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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

FBI to Release Clinton Report to Public Explaining Why It Didn't Pursue Charges; New Details on Trump, Clinton Debate Preparations; Rubio, McCain Fend Off Primary Challenges; Clinton Campaign Responds to FBI Release of Clinton Interview Notes; Maine Governor Apologizes, Mulls Stepping Down. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 30, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: It depends on how much backlash he continues to face for making these kinds of comments. If he feels like the pressure is too much and he feels like he's not in a productive role here, maybe he decides to leave early.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: M.J. Lee, thanks so much.

Unusual news coming out of Maine.

Thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Baldwin starts now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm John Berman. Kate Bolduan is off today.

We begin with breaking news in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. We could be about to learn a whole heck of a lot more about this investigation. The FBI now plans to publicly release the report it sent to the Justice Department recommending no charges against Secretary Clinton, and also the notes that agents took during their interview with the secretary.

CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez, broke this story. He joins us with the details.

Evan, what are we going to see?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: John, we'll see what the FBI found in its investigation in a lot more detail than what we heard from Jim Comey, the FBI director. He made the extraordinary press conference last month in which he said he was recommend going to the Justice Department that no charges be brought against Hillary Clinton. This report is about 30 pages long, submitted to the Justice Department, who accepted the recommendation. We'll see the 302s, which is the FBI agents' notes of Hillary Clinton's interview with the FBI, which happened right before the FBI made that recommendation last month. These we expected to be released as soon as tomorrow. What will not be released yet are the 302s or interviews, notes from the interviews with some of Hillary Clinton's aides, as well as the investigative material that's already been sent over to Congress.

Again, this is just a reminder of the fact that this investigation is over as far as the FBI is concerned. It doesn't mean that Hillary Clinton will be able to put this all behind her, between now and Election Day -- John?

BERMAN: I'm sure her answers will be analyzed and also the questions of the FBI itself in this investigation. There are those in Congress who have criticized the FBI. This will be fascinating tomorrow.

Evan Perez, thanks so much for this news.

I should say we have the Clinton campaign here. They will come on the next block of this show, to respond to this information.

In the meantime, now to an event so big, it makes the Super Bowl seem like Pop Warner. The stakes higher than a Grateful Dead concert on Mt. Everest. With the pregame spin so ferocious it makes a pit bull seem like my little pony. The first Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump faceoff, the debate less than a month away. We have brand new details about what's going on behind the scenes to get ready, or perhaps I should say what the campaigns want us to think is going on behind the scenes to get ready. The Trump campaign is said to be a free-wheeling debate, chats over burgers. For Team Clinton, they say a surgical forensic-style analysis of Trump's earlier debate performances. "The New York Times" says her team is even consulting with psychology experts for tactics to target Trump's weakness.

Here to discuss the details, Patrick Healy, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" correspondent -- great details in a new article in "The Times" -- Lanhee Chen, CNN political commentator and Mitt Romney's former public policy director who has done more debate prep than anyone watching this show; and Jeff Zeleny, senior CNN political correspondent, who has more on how Team Clinton is preparing.

Thanks for being with us.

Jeff Zeleny, first to you.

The Clinton team out in Long Island, Hillary Clinton's got briefing books. What's this plan to get ready for September 26th?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, I'm told part of the plan is she's watching a lot of Trump TV. We know she likes to watch some series and dramas, "House of Cards," other things. I'm told her schedule includes watching Donald Trump's debate performances from earlier in the primary season. She was busy during that time and didn't catch the many hours of that programming. That's one thing.

She's also reading a lot of information about him. She's done so many debates, I believe nearly two dozen or so in 2008, six during this primary period. All that aside, this is a different moment. She's never been in this moment before, in a general election debate. She is approaching it in a different way. Last night at a fundraiser in the Hamptons, she was soliciting advice from donors in the room. Part of that is to make them feel part of the process. (CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: And make them feel good.

ZELENY: But also, she said something interesting. She said, "I know most of the country, a lot of the viewers have not been wanting all this back-and-forth. I need to define Donald Trump." That is what she is intent on doing is, A, getting under his skin and, B, not letting him shape shift at all, keeping him frozen in time from some of those positions.

