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Trump Accuses RNC of Conspiring Against Him; Oregon Senator Endorses Sanders; Family-Owned New York Paper Endorses Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 13, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan.


He wrote the book on "The Art of the Deal," but it's the other "D" word causing problems, Delegate. It's at the root now of a practically unheard of situation in the presidential race. Talk about a flat-out battle between the front runner and the head of the party, all less than 100 days away. Donald Trump, accusing the Republican National Committee of conspiring, conspiring to keep him from winning nomination. He says the rules are stacked against him.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: It's stacked against me and by the establishment.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You don't think the RNC wants you to get the nomination?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so.


BOLDUAN: The head of the RNC having none of it, saying that the rules are just that and they have been set since last year. Also quipping, "Give us all a break. Trump took this fight a step further, in an interview with "The Hill" newspaper, saying the RNC chair "should be ashamed."

The editor of "The Hill," Bob Cusack, is joining me now.

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR, THE HILL NEWSPAPER: Thanks for having me. Appreciate

"Reince Priebus should be ashamed of himself because he knows what's going on." That's what Donald Trump said to you in this interview. Wow?

CUSACK: Yeah. It was interesting, he kept repeating it and, remember, Kate, it was just earlier this month that Priebus and Trump had a meeting on Capitol Hill. It was a unity meeting. And Trump tweeted out that the meeting went great. There are two rules of thought. One, that the rules have been set in place for months. However, it's a fair point of Trump's to say, hey, that nobody voted in Colorado, the delegates just decided, and that's not fair. That's why you have this clash. And who knows if he's going to get to 1237. It could come down to a handful of delegates.

BERMAN: It's the nature of this conflict that is relatively unprecedented. These guys may need more than relationship therapy. In the interview, Bob, you asked Donald Trump if he would keep Reince Priebus on as the RNC chair if he locked up the nomination and he didn't say yes.

CUSACK: Yeah. He said I don't want to talk about that, I haven't given that much thought. Clearly, he has gone after Priebus very hard this week and the rules. So if he were to get the nomination, that could be a big question mark. Will Priebus continue or will Trump ask him he step down? It's highly unusual for the front-runner to be odds with the chair of the committee.

BOLDUAN: It's kind of unthinkable that it's even being discussed. They are going to state the obvious. Donald Trump, if he's the nominee, is going to need the RNC going forward. Give us some insight on why you think Donald Trump is taking Reince Priebus on so directly, so strongly.

CUSACK: Well, this is part of what Donald Trump does. Last summer, in our first interview, he said he might run as the third party if he were treated unfairly. So this theme of being treated unfairly has been a theme of Donald Trump's campaign. I also think it does help him in some respects because he's going against the establishment. And that's what his supporters thrive on. They love that. This may help Trump get the momentum after losing Wisconsin.

BERMAN: It's a great point. People saying Trump is not playing the delegate game well right now. This may be the game he's playing. Complaining about the delegate game may be the new way that Donald Trump is doing this. The question is, how much does it help him and how long will it go on? Do you see this ending well for either of them, bob?

CUSACK: It's very hard, John, very hard to see how the party is unified. Trump emphasized yesterday to me that, I'm going to unify this party one way or the other. But whether Trump or Cruz or perhaps somebody else gets the nomination, it's just hard to see because there's going to be so much anger from the supporters of the candidates that didn't get the nomination. So that's going to be the challenge. And Reince Priebus has a difficult job. It's, by far, the most difficult job in Washington and he's had a very hot and cold relationship with Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Can you unify by force?


Bob Cusack. Great to see you, Bob. Fascinating interview. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: We're going to talk a lot more about this. Bring in our panel, David Catanese, a senior politics writer at "U.S. News & World Report"; also, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein; and CNN political commentator and Republican consultant, Margaret Hoover.

Ron Brownstein, you covered this from time to time. Donald Trump, the front-runner, is in an out-right feud with the chair of the party.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Remarkable to watch. Unified by force.


It is not unusual for nominee to bring in their own people into the national party committee. What is unusual is to have open warfare and it can energize his voters who thrive on us-against-them mentality. On the other hand, if he leads in delegates and is short of the first ballot majority, he is going to need unbound delegates. Those tend to be party people. If you have somebody saying the party is biased against me, the system is rigged, they are more hesitant about turning over the party to that nominee. This is something that may help him with his electorate but is a real high wire in terms of the maneuvering he may need to get over the top.

[11:05:56] BOLDUAN: That's looking at it as far as what's going on in Trump's mind. What's going on in Reince Priebus' mind right now, do you think? He not only said, these are the fact, the rules have been set, he took it a step further.

