Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Less Than 48 Hours Until Election Day; FBI Director Announces Review of Additional E-Mails is Complete; FBI Stands By Original Decision of No Criminal Activity by Clinton. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 6, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from Washington. Less than 48 hours from Election Day, I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to a special edition of "The Situation Room."
And we start with breaking news on the FBI's surprising impact on the 2016 Presidential Election here in the United States.
It has now taken a very dramatic turn, with the FBI director James Comey now saying the FBI has found nothing in those new e-mails that changes their original decision that there was no criminal activity on the part of Hillary Clinton.
This news comes as the candidates make a final push and a final plea to voters. Take a look at this. You're looking at live pictures right now of a Hillary Clinton rally in Cleveland, also a Donald Trump event that starts next hour in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
But first, let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, first of all, let me read a passage from this new letter from FBI Director Comey.
"Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton."
Pamela, this is shocking. The revelation, the timing, all of this happening just two days before the election. Tell us more about the letter and, specifically, about the timing of Director Comey's conclusion.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Certainly, another curve ball from FBI Director James Comey, announcing today that the review is complete of these additional e- mails and the FBI will not change its initial decision of no charges against Hillary Clinton.
We're told from Law Enforcement sources that the reason this was done so quickly, in part, was because most of the new e-mails were duplicates. In other words, e-mails that the FBI had already reviewed as part of its initial private server investigation and there were several personal e-mails, as well.
But there was a large volume, as Director Comey says, in this letter to Congress, thousands of e-mails the FBI had to go to, and it is clear from talking to officials, the FBI was aware of how high the stakes were.
We know that Director Comey's letter to Congress about a week and a half ago really set off a political firestorm, especially among democrats.
And so the FBI wanted to complete this review as quickly as possible. But Wolf, it is a surprise how quickly it was done because last week, my colleague, Evan Perez, and I were hearing from FBI officials that it would likely not wrap up until after the election.
But, of course, Wolf, we're learning now from our sources that it didn't take as long as anticipated because most of the e-mails had already been reviewed and they were personal e-mails.
Of course, Wolf, this raises the question about Director Comey's initial action and why he sent that letter to Congress without knowing the significance of these e-mails.
We know the search warrant was issued after that letter was sent and then, of course, now we know the FBI has looked through these e-mails and determined there is really nothing new to change its initial recommendation.
And to think, Wolf, no matter who is elected president come Tuesday, it is going to put Director Comey in a very awkward spot, no matter if it is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, given all that has transpired recently especially, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, basically, over the past nine days, since the original letter was sent to the Congress on October 28th, FBI agents, Justice Department officials, they worked around the clock to go through the hundreds of thousands of e-mails on Anthony Weiner's computer to see if there was anything, anything at all that could have incriminated Hillary Clinton.
But they came up with the conclusion, same conclusion that Comey recommended to the Justice Department, to Congress back in July when he said she was extremely careless in dealing with classified information. But no reasonable prosecutor would recommend criminal charges. He's sticking to that original conclusion.
BROWN: That's right, Wolf. And I can tell you from talking to Law Enforcement officials, the FBI worked as quickly as it could, according to these people familiar with the matter. And, Wolf, the bar was always high for this recommendation from July to be changed because in these new e-mails, there would have to be information about intent that Secretary Clinton at the time knowingly and willingly sent classified information. We know, Wolf, from the prior instigation, that the FBI did uncover some classified information on that private server, but there was no recommendation of charges because the FBI Director Comey said could not prove intent.
And so, now we're learning, these e-mails that were uncovered -- these newly discovered e-mails, that they were from a laptop that was very old, we're told by sources about a decade old, and that most of them, Wolf, were duplicates and personal.
And so, we know that Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General who disagreed with Director Comey's initial letter to Congress about the findings, was on the same page with the FBI about the findings in this case and sending this letter to Congress saying that the recommendation has not changed.
One official told me tonight, Wolf, everyone is on the same page in the FBI and the Justice Department about how this has sort of wrapped up.
[17:05:00] BLITZER: And the political fallout will be significant. Pamela Brown, I know you're working your sources, we're getting more information all the time on the background, the story behind the story. I'm going to get back to you shortly.
But right now, we have more on the breaking news on the political impact of all of this. I want to bring in CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.
Gloria only two days to go, less than 48 hours, many ballots are already cast, more than 40 million already have been cast in early voting. So this letter, how far does it go in repairing the damage that was done to Hillary Clinton's campaign over these past nine days?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it is a little bit late, Wolf. And I think that Donald Trump is going to continue to talk about the e-mail issue. He's going to continue to talk about the Clinton Foundation.
Republican National Committee put out a statement where it mentioned the Clinton Foundation again. So, this argument against Hillary Clinton is not going to stop, and I just got off the phone with a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton who said that they're not going to say anything else about this, either, other than what they've been saying, which is that they're glad the issue was "resolved", and they want to go into the last 48 hours of this campaign with a positive message.
