Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview with Rep. Adam Schiff; In Dem Stronghold, Trump Praises FBI Director's 'Guts'; How Will Comey Announcement Impact Election?; Officials: E-mail Resolution Unlikely Before Election; Clinton on E-mails: "There Is No Case Here"; FBI Using Special Technology to Sift Through E-mails. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired October 31, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Breaking news. Warranted search. Armed with a court order, the FBI is using special technology to sift through thousands of e-mails linked to a top Clinton aide. Officials say it's unlikely there will be a resolution before the election, now just eight days away.
[17:00:22] Praise and pressure. After criticizing the FBI for months, Donald Trump now says it took guts for him to go public on the latest e-mails. But Hillary Clinton says there is no case, and top Justice Department figures from both parties say the FBI chief crossed the line.
Breaking -- banking the vote. The Clinton campaign is counting on millions of dollars of early -- millions of early votes, I should say, that have already been cast, hoping it will minimize the impact of the latest e-mail shocker.
And Huma nature. Hillary Clinton mild-mannered aide, Huma Abedin, is off the campaign plane, at least for now, as the FBI agents search through her e-mails. Is Clinton's closest confidant also her Achilles heel?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. Just eight days before the election, there's growing political fallout from the FBI director's surprise announcement that more e-mails have been located in the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private server.
The FBI is using special software right now to filter through thousands of e-mails on the computer of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of close Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Investigators will then look for possible -- possible classified information, but officials say no resolution is expected before election day.
That's left Democrats furious, some arguing that the FBI director, James Comey, broke the law by going public with the new information. Hillary Clinton says, and I'm quoting her now, "There is no case here."
Former legal officials from both parties are sharply critical of Comey, but the White House is refusing either to condemn or defend his actions.
Donald Trump, who slammed Comey in the past, is now praising the FBI director, saying his decision took a lot of guts. And Trump's campaign is trying to take full advantage, even venturing into traditionally blue states in these days before the election.
I'll speak with Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's stories.
Let's begin with our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, who has new information on the e-mail investigation. Pamela, what did you learn?
PAULA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of fast-moving developments tonight. We have learned that the Department of Justice sent a letter to members of Congress, saying it is working with the FBI to move things along as quickly as possible. As one law enforcement official I spoke with said, the FBI is aware of the pressure it's under to figure out what's in those new e-mails, given the election is only eight days away. But tonight Director Comey is remaining silent.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight the FBI is in a race against the clock. CNN has learned a team of agents is using special software at FBI facilities in Quantico, Virginia, to sift through thousands of newly- discovered e-mails tied to isolate those relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private server. Those e-mails will then be searched for classified information, a process that likely won't be resolved until after the election.
In July, when Director Comey initially recommended no charges, he said no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case against Clinton, despite finding classified information on her private server.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: We don't want to put people in jail unless we've proved that they knew they were doing something they shouldn't do.
BROWN: CNN has learned some of the e-mails found on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, passed through Clinton's private server. A source says Abedin has no idea how her e-mails ended up on her husband's computer.
Law enforcement sources say several weeks ago, agents stumbled upon the new e-mails while investigating Weiner's alleged sexting with a 15-year-old girl. Comey found out in mid-October but wasn't fully briefed until last Thursday. A day later, he went against Department of Justice policy, sending a vague letter to Congress, over the objections of top DOJ officials. Tonight he's taking heat from every direction, even from his former boss, Republican-appointed attorney general Alberto Gonzales.
ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I didn't understand it. I didn't understand what he was saying, what he was trying to say. I didn't understand the purpose of the letter. All of the sudden, I'm perplexed about, you know, what the director was trying to accomplish here.
BROWN: Now Comey is under intense pressure to fully to publicly release more information before election day.
GONZALES: We are in a very unusual situation, and it may be that, in order to protect the integrity of this election, that he may need to say something else about what is -- in relation to this investigation.
[17:05:03] BROWN: Tonight the White House spokesman said he would neither defend nor criticize Comey but acknowledged he's in a tough spot.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: He's the one who will be in a position to defend his actions in the face of significant criticism from a variety of legal experts, including individuals who served in senior Department of Justice positions in administrations that were led by presidents in both parties.
BROWN: At this point, investigators have no reason to believe Abedin was trying to obstruct the investigation by not turning over all the e-mails. And to be clear, there is still a lot we don't know. There could be something in the e-mails. There could be nothing in these e- mails. What remains unseen right now is whether Director Comey will come out and talk to the public and give more information once he understands the substance of these new e-mails. It's unclear if that will happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: I hear they're working very hard, very quickly to see if they can come to some conclusion in these coming days. We'll see if they can. Pamela, thanks very much. Pamela Brown reporting.
Hillary Clinton is trying the make the best of a bad situation. Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is out on the campaign trail in Ohio with her. Joe, can Hillary Clinton somehow use this to her advantage?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what she's trying to do, Wolf. She's trying to use some of the voter anxiety surrounding this controversy to get out her vote. Kicking off her final week of campaigning right here in battleground Ohio in Kent, Ohio, today making the case that there is no FBI case in that latest trove of e-mails.
JOHNS (voice-over): Tonight Hillary Clinton is dismissing the FBI's review of newly-discovered e-mails that might be related to her use of a private server.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: By all means they should look at them. And I am sure they will reach the same conclusion they did when they looked at my e-mails for the last year. There is no case here.
