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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta; Tracking a Terrorist; New York Presidential Battle; Trump Camp Adjusts for Delegate Battle Ahead; GOP Girding for a Contested Convention; New Ad Hits Cruz for "New York Values" Slam. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 7, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are in New York for the New York primary. How many write-in votes are we going to see for the Times Square Elmos?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Subway series. Hillary Clinton swipes her MetroCard and swipes back at Bernie Sanders, as all of a sudden the Democratic race gets almost as testy as what's going on, on the other side.

One Big Apple paper welcomes Senator Cruz as if he's on the Red Sox. Can Cruz escape from New York with enough support to stop Donald Trump?

And then some breaking news on the Brussels terrorist attacks. New video showing the escape of the airport bomber who got away.

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

The Democratic race taking an express train to acrimony. Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton sharpening their attacks as each claims New York home turf. Just in the last 24 hours, we have seen Clinton raise questions about Sanders' preparedness and Sanders respond by saying Clinton is not qualified to be president because of her bad judgment.

And it's gotten even nastier than that.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is following Senator Sanders. He's at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia.

Joe, does the Clinton campaign think Sanders might be able to pull off a win in New York?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, quite frankly, Jake, I think the Clinton campaign has seen the polls that suggest she does have some breathing room in New York, but they're also well aware of the tendency of Bernie Sanders to close strong in the final days of a campaign.

He's also coming off of a string of victories, so that's concerning to them too. But they say another important point for them is just to try to close this thing out if they can and start focusing on the Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not be hustling money from the wealthy and the powerful.

JOHNS (voice-over): Bernie Sanders is not backing down from a fight he insists Clinton started.

SANDERS: If Secretary Clinton thinks that I just come from the small state of Vermont and we're not used to this, well, we will get used to it fast. I'm not going to get beaten up. I'm not going to get lied about. We will fight back.

JOHNS: Tensions coming to a boil, with Sanders launching a blistering critique of Clinton at a Philadelphia rally Thursday night.

SANDERS: She has been saying lately that she thinks I'm -- quote, unquote -- "not qualified to be president."

(BOOING)

SANDERS: Well, let me let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton, I don't think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq.

JOHNS: Sanders even used Clinton's support for the Panama free trade agreement to link her to the corruption scandal unfolding with the Panama Papers.

SANDERS: I don't think you are qualified if you supported the Panama free trade agreement, something I very strongly opposed and which, as all of you know, has allowed corporations and wealthy people all over the world to avoid paying their taxes to their countries.

JOHNS: Clinton today brushing off the criticism from her rival.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's kind of a silly thing to say, but I'm going to trust the voters of New York who know me and have voted for me three times, twice for Senate, once in the presidential primary.

JOHNS: Both campaigns are looking to leverage the back and forth, sending out fund-raising e-mails to supporters. The Clinton team calling Sanders' remarks a ridiculous and irresponsible attack. The Sanders campaign accusing the Clinton camp of getting nervous and launching a full-on attack before the New York primary.

Ahead of the April 19 contest in her adopted home state, Clinton today focused on her connections to New York.

CLINTON: I am so proud to have represented this state for eight years. I'm a proud New Yorker, and I want to be a good president for New York and for the rest of our country. JOHNS: Engaging in some retail politics, riding the New York subway

for two stops.

CLINTON: Do some people need to get off?

JOHNS: Along the way, she took a swipe at Sanders for incorrectly referring to the subway fare as tokens.

CLINTON: I think we changed when I was senator. I think it was my first term when we changed from tokens to MetroCards.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The former secretary of state was also doing fund-raisers in Ohio, as well as Colorado today. Bernie Sanders expected to head up to New York tomorrow -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Joe Johns, thank you so much.

Joining me now is Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

John, good to see you. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

JOHN PODESTA, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Nice to be here, Jake.

TAPPER: So, getting very nasty between Sanders and Clinton. We just saw Senator Sanders say Clinton is not qualified to lead the country because of her judgment. Here's how New York Mayor and Clinton supporter Bill de Blasio responded to that charge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Hillary Clinton is eminently to be president of the United States. By the way, Bernie Sanders is qualified to be president of the United States too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:05:01]

TAPPER: Do you agree with the mayor? Is Bernie Sanders qualified?

PODESTA: Well, look, I think we have never said he's not qualified. And she said that she would -- on any day, she'd pick him over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. So I think this is a one-way attack. He said she's not qualified.

And it was wrong and he should take it back, because there's no one who I think looks at her record, looks at what she's been saying on the campaign, looks at the policies she's been putting forward who doesn't think she has the chops and the ability to do the job of president in the United States.

