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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Obama Breaks Silence on FBI Director Announcing Clinton E-mail Probe; Clinton Tries to Pick Up Red States Arizona, Nevada; Obama Sounds Alarm to Black Voters; George P. Bush: 41 & 43 Could Vote for Clinton. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 2, 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] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.
AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman.
We do begin with breaking news. President Obama breaking his silence on the firestorm surrounding the FBI director and his disclosure about reviewing e-mails that could be related to the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server.
BOLDUAN: Let's go straight to CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, this is the first time we are hearing from the president on this issue since the bombshell came out on Friday. Walking a line here. What kind of line is he walking?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think you could argue he crossed the line. It's interesting, on Monday, after Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, speaking for the president, said in these exact words, "I won't defend or criticize Director Comey's move," but in this interview now with, now, this news, listen to the president. He seems to be doing exactly the latter, criticizing Director Comey's move to come out with this somewhat incomplete statement on the status of the e-mail investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations we don't operate on innuendo, we don't operate on incomplete information, we don't operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.
When this was investigated thoroughly the last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was that she had made some mistakes but that there wasn't anything there that was prosecutable. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: So, in effect, the president there saying the FBI director is guilty of three things. Innuendo, implying there may be something criminal there that he hasn't presented information to back that up. Incomplete information, you will remember that letter to Congress said there are these new e-mails, may be pertinent, we haven't determined if there's wrongdoing. But also hitting out at leaks because as you will remember, the letter to Congress from Comey didn't say much. It's the leaks since then from unnamed officials who have said well, we found it on the computer of Anthony Weiner, here are a number of e- mails, here's what we're looking at, et cetera.
So the president certainly moving far ahead of what his press secretary took great pains to do on Monday. And I don't know if I have this wrong, John and Kate, but it seems like that was not too subtle criticism of the FBI director.
BERMAN: Well, Jim, just like you, we were listening to that very, very carefully because it's the first time we heard the sound right now. Innuendo, incomplete information and leaks, just like you, that jumped out to both of us here.
Again, the president got in a lot of trouble for much more innocuous things he said about e-mails way back when. I mean, this -- to comment like this on an investigation that in some ways is still ongoing, is highly unusual for the chief executive.
SCIUTTO: No question. Exactly. Because, listen, folks will say that the FBI director has a responsibility and there's been a tradition, a history of not releasing information on investigations so close to an election day. There's also a tradition, of course, of a sitting president not commenting on ongoing investigations.
But it's interesting, in the wake of the FBI letter on Friday, you have had criticism like this not just from Democrats, but keep in mind Republicans. You had Chuck Grassley writing and saying, while he thinks further pursuing the Clinton e-mail investigation is a good idea, but not providing complete information, he criticized the FBI director as well. So that seems to be the attack the president is going after here saying, hey, investigate all you want, but don't come out with something that, as you heard the president say there, in his view, sounds like innuendo and doesn't give the American public the full picture.
BOLDUAN: Especially coming on the heels of what Jim pointed out, that this is coming from after his press secretary said over and over again in briefings we will neither defend nor criticize. That, in and of itself, was a statement everyone kind of read into. This goes even further.
BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Jim. BERMAN: Obviously a lot more to talk about here.
First let's get to a little bit of politics. New this morning, Democrats putting their voters on high alert. Hillary Clinton is suddenly heading to at least one blue state. Her most powerful surrogate, the president, who you just heard from him a bit there, also sounding the alarm to the African-American community, saying, "She needs you and she needs you now."
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. President Obama's starkest warning yet includes his prediction about what Trump does on day one if he is elected. We will have much more on that in just a moment.
But then you have this. This comes as both candidates and their biggest surrogates are swarming the battleground. This is a big wall. We are looking at a very big map and it's hard to even follow where everybody is at this point.
Donald Trump is going all in on one state right now, right there, Florida. Three stops there. From the latest early voting estimates, which we all look at as predictive, but not decisive, Republicans like what they see. They are --
[11:05:31] BERMAN: Let me get out of the way so you can actually see it.
BOLDUAN: Thank you, sir.
They are edging out Democrats there at the moment.
BERMAN: Hillary Clinton goes west today. We say she's trying to defend some blue states. She's actually going on offense today as well. She's going to Arizona, which is a reliably red state or has been in the past, and she's also going to Nevada. That, too, is a state where there has been early voting and voting so far in Nevada has looked pretty good for the Democrats again.
