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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Says Election Rigged Against Him; Interview With Congressman Jason Chaffetz; Melania Trump Speaks Out on Campaign, Allegations; Iraq: "Heavy Losses" for ISIS As Critical Battle Begins; U.S. Denies Cyberattack on WikiLeaks Founder. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 17, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We will hear from Melania Trump in just a few moments.
Blaming the system. Donald Trump lashes out amid falling poll numbers, calling the election rigged and alleging large-scale voting fraud. But with no evidence and research to the contrary, Trump's charges are unnerving even some fellow Republicans. Is the GOP nominee undermining confidence in America's democracy?
Quid pro quo? The FBI and Justice Department deny any attempt at deal-making after newly released documents raise new questions about Hillary Clinton's classified e-mails. Tonight, there are contradictory accounts of conversations between officials. I will talk to the head of the House Oversight Committee, who calls it all extremely disturbing.
And striking ISIS. An enormous military offensive is now under way to oust thousands of terrorists from Iraq's second largest city. Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by U.S. advisers and airpower are bracing for what promises to be a fierce and bloody battle. Can ISIS hold on to its last remaining stronghold in Iraq?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Melania Trump speaking out to CNN about the recording that rocked her husband's presidential campaign. She tells Anderson Cooper she was surprised by Donald Trump's lewd boasts of groping women, saying it's not the man she knows, but she dismisses the remark as -- quote -- "boy talk" and says Trump was egged on by "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush. We will hear Melania Trump in her own words.
Also breaking tonight, the long-awaited battle to liberate Iraq's second largest city from ISIS control has begun. Iraqi and Kurdish troops have launched an offensive to oust terrorist forces from Mosul, the last ISIS stronghold in Iraq. ISIS is said to have sustained heavy losses on this, the first day of fighting.
The Iraqis and the Kurds are being backed by U.S. airpower and American advisers.
And, tonight, the U.S. is denying it was behind a cyber-attack that cut off Internet access to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Obama administration has warned of what it calls a proportional response to Russian cyber-attacks on U.S. political attacks. American intelligence experts believe Russia has been feeding hacked e-mails and documents to WikiLeaks.
We're covering all of that, much his hour with our guests, including Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who withdrew his endorsement of Donald Trump. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.
But let's begin with Donald Trump's campaign. Our exclusive new CNN/ORC polls show him still locked in a tight race with Hillary Clinton in some key battleground states.
CNN political reporter Sara Murray has the very latest.
Sara, Trump just tweeted the charge he's increasingly making that the system is rigged against him.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Today, Donald Trump's campaign is saying the media are launching these personal attacks against Trump in order to rig the election for Hillary Clinton. But what Donald Trump is suggest is something far more nefarious, that there is widespread systemic voter fraud at polling places, something he is saying without any evidence.
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.
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.
MURRAY: Today, the Trump campaign is circulating some instances of potential voter fraud from previous elections in states like Colorado and states like Pennsylvania.
Wolf, in any election, there of course are instances of voter fraud. But people who study elections have not found the kind of widespread fraud that Donald Trump is alleging.
BLITZER: That's absolutely true.
All right, thanks very much, Sara Murray, for that report.
Let's get some more now on our exclusive new CNN/ORC battleground poll numbers.
Our senior White House reporter, Jim Acosta, is working that part oft story for us.
Jim, tell us about these new polls. What are they showing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after two weeks of some pretty damaging revelations, from hot mike moments to allegations of sexual assault, the bottom line, Wolf, is these revelations have not been fatal to Donald Trump.
He's still hanging in there. Case in point, our latest CNN/ORC poll. Let's put this up on screen showing you Nevada right now. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in that important battleground state by two points. That is not a large lead for Hillary Clinton there. That's of course within the margin of error.
And then North Carolina, Donald Trump, if he's going to win the presidency, a lot of Republicans say he has to win North Carolina. He only trails Hillary Clinton by 1 percentage point. Wolf, I think that lines up with what we're seeing out on the campaign trail.
Yes, these revelations have been damaging over the last couple of weeks, but they have not affected turnout at his rallies or the enthusiasm. There's still a lot of energy at these rallies.
BLITZER: What are you seeing out of Ohio, Jim?
ACOSTA: Wolf, as you like to say, no Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio. Ohio is critical.
