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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Claims Election is Rigged; Clinton FBI Documents Released. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 17, 2016 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:15] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing some time with us today.

A packed day on the campaign trail, we're 22 days out, including Mike Pence and Bill Clinton events just this hour. We'll keep an eye on those, dip in if we feel the need to.

Plus, some brand new CNN poll numbers releasing right now from three presidential battleground states. Let's get to them.

First in the battleground state of Ohio, let me move that one up, pull you in here, battleground state of Ohio, good news for Donald Trump. A lot of bad news lately in polls, but Donald Trump up 48 percent to 44 percent. The third party candidates at four and two respectively. A narrow lead for Donald Trump in battleground Ohio, a state he needs to win.

Let's move now to North Carolina, one of the most competitive states in American politics. What do our new numbers show there, CNN/ORC poll shows Hillary Clinton with the narrowest of lead, a one-point lead. So, statistically, a dead heat in North Carolina. Perhaps a little bit of Clinton momentum. Gary Johnson gets 4 percent. Jill Stein is not on the ballot in North Carolina.

Now let's go west to Nevada. This one's a bit of a surprise. A state the Democrats have won pretty convincingly the last two times out. But, let's take a peek here and look at these numbers, 46-44. Again, a very narrow Clinton lead. The statisticians would say that's a dead heat, 46-44. Gary Johnson gets seven. None of the above, you can do that in Nevada, gets 2 percent. We'll see if that goes a little high on Election Day.

Now, if you look at those numbers right there and you're a Trump supporter, well, after a tough couple of weeks, reason to see the glass is half full, right? They believe the Republican candidate can re-seize the momentum in Wednesday's third and final presidential debate. But if you look at the other map, if you look at this, the electoral map, Clinton's state-by-state advantage, it's still pretty overwhelming heading into the stretch. Again, narrow leads for her in Nevada and North Carolina. Trump up a little bit now. Perhaps in Ohio. But the hard truth for Trump is, she can afford to lose all three of those states and still win the election, which is why Trump now adds the polls to his growing list of complaints and conspiracy theories.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: False stories, all made up, lies, lies. No witnesses. No nothing. All big lies. It's a rigged system. And they take these lies and they put them on front pages. This is a rigged system, folks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights as we begin the week, Julie Pace of the Associated Press, Ed O'Keefe of "The Washington Post," Karen Tumulty, also with "The Washington Post," they've emptied the building out for us, and Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist."

Let's start with these polls because they're three of the most competitive states in the country. They're very close right now. If you've looked at the past couple of weeks you would think, well, why isn't it a blowout then? Everything thought, even Republicans would tell you, the race is over. We have a big debate Wednesday night. As I said, Hillary Clinton can afford to lose North Carolina, afford to lose Ohio, afford to lose Nevada. Thy don't want to, they don't think they will, but they can afford to lose all those three. But just that they're tight enough, does that tell you, for all of this talk that it's over, that Trump has a chance, if, capital "i," capital "f," bold face, underline, if he can turn in a compelling debate performance?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, I think is the short answer, but he needs to do more than have a compelling debate performance. Right now he has a solid group of supporters that have stuck with him and will continue to stick with him basically no matter what happens over the next three weeks, but he needs to have some more consistent outreach, particularly to women, to independents, to moderate Republicans. He needs to move them over into his camp.

I think what's helping keep this close is that Hillary Clinton remains unpopular, even as she has pulled ahead in some of these polls. If you look at her favorability ratings, you haven't seen huge changes there. She's not out on the campaign trail a lot, not doing a lot pro- actively to try to change impressions of her and she's getting this slow drip, drip from WikiLeaks that seems to reinforce a lot of the questions that a lot of Americans have about her.

KING: If this is the best, last chance for Trump, this week ahead that includes this big debate, the last time you'll have whether it's 60, 70, 80 million people watching, who knows what the ratings will be, but the first one got 80-something, is this the right argument for Donald Trump to be saying that this is a rigged system right now before the vote? Now, remember, we didn't hear this when he was winning the Republican primaries. We did hear this a couple of times when he was in a bad stretch in the Republican primaries. But Donald Trump tweeting out this morning, at a time his campaign team is saying he means the media, he means you guys in the media are trying to rig the system. Well, that's not what Donald Trump says. "Of course there's large-scale voter fraud happening on and before Election Day. What do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive."

KAREN TUMULTY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, he doesn't seem to have any evidence of that. And secretaries of state across the country, a number of them Republicans, including in Ohio, are saying, no, it's - it's - there is no evidence of large-scale voter fraud, but Donald Trump has never really sort of felt the need to back up these kinds of claims. The real problem for him right now is, these kind of tweets sound like he's already conceding defeat.

