are words she may gavel that convention to order tomorrow, but you're hearing there's possibility she may also speak?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm told she is going to speak, actually. Probably tomorrow, I'm told that is not set exactly, but at the beginning of the convention which would make sense. She wouldn't want to wait until the end of the week to speak. I'm told it will be a very short speech, potentially three to five minutes or so, and really wants to address a lot of the delegates and Democrats in the room.

I mean, as Dana was just saying, she has been working towards this convention. So, the interesting thing is there was a period of time this afternoon where it seemed the Clinton campaign did not want her to speak, because they, A, one person said they wanted to save her any embarrassment, and really avoid any type of Cleveland situation. But it seems that either, A, that was wrong, or B, that was changed. She is likely to speak.

And I'm told Bernie Sanders actually offered assurances that their supporters and delegates would be respectful of her if she speaks tomorrow afternoon or early evening.

BLITZER: Hillary, you're plugged in with these Democrats. What are you hearing?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I can tell you, with all due respect to my bestie, Dana, that report is wrong.

BLITZER: Which report?

ROSEN: That Debbie was somehow forced out. She was not.

There was -- she woke up this morning, met with the Clinton campaign, saw that the story wasn't going away, affirmatively told them that she had this decision, that she wanted to step down, but that she also wanted to see through the work she was doing at the convention. There was no opposition from the campaign on that.

There had not been a back and forth today about whether or not she would speak or wouldn't speak. She was always planning on speaking tomorrow, gaveling in the convention on and closing it on Thursday. And she will have things to say to the delegates. There is a lot at stake for Democrats around the country.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters on the floor won't be happy if she speaks, and they'll start booing her.

ROSEN: You know, here's the thing: Democrats like Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She has traveled this country for the last five and a half years for this president. She will get many more cheers on the floor tomorrow than she will get boos. There may be a few assorted boos, but I think it's true that the Sanders campaign is not going to put out any sort of word to trash her down.

She will get a lot of cheers tomorrow. This panel, this audience, is going to be surprised if that's what you think.

ZELENY: Another reporting that Dana mentioned is also things that all of us have heard. So, you were saying today, I know you spent the day with her, that she was not in any way reluctant to step down, that that was her decision from this morning.

ROSEN: So, there was significant discussion. But the discussion that she always had was, does me stepping down do what I would have wanted to accomplish? Which doesn't make this story go away, because Debbie Wasserman Schultz doesn't want to be that story. Hillary Clinton is the story this week. This campaign is about demonstrating for the country that Hillary Clinton is the right alternative to Donald Trump.

And I think she thoughtfully came to the conclusion that this story was not going away and the best thing for her to do would be to assure people that after this convention, she would step down.

BLITZER: Nia, what are you hearing?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, similar, this I think debate these two, in some ways mirrors the debate that's going on outside in terms of Bernie Sanders supporters. They want her to step down now.

They don't want to necessarily see her in that convention gaveling in, and they do expect some boos. I do think this idea of whether or not this story goes away is of real concern to a lot of Democrats. Her there in the convention hall gaveling in her speaking, that gives this more kind of legs. They want this to go away, a lot of Democrats do, and move forward.

I mean, you imagine by the end of the day tomorrow, once they have Bernie Sanders speaking, Elizabeth Warren speaking, Michelle Obama is speaking tomorrow, you can imagine that there will be a different story come Tuesday morning and the Debbie Wasserman Schultz story will be put behind them.

But again, you've got -- this is an opening for Trump, also to say, look at the Democratic Party. It is rigged in Hillary Clinton's favor.

[18:10:07] He's been tweeting about that for some time.

BLITZER: He tweeted -- he tweeted this, Mark. This is Donald Trump. "I always said that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was overrated. The Dems convention is cracking and Bernie is exhausted. No energy left."

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: You know, I could probably go back and find a statement from Donald Trump four weeks ago where he was trashing Reince Priebus. Unfortunately, for Reince Priebus, in some respects, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, still a little bit different, that they've become punching bags in many ways. Reince Priebus with his own candidate.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, with all due respect --I mean, the Sanders campaign has been complaining about her for over a year. There was always bad blood. We didn't see anything in her statement where she apologized for the acts that had happened.

