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FBI Reopens Clinton Investigation. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired October 28, 2016 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Eleven days before the election. Our special coverage will continue with Brooke Baldwin right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here we go. We're live in Tampa, Florida, on this beautiful Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.
Listen, this is a state that is one of the biggest prizes of this entire election and we are just 11 days away. And on this day, so, so close, breaking news, a big headache for Hillary Clinton. Here's what we learned just moments ago, that the FBI is reviewing new e-mails in the Clinton investigation.
So let's go straight to our justice correspondent Pamela Brown.
We've been quoting this letter from the FBI director, James Comey, as they are now looking back into some of these e-mails pertinent to the investigation. What do you know?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, these are newly discovered e-mails. Certainly a stunning announcement coming here today, Brooke, as you point out, less than two weeks away from Election Day. And James Comey, the director of the FBI, sent this letter today to the Senate Judiciary Committee saying, essentially, that he acknowledged that he had said the case was complete, but now these newly discovered e-mails have come to light.
He says, "in connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of e-mails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigation team briefed me on this yesterday and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these e-mails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation." And he goes on to talk about the fact that the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant and he also can't predict how long this will take. So there is a likelihood, Brooke, that this could wrap up after the election.
But certainly stunning news and an unusual step here for James Comey to announce that they're looking into these additional e-mails, telling Congress that this is what's happening. It's unclear where these e-mails emanated from, who they belonged to. We certainly don't know if they belonged to Hillary Clinton or her aide. We don't really know much more information.
What we do know, Brooke, from our law enforcement sources, is that the e-mails did not come to light as the result of the WikiLeaks investigation that the FBI is looking into, as well as the Clinton Foundation. So it's a separate investigation. We do not have those details.
Still, a lot of unanswered questions here in the wake of this letter being released today. And this is certainly something that the Clinton campaign does not want to happen so close to the election day. And - and we all sort of thought, Brooke, that this was a done deal, that the case was complete, as James Comey had testified, and now we're finding out that that - it continues, in a sense, that they looked at these e-mails and review them.
BALDWIN: Not a done deal. Not a done deal. And again, just to underscore your point, that now that they're reviewing these, the conclusion of the review may not happen until after the election, so this will be dangling over her and her campaign for the next 11 days.
Pam Brown, stay with me.
Before I bring in a number of voices to walk through this, there has been rapid response from the man who would like to beat Hillary Clinton, who would like to be in the White House. Donald Trump responded to this at his rally moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I need to open with a very critical breaking news announcement. The FBI has just sent a letter to Congress informing them that they have discovered new e-mails pertaining to the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton's investigation.
CROWD (chanting): Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up.
TRUMP: And they are reopening the case into her criminal and illegal conduct that threatens the security of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: All right, so that was Donald Trump moments ago.
Let's bring in our voices. Executive editor for CNN Politics, Mark Preston is with me. CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here. With me here in Tampa, Adam Smith, political editor for "The Tampa Bay Times."
So wonderful having you all on and just to react to this news.
[14:05:01] Gloria, to you first. I mean whether or not the conclusion of this investigation is that there was absolutely nothing nefarious, nothing criminal, how big of a gift is this to the Trump campaign?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, this - first of all, it is a huge political gift. You heard Donald Trump, who previously disparaged the FBI and said it was rigged, now saying today that he has respect for the FBI. There are a lot of unanswered questions here, though, and I think Hillary Clinton is going to have to speak to this because we really don't know exactly what the FBI director intends to do, at least from my reading of his letter. We're not sure if he is actually reopening - re-opening an investigation. What we know is that there is material that they have looked at regarding another investigation that made them believe that something would be pertinent to their previous investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
BORGER: This is happening, Brooke, 11 days before a national presidential election. And unless we have some more transparency here, I would have to say that the attorney - that the FBI director, maybe for the reason that he just wanted to be completely sort of transparent about this, put it out there. But in his efforts to do so, what he has done is inserted himself and his department -
BORGER: Into a partisan election. So I think there's some more transparency that is needed here about whether there is in fact going to be a reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server, whether this involves Hillary Clinton herself, and, in fact, how important these e-mails are. I mean you have to believe, on the one hand, that if they - if they weren't important, he wouldn't have raised this issue in the first place, right?
BALDWIN: Right. Right.
BORGER: Or that he just felt maybe he had to because there was a little thing he had to deal with. We just - we just don't know enough yet.
BALDWIN: There is so much we do not know. Just for all of us to be transparent, but it's a significant story to your point also, 11 days to go.
