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Interview With Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy; What Does Vladimir Putin Want?; Fighting ISIS; General: Attack on U.S. Being Plotted in ISIS Capital; Putin: U.S. 'Hysteria' Over Russia an Election Scheme. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 27, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:02]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And closing in. We're learning about a secret U.S. attack on ISIS, as coalition forces get ready to move on the terror group's self-proclaimed capital, the Pentagon growing more concerned that ISIS is plotting to attack America.

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: Breaking news tonight, Michelle Obama pleading with North Carolina voters to cast early ballots for Hillary Clinton right now. Clinton campaigning with her most popular surrogate for the first time in one of the battlegrounds that will decide the presidential race just 12 days from now.

Tonight, just released polls show Clinton with a slim advantage in North Carolina, and she's in a dead heat with Donald Trump in Iowa and in the traditionally red state of Georgia. Right now, Trump is focusing in on the must-win battleground of Ohio. We're standing by for his third event in that state within a matter of hours. Trump, who had been dissing the polls, now applauding new surveys that show Florida and Nevada are tossups.

Also breaking, Russian President Vladimir Putin says officials in the United States are whipping up hysteria when they blame the Kremlin for cyber-attacks on American political systems, Putin dismissing the allegations as a ploy designed to distract from the failings of U.S. leaders.

I will talk presidential politics with a top Donald Trump supporter, Congressman Sean Duffy. He's standing by live, along with our correspondents and analysts, as we bring you full coverage of the day's top stories.

Up first, let's go to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He is in North Carolina for us, where Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigned together now for the first time -- Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Michelle Obama has been traveling across the country as a seal of approval for Hillary Clinton's credibility and character.

She stood side by side her today, acknowledging it's unprecedented for a first lady to be so involved in a presidential campaign. But she called this a truly unprecedented election. That's why she says she has Hillary Clinton's back and she is fighting to protect the Obama legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): For the first time, tonight, the first lady and a former one on stage together.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: She is absolutely ready to be commander in chief on day one. And, yes, she happens to be a woman.

ZELENY: Rallying Democrats in North Carolina.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Seriously, is there anyone more inspiring than Michelle Obama?

ZELENY: A first lady tag team. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, going hard after Donald Trump in a race divided by deep gender lines.

OBAMA: We want a president who values and honor women, who teaches our daughters and our sons that women are full and equal human beings worthy and deserving of love and respect.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ZELENY: The Clinton campaign calls her their not-so-secret weapon, a tiring cliche, but a true one, that bluntly acknowledges Secretary Clinton needs Mrs. Obama.

CLINTON: No one knows more about what's at stake in this election than our first lady.

ZELENY: Sixteen years ago, in the closing months of Mrs. Clinton's time as first lady, she was running for Senate in New York. Mrs. Obama has no interest in being on the ballot now or ever, friends say. A comment she made in the 2008 campaign is now being revisited as a swipe at Clinton.

OBAMA: If you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House.

ZELENY: Just last week, Trump raising it in North Carolina.

TRUMP: Wasn't she the one that originally started the statement, if you can't take care of your home, right?

ZELENY: Aides to Obama say she was not talking about Clinton, who they say she respects and has grown fond of.

OBAMA: Hillary Clinton is my friend.

ZELENY: Now Clinton is hoping the popularity of both Obamas rubs off, the president's approval rating at 59 percent in a new CNN/ORC poll, and 54 percent believe things in the country are going well.

The Clinton campaign's new balancing act, projecting confidence and warding off complacency. A CNN poll of polls, an average of the five latest national surveys, shows Clinton with a six-point edge over Trump. Tonight, the campaign bracing for even more hacked e-mails offering an unflattering look inside Clinton world.

After "The New York Times" first reported Clinton's private e-mail server in March 2015, campaign chairman John Podesta sounded the alarm within hours. "Did you have any idea of the depth of this story?" he wrote to Robby Mook, the campaign manager. He replied, "Nope. We brought up the existence of e-mails in research this summer, but were told that everything was taken care of."

Since then, Clinton and her campaign have tried to downplay it, yet Clinton confidants probably knew it was a problem, as former aide Neera Tanden made clear in an e-mail to Podesta last you're: "Do we actually know who told Hillary she could use a private e-mail? And has that person been drawn and quartered?" -- going on to say, "Like, the whole thing is 'expletive' insane."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:05:12]

ZELENY: There's no question the leaks, this release of these e-mails is rocking the campaign.