JOHNS: Clinton is warning undecided voters and her anxious supporters in battleground Ohio not to lose sight of what is at stake so close to the election.
CLINTON: I think most people have decided a long time ago what they think about all of this. In these last days, let's not get distracted from the real choice in this election and the consequences for your future.
JOHNS: As the Democratic nominee confronts the latest controversy involving her e-mail practices, she is looking to turn attention back to Donald Trump, accusing him of damaging the democratic process with his rhetoric.
CLINTON: Donald Trump is doing his best to confuse, mislead and discourage the American people. I mean, he's such a downer, right?
JOHNS: That as Clinton and her allies continue to question Comey's decision to alert congressional leaders to the new e-mails on Friday.
CLINTON: A lot of you may be asking what this new e-mail story is about, and why in the world the FBI would decide to jump into an election with no evidence of any wrongdoing with just days to go. That's a good question.
JOHNS: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid even sending a letter to Comey, suggesting that, by taking the investigation public, Comey may have broken the law intended to keep federal employees from directly supporting candidates. "Your highly selective approach to publicizing information, along with your timing, was intended for the success or failure of a partisan candidate or political group."
With just eight days until election day, Clinton now holds a 5-point advantage nationally over Trump in the latest CNN poll of polls. Clinton is sticking to her core strategy, questioning Trump's fitness to serve.
CLINTON: Imagine him plunging us into a war because somebody go under his very thin skin. Now, thankfully, he's never been in a position where he had to help make life and death decisions.
JOHNS: Her campaign hitting that message with a new television ad invoking an old theme, the fear of nuclear war.
MONIQUE CORZILIUS LUIZ, ACTRESS: One, two, three.
JOHNS: Featuring an actress from the iconic 1964 Lyndon Johnson daisy ad to paint Trump as reckless.
LUIZ: This was me in 1964. The fear of nuclear war that we had as children, I never thought our children would ever have to deal with that again. And to see that coming forward in this election is really scary.
JOHNS: Hillary Clinton today was not traveling with her long-time aide, Huma Abedin. Instead at her side, another trusted aide. A former chief of protocol at the State Department when Hillary Clinton was there, Capricia Marshall, who's from Ohio and actually went to law school here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Joe Johns reporting for us from Ohio. Joe, thanks very much.
Joining us now, Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, supporter of Hillary Clinton. Congressman, thank very much for joining us.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you.
[17:10:05] BLITZER: So you're the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee. You were one of those eight members of Congress, Democrats -- eight Republicans, eight Democrats -- who received the original letter.
Have you subsequently been briefed on what the FBI is doing?
SCHIFF: No, and I'm not sure that any of us are going to get briefed. I think he had a conversation with the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee but didn't say anything that really went beyond the letter.
And I'm not sure what he can say to clean up, frankly, the mess that he has made. I think this was the exercise of very poor judgment. I say that not just as a Clinton supporter but someone who spent six years in the Department of Justice as an assistant U.S. attorney. You don't talk about pending cases. You certainly don't do it right around election time. He had to know this would insert himself into the campaign and open up himself and the whole bureau to charges that he is favoring one candidate over another, disclosing things about one but not the other. That's not where you want to be.
BLITZER: Do you believe which charges?
SCHIFF: Do I believe which charges?
BLITZER: That he's trying to interfere and show support for one candidate as opposed to the other?
SCHIFF: I think -- the most I'm prepared to say is I think this was the exercise of surprisingly poor judgment. I think that this may or may not have been his interest. He may have been concerned about what the people would say after the campaign. But what's in his interest or even in the bureau's interest is not the test; it's what's in the public interest.
It's also about fairness. These policies of the department not to talk about pending matters, they're there for a reason, to ensure fairness, that you don't cast unwanted aspersions or innuendo. And by sending this letter, effectively publishing this letter 10 days out, suggesting there could be relevant e-mails but there may not be, that put the Clinton campaign, frankly, in an untenable position, trying to defend against the negative. And it was wholly unwarranted.
And I find it astounding that this was done when the director hadn't even read the e-mails, the FBI hadn't even read them and didn't know the contents. That makes it all the more extraordinary. It's like a rush to get this out before the election.
BLITZER: His argument from his supporters is that, after the early July clearing of Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing, he said she was extremely careless in handling the classified information, but he said there were no charges he would recommend to the Justice Department, to the attorney general.
He testified before Congress, and he promised members of Congress, if there's a change in any of this, I will notify you that there's been a change. What he has done now, there's been a change in all of this. He's reviewing some new information they've received. And his argument is "I simply lived up to the promise I gave members of Congress I would notify them of this new review."
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, that's not a promise the director should make. You don't...
BLITZER: He made that promise.
SCHIFF: Well, he made the commitment that if there were substantial new evidence, he would look at it. That's about all he said before Congress.
We don't know that this is substantial new evidence. And at a minimum, he should have determined whether these e-mails were even relevant before going public, and I don't think that should have happened at all before a national election.
So not withstanding what he said, and as ambiguous as what he said was to Congress, this was, I think, an unequivocal mistake, which is why you're seeing so many even high-ranking people, both Democrats and Republicans, who have served with the Justice Department condemning this.
