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THE SITUATION ROOM

Will FBI E-Mail Investigation Change Race?; Interview With New York Congressman Chris Collins; Trump Campaigns in Blue States; Trump Hitting Hillary Over E-mails; FBI Director Under Fire. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 31, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: "There is no case." A defiant Hillary Clinton confronts the uproar rocking her campaign head on and pushes back against the FBI. She questions the timing of the director's e- mail revelation, but also apologizes again, as she makes her closing argument against Donald Trump. Can she regain her footing with just eight days to go before the election?

It took guts. Donald Trump praises the FBI director for disclosing the review of the Clinton case after months of assailing him for not recommending charges over the summer. Trump now says James Comey has -- quote -- "brought back his reputation." Can Trump parlay the uproar to an election victory?

And Il-luminating tapes. Newly revealed secret recordings of Kim Jong-un's father expose the paranoia of the Kim regime. Kim Jong Il is unmasked as an insecure and untrusting dictator jealous of South Korea and obsessed with the world's perception of North Korea. How did Kim Jong-un's father perceive himself?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Analysis of e-mails tied to a top Hillary Clinton aide is now under way at a special FBI facility in Virginia with just eight days to go before the presidential election.

The agency has obtained a warrant allowing it to use special software to comb through thousands of e-mails discovered on a laptop belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of longtime Clinton assistant Huma Abedin.

FBI Director James Comey threw the presidential campaign into turmoil by raising the possibility that some of the e-mails could pertain to the agency's investigation into Clinton's private e-mail server. Comey is facing intense bipartisan criticism, but the White House is remaining neutral.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying he will not defend or criticize Comey's action, but adds that President Obama still has confidence in the director.

Out on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton is telling voters -- and I'm quoting her now -- "There is no case here." And she says she's confident that the FBI will reach the same conclusion. It's her most aggressive response so far to developments that have shaken her campaign and energized Donald Trump's.

We're also following remarkable new information about the paranoia inside North Korea's Kim regime. Secretly recorded audiotapes from dictator Kim Jong-un's father have surfaced. On them, the late Kim Jong Il comes across as untrusted and insecure, even mocking his own appearance.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news this hour, with our guests, including Republican Congressman and Donald Trump support Chris Collins. Our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with the latest stunning twist in the White House race.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here with the latest.

Jim, this will be unresolved presumably before Election Day.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question.

Some early steps cataloging those first e-mails likely will be done in the next few days, but searching for classified content, making a judgment about whether senders and receivers knew it was classified, that will take much longer. For her part, Huma Abedin says she had no idea these e-mails were on her estranged husband's laptop.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, CNN has learned that agents at FBI facilities in Quantico are now combing over thousands of e-mails on a laptop belonging to disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, key aide to Hillary Clinton.

Just eight days from the election, the FBI has now obtained a warrant to search those e-mails found in a separate investigation of Weiner for allegedly sexting with a minor.

Officials tells CNN that Comey was made aware of the e-mails in mid- October, but only went to Congress with the information after he was given a fuller briefing on Thursday.

Today, the White House walking a fine line, praising Director Comey's character.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Director Comey is a man of integrity, he's a man of principle. He's a man who is well-regarded by senior officials in both parties.

SCIUTTO: But communicating the importance of FBI traditions limiting public discussion of ongoing investigations, especially close to an investigation.

QUESTION: Would not the White House say let's put more information out there, then?

EARNEST: I think that was the hope that Director Comey had, that was his stated hope of sending the letter in the first place.

QUESTION: Clearly, it's not enough.

EARNEST: Well, clearly, it had the opposite of the intended effect.

SCIUTTO: Comey's decision to go public so close to Election Day has drawn fire from both Democrats and Republicans, including George W. Bush's attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, who spoke to CNN today.

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I really worry that, in this particular instance, the FBI director has made an error in judgment in terms of releasing this kind of letter, which really says nothing.

[18:05:00]

SCIUTTO: However, when Comey testified on the Hill in September after recommending not to bring charges against Clinton, the FBI director did hint he would investigate if he discovered new evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you reopen the Clinton investigation if you discovered new information that was both relevant and substantial?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: It's hard for me to answer in the abstract. We would certainly look at any new and substantial information.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: A short time ago, the attorney general of the Department of Justice answered letters from a number of Democratic senators, as well as congressmen, asking for more information about Director Comey's letter to Congress.

Wolf, I have them here. It says, the DOJ sending identical responses to those senators appreciating their concerns, assuring them that it will continue to work closely with the FBI.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The letters also says, we hope this information has been helpful.

There's no information there.

SCIUTTO: Well, let's be honest. Unlikely that that hope will be met, that this will be a satisfying answer to their concerns.

