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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Mitt Romney Delivers Anti-Trump Speech. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 3, 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] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That the electron right now, there is some activities. I may have to cut you off when Mitt Romney starts speaking. But I wanted to ask you, Matt, about the vehemence now of the anti-Trump movement because it is quite strong right now and you've been caught in the middle of it a little bit. I mean, there are a lot of people very upset that CPAC is having Donald Trump come speak on Saturday. A lot of it -- the Rubio people, for instance, will go after you pretty hard for that. A lot of the never Trump people going after you pretty hard for that. What do you make of that?

MATT SCHLAPP, CPAC CHAIRMAN: Yes. I'm a big boy, John. I can handle it. But let me just say, we're very proud that all five presidential candidates, including Dr. Carson will be at CPAC. Let me make something very clear. When they come to CPAC, we're so happy they're on our stage, but they're also going to have to answer questions. They're going to have to answer the questions of conservatives. And if conservatives have questions of Donald Trump, they're going to have the chance to ask those questions and of these other candidates.

And what this big family food fight we're having as a movement on display in front of the television cameras is not one that many of us wanted, but it is here, we have to embrace it, we have to get through it, we got to take our country back by finally deciding who this Republican the nominee is and getting behind him.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Guys, hang on just one second. I think what we're looking at right now at the University of Utah is Jason Perry, the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics there. He could be introducing Mitt Romney. Let's listen in to what Jason Perry has to say.

JASON PERRY, DIRECTOR, HINCKLEY INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: Asian alliance with the 50th anniversary of the Hinckley Institute of Politics. Over the last five decades the Hinckley Institute has held free public forums on critical issues facing our country. Robert H. Hinckley founded the institute to champion the pressing need for our students to become and stay politically engaged. Since that time Hinckley Institute has provided a wide range of civic opportunities for students, teachers, and for the public.

Today's address will mark the 66th public forum just in this school year. Before we continue, will all please just take a moment to silence all of your mobile devices? Thank you.

We are now most fortunate to be able to hear a key perspective on the state of the 2016 presidential election.

Will you please join me in welcoming, Governor Mitt Romney.

(APPLAUSE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Jason, and thank you to the Hinckley Institute. Governor Herbert, Lieutenant Governor, President, it's good to be with you today. Thank you. All right.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Now I'm -- I'm not here to announce my candidacy for office. And I'm not going to endorse a candidate today. Instead, I would like to offer my perspective on the nominating process of my party.

Back in 1964, just days before the presidential election which incidentally we lost, Ronald Reagan went on national television and challenged America, saying that it was a time for choosing. He saw two paths for America, one that embraced conservative principles, dedicated to lifting people out of poverty and helping create opportunity for all. And the other, an oppressive government that would lead America down a darker, less free path.

I'm no Ronald Reagan and this is a different moment in time, but I believe with all my heart and soul, that we face another time for choosing, one that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party, and more importantly, for our country.

I say this, in part, because of my conviction that America is poised to lead the world for another century. Our technology engines, our innovation dynamic, the ambition and skill of our people are going to propel our economy and raise the standard of living of Americans.

America will remain, as it is today, the envy of the world. You may have seen Warren Buffett. He said, and I think he's 100 percent right, that the babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.

Now that doesn't mean we don't have real problems and serious challenges. We do. At home, poverty persists. And wages are stagnant. The horrific massacres of Paris and San Bernardino. The nuclear ambitions of the Iranian mullahs. The aggressions of Putin. The growing assertiveness of China and the nuclear tests of North Korea confirm that we live in troubled and dangerous times. But if we make the right choices, America's future will be even better than our past and better than our present.

[11:35:07] On the other hand, if we make improvident choices, the bright horizon I've described will not materialize. And let me put it very plainly. If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished. Let me explain why I say that. First on the economy. If Donald Trump's plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into prolonged recession. A few examples. His proposed 35 percent tariff-like penalties would

instigate a trade war and that would raise prices for consumers, kill our export jobs and lead entrepreneurs and businesses of all stripes to flee America.

His tax plan in combination with his refusal to reform entitlements and to honestly address spending would balloon the deficit and the national debt. So even though Donald Trump has offered very few specific economic plans, what little he has said is enough to know that he would be very bad for American workers and for American families. But you say, wait, wait, wait. Isn't he a huge business success? Doesn't he know what he's talking about?

No, he isn't and no, he doesn't.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Look, his -- his bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who work for them. He inherited his business, he didn't create it. And whatever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there's Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks and Trump Mortgage.

A business genius he is not.

Now, not every policy that Donald Trump has floated is bad, of course. He wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. He wants to bring jobs home from China and Japan. But his prescriptions to do those things are flimsy at best. At the last debate, all he could remember about his health care plan was to remove insurance boundaries between states. Successfully bringing jobs home requires serious policy and reforms that make America the place businesses want to come, want to plant and want to grow.