One aide told me today it's taking away some of the joy they thought they would have in the final days here, Wolf. They're also keeping close track through focus groups and polling to make sure voters aren't being affected by this.

That's why they're trying to lock in the early vote now. In fact, at this moment, Secretary Clinton still here in North Carolina speaking to more voters. They are trying to get these 15 electoral votes.

Wolf, it was just earlier this summer where she paid a visit to North Carolina with President Obama for the first time. No coincidence she came back to North Carolina with Michelle Obama in tow still trying to get the Obama coalition fired up for her candidacy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thank you, good report, Jeff Zeleny reporting.

Let's go to Ohio right now for the latest on Donald Trump's message with just a dozen days to go until the election.

Sunlen Serfaty is on the scene for us.

Sunlen, Trump has a narrow path to 270 electoral votes, but a win in Ohio could certainly make a difference.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ohio certainly is must- win for the Trump campaign, Wolf, which is why we're seeing them make such a big push here in Ohio, three states -- for Donald Trump in this state today alone.

Trump campaign advisers openly admit their path to 270 is, in their words, an uphill climb. But they're also looking at these recent battleground polls, state polls, including here in Ohio, Ohio, which show that the race is tightening. So they are seeing that they are now in a better position than they were just a week ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): Donald Trump blanketing the battleground state of Ohio today.

TRUMP: In 12 days, we're going to win Ohio, and we are going to win back the White House.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SERFATY: The state and its 18 electoral votes critical to Trump's path to the White House.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton wants to double down on Obamacare a make it even worse.

SERFATY: With less than two weeks left in the campaign, Trump is staying on the attack against Clinton and seizing on the steady drip of hacked e-mails from Clinton's campaign chairman coming from WikiLeaks.

TRUMP: If the Clintons were willing to play this fast and loose with their enterprise when they weren't in the White House, just imagine what they will do given the chance to once again control the Oval Office.

SERFATY: Even as he backs off his recent threat to sue the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.

TRUMP: All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.

SERFATY: No longer saying he will go through with it.

TRUMP: We will find out. Let's see what happens with the election. We're going to find out.

SERFATY: Trump revealing today his campaign is planning to deploy his wife, Melania, for a series of closing speeches.

TRUMP: She has agreed to do two or three speeches, and I think it's going to be big speeches, important speeches.

SERFATY: Melania has been largely absent from the campaign trail since her convention speech in July. But the Trump campaign is leaning on her voice now to help improve her husband's standing with women.

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: I support him 100 percent, and I am there for him every time he needs me, and I am going to join him. SERFATY: Meantime, Trump reclaiming some support in the new tossup

state of Utah from Congressman Jason Chaffetz. The Republican withdrew his support after Trump's sexually aggressive comments about women in 2005 were made public.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I am out. I can no longer endorse Donald Trump for president. We have a 15-year-old daughter. You think I can look her in the eye and tell her that I endorse Donald Trump for president when he acts like this and his apology?

SERFATY: But now, after nearly a dozen women have come forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault or harassment, Chaffetz is saying -- quote -- "I will not defend nor endorse Donald Trump, but I am voting for him. HRC is that bad."

Some Republicans are considering the prospects of a Clinton administration. Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee, promising years of congressional investigations, telling "The Washington Post" -- quote -- "Even before we get to day one, we have got two years' worth of material already lined up."

And Senator Ted Cruz warning Republicans might not vote on the nomination for the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Scalia.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: There's certainly long historical precedent with a Supreme Court with fewer justices.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And in that interview where Donald Trump today revealed that his wife, Melania, would be making two or three big speeches in the final stretch for him, Melania seemed a bit off-guard by that. She seemed surprised by that suggestion.

And the Trump campaign, Wolf, they have not gotten back on specifics where or when those big speeches very Melania would be given in this final stretch -- Wolf.

[18:10:01]

BLITZER: All right, we will be anxious to cover those speeches, if they take place.

Sunlen, thanks very, very much.

In the last hour, I spoke to Democratic Senator and Hillary Clinton supporter Chris Coons.

Now we're joined now by a top Donald Trump supporter, Republican Congressman Sean Duffy.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: Hey. It's good to be back with you, Wolf. BLITZER: Let's talk about some of these new polls that just came out

today showing Donald Trump losing his lead, get this, in states he had been doing very well in. In Georgia, for example, a traditionally red state, right now, he's only behind by one -- she's only behind by one point, 44 percent for Trump, 43 percent for Hillary Clinton.

