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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Poll: Clinton with 12-Point Lead Ahead of Trump; Clinton Looks Beyond Trump to Transition, Picking Staff; Early Voting Underway as Trump Swarms Florida; Trump: Mosul Offensive "A Total Disaster". Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 24, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

With 15 days until the election we are talking pumpkin politics. Donald Trump is about to hold an event at a pumpkin patch in Palm Beach, Florida. He's barnstorming -- pun intended -- the state this week, kicking it off with a roundtable meeting with farmers.

Hillary Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, is in Florida as well today. Next hour, Hillary Clinton rallies with Senator Elizabeth Warren in another battleground state, New Hampshire.

BERMAN: I hope pumpkins don't become controversial.

This, as it seems the polling gap has gone from close to chasm. The new ABC tracking poll shows Hillary Clinton with a 12 point lead which may be behind major developments happening right now with the Clinton campaign.

Joining us to discuss, CNN Politics executive editor, Mark Preston; CNN political analyst, Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast"; CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, who comes with a scoop; also, New York City councilman, Joseph Boreli, a Donald Trump supporter; and Doug Thornell, senior adviser for the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Zeleny, let's start with you because we believe there were significant developments with the thrust of the Clinton campaign just over the last 48 hours starting to focus on Senate races and also starting to focus on maybe governing.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. The reality here is this race is locked in a direction. Now the question is, what is the size of the margin at this point. And the caveat, yes, things can change, but Democrats now are tying to really run up the score down the ballot. You saw the president last night in Las Vegas, more than I have ever seen him before, really pushing this. They are now campaigning. He's making phone calls about state and legislative races. One he is trying to reverse, one of the biggest things that's happened during his time in office, is losing a lot of these seats. Democrats have been just wiped out.

BOLDUAN: Right.

BERMAN: The most ever.

ZELENY: Exactly. In this case, specifically, a lot of the presidential battlegrounds are aligned with Senate battlegrounds. For the third day in a row, Hillary Clinton in a Senate battleground state as well, New Hampshire, fighting for that.

Interestingly, Secretary Clinton is increasingly moving beyond Donald Trump to think about the transition here. Her aides say, no, she's not, she's focusing on campaigning. But the reality is conversations are going on across Washington about what her government would look like. She's thinking about potential chiefs of staff at the White House, if she wins and she has a short list of those. One of the people that we are told is high on that list is Ron Claine (ph), the leader of her Debate Planning Committee, prep committee, long-time chief of staff to Al Gore, to Vice President Biden, as well, an old Washington hand, a wise Washington hand. He's one of the people. She's not offered anything or finalized this but she's looking forward to the transition.

BOLDUAN: A couple things that are really important in what Jeff is picking up, Jackie, first, on the topic of down-ballot, as we have been watching this, she to this point has really resisted focusing on down-ballot races. She's had Barack Obama to help her out, focusing on that. Because she has been wanting to reach out to Republicans from the stump saying she's the president for everyone. But now she's reaching -- if she's going to start focusing and is starting to focus on down-ballot races that's a fine line she has to walk.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It sounds like she's reaching out to Republicans, she already knows, people she served in the Senate with. There isn't as much danger there as there is reaching out to some that might be in battle with someone.

BOLDUAN: But focusing down-ballot and also trying to still win over some Republican-esque voters.

KUCINICH: It's a fine line. That's why she's letting the president talk tough and say something like Joe Heck is running in Nevada, saying it's too late not to like Donald Trump, you lose. I think she's letting some of her surrogates do her dirty work there and she is sort of appearing with them, campaigning with them and not going after them with a knock-out punch.

But I do think it is very significant that President Obama is trying to help those state house races, not only for this election but they are looking forward to 2018. So there isn't another situation that happened in 2010 when a lot of these state houses -- Republicans really started to get a very strong foothold in and eventually taking over. BERMAN: One of the remarkable results of this weekend is the

Republicans bragging about what a great year 2018 looks like for them. If you are talking about 2018 in 2016, doesn't look so good.

Doug Thornell, let me ask you about more of Jeff Zeleny's reporting. Mr. Zeleny basically reports that the message that Hillary Clinton, one of the messages she's delivering to Republicans and Democrats on the Hill, is that she is going to be more communicative, have a better relationship with members of Congress than, say, the current president, Barack Obama. What kind of message does that send, do you think?

[11:05:11] DOUG THORNELL, SENIOR ADVISER, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, Jeff's a great reporter. What I know about Secretary Clinton is that she's got a record of working with Republicans when she was in the Senate and when she was secretary of state. John McCain, people like Lindsey Graham praised her as one of the most effective secretaries of state. If she win, and that's what we are focused on over the next two weeks is winning, I think she will be a president who can work with Republicans. She's done that in the past on really important foreign policy and domestic issues.

