Return to Transcripts main page


Clinton Camp Hammers Trump on Women; Interview with Rep. Michael McCaul; Top Intel Official Alarmed Over Putin's Aggression; FBI Probes Show No Criminal Ties Between Trump Camp And Russia; FBI Suddenly Releases Files on Bill Clinton Pardon. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 1, 2016 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Federal bureau of intrigue. Without explanation, the FBI suddenly releases its files from its 2001 investigation of a controversial pardon by President Bill Clinton, even as it's taking heat for going public with its probe of a top Hillary Clinton aide's e-mails. Now the bureau is under pressure to reveal its investigations of alleged ties between Donald Trump and Russia.

[17:00:43] Running negative. As the race gets tighter the Clinton campaign is throwing everything it's got at Donald Trump, using his own words and actions against him. Will that make a difference with voters?

Surrogate scramble. Trump brings in Mike Pence for a tag-team attack on Obamacare, but Hillary Clinton is calling on two presidents, a vice president, and former rival Bernie Sanders, to go to bat for her in battleground states.

And Putin propaganda. With Russia accused of meddling in the U.S. election and muscling its way back into the Middle East, Britain's security chief is now warning that his country is also threatened by Moscow. But is Vladimir Putin just looking for a little attention?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. One week before the election, the FBI out of the blue suddenly releases 15-year-old files from its investigation into President Bill Clinton's controversial pardon of a hedge fund trader. No explanation from the bureau, which is already under fire for its handling of the Hillary Clinton aide's e-mails.

And the FBI is now being pressured also to go public with its investigations of Donald Trump's alleged links to Russia. The Clinton campaign accuses director James Comey of a blatant double standard, but sources say that so far FBI investigations have shown no criminal ties between Russia and Trump or his backers.

With polls tightening, the candidates are trying to cover as much ground as they can. Buoyed by Clinton's revived e-mail controversy, Trump is spending precious time in traditionally blue states in Pennsylvania. Running mate Mike Pence joined him today for an attack on Obamacare.

The Clinton campaign is waging an all-out attack on Trump with a new ad, cataloguing his insults and actions against women. And, with a flurry of battleground campaign appearances by the candidate and top surrogates including President Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Clinton herself was introduced just a little while ago by a former Miss Universe, who accuses Donald Trump of bullying her.

I'll speak with the House Homeland Security chairman, Congressman Mike McCaul; and our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of today's top stories.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here along with our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. Both have been looking into the allegations.

Pam, I know you've been looking into these -- the suggestion that there may be something untoward with the release suddenly of 15-year- old documents by the FBI potentially embarrassing to Bill Clinton, but I want to start with Jim Sciutto. You have the very latest on the e- mail controversy, also the investigation into some sort of alleged tie between the Trump campaign and Russia.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The FBI has no fewer than three investigations under way of people close to Donald Trump and it turned up no criminal activity as yet. There's no evidence of ties, untoward ties between Donald Trump himself and Russia.

But Clinton advocates are asking the question why has the FBI been less forthcoming about those investigations than it has been of investigations of Hillary Clinton.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Just days after disagreeing about going public with new Clinton-related e-mails, FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch met behind closed doors on Monday, the first time they'd been face to face since Comey sent his controversial letter to Congress. No comment, however, on the investigation, and law enforcement officials say don't expect any from Comey until the investigation is complete. A review of thousands of e-mails for classified information or other evidence of wrong-doing. An investigation that likely won't be finished until after election day.

Clinton's advisors continue to level fire at the FBI, campaign manager Robby Mook telling CNN that Comey's letter to Congress represents a blatant double standard.

ROBBY MOOK, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It was shocking to me yesterday that, every time people asked questions about investigations pertaining to Donald Trump, they are tight-lipped and silent, quote- unquote, "sticking with protocol." When it comes to Hillary Clinton, they don't. SCIUTTO: The campaign is now calling on the FBI to release

information on any investigations into Donald Trump and alleged ties to Russia.

MOOK: James Comey opened this door, and we're just asking for him to make this right and treat everybody the same.

SCIUTTO: Law enforcement sources tell CNN that the FBI has been conducting multiple investigations of alleged connections between Russia and the Trump campaign or its backers, but none so far has yielded proof of criminal connections.

[17:05:10] Those probes include a year-long investigation of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his firm and their alleged ties to pro-Putin figures in Ukraine. The FBI has also looked into alleged meetings between former Trump advisor Carter Page and Russian individuals under U.S. sanctions. And it continues to examine allegations against Roger Stone, a Trump supporter, about possible connections to WikiLeaks. Stone acknowledged communicating with WikiLeaks but denied any illegal behavior.

ROGER STONE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I have a back-channel communications with WikiLeaks, but they certainly don't clear or tell me in advance what they're going to do.

SCIUTTO: On the Hill in September, lawmakers pressed Director Comey on whether he was more forthcoming with investigations of Clinton than those of Donald Trump.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Is there a different standard for Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump? If not, what is the consistent standard?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: No. Our standard is we do not confirm or deny the existence of investigations. There's an exception for that, when there is a need for the public to be reassured when it's obvious, it's apparent given our activities that the investigation is ongoing.


