Could rigged election talk backfire on Trump? Do FBI email notes damage Clinton?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And staying on politics, we are joined now, as we are every Monday, by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

Hello to both of you.

TAMARA KEITH: Hello.

AMY WALTER: Hello, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we just heard from these two gentlemen how hard, if not impossible, Amy, it is to rig an election.

AMY WALTER: Yes, it is.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Why then is Donald Trump continuing to talk about it?

AMY WALTER: It's pretty simple.

It's about trying to suppress voters from turning out, and specifically people who would support Hillary Clinton, from turning out and voting. If you're talking about going into certain neighborhoods and literally standing there to watch people vote, that says make sure that those people don't come out and vote.

Now, the danger of making saying that the election overall is rigged, vs. they're trying to steal it, is, if you say it's rigged, then you're also saying to your own voters, well, why bother even going, because it's probably going to turn out badly anyway?

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what does that mean, Tamara?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, and he really has shifted into more broadly not just talking about something could be happening in some neighborhoods. Now he's saying the whole thing is rigged, that the media is rigging it, that there is something bigger going on.

And it does raise the question, how are his voters going to respond to that? And that is not clear. So, yes, we're in uncharted territory.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But it's something that he continues to write about, to tweet about.

All right, I want to turn you, Tam, to the Clinton campaign today dealing with more e-mails, this time, as we heard in Lisa's report a little while ago, accusations there was this discussion between the State Department and the FBI about whether to lower the classification of one e-mail among those that were sent to Hillary Clinton.

What are we to make of this? And then there was discussion of a quid pro quo because, in that same conversation, they were taking about the FBI getting more employees overseas.

TAMARA KEITH: Right.

And this comes from FBI investigative notes that were released today. And it's one of those things where both the FBI and the State Department say there is no quid pro quo, there was no quid and there was no quo, that what the State Department wanted, they didn't get, what the FBI wanted, they didn't get, and that, in fact, it was the FBI — somebody at the FBI, name redacted, who asked an official at the State Department about something.

So, it wasn't the State Department that was initiating the apparently nonexistent quid pro quo.

But here's what really matters, is that Donald Trump is now out with a video where he's talking straight to camera saying Hillary Clinton did this thing that's shady.

Now, the Clinton campaign says they didn't know anything about it, but what it is, is another day where there are headlines that say Hillary Clinton, e-mail, FBI.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amy, we're two days, two nights away from third and final debate. How damaging is it for her?

AMY WALTER: Well, her name is not involved in this at all, so that's one helpful piece if you're Hillary Clinton.

But it does — to Tam's point, it's not just that it's the FBI and e-mail and Hillary Clinton in the headline. It's also the sense that the whole entire process was a political process, where the State Department was looking out specifically for Hillary Clinton, trying to protect her and her e-mails from getting FBI scrutiny.

This question, as well as some of the other questions that were raised in some of her speeches, may be part of the debate, where she's going to be asked specifically to answer some of the stuff she said in private, but hasn't said in public.

I thought her answer at the her answer at the last debate, this was sort of Lincolnesque, I sort of imagine myself being Abraham Lincoln, fell really, really flat. If that's her answer to more pointed questions, which I think she will get from Chris Wallace, the FOX News reporter who's going to be the moderator, that's not going to work really well.

TAMARA KEITH: So, the hilarious thing about that Lincoln remark that fell kind of flat in the debate is, that's exactly what the speech transcript said, that she was actually talking about the "Lincoln" movie.

AMY WALTER: That's right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It was in the speech.

TAMARA KEITH: That some — that a Brazilian bank paid her a lot of money to give a speech where she talked about the movie "Lincoln."

AMY WALTER: The movie "Lincoln," right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is her camp — is she prepared, Tam, based on your reporting, to talk about this some more, to give more of an explanation about what's going on?

TAMARA KEITH: She is certainly preparing. That's for sure, because she's been off the trail for several days. She's not going to be on the trail today, tomorrow. And then there is the debate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's go back to Donald Trump.

Today, we know, by now, there have been, Amy, nearly a dozen women who have come forward and said that Donald Trump was either groping or in some way sexually aggressive toward them.

Today, what's different is that his wife, Melania, has done an interview with CNN. And we're going to show you — she was asked by Anderson Cooper about that "Access Hollywood" tape in which we heard him talking. Hear's what Melania Trump had to say.

MELANIA TRUMP, Wife of Donald Trump: I said to my husband that, you know, the language is inappropriate, it's not acceptable, and I was surprised, because that is not the man that I know.

And, as you can see from the tape, the cameras were not on. It was only a mike. And I wonder if they even knew that the mike was on, because it was kind of boy talk, and he was led on, like egged on from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amy, this is 10 days after that tape came out. It's after we have seen Donald Trump losing support among women voters. Does this make…

AMY WALTER: And now — right, they put his wife out…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

AMY WALTER: … which she can help to sort of soften the edge on this.

But her answer and her — the way she is defending her husband is not much different from what he's saying, which is basically, this was locker room talk.

But when you look at the polling that has been taking place since this locker room talk came out, you're right. He lost support in the polls. He's losing support among women. We're now hearing about — when we're looking at the polls, we're talking now about a historic gender gap.

We may not have seen a gender gap like this in — certainly in the last 30 or 40, 50 — actually, I think it goes back 50 years. And then the Washington Post poll that came out this weekend, when asked do you think that this issue that was raised in the tape, his treatment of women, is important, is it a legitimate issue, 55 percent of voters said this is a legitimate issue.

So, writing it off to boys talking, locker room talk in the wake, not just of the audio, but the women who came forward, I don't think it's going to do much good.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, the Clinton camp seems to be — they're out now talking about how their chances have improved, expanding the battleground now.

TAMARA KEITH: They're expanding the map.

Bernie Sanders will be campaigning in Arizona, Arizona, tomorrow. They are running a week of ads in Texas, very, very red Texas. In Arizona, they're going to spend about $2 million. It's basically a tossup now and they think it's a possible pickup. And there's the added benefit of making your opponent have to compete in a state where he shouldn't have to compete.

He should be focused on the battlegrounds that he really needs to win and where he is struggling, and now they are expanding the map.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly.

AMY WALTER: And I think that what she really wants to do is run up the score to show that there is a mandate here.

The problem for that is, she may get a lot of votes, a lot of electoral votes, more than Barack Obama got, but she's still going to come into office with an overall disapproval rating that's higher than anybody in recent times has come into the presidency.

So, you want more votes, but it's not necessarily going to change the way that people see her, not more positively, at least.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both, Politics Monday.

TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we want you to tune in this coming Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for our special live coverage of that final presidential debate.

And, in the meantime, you can watch all the presidential and vice presidential debates dating back to 1960. That's at our new Web site, watchthedebates.org.

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