You can't punish business into doing what you want. Frankly, the only serious policy proposals that deal with a broad range of national challenges we confront today come from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich. One of these men should be our nominee.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Now I know that some people want this race to be over. They look at history and say a trend like Mr. Trump's isn't going to be stopped. Perhaps. But the rules of political history have pretty much all been shredded during this campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: If the other candidates can find some common ground, I believe we can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism. Given the current delegate selection process, that means that a vote for Marco Rubio in Florida and for John Kasich in Ohio and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state. Now let me turn to national security and the safety of our homes and

loved ones. Mr. Trump's bombast is already alarming our allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies. Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in their urgent fight against ISIS, and for what purpose? Muslim terrorists would only have to lie about their religion to enter the country. And then what he said about -- on "60 Minutes." Did you hear this? It was about Syria and ISIS, and it has to go down as the most ridiculous and dangerous idea of the entire campaign season. Let ISIS take out Assad, he said, and then we can pick up the remnants. Now, think about that. Let the most dangerous terror organization the world has ever known take over an entire country?

This recklessness is recklessness in the extreme. Now Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: I'm afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Now I'm far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament to be president.

[11:40:02] After all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter's questions to a menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.

Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, at the same time he has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: There is a dark irony in his boasts of his sexual exploits during the Vietnam War. While at the same time, John McCain, whom he has mocked, was imprisoned and tortured.

Dishonesty is Donald Trump's hallmark. He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong. He spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong. He saw no such thing. He imagined it. He's not of the temperament of the kind of stable, thoughtful person we need as a leader. His imagination must not be married to real power.

The president of the United States has long been the leader of the free world. The president and, yes, even the nominees of the country's great parties, helped define America to billions of people around the world. All of them bear the responsibility of being an example for our children and our grandchildren. Think of Donald Trump's personal qualities. The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics.

You know, we have long referred to him as "The Donald." He's the only person in the entire country to whom we have added an article before his name, and it wasn't because he had attributes we admired.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: Now imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does. Would you welcome that? Haven't we seen before what happens when people in prominent positions fail the basic responsibility of honorable conduct? We have. And it always injures our families and our country.

Watch, by the way, how he responds to my speech today.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Will he talk about our policy differences? Or will he attack me with every imaginable low road insult? This may tell you what you need to know about his temperament, his stability and his suitability to be president.

Now Mr. Trump relishes any poll that reflects what he thinks of himself. But polls are also saying that he will lose to Hillary Clinton. Think about that. On Hillary Clinton's watch, the State Department, when she was guiding it and part of the Obama administration, that State Department watched as America's interests were diminished at every corner of the world. She compromised our national secrets. She dissembled to the families of the slain. And she jettisoned her most profound beliefs to gain presidential power.

For the last three decades, the Clintons have lived at the intersection of money and politics, trading their political influence to enrich their personal finances. They embody the term, "crony capitalism." It disgusts the American people and causes them to lose faith in our political process.

A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Of course, a Trump nomination enables her victory. And the audio and video of the infamous Tapper-Trump exchange on the Ku Klux Klan will play 100,000 times on cable and who knows how many million times on social media. There are a number of people who claim that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're desperate.

[11:45:01] ROMNEY: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Let me say that again. There's plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign. And on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row. We will only really know if he's a real deal or a phony if he releases his tax returns and the tape of his interview with the "New York Times." I predict that there are more bombshells in his tax returns. I predict that he doesn't give much, if anything, to the disabled and to our veterans.

I predict that he told the "New York Times" that his immigration talk is just that -- talk. And I predict that despite his promise to do so, first made over a year ago, that he will never ever release his tax returns. Never. Not the returns under audit; not even the returns that are no longer being audited. He has too much to hide. Nor will he authorize the release of the tapes that he made with the "New York Times."

If I'm right, you'll have all the proof you need to know that Donald Trump is indeed a phony. Attacking me as he surely will won't prove him any less of a phony. It's entirely in his hands to prove me wrong. All he has to do is release his back taxes like he promised he would and let us hear what he said behind closed -- doors to the "New York Times."

You know, Ronald Reagan used to quote a Scottish philosopher, who predicted that democracies and civilizations wouldn't last much longer than a couple hundred years. And John Adams wrote this, "Remember, democracy never lasts long; it soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

That's John Adams.

I believe that America has proven these dire predictions wrong for two reasons. First, we've been blessed with great presidents, with giants among us. Men of character, integrity and selflessness have led our nation from the very beginning. None were perfect. Each surely made mistakes. But in every case, they acted out of the desire to do what was right for America and for the cause of freedom.