SCIUTTO: It's the view of the U.S. Intelligence community that Russia is not necessarily trying to sway the election in the direction of either candidate but rather to sow doubts about the U.S. election process. But that view is not shared by everyone. I spoke today, Wolf, to the ranking Democratic member on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. You know him well.

And he said, in his words, you have to be willfully blind to imagine, based on the number of leaks on a daily basis from WikiLeaks targeting the Democratic Party to imagine that Russia is not trying to aid Trump over Clinton. And it is that view that has many Democrats, Schiff among them, that is pushing the FBI to be more forthcoming about its investigation of Russian interference in the election, as well.

BLITZER: They're pushing and they're pushing right now. All right. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that report. I want to go to Pamela Brown right now. Pamela, you have some new information on this rather -- the timing of this rather perplexing document dump, potentially embarrassing information for former President Bill Clinton.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this document release, Wolf, really came out of nowhere today and had a lot of people scratching their heads. It's from a 2001 FBI investigation into Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich. And his wife, as we know, had donated to the DNC at the time, and so the FBI was looking into all of this, whether that is why he was pardoned.

Apparently, according to an official I spoke with in the FBI, there have been multiple Freedom of Information Act requests for the documents pertaining to this investigation. But the timing of the release of this, of course, couldn't come at a worse time for the FBI when its director is under fire after sending that controversial letter to Congress. We're a week out from election day.

Of course, the Clinton campaign was quick to pounce. In fact, the spokesman, Brian Fallon, released this tweet today saying, "Absent a FOIA litigation deadline, this is odd. Will FBI post docs on Trump's housing discrimination in the '70s?"

But the FBI official I spoke to said this is policy; this is not about politics. We post on a first, come first served basis when there is information of great public interest. And because it received multiple requests, that's why it's posted.

Worth mentioning, the FBI vault -- vault account, which posted this, also posted about Donald Trump's dad over the weekend, records pertaining to an investigation into his dad.

BLITZER: It's still perplexing, the timing of this. Have they released an official statement, the FBI?

BROWN: I can tell you, they're working on that official statement right now. I think they're just trying to figure out a way to put this into context and explain why this happened now.

I was told that, in order for the documents to have been posted later, that would take an overt action, additional steps. That would have been a break from standard procedure. But it does make you wonder, given everything that's going on right now, why there wasn't perhaps more oversight.

BLITZER: A good question. Thanks very much, Pamela Brown, for that report.

As Donald Trump tries to take advantage of Hillary Clinton's renewed e-mail problems, the Clinton campaign is reminding voters of Trump's problems with women. Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, reports from the campaign trail in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Florida tonight, Hillary Clinton is trying to turn the corner by revisiting Donald Trump's past.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: When I think about what we now know about Donald Trump and what he's been doing for 30 years, he sure has spent a lot of time demeaning, degrading, insulting and assaulting women.

ZELENY: At her side on the campaign trail, former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, who Trump criticized two decades ago for gaining weight.

ALICIA MACHADO, FORMER MISS UNIVERSE: It's really clear that he does not respect women. He just -- he just judges us on our looks. He thinks he can do whatever he wants and get away with it.

ZELENY: A week before election day, Clinton is trying to move beyond fallout from FBI Director James Comey's decision to take another look at the e-mail controversy.

[17:10:00] Top aide Huma Abedin, at the center of the latest wrinkle, off the campaign trail again today. Tonight the Clinton campaign is moving to fortify blue states that seemed safe only days ago with new ads in Virginia and Michigan, Colorado and New Mexico.

Aides tell CNN they are intent on blocking any potential openings for Trump. Onepowerful new ad highlights Trump's own words against women.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

ZELENY: The minute-long commercial airing in eight of the most competitive swing states, is a central piece of Clinton's closing argument. It's hardly a high-minded sprint to the finish, yet it just might work. Here's why. Only 32 percent of voters in a new Gallup poll say he has the personality and leadership qualities to be president, a record low, compared to 51 percent who say Clinton does.

A parade of Democrats are blitzing battleground states: President Obama in Ohio, Vice President Biden in North Carolina, Chelsea Clinton in Colorado and Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. It's a game of political blocking and tackling, with vice-presidential hopeful Tim Kaine in Wisconsin, defending a Democratic-leaning state Trump is trying to turn red with a visit of his own today.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If we win Wisconsin, it is very, very difficult for the other side to win this race.

ZELENY: But the Democratic bullseye is on Florida, the Clintons fanning out across the state. Former President Clinton making three stops, urging Floridians to vote early.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you don't vote, I might as well not be talking.

ZELENY: Secretary Clinton holding three rallies of her own: eager to fire up key parts of the Obama coalition. She's using Trump and his views to drum up enthusiasm for her.

H. CLINTON: He has shown us who he is. Let us on Tuesday show him who we are.


BLITZER: That was Jeff Zeleny, reporting for us from Fort Lauderdale.