BLITZER: As I read those letters myself, I said, where is the helpful information? It was just an acknowledgement they received their complaints.

SCIUTTO: A lot of questions about how much information is out there.

BLITZER: Yes. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much for that. Jim is our chief national security correspondent.

The Clinton campaign is carrying on, but it's hardly business as usual.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, has that part of the story.

Jeff, Clinton is addressing all of this on the campaign trail today.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, she came here to Ohio to deliver her closing arguments against Donald Trump. But now, like it or not, part of those closing arguments are questions about the e-mail. So she did address this at the very beginning of her speech. Her aides actually said she would not, that she wanted to move on.

But it may be clear they know they have to answer these questions quickly so they can move on. And she quickly did to try and change the subject to Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, Hillary Clinton is pushing back on the FBI.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.

(BOOING)

CLINTON: That's a good question.

ZELENY: Her closing argument against Donald Trump now includes another apology about her e-mail and the controversy that's dogged her.

CLINTON: First of all, for those of you who are concerned about my using personal e-mail, I understand. And, as I have said, I'm not making excuses. I have said it was a mistake, and I regret it.

ZELENY: It's a concession she rarely makes on the campaign trail. But she said it's high time to move on and she's confident the case against her top aide, Huma Abedin, off the campaign trail for a third straight day, will end like hers did.

CLINTON: 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.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ZELENY: Clinton is trying to regain her footing and turn questions about her into her about Trump's fitness for office.

CLINTON: Imagine him plunging us into a war because somebody got under his very thin skin. Now, thankfully, he's never been in a position where he had to help make life-and-death decisions for our country.

ZELENY: Changing the subject may be a tall order. For 18 months, Clinton has been trying to move beyond the e-mail controversy. Now it's front and center again, a cloud of uncertainty still in the air.

With eight days to go, the race is tightening in key battlegrounds, like here in Ohio. At a cafe in Cleveland, she kept her eye on the campaign, not the controversy.

But inside her Brooklyn campaign headquarters, aides remained on a wartime footing, and Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid took the lead in striking back.

He fired off a letter to FBI Director James Comey, saying: "Through partisan actions, you may have broken the law. In tarring Secretary Clinton with thin innuendo, you overruled longstanding tradition and explicit guidance of your own department."

Advisers to Clinton tell CNN they are still assessing the potential fallout, but acknowledge at least some souring from independents and Republicans who are leaning their way. Nationally, Clinton still retains an edge. She's up five points over Trump in the latest CNN poll of polls.

As Trump questions her judgment on e-mails, she is raising doubts about his fitness to serve in the Oval Office, calling him a threat to national security.

CLINTON: As I have said many times, a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ZELENY: To drive home her point, she's taking a page from the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater race, reprising this classic campaign ad to argue Trump is unfit to control the nation's nuclear weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:10:07]

ZELENY: After that provocative ad and others, the Clinton campaign believes they can turn the corner on this, Wolf, and go back to the original questions about Donald Trump's fitness for office here.

She's campaigning aggressively in Ohio, going to Florida tomorrow. They believe that they will have more of a handle on the fallout from this in a couple of days or so after it sinks in. But it's also having a rallying effect on Democrats. They believe more Democrats will come out.

But, Wolf, it's those independents and those moderate Republicans who had agreed to sign on to the Clinton campaign who perhaps may not now. So that's who they're watching in the coming days and that's who they're targeting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Only eight days left to go. Jeff Zeleny reporting for us, Jeff, thanks very much.

Let's some get more on all of this.

Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York is joining us. He was the first member of the U.S. Congress to endorse Donald Trump.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Always good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Donald Trump, as you know, he has been bitterly attacking the director, James Comey, for months and months since July, when he originally came out with his recommendation against criminal charges for Hillary Clinton. Was all of that criticism he leveled against the FBI director a mistake?

COLLINS: Well, today's the day that matters.

And there's a certain rhetoric in any campaign and you will hear it from both sides. Director Comey has been in an impossible position from day one. Hillary Clinton and her campaign put the director of the FBI in just an awful position, especially when it turned out she had destroyed evidence, destroyed e-mails, even after receiving subpoenas.

So the Clinton campaign has no one to blame but themselves. Huma Abedin should have turned this device in six months ago or more. And with 650,000 e-mails showing up at the last minute because she didn't turn the device over, Director Comey had no choice, because as you pointed out earlier, he did tell Congress if anything were to show up that could potentially have an impact on the investigation and his previous decision, he would let them know.

And this showed up because Huma Abedin did not turn over a device she was required to turn over. Again, they have got no one to blame but themselves.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But, Congressman, we don't know -- we know there are lot of e-mails on the Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband, the congressman's computer. COLLINS: Sure.