They don't want to be talking about her e-mails or anybody else's e- mails. They're going to go to New Hampshire with Khizr Khan. They're going to talk about what America stands for.
So some of their surrogates are clearly going to be asked about it and will talk about it, and you can assume that republicans are going to say that the FBI is in cahoots with Hillary Clinton now. But I think that as for the Clinton campaign, they're going to continue on to try and make their positive message now for the last two days.
BLITZER: We're standing by to speak with Jason Miller, the Trump Senior Communications Adviser. We'll get the Trump campaign's official reaction to what has just unfolded, a major, major development.
Dana, republicans are already issuing some reaction. The RNC, the Speaker of the House, to this announcement, this decision by the FBI Director James Comey, that his original conclusion back in July still stands after these nine days of reviewing all the e-mails on Anthony Weiner's computer.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And Gloria mentioned the republican national committee statement we're hearing from other republicans, Donald Trump himself, although he didn't mention this, he kept the story going in terms of hitting Hillary Clinton on e-mails but also on the broader question of, as he says now, drain the swamp.
From the republican perspective, they are saying that this doesn't change their overall message, that Hillary Clinton is an insider, that she is part of the problem, and Donald Trump is not.
He is obviously not a politician or hadn't been since he first ran for office a year and a half ago.
So, the question though is whether or not that is going to resonate given this news. And I think the bad news for Hillary Clinton is probably, yes, because at this point the specifics might not matter as much as the noise.
And when I say noise, I mean people hear FBI, Hillary Clinton, e- mails. And they've been hearing about it pretty intensely since a week ago, Friday. And that is never a good thing for a candidate with the message and the subject to be about what she did or did not do. Both sides will tell you that.
And the reality also is that so many people, millions of people, have already gone and voted, and you can't take that back. As I said early, you can't put back that toothpaste back in the tube.
So, we'll see how this plays out and whether or not the fact that James Comey did this with just, you know, 36 hours to spare, is going to make much of a difference in the minds of those who are reluctant to vote for somebody like Hillary Clinton because of the cloud that is over her, never mind the specifics.
BLITZER: I want both of you to stand by, Gloria and Dana. There is much more coming in. Moments after the new FBI letter went public, we heard this from the Clinton campaign. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER PALMIERI, CLINTON CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: We have seen Director Comey's latest letter to The Hill. We were glad to see that he has found, as we were confident that he would, that he has confirmed the conclusions that he really reached in July. And we're glad that this matter is resolved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:10:00] BLITZER: We're standing by. We'll also be speaking live with Jason Miller, he is the Trump Senior Communications Adviser, momentarily.
But joining us now is the North Carolina Democrat Congressman G.K. Butterfield. He is the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He is a Hillary Clinton supporter. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
G.K. BUTTERFIELD, NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: Thank you. Good afternoon.
BLITZER: What's your initial reaction to this new Comey letter, just released today, saying the FBI's July conclusion stands? The conclusion that Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server was careless, extremely careless, in the FBI Director's words, but not criminal. He's still standing by that after reviewing all the new e- mails discovered on Anthony Weiner's computer. Your reaction?
BUTTERFIELD: Wolf, I read Director Comey's letter a few minute ago, and it is finally over. The distraction of the e-mails had really distracted from the campaign but we are certainly glad that it is over. Now, we can get back to the central issues that faced this campaign.
Director Comey could have done this weeks ago. Rather than writing a better to Congress and stirring up the presidential race, he could have taken the same (ph) eight or nine days, reviewed the e-mails and made the pronouncements then. I was very disappointed that he stirred up the presidential election, but the good news is that this is now over and now the American people can concentrate on choosing the next president and Commander in Chief.
BLITZER: Does your confidence in the FBI Director, has it been renewed?
BUTTERFIELD: Director Comey has a good reputation and he has been a Law Enforcement professional for many years. I'm still evaluating why he would send such a letter to Congress, but we are going to put that aside for right now. We are going to concentrate on this election in taking the American people in a positive direction.
BLITZER: As you know, since the original letter came out at the end of October, a lot of ballots have been cast, about 40 million or so. Maybe another 70 or 80 million will still vote between now and Election Day.
Does this new letter from Comey, nine days after the original letter, does it really undo some of the damage that was done to the Clinton campaign? BUTTERFIELD: Well, I'm not sure the letter that Comey sent to
Congress really did any significant damage to the campaign. The American people saw it for what it was.
Right here in North Carolina, we've had 2.8 million people to already cast their ballots here in our state. Forty-two percent of democrats have already voted compared to 32 percent for republicans.
The voters of North Carolina are engaged and involved in this election as they are all across the country, and we are poised to see one of the greatest turnouts that America has ever seen.
BLITZER: The reason I say it may have damaged the Clinton campaign is, you know, Congressman, is the polls in several key battleground states as well as nationally it seemed to have narrowed over these past few days.
