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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump and Minority Voters; President Obama in North Carolina; Where Does Presidential Race Stand?; Trump Camp Disavows KKK Newspaper's Endorsement; Obama on the FBI: 'We Don't Operate on Innuendo'; Experts: North Korea May Act Out Around U.S. Election; Trump, Clinton at Odds with Some Commanders. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 2, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Was there a conflict of interests?
Air Force won, President Obama making a huge push for Hillary Clinton in North Carolina, where the NAACP accuses the state board of election of a massive voter purge. Were thousands of registrations illegally canceled? I will ask the head of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.
On message. Donald Trump staying on script and off Twitter in the final days of the campaign, demonstrating he's disciplined as the race tightens. And he's ramping up his rhetoric with some of his most personal attacks yet on Hillary Clinton. Can he win over the minority voters he needs to win the race?
And general disagreement. The Pentagon is now pushing back against Donald Trump's assessment of the offensive against ISIS in Iraq. He calls it -- this is Trump speaking -- a total disaster. Hillary Clinton is also at odds with top brass over what to do in Syria. Will the divisive campaign strain relations between the military and the next commander in chief?
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: The breaking news tonight, President Obama warning the FBI against leaks and innuendo.
They're his first public comments on Director James Comey's controversial decision to disclose a new review of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
Also breaking, new polls just out showing the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tightening just six days before the election. The latest CNN poll of polls shows Trump and Clinton virtually tied in Florida. Trump has been barnstorming the state today, while Clinton campaigns in Arizona and Nevada. We're standing by to hear from her this hour. Also tonight, there's growing concern among Democrats that black
voters won't turn out for Hillary Clinton the way they did for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. The president himself said today, and I'm quoting him, "The African-American vote right now is not as solid as it needs to be."
We're covering that, much more with our guests, including the head of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks. And our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.
Let's begin with President Obama's comments today on the FBI uproar.
Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has the latest.
Jim, these are the president's first public remarks on this controversy.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
Just a short time ago, the White House insisted that the president was not referencing them specifically Comey's decision, that in fact the president did not go beyond what his press secretary said two days ago. But Josh Earnest said 48 hours ago that the president would not defend or criticize Comey's comments.
Then today, we heard the president criticizing leaks, innuendo, the lack of information, three things that seem very relevant to that FBI decision.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Wading into what could be the defining issue of the 2016 election, today, President Obama sharply criticized FBI Director Comey's decision to alert Congress of new e-mails potentially relevant to the Clinton e-mail investigation.
Speaking to "Now This News," Mr. Obama implied Director Comey violated standing FBI norms.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do think that there is a norm that, you know, when there are investigations, we don't operate on innuendo, we don't operate on incomplete information, we don't operate on leaks.
SCIUTTO: Today, Donald Trump, however, taking aim at the Department of Justice, alleging a conflict of interests in an e-mail between Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik regarding the Clinton e-mail investigation.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, today, in a newly released e-mail through WikiLeaks again, we learned that Kadzik was feeding information about the investigation into the Clinton campaign, and that Kad...
(BOOING) TRUMP: Right -- and that Kadzik said -- quote -- "It will be a while
before the State Department posts the e-mails. Additional chances for mischief."
These are the people that want to run our country, folks.
SCIUTTO: He's referring to this e-mail stolen by Russia and released by WikiLeaks today which shows Kadzik, DOJ's chief lobbyist on the Hill, using a private e-mail address to communicate with Podesta.
Kadzik write -- quote -- "There is an HJC oversight hearing today where the head of our civil division will testify. Likely to get questions on State Department e-mails. Another filing in the FOIA case went in last night or will go in this a.m. Indicates it will be a while, 2016, before the State Department posts the e-mails."
The question, was this a conflict of interests? Meanwhile, Comey continues to come under fire from Democrats and some Republicans for releasing investigation details so close to Election Day, growing on Tuesday, as the FBI released documents related to a 15-year-old investigation of Marc Rich, a friend of Bill Clinton, who was pardoned by the former president when he left office.
The FBI insists the documents were released automatically to comply with the FOIA request.
SCIUTTO: So was this e-mail from the DOJ to Podesta conflict of interests?
Now, the Hill hearing schedule would have been public. And that FOIA issues, the subject of a court filing, that would also soon have become public as well. However, note this. Kadzik used personal e- mail to communicate with someone who was not even a party to that FOIA lawsuit, someone who happened to be a former client.
It may not have been illegal, possibly not even unethical, but for many Americans, perhaps unseemly, too close of a relationship between the DOJ, that was beginning a court proceeding, and someone who was with the campaign that was the subject of that court proceeding.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much for that report.