BLITZER: We know there were thousand and thousands. I'm not there were 650,000. But we know there were a lot. We don't know how many of those e-mails actually involve Huma Abedin, came from her, or any came from Hillary Clinton's e-mail server.

COLLINS: Right. Right.

BLITZER: That's what they're looking into right now. They're trying to figure out if there's any that are new e-mails or anything that are related.

So to say there are 650,000 e-mails that involve Hillary Clinton, that's wrong.

COLLINS: Well, no, but if she had turned her device over six months ago, we wouldn't be having the discussion.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But that wasn't her device. This was her husband's computer.

COLLINS: A shared device.

BLITZER: That the FBI stumbled on in an unrelated investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: Well, there you go. Well, there you go, a shared device that they stumbled on, which means if he had not been investigated for sexting to this 15-year-old in North Carolina, we wouldn't have even known about this device. This was a shared device.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: How do you know it was a shared device? Because friends of Huma Abedin, Congressman, they insist that she was as surprised as anyone to hear that her e-mails, all of a sudden, her business- related, State Department, Hillary Clinton-related e-mails showed up on his computer. She says she was surprised by that. She didn't know that it was there.

She is apparently denying that this was some sort of shared device. How do you know it was a shared device?

COLLINS: Because her e-mails are on there. I think, to the best of my knowledge, my e-mails aren't on your server and yours aren't on my server, Wolf. They don't get there...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But, apparently, there are ways for e-mails -- believe me, I don't understand all of this either. There are ways for her e-mails to show up on her husband's e-mail

without potentially her even knowing about that. That's what some computer experts have suggested to me. I'm not an expert on this by any means, so I don't understand it. I assume you don't either.

But this is what the FBI right now has to look into and come up with a conclusion, right?

COLLINS: What they know is they are there, that they're on the device, and they have to make sure -- I mean, if Hillary hadn't destroyed 33,000, maybe we wouldn't still be having this discussion. They're still trying to find those 33,000 missing e-mails.

They may well be on here. And, again, you're right. We don't know what we don't know. But Huma Abedin should have gone above and beyond to make sure this device was turned over. She was still with her husband. She's estranged now, but she should have erred on the side of any device in that family should have been turned over.

She didn't do it. She has got no one to blame but herself. And Director Comey did make a pledge to Congress if anything turned up that potentially could have an impact on his prior decision, he would tell Congress about it. He did what he said.

[18:15:04]

And can you imagine the criticism if he didn't and at the end of this election, it turned out he had been sitting on this? Poor Director Comey. He was in a lose-lose situation, criticized by one or the other, for sure. What a tough, tough decision he had to make.

BLITZER: As you know, and I understand certainly where you're coming from, Congressman, but there are a bunch of highly respected leaders on both sides of the aisle who have criticized the director, the FBI director, for writing this letter to members of Congress last Friday, so close to Election Day, including the former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is a Republican, who worked for President Bush.

He called Comey's decision -- and I'm quoting him now -- "an error in judgment."

So is Gonzales wrong?

COLLINS: He is.

And, again, he's part of the establishment. But let's go back to, you know, Director Comey was criticized for doing what he did when he led the bill of particulars that frankly could have been an indictment on Hillary Clinton and then said no prosecutor would bring charges.

That was unprecedented as well. So this whole election is unprecedented. And at least now the narrative we have the last eight days is beneficial, as people have the binary choice between Hillary, who has proven herself unfit to be president, putting our nation's classified information at risk, and Donald Trump, two of the most unpopular candidates. But now the binary choice is coming down to this narrative the last

eight days. I do believe, as certainly Republicans are seeing the choice, they're coming back to Donald Trump, saying we can't put our nation's secrets at risk. So the narrative is good for the Trump campaign as we move into the last eight days.

And, again, it's a binary choice, one that America has to make. And the change agent of Donald Trump, the status quo of Hillary Clinton and this narrative on the e-mails and her poor judgment, if nothing else, this just shows again the absolute poor judgment that Hillary Clinton has shown for her 30 years in the public. And then you throw Obamacare on top of it.

I think we have got a great narrative going into the last eight days.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman Collins, I want you to stand by. We're going to continue our interview in a moment.

There's a lot of news developing right now.

COLLINS: OK.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:40]

BLITZER: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, he wrote a letter to FBI Director Comey today.

And part of it says this. Let me put it up on the screen: "Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton."

The letter goes on to say: "In the absence of additional authoritative information from the FBI in the wake of your vague disclosure, Congress and the American people are left to sift through anonymous leaks from Justice Department officials to the press of varying levels of detail, reliability and consistency. The American people deserve better than that."

Here's the question, Congressman. Should Comey come out and provide more information, more details right now to the American people?

COLLINS: Well, I think all of us have said the sooner some of these details can come out, the better.

