Return to Transcripts main page


Clinton, Trump Set to Begin Debate at 9PM ET on CNN; Bill Clinton Accusers to Attend Debate at Trump's Invitation; Clinton Campaign Responds to Trump & Bill Clinton Accusers; Clinton Tweet Quotes First Lady: "When They Go Low, We Go High"; Debate Commission Officials Addressing Audience; Candidates Spouses Enter Debate Hall. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 9, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives. We're only an hour away right now from what could be the most crucial 90 minutes of this entire presidential election. Donald Trump is about to debate Hillary Clinton for the second time and respond to the most damaging controversy of his campaign.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, on this debate night in America.

Tonight, there is no doubt that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will address the crisis roiling the Trump campaign, the 2005 video that caught Trump making sexually aggressive comments about women. But there's no way to predict how it will play out on the debate stage with undecided voters in the room asking questions and millions and millions of Americans watching at home.

We got a preview of what might happen tonight, Trump appearing with Bill Clinton accusers just a little while ago with cameras rolling. We're told the women will be in this debate hall tonight. Trump has threatened to make Bill Clinton's infidelities an issue in this debate. The Clinton camp says, if this is how Trump wants to run his campaign, it's his choice.

Now, let's take a look at how the town hall style debate will work tonight. Viewers will see Trump on the left, Clinton on the right. They'll have stools to sit in, but they can move around. They can take questions from uncommitted voters as they stand. About 40 voters were chosen by the Gallup Organization to be on stage.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is moderating along with Martha Raddatz of ABC news. They'll each work different sides of the auditorium, determining which voters get to ask questions, and asking questions themselves, including topics raised on social media.

I want to bring in Jake Tapper. Jake, quite a twist in the story right now with Trump appearing with a panel of women who've accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of misdeeds.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINTON CORRESPONDENT: Specifically three women accusing Bill Clinton of misdeeds and one woman -- and Hillary Clinton was her child rapist's court-appointed defense attorney, so not quite the same thing. She was doing what our court system requires.

But, yes, I imagine Mr. Trump will be trying to make a big deal out of this if not during the debate, then after the debate.

Of course, let's step back and look at the bigger picture here. Donald Trump, even before this tape from "Access Hollywood" came out on Friday, was not doing well. Internal polls that parties and campaigns had showed that he was cratering with groups that he needs to do better with, independents, White women with college education. And he was not in a good place.

Hillary Clinton already had something of a lead on him. That lead continues to grow in many of the battleground states, according to polls that we've seen. Then came this tape on Friday.

The question for Donald Trump is not really who is he appearing with in these pre-debate events in order to, maybe, get inside Hillary Clinton's head, rattle her a little bit or whatever. The question is, how is he going to get the momentum back?

He did have momentum about a couple weeks ago. He did have momentum before that first debate. So how is he going to be able to do that? Is he going to be contrite about what happened Friday? From this appearance that we just saw, it doesn't appear that contrition is foremost on his mind. Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly does not. Dana Bash is here, as well. Dana, I don't know how this latest development, the shocking development, he invites these women who've accused Bill Clinton of sexual misdeeds. He invites them here to sit in this auditorium, has a little photo-op with them before. I don't know how that's going to play with his apology that's supposed to be coming forward.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is going to try to do both. He's going to try to show the Republicans that he is contrite. By all accounts, he is going to, at least -- I don't know if he's going to say the words "I'm sorry," but he is going to try to get there, but at the same time, show that he is fighting back.

Let's be clear on what this issue was. This was a political stunt, kind of, of the nth degree. And it is vintage Donald Trump, in that he is a master of the media. He understands the media, and he understands moments and how to make moments. That's what this is about.

He wanted us to be talking and everybody to be talking about these women and about Bill Clinton and not about him and what he has said about women and about that tape that has really consumed everything and set up a bomb in the world.

So the question is whether or not this is going to be successful not just with us, most importantly, with trying to rattle Hillary Clinton on that debate stage. BLITZER: And we'll see if that works, that strategy. I want to go to

CNN's Sara Murray. She's been covering the Trump campaign for us. What are you hearing about this latest bomb shell development?

[20:05:04] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Wolf, advisers are telling me Dana is absolutely right. This is what Trump does when he's under attack. Not only does he hit back, but he tries to change the conversation.

And tonight, by pulling this stunt, that means that we are talking about Bill Clinton. We are talking about his past accusers. We're talking about Hillary Clinton's role in all of that, rather than talking about the tape that just came out where Donald Trump was using sexually aggressive language. Of course, it is very risky if you try to do this on the debate stage. It could potentially backfire on him.

I spoke to one adviser who says that going into this debate, Hillary Clinton does have the upper hand, but the person describes it like this. There is nothing more dangerous than a cornered animal that has nothing to lose. And right now, that's Trump. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Sara, thank you. Jeff Zeleny, I understand you're getting a statement from the Clinton campaign, their reaction. What are you learning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We are indeed, Wolf. This statement comes from the Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director of the Clinton campaign, who I was standing with when she learned this news. And she released this statement just a moment ago.

It says this. "We are not surprised to see Donald Trump continue his destructive race to the bottom. Hillary Clinton understands the opportunity in this town hall is to talk to voters on stage and in the audience about the issues that matter to them, and this stunt doesn't change that. If Donald Trump doesn't see that, that's his loss. As always, she's prepared to handle whatever Donald Trump throw her way," the statement says, from Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign communications director.

Wolf, I am also told that Hillary Clinton has been, of course, advised of the fact that these women will be in the audience. I asked a top adviser if she would be rattled by this. The adviser says, not at all. Wolf.

BLITZER: Stunning development indeed. Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Wolf, appreciate it. I'm here with my panel. Let's talk about this, but before we do, I want to -- you know, CNN just recently hired Andrew Kaczynski and his KFile team, which has been really fantastic at finding all sorts of interesting and relevant information from the history of Donald Trump, the history of Hillary Clinton.

They're the ones who found that super predator tape, of Hillary Clinton using the term. They're the ones that found Donald Trump on Howard Stern saying that he did support the war in Iraq in 2002.

