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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway; Colin Powell Voting for Hillary Clinton; Health Care Debate; Clinton, Trump Campaign in Florida; Sources: Clinton Stepping Up Transition Planning; Will Trump Reduce Attacks on Journalists?; U.S. May Recover Remains of Americans Killed by ISIS. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 25, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:04]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And Jihadi John's victims. CNN has learned that U.S. officials may have a lead on where to find the remains of American hostages murdered by one of the most notorious killers in ISIS.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This hour, we're standing by to hear from Donald Trump. He's in Florida. He's pushing a new line of attack against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats with exactly two weeks to go before the election.

Trump is seizing on a new report that shows Obamacare premiums will spike next year, saying the system is blowing up around the country. As Trump and Hillary Clinton both campaign in Florida, our new CNN/ORC poll shows more than two-thirds of Americans believe Clinton will win the election; 61 percent don't think Trump will accept the results and concede.

Also tonight, former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell reveals he is voting for Hillary Clinton. It's a high-profile snub of Trump by a Clinton predecessor at the State Department. He also endorsed President Obama in both of his White House bids.

Another story we're following, there is new hope tonight of finding the remains of American hostages murdered by Jihadi John now that ISIS has been pushed out of some areas in Northern Syria. CNN has learned U.S. officials received a tip about where some remains may be buried.

I will talk presidential politics with Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. She is here. She's standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts, as we bring you full coverage of the day's top story.

Up first, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, with more on Trump's swing through Florida.

What's the latest, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Donald Trump is exploiting the news that insurance costs are shooting up under Obamacare. It is an issue that has worked for Republicans in the past. But Trump is also revealing he doesn't quite understand who is covered under Obamacare, including his own employees.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Donald Trump stepped off his plane in Florida to big cheers, having landed what could be a potent issue for the last two weeks of the campaign.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans are going to experience another massive double-digit hike. Now, they said 25 percent? Forget 20 -- you will take 25 percent. It is going to be 60, 70, 80, 90 percent. You're going to brush up on your negotiation ability, believe me.

ACOSTA: The GOP nominee is seizing on the latest report on Obamacare that finds consumers who buy their insurance through the Affordable Care Act will see their premiums go up on average 22 percent next year.

TRUMP: Obamacare is just blowing up.

ACOSTA: Out to show how that spike will affect working Americans, Trump introduced reporters to some of his hotel employees in Florida.

TRUMP: And I can say all of my employees are having a tremendous problem with Obamacare. You folks, this is another group. Is that a correct statement? You look at what they're going through and what they're going through with their health care is horrible because of Obamacare.

ACOSTA: The problem, Trump and even the hotel's general manager later acknowledged those workers don't receive their insurance through Obamacare. They get it from Trump.

DAVID FEDER, TRUMP DORAL GENERAL MANAGER: I would say 99 percent of our employees are insured through the through the hotel, through our insurance. Maybe there's a few that are insured through Obamacare, but very, very few, because we supply it.

ACOSTA: Still, Obamacare's latest struggles come at a critical time for endangered Republicans, like New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, who quickly turned the news into an attack ad against her opponent.

NARRATOR: Maggie Hassan can't stand up to her party. She supports the broken health care law that even Bill Clinton called:

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The craziest thing in the world.

ACOSTA: Trailing in the polls, Trump is eager for some kind of campaign game-changer, conceding to FOX News he has to win Florida or else.

TRUMP: I believe Florida is a must-win. And I think we're winning it. I think we're winning it big.

ACOSTA: And he once again slammed the allegations from the women accusing him of sexual assault.

TRUMP: I'm innocent and I did nothing.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, excuse me. These were made-up tales.

ACOSTA: In the election's final days, Trump is offering himself as a fighter for everyday Americans who he says are being misled by a dishonest news media.

TRUMP: Just about the biggest part of the crooked establishment are these people right back there with the phony cameras.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: They're a bunch of phony lowlifes.

ACOSTA: It is an image of a brawler that Trump talked up an interview in "The New York Times" two years ago.

TRUMP: I love to fight. I always love to fight.

QUESTION: Physical fights?

TRUMP: Yes, all kinds of fights.

QUESTION: Arguments?

TRUMP: All types of fights. Any kind of fight, I like it, including physical.

ACOSTA: Back at his golf course in Florida, Trump asked a few of his employees the sing his praises, that their tough-talking boss does indeed look out for hardworking Americans.

TRUMP: Better say good, or I will say, you're fired. I will say, who is that guy? You're fired.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:05:04]

ACOSTA: And Trump will be spending more time at one of his properties. Tomorrow, he is scheduled to attend the ribbon-cutting of his new hotel in Washington, D.C., Wolf.

You will recall Trump was there earlier this year when he acknowledged that President Obama is an American citizen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember it, of course. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

In city after city, Donald Trump is telling Florida voters what they want to hear, that he is poised to win the battleground state, despite polls that show he is trailing right now.

Our political reporter, Sara Murray, is over at Trump's last stop tonight in Tallahassee.

Sara, Trump is still struggling to stay on message. What is the latest?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump has actually done a pretty good job today of focusing on the spike in health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

But he did an interview with Rush Limbaugh that sort of get the push and pull behind Donald Trump, the fight between what his advisers want him to say and his instinct to fight back.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: I would rather, Rush, fight it, even though most people say you should not do that. But if you fight it, at least you're telling the truth. At least the word is out that you're innocent of these charges or stating you're innocent.