But then the reality hits home. If it is 650,000 e-mails and you have got to put them in different buckets, and then you if determine X- number, whether it's 100 or 100 -- you know, 1,000, that were exchanged with the State Department, it is important to know, again, on a private server, one shared with Anthony Weiner, whether or not any of those were classified.

And that's not just simply a top-level review. Somebody is going to have to sit down and read them, look for markings and the like. So I do agree with those who have said highly unlikely you can get resolution. And I don't think it would be proper to be having a news conference of the day, where Director Comey would say, well, we just checked 400 of them today. One was classified, six of them weren't. The rest of them weren't relevant.

You can't have a daily press conference with a director. So, we are stuck in a bad place. Today is the day that mattered. People can second-guess the decision from last July. People can second-guess the decision from Friday. But today is the day that matters. This is going to be in the narrative for the next eight days. I don't think there's any way around it.

And, again, it's a narrative created by Hillary, created by Huma, who didn't turn this device over. So, it is what it is. We're going to go forward and we feel good that the debate and the narrative right now includes Obamacare, as well as these e-mails, and reaffirms to the American public Hillary is not fit for office, putting our nation's classified information at risk.

So, again, people can say I wish he hadn't done it or he shouldn't have done it, but he did do it. So get over it. This is the day that matters. We're moving forward.

BLITZER: Chris Collins, the congressman from Western New York, thanks so much for joining us.

COLLINS: Always good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead: Donald Trump offers thanks to Hillary Clinton's top aide for the controversy that's upended the race for the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can be sure that what is in those e-mails is absolutely devastating. And I think we're going to find out, by the way, for the first time. Thank you, Huma. Thank you, Huma. Good job, Huma.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:28:38]

BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, new developments in the Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy is energizing Donald Trump's campaign, as he tries to cut into Clinton's lead and redraw the electoral map.

Our political reporter, Sara Murray, has the latest.

Sara, Donald Trump is hoping this e-mail uproar will sway some critical states his way. What's the latest?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. And Donald Trump just wrapped up here in Michigan, saying that he

would win this state on November 8. That's something a Republican nominee has not done in decades, but Trump's campaign firmly believes this race was tightening even before the latest revelations from the FBI, and that will only help them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump is betting on blue territory and cutting attacks to turn his fortune.

TRUMP: I think we hit the mother lode, as they say. Hillary is the one who broke the law over and over and over again. We can be sure that what is in those e-mails is absolutely devastating. Thank you, Huma.

MURRAY: The GOP nominee seeking to capitalize on the latest FBI probe surrounding Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

TRUMP: 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 from criminal prosecution.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: It took a lot of guts.

[18:30:05] MURRAY: Insisting they'll reveal criminal activity, even though the FBI says it's too soon to tell whether the e-mails are even significant.

TRUMP: Hillary is likely to be under investigation for a very long time.

MURRAY: Trump hitting the trail today in Michigan, a state that hasn't voted Republican for president since 1988.

TRUMP: In eight days, we're going to win the great state of Michigan.

MURRAY: That's as Trump's advisers acknowledge they need to flip at least one or two states that tilt blue, adding stops in Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania, after popping by Colorado and New Mexico this weekend.

But in between swipes at Clinton, Trump is still raising eyebrows with his continued praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: And a Hillary, she has such a bad relationship with so many countries. Putin can't stand her, doesn't respect her. They want to get ISIS; we want to get ISIS. We put everything together, we knock the hell out of ISIS. Wouldn't it be nice? Wouldn't it be smart?

MURRAY: As outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid accuses the FBI of covering up ties between Trump and Russia, without offering any evidence. In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Reid say, "It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government, a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity."

Meanwhile, Trump is lobbing some fact-free claims of his own, still insisting voter fraud is widespread as he took aim this weekend at Colorado's mail-in ballot system.

TRUMP: I have real problems with ballots being sent. Does that make sense? Like, people say, "Oh, here's a ballot. Here's another ballot. Throw it away. Throw. Oh, here's one I like. We'll keep that one."

MURRAY: As both sides trade barbs on the trail, they're also pointing to bright spots in early voting.

Democrats are running ahead of their 2012 total in Colorado, and they're cutting into the GOP's advantage in both Arizona and Florida. But so far, Republicans appear to have made gains in Iowa and Ohio, compared to 2012.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, the Trump campaign is insisting they are seeing their internal polls tighten in places like Michigan, places like Wisconsin, places like Colorado. But the public polls still show a pretty steep climb for Donald Trump, and the fact that he's even campaigning in these states gives you a sense of just how narrow their original path to victory is and the ways they're now looking to expand it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Murray, who's covering the Trump campaign for us, thanks very, very much.