Joining us now is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: The FBI, as you know, released documents today going back to the 2001 investigation into Bill Clinton's very controversial pardon of Marc Rich. All of us remember that who covered the White House in those days.

The Clinton campaign has raised concerns about what they call as a double standard in how the FBI is treating the two presidential campaigns. Do they have a point?

MCCAUL: You know, I don't know the circumstances under which those documents were released. It could have been a Freedom of Information Act request, and it could have been released under those circumstances.

But to be honest with you, Wolf, the first I heard of it was listening to your show just now.

BLITZER: But it's very curious that all of a sudden, after 15 years, a very controversial moment in the Bill Clinton presidency just a week before the election, the documents are released. And that's raising some eyebrows. You understand that?

MCCAUL: You know, I do, but when it comes to Jim Comey, I've known him for 20 years. You know, when he worked in the U.S. attorney's office as a federal prosecutor, I served at main Justice. He's always been known for his integrity, a straight shooter, somebody who bucks the system, doesn't play politics. He's not a partisan guy, and I think that's been demonstrated. We've had Republicans mad at him and now Democrats.

But I think, in his mind, he always wants to do the right thing. And I think that's what he -- certainly, this latest new evidence that came up regarding Hillary's e-mails, the obligation and the word that he gave us in the Congress that he would brief us on any updates with respect to new evidence. Jim Comey kept his word.

BLITZER: Are you not concerned, though, that it looks, at least to a lot of Americans out there, that the FBI, which is highly respected, of course, is becoming political?

MCCAUL: Well, we don't want it to politicize ever. I mean, J. Edgar Hoover demonstrated why we don't want that, but we don't want a Justice Department where prosecutors tell FBI just to stand down on certain matters, as well. There have been allegations about that pertaining to the Clinton Foundation. There have been allegations of that pertaining to the Clinton e-mail issue. And I think at the end of the day, you don't want to inject politics into any decision making at the Justice Department.

BLITZER: Do you still have confidence in the FBI director, James Comey.

MCCAUL: I do. I think it's a tough choice. Either he could wait on these e-mails, and the American people would find out after the election. Or he could let the American people know the truth. And when she goes around the country saying that that investigation is over, that it's complete, that that's not the fact. That is, in fact, a false statement. We have these new e-mails. They're being analyzed. And we don't know what's in those e-mails at this point in time.

What I'm worried about are these e-mails being in the hands of Anthony Weiner, who is now under investigation for, you know, child pornography and spreading over the Internet these child porn pictures. I'm worried about what outside adversary nations could have gotten access to the private server. We know she took her devices, as many of 12 of them, into foreign adversary nations.

It could have picked up what are called special access programs. These are the most highly sensitive, most classified programs in the United States government, many of them covert. And if true, and Comey told me he can't prove it, but it's very likely these foreign adversary nations have these secrets. That undermines not only international security here, but the men and women serving overseas.

BLITZER: But we don't know what's on these e-mails that were found on Anthony Weiner's computer. Yet, they're going through that. There's scrubbing at that right now with some new software. Presumably, they're going to get some answers fairly soon. Hillary Clinton, as you know, she did have some classified information on her private server, but back in July, Comey decided not to recommend charges against her because he said there was no evidence that any of that was intentional.

So if there's some classified information on these new e-mails involving Huma Abedin's husband, Anthony Weiner, why do you think the FBI would reach, maybe, a different conclusion this time? Let's say similar e-mails were discovered.

MCCAUL: That's a good question. We know they have probable cause to seek a search warrant to obtain the laptop that we know Anthony Weiner was using God knows where. But that's very significant that they have probable cause to do that. I've argued all along that this should have gone to a grand jury where we could have had a process in play a legal process without the politics. I've conducted many grand jury investigations. It really takes the politics out of things. And it's unfortunate that that hasn't happened. Perhaps now that they have found probable cause to obtain a search warrant, they could go forward in that fashion.

I do agree with you, given the period of time and the layers of review at main Justice, where I've worked for many years, I think it's very improbable that anything will be reached before the election.

BLITZER: Yes, there's only a few days left, less than a week now. But do you suspect there's some sort of smoking gun that might be found in these Huma Abedin e-mails that wound up on her husband's computer?

MCCAUL: What they're looking for, anything marked classified but also the intent issue, as you pointed out. Where I disagree with James Comey previously was to say no reasonable prosecutor to take the case, therefore letting D.A. -- DOJ off the hook. That's a prosecutor's decision, not the FBI's to make.

Having said that, if an e-mail turned up stating, for instance, "We don't -- we know this is classified, but go ahead and send it anyway," that would be the kind of smoking gun, I think, that the FBI would be looking at.

BLITZER: But there's no evidence of that, at least not yet, right?

MCCAUL: Not at all. And I'm not going to pretend that I know what's in the e-mails. I shouldn't know what's in those e-mails. That is an FBI investigation done by the Justice Department. But we just hope the right thing is done. Hey, this is a big...

