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E-mails Surface Between Roger Stone, Trump Campaign about Leaks of E-mails Stolen by Russians; Trump Stokes Immigration Fears Ahead of Midterms. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 1, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are other conspiracy theories.
[17:00:02] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: There are other conspiracy theories. There's no question. That's not what he's saying.
That's all the time we have. CNN continues right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Closing in on collusion? An e-mail exchange from the 2016 campaign reveals that Trump confidant Roger Stone was in touch with the highest level of the Trump campaign about the forthcoming WikiLeaks release of Democratic e-mails stolen by Russia. Is there a collusion case for the special counsel, Robert Mueller?
No safe harbor. President Trump takes another step to divert attention ahead of the midterms, denouncing what he calls a, quote, "invasion" on the southern border, demanding that caravans of migrants turn back and announcing a change in asylum rules.
Fear factor. The president moves to stoke fears about immigration, promoting a racially-charged video that shocks even key Republicans, who say he's trying to frighten his loyalists so they turn out to vote. Will it work?
And mob boss murder. Shocking new details about the savage killing of imprisoned mob boss Whitey Bulger. Why was he beaten beyond recognition?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. An e-mail exchange from the peak of the 2016 presidential campaign shows longtime Trump ally Roger Stone had contact with top Trump campaign official Steve Bannon about the WikiLeaks release of stolen Democratic e-mails.
A source says the special counsel, Robert Mueller, now has those e- mails. Mueller's team has been focusing in on Roger Stone and has interviewed Steve Bannon at least three times.
And that comes as President Trump tries to change the subject in these, the waning days of the midterm campaign, playing the race card and stoking fears about immigration. I'll speak with Senator Ron Wyden of the Senate Intelligence
Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage.
Let's begin with the breaking news about Roger Stone's communications with the highest level of the Trump campaign. Let's bring in our CNN political correspondent Sara Murray and our justice correspondent Evan Perez.
First of all, Sara, take us through these e-mails.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these are e- mails in the campaign, as you mentioned, October of 2016, and the backdrop here is that Julian Assange was going to have this big press conference. He was going to release a bunch of new documents.
So Matthew Boyle, who is a political editor for the right-wing Breitbart News, e-mails Roger Stone and said, "Assange, what's he got? Hope it's good."
Roger Stone responds and says, "It is. I'd tell Bannon," referring to Steve Bannon, "but he doesn't call me back."
So Matthew Boyle decides to e-mail Steve Bannon and say, "You should call Roger. See below. You didn't get from me."
Steve Bannon responds to Matthew Boyle, "I've got important stuff to worry about." Pretty dismissive.
And Matt Boyle responds back and says, "Well, clearly, he knows what Assange has. I'd say that's important."
These two, of course, have a rapport, because Steve Bannon used to be the head of Breitbart News.
Now fast forward to October 4. This is after it became clear that Assange did a two-hour media event but didn't release anything new. A lot of the -- then the candidates' supporters were very angry, and they thought a bombshell was going to drop. So Steve Bannon does decide to e-mail Roger Stone, and says, "What was that this morning?"
And Roger Stone replies, "Fear, serious security concern," talking about Assange. "He thinks they are going to kill him and that London police are standing down. However, a load every week going forward."
So Wolf, this is another one of those instances where it appears that Stone looks like he's about to predict something, although Julian Assange did say that he had more information to share and there would be more coming.
But it also tells you that he was in touch with a very senior Trump campaign official in the weeks leading up to the election about WikiLeaks.
BLITZER: As you know, Evan, Robert Mueller and his team, they've interviewed at least seven or eight of Roger Stone's associates. Three times alone, Steve Bannon has now been called before the Mueller team.
What kind of case, potentially, is Mueller building against Roger Stone and potentially others?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I think -- we don't know whether Roger Stone is actually bluffing or whether this is actually true, right? That's the essence of what the issue here is.