Hillary Clintons is about to hold a campaign event in Las Vegas. Earlier, she was in Arizona, hoping to move that red state into her column.
Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is there for us tonight.
Brianna, Hillary Clinton and her surrogates, they are campaigning full force in the final days of the campaign. Update our viewers. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right,
Wolf. And worried that some momentum in the polls may be stymied by that news that the FBI is reopening its look at her e-mails that she had while she was secretary of state, her use of a private server, she's now taking on Donald Trump, going negative, not the positive, hopeful message that she and her campaign had hoped for, that breathing room in the polls they thought would allow them.
KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is heading West, making her closing arguments in Nevada and Arizona, as she tries to win over more Hispanic voters.
Her campaign is out with this new Spanish-language ad featuring actor Jimmy Smits, and this one targeting another key part of the Obama coalition.
TRUMP: I have a great relationship with the blacks.
Oh, look at my African-American over here.
NARRATOR: But we shouldn't be surprised. Trump has repeatedly disrespected President Obama.
TRUMP: President Obama has been the most ignorant president in our history.
KEILAR: President Obama on "The Tom Joyner Morning Show" voicing concern that black voters won't show up for Clinton the way they showed up for him in 2008 and 2012.
OBAMA: We have got all kinds of metrics to see what's going on. And, right now, the Latino vote is up. Overall vote is up. But the African-American vote right now is not as solid as it needs to be.
KEILAR: He was in North Carolina today touting Clinton's credentials.
OBAMA: She made me a better president. And she is an outstanding public servant.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: And when things don't go her way, she doesn't whine. And she doesn't complain. She doesn't blame others, suggesting everything is rigged.
KEILAR: And trying to convince voters Trump is unqualified for the office.
OBAMA: If you disrespect the Constitution before you are elected president, and you threaten to shut down the press when it writes stories about you, you don't like, or you threaten to throw your opponent in jail without any due process, or you discriminate against people of different faiths, then imagine what you will do when you actually have the power to violate the Constitution along those lines. KEILAR: Clinton trying to compensate for the latest chapter in her e-
mail controversy, as the FBI investigates her top aide Huma Abedin's e-mails, discovered on Abedin's estranged husband disgraced Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner's laptop.
That development has slowed some of Clinton's momentum, so she is working to fortify her blue wall, an electoral advantage based on historically Democratic states like Michigan and Wisconsin.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This may well be the most important election of our lifetimes, because so much is at stake. I am not taking anything or anyone or anyplace for granted.
KEILAR: And her surrogates are fanning out across these states. In Florida, Vice President Joe Biden urging voters not to let 2016 be a repeat of the contested 2000 election.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know how the heck you guys work this out. But it gets down to Florida, Florida, Florida, not a joke. You all do your job, we all get to go to bed early Tuesday night.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KEILAR: As the latest poll shows, Clinton and Trump tied up in Florida. She and her campaign are increasing their advertising there, and in other states, including Wisconsin and Michigan.
Wolf, it's really interesting, because one of her top aides telling reporters today they have raised so much money, they're able to go into some of these states that they didn't think they would be able to.
But make no mistake, part of it is about buying insurance in some of these states that Hillary Clinton didn't need before her e-mail controversy blew up again.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar reporting for us from Tempe, Arizona, Brianna, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. The president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks, is with us today.
Cornell, thanks very much for joining us.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Good to be here.
BLITZER: So, the CNN/ORC battleground states show that Trump supporters, at least right now, in many of these states are more enthusiastic than Clinton supporters are. And these are crucial states.
Why do you think that is?
BROOKS: Well, they may be enthusiastic about Mr. Trump, and that's certainly their right.
But African-Americans are very enthusiastic and very committed to the issues that should be driving this election, to the police misconduct and criminal justice reform and voter suppression, which is rampant and raw and widespread, and the state of our uneven, uncertain economy.
And so those are the issues that we believe will drive African- Americans to the polls. Now, I might note here that, in North Carolina, where we have active voter purging going on, where we have reports from the field where people are receiving letters discouraging them from voting, where we have a presidential candidate who is sending in poll monitors to monitor voter -- imagined voter fraud, as opposed to real voter suppression as practiced by politicians.
BLITZER: You say Donald Trump supporters are doing that?
BROOKS: We know this from the candidate, who has called for this himself.
And so my point being here is, African-American voters are running the gauntlet. We have nine, count them, nine federal court decisions attesting to voter fraud -- I should say voter suppression in this election.
BLITZER: In North Carolina?
BROOKS: Across the country. In Texas, Michigan, in North Carolina, we have these cases which are attesting to real voter suppression.
The point being here is African-American voters have a lot that they're facing in this election. That being said, that is also the measure by their determination.