But other people say, stay on jobs. Stay on Obamacare and repealing it, et cetera. So, I guess there's two theories. I would rather fight it, but everyone says you shouldn't do it. Just go along.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, this gives you an idea of why Donald Trump has repeatedly hit back, not only at the nearly a dozen women who have accused him of unwanted sexual advances, but why he continues to go after political rivals from the primaries and why he still goes after people like Paul Ryan who offered only tepid support for him along the way.

And this is something that his campaign advisers have been struggling with through all the various iterations of those who have led his campaign. Can he drive a message that will bring home Republicans or independent voters, or does he always have to be up for a fight, Wolf?

BLITZER: Sara Murray joining us, thanks, Sara, very, very much.

Let's bring in the Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. She's with me here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Kellyanne, thanks very much for joining us.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we have got a lot to discuss.

Let's go through Obamacare first. Donald Trump seemed to stumble today when he was talking about the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. He said his employees, his employees are having tremendous problem with Obamacare.

But shortly thereafter, after he said that, his manager at his country club, at the resort where he was, said almost of his employees don't use Obamacare, they have private health insurance through the Trump Organization. He himself later acknowledged that. He said -- but he did also say the Obamacare wouldn't take care of his people.

Does he really understand what Obamacare does and doesn't do?

CONWAY: Yes, he does.

And what we should all understand is that Donald Trump is among the most generous bosses. I would call those employees who do not have to suffer you understand Obamacare the lucky ones, because they work for the Trump Organization and they're insured fully.

BLITZER: Why do he say that they're suffering, they're having tremendous problems because of Obamacare?

CONWAY: I think he is talking to all Americans when he says that, Wolf.

BLITZER: No, he was referring to his employees.

CONWAY: Well, and later on, he clarified. But he is right.

He's absolutely right when he talks about all the Americans who were lied to 27 times by President Obama. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. That was just a lie. Jonathan Gruber, the architect of Obamacare, was a liar.

They want to push us all into single-payer. And I think Hillary Clinton is in a very tough spot here politically, Wolf. She either has to say Obamacare has been a great idea for America. Don't care the fact that there will be a 25 percent premium like, that you have lost access, quality, choices. It's a bad deal.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What she says is, it needs to be improved. It is working; 20 million people have health insurance now they didn't have before. Kids can stay on their parents' program until the age of 26. If you have preexisting conditions, you can still get health insurance.

It has done some good things. Right?

CONWAY: You're much more articulate about it, by the way, than she is. She basically tries to throw the needle a little bit more generally and less specifically.

But she is in a tough spot, because most Americans don't think Obamacare has been a great idea, that it has really worked. And they keep seeing people like -- providers like Aetna and UnitedHealthcare pulling out of the state exchanges and claiming billions of dollars in losses. In some counties where Mr. Trump visits, you're down to one, two providers. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There's no doubt that there's been some good things of it, some bad things about it.

Let me play you a little clip. This is a new ad, a Trump campaign ad speaking about health care in the United States and Obamacare specifically.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump didn't create this problem, but his plan makes things better.

NARRATOR: Donald Trump's plan, repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered health care that promotes choice, quality and affordability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'm sure you helped put that ad together. At least you oversaw it.

But he doesn't go into specifics. What are his specific plans to make -- replace, do away with Obamacare? What does he want?

[18:10:00]

CONWAY: Sure.

He talked about this in his 100-day plan, which is on our Web site and on his Twitter feed.

BLITZER: But he didn't provide all the specific details that the country is obviously anxious to hear.

CONWAY: Sure.

The one thing he would do -- this is through his tax plan too -- he would get rid of the Obamacare penalty on day one. That's part of his tax plan and health care plan.

Secondly, he would allow you to buy insurance over state lines. And it's exactly the way you can buy your car insurance now. Many Americans say this doesn't make much sense. Why can't it be a more competitive system, where I can shop around as consumer?

We shop around all the time as consumers. Why, when it's something as precious and intimate as our health care, we can't do that?

BLITZER: But if there is no penalty, a lot of people are not going to buy health insurance and they are just going to go to the emergency room as hospitals, as what they do right now. The incentive to buy health insurance is because you're going to be fined if you don't buy it.

CONWAY: Well, the penalty is not an incentive. A penalty is a penalty. And that's what currently exists under Obamacare.

And it has been really a burden for many Americans. But he also is going on block grant Medicaid to the states. And he also will have plans that are more patient-centered and free market in nature. Right now, they are still very insurance-centric. And I think for him, what -- he believes in free market principles. It extends over into repealing and replacing Obamacare in a way where people get health savings accounts. You own the health savings account.

BLITZER: Does he support the health care plan put forward by Paul Ryan, the speaker, and the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives?

CONWAY: So there are pieces of it that are very attractive.

BLITZER: Not the whole thing, though?

CONWAY: No. There are pieces of it that are very attractive to us. And they ought to -- frankly, they should be coming out and endorsing his plan, because it looks much like a Republican plan would look.

And I just want to say, I agree with Mike Pence and Sean Spicer today.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Very specifically, one thing you don't like about Paul Ryan's plan?

CONWAY: Well, I don't think that they go as far into health savings accounts as we might.

But, look, he is also the nominee of the party. And being the nominee of the party means that he is setting the stage and setting the content and the specifics for what he believes true meaningful post- Obamacare reform looks like.

Look, the House has repealed it many times. But they never actually put a plan forward where people feel that that is a doable replacement as long as Obama or Hillary are president.