Again, I will get out of the way here.
They are about where they were four years ago when President Obama won that state in re-election.
Let's get to Phil Mattingly, who is in Florida. Obviously, a key, key state.
Phil, Hillary Clinton today, what exactly is she doing, why Arizona now?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think you talk about the Clinton coalition and you talk about the early vote. Both of those are contributing to why Hillary Clinton is going to Arizona. Six days out from the election, you don't expect the Democratic candidate to be within 200 miles of the state. But the Clinton campaign, when you talk to their advisers, they have been looking at the numbers and feel very good at the Latino early vote that they have been seeing. It's obviously been ticking up across the country in early voting states, including Nevada. Definitely out here in Florida as well. But that's the story in Arizona. They will acknowledge it is a tossup at best at that state. But they recognize that if Hillary Clinton goes to Arizona, and if she's able to pull out Arizona, as we look at tightening across the national race and tightening a lot of battleground states, Arizona pretty much closes the deal right there. If Hillary Clinton is winning Arizona, she's most likely winning this election.
So she's going there and she is going to hit the message of reaching out to Latino voters very, very hard. It's a message that extends beyond Arizona. It extends to places like Nevada and Florida.
But I want you to take a look at a couple other things going on right now. We try and read the tea leaves by where candidates are going and where they are spending. Really interesting developments yesterday from the Clinton campaign. John, you mentioned Hillary Clinton going on offense in Arizona. But also looking like the campaign is on defense in a couple of places. They are spending six figures in four kind of traditionally reliably blue states they announced yesterday. Two of which are states that Donald Trump has visited recently, New Mexico, Michigan, also going up in Virginia, Colorado, places where the Clinton campaign and the outside groups supporting her have more or less pulled her ads down over the last couple months. Then they announced that Hillary Clinton herself will be going to the state of Michigan.
Look, you talk to Democrats kind of across the board and they say they are just trying to shore up their vote, there's no real concern, nobody's looking at numbers right now that have shown some big drop- off. But Trump advisers say, look, this is a sign right now that the Clinton campaign is clearly on defense, trying to defend those states and these are the states, particularly Wisconsin and Michigan, where the Trump campaign has claimed throughout they can reach out to kind of white voters, labor voters that are disenfranchised and don't like what they have seen from Hillary Clinton.
Again, the numbers don't necessarily back that up and the Clinton campaign's explanation is this. Look, when it comes to the ads, we are flush with cash. $11.3 million in the 72 hours since Jim Comey's letter was sent, raised online. They are putting that right to work.
No question, guys, as we try to figure out where everybody is going, where they are spending and why, that Hillary Clinton is going back up in states where they pulled ads down, and as she's personally going to Michigan, certainly makes you wonder where things actually stand right now -- John and Kate?
BOLDUAN: Spend it if you got it. That seems to be the strategy right now.
Phil, great to see you. Thanks so much.
Meantime, President Obama, we talked about a different interview now. A lot going on with President Obama today. He's making a fierce new pitch African-American community. He went on the Tom Joiner radio show this morning and pleaded with black voters to get out the vote and get it out now.
CNN's Athena Jones has been listening to this and following it for us.
Athena, tell us what you heard.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. Look, the White House is looking at the early voting numbers and they are not liking what they're seeing. The African-American turnout in early voting states is lagging where it was at this point in 2012. So that's why you see the president coming out and making this big push.
We've heard him make the case before that his legacy is at stake. He told the Congressional Black Caucus dinner in September that he would take it as a personal insult to his legacy if black voters didn't turn out for Hillary Clinton at the same levels they turned out for him. But if you look at some of the numbers, it doesn't look like that is happening. So today he was doubling down on that case saying that the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, historically black colleges, civil rights, voting rights, criminal justice reform, even the first lady's vegetable garden would be at risk under a Trump presidency.
Here's more of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:10:03] OBAMA (voice-over): If you really care about my presidency and when we have accomplished, then you are going to go and vote. And if you don't know where to vote, go to I will vote.com. If you have already voted, but your mama hasn't voted, your cousin hasn't voted, your nephew hasn't voted, I need you to call them and say that the president and Michelle personally asked you to vote.
