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EARLY START

November Surprise: FBI Director Recommends No Charges; Sources: Investigators Worked Around the Clock to Sift Through E-mails; Clinton Campaigns with LeBron James in Ohio. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 7, 2016 - 03:00   ET

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


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[03:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: November surprise, cloud lifted, FBI Director James Comey with a new dramatic announcement in the Clinton e-mail investigation, less than 48 hours before voters head to the polls.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. A very special edition of EARLY START. It is Monday, November 7, it is 3 a.m. in the eastern this morning. With hours to go in the presidential race, both campaigns are dealing with what might be the biggest never mind in campaign history.

Nine days after he turned the 2016 race upside down with a surprising announcement that FBI agents were reviewing newly discovered e-mails from Hillary Clinton server, the FBI Director James Comey alerted the Congress that the review is over and after all that, nothing.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Comey said, "Based on our review we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton."

Now, law enforcement sources tell CNN that investigators worked around the clock to sift through thousands of e-mails now that the investigation wrapped up quicker than expected because most of the e- mails were personal or duplicate of those already looked at.

And while the Clinton campaign no doubt welcomes what amounts of vindication big questions still remain about whether the FBI director should have set off this nine-day war win to begin with.

ROMANS: All right. All of this is happening as we're now in the final full day of campaigning with the campaigns and candidates sprinting to the finish. CNN of course is everywhere this morning following every 3 a.m. twist and turn.

Let's start with the Clinton campaign CNN's Phil Mattingly has been following the latest development and joins us now. Good morning, Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Christine. Look, relief probably one way to describe where the Clinton campaign after -- is after yesterday. But also frustration and very real concern about the lingering damage of what actually happened nine days ago when that letter was set.

However, the campaign itself not willing to talk` about it much, and there's a good reason. They still want this to be a referendum about Donald Trump. Something Hillary Clinton highlighted last night in New Hampshire. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will have some work to do to bring about healing and reconciliation after this election. This election is a moment of reckoning. It is a choice between division or unity, between strong, steady leadership or a loose cannon who could put everything at risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And, guys, as you know, this is it. This is the final stretch, and this is how you close out match. And why the Clinton campaign doesn't want to spend any more time talking about the FBI, talking about James Comey. What they do want to talk about is Donald Trump and how they finish off this race.

How are they going to do it today, three crucial states, Michigan which all of a sudden turned into a very real battleground over the course in the last week or so, maybe because of that FBI letter. Also two rallies in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, all three of those states should Clinton win would lock up the election for her. Crucial final trips for the Clinton campaign, guys.

BERMAN: Interesting as you should go out of the Grand Rapids, though. The republican part of Michigan there which does show that this coalition they're all scrambled right now.

MATTINGLY: It's a different map.

BERMAN: Right.

MATTINGLY: A different electorate, no question.

BERMAN: All right. Donald Trump essentially pulled an all-nighter. He had a whole bunch of event, including this one which wrapped up in Virginia really just a little time ago.

By the way, not many political figures are neither either of the aisle right now, I think Donald Trump can win Virginia. Nevertheless, he was there until a view hours ago.

Donald Trump has been slamming the decision by the FBI director. He essentially says Hillary Clinton is guilty no matter what.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty here with us at the desk with the latest updates.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. I said very clear that Donald Trump is not letting go of this messaging against Hillary Clinton. At his rallies all day yesterday, he continued to bring up that Clinton has been the subject of FBI investigations, of course very notably leaving out that she has now been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Now he did not directly bring up FBI Director Comey's announcement. He didn't mention his name once, but he really tried to downplay the significance of really casting doubt on the investigation and the conclusions that Comey saying at one point you can't review 650,000 e- mails in just a short span of eight days.

Here's Trump last night in Leesburg, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a rigged system. Hillary Clinton is guilty, she knows it, the FBI knows it. The people, the FBI, they know it. It's -- I think it's very embarrassing to them and now it's up to the American people to deliver the justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: And that rally in Leesburg, Virginia wrapped up only about two hours ago and the mad dash for Donald Trump today continue. And I want to show you a snap shot of where he's campaigning.

