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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

How Big Is Clinton's Lead Over Trump?; Fighting ISIS; Trump Says Election Rigged Against Him; New CNN Polls: Trump, Clinton in Tight Battleground Races. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 17, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:13]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: OK. Let me just get this straight. Elections are rigged. Casinos and beauty pageants are not. OK. Got it.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Without a single shred of evidence, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump now poking at the very motor that runs our very democracy by repeating conspiracy theories that come November the fix will be in.

Too close for comfort for Clinton. Brand-new CNN battleground polls showing Donald Trump still firmly in this race after the worst two weeks in a presidential campaign possibly ever.

Plus, in the line of fire. CNN is on the ground as the biggest and most important battle in the war against ISIS in Iraq begins.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Twenty-two day out and the sound and fury of election 2016 more strident than ever. The third and final president debate is just two days away. And despite two of the worst weeks any major party presidential nominee has had in maybe ever, Donald Trump remains quite competitive in three CNN/ORC battleground state polls out just this afternoon.

Our new CNN poll of polls, however, which averages the results of five major surveys, shows leading Clinton nationally by a not-so-narrow margin.

But we will begin today with what Donald Trump says about polls and what he's been warning his legions of supporters about for months now, that the election will be "absolutely rigged," the claim he makes with absolutely no evidence.

Over the weekend, at events, on Twitter, Mr. Trump pointedly questioning the legitimacy of the pending election, claiming it's all "rigged at the polling places" and alleging a campaign of "large-scale voter fraud" being perpetrated at the ground level, across the country, including presumably in Republican voting districts and states.

Sara Murray is here with me in Washington.

Sara, is the Trump campaign providing any evidence for these charges or is he just kind of lashing out because polls suggests that he's trailing?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Trump campaign is now weighing in.

I want to start with part of a statement that Jason Miller, Trump's senior communications adviser, put out, saying: "It's no secret the media has coordinated their personal attacks on Mr. Trump in order to rig the election on behalf of Hillary Clinton."

Now, he goes on to provide instances where there are suspended moments of voter fraud in previous elections, instances in Pennsylvania, instances in Colorado.

But, Jake, what's important to note is that there have not been studies that have found widespread, systemic voter fraud across the country despite what Donald Trump is claiming on Twitter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president.

MURRAY (voice-over): Trump trailing in the polls and plagued by allegations of sexual misconduct is falling back on his favorite safety net.

TRUMP: The election is rigged. It's rigged like you have never seen before. The investigation of Hillary Clinton was rigged. It's all rigged. It's all rigged.

MURRAY: The GOP nominee now insisting there is a monumental conspiracy to rig the entire election against him. Trump tweeting today: "Of course there is large-scale voter fraud happening on and before Election Day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive."

But Trump's claims aren't backed up by facts. And they're putting election officials, even those in his own party, on edge. Today, Ohio's secretary of state, a Republican who plans to vote for Trump, blasted the candidate's claims as reckless.

JON HUSTED (R), OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: It's irresponsible. He should focus on issues that matter to people. I can reassure Donald Trump I am in charge of elections in Ohio, and they're not going to be rigged. I will make sure of that.

MURRAY: While Hillary Clinton's running mate warns that Trump's claims are the protests of a sore loser.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an insult to American voters and it's an insult to county registrars to say that America doesn't know how to run an election. We know how to run an election. And this is clearly a guy who feels like he's losing and is trying to whine in advance.

MURRAY: As Trump's running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, says he will accept the results on November 8.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As Donald Trump said in that first debate, and I will say again to you again today, we're going to accept the will of the American people.

MURRAY: Even he is warning about voter fraud on the campaign trail today.

PENCE: Voter fraud cannot be tolerated by anyone in this nation, because it disenfranchises Republicans, independents, Democrats, conservatives and liberals in America.

[16:05:02]

MURRAY: In fact, a Loyola Law School professor found just 31 potential instances of voter impersonation out of more than one billion ballots cast from 2000 to 2014.

TRUMP: You don't even hear about it.

MURRAY: Meanwhile, Trump continued to play it fast and loose with the facts this weekend, suggesting, based on zero evidence, that Clinton was on drugs during the last presidential debate.

TRUMP: I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate. We should take a drug test prior, because I don't know what is going on with her, but at the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end, it was like, oh, take me down. She could barely reach her car.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, back on the issue of the rigged election, there are always instances of voter fraud. There are instances where the voter registration rules don't live up to the sort of data standard we would hope to.

And there are also instances of voter suppression. But the authorities who have looked at this, people who have investigated this in a widespread manner have not found this to be such a systemic problem and they still believe in the integrity of our election system, Jake.