BLITZER: So what do you want them to do now?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it's very hard to clean this up now, because if there are a lot of e-mails to go through, it will take time to figure out...
BLITZER: There's are thousands and thousands. There may be hundreds of thousands of e-mails on Anthony Weiner, the former congressman, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin. And then there are thousands of -- supposedly of e-mails involving her, and there may be some from the Hillary Clinton private e-mail server that wound up, for whatever reason, on that computer. SCHIFF: Well, what I'm sure they're going to try to do is triage, OK? This set is completely irrelevant. This set may be relevant. Now, can they automate that process, or do they have to have eyes on every e-mail to figure out, OK, we already have these?
I don't know if that's doable within the next week, and I don't think we want to see a statement come out the day before the election. And my guess is, because this may not be doable, that the most he will be able to do is another statement that is heavily caveated. And those caveats will be exploited by Mr. Trump, no doubt, even if they say we haven't found anything but we're still looking. So once you make this mess, it's very tough to clean up.
BLITZER: The Hillary Clinton campaign says they want to release everything as quickly as possible. Are you sure that's a good idea, from her standpoint? Because there could be some embarrassing information that they would release.
SCHIFF: I think -- I think it's the right position for the campaign to take. Look, when the director said in July that no reasonable prosecutor would move forward, it is very difficult to conceive of anything that turns up at this late stage that would change that judgement. It wasn't even a close call, the director said.
So I think they're quite confident nothing in these e-mails is going to alter that calculation. So yes, they would like this out there. I'm skeptical the bureau is going to be willing to do that, and this is why I think that the mistake the director made is going to be so difficult to rectify.
[17:15:09] BLITZER: But you know -- I assume you know the FBI director. He's got a very good reputation. He was widely praised by Hillary and the Democrats after his July announcement no criminal charges would be recommended.
The assumption a lot of people have, because of his experience as a former U.S. attorney, as a former deputy attorney general, now the FBI director, he would not have issued a statement like this unless there was something that convinced him there was a significant new development.
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think that's certainly the view that the Trump campaign has been pushing, but the reality is, he hadn't even read the e-mails. So there's no way for him to make that judgment.
BLITZER: What if there's FBI agents had read them and briefed them on what they initially, in their initial review of these e-mails, discovered?
SCHIFF: Remember, the bureau agents weren't supposed to read these, because they were only given the legal process to look at e-mails dealing with Anthony Weiner, so presumably, they couldn't have really gone into the contents of these other e-mails.
They might have... BLITZER: You're a former U.S. attorney. At least you worked in the U.S. attorney's office. If FBI agents are reviewing material they thought was relevant go the case against Anthon Weiner -- he's being federally investigated right now for sexting with a 15-year-old girl, which of course is illegal. If they came upon some, just in the course of that, they saw some e-mails that maybe relevant to the initial Hillary Clinton investigation, wouldn't they read that? Wouldn't they take a look at that?
SCHIFF: Well, they're not supposed to. If they have an e-mail that is, say, from Huma Abedin to the secretary, they know that's not going to involve Anthony Weiner and the allegations against him. They're not even supposed to go through that. They're not even legally entitled to go through that.
So presumably, the bureau would have followed the law. Now, if they looked at the metadata, the "to" and the "from" and whatnot, and realized that these may be pertinent, they wouldn't be able to review those to figure out whether those...
BLITZER: But now they have a search warrant. They can review them.
SCHIFF: Now they can. Now, they can.
But again, I think this compounds the mistake the director made after July when he started to send investigative files, closed-case materials to the Congress. I said at the time I thought that was a mistake. I said, you know, what the bureau is calling transparency, you'll have a different word for later. It will be mistake. And indeed, this is where we have now been led, to I think what is a -- will go down as a colossal mistake by the bureau.
BLITZER: Do you have any idea how Hillary Clinton's e-mails from her primate e-mail server, while she was Secretary of State, could have wound up on Anthony Weiner's computer?.
SCHIFF: I have no idea. And I think -- and again, part of the problem is we're learning everything by leak. I don't know that Huma knows how they ended up there.
And this is another thing that disturbs me, Wolf, is what we got from that letter was so nebulous that the only really valuable information we got had been from leaks from the bureau, like the fact that it involved Anthony Weiner's computer, that it wasn't even a device belonging to Secretary Clinton. So that's really a problem when the most valuable insights we're getting of context aren't coming from the official statement. They're coming from leaks.
BLITZER: Some of your Democratic colleagues have now publicly called on the FBI director, James Comey, to resign. Are you among them?
SCHIFF: I'm not. But I do think this was a very serious error in judgment. And you know, as someone who has had a high opinion of the director, I was very surprised to see it. And -- and I can only think that he thought this was in the best interests of the bureau, not to be accused after the election of hiding something. But this clearly was not in the public interest. And if you're going
to violate DOJ policy, you need a darn good reason for it, and you better have something to say. And here, there wasn't a good reason for it, and he had nothing to say. This letter just raised far more questions than any could answer.
BLITZER: Do you know if the FBI is now investigating the Trump campaign, or at least individuals who have worked or continue to work for the Trump campaign tie -- their ties to Russia? Is that an investigation that is ongoing, as far as you know?