Look at Iowa right now. In Iowa, he had been doing really well, 44 percent, 44 percent. A month ago, both of those states, Trump was up by seven points in both states. Why is he slipping?

DUFFY: Well, first off, I think Georgia is not going to be a problem for Donald Trump. That's a Republican state. As voters go to the polls, they will break Donald Trump's way. We will win Georgia.

But, obviously, some of the trouble that Donald Trump has had over the last month has caused him to slip not just in Iowa, but in all these states and the national polls across the country.

But what's interesting, Wolf, is he's actually come back in dramatic fashion. And you have been talking about this all day, but in Florida, North Carolina, in Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, and I will tell you, Wisconsin is doing incredibly well for Mr. Trump. So he has this inside track. He has to hit everything right. But if he does, he's within striking distance in these swing states, and he could pull this victory out.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We checked, Congressman, in your home state of Wisconsin. The last poll that we have, a scientific poll, Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin was up by seven points in Wisconsin. So do you think he really has a chance of capturing Wisconsin?

DUFFY: I do.

So, in Wisconsin, this was the home of the Scott Walker recalls. The Republican Party in Wisconsin is the best Republican Party in the country. We are turning out almost as many door-knocks and phone calls as Florida and Ohio. And so our base is activated.

Now, we still have a little problem in Southeast Wisconsin with the Republicans. But as those Republicans come home, with all the work we have done across the state, this will be a nail-biter. And I think Wisconsin will go to Trump in the end.

BLITZER: Yes, but every poll we have seen, Hillary Clinton in your state of Wisconsin is up seven or eight points.

Is Trump, has he been there lately, is he planning on going in the final 12 days? Or has he basically written off Wisconsin?

DUFFY: I have seen internal polls as well. And we try to get the best and most accurate data possible so we can function with good data.

And I would say it's far closer than the recent poll that you cite. But so Mr. Trump was here, oh, a little over a week ago. I'm hopeful, and there's been rumblings that he might come back, whether it's this coming weekend or early next week. But he knows that outside of, again, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, he needs another state.

And if it's not Pennsylvania, and I think Pennsylvania is getting really tough to grab for him, I think Wisconsin is the next best play. Again, a great ground game, an activated Republican base, and the internal polls that I have seen, it's much closer than the ones that you have cited.

BLITZER: How much of a problem in Wisconsin -- the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan is, of course, from Wisconsin. He's a friend of yours. He's doing nothing. He's not campaigning out there in Wisconsin or, for that matter, anyplace else for Donald Trump, is he?

DUFFY: Well, so, well, what he's done is, he's funded the whole Wisconsin GOP operation.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But he's trying to get Republicans elected in Wisconsin, but I don't see him out there on the campaign trail with Donald Trump or even speaking about Donald Trump, for that matter.

DUFFY: We have to be frank.

We have far more House seats that are in play today than they were six weeks ago. So Mr. Ryan is out there talking about the Republican message, the Republican vision, and also raising money to make sure we can push back against an onslaught of Democrat cash that's just raining a bit of hellfire on us. They have way more money than we do.

And so Mr. Ryan is out there making sure we have the resources to fight back. And that's a full-time job. So, he's working on keeping the House. Donald Trump is working on winning the presidency. And those are two different jobs that take two different roles and two different missions.

BLITZER: But the point I'm trying to make, and you know this well, Paul Ryan in Wisconsin especially, he's very popular in your home state.

DUFFY: Yes.

BLITZER: If he were out there speaking publicly, not only trying to get Republicans elected in the House and the Senate, governor's races or whatever, but if he were out there really actively promoting Donald Trump, that could make a difference.

DUFFY: It could, but, Wolf, I don't want to speak for Paul. I haven't had this conversation with him, so I'm going to surmise here. I want to be clear on that.

But there's a lot of Republicans across the country, they might be down in their districts by -- or Mr. Trump might be down in their districts by maybe 15 points or 20 points. So, they have to outperform him by big numbers.

[18:15:07]

And so Paul is not just looking at Wisconsin, and how Wisconsin plays for Mr. Trump. He's looking at our national playing field and how he has to make sure that we come back and we're in the majority, we don't have Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

And so he doesn't wear just one hat. He wears multiple hats. And I will just tell you, Donald Trump is doing just fine here himself. And, listen, do I suspect that Mr. Ryan is going to vote for Donald Trump? I suspect so. And we will see.