BLITZER: Go ahead. Finish your thought.

MCCAUL: ... if she is elected president of the United States, and she is indicted afterwards, it will send this nation into a constitutional crisis the likes of which we haven't seen since Richard Nixon and Watergate. And I think that's something that we're all concerned about.

BLITZER: But can -- can a sitting president of the United States, or even a president-elect of the United States, be formally indicted?

MCCAUL: Of course. By the Justice Department. We've seen investigations that led to President Nixon's resignation. We know that he would have been impeached by the Congress.

BLITZER: But that was -- wasn't that the responsibility of Congress? If you don't like what the president is doing, or you feel the president's committed a crime, it's up to the Congress to impeach the president. The House of Representatives votes to impeach. Then the Senate votes to either convict or acquit. We saw that in the Bill Clinton impeachment.

MCCAUL: And that's -- that's correct. I know the Constitution, high crimes and misdemeanors. Then it goes to the Congress to impeach and remove from office.

And so remember, Gerald Ford had to pardon President Nixon from any further charges that would have been brought against him in a criminal prosecution.

BLITZER: That's after he left office, though.

MCCAUL: After he left office. Correct.

BLITZER: All right. So should Director Comey update the American voters between now and next Tuesday, a week from today, on the latest on the investigation, so at least people can go into the voting booth with a little bit better appreciation of how serious or not so serious this latest development is?

[17:20:03] MCCAUL: You know, there are 650,000 e-mails. It's a very short period of time. I know that they are moving very expeditiously. I don't know if that can be done in one week. I know for certain the case to main Justice for prosecution could not be done that quickly.

However, if in his judgment, none of these e-mails turned up anything of significance, perhaps that would be something he could report to the Congress.

BLITZER: Here's another sensitive issue that you were involved in. I know you're on advisor to Donald Trump. You revealed a few weeks ago that Donald Trump doubted you when you briefed him, when you advised him of Russia's involvement in recent cyber-attacks against the United States.

And you said at the time -- and I'm quoting you now -- he has in his mind that there is not the proof, even though you said -- and I'm quoting you once again -- "I made it clear that, in my judgment, it was nation-state."

Why do you think he doubts your word, and you're getting all sorts of national security briefings and homeland security briefings? Why do you think he still doubts that Russia is involved in these cyber- attacks against the United States?

MCCAUL: I don't think he doubts my word. And I was doing my job as an advisor to the candidate with the information that I had. I do believe it was nation-state against the DNC and DCCC, based upon...

BLITZER: You believe it was Russia, though, right?

MCCAUL: Based upon the DNI's statement, the briefing from both the secretary and the FBI director, that is my understanding.

However, I think the candidate that has not received that classified briefing, if he becomes president of the United States, he would. And I think, in his mind, there are doubts about the integrity of some of this intelligence coming in.

In my mind, I believe that it's fairly clear where the attribution and the source of these cyber-attacks, where that comes from. BLITZER: I've been told that, in the national security briefings that

he receives, that Hillary Clinton receives -- these are classified briefings that he gets from representatives, from the director of national intelligence, the CIA director and others in the intelligence community -- they have told him exactly what you have been told. But he still doubts it. And there are some who have suggested he doesn't fully grasp the threat potentially posed by Russia and Vladimir Putin. Do you buy that?

MCCAUL: Oh, I think he understands Mr. Putin. And I emphasized this to him. And I thought in the third debate he did a very good job emphasizing that, "Look, Mr. Putin is not my friend." And he understands, you know, that under the previous treaties under nuclear warfare, that the Russians are winning, that they have far surpassed us. I think he understands the gravity of the Russian threat. I very much emphasized that, that Mr. Putin is a KGB officer. He's been very aggressive. He's been in the Crimea, the Ukraine, Baltic states.

And I believe, you know, the question is who can stare him down in a negotiation on behalf of the United States and come out with a better deal? I think Mr. Trump would be far better than Hillary Clinton, who we know when we talk to foreign leaders, is not well-respected or trusted.

BLITZER: I've got one final political question, Mr. Chairman, before I let you go. Will you challenge Senator Cruz in 2018?

MCCAUL: A lot of people ask me that question. It's flattering. A lot of interest in that. I -- it's not of my making. And right now, I'm focused on my race, re-election, and the presidential. I have a lot of expertise, I think, in these issues related to national security, foreign policy, that I want to put to work to best serve the American people.

BLITZER: Sounds like it's potentially a yes. You know, you have the support of at least the former governor, Rick Perry, and plenty of others. So if you have that kind of support and you're interested, why not run?

MCCAUL: Sounds like you would -- you would like me to run in the Senate race. I -- I don't have a crystal ball, but I can tell you this. I would like to use my talents where I can best serve my country.

I -- I believe this is going to be a very close election, and it's coming down to the wire. As you look at the map right now -- and I've always predicted it's going to be a very, very close race. And I think a position, obviously, in a national security post would be very much of interest.