Let's show what our latest CNN/ORC poll finds. It shows Donald Trump out in front by four percentage points 48 to 44 for Hillary Clinton. That is very key. One thing we do want to point out, Wolf, is there are other polls showing a tighter race. The latest Quinnipiac poll has Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied, 45-45.
Wolf, who would have thought in a state where the governor, John Kasich, is not even supporting Donald Trump, he's still hanging on and doing quite well in the state of Ohio, Wolf?
BLITZER: He certainly is.
Several national polls, Jim, have also come out this week. Tell us what we're seeing nationally.
ACOSTA: Right. And that is where we're seeing this movement away from Donald Trump.
It's in the national polls based on what we have been hearing and seeing, these accusations and revelations the last couple weeks. That's showing up in the national polls. Monmouth University poll has Clinton up by 12 percentage points. NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" has Clinton up by 11 percentage points.
But, Wolf, you will recall, heading into Election Day last time around in 2012, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were essentially tied. If Hillary Clinton is up by this much in these national polls, now, keep in mind, there's an ABC News/"Washington Post" poll over the weekend that has her up only by 4 percentage points. But if she has this kind of a lead heading into this homestretch, Donald Trump has a lot of work to do this these final three weeks, Wolf.
BLITZER: He certainly does. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta reporting.
Melania Trump is speaking out for the first time in months and for the first time since a recording of her husband bragging about groping women upended the presidential campaign. She just spoke to CNN's Anderson Cooper and told him she believes that Donald Trump was "egged on" to engage in what she describes as boy talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It was 10 days ago that "Access Hollywood" released that tape. I'm wondering when you first saw it, when you first heard it, what did you think?
MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: I said to my husband that the language is inappropriate. It's not acceptable.
And I was surprised, because that is not the man that I know. And, as you can see from the tape, the cameras were not on. It was only a mike. And I wonder if they even knew that the mike was on, because it was kind of boy talk, and he was led on, like egged on from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.
COOPER: You feel the host, Billy Bush, was sort of egging him on?
M. TRUMP: Yes, yes.
COOPER: Is that language you had heard him use before?
M. TRUMP: No, no. That's why I was surprised, because I said, like, I don't know that person that would talk that way, and that he would say that kind of stuff in private.
I heard many different stuff, boys talk. The boys, the way they talk when they grow up and they want to sometimes show each other, oh, this, and that, and talking about the girls. But, yes, I was surprised, of course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And you can see the full interview with Melania Trump on "A.C. 360 Later" tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Let's get some more now on the breaking news we're following.
Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah is joining us. He's the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He has withdrawn, by the way, his endorsement of Donald Trump. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm going to get to the Clinton e-mails shortly.
But first I want to ask you about the news on your side of the aisle. You rescinded your support of Donald Trump over his comments back in that 2005 "Access Hollywood" video. Do you believe these latest accusations? Do you believe the excuse -- let me rephrase the question -- from Melania Trump that Billy Bush made him say, sort of egged him on to say these things?
CHAFFETZ: I have every reason to believe her and her account of that and what she and Donald Trump talked about.
I still find it inappropriate. I can't defend those comments, and couldn't look my wife and daughter in the eye and suggest that that's in any way acceptable.
BLITZER: Are you surprised that at least nine women since that tape came out have come forward alleging Trump actually acted in the way he described on that video?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, I don't know how many of them are valid or actually true.
I think it's a bit of a distraction. I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to that.
BLITZER: You said Trump should step aside and that you prefer Mike Pence at the top of the ticket. What does it say about Governor Pence's character from your perspective that he's not put off by Trump's offensive language, possible, possible sexual predatory behavior?
CHAFFETZ: Well, to clarify what I said is, the person that I believe in, who has the moral fortitude, who has the moral fiber, the one that I actually personally know and have interacted with and believe in is Mike Pence.
And I do wish he was at the top of the ticket, but he's not. He is the one person that's actually out there that I can believe in that is a good, decent human being and has that sort of, as I said, moral fortitude to be in the highest levels of government.
BLITZER: Some Republicans who have pulled their support of Trump after that video came out have now changed their minds apparently because many voters weren't swayed by the video. Could Trump do anything, from your perspective, to win back your support?
CHAFFETZ: Well, look, I'm in the never Hillary camp. Her propensity and frequency which she lies, lies, lies, I think you're going to find the majority of people Utahans, including our family, would just never, ever be supportive in voting for Hillary Clinton to be the president of the United States. So we will let the rest of the campaign play itself out.