If she was going to step down, because I was talking to the Sanders folks all day today, why did it take until late this afternoon for it to happen? It really bubbled up really fast.

It's unfortunate it's come to this because she has been working, you know, towards this goal. But for her to go on stage tomorrow, as we expect her to do, and if she does get booed, I was told by a senior Sanders person, we can't control our delegates. We're going to try, but we can't control them. She's running for reelection, and, you know, I mean, that becomes a television ad.

BLITZER: Those e-mails were very, very, very embarrassing. When you have top officials of the DNC, and she's the chair, saying, maybe you should raise questions about Bernie Sanders who is Jewish, whether he believes in God. In some states like West Virginia or Kentucky or Tennessee, that will resonate with voters out there.

When you hear top officials of the DNC --

ROSEN: She made sure that he apologized for that email and there was an apology.

BLITZER: But is an apology enough? Should these people go?

ROSEN: Well, look, you know, you could -- you could argue that he should go, but she is now taking responsibility. She is leaving. She's saying, you know, the staffer who worked for me apologized. I'm going to leave.

And, you know, this notion that somehow the Bernie Sanders people still need more red meat, I think we're going to see a lot less action on this than people believe. Look, we have come into this convention now. We have a unified rules program. We have -- where we're going to have a unity reform commission. There is a unity on the platform. The may be some additional floor amendments there.

But for the first time, there is a huge amount of togetherness here on this platform. I just do not think that the Sanders -- first of all, there is no one Sanders view, right? So, we saw the senator today say, you know, she deserves thanks for what she did and we're moving on.

BLITZER: You spent time with her today. How is she holding up?

ROSEN: You know, look, she's got her big girl pants on. You know, she understands this is a rough and tumble, and I think she believes that they ran despite their personal feelings, which everybody knew, a neutral process going forward in this campaign. Both sides got mad at her as these emails will -- a close reading of these e-mails will show. The Clinton campaign was mad at her sometimes, the Sanders campaign was mad at her sometimes.

That's how you know you've done a good job as --

BLITZER: And she's made it clear. She may be resigning as chair of the DNC, but she's going to continue to seek reelection in her congressional seat.

ROSEN: Very important.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

We have a reminder. Don't miss CNN's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention. Our live special coverage will begin tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up next, President Obama aiming new attacks squarely at Donald Trump. Is this a preview o what we're likely to see when the president takes the stage at the convention this week? We're back live in Philadelphia in just a moment.


[18:18:29] BLITZER: With her team now in place, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, they're more clearly laying out their strategy for hitting back at Donald Trump.


INTERVIEWER: He calls you crooked Hillary. What do you call him?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I don't call him anything. And I'm not going to engage in that kind of insults fest that he seems to thrive on. So, whatever he says about me, he's perfectly free to use up his own air time and his own space to do. I'm going to talk about what he's done, how he has hurt people in business time after time after time.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), PRESUMPTIVE VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She's done a good job of letting the water go off her back on this. That's not the way I feel. When I see this "crooked Hillary' or I see the "lock her up," it's just ridiculous. It is ridiculous.

It is beneath the character of the kind of dialogue we should have because we have real serious problems to solve, and most of us stopped the name-calling thing about fifth grade.


BLITZER: I want to bring in our CNN political commentators. Bill Press is with us, Hilary Rosen, S.E. Cupp. Also, and former the governor of South Carolina, Donald Trump supporter, Andre Bauer.

To all of you, thanks very much for joining us.

Andre, you heard that exchange over there between the Democratic president and vice presidential presumptive nominees. Your reaction as a Donald Trump supporter when they say he's acting like a fifth grade.

ANDRE BAUER, FORMER LT. GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I actually would take her advice in the fact that I think he ought to stay on message and excite people to come out and vote for him.

[18:20:01] I don't want him to say I'm going out to vote for somebody other than Hillary. I want him to be excited about the future of America and the message and what he can do to improve their lives. So, I hope he'll stay on message and he talk about his vision for making America better.

BLITZER: Is this the good cop, S.E., bad cop that Hillary Clinton would be more level-headed, even, if you will, but Tim Kaine would be the attack dog?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's an amazing reversal of the way I think most people see Tim Kaine who is incredibly kind, nice and polite. And Hillary, who I think a lot of people would think has gotten dirty, can get dirty, can get down in the mud and get her hands dirty. But it's a good look for that team, for her to sort of rise above and say, I'm focused on what he's done that's hurt people and what I'm going to do to help people.