BLITZER: Mike McCaul, leaving all options open, as they like to say. Mr. Chairman, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

MCCAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

[17:25:00] BLITZER: Up next, already under fire for its handling of the Hillary Clinton aide's e-mails, the FBI releases documents on an old Bill Clinton embarrassing investigation. Why now? Our political experts are standing by.

And Russia is already accused of meddling in the U.S. election. Britain's security chief warning that Moscow is also threatening his country. So what's Vladimir Putin up to?


BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. Already under pressure for its handling of a Clinton aide's e-mails, the FBI suddenly, without explanation, releases files from a 15-year-old very controversial probe of a Bill Clinton pardon. Donald Trump has been trying to take full advantage of Hillary Clinton's latest e-mail controversy, which has brought new energy to his campaign.

CNN politics reporter Sara Murray is here with us. So what's Trump's final-week strategy going forward?

[17:30:02] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the whole game plan here is in these blue states. It's all about trying to flip one or two of these blue-leaning states into Donald Trump's corner, because the reality is, even though the race is tightening, he is not yet where he needs to be in many of these important things that could get him to 270. And that is why we are seeing him today in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.


MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump's blue-tinged quest for 270 is getting a jolt today. Trump's campaign says it's pouring $25 million into television ads in 13 states, including Michigan, Colorado, and New Mexico, along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two states Trump is hitting today.

All of this in the hopes of winning over white working-class voters in Democrat-friendly territories. The GOP nominee tearing into Obamacare during his trip to the Philadelphia suburbs.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINE: When we win on November 8, and elect a Republican Congress, we will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare. Have to do it. I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace.

MURRAY: Trump calling for a special session, even though Congress will already be in session when he's inaugurated if he wins.

Trump's multimillion-dollar ad buy coming as he's narrowing the gap nationwide, from trailing Hillary Clinton by seven points a week ago, to four points in the latest CNN poll of polls. But he's still hunting for the patchwork of states that could lead him to victory.

Mike Pence joining Trump on the trail today, urging hesitant Republicans to stop dragging their feet.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's time to come home and elect Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. It's time to come home and reelect Republican majorities in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate.

MURRAY: At least one of Trump's foils has joined the fold. House speaker Paul Ryan says he already cast his ballot for Trump.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I stand where I stood all fall and all summer. In fact, I already voted for our nominee last week in early voting. We need to support our entire Republican ticket.

MURRAY: But GOP unity is coming in fits and starts. Ohio Governor John Kasich, for instance, says he voted on Monday for 2008 Republican nominee John McCain.

And in at least one case, the Trump ticket is getting an unwelcome assist. The campaign says it strongly condemns a robo-call paid for by a white nationalist, William Johnson, in Utah, slandering independent candidate Evan McMullin.

WILLIAM JOHNSON, WHITE NATIONALIST: I believe Evan is a closet homosexual. Don't vote for Evan McMullin. Vote for Donald Trump.


MURRAY: Now one of the other controversies that continues to dog Donald Trump are these questions about how he has run his own charitable foundation. Today the "Washington Post" found a photo of a six-foot tall portrait that Donald Trump spent $20,000 on. Problem is, it was his charity's money. And while it's not clear where that portrait is, if it's in one of his homes or one of his businesses, it could be a violation of the law, Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Sara, stay with us. Don't go too far away.

Let's get some more now on the states getting the most attention from the presidential candidates. Our political director, David Chalian, is over at the Magic Wall. David, explain where the candidates are sending top surrogates today, and today was just exactly a week from the election.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, it actually does give us a little bit of insight into the strategy. As you just heard from Sara, the Republican ticket was doubling down in the Philly suburbs today. Both Donald Trump and Mike Pence appearing there for that speech before Donald Trump heading to Wisconsin. Blue-state territory. That is where the Trump campaign was focused today.

The Democrats here, these blue dots, in those traditional tossup battleground states. We see President Obama campaigning for Secretary Clinton in Ohio. Joe Biden, the vice president, in North Carolina.

And the Clintons doubled down on Florida today. Both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton in the Sunshine State, each doing separate events, three each, crisscrossing the state today, Wolf. And we've got some new polls to look at in some of these key states.

Take a look here in North Carolina. This is a poll of polls, an average of five polls in North Carolina since the last debate. Hillary Clinton with a four-point edge, 46 percent to 42 percent.

And then, if you go up to Virginia, we saw a "Washington Post" poll come out there that shows Hillary Clinton with a six-point lead in that state that has been tending to be a little bit more blue-leaning, 48 percent to 42 percent.

BLITZER: David, what's the latest on the candidates' potential pathways to the White House?

CHALIAN: If you're looking at the electoral map and if you look at those polls I just showed you, you see here Virginia's leaning blue. That poll looked that way, as well.

Remember, these six yellow states are the remaining tossup battleground states. And you have to -- as Sara was saying earlier, Donald Trump could win all of these -- Florida, North Carolina, Ohio. He is still short of 270 that he needs.

