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Trump: Will Accept Election Results 'If I Win'; President, First Lady Campaign for Clinton. Aired 5-5:30p ET
Aired October 20, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:07] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, "if I win." After refusing to commit to honoring the election results, Donald Trump now says he'll accept the outcome if he wins. That may be a joke, but hardly anyone is laughing. As the shockwaves from his debate-night comment continue to spread.
Stolen e-mails. Then-candidate Barack Obama's personal e-mail address is revealed in the latest batch of stolen e-mails published by WikiLeaks. Is Russia behind it? And how embarrassing is this for America?
Another showdown. Last night they couldn't even shake hands at their debate. Tonight, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be on stage together at a charity dinner. Will they trade insults instead of jokes?
And dutiful daughter. Ivanka Trump is back on the campaign trail as she defends her father. Can she save her own brand?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news: Donald Trump now says he will accept the results of the election if he wins. But the Republican nominee today still reserving his right to contest what he calls a questionable result. Trump has been drawing scathing criticism since last night's debate, when he refused to pledge to accept the election outcome. Yet again, key Republicans are being forced to distance themselves from Trump's comments.
Trump spoke today in Ohio, where a new poll shows him tied with Hillary Clinton. Clinton is off the campaign trail today, but she and Trump will both appear later tonight at a charity dinner in New York City, where it's traditional for candidates to crack jokes about each other. After the exchange of insults in last night's debate, any jokes could have a knife edge to them.
Clinton is being represented on the campaign trail today by President Obama, who just called on voters to reject what he called Trump's fear-mongering vision for the country. And Vice President Joe Biden, who called Trump a threat to the Democratic process.
Coming up this hour, the first lady, Michelle Obama, she will speak in Arizona, a traditional red state that may be very much in play this year. We'll bring you that live this hour.
And I'll speak with Democratic Senator Chris Coons. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they have full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, Donald Trump still refusing to flatly commit to honoring the election results.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Donald Trump has taken his claim that the election is being rigged to a potentially dangerous new level.
For the first time in modern American political history, a presidential candidate is openly saying he may not accept the outcome of the election. Trump tried to make light of this earlier today, but nobody is laughing.
ACOSTA (voice-over): With the presidential debates behind him, Donald Trump is scrambling to find a path to victory. But he's making it all too clear he may take the nation down a dark road if he loses.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election if I win.
I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.
ACOSTA: That moment of cleanup comes after Trump warned in his final faceoff with Hillary Clinton that he may not accept the voice of the people, a principle of American democracy that dates back to the Founding Fathers.
TRUMP: I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at anything now. I'll look at it at the time.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Are you saying you're not prepared now to commit to that principle?
TRUMP: What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, Chris, let me respond to that, because that's horrifying.
WALLACE: Mindful that Trump's jaw-dropping comments could spark post- election chaos, his top surrogates launched into damage control mode.
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIR: The fact of the matter is, he is going to accept the outcome of the election.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Absent evidence of widespread abuse and irregularities, yes, I would say that. But I actually think I'll be saying to him, "Congratulations, Mr. President."
ACOSTA: The top Republicans are not so sure. John McCain, who lost the election in 2008, said in a statement, "In every previous election the loser congratulates the winner and calls them 'my president.' That's not just the Republican way or the Democratic way. It's the American way."
CLINTON: He has consistently denied what is...
CLINTON: ... a very...
ACOSTA: There were other potentially damaging moments for Trump at the debate like when he interrupted Clinton just to insult her.
CLINTON: My Social Security, payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald's, assuming he can't figure out how to get out of it, but what we want to do is to replenish the Social Security trust fund.
TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.
ACOSTA: A remark that likely won't help his case to female voters after a growing number of women have come forward to stay Trump sexually assaulted them. Trump falsely claimed at the debate that their stories were debunked.
[17:05:06] TRUMP: First of all, those stories have been largely debunked. Those people, I don't know those people. I have a feeling how they came. I believe it was her campaign that did it. I think they want either fame or her campaign did it. And I think it's her campaign.
ACOSTA: That led to this memorable moment.