KING: But there were a lot of - there were a lot of people who think that. There are a lot of people (INAUDIBLE) speculation about he's - all of this now attacking the establishment, attacking the Republican Party, trying to delegitimize a Clinton victory, if there is one, by saying it was somehow rigged is part of a post-election plan for Trump.

[12:05:11] MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": Well, I think the problem goes beyond his performance in a debate or even tweeting, because the problem for him has always been that the map is a little bit more friendly and has more built-in votes for Democrats and so he has to, at this point, run what would be a pretty perfect game from here on out for the next couple weeks.

KING: Right.

HAM: I'm not sure we've seen evidence he can do that.

It remains close because undecided voters, if you look at focus groups, are different than they've been in the past. Undecided voters in the past are unengaged and then they sort of clue in right at the last minute and make a decision. Undecided voters this time are very engaged and disgusted with their choices.

KING: Right.

HAM: So it's unclear how those guys will behave in the next couple of weeks, but it doesn't surprise me a ton that it keeps tightening up for that reason.

KING: Right.

HAM: People want a change, but they're afraid of the change he's offering.

KING: But they want a change.

And we also - and Democrats don't like this when you say it, but we live in a center right country. If you look at the national map, if you look at the Republican House minority, if you look at the fact that they have 54 Senate seats, if you look at the fact that they have 30 governors across the country.

HAM: Right.

KING: If you look at the legislative gains in the last eight or 10 years, mostly Republican. It's a center right country, but Democrats win the White House when voters in the middle, moderates, suburban women especially, reject the presidential - you mentioned the secretary of state of Ohio. I want to bring him up here because he's a Republican. Now Trump's going to say, I'm at war with the Republicans in Ohio. The governor won't endorse me. This guy's a friend of the governor. So Trump would say, same old establishment criticizing me. But listen to the secretary of state in Ohio here. A pretty big state in this country. They a lot of close elections in Ohio. The secretary of state says, rigged? No way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUSTED, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I'll say a couple things. First of all, I can reassure Donald Trump, I am in charge of elections in Ohio and they're not going to be rigged. I'll make sure of that. Our institutions, like our election system, is one of the bedrocks of American democracy. We should not question it or the legitimacy of it. It works very well. In places like Ohio, we make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. We have a bipartisan system of elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So there's a Republican secretary of state, and there are 50 of them, plus, you know, an official here in the District of Columbia and then the territories as well, they administer the elections. They saying, yes, sure, every now and then there's a couple of shenanigans at this polling place or that polling place, but there's no such thing. There's no such thing. And he has Rudy Giuliani, in addition to Donald Trump's tweets and Steve King, the congressman from Iowa on television saying, of course the Democrats cheat, of course they get dead people to vote. I mean I - no offense to these people here, but mayor - Mr. Mayor and congressman, I'll ask these four not to come in some day and I'll give you the whole hour. You bring me evidence - you bring me evidence that says this election was swayed by fraud and here's the proof, and you can have the hour. Bring me the proof. But - so why is Trump saying this?

ED O'KEEFE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Because he's - again, I think it's - they understand that he's in a losing position. He's in a defensive crouch right now and this is all he really has. It's trying to depress voter turnout overall by making more people upset about this election, sick of it, tired of it and just wanting it to go away. They feel that if they can do that, perhaps these numbers come out in their favor.

The other problem here, I look at these numbers in Ohio, North Carolina, Nevada, that all suggests a turnout operation is necessary in those states. Republicans are lag in all three. If they can keep it close in Nevada, the state where I think we will be waiting up for most of all on election night, Democrats believe they can do it because they've done it before. They did it for Harry Reid in 2010. They did it in 2012.

Ohio, again, if you can start turning out black voters in the last few days of early voting in Ohio, Democrats believe they can eek ahead. And North Carolina, again, there they believe, Democrats, that they have found enough white progressive, blacks and Hispanics to show up this time. KING: Right.

O'KEEFE: Maybe the flooding affects it a little bit, but otherwise they can get ahead of it because Republicans don't have operations in these states.

KING: You make a key point. We're going to dig deeper into those numbers a little bit later in the show. But, Mitt Romney woke up on Election Day thinking he was going to win and he had every reason to think that. He was tied in the polls heading into the election. He had momentum. But, he was out hustled. Out hustled on Election Day and, more importantly, out hustled before Election Day with all the early voting operations.

