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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Iraqi Army Beating Back ISIS; Hillary Targets Arizona; Obama Blasts Trump as Whiner. Aired 4-4:30ET

Aired October 18, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:08]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Three weeks from today, America will finally bid adieu to one of the two least trusted presidential candidates in history.

THE LEAD starts right now.

As Donald Trump's path to the presidency faces increased obstacles, his insistence the election will be rigged increases on the campaign trail. What is the truth behind claims of voter fraud? And what's going on with these fishy new videos?

Hillary Clinton sending Bernie Sanders to Arizona to try to flip a red state by rallying all those progressives who felt the Bern on the same day WikiLeaks publishes a stolen e-mail in which her campaign chair calls Sanders a doofus.

Plus, human shields and suicide attacks, the Iraqi army driving back ISIS in the biggest and perhaps most barbaric fight against the terrorist group yet.

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

The election is three weeks away. And tomorrow night is likely the last time we will see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on stage together, as they meet for the third and final debate. The highly anticipated face-off comes as Donald Trump is lashing out at the Clintons, at the Republican Party, at the media and at the women accusing him of, at the very least, inappropriate contact, and as he steps us his warnings about the election being rigged against him, raising concerns about what might happen after the polls close.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is live for us traveling with the Trump campaign in Colorado Springs.

And, Jim, Mr. Trump just announced a new plan that he says will drain the Washington swamp.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. Donald Trump has (AUDIO GAP) drain the swamp. And he proposed congressional term limits at a rally here in Colorado Springs. Here is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Congressional term limits

has finally arrived. Not only will it end our government corruption, but we will end the economic stagnation that we're in right now. No growth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Donald Trump is also continuing this message that the election process is being rigged with voter fraud, even though he is not offering any proof that that is occurring.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With his crowds chanting "Tell the truth" to the national news media, Donald Trump is making the case day after day that the fix is in to rig the election and guarantee a Hillary Clinton victory.

TRUMP: It's a rigged system.

ACOSTA: But the GOP nominee is only offering unfounded claims that elections officials are allowing just about anyone, from the dead to the undocumented, to cast a ballot.

TRUMP: People that have died 10 years ago are still voting. Illegal immigrants are voting. I mean, where are the street smarts of some of these politicians?

ACOSTA: The truth is that multiple studies have shown voter fraud is extremely rare. A Loyola Law School found between the year 2000 and 2014, there were just 31 cases of voter fraud out of one billion votes.

Trump maintains the media are in on the conspiracy by reporting on women who say the real estate tycoon sexually abused them.

TRUMP: They take things and statements and put it in from 30 years ago, from 20 years ago, by the way, just so you understand, just to be very clear, events that never happened.

ACOSTA: Trump's wife, Melania, told CNN's Anderson Cooper she believes her husband and blames his hot mike moment on "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush.

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: 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.

TRUMP: Is the most corrupt person.

ACOSTA: The scandals have thrown Trump off-message at a critical time, when Republicans would rather focus on Clinton's e-mail saga.

TRUMP: This is felony corruption. This -- magnitudes worse, in my opinion and in the opinion of many people in law enforcement, this is worse than Watergate. ACOSTA: Democrats note it's Trump who has rhetorically cozied up to

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who U.S. authorities say is meddling in the November election.

TRUMP: I could see myself meeting with Putin and meeting with Russia prior to the start of the administration.

ACOSTA: President Obama argues Trump's praise for Putin should give Republicans pause.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The degree to which he appears to model many of his policies and approaches to politics on Mr. Putin is unprecedented in American politics.

ACOSTA: Trump still has his own issues with top GOP leaders, insisting House Speaker Paul Ryan, who says he will vote for Trump but will no longer defend him, is backing away from his party's nominee because he is eying 2020.

TRUMP: He maybe he wants to run in four years or maybe he doesn't know how to win. Maybe he just doesn't know how to win.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:05:05]

ACOSTA: And getting back to those allegations of sexual assault facing Donald Trump, "People" magazine is reporting that they have now been in touch with six people who are corroborating the story of "People" magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, who says Trump forced himself on her back in 2005.