Do we have the tape available, of the KFile? I was told -- OK, we do have this. This is Donald Trump with our own Wolf Blitzer in 1999 talking about some of the trials and tribulations that Hillary Clinton has been through. Let's watch.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think she's gone through terrible times. I think she's been through more than any woman should have to bear, everything public. I mean, women go through this on a private basis and can't take it. She's on the front page of every newspaper every week with what went on in Washington. I think she's a wonderful woman.


TAPPER: I mean, and I believe, that in the context of the interview, "I think she's gone through terrible times. I think she's been through more than any woman should have to bear, everything public," was a reference to some of these accusations against Bill Clinton, presumably the Monica Lewinsky scandal and all.

As well, I assume that Hillary Clinton, being somebody who likes to dive in to oppo, who likes to know about an opponent, might know about this and might say something about this, Jeffrey. Might say, well, I recognize that this is your position now, but in 1999, when it came to my personal life, you expressed sympathy for me.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I believe that where we are tonight was ignited when she, earlier in this campaign, called Donald Trump a sexist and went after him. She's since been after him in everything, from the basket of deplorables with his supporters, that his supporters are sexist, racist, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Finally, you know, after all that mud, enough is enough. And he is the guy who says, he hits back if --


LORD: -- you know, you're going to take a swing at him.

JONES: Jeffrey.

LORD: And that's what she did. And so --

JONES: Come on. Come on now.


JONES: Wait. First of all, you're saying that it started when she talked about his sexism. He actually did things that were sexist. You left that part out. He actually talked about a woman's menses like that, and he had called women pigs, so. You always skip the part where your guy does something wrong, and then you start with someone's reaction to minimize it.

LORD: Am I skipping it or were you skipping it? Because those four women are telling their story, and they're not skipping a thing.


JONES: Let me tell you something about that. Here's --

TAPPER: Hold that thought. We're going to take a very quick break.

Coming up, we'll have more on what to expect this evening after Donald Trump's surprise appearance with these women who have accused Bill Clinton of various assault -- and in one case, rape -- as well as somebody who's child rapist Hillary Clinton defended as a court- appointed attorney.

We'll see the first introductions in the debate soon. Stay with us on this debate night in America.


[20:13:51] TAPPER: We're back at Washington University in St. Louis, counting down to what maybe an explosive second debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump signaling that he is ready to go on the attack. He appeared just a short while ago with women who have accused Bill Clinton of misdeeds.

I'm still here with my panel. Kayleigh McEnany, I guess my question is this. How many voters does this add to Donald Trump's role of voters? I believe that all the people who know these stories, and I'm not dismissing them at all, but know the stories of Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, not to mention Kathy Shelton, I believe that they people who feel passionately about these stories are already solidly in Donald Trump's camp.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. But you know who doesn't know the stories? It's the millenials. It's millennial women. One in five women on a college campus are the victims of sexual assault, and Hillary Clinton tweeted out a year ago, every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed and supported.

For her to put out a statement right now calling it a stunt, when three women have the courage to take the national stage and before all of this country share their stories of sexual assault? That is sick, Hillary Clinton. Did they not think through this? This isn't a stunt. Ask Juanita Broaddrick if this is a stunt.

TAPPER: Here's the thing --

MCENANY: Ask these women if it is a stunt.

TAPPER: Here's the thing.

MCENANY: It is courage. These women are courageous and we need to recognize that. [20:15:11] TAPPER: Again, I'm not dismissing their stories at all.

On Friday, a tape was revealed with Donald Trump saying that -- boasting about sexually assaulting women. Fact.

MCENANY: Not the same.

TAPPER: It's been discredited by -- it's been denounced by Mike Pence and Melania Trump, to name two people. Is your passion for the victims of sexual assault -- does it extend to whomever Donald Trump grabbed by the p-word?

MCENANY: Of course, it does. And look, we don't have proof that Donald Trump acted in that way. There's one --

TAPPER: It's his words.

MCENANY: There's one person out of both these families who has been accused of sexual assault in the court of law.

TAPPER: That's not true.

MCENANY: One. And that is Bill Clinton.

TAPPER: That is not true.

MCENANY: Donald Trump is not accused of sexual assault.

TAPPER: That's false.

JONES: That's --

TAPPER: That's false.

BORGER: Kayleigh, Kayleigh.

MCENANY: Those were words and we need to recognize the courage of these women --

BORGER: Kayleigh --

TAPPER: There are plenty of accusations --

MCENANY: -- because there are many women out there, 20 percent of my generation who saw that and it's the first time they heard the stories.

BORGER: Kayleigh --

MCENANY: And it is sickening that it is called a stunt.

TAPPER: OK. Talking over me doesn't make what you're saying true.

JONES: That's right.

TAPPER: There are accusations against Donald Trump. There are accusations against Bill Clinton. BORGER: You know --

MCENANY: There are accusations on left-wing media sources.

JONES: That's not true.

MCENANY: That's it.

BORGER: Kayleigh, look --

TAPPER: There is a court --

BORGER: -- I don't want to question or denigrate any of these women's stories because they're stories that deserve to be heard, period. But I do not believe that sexual assault should be turned into a side show.

And I think what we saw tonight, how an hour and a half before the debate, was timed to rattle Hillary Clinton, to get into her head, and I'm not sure he's going to raise it at the debate or not. He doesn't have to now, he's just done it. So this was a political stunt.

And to use these women this way -- look, their stories deserve to be told. Juanita Broaddrick has been out there. Donald Trump has been talking about it. I understand exactly what you're saying. But I think that doing it now, at this point, after the videotape --


JONES: I want to put a --

BORGER: -- as Jake points out, it's not a coincidence.

MCENANY: Really quickly.

JONES: I just think that --

MCENANY: Really quickly, these women have been trying to get the national media attention. They have been trying --

BORGER: They have caught the national media attention.

MCENANY: They have been tweeting about it. From Breitbart, they've gotten national media attention.

JONES: I'd like to say something.

