Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Rep. Mike Coffman Argues Against Closing Guantanamo; Sanders Scores Spike Lee Endorsement; Republicans Facing Nevada Voters. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 23, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the places they could be taken to is your home state, Colorado. Why do you not want them to come to Colorado? Do you not think the supermax prison there that already holds suspected terrorists can handle it?

REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: First of all, I don't want them coming to U.S. soil. I think the Congress of the United States has been clear in sending a message to the president through several defense authorization acts that these prisoners are not to be transferred to U.S. soil, thereby, and being afforded all the rights through the judicial process given to those legally in the country. So I remain very opposed to it. This is a nonstarter. It's not going to happen. The president is simply wrong that this is a recruiting tool for terrorists. I think the indecisiveness and the weakness of this administration is a recruiting tool for terrorists.

What the president failed to mention was that the number of detainees that have been released have, in fact, returned to the battle field. I think Guantanamo Bay needs to stay open and could be the tool used by a future president.

BERMAN: The shoe bomber and the 9/11 attacks, those attackers are involved in attacks against America. How are they different than the people inside Guantanamo Bay? They are in prison in the United States right now.

COFFMAN: Well, he executed his -- or tried to execute his terrorist attack, I believe, it was certainly -- you could argue that it was on U.S. soil. It was domestically in the United States. I think that he was in transit to the United States at that time. The fact is that the president doesn't want to admit it, but we're a nation at war, and those detained are the worst of the worst in Guantanamo. And the fact is we need someplace to put those that are taken off the battle field. What is different in this situation, historically, is the fact that we're not fighting a conventional military force. These are irregular enemy combatants, but they are enemy combatants, nonetheless, and they're better housed there in Guantanamo Bay, and we need to retain it.

BOLDUAN: The president said clearly today, you dispute this, that Guantanamo Bay is used as a recruiting tool, a propagandist tool for terrorist organizations. John McCain believes that. ISIS dresses hostages in the beheading videos in the orange jump suits. You don't think Guantanamo Bay is being used as a recruiting tool?

COFFMAN: No, I think the recruiting tool is -- again, if you want to go with the president always tries to place things in political narratives. I think he wanted to end in the war in Iraq by bringing all forces home by the presidential election in 2012, against Pentagon objections, and did so, and now we're fighting a very determined to spill over to Iraq and is now seen as ascended throughout the radical Islamic world and is attracting money and recruits. That is certainly a recruiting tool. I don't see Guantanamo as being a recruiting tool.

BERMAN: Congressman Mike Coffman, John McCain, by the way -- there are Republicans and Democrats who disagree and but there are Democrats who do agree with you, so this is a bipartisan disagreement on that.

Congressman Mike Coffman, thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

COFFMAN: Thank you for having me

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Still ahead for us, an award-winning director throwing his support behind Bernie Sanders. But will Spike Lee help him narrow the gap with Hillary Clinton when it comes to African-American voters?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:38:07] BERMAN: Brand new this morning, a radio ad from Spike Lee throwing support behind Bernie Sanders just a few days before the crucial South Carolina primary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR (voice-over): Wake up. Wake up, South Carolina! This is your dude, Spike Lee, and I know that you know the system is rigged. I'm officially endorsing my brother, Bernie Sanders. Bernie takes no money from corporations. Nada. Which means he's not on the take, and then Bernie gets in the White House, he'll do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Nada. I love that part. I had to repeat.

Spike Lee joins several other high-profile African-Americans endorsing Sanders. But when you look at the polls, Hillary Clinton has a big lead among African-American voters in general.

Let's discuss this, the state of the race. Let's bring in the former Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter, CNN political contributor and a Hillary Clinton supporter; and Nina Turner, a former Ohio State Senator and Bernie Sanders surrogate.

Great to see both of you. Thank you so much for being here.

NINA TURNER, FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: Thank you, Kate and John. MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you both for having

us.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Nina, let's look to South Carolina. Sanders is winning big support, the likes of Spike Lee with that ad, but when you look, the fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton from in Nevada, she won 76 percent of the African-American vote there. What can Sanders do realistically to cut into that?

TURNER: He'll continue to touch African-American voters as he has. Senator Sanders, this is his first run for the presidency of the United States of America. He didn't have the Benefit of decades-worth of name recognition. That's what most of this is about. He's going to continue to run. He's making inroads. We really dominated the Latino vote in Nevada. He's making inroads with the African-American vote and the Hispanic vote. There's no magic. He has to continue to bring his message to the people and introduce himself.

