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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Remembering Nancy Reagan; Trump: "Perhaps There are Two Donald Trumps"; Security Concerns After Violence at Trump Rallies; Interview with Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Aired 4:00-4:30p ET

Aired March 11, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:15]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will get to today's news in just a moment, but first a moving tribute to former first lady Nancy Reagan which wrapped up just minutes ago with the scenic views of the mountains surrounding the Simi Valley as a backdrop, a host of dignitaries gathering today to pay final respects to the wife of the late Ronald Reagan all in one space, others who have graced the halls of the White House, first lady Michelle Obama, former first lady Hillary Clinton, President George W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, wife of President Jimmy Carter.

CNN's Sara Sidner was also at that ceremony. She joins me now live from Simi Valley.

Sara, it was a very moving, moving tribute.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely was.

You know, for a generation that may not have known a lot about Nancy Reagan, they weren't around when she was in the White House, you learned a lot about her from all of the different people who spoke and eulogized her, everyone from former NBC News nightly anchor Tom Brokaw, to her daughter, Patti Davis, who was really eloquent.

But she also let you into some of the struggles that they had and talked through the fact that they had a strained relationship, but they had fixed that. But, really, what everyone really focused on is the love that she had for her husband. She was a fierce, fierce supporter of his.

She watched over him and she felt that her duty really was to be his wife and that was her number one priority. And that really came through in all of this. We heard from the former prime minister of Canada as well, Brian Mulroney, who read this really sweet letter from Mr. Reagan to his wife, just talking about her in such lovely tones.

And throughout this, you really did learn a lot about Nancy Reagan, maybe some things that people didn't know and some very fun stories. People laughed a lot, but certainly there were also tears.

But a lot of people looking at the situation and saying, you know what, she lived an amazing life from Hollywood to the White House. What a trajectory. And she did have a lot of power. She did do a lot of things.

Her just say no to drugs campaign, of course, comes up, as well as her fight for stem cell research. And she talked about -- her daughter talked about that fight with the Republican Party. And so it was really interesting just hearing some of the details of what she was doing privately to fight for what she believed in.

And what you learned also about her is that she was fierce and she didn't take no for an answer. Someone even remarked that they didn't think that God would win a fight with Nancy Reagan -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's right. Sara Sidner, thanks so much.

Nancy Reagan, of course, was loved and respected by many. She was one of the most influential first ladies in American history.

Let's talk more about Nancy Reagan's life and legacy. I want to bring in Gahl Burt, former White House social secretary under President Reagan, Carl Sferrazza Anthony, who was a former speechwriter for Mrs. Reagan. I also want to bring in CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, the editor of "The Reagan Diaries," and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, who served as a presidential adviser to four U.S. presidents, including President Reagan.

Gahl, let me start with you.

First of all, just your general impressions of the day. Was there anything that you saw in particular during the ceremony, any comments from any of her loved ones that you think would have been really meaningful to her?

GAHL BURT, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE SOCIAL SECRETARY: Well, I thought Ronald Reagan, Ronnie Reagan, was exactly right when he said this was a celebration.

And Mrs. Reagan said to me in October that she thought that God had forgotten her. And I think this is exactly where she wants to be. She is now laid to rest. And then the heavens opened within seconds after she was laid to rest. And it was perfect.

It was -- if she had scripted it, it would have been the way she would have scripted it. I would also say there was a heavy-duty military component today. And Mrs. Reagan really felt empathy for single women who used to come to the White House by themselves.

And she asked the military aides if they would go to these women's hotels, pick them up, escort them to the White House, hang up their coat, engage them in conversation with someone else, and then they could leave, but they had to take them back.

And I think Mrs. Reagan today was escorted so beautifully by eight members of the military and the bagpipes to her final resting place. And I know that she is thrilled.

[16:05:04]

TAPPER: Carl, let me ask you. As a historian focusing on first ladies, how influential was Nancy Reagan in the pantheon of first ladies that we have had in this country?

CARL SFERRAZZA ANTHONY, FORMER NANCY REAGAN SPEECHWRITER: I think there's different kinds of influence and power.