But this is one reason why we keep saying that the collusion case is still very much alive. It is still very much something that Robert Mueller's investigators are pursuing. And so you can see, perhaps, a conspiracy case against Roger Stone if it is a proved that he did know something that perhaps, if it is proved that he did know something, that he -- perhaps if he was conspiring with WikiLeaks, and he was in communication with people in the campaign. That's where the crux of this lies.
Whether or not this is actually what Mueller -- remember, this is what Mueller was actually assigned to do, and so this is what, you know, the central case that they can make.
As you said, nine of Roger Stone's associates have been brought before Mueller and have provided information. There's one more that has been fighting a subpoena. So we'll see whether or not this is a -- whether the investigators are able to get there.
[17:05:15] It's very interesting. You know, Jeffrey Toobin is with us, as well.
Jeffrey, take us a little bit into the big picture of what's going on right now. What does this tell us about, first of all, what the campaign thought about Roger Stone, his ties to WikiLeaks, the Clinton e-mail hack. As you know, the U.S. government has alleged that the WikiLeaks got all those e-mails courtesy of Russia.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the big -- the big question at the heart of the Mueller investigation is, we know that the Russian government, through intermediaries, made efforts to help Donald Trump win this election. That's beyond dispute at this point.
The question is did anyone in the Trump campaign know or assist, that is, collude with the Russian government to assist Trump win the election? That has the potential to be illegal.
Stone is the potential intermediary between WikiLeaks, which got these hacked e-mails from the Russians, to the Trump campaign. These -- these e-mails suggest there were certainly conversations going on about that WikiLeaks effort. It's suggestive, but it's not proof of a crime yet, I don't think.
BLITZER: Sara, if Roger Stone gets into trouble, does that implicate the Trump campaign? Because almost every other day the president says no collusion, no collusion, no collusion.
MURRAY: Well, you know, Wolf, it really depends on what he gets into trouble for. You know, we don't really know the extent of the conversations that Roger Stone may have had with other people in the campaign or even with Donald Trump directly.
Now, Stone has denied over and over again that he shared any information about WikiLeaks with Donald Trump when he was a candidate, but the reality is these two are talking directly, and there was no one really monitoring their communications at the time. So we don't know what was shared.
I mean, I think it's possible you end up in another scenario where no one else in Donald Trump's inner circle is caught up in this. It could just be something that Roger Stone gets in trouble for, and then you end up with this lasting perception that the president, you know, decided to surround himself over the course of his life, essentially, with crooks and with people who are up to no good. Roger Stone still insists that he did nothing wrong. He's innocent of everything.
TOOBIN: And Wolf, can I just add one point about Roger Stone? Evan made an illusion to this. There's a technical legal term for Roger Stone. He is a B.S. artist. He lies to everybody. He boasts. He tells stories. That may actually help him. He may actually be saying, "Oh, come on, I was just puffing. I didn't really know what was going on with WikiLeaks."
And if you know Roger Stone as I do, it is entirely possible that he was just boasting, and he didn't know what was going on. And that's an overlay to all these e-mails and these conversations that the Mueller office, which certainly knows -- knows who Roger Stone is at this point, will have to consider.
BLITZER: Evan, here's what some legal experts who are knowledgeable about these kinds of matters have suggested that perhaps is Roger Stone, really, the ultimate target here, or are they squeezing him in this way so he cooperates and they can go to a higher up?
PEREZ: Well, you know, I think that's an interesting theory. I mean, obviously, we know that, under Justice Department rules, the president can't be charged; and that's the ultimate end game if you are looking for a bigger fish.
I think, Wolf, I think if -- if -- the special counsel is able to get the charges on Roger Stone and if, again, it has something to do with the campaign, I think that does tremendous damage to the president. And I think that is, in itself, a big deal. So I'm not sure that you need to roll him on anyone.
In any case, as Jeffrey just pointed out, I mean, there's so much B.S. from him that I don't think you can even use him as a witness and have that stand up in court.
MURRAY: Yes, I think that Jeffrey made a really good point. And it's sort of at the crux of this "New York Times" article that came out. They had all these messages with Boyle, with Bannon, with Roger Stone, although Roger Stone did publish some of them himself.