But I'm out of the endorsement game. I have got more important things to do than -- and I don't think endorsements at this point really mean much anyway.
BLITZER: Should Paul Ryan have gone further and pulled his actual endorsement of Trump?
CHAFFETZ: Look, every individual has got to call it as they see it. I liken it to an umpire behind the plate. I have got to call it the way I see it, whether it's a Republican or a Democrat. I would like to think that I call it as I see it.
And I just had to pull my endorsement based on what I had seen. But at the same time, the worst person to be the president of the United States, in my opinion, is Hillary Clinton. I just don't think this country can handle her for four years, let alone eight.
BLITZER: And the independent candidate Evan McMullin, who is from Utah, has been polling very well in your state. A Y2 Analytics poll actually released last year showed him at 22 percent, just a few points behind Clinton and Trump, who were tied at 26 percent. Would you consider casting your vote for McMullin?
CHAFFETZ: Well, he's a good, decent person.
I think what you find in large part, Utahans seeking a solution, they are not necessarily -- they would never vote for Hillary Clinton, the majority of them, and so they're trying to look for solutions and they're sorting through the candidates and giving everybody an honest look.
But the idea that he could actually go on to win and become the president, that's as far-fetched as it gets.
BLITZER: But do you think you might vote for him?
CHAFFETZ: I am out of that game, Wolf. I have kind of said what I want to say. I'm not endorsing or getting behind anybody at this point.
I have got to focus on the job that voters in Utah have previously given me. And that's what I intend to do.
BLITZER: Both Trump and Pence have been warning about the threat of voter fraud on November 8. Do you think they're laying out an excuse in case they lose?
CHAFFETZ: No, I think they are saying that everybody should be vigilant.
These all come down, essentially, to county clerks. You have got lieutenant governors in the case of Utah, secretaries of state in other states that have to be very vigilant. In every polling place, we should make sure the vote is accurate. I don't think that's anything but being wise and smart with so much on an election.
BLITZER: The problem, though, is so many election experts and students have found there's tiny, tiny examples actual voter fraud.
And the question is, if Trump loses, will that raise a question to some of his supporters about American democracy in action?
CHAFFETZ: No. No.
Look, the first thing is, let's get through the election. Just make see that it's full of integrity, that people are watching from both sides of the aisle, that there's good, honest counts. I don't think there's any harm in highlighting that ahead of time, so that everybody is vigilant.
I think that's a reasonable thing to do.
BLITZER: All right, Congressman, there's a lot more to discuss, including the latest on the Hillary Clinton e-mails. We are going to continue our conversation right after a quick break.
BLITZER: We're back with Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. He's the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
And we want to talk to him about newly revealed conversations between the State Department and the FBI about Hillary Clinton's classified e- mails.
But, first, let's get the latest from CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar.
Brianna, critics say a State Department official tried to make a deal with the FBI over a Clinton e-mail. What's the latest?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And the candidate herself not available today for comment on this, as her campaign plans to go into Trump territory, Arizona, which has not gone for a Democrat since 1996. They have Bernie Sanders, Chelsea Clinton, and first lady Michelle Obama heading there this week, as the candidate lays low and this ensemble cast tries to deliver this election for her.
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.
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.
The Trump campaign and congressional Republicans today are pouncing on newly released FBI interview notes from the Clinton investigation. They show alleged pressure from the State Department to change the classification of one e-mail from her private server.
A person whose name is redacted indicated he had been contacted by Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state, who had asked his assistance in altering the e-mail's classification in exchange for a "quid pro quo." The person whose name is redacted advised that in exchange for marking the e-mail unclassified, State would reciprocate by allowing the FBI to place more agents in countries where they are presently forbidden.
Another FBI official says the State Department asked for a review of that e-mail, but it was the FBI that brought up the personnel issue. The FBI says the information was never downgraded. The State Department denies wrongdoing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the allegation of any kind of quid pro quo is inaccurate and does not align with the facts. So, there was no quid pro.
KEILAR: Tonight, the Clinton campaign is not discussing the allegations. Instead, Clinton is laying low, hoping to keep the pressure on Trump over the growing number of allegations that he groped or forcibly kissed women, releasing this ad comparing Trump to famous Hollywood bullies.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What, are you going to cry now?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You're so gullible, McFly.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You, sit down!
TRUMP: Sit down.