And actually that's a conversation I had with her, my very first conversation with her in July of 1985. And it was about the different kinds of power. You have people like Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt who focused very specifically, say, on policy, whereas you had somebody like Mrs. Reagan, who like an Edith Wilson or a Mamie Eisenhower, very much focused on the person who was president and how the personal factors around them, their health, how well-rested they were, the people that they saw every day, the people they relied on, how all of that was affecting them, their schedule.

And that was a form of power and influence very different from policy. The one thing I would say also I think is really important that was so good to hear her two children speak today, is to also remember that during those eight years, when a lot of people saw a lot of accomplishments and a lot of beautiful parties and so forth, that there was a lot personally going on there, that there was a period of estrangement and public disclosure about estrangement between her and her daughter, Patti, between her and her stepson.

Her father died during those eight years. Her mother died during those eight years. She had breast cancer. The president was hospitalized himself for cancer surgery apart from that. So, there was a lot of stress and a lot of personal cost.

Mrs. Reagan also wrote openly in her memoirs that, you know, there were times I wish my husband was a little bit more -- a little firmer with people, because it fell on her. And she did it willingly, but, you know, there's cost. There's cost to be in the White House.

TAPPER: That's right.

And, David Gergen, let me bring you in. It has been said that sometimes Nancy Reagan was almost the bad cop to her husband's good cop.

We heard Ron Reagan Jr. say earlier today what a bunch of us were talking about on Sunday when the news first came that Mrs. Reagan had passed, and that is there likely would not have been a President Reagan if he did not have Nancy there by his side pushing him and really being the other half of this incredibly powerful partnership.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, thanks, Jake.

And, by the way, congratulations on last night. You really had a wonderful debate with the Republicans, best -- most substantive debate we have had.

But, as to the two Reagans, Jim Baker said this right off the bat in his remarks today in the tribute, eloquent tribute, and that there would have been no Reagan presidency without Nancy Reagan. And that's because she was not only engaged in this wonderful love story, but as Baker and others said, she was a political wife.

And she embraced that as to what his career was going to be and, boy, she was going to help him make that successful. She was part of an old tradition about a wife helping in that way. And she was astute politically and she knew he was a conservative, but he was a pragmatic conservative.

And she was the one who talked him into sitting down with Gorbachev and trying to get an arms control agreement, laying the foundations for the first real reductions in arms and also leading to the end of the Cold War.

She was the one who talked him into a number of things, negotiating with Congress, trying to get bills out, working with Tip O'Neill. She was friends with Tip O'Neill's wife. She made a lot of friendships with Kate Graham.

It was interesting today that you had not only Jim Baker, but Tom Brokaw, as well as Diane Sawyer, from the press there. They were two of the close-in people for the Reagans. And that was -- because Nancy from the first work -- started working, became friends with Kate Graham of "The Washington Post" which had become such an opponent.

She understood how to make the social side of Ronald Reagan support his political side and that made -- helped to make him the president that he was, in addition to being the first enforcer.

TAPPER: And as Gahl Burt said earlier, former social secretary under President Reagan, we heard from the Reagan children, Patti Davis and Ron Reagan Jr. We heard anecdotes that really brought you into the personal side of this family and this couple.

Let's play one of those.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATTI DAVIS, DAUGHTER OF NANCY REAGAN: My father used to get massages from a large Eastern European man who would come to the house and set up his massage table in my parents' dressing room.

On one of these days, as my father lay face down on the table, my mother tiptoed in, kissed him lightly on the back of his neck and tiptoed out.

[16:10:09]

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: He didn't know it was her.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: But he went through the rest of the massage, never said a word, and after the masseur left, he said to my mother, "I don't think we can have him back anymore."

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: "Why?" She asked him, "What happened?"

"Well, he kissed me."

When she told him it was her, he was flooded with relief and said: "Thank God. I didn't know what to do."

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Douglas Brinkley, it's a charming story, but there's one thing I want to ask you about because you got to meet and work with Nancy Reagan towards the end of her life.

And that is one of the things I was struck by -- and I saw in an interview with her, she talked about how she never got over the grief of losing her husband, and how she would say people say it's gets better with time, and it didn't with her. She really never was able to have that grief alleviated at all.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, that's right, Jake.

And there was some closure after she was able to organize the 100th birthday party for Ronald Reagan. That was a big deal for her, to make that work, to make sure the country paid attention. It would have been the centennial of her husband.