And for Tim Kaine, who is a credible voice for a lot of Democrats to say, well, I'll take on that fight. He has nothing to lose by doing that, and I think he can do a very effective job at that. But everything you have heard from Democrats since the second he was announced was what a nice guy he is. So, it will be interesting to see how he changes in that tone.

BLITZER: Hilary Rosen, Hillary Clinton has a tough mission right now, because you know Donald Trump. When he is hit, he hits you right back. He likes to hit you back ten times as hard as you would.

We saw all that during the Republican primaries. So, what's going to unfold in the coming weeks and months?

ROSEN: You know, here, though, is the first thing that's going to unfold. We are going to see a convention week where Hillary Clinton and Democrats are going to talk much more about her positive vision for this country than about Donald Trump. Last week, the only thing everybody in the room could agree on was that they didn't like Hillary Clinton. They didn't all agree that they liked Donald Trump.

You're going to see Democrats in a very different place. First of all, get positive. This is her chance to introduce herself anew to America with the convention starting this week. Second of all, I think S.E. is exactly right, which is now that there is somebody else campaigning with Hillary who will have a microphone almost as big as hers, or almost as big as hers, couple that with the president of the United States who is now willing to engage, Hillary can be much more about her vision. She can say, I'm not going to go there. I'm not going into the insults fest. Let these other guys do it.

BLITZER: Let me play a clip for you, Bill. This is President Obama speaking on CBS earlier today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is somebody who knows as much about domestic and foreign policy as anybody, is tough as nails, is motivated by what's best for America and ordinary people, understands that in this democracy that we have, things don't always happen as fast as we'd like, and it requires compromise and grinding it out. She's not always flashy, and there are better speechmakers. But she knows her stuff.


BLITZER: All right. You're chuckling, Bill Press.

BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was chuckling at the speechmaker comment. But first, I've got to say, just quickly , what a contrast watching Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on "60 Minutes" with watching Donald Trump and Mike Pence last week where Pence barely got a word in, and Donald Trump is on and on and on. It showed that they were a really good team, making of a good team.

The president's comments, look, this is personal for President Obama. I mean, other presidents might sit on the sideline, but he feels he's done a really good job, worked as hard as he can for the last eight years. He really cares about what happens to the country and who continues that flow. He's been chomping at the bit to get out and campaign for Hillary Clinton, but it's not just that he sees Hillary Clinton as the best one to continue his legacy and complete his programs. But he sees it.

Donald Trump would just be bad for the country -- not bad for his legacy. Bad for the country. And he just -- he'll be doing more I think than any incumbent president has ever done to make sure that does not happen.

BLITZER: Andre, if President Obama can help Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine recreate that Obama coalition that got him reelected twice, Donald Trump is going to be in deep trouble.

BAUER: Well, this is the same guy that in 2008 said she'll say anything and do nothing. So, I'm not sure how great he is to be as a cheerleader for her, because again, when he was fighting with her, he said some not so nice things about her and she did about him. So, I'm sure he's going to be working as hard as he can for her, but part of that is a convoluted message. ROSEN: Well, he worked side by side with her for five years after

that, so he really does know her. And I think Bill right. But, you know, but there is no question that the primary sell here has to be Hillary Clinton's, and she knows that. This is her week to prove that.

BAUER: She started the week poorly, though.

BLITZER: It's awkward.

CUPP: Can I just say something about Tim Kaine as a pick? I think he's the right pick for her, but I think it just shows how incredibly political she is.

[18:25:04] She needed progressives in the primary. She knows she doesn't need them in the general. Tim Kaine is the exact right pick for her in the general election rather than another progressive, and I know Bernie Sanders fans and progressives are upset about that. But she is political above everything else. It's something I wish Republicans would remember sometimes, that winning is how you get your ideas and your principles into legislation and action, and that winning has to be a priority.

She clearly showed that winning is a priority.

BLITZER: Bill Press, you're a Bernie Sanders supporter. Do you agree that she needs to move to the center now, and that's why she picked a more moderate Democrat like Tim Kaine instead of going with, let's say an Elizabeth Warren, that the progressives would have loved?