SCHIFF: You know, I can't comment on an investigation the bureau may be doing or what the intelligence community may be interested in. But precisely these questions are why you want to avoid coming out with announcements right before an election. Because it does open you up, you know, to the question about whether you're being selective in what you're disclosing. These are exactly the kind of questions that the bureau doesn't want to have to answer and why -- why it was such a grave error.
BLITZER: If there is such an investigation going on -- I don't know if there is -- should the American public before the election be told that there is an investigation of Trump campaign officials' ties to Russia? Should the American public know about that before the election?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I've certainly spoken out very strongly, as you know, Wolf, that the American public should be leveled with about Russian interference in the U.S. elections. And I think for that reason, it's very appropriate for the administration, the secretary of homeland security, as DI Clapper to talk about Russian hacking and the fact that all these WikiLeaks stuff really originated with the Russians.
[17:20:10] In terms of disclosing pending investigations involving specific people, let alone people running for office right before election, that's not something that should be done. But here you have the director, who has done this with one candidate. And -- and that obviously puts the Department of Justice in a very difficult position, a terrible position.
But it's hard to advocate righting one wrong with another, righting one violation of DOJ policy with another. You know, I rather see the director try to shed some clarity. And if he can't, I think the director ought to, frankly, have the gumption to come to the American people and say, "This was a mistake. I have seen no evidence. We're going through these new e-mails. But I'm seen no evidence that would cause me at all to alter my original judgment in July."
BLITZER: It was also a mistake, with hindsight, certainly, even at time, for the attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to meet with former president Bill Clinton on her plane just days before the completion of the original investigation back in July, right?
SCHIFF: Yes. You know, I think it was an innocent mistake. But nonetheless, it created an appearance that there could be impropriety. And it had a lot of cascading effects. When she said she was essentially going to defer the prosecutorial decision to Director Comey, that led to his rather extraordinary press conference and unfortunately, we have been on a slippery slope downward ever since.
BLITZER: There's a new ad that the Clinton campaign has just put out, featuring the woman who appeared in that original 1964 Lyndon Johnson so-called "Daisy" ad involving Goldwater, nuclear war. Watch a little clip from that ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUIZ: This was me in 1964.
The fear of nuclear war that we had as children, I never thought our children would ever have to deal with that again. And to see that coming forward in this election is really scary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump asked three times.
SCARBOROUGH: Three times, "Why can't we use nuclear weapons?"
TRUMP: I want to be unpredictable.
SCARBOROUGH: What safeguards are there to stop any president who may not be stable from launching a nuclear attack?
HAYDEN: The commander in chief is the commander in chief.
TRUMP: Bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is it responsible for the -- for Hillary Clinton, because today she spoke at length about this, and her campaign to be stoking these fears of a nuclear war, if Donald Trump is elected president?
SCHIFF: I certainly think it's important for the Clinton campaign to highlight this is not someone you want with their finger on the nuclear button. He just doesn't show the judgment or fitness or seriousness of office. And look at the things he's said about his willingness to consider nuclear use or support the proliferation of nuclear weapons by other countries.
So it's more than an appropriate issue. It's why a lot of national security experts, both Republicans and Democrats, have come out so strongly against him.
What I find fascinating about this, this is the second Goldwater-era ad that's been remade. The first was, if you remember, the Republican who is talking about Goldwater and how he can't bring himself to support Goldwater. They brought that individual back to do an ad, and it's interesting how the Goldwater campaign is having echoes through this one.
BLITZER: How worried are you right now, as a result of this new investigation -- review, I should say -- by the FBI that it's hurting Hillary Clinton in these final days before the election? You're a big supporter of hers.
SCHIFF: Well, I don't like the fact that, at least for the last few days, it's changed the topic, because I think there are far more significant issues people should be deciding this election and focused on in these last few days.
I don't think it's going to change the trajectory of the race. But what I'd like people to really focus on, first and foremost, is who's really fit for this office? Who has the judgment and the temperament? What they saw when they looked at the contrast between these candidates during those presidential debates, that's what I want people thinking about when they go to vote.
I have every confidence that, when these final e-mails are reviewed, the director will reach the absolutely same conclusion as before. The problem is, if that conclusion only comes after the election, and the director's in the position of saying, "Sorry. Never mind. There really wasn't anything here," that's not much of a way to compensate for this error in judgment.
BLITZER: What if he comes to the opposite conclusion: there is something here?
SCHIFF: You know, it's just very hard to see how, with all the e- mails they've gone through when they concluded that no reasonable prosecutor would think this was at all chargeable, that somehow that conclusion was altered. It just seems so highly improbable, I can't imagine that happening.
BLITZER: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Thanks, as usual, for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ahead, we'll have much more on the breaking news. Can Donald Trump take full advantage of the opportunity he's been given by the latest e-mail revelation? And I'll speak with a key Trump supporter on the state of the campaign. We'll be right back.
[17:29:07] BLITZER: Our breaking news, FBI agents are using special technology right now to comb through thousands and thousands of e- mails potentially licked [SIC] -- linked to a top Hillary Clinton aide, and Donald Trump is rushing to take full advantage of his sudden opportunity.
Today he's even gone back to Michigan, which has voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on the scene for us. Jim, Trump is working this for all it's worth, this latest development.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He really is, Wolf. And aides to Donald Trump tell us that the GOP nominee will be talking about this all week long, delivering the message that Hillary Clinton only has herself to blame for this latest e-mail mess.