BOLDUAN: Doug, is she looking too far past this race right now?

THORNELL: No, absolutely not. Look, quite frankly --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: He answered that very quickly.

BOLDUAN: No, no.

THORNELL: Let me just tell you, we spend -- we are at the office for 20 hours a day. The folks in Brooklyn are, too. When it comes to down-ballot races, one thing to point out is that the DNC and NH of A have invested $100 million in coordinated campaigns across the country in many overlapping Senate states. We just transferred $2.5 million to the D.S. and $2.5 million to the DTRIP to help them help the Senate, help us flip the Senate and help us pick up a bunch of seats in the hoe. That's where our focus is on, winning the White House and making real gains in Congress.

BERMAN: I love the casual drop of the D.S. and the DTRIP in the answer to that question.

Mark Preston, what are we talking about in terms of the state of play here? Why do Democrats all of a sudden think there's a shot here?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, a lot has to do with the fact that she is doing so well right now, John. And when you are looking at the states that they are playing in right now, for instance, she's in New Hampshire right now where you have Kelly Ayotte in big trouble, high numbers right now from --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Uh-oh. Here we go. Preston's walking --

(CROSSTALK)

PRESTON: Let's put it on the board here. When you talk about the U.S. Senate right now, let's just talk about New Hampshire. You have Kelly Ayotte running against a popular governor, Maggie Hassan. Hillary Clinton is doing very well and Kelly Ayotte has gone back and forth about Donald Trump. The problem with that for her, she's alienating some of her Trump supporters. She needs that base, at the same time trying to reach out now to the independents who are very, very important in New Hampshire. So she's very much in trouble.

Look at Illinois right now. This race is pretty much off the board at this point. Mark Kirk right now, the incumbent Representative Tammy Duckworth has been leading for quite some time right now, for the most part it looks like this race is lost. Go to Wisconsin, we have a rematch between Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold. Hillary Clinton is up by six or seven, depending who you talk to. Russ Feingold is up by three or four, another vulnerable person.

Then to Pennsylvania, Patrick Toomey against Katie McGinty. McGinty, an environmentalist who worked for Tom Wolf, chief of staff for the governor, Toomey only up by one or two. Hillary Clinton up by eight.

Let's just go back to the top. Here's the situation we are in right now. Democrats are at 46 because two Independents are with them, Republicans at 54. Right now, if Hillary Clinton wins in November, all Democrats have to do is to pick up four, a net of four seats. Tim Kaine would then be the deciding vote. But that is not just that, because they could pick up more.

We are looking at North Carolina right now. We are looking at Missouri right now, we are looking at North Carolina right now, all the Democrats could pick up.

Having said that, in the House of Representatives, there is a very large margin. Democrats would need to pick up 30 seats in the House of Representatives, doesn't seem like that will flip control.

The Senate, very much in trouble for Republicans. Probably the House stays Republican.

BOLDUAN: What Mark is pointing out perfectly here is the reason why everyone is looking at these states is also because the top of the ticket matters here. When you look at this new ABC tracking poll that was just out, "The Washington Post" poll that is just out, Hillary Clinton is up 12 nationally. These Republicans who are in tough races. You can't fight that data. You can't fight that gap. You need it to be closer in order to win in a tight race.

Trump's not buying it, though. You look at this tweet. Do we have the tweet? Let's put up the tweet. Trump tweeted this, Joseph, "Major story, Dems are making up phony polls in order to suppress the Trump. Going to win."

You think the polls are all wrong here as Preston laid out why the polls are so important in these races?

JOSEPH BORELI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This ABC poll is as much of an outlier as the IBD poll that has Trump up by two or by one given the day. If we are looking at polls and selectively choose, we should also select the ones that show him winning.

BERMAN: You know what, the poll of polls --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- is the average.

BORELI: This is six points away.

BERMAN: The average is nine.

[11:09:53] BORELI: This is six points away from the RSCP average. As Kellyanne Conway says, the campaign is behind right now. But that said, they have to message. We see the message of being a change agent is working. Someone mentioned that Barack Obama is out there doing down-ballot races. The reason why you don't see Hillary Clinton being the face of down-ballot races is because she still has as high of negatives if not roughly the same as Donald Trump. There is still a race. There is still two weeks left. There is some time to turn it around.

BERMAN: Inside that ABC News poll, there is also underlying numbers that are troubling for Donald Trump. Jackie, you look at women likely voters, Clinton at 55 percent, Trump at 35 percent. A 20-point gap there among women. That's getting wider, it's not closing. In a lot of this, you can see is the result of maybe a lot of the news that came out in the three debates. The trend lines here are tough for him.