Mike Pence has been a little bit different. Donald Trump tweeted this morning -

O'KEEFE: (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And we've seen this - we've seen this on other issues in the past. Syria, from the vice presidential debate. Then Donald Trump saying in the next debate, no, no, no, I disagree with Mike Pence. But Donald Trump saying, of course there's large-scale voter fraud happening. Essentially saying, you know, if she wins, she cheated. That's what he's trying to say in advance. Mike Pence, listen to him here, he says, no, I don't think so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will absolutely accept the results of the election. Look, the American people will speak in an election that will culminate on November the 8th, but the American people are tired of the obvious bias in the national media. That's where this sense of a rigged election goes here. We'll accept the will of the American people, you bet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, he's, again, he's blaming the media, which is a - bring your specific complaints, but it's a conservative -

O'KEEFE: A classic Republican attack line in a close (INAUDIBLE) election.

TUMULTY: It's - it's classic. It's tried and true and never works.

O'KEEFE: You can say it.

KING: But it's - but it's - can we see - if Hillary Clinton wins, is she going to walk out at her rally that night and said, I just got a call from Governor Pence, as opposed to I just got a call from Donald Trump -

PACE: I think it -

KING: And Governor Pence says we accept the will of the American people but, sorry, Donald doesn't?

PACE: I think it's a real question. Until Donald Trump drops this idea that there is going to be voter fraud on November 8th, I think it's a real open question on whether he would accept the results. Obviously Mike Pence and other Republicans, I don't want to cast all Republicans under this rigged election umbrella because a lot of them are very concerned about just the perception that the results would be deemed illegitimate perhaps by millions of people. It's very dangerous to our democracy.

[12:10:22] But Trump seems to be kind of conflating two things here. You saw this both in the Democratic primary and you've seen it in this election that there are a lot of Americans that think that much of what we see coming out of government is rigged against them. That it's rigged for the wealthy. That the media is rigged for Democrats. And that's a real concern that I think we should be discussing. But taking it to this level and saying that the actual results of an election are rigged is something much different.

KING: Well, it -

HAM: And I - I don't think he's going to let go of the argument because it's - he did this during the primaries. It's a bit of an insurance policy for if he loses so that he can blame it on something. I think that's just part of his personality.

As usual, the story's sort of in the middle. Like voter fraud is a real thing. People are prosecuted for it. It does not usually happen in large enough numbers to sway elections. I think some of the voters that he speaks to, and I don't think he's having this whole thought process, are mad that that voter fraud, when it happens, is largely ignored and I think that elections should be secure and they feel like they're beat up for thinking elections should be secure and have things like voter I.D. And so when he makes this argument, they react to it in a sort of visceral way. But I don't think that many of them used to buy the idea that swayed all these elections. We'll see if he convinces them otherwise.

TUMULTY: But I also think he's laying the predicate for the argument that's going to happen after the election if he loses within the Republican Party, where the party is going to be arguing whether the problem here was that they nominated a flawed candidate or that they didn't get behind the flawed candidate. And by saying that the results of the election are illegitimate, you are giving sort of a second wind to sort of Trumpian politics.

KING: Right. Well, and, remember, he spent years trying to delegitimize the current president.

TUMULTY: Right.

KING: By being a cheerleader for the birther movement. So the question is, is he - does he have plans already, if he thinks he's going to lose, to set up some shop, whether it's a media outlet or something else, after the election to say, she's not real. She's not legitimate. Don't let - don't support anything. Don't support compromise. We'll see how this one goes.

Quickly on this point here, let's bring in Tim Kaine, who, talking about this, he's asked about this and he thinks Donald Trump is up to something?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's blaming the media. He's blaming the GOP. He's saying that America can't run a fair election. He is swinging at every phantom of his own imagination because he knows he's losing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And?

O'KEEFE: That's the argument - that's the argument they'll make in the closing days here. And, you know, and the Democrats will, once again, have to push back against another series of unsubstantiated claims that he's making. You know, this is - this is - this is how he keeps his name in the news and this is how he continues to frustrate a lot of Democrats who think that they're putting this away, but, you know, perhaps we'll have three more weeks of this.

HAM: Well, and telling Donald Trump - telling Donald Trump he's acting a way because he's losing makes him act that way doubly.

O'KEEFE: Even more.

KING: Right. I would just close on this note. If this - if there is consistent, persistent widespread election fraud in America, then the Republicans stole the House of Representatives, the Republicans stole the Senate, the Republicans stole those governors' races? I think not. I think not. I think they won them. I think they won them fair and square.

