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Report: FBI Reviews NewlyDiscovered Emails Tied to Clinton Case. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired October 28, 2016 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: This is the point that Darrell Issa, the California congressman who's in a very difficult reelection fight said in a statement actually saying congress needs to be -- they need to elect a Republican -- there it is, "this decision shows exactly why we need strong watchdogs in congress to ensure thorough oversight of the executive branch."
People that we have not heard yet from are Democrats, particularly ones in difficult reelection races. Some of them have already give a pass to Clinton on the email issue but we expect to hear more from them now. They will be forced to respond, so how will they respond. We don't know yet, Brooke. One other point of news, Chuck Grassley, the senate judiciary committee chairman, saying he is requesting a private briefing with the FBI to learn more about this new probe. So Republicans clearly are seizing on this believing they finally have an issue to campaign on and an issue that will continue to hound Hillary Clinton if she were to become president, Brooke.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: There's so much we don't know. There's senator Grassley trying to get more, Manu, thank you so much. Let me bring Basil and Kayleigh back in.
Basil, I was talking to congressman Patrick Murphy a little while ago, he's in a tough fight with the incumbent senator Marco Rubio who would have liked to have been president and this is sort of the last thing a Democrat would want to happen even if, by the way, this amounts to nothing, we may not know that until after the election.
How should Democrats down ballot handle this?
BASIL SMIKLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I tell you as the executive director of the state party here in New York, down ballot is incredibly important to me and to us because we want to elect people to help Hillary Clinton govern. And I would say to Patrick Murphy and to others, there's nothing -- we don't know enough to be able to speculate. The last thing I would want anybody to do is speculate.
We have to be able to say to the voters and to each other quite frankly, is that we have been there with Hillary Clinton, we trust and support Hillary Clinton and we know she would be a good president for us and for the country. That's what we have been saying throughout the conversation about emails within the last year or so. I think the voters have made up their minds about it. Again, I said this before, this is certainly not something that I want
to have to talk about 11 days out, but I think that -- I think there are supporters on the ground who are out there in New York and in other states that are pushing Hillary Clinton's message and I think voters when they look at her ability to govern versus Donald Trump's I think they'll make the decision to stay with her.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I understand Basil's appeal to focus on what we don't know but what is significant is what we do know. If viewers look at the FBI letter, new information was recovered that is pertinent to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server. That is what we do know and that's very significant.
And Donald Trump, man, he hit the mark today when he looked at the American people and he said voters, I want to propose a contract to you, a contract to rid Washington of corruption and give you your government back and gone are the days where we have a double standard of justice --
BALDWIN: Do you think that's enough to get Republicans behind Trump on the point you're making?
MCENANY: 100 percent because today hearing this FBI investigation is open, it reminds Republicans of their worst fears when it comes to the Clintons of one standard of justice for Hillary Clinton, and another for people like petty officer Saucier who took pictures of a submarine and is now facing a prison sentence. It reminds voters of that, both Republican and independent.
SMIKLE: I would obviously disagree with that because up until the point where director Comey said that there was no criminality with respect to these emails Republicans sang his praises, but at that point they began to say, well, we can't trust the work that he's doing, we have to go back and second guess him, bring him back to congress to testify again, show us more documents, show us more proof, so in that second guessing between when they were supportive of him and the second guessing I'm wondering where Republicans lost their faith in someone they had previously lionized.
Having said that, listen, again, I think we're in a place that is unprecedented and Kayleigh raised that. Totally agree. But if we believe director Comey did a good job heretofore, why is it we should not believe he is serious and upright in his addressing of this issue now, especially since he did what was required on him by notifying congress? So, again, I don't want to have to be talking about this here but I believe that we can get a fair investigation and I just hope it's wrapped up and the information we need to know to move forward comes quickly.