And, you know, it sort of gets to this idea that Roger Stone was selling himself to the Trump campaign as a guy who had the inside track with WikiLeaks, but people in the campaign didn't know what to make of it. They didn't know if they could trust him. And you can kind of see it in these e-mails, where Steve Bannon just says, you know, "I've got important stuff to worry about. I can't bother dealing with Roger."
So it's hard to say -- and that's what the investigators are trying to pin down, is whether Stone really did have any kind of back channel, any kind of sort of direct contact with WikiLeaks, or whether this was just, you know, a guy who wanted to be important and relevant.
PEREZ: It is still -- it is still pretty interesting, though, that someone, a gadfly like this, a B.S. artist, as Jeffrey points out, had access to the president -- or to the candidate at the time. I mean, he's somebody who still talked to the president with some regularity, it appears.
BLITZER: Certainly had access to Steve Bannon, the chief campaign political strategist.
PEREZ: Right, right.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, how does this fit into other evidence that -- that -- against the Trump campaign, specifically that very controversial Trump Tower meeting in which they all got together with some Russians to get so-called dirt on Hillary Clinton?
[17:10:06] TOOBIN: Well, they both deal with the same general issue, was were the Russians -- the Russian government, people affiliated with the Russian government -- trying to help the Trump campaign?
Obviously the Trump Tower meeting, based on the e-mail traffic, was very clearly about that, although that meeting apparently didn't pan out.
Here the question is did the Russian government and Russian interest, through WikiLeaks, try to hurt the Clinton campaign to benefit -- to benefit the Trump campaign? It's the same question. It's just -- it's a different route.
And the thing that you always have to ask about this saying is why didn't anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign say, "This stuff is illegal. We can't get hacked e-mails. Those are crimes. We don't want any part of this"? That is something we certainly haven't seen.
BLITZER: You know, Evan, Jeffrey makes a very important point. Apparently, nobody from the Trump campaign called up the FBI or any other law enforcement authority and said, "Hey, there's some illegal stuff going on. We want you to -- we want to alert you about this."
PEREZ: Right. I think that much has been clear, including obviously, when -- when they decided to do the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. Nobody called the FBI, which is the course that I think everybody would have preferred, certainly law enforcement would have preferred that the Trump campaign did. BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There's a lot of dramatic
developments unfolding right now. Joining us right now, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. He's a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Thank you Wolf.
BLITZER: Do these newly-released e-mails that we've just gotten our hands on today strengthen the case that Roger Stone was a potential back channel from the Trump campaign to WikiLeaks, which was getting a lot of stolen e-mails, hacked e-mails from the Russians?
WYDEN: Wolf, intelligence members, of course, can't get into classified matters, but let me tell you what I think the bottom line is today.
If Roger Stone and Steve Bannon were coordinating with WikiLeaks, it seems to me that raises a wide variety of potential criminal and civil violation.
BLITZER: We'll talk a little bit about that. Do you -- do you buy Stone's excuse that this was all just bluster?
WYDEN: Again, I can't get into classified matters, but I think we know that these two were very high up and very influential in the campaign, and that's why "The Times" story raises, in my view, very substantial and troubling questions. And what I want to know -- and I can't get into classified matters -- is were these two coordinating with WikiLeaks, and if they were, seems to me they got a whole lot of trouble facing them.
BLITZER: What kind of trouble? I want you to elaborate on that. If they were?
WYDEN: Well, criminal -- criminal and civil. I mean, there are questions of criminal violations when you're talking about foreign interferences in elections. There are certainly issues with respect to hacking. There are civil questions with respect to reporting, so there is a wide variety of potential criminal and civil violations here.
BLITZER: So do you think Roger Stone will be indicted?
WYDEN: Well, Roger Stone himself has been on both sides of the question. Sometimes y'all are reporting that he's saying he's going to be, and I think I'll leave it at that. He's on both sides.