You've seen those polls as well. I assume that the FBI letter may have had a negative impact on Hillary Clinton campaign but you're not confident of that?
BUTTERFIELD: I'm not confident of that. It may have had a modest effect on the polling but I think all presidential elections such as this, narrow right at the end. We've seen that historically. There have been a few exceptions now through the years, but all presidential races are very close at the end.
Hillary Clinton has a decided advantage now. The letter issue is no longer -- the e-mail issue is no longer a distraction. Now, we can get ready to turn out our base vote and to provide free public college education for our young people and to just move this country forward and get all the division behind us. We're ready for Tuesday.
BLITZER: Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon says the campaign always thought this would be the outcome. The outcome that Comey just announced that Trump campaign chief, Kellyanne Conway, she is the campaign manager, she tweeted this in response. "Then why did you, your colleagues, and your candidate attack Comey and his credibility?" I'd like you to respond to that.
BUTTERFIELD: We knew this would be the outcome. This matter was closed back in July. And the fact that Director Comey sent a letter to Congress and just stirred up the presidential race is a real confusing matter to me.
But that is behind us now. We're ready to move on. I talked to the campaign in Brooklyn a few minutes ago. We're not giving a high-five on this. This is not what this is all about.
It should have never been a distraction in the beginning. We are moving forward. Secretary Clinton is continuing to travel the country and we're ready to face the American people on Tuesday, and I'm confident we will win this election. Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States because people are excited about this campaign.
BLITZER: Congressman Butterfield, thanks very much for joining us.
BUTTERFIELD: Thank you.
[17:15:00] BLITZER: When we come back, what if the FBI's e-mail review influenced early voters, and some 40 million Americans have already voted. Has the damage already been done to the Clinton campaign? We're going to talk about this, much more on the breaking news. Our political experts, they are standing by. Lots happening. We'll be right back.
[17:20:00] BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "Situation Room." We're following totally unexpected, major breaking news. Another dramatic twist in the race for the White House, less than two days before the election.
The FBI Director James Comey has just told Congress a review of newly discovered e-mails has turned up nothing new in connection with the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while she was Secretary of State.
Comey says, he stands by his July decision that no criminal charges should be filed against Hillary Clinton and the case for all practical purposes right now is closed. This comes nine days after Comey upended the White House race with his controversial revelation of the new e- mails before they were reviewed.
It also gave new momentum to Donald Trump's campaign, which used the issue to chip away at Hillary Clinton's lead in the polls.
We're standing by for a Trump rally in Sterling Heights, Michigan to hear directly from the candidate. We want to hear what he has to say about this major new development.
We're also going to be speaking momentarily with Jason Miller, the Senior Communications Director for the Trump campaign. We will get the reaction from the Trump campaign from Jason Miller, he will be joining us momentarily.
But in the meantime, let's bring in our panel, CNN Political Analyst Rebecca Berg and David Gregory, and Executive Editor of CNN Politics Mark Preston; also with CNN Political Commentator, David Swerdlick.
Mark, this review, initial review, nine days ago, seemed to have had an impact in the polls. They tightened dramatically in various battleground states as well as nationally.
Two days to go, 36 hours, or whatever. What is going to be the impact of this final letter from Comey saying "case closed"?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, a couple things. One, I don't think we're expected to hear from Hillary Clinton on it. She doesn't want to continue to discuss it and allow her surrogates to do the talking, at least that what our reporting from our reporters were following Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. But two things, there are going to be votes that Hillary Clinton will never get back now, that could be from republicans who were not necessarily enamored with Donald Trump, was thinking about going to Hillary Clinton but saw the Comey situation and said, I'm going to go cast a ballot, an early ballot in a key battleground state.
What's interesting, too, though, is three states we need to look at as we head into Election Day because of this news, New Hampshire, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Three states that did not allow early voting.
so right now, the Clinton campaign has about 48 hours to try to turn this message around and try to hammer home the fact that she did nothing wrong, at least in the eyes of the FBI, when it comes to these e-mails.
BLITZER: It is a pretty extraordinary development. Rebecca, I don't remember a time when something like this has happened in the final few days of a campaign, the Director of the FBI directly getting involved.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It really is extraordinary. The development today, I think, will confirm at least for a lot of democrats that maybe Comey should not have sent that first letter in the first place, because there was nothing there.
And democrats, I think in the coming days are going to really drive home this message that he should have investigated those e-mails first then, you know, updated Congress as was necessary, but I think the development today makes it very difficult for the FBI and Comey to defend the decision they made initially.
But politically, from the perspective of Hillary Clinton, this is a week that her campaign never gets back, a week when she wanted to be making her closing message, really driving home the positive themes of her campaign. And instead, democrats and Hillary Clinton were wrapped up trying to defend themselves against this, and so that's going to be seven critical days in the final stretch of the campaign. There is nothing they can do about the lost time.
BLITZER: Everybody stand by. Jason Miller is joining us right now. He is the Trump campaign Senior Communications Adviser. Jason, thanks very much for joining us.
