NEW YORK (CNN) — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s email use is “devastating,” and that it’s not surprising that he came within 6 points of the Democrat in a recent CNN/ORC poll match-up.
“I think it’s devastating for the election, but I think her bigger problem is not the election. I think her bigger problem is going to be the criminal probe,” Trump said in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
While he said Clinton is not his “focus right now,” he predicted she would struggle to get over the bad headlines generated by the investigation into her private server and the possible transmission of classified information in her private email, as well as the money she has raked in for speeches since leaving office.
“I think that Hillary’s going to have a hard time being in the election based on what’s going on with the emails, the servers, maybe even the speeches,” Trump said. “I think it’s going to be a very hard thing for her to overcome.”
Trump compared Clinton’s situation to that of Gen. David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to giving some classified information to his biographer and lover.
“When I look, Chris, at what happened with Petraeus … great general, wonderful guy, everybody loved him, and it destroyed his life over much less,” Trump said. “It would seem hard to think that somebody could have a much worse situation than him and escape.”
Cuomo countered that Petraeus knew the information was classified and intentionally passed it along, but there has been no indication to date that the Justice Department believes Clinton intentionally shared information she knew was classified. She has not personally been declared the subject of the investigation into her emails.
“It certainly looks like it was high-level information,” Trump said. “It’s always skirting the edge. What’s the purpose of it? … What is she doing, why is she doing it?”
He acknowledged that the investigation hasn’t named her, but he said he believes what she did was criminal.
“I don’t think I’m the only one. The FBI’s involved, they only do criminal,” Trump said. “Now maybe it’s somebody on her staff. But look, it’s ether criminal or incompetent, it’s one or another … either gross incompetence or criminal, and neither’s acceptable to be president.”
On Tuesday, Clinton told the press at an adversarial news conference that the email story “has nothing to do with me,” made fun of questions about whether she “wiped” the server and said “no one” asks her about the emails and the servers but the press.
Trump said he predicts his campaign will “do very well” and said he also beats Clinton on their records, reiterating that he came out against the Iraq War in 2004.
“Hillary’s record as secretary of state was a disaster,” Trump said. “She was in favor, totally in favor, of the Iraq War, which is obviously not a good soundbite.”