BLITZER: Yes, he has suggested, he has said he probably will be. We'll see if that happens.
We know that Mueller and his team, they're really interviewing a lot of his associates. They haven't yet spoken to him, although he did testify up on Capitol Hill. Why do you think that Mueller hasn't called Roger Stone to actually appear, either in a question and answer session or before a grand jury?
WYDEN: Well, Bob Mueller has been running a textbook investigation and I'm not going to kind of sideline quarterback his work. If you look at the number of guilty pleas, the number of indictments. He's going at this very methodically and this is vintage Bob Mueller. He's keeping the politics out. He's doing it by the book.
BLITZER: Your committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been trying to get documents from Roger Stone. Has he cooperated with you?
WYDEN: Again, you cannot, under the committee rules, talk about that kind of business. What I can tell you that I think there are substantial questions left for the committee to address. Some people are talking about whether the committee should wind up its work shortly. I think we've got a lot to do.
BLITZER: Bottom line right now, based on everything that you know, do you believe there was what's called collusion?
[17:15:00] WYDEN: When people ask about that, and I've been in town hall meetings all across Oregon the last couple weeks. They ask that specific question. Look, when you examine Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mail with respect to that particular meeting that's got all the attention, there was a clear intent to collude there, so there's a lot of follow- up work to be done.
BLITZER: All right. While I have you, Senator, let me get your thoughts on the president's closing argument just ahead of next week's midterm election. He's clearly trying to turn the focus to immigration, releasing a deeply racist video; ordering a military buildup on the southern border with Mexico. What do you make of President Trump's closing argument just five days before the election?
WYDEN: Democrats have been trying to work with this administration for 22 months on serious policy. We voted for billions of dollars for border security.
I think what you heard a little bit ago was a president trying to whip his base up into just extraordinary fear so they would not pick up on the fact that the president's legal team is in court trying to take away their healthcare. I think that was what today was all about.
BLITZER: And when the president of the United States says if some these young men, for example, throw stones at American law enforcement or military personnel, it's OK to go ahead and them, shoot and kill?
WYDEN: There are already tough laws to enforce arrangements to protect our people on the border. What the president is doing is playing political games that, if anything, just makes enforcement tougher.
BLITZER: Senator Wyden, thanks so much for joining us.
WYDEN: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to stay on top of the breaking news. We're getting more information. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[17:21:13] BLITZER: After promoting a racially-charged video that truly shocked fellow Republicans, the president is heading back on the campaign trail later tonight. He's trying to drum up what he calls a crisis on the southern border, making his closing argument about immigration.
Let's go live to our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. So Kaitlan, what exactly is going on? What's the latest?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we're seeing is the president make this last-minute pitch to voters, because he wants the midterms next Tuesday to be about immigration.
Now, he just left the White House. He's headed to Missouri tonight for another rally in this blitz of rallies he's doing ahead of next Tuesday.
But before he left the White House, he gave this presidential address that the White House says was warranted by what they are calling a, quote, immigration crisis.
But, Wolf, when the president addressed reporters, he didn't disclose any new information or unveil any new policy proposals, instead just putting them off, saying that they're coming next week but not saying anything specific, Wolf.
But essentially what we saw was the president reiterate what he says at these campaign rallies. Just this time, it was here in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
And it was more of that larger argument that we've seen from the administration and from President Trump specifically, as they are hoping to bolster Republican support ahead of next Tuesday and make this all about immigration.
So Wolf, it's just that on top of the president's idea saying that he's going to deploy thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, his claim that he wants to end birthright citizenship with an executive order; also, that ad that he tweeted yesterday on his Twitter, which the White House says are official White House statements, of an illegal immigrant who killed police officers.
All of this, Wolf, is really a larger effort by the president to make the immigration not about -- excuse me, the midterms not about healthcare, not about anything else, but about immigration. That is what we are seeing, and Wolf, it's likely what we're going to hear more of tonight.