TRUMP: Nobody has more respect for woman than I do. Nobody.
WALLACE: Please, everybody.
ACOSTA: Those lowlights overshadowed what was otherwise viewed as Trump's most effective debate performance yet.
BLITZER: The NAFTA deal signed by her husband is one of the worst deals ever made of any kind, signed...
ACOSTA: But he seemed to struggle against Clinton's attacks on his past praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
CLINTON: Well, that's because he'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States.
TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet. CLINTON: And it's pretty clear...
TRUMP: You're the puppet.
CLINTON: It's pretty clear...
ACOSTA: And Trump refused to accept the assessment from the U.S. intelligence community that Russia is trying to meddle in the election.
CLINTON: I am quoting 17...
TRUMP: You have no idea.
CLINTON: Seventeen intelligence -- do you doubt 17 military...
TRUMP: Our country has no idea.
CLINTON: ... and civilian agencies? Well, he'd rather believe...
TRUMP: Yes, I doubt it. I doubt it.
ACOSTA: Now, Trump is sounding confident about his chances on election day. He's blasting out a fund-raising pitch to his supporters, inviting them to what's being billed as a huge night on election night here in New York City.
Wolf, it's being described as the party of the year. But what's less clear at this point is what the hangover will be like if Trump loses.
And as you mentioned, Wolf, he will be here with Hillary Clinton later tonight at this Al Smith fund-raising dinner, charity dinner here in New York City. We'll have to see if they'll be in a joking mood, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. It's supposed to be a fun night for all. Let's see if it turns out that way.
Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Hillary Clinton is off the campaign trail today. But the president, the vice president, the first lady, they are all out campaigning for her. Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns is joining us right now. What's the mood right now inside the Clinton campaign?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Hillary Clinton campaign now happy to have the debates in the rearview mirror. And once again making the case that key parts of her debate performance were more spontaneous than rehearsed, though she also appeared to have hit the floor last night loaded up with short sound bites to try to tweak her opponent, Donald Trump.
JOHNS (voice-over): Hillary Clinton
CLINTON: We have finished our last debate, and I am feeling, you know, both relieved and very grateful. No more debates. No more naps.
JOHNS: After three contentious encounters, Clinton getting in one more jab at Trump, who suggested she was off the trail resting, not preparing, leading up to Wednesday night.
Clinton, keeping up a light campaign schedule today, leaning on some high-profile surrogates, including President Obama in Florida.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trump becomes the first major party nominee in American history to suggest that he will not concede, despite losing the vote. And then says today that he will accept the results if he wins. That is -- that is not a joking matter. No, no, no. I want everybody to pay attention here. That is dangerous.
JOHNS: And Vice President Biden in New Hampshire.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's questioning not the legitimacy of our election. It's the legitimacy of our democracy.
JOHNS: That sentiment echoed by Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Donald is still going to whine if he loses. But if a mandate is clear, I don't think many people will follow him. And, you know, it's just -- this inability to accept responsibility is at the core of this. But that -- that trait of our democracy is so critical.
JOHNS: When Trump refused to say at Wednesday's debate whether he would accept the election results, Clinton was ready.
CLINTON: Every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him.
There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row, and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.
TRUMP: Should have gotten it.
CLINTON: This is a mindset. This is how Donald thinks. And it's funny, but it's also really troubling.
JOHNS: Clinton seemingly came prepared with an array of ready-to-go zingers for Trump.
TRUMP: I mean, I sat in my apartment today on a very beautiful hotel down the street, known as...
CLINTON: Made with Chinese steel.
JOHNS: But she also tried to appeal to women voters by seizing on his attempts to discredit some of the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.
CLINTON: He said that he could not possibly have done those things to those women because they were not attractive enough for...
TRUMP: I did not say that.
CLINTON: ... them to be assaulted.
TRUMP: I did not say that.
CLINTON: Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don't think there is a woman anywhere who doesn't know what that feels like.
