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Clinton and the WikiLeaks Emails; Melania Trumo Supports Her Husband; Undercover Video Has Dem Operative Fired, Another Resigns; Kurdish General: Retaking Mosul Will Take 2 Months; U.N. Envoy Warns "Aleppo Will Not Be There Anymore"; Nobel Gives Up Trying to Contact Singer. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 18, 2016 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:04] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: To be clear, in the end, the e-mail in question was upgraded to classified, and no new FBI agents were stationed overseas.


SCIUTTO: It is true there is often a debate between government departments, what the bureaucrats call the interagency, over the classification of documents and e-mails. It is not an exact science.

And here, you have both agencies involved, the FBI and the State Department, denying a quid pro quo. And we know that, in the end, none took place. However, you can be sure that, tomorrow night, Donald Trump and beyond tomorrow night is going to be bringing this up.

And to be fair, this is a question that Hillary Clinton should have to answer.


Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

She says the allegations of sexual assault against her husband are lies. But is Melania Trump's answer undermining the Trump campaign's tactic of reminding the American public about Bill Clinton's accusers?

That story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Let's stick with politics and dive right in with our political panel.

We have national political reporter for "The Washington Post" Abby Phillip and senior CNN political analyst David Gergen.

Thanks to both of you for being here. Last night, as I know you're aware of, Melania Trump gave an interview to Anderson Cooper, and she said the sexual assault allegations made against her husband are -- quote -- "lies."

Take a listen.


MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: I believe my husband. I believe my husband.

This was all organized from the opposition. And with the details that they go -- did they ever -- did they ever check the background of these women? They don't have any facts.

I know he respects women, but he's defending himself because they're lies.


TAPPER: So, obviously, it's not a surprise that the wife of a candidate being attacked would defend him.

But I guess my question is, as a political matter, doesn't Melania coming out and saying this, doesn't completely undermine the Trump attack against Hillary Clinton that she called Bill Clinton's accusers liars?


And, also, literally, she is doing what Hillary Clinton did in the midst of her own firestorm in the '90s, basically saying this is all an organized conspiracy against me and my husband.

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: And so, in some ways, the Trump campaign from the very beginning has actually been taking pages out of the Clinton playbook in order to defend him against these accusations, while also attacking Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.

I don't think it's worked up until this point, but that doesn't mean that it's not their strategy and this is what they're going for. I don't see any other option really. And it also kind of, I think, temporarily at least, neutralizes any sort of criticism of Melania. If you are going to criticize Melania, you have to criticize Bill Clinton too.

So, it's all just -- everything is just all jumbled up and a mess right now.

TAPPER: A big mess. All right.

David, let me ask you, there is a WikiLeak out there that seems to suggest that top Clinton advisers thinking that Bill and Hillary Clinton have -- quote -- "suboptimal instincts," in the case of Hillary Clinton, when it comes to attacking their political rivals, that too often Bill and Hillary are too inclined to go negative.

It was a very illuminating e-mail. David, you were behind the scenes with the Clintons in the White House. Is that your experience? Are they the ones who want to go on the attack more often than their staffers?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: My experience was that they were often on that side, but sometimes they weren't.

In any White House, but especially that one, there were lots of tensions and arguments back and forth about how you handle your political enemies.

I will tell you in that White House, just as in others, there was a real sense there were real enemies out there. And so I thought these e-mails were revealing. I think they have cast new shadows over Hillary Clinton and her campaign and the sense of what they're doing.

But I must tell you that I think she has been very lucky to have Donald Trump as her opponent, because his -- you know, the way he dominates the news with these sort of outrageous statements so overshadows the e-mail stories, that I think that she is getting a bit of a break on sort of what's in some of those e-mails.

TAPPER: And Donald Trump has been talking quite a bit, Abby, about his -- this allegation that the vote in November is going to be rigged. President Obama responded to that earlier today. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even -- you could even rig America's elections.

I would advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try and make his case to get votes.


TAPPER: Stop whining.

PHILLIP: Stop whining.

TAPPER: I wonder how Donald Trump is going to react. And I wonder if that was almost the point.

PHILLIP: I think that was the point.

President Obama, of all people, has really taken a lot of joy in needling Trump. I mean, you can remember, everybody remembers the Correspondents Dinner, where they did the whole skit about the birth certificate with Donald Trump sitting right in the audience.

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: That was the nexus of this whole thing. They love to sort of give Trump something to chew on.

I will say, it's been a few hours. No response so far. That's not really saying much. But, I mean, perhaps the Trump campaign realizes that that is what this is, what's going on, and they're going to try to hold back, and just not get into it with him and sort of litigate this issue of rigged elections as best as they can.