[15:35:00] BALDWIN: The voters do here in Florida especially, all this early voting, people making up their minds as early as now. Thank you all so much Basil and Kayleigh. Next we will talk about the legal angle of all of this, the news from director Comey of the FBI. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in Tampa, in this battleground state, you're watching CNN's special live coverage.
[15:40:00] BALDWIN: We're back here live at the Tampa Museum of Art, breaking news out of the FBI. Republicans, including Donald Trump, pouncing on the news FBI director James Comey is reviewing newly discovered emails tied to Hillary Clinton's private email server case. The announcement comes -- talk about timing -- 11 days before the election.
Trump jumping all over this at a rally a little while ago in New Hampshire. He is sure to bring this back up as he speaks at a rally. Sunlen Serfaty is in Lisbon, Maine, where Trump is set to speak. I can't imagine, he will continue hammering this home until election day.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke, certainly a welcome development for the Trump campaign, excuse my hushed voice, they are having a prayer. We saw Donald Trump almost treat this news as if it was a gift wrapped up in a bow for him 11 days to election day. He wasted no time coming out and talking about it.
Clinton's email is a frequent target of his throughout the campaign but this is giving him fresh fodder. He opened up his rally earlier today in Manchester, New Hampshire announcing to the crowd calling it breaking news. Here's what he said a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The FBI -- has just sent a letter to congress informing them that they have discovered new emails pertaining to the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's investigation, 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)
SERFATY: Now, from the campaign trail in the past Donald Trump has repeatedly accused the FBI and the department of justice of colluding to cover up secretary Clinton's wrongdoings over this. Today Trump seemed a little vindicated, he said this gives hope that the FBI might be righting their ship. He said maybe the system is not as rigged as they thought. You can bet that Donald Trump is going to continue as you said hammering down, bringing this up on the campaign trail, he will speak here shortly in Lisbon, Maine, Brooke?
BALDWIN: All right, Sunlen, thank you so much. Susan McManus is here in Tampa, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. Gloria Borger is back, our chief political analyst at CNN and with us our legal voice Paul Callan. Paul, let me begin with you, we know that this news from the FBI director came from letter sent to members of congress letting them know he would be reviewing or his investigators would be reviewing these emails from this device that they hadn't had previously.
And we know these emails are not Hillary Clinton's emails. That said, is it unusual for the FBI to be public with an announcement like this?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's highly unusual. There have been unusual developments in this investigation all along. When Comey cleared, essentially, Hillary Clinton in the announcement a few weeks back that was probably the first time in American history an FBI director revealed publicly his recommendation to the justice department.
A high-profile investigation. Usually that's not done. So here now to say they're reopening the investigation is highly unusual and I say that because lots of times they reopen investigations.
BALDWIN: It's a review.
CALLAN: And they usually do it quietly and secretly. Well, reviewing it but if you're reviewing a criminal investigation a lot of people would say -- they just do criminal investigations, the FBI. So, if they are reviewing what has been investigated, that's something that they routinely do. You know, you're investigating something you think might be a crime, might not be a crime. You close it out because there's no evidence of criminality, that's what Comey said he did.
Somebody sends in a tip, you better look at this, this might change your mind. Not unusual for the FBI to reopen, to look at the tip. But it doesn't mean anything is going to come of it. It depends on what the tip is and how reliable the evidence is so we're really in the heavy speculation stage now. We don't have anything firm to go on as to whether this is serious or not.
BALDWIN: No, we don't, but Susan, let me ask you here in Florida, we were just talking President Obama will be down here in Orlando stumping for Hillary Clinton. You can understand why they haven't addressed this because they need to make a holistic and proper statement and response, on the other side if president Obama doesn't address it, it's seem as being evasive.
[15:45:00] SUSAN MCMANUS, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: Right, and I think that's the eggshells that they're walking on right now, one day Hillary has been up by two points in the polls and the next day Trump. And yet we're in the middle of record level early voting, so it's a situation where legal and political are colliding.