BERMAN: He went to 11.

BOLDUAN: He went to 11, he did, when he said, "Give us all a break," at the end of his tweet. He's escalating it himself.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's responding to it. He's responding to it. Look, one of the things that if you step back and look at all of this, it seems to me, the Trump candidacy really demonstrates how much angst there is with the way it works. They are all in bed with each other and this shines a light on it and all of the conversation just helps him. It helps Trump ultimately in the narrative because he's saying, look, the thing is all rigged and the truth is, Donald Trump --


HOOVER: Donald Trump probably doesn't know he can fire Reince Priebus as soon as he gets the nomination, if he gets the nomination, but he can. He's an outsider but he can remake the process in his own image if he wants to. I don't know that he knows that. And the system has its own intricacies. A lot of us in the Republican Party think probably his own --

(CROSSTALK) BERMAN: David, Reince Priebus made a choice to go on Twitter last night and say, "Give me a break," to the Republican front-runner. He made a choice to take on the guy who is leading his own party's primaries.

DAVID CATANESE, SENIOR POLITICS WRITER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: You can't look spineless. If he didn't respond, he would look weak. His chairmanship is probably in danger if Donald Trump is the nominee. To him at every point and get control of his party. But Donald Trump is wrong to say the process is rigged and the party is right to say that these rules are in place. But Donald Trump is going to expose this process, and it is an odd process. When regular people, like my mother, take a look and said, why aren't they voting in Colorado? Why don't regular people go to the polls and vote, like they did in New Hampshire and South Carolina? I have to say, that's odd, because they run a convention in Colorado. You can make an argument, but why are we having any of these primaries? These states pick delegates, Wyoming, Colorado, why waste time with the popular vote, because now we're in this insider's game of delegates, wrangling delegates, trying to get people appointed in a state party convention. And that's how you're going to pick the nominee. And the RNC is right to say this is how it's always been. It's just never mattered.


BOLDUAN: But what else should the RNC -- can RNC do? The only other thing that I feel like is the point to point out, he has 45 percent of the delegates and he won 30 something --


BOLDUAN: Equally unfair in that regard.

BROWNSTEIN: David is absolutely right. It's ridiculous to say the process is rigged, but it's rickety. When you look at this --


BROWNSTEIN: I covered the 2000 recount with George Bush in Florida and I remember an official said we have a margin of error that was greater than the margin of victory. We're sort of hitting that in the Republican race, where we haven't gone since the 1948. They have not had a multi-ballot convention. There's not been races where every single delegate in every state mattered. And in a world where that is the condition, some of these caucuses and conventions can bear the level of scrutiny because they are not run to a sufficiently professional standard.

BERMAN: So we're talking about right now what's happening over the last few weeks where Donald Trump has had some trouble in these state contests. What happens if he starts winning again? Because you look here in New York --


BERMAN: Look at the polls right now, he's up ahead 55 percent in the Quinnipiac and --


BERMAN: In Maryland, 49 percent to 29 percent. If he does start winning, how does that change the nature of --


[11:10:00] HOOVER: Depends on how much he is winning by. He needs to win by 60 percent of delegates to get 1237 before he gets to the convention. If he gets that, I think he's going to have some time to make the system in his own image. He has an opportunity to do that. If he doesn't get it, he'll keep fighting, saying he's the outsider and they're rigging the system. By the way, that also helps him.

CATANESE: That's the problem. The primaries really don't matter. He can get 60 percent because all we're talking about is delegates and he's most likely not going to get to 1237. Maybe he does, but most people think he comes short. We're really arguing about state conventions and delegates wrangling in which the Cruz campaign is superior at to Trump. So all these popular votes we're having in New York, Pennsylvania, so even in Trump keeps winning, to your point, it may not matter because of the party rules. And I don't know how --


CATANESE: Right. Right. I'm just saying, if he doesn't get to 1237.

Do you think he's going to get to 1237?

BROWNSTEIN: Most people think it will be short.

CATANESE: Most people think it will be short? And then the popular vote doesn't matter?



BROWNSTEIN: Preview of current events in two weeks we'll have a discussion of Donald Trump and the Pennsylvania process, which is also bizarre, where mostly delegates will be elected by name without any affiliation to the candidates they're supporting, and voters are going to go in and cast a vote, and to your point, they will be completely disconnected except for a handful of statewide delegates.

BOLDUAN: What does Cruz do in the meantime? He said to Glenn Beck, Donald is panicking, Donald is acres, Donald likes to call people a loser, loser, loser. He's relishing this moment, but does he keep playing the delegate game even though he's going to get hit for it?