So, Jake, at the moment, it seems there is more evidence that Donald Trump is guilty of at least one of these cases of sexual assault than there is of any voter fraud that is happening around the country -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

The political world is descending upon Las Vegas ahead of tomorrow night's pivotal showdown.

Let's bring in both Trump senior adviser Boris Epshteyn and CNN political commentator Angela Rye, who join us there.

Boris, let me start with you.

BORIS EPSHTEYN, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Sure.

TAPPER: President Obama just spoke about Trump's repeated warnings that this election is rigged. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If he got the most votes, then it would be my expectation of Hillary Clinton to offer a gracious concession speech and pledge to work with him in order to make sure that the American people benefit from an effective government.

And it would be my job to welcome Mr. Trump, regardless of what he said about me or my differences with him on my opinions, and escort him over to this Capitol.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Boris, that's the position of pretty much every other elected official, from Speaker Paul Ryan to Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, that there should be this orderly transfer of power and the loser concedes to the winner. Why are we not hearing that from Donald Trump?

EPSHTEYN: First of all, you have heard that from Donald Trump in the debates.

What Mr. Trump and our campaign are talking about is the rigged system in two ways, one, in terms of the media, 96 percent of donations or contributions in this cycle by the media to the Clinton campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Boris, that's from like restaurant -- Boris, that's from like TV critics and restaurant reviewers. That's not from me. That's not from Chris Cuomo. That's not from campaign staff or anybody covering the election.

EPSHTEYN: Listen, well, Jake, to be fair, those are the numbers that we have. If there are other numbers out there that refute that, we'd love to see them.

The coverage speaks for itself, 23-1 negative coverage of Mr. Trump of false accusations vs. the coverage of WikiLeaks and the FOIA requests that have come out now that show quid pro quo collusion and corruption.

As far as voter fraud goes, I was on the 2008 campaign, the McCain campaign, where we combated voter fraud. The whole Dallas Cowboys starting lineup was registered to vote right here in Nevada. And believe you me, they are not here in Nevada. And there is voter fraud in Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina, all over this country.

And all we're saying, as the campaign, is that we want to make sure that there is integrity in our elections. And there is no reason for anybody, any American, to not want that integrity.

TAPPER: Angela, go ahead.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Jake, I just want to chime in really quickly on the numbers question that Boris just raised.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: I so want to just look at him and just say, yes, I think that it's important to note that there is another number relative to media that we continue to forget. And I am sure it's much higher than it was in the summer.

That's that $2.1 billion number, Jake. And that relates to the amount of coverage that Donald Trump got in earned media. That is normally -- that's unprecedented. And Hillary Clinton certainly didn't have that benefit.

EPSHTEYN: But a lot of that was negative, though, right, Angela?

RYE: No, I don't think that it's all been negative. They have you on the screen, for example.

(CROSSTALK)

EPSHTEYN: That's very nice. I'm very happy.

RYE: The other point that I want to raise is on voter fraud.

There is a type of voter fraud that goes on. And it's the exact reason why Democrats in the House and the Senate pushed for the voting rights amendments act to ensure that Shelby vs. Holder is actually addressed in the Supreme Court and voting rights are restored.

There's something called voter suppression. That is the biggest fraud that we're dealing with in this country.

EPSHTEYN: If I may, Jake, people who are here illegally, people who are not citizens should not be allowed to vote.

Numbers show -- by Pew, numbers show that about 40 percent of people who are not citizens are registered to vote. People who are dead voting in Colorado. Those are the kind of instances, the kind of voter fraud we want to make sure does not happen.

(CROSSTALK)

EPSHTEYN: Barack Obama may have won -- that Barack Obama may have won in 2008 North Carolina due to illegal voting. Go ahead, Jake. Sorry.

RYE: Oh, my God.

TAPPER: Boris, where are you getting that from? Barack Obama won in North Carolina because of voter fraud?