No, all I was going to say is, I think the whole conversation is a good one, in terms of, if you want to find party unity in the Republican Party, you want these Republicans, the voters and the senators and the governors, the congressmen to come home to us, the nominee, Obamacare is a great galvanizing issue for that. It is the issue that helped in 2010 and 2014 to help Republicans win everything.

BLITZER: Yes. I know you want Paul Ryan's support.

But let me just button this up. Children would be able to stay on their parents' health insurance programs until the age of 26? Would you support that?

CONWAY: No. That is not part of our plan.

BLITZER: Preexisting conditions, if you have preexisting condition, you can still get health insurance?

CONWAY: That's a very attractive feature that already exists, yes.

BLITZER: You would support that? That's part of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, as well.

And the 20 million Americans who now have health insurance who didn't have it before, what happens to them?

CONWAY: They will be protected, but they won't have the awful plan they have now. That's the whole point.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Will they be protected because they get subsidies that will enable them to buy health insurance?

CONWAY: By and large, yes, depending on their own situations, Wolf. It is not a one size fits all for those 20 million.

But it has been for Obamacare. Counting numbers and saying, well, you now have health insurance because we said so, because we like the check the box and shift moneys around, it is disingenuous. If what you have is a really bad deal, if what you have is no access to the pediatrician that you're used to relying upon, you couldn't keep your doctor. That was the hugest lie of all.

And we're being pushed probably eventually into a single-payer system, particularly if Hillary Clinton wants to get those Bernie Sanders supporters, who by and large supported Bernie Sanders over her in 22 of the states he beat her in large part because of the single-payer system. They want to take us in a new, in a different direction completely, far to the left of Donald Trump's free market...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That's what Bernie Sanders wants, not necessarily Hillary Clinton.

CONWAY: No, no, but his supporters certainly do.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Many of his supporters do like that single-payer plan that he really likes, but she's never gone that far.

CONWAY: She hasn't, but she may as president. And she may because who knows what she's saying in some of her correspondence with those voters? Because obviously they're not all sold on her. Some of them can vote for Gary Johnson. Some of them may vote for Jill Stein.

BLITZER: Let's talk about polls, because you're a pollster. You're a professional pollster. We have known each other for a long time.

North Carolina right now, there's a "New York Times"/Siena College poll that just came out, Hillary Clinton 46 percent, Donald Trump 39 percent, Gary Johnson 8 percent.

That is a significant -- is that a good poll? You're familiar with polls.

CONWAY: Well, that particular margin is the largest we have seen in anybody's polling.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: If he loses in North Carolina, it's over, right?

CONWAY: Well, it's the only one of the nine swing states that Mitt Romney actually did win.

BLITZER: Barely.

CONWAY: And barely. He lost eight of the nine. And he had all the Republicans supporting him, including Donald Trump, by the by.

But, in North Carolina, Hillary Clinton and her team seem quite focused on North Carolina as well. So, we know that they're going to leave it all on the field there. But that seven points is the largest gap we have ever seen externally or internally.

BLITZER: You do internal polls too?

CONWAY: Yes. We do.

BLITZER: What are your polls showing?

CONWAY: Tighter than that.

BLITZER: In North Carolina?

CONWAY: Yes. And we show Hillary Clinton under 50 and usually well under 50 in all the swing states.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: In your poll, is he ahead or behind in North Carolina?

CONWAY: In North Carolina, it is closer to tied in North Carolina.

[18:15:00]

BLITZER: And what about Florida?

CONWAY: And Florida is closer to tied.

In Florida and North Carolina and about four of the other seven states, four of the other six states, Wolf, we're within the margin of error of Hillary Clinton. I think Donald Trump is going to win the election. He is also ahead in places like Ohio and Iowa internally. These are states that Mitt Romney and John McCain both lost to President Obama. Hillary Clinton is nowhere near President Obama's 52, 53, 55 percent margins in some of these states. BLITZER: So you're convinced he is going to win still?

CONWAY: Yes, I'm convinced he is going to win.

BLITZER: Two weeks to go.

But if he doesn't win Florida, if he doesn't win North Carolina, it's over, right?

CONWAY: The path is much harder.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It's not just much harder. It is over.

CONWAY: Well, we don't like to say things are over. We will leave that narrative to people who are already critical of him and want the race to be over.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But he desperately needs -- he himself acknowledges Florida is a must-win state.

CONWAY: The race will be over on November 8 or when the election results are certified and verified, not two weeks beforehand, when most Americans still have not exercised their franchise.

It's not up to me, you, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to rob people of their voice.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: No, we never want to rob anybody's voice.

CONWAY: Well, telling people it's over and telling people...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Nobody has said it's over. We are just reporting on the poll results right now.

And this new CNN poll shows, and speaking about when it is over, look at this. If Trump loses, we asked the American people, will he accept results and concede? Yes, 35 percent. No, 61 percent; 61 percent don't think he is going to concede. That's a problem, right?

CONWAY: Well, it is an opinion poll. They're just telling you -- they are guessing based on things they don't know.

BLITZER: So many Americans don't think he would concede if it's over and he loses.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me ask you the question. If it's over and he loses, and no major recounts or anything like that, he will concede, right?

CONWAY: He has said it depends on what the results are.

He cannot make that judgment now, any more than Hillary Clinton can...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But if there's no recount, no challenges, no significant discrepancies, he will concede.

CONWAY: It depends.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Depends on what?

CONWAY: Well, you said no significant discrepancies. Is there evidence of widespread voter fraud somewhere?

BLITZER: But I just said if this isn't widespread voter fraud.