But make no mistake, Donald Trump is coming to the defense of FBI Director James Comey in this controversy. That is a big shift from what we heard from Donald Trump earlier this year, when he was essentially saying that the FBI was part of this rigged conspiracy to through the election to Hillary Clinton because they were refusing to investigate and prosecute the secretary of state for using a private e-mail server.
[17:30:08] But contrast that with what Donald Trump was saying earlier today here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was giving Comey credit for taking another look at this investigation. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And I have to give the FBI credit. That was so bad what happened originally, and it took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had, where they're trying to protect her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, Trump is speaking right now in Warren, Michigan, Wolf. In his remarks we know just a few moments ago that Donald Trump said that there would be a constitutional crisis in this country if Hillary Clinton is elected president with this investigation going on.
And Wolf, Trump took other shots at the disgraced former congressman, Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife, Huma Abedin. Trump thanked Anthony Weiner, thanked Huma Abedin, who was a top aide for Hillary Clinton. Trump, during this event here in Grand Rapids, thanked Anthony Weiner, thanked Huma Abedin for basically giving this election-eve gift to the Republican campaign.
And Wolf, much has been made of Donald Trump campaigning in Michigan. It's normally a blue state that votes Democratic in presidential cycles. The Trump campaign is seeing internal numbers that they believe shows that this race and this state is much more competitive.
But Woolf, even though we're talking a lot about Donald Trump campaigning in blue states -- he was in New Mexico last night, is in Michigan today, will be in Wisconsin, which is more of a competitive state. Tomorrow, he has a full slate of events coming up on Wednesday in Florida. So the campaign, the Trump campaign, is getting back into the business of competing in these very crucial battleground states. Without Florida, Donald Trump does not have much of a chance of winning the White House, Wolf.
BLITZER: That's absolutely true. Jim Acosta, thanks very much for that report.
Let's take a closer look at the electoral map right now. Our political director, David Chalian, is joining us. David, why is Donald Trump actually campaigning in Michigan today when he needs to shore up what he desperately needs in those battleground states? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He may see some opportunity in
those internal polls Jim was just talking about, Wolf. We're not seeing it in public data yet.
But he's there and he's in Colorado -- he was in Colorado over the weekend and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, because this whole area of all these light blue states in these green lines, this is Hillary Clinton turf; and Donald Trump cannot win the White House without digging into some of Hillary Clinton's turf.
Take a look here. Here's the battleground map. Those six yellow states are the true toss-ups left. Let's give them all to Donald Trump for the moment: Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio. He's still only at 264. Even if he flipped New Hampshire, which has been leaning in Hillary Clinton's direction, he only gets to 268.
And this assumes, Wolf, of course, that he hangs onto a Republican stronghold like Utah, where the third-party candidate, Evan McMullin, is giving him a run for his money.
So his path is still quite, quite difficult, and that is why we see him in states like Wisconsin tomorrow, Pennsylvania, Michigan today. He needs to bring some turf that Hillary Clinton is holding his way. And he thinks seizing on this e-mail story is one way to do that. Maybe he can pull back some moderate Republicans that were thinking about going to Clinton, some independents, some late deciders. He's hoping in those critical states that they'll come his way.
BLITZER: All right, David. Stay with us. Don't go too far away. I want to bring in the rest of our political experts. Mike Preston, let's start with you.
So is it a smart strategy for Trump to be working on some of these traditionally Democratic states like Michigan, New Mexico? He's been going there, about to go off to Wisconsin. Or should he be -- should he be working full-time, let's say, in Florida and Ohio? If he loses either one of those two states, it's almost certainly over for him.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Or North Carolina for that matter. No, I mean, that's like a shotgun blast, what we've seen from him over the last 24 to 48 hours. He's not going to win New Mexico. He's not going to win Michigan.
What he should be doing is focusing on North Carolina and Florida, shoring up where he might be weakening a little bit. And quite frankly, really give a hard look at Pennsylvania again. I know it's bigger and it costs more money, but he spent a lot of time there, and that might be a state that's better fit to him, specifically when you look at western Pennsylvania, where he is certainly doing very well out there, but the voters out there are very akin to Ohio. And that's where he's doing very well, as well. It's really the outer suburbs of Philadelphia that Donald Trump would do well.
But to go to Michigan and to go to New Mexico, I don't understand why.
BLITZER: Pamela, the FBI director, James Comey, is coming under a lot of fire from Democrats now. He used to come under a lot of fire...
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
BLITZER: ... after the July decision from Republicans. But overall, he's had a very, very good reputation. I know you've been working your sources. What are you hearing?
BROWN: Well, I've been speaking to people who know him, who work for him, and I just got off the phone with a former colleague with knowledge of how he's doing ever since this political firestorm erupted on Friday afternoon. And I'm told that he's doing OK and that he honestly believes that he did the right thing, that this was not sort of a shoot-from-the-hip decision to come out and say that he is essentially looking back at the investigation that he had said was a done deal.
[17:35:12] And the way that he went through this process was that, look, there's two bad choices here. You know, he has the choice of coming out now and going against Department of Justice policy, or running the risk of it leaking or coming out after the election.
