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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Clinton, Trump Set for Final Debate. Aired 16-16:30p ET
Aired October 19, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Next, the final face-off, Trump v. Clinton, round three. And it's already getting ugly. Their final debate is just hours away right here on CNN.
A special edition of THE LEAD starts right now.
Good afternoon, America. Welcome to a special edition of THE LEAD, debate night in America.
I'm Jake Tapper, and I'm live at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. And you're right now looking at the stage for tonight's final face-off between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump needing a big win tonight, as a new CNN poll of polls, the average of five polls, shows him eight points behind Hillary Clinton among likely voters nationwide.
A new CNN electoral map showing Trump in his weakest position of the entire presidential campaign, according to polls, with only 20 days until Election Day. Tonight, both candidates have their last best chance to speak to tens of million of American voters. The 90- minute debate will kick off in just a few hours right here on CNN.
There will be six 15-minute segments. No breaks. Hillary Clinton won the coin toss. It's not rigged. It's just a coin. And she will lead off. As in the first debate, Clinton will stand camera- right. Trump will stand camera-left.
Trump's campaign master calls him the master of the head fake and says the announced plans to save the seat for President Obama's half- brother, Malik, who is reportedly just a Trump supporter, is "just an appetizer" for what's planned for tonight. Can't wait.
And in a sign of just how nasty this race has become, "The New York Times" is reporting there will be no handshakes between the candidate's spouses, at the Clinton campaign's request. The family entrances have changed to ensure they will not even cross paths.
Our reporters are covering this crucial final debate from every angle.
We're going to begin with Jim Acosta with the Trump campaign.
Jim, how is Trump preparing for tonight? JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, if
tonight is fight night here in Las Vegas, it's fair to say Donald Trump put in some more time at the gym heading into this final face- off with Hillary Clinton.
I am told by a campaign source that Donald Trump was doing debate prep even on his airplane coming into Las Vegas and that during one of his debate prep sessions, they did more of a mock debate than what we have seen in the past in these prep sessions.
Reince Priebus, the RNC chair, was playing the moderator. Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, was actually playing Hillary Clinton, doing the pushback every time Donald Trump would answer a question. I think the big question tonight, though, Jake, is which Donald Trump shows up?
I talked to a top campaign adviser who said, "Honestly, I don't know the answer to that." That is the big mystery heading into tonight's debate with Hillary Clinton.
But in the words of Kellyanne Conway, the campaign manager, she just told me a few moments ago their mission tonight is win -- quote -- "even if the losers say we lost."
They're going into tonight pretty confident, Jake.
TAPPER: All right.
Let's go now to Jeff Zeleny. He is covering the Clinton campaign for CNN.
Jeff, how has Hillary Clinton been preparing? And what is she doing right now preparing for tonight?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, right now, I am told that she is simply resting, getting ready for the debate.
She arrived in Las Vegas about 24 hours or so ago. And she did go immediately into more practice. She flew with all of her advisers here. She worked with them into the night, also worked with them this morning. But right now she is doing what she's done on all debate days. And that is simply relaxing with her family and sort of collecting her thoughts.
But, Jake, her goal for tonight is to -- she realizes that she will be on the defensive perhaps more than at any other time, largely because of all of the WikiLeaks e-mails, those hacked e-mails that have been released since the last debate. She knows she will have to answer for those.
Jake, I am told at that every opportunity she is going to try to stay positive and try and be presidential. She is trying to use this third debate, the last big audience here before the -- before her election here in less than three weeks, to make the case to American people who may not be with her that she is presidential and fit for the office.
So, above all, two things, positive and be presidential. We will see if Donald Trump allows her to do that -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Thanks so much.
With me now here in front of this boisterous crow, we have with us Mary Katharine Ham, who is a senior writer for "The Federalist," Kirsten Powers, a columnist with "USA Today," David Chalian, who is CNN's political director, Gloria Borger, CNN's chief political analyst, Jeffrey Lord, a Donald Trump supporter from the great city of Harrisburg, Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, senior adviser for Correct the Record, a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC, Andre Bauer, a Donald Trump supporter, former lieutenant governor of South Carolina, and Patti Solis Doyle, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager from 2008.
All right, a big panel.
Gloria, let's start with you.
It's the final debate. How important do you think is tonight for Donald Trump?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's hugely important, as he might say.
This is his opportunity tonight to try and add to his base, not subtract from his base, because that's what he has got to do. He has to take this opportunity to look like a commander in chief, look presidential. Every poll you see says people don't see him have the temperament to be commander in chief.
He has to keep up the pressure on Hillary Clinton on her e-mails, on the trust issue. And he has to do that deftly. And, lastly, I think he has to learn how not to take the bait, so he can continue to make his case. I believe that one debate is not likely to win an election for anybody.