TAPPER: Indeed. Sara, I wanted to ask you. Over the weekend, there was this horrific incident. A Republican office in North Carolina was firebombed.

MURRAY: That's right.

And I think this is one of the moments where we look at and we're just horrified as a country, because we're a country that believes you should be able to work for whatever political party you want, you should be able to cast a ballot for whatever political party you want.

But in this North Carolina GOP office, they were firebombed. On a nearby building, it was written "Nazi Republicans, get out of town or else."

Now, authorities are still investigating this. They have not said who is behind it. Hillary Clinton tweeted that this was unacceptable. Donald Trump weighed in also, saying: "Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Democrats in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning."

Of course, Jake, I just want to reiterate again, authorities have not said who is behind this attack, but I think everyone can agree it's horrific and we never want to see anything like this ever happen in our country.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much.

As Donald Trump prepares for a rally tonight in the Badger State of Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton is noticeably absent from the trail with just 22 days left to sway any vote possible. So, she cannot be asked until Wednesday's debate about WikiLeaks posting transcripts of her Wall Street speeches stolen from her campaign chairman's e-mail account.

She cannot be asked about the notes released by Congress today related to the FBI investigation into Clinton's e-mail server. Those notes suggest one FBI official dealing with a former Clinton underling at the State Department feeling that the underling had an agenda related to minimizing the classification issues with the information on Clinton's private e-mail server.

Clinton right now is in New York. She is prepping for Wednesday's third and final debate against Donald Trump.

CNN's Brianna Keilar also there.

Brianna, Clinton off the trail, but her campaign is making a big play in Arizona, a state that has not gone for a Democratic president since Bill Clinton in 1996.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

The Clinton campaign invading Republican territory this week. Bernie Sanders will be there tomorrow. Chelsea Clinton will be there on Wednesday. And the very popular first lady, Michelle Obama, is going to be there on Thursday.

Either seeing opportunity here as the polls are close or trying to make sure that Donald Trump really has to do some work to win in Arizona. It's an ensemble cast trying to deliver for Hillary Clinton as she lays low here in Westchester County, preparing for her showdown with Donald Trump on Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton off the campaign trail to prepare for her third and final debate, leaving the campaigning up to her big-name surrogates.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm so tired of hearing the other side tell me how America is going to hell in a handbasket.

KEILAR: Her husband in New Hampshire and Bernie Sanders in Colorado, where yesterday he was joined by one of Donald Trump's sharpest critics, Elizabeth Warren.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm proud that we are a party that doesn't debate who has the smallest hands.

(LAUGHTER)

WARREN: Or who can build the longest, tallest, fake gold-plated wall in the world.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KEILAR: A "Boston Globe" analysis of Clinton's campaign schedule in the past two months finds that she has done far fewer events than her GOP rival and the nominees of both parties from the two previous elections.

But Clinton is leading Trump nationally by eight points in CNN's most recent poll of polls, and she has a big money advantage, $152 million on hand compared to Trump's $75 million going into October.

But the recent WikiLeaks release of her campaign chairman's e-mails continues to dog her. In one, John Podesta worries about the political fallout of the ISIS-inspired San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14 people.

[16:10:00]

"Better if a guy named Syed Farook was reporting that a guy named Christopher Hayes was the shooter," e-mailed Podesta in response to MSNBC host Chris Hayes revealing the identity of one of the Muslim attackers.

As the Trump campaign and congressional Republicans today are pouncing on another story involving the investigation into Clinton's e-mails, newly released documents show a top State Department official allegedly pressured the FBI to declassify previously classified e- mails.

The FBI and State Department deny any quid pro quo was offered. According to the FBI, no classification changes were made.

But as the number of women accusing Trump of groping or forcibly kissing them grows, the Clinton campaign thinks it still has the upper hand and they're out with a new ad likening Trump to famous bullies in movies. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What, are you going to cry now?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You're so gullible, McFly.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You, sit down!

TRUMP: Sit down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And as Hillary Clinton prepares for her debate showdown with Donald Trump on Wednesday, here in Westchester County today, it's a bit of a tacit acknowledgment, Jake, by her campaign that while they believe some voters may be newly open to her, it's more because they're turned off by Donald Trump, not necessarily because they're enamored of her.

And that's part of the reason why you see this popular cast of figures out campaigning for her this week.

TAPPER: All right, Brianna Keilar in New York, thank you so much.

Putting the battle in battlegrounds, brand-new CNN poll showing super competitive races in states that could decide the presidency with just 22 days to go.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:05] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Let's stick with our politics lead. Democrats who think that the presidential contest is all but over -- well, you might want to take another gander at the polls out this afternoon.