[11:05:10] BERMAN: Patrick Healy, your article included details on Team Clinton, saying she's consulting with psychologists to get a feel for his makeup. You also got remarkable detail from Donald Trump himself. What's he doing or not doing?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. John, it's so striking. The contrast could not be greater. Donald Trump basically told me, "I know how to handle Hillary. I don't want to over prepare. You can sound scripty and phony." He's so confident that he won all 11 debates that he participated in during the primary season. If his campaign tries to change him or insert prepared lines in his head or do these mock debates with some faux Hillary, it will throw him off. He has his own certitude.

Whereas, the Clinton campaign is casting this net going all the way back to the 1980s. I spoke to Donald Trump's ghost writer on "The Art of the Deal," the Clinton campaign has reached out to this guy to talk about the 18 months that he spent with Donald Trump in the mid '80s, going all the way back then, looking for the insecurities that Donald Trump has that you can get under his skin, John. They've been particularly fascinated by three things. One is Donald Trump's net worth. Second is his sort of image as a businessman, as a successful businessman. And the third is his own intelligence.

To Jeff felony's point, looking at those debates where particularly Ted Cruz really started unnerving Trump and figuring out the ways that Hillary could do that.

BERMAN: The other thing in Patrick's reporting that's remarkable is the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump, hinting maybe he won't do mock debates. He's not sure if he wants to stand up behind a lectern and do that, not sure if he needs it, which is a good segue to Lanhee Chen right now.

First of all, mock debates, what can they do?

LANHEE CHEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They're not always as useful as people think. I think in the conventional wisdom, these are the things that get a lot of attention. Who is going to play Hillary Clinton, who is going to play Donald Trump? At the end of the day, both these candidates have too back to basics.

For Donald Trump, the basic thing is he's got things he has to get done. He has to demonstrate temperament. He's got to be able to prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton. On the flip side, for Hillary Clinton it's important for her to be

able to demonstrate that she can be trustworthy, has less of an edge that people might think, she does have a plan, that she is qualified for the job. They've got to focus on that much more than who is going to play Hillary and who is going to play Trump.

The mock debates are fun. They are interesting for us. We had Rob Portman playing Barack Obama, he did a terrific job.

BERMAN: He was wonderful.

CHEN: He was. He was very useful. Portman was extremely useful. But sometimes I think we pay too much attention to that instead of what we should be talking about which is the substance of the prep.

BERMAN: Jeff Zeleny and Patrick Healy, some of the great reporters in the world today. I'm always skeptical when campaigns tell reporters what they're doing and not doing. They're spinning us. For instance, I don't think I believe Donald Trump is not doing mock debates. I'm not sure the three things where Clinton will hit Trump are the three things Patrick told us because why would they telegraph it to the Trump campaign.

CHEN: That's right. This is a tale as old as time. Campaigns love to spin reporters saying, gosh, he didn't look so good in prep today. In the case of Trump, he is such an unconventional candidate, it wouldn't surprise me if they didn't do mock debates. That's par for the course.

BERMAN: This general election debate is going to be different. He needs to be prepared for a much different setting.

CHEN: Totally. Totally.

Jeff, you alluded to this.

The difference between a primary debate and general election is ions. In a primary debate, you have 11, 12, 15 people on stage. You're thinking about one-liners. This is going to be 90 minutes, one on one. Maybe Gary Johnson gets it, maybe three people. But still, there will be a limited group and that will require much more engagement on issues.

BERMAN: All right, guys.

(CROSSTALK)

HEALY: Kellyanne Conway, in terms of campaign manager, wants him to do mock debates. They may still happen.

BERMAN: We shall see. I bet it does.

Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Meantime, in Arizona and Florida, kind of like a little slice of November in August. Voting is under way in both states right now. Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio are trying to fend off primary challengers. Even though Donald Trump not on the ballot there, they say his presence is being felt.

CNN's Manu Raju in Orlando with more on what's at stake there today -- Manu?

[11:10:04] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Hey, John. Marco Rubio facing a primary challenge from the one man who did not get out of the Senate race here, even as other candidates did step aside when Marco Rubio changed his mind and decided to run for election. That man, Carlos Beruff, has spent $5 million on TV to try to promote himself and align himself with Donald Trump. What we're seeing is Mr. Beruff doesn't have the level of support according to the polls to beat Marco Rubio. Expect Rubio to win today. But Marco Rubio does have to contend with the forces of Donald Trump in November. He has to win over those Donald Trump supporters as well as those disaffected by Donald Trump.

Take a listen to what he had to say about the thorny issue of immigration and how Donald Trump should handle it going forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Do you hope he reverses his million undocumented immigrants.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: I have consistently said that's not a realistic approach.