PRESS: I think that's why she said.

Let me just say, I am underwhelmed by Tim Kaine's selection. He was not certainly my first choice. But I know why she did it. It's a very safe choice for her. Again, I'd prefer to have a bolder choice.

But Tim Kaine is a good man. He brings a lot to the ticket. And, certainly, when you compare the two of them against Donald Trump and Mike Pence, for progressives like me, there is no place else to go. It's unheard of. What, Jill Stein or -- no.


CUPP: I can see them on a bumper sticker, "No place else to go." That's real inspiring, Bill.

PRESS: I'm just saying this is a safe choice for her, right?

CUPP: Yes.

PRESS: And the idea that Tim Kaine people like me are going to be so upset about Tim Kaine, we're going to go for Jill Stein or for Gary Johnson, it's crazy.

ROSEN: This was a government choice. This wasn't a politics choice. There might have been other ways to energize a base, to get out votes, but she clearly made this as a governing choice.

BLITZER: Well, politics were important. Virginia is a key battleground state and he can help her in Virginia. He speaks Spanish. He can help her in Florida. So, politics --

CUPP: He can help her win that's why she goes --

ROSEN: I'm not saying politics played no part of it. But, really, what she was focused on, and you could see even by that good chemistry there, was who am I going to be happy seeing every morning coming into the Oval Office?


ROSEN: Well, look, Elizabeth Warren is a friend of mine, and I think she would make a great vice president. But as a woman, the sexism that Hillary Clinton has already endured, honestly, I think that might have been too much straw on that camel's back to run two women.

CUPP: I think they probably could have handled.

PRESS: I think America is ready for two women in the ticket. But --

ROSEN: I understand why that was not a safe choice.

BLITZER: We've had two men on the ticket for a long time.

ROSEN: It's too safe to say. Now, everybody could say, sure, we would have been fine with two women. But you know what?

PRESS: I'll take my job --

ROSEN: I didn't have that experience.

BLITZER: It didn't happen this time. All right, guys. Thank you very much.

Up next, amid all the DNC drama, some good news for Hillary Clinton. A high-profile endorsement. We're going to tell you who has come forward.

Plus, why the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton maybe a lot closer than ever. John King is standing by. He'll break down the numbers we're getting right now at the magic wall.

You're watching our live special coverage ahead of the DNC.


[18:32:59] BLITZER: As the Democratic Party is rocked by controversy on this, the eve of the convention, there is some good news for Hillary Clinton out there and it's coming from this man, you see him right there. He's Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City. He's been affiliated with both parties in the past but he'll be endorsing Hillary Clinton this week here in Philadelphia at the convention. Let's talk about the impact this could potentially have. Bernard

Whitman is a former pollster for both Mayor Bloomberg and President Bill Clinton.

Bernard, thanks very much for joining us. I know you're also the author of "52 Reasons to Vote for Hillary," so clearly you support Hillary Clinton.

Why do you think the former mayor, Mayor Bloomberg, decided to do this at this point?

BERNARD WHITMAN, FORMER POLLSTER FOR BILL CLINTON, MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, you know, I think this is an extraordinary moment for Hillary Clinton and for Michael Bloomberg. You know, Michael Bloomberg has supported candidates across the political spectrum, but as a three- term mayor of the biggest city in America, he knows exactly what it takes to bring people together and get things done to improve the lives of millions of Americans.

Mayor Bloomberg has made no secret of his disdain for Donald Trump's hateful nativist rhetoric and I think he shares many of the same values, policies and programs that are at the core of Hillary Clinton's vision and agenda for America. So I think it absolutely makes perfect sense. And I also think that as a business leader, he can speak directly to millions of Republicans and conservative-leaning independents who may still be unsure about Hillary but have serious, serious concerns, Wolf, about voting for Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Do you think he did this more out of his dislike for Donald as opposed to his like, if you will, for Hillary Clinton?

WHITMAN: I actually think, Wolf, he did it for his love of country, and that may sound cliche, but I think it's the god-honest truth. You know, when he said a few months ago that he was not going to run for president, he specifically said I was worried that my campaign would ultimately and unfortunately had the potential to help elect Donald Trump, and that would be a disaster for America.