BLITZER: You know, Kaitlan, the only thing I heard new in that talk the Roosevelt Room at the White House was when the president said if some of these migrants, these young men, for example, were to throw a stone or a rock at a law enforcement official or a U.S. military official, that they -- they could respond with gunfire. They could shoot and kill these young migrants.
Had you heard that before from White House officials, that that was going to be the new U.S. policy?
COLLINS: No, Wolf, and I don't know the White House knew that the president was going to make that remark earlier. He seemed to say that in response to a question that one of the reporters there in the room said to him. But that was pretty much as close as we got to a policy change. He said that, in his opinion, when it comes to something like that, he considers a rock to be equal with a firearm.
BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you very much.
Our political experts are here. We're going to be discussing President Trump's decision to go all in on these scare tactics. I want everybody to stand by. We have lots going on. We'll be right back.
[17:28:45] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories right now, including President Trump's attempts to keep voters' attention focused on what he insists is a threat posed by what he calls mass uncontrolled immigration. We have lots to discuss with our experts.
Chris Cillizza, does it look like the president has settled in with five days to go, on his closing argument?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS WRITER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes, no question, and I think you need to see this, you know, alleged policy address that was just a campaign speech in the Roosevelt Room, as a piece of the larger puzzle of this closing argument. This was billed as something that it was not. There's no policy in this. This is Donald Trump, again, saying essentially, there's a roving horde of -- I'm paraphrasing -- there's a roving horde of immigrants on the way to this country. They're going to overwhelm our borders, and there's criminals in there, and I'm not going to let that happen.
Now, the facts he left -- the facts left the barn a long time ago on this, in terms of the details. He has clearly settled on this, though, as the message. Not terribly surprising, given that immigration, his plan to build the wall, his -- the travel ban, these were things that animated the Trump base in 2015 and 2016. He's going back to what he knows. You're going to hear more and more of this in -- he's holding a ton of rallies. You're going to hear this rhetoric. This will be the closing argument. It will, I think, be effective for his base. That will help in the Senate because of where the races are. It will help less in the House, because there are so many suburban districts, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, where this message I think will be lost on them, or may even lead to a bigger Democratic --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And New Jersey as well.
CILLIZZA: Yes. BLITZER: You know, Jamie Gangel, you've been talking to some Republican sources, the President clearly is doubling down right now. What are you hearing?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL REPORTER: One of them said to me he's tripling down, he's gone past that. This is about fear and rage. We've seen very few Republicans actually publically take him on. Most of them are hiding under their desks or looking for a bigger desk to hide under, but they don't like it. They don't want this. It is not good for them. It is not good for the party long term. And as Chris said, it's going to work in some districts, but in a lot of them, it won't, and it can backfire.
BLITZER: You know, David Swerdlick, the President is getting a lot of pushback for this racially-charged video that he forwarded to his 55 million followers on Twitter. Senator Jeff Flake tweeted, "This is a sickening ad. Republicans everywhere should denounce it." But there hasn't been universal condemnation, why?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think you hear it from Senator Flake because he's not running for re-election and that is part of the problem. Look, I'll say the same thing about Senator Flake that I said about Speaker Ryan yesterday. It's a little late to grow a back bone and stick up to the President when you're days away from essentially being out the door. Republicans have had two years to try and claim back a different version of Republicanism, they haven't done it. This is Donald Trump's Republican Party, President Trump's party, and he -- as Chris and as Jamie are resaying, he has settled in on his closing argument, tripling down on immigration, because this is where he's comfortable.
BLITZER: You know, Bianna, the President keeps appealing to his base, but in the process, he's not necessarily reaching out to those independent voters that the Republicans will need if they want to retain the majority of the House and the Senate. Why not try to broaden? He's the President of the United States, the Republican coalition?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, there may be a few factors at play. One, this is what the President knows, this is what won him the 2016 election when everybody said immigration and building a wall were not the issues to go after, so in his mind, from one aspect, he can say, look, I was right when so many people were wrong. Secondly, it's what he knows best, too. This President isn't well- versed in healthcare, he's not well-versed in a lot of other issues, but he is well-versed and he does know how to stomp on the campaign trail when it comes to immigrants, when it comes to that wall, when it comes to the caravan.