[03:05:05] You have the map where you can see for him in Florida, North Carolina, then he's on to Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Michigan. These are curious late in the game stop by the Trump campaign.

This is a state that hasn't voted republican since 1988. The Trump campaign here clearly sense some opportunity that's why they're having this symbolic last closing message argument tonight in Michigan. John?

BERMAN: All right. Sunlen, thanks so much. Great to have you here with us.

ROMANS: Nice to you. All right. One of the state's everyone is watching this one in Pennsylvania, both candidates will be there today. There are 20 electoral votes at stake of what has been a blue state for decades. Still it has been a republican target for just as long.

Polls have shown Hillary Clinton was in consistent lead there but narrowing as Election Day approaches.

CNN's Sara Sidner, live for us from Philadelphia this morning. Good morning, Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. You know, that lead was in the margin of error, so this is a true battleground state, as well as swing state, if you will. And we have seen that because you just look at how many times the candidates or their surrogates have shown up here.

Hillary Clinton basically spent the weekend here, she hung up with Katy Perry and had a big rally here. And then on Monday, she is going to have herself, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bruce Springsteen. I mean, she's bringing out all the stops.

But you also have Donald Trump showing here. He's going to be in Scranton, so they are clearly coming here they want to make sure that every single voter hears their message and goes to those polls. Who wins, we'll have to wait and see. This is a state that does not do early voting. Back to you guys.

ROMANS: All right. Sara Sidner, thank you so much for that. It's going to be big day in Pennsylvania. Big day in all of these, all of these important battleground.

BERMAN: Yes. You know, every once in a while, Florida makes a difference in presidential election. And that may be the understatement of the century. Also, not to be understated is basically impossible for Donald Trump to win the White House without Florida in its 29 electoral votes.

Huge numbers turned out for early voting after the last couple of weeks. And in polls right now it show a tight of the tick. I want to bring in CNN's Nick Valencia live in Tallahassee, which will be the headquarters for the recount should there be one. Nick, what do you think?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, historic turnout already in early voting with it ending in Florida on Sunday. Here in Leon County, the polls closed at 4 p.m. Twelve thousand more people cast a ballot this time compared to 2012 and that is heavily in favor of democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Of the voters here in Leon County, which we should mention is democratic stronghold, 57 percent were democrat, 28 percent were republican. Now, to the state of Florida and the drama that we saw on 2000, ever since then there has been that concern for potential voter fraud, voter irregularity.

But according to the Leon County supervisor here, he said we should not be worried. In 2007, electronic touch screen will replace with optimal scan drawn ballots. He says that is allowed the process to go smooth as silk. Excuse me.

If there is any indicator just how important this state is to both candidates you just have to look at the amount of times that they've come here and traveled here and historic amount of money that they've spent here on the airwaves.

We expect to see more of that in the final sprint to Tuesday. Hillary Clinton sending surrogate Vice President Joe Biden here in Tallahassee, and Donald Trump expected to be in Sarasota. Guys?

ROMANS: All right. Nick Valencia in Florida for us where a lot could be happening.

(CROSSTALK) BERMAN: Every once in a while it matters.

ROMANS: All right. Hillary Clinton cleared by FBI Director James Comey, never mind, from the FBI, thousands of e-mails found on Anthony Weiner's laptop revealing nothing new. The FBI standing by its conclusion from late fall. What does this mean for the Clinton camp, does it help them, are those nine days long? We'll take a closer look when we come back with EARLY START.

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ROMANS: All right. Welcome back to EARLY START. The final moment or the final, final stretch of this campaign. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have dueling up-eds in this morning's USA Today. Both candidates write about their policies but Trump uses most of his space to hammer Clinton. Promising to fix a rigged system in which political insiders can break the law without consequence.

He also mentions Clinton being the subject of an FBI investigation but fails to say she was cleared on Sunday by FBI Director Comey. In her op-ed Clinton writes, quote, "My opponent has run his campaign on decisiveness, fear and insults and spent months pitting Americans against each other. Now we have to decide who we are."

This extraordinary campaign season ending in extraordinary way with the FBI clearing Hillary Clinton in the e-mail investigation for the second time. This happening on a weekend. This happening after with nine days of FBI controversy marinating and some would say dragging down the Clinton campaign.