But if he can make up a few points here of his deficit going into the last three weeks, it will be very crucial for him.
TAPPER: Kirsten, let me ask you, CNN's latest poll of polls shows Hillary Clinton ahead by eight points. This is an average of five national polls, 47 percent to Trump's 39 percent.
What would you advise her to do if you were telling her? How should she address this debate?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think she should do what she did in the first two debates. She is prepared.
I think that she stays above the fray, that she doesn't take the bait from him, and that she basically just stays the issues and then also adds a sort of positive message, something about how things are going to be when she is president, I think make that more aspirational pitch perhaps than she has in the past.
But, look, she won the first two debates. And so I think the one thing she is going to be running up against here is the fact that a lot of people will judge Donald Trump against last Donald Trump, not against Hillary Clinton.
And so I think when people are judging the debate, what they have to remember is like it's Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, not Donald Trump vs. his last bad performance.
David, let me ask you. Trump comes in tonight in his weakest position when it comes to the electoral map, obviously trying to get to 270. In the latest electoral college map CNN analyzed, Clinton picked up Florida. We're saying that is lean Democratic now. And Nevada, Arizona and Utah have shifted from red to battleground. Nevada has become a Democratic -- leans Democratic.
Utah and Arizona, which are almost always Republican states, have shifted to battleground states.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: All four shifts in the new CNN electoral map -- remember, Jake, this is a snapshot. This is where it is today, not projection of where it will be...
TAPPER: Three weeks, who knows, yes.
CHALIAN: But all four states moving away from Donald Trump, right, Utah because a third-party candidate, Evan McMullin, is surging in polls there.
So, those six electoral votes may not be able -- Donald Trump may not be able to count on them. But Arizona, the Clinton folks are making a big play there. It's a real battleground. There is a new poll there today that has Hillary Clinton up five. I don't know if she is up that big, but $2 million they're putting in, high-level surrogates. She will probably be there.
Florida, Nevada, Arizona, what do they have in common? Hispanic voters are an big part of the electorate in those states, influential part of the electorate. And those are the states that are now moving towards Hillary Clinton.
TAPPER: And, Mary Katharine, one of the things that's interesting about these states that are shifting, Utah and Arizona, tremendously large populations of Mormon voters...
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
TAPPER: ... who are traditionally Republican voters, and I wouldn't say that they're flocking towards Hillary Clinton, but they are drifting away from Donald Trump.
HAM: But they have been uniquely averse to voting for Trump, and throughout the primaries as well, and may go to an independent ticket in Utah especially.
Look, I think there's two things here. He needs tonight more than she does, needs a win tonight more than she does. And then I think he needs a perfect game from here on out when it comes to ground game more than she does. Those are two large challenges.
And I think he could do plenty well tonight. There are lots of late-breaking news that he could bring in with WikiLeaks that confirms narratives about her with the FBI quid pro quo stuff that's in the FBI documents. Between him and Chris Wallace, who I know knows the details of that cold, if they both did, they could maybe throw her off her game. And she might do worse than she's done in the past.
He has to do better than he has in the past and she has to do worse than she has done in the past.
TAPPER: Jeffrey, let me ask you, when we're hearing this information coming from the Trump campaign that they're going to have Malik Obama, President Obama's somewhat estranged half-brother, in the audience, and there are going to be other special guests, do you think -- does that suggest the kind of debate performance from Donald Trump that you think can help him expand his base?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It suggests hardball to me.
I think that what Donald Trump is going to begin to do tonight is tie all of the things that Mary Katharine was just talking about, tie them together in such a fashion that you're talking about an America that's divided between elites and a ruling class and average Americans, and driving that home, because there are a lot of Americans out there, even those in the undecided column, I think, who are unhappy with the way this -- the direction of this country; 70 percent of the people think the country is going on the wrong track.
They're certainly not going to get any change from Hillary Clinton. He needs to tie that in.
TAPPER: And, Governor Granholm, what would you advise Hillary Clinton to do this evening?
JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: I think there's no doubt that she has got to go high and stay going high.
And if he spends his whole time attacking her, then he has no opportunity to go high. So, he has got to give people some reason to vote for him, and not just talk about what a great human being he is, but talk about their needs and their aspirations.
I will bet what you're going to see tonight, though, Jake, is, she will call him out a bit, because he will attack her on the WikiLeaks thing, right? She will call him out on having exhorted the Russians to hack her and to see whether -- my guess is -- to see whether he believes that that should be embraced or cheered on, as he has done.
I think he's going to have to answer for that and then answer for whether it is a good thing that another country is interfering in our elections. That kind of issue and him saying this is rigged is all sort of devised to tear us -- our democracy down, or at least to cause people to not trust democracy. And that is not the profile of a leader.
