“64 hours in October” is a firsthand account of the drama that unfolded, Oct. 7-9, 2016, from the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape to the second presidential debate — and everything in between.
It began as a relatively quiet day in the presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were each holed up with their aides on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, preparing for the second presidential debate scheduled for Sunday night. Hurricane Matthew, which was churning off the Florida coast, led the Friday morning newscasts. But by mid-afternoon, three separate bombshells, all coming within the span of 90 minutes, threatened to throw the race into chaos.
First, the top intelligence officials of the Obama administration announced their belief that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee earlier in the year. Then the Washington Post published the infamous Access Hollywood tape that caught Donald Trump bragging about forcing himself on women. And WikiLeaks dumped its trove of emails from the Clinton campaign, hacked from the account of campaign head John Podesta.
Yahoo News conducted nearly two dozen on-the-record interviews with top officials inside and outside the Clinton and Trump campaigns and the Obama administration as well as major media figures in Washington, D.C., New York and beyond to produce an exclusive oral history of the wildest 64 hours in modern political history.
The resulting documentary film and online feature present a firsthand account of three pivotal days in the campaign, and paints a vivid picture of the behind-the-scenes drama that unfolded inside the Post newsroom, Trump Tower, Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, her Westchester, N.Y., hotel, and the debate site in St. Louis – where the Trump campaign arrived with Bill Clinton’s accusers in tow.
The dizzying events of that weekend reflect some essential truths about the two candidates and their campaigns: Clinton cool, cautious and cocooned by staff; Trump instinctual, aggressive and unbound by propriety and convention. The same qualities that have so often gotten him in trouble were the also ones that rescued him from this crisis. A scandal that might have ended the career of a more conventional candidate somehow morphed into an opportunity for him to show off his resilience — a lesson the nation is still learning about the candidate who emerged triumphant from that one astonishing weekend, one year ago.
Among the participants interviewed by Yahoo News:
• David Fahrenthold*, the Washington Post reporter who broke the story about the Access Hollywood
• Kellyanne Conway*, Trump campaign manager who helped craft Trump’s response to the tape
• David Bossie*, the deputy campaign manager who first showed the tape to Trump
• Jeh Johnson*, former Secretary of Homeland Security who co-wrote the Obama administration’s joint statement on the Russia government’s hacking of the election
• James Clapper*, former Director of National Intelligence who co-wrote the Russia statement with Johnson
• Jason Chaffetz*, former congressman who was among the first prominent Republicans to withdraw their endorsement of Trump
• Dick Durbin, Democratic senator, Ill., who was seated behind Bill Clinton’s accusers at Sunday’s debate in St. Louis
• Roger Stone*, Trump’s longtime political adviser
• Karen Finney*, Clinton strategic adviser and campaign spokesperson
• Brian Fallon, Clinton spokesman
• Jennifer Palmieri*, Clinton campaign communications director
• Ron Klain, Clinton campaign senior adviser
• Jesse Ferguson, Clinton campaign deputy national press secretary
• Philippe Reines, Clinton adviser who stood in for Trump during debate prep
• Joel Benenson*, Clinton chief strategist
• Maggie Haberman, New York Times reporter
• Jonathan Lemire*, Associated Press reporter
• Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman, Commission on Presidential Debates
• Ken Bone, town hall debate participant
* denotes on camera
“The thing that really stood out, the place where I felt like we were seeing Donald Trump’s character come through was in this line where he says to Billy Bush, you know, “You just start kissing them. I don’t even stop. And when you’re a star, they let you do it.” In those words, in “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” there was a weird sense of wonder. Like, he’s not BSing for his friend, he is actually reflecting that he can’t believe the world lets him get away with this. That he was just expressing the unlimited things he could get away with because he was rich and famous. I thought that was one of the most telling things of that whole conversation — he’s describing to you about how he views the world and what his place in it is.” — David Fahrenthold
“It was truly a reality TV episode that the American people, just by ratings of reality TV shows, loved to watch. And for two hours leading up to the debate, instead of talking about Donald Trump, they’re talking about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s relationship with women of their past. We thought it was an obvious winner.” — David Bossie on the surprise press conference with Bill Clinton’s accusers
“A number of us felt very strongly that we had to tell the American public what we knew. In the midst of the election season, we had to tell the public what we knew.” — Jeh Johnson on the Russian government’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s servers
“The press had gone off to the other end of the pasture ‘cause of greed and sex and groping.” — Johnson on why the statement got little attention after the release of the Access Hollywood tape
“Many people forgot about it. You know, ‘Why didn’t you say something?’ Well, we did on the 7th of October. But it got emasculated.” — James Clapper
“It looked like a hostage video I mean, you could see that he was unhappy doing it. You know, look. One of Trump’s rules is never apologize. It’s really not in his makeup. In this occasion, I think he understood that what he thought at the time was kinda regular, locker room banter, now on the big stage of presidential politics looked terrible. I think he was a little angry at himself. It’s also the only time I think that I saw Trump where he actually seemed dejected.” — Roger Stone on Trump’s midnight video statement
“At first I just had to laugh because it was so absurd. And obviously not an accident. And to this day I wonder what the leak of John’s emails was meant to cover up or distract from. The Access Hollywood tape or Russia?” — Jennifer Palmieri on WikiLeaks’ publication of John Podesta’s emails shortly after the Obama administration’s statement on Russia and the Access Hollywood tape
“I remember Hillary Clinton was seated behind me … and you know, I saw her face at one point, just in absolute disbelief that we were listening to this coming from a man who was a presidential candidate, a nominee of a major party.” — Joel Benenson on watching the tape for the first time
More than a dozen Yahoo News staffers contributed to project, including chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff, White House correspondent Hunter Walker, national correspondents Holly Bailey and Lisa Belkin, senior national reporters Liz Goodwin, Chris Wilson and Gabby Kaufman, senior politics editor Garance Franke-Ruta and senior editor Dylan Stableford. The documentary was produced by Sarah Boxer and Brian Prowse-Gany.