BALDWIN: Pictures of Hillary Clinton, yes, getting off her plane. She's got a rally coming up. You know, the question, and, Gloria, you hit on it, and, Mark, I want you to respond, how does she answer to this, how does she handle it with so much on the line?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, first of all, she probably doesn't know what they're looking at either. Well, you would suspect that she wouldn't know. And - but to Gloria's point, she's going to have to address it as quickly as possible and try to get it out of the way. Look, as Gloria said, we're 11 days out. At this point there's going to be an incredible amount of pressure now on James Comey to wrap up this latest iteration of his investigation or look into these e-mails given the timing. I mean there will be an incredible amount of pressure. Whether he can get it done or not get it done, and he has noted he doesn't know what the time frame is going to be on that.
But, look it, this is a boost in the arm, no question, for the Trump campaign at a time when they certainly need one. The path to 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency looks very difficult. But it comes at a time when they certainly needed it. And it is a political gift for Trump, but I think we also should say that this is a self-inflicted wound by Hillary Clinton, who, you know, hindsight being what it was, or what it is, should have never set up this private e-mail server.
BALDWIN: Adam, let me - let me bring you in here. We're sitting here in Tampa. We came here today obviously to talk about voters here in Florida. And just on a, you know, on a sheer voter level, obviously we're paid to pay every, you know, attention to every single detail of all of these campaigns. Do you think Floridians care? How close attention do you think they're paying to this bit of breaking news? Because a lot of people here in Florida are still undecided.
ADAM SMITH, POLITICAL EDITOR, "TAMPA BAY TIMES": Yes, and it's also - it's not really 11 days until Election Day. Election Day's already underway.
BALDWIN: Early voting is happening - it's happening.
SMITH: We're about a - we have three million votes already cast in Florida. That's about a third of the vote that's already in. So I mean it does seem like the FBI director has an obligation to give us a little bit more, give voters a little bit more information and context to what's out there. But, yes, this - this, so far, from what little we know, sounds like more than just a little drip. It's pretty significant. And if I'm - if I'm Marco Rubio running in maybe a close Senate race or a Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, I think this is really good news.
BALDWIN: I've got - thank you so much. Stay with me, Adam.
Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst, is joining us here as well just on - Jeff, you know, chime in on, you know, the process. I mean the point is, we don't even know if these are Hillary Clinton's e-mails. We just know from, you know, James Comey that this is all pertinent to the investigation. Can you talk to me a little bit about just the process?
[14:10:02] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): Well, just - I mean as a practical matter, the one thing that you can say with almost total certainty is that this - this will now not be resolved in 11 days. The FBI doesn't do 11 - doesn't do any serious investigations in 11 days.
Beyond that, I don't know what else that we can conclude. I frankly think it's bizarre that the FBI director felt obligated to do this. He's - he is a very savvy Washington player and he certainly knows that he was throwing a bomb into the middle of a political campaign. It is customary for the FBI and the Department of Justice to do their absolute best to stay out of even statewide political campaigns, much less national political campaigns. It will be interesting to see why he felt obligated to do this 11 days before the - before the election. But I think it is very likely that this is all we're going to know about this investigation over the next 11 days and voters can decide whether it matters to them or not.
BALDWIN: It's a mystery.
Gloria, a little bit of background on James Comey. I mean we talked before when that initial investigation had been complete, you know, and they determined there was nothing criminal, no criminal wrongdoing, a lot of Republicans criticized him and the FBI for that. And so here he is inserting himself - to use your word - 11 days to go. Why do you think?
BORGER: Well, you know, on the one hand, if you're jumping to conclusions, you can jump to the conclusion that the reason he did it is that he thought it was significant. Although in his letter he said we cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant. So I think that - look, Comey has gotten it from both sides and he's been accused of being too pro-Hillary and he's been accused of being on the other side of it. He is known - and Jeff Toobin would know this better than I - he is known to be a straight shooter and I think that's what Donald Trump obviously believes today because he is now complementing Comey.
What we don't know are the answers to these very important question about how significant this might be, why he felt the need to come out publicly with this and, if Jeff is right, and I presume he is, that we're not going to know before the election, this is a gift to Donald Trump. The question is, how many people have already voted, as you were talking about before. How many people have already - who were for Hillary Clinton, who believed the e-mails are not an issue, how many people who don't like her already believe that she's, as Donald Trump says, crooked Hillary. So we really don't know the electoral impact on this.
What I will tell you is that Hillary Clinton has to address this directly now. She's been able to push aside all the WikiLeaks, which is a separate issue because as the campaign has said repeatedly, those are the result of a Russian hack. This is - this is something else. And Comey has already said that she behaved in a reckless manner when it came to the personal e-mail server. So I do think this is something that she is going to have to address.