BORGER: Don't you think she has to do more than deflect, as she's done, by saying it's about Russia, which is, you know, obviously a good point to make? But doesn't she have to more specifically answer charges on the WikiLeaks and on the State Department alleged quid pro quo and all of that?
GRANHOLM: First of all, you have to -- we don't know whether these are accurate, right? There are reports that these have been doctored, these documents, and "Newsweek" has found that in fact that was happening.
TAPPER: I think they found that Sputnik, which is a Russian- backed news agency, misreported something. I don't think anybody has actually questioned what WikiLeaks has published.
GRANHOLM: Well, I thought that the "Newsweek" reporter had in fact said that his e-mail that was found in these was in fact doctored. So, I don't know that that's true.
GRANHOLM: But just to answer your question, Gloria, she needs to -- I think the order of magnitude of some staff inside of campaign sort of niff-gnawing vs. a country that is intervening to influence our
elections, and you have to ask, why? Why is it that the Russians want Donald Trump as their leader?
It gets to a whole spate of other questions about their intentions and his allowing it and how easily flattered he is that he might allow them to have their way in Syria or in, you know, Eastern Europe, et cetera.
TAPPER: So, Andre, if Hillary Clinton does say that, which is I think likely, and talk about WikiLeaks and allegations that Russian hackers are the ones who stole this and are trying to interfere in the election, what should Donald Trump say? What should his response be?
ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He should immediately go back and say, that's a good deflection, but we need to discuss what's actually in them. Again, he can tie her in so many ways where they have had donors
to the Clinton Foundation, phone calls from Vladimir Putin. He can tie it right back to that. But, again, he only gets minimal shots from that. I just don't think that really resonates as much with the voters as if he talks about Hillary Clinton being a retread, another same old, same old.
You're going to send the same thing back to Washington, and the D.C. cartel is going to keep doing the same thing they have been doing. He got elected amongst 16 other great candidate because he talked about cleaning the system out. He talked about leadership. He talked about he had lived the American dream.
He needs to quickly apologize for things he's done in his past and say, look, all of us make mistakes, but your life will be better four years from now with me vs. the other person on this stage.
TAPPER: Patti, let me just give you the final word here. If Donald Trump brings up, let's say, allegations from Bill Clinton's past, how should Secretary Clinton handle it?
PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think she should handle it the exact same way she handled it in the last debate, which is with dignity and with poise.
I actually was really proud of her in that last debate for not getting rattled by having these women in the arena with her. And I actually -- actually, I agree with Gloria. I do think she needs to be prepared with answers on these tough questions, because Chris Wallace is going to ask them of her, if not Donald Trump.
BALDWIN: He is going to bring some fast balls, I definitely agree.
Coming up next, we're counting down to tonight's all-important final debate just a few hours away on CNN.
But, first, let the mind games begin. What surprises do Trump and Clinton have in store?
Plus, Ivanka Trump weighing in on her father's theory that the election is rigged.
Plus, Donald Trump praising Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She is also a very nice person. I think she is going to go down, at a minimum, as a great senator. I think she is a great wife to a president. And I think Bill Clinton was a great president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[16:18:50] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to a special edition of THE LEAD.
Debate night in America. Just hours from now, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will take the stage here in Las Vegas for their final faceoff before Election Day.
Tonight will be unpredictable to say the least. Trump's campaign CEO telling CNN that his candidate is bringing guest to the debate that will, quote, "expose Bill and Hillary's sordid past".
Dana Bash joins us.
And, Dana, Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart, now of the Trump campaign, says Mr. Trump is the master of the head fake. What exactly is he teeing up?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know. But what we do know is that they are planning on bringing at least two guests meant to, as they did in the last debate, try to rattle Hillary Clinton in a different vein. At least one, bringing the mother, Pat Smith, the mother of one of the Americans killed in Benghazi. But also, President Obama's half-brother.
But Steve Bannon also told our Brooke Baldwin. They were on the same plane here to Las Vegas -- he said that that will just be an appetizer. So, we don't know what else to expect.
That really is the open question, not just among Democrats and Hillary Clinton as she tries to prepare for Donald Trump tonight and what to expect, but that's what I'm hearing from Republicans.
[16:20:02] They don't know what Donald Trump is going to show up and whether he is going to go ahead and execute some of the really -- the practice that he has done with Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor and the RNC chair Reince Priebus, or if he is going to realize that this is his last chance and try to do what he has told his advisors and friends that he does best, which is be himself no matter what it takes.