And so he felt like he made a promise to Congress that he would update them if there were any developments, and that is what he did. He truly believes that he did the right thing, regardless of all of this criticism that has erupted.
BLITZER: So Jeffrey Toobin, Comey's clearly, based on this information that Pamela is just getting, he doesn't -- he doesn't have any second doubts about his decision. Did he have a choice, though, a realistic choice? Because a lot of people said it was between -- a very, very difficult decision.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He had a difficult decision to make, but I think there is this enormous consensus among Democratic and Republican former Justice Department officials that he made the wrong choice, that this tradition of staying out of political campaigns in the period right before is sacrosanct.
And you add to that the fact that his disclosure did not provide any meaningful information. It simply just threw all the cards up in the air. I think it is a decision that's going to haunt him for a long time.
One thing I think we are starting to learn today, though, is this is it. There is not going to be more official disclosures, when you look at the volume of information that the FBI has to analyze. Certainly the worst thing they could do is come out with more information that turns out not to be correct. So it sounds like they are beginning a meticulous review of many thousands of e-mails, and whatever answers come from it will come after the election.
BROWN: I'm just going to add just quickly, in talking to those in the FBI, as Jeffrey said, it's unlikely and probably not going to happen, to hear from James Comey until this is wrapped up. He's not going to sort of give us updates as he learns more about the substance of the e-mails; that they're going to wait, see it through and then come out at the very end.
BLITZER: Nia-Malika Henderson, so is it going to have an impact on the bottom line, November 8, who is elected president? How big of a deal, for example, is this whole development?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it is a big deal. I mean, you saw Hillary Clinton want to get out there and frame this and really shift the blame to Comey. You heard people like Eric Holder coming out and kind of forming an echo chamber around
Hillary Clinton's argument, this idea that Comey is politicizing this event so close to the election.
Eighteen million people have already cast ballots. I mean, early voting is already going on.
BLITZER: It's more than 20 million already.
HENDERSON: Yes. In 37 states, they're already voting. That's a key part of the Democratic strategy as well as the Republican strategy going into this. Forty percent of folks will cast election -- cast ballots prior to election day. So the election is already going on in terms of people making decisions about this.
I don't think we know yet what this -- what this will do to voters. Does it depress Democratic vote or does it reenergize them around Hillary Clinton? Maybe they were feeling a little bit complacent, because in a lot of these polls, Hillary Clinton looked like she was ahead. Maybe this is reenergizing. But certainly, you can imagine that it also energizes Republicans.
BLITZER: Mark, you think -- last time around, 2012, more than 120 million Americans voted. I think 126 million altogether. So let's say 20 million already have voted. Millions more will vote before election day, but some of them are probably saying to themselves, "You know what? Maybe I should wait to see -- to get more information." Is this an argument against early voting, in other words?
PRESTON: You know, that's -- that's something that's been debated, quite frankly, over the past couple of weeks, if not the past 72 hours or so. There's something to be said about opening up the voting and make it more accessible to people. Not everybody has the ability on, you know, the day, election day to get there in the morning and to go to vote. A lot of people have one job, two jobs, three jobs, you know, for that matter.
Listen, in some states you can change your vote. We do know that. I'm always erring on the side of let's make it more open to get more people involved in the process as long as the right protocols are put in place.
TOOBIN: We have our elections on a weekday, too, not on the weekend, which makes it even more difficult for a lot of people to vote on election day. Yes.
BLITZER: Because people have to go to work, too. And if there are long line, that's difficult for them to wait an hour or two or three...
PRESTON: Two or three hours.
BLITZER: ... to cast their ballots.
David Chalian is with us here, as well. David, the exit polls show that Hillary Clinton's vulnerable on the issue of honesty and trustworthiness. What does this latest development -- how does that impact that problem she's had for a while?
CHALIAN: Not positively; I'll tell you that. And this is -- this is the core of why we saw that throughout the primary season in the exit polls. It is the e-mail issue that speaks directly to honesty and trustworthiness; also to her favorable ratings, which have been underwater through this campaign season.
This is how you know Hillary Clinton and her campaign think it's a big deal, because she did two things today. One, she's still talking about this. She's still, 72 hours later, feeling the need to put this on Jim Comey. So they don't think that is resolved yet in any way in people's minds.
[17:40:03] And two, she was trying very hard today to get back to the argument that Donald Trump is not fit to serve as commander in chief in a national security context. That is where they felt strongest throughout this whole campaign, is when they called in Donald Trump's fitness for the office into question, raised that as a question in people's minds.
That is what -- when you see her doing those two things today, they do not believe yet that they are on firm ground. They're trying to get to firm ground.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, every time Hillary Clinton talks about this -- she did today, yesterday; she keeps talking about it, that prolongs the story, obviously. And some of her advisors, presumably, have been saying, "You know what? Let other people talk about it. We're going to focus in on Donald Trump, the negative qualities he brings, that he's not fit to be president of the United States and avoid this issue, because you're simply keeping it going."
TOOBIN: This is the dilemma that campaigns always face when they're dealing with bad news. Do you respond or do you try to move on?
One thing we know for sure is Donald Trump is still talking about it, and obviously, the Clinton campaign thought, "We can't leave him being the only person out there talking about it, so we have to address it, as well."
