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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Cruz plots Path to Nomination; What Happens at a Brokered Convention; "Race for the White House," Iran Contra; Congressional Committee Grills Rick Snyder on Flint Water Crisis. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired March 17, 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] BOB BARR, (R), FORMER GEORGIA CONGRESSMAN & AUTHOR: So what the Republican Party leadership ought to be doing, but does not have the power to do, I don't think, but they ought to at least be trying to force Donald Trump back on to the debate stage if what he says is accurate, and that is if he really is a Republican. He isn't, and that severely limits the ability of Reince Priebus and others to have any control over him.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You just said John Kasich is sort of off to the side. The Ohio governor just won the Ohio primary. He is not going anywhere. He says he's very much in this race. How do you force him out?
BARR: It's very difficult to force somebody out who wants to stay in the race simply to stay in the race. It's mathematically impossible, even if he won every delegate from now on, for Kasich to win the nomination in terms of delegates.
BARR: I'm sorry?
BERMAN: But your math is not that much better. You have to win 82 percent. He's got to win 120. Granted, his is impossible. Yours is just bleak.
BARR: I'm not saying that John Kasich ought to drop out. I'm saying that he is not a real factor in terms of the substance of this campaign. But having him stay in the race, certainly, you know, satisfies his people. It satisfies, I suspect, his ego. And it does make an additional, you know, problem for Donald Trump. But the real substance is the debate that we ought to be having between the two front-runners on the Republican side, and that is Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. And Donald Trump obviously does not want that. It doesn't play to his strength.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman, do you think this is only about satisfying his ego that he's still in?
BARR: I don't think it's only about that, but it's certainly something that even his strongest supporters I don't think with a straight face could deny that that is a part of who Donald Trump is and what he's trying to do now. He does indeed give voice to a number of people out there who are extremely frustrated, extremely angry, justifiably with the poor performance of the Republican Party over the last few years. He plays on it and he uses that for his own purposes, this whole issue of very coyly pretending not to really say or encourage people to violence. But, you know, if we have the most delegates going into the convention, there might be violence, not really saying or encouraging to violence, but, well, you know, I'm just saying that if we have the most delegates going into the convention, there might be violence, I'm not encouraging it, I'm just saying that clearly plays into the scenario that people will take matters into their own hands and there could be more than just talk at the convention.
BOLDUAN: Bob Barr, great to see you. Thank you so much, Congressman, for coming on.
BOLDUAN: It has the potential to be one of the biggest slugfests in recent American history, so how the Republican convention could potentially spiral into a battle over who can make the most deals. We'll have that coming up.
[11:37:19] BOLDUAN: Open, contested, brokered, the one and only convention, whatever you want to call it. This year's convention in Cleveland is gearing up to be a battle royal of historic proportions.
BERMAN: It all comes down to one number, 1237. If Donald Trump or Ted Cruz get that number, 1237, on the first ballot, it's game over, go home, they're the nominee. The question is what happens if that is not the case.
Joining us now to discuss that possibility is a man who literally wrote the book on the subject, it's called "Chaos, The Outsider's Guide to a Contested Republican National Convention," John Young. He's also the former political director for Rand Paul's 2016 presidential campaign. He is an unbound delegate for the U.S. Virgin Islands, which all of a sudden, makes him one of the most popular people on the earth right now.
John, thanks for being with us.
For purposes of this discussion, we're going to assume that no one wins on the first ballot. No one gets to 1237. The first ballot, there's no winner. We go to the second ballot right here, what the hell happens then?
JOHN YOUNG, FORMER POLITICAL DIRECTOR, RAND PAUL PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & AUTHOR: Well, ultimately, that will be the determined by the Rules Committee on the binding, or if you accept the conventional wisdom, then the national binding rules that will no longer be in effect and then the state-level binding rules would become in effect, so some states would remain valid for another ballot or two, but a lot of states would be released. That's the critical ballot, because that's when momentum will be established. The first ballot is really representative of the primaries and caucuses that took place across the country. But on the second ballot, it's more representative of the hearts and minds of the actual individual delegates who will decide who wins the convention.
BOLDUAN: John, take us to the hallways or back rooms or whatever on this second ballot. What is likely to be going on here? You say this all comes down to the rules. I don't think anybody is going to be talking about a Rules Committee more in the history of politics than this one.
YOUNG: Those 112 people are going to be awful important the week before the national convention, so they will look at the rules that are currently put forward, they will either amend them or down-right change them or, in some cases, clarify them in binding, which is likely. Those 112 people will then vote on the rules. They will then put them forward to the national convention and the national convention will ratify those rules.
Then, if and when it gets to a second ballot, then it's likely, not for sure but likely, that the national binding rule would be released and the state level binding rules would be in effect. And I think you would probably see a significant change one way or the other between the first ballot and the second ballot.