CONWAY: Well, that's a very tough hypothetical for me to answer, because it would be like asking Al Gore in the chair 16 years ago at this moment, hey, if George W. Bush is certified the winner, if he is winning Florida, and all the other votes are counted, will you -- he would say sure.

But he did concede. Then he retracted his concession. Then we went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Why? Because you can't possibly anticipate every single hypothetical. You have to wait to see the results.

But Donald Trump loves American democracy and adheres to the principles of American democracy. It is why he is out there running. And, look, the reason I think -- something I think nobody is covering here is, if you look at his crowds -- and I know right now the journalists are writing stories like, Kellyanne still thinks that crowds matter.

The crowds matter. Come to our rallies. The idea that people stand out there in line for four to eight hours just to be there as one of 10,000, 15,000, they're all voting, Wolf.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Bernie Sanders had huge rallies.

CONWAY: And he won 22 states.

BLITZER: He had much bigger numbers than Hillary Clinton had. But he didn't win the nomination, though. But he had bigger rallies.

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: But he came really close. He won like eight of nine contests there for a while. He won 22 states. BLITZER: Oh, he did remarkably well.

CONWAY: He did remarkably well.

BLITZER: But he had huge numbers at his rallies.

CONWAY: And it is analogous, believe me. It is analogous.

BLITZER: Donald Trump does have huge numbers at his rallies as well.

CONWAY: Those are supporters.

And I will tell you something else that we're just starting to see out there. And I just talked to Mr. Trump within the hour. And we were talking about how, in Florida, as they're leaving a rally with 15,000 people, they see these polling places of people standing in line.

They're all -- many of them are wearing make America great again red hats and all and Trump stuff head to toe. We see -- the RNC provides us a daily or every-other-day report on the early vote returns, the absentee balloting and early voting returns. We feel very good about where we are in states like Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, which form our core four. And then we add to that to get to 270.

BLITZER: Is that why he is taking some time off tomorrow to come here to Washington, D.C., for the formal opening of his brand-new hotel? Because a lot of pundits out there -- you know this, Kellyanne -- they're, why is he doing this? Why is he promoting his business with only, what, tomorrow, 13 days left to go?

CONWAY: Well, they actually don't support him to begin with. They are his critics, naysayers. And they do everything they can to get in his way, between him and the voters. It's not working.

But I will say this. When you go and look at that...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Is it better for him to be opening up his hotel tomorrow, instead of letting his kids open up the hotel, rather than being in Florida or North Carolina?

CONWAY: Well, he's done 12 stops in Florida in 2.5 days.

Nobody accuses Trump of taking time off. Believe me, the guy, we don't even know when he sleeps or if he does. The guy is in indefatigable.

And he is -- nobody asks Hillary Clinton, why do you have five days off before the debate? But he's coming to open a hotel that is under budget and ahead of schedule. It's a great illustration to America of what he does.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But he opened the hotel about a month-and-a-half ago or so, and that was the soft opening. But the hotel has been open now for at least a month or six weeks.

CONWAY: This is the grand official opening. And it's been scheduled this way for a long time. And we're very excited to show America what this man actually does. He fixes things. He builds things.

And it's a family business.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The whole family is going to be there tomorrow at the opening?

CONWAY: They're expected to be, yes.

And exactly the way he's built his business is the way he wants to repair America. Look, you can't have politicians running the debt. We're at $19 trillion worth of debt. You need a businessman. You need somebody who fixes and solves things for a living. And we will see an illustration of that tomorrow. Under budget, ahead of schedule, who else is D.C. can claim that?

[18:20:04]

BLITZER: Under budget, ahead of schedule,

CONWAY: Yes.

BLITZER: All right.

CONWAY: This is Washington.

BLITZER: Kellyanne, stand by. There's more to discuss.

We will take a quick break, resume our coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, as Donald Trump campaigns in Florida tonight with just two weeks to go before Election Day.

Kellyanne, I want to play a clip. This is November 12, 2008, after the election. President Obama won that election. Listen to what he said then about Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and others. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I think her history is far from being over. I'd like to answer that question in another 15 years from now. I think she is going to go down at a minimum as a great senator. I think she is a great wife to a president. And I think Bill Clinton was a great president.

[18:25:15]

You look at the country then. The economy was doing great. Look at what happened during the Clinton years. I mean, we had no war, the economy was doing great, everybody was happy. A lot of people hated him because they were jealous as hell. You know, people get jealous and they hate you.

Dominic, do you have that problem?

QUESTION: Honestly, yes.

TRUMP: You do. I can imagine you do.

But a lot of people don't like him because they're jealous of him. But Bill Clinton was a great president.

I hope we can be so lucky in terms of the economy and in terms of other aspects. We weren't in wars with -- I'm not blaming -- Afghanistan, by the way, is probably a place that we should be. Iraq, we shouldn't be. And we should have never been.

Iraq is interesting, because, in Iraq, Saddam Hussein used to kill terrorists. He used to kill terrorists. Now Iraq is the breeding ground for terrorists. That's where everyone goes. Like some people go to Harvard, some people go to the Wharton School of Finance. If you're a terrorist, you to go Iraq.

So, we just made some bad decisions. Bill Clinton was a great president. Hillary Clinton is a great woman and a good woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Kellyanne, what he said then is a lot different what he says about Hillary and Bill Clinton, for that matter, today. What changed? What happened?

CONWAY: Well, he got to witness Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and then the way she's run this campaign. And he is unimpressed.

The Russia reset is hers. She owns Syria, she owns Libya, she owns the Middle East, she owns a lot of the missteps that she made as secretary of state. And, frankly, I think Donald Trump, in running for this office this year, Wolf, has had an opportunity to really scour the records of politicians.