[17:35:01] In fact, I was just showing you that North Carolina poll of polls. If North Carolina were to go to Hillary Clinton, it would really knock Donald Trump's number down to 249. He would be completely blocked from finding a path to 270 without it.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, David. We're going to continue this conversation.

I want to bring in our political experts right now. Pamela Brown, you're not necessarily one of our political experts. You're our justice correspondent. Update our viewers on the breaking news this hour. All of a sudden today, the FBI releases 15-year-old documents on former President Bill Clinton's controversial pardon of Marc Rich, an embarrassing moment in his presidency at the tail end of his presidency.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And this is just putting the FBI, what is supposed to be an apolitical organization, right in the middle of that political firestorm following what James Comey said to Congress last Friday, that controversial letter.

So these are documents that were released seemingly out of nowhere today, Wolf. It was a Freedom of Information Act request, documents from a 2001 investigation by the FBI looking into the pardon by President Clinton at the time to Marc Rich. And the FBI was looking into whether he was pardoned, because his wife had donated to the DNC.

I'm told by an FBI official, Wolf, that there were multiple requests for this, and so that is why these documents were released publicly and that it's basically they're released when they're ready to go. And if you were to wait to release them later, after the election, that would have been a break from policy. So there are still a lot of questions. We're waiting for an official

statement from the FBI to learn a little bit more about this, but the timing certainly couldn't be worse, and it's only inviting more criticism to the FBI certainly from the Clinton campaign.

BLITZER: How long does it take to issue a statement explaining their decision? It shouldn't take that long. Once you get it, you will of course let us know.


BLITZER: It is pretty unusual, Mark Preston, for something like this to come out only a few days before an election.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Right. This is an unusual campaign at its best. We always talk about the October surprise. Well, there are multiple October surprises right now. And I think when we look back at this election, you know, it will be hard to pinpoint the one that actually helped either candidate win.

But this is surprising in the timing, and the Clinton campaign has fired back, showing their surprise, saying that, "If there isn't a deadline, why are you releasing it now? Oh, and by the way, why aren't we seeing more FOIA requests being released about Donald Trump and specifically his father?" And there was a big discrimination case back in the '70s about that.

So look, we'll have to leave it up to the voters to decide what they think about it, but the timing is surprising.

BLITZER: Yes. A little bit surprising indeed.

David Axelrod, early voting certainly plays into all of this. Now we're told more than 24 million Americans have already voted. Still a week to go. There will be more early voting. How important is early voting specifically to the Democrats' campaign strategy?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first, Wolf, let me say to my buddy, Mark Preston, that October surprises are so yesterday. Now we're talking November surprises. We're going to have surprises right up to the end.

Early voting has always been a key element for Democrats, because the Democratic constituency tends to be a working-class constituency, younger voters, more mobile. Republican voters, older, a lot of them vote by mail. They're habitual voters. So it's easier to organize when you have early voting. And Democrats try to bank early votes going into election day as a hedge against those Republican voters who come out on election day. So it's very, very important.

It's also important to note that a lot of these votes were cast before any of this came up. And so it won't -- those votes won't reflect any effect of this FBI story.

BLITZER: We know, Sara, that early voting for the Clinton campaign, they have a strategy how to get out this vote. What about the Trump campaign? You cover that campaign. What is their strategy?

MURRAY: Well, look, the Trump campaign has really outsourced most of their ground game to the RNC. And the RNC has been very vocal in insisting, "We do have a ground game, we swear. We're turning people out." They've been pointing to the early vote numbers that look positive for them in a number of states.

But I think David Axelrod is right. The other thing we hear from Republicans is they acknowledge, "Look, we want to be competitive in early voting, but election day is really where we turn out our core constituencies."

And I think that's the other reason we're seeing Donald Trump today go up on the airwaves in some of these states where things seem out of reach. We're seeing him on the airwaves in Virginia. This is a state where he's been trailing behind. But it's also a state where almost nobody votes early. So he has the maximum amount of time to try to get the wind at his back and try to get voters to his side in Virginia. We will see if that works.

BLITZER: We see, Julia Ioffe, the current president, President Obama, he's being used very effectively, presumably, by Hillary Clinton right now in Ohio, a key battleground state. His job approval numbers around 55 percent, which is very high, at the tail end of a second- term president here in the United States. So is that -- is he going to help her in a state like Ohio, or Florida or North Carolina, for example?

JULIA IOFFE, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "HUFFINGTON POST": Well, in those states, you know, if people are approving of the job he's done, despite the numbers that have come out against -- about Obamacare, then I don't see why not, why he wouldn't -- you know, why her vote would not rise with that tide.

BLITZER: Yes, and he's working hard, and so is the vice president, Joe Biden, as well.

Rebecca Berg, Trump and Pence, they were in the suburbs of Philadelphia today, which is a critically important state, as well, Pennsylvania. The argument they're making against Obamacare. They're going to repeal and replace it. They gave out some details of what they have in mind.

Is that strategy going to work in a traditionally blue state, a Democratic state like Pennsylvania?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, absolutely. Obamacare is a national issue.