If Donald Trump wins, here's what will happen immediately. They will immediately work with a Republican Congress to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. They will immediately work to cut millions of people off of Medicaid because they will just block grant it, and there are a whole bunch of states where, if the governor doesn't want Medicaid and Congress isn't financing Medicaid, suddenly, people just don't have health care. Right away, I guarantee you, they will start cutting back on funding for things like Pell Grants and support for historically black colleges and universities. Right away, they will roll back the Affordable Care Act. Right away, I guarantee you, they'll dig up Michelle's garden.
No, you think I'm joking?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So the president is hoping to reach black voters in some key states. Look at North Carolina, the black early vote is five points behind where it was at this point in 2012. In Georgia, it's five points behind where it was in 2012. Florida, we can compare it to 2008 numbers, and the black early turnout is three points behind.
So this is a real concern and something the president is hoping to change in these final days.
Back to you guys.
BOLDUAN: Athena, thank you so much.
A lot to discuss here. Really appreciate it, Athena, for laying it out.
Let's bring in the panel. Joining us, CNN political commentator and Mitt Romney's former public policy director from his 2012 campaign, Lanhee Chen; CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Hillary Clinton supporter, Symone Sanders; Donald Trump supporter and former Navy Seal, Carl Higbie; and "Bloomberg Business Week" senior national correspondent, Joshua Green.
Guys, thanks so much for being here.
First, to the big news we heard just off the top that Jim Sciutto was laying out for us. President Obama, Josh, he speaking for the first time since the bomb shell letter went from FBI Director James Comey to members of Congress, about reviewing, reopening, taking a look at these e-mails as it relates to Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation. Jim put it really well. He said they have tried to walk a fine line. You could argue that President Obama here crossed the line because he went from not commenting on any justice investigation to commenting.
JOSH GREEN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK: Well, I don't know particularly what line he crossed. It seems pretty clear that the FBI, whether this is intended or not, is having a pretty meaningful and measurable effect on the election and the direction of helping Donald Trump. If you look at how the polls have closed in the past couple of weeks, how supporters of Trump have come home, the fact that Clinton is running ads now visiting blue states, I think shows the effect of Comey's odd decision to come out and announce that, well, we have these e-mails and we don't know exactly what they are. If you are President Obama and you are counting on a Democratic successor getting elected, she seems to be leading in the polls, and your own FBI director comes out and basically functions like a Republican super PAC in tilting the election in the Republicans' favor, I don't think it's all that surprising that Obama would show the kind of pique and annoyance, frankly, that he did in that interview.
BERMAN: First of all, you say the FBI director is acting like a Republican super PAC. I think he would dispute that. I would think the FBI --
GREEN: I'm sure he would. I'm saying he's having the effect, though, if you are coming in and making essentially political charges and tilting the race against the Democratic candidate by airing these kinds of unsubstantiated charges. He's doing exactly what FBI directors of both parties have traditionally not supposed to do.
BERMAN: I understand.
GREEN: And that is weigh in close to the election.
BERMAN: Let me push this forward.
Do we have the sound of the president again? I do think it's worth hearing. Do we have that clip?
We will play what President Obama said. I think it's interesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations we don't operate on innuendo, we don't operate on incomplete information, we don't operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made. When this was investigated thoroughly the last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was that she had made some mistakes but that there wasn't anything there that was prosecutable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:15:14] BERMAN: So what President Obama said is we don't operate on innuendo, leaks or incomplete information.
Lanhee, I suppose he never directly says the FBI is doing those things, but you can infer what you want to infer.
I don't want to argue about James Comey anymore. What I want to talk about is the political meaning of this right now.
Does this help Hillary Clinton to have President Obama say this, or does this put James Comey and e-mails back in the news today after it maybe faded a little bit?
LANHEE CHEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think clearly the Clinton campaign feels they need President Obama to be on the same message in this regard. She's supposed to be closing her campaign. The closing argument should not be, by the way, ignore James Comey. It should be about what her vision is. But clearly, at this point, they still feel vulnerable enough -- obviously, the president didn't go off and freelance here. At this point in the campaign, I would think it's coordinated. They have told the president look, get out there, not only do you need to stimulate the black vote, but you also need to more aggressively message on what's happening with these e- mails and Comey. Obviously, they feel there is still something there that needs to be talked about.