Let's get to our political panel. Jeffrey Toobin, let me start with you. Comey has always had a pretty good reputation out there. Did he anticipate -- do you think he appreciated the uproar that he would generate on Friday when he released this letter to Congress?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He is a very savvy guy. He had to know that, when you make an announcement about a criminal investigation involving one of the two candidates for president 11 days before the election, he had to know what a bomb it would be.

But he made the calculation that it was worthwhile. I think that is something that will be a signature of his tenure as long as it goes. But he surely knew what he was doing.

BLITZER: But a lot of Democrats and plenty of Republicans also think he broke with long-standing precedent. Do you share that assessment that he did break with a tradition that has existed at the Justice Department, the FBI for years?

TOOBIN: I think it's a factual matter that he did break with this tradition. You know, one of the bedrock principles of law enforcement in the Justice Department, of which the FBI is a part, is you do not take public steps in public corruption investigations 60 days before the election day. It is simply not done, and it has never been done as far, as I'm aware, during a presidential campaign.

And I think this is why Republican as well as Democratic Justice Department officials, former officials, are so surprised and disappointed by what Comey did.

BLITZER: A lot of her problems, Hillary Clinton, Gloria Borger, have been honesty and trustworthiness. A lot of Americans have problems with her. Is this going to further exacerbate, or is that already baked in, if you will?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: We don't know yet, Wolf. It's too early to tell yet from the polling. I think that honest and trustworthy is her big problem out there. And they work to counter it. And it's been a problem for her. It's also been a problem for Donald Trump.

I think the people who are not voting against -- or are voting against Hillary Clinton because of the e-mails have already decided to vote against Hillary Clinton.

The question that I have is how does it affect what small number of persuadable voters there are out there, or would it depress the vote and people say, "You know what? I don't like either of these people. I'm not going to vote." Or would it make his side more enthusiastic or her side more enthusiastic? We just -- it's too early to say at this point, Wolf. And with eight days left before the election, I'm not so sure we're going to know before the election.

[18:35:11] BLITZER: David Swerdlick, what, 20 million Americans have already voted in early -- in early voting. Maybe another 100 million will wind up voting -- continuing in the early voting, as well as on election day But 20 million Americans have already voted, and maybe they didn't assess this latest development fully.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. I mean, a lot of those people voted before Friday, when this news about the -- about Director Comey's letter to Congress came out. I think it sort of helps the Clinton campaign that they were able to bank some votes prior to this news coming out. Although polls were trending closer between Trump and Clinton even before that news came out.

I think over the weekend, it looked like Florida and Ohio were very close. They're still very close in terms of early votes going for Democrats versus Republicans, and to me those are the two states to keep an eye on. Our last "Washington Post" tracking poll showed 46-45 for Clinton. It's very close. Neither campaign can take any of this for granted.

BLITZER: Rebecca Berg, as you know, Hillary Clinton, she's been speaking very forcefully out on the campaign trail on this issue. Today, she said flatly, quote, "There is no case." Fired up the crowd big-time. So is it possible this late development could backfire on the Republicans and energize a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters and other Democrats?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I would be very surprised if it backfired necessarily, Wolf. But I do think there is a chance this could be, you know, something for everyone, a win for everyone.

It could hype up Republicans, and I imagine it will hype up a lot of Republicans, Donald Trump's base, and it could hype up Democrats.

But I think, as Gloria said, we really don't know yet. We don't have enough information. We haven't seen enough polling that was conducted after this news broke on Friday. And so it's really hard to know, without any sort of data to look at and only these anecdotes of people getting very excited, how this will affect the race.

But I think the main question is, with these persuadable voters, because these are the people we really care about at this point in the election. These are the people who are still weighing their decision. And we don't know how much of this is already baked in for them, this Clinton private server e-mail scandal. Or if they are still thinking about it. I think there's more information they need. And that's what's really important here.

TOOBIN: Can I make a simple-minded observation? Which is when your candidate is linked to a criminal investigation, it is bad news.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: And the idea that this could boomerang and help the Democrats, forget it. This is bad. Now, the question is how bad is it? And I don't know the answer to that. But the idea that somehow Hillary Clinton is going to be helped by this strikes me as...

BORGER: And you know, today she went out there. She's continuing to try and make the case against Donald Trump's temperament, Donald Trump as commander in chief. But everybody is talking about Hillary Clinton. And when we're talking about Hillary Clinton, it's not good for her, because her campaign does really well when she talks about Donald Trump and makes it a comparison.

And so this has been hard for her. It's very hard for her to overcome this.

TOOBIN: And James Comey knew this would happen, and that's why I think this is such a problematic decision for him.

BLITZER: He knew that...

TOOBIN: He knew that this would lead to a media firestorm. You cannot say that a -- that one of the two candidates is under criminal investigation and not -- and not know that that's going to dominate the news for probably the rest of the campaign.