MCENANY: These women tonight shared the stories. This is a victory for every victim of sexual assault, that these women were heard tonight and they were believed.

TAPPER: Kayleigh, I understand millennials might know --

MCENANY: Not because Hillary Clinton, but because of Donald Trump.

TAPPER: I understand millenials might not know these stories. I understand that. And, again, they have every right to have their voices heard and I'm not dismissing their stories at all. But these stories have been reported thoroughly --

JONES: For decades.

TAPPER: -- in the 1990s.

JONES: Yes, thoroughly.

MCENANDY: And these women have been trying to share these stories in the context of the national political race, when they had private investigators put on them by Hillary Clinton and no one will cover their story.

JONES: I'm going to hedge off, Kayleigh, because I feel it's sexist for me to admit that at some point, somebody else needs to be able to talk on this panel. Is it OK? Can I have your permission to talk? Thank you. So listen --

MCENANY: Be involve in talking, man.

JONES: So, listen, first of all, what you see with Donald Trump is simply this. His solution for having been exposed for exploiting women is to exploit more women. That's what happened.

And so my concern at this point is that, exactly what you're saying, the level of pain that women are -- I'm getting text messages from women friends of mine who have been sexually assaulted, who are in tears, feeling that their pain is now being turned into a political football here.

Hillary Clinton did not go out and get that video tape. That video tape is out there. The face of sexual assault in this country are guys who at least talk the way that Donald Trump talked. Donald Trump said that he can grab someone, he can do what he wants too because he is a star, and that is the language of sexual assault and the culture of rape. And instead of dealing with that, he says, well, Bill Clinton does it, too. It diminishes everybody.

TAPPER: Let me ask Paul a question. Kellyanne Conway just tweeted something while quoting Hillary Clinton's tweet. Hillary Clinton's tweet was from last year, and this is during when there was a lot of discussion about college sexual assault, the epidemic of that.

Hillary Clinton wrote, "Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed and supported," and then she has a link to a place on her website. Kellyanne Conway just retweeted that with the message, "We agree, Hillary Clinton. Does that go for Juanita, Kathleen, Kathy, and Paula? If so, acknowledge them from the stage tonight."

I guess my question for you is, Paul, Hillary Clinton, by saying every victim should be believed, every victim should be heard, didn't she open herself up to this question of, well, what about the people who have accused your husband? PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, but the question is, does this

get Kellyanne's client any votes? Trump is in such a freefall that even Kellyanne didn't go on TV this week, and she'd been on the food channel, she'd been on the animal channel, she'd been every network and does a great job for her client.

[20:20:03] She disappeared. Even Mike Pence, as you noted, the vice presidential nominee, has refused to defend Donald Trump on this. This is a political campaign 30 days before an election. That is how I think voters are going to analyze this. It's how I analyze it.

I think, Kelly, before this counter Trump (ph), pointed the way to a pretty smart strategy for Trump, which is to apologize, but instead, he has chosen to deflect rather than to genuflect. It's Sunday. That's what he needed to do. He needs to --


TAPPER: Let me --

AXELROD: Right. I mean, I apologize, you know --

TAPPER: We're coming back. We're just minutes away from the start of the debate. We're going to be right back after this quick break. Stay with us.


TAPPER: We're at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. We are counting down to the second presidential debate, just over a half an hour from now. As we cover this election, CNN is traveling the country and talking to voters in battleground states in partnership with Instagram, Facebook, and CA Technologies.

We want to hear from you. Post a photo on Instagram and tell us for whom you're voting with the hashtag "MyVote." Hashtag "MyVote." Your picture could be used in our election coverage.

Let's continue this discussion. David Axelrod, a point you would like to make?

AXELROD: Well, just a very brief point, which is, you know, we've had this discussion for the last 10, 15 minutes. I think the political reality is this, if you want to make this a referendum on who is going to be serious about dealing with sexual assault, whether it's on campus or anywhere else, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, you're going to lose that. That's not a good strategy.

This is not a good strategy that he has embraced here. The strategy he should have embraced, as Paul said, was the one you suggested before he called a different play, which was that --

BEGALA: He still could.

MCENANY: He can still do that.

LORD: Right.

AXELROD: Well, maybe, although, obviously this was aimed at coloring the entire story. This happened because this tape surfaced on Friday. Hillary Clinton didn't say anything about the tape. It surfaced and this is the response, not him taking responsibility for what he did, but essentially saying, as Van said, well, Bill Clinton is --


AXELROD: -- is as bad as me.

TAPPER: So I think it's obvious that he's not making a who is going to be better for college women who are victims, survivors, of sexual assault argument. He is making a scorched earth argument of, you want to attack my character, I'm going to attack your character.


TAPPER: Michael Smerconish, might it work?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: It might. It might also have a disastrous conclusion. Look, Donald Trump just threw the Hail Mary, and he succeed two hours before the debate in changing the narrative.

The narrative is no longer the video tape that has occupied us for the last 72 hours. But where it ends up, I'm not sure because each of those four cases is complicated. It requires a great level of attention to sort through the facts, and then they're subject to interpretation.

[20:25:08] And I think that the public sentiment at this stage is that, to the extent there's been bad action in the past, Bill was the bad guy, and Hillary was the victim.

HENDERSON: Yes, right.

SMERCONISH: And I don't know how that which has just transpired changes this. And at the end of the night, she could still be perceived as the victim, unless he threads a needle and he proves that she is an enabler. That's a tough thing to do.

BORGER: Very had.

HENDERSON: It's a tough argument. And you've seen Breitbart and other outlets make this case for many, many years. You know, I think one of the things that the Hillary Clinton campaign is doing is trying to reach swing voters, moderate swing voters.

And moderate swing voters not only like moderate politics and moderate policy, they also like a moderate temperament. And I think, again, this sort of kind of surprise and publicity stunt that Donald Trump pulled in bringing those women out, I think, it, again, speaks to his temperament. It speaks to a sort of irrationality in terms of a strategy.

MCENANY: So he -- TAPPER: Gloria, address Kayleigh's point which is that a lot of college educated or a lot of millennial women might not know these stories --


TAPPER: -- and that might be compelling for them to hear about them.