And Republicans see this as a very good issue for them. In Pennsylvania, for example, individual Obamacare rates are set to rise by an average of 33 percent in 2017. That is huge. And that's something that voters are going to be thinking about as they're going to the polls.

Do we want to elect a president who's going to make changes to the program or continue that program as it is? It's definitely one of the major partisan issues in this election.

I talked with a senior Republican in one of the other battleground states about this issue, and this Republican told me, if Donald Trump had been talking about this sort of thing all along, it's possible he would be in a much stronger position. Republicans and Trump's own campaign, his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, they prefer that he is talking about policy, not starting fights with other Republicans, not starting fights with former Miss Universes. This is good turf for him.

BLITZER: Yes. He says he wants to do away with the whole thing, the Affordable Care Act. Destroy it, repeal it, replace it, come up with a whole new idea. Hillary Clinton says, yes, it's a very good plan, could be a lot better. She wants to improve it. That's the point that she keeps making.

David Axelrod, how do you think the Clinton camp is handling this latest development, the FBI investigation of the e-mails? Does it have the potential to rev up her base and the Obama coalition, or is it all bad news for her?

AXELROD: Well, I think potentially, that would be making steak out of hamburger. It's not a great story for her. Regardless of the content, the fact that we've spent so much time talking about it for the last four days, instead of her being on the offense against Donald Trump.

And, you know, what she needs to do in the final days is find a way to pivot to Trump and close strong on the attack. I think you've seen a sharpening of the ads against Donald Trump on the part of the Clinton campaign and their -- and their surrogate organizations, partly because of this story.

They want to get back on offense, and that's essential. You don't want to close on defense. You want to close on offense.

BLITZER: That's what they're trying to do, David Chalian, go on offense. And instead of talking about this specific issue, defending Hillary Clinton's explanations, which could be problematic, they want to go on the attack mode against Donald Trump.

CHALIAN: They do. They want to play offense. They also want to make sure that the subject changes. So two different things. Stop talking about the e-mails, and then find something that has worked for them in the past, which is no doubt Donald Trump's relationship to women and the accusations against him.

Alicia Machado introducing Hillary Clinton today. The ad they put out. This is all aimed to get back to a character argument against Donald Trump.

As you were saying, Kellyanne Conway, the Trump campaign knows, they prefer more when their candidate is on the issues. When the conversation is about character, this is not where the Trump campaign wants to be. And that's exactly why Clinton wants to bring it to him. BLITZER: Yes, kept going on and on over these past few days since

Friday, in part because the Clinton campaign, including Hillary Clinton herself, kept talking about it. And that's going to continue the story, at least for now.

All right, guys, stand by. Everyone stand by. There's a new warning about Russian leader Vladimir Putin's aggressive global intentions, and it's coming from a very unusual source. It comes as anxiety is growing about whether Putin is behind cyber-attacks that may be trying to influence the U.S. election. We'll have the very latest in a moment.


[17:48:09] BLITZER: There's a troubling new warning about what Russian leader Vladimir Putin may be up to and it goes way beyond the upcoming U.S. presidential election. I want to go to Brian Todd.

Brian, what are you hearing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight Vladimir Putin's aggression has become such a huge security concern that one of Britain's top spies has stepped out in public to warn about it. The head of Britain's MI-5 Agency says basically that Putin is now using all of the levers of his power to throw his enemies off balance.


TODD (voice-over): New concerns tonight on both sides of the Atlantic that Vladimir Putin is getting more aggressive. U.S. sources tell CNN they believe the Russian leader is trying to disrupt the American election. In Europe, a fleet of his warships and fighter planes recently brushed past Britain on their way to Syria.

And for the first time in 107 years, the head of Britain's vaunted domestic counterintelligence agency is coming out of the shadows to give an interview, pointing the finger at Moscow.

Andrew Parker runs the secretive branch known as MI-5. Tonight, Parker tells "The Guardian" Russia poses an increasing threat to Britain's stability and is more aggressively using its propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks.

BEN JUDAH, AUTHOR, FROZEN EMPIRE: There's alarm within the highest echelons of Britain's intelligence services about the Russian threat, and it shows that they don't believe that the public at large truly appreciates it in the way that they did during the Cold War.

TODD (voice-over): Putin's spokesman dismisses the British intelligence chief's claim. Russia's embassy in London is mocking Parker, tweeting a poster of the Cold War era comedy film, "The Russians Are Coming."

But experts say Putin's aggression is no joke.

MASHA GESSEN, AUTHOR, THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE: There have been a lot of flyers. There have been a lot of explicitly brazen acts of sort of military demonstration.

JUDAH: Not only is Russia escalating its use of cyber-attacks. This information and propaganda, it appears to be working.

[17:50:02] TODD (voice-over): U.S. leaders say Putin's meddling in America's election is unprecedented. CNN has learned investigators believe a cyber-attack which exposed voter data in Florida was the work of the Russians. The Obama administration publicly named Putin's government for hacks of the Democratic Party and the theft of Clinton campaign e-mails now posted on WikiLeaks.