RAJU: Is it realistic to build a wall on the border --

RUBIO: You don't need a wall across the entire border, but key sectors, absolutely you need a wall.

RAJU: Mexico is going to pay for it?

RUBIO: Mexico is not going to pay for it. I've already said that.

RAJU: Should Donald Trump soften his rhetoric?

RUBIO: Again, I'm more focused on the Democrats' rhetoric on this issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Throughout that interview, John, Marco Rubio trying to focus on Hillary Clinton, tying Hillary Clinton to his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, who has his own primary challenge against a progressive, Alan Grayson. We expect Patrick Murphy to win. But Marco Rubio, not wanting to walk back criticism against Donald Trump from the presidential primary, but also not wanting to pile on. So really emblematic of the fine line he has to draw here, walk as we go forward and he tries to win over Trump supporters. Remember, Trump won this state by 20 points in that March primary.

BERMAN: It will be a fascinating dance between now and November 8th.

Manu Raju, thank you.

A bit of a roadblock for Donald Trump's outreach to minority voters. The pastor who introduces Trump at his rallies is apologizing for tweeting out a picture of Hillary Clinton in black face, and he's also in hot water for another tweet.

Plus, more on the breaking news on the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. The FBI will release its report to the public explaining why it didn't pursue charges. The Clinton campaign responds live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:26] BERMAN: We have breaking news in the Hillary Clinton e- mail investigation. The FBI now plans to publicly release the report it sent to the Justice Department recommending no charges against Secretary Clinton. The agency will release notes with the interview it took with the secretary. This could happen as early as tomorrow. We expect this very soon. We have a chance to get reaction, the first reaction from the Clinton campaign.

Joining us, Hillary Clinton's deputy communications director, Kristina Schake.

Kristina, thank you for being here.

KRISTINA SCHAKE, DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: New information coming out tomorrow, the report the FBI sent to the Justice Department and also notes from the interview. Your reaction?

SCHAKE: We are very pleased this is being made public. Hillary called for this. When they made the unprecedented step that the notes be released from the FBI, she said if that's going to happen, let's make it transparent and open for the public. This is something we wanted to have happen and we're glad it's going to.

BERMAN: Is another day talking about the e-mails really a good day for the Clinton campaign?

SCHAKE: Let's look at the big picture. She called for this to happen. We understand if they were going to go to Republicans in Congress, we're very unhappy that there was no basis to move this forward, there would be selective leaks and keep this in the news. She said if it was going to be released to Congress, make it public. She said right here on CNN in an interview with Anderson Cooper, apologized. She understands she shouldn't have set up her e-mail this way and she's tried to be as transparent as she can.

BERMAN: After we see them, I'm sure we'll have more questions. Come back and we'll ask then.

SCHAKE: John, I want to say one other thing about this. This is really a stark contrast to Donald Trump. Hillary asked all these e- mails be made public, released her taxes since 1077. We don't even have the basics of transparency from Donald Trump. He's not released his taxes. As a result we don't know anything about his business dealings. From investigative reporting from "The New York Times" this weekend, we learned he's hundreds of millions in debt to the bank of China. This is problematic. He's not disclosing this information. We're learning it from reporters.

BERMAN: We have asked them and will ask them about that. We have the Trump campaign coming on in the next block. And we'll press on transparency, just as press the Clinton campaign on transparency.

The Clinton Foundation has been the focus of transparency issues for years. Right now Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton have recently said if she's elected president, there will be some separations between Clinton and the foundation. "The New York Times," no conservative bastion, put out an editorial and said, why wait. They say, "The wiser course would be to ban contributions from foreign and corporate entities now. If Mrs. Clinton wins, Bill and Chelsea should end both end their operational involvement in the foundation and its affiliates for the duration of her presidency, relinquishing any control over spending, hiring and board appointments."

If there is the possibility of a conflict, if there the perception, even the appearance of conflict, why wait?

SCHAKE: You also saw in that editorial, they talked about the lifesaving work that the foundation has done all over the world. Hillary is so incredibly proud of that. As she said here in the interview on CNN, it's going to take late time for them to find the right partners and transfer the work. It's important for the life- saving work continues. They'll find the right way to do that.

BERMAN: The "Wall Street Journal" said Chelsea Clinton is considering staying on the board.

SCHAKE: They're in the process of figuring this out. If Hillary has the privilege of serving as the president of the United States, she understands the circumstances.