BLITZER: Early voting turnout among African-Americans in some key battleground states like Florida, North Carolina is down from where it was four years ago. And people are asking, is the turnout going to be significant enough to get Hillary Clinton, for example, elected in those key battleground states?
BROOKS: The NAACP may be working with duct tape and shoestring in some instances, but we're going to do what we have to do.
Let us note, in North Carolina, when we talk about early voting being down in the African-American community, let us also note that polling places have been reduced in the African-American community, making it more difficult for people to vote early or to vote at all.
This is an ongoing, unrelenting assault against the African-American community. And the fact of the matter is, we made history in 2008 and 2012. We're going to make history in 2016. That's not a partisan commentary. That is a commentary on the will and determination of those folks who support our work for the NAACP and who in fact understand that the right to vote is a civic sacrament.
BLITZER: But what you're saying is -- and the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP, I assume, is deeply involved -- you're saying there are people who are trying to prevent African-Americans, who vote traditionally Democratic, from getting an opportunity to vote, even though legally they have every right to vote?
We have nine courts, including in North Carolina, the U.S. Court Appeals for the 4th Circuit said that the state legislature engaged in intentional racial discrimination with respect to voter suppression, and they did so with surgical precision.
And when you have a federal court saying that, where we have votes being purged as we speak, that is an indication of what some folks fear, namely that we're going to turn out. We're going to do that which we have done, which is to say to turn out the vote. But we have to be clear about this.
There's an active campaign to discourage African-Americans from voting. Having led the nation, led the nation in turnout only four years ago, we have not lost our character. We have not lost our resolve or will or determination to vote. But we're up against a lot.
BLITZER: The issue is that some elderly African-Americans might not have proper I.D. Is that what you're saying, that they show up at the voting booth, even though they have lived there -- and the president spoke about this in North Carolina today -- they have lived there for 40, 50, 60 years.
If they don't have a driver's license or whatever, they're not going to be allowed to vote?
BROOKS: When one out of every four of African-Americans doesn't have a government-issued photo I.D., when we have a woman by the name of Ms. Rosanell Eaton, 90-some-odd years of age, she has been voting for decades on end, all of a sudden, because her I.D. doesn't match a birth certificate, she was born at home, that she is not going to be allowed to vote?
The point being here, this is a concerted, Machiavellian effort across the country that the federal courts have recognized. Let us note that. This is not imagined. This is voter suppression, as attested to by the courts, as opposed to voter fraud imagined by politicians.
BLITZER: Let me play a clip.
This is the president speaking today in North Carolina. He's really trying to energize the African-American community there, which could be decisive in determining who carries that state. Listen to what the president said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I have to tell you, this office, you know, it's about who you
are as what you are and what you are. And it doesn't change after you occupy the office. It just magnifies it.
If you disrespect women before you are elected president, you will disrespect women when you are in office.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: If you accept the support of Klan sympathizers, the Klan, and hesitate when asked about that support, then you will tolerate that support when you are in office.
If you disrespect the Constitution before you are elected president, and you threaten to shut down the press when it writes stories about you, you don't like, or you threaten to throw your opponent in jail without any due process, or you discriminate against people of different faiths, then imagine what you will do when you actually have the power to violate the Constitution along those lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Cornell, so it's that message. Is that hard- hitting message going to energize the African-American community?
The president spoke truth to power. Here's what we have seen in this campaign. We have seen racism regularized, the mainstreaming of misogyny, the normalization of anti-Semitism, the de-exceptionalizing of xenophobia in this campaign.
Where we have an African-American church in Mississippi that has been burned out with the words "Vote Trump," that is not partisan graffiti. It is the desecration of a house of God. And it is also the desecration of our democracy.
The point being here is the ugliness that we have seen in this campaign is also an indication of the degree to which we are determined to turn out the vote. There are African-Americans and other Americans who see what is happening in this country, see journalists being targeted for anti-Semitic cyber-attacks, and they're revolted by it.
And I believe that we're going to turn out the vote in significant numbers. Make no mistake. We had these same kind of civic shenanigans played against us four years ago. We turned out to vote. We're going to do the same here.
BLITZER: Listen to what the president said about turning out the African-American vote when he was on the Tom Joyner radio show earlier today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OBAMA: The African-American vote right now is not as solid as it needs to be.
And I know that there are a lot of people in barbershops and the beauty salons and in the neighborhoods who are saying to themselves, well, we love Barack Obama, we love -- we especially love Michelle, and so it was exciting, and now we're not excited as much.
And you know what? I need everybody to understand that everything we have done is dependent on me being able to pass the baton to somebody who believes in the same things I believe in.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that going to resonate with African-Americans, do you think, and really generate the turnout that, for example, Hillary Clinton needs?