But if these questions are not answered, and there's no more transparency that we are given, then I think this just becomes another political football for the next - for the next 11 days that Donald Trump can use to his advantage.
BALDWIN: Yes. What we've heard from Paul Ryan, Mark, how will this news affect races down ballot?
PRESTON: Well, you know, that's a great question and there's a couple of things and it really starts with the top with Donald Trump. Can Donald Trump stay on message? Can Donald Trump just really try to shift the spotlight on to Hillary Clinton and not try to take it back himself by choice, quite frankly, or by mistake? Does he go out and say something that would then be a negative against him? And to that point, as we go down ballot and look, you've got to wonder if these candidates out there right now, we've already seen it in several different states where you have Kelly Ayotte having the Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, go in and run an ad in New Hampshire to say we need a check and balance on Hillary Clinton, elect Kelly Ayotte. Basically saying, Donald Trump's not going to win. We saw the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, they have gone into help out a member in Illinois saying, we need a check on Hillary Clinton for a Republican congressman. So there is an effect.
[14:151:11] And I - and I've got to tell you, you know both campaigns right now are scrambling to start to test messaging over the next couple days in key battleground states. What message is going to work on this? How can we use it to our best advantage? But as much as this is a gift to Donald Trump, it could very well be a gift to Republicans on the ballot as well.
BALDWIN: Huge breaking news on this Friday afternoon. We've heard Republicans rapidly responding to this news from the FBI, from Director James Comey. How will Hillary Clinton respond? We will find out moments from now. She's set to speak at a rally. A quick break. We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BALDWIN: Back to our breaking news here on this Friday afternoon here in Tampa, Florida. We thought we'd be talking all things politics in Florida and, my goodness, we have just been thrown this news from the FBI. We have now gotten hold of this letter from the director of the FBI, James Comey, in which he's essentially telling members of Congress they will be reopening this investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. This, 11 days before Election Day.
[14:20:11] He said that his FBI team of investigators had briefed him. He's going to allow these investigators to review certain e-mails. We don't know if they're Hillary Clinton e-mails specifically, but they're pertinent to the investigation to determine whether they contain - this is the key part -- classified information and assess their importance in this overall investigation. Also, we don't know if this conclusion of said e-mail investigation will even happen before Election Day.
You can imagine Republicans, they have pounced on this, namely the man on the opposite party at the top of the ticket, Donald Trump. He came out at a rally and essentially said this is further proof of Hillary Clinton's corruption and that she needs to pay for her actions.
Let's go to our justice correspondent Evan Perez who is working to get more details on the story.
Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, I've got to tell you, these three paragraphs in this letter are probably the most parsed paragraphs right now in Washington. Everybody's trying to figure out what exactly these words by the FBI director mean. What we know right now is that we don't - we don't know exactly what generated this new look by the FBI. We simply know that it's unrelated - in an unrelated case that the FBI decided to take another look here because it found e-mails that it had not reviewed as part of this year-long investigation into the Clinton e-mail server.
You know, this is kind of a - frankly, it's a screw-up by the FBI, the fact that a year spent looking at this investigation and they did not look at every single thing that somehow something was missed in that year-long investigation. That is something that the FBI is now going to have to reckon with. This is something that they did not want to be doing. They did not want to play a role in this election, 11 days out, millions of peoples - people have already cast their ballots and now the FBI is essentially front and center in this election, in this investigation.
And so we know right now that the - that this new - these new e-mails don't have anything to do with the ongoing WikiLeaks investigation that the FBI is doing. We also know that it has nothing to do - it doesn't relate to the Clinton Foundation. So the big question is, what exactly does it relate to? We've not been able to determine that yet. The FBI says that they still have to determine whether these e-mails contain classified information. That's the process that they use again for over a year while they took a look at this before they determined that they were - there was not enough evidence to bring charges against Hillary Clinton or anybody else who was using this private server, Brooke.
BALDWIN: All right, Evan Perez, thank you. Stay with me.
But let me move on to the big question as well, how will Hillary Clinton respond to all of this? She has to. She just landed - her campaign plane just landed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and we will hear from her momentarily live. We will take it, obviously. Do not miss this.
Meantime, though, my colleague, Phil Mattingly, he was on board that campaign plane and happened to be there obviously when this whole story broke.
Phil Mattingly, I'm going to guess the campaign was caught off guard.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): To say the least, Brooke. The flight didn't actually have wi-fi. So when we landed, we were all finding out about this at the same time and that apparently includes Hillary Clinton and her advisors. One advisor saying, we're learning about this at the same time you are. So, obviously, this was quite a surprise, at least to her advisors who weren't aware.
