RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Just one more week of campaigning. But after the director of the FBI dropped a bombshell last Friday, this coming week could not be more critical for both candidates. The FBI's James Comey decided to inform Congress that more emails had been discovered that might be pertinent to Hillary Clinton's handling of emails during her time as secretary of state.
In doing that, he reignited the controversy that has dogged her candidacy and threatened to undermine her shot at the presidency. Hillary Clinton held a rare press conference right after the news came out last Friday, challenging the notion that emails contained anything damaging.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
HILLARY CLINTON: The director himself has said he doesn't know whether the emails referenced in his letter are significant or not. I'm confident whatever they are will not change the conclusion reached in July.
MONTAGNE: Donald Trump has been reveling in the news all weekend. Here he's speaking at a rally in Arizona on Saturday.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: This is the biggest political scandal since Watergate, and it's everybody's deepest hope that justice at last will be beautifully delivered.
MONTAGNE: Joining me now is columnist and NPR commentator Cokie Roberts and Tucker Carlson, Fox News host and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller. Welcome to you both.
TUCKER CARLSON: Good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Good morning.
ROBERTS: Now, Cokie, let's start with you. When FBI director James Comey came out with this information, there were virtually no details. But has reporting over the weekend allowed us to know if these emails tell us anything more about whether Clinton or her aides mishandled classified information?
ROBERTS: We really virtually know nothing. We know that this is a result of an investigation into Anthony Weiner and his alleged sexting an underage 15-year-old in North Carolina. I mean, how weird does this all get and awful? And he is married or estranged from Huma Abedin, one of Hillary Clinton's chief aides. We don't know who sent the emails, what's in the emails, anything beyond that.
Last night, there was a warrant to - for the FBI to look at those emails, and that's where we are. But Director Comey decided that he needed to inform the Congress about this, and so a firestorm has broken out. And the people who - the Democrats who loved Comey now hate him and the Republicans who hated Comey now love him. And it is a week to go before the election, and it is all up in the air.
MONTAGNE: Tucker, when Trump, as we just heard, speaks of justice that will at least be beautifully delivered, what exactly does that mean?
CARLSON: It means he thinks this story helps him, and politicians tend to be transactional that way (laughter). So Comey is now a hero and, of course, a villain to Harry Reid. But it would be a mistake to believe that this is the only investigation. I mean, that's kind of the 35,000-foot view of this. This is one investigation into Hillary Clinton. But there are also FBI field offices looking into her family foundation.
This is - and then there's another investigation looking into her longtime chief fundraiser, now the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe. And, of course, her closest aide, Huma Abedin is also under investigation. I mean, there's a lot of this going on all of a sudden. And I don't think it has been in the forefront of the public consciousness. I don't think many Democrats voting in the Democratic primaries really understood the scope of some of this. And now, of course, we do.
ROBERTS: The FBI, though, has, for years around Washington, been talking to people, leaking information. Republican talking points have been, for a couple of years now, that Hillary was going to get indicted any day. So, you know, there does seem to be something going on at the FBI about Hillary Clinton. And it is somewhat remarkable that we have this turn of events. It is, you know, where they're sort of off on their own. It is reminiscent of the old J. Edgar Hoover days.
MONTAGNE: And, Tucker, I'm wondering, along those lines, in sending this letter to Congress, Comey did say one of his reasons was so that the FBI would not effectively look bad, like, look like it was hiding something should something come out. Is that enough of a reason for some alert like this to get out when normal - the normal sort of rules of the FBI? You keep quiet about what you're investigating.
CARLSON: Well, I mean, I think the real question is should the FBI, in effect, make an allegation with no specifics attached because it's, of course, hard to defend yourself against something that's as nonspecific as this. And I think that's an entirely fair question. Republicans have raised it - fair-minded ones, as well as Democrats. But Comey himself was in a tough position because he suspended - in effect, ended - the previous investigation back in July. He told Congress that, and now they've started it up again. And so the idea was if Hillary Clinton were elected, and she, as of last week, was likely to be, that he would be in a tough spot if it was revealed that he had hidden this.
But I do think it would be a big mistake to dismiss all of this as partisan right-wingery. FBI investigations, whatever their motive, take on a course of their own. I mean, I live here. I know people who have been the subject of them. And it can end very badly, and it often does. And so that is actually a real thing that exists apart from partisan politics, whatever its motives.
ROBERTS: But investigations are one thing, prosecutions are another, you know? It's the DA who takes what the cops have done. It's the prosecutors who take what the FBI has done. It's not just the FBI making these kinds of decisions and these kinds of public announcements. And, you know, we have information that the Department of Justice has said that this was not a good idea. And now we've got this firestorm of former law enforcement officials on both sides of the aisle saying this was a huge mistake.
And it is the question of it being so close to this election (laughter). I mean, you just can't separate that out. And it can have the effect of putting the thumb on the scale. In polls right now, it is tied. Hillary Clinton is at her highest negatives in the whole course of this campaign, and that is a direct result of what this letter, which is so vague and ambiguous, has created.
CARLSON: If I could just make one factual point. The polls that you're referring to actually don't take into account this story, which, of course, broke two days ago.
ROBERTS: Yes, they do. Yes, they do.
CARLSON: But her numbers shifted in the last week before this story. And I think you could make a a much more supportable case that that had to do with the collapse of Obamacare and with some of the details we got from the WikiLeaks revelations from John Podesta's Gmail account, which really shed some pretty unattractive light on the workings of the Clinton Foundation. I mean, that had nothing to do with this at all.
ROBERTS: Well, one of the things that we know in this campaign is that when the news is about Trump, she goes up. When the news is about Clinton, he goes up. We've got a week and a day to go. We'll see where the news goes.
MONTAGNE: Well, thank you both very much.
ROBERTS: All right, thank you.
MONTAGNE: One week to go. That's NPR commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.