BORGER: Sure. And you're 100 percent right about that. And their stories are their stories, and they have been telling them, I believe. But I think in doing it now, an hour and a half before the debate, racing to the bottom, which is what this is -- this is a race to the bottom -- I don't think this benefits anybody.

It doesn't benefit the American voters who deserve a better debate than this this evening. These are going to be people in this town hall who want to know how their lives are going to be improved. And this, tonight, was saying, Bill Clinton is worse than I am. There was no contrition there.

And don't forget, there are other tapes of Donald Trump. On Twitter, there is a tape of Donald Trump calling Paula Jones a loser back in the '90s. These things are going to come out, and then we're going to be back to sort of ground zero here.

And I think that tonight, I'm not sure whose undecided this gets. Maybe it's some millennial women, but I kind of don't think so because if you want to have the debate, as David was saying, over women's issues, let's have that debate. Let's have the debate about sexual assault. Let's do that.

LORD: The one --

BORGER: But this way, to have this debate, is not constructive at all for the American public.

LORD: Gloria, the thing is, and to pick up on what Nia is saying, there is nothing moderate about running around the country calling Donald Trump a sexist, racist, xenophobic, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

HENDERSON: But you mean by using Donald Trump's own words? I mean that's what --

LORD: But, well --

HENDERSON: I mean she's only in --

LORD: Well, and these are Bill and Hillary Clinton's own action. So there is --

HENDERSON: Did you --

JONES: Well, what is the Hillary Clinton action you're referring to?

HENDERSON: Yes. TAPPER: She obviously defended -- she was a court-appointed defense

attorney --

LORD: Juanita Broaddrick specifically accuses her of threatening her to be quiet.

TAPPER: Juanita Broaddrick says that after the alleged rape took place, Hillary Clinton thanked her for being a friend to Bill Clinton, and she interpreted that as thanking her for her silence.

LORD: She was the one who was there.

MCENANY: It's more than that. The attorneys of these three women have a deposition with a private investigator hired by Hillary Clinton's lawyer during the '90s campaign. All of these women have told their respective stories of giving their sexual assault claims and then being pursued and followed by private investigators hired by Hillary Clinton's lawyer. That is significant.

Because, Hillary Clinton, if you believe that women deserve to be heard and believed, you live up to it with your own actions, and be a woman on the stage and apologize for what you did to these women. Is this --

BORGER: She should apologize to Donald Trump tonight for --

MCENANY: Not to Donald Trump --

LORD: To the women.

MCENANY: -- to the women.

LORD: To the women for her conduct.

MCENANY: She should do -- you people owe an apology.

AXELROD: This is the Kelly Conway play. This is --


BORGER: Sorry.

AXELROD: But here's the thing, I just want to say one word for the process of electing a president of the United States. This is a profoundly sad moment.


HENDERSON: Thoroughly, yes.

AXELROD: That we should get dragged down to this level on the night of a --

LORD: But then why did she start it?

AXELROD: -- on the night of a -- HENDERSON: She didn't --

LORD: But she did start it.

HENDERSON: How did she start it? By --

AXELROD: -- on the night of a presidential debate, in a very consequential election, to have it turned into a side show and a reality show is profoundly sad.

HENDERSON: You said --

MCENANY: Because we should be talking about Alicia Machado, Miss Universe, instead, which was brought up by Hillary Clinton in the last debate.

LORD: That was a stunt.

MCENANY: That was a stunt.

BORGER: But, you know what, my children --

LORD: That was a stunt.

BORGER: My children always used to say to me when they were arguing, he started it. You started it. He started it. And that's what we sound like.

TAPPER: Yes, let's --

BORGER: It doesn't matter. The American public deserves better tonight.

LORD: Well, then she should not have begun this.

JONES: Now, hold on a second, Jeffrey. You utilized that --

BORGER: You sound like my young sons when they were young.

JONES: Ma'am, you made that point many times. Look, here's, I think, what I'm left with as we go forward. First of all, I do not think that the young generation that has, frankly, transformed the country's understanding of these issues, is well served by this stunt. I just don't. I --

MCENANY: It's not a stunt.

[20:30:08] JONES: Hold on a second. I just don't. I also feel that the pain of these women who -- it's obvious they were -- something happened. They feel violated. They are upset. They have tried to bring things forward.

I don't think anybody up here is trying to say anything negative about them or about that. I think what we're trying to figure out is who should be the President of the United States. And if you're going to be the President of the United States, you have to make choices. You now see that you have someone who is going to take a scorched

earth approach to any tough situation. If that person is the Commander-in-Chief, what does that mean about nuclear weapons? What does that mean about escalation? What are we seeing here that is relevant to the debate tonight?

BORGER: Right.

JONES: I think what we're seeing is something very, very frightening, for me, in terms of judgment and temperament.

BORGER: I just --

TAPPER: Well, I want to ask, Paul, because you've been an ally of the Clintons for a long, long time. Historically, when people have tried to combine these charges so it's not just against Bill Clinton but it's against Bill and Hillary Clinton and going after Hillary Clinton as well, what has the effect been? How has the public responded to that? Because this is not the first time this has been done.

BEGALA: Right. In the past, when she ran for the Senate, for example, people asked her that. They said, well, you said that your husband had not had an affair when, in fact, he had, and so you were the liar. And voters rushed to her defense, not to the Republicans. And it was actually a journalist who asked that question.

TAPPER: Tim Russert, I believe.

BEGALA: It was. I didn't really --

TAPPER: The late Tim Russert.

BEGALA: Correct, my late friend, Tim.


BEGALA: But that redounded to her benefit. If any time she's seen as a victim, especially from a man, that, politically, has paid off for her.

My bigger problem, though, is this hijacking of the election and the agenda. She's not a victim. Nobody should see her as a victim. No matter what happens on November 8th, Hillary Clinton will be wealthy and healthy with a terrific family, and Donald Trump will be wealthy and healthy with a terrific family.