BERMAN: Would that be a complete separation?

SCHAKE: What they doing now is they're figuring the best way to do this. When she was secretary of state, she went above and beyond the ethical standards of transparency and --

[11:20:00] BERMAN: She says, she says she went above and beyond the ethical standard. At the time, when she was being confirmed, she said she wanted to avoid the appearance of conflict.

SCHAKE: She worked really hard and the State Department said clearly there was never any of her work influenced by the Clinton Foundation. She understands if she's president of the United States, she'll work even harder.

But what's really important here is the foundation has done incredible work all over the world and right here in United States and that work needs to continue and they'll make sure it's done in the appropriate way.

BERMAN: I want to get one question in on some of the news that's broken over the last 24 hours and has to do with Huma Abedin, a close advisor to Secretary Clinton, separating from Anthony Weiner. Donald Trump made a campaign issue of it. He said, "I worry for the country if Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to such classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told. It's just another example of Hillary Clinton's bad judgment."

SCHAKE: I have to say Huma is a lovely woman and mother. She has asked for privacy during this very sad and painful time for her and her family, and we're going to respect that. I think what we saw with Donald Trump yesterday is just another indication of his poor character. There's just no low he won't go to. This is a ridiculous allegation. I'm sad he would use this information to be so hurtful.

BERMAN: Kristina Schake, thanks for coming. I appreciate it.

SCHAKE: Thank you.

BERMAN: This programming note, you should join us on labor day to hear the personal stories of both candidates beginning at 8:00 p.m., with "Unfinished Business, The Essential Hillary Clinton," and then at 10:00 with "All Business, The Essential Donald Trump." We have a lot of business to do. This is only on CNN.

A pastor who supports and works closely with Donald Trump now apologizing for tweeting out a picture of Hillary Clinton in black face. He's also facing new questions about another tweet.

Plus, some high-profile Trump supporters are telling their guy to stop talking about the Anthony Weiner mess. We will discuss ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:27:00] BERMAN: Still more breaking news in the world of politics. Reports that Maine's controversial governor, Paul Lepage, is now apologizing and thinking about stepping down. Why? Well, it comes after he left a profanity filled voice mail for a state lawmaker last week.

CNN's M.J. Lee joins us -- M.J.?

LEE: That's right, John. Interesting development out of Maine. Republican Governor Paul Lepage saying he may not finish his term as governor and apologizing in a local radio interview for leaving a voice mail filled with lots of curse words. Let's listen to a little of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL LEPAGE, (R), GOVERNOR OF MAINE: I just apologize to the Maine people, to the family and most of all to my family, and we will take action. LEE: Now apology was given to a local state representative who was

very critical of some recent comments that Lepage made about African- Americans in the state of Maine. He said recently 95 percent of drug dealers arrested in Maine are black and Hispanic people. Now Lepage saying in the radio interview that when I was called a racist, I just lost it and there was no excuse.

This is interesting in the 2016 election as well. Lepage is a Trump supporter and he has campaigned with Donald Trump in his state as Trump has campaigned for the one electoral vote in that state. We'll see if the Trump campaign releases an official statement and reaction -- John?

BERMAN: All right. M.J. Lee, thanks so much. Just part of the breaking news today.

I'll bring back our panel now. Lanhee Chen is back. Also with us CNN political reporter, Maria Cardona; Andre Bauer, former lieutenant governor f South Carolina and Donald Trump supporter; and Molly Ball, political reporter at "The Atlantic."

Let me start with the Governor Lepage story, Andre. You live in South Carolina, a state with a little political redemption. Paul Lepage is an outspoken guy. I haven't heard him apologize for much before. Now weighing, musing that he might actually quit. What do you make of that?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: When I was lieutenant governor, this came before the governor that I had in front of me. He made a mistake, too. The people of South Carolina were very forgiving. I think Maine will be forgiving, too. If there's a pattern, I understand somebody stepping down, but for somebody to stub their toe, make a bad comment, bad judgment, probably not worthy of stepping down.

BERMAN: He says a lot of stuff that's controversial. Does that constitute a pattern, Andre?

BAUER: The people of Maine will have to make the decision. I have paid attention to what he said. I'm not a voter of Maine, so I really don't have any input on it.

BERMAN: If you ever see Bull Durham, he used words that will get you thrown out of a game.

I want to move to other issues breaking just now. Breaking, we got word a short time ago that the FBI is going to turn over the report it gave to the Justice Department --