TAPPER: Some people in the media interpreted Secretary Clinton's remarks about Sanders' preparedness when it comes to that "New York Daily News" editorial board and his answers as taking a shot first... (CROSSTALK)

PODESTA: Well, look, she was pressed very hard on Joe Scarborough's show to say he wasn't qualified, and she didn't say that. And so Bernie should stop saying that she said it.

What she pointed to was the editorial board interview that he gave to "The New York Times" where the number one issue in his campaign, taking on the big banks, he didn't seem to know what his authorities were or what role he would take as president.

That's not saying that he's unqualified to be president. It's saying that he should do his homework on the number one issue that he's trying to campaign on.

TAPPER: It is certainly getting tough. Take a listen to Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver on CNN earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: She supported the war in Iraq. She continues to have a very, very hawkish foreign policy, which has led to the rise and expansion of ISIS throughout the Middle East.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: A hawkish foreign policy that's led to the rise and expansion of ISIS. Your response?

PODESTA: I think that is he attacking the president on that as well? It was his foreign policy as well.

This has gotten exceedingly personal and nasty. And it's time that it should end. He should -- and I think particularly Senator Sanders should admit that Secretary Clinton is eminently well-qualified, as President Obama has noted, probably the best qualified person who has never been vice president of the United States to run for president.

But they're getting increasingly personal. I think this New York primary is getting to them. And, you know, it's time to get back to the issues, talk about our plans for the future, in Hillary's case, to talk about what she did for New York when she was a senator here for eight years, the work she did on behalf of the people of New York after 9/11 to get health care for the National Guard, to get jobs growing in Upstate.

She will be Upstate tomorrow talking about her plans for manufacturing. Senator Sanders likes to say he wants to run a positive campaign. He should get back to doing that.

TAPPER: Well, speaking of that, after Clinton and her allies associated themselves with the daughter of the principal at Sandy Hook who had asked Sanders to apologize for voting to give gun manufacturers immunity from civil suits, here is what Sanders had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: What happened in Sandy Hook is a tragedy beyond comprehension. But maybe Secretary Clinton might want to apologize to the families who lost their loved ones in Iraq, of Secretary Clinton might want to apologize to the millions of workers in this country who lost their jobs because of the disastrous trade agreements that she supported.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PODESTA: Just wants to run a positive campaign, right, Jake? He's gotten increasingly negative here in New York, increasingly personal.

She never asked for an apology. The daughter of the principal killed at Sandy Hook, the parents of a kid killed in Aurora asked Senator Sanders to apologize...

TAPPER: But Clinton did not.

PODESTA: ... for voting for giving immunity to gun manufacturers of -- a right that no other corporation does Senator Sanders see fit to give. So he's got some explaining to do about why he cast that vote, a vote that the NRA said was the most important vote in the last 20 years.

They have asked for the apology. I think Secretary Clinton has always stood with the victims, but she never asked him for an apology, and he should stop saying things that aren't true.

TAPPER: One last quick question. Is the Clinton campaign preparing at all for a contested Democratic Convention? I know you're not expecting it, but are you preparing for it?

PODESTA: Well, look, I think that what we are preparing to do is win the popular vote, win the pledged delegates and win the nomination. And we're going to do what it takes to do that.

TAPPER: But a good campaign has a plan B and plan C.

PODESTA: Well, look, I think if he wants to suggest, as his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, did, that he wants some replication of what's going on in the Republican Party, you know, I think that's a mistake and I think he will come to a different conclusion.

But what that's going to take is us winning the popular vote, which we intend to do, us winning pledged delegates, which we have a very substantial lead on, 220 pledged delegates lead, and we intend to win the nomination.

TAPPER: John Podesta, Clinton campaign, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

PODESTA: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Sticking with our politics lead, Donald Trump making a surprising campaign move, the ultimate outsider now relying on one of politics' ultimate insiders. But could this hurt him with his voters? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:14:05]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Is Donald Trump shifting his strategy? The Republican front-runner became the front-runner by relying upon his wits and a shoestring team of staffers led by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

But now Trump seems to be recalibrating his campaign operation and zeroing in on making sure he can lock up every delegate possible.

CNN's Sara Murray is here with me.

Sara, Trump announcing today that Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort will take on an expanded campaign role going forward. Why now? What's he going to do?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

His campaign, the Trump campaign put out a press release that suggested that Paul would have a more expanded role, Paul Manafort. He would be doing delegate operations, as well as D.C. outreach. And sort of it signifies the next phase of this campaign.

And I think what it also tells us is, the Trump campaign is about to take a much more tactical approach when it comes to securing these delegates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is home. It's great to be home.