BROOKS: I believe the message will resonate as long as the resources are allocated.
BLITZER: What does that mean the resources are allocated?
BROOKS: Meaning we -- and I don't mean this in a partisan sense, but we have got to devote resources to turning out the vote, the ground game.
It's important here. Make no mistake. When we are trying to defend the vote in the courts, where we are fighting voter suppression on an ongoing basis, that means we have got to support our canvassers. We have got to make sure those phone banks are staffed. We have got to do everything that we can to make sure our digital outreach is sufficient.
Make no mistake here. We all as Americans have a stake in turning out the vote and to ensure that our values are on the ballot. So it's not just about the president's message. It's about us as a country. And that means putting our money and our bodies and our conscience where our political rhetoric is.
And that means turning out the vote.
BLITZER: Cornell, stay with us. There's more to discuss. There are other developments unfolding right now. We're going to continue this discussion right after a quick break.
BLITZER: We're back with the president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.
We're following the breaking news. Our CNN/ORC polls show the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton tightening in key battleground states.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now. Jim, Donald Trump is focused on Florida tonight. And our polls show him neck and neck there with Hillary Clinton. What's the latest?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
Wolf, Donald Trump is ramping up his schedule on the campaign trail in this final week, and no battleground is getting more of his attention at the moment than Florida. For Trump, this ultimate swing state is a must-win.
ACOSTA (voice-over): In the Sunshine State, Donald Trump's message is taking on a dark tone, as each line of attack on Hillary Clinton gets more personal.
TRUMP: She is a crooked one, there's no question. Crooked Hillary Clinton. You know, that term has really stuck. That's going to be a great term for a president, right? Boy, oh, boy, what a mess.
ACOSTA: Trump is warning voters across Florida that the FBI's latest inquiry into Clinton's e-mails will mushroom into a constitutional crisis if she's elected.
TRUMP: Haven't we just been through a lot with the Clintons? She will be in court for her entire tenure, and she will be convicted.
But I have respect that the FBI has given it a second chance.
ACOSTA: The FBI isn't just getting a shout-out on the stump.
AUDIENCE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!
ACOSTA: The bureau also has a starring role in Trump's blistering new ad aimed at Clinton.
NARRATOR: Now the FBI has launched a new investigation. After decades of lies and scandal, her corruption is closing in.
ACOSTA: With the latest CNN poll of polls in Florida showing the race too close to call in this state, Trump is taking no chances, barnstorming the state from Miami to Orlando and then the Panhandle all today. The GOP nominee claims minorities are flocking to his campaign, even though polls clearly show he's well behind Clinton among non-white voters.
TRUMP: We're doing great with the African-American community. We're doing great with the Hispanic community.
ACOSTA: The reality is, civil rights groups remain concerned about the support Trump is receiving from white supremacists. Trump did land the endorsement of the KKK's official newspaper, which wrote: "America was founded as a white Christian republic. And as a white Christian republic, it became great." The Trump campaign immediately rejected the endorsement, saying: "This publication is repulsive and their views do not represent the tens of millions of Americans who are uniting behind our campaign."
Trump is trying to add to his vote total by urging Democrats to weigh Clinton's e-mail troubles and consider switching sides in a handful of states like Wisconsin, where early voters are allowed to change their ballots.
TRUMP: This is a message for any Democratic voter who have already cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton and who are having a bad case of buyer's remorse. In other words, you want to change your vote.
ACOSTA: Trump is all but cheering on more embarrassing disclosures, like those e-mails from top Clinton advisers stolen and released by WikiLeaks.
TRUMP: So, today, I guess, WikiLeaks it sounds like is going to be dropping some more. And if we met tomorrow, I will tell you about it tomorrow.
ACOSTA: And if you think three campaign rallies a day sounds like a lot, Trump campaign officials say they may ratchet up the GOP nominee's schedule to four or five rallies a day at the end of this week.
That would come after a key speech scheduled for tomorrow in Pennsylvania from Trump's wife Melania, Wolf. And he's also getting some help from an old foe. Senator Ted Cruz, one of his rivals from the primaries, is scheduled to be out on the campaign trail with Mike Pence in Iowa and Michigan tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you, Jim Acosta reporting from Orlando, Florida.
We're back with Cornell William Brooks, the president and CEO of the NAACP.
You just heard Trump and his campaign now disavowing the support of the Ku Klux Klan, that editorial endorsing him, other white nationalist members and groups.
Why do you think these folks are sort of drawn to Trump and they're supporting him?