CARL HIGBIE, FORMER NAVY SEAL & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think the thing we need to look at here is, what the FBI has done with the meta data is if they have found just one e-mail that was turned over from that computer that wasn't previously turned over under the subpoena when they first investigated, they absolutely have the right to open this investigation not, before the election, six months before the election.
But this is -- President Obama right now, I don't think that helps Hillary Clinton and the reason being is because he is so wrapped up in his own controversy of this Obamacare right now, which Hillary earlier claimed was her thing, that people aren't focused on what he is saying. They are focused on what Hillary Clinton is going to do to get paychecks back in their pocket and away from health care deductible deductibles.
BOLDUAN: You don't think he's an effective surrogate for Hillary Clinton?
HIGBIE: No. I think people want to get away from him, to be honest.
I know his approval ratings don't reflect that. People are sick and tired of insider politics this election. And I don't think President Obama will do her any favors by attacking Jim Comey.
BERMAN: Symone, you're laughing?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I hope -- I am definitely laughing. I hope Carl is not advising the Trump campaign or any other down-ballot Republicans.
Look, people love President Obama. His approval ratings are high and people like seeing him out there on the campaign trail, particularly African-American voters and young people, who have not come out in droves for Secretary Clinton. He absolutely is an effective surrogate for her right now. I don't actually agree --
HIGBIE: It's not working.
SANDERS: I don't actually -- I think it is working. But --
HIGBIE: Not according to the "L.A. Times" poll this morning.
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton had other things that are precluding President Obama being out there about why folks aren't coming out. And we can talk about that in a second. But I don't agree the Clinton campaign told President Obama or insinuated he has to get out here on the e-mails. I think this election is a personal issue for him. This is his legacy. If he sees anything that has the ability to meddle with the outcome of this election, I think he feels compelled to talk about it. And as the president of the United States --
BERMAN: Symone --
SANDERS: -- I think he has a feeling about it.
BERMAN: So, Symone, in addition to the FBI message -- which is new to us, we weren't expecting this. We were expecting to talk about his radio interview with Tom Joiner where he made the plea to the African- American community warning them Donald Trump will dig up Michelle Obama's garden.
BERMAN: He talked about the legacy right there. Obviously, Symone, there is a need right now because African-American voters are not turning out in the numbers they have in the past in early voting. Difference there? Is it enough?
SANDERS: You know, I honestly do not know. I think, again, President Obama is an effective surrogate and I think in some places people go to the rally, they see him, they hear his commercial on tv or on the radio, and that might jolt them and galvanize them to go to the polls and vote. For the majority of young voters, particularly young African-American voters, I don't think President Obama himself is going to be enough. Secretary Clinton will also have to make a direct plea to these young black voters. That's something we have not just seen in these last six days.
SANDERS: There are six days left. We don't know.
HIGBIE: So you agree with him?
BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.
Josh, it's interesting, you went deep into the Trump organization, their data machine, and one of the many fascinating things from your reporting is that depressing the African-American vote, from your reporting, was that that is one of the keys to victory for the Trump campaign. Is this a sign that it's working?
[11:19:39] GREEN: I think it might be. They invited "Business Week" down and showed us some of the Facebook animations of Hillary Clinton saying super predator, that they are targeting at specific black voters in Florida and other swing states to try and basically disincentivize them from coming out and voting for Hillary Clinton.
If you look at the early election numbers, early voting numbers and the fact that black turnout is down substantially over where it was in 2008, in 2012, you certainly have to conclude that the enthusiasm for Clinton isn't anywhere near the enthusiasm for Barack Obama. Now, whether that's because people are cool to Clinton generally or because these voter suppression operations are having an effect, I'm not sure you can really pull these two things apart but the end result is clear.
Clinton thinks she's got a better chance appealing to Hispanic voters in states like Arizona and Georgia than she seems to have with black voters in places like North Carolina and Florida. BERMAN: Lanhee, quickly, one big question this election is, would the
Obama coalition become a Democratic coalition and vote for other people. If the African-American vote is weakening, can it be replaced, as Josh was suggesting, by either Latinos -- or I suppose college educated white women could be part of that coalition?