TAPPER: Last night, David, Donald Trump was in Wisconsin. He was asked about Paul Ryan and if he believes that the Republican speaker of the House wants Donald Trump to win. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't want to be knocking Paul Ryan. I think he could be more supportive to the Republican nominee. We're doing well. I think we're going to win the election.

TOM LLAMAS, ABC NEWS: Do you think he wants you to win?

D. TRUMP: Well, maybe not, because maybe he wants to run in four years.


TAPPER: He doesn't want to be knocking Paul Ryan, unless you ask a follow-up question. Then he is more than willing to do it.


GERGEN: Absolutely, classic Trumpism.

And I guess we will have to wait until 3:00 in the morning to figure out what he really thinks about these latest e-mails and everything else.

Listen, I just -- I can't -- I can't get over the fact that, going into the debate tomorrow night, there still seems to be no effort within the Trump campaign -- they have just abandoned the planning and strategy.

He wouldn't be in this whole mess about the women, as messy as it's become, had he planned for that debate when Anderson asked him the question, you know, have you ever done any of these things?

He could so have easily said, look, I did a lot of bad things when I -- in my earlier years. I was a celebrity. I was surrounded by women. There are a lot of things I regret, but I am a changed man now. I am running for the most important office in the United States. Here is what we must do, in other words, to make the changed man his argument, not, I never did it, and then bring all these women forward to contradict his story.

Had they been planning, had they been serious about having a strategy, they could bat back a lot of these things. And he wouldn't been -- he has had a week now of this story about this -- the tape.


And, Abby, a Monmouth battleground poll out of Nevada shows Donald Trump now trailing Hillary Clinton by seven points in that key state. Last month in the same poll, Mr. Trump led by two in the Monmouth poll of Nevada.

In your paper this morning, "The Washington Post," Abby, "The Post"'s election handicapper, Stu Rothenberg, said that Trump's path to victory is -- quote -- "nonexistent."

Do you agree with that?

PHILLIP: I think Stu is pointing out what the map looks like right now, which is that Donald Trump is not really winning in any of the states that he needs to win in order to get to 270.

This is not magic. It's just math. It's, do you have enough electoral votes? And right now, he is doing OK in Iowa. He is doing OK in Ohio. But that's not enough. He is trailing in Virginia, Pennsylvania, now Nevada, which had been up until this point one of his better states, despite some demographic advantages for Hillary Clinton there.

Florida is going that way. Colorado is all but lost. I mean, this is just the electoral map. He has to turn this whole ship around. And with, you know, two weeks before the election, it's very challenging to do.

TAPPER: Abby and David, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

GERGEN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: And tomorrow night, it is the final face-off between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And you, of course, can watch the last presidential debate right here on CNN. Coverage will begin at 4:00 p.m. on THE LEAD with a special edition of THE LEAD live from Las Vegas.

Coming up: The right to retake a key city from ISIS rages on. And now we're learning it could be a matter of weeks, not days, before the battle might be over -- that story ahead.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: We're back with politics. The DNC, the Democratic National Committee, now responding to those undercover videos shot guerrilla conservative activist James O'Keefe and released yesterday and today, videos that have now cost two people their jobs. Let's bring in CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin. And Drew, what did these tapes show and what exactly is the DNC responding to?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the videos were first released yesterday by this man named James O'Keefe. It's undercover video in a big caveat here. O'Keefe has been widely discredited and is known for editing video to fit his narrative. What he showed in these tapes was enough to have one man fired, another resigned and the DNC moving sharply away from the progressive lobbying group where these guys worked. First, the video in this one released yesterday, a man named Scott Foval, that's him, who was a contractor for democracy partners is seen and heard discussing hiring people to attend Trump rallies and basically to start fights. This is a quote, he says, "I mean, honestly, it's hard to get some of these assholes," is what he said, "to pop off. It's a matter of showing up, to get in their alley in a planned parenthood t-shirt or Trump is a Nazi t- shirt. What he's describing, Jake, is his plan to intentionally put people into a Trump event, so that a fight could start, and then, that fight or that violence or that reaction by Trump fans, would be caught on media cameras, and that would be the narrative for that campaign.

That man, Scott Foval, who you just saw being recorded undercover, has been fired. The guy who hired him, Bob Cramer is also on that video. He's the one who was under contract with the DNC. His wife is a congressman from Chicago, Jan Schakowsky. I just spoke with Bob Cramer on the phone, and he said that Foval, the man on tape is basically a braggart. He told me basically, this was bar room talk and "With respect to his comments on tape, they're flat out wrong. We have gone to extreme measure to ensure no violence took place at any of our events." Basically, these events were counter demonstrations or counter news conferences at Trump events. He pointed out that his contract with the DNC began in June, that was two months after the violence in Chicago. For its parts, the DNC quickly distancing itself from this whole thing as well.