[17:10:04] JOHNS: Tonight a totally different test for Hillary Clinton, a test of her comic timing at the Alfred E. Smith dinner in New York. While she's widely known for a sense of humor in small settings, the challenge tonight will be to make fun of it all while nearing the end of an unusually bitter campaign -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a serious challenge indeed. Joe Johns, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So WikiLeaks today released more today of John Podesta's e- mails -- he's the Clinton campaign chair -- including the e-mails -- including some e-mails going back to when then-candidate Barack Obama was running for office. Podesta was then running Obama's transition team, getting ready for the White House. These are from 2008, once again, before he was president.
But how embarrassing is this for Democrats right now, for the country, indeed, as a whole, that the personal e-mails sent by the current president are now public?
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, Wolf, this latest batch of WikiLeaks releases, I hope will be viewed with a very wary eye because of their timing and their origin.
It is difficult and embarrassing to have this foreign source, likely affiliated with Russia, likely being released in order to try and influence our elections, steadily leaking out day after day, week after week. My hope is that your watchers and the American electorate will instead focus on the things said in last night's debate between our two presidential candidates.
As your opening coverage suggested, Republicans and Democrats alike have been alarmed by what Donald Trump said last night, that he wouldn't accept the outcome of the election and that he doubled down on today by saying he would only accept it if he won. There are some concerns, of course, about WikiLeaks and what's been
said, but I think a more pressing concern is the stark difference between the two candidates for president. Last night Secretary Clinton showed that she is a calm, prepared -- she offered an optimistic view of the United States and concrete solutions for our future, in sharp contrast to the rambling, incoherent and dark view presented by Donald Trump...
BLITZER: All right.
COONS: ... in what was the third and in some ways, I think, most important debate.
CUOMO: What's really disturbing is how relatively easy, apparently, it was for whoever went in and hacked John Podesta's Gmail account. They had a simple -- I'll show you a picture of it; they've released it now, a simple phishing e-mail that went out there. Someone told him to change his password. He went ahead and did. And that was it. And all of those thousands and thousands of e-mails were hacked, including now today we get some of then-senator but then-candidate Barack Obama's e-mails, as well.
You say likely Russia. Do you believe it was Russia, and was it coordinated at the highest levels of the Russian government, meaning Putin?
COONS: Well, Wolf, that's what we've been told by a number of the senior leaders in the American intelligence community. That's both public and has been reported to have been conveyed in classified briefings, as well. I can't share anything I heard in a classified briefing, but there have been a number of public reports by the most senior leaders of our intelligence community, confirming that they believe that the signature of how these hacks occurred points directly to Russian-influenced or Russian-directed activities.
And I frankly think that we ought to have a bipartisan commitment to refusing to privilege these WikiLeaks. I was impressed that Senator Rubio took the step of saying, because of their origin, we shouldn't be discussing them in our debates, and we shouldn't be allowing Russia this dangerous opportunity to influence the outcome of our presidential elections.
BLITZER: Do you believe the Russians are trying to influence the election in order to try to get Trump elected?
COONS: I do. I led a bipartisan delegation to eastern Europe this summer. We visited the Czech republic, Ukraine and Estonia. And in all three countries, we were briefed both by American and foreign leaders and, of course, got briefings from our own defense, intelligence and diplomatic leadership that laid out in detail ways that Russia has been covertly and overtly influencing elections and political activities in western, central and eastern Europe in recent years.
I think if more Americans realize just how explicitly is now using propaganda, overt and covert means, such as these selective leaks of hacked e-mails to influence elections in Europe, they would be more confident that that is, in fact, what's happening here.
I do think Putin is dangerous. And I believe the reports that we've heard that this is an intentional effort to affect the outcome of the American elections.
BLITZER: So what should the U.S. do in retaliation?
COONS: Well, I won't get into specifics about what kind of steps we should take. We have a broad and well-developed cyber-arsenal. I do think it's important for us to strike back and to do so in a way that will be noticed by exactly the individuals who have authorized and seek to benefit from these attacks.
[17:15:10] This is a very troubling series of developments recently, Wolf, both having Donald Trump refusing to accept the outcome of an election. Donald Trump in the second debate threatening to jail his opponent. And now one of our most significant strategic opponents in the world, Russia, literally trying to directly influence the outcome of an American election.