But this is a time when it looks like political is what is happening in the minds of the voters and I don't think that evasiveness is anything but giving the other side an opportunity to say look you're repressing it, you're not talking about it, yet again you are not being transparent, you don't need that optic either. It's tough for the Hillary Clinton campaign right now in this issue.
BALDWIN: Gloria, what do you think?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think for the Clinton campaign it's kind of like punching Jell-o right now. If we take a step back, what we started out with was a letter that disclosed the fact that they were going to relook at something they had closed in the past or we thought they had closed.
We were not told how significant it was. They said they didn't know and then we have had leaks. Evan Perez at CNN saying these are not emails that Hillary Clinton sent, that it had to do with the other investigation, had to do with Anthony Weiner, so we know what it isn't but we don't know what it is.
Maybe that's because they don't know. It's not James Comey's job to think of political optics, I understand that, but this is 11 days before a presidential election and there are more issues that if I were on either side, quite frankly, I'd want to know the answer to, obviously, they won't finish this investigation before the election. We don't know how significant it is but we know politically it has the potential to be very significant for Hillary Clinton voters who -- in the state of Florida where you guys are who think she's not honest and trustworthy. But don't like Donald Trump and this could sway their vote one way or another, so you have this sort of soggy tent hanging over the Clinton campaign right now.
BALDWIN: Let me add another piece to this as we're getting more. This is from our justice group, this is from Evan Perez and Pam Brown that sources at the FBI have told them that apparently, director Comey felt as far as the why now of 11 days, felt that he needed to review it now or else down the road he could be accused -- and Paul Callan, I want to ask you -- he could be accused of withholding pertinent information right before the election? Fair?
CALLAN: That seems to me like a very viable theory, I say that because the rumors were internally a lot of agent agents were upset about Comey's initial recommendation and if there's the feeling that evidence is being ignored or covered up, plus you have Trump's constant refrain that this is a rigged process and a rigged election. And Comey's looking at the FBI as an institution and trying to establish that they act lawfully and they act in the finer traditions of the organization, so it may be he wanted to get in front of this.
I think Comey knew this was going to leak and I think he's getting in front of a leak that the investigation is continuing, at least some aspect is continuing and he's doing this for the politics of the FBI to show it's still a viable organization with integrity.
BALDWIN: We are now hearing -- this is so crucial. We are hearing from the Hillary Clinton campaign, let's go to Brianna Keilar. This is your beat. How are they responding to this?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is from John Podesta, of course, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign and it says "Upon completing this investigation, more than three months ago FBI director Comey declared no reasonable prosecutor would move forward with a case like this and added it was not even a close call. In the months since, Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been baselessly second guessing the FBI and in both public and private browbeating the career of officials there to revisit their conclusion in a desperate attempt to harm Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. FBI director Comey should immediately provide the American public more information than is contained in the letter he sent to eight Republican committee chairmen. Already we have seen characterizations that the FBI is "reopening" an investigation but Comey's words do not match that characterization."
[15:50:00] Podesta going on to say, "Director Comey's letter refers to emails that have come to light in an unrelated case but we have no idea what the emails are and the director himself notes may not even be significant. It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election. The director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce anything any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July."
So what is significant here Brooke, is you see way this is being cast and again this is being from a device that is not Hillary Clinton's these are emails that don't have to do with Hillary Clinton. But this is John Podesta taking aim at this as a partisan issue, that the Republicans have been brow beating the FBI and they may have caved to pressure.
So casting a political pall over the FBI director for really what is an unprecedented timing. So they're saying this is very politicized and that is a way clearly that they are hoping that this sort of goes to what is already baked in with Hillary Clinton. Time and again we've seen even when there have been, you know, even when there have been very real questions about what is going on, there is a message that this is just Republicans sort of going after Hillary Clinton as they always have. But here they are taking aim at Republicans and at the FBI director, as well.