He suspected that they're all talk and no action. But in a closer look at Hillary Clinton's Senate record, she just never made good on her promises to bring "200,000 new jobs" to Upstate New York.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But he did say in 2008, at a minimum, she was a great senator.

CONWAY: Yes.

BLITZER: Do you think he believed what he was saying then? CONWAY: I think, yes, he probably thought that she was a great senator, meaning like he didn't hear anything bad about her.

But that's the problem with politicians. The standard is not first do no harm. It's, how are you producing for your constituents? Did she make good on her promises?

And when you look at her Senate record in retrospect, it is a pretty unremarkable Senate record. I think she sponsored -- she was co- sponsor of plenty of bills, as many of them are. But things that really had her signature and really were hers as pride of place, three bills, one about a civil area, one about renaming a post office and one about renaming a highway.

Wow. That's really presidential material. The other thing is that Donald Trump has been complimentary to Hillary Clinton recently. Last week, it was reported at the Catholic dinner in New York, the Al Smith Dinner, that he said to her, you're one tough competitor, one tough, smart competitor.

He said when he was asked by I believe cn's Anderson Cooper or ABC's Martha Raddatz, he was asked, can you say the nicest thing? And he said, she doesn't quit, she's a good fighter, that kind of thing. He's complimented her family.

So, he is incredibly gracious toward her, but that doesn't mean he thinks she would be a good president of the United States. He clearly thinks she would not. We feel like she has an unremarkable record in the United States Senate and a very questionable record as secretary of state.

BLITZER: He also says she's crooked, she belongs in jail, she shouldn't be eligible to run for president and a nasty woman.

CONWAY: Well, the crooked and rigged part, the rigged system, I think many Americans agree with that. They feel like they're always on the outside looking in and wondering why friends of Bill Clinton would get commercial contracts to go and help...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Were you uncomfortable when he called her a nasty woman?

CONWAY: I think she said very nasty things about him, definitely. And she does constantly. And, by the way, she just say them on the debate stage. She says them on the stump.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Do you think she's a nasty woman?

CONWAY: No, I don't think she's a nasty woman.

But I think she was acting nastily toward him. She's a woman who was acting nastily toward him at that moment and does plenty, and, by the way, puts -- Wolf, puts millions and millions of dollars of ad money behind that nastiness.

I'm just astonished the Democratic Party that I grew up in is comfortable with this campaign, they're comfortable with the lack of aspiration and optimism, an uplifting message, and even sort of vision.

It is all anti-Donald Trump. That's no way to sell yourself to the American people. It is a way to sort of run out the clock and hope nobody is looking.

BLITZER: But you're familiar with campaign ads. And she is using his words against him. Those are -- most of her ads are like that.

CONWAY: No, they're really cherry-picked.

She's even been -- that's even been criticized by someone like Chris Matthews. He has said, well, you're taking that quote and you're putting it out of context here. Many people feel that way about campaign ads in general.

But I will tell you where she is not most days. She is not where Donald Trump is. He is with the people. I think even his biggest critics would have to give him enormous credit for taking his case directly to the people, mainly because he thinks he can't get a fair shake elsewhere.

But also, it's his oxygen, it's his lifeblood to be with the voters, to show up where they live, message to them. And then what you sometimes don't see in the bigger reports, Wolf, is he will go and he will do a smaller event somewhere. He will work the rope line for a very long time.

People love being with him and he loves being with them. And that's why he's running.

[18:30:03] BLITZER: We're hearing a lot now from the Clinton team about their transition team, who they're thinking of having cabinet secretaries, White House chief of staff. How's your transition team coming along? Is Chris Christie still in charge of that?

CONWAY: Chris Christie is involved in that. Yes, he is involved.

BLITZER: Is he in charge or involved?

CONWAY: I believe he -- yes, he is in charge.

BLITZER: Because we haven't seen or heard from him much lately.

CONWAY: Well, transition likes to do their work away from the spotlight. I think that's -- and they should. That's part of what they should. But we have a really good team. They're based here in Washington, obviously. And Governor Christie and some of his closest advisors have been helping us. In addition, other folks...

BLITZER: Are you actively vetting people as we speak right now for positions? CONWAY: Yes. Because we're going on win, so we have to get ready to

form a government. And along that -- along those lines, we find many talented people who'd like to serve in a Donald Trump-Mike Pence administration. We're really happy about that. We're not doing it because we're presumptuous. I think the way my friends across the aisle are doing it. But we're doing it because it's a very serious prospect to form a government in a very small time.

BLITZER: Are you comfortable with the attacks he's launched against the news media? You've worked with the news media for a long time. Low-lives, and he uses all sorts of other ugly words. Are you comfortable with that?

CONWAY: So I usually avoid personal insults myself. I don't call people out by name. I think we're all very disappointed and very concerned. Kind of shocked to read some of the things we read from working journalists, either giving untold amounts of money to Hillary Clinton's campaign or, I think worse, specific journalists, Wolf, who are inviting John Podesta, the campaign chairman, to change words or passages or paragraphs or quotes in a written piece. I mean, that's not journalism; that's advocacy. And frankly, that's collusion.

So if there's any spectrum between coziness to collaboration to collusion, any of that would bother us.

I think if you're Donald Trump, you realize that, whether it's Jim Rutenberg's article in "The New York Times" a couple months ago or other articles since, many journalists have admitted that Donald Trump compels them to suspend objective standards of journalism. I think America deserves to have the race covered fairly.