I hope your viewers and the American electorate, I hope we're all paying attention to these developments.
BLITZER: Are you concerned that WikiLeaks may reveal more damaging information against Democrats, against Hillary Clinton before the election on November 8?
COONS: I'm concerned that there will be more leaks of unreliable, untrustworthy information, that because they will be released within days of an election and will be timed exactly to significantly influence that election, that we won't have the time to verify them or to digest them or respond to them appropriately. So yes, I am quite concerned about that.
If you see this steady drumbeat, this crescendo of released e-mails that haven't been authenticated, I think that is a legitimate concern.
BLITZER: Have you seen any evidence that any of them released so far have been doctored?
COONS: I haven't directly, but I'll also remind you, since we're not in session, most members of the Senate are not currently getting classified briefings on further developments in this field. I'm not on the Intelligence Committee. I'm on the Foreign Relations Committee. But my hunch is that there's been a fair amount of work being done by our intelligence and diplomatic community to dig into that further.
BLITZER: Right now Hillary Clinton, as you know, is ahead in the national polls, the polls in most of the key battleground states. What's your biggest concern heading into these next three weeks?
COONS: My concern, frankly, Wolf, is that the American people will be turned off by the nastiness, the bitterness of the national campaign, and that that will have both a depressing effect in terms of turnout, and it will have an impact on who comes out to vote in federal and local elections for offices other than president.
There's been a lot thrown back and forth, not just in the debates but in the campaign. In Delaware here, we're hearing a barrage of campaign ads from the Pennsylvania campaigns, as well as the national campaign. And I hear from a lot of my constituents here in Delaware that the election can't come soon enough.
It's my hope that folks will pay attention, engage, and vote with a sense of courage and optimism about American democracy, about the institutions we've worked so hard to build and that they won't reward fear-mongering or last-minute attacks.
BLITZER: Michelle Obama, she's campaigning right now in Arizona. She's campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Do you think that Clinton can win a state like Arizona, maybe even Utah? These are traditionally Republican states in presidential contests. The polls show it's very close between her and Trump in those states.
COONS: I do. If you listen to my Republican colleagues from those states, a number of them have early on said that they distanced themselves, they disavowed Donald Trump's positions. The Muslim ban, his sharp disrespect for Senator McCain's war record and then some of his more recent appalling statements about sexual harassment and abuse of women.
I just want to say I commend a number of my Republican Senate colleagues for also saying that they think that Donald Trump's statements in the debate last night that he wouldn't respect the outcome of the election are admirable. Senator Graham, Senator Flake, Senator Sasse. Senator Flake is from Arizona.
And I think a number of the statements that have been made by Republican Party and elected officials in Arizona and Utah suggest that this -- this is a season when it's possible for either Secretary Clinton or another candidate to be successful in Utah or Arizona.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Senator Coons, because Michelle Obama, the first lady, is speaking right now in Phoenix, Arizona. I want to listen in.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I love you, too!
But I have been reminded of the importance of hope. Because let me just say this. This is what hope looks like. It's -- it's that belief that we can be better, that we can do better for our kids. That, even in our darkest hours, there's always a brighter day ahead. And if we're willing to work for it and fight for it, we can make it happen.
Hope is what keeps our better angels alive. It has been the driving force behind everything we've achieved these last eight years, and it has been at the heart of my life and my husband's life since the day we were born.
[17:20:13] And I think that one of the reasons this election has been so difficult for so many of us what's being lost. In all the hateful, hurtful rhetoric we've been hearing, we're losing hope. You see, in this race we -- we have a candidate whose vision for our country is completely and utterly lacking in hope. A candidate who tells us that our country is desperate and weak, that our communities are in chaos, that our fellow citizens are a threat; a candidate who calls on us to turn against each other, to build walls, to be afraid.
Well, Barack and I, and our friend Hillary, we have a very different perspective on this country, one that has everything to do with where we come from and how we were raised. You see, we all grew up in working families. As you know, Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills and by grandparents who stepped up to help. My dad was a shift worker at the city water plant. And let me tell you, he and my mother scrimped and saved every penny to send me and my brother to college.