But I think what Mr. Trump is doing through the whole election, from the day he announced, has been trying to hijack the election away from the American people and make it about him. As I said about Teddy Roosevelt, he wants to be the baby at every christening and the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.

And there is a time that it's about the American people, especially with a town hall. I think this is a terrible way for Mr. Trump to prepare himself to engage 40 or 50 American citizens who are going to ask him about their lives and their problems. SMERCONISH: Can I just say it's an episode that would play so and

will play so well tonight with all of those that we saw in Cleveland who were chanting, lock her up.

BEGALA: Right.

SMERCONISH: I mean, this is chum in the water for the sharks that are the core constituents he has.

AXELROD: You know --

SMERCONISH: But whether it grows the tent remains to be seen because, at this stage, I think, Paul, she's perceived as the victim in this whole episode. And I don't know how tonight, by the end of the night, he's going to convince folks that she's anything but that.

BORGER: But you know --

AXELROD: Can I make a point to --

TAPPER: I just want to enter for one second -- and then I will go to you, David -- which is, just a few minutes ago, Hillary Clinton tweeted an image of Michelle Obama speaking at the Democratic convention saying, "When they go low, we go high."


TAPPER: And then it says, Hillary Clinton writing, "Remember" and then "#debate." So that's the strategy, David.

AXELROD: You know, I just want to make a prosaic political consultant point, which is that one of the things that really was very clear in the last debate is that this notion of not preparing for a debate wasn't very fruitful for Donald Trump. And the question was, would he take this one more seriously? Because town hall debates are even more challenging than standard debates.

And what's pretty clear is, I mean, in this press conference he had, he said, I want people to see the end of my debate prep. Apparently, you know, he had none or very little. And that's going to be interesting tonight, when this moves beyond the kind of sideshow and gets into actual issues, as I hope it will.

BORGER: Right. Well, and this would be --

TAPPER: You know what's interesting, Kayleigh, is that most people watching this debate will not only not know about the press conference and those women in the audience, they might not even know about the video that dropped on Friday with Donald Trump and "Access Hollywood."

That dropped in the afternoon on a Friday. I've been talking to voters who don't know anything about it. People just going about their lives, taking their kids to Little League.

AXELROD: Right. TAPPER: So this is an opportunity to not get into the mud on either

side. And I do wonder about David's point. Is he ready to talk about college tuition?

MCENANY: Look, I think the video is going to come up tonight. I assume this will come up in some capacity tonight. Where I agree with Gloria is we do need to get back to the issues. The American people deserve that.

JONES: Right.

[20:35:02] MCENANY: It was important the women were heard. Let's make no mistake about it. We just saw courage. We saw bravery. It was not a stunt. That being said, Donald Trump needs to now go high and talk about the issues. When Clinton wants to bring up Alicia Machado, I'm not sure how that was going high on the part of Clinton, when she does that, he turns it to the issues because this women got to speak for themselves.

BORGER: Kayleigh, really --

TAPPER: OK. That was just bait.

BORGER: OK, really, Kayleigh --

TAPPER: That was bait. She threw out raw meat and he took it, and he wrestled with it thoroughly.

BORGER: Kayleigh, it's really hard to go from so low to so high in the --

MCENANY: That was a high moment.

BORGER: -- not in my view -- in the space of an hour. But I would also tell you what this is. This is Donald Trump's final divorce from the Republican Party.


BORGER: Because my phone has been sort of blowing up from Republicans saying, oh, my god, I can't believe he is doing this. And as Republicans are watching this debate and watching Donald Trump and wanting to see contrition -- and, again, the debate hasn't started yet -- and wanting to --

TAPPER: Here's Donald Trump, by the way. Just to interrupt for one second, here's Donald Trump getting out of his vehicle and entering the debate hall.

BORGER: Right. And wanting to see something else, that is not what they are seeing, and I believe that this is Donald Trump's final declaration of independence from Republicans. And as we heard Corey Lewandowski earlier, criticizing Reince Priebus as a failed leader, I think what we see playing out at that level is Donald Trump saying, I'm going to do it my way, I'm going to do this on my own, and the rest of you -- LORD: And it isn't -- but it isn't what --

SMERCONISH: Gloria, instead, has he just boxed them in? I have a different interpretation.

LORD: Yes.

SMERCONISH: I'm wondering, instead, if you're one of those Republican members of the Senate or the Congress who wants to throw in the towel on Donald Trump, have you just watched or learned of that processability, and are you now concerned that you will be at odds with the hard-core constituency and that you will not have stood --

BORGER: Well, they were already boxed in.

LORD: That's exactly right.

AXELROD: Well --

SMERCONISH: -- and that you will not have stood with the victims --

BORGER: You know, I --

SMERCONISH: -- of Bill Clinton's actions?

LORD: Right. Exactly right.

BORGER: They were already boxed in, to tell you the truth. I mean, I think that this has what's been concerning Republicans all along, which is they don't want to alienate the base --


BORGER: -- and they want to get these suburban Republican women and the suburbs of Philadelphia as you like to talk about.


JONES: The dollar.

BORGER: And I think it's already boxed --

JONES: Yes, they've --

BORGER: They're already boxed in, so now they may --

AXELROD: They've been walking --

LORD: Suffice it to say, they've been on the --

AXELROD: They've been walking this line for months, which is to try and preserve the Trump base and still reach out to these marginal voters, and now it's reached this untenable point. They're caught between a rock and a hard place.

They, I think, have concluded that he's not going to win the presidency. Now, they're worried about whether they can preserve their control of the Senate.

LORD: These are the same folks that got in trouble with the base in the first place because they didn't keep their word. They are, what Ronald Reagan used to call, the fraternal order Republicans, that they think it's all about a club and they're in and other people out there in America, base of the party, are out.


TAPPER: I just want to jump in. We got to take a --

AXELROD: But the question is, the base is big enough to win, Jeffrey.

HENDERSON: Yes, and that's a problem.

TAPPER: We got lots more to talk about, but right now, I'm going to throw it back to Wolf Blitzer inside. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we're here inside the debate hall. We're getting ready for Janet Brown. She's the executive director of the Presidential Debate Commission.