I would think, based on the polls that come out over the middle part of this week, they will make up their mind about whether they have to keep addressing it. If the polls stabilize, and there certainly have not been any dramatic changes in the polls, but if her lead maintains, I anticipate she will move to a more positive closing argument that gets away from this.
But I suspect it depends on what the polls show.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stay with us. We have a lot more to assess. We'll have a closer look at the other woman at the center of the latest e-mail controversy coming up. Is one of Hillary Clinton's most loyal, most trusted assistants turning into a major liability?
[17:45:41] BLITZER: We're now much more ahead of the breaking news. U.S. law enforcement officials now telling CNN it's unlikely the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin's newly discovered e-mails will be finished before the November 8th election.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. He has more on Huma Abedin. She's been working with Hillary Clinton for many years, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Huma Abedin has been with Hillary Clinton for a little over 20 years. People who know them say Mrs. Clinton considers Abedin almost like a second daughter. But tonight, as Hillary Clinton heads down the final week stretch before the election, their relationship could be under more strain than ever.
TODD (VOICE OVER): Tonight, one of Hillary Clinton's closest confidants may have become one of her biggest liabilities.
HUMA ABEDIN, AIDE TO HILLARY CLINTON: I'll be making no further comments. Thank you.
TODD (voice over): Huma Abedin who has spent much of her career in Clinton's shadow is again being pushed unwillingly into the spotlight after the FBI Director said e-mails related to the Clinton's server investigation showed up on a laptop computer owned by Abedin and her estranged husband.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The situation has certainly become a political a liability where all the misdeeds and misconduct of her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, now get thrown into the mix.
TODD (voice over): Sources tell CNN the FBI discovered those e-mails when it was investigating allegations that Weiner exchanged sexually suggestive messages with a 15-year-old girl. A source familiar to the investigation says Abedin was surprised that Weiner's computer contained e-mails that may belong to Abedin. And there's no indication at the moment that Abedin did anything wrong.
JOHN PODESTA, HILLARY CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I think Huma has been completely cooperative with the authorities, and they've recognized that. She's worked with her attorneys to turn over relevant material.
TODD (voice over): Still, Donald Trump is seizing the moment.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good job, Huma. Thank you, Anthony Weiner. TODD (voice over): Abedin, Clinton's former deputy chief-of-staff at
the State Department, has been a constant fixture on the campaign trail at her boss's side. But tonight, she is off Clinton's plane. Sources say she is laying low. There are reports that she has hunkered down at home.
Abedin and Clinton's relationship stretches 20 years, dating back to when Abedin was a White House intern. Stolen campaign e-mails released by WikiLeaks show she is, at times, both Clinton's upper and historian. It was Clinton who reportedly encouraged Abedin to go on a date with then New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. They married in 2010. Bill Clinton officiated.
But then came Weiner's sexting scandals, starting in 2011 when "Breitbart News" published racy photos of Weiner in underwear, which he allegedly sent to another woman. Weiner resigned from Congress. Abedin stayed by his side.
Two years later, while Weiner was running for New York mayor, more explicit messages were revealed. He had used the pseudonym Carlos Danger to send sexually charged messages to other women.
ABEDIN: I love him. I have forgiven. I believe in him. And as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward.
TODD (voice over): Some in the Clinton orbit believe Abedin should have broken ties with Weiner then and were especially frustrated when they learned she had agreed to participate in a behind the scenes documentary of Weiner's mayoral run. At one point in the film, Abedin clearly looks agitated as Weiner apologizes to his staff.
ANTHONY WEINER, (D) FORMER CONGRESSMAN OF NEW YORK: The level of guilt and pain that I feel, I'm very sorry I put everyone in this position.
TODD (voice over): Still, Hillary Clinton has never wavered.
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Clintons are loyal. She has been with them for more than 20 years. She's like another daughter to Hillary Clinton, so I think in the remaining days of the campaign, you won't see her position changing at all.
TODD: This summer Abedin announced her separation from Anthony Weiner when he was caught allegedly exchanging messages with a 15-year-old girl. There are reports tonight that, with a string of embarrassments, Clinton has been encouraged to distance herself from Huma Abedin.
And we reached out several times to Huma Abedin, her attorneys, and the Clinton campaign for comment on our story. We have not heard back. Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, if Hillary Clinton wins on November 8th, could there still be a role for Huma Abedin in the White House or in the Clinton administration if she wins, even after all of these?
TODD: Wolf, political observers say that could be possible, that Abedin could still have a role as a top adviser, very important, but possibly, completely unseen. Maybe similar to the role that Valerie Jarrett has now with President Obama.
BLITZER: Valerie Jarrett, a significant adviser, senior adviser --
BLITZER: -- to the President of the United States almost all of these eight years. Thanks very much, Brian Todd --
BLITZER: -- for that report. Let's bring back our political experts.
[17:50:07] Nia, how damaging is all of this to the relationship between Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, they're incredibly close. I mean, it's almost like a mother-daughter relationship. Hillary Clinton has been incredibly loyal to her, and you've seen her be protective of Huma Abedin and vice versa, Abedin being protective of Hillary Clinton. So it's hard to know.