[16:49:55] Here's a statement they wrote us. The practices described in video by this temporary regional subcontractor do not in any way comport with our long standing policies on organizing events. And those statements and sentiments do not represent the values that the committee holds dear. We do not believe or have any evidence to suggest that the activities articulated in the video actually occurred. James O'Keefe," they point out, "is a convicted criminal with a history of doctoring video to advance his ideological agenda." O'Keefe is indeed a convicted criminal. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge for breaking into Senator Mary Landrieu's office several years ago. But Bob Cramer has a recorded, too. He was convicted of bank fraud. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. And there's also, of course, Drew Griffin, some talk on one of them about busing in people to vote illegally. The Democratic National Committee and others also pushing back very strongly against that charge, saying it was taken out of context, it was hypothetical and those individuals have been fired. Drew Griffin, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

GRIFFIN: Thanks.

TAPPER: Maybe he's busy on tour, maybe he's too busy writing new lyrics, maybe he's stuck outside of mobile with the Memphis blues again. Either way, the Nobel Prize Committee is no longer knock, knock, knocking on Bob Dylan's door. Stay with us.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Let's turn to our "WORLD LEAD" today. In Iraq, the anti-ISIS coalition continues to press forward with its assault to take back Mosul from the terrorists of ISIS. With nine villages already recaptured, coalition forces are cautiously optimistic, they say, that they could enter Iraq's second largest city within just two weeks and liberate it within just two months. Now, that does not mean the battle will not be bloody and grinding. The terrorist group is brutally resisting with Reuters reporting that ISIS terrorists are using civilians as human shields. CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is near the frontline outside Mosul. Ben, thanks for joining us. Where does the operation stand at this hour?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we saw yesterday, Jake, was Kurdish forces took about 77 square miles and those 9 villages you mentioned. Today, because they're doing sort of -- the Kurds will move one day, the Iraqi army in the next. Today, it was the turn of the Iraqi army. They are approaching Mosul from the south and from the east. Now, on the east, they are battling with ISIS in the town of Qaraqosh. That is a Christian town. It used - at once had a population of about 50,000. All of those Christians have - were driven out by ISIS or fled. So, the battle rages on there, but certainly so far, they've made pretty impressive progress. But we're talking about the outskirts, the city itself which normally has a population of 2 million is vast.

I've spent a lot of time there. And going from street to street, house to house, is going to be time consuming. We spoke with Kurdish commander today, who said, at least two months, and I think that's probably optimistic. And now - and of course, with the - somewhere between 700,000 and a million civilians still inside Mosul. As you mentioned, there's a very good chance many of them will be held as human shields. I was in Fallujah in June when that battle take - took place. Hundreds of people, thousands of people where basically hostages of ISIS 'til the very last moment when ISIS pulled back. So, this is a tactic they've used before, and they will probably in Mosul use again. Jake?

TAPPER: And as you note, the U.N. is expecting Mosul to be the biggest humanitarian operation it will have this year. What's being done to help all of these innocent people, all of these civilians?

WEDEMAN: Well, preparations have been made. And then they've been going on for months now. The U.N. has set up 22 camps that are supposed to accommodate 400,000 people. They've stockpiled thousands of tons of food, medicine, supplies, tents, mattresses, and whatnot. But 400,000 is actually well below the up to a million the U.N. says, might flee Mosul and its environs when the fighting gets more intense. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. Please, please be safe. To the other country devastated by ISIS now across the border into Syria. And a grave warning about another war-torn city, the United Nations says that the Syrian City of Aleppo may no longer exist if nothing is done to stop the brutal fighting in the city by the end of the year. Although Russia and the Syrian regime announced a brief temporary ceasefire this week, the U.N. special envoy for Syria is warning that without a permanent solution, a place that was once Syria's most populace city, quote, "Will not be there anymore." Despite today's halt in airstrikes, the death toll continues to climb in Aleppo. Just this week, activists say 20 members of the same family in Eastern Aleppo were killed including two 6-week-old babies.

Now, to the "POP CULTURE LEAD," and the Nobel Prize Committee giving up on Bob Dylan. The committee says, they called Dylan, they called his manager, they called a friend, but no response has come from the singer since he was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature last Thursday. Now, should we be surprised? Dylan has shown up to receive Grammy Awards and to be inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He showed up for his Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Although, we should note, two years earlier, Dylan was a no-show when the president tried to give him the National Medal for the arts. Of course, this is a Nobel Prize, dubbed the most prestigious in the world. It even comes with a check for about $900,000. We should also note since last week's announcement, Dylan has performed in three concerts. But fans say he has stayed mum about his huge honor.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I will see you tomorrow from Las Vegas. Thanks for watching.