RYE: It's outrageous. Outrageous.

EPSHTEYN: "The Washington Post" story that just came out a few days ago. Take a look at "The Washington Post" story that is saying that about 5 percent of voting in North Carolina may have been by people who are non-citizens who shouldn't have been voting and swung North Carolina to Mr. Obama, to President Obama, because of how tight that race in North Carolina was in 2008.

(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: Boris, will Mr. Trump accept the results of this election? I guess that's just the main question. Is he going to accept the results of this election?

EPSHTEYN: Listen, that's what he said. That's what he's stuck to.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: He said it, and then he took it back.

EPSHTEYN: But the bottom line is, we're going to win this election.

TAPPER: He said it, but took it back.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: Like he does everything else.

EPSHTEYN: Jake, we're going to win this election. We're going to win it with a message of national security and on the economy and the fact that Hillary Clinton is disqualified from being president, not just from the WikiLeaks information, but from what we now know as the quid pro quo from the State Department offering to declassify information in return for some FBI spots overseas.

[16:10:05]

TAPPER: Angela?

EPSHTEYN: More and more is coming out. We now know she cannot be allowed to be president.

TAPPER: OK. Angela?

RYE: So, Jake, as someone who prides herself in being a political nerd, I am eager for the day that this election turns to address issues.

We still can't address issues, because, instead of even WikiLeaks, we can't get to that, because we have to deal with Trump's sexual assault of women.

EPSHTEYN: Let's talk about WikiLeaks. I would love to talk about WikiLeaks.

RYE: No, I am sure you would, because you would really rather not talk about the sexual assault issue.

EPSHTEYN: There has been no corroboration.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: Oh, no, there is. There is actually more corroboration of Donald Trump's sexually assault women than there is of Barack Obama winning North Carolina because dead people voted for him.

(CROSSTALK)

EPSHTEYN: And they're not dead people. They're people who are here illegally.

RYE: Or either way.

The point of the matter is, we're going to now not only invalidate his citizenship, but the fact that he shouldn't even president.

(CROSSTALK)

EPSHTEYN: No. No one is talking about that.

This is a report in "The Washington Post" that specifically talked about the fact that people who should not be voting voted in North Carolina. Now, as far as the issues, let's talk about the issues.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Boris, I am sure that there is voter fraud, and I am sure that people who should not have voted.

But you are suggesting, stunningly, that the only reason President Obama won North Carolina in 2008 is because of corruption in the electoral process. And it's an astounding charge that I have never heard before you said it.

EPSHTEYN: Jake, that is not what I am suggesting. What I'm suggesting...

(CROSSTALK)

EPSHTEYN: And look at "The Washington Post" article that there is an argument to be made that enough people who should not have been voting in North Carolina in 2008 voted to swing the election.

RYE: It is outrageous.

EPSHTEYN: ... which was decided by about over 100,000 votes to President Obama.

And we want to make sure again that in this election cycle, the election is full of integrity, the election is proper, and people who shouldn't be voting are not voting. That's the bottom line.

And I would love to talk about issues. I would love to talk about our suggestion on ethics reform, making sure that people are not lobbying the government right after leaving it. I would love to talk about that.

TAPPER: Angela, I want to give you the last word.

EPSHTEYN: Draining the swamp.

RYE: I just think this is extremely rich from a campaign that has demonstrated no integrity, no transparency. We're still waiting on Donald Trump's tax returns. We're talking

about e-mails now and FBI files now that involve someone that it wasn't even Hillary Clinton. We have spent all week talking about WikiLeaks that don't have anything to do...

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: I'm not done, Boris.

That don't have anything to do with Hillary Clinton. It's John Podesta's e-mails. So, it's just interesting to me.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: Donald Trump is never -- is never responsible for his surrogates, for his staff, ever.

But Hillary Clinton has to be responsible for the president, for the undersecretary, for her chief of staff. It's just not even -- it's not even parallel. So, we can't even have a debate on the issues that make sense because we're all over the place in comparison...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: No, Boris, I'm sorry. That's all the time we have.