BROOKS: He's rather -- I mean, when you have a campaign that's spoken openly about creating a xenophobic wall on the Mexican-American border, when you have a campaign whose members have literally cyber- attacked journalists with anti-Semitic rants, where you have a campaign that's lifted up guttural misogynistic commentary about women, where you have a campaign that stuttered and stammered with respect to the support of the Klan initially, the point being here is there are people in this country who hear what's coming out of that campaign, and they think that he's speaking to them and their values, as opposed to us and our values as a country, the majority of Americans.
And so the point being, it's not just whether or not you reject an endorsement. The issue is whether or not you reject the platform and reject the values. The point being here is stop demeaning women. Stop demeaning Muslims. Stop demeaning Jews and African-Americans.
Lift this campaign out of the gutter and speak with specificity and clarity as to what you're going to do. That's what the people are calling for in this country. And so when, in fact, you lift up a platform for a new deal for African-Americans in a room without African-Americans and with a platform and on a platform without specifics, you insult our intelligence and literally demean our character.
And so the fact of the matter is, this campaign has veered morally off course. I'm not entirely sure if it's ever been on course, but what I do know is much of what it says and lifts up is offensive to most people in this country.
BLITZER: He says the Democratic Party gives lip service to the African-American community every four years, but then does nothing really to help them.
And he -- in all of his speeches, basically, he then says to the African-American community: I want your support. What do you have to lose? Right now, you can't, he says, walk down a street in some of the inner cities without getting shot if you want to go and buy some bread.
You hear him say that.
[18:30:04] BROOKS: Yes, yes, we've heard Mr. Trump say this. And when he asks the question, what do you have to lose? But when you offer zero in terms of specifics, zero in terms of policy prescriptions that speak to the needs of the African-American community in particular and America more broadly, it's a -- it's a problem.
And the fact of the matter is, it's not just the substance, an obvious lack thereof, but it's also the tone of this campaign. And so the point being here is, it's not enough to simply say -- brag about the fact that you have African-American support, though we don't see it. That you have Latino support, though we don't see it. Where you have 20 percent of the support of the non -- of the minority electorate in this country. It's not enough.
The point being here is the race for the presidency is a reflection of the character of the country. And it -- that means we deserve a serious response. And I just note here, when you talk about black people as though they are, like political pawns of a campaign, non- African-Americans note that and are offended by it.
BLITZER: Are you surprised that the race is as tight as it is right now?
BROOKS: I think that it's a measure of the economic anxiety in the country, the polarization in the country. But ultimately, I believe that people are going to vote their hopes, not just their fears, and it's not unusual for a race to tighten on the eve of an election.
BLITZER: You mentioned early an African-American church in Mississippi was set on fire, and then someone wrote in graffiti, "Vote Trump. Have you spoken to folks in Mississippi? I know you're the president and CEO of the NAACP. Do you have any specific information on who may have done this?
BROOKS: We have no specific information about who has done this. We are in touch with our colleagues in Mississippi, the Mississippi state conference, led by President Derek Johnson.
But let me -- let me note this: this tradition -- there's an ugly tradition in this country of targeting churches. We saw this with the history of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Whoever did this, this is not funny. It's not amusing. It's dangerous and disgusting. And the fact of the matter is, it wasn't just a church desecrated, literally the whole of our democracy. Because we don't burn churches; we don't burn synagogues; we don't target people's houses of worship. And partisan graffiti has no place on the side of the church.
And note here: it's not just the graffiti. This church was burned. This is someplace that people go on a Sunday to seek their God. And for it to become a subject of arson is absolutely disgraceful.
But I believe people are going to surround that congregation. We will come together as a country, and our values are going to go forward and be vindicated that first...
BLITZER: One quick final question. You invited Donald Trump earlier this year to attend the NAACP convention. I think it was in Cincinnati, right? And he declined. Hillary Clinton, of course, accepted the invitation. Do you think it would have been different if he would have come to the NAACP and made his speech and met with folk there?
BROOKS: I think it would have been better. Because at the end of the day, there's a blank slate. He's not spoken to the African-American community except in certain orchestrated ways, where we were largely absent. We're the nation's largest and oldest African-American -- I should say largest and oldest civil rights organization in the country. So for you to decline not just one invitation, an invitation to the convention, but even to meet with us. He's not done that.
And so again, we see a kind of racial patronizing in terms of this campaign, and we're on the eve of this election. And we've not really heard specifics; and we've not heard, I would say, the caliber -- the caliber of the campaign that one would expect.
BLITZER: Cornell, thank you very much for joining us.
BROOKS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Cornell William brooks is the president and CEO of the NAACP. A sensitive moment right now.
We're going to have more on the breaking news. Coming up we're taking a closer look at our new polls out tonight. They show the race tightening in some of the critical battleground states.