JASON MILLER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Wolf, thank you for having me.
BLITZER: All right. So you know, you've heard the letter. It's a very short letter from James Comey, just released, sent to members of Congress, republican chairmen, democratic ranking members in the House of Representatives and the Senate saying based on the FBI's review over these nine days, of all the e-mails on Anthony Weiner's computer, they haven't changed their initial conclusions back in July that, yes, Hillary Clinton acted extremely careless in dealing with classified information, but no reasonable prosecutor would recommend criminal charges. I'd love to get the Trump campaign's reaction. MILLER: Well, Wolf, we don't think anything has changed here. We
thought that Director Comey and the FBI were wrong when they made their initial recommendation in July and we think that they're wrong now.
Unlike the democrats, who had their heads spun around so fast last week that they caught whiplash trying to change their position to liking Director Comey to disliking him to liking him again.
Let's talk and just look at the facts for a moment here. They are still in active investigation into the Clinton Foundation. I think most Americans have looked at this case and realized that there is something corrupt, there is something shady with the entire Clinton Foundation and this outside server that was set up.
Going back to Director Comey's words of extremely careless and reckless, this was not done on the up and up, Wolf. I think most Americans get that there is some serious ethical issues that will continue and should Secretary Clinton, heaven forbid, be elected president, these concerns and issues will run for a long time.
This will be a cloud that will be hanging over for quite a long time. And so there really only is one option from our view point and that is to vote for Mr. Trump who we think will come in and bring a whole fresh, new slate and drain the swamp, as he talks about on the campaign trail.
[17:25:00] BLITZER: You're right that the democrats changed their tune from July when they were relieved. No criminal charges were recommended to about the end of October when he said he would take another look at the newly discovered e-mails on Anthony Weiner's computer.
And there was a very pro-Comey comment back in July, anti-Comey comment since then, but Mr. Trump also, he flipped on this. He was very critical in all the weeks following the July conclusion.
Then over the past nine days, he was very positive, he was very welcoming to Director Comey, expressing gratitude in effect (ph) to him and the FBI agents. So, we saw a flip on both sides. I think you'll agree, right?
MILLER: No, not at all, Wolf. Mr. Trump was very clear where he said all along that he thought that the FBI got this wrong back in July, and there's no way that we could have all of these deleted e-mails, that we could have five different people taking the Fifth in this investigation.
Clearly, we know all these e-mails weren't about yoga and about wedding planning. And then to find out the 650,000 -- how they went through 650,000 e-mails all in one week.
But the fact that we had sensitive information ending up on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, I think, is just unconscionable. Plus, as you probably thought today, Wolf, the front page story of the "New York Post" talking about how Secretary Clinton has her maid print off classified information.
It shows that Secretary Clinton was reckless and careless, absolute disregard for top national security information and then get -- that they don't talk about the investigation that is very clearly still going into the Clinton Foundation where they used it as a pay-to-play operation to help them go from being worth nothing when they left the White House to being worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
BLITZER: Is there also an FBI investigation underway now into the Trump campaign or at least some officials from the Trump campaign and their relationship with Putin, with Russia?
MILLER: No. Wolf, that's -- no. That's even been debunked by the "New York Times," which is by no means a fan of Mr. Trump's. But, no, that's -- I think that is the best that the democrats and Secretary Clinton can do to try to take away the attention from the fact that they have this big, ethical cloud hanging over their campaign.
As long as this investigation is still continuing into the Clintons, and you can't act like it is finished up, Wolf, because it is not, there is a real serious issue. We saw the Clinton, Inc. Memo, the Doug Band put together how the Clintons could go -- how they could make $66 million in this whole pay-to-play operation, and these are some real concerns, I think, the American people have heading into Tuesday.
BLITZER: Does the Trump campaign, specifically Donald Trump, have confidence in Director Comey?
MILLER: What we want to see is the FBI and the DOJ do their jobs. We want to see justice being served, we want to see transparency and accountability of the process.
And I think what really is frustrating to most Americans, and this is part of the reason why Mr. Trump has been so successful on the campaign trail, is they view this as a rigged system. They see too much funny business.
How do you go from all of this cloud and this pile of corruption to saying that they're not going to recommend charges even though they were extremely careless and reckless with her activities to then saying, 11 days out, we found these 650,000 e-mails on the laptop, from the spouse of a top aide, to then going back to the fact that nothing is wrong, trying to put toothpaste back in the tube?
It doesn't stack up. And I think most Americans look at this again, Wolf, and just shake their heads and say, you know what? We saw the drama with the Clintons in the '90s. We don't need to see it again. Let's bring in somebody new who will take us in a better direction.
BLITZER: So what will be the question, does the Trump campaign, specifically Mr. Trump, have confidence in the FBI Director James Comey, that he is doing a good job?
MILLER: It's not my place to comment and say if Director Comey is doing a good job or not a good job. But I think it is clear that the system is rigged, it is clear that this investigation has not been handled very well from the beginning.