KUCINICH: It's how he handled the accusers that are coming out against him. It shows that most women don't really like how he handled that. They don't like how he handled the system is rigged. Like how he handled the fact that he might not concede to Hillary Clinton. We are seeing that across the board with most voters, particularly with women. His outreach in terms of sending his daughter out there, sending his wife out there, sending one of his sons' wives out there, it just hasn't taken hold. He's done a lot to undermine even, you know, the powerful surrogate who can go out there with women.

BOLDUAN: Jeff, when you look at these numbers with women, if you listen to the debate, just look at the schedule, she will be campaigning, Michelle Obama in North Carolina, that's really a big deal. Is this what they were hoping for? These numbers are -- the numbers John laid out with women, it' a big problem.

ZELENY: It's exceeding expectations or anticipation of the Clinton campaign, without question. They were prepared for a much tougher campaign at the end here. But they are, one, worried about folks saying I don't need to vote. It sounds like it's fine so --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Foregone conclusion.

ZELENY: -- is worried about complacency. But look, Michelle Obama is campaigning way more than she ever had planned to. I was told by someone in the White House about a month or so ago she would do a few rallies. Now she has added way more on to that. It looks like she's enjoying it.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Is she enjoying it or is this something the Clinton people are drafting her into?

ZELENY: No, she definitely has agreed to do more events than she originally wanted to. I think she is as personally invested in Donald Trump, electing Hillary Clinton, because everything that has happened over the last several years was personal to her, too. Donald Trump was talking about her husband and the father of her children.

BERMAN: Interesting developments.

All right, guys --

BOLDUAN: Closing arguments beginning today or even yesterday.

BERMAN: No. Why is that? Because today is Election Day in Florida, where they have begun early voting.

CNN national correspondent, Jason Carroll, is there.

Jason, what are you seeing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have seen a number of folks starting to line up here to participate in early voting, early voting taking place here in Florida. Half of all those registered voters here in the state are expected to take place and participate in early voting.

Look, the candidates know this state is crucial. 29 electoral votes here in the state of Florida, and given its history, think about what happened in 2012, the vote was won here by less than 1 percent of the vote. So it's important to encourage supporters to get out there and do just that.

That's what we heard from Donald Trump yesterday when he was in Naples. He will be making two stops in the state here today.

But once again, if you take a look behind me, you can see a small line starting to form there in terms of early voting. Once again, John, Kate, both candidates know this is a must-win state -- John?

BERMAN: Jason Carroll, Election Day in Florida for the next two weeks and one day. Thanks so much for being with us.

BOLDUAN: Just want to get your reaction. Just quick picture. How do you feel?

ZELENY: Early voting, we love early voting.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Pro early voting.

BERMAN: It is no time for wimps and wusses. The warning shot from a senior Republican to a member of his own party. What's going on there?

Plus, "a total disaster," that's how Donald Trump describes the battle to retake Mosul from ISIS. But what's the reality on the ground? That is ahead.

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[11:18:05] BOLDUAN: We promised you pumpkins. You get pumpkins and some gourds.

BERMAN: An assortment of gourds.

BOLDUAN: Donald Trump, in a roundtable meeting with farmers in Florida, part of his big week he's spending in Florida. A must-win state, as we have been discussing. His roundtable getting under way right now. We're watching it for you.

As we watch that, we also want to turn to this. As the Iraqi-led operation to retake Mosul from ISIS continues, U.S. officials are projecting confidence. Donald Trump, though, on the other hand, has a very different impression of the progress, or lack thereof, being made on the ground. Trump took to Twitter to declare this, "The attack on Mosul is turning into a disaster. We gave them months of notice. U.S. is looking so dumb. Vote Trump and win again."

BERMAN: Is that the reality on the ground?

Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, to discuss.

Barbara, what is the reality on the ground in the battle to retake Mosul?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Assessing a whole battlefield in 140 characters on Twitter may, in fact, not tell the whole picture. So the military revealed today, the U.S. military revealed that since the fighting began a couple weeks ago, they now have -- the Iraqi forces have now reclaimed some 800-square kilometers moving through these villages around Mosul as they begin to approach the city. Has there been very tough fighting? Yes. In some areas, there has been. But they are continuing to move. They expect to see more fighting by ISIS as they get closer to the city.

Here are some of the challenges they are facing. ISIS families and operatives are leaving Mosul, by all accounts, towards the West. That's an area that ISIS still controls, the Western flank outside of Mosul. So that's an area they can get through. The U.S. already has plans to try and go after that problem.

As the Iraqi forces have been moving, they haven't been able to leave behind as much force to hold these villages. And in one instance, our own Michael Holmes reports that Iraqi civilians who had celebrated after the forces came through, after the Iraqis left, ISIS came back out and murdered some of the villagers in those areas. So absolutely there are tactical setbacks on this battlefield. It is a very tough go. That is what everyone expected.