KEILAR: As Hillary Clinton remains out of sight tonight, Wolf, preparing for the debate, and the fact that she's remained out of sight a lot recently is a tacit acknowledgement by her campaign that, while they think they have a chance with some voters who may be newly turned off to Donald Trump, it's not necessarily because they're enamored of Hillary Clinton.
And so they think that her time is best spent preparing for the debate and letting Donald Trump's controversies take up a lot of the attention.
BLITZER: All right, Brianna, thanks very much, Brianna Keilar reporting from Chappaqua in New York. That's where Hillary Clinton is right now.
I want to bring back Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who is not, I must report once again, not a Trump supporter.
You did put out a very strong statement accusing the undersecretary of state, Patrick Kennedy, of "bartering with classified information."
Why are you laying the blame on Kennedy, when it's unclear, at least based on the information we have, who requested any favor? Do you have any evidence that this exchange even happened?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, I do, because it's in the FBI notes.
It was an FBI document that said, from the FBI's perspective, that they were engaged with Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary for management, direct report to Hillary Clinton, that they were engaging in quid pro quo. That is a quote right out of the report. And, remember, these...
BLITZER: But it's sort of unclear.
CHAFFETZ: They were under subpoena.
BLITZER: Who raised the issue first, the FBI agent who was talking with Kennedy, or Kennedy? Who came up this so-called quid pro quo idea, the State Department allowing more FBI agents to serve at embassies around the world, or the declassification of this Hillary Clinton e-mail on the private server? Whose idea was it first?
CHAFFETZ: Well, you have the undersecretary for management throwing this out there.
Remember, this is a document that's under subpoena. and Rather than complying with the subpoena and sending it to Congress, as required by law, they're over there having a negotiation and a discussion that the FBI terms, in their own documents, as a quid pro quo.
I'm not exactly definitive or sure whose idea it was first, but you have one party saying I have got slots overseas that I really need. You have another one saying I need to change the classification of an e-mail to protect Hillary Clinton, and they have this discussion, and it goes on for some time.
It's not like, hey, this was just quick. It went up the food chain. It was being negotiated. It was being discussed. And that, to us, according, for me and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, we believe that is a potential violation of law and that Mr. Kennedy engaged in those activities is wrong.
And there are multiple parts in the 302s where Mr. Kennedy was repeatedly, not just in this one case, repeatedly pressuring people to change the classification of documents that were under subpoena. Nobody should be able to do that, nobody.
BLITZER: All right, Undersecretary Kennedy, as you know, is a career diplomat. He served in the Bush administration, served under Republican secretaries of state, under Democratic secretaries of state. He's obviously not part of the Clinton campaign right now.
Do you have any evidence that Hillary Clinton herself knew anything at all about this so-called quid pro quo?
CHAFFETZ: No, I don't.
To say that Hillary Clinton directed this, I have no evidence of this. But you have a person who directly reports to Hillary Clinton. You also have, in these 302s, Hillary Clinton's own attorneys at Williams & Connolly left their employment at Williams & Connolly, went to work at the State Department.
You have a State Department career employee said that upstairs, on the seventh floor, they were operating -- and I quote -- "a shadow government" -- end quote. So, instead of Hillary Clinton just opening up, saying, hey, I made a mistake, let's get all these documents out there, as she has said, that is not true.
Her actions were to bring in her own attorneys, push aside the career employees and make these own determinations with her own personal attorneys, rather than the career employees. That is so wrong.
BLITZER: But you know the FBI director, James Comey, and other FBI officials, they knew all about this so-called quid pro quo, and they decided not to recommend any criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. Do you have a problem with that?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, I do have a problem with it, because when you say that there was not necessarily any intent, and you bring in Kate Duval, the person who was looking at Lois Lerner's e-mails at the IRS, and you bring over to work on the State Department's, and she's a former Williams & Connolly employee, and you bring other people from Williams & Connolly, displace the federal workers, the traditional people who are used to doing this, and these people, they're not partisans.
They call it a shadow government. Yes, I got a problem with that. And, of course, Congress is going to do its constitutional duty and we're going to provide some oversight. We're going to get to the truth of this. The FBI still has not provided all of the 302s.
BLITZER: So you're going to hold hearings on this right after the election?
CHAFFETZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely, as soon as we can.
BLITZER: Well, you're not going to do it before the election, right?