[18:38:13] BLITZER: The breaking news tonight. Our new CNN/ORC polls show the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton tightening in critical battleground states. And President Obama is warning the FBI against innuendo and leaks after the director, James Comey's, politically-charged revelation of a new review of the probe into Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
Let's discuss with our correspondents, our political experts.
Jim Sciutto, you've been looking closely into this. What the president had to say about the sitting FBI director, is there a precedent to that kind of discussion?
SCIUTTO: Well, the president has commented on active investigations before. He got some criticism when he commented, for instance, on the Bowe Bergdahl investigation, as it was happening. He certainly made public comments before as it relates to the Clinton e-mail investigation. Principally, he'll refer to the fact that Director Comey, in a statement in July, said he's not going to proceed with charges, that no prosecutor would do that.
These comments, though -- and the White House is now denying that he was making any sort of comment or criticism of the FBI. But let's be honest there: while he had some rhetorical distance, he didn't say Comey did "X"; he did say that there are norms against innuendo, incomplete information, which is exactly what many have been criticizing Comey for that quite incomplete letter sent to the Hill on Friday. So it seemed pretty clear that the president was making a comment about this case.
BLITZER: Gloria, the political fallout from this, Trump keeps saying the e-mail inquiry will lead to a constitutional crisis if Hillary Clinton is elected president. He's pinning his hopes on this controversy continuing until election day. So what is going to be the political fallout?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's a pretty good bet for him to make. I think if you talk to people, as I have, who are doing Republican polling, they do see a tightening of the polls, even in some of those blue states that are part of the blue wall that Hillary Clinton has. And I think the more he talks about this, the more he can energize his base and potentially suppress Hillary Clinton's base.
And so -- and what it has done is it has unified Republicans on one theme. They finally have something they can all talk about and agree on. And that is that Hillary Clinton shouldn't have had a private server, and that all of this seems a little bit nefarious to them. And that, yes, the FBI has reenergized an investigation, call it what you will. And even though we don't know the facts about it, it doesn't matter, because it confirms a negative narrative about Hillary Clinton that works for Republicans. And so why wouldn't Donald Trump keep talking about this? It makes sense.
BLITZER: Rebecca, look at our new poll in Florida, the CNN/ORC poll, likely voters in a key, key battleground state. Hillary Clinton 49 percent, Trump 47 percent. This state is critically important to -- if Trump loses Florida, for all practical purposes, it's probably over.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And what is so difficult about this race right now for Donald Trump is that even as the polls are tightening, you can say the same thing about half a dozen states on the map. You could say the same thing about Ohio, about probably Iowa. A number of these toss-up states are must-win states for Trump.
Florida in particular, though, because there's this big prize when it comes to electoral votes.
And so on the ground right now, we're seeing a frenzied effort to try to get people out to vote early. So far the early voting there, surprisingly, I think, is kind of neck and neck between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats in other states tend to have an edge when it comes to early voting. So that's a good signal if you're Donald Trump and I think should be encouraging for Republicans.
But they're going to have to deliver on election day. And as we all know, Donald Trump doesn't have much of a ground game associated with his campaign. He's leaning on Republican National Committee resources, which there are plenty of those in Florida. But it helps to have the additional resources on the campaign level.
What I have learned is that he's actually paying a firm to bring people in to do door knocking for his campaign. They paid $750,000 to this firm during the last month of FEC reporting that could help in Florida, but it's kind of a drop in the bucket. It's a really big state.
BLITZER: Nia, Trump keeps saying -- he says it all the time -- he's doing great -- his words, doing great -- with non-white voters. All of a sudden today, a Ku Klux Klan newspaper endorses Donald Trump. The Trump campaign quickly, immediately condemned that endorsement, said they didn't want to have anything to do with it. But all the -- all the polls show he's not doing great with non-white voters.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And he has consistently said that he is doing great, and that he expected, you know, that African-Americans would vote for him in larger numbers than they voted for Romney, and Latinos, as well. No proof that that's happening. I mean, he's one or two percent among African- American voters.
I think, if you look back to 2012, there were two theories of that election and why Romney lost. One of which was that 6 million white voters stayed home. The other theory was that the Republican Party didn't do enough to
expand their voting base in getting African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans.
It seems like Donald Trump is really running a campaign based on the first (ph) theory, that if you swell the white vote enough, you can be competitive in a national election. And so far, it looks like, in states like Ohio, that seems to be working. I mean, if you see his crowds, a lot of blue-collar white voters there. In Iowa, that seems to be working. He's running ahead of Mitt Romney.
It could actually be that, on election day, if Donald Trump loses, he could, in some ways, be the most successful losing GOP candidate, if he's able to put those states in play and perform better than Mitt Romney, who got 206 electoral votes.
BORGER: The question is whether gender, whether the gender gap will grow so large that it would, you know, equalize the white vote for Donald Trump.