We just got four fresh ones from Quinnipiac University out of four different battleground states. And they show Donald Trump following what some have described as two weeks so awful they would have killed any other presidential candidate. Well, not out.

In Florida, Hillary Clinton leads by four, but that's just outside the margin of error. It's still quite close there. In Ohio, the new poll shows it's tied. Better news for Clinton in Colorado and Pennsylvania. In Colorado, Clinton up by eight, in Pennsylvania, Trump has a six-point deficit to make up for the next 22 days.

It's even more competitive however in new CNN/ORC polls out of Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio.

CNN's John King is at the magic wall for us. And, John, the numbers give us some indication as to why the race is so close in these states.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, a pretty sizeable Clinton lead when you look at the national polls, but our brand new battleground state polls this could still shape up as a competitive race.

Let's start first in North Carolina. Always a very competitive state, and look at that -- essentially a statistical tie. Clinton, 48 percent, Trump, 47, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party getting 4 percent.

A very close race in North Carolina. It was in 2008. It was in 2012. It looks like it will be to the end here.

Let's go out west to Nevada. Again, a state senator and President Obama won twice handily, but a very close race out west, 46 to 44, 7 percent for Gary Johnson. You can vote none of the above in Nevada. That gets 2 percent.

Why is this race so tight in Nevada? Here's one of the reasons. Gary Johnson, the libertarian, is getting 10 percent support from Hispanic voters. That's been a Democratic constituency the last two cycles. Hillary Clinton would like those votes. It would help her in that state but Gary Johnson holding them at the moment.

And battleground Ohio, critical to Republican chances. Trump has already tweeted about this. He's happy -- 48 to 44. For his recent troubles in the news accounts, Donald Trump with the lead in battleground Ohio. Again, very close, very competitive with the margin of error. But Trump leading there.

So, how did these numbers affect the map that matters most? Well, Hillary Clinton can take some solace in that without any of those states, we still project she has enough votes now if the election were today to win. Hillary Clinton can afford -- she doesn't want to, but she could lose North Carolina, lose Ohio and lose Nevada and Florida. She could still lose that and still be president of the United States.

But if you want to flip on the bright side, if you're a Donald Trump supporter, you say, hey, we're a little ahead in Ohio right now. If you can turn in a strong debate on Wednesday, pull North Carolina his way, pull Nevada his way, still won't get him there, Jake, but it would get him back in play. That's why the debate is so important.

With those two battleground states still competitive, Donald Trump can get back into play, make the last two weeks interesting. It's possible. You still have to go look at this map, understanding where Clinton has the advantages.

Clinton now talking about maybe testing Arizona, maybe testing Georgia. Still heavily titled in her favor, but the tightness of these three battleground states suggests if Donald Trump can have a good debate, perhaps, perhaps, he can see his optimism.

TAPPER: John King, interesting. Thank you so much.

Let's bring in our political panel now. We have with us, CNN political commentator and former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, Symone Sanders, CNN political commentator Ana Navarro, and senior adviser to the Donald Trump campaign, former Georgia congressman, Jack Kingston. Guys, you heard John King just there talk about how the Clinton

campaign is right now thinking about whether or not they should try to branch out and reach out for Georgia or Arizona. Some people saying not so fast, you still have to batten down the hatches in these battleground states.

What do you think?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Jake, I think that if there was ever a time to branch out and expand the map is now is the time. We've seen real gains in Arizona and in Georgia, and I think those states have the potential to go blue this time around and also elect some down ballot Democrats. So definitely.

TAPPER: Ana, you're from Florida, a state where it remains very competitive. What do you think?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think Arizona, there's three words -- Latinos, Latinos, Latinos. I saw the last poll today, Trump has 13 percent favorability rate with Latinos and I don't know what those 13 percent are thinking.

[16:20:07] So, most definitely, she should make a play for Arizona. Probably not good for my good friend, John McCain, but she definitely should do it because I think the numbers you're going to see from Latinos against Donald Trump, maybe not for Hillary Clinton, against Donald Trump are going to be something we've not seen before.

TAPPER: And, Congressman Kingston, you're from -- you're from Georgia. Could Democrats win in that state, do you think?

JACK KINGSTON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, but if she wants to spend money down there, I welcome it. Let me say this, if you look at the poll numbers that you just showed in the swing state, if I was calling the shots with the Clinton campaign, I'd say, let's spend the money right now in North Carolina and in Ohio, in Nevada where we are barely winning and, in fact, are not winning in Ohio. So, strategically, that's what I do. You know, home town pride, I'm saying come on down to Georgia and spend your money. It's a waste of it.

TAPPER: All right. I thought you were going to make a "devil went down in Georgia" joke. But you didn't. So, good for you.