Ahead, the Wiki - hacked WikiLeaks hacked e-mails may well be a nefarious Russian plot, but is it also a Clinton campaign headache, as she prepares for the final debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:17:44] KING: Back to our conversation in a moment. First, though, a developing news story that's a potential headache for Hillary Clinton heading into the third and final presidential debate, the release of FBI documents related to her e-mail investigation. Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, joins us with the new details.

Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, this is the latest red flag that some congressional Republicans say they've identified and their continued look back into the Hillary Clinton e- mail server situation. New documents released by the FBI shed some light into a back and forth between the FBI and the State Department where questions got raised about whether a top State Department official was trying to strike an inappropriate bargain with the FBI to change the classification of a secret document relating to the report of arrests in the Benghazi attack. The question was whether undersecretary of state for management, Patrick Kennedy, was suggesting the State Department would consider addressing a need for additional space for FBI personnel stationed in other countries, in exchange for making the classification change. The FBI looked into the situation, and putting out a statement today said that while there was never a quid pro quo, these allegations were nonetheless referred to the appropriate officials for review.

Now, congressional Republicans, starting at the top with the speaker of the House, saying the situation demonstrates Hillary Clinton had a complete disregard for properly handling classified information and that the State Department official in the middle of this was just trying to hide the mishandling of information. The State Department put out a statement too today asserting that the allegation of a quid pro quo is inaccurate and that it doesn't align with the facts.

John.

KING: Joe, thanks very much. We'll see how this one carries over to the debate.

So, let's get back to the group. Can Donald Trump distill this stuff, this from the FBI, other stuff in the hacked John Podesta e-mails, the campaign chairman John Podesta, released by WikiLeaks, can he take that and say, here's the problem. Here's why she shouldn't be president and I assume the argument is, she's part of this system where there's collusion, where there's insider trading and all the like. Can he do it?

PACE: I don't know if he can do it, but he should do that if he hopes to win. I mean the clearest, most concise argument that he and other Republicans have made about Hillary Clinton is that she comes from this political system that most Americans agree is flawed. In some cases maybe rigged against middle class Americans and that you can't trust her because there's a different Hillary Clinton behind closed doors than the one you see in public. And if you look at the WikiLeaks e-mails that have been coming out the last few days, you certainly see that there's a lot of discussion about what she should say publicly, how she should present herself, and it does feed into that narrative. But Trump just, like, cannot get himself focused on these issues. If he can, it's effective.

[12:20:25] KING: It's also hard. It's also hard. They're very confusing issues.

PACE: They are.

KING: The conversation with the State Department, back to the FBI about classifying a document. Somebody brought up the FBI needs office space or safe spaces to live in places like Iraq.

PACE: Right.

KING: What?

HAM: Well, no, but people - people know -

O'KEEFE: But that's the point, right?

HAM: People know what a - what a deal is and what a quid pro quo is and it seems to look like this guy was trying to minimize fallout for Hillary over e-mails. People can understand that. I do think, in the second debate, Trump did seem to have studied up a little bit more on the e-mail stuff, on the classified markings and all that, but he was sort of short-handing it and saying, with the "c" on it, and he wasn't explaining it so that people who aren't following all this time could get it. If he could make that step, I think it would be go for him. He needs to make the argument over and over again that these e-mails, which I think they do, show she is business as usual in Washington and business is real bad.

KING: Right.

HAM: And that is an effective argument for him, but he needs to dress it up with the facts and -

KING: That's his - that's his most effective argument.

TUMULTY: And that - and that's my read of the e-mails as well is that the sort of worst part of them is watching a campaign struggle to sell what they view, acknowledge, as sort of, in the e-mails, a flawed product here.

HAM: Right.

TUMULTY: It - I think what it does is it basically - in the e-mails you see the campaign struggling with a lot of the very same issues that bother the American people about Hillary Clinton. Smoking gun? New information? Not necessarily. But it is kind of a reminder of what it is that has made a large section of the public uneasy with.

KING: Right. Like the circle the wagon party inside her campaign. Whatever the question is, whatever it's about, being canid, being transparent, being open, saying what happened, even getting her to say, "sorry."

I just want to stop, pause for a minute here, because this is a big part of the debate, what's in these e-mails. Now, it's possible - the government says likely - that Russia hacked into Democratic Party databases and John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman's database. That's horrible and we should be worried about that. A foreign state actor playing in. But Republicans say, whoever did it, the information is still available to us and Clinton should answer for it. Listen to the differing opinions here from Rudy Giuliani, Trump supporter, and Tim Kaine, Clinton's running mate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDI GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: WikiLeaks very refreshing. This is the Hillary Clinton I always knew existed, I just never had proof of it. People would say to me, she's a socialist and I'd say, OK, but you can't prove it. Well, she was in Canada, she was talking to the Canadian bank or whatever. She says, I like your system, your socialized system of medicine a lot better than ours.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't think of a precedent of a foreign nation trying to destabilize an American election, and I - you know, I - I brought up a couple weeks ago the Watergate analogy of trying to destabilize an election by going in and grabbing files, and this is the current version of that Watergate attack, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the Clinton campaign says, we're not going to answer the specifics, because this is all part of some crime. It is part of a crime. But the specifics are pretty interesting, and they force questions. And, you know, Rudy having fun there saying, ah, finally, here's the proof.