CHAFFETZ: I wish I could. But the election is getting in the way. I wish I could do it sooner, rather than later.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, so we will stand by for that.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz, as usual, thanks for joining us.
CHAFFETZ: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, Melania Trump tells CNN her husband's comments about groping women are -- quote -- "boy talk." Voters have heard it from Trump and his advisers. Will it have a different impact coming from Trump's wife?
Plus, "Saturday Night Live" spoofs the second presidential debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
KATE MCKINNON, ACTRESS: Number three, women can't be charged more...
MCKINNON: Thought I -- women can't be charged more than men for health insurance, OK?
And number four...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:34:53] BLITZER; The breaking news this hour. Donald Trump's wife, Melania, speaking out publicly for the first time in months, speaking to our own Anderson Cooper about the infamous recording that's rocking her husband's presidential campaign.
Let's get to our political panel. And Gloria, let me play a clip. This is a clip from the Melania Trump
interview with Anderson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It was ten days ago that "Access Hollywood" released that tape. I'm wondering when you first saw it, when you first heard it, what did you think?
M. TRUMP: I -- I said to my husband that, you know, the language is inappropriate. It's not acceptable. And I was surprised, because that is not the man that I know.
And as you can see from the tape, the cameras were not on. It was only a mike. And I wonder if they even knew that the mike was on, because they were kind of boy talk, and he was lead on like -- egged on from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.
COOPER: You feel the host, Billy Bush, was sort of egging him on?
M. TRUMP: Yes, yes.
COOPER: Is that language you had heard him use before?
M. TRUMP: No. No, that's why I was surprised. Because I said, like I don't know that person that would talk that way. And that's -- he would say that kind of stuff in private.
I heard many different stuff, boy's talk. I -- the boys, the way they talk when they grow up, and they want to sometimes show each other, oh, this and that and talking about the girls. But yes, I was surprised, of course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You can see the full interview with Melania Trump later tonight on "AC 360." That's at 8 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Let's bring in our panel to discuss. Gloria, you watched the interview. Are you surprised that she's sort of blaming Billy Bush for egging on the so-called boy talk, if you will?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, let's say this is an incredibly tough position for a political spouse to be in. We saw it with Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton. And now we're seeing it with Melania Trump.
What she's trying to do is explain the inexplicable, and what she did was try and place the blame on somebody else other than her husband. Whether that is something Donald Trump said to her or whether that is something she's thinking about in her own mind, I don't think we're ever going to know.
We should not have expected, nor did we, Melania to come out there and unendorse her husband. She was not going to do that. She was going to defend her husband, and we've seen women do this. We saw Hillary Clinton talk about the right-wing conspiracy. Today, we see Melania Trump talking about Billy Bush egging him on.
And also later in the interview, and we'll see it at 8 p.m. tonight on Anderson, her talking about the left-wing media conspiracy that is against her husband.
BLITZER: Yes, she's talking, saying boy talk. Locker-room talk is the way he described it earlier. But the fact that she is now coming out publicly on television with this Anderson Cooper interview to support her husband, defend her husband, I assume, Sara, this will have an impact.
MURRAY: Well, it certainly can't hurt. Look, we've seen Donald Trump bring this up over and over again, and he has not done it in as graceful a way as she has. He has been out there questioning the appearance of the women who have made accusations against him and sort of lobbing insults in their direction.
So to hear Melania come out and say, "Look, I haven't heard him use that kind of language before. I told him it was inappropriate." She's told us in the past that when he does step out of line, she's willing to tell him that privately when they're at home together.
So I do think this is the kind of thing that could potentially help him, or at a minimum, not hurt him. I don't think him going out there talking about this stuff every day, though, is going to make the story go away any faster.
BLITZER: Should she, Ryan, have come out earlier with an interview of this nature, and would it have been even more powerful if he had been sitting next to her during the interview?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know. I think that's the first question everyone has when they see her alone is, I mean, frankly, because there are so many male politicians that have behaved poorly in the last 20 years, we're actually used to this phenomena now of usually a woman standing by a male politician's side and doing one of these kind of, you know, "I support him." So it is unusual that he wasn't there, and maybe she has her own reason for it.
I will say, just to fact check what she said, I didn't really see Billy Bush egging Donald Trump on in that audio or video. I saw Donald Trump being the instigator, being the sort of center of attention and talking that way without any encouragement.
BLITZER: What did you think, David?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think at best, they egged each other on, to your point. But no, it wasn't as if Donald Trump was sort of a hapless victim of boy talk, as she said.