When you look at what the values are that Mayor Bloomberg holds dear, what he's really committed his life to in these chapters of his life now, he's for things like gun safety, it's for things like immigration reform, things like climate change and job creation.

[18:35:08] These are exactly the same types of policies that Hillary Clinton wants to support and the exact opposite of the political spectrum than Donald Trump. So while Mayor Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton may not see eye to eye on everything, they certainly have a different approach to some economic issues and so forth, they share so much of the same values in love of country. And I think Mayor Bloomberg recognizes that the worst thing for America would be to elect Donald Trump as president.

BLITZER: And he's worth billions and billions of dollars, Michael Bloomberg. If he puts some of that money into the Hillary Clinton campaign, some of those super PACs, that could be very significant as well. Bernard Whitman, thanks very much for joining us.

WHITMAN: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: In the battle for Ohio, Donald Trump probably won't win, at least that according to the governor, John Kasich, the former presidential candidate. Kasich, as you recall, wouldn't speak at the Republican National Convention. He has not endorsed Donald Trump by any means. Now he's saying publicly he doesn't think Donald Trump can win Ohio, a key battleground state in November.

The "Philadelphia Enquirer" quoted Kasich as saying, "Ohio's a snapshot of the country. People in Ohio want to see a positive agenda, a positive way to move forward."

Our chief national correspondent John King is joining us, as is our senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

John, I'll start with you. How do you characterize the race in Ohio right now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, let's go back in time just to remind people Ohio is always a battleground. And last time in 2012, it was very close, President Obama winning 51-48.

Now Governor Kasich knows the state very well. I don't want to get to an argument with him about Ohio politics, but maybe Governor Kasich has a crystal ball or he's had the Ouiji board out, Wolf, and he knows what's going to happen in 100 days. But I want to stretch out some of these swing state polls. Look at this. This is the Real Clear Politics average of swing state polling and Hillary Clinton has a one- point lead right now in the state of Ohio. And look at these are other states as well. These are other key battleground states. Tie in Florida. She's up a bit in Virginia. Again essentially a tie in Ohio. She's up a little bit in Pennsylvania. Tie in Nevada. She's up a bit in Colorado.

And remember these polls were taken before the Republican convention. Strategists in these states tell you right now Donald Trump's numbers are actually a little better. So in Ohio, a must-win for Donald Trump, without a doubt, Governor Kasich is right about that, and several of these other states? This is a very, very tight race. Governor Kasich knows his state well, but at the moment, Donald Trump is more than at play.

BLITZER: You know, Ron Brownstein, what President Obama did in 2008 -- he got the vote out.


BLITZER: People came out in big numbers and voted for him. And that would be critical for Hillary Clinton this time around.


BLITZER: She needs that huge voter turnout among that Democratic base.

BROWNSTEIN: New Democratic coalition of minorities and millennials and college educated white voters. There's a big difference between the two sets of swing states this time. In the sunbelt, if you look at the sunbelt swing states, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, and Nevada. Generally they are growing more diverse and in that way the hill is becoming steeper for Republicans at a time when Donald Trump is really struggling among minority voters.

If you look at the Midwestern battleground states, if you look at Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, they're not really growing much more diverse, and in fact they're growing older at a time when Democrats are struggling with whites older than 45. So you really see a very different scenario. Donald Trump is in a stronger position to compete in those Midwestern rustbelt battlegrounds. The sunbelt may prove to be a tougher terrain for him, even though historically it's been more competitive for Republicans.

BLITZER: John, what do you see as Hillary -- the biggest hurdle in stepping up and defending that electoral college base that the Democrats have?

KING: So let's switch maps. Remember, President Obama got 332 votes in the electoral college in 2012. We give Hillary Clinton 236 at the moment to 191 for Donald Trump. Dark red states, solid Republican. Light red states leaning Republican. Dark blue states, solid Democrat, light blue state leaning Democrat.

Ron is exactly right because just look at this right now, Wolf. If you look at this map, this is advantage Clinton. So Donald Trump probably has to win Florida, right? He has to win Florida. He has to win North Carolina. If he can't win these states, as Ron talked about, then he'd have to do a sweep across the Midwest. And Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, those states have not voted Republican for president in a very long time.