TAPPER: Donald Trump keeps saying that the election is going to be rigged. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, was just asked about that and whether her father will concede the election if he loses. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: My father is in this to win it. I am not interested in talking about alternative outcomes, and, of course, I think my father will always do the right thing. That's the type of person he is. But when you asked me before, do I think it's rigged? I think from a media perspective it's very hard to get an accurate portrayal of who he is as a person or the business he's built.
He'll either win or he won't win, and I believe he'll accept the outcome either way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That does sound to a degree like a split from her father, Dana. I know there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans concerned that maybe Mr. Trump will not concede if he loses.
BASH: You're exactly right, Jake. Her saying that, Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's campaign manager, saying this morning that she does not believe that there will be widespread fraud. It's almost as if we're seeing a dynamic, Jake, that we have seen in the past where the Trump campaign officials who don't agree with what their candidate has been doing and saying in public are trying to make that clear through us, through the media.
It does differ from what not only Trump is saying, but we were talking about Steve Bannon, Mr. Trump's CEO, or COO, who comes from Breitbart, the conservative media site. When he told our Brooke Baldwin when she asked the question, lock her up. That was his answer to what will happen on November 9th if Donald Trump loses.
So, you can really see the difference in the two kind of points of view, almost like the sort of different angels on the shoulders of Donald Trump. And it's coming out in these last 24 hours through the media.
TAPPER: Hmm. Interesting.
My panel is back with me. Dana, thank you so much.
My panel is back with me.
And, David, this idea that Malik Obama is just an appetizer and one of these guests is going to be an entree. Do you have any predictions? Who do you think they're going to bring in the audience?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I wouldn't be surprised if they dip back into the Bill Clinton scandal well as an attempt to rattle Hillary Clinton. I don't think it worked that well last time. She didn't appear all that rattled by it.
But I do think that Trump and Bannon and Dave Bosse, the deputy campaign manager, love taking -- it's the best base-stoking thing they can do, right before he goes on stage. It just will completely rally and fortify his people with a lot of excitement. They love nothing more than having him take it directly to Hillary Clinton.
TAPPER: But, Mary Katharine, here's the question -- the base loves Donald Trump. There's no question about that. They're very enthusiastic. They're very excited. You hear them every minute of the day.
He needs to expand his base in order to win.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
TAPPER: Do any of -- does this -- does Malik Obama or any of these other possible guests, does it add one vote in the suburbs of Philadelphia?
HAM: It's possible there's maybe one. But here's the thing about it, I don't get the vapors about having guests or stunts or any of that. Fine. Do your thing.
Was if effective last time? I don't think it was terribly effective. But tonight, there's an opportunity cost. You are putting all this attention and energy into this when you have so much to work with.
And the problem for her with the WikiLeaks stuff is that you can talk all day long -- she can talk all day long about the providence of the WikiLeaks stuff which is an issue, but the voters see those and go, this is candid Hillary. And they have the same issue with that as they have about candid Trump. And it says something about both of them, and it fits the narrative about each of them perfectly.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I don't know what the stunt got him last time. I don't think it got him anything. And if he wants to pull something out of his hat this time, I think it has to be more about Hillary Clinton than about Bill Clinton.
TAPPER: I'll tell you what it got him. It got a national conversation about should we believe accusers of sexual assault, including Donald Trump's own accusers.
TAPPER: That's what it got him.
BORGER: Did that work for him, though?
TAPPER: No! I am saying it completely backfired.
BORGER: Exactly. It backfired.
So, if he's going to do something tonight did has to be -- and it's about women, say, it has to be about Hillary Clinton and how she treats and, you know, they spin out this scenario about her. But that's -- but that's been asked and talked about and so I don't see how it does anything.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Mary Katharine, you talked about an opportunity cost. What his opportunity costs is he is spending all of this time talking about stuff that people who are watching don't want to hear about.
[16:25:07] They want to hear about, how are we going to make my life better? Not something that happened to Bill Clinton 30 years ago. They want to know, what are you going to do for me? And that --
TAPPER: You don't disagree with that, do you? Do you disagree with that?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't totally disagree with it, but of course their actions indicate that, once they got in the White House, they got side-tracked from their agenda because of Bill Clinton's problem.
GRANHOLM: That's not her. I mean. It just helps her.
LORD: Wait a minute --
TAPPER: Let him finish his thought.
LORD: I want to throw something out here. Total speculation on my part.
TAPPER: Here we go!
TAPPER: Oh my gosh!
LORD: We're saying, who could this guest be? Is it me or is Julian Assange missing from the Internet?
TAPPER: Mr. Assange is not going to be here but that's an interesting theory.
Coming up next: we're going to take you inside the debate hall. Why is Marco Rubio warning Donald Trump to stay away from the WikiLeaks Jeffrey just mentioned?
We're standing by for the third and final debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. This is a special edition of THE LEAD.
Stay with us.