Joining us now to look ahead, CNN political commentator John Phillips, a top radio host, columnist for the Orange County Register and Trump supporter, CNN commentator Symone Sanders, former national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders campaign and now Clinton supporter, Ellis Henican, political analyst and bestselling author, you've seen here some time bright early in the morning with us, and senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, host of CNN's Reliable Sources.

Let's listen to Donald Trump. I mean, Donald Trump, he has -- he has hammered, you heard in that op-ed, have been hammering Hillary Clinton saying that she breaks the law without consequence and now he's hammering the FBI on this -- the second FBI decision. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You can't review 650,000 new e-mails in eight days. You can't do it, folks.

(APPLAUSE)

Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it, the FBI knows it, the people know it and now it's up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box on November 8th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[03:15:03] ROMANS: Brian Stelter, what is so interesting to me is that the Clinton campaign can't get those days back.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: True.

ROMANS: And Donald Trump still has a very powerful message that he's going to hammer here in the couple of -- the next couple of days, less than two days.

STELTER: Yes. And there is resentment inside the Clinton campaign about how this was handled by the Director Comey. No doubt about it. We even heard Clinton aides speak about that overnight. Frankly, though, they do not want the candidate talking about this. They do not want e-mails to be overshadowing the last two days of her campaign. She went to big events in Pennsylvania and other states in the final two days.

But I was struck by Trump's comment there saying it's impossible to review all the e-mails in such a short period of time. He knows how Google works, he knows how e-mails servers work. So, he knows you could do a key word search, you could do a series of actually calculated database searches in order to find out if there's duplicate e-mails or if there's new e-mails and find out what's in them.

So, I do think it makes sense. The FBI -- the FBI has hundreds of engineers and programmers, they were able to look through these e- mails. Trump's argument that it was impossible doesn't seem to stand up to scrutiny.

BERMAN: Here's interesting, Brian. If you read the New York Times yesterday talking about Trump's closing moment, he doesn't use a computer and he doesn't really know too much about it. So maybe he does -- maybe he doesn't know how Google works in key words searches work at least base on the New York Times reporting.

Ellis Henican, is this better on balance for the Clinton campaign? When this broke yesterday, I thought for a second, well, gosh, this just makes e-mails a story again for a few hours all be it one that is better for Hillary Clinton but do you think they welcome this in the last 24 hours?

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: On balance is definitely better. I mean, Brian is right. You know, those nine days you don't get back and anything that happens in the last 72 hours say of the campaign very hard for voters to absorb, but let me tell you, John. You'd better have an upper trajectory than a downward one. And the Hillary campaign particularly does need something - something to smile about and they got it with this.

ROMANS: You know, Symone Sanders, let me ask you, do you think that people who are undecided are going to be swayed by the second FBI revelation this weekend? Or I mean, is there not enough time for people to ruminate on this and react if you're undecided voter?

SYMONE SANDERS, FMR. BERNIE SANDER'S NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: I think for undecided voters -- I mean, clearly they haven't gone to the polls. If we look at people in New Hampshire, folks in New Hampshire traditionally they take their vote down to the wire. OK? They are going into the polling place saying I'm still trying to decide who I'm voting for.

So, for those undecided voters that have not yet cast their ballot, yes. I think this could definitely make a difference, that and the closing argument you have seen from Secretary Clinton. But I do think that there had been a surge in early vote numbers and we know that that traditionally favors some democrats. When you talk about in person voting, absentee voting is another issue.

But, you know, I think I can speak for everybody in America, I'm glad we have put this e-mail -- I'm going to speak for all of America right now, we have put the e-mails to rest.

JOHN PHILLIPS, KABC TALK RADIO HOST: Now there's no need for me to talk.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Here we go.

BERMAN: No, no, no. Where will you go, with early voting, look, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire which are all key states effectively have no real early voting that matters here which is where this argument now all comes down to at the end.

John Phillips, Donald Trump said the whole system was rigged with the FBI beforehand then when Comey opened the review, not so rigged. Now we're back to rigging, rigged again. You know, does Donald Trump have credibility if he keeps changing his tune on this?