HOOVER: First of all, he's raising money. He's raising money on Wall Street and doing all of the delegate math counting, counting, counting, making sure he has the numbers to keep the lid on Donald Trump, and organizing for the convention.


BROWNSTEIN: He's failing. He's also failing.


CATANESE: He's talking about the convention. These primaries are less relevant. What if he goes into the convention with a three million popular vote lead and can't win the delegates?


BERMAN: Ron, leave us one thought here, Ron.


BOLDUAN: Learn the rules.

BERMAN: There's a qualitative difference between just off.

BROWNSTEIN: Just off or hundreds off.


BERMAN: What is close?

BROWNSTEIN: I ask people this all the time. Psychologically, there's some number which it becomes he's the nominee.


BROWNSTEIN: Look what is happening with Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz in Wisconsin -- the only state with an exit poll where he won voters who are not evangelicals. Now he moves back to the northeast, he had to continue that to be competitive. It's not happening. You look at the polling in New York and Maryland, he's back to 20 percent or below, and he faces the prospect of a series of pretty big Donald Trump wins across the northeast, which could reshape the conversation.

BOLDUAN: Keep your eye on Indiana, my home state.


BROWNSTEIN: That's true.

CATANESE: If he's one delegate short, there will be some movement to try to stop him at the convention.


CATANESE: Even just one delegate.

BOLDUAN: That's how this book has to be written.


BOLDUAN: David, Ron, Margaret, thanks, guys. BERMAN: Make sure to watch the town hall here tonight with Ted Cruz.

He'll be with his wife, Heidi, to answer questions from Anderson and voters. That's tonight only on CNN at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

BOLDUAN: A New York paper endorsing Donald Trump. The owner of the paper, Donald Trump's son-in-law. The paper says that's not a reason to back Trump, but is it the reason? The editor will be joining us.

BERMAN: Plus, Bernie Sanders picked up a surprise endorsement, and this is a first for him. You're going to hear from his new supporter. That's coming up.


[11:17:31] BOLDUAN: This just in, Hillary Clinton is proposing to create a national office of immigrant affairs at an event happening right now in New York.

She and Bernie Sanders are picking up new endorsements today as they get set to face off in the CNN Brooklyn debate. The "New York Daily News" backing Clinton, calling her a super-prepared warrior realist, and in the next breath, calling Bernie Sanders as, quote, "at passionate war with reality."

BERMAN: Even called him a fantasist.


BERMAN: A short time ago, the New York Transit Union announced it support for Bernie Sanders. That's a union some 64,000 strong.

The Vermont Senator picked up his first endorsement from the sitting Senator in Jeff Merkley, of Oregon. In an op-ed in "The New York Times," he says he think Sanders will rethink America's politics and economy.

Want to bring in CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny; and CNN political commentator, Bakari Sellers, a Hillary Clinton supporter.

Jeff, a lot endorsements flying around. It's hard to put your finger on what is the most important, but the newest and most different is Jeff Merkley, a sitting Senator endorsing Bernie Sanders.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's the first sitting Democratic Senator to endorse Bernie Sanders. You may wonder what has taken so long. Bernie Sanders has been in Congress for a long time. This is a good endorsement, and always good to have but this is just as much about Oregon politics. The Oregon primary is coming up down the line. What a good way to sort of get on the right side of your progressive voters back home than endorse Bernie Sanders.

Look, it's important as much as any endorsement is. But I think the union endorsement for Bernie Sanders is much more important here in New York City than a Jeff Merkley endorsement. BERMAN: Why?

ZELENY: Because these are actual voters. And when they are actually real union voters, I think that's helpful for him.

BOLDUAN: What does Hillary Clinton say to that?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you have to applaud, the sitting Senator and applaud Bernie Sanders for getting those endorsements. But I think Hillary Clinton is in a very good position to come out of next Tuesday's primary with a victory. What you'll see on debate night is going to be a new tone as well. I think there's going to be a better person on stage tomorrow night. I think Donald Trump is going to be on stage for the first time tomorrow night and I expect Hillary Clinton to talk about Donald Trump and prepare for that general election as well.

[11:20:03] BERMAN: You know, Kate brought it up earlier. There is another endorsement, which is the endorsement of the "New York Daily News."


BERMAN: It said nice things about Hillary Clinton, but it really just lit into Bernie Sanders. It seemed to take issues with his preparedness. It's pretty scathing.