Hillary's mother was an orphan, abandoned by her parents. Hillary's father, small business owner. Stayed up nights, poring over the books, working hard to keep their family afloat. See, and when you grow up like us, doing your best to keep it all together, you come in contact with all kinds of people. And yes, you witness a lot of struggles and hardships, but let me tell you, you also see so much triumph, so much beauty, so much joy. That's my life.
So, you learn empathy. You learn compassion. You learn that folks may not look or think like you, but when it comes to what really matters in life, our values and our dreams, we're not all that different. You learn that, when folks are down on their luck, it's not because they deserve it. It's not because they're unworthy. Because you've seen firsthand that sometimes bad things happen to good people. And when times are tough, hope is all you have.
So the hope that sustains us, it isn't some naive idea that, if you sit around and do nothing, everything will be OK. No, no. Our hope is grounded in hard work and hard-earned faith. It is grounded in belief that there is something greater than us, that reminds us that we are all precious and worthy, no matter where we come from or what we've been through. That's what Barack and I believe, and that's what Hillary believes, too.
Now, sadly, for some reason, Hillary's opponent comes from a different place. I don't know. Perhaps living life high up in a tower, in a world of exclusive clubs, measuring success by wins and losses, the number of zeroes in your bank account, perhaps you just develop a different set of values. Maybe, with so little exposure to people who are different than you, becomes easy to take advantage of those who are down on their luck, folks who play by the rules, pay what they owe. Because to you -- to you, those folks just aren't very smart. And seem somehow less deserving.
And if you think this way, then it's easy to see this country as us versus them. And it's easy to dehumanize "them." To treat "them" with contempt. Because you don't know them. You can't even see them.
[17:25:12] Maybe that's why this candidate thinks certain immigrants are criminals instead of folks who work their fingers to the bone to give their kids a better life, to help build the greatest nation on earth, because he doesn't really know them.
Maybe that's why he thinks we should be afraid of our Muslim brothers and sisters, because he really has no idea who they are. He doesn't understand that they are us. They are our friends, our family, our neighbors, our colleagues. People of faith, just like so many folks around the country.
Maybe -- maybe that's why he sees veterans enduring the wounds of war as weak, why he insults Gold-Star families, folks who have spent months praying not to get that knock at the door. Heroes who love this country so much they're willing to die for it. He just can't see them.
Maybe it's easy for him to mock people with disabilities, because he's unable to see their strength and their contributions. Maybe that's why he demeans and humiliates women as if we're objects meant solely for pleasure and entertainment, rather than human beings worthy of love and respect.
He just doesn't understand us. Maybe that's why he calls communities like the one where I was raised "hell." Because he can't see all of the decent, hard-working folks like my parents, who took those extra shifts, paid their bills on time; folks who are raising amazing families, sending kids to college.
Maybe -- maybe he doesn't believe that people like us really exist. Because he does not see our shared humanity. And it is becoming increasingly clear that, to him, most of America is "them."
But here's the thing. Look at us. Just look at us! We all know better. We all know better. Whether we're Democrats, Republicans or independents, it does not matter. We all understand that an attack on any one of us is an attack on all of us. And we know that that is not who we are. No.
Who are we? We are a nation founded as a rebuke to tyranny. A nation of revolutionaries who refused sovereign reign from afar. Hear me: We're a nation that says, give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We are a nation built on our differences, guided by the belief that we are all created equal. A nation that fully recognizes that we are always stronger together. All of us. That's who we are. That's the country we want to raise our kids in.
And right now, we are at a cross-roads in this election and in this country, where we're being presented with two very, very different visions for how we move forward as a nation. One candidate is offering a vision that is grounded in hopelessness and despair, a vision of a country driven by division and ruled by fear, a country where some folks get all the breaks and the rest of us are left behind. That's one vision of America.
But fortunately, there is another candidate in this race who is offering a very different vision for this country, and that candidate is our friend, Hillary Clinton.