BERMAN: Okay. Mayor, what about Hillary Clinton? Part of the message from Sanders is he's saying Hillary Clinton is beginning to sound a lot like me. Listen to what he said overnight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:20] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am delighted that Secretary Clinton month after month after month seems to be adopting more and more of the positions that we have advocated. That's good. And, in fact, is beginning to use a lot of the language and phraseology that we have used. In fact, I think I saw a TV ad and I thought it was me --

(LAUGHTER)

-- but it turned out it was Secretary Clinton's picture in the ad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, Mayor, is her phraseology getting more like Bernie, and if so j is she moving further to the left that if she does get the Democratic election, it could hurt her in a general election?

NUTTER: I think, first of all, Secretary Clinton has a very long record, not just name recognition as mentioned earlier. This is not just about name recognition. I think everyone knows the same Senator Sanders. What matters with voters is your record and what you've bee doing for those decades, whether in appointed or elected office. Secretary Clinton has that. She also has a long-standing strong, real, relationship with the African-American community.

Again, over decades of time with a real record of support and commitment, and so the language may change. Words may change. The message has been consistent. Her record is on helping children and families. Her record is on strong support in the African-American community. Her record has been about trying to end racial profiling and making reforms in the criminal justice system. These are not new. As the campaign goes on, I've run for office, and Nina has as well. We know that over a long period of time, you'll have any number of messages and ways of communicating with different audiences. The central issue is what's in your heart, what's your core? What's your record been over a long period of time, or are you trying now to create an environment where people will come to you who have not really known you for a long period of time. I think that's where things are.

BOLDUAN: Nina, do you agree --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Do you agree? Is Bernie Sanders grasping here. This has been a message Hillary Clinton has had for decades, as the mayor says?

TURNER: Let's be honest about record. Let's talk about record. In 1960, Senator Sanders was standing up against segregated housing. He was a member, a leader in CORE. At that same time secretary Clinton was supporting Barry Goldwater who opposed civil rights. Let's talk about the record of him standing up for --

(CROSSTALK)

NUTTER: 18 years old.

(LAUGHTER)

TURNER: -- in 1988. Well, we want to talk about record, they were around the same age, Mayor. Let's talk about records. Senator Sanders isn't new to this. In 1988, he was one of very few white officials who had the courage to stand with and stand up for Jesse Jackson. Very few white elected officials would do that at that time. Let's talk about record. He stood up against the dog whistle and welfare reform that happened under Bill Clinton. He was not the one calling black children super predators. So if we want to talk about a record, let's talk about it. Senator Sanders isn't new to this, Mayor. And what I really resent is Clinton supporters asking as if Senator Sanders doesn't have a bold civil rights record that transcends from him being a college student all the way to being a Senator. We don't have to disparage his record to lift the secretary, but if we want to talk about records, let's go there and do that.

BERMAN: Mayor, I need to let you respond. I think that's the first time I've heard Barry Goldwater come up in an election.

NUTTER: Yeah. I think it was mentioned in an article the other day.

I don't think I've said anything disparaging at all about Senator Sanders' record. I commend him for, and I have before, for his support of any number of issues. And I'm not a person who seeks to try to disparage someone else to lift up the person that I'm for. Secretary Clinton has a record. She's been around for some time. She's not the same age as Senator Sanders. But --

(CROSSTALK) TURNER: It's only a about a five-year difference, Mayor.

NUTTER: They've each done whatever they have done. They'll stand on their records. They'll approach African-Americans, whites, Latinos, Asians and the great diversity of this country in the ways that they will. They're different people. They talk about many of the same kinds of issues. And that's really where things are. But we don't need to have a fight about it.

BOLDUAN: Mayor Michael Nutter --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: -- Nina Turner, thank you both very much.

TURNER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: They'll both have the chance to make their case tonight --

NUTTER: Thank you.

[11:45:09] BOLDUAN: -- before South Carolina voters in the CNN town hall.

We appreciate it.

BERMAN: AT THE HOUR right now, Donald Trump and his rivals getting ready to face the crowds in Nevada as voters there get ready to head to the caucuses tonight. There are some live events. We'll take you there in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Live in Las Vegas.

BOLDUAN: Live.

BERMAN: Live pictures of Senator Marco Rubio holding his final rally before the caucuses tonight. He leaves the state, perhaps --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Leaving Las Vegas?

BERMAN: -- leaving Las Vegas. I vaguely remember something of that name before. He heads to Minnesota and other places to campaign while others stick around.

BOLDUAN: Joining us Scottie Nell Hughes, the chief political correspondent for USA Radio Network and a Trump supporter, Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist and former chief of staff for Senator Mitch McConnell; and Jackie Kucinich, the senior politics editor for "The Daily Beast."

Guys, great to see you.

Josh, first to you.

Moments ago, John Kasich answered to the growing calls for him to drop out of the race. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:50:16] JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would hope they'd be clearing the decks for me. I've spent the least amount of money and rising in the polls. You know, I could win my home state. Why would I be feeling pressure from them? They ought to be consolidating around me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: There you go, Josh. Why should he feel pressure? They should be consolidating around him.