CHEN: It's all a turnout question at this point. How will they be able to turn out enough voters to replicate numbers they got in 2008 and 2012? It might be the Latino vote, the Millennial vote, the women's vote, we don't know exactly what the composition will look like. But at this point in the race, it is close enough, I think this is a turnout game. How big of a difference a turnout operation can make, one to two points. If it's one to two points nationally, that's probably enough to put her over the top. We have to see how good the turnout operation really is.
BOLDUAN: Great to see you all. Thank you all so much. Appreciate it.
BERMAN: Guys, appreciate it.
A lot going on all of a sudden.
BOLDUAN: Yeah. Put on your seat belts, everybody.
BOLDUAN: His grandfather is a former president, his uncle a former president, his father a former governor. Now George P. Bush is hinting at who they will all vote for, for president. I got to say, it was a little bit of a news maker overnight.
BERMAN: I was wondering what word you would pick.
Also, breaking news out of Iowa. We are following this, this morning. The search for a cold-blooded cop killer may be over. A suspect now in custody after two separate ambush killings of police officers just minutes apart. We'll have details on the manhunt, what they have and know right now, ahead.
[11:25:56] BOLDUAN: Just six days to the election, we keep asking, who will win Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire --
BERMAN: Who will win the Bush family? That may be the biggest unknown of those four. George P. Bush, Jeb Bush's son, George P. is the land commissioner in Texas, he says he's voting the straight Republican ticket. He's going to vote for Donald Trump. He also said last night, remarkably, that he may be the only Bush who votes for Donald Trump. But he said out loud that his uncle George W. Bush and his grandfather, George H.W. Bush, could potentially vote for Hillary Clinton.
There's one person, one reporter, who knows the most about this on earth. It is CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel. The big news there is the possibility, and George P. brought it up,
that George W. could vote for Hillary Clinton.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's take a step back. He was answering a question and he said potentially. Then a reporter followed up and he said I was just speculating.
GANGEL: There is no gambling going on here. George P. is speculating.
GANGEL: Just speculating.
So here's what we know. George P. is voting for Trump. His grandfather, we confirmed several weeks ago, has privately told several people he's voting for Hillary. We know that.
I reached out to President George W. Bush's, 43's folks. They said he is not commenting. He's sitting on the sidelines. No comment on that.
I also coincidentally sent an e-mail to George P.'s father, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, and he has said, "I'm not voting for Trump or Hillary." I said, "Have you made up your mind?" Drum roll. E-mail back in two seconds, two words: "Secret ballot."
BERMAN: Wow. So that speaks volumes. George W. Bush's silence still speaks volumes.
GANGEL: Absolutely. Look, if you don't come out and say, and you are a former Republican president, that you are voting for the Republican nominee, I think that says it all.
BERMAN: There are some other Bushes a lot of people are interested in. Namely, Laura Bush, former first lady, and Barbara Bush, former first lady. Any news on them?
GANGEL: Laura Bush has been very quiet. I expect she will stay very quiet.
Barbara Bush last said that she was not going to vote for Donald Trump, that she was famously sick of him and she couldn't understand how anyone could vote for him. So look, I don't think -- we have a week to go here, a little less. I don't think we are going to hear publicly anything more from them unless George P. wants to speculate some more.
BOLDUAN: How about this one? Did you get any reaction from the family about George P. speculating publicly about what they are doing or not doing, considering it's clear they would love people to stop asking them? GANGEL: Right. They said they were laughing.
Look, it's very hard. I think that they don't -- we have seen a lot of Republicans come out against Trump, and the anger of the Republican Party for that. Whether or not those people were supporting Trump, they just don't want people publicly coming out. I think sitting on the sidelines.
BERMAN: Two things I sort of doubt. Number one, that George P. doesn't really know who his uncle is voting for. The second thing is they were laughing that he said it out loud.
GANGEL: No, they said they were laughing. I'm sticking with laughing.
BERMAN: Jamie Gangel, great to have you with us.
BOLDUAN: We do have breaking news. We do have breaking news. Happy birthday.
BERMAN: Oh, happy birthday, Jamie, 29.
GANGEL: Thank you. 29 and holding.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.
And we have this, four brand new polls from the critical battleground states of Pennsylvania Florida, Arizona, Nevada. You can't handle more polls but you need them. It's like air, like oxygen for us. We'll have them when we come back.
BERMAN: Plus, damage control. How should a candidate handle a crisis this late in an election? We will talk to a political operative who handled --