BLITZER: Donald Trump tweeted this today, and I will put it up on the screen, Congressman. He tweeted this.

He said: "A lot of call-ins about vote-flipping at the voting booths in Texas. People are not happy. Big lines. What is going on?"

Election officials say that they have had some human error basically in some of the tablets. They have got electronic voting there. But they don't think it's a big problem. Is he raising this problem to suggest that the entire election system, as he keeps saying, is rigged?

DUFFY: Well, from my perspective, I have heard the same stories about the voting machines switching votes.

We know that dead people across America are still voting, miraculously. And we know that some people are voting twice. Now, do I think that's so widespread, Wolf, that it's going to take the election away from Hillary Clinton or from Donald Trump? I don't think that's the case.

But on these electronic voting machines, I don't like them. I think -- and this is what we do in my district here in Wisconsin. You fill out your paper ballot and then you put it through the electronic reader, but you can go back and look at the paper ballots, as opposed to just having everything electronic.

And if someone has messed with the programming, that can tweak the results of a race. And I don't have any evidence or information that there's any widespread problems across the country. But I do think it's incumbent upon us as Americans and as elected American officials that we try to get the best result possible, which is clear the dead folks out.

Make sure there's swift and significant penalties for those who violate the laws and vote more than once. And we make sure that if you are using an electronic voting system, that it is fully functioning and is going to accurately reflect the votes of the people who came and cast their ballot.

BLITZER: Yes. But in Texas, the authorities say the tablet, the electronic voting machine, it is working fine, but people are -- some people are making some mistakes, human error, they say. They're not necessarily following the instructions that they get.

But it's not big, they say. There's been a few problems like that. But they're not suggesting it's a big problem.

DUFFY: And one other point on that, and will just -- these articles that I have read, I haven't verified them.

But we heard the one of George Soros' companies has provided some of the machines for some of these states. And, obviously, Mr. Soros leans left. I haven't personally verified that yet.

But, again, I think we want to make sure that these voting machines and systems are free of politics and policy, because this great American system, this election, is based on the trust of the American people. And I don't think we want to undermine that trust in our electoral process.

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break.

But it's Republican officials in Texas who are saying this is not a big problem with these voting tablets, if you will. And that George Soros issue, that is an unconfirmed rumor certainly that has spread out there. But we have not been able to confirm that, by any means, that the machines maybe that his company is building are designed to help Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump, for that matter.

That sounds conspiratorial.

DUFFY: I agree.

BLITZER: But let's take a quick break, Congressman. We will resume our coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:22:58]

BLITZER: We're back with Republican Congressman and Donald Trump supporter Sean Duffy.

Congressman, I would like you to stand by for a moment.

We're getting some new information about Vladimir Putin latest response to claims that Russia is attempting to influence the U.S. presidential election.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is with us.

Jim, Putin says it's all a ploy?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

And it's interesting, because we have heard Donald Trump occasionally praise the leadership style of Vladimir Putin. Today, we heard Vladimir Putin, to some degree, defending Donald Trump's campaigning style, even making some points, expressing some talking points seemingly stolen from the Donald Trump playbook. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Donald Trump behaves extravagantly. Of course, we see this. But I think there's a reason for this, because, in my opinion, he represents the interests of that part of society, and it is quite big in the United States, which is tired of the elite who have been in power for decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Tired of the elite in power for decades. You heard Donald Trump say that about Hillary Clinton in the last debate.

But on this issue who is behind these election hacks, of course Russia has denied that from the beginning. Vladimir Putin has denied that multiple times. But today he sort of jokingly dismissed the whole idea. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PUTIN (through translator): Does anyone seriously think that Russia can in some way influence the choice the American people? Is America some kind of a banana republic? America is a great country. Correct me if I'm wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: The could there went on to laugh at that a little bit there, this idea of America as a banana republic. But, again, the fact is, U.S. intelligence agencies, Department of Homeland Security took the rare step of naming and shaming Russia in public for these hacks, you will remember, Wolf, even saying it would have required the most senior levels of the Russian government, namely Vladimir Putin, to approve hacks like this.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much for that report.

Let's get back to Congressman Sean Duffy.

Congressman, your colleague Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and an adviser, a national security adviser, to Donald Trump, he says he told Trump Russia was behind these election hacks. Trump didn't think that was enough proof.