HENDERSON: Yes, yes.
BORGER: We don't know the answer to that yet, right?
HENDERSON: And the older vote...
HENDERSON; ... I mean, those folks are voting for Clinton at higher numbers, and of course, college-educated white women.
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, is the Hillary Clinton campaign going to energize that base out there that got President Obama elected twice, to go out and actually vote? Because we see voter turnout, at least so far in these early, early ballots, not necessarily as strong as they were four years ago.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. That's the big question right now. This was always going to be a turnout election. If Hillary Clinton could hold onto President Obama's Electoral College map and hold onto the Obama coalition, she was likely to win this election and then will be likely to win this election if she succeeds in that.
But as you said, Wolf, in a couple of key states -- Florida, North Carolina -- right now, among early voters, the percentage of votes already cast by African-Americans is slightly down from where we were at the same point in the election in 2012.
[18:45:03] That is a little worrisome for Democrats right now.
BLITZER: I want to play, Jim Sciutto, listen to this. This is the president once again on the Tom Joyner radio program today trying to get African-Americans to go out and vote in big numbers for Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we let this thing slip, and I've got a situation where my last two months in office are preparing for a transition to Donald Trump, who staff people have said that their primary agenda is to have him in the first couple of weeks sit in the Oval Office and reverse every single thing that we've done, right away, I guarantee you, they'll start cutting back on funding for things like Pell Grants and support for historically black colleges and universities. Right away, they will roll back the Affordable Care Act. Right away, I guarantee they'll dig up Michelle's garden.
No, you think I'm joking?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: How persuasive is that argument he's making?
SCIUTTO: Well, listen, I mean, this is a legacy issue for Barack Obama, beyond the fact that he's a Democrat and he wants Hillary Clinton to win and he's campaigning aggressively. It's a legacy issue.
And particularly when you think the president did so much through executive action, that the next president has enormous power to let those actions continue or not. The same goes for his foreign policy legacy, as well. So, it's a fair argument and clearly it's a real concern.
BLITZER: Take a look at what's going on, Gloria, in our new poll in Nevada right now. Our brand new poll in Nevada. Trump 49 percent, Hillary Clinton 43 percent. And look at this, in Arizona, Trump 49 percent, Hillary Clinton 44 percent.
She's heading out there. She's in Nevada. She's in Arizona.
BORGER: Maybe she should drop by Nevada, you know, she should get -- Nevada is the place that was a blue state. And Hillary Clinton would like to win that. Obama won it by six points.
I think what they've got to do is try and get Latino voters out in the state of Nevada. We know they're trying to do that. In early voting, we don't know many Latinos are out there. It's not broken down by ethnic group at this point.
So, I think that they've got a job to do in Nevada because they want to keep -- they want to keep it blue. Could they lose it and still win the election? Of course, yes. Their path to 270, as we've said thousands of times, is a lot easier than Donald Trump's.
So I think that's an issue for them. On Arizona, Romney won that by nine points. So, that is a red state that Donald Trump would like to keep red. I think that Democrats, when they were looking at this grandiose map and saying all right, we're going to run up the tally here, we could score a win in Arizona. I think right now, after the Comey story, they're much more interested
in making sure their blue wall sticks, getting to 270 and above. And when they were thinking more about down ballot and thinking about expanding, you know, Arizona was in their scope. I think right now, they've got other issues that they've got to worry about.
BLITZER: One thing that the Clinton campaign does have, Nia, you can confirm his, a much better ground game and a lot more money.
HENDERSON: Yes, a lot more money, and they're spending it. She's going to Detroit, Michigan. They're putting ads in that state, as well. They want to firm up that blue wall. And sort of play with some of the ambitions of an Arizona or a Georgia or even maybe slow the vote in Texas. But they want to secure the blue wall.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by. Everybody, stay with us. We've got a lot more coming up.
Remember, we're just a week away -- less than a week away from Election Day in America. We'll have all-day courage of all the key races. Stay with CNN until the last vote is cast and counted.
Just ahead, a possible November surprise from North Korea. Is Kim Jong-un planning another nuclear test to coincide with the U.S. election?
Plus, how will the Pentagon deal with the next commander in chief? We have details of how the candidates are already at odds with some commanders.
[18:53:01] BLITZER: While the United States prepares for the election in just six days, there's growing concern North Korea may be preparing for something much more sinister.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
Brian, the U.S. is keeping a close eye on Kim Jong-un's regime right now. What's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very close eye, Wolf.
Tonight, we're getting information from U.S. intelligence and a respected national security think thank that we could see more missile launches or even a nuclear bomb test from North Korea in the coming days or weeks. Possibly sometime around Tuesday' election.