She's going to be speaking, introducing the two co-chairs of the Commission, Frank Fahrenkopf and Mike McCurry. They'll have some words. The president of Washington University here in St. Louis will speak. And then the two moderators will have a few words, as well, our own Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

Dana, this is a moment that people are waiting for right now. This debate could be totally decisive in this election.

BASH: Absolutely. And just looking at who we're seeing come in here. I didn't see who that was. But in any event, of course, this is incredibly important, much more so than we even thought when Donald Trump didn't do well in the first debate and we thought this was going to be important.

That looks like, you know, a hundred years ago at this point. But what we really have to keep looking for is Republicans, never mind him adding voters, never mind him getting undecided voters. How are Republicans going to see this debate, and will the exodus that we've seen continue and even grow?

BLITZER: What's the reaction you're getting, John, from Republicans who saw this news conference, if you will, this photo-op, with these women who accused Bill Clinton of these sexual aggressions?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're echoing the point Gloria just made, that this essentially Donald Trump's full and final divorce from the Republican Party. They're aghast at this. They don't think it's the right strategy. They think that he's having a Breitbart TV reality show before the second presidential debate, a debate in which if he has a poor performance, they believe the race is over. Some of them already believe the race is over.

What they say is that, in some ways, it makes some strategic sense in the sense that he is bleeding in the polls right now, and this might stop the conservative bleeding because if there's anything that rallies conservatives, it's attacks on the Clintons. It's attacks on Clinton character.

But does it help? Close presidential elections are won in the suburbs, Wolf. Does this help in Bucks County? Does this help him in Lake County, Ohio? Does this help him in the Denver suburbs? Does it help in the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle?

[20:40:03] The Republicans I'm talking to tonight who are smart Republicans, who are running races in those state and have before say, no, they think it is a very bad strategy actually.

BASH: And not just that, we're just getting information about what Donald Trump said way before he was running for President, back when --

BLITZER: Hold on one moment. This is Janet Brown of the Commission.


JANET BROWN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: My name is Janet Brown. I'm executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates. I'd like to welcome you to the second Presidential Debate of 2016 here at Washington University in St. Louis, and historic fifth for this campus and a treasured homecoming for the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Five days ago, this set and this crew were in Farmville, Virginia. Everything that you see tonight has been moved here from the vice presidential debate setup, tested, rehearsed, beautified in that short time span.

I hope those of you in the audience here at Washington University will look at your programs and study those names that are listed there under the production crew. They are without peer in terms of all of the aspects of this extremely complicated production that will be carried for 90 minutes live, nationally and internationally.

The audio lighting set and logistical team that does this are absolutely extraordinary. There are a lot of people to thank for what has happened here tonight, and I would like to start by introducing the co-chairmen of the Commission, Mike McCurry and Frank Fahrenkopf.


MIKE MCCURRY, CO-CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Thank you. Thank you, Janet. What a pleasure it is to be here at Washington University, the fifth time that we have been here for a Presidential Debate. It is beginning to feel almost like a permanent home for the Commission on Presidential Debates. So all of you from Washington University and the community here, thank you very much. And give yourself a round of applause.

(APPLAUSE) MCCURRY: The non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates began in 1987 with the leadership of my co-chair, Frank Fahrenkopf, who is here tonight, and my predecessor, Paul G. Kirk, Jr.

And they did an extraordinary thing. They actually decided that presidential debates ought to be institutionalized and the American people ought to expect that they would happen and that the candidates would participate, and we've been able to do that.

We've been able to do that with the assistance of 14 incredible members of our Commission, distinguished leaders who joined me and Frank. And I'd like to introduce them now. We'll give them a round of applause at the end.

We're delighted to be joined tonight by the Chairman of the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, Howard Buffet; your former United States Senator here in Missouri, John Danforth; the former anchor of ABC -- by the way, guys, stand up as I list your names.

The former anchor of "ABC World News with Charles Gibson," obviously, Charlie Gibson; the president of the University of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins; the former president of the League of Women Voters and the current president of the Council on Foundations, Dorothy Dodd Ridings; and the former president of Princeton University, Shirley Tilghman. Go, Tigers.

So if you could all stand and give them a round of applause.


MCCURRY: One of the things our Commission is responsible for doing is designing the format. If you've watched the previous presidential debate, you know this one is different because we have with us citizen participants who have been selected by the Gallup Organization.

They represent uncommitted citizens here in the St. Louis area, and they're here to participate in the questioning of the candidates tonight. The other important thing we've done is to take time to give the candidates more opportunity to discuss with themselves the important issues that face our country.

So rather than having rapid fire questions, we give the candidates an opportunity to really have a discussion. That's an important part of the format changes that we've made. You should know that we don't know at the Commission, the campaigns don't know, and the candidates don't know, what our fellow citizens here tonight are going to ask.

[20:44:59] We're also going to have questions incorporated into this debate by our moderators that arrive from social media, from places like Facebook, who is our very valued partner, Twitter, AOL, MSN, so many of the other places where we continue to have conversations as citizens in our new online, new media formats. That will be an important feature of our format tonight.

And the important thing for all of you who are here, you are here standing in for tens of millions of Americans who are able to watch this on television tonight. So we ask that you be very careful and respectful of their desire to hear this debate without the interruptions of applause, cheering, booing, anything else that you want to do.

You're here to be respectful of all your other citizens who are watching this debate and the candidates who are participating in the debate and the moderators who are asking the questions. So we ask that you not use any cell phones, electronic devices, and that would be grounds for you to actually be politely asked to leave the hall. And we hope you'll honor those rules. It'll make it possible for this debate to proceed the way it needs to proceed.

So with that, I would like to introduce my very dear friend and valued co-partner in this, the other co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Frank Fahrenkopf.


FRANK FAHRENKOPF, CO-CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Thank you, Mike. And thank you, ladies and gentlemen. It's great to be back at this wonderful institution. Let me say a few words, Mike started it, about the Commission.

The Commission on Presidential Debates is a non-partisan, non-profit organization. We get no funding from the political parties, from the campaigns, from the Federal government, state or local government. We're self-funded.