[18:40:09] BLITZER: The new polls that are out today, the CNN/ORC poll in battleground states, show it's very close in North Carolina, Nevada. He's slightly ahead by four points, according to our poll, in Ohio right now. Does he have -- does he still have a credible path to 270 Electoral College votes? SWERDLICK: I think it's credible, but it's incredibly narrow. I do
sort of think that Donald Trump is going to win Ohio. One of the numbers that jumped out at me from the CNN/ORC poll in Ohio was that Trump is ahead by 14 points among married women, even after the "Access Hollywood" tape. I don't see that number reversing course in the next three weeks.
But some of these other states, even if he wins Nevada, which was an Obama state two times, that's only six electoral votes. It takes a lot of Nevadas to equal one...
BORGER: If Donald Trump can do in the rest of the country what he's doing in Ohio, he would have a shot at winning this election. Not only is he winning with married women, but he's almost even with all women. He's very close with college-educated whites. He's up 26 points with non-college educated voters.
And of course, he's winning the blue-collar, Rust Belt part of that state and the union vote, which is going to be really important to him. And I don't know that it's anything he can replicate in a lot of places, but this is kind of the constituency -- constituencies, plural, that Donald Trump needs to win this election.
BLITZER: And Sara, "Saturday Night Live," I'm sure you saw it; all of us saw it. Once again continuing the debate parodies. Let me play you this little clip from Saturday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Clinton, we'll start with you. Your question comes from Patrice Brock.
LESLIE JONES, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Hello, my question is, do you feel that you're modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today's youth?
MCKINNON: Hi, Patrice. Let me start by walking over to you just as I practiced. Left, right, left, right, left, right, speak. Now, Patrice, you're a teacher?
MCKINNON: You have kids?
MCKINNON: You like kids?
MCKINNON: You've seen kids?
MCKINNON: OK, great. We're bonding already. Oh, my friend, Patrice. Patrice, I strive to be a positive role model for all children, children like my daughter, Chelsea, and my granddaughter, Chelsea Jr.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, same question: Do you feel you're modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today's youth?
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: No, next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you don't care about the kids?
BALDWIN: Anderson, I love the kids, OK? I love them so much, I marry them. I've been helping kids my whole life. In 1992, I helped a kid named Kevin McAllister find a hotel lobby. You might remember the documentary "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very funny stuff. But Donald Trump, as you know, didn't like that opening skit. He tweeted this, "Watched 'Saturday Night Live' hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election."
That's a tough statement he made there.
MURRAY: It is a tough statement, especially when you consider that, obviously, this is not the most flattering portrayal of Hillary Clinton, either.
And that's another thing that is always interesting to me, when we see Kellyanne Conway and we see other Trump aides out there, insisting that Donald Trump is getting too much coverage; and we're not talking enough about WikiLeaks or about Hillary Clinton's e-mails. Because Donald Trump has a way of muddling his own message six times before breakfast. He could be driving a message that is entirely focused on Hillary Clinton. And instead, he takes offense with Paul Ryan, with "SNL," with anything.
BLITZER: Everybody, stay with us. There's more coming up. An important programming note also: You can see the full interview,
once again, with Melania Trump on "AC 360" later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
We're also coming down to the final debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. They'll face off in Las Vegas in just two days. Join us for complete coverage, starting Wednesday, 4 p.m. Eastern.
And there's more breaking news ahead. We're getting new details on the fight to kick ISIS out of Iraq's second largest city. The long awaited battle for Mosul is under way. Cyber tension between the U.S. and Russia heating up. Has Washington retaliated for Russian attacks on the U.S. election?
[18:49:09] BLITZER: Breaking news in the war against ISIS. The fight to retake Iraq's second largest city from terrorist control is now under way with U.S. forces playing a critical role.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us.
Barbara, Iraq reporting some heavy losses today. What's the latest information you're getting?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was a risky but long-planned operation by the Iraqis helped by the United States forces who hope they can help the Iraqis get Mosul back, but stay out of danger.
STARR (voice-over): ISIS drives a car bomb straight into Iraqi forces. This is the new deadly front line of the battle to defeat ISIS in Mosul -- the city where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared his caliphate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans are in harm's way as part of this fight.
[18:50:00] STARR: The Pentagon wants to emphasize Iraqi forces are leading the charge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are Americans on the outskirts of city.