It's seen as a way for Kim Jong-un to project his strength and even try to strong arm the new American president.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, the specter of a November surprise from Kim Jong-un raises serious concerns from Seoul to Washington. U.S. military officials CNN spoke to say there are no signs tonight that North Korea is preparing for a medium range ballistic missile test as some reports suggest. But they stress those medium range missiles called Musudans are fired from road mobile launchers and a launch could happen at any time.
And there is a separate warning that the upcoming U.S. election could motivate Kim's regime to do something dangerous to provoke the United States. That warning comes from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS, and is published on its website, Beyond Parallel.
VICTOR CHA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think it could be a sixth nuclear test. It could be launching of their rocket to put a satellite in orbit which demonstrates ballistic missile capability. Doing a major test would be a way of trying to intimidate the incoming president.
TODD: Just this year alone, Kim Jong-un has fired off at least 15 missile tests and two nuclear bomb tests, making five overall. Just last month, North Korea tested two Musudan missiles. They failed, leaving large burn marks on roads.
JOSHUA POLLACK, MIDDLEBURY INST OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The burn marks here and here tell us the missiles probably exploded upon launch or shortly thereafter.
TODD: But Kim's regime did successfully test a Musudan this past summer. Experts say it's a major threat.
[18:55:03] POLLACK: A Musudan, as you can see, is launched off of this truck. It is a mobile missile. That means that it's very difficult to track it and to detect its presence before launch, unlike a silo-based missile.
TODD: It's a missile which could carry a nuclear warhead as far as Guam, where America has military bases. North Korea is also improving its longer range intercontinental ballistic missiles.
America's top intelligence official warns of its capabilities once it's flight-tested.
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Potentially could reach part of the United States, certainly including Alaska and Hawaii.
TODD: A key question tonight, why would Kim want to provoke the U.S. around the time America elects its next president?
CHA: These are just not random. North Korea chooses particular windows that they know will gain maximum attention from the world and the United States in particular.
TODD: Victor Cha says the number one security issue for the next American president will be the threat from Kim's regime if and when he demonstrates that capability to reach the mainland U.S. with a nuclear warhead. Weapons experts have told us Kim could have that operational capability, Wolf, within five to ten years.
BLITZER: Pretty scary stuff.
Brian, North Korea's adding to all of that with, what, submarine launch missile capability?
TODD: They are, Wolf. It's a capability that many analysts down played over a year ago. But this past summer, North Korea successfully test-fired a submarine launched ballistic missile. It flew over 300 miles. That means a North Korean sub someday could creep up the waters off Guam, Hawaii, even California, almost undetected and possibly launch a missile.
BLITZER: More frightening stuff.
All right, Brian. Thanks very much.
As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton battle to become the next commander in chief, both are already at odds with some military leaders.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us.
Barbara, Donald Trump has been especially critical of the way the Pentagon is fighting ISIS. What's the latest?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
You know, the U.S. military is going to be loyal to the next president of the United States. There is no question about that, but plenty of questions about whether everybody agrees on new policies.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's totally unfit to be our commander in chief.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.
STARR (voice-over): It's been a battle royale over who's more qualified to lead the troops. In the final days of the campaign, bitter words and wide-ranging claims.
TRUMP: I've been endorsed largely, conceptually at least, by the military.
STARR: The military, of course, must support every president. But there's no such thing as conceptual endorsement of a candidate.
Now, there is worry that civil military relations could be strained by such a divisive campaign.
SETH JONES, RAND CORP.: I think there's been a lot of angst about what a Trump administration would look like.
STARR: Trump back in 2015.
TRUMP: I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.
STARR: One of Trump's most noted tweets about the war on ISIS said the attack on Mosul is turning out to be a total disaster.
While not referring to Trump's criticism, the top U.S. commander rejected the idea. The offensive is bogged down.
LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE: I don't see any evidence that it's bogged down at all. I don't know. Whoever is saying that, I just don't know where they are getting it. I don't see that.
JONES: Anybody who has served in any way, shape or form in an urban fight like this understands the difficulty and complexity involved. And if you haven't done that, then you don't now how difficult a fight like this and then it is these comments like it's a disaster.
STARR: Hillary Clinton may also have difficulties after urging a U.S. military no-fly zone over Syria, something opposed by the Pentagon.
GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: For us to control all of the air space in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia. That's a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I'm not going to make.
CLINTON: I'm going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria, not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refuges but to frankly gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians.
STARR: Now, you know, even with all the political drama going on right now, it is probably worth taking a deep breath and remember this would not be the first election where a new president comes into office with different ideas, new ideas than the U.S. military has -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point, indeed. Barbara Starr, thank you very much. Barbara Starr, reporting from the Pentagon.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT " starts right now.