The White House accuses the Kremlin of trying to destabilize America's political system. Putin's denied all of it.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): Does anyone seriously think that Russia can, in some way, influence the choice of the American people? Is America some kind of a banana republic?

TODD (voice-over): America's top intelligence official recently talked about what he thinks drives the Russian President.

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think he's somewhat of a throwback not so much to the -- throwback to the czar era. And I think he has this vision of a great Russia as a great power.

TODD (voice-over): Putin's already left an indelible mark on the 2016 campaign in America.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that's because he'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States.


CLINTON: And it's pretty clear --

TRUMP: You're the puppet.

CLINTON: It's pretty clear --


TODD (voice-over): Experts say by being talked about so much in the U.S. election cycle, Putin wins.

GESSEN: I think that there's a lot of sort of self-satisfaction involved in seeing not just Russia but Putin himself become sort of the third player in the American election.


TODD: Analysts say Putin, always thinking a couple of steps ahead, is also trying to calculate his next moves against the next American president. If it's Trump, they say he'll likely appeal to Trump's ego and try to manipulate him. If it's Clinton, he'll be trying to counter her tough stance against him in a Cold War-style standoff. Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting, Brian. But the U.S. and its allies are themselves being aggressive in Eastern Europe right now to counter Putin. Is that what you're hearing?

TODD: They sure are, Wolf. Nearly a thousand U.S. troops now heading to Poland in the next few months. They're going to be placed in a town that is only a few miles away from where Russia might attack NATA at some point if it does so.

And the British are sending about 800 troops over to Estonia. Many people believe, right now, we're already in the middle of a full- fledged cold war with Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thanks very much. Jim Sciutto, what are you hearing about the FBI's look into ties between the Trump campaign, some senior advisers there, former advisers, and Russia?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There have been at least some ongoing, no fewer than three, investigations of ties of people close to Donald Trump to Russian interests. Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager, his ties particularly to a pro- Russian leader in the Ukraine; Carter Page, foreign policy adviser; but -- Roger Stone.

No evidence of criminal activity found yet. And bigger picture, no evidence of coordination or certainly criminal ties between Donald Trump himself and Russia or Russian interests.

On the flip side, though, when you do talk to folks in the intelligence community, they don't believe that Donald Trump is working with Russia. But is it beneficial? Are some of his positions, are some of his statements here, beneficial to Russia's intentions of disrupting the election? Yes, that's conceivable.

When you say, for instance, the election is rigged, you hear the same from WikiLeaks, that may very well serve those interests of disrupting the elections. When you say you doubt the intelligence community's assessment that Russia's behind the hacks of the Democratic Party election systems, et cetera, that also helps. Maybe unwittingly, but it helps serve those interests.

BLITZER: Julie Ioffe, there's two schools of thoughts of the alleged Russian cyber-attacks. One school says the Russians simply want to disrupt the U.S. election. The other school of thought says the Russians want to help Trump get elected. They think he'll be more malleable. What's your thought?

JULIA IOFFE, COLUMNIST, FOREIGN POLICY: I don't think the two are mutually exclusive, Wolf. I think if they'd their druthers, they would like Donald Trump. That said, you know, speaking to people in Moscow, they believe that Trump is a better candidate than he is a President for Russia because they don't know how he's going to behave in the Oval Office. They don't know, you know, he might press the nuclear button without giving it a second thought.

On the other hand, the disruption element is not to be underrated because the whole way Russia has operated, as the British intelligence director said, as we've been seeing since the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine is to sow chaos, to undermine very fundamental concepts -- what is a fact, what is a border, what is an election, what is a government institution, what is a democracy.

And the idea there is, it's not to say you guys have a bad system, we have a better system. It's to say we have a bad system maybe but you guys have a bad system too, so why is either of them better? You might well play for your own side, for the Russian side.

BLITZER: David Axelrod, very quickly. You remember four years ago when President Obama was running for re-election against Mitt Romney. I interviewed Mitt Romney at the time. He then said Russia was America's number one geopolitical foe, and he was ridiculed for saying that by President Obama. You remember that. He seems to have been a bit ahead of his time.

[17:55:12] DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Well, there's no doubt that that comment looks good now. The question is, what is the scope of Putin's influence here other than being a troublemaker? And, you know, you look at China, for example, not a foe but certainly a competitor. They seem in the long run like a larger issue for the U.S. than Russia, and that's the point the President was making then. But there's no doubt Putin's made his presence felt in this election.

BLITZER: All right, guys, everyone stay with us because we're going to continue to follow the breaking news.

With no explanation publicly at all, the FBI suddenly releases files from its 2001 investigation of a controversial pardon by former President Bill Clinton, even as it takes heat for going public with its probe of a top Hillary Clinton aide's e-mails.


[17:59:55] BLITZER: Happening now, breaks knew. Too political? The FBI releases files from a 2001 investigation into a controversial pardon by President Bill Clinton. Democrats question the timing, coming one week before the election. And now, sources tell CNN the Agency has also been investigating allegations of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.