So if you give Donald Trump Florida, and if he can also take Tim Kaine's home state of Virginia, that puts him in play. Then he just needs -- he gets the great state of Ohio that Republicans always need, that would get him to 266. But let me show you a different scenario. And again, Trump would still need one more and none of these are easy. Even if he won all of those, he needs one more and they're not easy. He could there with New Hampshire, maybe. But if Hillary Clinton can hold those 29 in Florida, and if she can win Tim Kaine's home state of Virginia, ball game over. Ball game over.


KING: So we're going to spend a lot of time in the state of Florida. And a lot of time in Tim Kaine's home state of Virginia. Donald Trump has to hold Florida, Wolf. Then we can go through the other -- it's going to be a long chest game from here to November.

BLITZER: You know, Ron, one of the problems I suspect, and I wonder if you'll agree with me, that Hillary Clinton, if it's close in some of these battleground states whether Ohio or Florida, a third party candidate --


BLITZER: If it's Gary Johnson in the Libertarian Party, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, the votes that they get potentially, correct me if I'm wrong, are more likely be taken away from Hillary Clinton as opposed to Donald Trump.

[18:40:12] BROWNSTEIN: You know, there is a broad problem and a specific problem with a third parties for Hillary Clinton. The broad problem is that Donald Trump, there's evidence that Donald Trump has a ceiling. He has struggled to get about 42 percent, 43 percent, and in a reputable national polls. So if the third parties pull away a lot of the vote that brings down the number you need to win to a range that he has a better chance of getting to.

But the more specific problem is what is -- Hillary Clinton's biggest, most conspicuous underperforming from the beginning has been among young voters. Bernie Sanders won 71 percent of voters under 30 in the Democratic primaries, a higher show than Obama did in '08. And she is -- consistently underperforming in both national and state battleground polls among those young people.

I think that is where Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in particular are the risk. There was a poll in New Hampshire, Wolf, this week, for 25 percent of voters under 35 were voting for one of those third party alternatives. Those are votes that a Democrat now expects and those are votes that she may need given the strength that Republicans have been generating among older white Americans.

BLITZER: A lot of Democrats are reminding us, and John, let me let you weigh in on this as well. What happened in 2000 in the state of Florida, Al Gore lost that fate by a little bit more than 500 votes. But Ralph Nader of the Green Party got -- more than 90,000 votes, and a lot of people to this very day believe a lot of those 90,000 votes potentially would have gone to Al Gore.

KING: Democrats can look back and complain about that, Wolf, all the way. Gary Johnson is at a point now where he's trying to built to get into the debate. Imagine if one of these third party candidates actually made the debate threshold in the fall. And Jill Stein is very much hoping that the dysfunction we've seen here on the day before the Democratic convention maybe drive some Bernie Sanders supporters her way. So Democrats will say, you might be spoilers, guess what, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson are not going anywhere.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, John King, thanks very much. Ron Brownstein, thanks to you as well.


BLITZER: Straight ahead, a stunning accusation as Donald Trump taunts Democrats over the e-mail firestorm. The Clinton campaign now blaming the Russians for the leak. We'll explain.

This is our live CNN special coverage from Philadelphia. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:59] BLITZER: So what's Russia got to do with the DNC e-mail scandal that has certainly rocked the Democratic Party on this convention eve? Plenty. According to the Clinton camp, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager telling CNN's Jake Tapper those e-mails were dumped by the Russians to benefit one person.


ROBBY MOOK, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these e-mails, and other experts are now saying that they are -- the Russians are releasing these e-mails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump. I don't think it's coincidental that these e-mails were released on the eve of our convention here. And that's disturbing.


BLITZER: All right, joining us now, CNN political commentators Jeffrey Lord and Michael Nutter. Also our political analyst Josh Rogin is with us as well.

Josh, that's an extremely serious allegation, that the Russians deliberately hacked the DNC, took these e-mails, went through them, gave them to WikiLeaks on this, the eve of the Democratic National Convention, to deliberately embarrass the Democrats. And if you believe the Clinton camp, all designed to help Donald Trump who is seen as more, quote, "pro-Russia."