SWERDLICK: I would simply say that -- and we don't know that this would be the case, because it's hypothetical now. But had this information leaked and not been in a letter from Director Comey to Congress, that would have been a firestorm in a different direction.

TOOBIN: What Justice Department officials do, and I was one at a very low level, is that when the news media asks you a question, they say, "No comment. We are not answering that question. We do not address investigations while they're under way." That is overwhelmingly what you hear from the Justice Department.

The departure, much less the departure 11 days before the campaign, is something that I think will really haunt Jim Comey for the rest of his days.

BORGER: But don't you think in a way, though, he was saying damned if you do, damned if you don't? Because if he tells you now, then he's going to be accused of tilting the election toward Donald Trump.

TOOBIN: When you're the director...

BORGER: And if he waited, he would have been accused of covering it up.

TOOBIN: When you're the director of the FBI, it's your job to take the heat for making tough decisions.

SWERDLICK: Might it not have been his job to take the heat all the way back in July, though, when he didn't recommend criminal charges to the Justice Department? Then he gave a speech, and Democrats didn't complain about that. I'm just saying the shift.

I think you're totally right, Jeffrey, that the protocol would suggest that he not do this 11 days before the campaign, but I think the ship sailed back in the summertime.

BLITZER: The fact that the original suspicion, the information, they stumbled upon it in this unrelated investigation into Anthony Weiner's sexting, allegedly, with a 15-year-old, FBI agents were investigating that, and all of a sudden, they're looking at his e-mails and they see some suspicious e-mails that may have come -- may not have come -- from Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server, how much does that complicate this current review that is now underway?

[18:40:02] TOOBIN: I don't really think it complicates it that much at all. They -- it's entirely appropriate for the FBI to look into the e-mails. What's complicated, what's questionable is announcing to the public each step in the investigation. That is not how the Justice Department operates, and that's the problem here. I think it's entirely appropriate for the FBI to investigate precisely what they are doing.

BORGER: And let me ask you this question. If the attorney general had not effectively recused herself from this, having met on an airplane with Bill Clinton last summer, could she have ordered Comey not to do this?

TOOBIN: She could have. I think she would have dealt with some serious political fallout. I think it is remarkable that we are in the midst of this very intense period, and we have not heard from the Justice Department at all.

BORGER: At all.

TOOBIN: Where is Loretta Lynch? Where is Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general, if Loretta Lynch is recused. It's as if Jim Comey is in charge of law enforcement in America. He works for them, and it would be interesting to hear what they think about this subordinate's behavior.

BLITZER: The Justice Department has responded. They're writing these letters to members of Congress, saying, "The Department of Justice appreciates the concerns raised in your letter. We assure you that the department will continue to work closely with the FBI and together dedicate all necessary resources and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible. We hope this information is helpful."

TOOBIN: That's a bold letter.

BLITZER: But they are responding...

TOOBIN: Yes.

BLITZER: ... with a letter like that.

BORGER: It was stunning, because Comey's first announcement, which -- which had nothing in it. Then you get leaks. Oh, this is part of the Anthony Weiner investigation. Oh, by the way, these were not Hillary Clinton's e-mails, we don't believe. We don't know if they were classified.

So there's -- the story is coming out through leaks and not from the Justice Department or the FBI.

TOOBIN: Gloria, I think that is an enormously troubling part of this story. The fact that we are trying to figure out what's going on through the excellent work of...

BORGER: Of our journalists.

TOOBIN: ... Pamela Brown and Evan Perez.

But you know what? That's not how the system is supposed to work. You should have silence from the government about an investigation or you should have full disclosure. The idea that we are trying to figure out what's going on in this investigation...

BLITZER: But remember, Jeffrey, he wasn't silent in July when he announced the results of the investigation.

BORGER: That was the problem.

BLITZER: He's supposed to give that information to the attorney general, the U.S. attorneys. They're the ones who then go forward, not necessarily the FBI director.

TOOBIN: This is so unprecedented. I mean, the whole idea of the separation of authority in the Justice Department is the FBI investigates, and the Justice Department prosecutes. Jim Comey has taken over the process, and we don't hear from the leadership of the Justice Department.

BLITZER: Rebecca, all of a sudden also, Donald Trump now going to some state where the Democrats have done very well in recent presidential elections. He's going to be going to Wisconsin now and Michigan, New Mexico.

Is this a smart strategy for him to be doing that, as opposed to shoring up his base in those battleground states like Florida, Ohio, North Carolina? He loses any one of those states, he's probably not going to be elected president.

BERG: Right. Well, you would hope at this point your strategy isn't excluding any of those states, that it's sort of all-encompassing. But this travel schedule that Donald Trump has right now actually has echoes for me of Mitt Romney at this time in 2012. He started focusing on Pennsylvania, on Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico.