The second reason is because we're blessed with a great people. People who at every critical moment of choosing have put the interests of the country above their own. These two things are related. Our presidents time and again have called on us to rise to the occasion. John F. Kennedy asked us to consider what we could do for our country. Lincoln drew upon the better angels of our nature to save the union.

I understand the anger Americans feel today. In the past, our presidents have channeled that anger and forged it into resolve, into endurance and high purpose, and into the will to defeat the enemies of freedom. Our anger was transformed into energy directed for good.

Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press.

This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: He's playing the members of the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.

I'm convinced America has greatness ahead.

[11:50:04] And this is a time for choosing. God bless us to choose a nominee who will make that vision a reality.

Thank you and God bless you all. Thank you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BERMAN: A truly extraordinary moment.

BOLDUAN: Wow.

BERMAN: Mitt Romney, the last Republican nominee to be president of the United States, just going after the man right now, the leading candidate to be the next Republican nominee. He called Donald Trump a phony, a fraud. He said America would be less safe under Donald Trump, less prosperous --

BOLDUAN: Prolong a recession.

BERMAN: And stunningly, seemed to endorse the idea of a brokered convention.

BOLDUAN: Without saying it, it sure seemed that that's exactly what he was describing. Basically saying, do anything you can to stop Donald Trump from getting the -- the 1,237 delegates needed to lock in the nomination.

A lot to discuss here. Let's bring in our political panel, Gloria Borger here -- is here with us. David Chalian, Dana Bash, Barry Bennett, Bakari Sellers and Ryan Williams, who is a former spokesman for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

Gloria, I mean, just the right tick off a few. It was a point by point indictment of Donald Trump. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Remarkable.

BOLDUAN: Taking him on his tax returns, on the Muslim ban, Trump University, the KKK exchange with Jake Tapper, he talked about that specifically. His bankruptcies, his vague prescriptions for how to replace Obamacare. That's not even all of it.

BORGER: Right. I mean, on everything from his temperament and his personal qualities to the notion that he's a phony and he ticked off, OK, you've got to release the transcript of that tape interview with the "New York Times," you've got -- he's got to release his tax returns, and also Romney went further. He said, I know what you're going to find. You're going to find a bombshell, you're going to find that he hasn't given money to charity. You're going to find that he's not as rich as he says he is, et cetera, et cetera.

I think that Romney, who is smart, understands the people who love Donald Trump may not listen to him. Why would they? OK? He ran for the presidency, and he lost. I think this was sort of a personal cri de Coeur from Mitt Romney about the Republican Party and about the country. He started the speech as you'll recall by saying I'm not running for anything. So he sort of took himself aside and said, I am not running for anything. Let me then tell you exactly what I really think about this candidate. He did not address the fact that last time he accorded Donald Trump to endorse him.

BOLDUAN: Right. Yes. That wasn't mentioned at all.

BORGER: To endorse him, but, you know, to John's point, he also said, vote for Marco Rubio in Florida. You know, vote for John Kasich in Ohio. And what that means is, make it hard for this guy to get to the magic number of 1237, and perhaps lead to a contested convention.

BERMAN: You know, Barry Bennett, we are watching Twitter, we are awaiting a response from Donald Trump. While we wait for that, you are supportive of Donald Trump. I want to give you a chance to respond to what Mitt Romney just said.

BARRY BENNETT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I thought it was a pretty sad and very outrageous. But I mean, what it was a call to arms to the establishment that we need to do everything we can to subvert the will of the voters and steal the nomination at the convention. Plain and simple. I mean, you know --

BERMAN: Steal the nomination.

BENNETT: Yes. Absolutely. That's exactly what they're trying to do. They will not going to be successful at it. And it's a pathetic attempt. But I mean, it's disgusting.

BOLDUAN: Is it -- is it stealing the nomination if Marco Rubio would win in Florida? If John Kasich would win in Ohio? And they would -- they would effectively play the field, no one drop out. It would head to a contested convention. Is that stealing?

BENNETT: Well, I mean, you know, ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be like Christmas. I mean, you know, he's not going to win Florida. John Kasich is not going to win Ohio. Donald Trump is going to have the majority of the delegates at the convention. That still isn't going to stop them from trying to steal it. Mark my words.

BERMAN: Ryan Williams, you used to work for Mitt Romney. The first words out of his mouth were, "I'm not a candidate." Do you believe him?

RYAN WILLIAMS, FORMER SPOKESMAN, MITT ROMNEY'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Yes, he's made clear for the last two years, he's not running for president again. He laid out the case very eloquently against Donald Trump. It was very refreshing to hear a well-thought, outspoken speech from a Republican candidate. We haven't seen that in a while, certainly with Trump dominating the headlines in recent weeks. So it was a good speech. He really laid out the case as to why Trump is not only dishonest, a con man, the wrong person to lead the party but also why he lacks the morals needed to be a president.

