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The Final Debate: Can Trump Rebound?; The Final Debate: Clinton on the Attack?; Iraqi Forces March Toward Mosul. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 19, 2016 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is the final countdown to the final debate. The stakes could not be higher. This could be the last chance for Donald Trump to get back in this race.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton staying out of the public eye to prepare for tonight's showdown. What is her strategy? Will she go on the attack? Or will she be forced to explain those damaging e-mail leaks to tens of millions of voters?

It is the final of those three debate days, folks. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, October 19th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

I have no idea what time it is here where I am live at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This is the site of the third and final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, or it could be the last chance for Donald Trump to right this ship to claw his way back into the campaign. He's behind in the latest round of national polls by a lot in some of them. He's also trailing in most of the key battleground states. He made two stops in Colorado on his way here to Las Vegas, urging his supporters, just don't believe the polls, he said, and he delivered a dire warning about a possible Clinton victory.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: History will record that 2017 was the year that America lost, truly lost its independence, truly lost its independence. And by the way, this is our final shot, folks. In four years, it's over. You're never going to be able to win. You're never going to be able to win. It's going to be a one- party system. This is your final shot.


BERMAN: Trump renewed his pledge to build a wall along the border with Mexico. And he described himself to voters in Colorado as a unifier.

Let's get more now from CNN's Jason Carroll.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, Donald Trump had very little to say about the debate to the crowd here in Grand Junction, Colorado. He did say that the debate would be, quote, "interesting". Certainly, a number of his supporters want him to stay on message during the debate. And while he's out on the campaign trail, having said that, a number of GOP leaders pushing back on Donald Trump's unfounded claims that the electoral process is, quote, "rigged". They certainly want him to stop talking about it when he's out on the campaign trail but Donald Trump kept pushing the idea anyway.

TRUMP: The moment is going to be November 8th. It's very simple. And we will. We've just begun to fight. They even want to try and rig the election at the polling booths where so many cities are corrupt. And voter fraud is all too common.

And then they say, oh, there's no voter fraud in our country. There's no voter fraud. No, no, there's no voter fraud.

Take a look at St. Louis. Take a look at Philadelphia. Take a look at Chicago. And then I have even the Republicans saying, oh, this is a wonderful -- look. Look. If nothing else, people are going to be watching on November 8th.

CARROLL: Trump holding the media responsible for what he calls that rigged system, saying that the media has been, quote, "lying, cheating and stealing." Again, these are Donald Trump's words. He also said that the media at this point is worse than his opponent Hillary Clinton -- John, Christine.


BERMAN: All right. Jason Carroll, thanks so much.

Donald Trump did have a new policy proposal: term limits for members of Congress. He's calling for a constitutional amendment. It would take a constitutional amendment that would restrict House members to six years of service, senators will be limited to two terms, 12 years in office. On Monday, Trump unveiled a series of ethics reform proposals, including a five year ban on lobbying when lawmakers and members of the executive branch leave office.

CNN has learned some new details about Donald Trump's preparation for this final debate. A source tells us that RNC Chair Reince Priebus, he played the moderator in practice sessions with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie playing Hillary Clinton. This is a bit of a change for Donald Trump to be doing mock debate scenarios. We had been told prior in the first debate, he did not do this, did not want to do this, apparently now coming in more prepared.

Hillary Clinton, she's been off the campaign trail for several days, raising money and preparing for tonight's debate. In the very first debate, she seemed to be trying to bait Trump when they square off tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, she is expected to deploy a different strategy -- that according to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Hillary Clinton is getting ready for her third and final debate with Donald Trump. She's been preparing just as much as she did for her first two, but I'm told in a different way.

[04:05:05] Now, she's actually been familiarizing herself with all of those campaign e-mails and previous positions and statements that had been unearthed through the stolen hacked e-mails published by WikiLeaks. It is a new development in this campaign. Something she is preparing for. Something she expects Donald Trump will go after. She will also, I'm told, go after what Donald Trump has been calling a rigged election. She'll be pushing back on that hard, perhaps as a way to get under Donald Trump's skin.