I think most Americans would look and say, how the heck do you get through 650,000 e-mails in a week? And just because many of them were duplicates from before, I'm not sure it really stacks up that there is nothing that was concerning in them.
But again, going back to the fact that there is still an active investigation into the Clinton Foundation should be troubling.
BLITZER: They say in the letter James Comey wrote to the chairman and ranking members of all these congressional committees, they said the FBI investigator team has been working around the clock over these past nine days to process and review a large volume of e-mails from a device -- in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation, referring to the Anthony Weiner investigation that he was sexting, if you will, with a minor, a 15-year-old girl.
They said that officials -- FBI officials said they had all sorts of software to review all those hundreds of thousands of e-mails, and this is the bottom-line conclusion, based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.
So where does the Trump campaign go from here, Jason? Are we going to hear directly from Donald Trump speak about this? He spoke an hour or so ago, didn't refer to it. In his next appearance, will we hear him say anything about this?
[17:30:00] MILLER: I would definitely expect Mr. Trump to bring this issue up on the campaign trail and I would expect for Mr. Trump to bring up the fact that there is still an active investigation, an ongoing investigation, into the Clinton Foundation.
And the fact that we have this rigged system. This thing has stunk from the beginning. There should have been charges that should have been brought against Secretary Clinton.
And, Wolf, one thing that I would ask is if this were to happen to anybody else, if there were a spouse of the state department staffer or employee who shared this confidential information or sensitive information with other people, they'd be run out of town in a minute, and we don't understand how Secretary Clinton can get away with this, and I would say that most people would probably agree and think the same thing.
BLITZER: well, the FBI director and his team of FBI agents, they concluded, yes, she was extremely careless in dealing with sensitive, classified information, but he says that no reasonable prosecutor would go ahead and recommend criminal charges. He is sticking by that in this letter he just sent to the U.S. Congress.
MILLER: But they ...
BLITZER: But Jason Miller ... (CROSSTALK)
MILLER: But, Wolf, they haven't ...
MILLER: ... they haven't cleared the other investigation. There is still an ongoing investigation into the Clinton -- into the Foundation. And again, this isn't something that is going to get wrapped up any time soon.
I really think the people do need to keep that in mind as they head into the voting booth on Tuesday as this cloud will hang over the Clintons for a long time.
BLITZER: I just -- I suspect we just heard some thoughts that Donald Trump will publicly relay when he goes public in his next address. Jason, thanks very much.
MILLER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's bring back our panel and get some reaction. David Gregory, what do you think about the Trump campaign's reaction to this Comey letter?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I wonder how the Trump campaign feels about Chris Christie, who is running their transition, whose aides were just convicted in the Bridgegate scandal, and whether he still has credibility in that role.
BLITZER: ... the presidential running mate ...
GREGORY: Mike Pence said they'd stand by him. Why? Because Christie has not been charged with any crime, which is similar to what the FBI Director just concluded about Hillary Clinton.
So Jason Miller is making a political argument, he is making an ethical argument against Hillary Clinton. Many can and should make a determination about Hillary Clinton based on what we know thus far.
But here are the facts. Jim Comey, as head of the FBI, is not a person, it is an institution. But Jim Comey made this about him.
Going back to July, he had a revolt within the FBI. Agents who hate the Clintons, who felt they should be charged with a crime, and he felt the need, and I know this from my own (ph) reporting to publicly justify why he didn't feel there were any charges that should be recommended to quell this revolt inside.
He didn't please anybody; everybody criticized him. He then put his thumb on the scale again nine days ago, could have investigated this, could have figured it out without impacting the election yet chose not to.
So that is the part that is unprecedented. If you are a republican or a democrat, you got to look past this year's politics. You don't want an FBI director impacting an election. The rule of law is more important than this particular election, and it seems to me, what Jason Miller is saying, is they're not too concerned about that.
And that's a real problem I that the FBI director allowed himself to be inserted into this.
I covered the Bush White House. I remember when a senior adviser, Karl Rove, was very close to being indicted. He was not charged with any crime but they were very anxious and they were very critical of the media and the special prosecutor for so much scrutiny about that investigation when it didn't result in criminal charges. That is our American system.
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, you've been watching this very, very closely. As far as the FBI director is concerned, the Clinton e-mail private server investigation, case closed.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, case closed, and I think that David makes a good point about going back to July when the -- when Director Comey initially said, case closed. Making the sort of unprecedented speech, explaining why, for the reasons that you just said.
I do think, though, that once we got to where we are now, nine days ago, it could be argued either way that it would have been putting his thumb on the scale again to not send the letter that he sent nine days ago, just as it is being argued by democrats, which, and I think they have an argument, that he put his thumb on the scale by sending that letter to Congress.
PRESTON: But you know, Wolf, it is worth noting that once he came out last week and said this ...
BLITZER: You mean the FBI director?