And third, I think Jamie was right, you do statistically see that voters don't reward incumbents during a midterm. They come out when they are angry and when they are outraged, and the sense that this caravan may be approaching, the use of the word invaders, possibly in his mind, could be an attempt to spark that outrage and that concern.
BLITZER: And, you know, what's really upsetting, that he once again uses the word invaders, invasion of America. Doesn't he know that this shooter in -- at the synagogue in Pittsburgh was motivated, he himself said because he didn't like the word illegals that much, but he really likes the word invaders?
CILLIZZA: I think he understands it. I just don't think he cares. In an interview with Axios that they're publishing out, he's asked about this. You know, the implications, not specifically of the Pittsburgh incident, but more broadly speaking of his language, calling (INAUDIBLE) people. His response is it's my only way of fighting back. Again, I always come back to this, but the people who've held this office before saw the office as it carried with it a burden of moral leadership.
CILLIZZA: Whether you wanted that or not, you know, whether you wanted to be a role model or not, you were because you're the President of the United States. He absolutely rejects that idea. He does what is good for him, and that's the opposite of being a moral leader.
GANGEL: And he believes in those two words, fear and rage, as he said to Bob Woodward, that's what gives him respect, and rage is what he thinks motivates.
CILLIZZA: And to Jamie's point. It's -- he has said this, it's how he won. I mean, you have to always remember, in 2016, everyone said, no, he's not going to win, he's too angry, playing on people's fears, playing on racial animus. That won't work in this country, and it did. So, everything that he thought that everyone said wouldn't work did, and he views that as the ultimate justification which is why he's going back to it.
SWERDLICK: Yes, until he's proven wrong, he's probably going to double down on --
CILLIZZA: Yes. Until he's proven wrong.
SWERDLICK: Wolf, can I just jump on that point about presidential leadership just to contrast with what President Obama said, I wrote this down before we came on set. What he said in 2014 when he went to the east room in primetime to talk about immigration.
[17:35:04] He said, "Scripture tells us we shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too. We're a nation of immigrants." That was that Presidential unifying message. You don't have it.
BLITZER: All right, Bianna, go ahead.
GOLODRYGA: And once again, it shows that this President is willing to bet that immigration and fear over immigrants coming into this country will Trump talking about the economy. The economy was on an upswing when he won in 2016. The economy has only improved since then. We have another jobs report coming out this Friday, just a few days before the midterms, and yet this is not an issue that the President is focusing on as a priority.
BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more news we're following. New polls indicate important trends in states that are key to Democrats hopes of a so-called "blue wave." We'll update you on that when we come back.
[17:40:30] BLITZER: With just days to go before the midterm elections, President Trump has just gone back out on the campaign trail. His closing argument is based on stoking fears on immigration with racially-charged incendiary rhetoric. Let's bring in our CNN Political Director David Chalian. Give us your thoughts on the President's closing argument, David, because I know yesterday you said it looked like he was losing a little bit of his footing, but what do you think today?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, after those pipe bombs were sent to all of those Democrats and to CNN after the massacre at the synagogue this weekend, it seemed to me that as we were discussing, the President didn't quite know which way he wanted to go or how he was going to get a handle on the wheel and steer the narrative into election day. It's clear he's got that footing now for himself, he knows he wants it to be on immigration, he wants to go very hard at it. I think, every day from now through Tuesday, Wolf, we are going to hear a very hard core immigration border security message from the President. He thinks that's the best way to get his base out, not just save the Senate from slipping into Democratic hands which is where he has the most influence because of the way the map is, but also in some of these battleground House districts where he actually won by double digits.
BLITZER: We have some new poll numbers. I want you to take us through these new poll numbers, because they underscore maybe why the President is doing what he's doing.