After that, I think she was in a bit of a sad mode and in the last years of her life was really ready to pass, you might say, in a sense of wanting to go reunite with her husband.

She was a woman of great faith and truly believed -- this came out today in the eulogies -- that she's now somewhere over the rainbow with the love of her life.

TAPPER: Let's hope so.

Douglas Brinkley, Gahl Burt, David Gergen, Carl Anthony, thank you so much.

We are going to take a quick break. We will be right back with all of today's news. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:18] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Dr. Ben Carson said today and Donald Trump agreed, perhaps there are two Donald Trumps. There is a public Donald Trump and a private persona. Kind of makes you wonder what he's holding back in public. CNN correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is live in Miami, Florida, for us

now, where Republicans are in a vigorous battle to try to win the state's delegates Tuesday.

Sunlen, today, Trump buried the hatchet with one of his former targets, Dr. Ben Carson.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.

And this is someone that Trump once called a pathological liar, but both Carson and Trump really chalking it up to just politics today. You know, this comes just four days before the next round of voting happens as this sort of serious, serious moves happen in the force desperate to stop Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's time to end the debates.

SERFATY (voice-over): Donald Trump today is signaling he's ready to move beyond the primary battle, throwing cold water on the idea of more debates.

TRUMP: How many times do you have to give the same answer to the same question?

SERFATY: The GOP front-runner also rolling out the endorsement of Dr. Ben Carson.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A much more reasonable person than comes across.

SERFATY: The one-time rivals burying the hatchet.

CARSON: There are two different Donald Trumps. There's the one you see on the stage and there's the one who's very cerebral.

SERFATY: That characterization, one that Trump is two minds about.

TRUMP: I probably do agree. I think there are two Donald Trumps. I don't think there are two Donald Trumps. I think there is one Donald Trump.

SERFATY: The Carson announcement coming on the heels of Thursday night CNN debate.

TRUMP: I cannot believe how civil it's been up here.

SERFATY: Trumps rivals largely taking a hands-off approach, highlighting differences on issues over personal insults.

Rubio rebuking Trump for his comments to CNN that Islam hates us.

TRUMP: There's something going on that maybe you don't know about and maybe a lot of other people don't know about, but there is tremendous hatred and I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not interested in being politically correct, I'm interested in being correct.

SERFATY: Trump is urging the party to unite behind his candidacy.

TRUMP: I just say embrace these millions of people that now for the first time ever love the Republican Party and unify. Be smart and unify.

SERFATY: But his opponents are not having it. Marco Rubio is encouraging voters in Ohio to support John Kasich if they want to stop Trump.

RUBIO: Clearly, John Kasich is -- has a better chance of winning Ohio than I do. If a voter in Ohio concludes that voting for John Kasich gives us the best chance to stop Donald Trump there, I anticipate that's what they'll do.

SERFATY: And saying he is the only option for defeating Trump in Florida.

RUBIO: If you want to stop Donald Trump in Florida, any vote but a vote for me is a vote for Donald Trump.

SERFATY: Ted Cruz is still trying to present himself as the only viable option to derail Trump's march to the nomination.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm just laughing because it's the Washington establishment's last gasp. Let's divide things up, let's play games -- it's real, real simple. How do you beat Donald Trump? You beat him. You beat him at the ballot box.

SERFATY: With Kasich and Trump in a tough battle for Ohio, Trump is launching a full-scale attack on the Ohio governor, releasing this new television ad today.

AD NARRATOR: John Kasich has been an absentee governor, spending most of his time everywhere but Ohio. Especially Michigan, the latest disaster in his failing presidential bid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And that ad comes after Donald Trump also released two attack ads here in Florida against Marco Rubio this week. He has predicted wins in Ohio and in Florida.

[16:20:01] Of course, both those pivotal races coming up on Tuesday -- Jake.

TAPPER: Sunlen Serfaty in Florida, thank you so much.

The violence at recent Trump rallies adds to security concerns at his campaign events this evening. We've seen a number of Trump supporters involved in nasty spats with protesters. When asked about the violence, Trump told me last night he is not to blame. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Some of your critics point to quotes that you've made at these rallies, including February 23rd, "I'd like to punch him in the face, referring to a protester." February 27th, "In the good old days, they'd have ripped him out of that seat so fast." February 1st, "Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously, OK, just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise."