In state conventions across the country, starting later this month, there will be delegates elected. Right now, when you allocate delegates based on these state contests, usually, specific delegates aren't named as part of that process. Those specific delegates are largely elected in the state convention contests that will take place across the country over the next couple of months.
There could be what I call SINOs, supporters in name only in those delegations.
BOLDUAN: You've coined that phrase. Right.
YOUNG: Yeah, thank you.
BERMAN: The number, like for Donald Trump, 662 deletes. Those are people who have to vote for him on the first ballot. After that, they can do whatever they want, depending on what the rules are in that state, which begs the question -- he's not even up here. But there's a fourth guy, Marco Rubio. He's waving right there. He's waving goodbye to this campaign. What happens to Marco Rubio's delegates?
[11:10:43] YOUNG: It's one of those things that it's something else that also is not clarified in the rules. But if you accept conventional wisdom, then the national-level binding rule would not be in effect and the state-level rules would be in effect. So it varies on a state-by-state basis. But it's very important to keep in mind that very few of his delegates have actually been elected yet. In states like Puerto Rico, the delegates have been identified. But in most states that he has delegates in, for example, Iowa, Minnesota and Georgia, those delegates won't be identified until the state convention contests. So what you'll have is you'll have a bunch of Trump, Cruz and Kasich supporters running as Rubio delegates in those state convention contests across the country.
BOLDUAN: John, you are an unbound delegate. You are like this unicorn, this mythical man that everyone wants on their side right now, and will very likely need on their side. What kind of conversations have you had with the campaigns so far?
YOUNG: I keep them private but it's safe to say I have talked to all three campaigns. I have friends on all three campaigns and they're very smart people on all three campaigns. They were the finalists. They ran the best campaigns with the best candidates for this particular election cycle, and it's safe to say I have talked to all of them.
BERMAN: Ambassador --
-- future Ambassador John Young, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate your time helping us understand how this process works.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, John. Great book. It was very helpful.
BERMAN: Coming up, a failure at every level. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder right now on Capitol Hill facing tough questions about the Flint water crisis and angry lawmakers, really angry, calling for him to resign.
[11:47:14] RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower Board reported --
ANNOUNCER: Reagan's address to the nation sticks a knife right through George Bush's dreams.
CRAIG FULLER, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR THEN-VICE PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Politically, he recognized it could be devastating to his campaign.
MICHAEL DUKAKIS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Like a lot of Americans, I was appalled. Iran Contra really started me thinking, what's going on here? What are these people doing? And what is this doing to American democracy?
REAGAN: There are reasons why it happened. There's no excuses.
DUKAKIS: That was really the first time I thought about maybe running for the presidency. Prior to that time, I had never given it a second thought.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: In this Sunday's episode of "Race for the White House," it is 1987. As you heard there, the Iran Contra scandal has engulfed the White House, putting a dark cloud over then-Vice President George H.W. Bush's dreams. And -- you saw there right there -- inspiring Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis to enter the ring against him.
Joining us now, Craig Fuller, former chief of staff for Vice President George H.W. Bush. You just saw Craig Fuller featured in that episode.
It's interesting to see that moment, Craig, because people forget that Mike Dukakis was ahead at some point in this race. This was a winnable race at some point for Mike Dukakis and you ended up blowing him out. And you did that by, you know, full-contact politics. What people remember from that campaign is Mike Dukakis on a tank, what people remember from that campaign is the Willie Horton ad, which wasn't your campaign exactly, but all part of the soup right there. You were able to turn around what could have been a bad environment for George H.W. Bush into a victory.
FULLER: It was certainly a hotly contested campaign. That segment took me back to sitting in the office of the vice president in the West Wing, when he was briefed on the fact that money had actually been transferred to the Contras. And it occurred soon after the re- election and it just knocked the wind out of him. It was clear that we had a very large problem on our hands. And, in fact, Vice President Bush was behind for a good portion of this time. So was it a tough race? It was a very tough race. It was fought hard by both sides. And we had to distinguish the characteristics, the experience of Vice President George Bush from a very able governor, Michael Dukakis.
BOLDUAN: Take us back to another moment, as John was pointing out, the image of Michael Dukakis on the tank that he was panned for, that really hurt him, the Willie Horton ad that everybody remembers. What do you remember thinking in those moments when it came out?
FULLER: I can remember one of our top advisers coming in and telling us that they had a picture of Governor Dukakis in a tank, which looked rather odd. The message I think was meant to show that he was tough on defense but the picture just didn't convey that.
FULLER: And we knew we had something that could be utilized to suggest that this was not really something that Governor Dukakis had a long record on.
I'll tell you a funny story, however. There was that same photograph of Vice President George Bush in a tank wearing a helmet. It's just that it never was discovered and never come out. He took it about the same time and he got the same kind of briefing.