I imagine, for both of them, it's a very painful chapter in their relationship, which is obviously a personal and a professional one. Hard to see anything changing in the next eight days in terms of her position on the campaign trail. And we'll just have to wait and see if Hillary Clinton is elected, what sort of role would Huma have in a Hillary Clinton White House.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf --
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
TOOBIN: If I could just make one point about their relationship. The one thing that any lawyer would tell both of them is, don't discuss this subject. Don't discuss anything about her e-mails, anything about this investigation, because they will certainly be asked in a grand jury someday, if it comes to that, did you communicate? Did you try to line up your stories? And that could set up one or both of them for a charge of obstruction of justice. So the one thing they should not be doing now is discussing anything about this whole situation.
BLITZER: And so when Huma Abedin's friends say she was just as surprised as everyone else that some of her e-mails may have been found on her estranged husband's computer, what was your reaction?
TOOBIN: My reaction is, she shouldn't be talking about this to her friends. She shouldn't be talking about this to anybody because anyone who knows anything about the situation could be questioned by the FBI. The only people she should be talking about this entire situation to are her lawyers. BLITZER: How did we get, Pamela, because you cover the Justice
Department, from this situation where we see James Comey, the FBI Director, breaking with Department of Justice's long-standing policy and tradition and discussing this new development in this investigation right now?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so much about this case is unprecedented, I mean, given the fact that a presidential candidate is under investigation in an election year, and the fact that he has come out publicly back in July when he came out recommending no charges without even telling his boss, Loretta Lynch.
But, I mean, first of all, none of this would have happened obviously if the private server had never been set up so we have to keep that in mind. But then, of course, there was the meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton, and that certainly put James Comey in a difficult position, and I think probably influenced his decision to come out publicly.
But from there, it became a slippery slope because he put himself out there and then he put himself in front of Congress to testify, which is why he felt obligated to now send this letter on Friday, just, you know, less than two weeks before the elections.
BLITZER: So, David, I don't know about you, but this has been such an extraordinary series of developments these past few days.
BLITZER: We woke up Friday morning, we had X amount of knowledge. But during the course of that day, all of that sort of attended --
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: How about these past 16 months?
HENDERSON: Yes, yes.
BLITZER: The last few days, all of sudden, Anthony Weiner, he's involved in determining who might be the next President of the United States.
CHALIAN: Right, which is not the name that the Clinton campaign was hoping would be back in the headlines in advance of Election Day. There's no doubt about that.
Listen, these moments happen in a campaign. We've seen maybe not quite like these moments as Pamela described. It is a bit unprecedented. But we do see moments of adversity arrive during a campaign, and it's all about how the campaign reacts.
And I think that the Clinton campaign got out there more aggressively --
CHALIAN: -- than they normally do on these things.
CHALIAN: You know, there's normally a hunker down moment. Press conference on Friday, going after Comey, trying to change the subject -- they've been very aggressive about this because time is limited.
BLITZER: Is it smart on their part to be going after the FBI Director so visibly, so strongly?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, they have to put the blame on somebody right now. And, clearly, a lot of people think that he made the wrong decision. And if they don't put the blame on him, then they're going to have to accept the blame themselves into -- what Pamela said is absolutely right, they created this situation.
You know, they set up the server. President Bill Clinton waited and got on the airplane with the Attorney General. They're the ones who put themselves in this situation. So unless you're going to accept absolute blame yourself right now with this situation, you got to put it on someone else.
BROWN: And I could just tell you, from talking to people in the FBI who have been speaking to Director Comey, look, it doesn't bother him that there's so much criticism from the Democrats. In fact, to him, it proves his point that this is not a political move because he's been praised and he's been hated by both the Republicans and the Democrats through the course of this investigation.
TOOBIN: But what's unusual about this situation is that you have a lot of Republicans criticizing him. Maybe not contemporary, you know, office holders -- Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General under George W. Bush; Larry Thompson, Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush -- are all saying that this was the wrong move. So I think the Clinton campaign has political cover, as it were, when someone says, well, this is just Democrats against Republicans again. It's not.
BLITZER: Nia, are we going to be talking about this for the next eight days?
HENDERSON: For the next eight days and probably for the next 48 years maybe. I mean, if Hillary Clinton is elected, I mean, this is sort of a preview, I think, of what we'll see in terms of investigations.
[17:55:04] Representative Chaffetz has already talked about that, the oversight that they want to undertake in terms of investigating Hillary Clinton. So this, I think, is just an appetizer for what we might see.
BLITZER: All right.
TOOBIN: It's sort of up to us what we talk about, isn't it? BLITZER: Well, it's --
BLITZER: It's what interests the American public.
HENDERSON: Yes, yes.
BLITZER: The voters as well. Stay with us. Don't go too far away. Coming up, the FBI is using special technology to sift through thousands of e-mails linked to a top Clinton aide. Officials say it's unlikely there will be a resolution before the election, now just eight days away.
And stunning information about the insecurity within the North Korean regime right now. Secret recordings show the distrust goes back decades.
[17:59:39] BLITZER: Happening now. Breaking news, unlikely resolution. CNN has learned sophisticated FBI software is now sifting through thousands of e-mails tied to a top Hillary Clinton aide. But questions about whether they're pertinent to the investigation into Clinton's private e-mail server aren't expected to be answered before Election Day. Will the swirling controversy sway voters?
There is no case. A defiant Hillary Clinton confronts the uproar rocking her campaign head on and pushes back against the FBI.