She's also going to make the case for why she can be the president for all Americans. Now, of course, that message is aimed at getting some Republicans, some moderate voters who may not have been open for voting for her. But they simply cannot vote for Donald Trump. But overall, that is her objective in tonight's debate, trying to make the case that, "A," she's presidential, and "B," even if you don't love her, you still may want to vote for her because Donald Trump in the eyes of the Clinton campaign is simply not fit for president.

But, of course, Donald Trump will be getting his last licks in. This is the last time before such a big audience for him to make his case, raising some of those questions about her honesty and trustworthiness. Without question, tonight's debate will set the stage for the rest of the campaign, less than three weeks away from Election Day -- John and Christine.


BERMAN: Jeff Zeleny for us.

The third installment of the debate trilogy is tonight on CNN. We are here now. We'll be here all day long -- Christine Romans.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much, John Berman.

President Obama has a message for Donald Trump: quit whining. The commander-in-chief calling out Donald Trump for his repeated claims this election is rigged. Listen to him mock the GOP nominee for what he calls an unprecedented and dangerous attack on the nation's election system.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That is both irresponsible. And, by the way, doesn't really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you want out of a president. You start whining before the game's even over? If -- whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else? Then you don't have what it takes to be in this job.


ROMANS: The president hosted his final state dinner last night, welcoming Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. In his toast on the South Lawn, he borrowed an immortal Italian American Yogi Berra, telling the crowd it ain't over 'til it's over.

A hacked email shows the Clinton was considering some business titans, some business heavyweights for vice president. An e-mail posted by WikiLeaks allegedly sent by Clinton campaign manager John Podesta has an early list for V.P. On it, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, his wife Melinda Gates, GM CEO Mary Barra, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent. The email dated March 17, four months before Clinton announced her pick Tim Kaine, this was an early list. Along with Kaine, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren made the cut, about two dozen other lawmakers.

Much snarking on social media about how Podesta grouped the candidates. In the email, Podesta says he organized the list by, quote, "food groups". Those groups were by gender and race, as well as professional background.

All right. Will they or won't they? A lot of speculation about whether Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will shake hands before tonight's third and final debate. We already know who won't be shaking hands. Details ahead on EARLY START.


[04:13:11] BERMAN: Welcome back to the University of Las Vegas, the site of tonight's third and final debate. You can see the students scurrying about campus, getting the last second studying in. That is the debate hall, where tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, they face off for the final time with less than three weeks to go.

Now, both candidates, they will be bringing guests to tonight's debate. The Clinton campaign will have couple of billionaire in the audience. Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban -- Mark Cuban was a guest of the Clintons at the first debate.

Donald Trump has invited President Obama's Kenyan-born half brother Malik to the debate. He apparently has committed to voting for Donald Trump. He will also bring Patricia Smith, the mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith. Patricia Smith has held Hillary Clinton responsible for her son's death.

We do not know if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will shake hands when they walk in to the debate tonight. They didn't in the second debate. But as of now, we do know there will be no handshakes between the candidates' family members, at least not at the beginning of the debate.

The Clinton camp reportedly requested a new setup at the start. According to the "The New York Times," family members will now enter the hall closer to their assigned seats instead of crossing each other's path on stage like you saw there. Bill Clinton and Melania Trump meeting Ivanka and then the Trump boys.

Clinton handlers tell CNN they're worried about Trump pulling off a stunt like packing the audience with Bill Clinton's female accusers.

"People" magazine is standing by the writer who claims that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her back in 1995. "People's" editors produced half a dozen colleagues and close friends who corroborate Natasha Stoynoff's story. Trump denies her account.

[04:15:00] He told supporters, "Look at her, I don't think so."

CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, "People" magazine firing back at Donald and Melania Trump after both of them vigorously denied Natasha Stoynoff's account of Donald Trump sexually assaulting her in 2005.

"People" magazine publishing another article, citing six friends and co-workers to whom Stoynoff recounted her experience.

Stoynoff's mentor and former journalism professor Paul McLaughlin even tweeting this, "In 2005, Natasha Stoynoff phoned, distraught, crying, said Trump assaulted her. She is telling the truth. #NatashaStoynoff."

Stoynoff did accuse Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her when she was at Mar-A-Lago, interviewing him and Melania in 2005. Writing in a "People" magazine article last week this, she said, "We walked into that room alone and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around and within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat."