CHALIAN: Yes. We're seeing razor-thin races in the key battleground state of Florida. Take a look at these numbers here. You have in the governor's race Andrew Gillum, that's a tight race 49 percent of likely voters say they're for Gillum, 48 percent of likely voters in Florida say they're for DeSantis. That is -- you don't get much closer than that. Same story in the Senate race there between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott. Take a look at there, you got the Democrat incumbent, Nelson, 49 percent, Rick Scott, the governor, seeking to move to Washington as a Senator at 47 percent. And take a look, Wolf, at what has happened to the President's approval rating in the Sunshine State. Look at where he was in mid-October when we polled Florida, 43 percent approval among likely voters. Now, he's at 47 percent approval. He's still slightly upside down, but his approval rating uptick is what is bringing these races closer together.
We see a similar story in Tennessee. The Senate race there critical for Democratic chances at all in taking back the Senate. Right now, Phil Bredesen is running behind, he's at 45 percent. The Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn she's at 49 percent. You can see a complete flip-flop in those numbers from September. What happened between September and now, the Kavanaugh effect certainly happened, but this immigration message. Blackburn is echoing President Obama on everything he says about the caravan, about birthright citizenship, and look at the President's approval rating in Tennessee as well. We see an uptick there. He's now at 53 percent approval rating, majority approval. He's up -- right side up by, what is that, 11 points, 53 percent approve, 42 percent disapprove, that's quite better than where he was back in September. That Presidential performance that has been enhanced for Trump, his approval rating going up is having a benefit, especially in a deep red state like Tennessee.
BLITZER: So, it looks like these final days before next Tuesday's election, the Republicans have developed a bit of a momentum?
CHALIAN: Well, in the Senate, I think they have in some of these deep red states. I can't stress enough how totally different the two atmospheres are in the battle for control of the House and the battle for control of the Senate. The Senate, it's all about those red states that have Democrats in them and can they win re-election in Trump country? The House is about the suburban districts, these independent voters that are going to be key.
You know, I asked a Republican operative just a little while ago who is in charge of a lot of the strategy behind these House races, if you could script Donald Trump's closing message for your party, would this be the script? And his answer was, well, it would be part of the script. I would want immigration to be a piece of this, but I would want other things like healthcare and the economy and the Republican message on those issues to also be a piece of it. That's somebody who's running House races. On the Senate, they are very happy to see this hardline immigration message because that's the part of deep red Trump country America where it resonates the most, and those are the voters they need out for the Senate.
BARTIROMO: How serious are these proposals on immigration that the President is now throwing out suggesting he's going to have tents -- tent cities for any illegal immigrant who comes into the United States and the U.S. military will be surrounding all these tent cities, these people will never be able to leave unless they're kicked out of the United States or if some young migrant throws a stone at a soldier, that soldier or law enforcement officers can shoot to kill?
[17:45:15] CHALIAN: Yes. I listened very hard to the President today to hear a new proposal, a new actual policy rollout. There was none. There was not an executive order for us to read and see what he's talking about. And immigration activists on both sides of the equation, let's say, were waiting to hear what the President was going to say because what ended up happening was, it was much more campaign rhetoric in the Roosevelt Room today, it was not specific policy, and the campaign rhetoric does not equal policy. I think the President has learned that time and again throughout the last year and a half in office.
BLITZER: Yes, looked like a campaign rally speech in the Roosevelt Room with the difference being there were no applause at going at a rally there'd be a lot of applause and people interrupting with words like lock her up, lock her up, stuff like that. CHALIAN: Right.
BLITZER: All right. David, thanks very much.
CHALIAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Our Political Director David Chalian. Coming up, shocking new details emerging right now about the brutal killing of the imprisoned mobster Whitey Bulger. Was it revenge?
[17:50:51] BLITZER: Tonight, there are shocking new details and many unanswered questions about the killing of the imprisoned former mob boss, FBI informant, and most wanted fugitive, Whitey Bulger. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, it looks like he was murdered inside a federal prison.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it looks like he was murdered in a ferocious way inside that prison. We have new information tonight on what took place inside the facility and on a possible suspect.