When you have a very narrow path to victory, you need to start looking elsewhere. And that's exactly what Donald Trump is doing. He does not have a margin for error with the current map and the current toss- up states. So he needs to look to some of these blue-leaning states to try to put them in the toss-up column. Otherwise, he has a really narrow path.

BLITZER: David Swerdlick, he seems to be -- I listened to his speech today, several of them yesterday. He's almost giddy right now. He's looking at the polls. He thinks he's going to win, if you listen to the enthusiasm he brings to those rallies.

SWERDLICK: Right. I would suspect that part of this is that he's happy that the narrative has changed, away from his accusers based on the Access Hollywood tape, some of the people that accused him of groping them. And it's changed to a discussion about Clinton and the e-mails and Huma Abedin. That's refreshing, probably, for Donald Trump. He likes to go on the attack, or as he would say the counterattack.

At the same time, as Rebecca pointed out, all Clinton has to do ultimately is hold onto the Obama map, and he has to expand the Romney map. And it's not clear that he's doing that.

BORGER: You know, Trump has to be a one-man get-out-the-vote machine. And that's exactly what he's doing.

BERG: He has no surrogates like Clinton.

BORGER: This is it. He doesn't have the surrogates that Hillary Clinton has, and he doesn't have the on-the-ground, get-out-the-vote operation.

So, what they're trying to do by going to these states, and they need to flip some of these blue states and turn them red, is to have Donald Trump get free media, have these large rallies, get out there and get their base animated to go out and vote and remind people who might be persuadable that there is this question of e-mails all over again.

[18:45:05] And I don't think the details of the case really matter at this point. All Donald Trump has to say is e-mails and Hillary Clinton, and he's got a winning argument for himself. REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But the problem with Trump being

a one-man get out the vote operation is we saw what he said in Colorado about the mail-in votes, some just randomly being thrown away. That isn't how it works, we all know that.

(CROSSTALK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let me play the clip because it generated some commotion out there. Here's Donald Trump over the weekend in Colorado.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have real problems with ballots being sent. Does that make sense? Like people say oh, here's a ballot, here's another, throw it away. Oh, here's one I like, we'll keep that one. I have real problems.

So, get your ballots in. We're trying to have some good supervision out there. We have a lot of people watching you people that collect the ballots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So, you're smiling, Rebecca.

BERG: He said a lot of things there that didn't make sense. First of all, you have mail-in votes in Colorado, so you don't have election observers, like you would in other states. You don't have people watching you put your ballot in the mail. I don't know what he's talking about there.

And then he's talking about essentially, he's alleging voter fraud, which he might think is a got strategy if he's losing. But on the other hand, how would that encourage any of your supporters to go to the polls if they tink the votes are being thrown away?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Mail-in voting is the only way people vote in some states in this country. Washington, Oregon. The idea that mail-in voting is somehow corrupt is factually inaccurate and, in fact, has had no corruption problems that I'm aware of.

BLITZER: David?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was going to say, he's offered no evidence of this fraud, but also, what he just said in that clip you played, Wolf, is word salad. Because he said people are tossing the ballots away left and right, then he said get your votes in. It's a worn out talking point.

BORGER: He also encourages people to vote that can't get to the polls. It's tried and true. It's worked.

BLITZER: And people sometimes have to wait two, three hours as they're waiting in line to vote. This way, they could just put their vote in a ballot, mail it and it's done.

All right. Stand by, guys. We're just eight days away from Election Day here in the United States. Stay with CNN for all the breaking news in this unprecedented race for the White House.

Just ahead, we're also following others. Newly revealed secret recordings show the roots of the paranoia that runs in Kim Jong-un's family.

(COMMERIAL BREAK)

[18:51:43] BLITZER: Iraq says special forces troops backed by U.S. advisers are just hours away from entering the city of Mosul, a major ISIS stronghold now for more than two years.

Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is embedded with Iraqi forces on the front line.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last phase of lifting ISIS' dark curse from Iraq begins here, trying to hit a spectral fleeting enemy, lit only by the glow of Mosul's city limits, barely two kilometers away. Iraqi special forces trained by the U.S. target with a tank here, where they are attacked from during the day, telling us to use Humvees as cover when they move.

Their commander, Major Salam (ph), has fought ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and now the end is near.

"Where did the artillery land," he asks? Just visible in the distant lights of Mosul.

This is the global tip of the spear in the war on ISIS. Surging forwards on a thin strip of land into ISIS territory. And, as we see in the same area in daylight, facing constant counterattacks.

Here, they can see ISIS just beyond the berms. The incoming is from behind it. A truck that pops up, opens fire and vanishes.

(on camera): ISIS is less than a kilometer away, firing at Iraqi special forces' position. This is a constant day in and day out.