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. There's no smoking gun, there's no 100 percent proof, but here's what we know. When a firm CrowdStrike investigated these hacks, they traced them back to two hacker groups in Russia that are associated with the Russian Intelligence Services. They're called Cozy Bea and Fancy Bear. And these hacking groups have a long history hacking U.S. government accounts, OK?

We also know that the Russian government has been actively working against Hillary Clinton for many years. Vladimir Putin has a vendetta against her. She believes that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, interfered in his own election in 2012. This fits in with their pattern of espionage and information warfare. A pattern that they've had all over Europe and involving the United States for -- for a very long time.

So while we can never prove exactly who did the hacking, it makes sense. OK. And they can't prove it, either, but this would follow the pattern of how the Russians do business and it is clear that the Russians do not want Hillary Clinton to be president.

BLITZER: All right. Let me get Jeffrey Lord to response to that. It's an enormous and very serious allegation.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is. It is. The first thought that occurs is so much for the Russian reset. I mean, here is Secretary Clinton going around the country talking about her experience in foreign policy and all the credibility she has. One of the very first things she did was present that little gizmo button thing to the president of Russia and here we are.

I mean, this is how they pay her back. So I would suggest that the Russian reset has not been very successful, number one. And number two, you know, this brings up the subject yet again of her own e- mails. I mean, this is why -- I mean, this is the Democratic National Committee, presumably, and their servers which are in some degree of security, and here she had hers on a private server. No wonder she got in trouble for this. So here we are again with this story yet again.

ROGIN: Well, I mean, the State Department got hacked, the DNC got hacked, it's not clear that she got hacked. So maybe the private servers are actually more secure. I mean, the Russian reset was a really long time ago. That was with Medvedev, not with Putin.

Look where we are now. Donald Trump, his campaign chairman, was a lobbyist for pro-Putin forces for over a decade.

[18:50:05] He's talking about weakening NATO, reducing America's commitment to NATO. It's weird, sure, but the Democrats have become the anti-Putin, anti-Russia party, and the Republicans are now the party that's cozying up to Russia. That's a -- yes, it's a reversal, but that's not a reversal that speaks well of Donald Trump.

LORD: You are not suggesting that the Trump campaign asked the Russians to do this, are you?

ROGIN: No. I don't -- I don't think they work together. They're just working towards the same goal. They just happen to agree and the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing but the Russians are helping the Trump campaign.

BLITZER: All right. Josh says there is no smoking gun. This is all speculation. What's your assessment?

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it all seems to fit in with the particular narrative. I mean, it is --

BLITZER: You think the Russians would prefer Donald Trump as president of the United States?

NUTTER: There's no question. I mean, Donald Trump apparently likes Putin. I mean, you know, they're buddies together or something.

BLITZER: Well, what the Russians do like, Jeffrey, is what Donald Trump has said about NATO, that the U.S. commitment to NATO may not necessarily go forward if the other NATO allies don't pay their own responsibility, their share of the --

LORD: That suggestion has been picked up by a number of Republican senators, as a matter of fact. Look, his main point with this, we have a debt now approaching $20 trillion. And it's not just NATO that's going to be affected. The entire economy is going to be affected if we crash here. So you've got to start --

BLITZER: It's getting a lot of pushback on his comments on -- listen, you know, Mitch McConnell.

LORD: right.

BLITZER: Himself, the Senate majority leader, saying Donald Trump maybe needs a little bit more experience in foreign policy. Trump responded to Mitch McConnell. I'll play the clip.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We have NATO. And we have many countries that aren't paying for what they're supposed to be paying which is already too little, but they're not paying anyway. And we're giving them a free ride or giving them a ride and owe us tremendous amounts of money and they have the money but they're not paying it.


BLITZER: So do you disagree with him on that point? That the NATO allies, our 28 NATO allies, only the U.S. and the UK spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense. They're all supposed to be spending 2 percent. They don't.

NUTTER: Well, Wolf, I used to pick up trash and fill potholes for a living. So, you know, foreign policy is not necessarily a big expertise for me. But the bottom line is even Mitch McConnell says that Donald Trump's views on this issue are wrong. He's trying to change longstanding policy and as usual has no idea what he's talking about, but again he's the only person who's ever right. In the world in which he lives. That's just absurd.