[18:25:05]

But Trump is also questioning his Republican colleagues and the intelligence community, for that matter, when generals as far as this ongoing fight against ISIS.

When you hear all of this from Trump, how will he function if he's elected as president of the United States if he doesn't trust the intelligence community, for example?

DUFFY: Well, just to take a side note, it's Barack Obama who has been changing the intelligence that is coming out of the Middle East to make it rosier to fit a narrative...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on a second.

Are you accusing the director of national intelligence, the CIA director, the NSA director, all 16, 17 intelligence agencies of being manipulated by the president of the United States for political reasons?

DUFFY: No, what I'm saying is, and these are well-vetted stories about insiders who have provided intelligence reports about what's happening in the Middle East in Iraq, with Syria, and with Afghanistan, of modifying the reports that have come out of their intelligence...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Mike McCaul is a Republican. He's the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He's from Texas. He's highly respected. Is he being manipulated as well?

DUFFY: No, I didn't say that he was.

I said that the mid-level folks that are writing reports on the ground reporting on our effectiveness in the Middle East on our policy against terror, those reports have been modified. And the people who have written reports have come forward and expressed that openly and publicly.

Now, Mike McCaul is a friend of mine. He's a straight-shooting guy, but I think he's heard the same story. I'm not saying that these reports are wrong that are coming out about Russia. All I'm saying is, your question went to the point of, can you be an effective president if you have bad intelligence?

Well, Mr. Obama, some would argue, has been an effective president, some would say he hasn't, but he also has had bad intelligence.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: No, no, I didn't say if he had intelligence. I said if he's not listening to the intelligence community and accepting their bottom-line assertions about what is going on, can you be an effective president if you don't pay attention to their conclusions?

DUFFY: So, let's go to the point.

I don't care if it's Russia, if it's the Tooth Fairy or the devil that provides this information. The bottom line is, we're seeing a pay- for-play scandal. You give money to the State Department or the Clinton Foundation, you get access to the Clinton State Department.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on, Congressman. Do you care if Russia is trying to interfere by hacking various e-mail accounts, DNC, Democratic National Committee, or other e-mail accounts associated with Democrats, do you care if they're trying to influence the American election system so that Trump is elected?

DUFFY: What I would argue is, if -- do I care about that? Of course.

But then if we have this information through the intelligence services of the United States of America, let's put it out there. Let's show how Russia is actually doing this.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But you know, Congressman, sometimes, the intelligence community -- hold on a second. They have to protect what they call sources and methods. They can't necessarily reveal that kind of information, because it undermines national security.

You're familiar with that.

DUFFY: Sure, but there's a lot of sources and a lot of information they can release without releasing all of it and jeopardizing the tools that they use to get that information.

But that aside, Wolf, I want to tell you that I don't think it helps Donald Trump at all to have any ties to Putin. If anyone thinks that Putin saying nice things about Donald Trump is helpful in this election, it's absolutely not. Mr. Putin is a thug. He's not a friend of ours.

And I think anyone that cozies up or says nice things about Mr. Putin, I fundamentally disagree with. And the Russians are smart. If they're trying to help Donald Trump, why would Mr. Putin say nice things about Mr. Trump? Because he knows that that just stirs up a lot of anger within the American voting base.

BLITZER: But what's intriguing to a lot of experts, and I'm sure it is to you, at least so far, all of the hacked e-mails, for example, have been damaging to the Democrats, not to the Republicans. So far, no Republican National Committee e-mails or Trump e-mails, for that matter, Trump campaign e-mails, have been hacked. Or at least they haven't been released.

And that's why people are pointing to the Russians, by and large, and they're saying it's designed to undermine Hillary Clinton and the Democrats and help Trump. That's the argument.

DUFFY: And I understand the argument, and I kind of look to what Marco Rubio said.

I don't know that any of us like when e-mails are hacked. They should be private. But I would also note, Wolf, that there's a lot of serious things that are happening within Clinton world that have come out that give people great cause about her ability to serve effectively as the next president of the United States of America.

We have issues of, again, corruption. The fact that she had this private server and didn't protect American top-secret information. The fact that she came to Congress and said she didn't have this secure information on her server, and then Mr. Comey came in and said no, actually, on that server, she did have top-secret information.

[18:30:27] All of this is relevant, and I think it's important -- and I told you this before -- I want to know as much information about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly so I can make the best decision on November 8. And I think every American deserves that.