TRUMP: We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous. They get in there and they start hitting people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN's Jim Acosta joins me now live in Chicago where Trump will speak this evening.

Jim, are more protests expected there this evening?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think so, Jake. There are security concerns already here in Chicago. Police officers are out in force surrounding this arena where Donald Trump will speak later on this evening.

Civil rights groups and progressive groups say there will be protests at this rally, mainly over Donald Trump's immigration stance. And as you said, Jake, Trump is offering no apologies about these scuffles that are breaking out at his rallies. He is blaming the protesters, as you mentioned, even after one of his supporters sucker punched a demonstrator earlier this week.

Here is how Trump explained his view at what's happening at his events earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know what, the audience swung back. And I thought it was very, very appropriate. He was swinging, he was hitting people, and the audience hit back. And that's what we need. A little bit more --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, the Trump campaign is also pushing back on allegations that campaign manager Corey Lewandowski roughed up a reporter for the conservative news outlet Breitbart. That reporter, Michelle Fields, says he grabbed her and almost dragged her to the ground.

After a news conference earlier in the week, as for Trump, he said last night he believes Fields is making up the story. Lewandowski called her delusional on Twitter and the Trump campaign says she is confusing Lewandowski with a member of Trump's security detail.

But, Jake, she did file a police report. And while Breitbart says it is standing behind Fields and her story, the outlet also published a story earlier today saying it's not clear if Fields is correct in blaming Lewandowski for that incident. So, this has not been sorted by any stretch, Jake.

TAPPER: Jim Acosta, thanks so much. And we've also seen no evidence of the protester who got sucker punched in the face was swinging at all. All indication is that he was a peaceful protester.

But, Jim Acosta in Chicago, thank you so much.

He is the only U.S. senator to endorse Ted Cruz, but why did Senator Mike Lee wait so long? That story next.

Plus, he's called him a liar and pathological, but apparently, Donald Trump is now OK with an endorsement from Ben Carson. So is Carson dropping out the only thing that changed?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:33] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Senator Ted Cruz just gained his first endorsement from one of his Senate colleagues as Cruz positions himself as the party's best chance to stop Trump. Could more backers follow?

Joining me now is Senator Mike Lee.

Senator, thanks for coming on today.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Thank you. Great job last night, by the way, at the debate.

TAPPER: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

So, Donald Trump is trying to moderate his tone to unite the party. We saw some of that last night. Do you think it's possible that he could bring the party together were he to become the nominee?

LEE: I don't know. And I'm not being coy on this one. I really need a whole lot of other questions answered regarding Donald Trump before I know whether I could support him or whether I know whether most of the party could support him.

I still don't know where he stands on a whole host of issues, from federalism to separation of powers to the basic fundamental role of government in general. I'm waiting to hear more specificity from him.

But what I do know it's time for the party to unite behind Ted Cruz. There's a lot of excitement behind Ted Cruz and there's something there for Republicans at every step along the ideological spectrum within the right of center space.

TAPPER: So, Senator Lee, you and Senator Cruz have been united in a lot of issues, a lot of causes in the Senate. You may be his closest friend in the Senate. If you don't mind my asking, what took you so long to endorse him? LEE: Well, I've made no secret of the fact that I've had three

friends in this race for a very long time. When Rand Paul got out a few weeks ago, then I had two close friends in the race. I never ruled out the possibility that at some point I might endorse. A point in time could come when it would be time to unite the party and I think that point has finally arrived.

There's no scientific formula that enables me to say, yes, this is the time, but it has occurred to me in recent days that this is the moment. Ted Cruz is gaining momentum and I believe that he is the best candidate -- in fact, I think he's the only candidate who is not Donald Trump who can get the nomination at this point.

TAPPER: Why do you think you're the only one of Cruz's Senate colleagues to support him right now?

LEE: First of all, you have to remember that the overwhelming majority of Republican senators have not endorsed anyone. You've got a handful who have endorsed. I'm the first one who has endorsed Ted Cruz. I'm confident that I will not be the last. I'm sure others will follow.

TAPPER: What about your friend, Marco Rubio, what do you think he should do?

LEE: Marco Rubio is a great man. He's a great friend of mine, will always continue to be. I hope that he will end up supporting Ted Cruz.