(CROSSTALK)

EPSHTEYN: Podesta is the chair of the Clinton campaign. Of course it has to do with her. She is the one that set up the server.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: OK. Thanks, Boris. Angela, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it. I will talk to you in Las Vegas soon.

More stolen e-mails from the Clinton campaign have been released. And one might make all those Bernie bros burning mad -- that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:02] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Let's stay with politics. Again today, Hillary Clinton is buried in debate prep books. Meaning, we will have to wait until tomorrow night on the debate stage in Las Vegas to hear her answers to questions about stolen e-mail published by WikiLeaks.

The latest stolen from John Podesta's private account reveal the Clinton campaign chief parceling out potential vice presidential picks into, quote, "food groups". In an email to the candidate on March 17th of this year, Podesta breaks up the choices into easily digestible groups with common themes -- Latinos, women in elected office, white men, black men, former military men, business executives, and in a category all by himself, Senator Bernie Sanders who at that point was still locked in a very intense, close primary battle with Clinton.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Las Vegas, ahead of tomorrow's debate.

Jeff, you might remember in 2012, Democrats and some in the media vilifying Governor Romney when talking about trying to have qualified women in his government in Massachusetts, said he requested, quote, "binders full of women" to fill cabinet positions. But here we have an e-mail showing Clinton getting V.P. choices according to, you know, their own little binders. Binders full of women, binders full of Latinos, binders full of military, et cetera.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, either a double standard or Democratic diversity. Clearly showing the array of options here as politically correct or incorrect as that might be. But it certainly highlights all of the new topics that could come up at this third debate tomorrow evening. All of those stolen e-mails that Secretary Clinton has been going through herself, I'm told, and preparing for them to come up when he she faces Donald Trump.

Now, Jake, she is flying here as we speak, she'll be landing shortly, going directly into more practice here. So President Obama, he is taking his turn at taking on Trump today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REPORTER: How's today's prep?

ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton giving a thumbs up, setting off for her final face-to-face showdown with Donald Trump.

Staying off the campaign trail and above the fray, President Obama weighing in from the Rose Garden, talking of Trump and his talk of a rigged election.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.

ZELENY: On the eve of the third presidential debate, aides to Clinton tell CNN she is bracing for the toughest tangle yet. They believe Trump is becoming increasingly desperate.

An uncivil tone in St. Louis, starting without a handshake could escalate in Las Vegas Wednesday night.

Since their last meeting, Trump is spiraling among Republicans. But new questions for Clinton, too -- on hacked campaign e-mails, revealing one calculation after another, and paid speeches to Goldman Sachs showing a friendly approach to Wall Street. And whether the State Department pressed the FBI to return e-mails retroactively classified to their original unclassified setting.

It was here in Las Vegas one year ago when Clinton breathed a sigh of relief on her e-mails.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Enough of the e-mails! Let's talk about the real issues facing America.

(CHEERS)

[16:20:04] HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Bernie.

ZELENY: Yet three weeks before Election Day, it's hardly behind her. Advisors tell CNN that Clinton devoted considerable time in debate practice, once again to put to rest the lingering controversy over e- mail and serious questions about her honesty and trustworthiness.

But those questions have been overshadowed by Trump's own talk.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a rigged system. But you have to say, we figured it out, right? We figured it out.

ZELENY: The president stopping just shy of mocking Trump, seemingly trying to provoke him on the eve of the debate.

OBAMA: Whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else. Then you don't have what it takes to be in this job.

ZELENY: To extinguish Trump's talk of a rigged election, Democrats are trying to run up the score, making new investments in red states like Arizona, Georgia and Utah, and trying to capture control of the Senate by winning seats in Indiana and Missouri.

All this as Democrats are still dealing with the fallout from campaign chairman John Podesta's stolen e-mails. Another batch published today on WikiLeaks reveals House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's reluctance to back Clinton. Top aide Huma Abedin wrote campaign manager Robby Mook, "HRC asked for her endorsement and she didn't say yes. HRC said she felt it was a non-answer." Mook replied, "That's frustrating but I think she will get big kudos for asking."