And as you've seen from these e-mails, I wish that Hillary Clinton would have done what her staffers advised her: say "I had a server." Apologize for it. Put out the paid speeches to Wall Street. And don't Bleach Bit 33,000 e-mails. Put them out there. Be transparent.

BLITZER: Congressman...

DUFFY: And Wolf, if she did that, this wouldn't even be a race, I don't think. She would be walking away with it, because she was honest and transparent, and she asked for forgiveness; and Americans give forgiveness when you ask for it.

BLITZER: Congressman, you make fair points on that issue, which is -- which is a fair issue for discussion, but it's a separate issue from whether or not Russia is deliberately releasing stolen or hacked e- mails in order to interfere in the American democratic election system. Those are two separate issues that we're discussing right now.

DUFFY: They are.

BLITZER: We'll continue these conversations down the road. Sean Duffy, the congressman from Wisconsin. Appreciate it very much.

Just ahead, the First Ladies' Club, how Michelle Obama's pitch for Hillary Clinton could help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: For the past eight years, I have had the great honor of being this country's first lady. First ladies, we rock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:36:37] BLITZER: The breaking news this hour: Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama campaigning together for the first time.

The first lady fired up a crowd in North Carolina, saying Clinton has more experience than anyone else to be president of the United States. Let's get some more with our political experts.

We're here with Gloria Borger. Events like this, the star power, if you will, of Michelle Obama, is that what the Clinton campaign needs right now to prevent complacency?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Absolutely. I mean, let's just say that Michelle Obama gets the surrogate of the year award, because she can bring out the crowds. It was a very big crowd there today. I think the first or second largest of the year.

And she not only can get people motivated to vote, but her message today was very clear. She said, they are trying to convince you to stay home, that they are -- their strategy is to make this election so ugly that you won't want any part of it.

So she kind of hit the voter suppression issue right on the head, and said to voters, in that important state, which is close, "You cannot stay home anymore." And reminded people that, in the year 2008, when her husband won that state, it was by 14,000 votes, which is two per district.

So she can really drive that message home. And other surrogates can do the same. If Hillary Clinton doesn't get them enthused, they will try.

BLITZER: And David Swerdlick, a new Quinnipiac University poll out today from Quinnipiac in North Carolina. Look at this: Hillary Clinton 47 percent, Donald Trump 43 percent. Gary Johnson, 5 percent. If that poll is accurate, how does Trump catch up?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think Trump is really just, at this point, going to have to either stay on a couple of messages that seem to resonate for him, like the Obamacare premium numbers, talking about some of the core issues that matter to his voters like immigration.

If he gets sidetracked on all the things he gets sidetracked on, I don't see how he makes it up in a national poll. I think he's got to concentrate also on the swing states. The national poll numbers are starting to mean less and less.

BLITZER: He was very disciplined today in speeches so far, with another one coming up later in Ohio. Two other intriguing polls in Iowa. Hillary Clinton 44 percent, Trump 44 percent. A month ago, Hillary Clinton was down in Iowa by about seven points.

And in Georgia, which is a traditionally red state in a presidential contest, Trump 44, Hillary Clinton 43 percent. She was down seven percent -- seven points a month ago in the same poll in Georgia, as well.

It looks like that's a narrowing. If there's a narrowing in Georgia of all places, Trump is in trouble.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, absolutely. I mean, look, we have seen in the national polling sort of a kind of a return to the mean a little bit in the last few days with the numbers coming down more into the range of where they have been for the most of the race. But both of these results, as well as North Carolina and the

Quinnipiac, show the limits of that. There are two important points about these polls.

First of all, neither of these are states that Hillary Clinton has to win in order to win. They are states that Donald Trump has to win to have any chance, and he is struggling in them.

And the other thing that's really significant here, Wolf, is that these are states in each of the two baskets of the swing states. On the one hand, Iowa is probably the Rust Belt swing state where Donald Trump has had the best chance. It's a heavily blue collar, predominantly white state. And again, if the margin has fallen there, Hillary Clinton is ahead in this poll among college whites, it is difficult for him in the other Rust Belt swing states that are less amenable to him.

And conversely, Georgia is really outside of the border of what we have thought of in the Sun Belt swing states. You have North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and Florida. Georgia is kind of like a step behind. And again, if that is competitive, it kind of tells you where you are in the other states. And in fact, in that Quinnipiac poll, she's up 12 points indeed.

[18:35:26] BLITZER: Very interesting numbers, indeed.