O'KEEFE: Now, it's - this - I mean, I've spent some time looking at these last week, and it does, as the mayor suggested, prove some of your long-held suspicions about how they appropriate. I didn't get to the speeches, but I was certainly diving into Podesta's inbox. Sorry, but it's available to us now. And there's proof that they - that they have struggled with this. And they have struggled with how to talk to her about her struggles with the truth.

HAM: Right. Well, and -

O'KEEFE: And that, most of all, I thought was quite telling.

HAM: There's another thing that Trump may have some fun with, which is the e-mails that do come from reporters that say, hey, just want to give you a heads up about this thing that's coming out. Like, there is some sucking up. There's a little bit of coordination. It feeds into the argument he's making. Republican voters will be more than happy to hear a few jabs at that and (INAUDIBLE).

KING: But the question is, does it get him - does it - can he - it is just fun?

HAM: Yes.

KING: Is it, you know, or does it - can he grow? Yes, can grow?

HAM: It's more of the (INAUDIBLE).

O'KEEFE: It can be both because the most effective moment for him in the first debate was in those first 30 minutes -

KING: Right.

O'KEEFE: When he kept talking about, she is a creature of Washington. She has been in this city for 30 years. She has been part of the problem.

KING: She will not change. Right.

O'KEEFE: This inbox proves it. That's the argument he can make consistently over the course of the debate and it would keep her unfavorable where they are.

KING: And I'm waiting to see how Trump, who says he's a populist and runs as an economic populist in some ways, I mean the Democrats, you know, they roll their eyes at that, but it is part of his appeal, how does he take advantage of an e-mail that Bernie Sanders would have loved to have had in the Democratic primaries. This is in John Podesta's e-mails and they're dealing with, well, what if those speeches ever leaked out, the Clinton speeches that she got big money for from banks, what if they ever leaked out? What's in them? In one of them is Hillary Clinton talking to Goldman Sachs and she says, "with political people again, I would say the same thing, you know, there was a lot of complaining about Dodd/Frank" - that's the bank regulating bill - but there was a need to do something because for political reasons. If you're a elected member of Congress and people in your constituency were losing job and shutting businesses and everybody in the press is saying it's all the fault of Wall Street, you can't sit idly by and do nothing. But what you do is really important."

[12:25:04] So she's essentially saying, I don't know if that big legislation it's become a hallmark of the Obama presidency, that is a - the last piece of the legacy of her good friend Barney Frank in the United States Congress. She says, I don't really know if it's any good or if we really needed it, but we had to do something to take a 2x4 to Wall Street.

PACE: Well, I think - I think it gets to a major question that Democrats, particularly younger Democrats, people who are more aligned with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have had throughout this entire campaign, which is the Democratic Party has changed since Bill Clinton was in office and since Hillary Clinton really came up in politics. And she has managed to position herself now to the left of where she's been on certain issues. But the suspicion has always been that she is more friendly to Wall Street than Democrats are right now. More pro-trade than Democrats seem to be right now. And you see her in these e-mails, her staff debating where she should be on trade, talking to Wall Street and suggesting that Dodd/Frank was more a politic necessity than a policy necessity. And I think that she should have to answer for that.

KING: Right.

HAM: One of the thing - one thing, it crystallizes this idea that many Americans have of, they don't do things well in Washington. Like, something must be done. Well, this is something. Let's pass it. That's not a good argument to be making for someone who's been in Washington for a long time.

KING: It is not. And we do know, look, again, I agree in half with the Clinton campaign. This is a legitimate issue. Why are the Russians doing it if it's the Russians and are they doing it to support Trump? That's great. But there's a lot in here to be answered. Well, one of our -

O'KEEFE: A lot.

KING: One of our businesses' toughest questioners, Chris Wallace, will be at the center stage in that debate Wednesday night.

HAM: Who knew.

KING: I suspect this is going to come up. And it should.

Next, a deeper dive into our new battleground states polls and what they tell us about the stakes of that big debate, the final debate, Wednesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)