PRESTON: The FBI director, Comey came out and said it. He had to come out today and say what the conclusion of what the investigation was, right? I mean, whether republicans are happy about it or democrats are unhappy about it, we're seeing quite a bit of reaction right now, where Comey is taking incoming from both sides right now.
He is caught in a crossfire and is really going to have a difficult time, I think, you know, after this election and whoever is elected president in a new administration.
The fact of the matter is he needed to come out and say what his investigators found.
[17:35:00] GREGORY: But there was no reason for him to come out in July and say that no prosecutor would have filed charges. PRESTON: Right.
GREGORY: I know you're not. I'm just saying that it's just worth being consistent about it. This is not a pro-Hillary or anti-Hillary. He went beyond the scope. If you don't charge, you don't talk.
GREGORY: That is what law enforcement does. That is what the legal community does. That is the standard. He had no reason to lean so far forward and say nobody would have charged her. He was trying to justify his decision to republicans who are critical and agents who are critical, and then once you start, you can't stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
GREGORY: Because he should have just stayed quiet. If there were new e-mails, let's investigate those. Let's make sure we figure it out of there is something important (inaudible).
BLITZER: Rebecca, what he promised members of congress after his initial conclusion, no criminal charges should be filed. He said if it changes, if something were to change in our investigation, I would report back to you.
That's why he did nine days ago, report back and say, you know what, there is something that developed. We're taking a look at it. I'll get back to you.
They worked over these nine days around the clock. Who knows how many FBI agents and justice department officials? Who knows how much software was created to go through hundreds of thousands of e-mails discovered on Anthony Weiner's computer. But they did come up with the conclusion. Once they came up with this conclusion today, he had no choice he had to inform Congress.
BERG: Absolutely. As we've been saying, because he sent that letter roughly one week ago, giving them that first update, of course if they concluded their investigation or their reading of these e-mails prior to the election, they would need to give another update.
But I think what many democrats are arguing is that even if he did pledge to keep Congress updated, maybe it would have been prudent to wait until he knew whether anything was in this new batch of e-mails. The FBI could have pursued the warrant behind the scenes to look into these e-mails. That is all done is secretly and then they could have discovered whether there is anything in this new batch of e-mails, and now we see that there was not.
BLITZER: All right, guys, everybody, stay with us. We have a lot more coming up including Mike Pence, the republican Vice Presidential running mate speaking right now.
We're going to see if he says anything on this major new development in the Clinton e-mail affair. Donald Trump also has been using this e-mail review as an attack line since the news broke nine days ago. He's getting ready to speak at a rally in Sterling Heights, Michigan. We'll see if he comments directly on the breaking news.
[17:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The FBI Director James Comey has now confirmed the FBI has found nothing in the new Clinton e-mails that they've been combing through over the past nine days. Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence, he is in Hickory, North Carolina, right now. He's just responded to the breaking news. Listen to this.
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), U.S. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... so while she was secretary of state of the United States, in charge of all the foreign policy of our country, she had a private server over here.
Excuse me, I skipped over it, she had a personal family foundation that -- thank you -- that took millions of dollars from foreign governments. And in between those two things, she had that private server.
Now, apparently, she had a private server to kind of keep out of our reach, whatever was going on when she was Secretary of State and had a private foundation.
And then it was discovered by the media that she had that private server, she used high technology and hammers to try and get rid of all of it. I mean, you know, the FBI last summer concluded that Hillary Clinton has classified documents on that private server was extremely careless.
And I guess today, I don't know if you heard, today they announced that they had not changed that conclusion.
PENCE: Well, you know, mishandling a classified information is a crime.
PENCE: And Hillary Clinton, let's remember what we know, Hillary Clinton said that she never sent or received any classified information and the director of the FBI told the Congress, classified information was sent.
Hillary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified on her e- mails, sent or received. Now the FBI director told the Congress that's not true.
BLITZER: Mike Pence speaking in Hickory, North Carolina, just moments ago, reacting to the FBI director's letter to Congress, saying case closed as far as the Hillary e-mail server is concerned.
David Gregory, the reaction from the Trump campaign is coming in. We heard from Jason Miller and Mike Pence. I think momentarily, pretty soon, we're going to be hearing directly from Donald Trump.
GREGORY: Again, if you want to make the case that she's unethical, untrustworthy, that she did something -- she was wrong, more power to you. And a lot of people will agree with you and can go to the polls and vote against Hillary Clinton.
But what Mike Pence just said is dangerous. It is just like Trump saying I will not accept the results of the election. The FBI director has recommended no charges.
We live in a society that's governed by the rule of law and by an independent FBI director who has a ten-year term. And an Attorney General. For him to say that this is all rigged and you can't believe that, and he is going to pronounce, as a guy who is a former congressman and he is a governor, he knows what is legal and not legal, that is not just irresponsible, it is dangerous for our country.