Olivia Nuzzi, it seems that the Trump campaign strategy now is to somehow decrease voter turnout for Hillary Clinton by raising all these issues, including these WikiLeaks e-mails that have been hacked.

NUZZI: I mean, the strategy described in that Bloomberg story by Joshua Green today is like voter depression more than voter suppression. And it seems like they are desperate right now. They know that things aren't going well. As you said, Georgia is in play. Things are not going well in Texas of all places. They are desperate, and they are looking to do anything that they can to change the tide.

BLITZER: Can they do that, Gloria?

BORGER: See. I mean, we'll have to -- we'll have to see. I was talking to somebody in the Clinton campaign today who was saying, "Look, they don't expect to win Georgia. They really don't."

But the question of North Carolina is interesting, because will North Carolina start to look more and more like the state of Virginia where they're ahead? Triangle. There are a lot of voters they believe that they can appeal to there. And that is a state that is changing, and so they're very interested, of course, because they want to win it.

So they're very interested, of course, because they want to win it -- but they're very interested in the tightening of the polls there, vis- a-vis the state of Virginia, which isn't even -- isn't even endowed anymore.

BROWNSTEIN: And Wolf, can I just add real quickly?

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.

BROWNSTEIN: ... it's basically the same. In all of the Sun Belt states, you see the same coalition consolidating, accelerating what we've seen over the last 16 years, really, since 2000.

In Virginia already, the combination of college-educated whites and minorities have tipped the state toward the Democrats. In the Quinnipiac poll, Hillary Clinton is up double digits among college whites. You combine that with the minority population of Virginia. It's not competitive.

In North Carolina in this poll, she's basically even among college whites. And that is enough, given the minority population, to give her a slight advantage.

But it puts North Carolina on the same continuum that we've seen in Virginia and Colorado. And if Democrats can sustain that through this election and beyond, it really does tilt the Electoral College map. Georgia and Arizona are one step behind with the same demographic mix. But just not quite as much Democratic strength with college whites yet.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We have much more coming up. More stolen Clinton campaign e-mails have just been revealed. Should Hillary Clinton ignore them or confront them head on?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:47:26] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton's campaign brought out one of its biggest stars, the First Lady Michelle Obama. She campaigned with the Democratic nominee today for the first time. Lots going on.

Ron Brownstein, another aspect, very interesting, Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, he's a Republican, after the "Access Hollywood" video came out, he said there's no way he could support Donald Trump. He rescinded his endorsement, but now, he says he'll actually vote for Donald Trump, even though he's not endorsing him or supporting him.

Are Republicans out there sort of over all of the sexual allegations? Are they just ready to move on right now?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. But I think what Congressman Chaffetz has done though shows kind of the incredibly difficult position they are in. Even with a number of Republicans recanting, I believe we are still at a point where more Republican elected officials have said they are not voting for this nominee than any other nominee in the party's history, including Barry Goldwater in 1964 and as I like to say, including even William Howard Taft after Theodore Roosevelt bolted the party in 1912 to start his Bull Moose Party. There are more Republican senators not voting for Trump than went with Roosevelt against Taft.

But it reminds the big part of the Republican base is with him. And in fact, if he can -- when Donald Trump gets more generic, less kind of individual, and more like a generic Republican, as he has been in the last few days, he reminds a lot of ordinarily Republican leaning voters, in particular, college white men and non-college white women, where he has been significantly underperforming, he goes out every day and he talks about repealing Obamacare, they go, I'm a Republican, he's a Republican, his numbers start to move up. That's what I think we're seeing in the polls.

So, it is a very difficult position for these elected officials. But there is still a bigger fracture in the party over Donald Trump than I believe over any previous nominee.

BLITZER: Or when he talks about the Supreme Court and down that line (ph). Go ahead, David.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One thing, I was just going to say, to me this is a profile in cowardice. The night the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, he didn't say "I'm no longer endorsing Donald Trump," he said either "I'm out" or "I'm no longer", that was words to that effect.

BLITZER: You're talking about Jason Chaffetz.

SWERDLICK: Yes, talking about Congressman Chaffetz. I mean, he doesn't -- you know, people aren't at this point looking for him to make speeches on behalf of Donald Trump, or fundraiser on behalf of Trump, simply to know what his position is on Donald Trump, to reverse course on this after he gave that speech on TV, on our air, the night of that --

BLITZER: Gloria, Utah is a significant state all of a sudden.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, very significant state. I mean, who knows who is going to win Utah? Which -- I mean, no Democrat -- no Democrat has won Utah since Barry Goldwater.