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, I like governor Kasich. I think he's doing a tremendous job as governor of Ohio. He's a very good candidate, and I think has brought a lot to this race. But the reality is he can't win. And the longer that he stays in this race, the more it enables Donald Trump to continue to have these massive leads in states across the country.

The fact of the matter is the delegate math just isn't there for him. He talks about winning his home state of Ohio. That's great, and then what? We saw a poll today that showed that he doesn't win his home state of Ohio. The problem beyond that is that there's no other states that he's even out of single digits on. I think he's going to have to make a decision here shortly if his candidacy is imperiling the rest of the two-thirds of the Republican party that don't want to see Donald Trump as their nominee.

BERMAN: Josh, this sounds like the argument being made by a lot of Marco Rubio supporters right now. A lot of Rubio people are trying to force Kasich or push him out of the race. The fact remains John Kasich has as many second place finishes in primaries so far as Marco Rubio.

BOLDUAN: Fact.

BERMAN: You know, Marco Rubio finished fifth in New Hampshire. Polls out of Florida show Marco Rubio in third place in his home state.

So, Jackie, let me just put this to you. Is John Kasich getting a raw deal here? Is this just pure politics at play?

JACKIE KUCINICH, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: I think it's a little bit of both. But it's true, Marco Rubio needs to nail down one of these states and win to silence criticisms like that. He has the same number of wins as John Kasich. At what point are they going to start treating second place like first place runner-up to Donald Trump? Other candidates have got to start winning states in order to quell his momentum, which, you know, frankly no one's been able to do it yet. BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the other big names in the race. That guy,

the frontrunner, your guy, Scottie. Donald Trump, he has been eviscerating Ted Cruz at every turn. Here's some of the latest. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: This guy Cruz lies more than any human being I have ever dealt with.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: Unbelievable. And he holds up the Bible and he lies. And then he holds up the Bible again, and he lies. This guy is sick. There's something wrong with this guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The fight between those two has been going on since the beginning of time in this long time of this election. But why not go after Marco Rubio, the one that the establishment is coalescing behind, they say?

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, USA RADIO NETWORK: Well, I think it's equal opportunity. Plus, Senator Rubio hasn't gone after Mr. Trump. As he's proven, he always defends himself and goes for the jugular.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Does that make you nervous, though?

HUGHES: No, not really. When you're looking at Senator Rubio, I think he's a great guy, but he's still six times below in delegate counts to Mr. Trump and not winning in any of the polls, as your guest just stated. Plus, I think it's very pathetic like candidates like Senator Rubio and even governor Kasich think we have to have a contested convention in order for them to even have a chance to win. Instead of encouraging our party to start being unified, they're going to continue this splintering, which I think speaks volumes about what their motivation is.

So Mr. Trump going forward -- you know, as for Senator Ted Cruz, yesterday was a hard day for his family. I think the question is going to be going forward, are there going to be any more events that happen? Was the right person held accountable, or was he more a scapegoat for another campaign in the campaign? It will be interesting to see if anything else happens within the Senator Cruz campaign that might be a little bit controversial, and if there isn't, then great. Then all things are fixed and we can focus on policy. My theory is they might have taken out the wrong guy.

BERMAN: Josh, we just put the delegate count up on the screen. 68 delegates right now for Donald Trump. Everyone else trailing way behind. You heard Scottie beating up more on Ted Cruz, which is what Donald Trump was doing. How doe a lot of candidates have had ups and downs. This seems to be the down for Ted Cruz. How does he dig out?

HOLMES: It's a real problem. Some of the character issues highlighted by both the Trump campaign and the Rubio campaign the last couple of weeks have really taken their toll. I think yesterday's firing of the communications director is symptomatic of a larger problem as Scottie just said. It seems to me that they've had a number of episodes the last three weeks. We were talking last week about that silly picture that they had with the trade deal. It seems like no big deal in and of itself. But if you look at the larger pattern, it becomes really problematic, and it's really problematic for Ted Cruz right now. I don't know how he gets out of this. His base is largely being overtaken by Donald Trump. And it doesn't look like he's got a real meaningful path forward without a serious, serious performance either tonight or very, very soon.

[11:55:23] BOLDUAN: Very, very soon, could be a serious performance with these debates being game-changers at every turn. This Thursday's debate is going to be that much more important when you see how things are turning out.

Scottie, Josh, Jackie, thanks, guys.

HOLMES: Thank you.

HUGHES: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: See you soon.

Coming up next for us, the Uber driver who allegedly went on a shooting rampage, he's charged now in those murders. He is making a big admission, and now we're learning much more about a mysterious phone call that happened just before he went on the attack. Those details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:07] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.