And it's worth noting, Brooke, her most senior advisors were all on the plane with us. Her campaign manager, Robby Mook, her communications director, Jen Palmieri, Huma Abedin, her very close advisor, were all on that plane that did not have Internet access. So it appears that at least most, if not all of them, were unaware of this when we landed. After we landed, it took them a little bit longer to deplane than usual. We do know that at least one of the advisors was on a conference call throughout that process.
But have we had an actual response yet? No. Hillary Clinton did deplane. We are on our way to her event. She'll be pulling up in a couple minutes. All she did when we yelled questions at her as she deplaned was waved and smiled. So as of now, no response. Probably still formulating a response. But again you talk about being caught off guard, there was no wi-fi on the plane. So not only were the reporters caught off guard, it appears the campaign staff was as well, Brooke.
BALDWIN: No wi-fi on board. I can imagine on route to this rally in Cedar Rapids there, writing and rewriting and figuring out how to respond.
Phil, thank you so much.
Let's go now to Brianna Keilar, who has been covering Hillary Clinton, what, really since even before she declared as a candidate here.
And, Brianna, I mean, you have been, for months and months and months, knee deep in this e-mail controversy. I mean, perspective, how significant is this?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, for a year and a half, actually. I don't know exactly how significant this will be in the outcome of the election, but this is terrible news for Hillary Clinton and it means that while for a while she had enjoyed pretty good headlines, Donald Trump had had bad headlines, she's been dealing with the WikiLeaks e-mails, but there didn't seem to be anything that was, you know, a giant bombshell coming out of those. She was sort of benefitting from Donald Trump having the bad headline.
[14:25:19] And here she is, with the bad headline, just days before Election Day. So this is not good news for Hillary Clinton because her campaign had been confident that all things as they were, after even the first debate and the "Access Hollywood" tape, Brooke, that she would be able to win. They were looking at some of the early voting results. They were feeling very confident about how women were coming out for Hillary Clinton because women tend to favor her over Donald Trump when you look at the polls.
And I think while I heard - you know, I've heard Gloria talking about the politicization of the FBI, I think there's certainly that to look at this.
KEILAR: But there's also just the reminder of what a flawed candidate Hillary Clinton is, right? It just brings it all back up again. Why did she use the private e-mail? Why did she use the private server? And then, why did she give an explanation that didn't really, you know, pass the smell test? That it was convenient. I mean she - it appears that it was something that she did for privacy and it's come back to really hurt her. She shot herself in the foot with this. BALDWIN: Haunt her. She shot herself in the foot. We still don't know
how much damage this could do. Also, just listening to Jeff Toobin, you know, he's saying his guess would be there's no way the FBI could go through some sort of conclusive investigation and finish it before Election Day. This puts Hillary Clinton back on the defensive.
BALDWIN: Brings up all those same questions that have also haunted her as to her trustworthiness. How do you think - covering her as many, you know, months as you have, how do you think she will handle this when she speaks in a matter of moments?
KEILAR: I don't know if she's going to acknowledge it. She is there in Cedar Rapids before a crowd. It's entirely possible that she does not talk about this. This has happened so quickly that her campaign, and I'm having a hard time getting ahold of people, they're trying to figure out what to do. So they're in crisis mode. And it doesn't seem like it would be something that she would address at this rally if I just had to guess on that. I don't know that. I don't have an answer to that question.
But she - you know, how is she going to do it? Is it going to be an interview at some point? The problem - and we've seen this over and over again - is, she doesn't want to do an interview when it's just about the e-mails. She frequently says things about the e-mails and the past investigation that really trip her up, right? So there's a risk in doing that.
How do they deal with this? I think, you know, you're right, where Jeffrey Toobin said the idea that this would get resolved before the election is really up in the air. It seems like a lot of work to do. And we certainly don't know what would come out of it if - if anything. But it means that then she's cruising into Election Day with this big cloud over her head. And you can bet that Donald Trump is going to say -
BALDWIN: That's right.
KEILAR: Oh, there's another investigation. This is someone who, you know, you could elect and then she's going to be indicted, even though we certainly have no evidence of that. And, you know, that doesn't play well for her as she tries to get these folks in the middle to vote for her.
BALDWIN: He's already said it at his rally a little while ago, this is just another example of Hillary Clinton's corruption and she should essentially, I'm paraphrasing, pay the price. Republicans are pouncing and this will also affect those down ballot races as well.
Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.
Just a reminder to all of you watching, we are waiting to hear from Hillary Clinton. To Brianna's point, she may not even address this. I mean they just - as we learned, her whole team found out once the campaign plane hit that tarmac. But coming up, I'll get reaction from one of her opponents. We have Gary Johnson. Libertarian candidate for president Gary Johnson, live, next.