The point here, the ads we were running and Governor Dukakis was running, were meant to differentiate these two individuals, their past, their backgrounds, what they would do as leader of the country. And I would be the first argue to say that, yes, some of the ads were tough. The vast majority of the ads were quite positive, forward looking, talked about education and the environment and other things. But, yeah, there were some -- there were some tough messages exchanged.
[11:50:12] BERMAN: You use the word distinguished. Another "D" word that people apply to this campaign and it's "define." That the Bush campaign and Atwater defined Mike Dukakis before he had a chance to really define himself. And I'm wondering, as you look at the campaign this year, if you think that the Republicans running against Donald Trump and other folks running against Donald Trump missed an opportunity to try to define him, months ago, when he first got in the race.
FULLER: You know, I've certainly thought a lot about this campaign. I'm not engaged in this campaign cycle. One thing is similar, I think, and that is that candidates oftentimes are doing polling. And the most powerful question I thought we asked was, you know, which candidate understands you, your concerns, your values. You know, who do you relate to? And that's what you want to see. You want to see people drawn to you.
And in this campaign, with all the anger that's out there, and among a segment of the Republican party, at least, it was very hard for anybody to break through, anybody who was a traditional or establishment candidate, as you have been reporting, to break through. And I think that the assumption that Mr. Trump was going to fail was obviously faulty. And had people tried to define him and draw out his record sooner, the results might have been somewhat different.
I actually think the electorate is going to learn a lot more about Mr. Trump. I don't see where he gains a lot of new supporters because he's pretty well-established and pretty well-known. And that could make, as you were talking earlier, for a very different kind of convention.
And I do want to remind you, if more delegates go to the convention that oppose the nomination of Donald Trump, they deserve to be heard, too. And they may well be in a series of ballots to pick our nominee.
BERMAN: Craig Fuller, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Craig.
BERMAN: You can see so much more of the political drama unfold in "Race to the White House," this Sunday, at 9:00 p.m. on CNN.
BOLDUAN: Speaking of explosive election races, we're getting new information about a meeting under way right now. A conference called by conservatives hoping to stop Donald Trump in his tracks. Hear who is there, and what's the message.
[11:56:39] BERMAN: Happening now, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on Capitol Hill, facing furious members of the House Oversight Committee, scathing questions about the water crisis in Flint.
BOLDUAN: Governor Snyder says that the led contamination disaster in Flint, he calls it a failure on every level of government, including the federal government.
Just listen here to just some of the back and forth in this contentious hearing earlier today, still ongoing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SNYDER, (R), MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: This isn't about politics, nor partisanship. I'm not going to point fingers or shift blame. There is plenty of that to share, and neither will help the people of Flint.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D), MARYLAND: They should have rushed in sooner to rescue the people of Michigan from Governor Snyder's vindictive administration and his utter incompetence at every level.
REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT, (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Deniability only works when it's plausible. And I'm not buying that you didn't know about any of this until October 2015. You were not in a medically induced coma for a year. And I've had about enough of your false contrition and your phony apologies. People who put dollars over the fundamental safety of the people do not belong in government. And you need to resign, too, Governor Snyder.
Pretty soon, we will have men who strike their wives, saying "I'm sorry, dear, but there were failures at all levels."
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R), UTAH: If you want to do the courageous thing, like you said Susan Headman did, then you, too, should resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: You heard a lot of "you should resigns" there.
Let's bring in right now, let's discuss this with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, joining us right now to discuss.
So, Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.
A lot of the focus -- Flint is still in crisis. It's still unfolding. The solution has not yet been really discovered on how to help everyone who has been inflicted by this crisis. A lot of the focus of this hearing has been who is to blame. The woman you have endorsed for president is Hillary Clinton. She says that, among others, one of the people to blame is the governor, Rick Snyder. And she has joined the chorus of people saying he should resign. Do you think he should resign now?
KAREN WEAVER, (D), MAYOR OF FLINT, MICHIGAN: You know what? This is what I have been watching this hearing going on. And it's interesting that he is saying that he didn't know anything about it. I'm waiting to see, because if he knew, then that's what -- you know, he needs to be -- be responsible.
And, you know, I want to go back to something you said. Because we were talking about we don't know what to do about this. We know what to do about it. They need to give us the money so we can take care of our citizens. We need to get the money so we can get these new pipes. We need to get the money because our people deserve services and supports and resources. So we know what to do. And, you know, if you're going to claim responsibility, step up and give Flint the money that we deserve to have as a result of what happened.
BERMAN: False contrition and phony apologies, he was accused of that, the governor was. Do you see with that charge?
WEAVER: Do I -- false -- say it again, please.
BERMAN: False contrition and phony apologies.
WEAVER: Well, you know what? That's a good one. Because if you're really sorry, then -- you know, one of the things I've been harping on, because right now he's still in office, if you're sorry, you need to do the right thing and give us what we need to have. You know, this is going to cost us, we know, $1 billion. When you look at --