[16:15:01] We love New York.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER (voice-over): Donald Trump is clearly in a New York state of mind.

TRUMP: I love these people. These are my people. Yes!

MURRAY: Trump is doubling down in his home state today. His campaign said it's scrapping a California press conference scheduled for later this week, and Trump also abandoned plans to appear at this weekend's Colorado convention.

The billionaire businessman is trying to put a stinging loss in Wisconsin in the rear-view mirror and launch a more disciplined delegate hunt. Now that the race has shifted to New York, this dig at New York values -- SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think most people

know exactly what New York values are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am from New York.

CRUZ: You're from New York, so you might not.

MURRAY: -- may come back to bite.

TRUMP: I've got this guy standing over there looking at me talking about New York values with scorn in his face, with hatred, with hatred of New York. So, folks, I think you can forget about him.

MURRAY: Cruz is lagging in third place in the latest New York polls, and the state may prove to be unfriendly territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted Cruz has no business being in the Bronx. This is an immigrant community.

MURRAY: But Cruz is fighting back, turning the knives on Trump and painting him as a not-so-secret New York liberal.

CRUZ: Our friends in the media tell us that Donald Trump is unstoppable in New York state. Oddly enough, our friends in the media are very comfortable with the New York liberal who has supported Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer for decades.

MURRAY: All while John Kasich and the super PAC supporting him pile on against Ted Cruz.

AD NARRATOR: When you smear New York values in Iowa for votes, we remember that too. Now, you come here and conveniently say you love New York.

MURRAY: Today, Kasich is going for the ultimate Empire State pander, saying he'd consider inviting former New York Yankee Derek Jeter to join the ticket.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People say if you win, who's going to be your vice president? Somebody that I would have under consideration, Jeter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, as we see the Trump campaign kind of me this shift, overhaul their schedule, make these changes, it seems to be because they want to double down on New York but it's unclear yet how they're going to use that time. As of right now, Jake, they have not advised any upcoming events in New York, so we will have to see.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Wait and see, Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Joining me now, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mr. Reince Priebus.

Mr. Chairman, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN OF REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Hey, Jake.

TAPPER: So, right now, the front-runner, Donald Trump, needs to win 60 percent of the remaining delegates to avoid a contested convention. Possible, possible, but very difficult. Is the RNC prepared for a contested convention?

PRIEBUS: Yes, we're going -- we're preparing and we will be prepared. And that's the whole point of trying to get out here and talk about what that possibility would be like. A lot of the conversation is all hypothetical, of course. It's possible that Ted Cruz or Donald Trump could get to the 1,237 before Cleveland and all of this will be for nothing. But we have to prepare, and so the answer is yes.

TAPPER: Now, there's a conservative writer Sean Trende who argues in an op-ed in realclearpolitics.com that a contested convention is perfectly legitimate if no one has secured 1,237 delegates. He writes, quote, "This is no expression of the people's will with a plurality of the votes." Now, I know there's a lot of people on the Trump team to disagree with that. What do you think?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think that a majority is what our country is founded on. I mean, it's the whole part -- it's the whole basis of a democracy is that a minority doesn't rule for the majority, and I think that our Founding Fathers made that very clear and it's what we've been doing for 160 years in our party and a majority will rule and that's a rule that isn't going anywhere. Majority rules, plain and simple.

TAPPER: You told me earlier this week that you believe the Republican nominee will be someone who is currently running for president. I've talked to a few delegates, and I'm telling you, there definitely is a sentiment out there for someone else, a consensus candidate who's not running if no one secures 1,237 delegates. Now, if I'm hearing this from delegates, you must be hearing it from a lot more delegates.

Just to clarify, you're not saying there's zero percent chance that it goes to someone currently not running, right?

PRIEBUS: Look, what I've said is that I think it's highly unlikely. I think I said highly, highly unlikely that it's someone other than a person that's currently running.

Now, if you get to an eighth or ninth or 100th ballot and everyone is on the floor staring at the ceiling, you know, I can't make that prediction.

[16:20:01] But what I'm saying is that it's probably someone running and the chances of it not being someone that's currently running I think are very, very unlikely.

TAPPER: Donald Trump has warned that his supporters could riot if he has the nomination, quote, "stolen from him".

Former CNN reporter Peter Hamby attended a media walk-through for the convention in Cleveland. He's with Snapchat now. Hamby tweeted this, "Question at RNC media walk-through in Cleveland. Any guidance for covering protests? Convention CEO Jeff Larson, 'what protests?'"

Did Mr. Larson mean that jokingly or is the RNC actually not anticipating any protests?