He gave a very good comparison about Trump bragging about his sexual exploits in the '70s while John McCain was in a Vietnam prison. That was, I think, a powerful line. And he also made clear that he is supportive of the other three candidates. There have been some mainstream candidates in recent weeks that said, look, I might take Trump over Cruz. Governor Romney made that very clear that he thinks that Ted Cruz, as well as Marco Rubio and John Kasich would all make good nominees.

[11:55:03] So he really laid a lot out in the speech, put it all out there and we'll see how Donald Trump responds in the coming hours.

BOLDUAN: Dana, I want to get your take on that one section where he said, you know, this is basically how it should play out, guys. Here's the strategy. Search for common ground. This means I would vote for Marco Rubio in Florida. I would vote for John Kasich in Ohio and for Ted Cruz, or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in any given state.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Just as Gloria said, he is calling for effectively a contested convention because that's what the result would be of what he said should happen. That everybody needs to vote in a way that Donald Trump will lose.

You know, I think maybe a more bold way to approach it would have been just to pick a candidate. But I also think that that would probably be even less effective because of what we were talking about beforehand. You know, Mitt Romney does embody the establishment, and not sure if that would really be very helpful at this point in time to endorse any of those candidates.

What I also thought was as an interesting tactic in this extraordinary speech. I mean, this was a wow speech. Was the way he tried to preempt the Trump reaction.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. BASH: I thought that was very, very interesting, and clever because,

you know, anybody who has watched Donald Trump for five minutes knows that he is a counter-puncher, and he's been doing it all morning since it was reported that Mitt Romney is going to give this kind of a speech.

But I also thought that that was, you know, unclear how effective it will be. But the fact that he tried to call Donald Trump out on everything, including how he reacts to criticism, was fascinating.

BERMAN: It's coming. I mean, you know, it's coming. And soon.

BASH: Of course.

BERMAN: David Chalian, I kept on wondering if we would hear Mitt Romney say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong. I shouldn't have sought his endorsement four years ago. I regret campaigning with him four years ago." Do you think it might have been more effective had he done something like that today?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think he'll clearly be pressed on that in the days ahead, John. I don't know for the purposes of his speech if it would have been any more effective.

I do think, specifically in the one part where he was talking about how Donald Trump would be terrible for the economy, and that he doesn't know anything about business at all, I mean, you could literally play that sound bite against Mitt Romney praising Donald Trump's business acumen four years ago and his ability and knowledge about how to create jobs, and how to deal with China.

I mean, you could just put those two things back-to-back from each other and it would be two different Mitt Romneys. There is no doubt that he will have to deal with that at some point if he wants to move forward and be a credible voice going forward.

I agree with Dana, also, just -- let's just step back for a moment about what an astonishing moment this is.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

CHALIAN: You just have -- I cannot think of an example where I have seen the most recent standard bear of the party just take down, line by line, the current frontrunner for the party's nomination. It really is an astonishing thing. But I think what Mitt Romney didn't do here, is sort of speak to those great majorities that we're seeing in exit poll after exit poll, state after state, who feel betrayed by their own Republican Party leadership. These are Republican primary voters who feel betrayed by the Mitt Romneys of the world. Or the Mitch McConnells of the world.

And I don't think he spoke to those folks at all. I think he was speaking to the donor class. I think he was speaking to folks that are launching these efforts to try to in some last gasp of breath kind of ability to stop Trump, and trying to give life to that movement, more than he was actually trying to persuade voters who have been with Trump or who are feeling that frustration to move away from him.

BOLDUAN: And we were wondering kind of going in who would the audience be for this piece. And I think David laid it out real quick.

Gloria, you can jump in on this, but we did just get a statement from the 2008 Republican nominee, John McCain, issuing a statement that basically says I endorse exactly what Mitt Romney said. I mean, he goes into, especially focusing on national security, foreign policy.

BERMAN: Right.

BOLDUAN: But he says, I share the concerns about Donald Trump that my friend and former Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, described in his speech today, echoing the many concerns about Mr. Trump's uninformed and indeed dangerous statements on national security issues.

BORGER: Well, if the floodgates hadn't already opened.

BOLDUAN: There we go.

BORGER: Here we are, and they will continuing -- they will continue to open. The statement from John McCain is not a surprise. He did -- I think a little bit. Romney did a little bit in what is truly a stunning speech.

BERMAN: Yes.

BORGER: Laying out an indictment against Donald Trump. He did say, "I understand the anger Americans feel today." Lots of Americans may feel Mitt Romney doesn't and can't possibly understand their anger. But he said, you know, in the past, presidents learn how to channel that anger and turn into something positive, useful, productive.