Pelosi's endorsement came nearly a year later, after Clinton's primary fight with Bernie Sanders. The hacked e-mails show Sanders is also the subject of scorn. Podesta displaying his contempt for Sanders after the Paris climate agreement, writing, "Can you believe that doofus Bernie attacked it?"

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Well, that doofus Bernie today, Jake, is campaigning for the Clinton campaign in Arizona. He has become a good soldier since losing the primary fight to Hillary Clinton. I asked an aide to Senator Sanders what he thought of it. They said, "We're frankly surprised there wasn't something stronger or worse in those e-mails."

But, Jake, I'm also told that John Podesta has apologized for his language to the senator from Vermont -- Jake.

TAPPER: And fact check. I don't think -- I don't think Senator Sanders is a doofus.

Jeff Zeleny in Las Vegas, thank you so much.

ZELENY: Indeed.

TAPPER: WikiLeaks not the only problem for Hillary Clinton. The State Department now responding to documents that critics say show a quid pro quo discussion between the department and the FBI.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:47] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Sticking with politics. Democrats and Republicans today both addressed allegations that Patrick Kennedy, a top State Department official, repeatedly pushed the FBI to change the classification level of one of Hillary Clinton's emails related to the Benghazi terrorist attacks. There was even talk, we're told, of a quid pro quo. The FBI would change the classification if the State Department would help the bureau on another issue. The information coming from newly released documents and the FBI investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state.

Let's get right to CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

And, Jim, some Republicans on Capitol Hill are looking for Patrick Kennedy to be fired.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In fact, just moments ago, Donald Trump himself called for Undersecretary Kennedy to be fired.

So, you look at this. In one e-mail, certainly both the phrasing and the subject matter that Trump and his supporters might have been looking for, hoping for, the actual phrase "quid pro quo" in relation to a debate about the classification of an e-mail involving, of all things, Benghazi.

So, we took a closer look at what the exchange actually proves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLINTON: Hi.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, competing claims on communications between the State Department and the FBI over the classification of one of Hillary Clinton's e-mails. Republican nominee Donald Trump calling it proof of illegal collusion, intended to protect Clinton from criminal charges.

TRUMP: The undersecretary of state, Patrick Kennedy, illegally pressured the FBI to unclassify e-mails from Hillary's illegal server. In other words, the State Department was trying to cover up Hillary's crimes of sending classified information -- SCIUTTO: Both the State Department and the FBI have denied this was a

quid pro quo, despite the allegations of an FBI employee who used that very phrase.

On CNN today, State Department spokesman John Kirby offered this explanation about the e-mail which, at the time it was sent, was not marked classified.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Pat Kennedy did call the FBI and tried to get a little bit better understanding about why they wanted one particular email classified secret. We didn't see it that way. We didn't think it needed to be classified. But the FBI held firm to their position. There was no bargain was rendered. This was simple, an inter-agency conversation about the classification over one particular e-mail.

SCIUTTO: Here's what the emails and interview notes from the FBI's Clinton email investigation show. The allegation is based on two somewhat contradictory interviews with FBI officials recently released to the public.

In the first, someone from the FBI's records management division whose name has been redacted told investigators that another FBI employee told him that the State Department undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy, pressured to have one e-mail remain unclassified in exchange for a quid pro quo. The return favor: stationing more FBI agents overseas in sensitive areas. According to investigators' notes, the individual believed, quote, "State has an agenda which involves minimizing the classified nature of the Clinton e-mails to protect state interests and those of Clinton," end quote.

But a second FBI employee who said that he or she spoke to Undersecretary Kennedy personally said that it was the FBI, not the State Department, that proposed the quid pro quo, that is stationing more agents abroad. To be clear, in the end, the email in question was upgrade to "classified" and no new FBI agents were stationed overseas.