Now, Stoynoff said she asked her editors to be taken off Trump coverage but never came forward publicly until now. She also wrote that she later ran into Melania Trump on Fifth Avenue and said Melania asked her why they didn't see her anymore.

Well, Melania Trump now denying that encounter to Anderson Cooper.

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: That never happened. I was never friend with her. I saw her -- she interviewed us twice, she came for the wedding and for that story, that's it. I would not recognize her on the street or ask her why we don't see her anymore.

SCHNEIDER: "People" magazine, though, releasing this quote from a friend who said she was with Stoynoff for that exact encounter Melania now denies. That friend saying, "They chatted in a friendly way. And what struck me most was that Melania was carrying a child and wearing heels."

Melania Trump's lawyer telling me, Melania stands by her denial of this ever happening and still demands a retraction and an apology from "People" magazine -- John and Christine. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Jessica, thank you so much for that.

Seventeen minutes after the hour.

Up next, the fight for Mosul. Day three now of the operation to drive ISIS out of Iraq's second largest city. How long will this mission take and are Americans forces in harm's way here?

We've got a live report from Iraq, next.


[04:21:50] ROMANS: The operation to liberate Mosul could take two months. That assessment from a Kurdish military commander after day two of the offensive. Nearly 100,000 troops are marching on Iraq's second largest city. Their mission: to bring an end to more than two years of ISIS rule there and push the extremist group out of the country for good.

We want to go live now to Irbil, Iraq. That's where CNN'S Michael Holmes is monitoring all of this.

And what's the word right now, Michael, from the front?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, they're moving well. I mean, the Iraqi military, the Kurdish military leadership, and also the Americans, they're all saying that this advance on Mosul is on schedule or even ahead of schedule. It's a very deliberate, methodical advance, though. They're taking and clearing territory as they go, and then having to hold it as well.

Iraqi forces say they're going -- they're continuing to liberate towns and villages on route to Mosul. In fact, the commander of one division telling CNN that his forces have destroyed, in his words, dozens of suicide vehicle. Also saying they've cleared a large number of IEDs. And have killed at least 50 ISIS fighters over the last two days since this offensive began.

And they've also found, and we had heard about these, too, they found networks of tunnels used by ISIS to transport fighters and weaponry around the battlefield. Interestingly, they found food in one of those tunnels that was still warm. Now, those Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces working to hold on to those areas they've taken before moving on closer to Mosul. There are perhaps some units perhaps within 10 kilometers of Mosul. So, they're getting ever closer.

As you said, the estimate is perhaps two weeks before everything is in place and coordinated to begin the assault itself. And then once inside the city, it really gets tough. It could take two months, perhaps more to defeat ISIS in that city. ISIS reportedly has anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters inside. And, of coursed, let's remember, there are up to a million civilians still inside that city and in a perilous situation, Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right. Thanks for that report, Michael Holmes for us this morning from Irbil.

Breaking overnight, a Philippine police van caught on video ramming into protesters injuring several. This happened at an anti-U.S. rally at the American embassy in Manila. Look at this -- video footage showing demonstrators hitting the vans with wooden batons. They had taken the batons from police. At least 1,000 protesters gathered to demand an end to the presence of U.S. troops in the Philippines and to support a call by President Rodrigo Duterte for a foreign policy not dependent on the U.S.

An out-of-control wildfire burning in southern Colorado has destroyed at least five homes, it threatens hundreds of others, putting people on notice to evacuate. The state's governor deploying the National Guard to help fight the fire which has already burned 25,000 square miles.

[04:25:00] It is zero percent contained.

Advantage, Los Angeles. The Dodgers shutting out the Chicago Cubs for the second straight game in the National League Championship Series. L.A. now leads the series two games to one. Game four tonight at Dodger Stadium in the ALCS.

Toronto Blue Jays beating the Indians in game four 5-1 to avoid elimination. Cleveland still leads three games to one and can close out the Jays and advance the World Series with a win in game five this afternoon in Toronto. A nail-biter right now for baseball fans.

We're also counting down the final hours to tonight's third presidential debate. Is this Donald Trump's last chance to resurrect his campaign? Will Hillary Clinton go for the kill or play it cautious?

CNN's live coverage from Las Vegas with John Berman continues right after this.