We've got to get beyond republican and democrat here. They will rue the day they are in a similar situation and you have somebody playing with the role of the FBI director or the Attorney General. And that's what they're doing there. Vote against Hillary Clinton based on the server, that's fine. Bad judgment, that's fine. Don't start throwing out American rule of law because the FBI director made this conclusion. That is dangerous.
[17:45:00] BLITZER: The reaction from the Clinton campaign, Rebecca, has been relatively muted. They've said, yes, they welcome the conclusion. They don't really want to talk that much about it and they're saying already that we're not going to hear much from Hillary Clinton's director.
BERG: Well, no. And that's not a huge surprise, at least not to me, Wolf, because they did not want to be talking about this during the past week. They wanted to focus on their closing argument, close with a positive message, Hillary Clinton's case for why she should be president. Not defending her and defending the state department over this issue.
It was really a detour that none of them wanted and so they are trying to forge ahead during these last two days of the election trying to refocus the campaign on what they wanted to be focused on for the past week in the first place.
And frankly, it's better for them, and we've seen this reflected in the polling, as long as this is out of the news and people are talking about this as little as possible, that tends to help Hillary Clinton in the polling because then we can return to talking about some of Donald Trump's setbacks and some of the flaws he has had throughout this campaign.
BLITZER: Historians. Mark, we'll review this whole matter, depending on what happens Tuesday.
PRESTON: Yeah. And you know what? They're going to say, wow! What a crazy election.
You know, but I think back to David's point right now, I think it is incredibly dangerous right now to be politicizing the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Both political parties, mind you, not just republicans but we did see Hillary Clinton supporters coming out and saying that Comey was doing it for political reasons.
Now, everything we know about Comey is that he is not necessarily political. He may be a republican but his tenure at the FBI hasn't been one of politicization. He might have an error in judgment and I think we all can agree that was an error in judgment of how he handled this, but the politicization of the Justice Department is really, really dangerous.
BLITZER: He is a former U.S. attorney, a former Deputy Attorney General, now the FBI director. Until now, he's had a pretty good reputation.
SWERDLICK: Right. And you've seen the politicization in the way that back in the summer, republicans were more critical of Comey for coming out and making that unprecedented tweet.
Now, democrats have been a little bit more critical, and now today, republicans are coming back and being critical. I agree with David though, that what Governor Pence said is dangerous for the reasons you stated.
It is not just saying that, as a matter of politics, we want to focus on, as Jason Miller did, the ongoing investigation about the Clinton Foundation. It is saying that they don't accept the results of an investigation by the FBI.
GREGORY: And just quickly, interesting challenge. If Hillary Clinton becomes president, there will be a temptation among those around her to go after Comey, right? Maybe even seek to fire him, which will be a political disaster.
The real challenge for her is if she is president, does she call him in and publicly say, you know what, I disagree with how you handled that investigation, President Obama disagreed, but you are my guy, and you are America's FBI director, and I'm going to embrace you.
If she doesn't do that, the revolt issue trying to take action against him, the revolt within the bureau will get even worse.
BLITZER: We're getting a lot of reaction coming into the "Situation Room." Democrats and republicans from both campaigns, let's take a quick break now, we'll resume our special coverage right after this.
[17:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're standing by to hear directly from Donald Trump. He's about to hold a rally in Michigan. We'll have special coverage of that. CNN's Jeffrey Schneider is on the scene for us.
Jessica, so far, no reaction directly from Trump to the breaking news about the letter that the FBI director sent to Congress, right?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. you know, at his rally in Minnesota, Donald Trump didn't directly address it. In fact, his plane touching down in Minnesota took minutes after that news broke that the expedited e-mail review has turned nothing. So, we're waiting to hear from Donald Trump right here in Sterling Heights, Michigan, scheduled in the next hour or so.
The question is will he address it here? Now, interestingly, Kellyanne Conway has not stayed silent about this. She's taken to twitter twice. And one of the message they keep reiterating that republicans have been reiterating since July I that the establishment of that private e-mail server from Hillary Clinton was extremely careless in the words of James Comey, and that, in fact, was the message that Donald Trump zeroed in on when we went to Minnesota just a little while ago. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R),. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton will be under investigation for a long, long time for her many crimes against our nation, our people, our democracy likely concluding a criminal trial.
TRUMP: You have to understand, it's a rigged system and she's protected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:55:00] SCHNEIDER: And we're already hearing those chants of "lock her up" here in Michigan even though Donald Trump isn't even here yet. You know, some of the people in this crowd is not even aware of those latest revelations, James Comey's second letter saying that the e- mail's expedited review did not reveal anything.
You know, of course this county, Macomb County, that Donald Trump will be here in just a little while, a very important county, if he does try to take Michigan, if he's successful, Macomb County, the home of so-called Reagan democrats, it could be crucial to him if he wants to take this state on Tuesday. Wolf?
BLITZER: You're doing as much as you can in Michigan right now. That crowd behind you, Jessica, they look pretty excited right now. I assume it's a very large crowd, right?.