And in the 2016 cycle, where we are now, we have some sponsors who, were it not for them, we would not be here tonight. They are companies and corporations and individuals and foundations who truly believe that the American people ought to be able to see candidates who want to be president or vice president of the United States stand before the television cameras and debate the issues that are so important.

And I want to very quickly name them, the Anheuser-Busch Corporation, the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, The Kovler Fund, the law firm of Crowell and Moring, the AARP, and the National Governors' Association.

Won't you join with me in thanking them for their support?


FAHRENKOPF: Now, Mike talked about the social media platforms. Now, most of us in this room, other than students, you know, grew up getting the news of the day of our nation in politics by reading a newspaper, by reading magazines, and by watching the nightly news.

That's no longer the case with a very large number of people in our country, particularly the millenials. And so as Mike said, we've been working with the social network platforms very, very closely for the last four years, and what's happened is going into this debate tonight.

Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz have received from those social network platforms the views of the platform participants as to what they think the issues are that are important and, hopefully, those issues will be presented in the questions that come from the moderators, in addition to the questions that are going to come from these ladies and gentlemen who are behind us.

One last point, and I mentioned this to some detail at the vice presidential debate a week or so ago, is we're particularly proud of the work we do internationally. The United States of America, with all our faults, is still the beacon of democracy and freedom around the world.

And we've been working for the last 20 years with nations around the world, particularly emerging democracies, who are amazed that tonight, citizens of the St. Louis area are going to haven opportunity to ask questions of the next president of the United States. Amazing.

And so we have worked with those 35 nations, and they've created their own CPDs and are doing work. In fact, in Las Vegas, the last debate that's coming up in 10 days, we will have 50 people from 45 nations as guests who will be there for seminars and learning how the process is done. And so we're very, very proud of that.

Let me add one more thing before I introduce another important person to you. Right at 8:00, 9:00 eastern, we're going to be very quiet in this room, except for back there. At exactly 9:00, the networks are going to go hot and you're going to hear. You're going to hear the voices and so forth.

[20:50:02] You can sit quietly. It will be about three minutes later that we will go live on the debate and they'll stop what they're doing. But just so you're not upset with the noise that you're going to hear.

As Mike said, we owe a lot to this university, to the faculty, to the students, and the staff. Mike said that we've been here five times. And it's a very, very big pleasure for me to introduce the man who makes the machinery run here, the Chancellor of this university, Mark Wrighton. Mark?


MARK WRIGHTON, CHANCELLOR, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS: Good evening and welcome to Washington University in St. Louis. It's a real pleasure to be here, and I appreciate very much the confidence that has been placed in us by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

We at Washington University care deeply about the student experience. This debate has offered the opportunity for many students to be engaged, to learn about the issues, to be involved in voter registration. I'm proud that more than 3,000 students have been registered to vote and encouraged to participate in this very important election.

We at Washington University are involved in education, research, patient care and community service. Through this work, we are enhancing the quality of life for all. Indeed in this era, our overarching goal is to enhance our leadership today to benefit America and the world tomorrow.

We are doing this by advancing human health. We have premier researchers addressing Alzheimer's disease. We've developed the third largest cancer center in the United States, the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center. We're advancing work in genetics and genomics to pursue personalized, precision medicine. And we're advancing innovation and entrepreneurship. St. Louis, in case you haven't noticed, is now one of the startup cities of America.

Finally, through our work, we're preparing future leaders. Tonight is a debate between two individuals, one of whom will become the next president of the United Sates. We at Washington University have the very best students, and I'm grateful that our Student Union president is here this evening. He is from Singapore reflecting a dimension of the diversity that we enjoy here at Washington University. Please welcome Student Union President Kenneth Sung.

KENNETH SUNG, STUDENT UNION PRESIDENT, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS: Good evening, and welcome to Washington University in St. Louis. Long years ago, this nation was founded on a grand promise later memorialized by President Lincoln. American will create a true government of the people, by the people, for the people.

This great democratic experiment has since felt like wall fire to much of the world, sometimes raging but more often smothering, including to Singapore, my home. Today, too many democratic governments are being undermined by those who have a much different vision of the world, of their power, and of the responsibilities to their citizens.

This debate provides a momentous occasion to show that while citizens may disagree verbally on issues, they agree that it is important to stay engaged in the democratic process, if Lincoln's words have any meaning at all.

Come November 8th, citizens across this nation will cast their ballots and show the world that democracy is an ideal, burns brightly in the dark. On behalf of the student body, I am proud of Washington University for hosting this debate and for giving voice to the competing ideas at the core of democracy. Thank you.



BLITZER: They are about to introduce the spouses right now. John King, this is a moment and we're going to see, maybe there will be some handshakes, maybe there won't be any handshakes, but this will potentially set the tone for tonight.

KING: That's very interesting. Bill Clinton and Melania Trump did shake hands and greet each other before the first debate. Obviously, Bill Clinton is aware of the tone and what has happened before this debate.

Melania Trump issued a public statement just yesterday saying she had accepted her husband's apology for what she said was offensive behavior in that caught on tape moment that has been discussed throughout the weekend.

[20:55:05] The two of them in an odd way sort of, you know, supporting players in the drama that is about to play out here tonight, at least in the personal part that has played out in the last 24 hours or so. We'll see how much of it plays out in the debate, and I think that's the big question.

Voters are asking these questions. Yes, we're going to talk about the Trump tapes. Yes, we're going to probably talk about Hillary Clinton's, the hacked excerpts to some of her speeches. But how much of that, we don't know because of the unpredictability of the town hall format.


BLITZER: And, Dana, the people on the stage, these are the uncommitted, undecided, voters who were selected by the Gallup polling organization. Here's the introduction.


BROWN: Please welcome President Bill Clinton and Melania Trump.


BASH (voice-over): Yes.

KING (voice-over): OK. And the Trumps are in.

BLITZER (voice-over): And we also, Dana, saw the Trump children walk out, shake hands with the former president.