Everyone, stick around. We'll have much more to discuss right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:25:24] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Let's bring back our panel.

Congressman Kingston, I want to start with you because Donald Trump spent the week in talking about how the media is rigging the election, the media is rigged, the election is rigged, the polls are rigged. A slew of new polls out today including one that he liked, in Ohio. Our poll had him out four.

"Wow," Donald Trump tweeted. "New polls just came out from CNN, great numbers, especially after total media hit job, leading Ohio, 48 to 44."

This does enforce the narrative, reinforce the narrative that Donald Trump thinks things are rigged unless he's winning them. Then, he doesn't they're rigged, because he attacks CNN polls all the time unless he's up.

KINGSTON: Well, I have to say this about we Republicans, and part of our culture is we do distrust the media greatly. I read a statistic today in Wikipedia, although a friend told me that it's actually different -- 37 daily newspapers have endorsed in this election so far, 23 for Hillary, six for Johnson, zero for Trump. It's changed a little bit.

TAPPER: Yes, "St. Joseph News Review" endorsed him this morning.

KINGSTON: Yes. But, you know, it's hard for a Republican to say, well, 23 out of 37 have endorsed Trump and then they're going to turn around and be objective.

TAPPER: But that's the editorial page. You know the difference between the editorial page and the newspaper.

KINGSTON: Well, we would also say something like the "New York Times" is one great big editorial page. And I'm saying, this is part of the engrained belief of Republicans in general. A statistic that I think --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I'm talking about polls now. He bashes the polls unless it's a poll in which he's up, then he cites the poll. That's the point I make.

KINGSTON: Well, I understand that. I think we're all human in that respect. You know, frankly, sometimes, I see these debates. I think moderators do a good job. Then, I read a day or two later, how many times they interrupted Mr. Trump more than the other candidate, and I'm thinking, well, they didn't do such a good job. So, I think some of this take analysis.

TAPPER: Symone, let me ask you, because you are a former Bernie Sanders official, and a lot of Bernie Sanders people thought the primaries were rigged and the WikiLeaks are not doing anything to quell that concern.

SANDERS: WikiLeaks aren't doing anything to help anybody. By the way, the WikiLeaks is criminal. I just want to note that this is akin to Watergate, and if people were running around physically breaking into the Democratic National Committee or John Podesta's emails or his office at Hillary Clinton HQ, I think folks would be a little more alarmed.

TAPPER: OK, but --

SANDERS: But, yes. And so, again, I don't think the WikiLeaks is helping anyone, but I do think that Secretary Clinton, President Obama, the first lady, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, the vice president, Vice President Biden, Senator Kaine have done a really good job getting out there on the campaign trail and noting why it is very important to get engaged and involved in this election and Bernie Sanders has definitely noted that we have to get Secretary Clinton elected and then we definitely have to hold her accountable. So, no one is giving Secretary Clinton a blank check to cake-walk into this election.

The last thing I want to note to the congressman is that Wikipedia is not a reputable source. It's not a citable source. And I'm three years removed from college, so I definitely I can't quote in the paper.

KINGSTON: The collusion between the State Department and the FBI came out of a Freedom of Information request, not out of WikiLeaks.

SANDERS: Right --

TAPPER: I want to change the subject back to --

NAVARRO: Why don't you go ahead and ask me? You might actually -- you might actually get a real answer from me.

KINGSTON: We do want to follow the lead of the Sanders people. I will congratulate you guys.

TAPPER: Ana, this morning on CNN, the Republican secretary of state from the state of Ohio, John Husted, I think, said it's, quote, "regretful that Mr. Trump continues to allege widespread voter fraud". What's your response to him? What do you think --

NAVARRO: I think it was really interesting. I watched the interview, because he said he is voting for Trump. So, this is somebody who is secretary of state of Ohio, a swing state, a kite state and a Trump supporter. But he's out there defending this system because I think, you know, what Donald Trump is doing is just so reckless, is so irresponsible.

And he's doing two things. Number one, he's trying to distract us from the fact that a new woman comes out practically every day to remind us of allegations and confirm what he said and bragged about on that videotape. He's trying to distract us from that.

And number two, he's trying to set it up so that when he is a "loser", a word that I think he might be physically allergic to, he can blame it on someone else. But it is very irresponsible. It is reckless.

And let me tell you this -- I come from Nicaragua. I come from a country where the elections have been rigged, where there's been communism. I know people who come from Cuba, you do, too. I know people who come from Venezuela. Those are rigged elections. Yesterday, I was at Mt. Vernon. And, you know, it inspired me to remember and think what those Founding Fathers went through to set up this system.