BALDWIN: My goodness. I never would have thought we'd be talking about this 11 days before election day. Gloria, I'd love to hear your voice on this because in addition to Brianna pointing out the brow beating word, and also struck me how he was saying we want more information, we want the information to be made public.
BORGER: Right. And if you're in the Clinton campaign, of course, you do. Look at Comey's kind of exquisitely difficult situation here. This information came to light, they're investigating Anthony Weiner. This information comes to light, he feels the need as Paul says to get out in front of it because he doesn't want to be a accused after the election of covering something up.
BORGER: Withholding. So, he gets out in front of it he sends out this vague letter that begs for more transparency. It doesn't answer a lot of questions. And we get this drip, drip, drip, these weren't Hillary Clinton's, it was on another device. It was related to Anthony Weiner.
And the Clinton campaign is saying as long as you've put this out there, buddy, how about making it very clear that these officially, not through leaks, but why don't you confirm what other people are saying from your -- on your letter head that these are not classified documents from Hillary Clinton's emails, so we can clear this up politically.
And I think legally and Paul can answer this better than anyone, that puts Comey in a very difficult spot because it's too early to reveal the significance of anything or the details directly respect right, Paul?
CALLAN: It is. And one of the things that I found to be interesting just listening to that statement from the Clinton campaign, I think Podesta misstated what the FBI director said, because I'm just looking at his statement and he said that the emails, the newly found emails appear pertinent to the investigation. Now, he's referring to the prior investigation. And that investigation of course wasn't just of Hillary Clinton. It was of Hillary Clinton, the whole setup with the private server and specifically Huma Abedin and her two other aides, Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills who have been popping up in the news a lot in connection with the WikiLeaks which have nothing to do with this.
So he's very specific that it's pertinent to the investigation, but he's very vague about who precisely he's investigating. So, I think he's really made matters worse trying to get ahead of criticism of the FBI.
BALDWIN: We had a correspondent who was on board the Hillary Clinton campaign plane when they landed in Cedar Rapids, they had no Wi-Fi on the plane, they were caught off guard when devices suddenly blowing up with information. Then we talked to our correspondent telling us the state department was totally caught off guard. Now we're learning, everyone, that according to the spokesperson at the White House, according to Josh Earnest, the White House actually first learned of this breaking story from the FBI, not from the folks down the street, but from we, the media.
[15:55:00] Susan, what do you think about that?
SUSAN MCMANUS, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: This is what happens in politics. Every time we think we have this race figured out, something unusual happens. With media these days, the snap of a finger per and the whole direction of a campaign changes. And we've seen it over and over again. So, 11 days --
BALDWIN: We're getting whiplash.
MCMANUS: -- will seems like an eternity. Yes. Absolutely.
BALDWIN: Susan and Gloria and Paul, thank you so much. Go ahead, did you want to jump in?
BORGER: I was just going to say, the director Comey now finds himself in precisely the situation he was trying to avoid last July when he came out and said, you know, I think Hillary Clinton may have been reckless with her private email server, but I don't see any reason to charge her and he's getting this out of the way before you get into the heat of the general election campaign.
Lo and behold he is where he did not want to be, 11 days out of this reaction. And I don't think he's made it any better for himself with this vague note out there. He had to alert the congressional committees, but there are lots of unanswered questions here.
BALDWIN: John Podesta wants more information. We'll see if any information will be made public. Thank you all so much. I really appreciate it. We are going to take a quick break.
BALDWIN: Before I let you go here in Tampa, let's me just pass along this piece of news. For the first time, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case on transgender bathroom rights. The case concerns a male transgender high school student in Virginia who wants to use the boy's bathroom at his school. This comes as North Carolina faces a lawsuit from the justice department on its so- called bathroom law. We'll watch to see where it goes. In the meantime, thank you so much for being with me the last two hours covering this breaking story. We had a lot we wanted to bring you here. Early voting here in Florida well under way. We know these candidates want to grab this state. Thank you so much. Thank you to the Tampa Museum of Art for having us.