BLITZER: You know what worries me, and I'm not objective on this, because I'm on the steering committee, the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press, and I really believe in a free press.

CONWAY: Yes.

BLITZER: And I'm sure you do, as well. The working journalists, the embeds who are traveling with him all the time. They go to all these rallies. They're in this pen. He points to them. He sort of eggs the crowd on to go after them. These -- and there are a lot of young journalists there. They're scared sometimes.

CONWAY: I know them all. I respect them all. I'm glad they're on our campaign.

BLITZER: He shouldn't be doing that. I mean, can you talk to him and say to him, "Mr. Trump, we only have a few days left. These are hard- working young journalists. They deserve to have some security, if you will." Because some of those Trump supporters out there, they get pretty nasty in what they're screaming at these young people.

CONWAY: Look, your first point, yes, I will tell him that.

Secondly -- and he's probably watching right now. But secondly, I -- the only violence I saw at rallies was what we saw on videotape by somebody whose cohorts were in the White House, 346 times. Actively paying people, $1,500 a pop, to be protestors to incite violence at Trump rallies. That's being done by Democratic operatives. It goes all the way -- the stink goes all the way up the chain through the DNC and related groups and to Hillary Clinton's campaign. That's all I saw.

But I would tell you, I'll make a deal with those embeds, because they know -- I know them...

BLITZER: They're young. They're in their 20s and their 30s. They're young journalists.

CONWAY: That's right. And so I'll excuse -- I'll excuse some of their tweets. But their Twitter feed is -- for some of them, the Twitter feed is almost -- we've done an analysis -- 85, 90 percent negative toward Donald Trump. You didn't hear anything good to say? There's nothing good to report that day that you would actually put on your Twitter feed? So I think the responsibility has to go both ways.

But you're right. I am open press. I believe in a free press. I believe in an honest press.

And I'm also -- I'd be curious to see what happens on election day, Wolf, for one big reason. I wonder if the way the news is being covered this election cycle, particularly in these last two weeks, is the way Americans actually see the news and see the race? It's not clear to me that what they're being told is important to them is what they think is important to them. I think that, when I go to these rallies, and I hear Donald Trump talk about jobs, trade, immigration, defeating ISIS, repealing and replacing Obamacare, giving educational opportunities to all. That's -- repealing Common Core. Those are the biggest call signs (ph).

BLITZER: We have freedom of the press.

CONWAY: Thank you.

BLITZER: He can criticize the press, but he doesn't have to say -- I'm hoping he's watching us now, and I hope, at least in these final days, he doesn't continue to point out, as he often does at these rallies, look at them. They're disgusting. Because you know, God forbid there could be an ugly incident, and it worries me every time I hear that. And I hear these stories from these journalists, who are often very scared.

CONWAY: I appreciate you saying that, and it will be conveyed. They need to be fair and honest. And complete in their coverage.

BLITZER: He's going to be in D.C. tomorrow, opening up his new hotel right near White House.

CONWAY: Very excited for that, yes. And then we'll be on to North Carolina.

BLITZER: And he's invited to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CONWAY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Or I'll go over to his hotel and interview him tomorrow.

CONWAY: It's gorgeous.

BLITZER: If he's open to that.

CONWAY: Stunning. Yes, thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks so much. Thanks for joining us.

CONWAY: My pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: It was a nice piece that we saw from Dana Bash.

CONWAY: It was lovely. Dana and Abigail and Jeremy, they did a great job. We appreciate CNN. Thank you.

BLITZER: And thanks very much, Kellyanne, for that.

Just ahead, the latest twist on Hillary Clinton's e-mails and the stolen messages published by WikiLeaks. Did Clinton's own team believe she was trying to get away with something?

And President Obama's late-night response to one of Donald Trump's nasty tweets about him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[18:35:13] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "President Obama will go down as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States," exclamation point. @realDonaldTrump.

Well, @realDonaldTrump, at least I will go down as a president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:12] BLITZER: An unexpected hurdle for Hillary Clinton's campaign. Just two weeks before election day, major price hikes in Obamacare premiums. Donald Trump and other Republicans are on the attack while Clinton tries to maintain her lead in national polls. Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us from Florida right now.

Jeff, Hillary Clinton is going head to head there with Donald Trump right now.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: She is, Wolf. Donald Trump is campaigning in northern Florida tonight. Hillary Clinton is here in southern Florida. She's trying on urge Democrats to vote early.

Now at a campaign rally here a little bit earlier, she called Donald Trump a threat to democracy, but she had far less to say about one of her signature political issues, health care.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton in Florida tonight, opening a two-week fight to the finish.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I feel good, but boy, I'm not taking anything for granted. I'm going to work as hard as I can between now and the close of the election.

ZELENY: She's firing up Democrats in the biggest of all battlegrounds. Twenty-nine electoral votes she believes will block Donald Trump's path.

H. CLINTON: Americans are coming together at the very moment when Donald Trump is making an unprecedented attack on our democracy.

ZELENY: A new CNN/ORC poll shows 7 in 10 Americans now believe Clinton will win the White House. That means even some Trump supporters, like it or not, believe she'll become president.

On the two-day Florida swing, Clinton is hitting Democratic strongholds to bank votes through early voting. One way to minimize any pre-election pitfalls, like rising healthcare costs under the Affordable Care Act.

Her long embrace of Obamacare...