[18:50:00] So, you look at this and you understand, yes, Jason Chaffetz is in a tough position, but he went on Don Lemon that night, I think you and I were there and they set him out and he can't be back in again. And there is something to say -- look, I don't support him, I'm not going to vote for him, I'm not going to vote for him, but I'm not going to vote for Hillary Clinton.

But you have to make that clear or how can your supporters know where your stand?

BLITZER: Jason Chaffetz, Olivia, is not alone in this. There are other Republicans who say, I'm not going to endorse him, not going to support him, but I have to vote for him because I don't want Hillary Clinton to be president.

OLIVIA NUZZI, THE DAILY BEAST: Right. But this is sort of Trump- vivation (ph) of the American politics, where people realize that they can pretty much get away with flip-flopping, they can get away with changing their minds and it may not matter because people do have short memories and people may not care that much in the end.

I mean, if Donald Trump, the nominee, can get away with it, if you're Jason Chaffetz, maybe you think, well, why can't I get away with it, too?

BLITZER: Is Melania Trump, you believe, is she going to actually go out and give two or three major speeches over the course of the next 12 days as Donald Trump suggested?

BORGER: Well, Donald Trump seemed to surprise her when he said she was going to do it. I think if she does do it, it's going to be an indication that they believe that she can help with women. He has a significant gender gap and that they feel they need her there as a character witness. Spouses always are good character witnesses.

The question is whether she's really going to be willing to do that, this campaign has not been something she's enjoyed. She's made it very clear. So, we'll have to see.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Ron, would it make a difference?

BROWNSTEIN: No, I don't think so. I mean, you know, look, your spouse should like you. And I think that's admirable but it's not really going to make a difference. He's facing some really significant problem with women voters, particularly college-educated white women who is on track to lose by two or three times as much as any Republican ever. And I don't think speeches from the spouse is going to change that.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stay with me. We're going to continue our analysis.

Also, there's other news developing. ISIS plots to attack the United States and that's adding new urgency to a looming military offensive on the terrorists' self-proclaimed capital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:51] BLITZER: ISIS plots to attack the United States are believed to be in the works right now in the terrorist self-proclaimed capital in Syria.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us.

Barbara, I understand you're learning, getting some new information?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Wolf, because of growing intelligence that ISIS is using Raqqah as a base of operations to plot against the United States. There are fresh indications the U.S. is getting ready to move on Raqqah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Inside Raqqah's Syria, the U.S. believes terrorists are plotting to attack the U.S. and the Pentagon is trying to stop it.

LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE: There is I think a sense of urgency about what we have to do here, because we are just not sure what they're up to and where and when. But we know that this plot/planning is emanating from Raqqah.

STARR: CNN has learned that U.S. Special Operations Forces recently attacked an ISIS target inside Syria. The U.S. believes the raid stopped plotters planning to attack the U.S., an administration official says.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We know we need to remove Daesh from Raqqah.

STARR: There are 2,000 to 3,000 ISIS fighters in and around Raqqah, ISIS' self-declared capital, according to U.S. military officials. No one knows how many other supporters exist among the population.

Within the next few weeks, the U.S. plans, along with Kurdish and Arab partners, to try to begin to isolate the city. Local ground forces backed up by U.S. military advisors will be put on roads in and out of Raqqah, trying to stop the flow of ISIS operatives.

The U.S. will fly aircraft overhead, ready to strike when targets are identified. The fight for Raqqah will begin even if the fight to retake Mosul in Iraq grows more brutal.

CNN producer Tim Lister is in northern Iraq.

TIM LISTER, CNN PRODUCER: From the secret phone calls, the text messages, the firsthand accounts of escapees that we're getting, a picture is beginning to emerge. And it's one of increased defensive preparedness by ISIS with booby trapped bombs scattered across the whole neighborhoods, with vehicles suicide bombs being moved to the outskirts but also apparently a preparedness by ISIS to escape.

STARR: People trapped in the city are trying to fight ISIS but as many as 600 have been rounded up.

LISTER: The risk for anyone caught with a cell phone in Mosul is enormous, summary execution most of the time. But still, they try to get word out to the outside world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And tonight, U.S. officials are estimating upwards of 900 ISIS operatives have been killed so far in that operation against Mosul, Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr with the latest information at the Pentagon. Barbara, thank you so much for that report.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.