PRIEBUS: Well, I know Jeff pretty well, he's our chief of staff for my first two years as chairman. And I'm sure he was joking.

I think that -- I think that we'll be as prepared as we always are and then some. I mean, this is a unique cycle, isn't it? We can't deny that. We've got quite a bit of drama and we'll be prepared and our preparation will be commensurate with the expectation of -- with that.

So we'll be ready to go. We've got over $50 million in security money on top of the good people in Cleveland and Ohio. I'm sure that we'll be prepared and everyone will be safe and everything will go well.

TAPPER: How much gray hair do you think you're going to have by December?

PRIEBUS: I hope I have it. Gray is fine. I just want to make sure I have hair.

TAPPER: Chairman Priebus, thank you so much. Appreciate your stopping by.

PRIEBUS: All right. See you.

TAPPER: Ted Cruz is learning the hard way. New Yorkers don't easily forgive and forget. His New York values comment coming back to haunt him in the Empire State. How could it impact his campaign here, next.

And now we know how the third Brussels airport bomber escaped the scene of the terrorist attack. What newly released security video tells us about where he might be.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:19] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Let's turn now to our political panel to digest all of this. We have with us, executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, Basil Smikle, who had previously worked for Hillary Clinton but has not endorsed in this campaign. We have head of the Keep the Promise super PAC supporting Ted Cruz, Kellyanne Conway, and we have Donald Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany.

Thanks one and all for being here. Appreciate it.

Today, we saw the first ad attacking Senator Ted Cruz for his New York values insult against Donald Trump. It comes from a super PAC supporting John Kasich. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AD NARRATOR: We aren't stupid, Ted. After we were hit, we rallied, rebuilt, but remembered. When you smear New York values in Iowa for votes, we remember that too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So Donald Trump is the one who this is aimed at. What do you think Ted Cruz meant by New York values?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think he meant what he said, New York values. And in his mind, I think he meant a secular world view that doesn't meet with the values of Iowans.

If he meant liberal values, which is what he came out and clarify his statement to mean, he would have in fact said liberal values and not New York values. So, you know, I think this ad is indicative of what's going to play out over the next few weeks. People are going to hammer this home. It's not only going to damage him here in New York, I think it will damage him in New Jersey and all of the Northeast corridor.

TAPPER: Kellyanne, let me ask you, he's in third place according to the polls, Ted Cruz. Do you think that's because of his New York values comment or do you think there are other reasons, and how damaging do you think it is?

KELLYANE CONWAY, PRESIDENT, "KEEP THE PROMISE" SUPER PAC: No. First of all, I'm glad to hear Trump support at least admit what we all know which is what he meant by that so we should probably start saying that, that he want liberal values. I think it's really funny that the Kasich super PAC is running this ad.

I mean, he -- can you get back to Columbus, Ohio, and be the governor already? John Kasich has basically been living here in, no, was here all through the Wisconsin primary fight while Trump and Cruz were in Wisconsin looking for votes. I think it's pretty arrogant to think you can come in here and insult somebody who you think insulted people of New York as the governor of Ohio.

We know what he meant. And here you ask, why is he in third place? Couple of reasons. One is this is Donald Trump's backyard. He should run the tables here. He's not going to get all 95 delegates, that's not going to happen. He probably won't get two-thirds of them, even though Cruz got two-thirds of the Texas delegates in a race that had more than three people in it at the time.

Secondly, John Kasich has been living here. He's in New York all last week. He's in New York more than I am and I live here last week. He was not in Wisconsin, just like the night of the Iowa caucuses, he was in New Hampshire. The night of the South Carolina primary, he was in Michigan. So, he's always a couple of states ahead where he thinks his message matters.

People in New York, the donors in New York are mad at John Kasich for not getting out of the race. I know it's mathematically impossible he does it. TAPPER: Basil, I want to play for you from earlier today. It's

former President Bill Clinton campaigning in Philadelphia and talking to some protesters who had signs that said black youth are not super predators. "Super predators" is a controversial term that Hillary Clinton used in 1994 while her husband was trying to pass the 1994 crime bill. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I don't know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the street to murder other African- American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She didn't. She didn't.

You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter. Tell the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Bill Clinton defending his legacy in 1994, but Hillary Clinton has already expressed regret for the term. Bill Clinton, defending it.

BASIL SMIKLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE N.Y. DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, you know, I think Hillary's comments are on point in the sense that, you know, these are very -- this is a very tough time. And I think what we have seen so far, particularly in communities of color, we've seen sort of the aftermath of a lot of finger pointing in terms of what's -- you know, who's to blame.