TODD: Tonight, new information indicating that Boston's most notorious crime boss ever was targeted in prison. The New York Times cites law enforcement officials saying James Whitery Bulger was in a wheelchair when he was attacked at Hazelton Prison in West Virginia, that he was beaten beyond recognition with a padlock stuffed inside a sock. The Times citing a law enforcement source not directly related to the case, reports Bulger's eyes appeared to have been dislodged from his head. That it's not clear whether his attackers gouged out his eyes or if they were knocked out because he was beaten so severely.
SHELLEY MURPHY, CO-AUTHOR, "WHITEY BULGER: AMERICA'S MOST WANTED GANGSTER": Frankly, Whitey went out the way that he lived, I mean, that is what he did to his victims, he was vicious. He strangled -- he was convicted of strangling a woman and then he would go upstairs and take a nap while his friends buried her body.
TODD: The attorney for an inmate at Hazelton Fotios "Freddy" Geas tells CNN tonight he believes his client is a suspect in the Bulger's grizzly murder.
DANIEL KELLY, ATTORNEY FOR INMATE FOTIOS GEAS: My understanding is that he is in solitary confinement, he's in the segregation unit of Hazelton because he's under investigation for being involved in this.
TODD: Geas is a mafia hitman from West Springfield, Massachusetts, and was convicted for murdering a boss in the notorious Genovese crime family, as well as an associate.
KELLY: Mr. Geas certainly did not like informers, he's doing two life sentences because somebody very close to him decided to become an informer. And going back, and I representing Mr. Geas for the better part of two decades now. He had a particular distaste for him.
TODD: And Bulger was a well-known informant. Investigators said that for years, before a corrupt FBI agent tipped him off to pending charges against him, Bulger gave the FBI information on rival mobsters. He was leading South Boston's violent Winter Hill Gang at the time.
MICHAEL KENDALL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Whitey is someone who is truly a gangster and a sociopathic murder, that's what he was. He is someone that sold out his colleagues to law enforcement to get advantages for himself.
TODD: Bulger's exploits as a murderous gangster and an FBI informant were depicted in the popular hit movies "The Departed" and "Black Mass," where Johnny Depp played Bulger.
JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR AS WHITEY BULGER: John, do you know what I do to rats?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ain't ratting, Jimmie, it's an alliance.
DEPP: An alliance between me and the FBI?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, between you and me.
TODD: Ultimately, a jury found Whitey Bulger culpable of 11 killings between 1973 and 1985. Tonight, the attorney who represented the family of a woman who was strangled by Bulger says he doesn't believe they're taking pleasure in Bulger's murder.
KENDALL: There is such loathing for Bulger and for what he did with his murders, his drugs, his corruption, that obviously, he's not a person that engenders many feelings of sympathy from anyone.
TODD: But there are many serious questions tonight regarding the circumstances at Hazelton Prison, which according to his lawyer, inmate Freddy Geas said was a very violent place. Why was Whitey Bulger, a high-profile inmate, a notorious informant placed in the general population of that prison when he arrived just a day before his murder?
CNN tried multiple times to get answers to that from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. A spokesperson for the bureau told us, they could not comment because the matter is under investigation. Wolf?
BLITZER: And Brian, there is a disturbing new information about patterns of violence and chaos at that prison, that federal prison in West Virginia.
TODD: That's right, Wolf. The New York Times did a big investigation recently, reported that the Hazelton Prison was routinely understaffed, overwhelmed. The Times' report says they've been short on guards since 2016, and that there were 275 violent episodes there just last year, including fights among inmates and attacks on staff. The Bureau of Prisons has not commented when we've inquired about all of that.
[17:54:57] BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you. Coming up, there's breaking news, an e-mail exchange from the peak of the 2016 Presidential campaign, shows long-time Trump ally Roger Stone was in touch with the highest level of the Trump campaign about the WikiLeaks release of Democratic e-mails stolen by Russia. Is there a collusion case for the special counsel, Robert Mueller?