ZELENY: It is scathing. I can't remember an editorial board meeting that has gone so awry than this one. It was a transcript that the Clinton campaign sent out. It showed that he was not quite up to --


ZELENY: These candidates have been at it for a long time. These huge rallies, he's tired. That may have been an issue there, or just not prepared. But I think this endorsement, definitely scathing for him. I'm not sure that endorsements by newspapers actually matter but it certainly is not good for him.

SELLERS: I think it gives us something to look at tomorrow night as well because there's a question about Bernie Sanders' depth on his own issues. He's going to have to answer those questions.

BERMAN: But he's never not had answers at a debate before.

SELLERS: This is at a different level. When you look at the big "New York Daily News" and when we're talking about big banks or Middle Eastern policies, it was, I don't know. People are going to be looking forward to those answers tomorrow night.

BOLDUAN: What are you hearing about debate prep? What does tomorrow look like? If these hits stick to schedule, there's been a debate so far, is there really only one left if they stick to it in May?

SELLERS: Probably.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

ZELENY: Unless Bernie Sanders wins in New York. I think Hillary Clinton will be like --


BOLDUAN: Debate every week.

What's tomorrow look like?

ZELENY: There's so much -- every question has basically been asked at this point but it is a different moment. That's why the tone has been different. Time is running out for Bernie Sanders to make his case to voters. That's why I am still watching to see if he shifts at all and decides to suddenly maybe raise the e-mail issue. We don't know that he will. I doubt that he will.


ZELENY: But I think like watching his tone is much more important than watching her tone. She wants to keep going straight ahead. He wants to block her.

SELLERS: I can see Bernie Sanders being on the defensive. This is not the same Bernie Sanders who announced saying that this is going to be a race about issue. It wasn't going to be about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. It's not that campaign anymore. I can see him taking a more ferocious and attacking tone. Even Hillary Clinton's ad that she's running in New York now is about Donald Trump. So I do expect her --


BOLDUAN: Every time she's tried to make that turn, Sanders is in her face.


ZELENY: It's saying that she's the best person to beat Bernie Sanders and I can beat Donald Trump.


SELLERS: But triangulation, there you go again.


BOLDUAN: He said it with a straight face, too.

I love that.

BERMAN: Fantasist and triangulation, all in one segment.


Bakari Sellers, Jeff Zeleny, thanks for being here. Really appreciate it. BOLDUAN: Programming note, the CNN Democratic debate has

everyone heading to Brooklyn tomorrow night. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton facing off tomorrow night, at 9:00 p.m. eastern. Don't miss our two-hour edition for AT THIS HOUR live from Brooklyn.

BERMAN: All right. He's Reagan, a unifier, and the father-in-law of the owner of the paper. The editor of a New York paper that just endorsed Donald Trump joins us live on their family ties to the candidates.

BOLDUAN: Plus, hear how Ivanka Trump defends her dad over his controversial remarks about women in a very personal response at last night's town hall. Be right back.


[11:28:21] BERMAN: All right. Donald Trump picking up his first major endorsement from the New York media. It's with a twist, though. It's a paper owned by a member of his own family, Ivanka's husband, Jared Kushner.

Joining us to discuss is the editor for "The Observer," Ken Kurson.

Ken, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.


The first line says this: "Donald Trump is the father-in-law of 'The Observer's' publisher. That is not a reason to endorse him. Giving millions of disillusioned Americans a renewed sense of purpose and opportunity is."

Maybe not a reason, but was it ever in question?

KURSON: I like how you read that.


I really appreciate you molesting the words like that.

BOLDUAN: Molesting the words.

KURSON: I don't know that it was never in question. When there are 17 candidates and nobody thought Donald Trump would make it to 2016, let alone to April as the front-runner, I didn't contemplate this way back. I went to his announcement speech in early July at Trump towers and I remember standing with some other members of the media from A.P. radio thinking, this isn't going to be a problem. But he's done well, and our editorial board made a decision to endorse him.

BERMAN: Did you meet with the other candidates? Did you sit down with Ted Cruz and John Kasich? We're talking about the "New York Daily News" sat down with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Did you? KURSON: You know, in this incident when we've endorsed for mayors, like we endorsed Bill de Blasio in 2013, we sat down with all of the Democrats and the Republicans as well before making a decision. In this instance, you describe it as his first major endorsement. "The Observer" is a relatively small paper compared to the others.

BERMAN: Just helping you out here.

KURSON: I don't know that we would have access to the candidates. We didn't sit down with Mr. Trump either. But I did go to a substantive Cruz event. I've known Ted Cruz for a couple of years. We didn't get a chance to talk to John Kasich.