STARR: The whole area is full of bombs, booby traps and tunnels.
The Pentagon refuses to say if U.S. troops will enter the city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not ruling it in, I'm not ruling it out. It may be their most dangerous assignment yet.
LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER OF U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ AND SYRIA: Iraq is supported by a wide range of coalition capabilities, including air support, artillery, intelligence, advisers and forward air controllers.
STARR: Iraqi and Kurdish troops backed up by some 200 U.S. Special Forces are working to approach Mosul from all sides. The U.S. has also taken up artillery positions north and south of the city. U.S. forward air controllers on the ground may be calling in locations of ISIS targets for strikes.
Near the front lines today, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh and his team came under ISIS fire on the roads into Mosul.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of coalition planning, American air power --
WALSH: The danger for U.S. troops will grow.
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET): The real challenge is going to be when they go inside the city of Mosul. How far back are the U.S. troops going to be? Are they going inside the city? Will they be at risk from IEDs and from land mines that they see along the ground? (END VIDEOTAPE)
STARR: Now, Mosul could be the largest humanitarian operation so far this year. The United Nations projecting that 1 million people could be trying to escape the city in the fighting intensifies -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a nightmare.
All right, Barbara, thanks very much. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon reporting.
We're standing by to hear from Donald Trump. He's about to hold a rally in Wisconsin. Green Bay, Wisconsin. Will he repeat his charge that the election is rigged against him?
Plus, a cyber attack cuts off Internet access for the WikiLeaks founder. Was it U.S. retaliation against Russia?
[18:56:32] TRUMP: The founder of WikiLeaks alleging today that he may be a victim, this as American intelligence officials suspect Russia may be using WikiLeaks to disseminate stolen e-mails pertaining to the U.S. election.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working the story for us.
Jim, the cyber tension between the U.S. and Russia is clearly escalating tonight.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. And Julian Assange, who's been a character in this whole drama throughout the last several weeks, as WikiLeaks has released tranche after tranche of stolen e-mails from the Democratic Party, saying today that he was the victim of a cyberattack, blaming a state actor, some suspected he might be blaming the U.S. -- turned out to be Ecuador. But as you know, Wolf, the U.S. says that WikiLeaks is playing a role in releasing those stolen documents.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the man behind the release of thousands of hacked e-mails from inside the Clinton campaign --
JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: WikiLeaks is going to publish --
SCIUTTO: -- claiming today he's now the victim of a cyberattack. WikiLeaks tweeting, quote, "Julian Assange's Internet link has been intentionally severed by a state party. We activated the appropriate contingency plans."
WikiLeaks soon blamed Ecuador for the Internet cutoff. Assange has been holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London for four years, avoiding extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault. U.S. officials denied any responsibility.
However, with Russia's hacks of the U.S. election system expanding, this weekend, vice president Biden made clear the U.S. is ready to strike back. U.S. officials say the options range from economic sanctions to diplomatic measures, to, yes, cyber responses.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're sending a message. We have the capacity to do it.
SCIUTTO: And Biden speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" said when the U.S. does strike back, he's confident that Russian President Vladimir Putin will know it. To which Putin responded, the threat only proves the U.S., itself, is guilty of cyber warfare.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): For the first time, the United States has recognized at the highest level, first, that they, themselves, do cyberattacks and second, threaten Russia to a certain extent, which contradicts the norms of international communication.
SCIUTTO: Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned Russian involvement in the election hacks, pointing his finger at everyone from China to a 400-pound man in his basement.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they're trying to tarnish me with Russia.
SCIUTTO: However, Trump's running mate Mike Pence joined the Obama administration and U.S. intelligence officials this weekend in blaming Moscow on NBC.
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think there's more and more evidence that implicates Russia and there should be serious consequences.
SCIUTTO: There are Republicans now who are praising WikiLeaks, though. Look at this tweet from Republican congressman from South Carolina, Jeff Duncan, "Let me be clear, thank God for WikiLeaks doing the job the mainstream media won't. Assange WikiLeaks."
You're hearing that from some other as well. Bizarre, you might say, in the midst of all this because as you know, WikiLeaks has seemed to be hacking and then disseminating stolen information.
BLITZER: We'll see what the U.S. does potentially in retaliation.
Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto reporting.
Remember, important programming note. You can see the full interview with Melania Trump on "AC360" later tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.