H. CLINTON: Before there was something called Obamacare, there was something called Hillarycare.

ZELENY: ... suddenly could be an 11th-hour liability. As Republicans pounced today, she was silent about it. In a Miami radio interview, Clinton said millions of Americans now have health care under the law but acknowledged major shortcomings.

H. CLINTON (via phone): The costs have gone up too much. So we're going on really tackle that.

ZELENY: But former president Bill Clinton under fire earlier this month for pointing out flaws in the system.

B. CLINTON: It's the craziest thing in the world.

ZELENY: Now telling voters in North Carolina, health care should be fixed. Not repealed.

B. CLINTON: Yes. There's something wrong, but you don't want to choose somebody who is the living embodiment of what's wrong.

ZELENY: With 14 days to go, Clinton is in command of the race but bracing from another wave of controversy. A new batch of campaign chairman John Podesta's hacked e-mails shows even John he was flabbergasted about the decision back in 2009 to set up a private e- mail server for Clinton at the State Department. When "The New York Times" first revealed the private server in March

2015, Clinton friend Nyra Tanden (ph) expressing outrage at Cheryl Mills, Clinton's chief of staff as secretary of state, who helped sign off on the e-mail arrangement. Tanden wrote Podesta, "Why didn't they get this stuff out, like, 18 months ago? So crazy."

"Unbelievable," Podesta replied.

"They wanted to get away with it," Tanden shot back.

Obama, who's heading back to campaign in Florida on Friday, weighing in last night on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on ABC, reading a Trump tweet and his own response.

OBAMA: "President Obama will go down as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States," exclamation point. Well, @realDonaldTrump, at least I will go down as a president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now Clinton won the support today from former secretary of state Colin Powell. He said that he would vote for her. Now, of course, he voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. He's a longtime Republican but says he barely recognizes his party.

Now tonight, Wolf, Hillary Clinton is headlining her last and final fundraiser of this campaign. By our count, 371 fundraisers in all. But Wolf, you know Florida very well. Interesting that she came here to Broward County today, one of the most liberal counties in the state. She's trying to drive up the vote during this early voting period, hoping to bank them before the final two-week stretch begins.

BLITZER: Yes. She'll do very well in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach County. Those are the real centers of the Democratic Party in Florida.

ACOSTA: Indeed.

BLITZER: And there's a lot of population there, as well. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

Let's bring back our panel. Gloria Borger, look, Donald Trump had an opportunity today to really capitalize on the Obamacare premiums going up dramatically. Did he do it?

BORGER: Well, he starts to do it. And then he can't quite stay on message. And I think that's the frustration of a lot of people who work for him, which is that they want him to focus on Obamacare. This is a gift basket to them. And the rate increases are a gift basket to them.

And I think this is test for Donald Trump, whether he can turn an actual issue into a political tool for himself to use.

[18:45:07] And -- I mean, I think this was sort of teed up for him. The timing was teed up for him. And as he admitted, you know, to Rush Limbaugh, and I think Jim used it in his piece, he said, you know, they're trying to get me to stay on that and not defend myself on the women, but I have to defend myself.

And so, I just think that when you're trying to corral Donald Trump, you're going to lose.

BLITZER: With only 14 days to go, David Swerdlick, is it going to make much of a difference? The Obamacare premiums spiking?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It could make a difference on the margins, Wolf, on the couple of these swings states, except that, one, early voting has already started. So, there's a limited amount of time. Two, that this is not a signature Trump issue, right? This is Republican boilerplate. It's not one of his marquee issues.

And then, as Gloria said, Trump has a hard time on this issue and any other issue, staying on message for 14 straight days.

BLITZER: It could it make a difference in Arizona where it's close right now, and the premiums are going to go up 117 or 116 percent in Arizona. So, potentially, Arizona, that could be a problem.

BORGER: But, you know, but 85 percent of the people -- I mean, not to say this isn't a big issue. But 85 percent of the people get subsidies to defray the cost of the increase in their policies. So, the other 15 percent, that's about 7 million people.

BLITZER: But politically, it sounds bad.

BORGER: Of course.

BLITZER: And people aren't going to understand all the nuances and --

BORGER: It has to be fixed.

BLITZER: -- it sounds bad right now.

So, when he says he's winning in Florida, could win big in Florida, Rebecca Berg, is that realistic?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the RCP average shows him behind Clinton by three points.

BLITZER: RealClearPolitics.

BERG: RealClearPolitics. We use jargon here. We're Washington insiders at this table.

But that's not an insurmountable margin for Trump. Florida demographically is not a bad state for him either. It is the state with the highest proportion of retirees which are Trump voters by and large, and they're reliable voters, which is very helpful for him. They will show up to vote on Election Day, and because he doesn't have a ground game, that helps. So, that plays to his advantage. Also worth noting. Obama won voters without a college education in

2012. Maybe Trump can reverse that trend this time around and that can give him a boost as well. So, he's definitely not out of the game in Florida. It makes sense that he's spending a lot of time there.

BLITZER: Jackie Kucinich, Mike Pence, his running mate, he says it's time for Republicans right now to unite around Donald Trump. But Trump is going after some of his former Republican primary opponents who aren't supporting him, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham. Trump said he doesn't know how they live with themselves, pledging to support the nominee, but then backing out of that pledge.

Is that wise at this late moment to be reviving some of those strains, those bitter divisions within the Republican Party?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Of course not. They don't want him to talk about the women who are accusing him. But he does and he feels slighted by these Republican who haven't supported him. He's even said, if the leadership got behind me, I'd be -- we could win this thing, even setting them up for the people that he blames should he lose this election.