But overall, the big picture, it does look at this point like the Iraqi forces, the Peshmerga Kurdish forces, and the up to 200 military advisers are making progress each day. It is going to get tougher as they get closer to the city, but they are still very much headed in that direction.

[11:20:42] BERMAN: Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

Joining us to discuss is Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Committee on Intelligence.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.

We just saw the tweet from Donald Trump, the attack on Mosul is turning out to be a total disaster. Again, you are the top Democrat on the intelligence committee. Does Donald Trump know something that we don't here?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D), CALIFORNIA: No. I think that's very unlikely. But I'm sure Donald Trump's secret plan would have been much better, and we can believe it because Donald Trump tells us so.

Look, the Mosul fight is going to be very tough. I think everybody knew that from the very beginning. But it does seem to be inexorable that Iraqi forces will take back that city and that will be a huge body blow to ISIS. Yes, there are people fleeing and, yes, ISIS is using human shields, and there will be a tremendous cost to this battle, but nonetheless, it's going forward. They are making progress.

We are trying to sort out differences between the Turks, Kurds, Iraqis, all of those will be big challenges that continue. And probably the biggest is going to take place after the fight for Mosul. That is how is that major city going to be governed, how do we avoid the problems that gave rise to ISIS in the beginning.

BOLDUAN: That could very well be likely left to the next president when this -- these questions will continue to linger.

With that, that's why hearing from the candidates is so important and what they think is happening or should happen on the ground. Over the weekend, Donald Trump suggested that the Mosul make President Obama look good. I think the way he put it is that it was merely designed by Obama to, these are Trump's words, to show what a tough guy he is before the election. Your reaction to that?

SCHIFF: It's just absurd. But classic Donald Trump to suggest that everything revolves around him, either for or against him. Somehow, what, the Iraqi forces, the Iraqi government has conspired to try to help President Obama? I really don't think there's that kind of commitment to President Obama in Baghdad.

Similarly, Trump has claimed credit for changes in NATO because he bashed NATO. He's saying NATO's focus on terrorism now is a result of his comments which, of course, is equally absurd.

But this is, I think, what happens when you have an ego that demands that you look at the whole world through the prism of reaction to you, either opposition to you or support for you, and that's apparently how Donald Trump views the world.

BERMAN: Congressman, back in August, you talked about the possibility that there could be a Democratic wave that swept Democrats back into power in the House. Back in August, when you were talking about it, you were saying it was the slimmest possibility. We are two weeks and a day away from Election Day. What do you think the chances are right now that you retake the House?

SCHIFF: Well, they are much better than they were when we talked about this back in August. We would still need a large wave, but we may get that large wave. It certainly looks like a historic repudiation of Donald Trump, and I think everyone is breathing a little bit easier. But nonetheless, taking nothing for granted because, at the end of the day, it all depends on who turns out not only in these early voting days but on the actual Election Day. So there is I think anxiety both in the Clinton camp that people will assume the election is won and not turnout, and there's anxiety among Republicans that people will assume the election is over and their base won't turn out. The reality is we just don't know at this point.

But if we have that kind of historic wave we have seen usually once a decade, we could very well take back the House, and the Senate will be very likely to flip. So we will have to see. It will all come down to 8:00 on Election Day in the evening.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, I know you care obviously about getting Hillary Clinton elected. When you talk about anxiety on both sides, are you concerned, do you have any anxiety about even the appearance of the Clinton campaign being overly confident or already just past this election? We kind of see some reporting that she's moving on looking very deeply into transition and reaching out to folks in

[11:25:03] SCHIFF: You know, I think that the Clinton campaign is very much concerned about any kind of appearance of overconfidence here. I think there is concern that people not assume this election is won. This election has changed many times. There have been a lot of twists and turns. Unexpectedly, Trump has seemed out and then come back and seemed out again and come back. One in the Clinton campaign wants to see another twist or turn in this election. I think people are working really hard. You look at Nevada, where I was just there a few weeks ago, they are really working so hard on turnout and no one is taking anything for granted.

At the same time, prudently, the Clintons as well as the Trump campaign have to make preparations in case they do win, because it's a very short start once that election is over before assuming office and there's a lot of work to be done. I think they are doing what prudently they have to do, at the same time, they are making sure no one is taking this for granted whatsoever.

BERMAN: Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Great to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Congressman.

So support Trump, or face punishment. Is that the message the Republican National committee is sending to day to electorate Republicans? We will ask. The RNC's chief strategist is joining us.

BERMAN: Plus, a message to Donald Trump in Arabic. What's that message say? And why did someone pay a lot of money to say it? When we come back.

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