BASH (voice-over): To borrow a term from the "SITUATION ROOM," this is a show for the Trump campaign to have, obviously, his sons and more importantly his daughter and his wife to be standing there like that and to be a part of that introduction.

BROWN: A big part of the responsibility for any debate rests on the shoulders of the moderators. We are grateful and honored tonight to have Martha Raddatz of ABC News and Anderson Cooper of CNN.


ANDERSON COOPER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We are very honored to be here. I want to thank Washington University in St. Louis for hosting this debate and also the Commission on Presidential Debates for sponsoring this. This is, obviously, a town hall format tonight. It's a chance for the Americans on this stage and thousands of people who have sent in questions online to ask questions directly to the candidates.

MARTHA RADDATZ, DEBATE MODERATOR: And after they've asked their questions, they promise to remain silent. And I know you've heard this before this evening but no booing, outbursts, cheering of any kind. We want to keep it this focused on the candidates and the people who

are asking the questions here. We appreciate all your cooperation in advance, and we will start shortly. Great to see you all.


BLITZER: So, Dana, they're going to sit down now. Everyone is going to pause for a few minutes right now as they get ready for the formal introduction of the two candidates. And it's a moment that will be historic.

BASH: Absolutely historic in so many ways. I just have to point out that you could kind of see -- and you both covered Bill Clinton for a long -- sometimes he doesn't have the best poker face. You could see the look on his face when he walked in. He did not look very comfortable and perhaps that's because kind of behind you, John, the three women who were in the Trump stunt earlier are now here. They're in the debate hall.

Everybody stood and clapped when Bill Clinton came in, but they did not. There you see them now. They're sitting in the front row, but because of this format, it's a town hall format, they're pretty far away from the stage.

But the image of them sitting in front of the number two Democrat in the senate, Dick Durbin, it's hard to wrap our minds around that this is happening at a presidential debate.

KING: Right. And the two on the left of that picture, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. Kathleen Willey says Bill Clinton groped her in the Oval Office when he was President of the United States. Juanita Broaddrick says Bill Clinton raped her back when he was the Arkansas attorney general.

Bill Clinton has denied this allegations, but it is the drama of it. This is a presidential debate, 30 days from Election Day. It's remarkable.

BLITZER: Jake Tapper, what are you looking for?

TAPPER: Well, the pressure is on Donald Trump, I have to say. He's really got to show the American people and show the voters that he has the temperament to be President, that he can address the issues of these town hall participants that they care about, health care, how to afford college, how to get a good job in this economy.

And really, I mean, he did not have a good debate performance last time, and he has been bleeding in the polls. He really needs to step up and be the Donald Trump that his supporters want him to be and that the Republican Party is terrified he can never be. Wolf.

BLITZER: It is a moment right now, Dana Bash, when we wait for them to walk out. The people, once again, on the stage are the uncommitted voters who will actually stand up and ask them questions, and how these two candidates relate to those individuals could be decisive. BASH: Right. I mean, you remember it was just a few days ago before

this bombshell tape came out. Donald Trump went to New Hampshire and one of the open questions there when he did kind of a practice run was his style, whether or not he was going to be comfortable in this setting and whether he could go up to a person, maybe say their name, have empathy.

[21:00:02] When, you know, Hillary Clinton is somebody who did this so much not just on the campaign trail, but our State Department correspondent reminded me, as secretary of state. Her town hall was kind of her preferred format, so she has to be probably more comfortable with this.

KING: We're going to see Trump under pressure tonight. She's under pressure as well, don't get me wrong, but the structure of this race has changed so dramatically since the first debate. She is now leading in every battleground state with 30 days to go. Yes, this race can swing back and forth but there's a structure to the race right now. Many Republicans think it's over already.

If Donald Trump is to change this race, to start changing the battleground states, he has to do it with this performance tonight. And of course there's a huge debate about the strategy to do that. Do you go slash and burn? Do you bring Bill Clinton into it? Or do you try to apologize for that tape and then try to focus on issues? We're about to find out.

BASH: And that is something that we really have to underscore for our viewers. It is not just about him trying to reach out to undecided voters tonight; it is literally probably about him trying to make sure that his own party doesn't abandon him in the way that matters the most right now, which is resources and manpower on the ground getting out the vote. If he doesn't do well tonight, my sources say that it is entirely possible that they will pull the plug on the Trump campaign.

KING: And there are still conversations about trying to get him to quit the race if he doesn't do well tonight. That is an extraordinary moment. Just yesterday, his vice presidential candidate rebuked him in some way, saying he was disappointed in him. Said he's staying in the race but criticized him. His wife yesterday issued a statement saying he had apologized to her. With this new tape unearthed by our k-file (ph) team in which he said -- having a conversation with Howard Stern about his daughter that is offensive. I mean, when you think about the gutter we've been in and the conversation in the last 24 hours, how much of that transfers into this conversation tonight with lord knows how many people watching. I would suspect a very large audience watching out there in the country tonight.

Again, 30 days from election day.

BLITZER: There you see the former president of the United States and Chelsea Clinton, as well as the sons, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump. They're going to be watching this.

The fact that so many family members are here right now, Dana, you would think that would convince these two candidates maybe step back a little bit, not get into the so-called gutter.

BASH: You'd think. After the first debate, Donald Trump told me in the spin room that he was thinking about going there on Bill Clinton and didn't because Chelsea Clinton was in the room. My, how things have changed in 10 days. I mean, this is what happened when a tape that came out that was so damaging to him changes the way his strategy is.

But I think that the thing also to keep in mind here, just to kind of keep it big picture, is Donald Trump also has to never mind this stuff, try to stay on the message that he started with at the beginning of the last debate, which is Hillary Clinton is an outsider -- is an insider, rather. She doesn't represent change. She is just more of the same; she's a regular politician.

Yes, he is a showman and all of those things, but those are some of the core issues that really made him succeed at the beginning and got him the nomination.

BLITZER: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are about to be introduced by the two co-moderators, Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper. They will walk out on the stage. We will see if they do shake hands this time as they did during the first presidential debate.

This historic moment begins right now.