PHILLIPS: This is why people believe in conspiracy theories. If they could go through the e-mails this past why didn't they do that before he made the whole argument?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Well, that's a whole separate argument.

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: That's the arguments democrats are making.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Then Director Comey and his nonpolitical bone in his body, yes.

PHILLIPS: But this is why people believe in conspiracy theories. Now on the whole, look, I think that this is probably a good thing for Hillary Clinton. The best case scenario for Donald Trump is Hillary appearing on an episode of cops outside her home in Chappaqua getting arrested with the knee dropped to the back. The best case scenario for Hillary Clinton...

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: She just spoke for all of American. John is going to have one on his camp.

PHILLIPS: The best case scenario for Hillary Clinton would be to make -- to have the announcement that there are no charges that are going to be filed and then to walk back that initial press conference where he really essentially went out there and slammed her. He didn't do that but he gave her more than half a loaf I'd say.

ROMANS: Sloppy, but not criminal. That's where we are. We're back to the beginning, right? I mean, we're back to the beginning with the FBI thing, you know. Brian Stelter, and but all that time people have been hearing that Donald Trump has been able to capitalize on this, you know, crooked Hillary, crooked Hillary.

STELTER: And Richard Meadow (Inaudible) had a great point last night, people's view to these candidates essentially have not changed in over a year. People are stuck where they are and the e-mail server, you know, it didn't actually effect people's perception that much, it might have been affected the polls a little bit last week but not in a dramatic way.

BERMAN: You'll never know. You'll never know, will you?

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: But because of the one hand there were people, you know, that was when Hillary Clinton was starting to look at Arizona. She just really with her travel schedule with travel to Arizona. Arizona, Georgia, they were looking to expand and then all of a sudden they're fighting for Michigan and Pennsylvania.

All right, guys. We have got a lot more to talk about over the next couple of hours. Don't go anywhere.

[03:20:00] Don't go anywhere, they're not. CNN will be on the air with that live election coverage and will continuously through tomorrow night every race, every result, stay with us, stay with CNN until the last vote is counted.

BERMAN: All right. All right. No republican has ever won the presidency without winning the state of Ohio. I am sure I am the first person to ever tell you that. Polls there have been very, very close. Both candidates pulling out all the big guns to try to win that state, we're going to visit it next.

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BERMAN: All right. Now you've never heard this one before.

ROMANS: Never. Never.

BERMAN: No republican has ever won the White House without carrying the state of Ohio.

[03:25:01] There you start it again. So, the latest CNN map has moved Ohio slightly from battleground to leading republican. But that was before some polling this weekend showing Clinton on the move. And she has been bringing out the big guns to pull off what could be a bit of a surprise. And by big guns I mean, LeBron James.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live in Columbus. Suzanne, we've seen a lot of activity there.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The big guns have come out here in the last 48 hours, so we're talking about not only LeBron James but also Jay Z, Beyonce with Hillary Clinton here. I have to tell you got four and a half hours before early voting starts again. Both sides really need those early voters to bring in and to close that gap.

We're seeing it's getting a much tighter race. As we mentioned Clinton needing Cleveland that is where she's focused on African-American voters, millennials, the female vote and that's why you see some of those superstars coming out over the last 48 hours.

As for Donald Trump, Cincinnati is important. We're seeing some record turnout, early voting for him. That is a good thing. He needs really the southern part of Ohio where you have those coals, those steel, those miners, those workers who lost their jobs who really resonate with the message of the anti-free trade movement, if you will, from Donald Trump.

And I have to tell you guys, you might remember it was back in 2012, Mitt Romney won on Election Day but it was Barack Obama that carried Ohio in the end because of those early voters and that's what both of these candidates are looking at. John, Christine?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: All right. Suzanne in Ohio, we'll check with you again soon. Thank you so much. We are counting down the final hours now until Election Day. Hillary Clinton cleared by the director of the FBI, another weekend letter from James Comey to Congress. Trump slamming that decision. Both candidates fighting for their political who's live in Florida and Ohio. You're watching the best election coverage in television. It continues right after this.

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