(voice-over): "Where's it moving?" he asks.

As fast as it emerged, the truck vanishes. But, here, there are yet tougher hours ahead.

Darkness has just fallen, and the sky is alight with ferocious fire power. ISIS have attacked the berms.

Suicide bombers. Rocket-propelled grenades. It is constant, exhausting, closer and closer to the roof we are on. We simply do not know where in the town around us ISIS may have broken through. (on camera): The most intense attack we've seen so far towards this

Iraqi special forces position, now (INAUDIBLE) move forward it seems to try and stop them from coming down the road.

(voice-over): ISIS, despite being in their end days, still able to conjure the terror of omnipotence that began their savage rule. The wounded start coming back, but we cannot film them.

[18:55:01] A steady stream. The unit we were with earlier on the roof have been hit. Rockets struck, many of them asleep, tightly packed in a room. The blast killed 14 soldiers. Many limbs torn clean off.

Major Salam is shown the weapons of the dead. He pauses in emotion.

"You guys are heroes," he says, "and none of you should be affected by this. Those suicide bombers are nothing."

Two kilometers from Mosul city, and seven left to the center to go.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Baswir (ph), near Mosul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It's going to be a tough, tough battle.

Meanwhile tonight, we have remarkable new information about the distrust and insecurity inside the North Korean regime led by Kim Jong-un.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, this goes back for decades to Kim Jong-un's father and grandfather, right?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does, Wolf. You know, America's top intelligence official, James Clapper, recently called Kim Jong-un's regime very paranoid. Tonight, we have new insights into the mindset of Kim and his family. They come in secret recordings made of Kim's father without his knowledge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A dangerous, uneven young dictator with his hands on nuclear weapons, as the U.S. and its allies scramble for more intelligence on Kim Jong-un's ambition new insights tonight into the roots of the North Korean leader's paranoia, they come in newly released audiotapes, secretly recorded of Kim's reclusive late father, Kim Jong-Il, the older Kim's high-pitched voice never heard widely before.

KIM JONG-IL, LATE FATHER OF KIM JONG-UN (through translator): People here are so close minded.

TODD: The recordings are in a new documentary "The Lovers and the Despot." It features a South Korean actress, Choi Eun-hee, and her husband, a famed South Korean director named Shin Sang-Ok. They were kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il's regime in 1978, held for 8 years and forced to make 17 films for the movie-obsessed dictator.

The filmmakers tell us Cho and Shin secretly taped some of their meetings with Kim with a hidden audio recorder. The dictator complains about North Korean movies.

KIM JONG-IL (through translator): Why are there so many crying scenes? All of our films have crying scenes. This isn't a funeral, is it?

TODD: He's insecure about how sophisticated South Korean movies are compared to his films.

KIMG JONG IL (through translator): Why do all of our films have the same ideological plots? There is nothing new about them. We don't have any films that get into film festivals. In South Korea, they have better technology. They are like college students and we are just in nursery schools.

TODD: Kim Jong-Il was said to wear platform shoes to appear taller. Choi Eun-hee, the actress, says Kim even made none of his own height using a crude phase suggesting he was smaller than a midget. The filmmakers say the actors and directors smuggled the audiotapes out during a trip to Europe, they landed on the desk of David Straub at the State Department.

DAVID STRAUB, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: My jaw dropped. This was 1985. Up until then, the only recording of Kim Jong-Il's voice at all in the West was once at a rally.

So the fact that there were hours and hours of recordings of him talking intimately was a real bombshell. A stunning development.

TODD: Choi Eun-hee and her director husband snuck away from their North Korean minders in a trip in Europe in 1986, and defected to the U.S. Shin Sang-ok, the director, died in 2006. Analysts say their daring recordings can shed light on the current North Korean strongman.

GREG SCARLATOIU, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: Just like his father before, Kim Jong-un is insecure, has many vices, actually he has many of his father's vices. He's a heavy drinker. He's a heavy smoker. Just like his father, Kim Jong-un also has his joy brigades, young women whose mission is to entertain the supreme leader.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, Greg Scarlatoiu and former State Department official we interviewed David Straub said these recordings also help Western intelligence get a better read on how isolated the North Korean regime is, how Kim and his inner circle are not challenged by people when they come up with bizarre ideas and they're more apt to make dangerous miscalculations -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Brian, after defecting this director, actually, what, he made Hollywood, right? TODD: That's right. That director and his wife, the actress, they

settled in Los Angeles after their defection and under a pseudonym, Shin worked as a director on "The Three Ninja" movies. But he never regained his status in South Korea. And many people in South Korea even today, Wolf, they still doubt his story that he was kidnapped by the North Koreans.

BLITZER: Interesting.

Brian Todd reporting for us -- thanks very much.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.