When people slight him, it goes deep. He can't let it go. And they're not going to apologize. And I think they're probably sleeping just fine.

BLITZER: And he also says, drain the swamp here in Washington. But that swamp doesn't only for Democrats, that probably includes a whole bunch of long term Republicans as well.

SWERDLICK: Right. I don't think that message either is resonating as well for Donald Trump. I think what is hurting folks down ballot is Donald Trump, right? Donald Trump has a unique 35, 40, maybe 45 percent of the Republican base that is his, that doesn't apply in states like New Hampshire, where yesterday the fact Trump is sort of tied around Kelly Ayotte's neck, it allowed Clinton and Senator Warren to just sort of tee of on Trump against her.

BORGER: You have to learn how to sustain a message if you're running for president. And what he did during the primaries was he's sustained a couple of key messages. In addition to calling them names, he did sustain the message on build the wall, a key issue for him. He hasn't been able to do that in a general election.

BLITZER: He got 14 days to go. Two weeks.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens. Stick around.

Just ahead, how a major offensive could help the U.S. recover remains of Americans killed by the terrorists.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:53:52] BLITZER: Just two weeks before Election Day, Republicans have a new case to make against Democrats. Obamacare rates are going up.

Our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this produce the pain that you're feeling?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Obamacare sticker shock -- 22 percent more on average this coming year, compared to only a 7 percent increase in 2016. And you throw more fuel onto the Republican fire to repeal it.

TRUMP: Obamacare is a disaster. You know it. We all know it.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama last week compared Obamacare to the Samsung Galaxy 7 phones that have spontaneously burst into flames.

Well, what a coincidence, Mr. President, because that's exactly what we're going to do with Obamacare. We're going to pull it off the market.

KOSINSKI: The number in some cases are staggering. Arizona's average increase will be 116 percent. Though Indiana's premiums will actually go down by 3 percent. The Democratic governor of Minnesota where premiums will rise 50 to 67 percent declared --

GOV. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable.

[18:55:00] KOSINSKI: Today, the administration is pushing back, saying the vast majority of people on Obamacare won't feel those increases.

SLYVIA BURWELL, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Eighty-five percent of those folks actually have the tax credits or the subsidies that help them. And those subsidies are designed to move as premiums move. So, for those folks, they will be insulated from those changes.

KOSINSKI: Insurers are having trouble affording all of those who signed up but who have more health problems than expected. Some major insurers have pulled out of some states altogether. Not enough young healthy people are joining to offset those costs. That means fewer choices and higher rates.

The White House agrees there are issues but focuses on the positives. More Americans covered, no lifetime limits. No bars to preexisting conditions, most people able to find an affordable plan. The president continues to sell it.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is the time to move forward. The problems that may have arisen from the Affordable Care Act is not because government's too involved in the process, the problem is that we have not reached everybody and pulled them in.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KOSINSKI: And this is fodder for Republican candidates now for sure. But there is a real question here because Obamacare reduced the growth of healthcare costs to the lowest rate in 15 years, would not more people now be paying more for their premiums than for healthcare overall if they could afford insurance at all if Obamacare didn't exist?

The White House see it is fix as a public option. A government insurer to complete with the others but say Congress won't take that up. It's like to see states expand Medicaid. But they say, where governments haven't expanded it, they have seen costs there go up more -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski at the White House -- thanks very much.

Meanwhile, CNN is learning that the bloody battle to push ISIS out of Iraq may yield some unexpected results -- the recovery of American hostages killed by the notorious ISIS executioner called Jihadi John.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's working the story for us.

Right now, Iraqi, Kurdish forces, they are moving in. They seem to be making some progress, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Wolf. As those forces move closer to Mosul tonight, we are getting new word on what is coming next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(GUNFIRE)

STARR (voice-over): Just ten miles outside Mosul, Iraqi troops battle ISIS militants in the mainly Christian town of Bartillah. Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces continue advancing through villages around Mosul.

ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is one of our campaign plans' core objectives, destroying ISIS's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, and we're on track to do just that.

STARR: Intelligence on ISIS operations from the battlefield may help disrupt future plots. But for now, fighting remains grim.

Toxic plumes of raw sulfur catch the light. ISIS set all of this on fire.

CNN's Arwa Damon visited the area in protective gear.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have no idea how the vast majority of workers out here are able to deal with the smell and burning in one's eyes.

STARR: Southeast of Mosul, Iraqi army tanks moved in. Forces opened up a tunnel where ISIS hid. Reporters have reported scores of people have been killed by ISIS. Inside Mosul, clashes erupted between ISIS militants and resistance fighters who are said to be engaged in sniper operations.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter opening the door to the next battle, the fight in Syria to retake Raqqah, ISIS's declared capital.

CARTER: We've already begun laying the groundwork with our partners to commence the isolation of Raqqah. As we meet here, we're helping to regenerate the local forces that will do so.

STARR: One result have ISIS already being pushed out at some areas in northern Syria is that the U.S. might be able to recover remains of American hostages murdered by Jihadi John. U.S. officials tell CNN they have received a tip that the remains of one or more American hostages may buried in Dabiq, Syria. The U.S. is now weighing whether it's possible to send American personnel to investigate further.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And, Wolf, at this hour, we are now just learning that Defense Secretary Ash Carter within the last month secretly ordered the joint special operations command. That includes Navy SEALs and Army Delta Force. He ordered them to take the lead in countering any effort to find and attack ISIS operatives if they are threatening the U.S. overseas or U.S. allies -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Barbara, thank you very much. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, good report from you today, as always.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.