SCHNEIDER: Yes. Extremely large crowd. These people have been lined up to get in here since 1 o'clock. They opened the doors here around 2:30. A very excited crowd. They have been chanting over and over again, "lock her up."
But like I said, the news is just starting to trickle out here. They were inside this venue when word came out that that expedited e-mail review had not uncovered anything. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Jessica Schneider in Sterling Heights from Michigan. We're standing by to hear directly from Donald Trump. We'll hear what he has to say about this breaking news development.
Take a look at this. We got some live pictures coming in right now from Hickory, North Carolina, where republican vice presidential candidate, Mike Pence, he's holding his own rally.
This hour (ph), we just heard what he has to say about the FBI's conclusion, that case closed as far as the e-mail -- Hillary Clinton's e-mail server, is concerned. They have investigated over the past nine days, found nothing worth reopening in this case.
North Carolina, by the way, one of the key battleground states, has been getting a lot of attention from both campaigns.
Right now, it's a close race in our latest CNN poll of polls in North Carolina. Let's go our national correspondent Gary Tuchman who is in Charlotte, North Carolina for us over the phone (ph) where Jon Bon Jovi is performing in support of Hillary Clinton and the North Carolina democratic party tonight.
So, what kind of enthusiasm, Gary, are we seeing where you are?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Like elsewhere in the United States, there are many people here in North Carolina who are not enthusiastic about this election because of the tone of it (ph), but not these people. These are Hillary Clinton partisans (ph) and they are getting ready, as you said, Wolf, to see Jon Bon Jovi inside the theater here. People in line and many of these people got in line knowing nothing about the FBI letter and just learning about it while they have been standing in line and needless to say, there's a lot of very happy people. Like, for example, I was talking to these folks earlier, mother and daughter?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir (ph).
TUCHMAN: OK. And I want to ask you when you heard the news, while you're waiting on line here, what did you think about the FBI director's letter?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought it was exactly the right timing. and it shouldn't -- the investigation shouldn't have been re-opened in the first place. And I was thrilled that it happened today while we're standing in line.
TUCHMA: Do you think it will make a difference for her, Hillary Clinton? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it will make a difference. I mean, it's
really close, of course, to the election, but I definitely think it will make a difference.
TUCHMAN: And tell me, how old are you? What's your first name, by the way?
RACHEL: I'm 20. Rachel (ph).
TUCHMAN: You're name is Twenty of your name is Rachel (ph)?
Rachel: No. My name is Rachel.
TUCHMAN: You're 20. OK, I'm just joking around there Rachel. Is this going to be your first presidential election? Are you voting?
RACHEL: It is.
TUCHMAN: And when you heard this news, what did you think?
RACHEL: I mean, it's awesome. It's exciting. Perfect timing, I think, I agree as well. I haven't voted yet because I'm waiting for like the full effects on Election Day, so ...
TUCHMAN: Do you think your friends who are undecided maybe or who are voting for (ph) Trump might switch?
RACHEL: Oh, I hope so.
TUCHMAN: I mean, certainly, do you think that you talked to many of your friends who are supporting Trump?
RACHEL: Not really, honestly. It's like most -- it's really like down low. In my apartment complex, though (ph).
TUCHMAN: What's the down low?
RACHEL: it's just like most of them are like Trump supporters, so I don't really, like ...
TUCHMAN: You don't walk?
RACHEL: ... talk about it.
TUCHMAN: It's been interesting. Thank you, ladies. We have seen this all throughout the election for weeks and months now that there's a lot of antagonism between people who used to be friends who support Trump and support Clinton. It's very sudden a lot of ways (ph), but that's what happens with American politics sometimes. I can tell you here in north Carolina, every early voting, there had two weeks and two days for early voting. Yesterday, there were polling places, Wolf, it closed at 1 o'clock but they allow you to vote if you get in line by 1:00 and were there 6:15 and there were still 50 people in line. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Has Jon Bon Jovi already performed or are they waiting for him to start?
TUCHMAN: (Inaudible) didn't play Wolf, and that's very important, Jon Bon Jovi performs an hour from now. So they are waiting in line to go inside the stadium and see the New Jersey man, Jon Bon Jovi performing here in North Carolina.
BLITZER: Enjoy the concert. I'm sure you will. All right, thanks very much. Gary Tuchman joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina.
It's all been leading up to this, Election Day in America. We are going to have every race, every result. Stay with CNN until the last vote is cast. All day coverage this coming Tuesday.
The next hour of our special "Situation Room" starts right now.
[18:00:00] Good evening. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. It's 6:00 p.m. right here in the nation's capital. We're following breaking news in the race for president of the United States.
Less than 48 hours before the election. The FBI Director James Comey announcing the latest review of Hillary Clinton's e-mail issue is that review is now complete.
In a letter to congress, Comey said, he has not changed his conclusion from July that there was no evidence of criminal activity in those documents. Certainly, a sigh of relief for the ...