ROGIN: Mitch McConnell is right in the sense that most Republicans are out of step with where Donald Trump is. But he's wrong when he says Donald Trump is making a mistake or he doesn't know what he's talking about. Trump knows what he's talking about. This is his view. He wants to change U.S. policy, he wants to weaken NATO, he wants to bring America's troops back from abroad. Right?

Now that's OK. You can disagree or agree with that but we shouldn't don't fool ourselves into thinking that the Trump campaign doesn't know what he's doing. They do know what he's doing. It just happens to be a pro --

BLITZER: By the way, Donald Trump has made these statements about NATO for a long time. I have interviewed him many times over the years and on this issue of NATO, he's been fairly consistent over the years. But I want you to listen to President Obama. I want to get your reaction, Jeffrey. Here's President Obama speaking about Donald Trump on foreign policy.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we start engaging in the kinds of proposal that we've heard from Mr. Trump or some of his surrogates like Mr. Gingrich, where we start suggesting that we would apply religious tests to who could come in here, that we are screening Muslim Americans differently than we would others, then we are betraying that very thing that makes America exceptional.


BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Jeffrey. Respond to the president.

LORD: You know, notice he included Newt Gingrich in there. Now Newt Gingrich is no novice at American foreign policy here. So I find it very interesting that he lumps --

BLITZER: I think he was referring to Newt Gingrich's comments about if you -- if Muslims believe in Sharia, they should be deported.

LORD: Right. Right. Right. Look, what we have here, and if you notice in Donald Trump's speech, he referred to people coming from certain countries with terrorist ties. That's what this is all about. All he's been saying right from the get-go is stop the inflow for a minute. Figure out what's wrong with our system so that we don't allow people in here who are determined to kill us and then start it up again. That seems like at most common sense.

NUTTER: How long would that take? How would we do that? Why don't you lay out the plan?

ROGIN: It doesn't really make any sense. First of all countries that are compromised by terrorisms include allies like France, Germany, all those countries have been compromised by terrorism. So Donald Trump can't go out there and say Obama has abandoned our allies, and then go out there and say, we're going to pull away from NATO and stop immigration from France and Germany. OK. It's a contradictory message. It doesn't make sense on its face and it's confusing not only to voters but to our allies.

LORD: We are not keeping track of who comes into this country legally.

ROGIN: That's not true.

LORD: Legally.

ROGIN: That's not true.


LORD: Josh, Josh --

ROGIN: There's plenty of vetting.

NUTTER: That's not true.

LORD: Josh, Josh -- ROGIN: You're just putting out falsehoods.

LORD: That's not false. Josh, the woman in San Bernardino, she wasn't vetted.

[18:55:01] ROGIN: She was vetted. She was -- it didn't work but she was vetted.

LORD: Well, then if it didn't work then that's why you stop it.

ROGIN: Yes. But vetting is never going to be a perfect system.

NUTTER: So what's the answer?

LORD: No. That's not --


NUTTER: Lay out the system right now.

BLITZER: Well, we don't have enough time.

ROGIN: Doesn't exist.

BLITZER: Unfortunately we're almost completely --

NUTTER: No. But they don't have one. We do have enough time. They don't have one.

BLITZER: They do want specifics from Donald Trump.

LORD: Yes.

BLITZER: But he says he doesn't want to give the enemy advance information of what he planned on doing.

NUTTER: Including Americans.

BLITZER: There'll three presidential debates.


BLITZER: We'll see what he's willing to say when he goes in that debate with Hillary Clinton.

NUTTER: Right.

BLITZER: One vice presidential debate as well. Did I tell you, you have a beautiful city here in Philadelphia?

NUTTER: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: The former mayor.

LORD: Yes, you do. We agree on this. We're Pennsylvanians. All three of us are from Pennsylvania. We do agree on that. Right? NUTTER: Brotherly love and sisterly affection.

BLITZER: It's a great city and it's going to be a great week. We hope.

NUTTER: We will.

BLITZER: Excellent. Let's hope it's peaceful and secure.

That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Our special coverage continues with Erin Burnett right after a quick break.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the breaking news, forced out. The head of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, gone. A major shakeup of the Democratic Parity on the eve of their convention.

Plus, are the Russians trying to help Trump win the White House? That's the charge from the Clinton campaign. My guest, the Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, this hour.