This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," October 31, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We can be sure that what is in those e-mails is absolutely devastating. And I think we're going to find out, by the way for the first time. Thank you, Huma.
HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Now they apparently want to look at e-mails of one of my staffers. And by all means, they should look at them. And I am sure they will reach the same conclusion they did when they looked at my e-mails for the last year. There is no case here.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the breaking e-mail story that has been breaking all weekend as the FBI releases a letter to lawmakers -- the assistant attorney general, rather. "We assure you the defendant will work closely with the FBI and together dedicate all necessary resources to take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible."
Now, here is the breaking news. We can confirm that the FBI has a preliminary inquiry into Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort's foreign business connections, with a tip towards Russia. The FBI is investigating, or preliminary inquiry is what it's called, not just Manafort but two others affiliated with the Trump campaign. That is the word coming down tonight.
So that's where we are. Let's bring in our panel: Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Robby Mook on a conference call pointed to this. Harry Reid pointed to it as well in a letter. It looks like there's some inkling that this is happening in a preliminary sense. Thoughts on all of this?
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: What a way to end this campaign. It's incredible. What the Democrats are saying is, wow, you know, the FBI could have looked into Russia trying to put its thumb on the scale, and they turned a blind eye. Instead, Comey is being pressured by Republican in Congress to influence the election. It's just a huge, huge mess.
I don't know exactly what crime or potential crime the FBI is investigating in terms of Paul Manafort and his connections to Russia, but it sounds like this might go on after the election.
BAIER: Apparently Manafort does not know of any investigation. He has not been contacted according to NBC. And it seems -- we don't have a full scale investigation confirmed. What they are calling it is a preliminary inquiry.
LIASSON: The bottom line, I think this will certainly turn off voters who haven't yet made up their minds and who find the choices pretty disheartening and unappetizing on both sides. That's generally what these kinds of things do.
BAIER: One thing is clear, Charlie, that this has turned what was praise for the FBI director -- here is some of that from Democrats before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CLINTON: I am grateful for the professionalism of the FBI and the Department of Justice. And I repeat that I made a mistake using personal e-mail and I regret that very much.
TIM KAINE, DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There was an extensive, as you know, Bret, investigation by the FBI under the direction of a wonderful and tough career public servant, Jim Comey.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-MD.: I don't know whether your family is watching this, but I hope that they are as proud of you as I am.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: James Comey, I do think that in all of the government, he is a man of integrity and honesty.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BAIER: Now, a few days later, actually a few weeks later, this is a different tone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CLINTON: It's pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election.
KAINE: This letter came out Friday, kind of raising questions but not really answering any questions. And then the FBI director had to backtrack on the letter. He said, yes, you are right, this can be seriously misconstrued.
REP. STEVE COHEN, D-TENN.: To get involved in the election this close to the election is just wrong. I think he was excessively careless in this position of making this statement. I think he is hurt the bureau. I think he hurt justice.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIF.: I think this was a very serious error in judgment by the director.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: So what do you make of this? Obviously, you could point to Republicans, too.
CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Sure. And this is Washington. It depends which way the wind is blowing.
But the stakes are very high for the country with this election. But for no one are the stakes higher than for the FBI right now. If, in fact, this goes forward and Hillary Clinton loses the election and it turns out there's nothing but yoga e-mails on the server or completely irrelevant, harmless e-mails, it's going to be devastating for the FBI. And I think they just raise the stakes a little bit more with this new information about Paul Manafort.
And, as Mara said, what a way to end this campaign on.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is one of the reasons that Trump -- the Trump phenomenon happened in the first place. The rank hypocrisy of the two sides is simply staggering. And I don't think it has been shown in such relief. Six weeks ago or so, he's a great man. And now he is a villain simply because he came out on the other side.
Remember for a year we had been saying the most important event for Hillary was the Comey primary. And she won the Comey primary. But what we didn't know is that there was a recount, and she lost the recount. And as a result of that we are in a position where we have no idea what the underlying offense is, might be, or even how probable it is that there is any offense in the e-mails. And we're going to have to go into the election booth -- the voting booth not knowing and having to guess one way or the other how guilty she is.
But I think the real problem, is regardless of what's in these e-mails, the recount, the fact he is reopening the issue, has not only reopened the investigation but reopened all of the elements surrounding the e-mail and the history of her corruption and the stories that we're getting now from "The Wall Street Journal" and others about the infighting over looking into her foundation, the infighting in the FBI. So all of that stuff which had been stuffed under by Comey's conclusion not to prosecute is all out there in a way that the Clinton campaign cannot handle because it's simply overwhelming.
BAIER: We are going to take a break and go into the WikiLeaks developments and a couple of interesting elements. But Mara, we talk about Paul Manafort. There's some -- through the WikiLeaks e-mails, ties that John Podesta had to Russia and investments he had that he had, that he took stock and put it in his daughter's company. There's some Russia connection there as well.
LIASSON: But I think it's hard to compare the two. First of all, Russia, as we know from 17 intelligence agencies, hacked Democratic officials e- mails for the suspected purpose of hurting Hillary Clinton's campaign. There is no kind of love affair between the Democratic presidential candidate and Vladimir Putin. And Donald Trump has gone out of his way in very specific ways and general ways to express solidarity with Russian positions, with Putin's -- even the way he discusses issues. So I think it's hard to compare those two things.
BAIER: The point is there is another tie.
LIASSON: There is definitely another tie. But the Trump campaign's ties to Russia are something we have never seen before.
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